Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Pathfinder RPG: Session 16 - The Prison (Part1)

Lexi, Elven Rogue (played by Jojo, 10yo)
Sharpblade, Skeleton (Human) Fighter (played by Evan, 8yo)

The kids spend some time in Sandpoint upgrading their gear. It’s interesting to observe the spending habits of both kids - Evan spends all his recently earned dosh to get Puddlebug the gnome to enchant his Warhammer with Acid damage, while Jojo frets over the potential purchase of a +1 Chainmail before changing her mind and deciding to save her money.

There is no doubt who I’ll be bailing out on credit card expenses in the future.

I used the stats of the Acid Arrow spell and applied it to the Sharpblade’s warhammer.
“Just as you two emerge from Puddlebug’s shop, you both see Snoozy Bob the old cleric coming down the street."

"There you are!", he says. "Shalelu came around looking for you two yesterday but you were both away." Snoozy Bob explains that the elven huntress had gotten approval from the Sandpoint council to investigate rumours of an evil cleric inhabiting a nearby abandoned prison. "Apparently, this evil cleric has been obtaining ingredients to brew up some strange black potions…," finishes Snoozy Bob with a knowing nod.

“Where’s Shalelu now?” asks Jojo.

“Oh, she left town yesterday with a company of soldiers. She left a message for you if you turned up. Said that they’ll be heading across the nearby hills to where the old prison is.”

Adventure notes: 
The GM Guide in the Beginner Box provides a sample dungeon layout for an abandoned prison outside of Sandpoint called ‘Raven’s Watch’. It’s supposed to be a follow-on adventure from Black Fang’s dungeon, and aspiring GMs are given an evil cleric baddie with a motive, and encouraged to come up with their own adventure. 

Personally, I think the adventure progression is back-front. Why face the dragon in Black Fang’s dungeon BEFORE the Raven’s Watch adventure? So instead, I decided to use Raven’s Watch to set up the events leading to Black Fang’s dungeon, with the dragon encounter being the final big adventure climax.

Hope this works.

The two adventurers head out of town, following the directions left by Shalelu, and eventually find themselves on a old trail leading into the hills. After a couple of hours of hiking through the hills, I tell them that they smell something in the air.

“I can’t smell because I’m a..” begins Evan before I cut him off with a, “Yeah, yeah – Jojo, you smell something up ahead. Smells like… blood.”

“Pseudo flies forward and checks it out,” says Jojo immediately.

The little dragon wings his way up and sends a mental message, “Big fight happened over the hill!”

The two adventurers creep forward. “As you come over the hill, you see a bloody battlefield before you! There’s red and green blood on the ground, and some bodies of goblins and soldiers lying around. You can hardly recognise them because they’re so badly bashed up, but you do see that they are wearing Sandpoint guard armour. There are tracks everywhere, and in particular, you spot a large footprint in the muddy ground, much larger than what a goblin, or human, or orc foot-print looks like.”

The kids discuss this for a minute before asking if they could see Shalelu anywhere. I shake my head, “Nope, no sign of an elven body anywhere.”

Leading from the battlefield is a wide array of tracks heading further into the hills. The adventurers follow this cautiously, and eventually come to a large ruin on a hill. I tell the kids that there seems to be two ways to get into the ruins – either through the front entrance, or through a cave at the base of the hill.

The prison and cave entrance. Which way in?
 The kids decide to check out the cave entrance. I fill in the details. “At the base of the hill, you see the mouth of a dark cave with vines hanging loosely in front of it like a ragged curtain. On the wall next to the cave, you see crude writing that says, ‘Goblins rule! Ghouls drool’ with the final letter trailing off into the cave, as if something had grabbed the writer and dragged him off.”

Adventure Notes:
And yes, I admit I completely forgot that in Pathfinder, goblins can’t read or write because they think writing steals words from their heads. This goblin obviously learned to write in secret and aspired to be a famous children’s book author before becoming an unfortunate snack.

“What are ghouls?” asks Evan. I hold up the GM guide to show them what a ghoul looks like.

Preciousss!! Whoops, wrong adventure.
The adventurers creep into the cave, following the scrawl along the wall until they come to a severed goblin hand still holding on to a bit of charcoal.

“Dad, that’s gross,” blanches Jojo.

I shrug nonchalantly and proceed to draw out the rest of the cave. "There’s a cave chamber with a pool of water on the side, and a corridor going further in. It’s pretty dark in here, and you hear shuffling feet up ahead, coming from the corridor!”

The caves under the Prison
“I’m jumping into the pool!” declares Evan. “I can hide underwater because I don’t need to breathe!” Sharpblade lunges into the pool of water, only to find that it’s about hip deep. Unperturbed, he flattens himself down, like someone trying to hide in a kiddie pool.

Beware the kiddie pool!
Lexi readies her fire dagger, just as the source of the shuffling noise comes into view. It is, predictably, a ghoul, still munching on goblin remains. It sees the elven rogue, and snarls hungrily, its long tongue rolling down, before lunging forwards to attack.

I read from the GM Guide, “Ghouls are undead creatures that are always hungry. They also have a special clawing attack that paralyzes its victims!” I read on. “Oh. I didn't see this. It says that elves are immune to this.”

“I’m an elf,” reminds Jojo.

“And I’m a skeleton,” adds Evan brightly. “I’m immune too!”

Well, who could have thunk it? “Riiight. So it looks like no one is going to be paralyzed by ghouls today.”


Stupid small text.

The fight is over in a couple of rounds. The ghoul gets clipped by a thrown fire dagger, and then pummeled into the ground by Sharpblade who springs out of the cave pool from behind. His war hammer hisses with acid as the skeleton warrior lifts it from the ghoul’s motionless form.

After Lexi retrieves her fire dagger, the two adventurers proceed into the tunnel where the ghoul had come from. “The tunnel opens up into another chamber. Just as you guys arrive, you hear a scream, and someone is thrown down from a chute just near the cave ceiling! It’s a Sandpoint guard, and he’s all battered and bruised and tied up with rope! The guard crashes on the cave floor, and immediately, ghouls emerge from the sides of the chamber, hissing hungrily with their clawed hands stretched out like this!” I do an impressionable hiss and claw my hands at Jojo who smacks me away.

There are about six ghouls in this chamber, but that does not stop the adventurers from charging in to save the guard. The ghouls are surprised to see a few more living beings rushing in, and the nearest one to Sharpblade turns to attack him. “The ghoul snarls at you, it’s long tongue hanging out of its mouth! Harthssss!!”

Evan immediately says, “I grab his tongue and pull it!”

I think it’s a child-like skill to be able to role-play fights. With grown-ups, fights in RPGs tend to become “I attack. I roll. I hit.” repetitions. With the kids, I find it entertaining when they try something out of the ordinary. I hand Evan the d20 and say, “Well, that’s likely a Strength check to see if you grab its tongue and pull it.”

Evan rolls well. Sharpblade grabs the ghoul’s tongue and yanks it to the side where it crashes into the wall. “There’s another ghoul lurching out of the shadows towards you! It tries to claw you.” The ghoul makes a spectacular attack roll of 1. “And it crashes straight into the first ghoul whose tongue you grabbed when it bounces off the wall!”

I’d originally planned to see how the kids fared against the lone ghoul first before deciding on how many ghouls would be in this chamber. Really, ghouls are dangerous because of their special paralyzing attack, and given that the kids were immune to this (which was a surprise to me, I assure you!), I was pretty confident that six ghouls weren’t going to pose much of a problem.

Anyway things pan out pretty much as I expect, with the kids burning, electrocuting, smashing, cleaving and acid-burning the yowling undead creatures into a deader state. It got interesting when a couple of them attacked the tied up guard, but they did not manage to kill him off before the adventurers were upon them. After the last ghoul is dispatched, Lexi checks on the guard. “You recognise this guard! It’s Erik the guard!” Of course it’s Erik the guard.

Erik is still gibbering with fear as he describes what happened to the company of guard led by Shalelu. “The goblins ambushed us on the road! They knew we were coming! And they had ogres with them!” That explains the bigger footprints.

“Where’s Shalelu?” asks Lexi.

“She’s with their master, a dark cleric. He’s going to sacrifice her on his altar!”

Adventure Notes:
Yes, lots of railroading this adventure. But the kids seemed to enjoy the ride, and it certainly was fun making up all the silly details like the message scrawled on the wall.

Plot hooks: Save Shalelu from the evil cleric! Who tipped off the goblins!?