Pippi the ferret is not pleased to find that her new hiding place inside Sharpblade’s armour is now not only damp with seawater, but also reeking with yucky seaweed. The ferret ejects herself out of the neck of Sharpblade’s armour and scoots off into the bushes to sulk. The adventurers, Gaffi and Bilbi bid Trax the halfling goodbye and leave Egan’s Wood in Gaffi’s caravan, travelling north back to Sandpoint.
“The next day, you guys arrive back in Sandpoint. You’ve been away for almost a week, and in some way, you are glad to be back. Sandpoint has become like a home for you both.” As the caravan wheels in through the southern gate, they spot Fastidus the wizard coming towards them from down the street. The old wizard waves them over, “Phew! There you all are! Thank goodness you’re both back in time! When you left, some of my friends arrived in Sandpoint, and I wanted to introduce you to them, but you’d already gone. Thankfully, they’re still here. Come along with me and I’ll introduce you both.”
So Sharpblade and Lexi climb off the caravan and follow the old wizard who leads them to The Rusty Dragon where apparently, Fastidus’s friends are staying. Hardly anyone pays them any attention as the three of them enter the place. Fastidus brings them to a nearby table where three other people are sitting. “You see a serious-looking woman dressed in dark armour. Beside her, eating a large roast pig to himself, is a big warrior who looks like a half-orc! And on her other side, with his nose buried in a book, is a small gnome.” Fastidus makes the introductions. By this time, I’d not made up their names, so I poll the kids for some good names. We eventually establish that the woman is Skye Ironblade, and the big half-orc is Bulk (after Evan’s favourite superhero from Sentinels of the Multiverse), and the gnome is Puddlebug. I show the kids what Skye looks like from the GM Guide.
|Skye "Don't mess with" Ironblade|
“Daaad,” says Jojo. “That’s the name of the whole game.”
“Yes,” I reply mysteriously.
Skye continues to explain that the Pathfinders are a society of explorers, whose whole aim is to explore and report about strange and new places. Joining the society gives members access to knowledge of interesting places to visit, as well as safe houses throughout the land.
Jojo crosses her arms. “I’m not joining anything unless I get paid and there’re animals included!”
“Joining the Pathfinders gives you more than just gold, Jojo,” I tell her. “It gives you information about interesting places which you can explore. And that’s worth more than gold sometimes.”
“Ooo! Can I find out about where interesting animals live?”
“Uh, yeah sure.”
“Hmm.. okay, I’ll join! How about you, Evan?”
Just before Evan answers, I tell him, “Sharpblade, you are about to answer, when suddenly, you see a vision! In your mind, you see three ninjas who you immediately recognise as the ninjas who captured you when you were human, and turned you into a skeleton! One of them speaks, ‘Sharpblade, you will infiltrate the Pathfinders as one of their members.’ Then the vision disappears!”
“What does ‘infiltrate’ mean?”
“It means, ‘pretend to join’. Like you join, but you’re really working for someone else. Like a spy.”
“Cool!” Evan is all excited over the prospect of becoming a spy. “I’m, ahem, joining the Pathfinders!”
Bulk snorts with laughter. “One does not simply join the Pathfinders! You need to be invited to join, and sometimes you need to go through training at one of our camps before you are made into a member of the Pathfinder Society!”
Evan raises his hand. “I’d like some free training!”
Skye looks at them both. “Having a recommendation from Fastidus is very good indeed. But we’ll need time to observe you both before anything is decided about joining the Pathfinders.” She turns to Fastidus. “Meanwhile, I believe that Fastidus has something he’d like us to investigate.”
The old wizard mutters and produces a tome from somewhere. He lays it on the table. “This is a historical recording of a nearby kingdom from long, long, long, long ago. The kingdom is no longer around, but it was a kingdom of giants!”
“Ooo! Giants? Really?”
Fastidus frowns. “Or they could have been ogres. Not sure really, but the writings seem to indicate that they were pretty big. Anyway, they were a fierce kingdom and kept attacking all the neighbouring lands. However, what’s strange is that they always left this city alone. Well, not Sandpoint, but the city which used to be here before Sandpoint.”
Jojo looks interested. “Hmm. Why would they do that?”
“Ahah! According to this, they were afraid of something here they called “The Tall Flame”. I think the Tall Flame mentioned here is really the Old Light!”
“Why would they be afraid of a lighthouse? Maybe they didn’t like light? Like vampires?”
“Well, no one knows. But I bet that if we go down into that hole that was recently discovered in the Old Light ruins, we might be able to find out!”
And at this point, my wife comes up to do her knitting on the couch, and the kids plead with her to join in our Pathfinder game. In the end, she chooses the pre-generated cleric character from the Beginner Box named Kyra. “I like her background story,” she comments. “It says she became a cleric to help others!”
|Mummy's character: Kyra the Cleric|
Before things get out of hand, I get Skye to declare that it is a good idea to have a cleric along, so soon, the whole party of six is heading off to the recently discovered hole in the ruins of the Old Light.
“By this time, the guardsmen of Sandpoint have placed a wooden hatch over the hole, and they’ve posted two guards here who seem to be sleeping on the job. They wake up pretty abruptly when Skye clears her throat. Soon, they are lifting the wooden hatch and feeding a rope ladder down into the hole.” I get the kids to decide who should go first, and they let the two big fighters go down to ‘secure the area’. Bulk climbs down, followed by Sharpblade.
“At the bottom of the rope ladder, Bulk and Sharpblade find themselves in a corridor that curves around from north to south. You don’t see anything dangerous here.”
|Under the Old Light: The Corridor|
The kids, however, are not interested in the gnome’s architectural conjectures. “All your little people talk too much, dad.”
Eventually, the group comes to a dead end. There is a cave-in blocking the way. “But you also see a tunnel leading off the side of the corridor. Unlike the rest of the corridor which is made from smooth stone, the sides of this tunnel is rough, like something clawed its way through.”
The adventurers decide that the two fighters should enter the tunnel first, when I slyly announce, “The tunnel is much too small for Bulk to get into. And Sharpblade can just barely fit. Skye says that she will stay with Bulk while the others should go through the tunnel to check out what’s in it.” I catch the kids staring at me suspiciously. “What? Do you think I'm trying to split you guys up?”
After some alterations, Sharpblade leads the way into the tunnel, followed by Lexi, Puddlebug and Mummy’s cleric Kyra. “The tunnel twists a bit, and then widens out into a large cave. You can’t see the other end of the cave, but you do see some curious-looking mounds near to where you are.”
Instead of drawing out the cave, I decide to use the grid map from the Beginner Box. I sketch out the cave using a dry-erase marker, and decide against using the mini stand-up figurines (I imagined figurines scattering around everywhere as the kids move them), and instead mark out which squares the adventurers are occupying. Jojo insists that her character should be represented by a paw print which only she can draw. With the blue marker.
Sharpblade approaches one of the mounds to investigate it. “The mound is about two feet high, and made out of some old gooey grey substance.”
“I step on it and squish it!”
Figures. Sharpblade steps on a mound and it breaks apart, spilling little bones of small animals out. “Ooo! More bones!” The skeleton tries to stick the bones into his own body, hoping to increase his size.
I assure him that it won’t work, and continue, “The old gooey grey substance is pretty sticky. Like… webs.”
The kids look at each other. “SPIDERS!”
At that moment, sticky grey webbing shoots out from the ceiling and I roll a d6 to randomly decide who it hits. It hits Puddlebug, and the gnome is immobilised with sticky webbing! “A giant spider is scuttling along the ceiling of the cave, followed by another one!” The foremost spider attacks Sharpblade from above, and misses. The other spider drops down on the ground and attacks Kyra. The cleric trades blows with the creature, but does not manage to score a hit.
On her turn, Lexi rushes over to Puddlebug and attempts to free him from the webbing. I order Jojo to do a Strength roll, and she rolls a natural 20. “Lexi sees that although the webbing is tight, it’s all just being held together by a single strand! She slices the strand and the webbing falls off Puddlebug!” Freed from the webbing, the gnome pulls out a flask from his pack and throws it, just in time to hit yet another spider running towards them from out of the shadows. The flask bursts into flames upon impact, and the spider shrieks and runs away on fire.
Sharpblade ignores the spider which attacked him, and heads off to stomp on another mound. Kyra the cleric trades missed blows once again with her spider until Lexi sneaks up behind it and back-stabs it while it is distracted. The spider shrieks and dies.
Despite her spider kill, Jojo decides to make her way back to the tunnel exit. “We’re just here to investigate,” she reasons with us. “I think we should go back and tell Skye about the spiders.” Puddlebug follows her, and after a while so does Kyra and Sharpblade, who is disappointed that he didn’t find any treasure in the mounds.
“As you leave, you glance back to see the spider on fire running to the back of the cave. The fire lights up the cave, and you see more mounds, more spiders, and hanging on the back wall, you see a large mother spider which looks twice the size of the other spiders! You feel somewhat relieved that you left when you did.”
|Gridmap Galore: The Spider's Den|
Skye, Bulk and Puddlebug are, of course, the Pathfinders whom the tavern owner Ameiko wanted to tell Fastidus about a couple of sessions back. Most of the adventures from the Paizo site seems to involve the adventurers investigating something for the Pathfinders, so I thought they’d be a good lead-in for future adventures.
This is the first time Mummy has played a proper RPG, and unfortunately, she proved to be quite bad at rolling hits, although the kids did assure her that she was playing a part in distracting the spider so that Jojo could backstab it.
This is also the first time I’ve used the square grid map to run a battle scene. The good thing is that it does make it easier to see how things can be flanked and stuff, but it does turn the game into a square-counting affair to see how far things are, and how many squares can one move, etc. I think I’ll go back to using the simpler notepad sketches, even without the distance calculations, as it keeps things more flexible in terms of narrative. As Joss Whedon once replied to the question of how fast does the Serenity go, “The ship goes as fast as the story requires.”
Do you think I should continue with the notepad sketches, or give the grid another go?
Plot hooks: Clearing the spider’s den, first mention of the Pathfinders, and Sharpblade the ninja spy.