Saturday, November 7, 2015

Pathfinder RPG: Session 18 - The Hagfish

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

Adventure Notes:
Okay, so after doing some research, I finally pull the trigger and purchase a copy of the ‘Rise of the Runelords’ Adventure Path. This is a full-on campaign path that brings adventurers up from Level 1 to 18 – if we ever get around to doing this, I’ll probably have to hike up the difficulty for some of the early level 1 scenes. 

Right now, the main prize of the book though is the appendix – there’s a rich detailed layout of Sandpoint and its many denizens. Incredibly, there’s an old sage named Brodert Quink whose portrait looks exactly like what we’d envisaged Fastidus to be. So in our campaign, Brodert Quink is Fastidus.

He even likes cats!
So armed with more details about Sandpoint, I launch into the next session with the kids.

The two ogres working for the evil cleric Thelsikar were posted outside the main prison entrance to dissuade unwanted visitors. I had thought about getting the kids to face off the ogres guarding the prison on the way out, but decided that they’d had enough fights for one adventure, so I basically narrated the very short encounter.

“The ogres are completely surprised when the guards, led by a very angry Shalelu, charge out of the front entrance behind them. Shalelu downs one with an arrow that goes right through its eye and out the back of its head, while the other ogre flees with the rest of the guards in hot pursuit.”

Before leaving the prison, the adventurers search the place, and find a stash of treasure in the altar room. By now, I’d become reliant on rolling up random treasure, so I threw some dice, looked up the random treasure table, and my jaw dropped when I saw what had been rolled:

Completely random coincidental treasure!
The kids demanded to know why I was making gagging noises, and I tried my best to convey the significance of this find. “Thelsikar is making black potions for Black Fang, right? Black Fang is a dragon, right? So why is Thelsikar keeping an arrow of Dragon-Slaying? Maybe he’s keeping it – just in case, because he doesn’t trust Black Fang? Or maybe he had some devious backstabbing plan in mind? It’s like, random game master plot generation!”

Yes, I do love it when a plot comes together. Once the kids finish waiting for their dad to recover from being completely geeked-out, the adventure continues.

“Lexi, Sharpblade, Shalelu and the guards arrive back in Sandpoint. Shalelu thanks you guys once again for coming to their rescue, and leads off the very battered group of guards to the Temple of Sarenrae for healing.”

“Let’s go to the Rusty Dragon,” suggests Jojo. “I think I’m running low on cheese cubes for Pseudo.” The adventurers make their way to the tavern.

As they enter the place, I say, “The Rusty Dragon is surprisingly quiet even though it’s quite close to evening. Usually this place is bustling, but there’s hardly anyone here tonight!” Ameiko the tavern owner greets the adventurers as they head up to the bar counter. She immediately brings up some fish and cheese cubes when Lexi asks for some for Pseudo, and soon the tavern owner is giggling with delight at watching Pseudo gobble up his treats.

“You know, it’s reeeally weird that no one else seems to be here,” I say to the kids off-handedly.

Evan finally rises to the bait. “I ask Ameiko where everyone is.”

The tavern owner snorts in disgust. “Oh, everyone is off at the other tavern near the wharf called ‘The Hagfish’. A group of adventurers came into town this morning claiming that they’ve slain the black dragon called Black Fang, so everyone is there to listen to their adventure.”

It takes a moment for this to sink in. “They did what!?” exclaims Jojo.

I shrug nonchalantly. “Black Fang. The dragon. These adventurers claim that they’ve killed him.”

It doesn’t take very long for the adventurers to be on their way to The Hagfish tavern to hear the tale for themselves. “You arrive at the wharf and make your way to a very seedy-looking building that is actually sitting on stilts raised above the water. The place is packed with people, and you guys find it hard to squeeze your way in.”

The Hagfish is hardly big enough to accommodate the sheer number of people in it, but no one seems to mind. Everyone is paying particular attention to a table located in the middle of the tavern, where three adventurers are sitting. “You see a large brutish man guzzling down a drink, next to a dark-skinned, hooded woman and a handsome roguish half-elf. The half-elf is entertaining the crowd with his tale of their adventure.”

The handsome half-elf rogue flashes a smile. “And then! Just as the great dragon was charging out of his dark lair towards us, my brutish friend here swings his war hammer with all his might! And he smashes, not the dragon, but the pillar supporting the roof of the lair! Rubble collapses on the roaring black dragon, and soon, Black Fang is slain, buried under tonnes of mountain rock!”

“What, that’s it?” sniffs Jojo. “They just buried him?”

The half-elf seems to have overheard Lexi and turns to her. “Ah! But of course we checked that the dragon was indeed dead! Behold, the trophy of our accomplishment!” He holds up, over his head so that everyone can see, a long, black fang.

Adventure Notes:
The Black Fang adventure in the Beginner Box uses the long black fang (found in the carcass of some farm animal) as the basis for sending the adventurers to find the creature which the fang belongs to. I like re-using plot devices in my own adventures. Makes it almost like we’re in a different dimension.

Speaking of re-use, if you’re familiar with the Rise of the Runelords adventure campaign, you might recognize who these dodgy adventurers are. ;-)

“Everyone gasps!” I dramatize. “The black tooth is almost as long as a short sword! And then someone starts to clap, and soon everyone is joining in.”

Everyone except for Sharpblade and Lexi. “I’m going to stay close to the table,” says Jojo suspiciously. “Maybe I can check if the tooth is fake.”

I nod and say to Evan, “Meanwhile, you notice something odd at the bar counter of this tavern. Behind the wooden counter is a large aquarium that seems to be filled with murky water. There’re letters carved into the base of the aquarium which spell out, ‘NORAH’.”

“Norah?” repeats Evan, looking interested. The skeleton walks over to the bar and tries to peer into the aquarium but the water is much too murky. He asks the bartender what ‘Norah’ means.

“Almost all at once, the people sitting at the bar stop their chatter and turn to you. You can see some of them grinning, and not all in a friendly way.” The bartender finishes wiping a mug and speaks to Sharpblade in a gravelly voice. “I see you be new around these parts! ‘Norah’ be our pet hagfish! And there be a challenge to any who dares drink a mug of foul water from Norah’s tank! A bag of gold for the one who manages the feat!” The bartender (obviously an ex-pirate) gestures to a pouch hanging on a hook next to the aquarium. It looks like it’s full of gold coins.

Norah the Hagfish
“A challenge? You mean, like a contest?” asks Evan. The boy loves contests ever since that tournament during the festival.

“Yes, and the winner gets the bag of gold,” I tell him.

You can almost see the gears turning in his head. “Oh, I know!” he says to Jojo. “I’ll drink the mug, and it won’t affect me because I’m a skeleton!”

“But they’ll see the puddle of water on the floor,” points out Jojo. “They’ll know you’re tricking them.”

“I suppose it depends on how well Evan rolls on his Bluff,” I reply, casually spinning a d20 with one hand. “It won’t be easy, but he might be able to pretend that he’s drinking the stuff.”

Of course, Evan decides that he’ll do it, and the challenge is set. The bartender scoops out a mug of foul, slimy water from Norah’s tank and places it in front of Sharpblade. A crowd of spectators gathers around him. Sharpblade takes the mug, and begins to pour it down his mouth. “Sharpblade is trying very hard to pretend to drink. The water is pouring into his armour where it will hopefully stay!”

I hand the d20 to Evan who closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and shakes the die around in his hands before tossing it.

He rolls a 2.

It takes some time to calm Evan down over his agonised pleas for a re-roll. I hold firm though. “Then someone suddenly says, ‘Hang on! Isn’t this Fastidus’s skeleton guard!?” and someone else says, ‘He’s leaking water from his armour!’”

“Oh no!” groans Evan while his sister just rolls her eyes.

Enraged at being tricked, the angry crowd lifts the skeleton up and carries him to the nearest window. “They throw you out of the window, and you fall straight into the water with a big splash! Sploooosh!!!” It’s important to provide good sound effects.

By now the kids are laughing at the poor skeleton’s misfortune. They make up a scene where Sharpblade encounters more hagfish waiting at the bottom of the harbour, and by the time the skeleton walks out to shore, he’s covered with flopping hagfish biting his armour.

Picture courtesy of Evan
Jojo decides that it’s time for her to leave before the unruly crowd in the tavern remembers that she came in with Sharpblade. “As Lexi makes her way to the front door, she recognizes someone!” The elven rogue spots Shalelu wearing a discreet hooded cloak near the doorway. The tall huntress signals to Lexi with a smile, and they both leave the Hagfish together.

When they are some ways away, Shalelu draws back her hood. Lexi can see that the elven huntress is still recovering from some cuts from her ordeal in the dark cleric’s prison. She still wears a determined smile though. “I thought I might find you here too, Lexi. I was also very curious about these adventurers who claim to have slain Black Fang. A little too coincidental, and convenient, don’t you think? Now no one is going to go looking for the dragon by the time the full moon comes around.” Lexi nods thoughtfully in response.

Shalelu glances around before continuing, “I don’t think we can risk believing that the dragon is dead. I need you and Sharpblade to go investigate if the tale is true. Go to Black Fang’s lair and see for yourself if the dragon has been slain. Meanwhile, I’ll follow these so-called dragon-slayers around. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that they are up to no good.”

Adventure Notes:
And there we have it – a lead-in to the Black Fang adventure. Yes, it was a long, convoluted adventure path, but I hope you guys have enjoyed it as much as we have.

Onward to Black Fang’s dungeon!

Plot hooks: Three so-called adventurers. Is Black Fang really dead?

Pathfinder RPG: Session 17 - The Prison (Part2)

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

The kids decide that the chute which Erik had been dumped through looked like the best way to get into the prison. They spend some time arguing about how they were going to push poor Erik up the chute with them, but I solve their dilemma by telling them that Erik has passed out. Unwilling to lug around a comatose guard with them, the kids decide to hide Erik in the chamber under some junk and ghoul remains before heading up the chute.

“You both climb up the chute, and at the top, you find a small hatch that opens easily. Peering through, you see that the chute opens into a corridor with jail doors on the sides. You don’t see any one in the corridor.”

Jailhouse carnage!
The adventurers decide to check out the closest jail door. “Looking through the jail door bars, you see a couple of Sandpoint guards! They look pretty beaten up and miserable.” Lexi calls out to them, and the guards are surprised (and very much relieved!) to see them. Lexi immediately starts working on the jail door lock while Sharpblade checks out the other cells.

“The rest of the cells contain Sandpoint guards as well! You come up to the last cell. This one contains a single guard who seems to be staring at the wall with his back towards you. He hasn’t seem to have heard you.”

“Hey you!” calls Evan. “Are you a ding-dong or something? We’re here to rescue you!”

The guard in the cell turns around, revealing dead eyes and a gaping mouth. “You realise that this is no longer a human guard but a horrible zombie!” With a lurch forward, the zombie moves towards the cell door, arms outstretched. Sharpblade backs away from the door as the zombie sticks its hands through the bars, moaning grotesquely.

“Uh oh,” I say. “The zombie moans seem to have attacted some attention!” With a shriek, half a dozen goblins burst into the corridor, attacking Sharpblade the moment they lay eyes on him.

I expect Jojo to continue working on the cell doors to free the guards, but she decides to draw her rapier instead and fight the goblins. The fight is surprisingly tedious because of the narrow corridor, but eventually the adventurers defeat the raving goblins. My memory of the fight is somewhat hazy, but I seem to recall the kids feeding the dead goblins to the zombie.

The room where the goblins had come from contains a wooden table and a pile of junk in the corner. “It looks like stuff taken from previous prisoners.” Some of the guards find their equipment among the junk. Rummaging through the junk, Lexi pulls out a few valuable trinkets worth some gold.

Beyond the goblin chamber’s door is a north-south passageway. The passage to the south turns westwards into a long hallway which the guards say leads to the front door which is guarded by a couple of ogres. The way north is dark, and is likely where the dark cleric has Shalelu captive.

The kids head up north while the guards head south to deal with the ogres. They come to a pair of double-doors which they open. “The double-doors open into a dark chamber. There is an altar on the other side of this chamber, and you instantly recognise Shalelu lying on the altar! Next to the altar is someone dressed in black robes and a hood. This must be the evil cleric who is going to sacrifice Shalelu!”

The Big Bad Evil Cleric room
“Interfering fools!” The evil cleric reaches out his hand, and I get Evan to roll to resist a ‘Hold Person’ spell. He rolls a 17 and saves. Lucky kid.

Infuriated that his initial spell failed, the cleric tries again, this time with Channel Energy, which in his case channels negative life energy. I roll d26. “Dark energy swirls around Sharpblade, and to everyone’s surprise, the energy heals Sharpblade for 7 damage! It looks like the cleric hadn’t counted on an undead opponent turning up to fight him!”

Why does he look like an anime?
“Hoho, thanks for that!” Sharpblade charges towards the cleric while Lexi follows closely, hurling her fire dagger when she gets a clear shot. Snarling with rage, the dark cleric draws out his mace and meets the adventurers head on.

Sharpblade readily trades blows with the dark cleric. I was hoping to use Thelsikar’s Bleeding Touch on a living victim, but Lexi was happy enough to stay away and pepper the cleric with daggers. In the end, a final blow from Sharpblade smashes the cleric against the wall where he explodes into a mass of dark shadows with his dying scream.

With the death of the cleric, the Hold Person spell on Shalelu dissipates, and the elven huntress can move freely again. “Thank Desna that you came!” she says after she jumps off the dark altar.

The elven huntress seems to have learnt a lot in her captivity. “That foul being is, or was, Thelsikar, an evil cleric who worships Lamashtu, the goddess of monsters! He has somehow been given a vision from his dark goddess to create these black potions, which greatly enhances the strength and size of any creature which drinks it, but at the cost of turning them chaotically evil!”

I glance up at the kids who seem more interested in doodling on the map. “Hey, are you two listening!?”

“Yeah, dad. Black potions. Chaotic evil. Got it.”

“Huh. What’s the name of the evil cleric?”

“The what?”

“The guy you guys just… nevermind!” I shake my head, and continue my narrative. “Anyway, the EVIL CLERIC THELSIKAR has brewed up a new batch of these potions, and has sent it to Black Fang the black dragon! The dragon needs to drink them in the light of a full-moon. And the next full moon is in three days!”

Adventure Notes:
The beginners box adventure has the adventurers starting out not knowing what sort of creature Black Fang was – only that it had a very long black fang. By now, I didn’t see the point of concealing what Black Fang was from the kids – I mean, there’s a black dragon ON THE BOX COVER which Evan has continually pointed at and asked, “When are we going to fight THAT?”

Reviewing the session report, I think the kids are getting way too lucky with their rolls. It would have been interesting to have Sharpblade affected by the Hold Person spell, but that didn’t pan out. I’ll have to up the challenge rating on these encounters soon.

This session, I’ve given the kids a big hint over how Sharpblade can be healed with negative life energy that dark clerics use. I’ll let that stew in their heads for a while, and then propose some unorthodox suggestions in some future adventure. (Muahaha!) Suggestions welcome! devil

Plot hooks: Face Black Fang before the next full moon.