Monday, September 22, 2014

Pathfinder RPG: Session 11 - Looking for Trouble

The kids are keen to get back to Sandpoint to check if Puddlebug has managed to decipher what the Animated Statue was saying. So after returning the baby piglet to its mom, the adventurers make their way back to Sandpoint, guided by Shalelu. When they reach the town gates, the elven huntress tells them, “I’ll be picking up a few things before going after those pigs. And when I leave Sandpoint, I hope you both will accompany me.”

“Sure thing,” says Jojo. “Okay, dad, let’s go to Puddlebug to see if he’s worked out what that Animated Statue was saying.”

The adventurers stop over at Puddlebug’s shop, but unfortunately, the gnome is still working on it and tells them to come back later.

“Are there any special events going on in the city?” asks Evan. “Is there, like, a festival or something?”

“Ah,” I respond, thinking quickly. “There isn’t a festival going on right now. But you do hear that the townsfolk of Sandpoint are particularly excited because there is a... famous singer coming to town.”

“A singer?” asks Jojo.

“Yes,” I nod. “And there is going to be a major concert for this person. In fact, one of the interesting things about this person is that he was taught how to sing at a very famous conservatory, almost like a temple where people worship music. Of course, this person will be staying at the Rusty Dragon, and Ameiko the owner is proudly telling everyone that this singer might even give some free performances on some nights at her inn.”

I glance at the kids, but I can see that the plot hook is not catching. Jojo declares, “Well, I’m going to go walking in the forest until I find my animal companion.”

Oh well, I can always stash the plot hook for later. I ask Evan, “How about you? What are you going to do?”

“I’ll follow Jojo and walk around the forest. And look for trouble.”

And so the two adventurers walk out of Sandpoint into the nearby forest. “It’s almost evening when you guys leave town, so before long, night has fallen and you’re both walking around in the dark forest. It’s very likely you’ll encounter something in this forest at night.”

Something which I had no ideas for, so it’s time for some random encounters. I pull out the GM guide and turn to the Forest Monsters section. I roll the percentile dice and look up the result.

Looking for trouble, random encounter style.
A Wolf. Hmm. “Although it is quite dark, you spot some fresh tracks on the ground.” Jojo tries to identify the tracks, and I get her to do a Knowledge (Nature) check. “Ah, of course you recognise these tracks! You’ve seen them before loads of times! These are wolf tracks! Just one wolf though, which is strange. What’s a lone wolf doing out here so near to Sandpoint?” Hmm. Why indeed.

Excited at the prospect of taming (or killing, depending on whose perspective) a lone wolf, the adventurers follow the tracks. I get them to roll Perception checks, but both rolls come up dismally. “You follow the tracks, but it leads into a stream. You don’t manage to find where the wolf came out of the stream.” The kids groan collectively.

Oh well, that was somewhat exciting. I roll the percentile dice again and look up the Forest Monsters table. A Dire Rat. “But you do find a curious, muddy hole near the edge of the stream. It looks like a lair of some small animal about the size of a dog.”

Jojo decides to crawl in, followed by Evan. The tunnel is so narrow that the adventurers can barely crawl on their elbows and knees. “The muddy tunnel comes to an intersection. Which way are you going, left or right?”

“Right,” says Jojo, and Lexi crawls that way.

“Left,” says Evan, and Sharpblade complies.

Sigh, so easy to split them up. I turn to Evan first. “You soon find that the tunnel gets narrower and narrower until you’re pushing yourself forward using your shoulders. And then, the tunnel dips into a slide, and you suddenly find yourself slipping forwards! Before you know it, you’re sliding headfirst into a pit filled with smelly poop!”

Jojo laughs at Evan, but the boy is nonplussed. “Sharpblade can’t smell anyway with his skull.”

In the meantime, Lexi crawls up her tunnel until suddenly she comes face to face with a large dire rat! “The creature snarls when it sees you, and claws at your face!” The elf tries to defend herself, but the narrow tunnel proves to be a very tight space to stab a dagger, and she earns a nasty gash across her shoulder.

Rats. I hate rats.
Sharpblade manages to stand up in his smelly pit. “You look upwards, and can see moonlight coming through a hole in the ceiling!” The skeleton attempts to jump up, and (with a successful Acrobatics roll) manages to catch hold of a tree root sticking out near the hole in the ceiling. Sharpblade gradually pulls himself up through the hole. “As you poke your head out of the hole, you suddenly hear.. voices! And you see flickering firelight nearby too!”

Meanwhile, Lexi isn’t having much luck with her encounter with the dire rat. The nasty creature manages to bite her, and thankfully, Jojo makes her Fortitude save against disease. “I’m backing out of this tunnel before I catch some sickness!” declares Jojo, and the elf frantically starts to crawl backwards, pursued by the furious dire rat.

Sharpblade chances a peek out of the hole. “You see that you are actually poking your head out of a hollow tree stump.”

“That’s probably used as a toilet!” giggles Jojo.

“Perhaps. But anyway, you see a campfire.. no, you think it’s a campfire at first, but it’s actually a lantern being held by a person in a black robe and hood. He’s talking to… a goblin boss who is mounted on, guess what? A large wolf!”

I love it when a plot comes together.

The goblin boss growls to the hooded man, “You are late! You promised Black Fang a whole batch of potions by the next new moon, and still you no have it!”

“The potions take time to brew,” replies the hooded man.

“We gave you much gold,” snarls the goblin boss. “Black Fang no like waiting so long!”

The wolf suddenly lifts its head, sniffs the air, and gives a low growl. The goblin boss glances around and hisses, “Someone else here!”

“Of course, the wolf will smell him,” says Jojo. “Sharpblade is covered with poop!”

The goblin boss immediately gets his wolf to lie low, and is soon hidden in the bushes. The hooded man says, ““Tell Black Fang that he will have his potions soon enough.” before whispering a magic word, and vanishing completely.

“Cool,” says Jojo. “He’s some kind of wizard.”

Lexi manages to backtrack all the way out of the dire rat tunnel. The dire rat snarls at her, but does not come out of its tunnel to pursue her. “Well, I’m heading back to Sandpoint,” declares Jojo, and she makes her way up the stream.

I turn to Evan. “You can hear the sounds of footsteps coming closer. It sounds like someone coming up the stream towards where the goblin and his wolf are hidden!”

“I think that’s me!” says Jojo.

Evan ponders a bit, and then announces, “I’m going to jump out of my hole, and blast Jojo with my Magic Missles!”

If this was a comic, I’d have an exclamation mark above my head right about now. “You want to do what!? Why would you do that?”

“Because,” Evan replies. “I want to join them! That guy with the robe and hood looks evil!”

Jojo rolls her eyes as I attempt to reason with Evan, “Well, I don’t know if that’s a great idea. I mean, chances are, they’d want you to kill Lexi in order to prove that you’re one of them! And then Jojo will have to start all over again with a new character!”

Evan thinks this through a bit, and (probably because of his sister glaring at him) decides to change his action. So Sharpblade jumps out of the hollow tree stump, and blasts his three Magic Missles at the startled goblin boss and his wolf. The goblin boss recovers quickly. “This goblin boss is hefting a javelin like a lance! He attempts to pierce you with it.. but the sharp javelin head glances off your armour!” The wolf’s bite is more effective, chewing into the warrior’s leg.

Dire Rat Lair
Lexi comes running up the stream towards the two combatants, and attacks with her rapier, scoring a hit on the goblin boss. Evan says, “Can I grab the goblin boss off his wolf?”

I nod. “I suppose you’re close enough. You’ll have to make an unarmed attack with just your Strength bonus to see if you grab him, and another Strength check to see if you pull him off.” Evan succeeds in both rolls, and so Sharpblade lunges forward and grabs the increasingly surprised and enraged goblin boss off his mount.

Evan chortles. “Okay, I’m going to throw him into the hole!” I get him to do a ranged attack with his Dexterity bonus, but unfortunately, he rolls a 3. “The goblin boss is struggling too much for you to throw him! Instead, he manages to slip out of your grip, and falls on the ground!”

Jojo says, “I’m going to try to tame the wolf!”

I sigh. “I doubt you can tame it, but you do have that Wild Empathy class feature now, so I suppose at best, you can try to calm it down.” I hand Jojo the d20, and she rolls an 18. “Ooo, that’s pretty good. You manage to raise an open palm at the wolf and say some calming words to it. The wolf snarls at you, but you sense that it is more puzzled than anything over why you’ve not attacked it.”

The goblin boss pokes his javelin again at Sharpblade which glances off his armour. Evan  says, “He’s on the ground, right? I’m going to kick him into the hole!” One successful Dexterity roll later, the skeleton kicks the goblin like a football into the air. The yowling creature tumbles straight into the hollow tree trunk hole. “You hear a loud Splat! from the hole, and then sounds of angry dire rat snarls! It sounds like there are more dire rats down there!”

“Oooo!” wince the kids.

The wolf, upon seeing its rider thrown into the hole, snarls one more time at the adventurers, and then lopes off into the dark trees. Jojo states, “At least we freed it.”

Evan is keen to go find more bad guys to chuck into the dire rat hole, but a brief search turns out nothing more in the area. The adventurers decide to return to Sandpoint to check on Puddlebug again, and this time, the gnome is excited to see them. “Ahah! Good timing! I’ve got some good news for you!” He gestures to another person with him, “You might have met this friend of mine - the Iron Hammer!”

“Oh! He’s the dwarf you fought at the festival fighting contest!” says Jojo to Evan.

The Iron Hammer is back!
The Iron Hammer certainly remembers Sharpblade, and claps the skeleton on the back. “Oh ho! Well, met again!”

Puddlebug says, “The Iron Hammer has helped us with not just one thing, but two things! You know that underwater portal you told me that you both found? Well, I’ve just bought a very useful item from The Iron Hammer which you can use to explore the underwater ruins!” He hands Jojo something that looks like a water bottle.

Lexi takes it, “A water bottle? How’s this going to help?”

“Ah,” says the gnome brightly. “Try drinking from it.”

Lexi swigs from the bottle, and looks surprised. “There’s nothing in it but air!”

“Ahahah!” laughs Puddlebug. “Precisely! It’s got nothing but AIR! Ever-flowing AIR!”

It takes the kids a few moments to finally get it. Puddlebug explains that this is a magic bottle that produces fresh air, and that Lexi can use it to take a breath of air while underwater, thus allowing her to stay underwater for as long as she wants. “This is a precious artefact, but I’ll let you both have it on one condition! You must give me a share of whatever treasures you find down there!” The kids agree to the deal, and Jojo writes the Bottle of Air into her character sheet.

Useful item!
The next thing that Puddlebug tells them is that the Iron Hammer has helped him translate some of what the Animated Statue might have been saying. “Apparently, it seems similar to some ancient dwarven language. We couldn’t decipher the whole message, but it said something like, ‘Restricted area… Fire... Priests allowed.’”

“Hmm..” says Jojo thoughtfully.

The Iron Hammer claps Sharpblade on the back again. “Well,” he booms. “I’ve got another piece of news for you. The Temple of Sarenrae is putting together a group of clerics to go down under the Old Light and clear out those skeletons you all found. And I’ve been hired to accompany them to protect the clerics!” He leans close. “Puddlebug told me about the glowing ore you found down there! I want to go get some for myself! I’ll consider it a great favour if you both followed me when we go down tomorrow, and lead me to where the ore is!”

“Uhh..” says Jojo. “What about the Animated Statue? It doesn’t like people coming in and taking that ore.”

“Ahah! I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve for dealing with that,” winks the dwarf.

Adventure Notes:
Plot hook after plot hook. I’m glad I’m journalling all this into a blog. I’d tangle myself into a web of plots if I didn’t. Now, how am I going to put this all together?

That whole random encounter thing in the forest worked out well, plot wise. There are events happening in the background of the world the kids are in, and I try to give them glimpses of it. That hooded guy is actually a character from the Beginner Box GM Guide, as part of a suggested follow-on adventure from the Black Fang encounter. I like to weave in what the guide provides into something cohesive.

Plot hooks: Helping Shalelu with the missing pigs. Famous singer in town. Potions for Black Fang. Exploring the underwater ruins. Clearing out skeletons under the Old Light and helping the Iron Hammer get some of that ore.


  1. Any homebrew campaign requires some good note-taking on the DM's side. :) Otherwise the plot would become impossible to follow.

  2. I followed this blog out from Paizo's forums.
    This campaign is quite organic and freeform. You are fortunate to play with your children; they seem to not suffer issues like railroading/optimizing fears/decking out in magical items. If anything, they are playing roleplaying games like they should be played.
    Despite the lack of orderliness and overarching plot, this seems to work.
    Though I do recommend to follow some kind of episodic format. It still works with the chaotic consequences of free-form roleplaying, and it helps put a frame of design on the game.
    A simple observation: Mummy doesn't seem to be playing anymore. I hope the two children didn't get upset about that.

  3. Thanks. The kids certainly have a different approach to RPGs, and I'm quite entertained myself over how this is panning out.

    Prior to launching them into this campaign, I did tell the kids that an RPG is quite different from all the types of boardgames, computer games or card games they've played in the sense that "You can do ANYTHING you want." The kids seem to have latched on to that, and have taken it quite literally. So, when we started, I did have an overarching story involving the Black Fang adventure as detailed in the Beginner Box, but I'm now finding that railroading the kids into an adventure isn't as fun as throwing plot-hooks at them and seeing what they'll do. Black Fang can always wait to be dealt with later ;-)

    Yes, Mummy seems to be content on knitting and listening to our stories for now. She's more a strategy gamer, and this free-form stuff messes with her usual planning. I'm sure the kids will get her to play again though. ;-)