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.
Between the previous session with the reefclaw and this one, the kids were bugging me about those potions they had found on the reefclaw’s island lair. Eventually, I rolled up some identification checks for them, and told them that the potions were a Potion of Levitate (which, I explained, temporarily allowed the drinker to float in the air, like he was being lifted by the Force) and a Potion of Invisibility. The latter find caused quite a stir with the kids, and leading up to this session, they spent long discussions devising many, many (many) ways to utilise the precious potion.
One of our treasured possessions in our modest DVD collection is the “Dungeons & Dragons: The Complete Animated Series” boxset that features the animated adventures of six kids in the fantasy world of D&D. We watched through the entire boxset several years ago, when the kids were around 6 and 4. I recall that Evan particularly liked to mimic the boy barbarian with his super-powerful club during the cutscenes where he leaps up and smites the club into the ground. Jojo could do an uncanny impersonation of the boy barbarian’s pet unicorn Uni.
|The greatest animated series ever!|
That impressed them. The thought of a giant, godzilla-like spell-caster was a novel (and scary!) concept. So the kids are quite perturbed in knowing that they are going up against a dragon this session. I tell them that they’ve got a pretty good chance of defeating Black Fang, given the Arrow of Dragon-Slaying, the ‘Dragon-Killing’ sword, and the tip from the goblin king. “As long as, you know, you roll the dice well,” I say absently while sorting through the GM Guide.
Glancing up to their dismayed faces, I figured that I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that last bit.
“A short ways up the northern tunnel, you guys come across a narrow chamber. In the dim light, you can see three gaunt figures standing in the middle of the chamber. Pseudo sniffs and reports that these are undead skeletons.”
Sharpblade, of course, is all keen to go ahead and see if these skeletons would ignore him like the last time they encountered skeletons. I roll the d20 for each skeleton, and shake my head. “Unfortunately, these skeletons immediately attack you the moment they see you!”
The skeletons in the Black Fang adventure module are really there to showcase monsters which have the special “Damage Reduction” ability. Skeletons which are harmed by any piercing or slashing weapons, like swords or arrows, get to reduce the damage inflicted on them by 5, which is a pretty big deal for newbie adventurers with mundane martial weapons.
Of course, given the fact that both the kids have magical weapons that burn, electrocute and cause general mayhem, these three skeletons were definitely a few levels short of a decent Challenge Rating. I suppose I could have beefed up the encounter, but given the circumstances of them fighting a dragon this session (and the ever-looming bedtime hour), I decided to let the kids loose and put the poor creatures out of their undead misery.
|Yeah, the skeletons probably ended up looking like this|
“Oh poor thing!” says Jojo and tries to calm him down with cheese.
“I take out my dragon-killing sword, dad,” declares Evan nervously. “You heard that, right, dad? The sword? I’m holding it up?”
“Gotcha,” I tell him.
The kids have obviously been discussing tactics and decide that now was the time to put their plan into action. “I’m getting out my bow and the dragon-slaying arrow,” says Jojo. “And I’m drinking the Invisibility potion. And then, I’ll sneak into the room.”
As the invisible elven rogue cautiously enters the chamber with her bow at ready, there is a sudden hiss in the darkness beyond them. “You both hear a raspy sound, like scales rustling against each other. Something large breathes, and you suddenly hear a deep, hissing voice, “Ah, visitors. I can smell you, you know.”
And at this point, I take the advice from the GM Guide, place the Black Fang pawn onto the grid map, and then slam the cover of the Beginner Box upright on the table for dramatic emphasis. I think I made the kids jump.
To other GMs planning to run this session, I suggest a mandatory preparation of watching the Smaug and Bilbo scene from “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”. Brilliant, brilliant scene, and it captures exactly how dragons can be so intelligently EVIL.
“I’m flattening myself down on the ground!” declares Evan.
“How about your sword?” I ask. “Aren’t you holding it up?”
“Yeah! I’m flat on the ground with the sword up!”
The black dragon shifts in the chamber. “Ahh.. I smell.. A Dragon-Slaying Arrow. Impressive. You plan to kill me? I very much doubt that.” Black Fang’s scaly tail rasps against the stone floor. “I must say, this is very.. annoying. After all the trouble I went through sending those three adventurers along to Sandpoint to ensure that no one disturbs me until the full moon. Very annoying indeed.”
“I KNEW those guys were duds!” says Jojo. “Dad, am I close enough to shoot?”
To the kids, the dragon was not making any move towards them; only shifting around sideways in his side of the chamber. Jojo was determined to get close enough to ensure that she gets a clean shot. “Hmm… interesting. I smell goblins on you. But no goblin blood. King Fatmouth has let you both through without even fighting you, hasn’t he? I’ll deal with him and his useless kin, after I’m finished with you. And did you like my skeletons? They were once adventurers like you, you know. After I melted their brains out of their heads, I raised them as skeletons myself.”
I could see that my dialogue was setting the kids on edge. Sharpblade was refusing to budge from his stairway perch, while Lexi had stopped in her advance, hoping that Black Fang would come just one step closer. “You both have such.. interesting treasures. That.. skeleton on the stairs. He’s one of those.. ‘Thinking skeletons’, isn’t he? How interesting. Does he even know what his ninja masters REALLY are?” The dragon shifts sideways once more.
Here, I pause, and stare straight at the kids. “You know what? One of you suddenly remembers something!” I could see the kids were holding their breaths. “Black dragons spit acid. In long, straight lines.” And then the kids realise why Black Fang was moving sideways in order to line himself up with both of them.
Before Lexi and Sharpblade can call out a warning, Black Fang drops open his maw and spews his acidic breath weapon. Adventurers get a Reflex saving throw against this, so I turn to Jojo first and hand her the d20. “Well, you’re first in line.”
Jojo tosses the d20. She rolls an 18.
Imagine the scene. Lexi the elven rogue launching backwards into one of her spectacular back flips, Matrix-style, as streams of black dragon acid breath hiss past her; a veritable super-soaker scattergun of acidic death. But not even a single drop singes the nimble elf as she miraculously evades the entire breath attack, and lands with a roll that brings her up with her bow drawn back.
|Better than this movie visual!|
“Well, at least now we know what it’s good for!” says Evan. “I get up and charge down the stairs!”
On Lexi’s turn, Jojo declares that she’s firing the arrow at Black Fang, specifically aiming for the black dragon’s underbelly. She rolls the d20, and when I announce that it hits, the kids literally whoop for joy.
And here, as I write this, I recall that I should have given Black Fang a Fortitude saving throw against that dragon-slaying arrow. But as I think about how the kids were so pumped up by the arrow hitting the dragon and high-fiving each other, I exercise the luxury of being a GM dad: Black Fang fails his Fortitude roll.
The arrow smacks into Black Fang’s underbelly like an angry wasp, and the black dragon roars with pain and fury. He tumbles around the cavern floor, smashing pillars and walls in his effort to dislodge the deadly arrow.
Sharpblade charges in with his sword, and attempts to slash at the beast before it can recover. Brutally wounded, the black dragon is still a formidable foe, and he launches a bite attack that almost sends Sharpblade tumbling backwards. The skeletal warrior slashes his dragon-killing sword, and with that blow, Black Fang is slain.
The GM Guide states that Black Fang is still a ‘young’ dragon with 54 Hitpoints. That arrow did 50 damage, and Sharpblade’s single attack with his Dragonbane sword was certainly more than enough to end the dragon menace.
Yes, yes, the GM Guide also recommends that Black Fang be allowed to flee and return later as a recurring villain. But honestly? I think 20 sessions leading up to Black Fang was plenty enough, and it would have been anti-climatic for the kids if they didn’t get to do away with Black Fang in this encounter.
Once the kids finish celebrating, they get back down to the business end of the phrase ‘Kill monsters, and take their stuff.’ The adventurers find a crate of black potions that Black Fang was planning to consume, which they readily destroy. Amongst Black Fang’s hoard of gold, they find some interesting items which they have not seen before - Scrolls. I explain how Scrolls work, and they get a bit excited when they hear that one of them is a Scroll of Fireball. However, they are disappointed to learn that only wizards or clerics can use scrolls.
“How are we going to get through King Fatmouth’s goblins?” asks Jojo, after scouring the entire cavern for another exit and finding none.
“Well, look through the stuff that you’ve got available,” I suggest. “I’m sure that you’ll figure out something.” Of course, by now, I had already thought of how they could solve this dilemma. It came to me when during the dragon fight.
The adventurers scour through their inventory, tossing aside whatever that would not work. The Potion of Levitate had some potential, but they dismiss it when I assure them that they could not share it.
“Well, what about in the cavern itself?” I ask. “Perhaps there’s something here that can help you.” They ask me to describe the cavern again. “The large dark cavern contains the hoard that you guys have already sifted through. And one dead scary dragon.”
And then the light-bulb turns on. “I’m taking my sword,” says Evan. “And I’m chopping off Black Fang’s head!”
The scene at King Fatmouth’s goblin disco chamber is pretty much the usual. Music is banging, goblins are dancing, when a sudden scream interrupts the festivities. From the northern exit of the chamber, which is located on a high ledge, the head of Black Fang appears. “DID YOU THINK YOU COULD SEND ADVENTURERS TO KILL ME!?” roars the gruesome visage. “I WILL EAT YOU ALL!”
“Black Fang!” wails King Fatmouth. “Me sorry! Those adventurers got through and we tried to stops them!”
“TOO LATE NOW!” roars the dragon. “I’M GOING TO EAT YOU AAAALLLLL!”
The goblins all scream as one, and scatter from the chamber. King Fatmouth himself is one of the first goblins to rush out through a secret exit. And soon the whole chamber is devoid of the last of the fear-stricken creatures.
Lexi and Sharpblade lift up the head of Black Fang. After checking that everyone has fled, they roll the large head down the rocky slope. They scamper down the slope after it, and loot the treasure under King Fatmouth’s throne before leaving.
And then, it was bedtime.
Thanks to everyone for reading. The kids and I had an absolute ball with the Pathfinder Beginner Box, and there’s still so much that can be explored. Lexi and Sharpblade do continue their adventures in Sandpoint and its surrounds in at least another couple of sessions before we decided to give Pathfinder a rest. Recently though, the kids have been asking to get back into Pathfinder, so hopefully soon, there’ll be more adventures to add to our logs!