Friday, February 13, 2015

Pathfinder RPG: Session 14 - Heroes of Pig Valley

Lexi, Elven Ranger-Rogue (played by Jojo, 10yo)
Sharpblade, Skeleton (Human) Fighter (played by Evan, 7yo)

Adventure Notes:
Yes, yes, I know I'm behind on these reports! We went for a holiday last December, and I had grand plans to catch up with all the session reports by then, but did absolutely none of them :-p I'll probably be spending the rest of 2015 playing catch-up.

The adventurers head off to the Temple of Sarenrae, keen to find the three dwarves who left them for dead under the Old Light. Once they enter the Temple courtyard, they bump into Clara the timid cleric who is immensely surprised to see them. "Lexi! Sharpblade! Thank the goddess that you're all alive! We just got back ourselves not too long ago! Those three dwarves told us that-"

"Let me guess," says Jojo dryly. "They told you that we were dead, right?"

Well, can't blame me for being obvious. River of logical conclusions flowing down the path of least resistance and all that. "Why, yes! I'll let Snoozy Bob know that you all made it!" The cleric hurries off, and soon re-appears with Snoozy Bob in tow.

Evan asks, "Are those three dwarves still here?"

The old cleric shakes his head. "They left immediately once they collected their pay, which you deserve as well. Ah, here's Felix now. He handled the payments."

Felix is coming towards them, talking incessantly to an elderly cleric who doesn't seem to be paying him any attention. "And then, sir, after I destroyed the fire priest skeleton single-handedly, I decided that it was our duty to go clear out the rest of those- Hey! What are you guys doing here?"

"Breathing?" suggests Snoozy Bob. He turns to give a nod of respect to the other elderly cleric who nods in return. "Father Zantus, these are the other adventurers who accompanied us. We thought they perished under the Old Light, but thank the goddess, they made it out as well."

The GM Guide of the Beginner Box comes with a brief description of the denizens of Sandpoint, and refers to Father Abstalar Zantus as the head of the Temple of Sarenrae.  Introducing the kids to Shalelu the Elven Huntress seemed to be a hit, so I thought I’d give Father Zantus a go. I describe him and his station to the kids, but they don’t seem interested in the elderly, respectable cleric.

“Where could those dwarves have gone?” ponders Evan.

Looks like ‘petty revenge’ out-classes ‘meeting Temple Head Cleric’ any day.

Jojo thinks a bit. “I say to Iron Hammer, ‘You’re a dwarf, right? Like those other dwarves?’”

The Iron Hammer snorts. “Yes, but I will say that those traitorous, scum-suckers have dishonoured dwarves everywhere, and I am ashamed to be even associated with those low-life, dirt-crawling, mongrel-stinking-”

“Yes, yes,” interrupts Jojo hastily. “What I was asking was if there are any dwarf things going on, like a festival or something? Maybe we can find them there!”

The Iron Hammer shakes his head. “Unfortunately, nothing significant for a while." The dwarf thinks and then says, "Tell you what. I'll dig around to see if I can find out where they went. And once I find where they are, I'll come and let you know about it!"

So with that, the adventurers collect their reward from the Temple, and bid goodbye to the Iron Hammer as he heads off. Sharpblade and Lexi leave the Temple of Sarenrae, and once on the street, a familiar voice calls out to them. "Lexi! Sharpblade! I'm glad I found you!"

Shalelu approaches, waving a greeting at the two adventurers. "I've finally convinced the Sandpoint council to give me some men so that we can go track down those pig-snatching goblins and orcs! I'd be honoured if you both could join us!"

The kids like Shalelu, so it was soon agreed that they would join in on her expedition to rescue the pigs. “You see that the Sandpoint council has given Shalelu six guardsmen. And you recognise one of them! It’s Erik the guard, the one who Sharpblade defeated in the first round of the Fighting contest!” Yes, I do love repeat characters.

Erik again!
Evan says, “Ooo! I stare at Erik like this!” Sharpblade stares intimidatingly at Erik, who shifts uncomfortably in his armour before looking away. Evan snickers.

Soon, Shalelu is leading the group into the forest and on to one of her hidden paths. This time the journey takes almost three days. Occasionally, she’d pull out the orc talisman to give her some guidance before leading them off again. “At one point, she leads you all high-up along the tree-top branches of a very still, misty forest. You’re so high, you can’t even see the forest floor! Shalelu swiftly clambers along the branches and warns everyone not to fall off because there are things down on the forest floor which they’d rather not meet.” Evan is so inspired by this scene that he spends the next few minutes drawing his depiction of it.

The falling guy on the left is apparently Erik
On the third day, they find themselves in the foothills of the Devil’s Platter mountains. Shalelu brings them to top of a small cliff and points towards the entrance to a dark narrow valley. “The talisman is pointing to that.” The adventurers look, and they see that a ramshackle wooden gate about six feet tall has been erected at the entrance of the valley. At first it looks like there’s no one guarding the gate, but some keen observation reveals that there are four goblin helmets peeking over the top of the gate. They must be standing on a platform behind the gate.

Shalelu says, “I think we’ll need some details on what’s in that valley.” She walks off some distance, and makes a shrill bird call with her fingers against her mouth. Soon, the winged form of Binda, Shalelu’s large hawk companion, swoops down and lands next to her.

“That’s a Blue-banded Hawk!” exclaims Erik the guard in fright. “They are extremely wild and viciously dangerous!”

Jojo sighs. “I poke Erik with my dagger. The electric one.” Lexi proceeds to shock-prod Erik who yelps and jumps away.

When Shalelu finishes consulting with her hawk, Binda flies off again, and the elven huntress returns to the group. “That valley is actually a dead-end. There are several dwellings and tents inside with lots of orcs and goblins, and the pigs are penned up at the end of the valley.” I sketch this out for the kids to see.

Pig Valley
After some discussion, Shalelu comes up with a plan. “I’ll deal with the four goblins guarding the gate. Then, Lexi, you sneak in and open the pen with the pigs and get them to stampede out. That should take out a number of those goblins and orcs. When the rest run out, we'll attack them from here."

Some good dice rolls show that sneaking up to the gate proves no issue for Lexi. Once the elven rogue is creeping right next to the gate, Shalelu lifts her bow and smoothly fires four arrows one after the other. "You can hear the goblins chatting with each other. Then an arrow strikes a goblin off the platform. The other goblins blink in confusion and one turns to ask another "Where he go-?" before another arrow slams him off the platform too. Alarmed, the last two peek over the gate and both get an arrow in the eye. They fall off the gate."

"Nice shooting!" admires Jojo. The elven rogue easily vaults over the wooden gate. "On the other side, you spot several tents. No one has noticed you yet, but there are dozens of goblins and orcs walking around next to the campfire." Lexi creeps into the nearest tent. "It's full of smelly bedding. Fortunately, no one is in here."

I turn to Evan. "Meanwhile, you guys are lying in wait on top of a low grassy hill. Then one of the guards says, 'There's a group of orcs approaching!' Sure enough, in the distance, you can see a group of about a dozen orcs coming close. Shalelu hisses under her breath, 'We can't let them get to the gate before Lexi frees those pigs! They'll raise the alarm when they see those dead goblins!' Looks like we'll have to ambush them before they get too close!"

GM note: It's always important to make sure that everyone has a job to do.

Sharpblade and the rest of the guards immediately move off to set up an ambush for the approaching orcs. Back in the tent, Lexi slips out cautiously and enters another tent. “This tent is full of wooden crates. One of them is half-open.” The elf glances inside and sees vials of black potions. Jojo says, “I drink one!”

I raise an eyebrow. “Are you sure? Drinking unmarked potions usually is a very bad idea.”

Jojo re-considers her potion-quaffing, and prepares to slip out of the tent when I tell her, “You suddenly hear, no sense, something speaking to you in your mind! It says, ‘!…’”

Jojo looks at me suspiciously. “A voice? In my mind? Is this going to be my animal companion? Because if it turns out to be a pig, I’ll.. umm.. I really don’t want a pig animal companion!”

I shrug. “You sense that the owner of the voice seem to be trapped in a small closed box in the corner of the tent.” Lexi approaches the box and opens the lid.

Immediately, a small winged creature shoots up and out of the box! “You can hardly make it out; its wings are frantically fluttering about as it looks for a way out of the tent! It looks like a tiny dragon the size of a cat! There is a barb at the end of its long tail which is whipping about. “...Free!!...Free!!...” you hear it calling joyfully in your mind!”

Excited to see such a unique creature, Lexi rushes to the tent flap door and opens it. Immediately, the tiny dragon darts out of the tent and flies off into the air, vanishing from sight!

Evan laughs at Jojo’s dismayed face. “So much for that!” Meanwhile, Sharpblade and the guards have hidden themselves in the undergrowth. They can hear the company of orcs marching closer, and at a pre-arranged signal, Sharpblade and the guards burst out of their hiding spots to attack the surprised orcs. The skeleton fires his magic missiles at three orcs in front.

“Your first orc is completely surprised by the appearance of a large, armoured skeleton in front of him! He’s flat-footed, which means that you only need to roll a 10 or above to hit him on the first round.” Sharpblade smashes his axe into the orc before it can even raise its own blade. Enraged, and badly injured, the orc trades blows with Sharpblade, but eventually Sharpblade manages to sink his axe into the orc’s forehead.

I tell Evan, “Amazingly, even with its head smashed in, the foul creature is still flailing about!” The dying creature makes one last attack at Sharpblade before finally succumbing to its wounds. I show the kids the orc’s stat block from the GM Guide; orcs have an interesting ability called Ferocity, which gives them an extra attack after they get killed.

Nasty ability!
Meanwhile, Lexi has recovered from her experience of finding a mini-dragon, only to lose it moments later. The elven rogue sneaks out of her tent, slowly making her way closer to the pig enclosure. I get her to do some Stealth checks. “You sneak past several orcs and goblins standing around, and just as you reach the last tent, the flap opens up, and you find yourself face-to-face with a very surprised orc!”

Jojo mutters, “If I was trapped in a box and was rescued by someone, I’m sure I’ll re-pay that someone right about now!”

Sure enough, a small winged blur zips down from above, and the very surprised orc is even more surprised when it feels a sting across its face! As it tries to look at the rapidly retreating creature, it keels over and falls face-first on the muddy ground. “It doesn’t look dead - it’s just asleep,” I tell Jojo.

Unfortunately, the commotion has attracted the attention of some nearby goblins, and Lexi barely has time to creak open the pig enclosure gate and slip inside before those goblins come around to investigate. I describe the smelly enclosure full of grunting, squealing pigs, and tell her that she sees a stack of dirty straw at the other end of the enclosure. “Perhaps a fire would panic these pigs into a stampede?”

“Oh no!” exclaims Jojo. “I don’t have anything to start a fire with! No matches or anything!” Evan and I both stare at her as she scours through her backpack inventory. “I’ve got some rope, a bedroll, but no matches!”

I sigh. “Oh dear, it looks like you’ll have to fight off the horde of orcs and goblins all by yourself! What are you going to use to fight them? Maybe that FIRE dagger of yours?”

“My rapier is better,” replies Jojo absently.

“Hmm.. okay. But maybe your FIRE dagger can be useful too.”

“But I.. OOHHH!”

Lexi leaps over the squealing mass of wild pigs and lands next to the dirty pile of straw. Drawing her fire dagger, she strikes and sets the straw ablaze.

“Seeing the blaze, the pigs all run away in fright! Some of the larger ones smash open the enclosure’s gate, and the rest follow in a stampede! The goblins and orcs who came up to investigate why one of their comrades is lying face-down in the mud are completely bowled over of the squealing drove of rampaging pigs! You are left in the enclosure with a few pig stragglers.”

“I shock-prod some of them with my Electric dagger! Yee-haw!” says Jojo.

Back with Sharpblade and the guards, the battle with the orcs is barely over before they see the wooden gates at the valley entrance burst open with wild pigs, goblins and orcs streaming out! “There is a sudden commotion, and you see a very large orc charge out towards where you are. It’s an Orc boss!” I show them the pic from the GM Manual:

Evan says, “I charge towards him with my axe!” The skeleton warrior lunges towards the charging, bellowing orc! The two combatants close-in, orc howling, axe swinging, and I get Evan to roll for Initiative. He gets first strike, and rolls a natural 20! “HA HA!! YES!! CRITICAL HIT!”

The skeleton carves into the orc boss with his axe, and the howling creature tries to strike back, but fails miserably. Sharpblade does a spectacular spin, and lands another hit against the orc who defends weakly. A final blow smashes the orc boss a few feet into the air, before it falls on the dirt ground.

I pick up the d20. “Remember? Ferocity.” The orc boss makes a strike and manages to score a hit against Sharpblade’s side, before finally slumping over.

Lexi chases the remaining pigs out of the enclosure with her Shock daggers when she suddenly hears a massive bellow. “You turn to look at a large tent that has fallen down. There was a large cage in this tent, and breaking out of the cage is a huge, crazy-eyed wild boar! This thing is larger than any boar you’ve ever seen (about the size of a horse!), and it is clearly savagely insane. A saddle flaps loosely against its sides, and there are smashed black potions everywhere.”

I tripled the stats of this for the Mutant Boar
Jojo says, “Gosh, do the black potions do that to the pigs? Thank goodness I didn’t drink one earlier!”

Evan nods sagely, “That’s probably why the goblins are here. They train the boars for riding, and then use the potions to turn them big for the orcs to use.”

What a brilliant master-plan! Honestly, I just dumped the goblins and orcs together, and hadn’t bothered to reason out why. Yeap, claiming credit when the players give better plot explanations is what impromptu GMing is all about.

The huge boar snorts and charges at the elven rogue who leaps out of the way. Lexi does a half-spin somersault and lands behind the boar’s neck and stabs it maddened creature with her daggers. The boar bucks and manages to throw its small rider off, and Lexi lands on her side. “Suddenly, just as the boar prepares to charge at you, a winged blur zips down and stings the creature with its barbed tail! As the miniature dragon flies off, the boar shakes its head, as if trying to stay awake.”

Lexi takes the opportunity to draw her rapier and strikes at the beast again, getting her arm grazed in the process. The boar staggers around before the rogue ends the combat with a final slash. The boar collapses in its death-throes, and then is still.

“Whew!” says Jojo. The elven rogue wipes the sweat off her forehead.

I glance at the Boar’s stat block and notice something I’d missed earlier. “Oh! I forgot! The boar also has the Ferocity ability!”


In true not-quite-yet-dead-monster fashion, the monstrous boar suddenly thrashes around and attempts to chomp Lexi on the arm. Fortunately, the elven rogue’s lightning reflexes saves her as she skips back, barely inches away from the boar’s foam-dripping teeth.

“Just like in the movies,” I grin at Jojo as she glares back at me.

By now, most of the orcs and goblins are dead from arrows, guards or stampeding pigs. Lexi sees Shalelu and Sharpblade coming close. Just then though, a winged blur zips down and lands on Lexi’s back, scrambling to find some way to hang on. The miniature dragon pokes its head over the elven rogue’s shoulder. “...Friend!..”

Shalelu is smiling in delight as she approaches. “A pseudodragon! I’ve never seen one so close before!”

The little dragon tries to scramble onto Lexi’s shoulder, but finds itself too big to perch on it, so it ends up clinging onto Lexi’s backpack and staring over her shoulder.

Jojo laughs. “I saved it just now! What’s it called again? A pseu-what?”

Shalelu grins. “Looks like you found your animal companion! I’m happy for you, little sister!”

Adventure Notes:

Yes, so in typical doting fatherly fashion, I gave Jojo a pet dragon. Funnily enough, in real life, the kids have been pleading with us to get a dog. I wonder if giving Jojo an in-game pet dragon would keep her content for a while ;-)

That fight between Sharpblade and the Orc boss was truly epic. The boy couldn’t stop guffawing when he rolled the natural 20. And the fight between Lexi and the mutated boar mount was pretty intense too.

Plot hooks: Iron Hammer looking for those traitorous dwarves. Where are these black potions coming from?

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, this, as always, is a blast to read. I find myself doing things like your potion explanation recently, letting my players come up with their own conclusions to my dangling plot threads.

    Also, I vote Goblin Cleric of some evil god of some sort for potion creation.