Friday, 17 January 2014

Pathfinder: Session 2

Since it's holiday time, we've been getting in a few more sessions than usual. After an eight hour Rippers marathon the day before, we got together for four or five hours of Pathfinder.
  • +Annette plays Aliella Glorygem, a Dwarven Wizard (Evoker).
  • James plays Elerith, an Elven Cleric of Desna and the only Good-aligned member of the group (everyone else is some form of Neutral).
  • Maddi plays Constance, an Elven Rogue.
  • Sasha plays Asmira Mothwing, a Human Fighter with scale armour, a shield, a rapier, and a massive Dex bonus.
  • I play Durga the Thunderbolt, a Human Barbarian with a two-handed sword and studded leather armour for swift movement.

Previously, we entered a network of caves and fought many goblins, while searching for the mysterious creature known only as Black Fang.

We awoke refreshed and advanced on Black Fang's lair. After climbing up a ledge, we fought and defeated four foul animated skeletons. Pressing on, we entered a large cavern with a hole in the roof. Asmira and I pushed forward. Rounding a wall of rock, I spied a pile of treasure - and at that moment, a small Black Dragon descended through the hole to land upon it!

Before I could react, it had shot its acid breath at me and charged to attack! I drew the Dragonbane longsword and fought back as the others joined the fray. While it took its toll with tooth and claw, our blades and magic were more than its equal. After a mighty blow from my Dragonbane and a grievous thrust from Constance's rapier, the beast took to the skies and fled.

We returned to town to resupply, planning to head back and stake out the lair in case Black Fang returned. However, the mayor was satisfied that the beast was driven off and we received our reward.

After completing our first "dungeon" the GM informed us that, since our group had worked together so well, we decided to form an adventuring company and offer our services for hire. However, it was a few weeks before we were approached with a task.

I did raise an eyebrow when we were told what our characters were doing, but I am cutting the GM some slack as he's running a module-based introduction that will lead into a full campaign. At the moment the focus of the game is on the dungeons, so the GM exercising editorial control to make sure we get to the right place is understandable. At least telling us how things need to be is preferable to giving us the illusion of choice and then blocking our moves until we end up where he wants us anyway. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to make more meaningful decisions about campaign direction once the game proper begins.

A few weeks after dealing with Black Fang, the mayor approached us with a job. A pair of Dwarves had asked for the rights to an abandoned mine near Sandpoint. The town agreed, but the Dwarves had not been heard from since. We were to find out if they had run into trouble or if they were mining gold without paying their dues to the town.

The mine tunnel led to a crossroad. There were signs of a fight with giant spiders. Tracks had gone West and North and returned, but had then gone East and not returned. Aliella cast an Alarm spell upon the crossroad, and we headed off to explore each tunnel in turn.

To the West was a 15-foot deep sink-hole with a chest on the far side. Constance leapt across and recovered some treasure, but hurt herself trying to leap back.

To the North was a cave-in and signs of webs. We were attacked by two man-sized spiders, but eventually slew them and found a small amount of treasure.

To the East we found an injured Dwarf. He said that he and his brother had been attacked by a rock monster, and implored us to find his missing kin. We found him a short way along the tunnel, but as Asmira advanced to fetch him an Earth Elemental burst out of the rubble and attacked us! Elerith evacuated the Dwarf as battle was met, and we destroyed the fiend after a gruelling battle. Fortunately, none of our number fell in combat.

We escorted the Dwarves back to town and collected our well-earned reward.

The game was enjoyable; once more, the focus was on exploring and overcoming the challenges presented in the dungeon environment, and barely any play has taken place back in town or even in the wilderness. The modular dungeons have offered a variety of problems to deal with, so there's generally something for everyone to get involved with.

After two dungeons, we're two-thirds of the way to second level. It's starting to seem like a bit of a hike, since I'm straining to get my Attack Bonus higher and hit more often. Like many games, Pathfinder tends to have many rolls where effectively nothing happens - missed attacks, failed checks that don't progress the situation. I gave the group an overview of Apocalypse World where every roll has a consequence apart from lost time, and I'm hoping to run a game of that for them some time soonish.

Speaking of XP, there was one situation that irked me a little, although it's nothing major and certainly didn't spoil the game. The GM was showing off his nifty experience point spreadsheet, and happened to mention that we'd missed out on some bonus experience in Black Fang's lair because we hadn't accepted the quest from the goblin chief to retrieve his toy dragon. He said he wanted to reward us for negotiating rather than fighting the goblins. He wanted to encourage us to make the "right" choice, but since we were unaware of the incentive it was pretty ineffective.

The overwhelming majority of the party is Neutral or Chaotic Neutral, we have a Dwarf who has a racial hatred of goblinoids, and my character was leery about leaving the goblin threat behind us. Negotiating and honouring an agreement with the goblins is a Lawful and possibly Good act, so we went unrewarded for playing to our alignments. The only Lawful Good member of the party did try to get us to negotiate, but she was outvoted.

Personally I think it would be better if expectations and rewards were discussed ahead of time so everyone knows where they stand. These days I prefer to discuss the way a particular game will run before I actually start running it. At the moment with Pathfinder it's just the one minor thing, but I thought it was worth discussing because I'd rather not see it become a trend.

In any case, I'm enjoying the game and looking forward to next session.

>>> To be continued...

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