Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pathfinder RPG: Session 20 - Black Fang's Dungeon (part 2)

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

Warning: This adventure contains a lot of references and spoilers to the Black Fang dungeon. If you have yet to play through the dungeon, be warned that you’re likely to come across the same stuff we did.

With no real option other than to perform the “Retrieve the Dragon Toy” quest for Fatmouth the Goblin King, the adventurers leave the Goblin King’s lair back the way they entered. King Fatmouth graciously provides the adventurers with two goblin escorts to lead the way to where they last saw King Fatmouth’s sister with the dragon toy. However, the goblin escorts do not go very far - they come to the magic fountain chamber, point and gibber fearfully at a pair of double-doors on the eastern wall before fleeing back to their lair.

“That’s it?” snorts Evan. He pushes against the double-doors and leads the way in.

I read out from the GM Guide. “The door silently swings open to reveal a chamber bathed in red light. On the east side of the room, a pair of stone statues stand on either side of a dusty altar that is inscribed with runes. Atop the altar sits a large red gemstone. The creepy red light comes from this gemstone.” 
Likely an altar dedicated to the Tiki gods.

Nothing like some sweet loot to encourage some adventurer action. When the kids decide to approach the altar, I say “As you take one step towards the two statues, loud voices boom out from them.” I attempt to produce two voices at the same time, and end up with, “Ap-Ap proach-proach with-with humili-lity-ty... and-and live-live!”

Jojo giggles. “Those statues sound out of sync, dad!”

“It’s been over a hundred years since anyone else has come here,” I say defensively. “These things probably haven’t been serviced in a long time.” I boom out the warning again, emphasising the clue. “Ap-Ap proach-proach with-with HUMILITY... and-and live-live!” It was unintentional, but the voices sound remarkably like the evil villain Chester V from ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2’.

Greetings, friends, and Namaste!
“What does ‘Humility’ mean?” asks Evan. “Is that like, humble and stuff?”

“Ask mum.”

“MOM! Dad’s cheating! He’s using words that we don’t know!”

Nearby, Mom looks up from the computer, and the kids fill her in on the situation. I expect her to figure it out straight away, but to my hidden astonishment, the riddle has her stumped as well. I throw in another clue - “Humble, as in.. a Penitent man?” But even that just draws blank looks. I can see that a mandatory viewing of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ some time in the future is required.

A penitent man is humble before God… KNEEL!!
And so, the kids decide that it is best to approach the altar from different sides, just in case the statues spring to life and attack. When Lexi and Sharpblade get close to the altar, I tell them, “Suddenly, the fire above the statues’ hands flares up, and a sheet of flame about waist high blasts the both of you!”

Lexi succeeds in her Reflex saving throw, and makes a spectacular backward flip that lands her right outside the blast zone unscathed. I tell you, that rogue’s “Evasion” class feature has saved her bacon so many times, it is almost game breaking! Sharpblade, on the other hand, catches a face-full of fire which chars his skull into a black visage. He too hastily retreats back to the entrance side of the room.

I decide to drop one more hint, and gesture with my hands for added emphasis. “Sharpblade’s TOP-HALF of his armour looks pretty badly burnt! The LOWER-PART of him looks okay though.”

The kids finally get it. “Ooohhhh!” They make a second attempt towards the altar, this time crawling on their hands and knees. “Once you get close, the statues blast their flames again, but it all passes overhead leaving you both unharmed!” Sharpblade reaches the altar first and takes the large ruby on it. I tell him that it obviously has some magical properties, but he cannot work out what it is. He puts it into his backpack with the intention of getting it identified back in Sandpoint.

“Well, there’s no sign of King Fatmouth’s sister here, or any dragon toy. There’s another door to the south though.” The adventurers open the door, and I describe the dark room to them which is festooned with spider webs.

"Spiders again, dad!?"
By now, the kids are pretty unfazed by giant spiders, so they quite confidently enter and search the room. They find the goblin corpse of King Fatmouth’s sister, and retrieve the dragon toy from her dead grasp. Even when I announce that a Giant Spider bursts out from hiding and swipes at Lexi, the kids are quite nonchalant about it and start making their way back towards the exit.

“Wait, you guys aren't even going to kill this thing?” I ask, somewhat surprised.

“It's just an animal protecting its home,” states Jojo. “That’s animal cruelty!”

Evan agrees. “It’s being ‘TERRI-TO-RIAL’, dad!”

The angry, territorial spider makes a few ineffectual swipes at the retreating adventurers before scurrying back to its lair once they reach the altar room.

Adventure Notes:
Hmm.. I should have put a few more spiders in there. Maybe a bigger one like that large Grey. Territorial, sheesh.

King Fatmouth is overjoyed to have his toy dragon back, and enthusiastically yanks its tail several times to watch its wings flap. “Haha! King Fatmouth very happy with dragon toy!”

“So we can pass now?” asks Jojo.

“The goblin king nods happily at you two and says, ‘Yes, yes - you can go!’ You both head towards the exit to the north, and are just about to start climbing up towards it when you hear the goblin king slyly call out, ‘Go kill Black Fang, yes? Oh, very, very hard to kill Black Fang… if you do not have Magic Dragon-Killing Sword!’”

The two adventurers cease their climb and turn around. “What magic dragon-killing sword?” asks Sharpblade curiously.

I tell the kids, “The goblin king can hardly hide his gleeful smile. ‘Why, the Magic Dragon-Killing Sword in nearby lake! It so powerful, it can pierce hide of Black Fang!”

“But, dad, we’ve already got a magic arrow!” points out Evan. “Why do we need a magic sword?”

“Yes,” I agree. “That arrow should do quite a lot of damage to a dragon like Black Fang. But what if… you miss?”

Jojo sighs. “Okay, so where is this lake?”

King Fatmouth once again graciously provides two goblins to lead the adventurers to where the underground lake is. This time, the goblins lead them halfway down an eastern tunnel before gesturing and gibbering fearfully towards the end of the tunnel and fleeing back to their lair. “At the end of the tunnel, you both enter a large chamber that mostly contains an underground lake. In the gloomy darkness, you can see an island in the middle of the lake.”

More swimming!
“That’s no problem for me,” says Evan. “I’ll just walk underwater until I get to the island!”

And so, the skeleton warrior walks straight into the dark waters. Lexi hesitates a bit, but decides to swim after him. Pseudo opts to fly up to the ceiling and watch out for danger. Lexi and Sharpblade both get to the island without incident.

“You see bones of goblins and other things scattered everywhere on this island. Searching through the junk, you find a couple of strange potions, a pouch containing 175 gold, and an elaborate-looking longsword!” Evan and Jojo decide that Sharpblade should carry the ‘dragon-killing sword’ and in return, Sharpblade gives Lexi the arrow of dragon-slaying.

“Sharpblade starts heading back to shore, and Lexi swims after him. However, just as Lexi reaches deeper water, she sees something swimming in the water towards her!”

“Is it a Reefclaw!?” asks Evan excitedly. The boy is still keen on seeing a Reefclaw ever since spotting it in the GM Guide.

I smile. “You know what? It’s a Reefclaw!”

“Yayy!” cheers Evan happily.

“Yay, I think,” says Jojo uneasily.

Half-eel, half-lobster. All menace!
The reefclaw swims with frightening speed underwater, and reaches the swimming elf in no time. Lexi tries to fend it off with her rapier, but the monster easily avoids her blade and hits her with a claw attack. “Oh, you know what? This reefclaw has a ‘Grab’ special ability! It clamps its claw around Lexi’s waist, and pulls her underwater!”

Adventure Notes:
The Black Fang adventure module has strict instructions to only attack the adventurers when they step on the island, and to stick to land attacks. I think it’s probably to lessen the difficulty of the encounter. With my kids’ character levels, I doubt I need to be so careful.

The elven rogue tries again to strike at the reefclaw, but somehow misses badly. “Dad, am I drowning?” asks Jojo.

“Well, you can hold your breath for a number of rounds, and then you start drowning.”

“Evan! Help me!”

Evan strikes a pointer-finger pose with both hands. “Oh yeah! Here I come!” Sharpblade saunters back towards the reefclaw while humming a funky tune. He draws his warhammer at the last instant and smashes the reefclaw on its back.

I check the damage and its remaining hitpoints. Ooo, that smash hurt. “The creature emits a bubbly roar, and lets go of Lexi! It swims off into the murky waters.” The two adventurers stagger out onto shore, and after a short rest, they make their way back to the lair of King Fatmouth.

“At first, the goblin king looks surprised to see you two, but then recovers quickly. ‘Ah! So you both survive the reefclaw! And you have dragon-killing sword! That very-very good!”

“You could have told us about the reefclaw,” says Jojo darkly.

The goblin king brushes that aside. “No problem for strong adventurers like you, yes? Now you go kill Black Fang, yes? One tip.” He lowers his voice conspiratorially. “Hit underbelly! Black Fang have soft underbelly!”

So armed with their new dragon-slaying weapon, and a special tip, the two adventurers climb up towards the northern exit. Just as they leave, I relate the following to the kids:

“King Fatmouth waves goodbye to you both, and just as you are out of sight, another goblin hisses angrily into the king’s ear. ‘Why you let them go!? They have magic dragon-killing sword! Why we not kill them and take sword and all their treasure!?’ The goblin king grins evilly. ‘It very simple. Black Fang can kill them for us! If Black Fang kills them, we sneak in and take all their treasure! And if they get rid of Black Fang, we kill them when they come back through here!’ The goblins laugh at their king’s evil scheme.”

“Little do the goblins realise is that Pseudo has been listening to them from above. The little dragon wings its way to you to tell you guys what he just overheard!”

Adventure Notes:
I really enjoyed how much King Fatmouth and his goblins worked as a story-angle instead of just monster fodder in our adventure. At this point, I had honestly no idea how the kids were going to get out alive (or without killing A LOT of goblins), but I was sure some solution would present itself eventually.

Plot hooks: Onward to Black Fang’s lair!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Pathfinder RPG: Session 19 - Black Fang's Dungeon (part 1)

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

Warning: This adventure contains a lot of references and spoilers to the Black Fang dungeon. If you have yet to play through the dungeon, be warned that you’re likely to come across the same stuff we did.

Before heading off to Black Fang’s dungeon, Jojo prudently remembers that she needs to buy a bow so that they can utilise the Arrow of Dragon-Slaying that they found in the evil cleric Thelsikar’s prison. After a short shopping trip at Savah’s Armory (and a careful inspection of the artwork of various bows in the Player’s Handbook), the elven rogue leaves the shop with a brand new longbow.

Evan (of course) is all excited by the prospect of slaying a dragon with the magic arrow. “Let me carry them, Jojo,” he pleads to his big sister.

Jojo (of course) refuses, and this (of course) sparks off a fierce argument over who should be in charge of the dragon-slaying equipment.

I (of course) get fed up of listening to the demands of “Daaaad! Tell him/her that he/she should let me carry it!”, and I tell them to sort it out between themselves, otherwise we will continue the campaign on some other night.

Grudgingly, the kids reach a compromise - Lexi will carry the longbow, and Sharpblade will carry the arrow. The pitfalls to their arrangement were immediately apparent to me, and I point out the problem if they get split up, but they both insist that this is the fairest way. Oh well, fair’s fair, I suppose. Down, evil GM instincts! Down!

The adventurers leave Sandpoint and make their way to where Black Fang’s dungeon is reputed to be. After some hard travelling, they arrive at the site. “Black Fang’s lair is supposedly located on the side of a mountain. However, you can see that there is a large rock-slide blocking the way in, and there is no way anyone can get in from here. Perhaps there’s a back-entrance?”

The kids heed my hint, and proceed to circle the mountain, looking for another way in. At this point, I finally unfold the large map that came with the Beginner’s Box, and fold it such that only the first encounter area is shown.

Goblin Welcoming Party
“Okay, so you guys are here. It’s pretty misty, and you can both see a weird statue standing in front of what looks like a wall of moss.” The kids inspect the statue, and I describe how the features of the statue look like they have been melted off, perhaps by acid.

While the kids ponder over the significance of this, I decide to throw in a little deviance from the printed adventure, just for fun. “Sharpblade, behind this statue, you see another statue closer to the wall of moss.” As the skeleton warrior moves to inspect it, I say. “It looks like a statue of a goblin. It’s about the same height of a goblin, the same shape of a goblin, in fact the same colour of a goblin… You know what? It’s a goblin!!”


With a shriek, the goblin launches itself at the surprised Sharpblade. I roll a surprise attack on the skeleton warrior, and score a hit. Enraged, Sharpblade strikes back with his warhammer, and just as Lexi moves in to finish it off with her rapier, I tell her that another goblin springs out from the behind wall of moss and lands right on the elf. The two of them struggle on the ground until Lexi manages to impale it with her rapier. Meanwhile, Sharpblade’s acid warhammer smashes the first goblin into steaming gunk that splatters all over the already acid-burnt statue.

Adventure Notes: 
The first encounter with the two goblin sentries would have been laughably easy for the kids who have dealt with far more dangerous encounters. So I took the liberty to spice it up a bit. 

The wall of moss is obviously the back entrance into Black Fang’s dungeon. The two adventurers cautiously pass through the moss curtain. They search the goblin sentry post, find the key under one of the straw matts, plunder the locked chest, and then make their way into the northern passageway.

The Black Fang adventure module places a wondrous site in the next chamber. A magic fountain, with shimmering water and glowing runes, has been dedicated to Desna, the goddess of fortune. Anyone tossing in a donation and taking a drink can receive a potential blessing from the good-aligned goddess. However, anyone desecrating the fountain by polluting its waters will suspend its enchantments, for about a half-a-day.

Not every dungeon comes with its own drinking fountain
My mistake was probably showing the picture of the fountain to the kids before telling them about its significance. I hold up the GM guide with its illustration, and say, “You guys enter a chamber, and see this fountain-“

“A pool!” declares Evan excitedly. “I’m jumping in!” Before anyone can stop him, the skeletal warrior leaps forward and flops into the fountain like a water-starved hippo in a kiddie wading pool.

I sigh. “Immediately, the fountain stops glowing, and its light disappears.”

Jojo rolls her eyes. “Just great, Evan - you broke it! You always break everything!”

As the kids argue over the right and wrong usage of the word ‘always’, I fall back on parenting strategy tip #3 – Distraction. “Hey guys! You both hear some loud noises coming from this north-west corridor! It sounds like… goblins arguing!”

The problem with strategy tip #3 is that worked great when the kids were much younger (“Oh dear, that was a bad fall! There, there – oh look! A dog!”). They catch on a lot quicker by the time they figure out basic deception, which in my kids’ case was about the time they started talking.

So it takes some time to persuade a sulking Evan to follow Jojo up the north-west corridor, but eventually the moody (and dripping wet) skeletal warrior goes up the corridor. I quickly glance through the GM guide for details on the next chamber, which happens to be the lair of King Fatmouth, the Goblin King.

When I reach out to take the grid map of the Goblin King’s chamber, I notice that Jojo has been doodling on it. “Hey, what’s that you’re doing?” In her doodling, Jojo had used different coloured dry-erase markers to colour in the various squares in the Goblin King’s chamber. “That’s really pretty, Jo. Hmm.. it looks kind of like a disco floor!”

Probably the grooviest Goblin King lair in the Inner Sea region!
Sometimes, it takes just a spark to ignite a whole forest of ideas. I just love it when it happens during a session; it’s just what makes roleplaying games so unique. After some excited suggestions from the kids, we piece together the lair of Fatmouth the Goblin King.

“The whole place is rocking with loud, banging music, and you both see that the large chamber is filled with disco-dancing goblins!” In fact, we decide that it looks pretty much like that scene from ‘Madagascar’ with the partying lemurs.

"We like to.. MOVE IT!"
“Okay, so how many goblins are there?” asks Evan.

I hesitate. The correct answer is: Not a ridiculous number, but enough to make you kids think twice about attacking them. "Um, lots?"

Jojo saves me from answering further by telling me that she wants to send Pseudo in to check if there are any exits in this chamber. The little dragon flits around the chamber ceiling to avoid being noticed, and comes back to report that there is an exit at the northern end. It is a bit of a climb to get up to the exit though.

The two adventurers decide to sneak into the chamber and try to make it to the northern exit without attracting the attention of the partying goblins. I describe more of the large chamber to them. “At the other end of the chamber, you can see a raised throne made out of wood and bones. Sitting on the throne is a very frustrated-looking goblin with a bone crown. He is covering his ears while four other goblins shout over him, pointing fingers at each other.”

I get the both of them to roll a few Stealth rolls, to see if they get to the exit unnoticed. They roll pretty well.. but not good enough. “The goblin king’s eyes widen, and he suddenly leaps up shouting, ‘HEY! Where you two going!? NOBODY pass through here without King Fatmouth’s permission!’ Before you guys know it, you are completely surrounded by goblins pointing their spears at you!” 

Evan asks, "Just how many goblins are there?" but I tactfully ignore him.

Jojo decides to try some diplomacy. “Um, yeah, we’re just passing through. No harm done, just carry on with um.. whatever you all were doing. Great dance moves, by the way!”

The goblin king growls. “NOBODY pass through, until they perform a QUEST for King Fatmouth!” 

Evan’s played enough RPGs on the playstation to know the drill. “Okay, okay. What do you want us to do?”

The goblin king blinks, and then frowns as he thinks. Then he spots the four goblins who were arguing over him earlier and smiles. “If you want pass through, you need to get… King Fatmouth’s Dragon Toy!”

Jojo says, “Right.. so you want us to go get.. your dragon toy? Where is your dragon toy?”

“King Fatmouth stupid sister stole dragon toy! It little dragon with wings that move when pull tail! King Fatmouth sent these four to get toy back, but they too scared to follow where she went! If you get dragon toy back, King Fatmouth will let you two through!”

Jojo thinks. “Hmm.. so you want a dragon toy that has wings that move when you pull its tail?” She brightens up. “How about if we give you a NEW dragon toy?”

And this is where computer RPGs differ from pen-and-paper ones. “The king looks very intrigued by what you propose, ‘A NEW dragon toy? You have NEW dragon toy!?’” Yes, very intrigued indeed.

Jojo and Evan discuss their plan before telling me, “We’re going to get Pseudo to pretend to be a toy dragon. We tell him to stay reeeaaally still, and open and shut his mouth like a real toy. Then when we get through the chamber, Pseudo can fly back to us.”

Well, you can’t fault the cunningness of this plan. I hold up the d20. “I like it! But it all depends if Pseudo can convince the goblin king that he’s a real toy.”

Jojo takes the d20 from me, and rolls it. It comes up a 5.

“Pseudo tries his best to stay still like a toy dragon, but when the excited goblin king pulls his tail, the little dragon squeals and nips King Fatmouth’s finger!” The goblin king howls as Pseudo flies away to the safety of the cave ceiling. “KING FATMOUTH NO LIKE THIS DRAGON TOY! WANT OWN DRAGON TOY!” He points an angry, gnarled (and injured) finger at the adventurers. “BRING BACK REAL DRAGON TOY, OR YOU TWO NEVER PASS THROUGH CAVE!”

Adventure Notes:
After writing this, I realise just how it looks like the kids argue a lot during a single session. Reality though, is that while one kid is listening, the other kid is absently rolling dice or doodling with the dry-erase pens. I probably just remember the arguments because it's when they're both interacting the most.

Plus, it'll be a hoot to get them to read all these sessions when they're a lot older ;-)

Plot hooks: King Fatmouth's Dragon Toy.