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.

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