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?


  1. Very cool and I love how you reworked alot of the material. I've done this myself with other adventure paths. For instance one group I run with wanted to run the path called "Kingmaker" but instead of being heroes, they wanted to be bandits who got sick of their old boss lol.

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