Pathfinder Wrap-Up

We spent 11 months and 2 parts of a 6 part Adventure Path playing Pathfinder before I started to dread running the game. I don’t think that’s a statement on the quality of the adventure path or the quality of the rules system, but Pathfinder is basically a refinement of the d20 System, i.e. D&D 3.X, a system I played for most of the last fourteen years. When D&D 4E came out, I was weary of D&D 3.X. I had seen its flaws (which don’t bother some players) and while Pathfinder fixes some of those, is it just as complex as that system is, and the complexity made it a chore for me to game prep. There was a time when complexity didn’t bother me because game prep was my primary leisure time activity. The older I get and the more variety I inject into my leisure time, the less time I want to spend on complex prep for a game I only play every other week.

In short, my preferences have moved on.

I’m not the only one at the Doctor StrangeRoll table who has grown tired of Pathfinder. Several of the players have expressed a desire to try out systems with less complexity. My main beef is that as characters grow in power, running the characters become largely an exercise in mathematics, from a mechanical perspective, and certain tasks become trivial. That can be good and bad. The math, frankly, bores me. That tasks become trivial, well, I have mixed feelings about that. For experienced character, some tasks should be trivial. I believe every task (at least, dramatically appropriate tasks; I’m not talking about things like opening an unlocked door, riding a horse down to the village square, or mundane things like that) should have a chance of failure. No one is infallible, and sometimes failures can create good drama and character-defining moments. With Pathfinder (and d20 systems in general), I feel like players are encouraged to optimize and specialize to the point that their characters become little more than collections of stats rather than characters. This can be mitigated, of course, by the GM writing all of his own material so that the challenges they encounter are tailored to them exactly. I realize it is impossible for published materials to cater to everyone, but I have neither the desire nor the energy to devote to a 100% custom Pathfinder campaign. The game no longer fits my preferred GMing style.

In the last two years and three months, my group has played three variations of D&D: Basic D&D (which I defined WAY back in 2012 in this post), D&D 4E, and 3.X/Pathfinder. AD&D is all that remains for the core Doctor StrangeRoll experience. I’ve deviated from my initial purpose a bit, since I have not revisited any of the adventures we played at the beginning with a different system, but I still think we’ve gotten a good taste of what each system has to offer. As it stands right now, I’ve enjoyed Basic D&D most. My players, of course, probably have different opinions, but it seems to me that the role-playing was stronger when the mechanics were less complicated.

That’s not to say one cannot have really good role-playing with complex mechanics, but I’ve noticed that many players have trouble moving beyond the mechanics when they are complex, the players are busy and tired when we game (we game on Friday nights, after everyone has had a week of work and 3/5ths of my group are raising kids, too). Other people have noted that when a game’s mechanics concentrate on tactical combat, it takes special effort to have games that are more than tactical combat. We’re all busy, we’re spinning many plates at once, and I think rules light is in the future for the DoctorStrange Roll group.

Good thing AD&D is able to be more rules light than d20 and more modern versions of the game.

So, what does all this mean for the Licktoad Goblin Pirates and the Skull & Shackles adventure path? Based on the brief conversations with some of my group, it’s likely the goblins will enjoy being wealthy after selling their booty in Port Peril and will create a colony of goblins at Tidewater Rock. They’re semi-respected pirates now, but their futures will be written by others (maybe me, if I ever get to write a Pathfinder novel for Paizo). Most players in my group don’t want to recreate the goblin pirates in a different system. I understand. Being a stabby, choatic anarchistic goblin can be fun in small doses, but most players want more complex characters than that and find it hard to identify enough with a goblin to make them transcend who they were born to be.

For the next several sessions, we will be playing Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, specifically “Beyond the Rim.” Blog entries describing that game will likely have spoilers galore! Consider this a warning. I’ll also be nice and include a spoiler warning at the top of each post…if I remember.

After “Beyond the Rim,” we’re probably going to do a few one shots. I want to introduce the group to Fate, and one of my players expressed an interest in running another session of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space (in which I play Dr. Cornelius Constance, a time-traveling scientician from the 19th century). One of the one shots will definitely be AD&D though (either 1st or 2nd edition) so that I can finish my analysis of D&D through the editions. By the time that happens, I’m sure D&D 5th edition will be available. I don’t know if I’m going to incorporate that or not. Right now, I have no desire to play another edition of D&D. Between Basic D&D and AD&D 2nd Edition (the edition my most formative years were spent playing), I don’t need a different edition of D&D for anything. I am tired of the edition treadmill. I miss the days when we could mix freely between Basic, 1E and 2E and it more or less worked because the systems were that similar. Since 2000, a new edition of D&D (I do not count 3.5 as a separate edition from 3.0) is basically a new game. Some trappings are the same, others are different. If I want a different fantasy game I can run Savage Worlds, or Dragon Age, or HackMaster, or Dungeon Crawl Classics.

No one edition of a game is going to be all things to all people. Is there a perfect game for you? Perhaps. Maybe you’ve already found it. What is my perfect game? I’m not sure I’ve found it yet. I’m not sure I want to. Trying new games is too much fun.

Categories: Pathfinder | Tags: , , , ,

Goblin Skulls & Shackles – Sessions 16-17: X Marks the Spot

As the Licktoad Pirates assessed the damage done to their new home in the latest sahuagin raid, the goatherd approached them with something he found on one of the sahuagin bodies. He presented his masters with an amulet made from coral and a strange metal and what appeared to be a treasure map. While the goblins thought the amulet was interesting, more interesting was the map which led them through the Shackles’ islands and archipelagos to a location known as Mancatcher Cove.

They sailed Sea Spite into the cove and spent the better part of a day exploring the cliffs and caves trying to match something up to the riddle written on the map. They found an area which seemed to fit, but couldn’t quite match things up the way they were comfortable with. It was not until dawn, and the shadows and sun showing the skull face alluded to in the riddle on the cliffs, that they found the answers they sought. They were in the right place, but now knew enough to dig in the soft earth at the base of a crude statue.

Naturally, they were disappointed that the shaft they dug led not to treasure, but to a wooden floor. Clearly, it had no place buried in a cave, so they broke through, revealing a shaft leading to darkness and water below. They dropped down into dark, flooded tunnels. Fortunately, Spack Jarrow prepared them with a water breathing spell, and they had a potion as well. Since goblins could see in the dark, they had little trouble navigating the sun-starved tunnels and quickly found themselves in conflict with sahuagin (along with their pet sharks!). After defeating the first wave of guards, the Licktoad Pirates were able to explore more and found an odd, dry cave with plants (despite no way for sunlight to reach them), bedding, and someone’s possessions. (This was a legacy area dealing with Isabella Locke, Ms. Not-Appearing-In-This-Campaign.) They swam on, back into the flooded tunnels. They made their way through sahuagin guard barracks and found a bloated sahuagin in a nursery quick to defend her charges. They dispatched her and found hatcheries, destroying every developing egg before discovering a captured locathah queen (whom they also killed), finally deducing that she was the source of all the eggs they just killed. Being goblins, they did not ponder why there was a captive locathah supply eggs to sahuagin, but just shrugged and pressed on.

The Licktoads found the area in which the sahuagin kept their pet sharks, but were able to avoid being chum(s) by using a magical ring of animal friendship they found back in the dry cave area. In the shark pen, the amulet Spack Jarrow took from the goatherd drew him toward the western wall. A sediment-filled crevice led to another cave, and with the help of a summoned earth elemental, they were able to remove enough sediment to enter in. In the cave, they found a ship’s anchor, and a shriveled, dessicated human chain to it. The chains no longer bound him to the anchor, however, and the mummy of the Ancient Mariner swam forward to attack Spack Jarrow, bearer of his amulet’s twin. The ensuing battle was the most challenging (thus far) of the Licktoad’s careers, but they were still able to defeat him.

Further exploration allowed the Licktoads to discover a series of caves that led back to the cove. They noted its location and returned to exploring the flooded caves. The Licktoads swam into deeper tunnels, eventually finding a sort of throne room. The king of sahuagin and his concubines attacked, and nearly killed Spack Jarrow with his cruel, coral trident. Each blow caused Spack Jarrow to slow and harden, as though the goblin was turning into coral. The battle raged, for the second time in as many hours, they fought for their lives were victorious at last. (The mummy Ancient Mariner and the sahuagin king were the first truly challenging combats of the campaign for the Licktoad Pirates.) Thorough searching revealed the sahuagin’s treasure, and a mighty haul it was!

With patience and magical assistance, the Licktoads returned to Sea Sprite with a magical chest containing the spoils of their efforts, a kingly haul. They returned to Tidewater Rock to give the stewards their share, then headed for Port Peril so they could properly count their plunder and sell off the items they didn’t need. But what adventure awaited the Licktoad Goblin pirates in the metropolis of Port Peril?

…and thus ends book 2 of the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path, Raiders of the Fever Sea. I modified it a bit to get things moving again because the sandbox nature of the middle of the book was really dragging. Instead of dragging it out for several more weeks making sure they were able to assemble all the clues from all the events in that section and peel the map off the body of Isabelle Locke (it was an elaborate tattoo), I decided to have them come into possession of the map following the sahuagin raid on Tidewater Rock that occurred while they were at Rickety Squibs paying off their debt. It was faster. The campaign momentum suffered greatly due to weather-related complications around the holidays, so I needed to get things going again because, frankly, at one point, I didn’t really want to play Pathfinder any more. They also completely missed getting the amulet from the sahuagin way back in session 13 (which I ran in December), which was a big part of the enmity between the sahaugin and the PCs. It just goes to show that these adventures that hinge on one event serving as a catalyst can be completely derailed through PC actions. They fled from the encounter that would have given them the amulet, not because they were afraid of the sahuagin, but because they just didn’t want to be bothered by them (which is totally appropriate for their characters, but sequence-breaking, nonetheless). For some reason, it took me a while to understand how crucial it was that they end up with that amulet. That’s part of the problem with the Paizo adventure paths, the only real problem I have with them: there’s a lot of detail. So much detail that is never really passed to the players and is only there for background for the GM, that it’s easy to miss something. They really need an outline at the beginning of each book detail what important plot points must occur for the adventure to proceed the way it’s intended. The way the goblin pirates were proceeding, there was no real plot for them to pursue once they cracked the rock because not only did they not have the amulet that would draw the sahuagin in for revenge, they didn’t have the alliance with Lady Agasta Smythee because they slaughtered everyone at Tidewater Rock (Lady Agasta was the first to die!). Once they claimed Tidewater Rock, they really were masters of their domain and didn’t NEED the plot. They were debt-free, owned a ship and controlled an island fortress. For a couple of weeks, I actually considered letting them find a Spelljamming helm. Then I came to my senses and realized if I was having trouble with sandboxing in the relatively small area of the Shackles, letting them fly throughout all of D&D/Pathfinder Space (i.e. The Prime Material Plane) was not going to make that job any easier (though the idea of goblin pirates in spaaaaace is very amusing to me).

With the end of book 2, I am going to take a break from GMing for a bit. I had planned to do it at the mid-point (i.e. the end of book 3), but I want the break now. After 17 sessions of Pathfinder, the complexity of the rules set is wearing me down. Thank goodness using the adventure path keeps me from having to prep NPCs and monsters! I’ve also found a complex rules set hinders my ability to improvise. I used to wonder why I found improvising games like Paranoia and the West End Games version of Star Wars MUCH easier than improvising a D&D 3.X/Pathfinder game. Some of the players have also mentioned growing weary of the rules-heavy nature of Pathfinder. My wife, in particular, has difficult with the rules because the medication she’s on affects her memory and there is a LOT to remember in a Pathfinder game, especially if a player wants to understand why something is done a certain way.

I don’t know how long my GMing break will last. In two weeks (during the next scheduled game), I will be in Lake Geneva, WI at Gary Con VI. I’ll be GMing Paranoia (2nd edition) and Star Wars (WEG d6, Revised & Expanded) and playing Top Secret (with the creator, Merle Rassmussen!), HackMaster, Savage Worlds, and FATE. Two weeks after that, the group will reconvene and we’re going to play Star Wars: Edge of the Empire again. I will once more take up the mantle of Captain Kelko Gen, the arrogant Rodian pilot. We’re playing a mini-campaign, using Beyond the Rim. Frankly, I can see him dying at some point because I was pretty darn reckless in the last adventure, though I was lucky enough not to get shot, beaten, stabbed, or eviscerated by Gammoreans. Maybe having a ship will cool his jets.

After the Star Wars game, who knows? Will we pick up Pathfinder again? Will we decide to convert the campaign to a different rules system? Will we leave the goblins to continue their pirating lives and play something else entirely? Frankly, even I don’t have the answers to these questions. The answers may not come until after Gen Con, depending on how quickly we progress through the Star Wars game.

Expect a Gary Con summary post in a couple of weeks. I won’t commit to more than one for the weekend, but you never know!

Categories: Pathfinder | Tags: , , , ,

Goblin Skulls & Shackles, session 15 – Paying Debts


Skull & Shackles LogoAfter cleaning up the bodies, the Licktoad Pirates left some of their more trustworthy crewmates (Sandara Quinn, Rosie Cusswell, and Owlbear Hartshorn, in charge of Tidewater Rock and returned to the high seas. The plan: return to Rickity Squibs to sell off plunder and re-supply.

Three days out of Tidewater Rock, while Ent Cleastwood was on lookout duty, sails were spotted on the horizon. The ship appeared to be a Rahadoumi schooner loaded with booty! Captain Spack Jarrow gave the order to pursue and Sea Spite closed in on her quarry. Before they were able to get into catapult range, a creature took off from the deck of the Rahadoumi ship and flew towards Sea Spite. It was a manticore!

As the beast approached, Brodo Faggins directed the catapult crew to try to fire a shot at it. Meanwhile, Captain Spack Jarrow worked magic to summon lighting from the cloudy sky. Miraculously, the catapult’s shot hit the manticore. A lighting bolt scorched the creature, but it was able to summon the strength to launch a volley of spikes from its tail, impaling Gargornne in a last-gasp attack before being brought down and crashing into the sea.

During the battle with the manticore, the enemy ship maneuvered into position to use its ballistae on the Sea Spite. The ship was close enough for the crew to read her name: Sanbalot. The merchant crew managed a few ineffective shots before another lighting bolt killed half the gunnery crew and a boulder from the Sea Spite’s catapult destroyed one of the ballistae.

Sanbalot’s captain and marines fell just as the ship entered boarding range. The inexperienced merchant crew struck their colors. Captain Spack Jarrow offered the crew a choice: join him or die. Only the lone remaining marine was defiant. The rest of Sanbalot’s crew were informed they would sail with the Sea Spite until they reached Rickity Squibs, where they could leave or stay.

Once they reached Rickity Squibs, tales were told of their exploits, including the cracking of Tidewater Rock and nine of the merchant crew chose to stay with the Sea Spite. The Licktoad Pirates offered Rickity a trade: the Sanbalot in exchange for wiping out their debt. The deal was acceptable. The goblins resupplied their ship and headed back to Tidewater Rock. When they arrived, they learned the sahuagin had attacked twice while they were gone. The Licktoad Pirates resolved to deal with their nuisance once and for all….

Another cakewalk for the goblin pirates. I think the sandboxy parts of the adventure are designed to be easy, so the PCs don’t experience a TPK while they’re just sailing around being pirates. The real challenges should come while they’re dealing with major plot points of the adventures rather than the “let’s spread tales of our derring-do and badassery” phase. Since they’re coming up on a couple of major back-to-back plot points, we’ll see.

Once they’ve finishedI plan to take a short hiatus from Pathfinder and GMing. One of the other players has offered to run a few sessions of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. I may write up those adventures here, and maybe even do a review of the system (which I’ll cross post to various RPG forums and sites that accept such reviews).

I’ve been enjoying the goblin pirate game and I will return to it to see the Licktoad Pirates’ adventure to its conclusion. I don’t think Pathfinder is the right system for me anymore, however. It’s a fine system, don’t get me wrong, but after playing the d20 system and its variants for nearly 14 years now, I yearn for something simpler. I’ve been playing D&D since 1982, everything from Red Box basic to 4E & Pathfinder. The most fun I ever had with the game was 2nd edition AD&D. I’m curious to see how these Paizo adventure paths would translate into a system like AD&D or even Savage Worlds, and once Skull & Shackles is done, I might try Reign of Winter using Savage Worlds. Depending on how the players feel, I may even convert the game during the Skull & Shackles adventure path (though I doubt that will actually happen; I think the character would feel totally different and the transition would be very hard on some players).

The simple fact of the matter is: I can no longer devote the time and energy necessary for a complex system like Pathfinder. My interest in modern versions of D&D, including D&D Next (or 5th Edition…whatever they end up calling it) is lower than its ever been. I’m weary of buying the books all over again because enough has been changed that conversion becomes a pain-in-the-ass. It’s a game, not work. I don’t get paid to GM, so if I don’t have fun doing it, it’s not worth the effort. Paizo makes Pathfinder easier than 3.X ever was thanks to their adventure paths and books like the NPC Codex, but the rules for every situation, the ability for players to game the system to the extent that they can, no longer appeals to me. I get that being able to crunch the numbers and nearly break the game are part of the appeal for some people; that the gaming the system is THE GAME for some players, and that’s fine. It’s just not what I’m looking for these days.

But, that’s all talk for the future. There are still a few more sessions left of Raiders of the Fever sea, and after that, a short hiatus and four more books in this adventure path. The Licktoad Pirates have only begun their terrible career on the high seas of Golarion!

Categories: Pathfinder | Tags: , , , ,

Goblin Skulls & Shackles, session 14 – Cracking the Rock

When last we left the Licktoad Pirates, they had arrived at Tidewater Rock. The ballistae on the guard towers tracked them as they sailed past the front of the fortress. The goblins decided a frontal assault was suicide. The continued sailing, around the island and contemplated a different plan: a stealth assault from behind. The Licktoad Goblins would take a dinghy under the cover of darkness and make landfall on the far side of the island. They would cross the fields and orange groves until they reached the back of the cover. In the middle of the night, with the light of the waxing moon partially obscured by clouds, they were undetected as they approached the tower.

Captain Spack Jarrow cast a fly spell upon Brodo Faggins and he flew up to the top of the tower. Meanwhile, the monkey goblins climbed, helping their comrades up the side. As soon as they were at the top, Captain Spack Jarrow dropped a silence spell to cover the roof and Brodo Faggins killed one of the two patrolling guards. The other goblins took out the guard on the opposite side. The roof was theirs.

They made their way down the stairs and into the main dining hall. Being the middle of the night, it was deserted. Brodo Faggins checked the door to the other room and entered, finding a lady asleep in her bed. He moved to slice her throat. She survived the initial attack long enough to scream, undoubtedly waking others in the tower, but was killed before she was able to get out of bed. Captain Spack Jarrow removed her head and tossed it down the stairs, towards the commotion they heard of the other residents rushing to aid their Lady. His ultimatum was simple: Surrender or Die.

While the rest of the goblins awaited the tower’s guards by the bottleneck of the dining hall door, Brodo Faggins utilized his fly spell to fly out of the tower’s window and take pot shots at defenders rushing by the arrow slits. He felled two before the tower’s major domo reached the dining hall, enraged by the mutilation of his lady love. He attacked Captain Spack Jarrow with fury, but fell to the combined attacks of the Licktoad Pirates after only striking one blow. The two guards accompanying him managed to fire two shots from their crossbows, but fell as they turned to flee.

The rest of the defenders, including the tower’s servants, believing they were overrun, surrendered. The Licktoad Pirates were victorious and Tidewater Rock was theirs.

In the aftermath, they discussed what to do with the servants and guards. The two elderly servants and the goatherd would stay at Tidewater Rock and tend the crops and livestock. Their ward would be taken to the Sea Spite and locked in the brig for now, despite his protestations that he would gladly serve as a cabin boy. The remaining guards would be pressed into service as well. As the sun rose, a pirate flag flew over Tidewater Rock.

2014-01-09 21.28.44

The swift victory of arms probably would not have been possible with conventional PCs. Goblins have mega bonuses to stealth and the monkey goblins have a climb speed (rather than need a skill to climb). The adventure never considers the group might attack at night from above (and neither do the residents of Tidewater Rock; it’s a remote tower home rather than a proper fortress). What was supposed to be an encounter of guile and diplomacy turned into a slaughter, but the end result was the same: the PCs cracked Tidewater Rock and now had a home base from which to operate in addition to having a ship.

For their level, these Goblin Pirate PCs are underequipped, but are so badass, I can see them totally derailing this adventure path at some point. Of course, not everyone will remain ignorant of their cover-of-darkness stealthy ways forever…

Categories: Pathfinder | Tags: , , , ,

Goblin Skulls & Shackles, Session 12-13 – Adventures on the High Seas

I didn’t update from the last session and the details are all lost now. I am a slacker. Truth be told: life got in the way. Hopefully, with the holidays done and behind us, things will settle down and we’ll have a regular gaming schedule again.

The Licktoad Pirates sailed the Sea Spite on the high seas for days, scouring the horizon for sails. One night, they spotted a sail, but it vanished before they were able to catch it. The next night, they saw another sail, but again, it vanished from sight before they could catch it.

On the third night, a fog arose and surrounded the ship. Looming out of the fog was the ship they failed to catch on the previous two nights. It attacked from port astern (could’ve been starboard…goblins always get them confused). The ship, Deathknell, was a fabled ghost ship, and it’s captain, Whalebone Pilk was out for blood. As his brine zombies attack, he directed their actions from the Deathknell’s command deck.

Although they suffered casualties, the Licktoad Pirates fended off the brine zombies while Garagorrne peppered Whalebone with arrows. Captain Spack Jarrow swung across the gap and delivered a fatal blow to Whalebone, a blow so mighty, it caused the Deathknell to sink! (At least, from the goblins’ perspective.)

With no land in sight, they continued on their way. Several days later, they found a listing fishing trawler. Upon investigation, they found it had been the victim of an attack of some sort, but someone had gone out of their way to cover up the evidence. Brodo Faggins and Captain Spack Jarrow stayed aboard the trawler investigating, while the others returned to the Sea Spite and prepared to cut the trawler loose and immolate her if there was an ambush waiting. Brodo opened up the hatch to the main hold and was greeted with crossbow fire. He slammed the hatch shut, while Captain Spack Jarrow shoved several of his own crossbow bolts through the latch. They returned to the Sea Spite, and cut the trawler loose while Ent Cleastwood threw alchemist’s fire at it. The trawler went up in flames

After it burned to the waterline, they noticed three sahuagin swimming after them, intent on boarding and attacking the crew. Captain Spack Jarrow ordered the ship to sail away, and they left the fishmen behind. A few days later, land was spotted, and open that small island, a small fort and tower. Fishguts tentatively identified it as Tidewater Rock…the elusive destination for which they’d been searching.

Categories: Pathfinder | Tags: , ,

Goblin Skulls & Shackles, Session 11 – Spack Jarrow’s Pirates!

The Sea Spite sailed forth from Rickety Squibs and set about looking for ships to chase down and plunder. A few days of empty seas brought sails on the horizon. The Sea Spite gave chase and eventually the two ships met to parlay.

Mermaid’s Disgrace was her name, captained by a hulking minotaur, Captain Belkul Bloodsword. He had heard stories of the Licktoad Pirates and said he had no quarrel with them. Captain Bloodsword felt they were like kin, both crews persecuted and hated by the human captains of The Shackles.

Sea Spite and Mermaid’s Disgrace parted ways, and though the encounter netted no plunder for the Licktoad Pirates, they gained something possibly more valuable: an ally.

For several more days they sailed, scanning the horizon for sails until they found another. Giving chase, they ran the other ship down. It was an Absalom barque, Truewind, and looked ripe for the picking. The barque ineffectively fired their ranged weapons at the Sea Spite as the Licktoad Pirates closed the distance between them.

Once the battle was joined, the Licktoad Pirates put the training they had at the hands of the Wormwood crew to good use and assaulted the Truewind. In the end, Captain Spack Jarrow and the Licktoad Pirates were victorious, and had their first plunder!

This is a really late update. We played this session last month. Life got in the way. Then we played a rousing game of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, then I went on vacation. Now I’m back, the game journal is up-to-date, and the next game will be a Realms of Cthulhu game for Hallowe’en!

Categories: Pathfinder | Tags: , , ,

Goblin Skulls & Shackles, Session 10 – Rickety Squibs, part 2

While recuperating from the naga attack, the Licktoad Pirates continued to watch the refit of Man’s Promise from afar. Several days after the attack, as the sweltering heat showed no signs of letting up, the goblins determined there was not much to do apart from baking in the heat and drinking.

2013-08-23 18.57.09As they wandered the beach, the saw a flock of large birds fly from the jungle canopy. As the flock approached, a buzzing sound grew in the air and they realized they were not birds at all, but rather giant bees*! As these bees were somewhat larger than the Licktoad Pirates, they headed for cover in one of the huts on the beach, but were not able to reach it before three of the bees reached them. Fortunately, their combat skills were up to the task of squashing some insects.

Later that day, the entire settlement was alarmed by a ship appearing in the cover and launching a boat. Brodo Faggins followed Rickety and his men to the dock to meet the approaching buccaneers.  It was a Chelish captain, Merrill Pegsworthy. He apologized for his abrupt arrival; he was not aware there was another ship already being squibbed. He was well aware of the identity of the ship in dry dock and when confronted by Brodo Faggins, he assured the goblins he was no ally of Barnabas Harrigan and offered to rechristen their ship in the spirit of good fortune.

After Captain Pegsworthy departed, Rickety approached the Licktoad Pirates and offered to discount the price on their ship’s refit if they would trek through the jungle and determine why the lookout failed to announce the arrival of Pegsworthy’s ship. Thought the sum he offered was paltry in comparison to how much the squibbing cost, they agreed that some money was better than no money and set out into the jungle.

After being set upon by some angry wild boars, they found what passed for Rickety Squibs’s watchtower: a platform raised on four poles with a rope ladder surrounded by broken bottles. The watchman on duty was tangled in his hammock, swollen and dead from a giant bee attack. The recovered his weapon and dragged the boars back to the settlement to cook and serve to the workers.

And there was much rejoicing (not so much for the dead watchman).

The hot days dragged on as the work continued, but finally, Man’s Promise was ready to sail again. Captain Pegsworthy smashed a bottle of fine wine on her bow and rechristened her Sea Spite. The Licktoad Pirates were ready to once more set sail….

* Actually, they were giant wasps, but I wanted to make the bees joke. 😀

Categories: Pathfinder | Tags: , ,

Goblin Skulls & Shackles, Session 9 – Rickety Squibs

A couple of new mechanics were introduced in this session: Infamy & Disrepute and Plunder. Infamy & Disrepute is important for the PCs to gain a reputation among the other pirate crews and settlements in the area and be able to use that influence on their crew. Plunder is an abstract way of tracking wealth so that we don’t have to log every bolt of cloth and sack of grain plundered ships are carrying. That kind of book keeping can get really tedious. I handed all the relevant tracking forms off to Captain Spack Jarrow’s player.

After two days of hard sailing, and a near-bout of Ghoul Fever for Captain Spack Jarrow, Man’s Promise* arrived at Rickety Squibs. A longboat rowed out to meet them as they entered the harbor. Once it was established the goblins weren’t there for raiding, negotiations began for the squibbing of the ship. Squibbing involves altering the ship’s lines so that it looks different, yet retains the same capabilities. Rickety Hake doesn’t care who the ship is crewed by, as long as they can pay. And even if they can’t, he’s willing to take a percentage until the work is done. And thus was the agreement the goblins entered into with Rickety Hake: he gets 1/3rd of their plunder, paid monthly, until their debt is paid, plus 500 pieces of gold for a wider rudder to improve maneuverability.

Rickety’s laborers helped secure the ship in drydock and work began. Garagornne befriend a goblin dog that wandered into the settlement and calmed him down before the workers were able to kill him. She called him “Dimly.” The goblins and crew spent a day in the Commons drinking, carousing, and generally telling tales of their exploits, while the hammering, sawing, and cursing continued around their ship non-stop. Despite themselves, Rickety’s workers were impressed by the goblin pirates and invited them down to the beach for some drinking and to play Nine Pin. As they were complaining about the oppressive heat and dryness associated with the drought, despite the air’s humidity, one of the workers was dragged into the water by an aggressive water naga. Once she was done eating him, she turned her attentions to the goblins.

The goblins did not hesitate to wade into the fray and despite the naga’s ferocity, defeated her. Sadly, the worker was not among the living after the battle and Shahn Dook Pizzard and Brodo Faggins both were suffering from the naga’s virulent poison. They tended to their wounded as they contemplated what could have driven the naga from her usual hunting ground….

I intended to run a short one-shot or two-shot adventure of a different game in between Adventure Path modules. Unfortunately, I forgot about that. I was also exhausted from Gen Con, so I was not as energetic as I should have been for this session and I cut things short. That’ll teach me to schedule a game the Friday after Gen Con.

*I’m sure my players will correct me on the name of their ship, but until the refit is complete, “Man’s Promise” is the name on the side of the ship, and that is what I will call it. :p


Categories: Pathfinder | Tags: , , , ,

Goblin Skulls & Shackles, Session 8 – Rescuing the Crew

Looking for the post on Handicap Awareness at Gen Con? Just click the red link (or scroll down; it’s the previous post)!

When we last left our intrepid goblin pirates, they had just defeated a trio of nasty, ghoulettes. They searched the mock boudoir and found some booty to add to their meager loot pile, but more importantly, they found tracks indicating someone or something moved past the ghouls and into a nearby cave. Shahn Dook Pizzard volunteered to make sure the crew wasn’t absconding with the ship while the rest of the group entered the cave.

The cave was partially flooded. The water sloshed up around the goblins’ knees. In the dank dark, the stench of death and decay permeated the air. Since the monkey goblins couldn’t see well in the dark, Spack Jarrow cast light upon his shield. In a small nook, there was some sort of construction, a shrine, perhaps. Upon it, a familiar hat: Sandara Quinn’s tricorn. Four grindylows rose from hidden nooks in the water to attack the interlopers in their lair. The goblins made short work of them and pressed on.

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Brodo Faggins set off a hidden tripwire under the water and narrowly avoided the spiked iron grate that fell from its concealment on the ceiling. The ruckus gained the attention of three lacedons. They were not as easily defeated as the grindylows, but ultimately, the goblins were victorious. Behind a locked cage door, they found their missing crewmates, chained to stalagmites. They seemed no worse for the wear, except for Fishguts Kroop. The lacedons had been dining on one of his ample legs and he was near death. Garagornne thought she could fashion a peg leg to replace the missing limb once they returned to the ship. They searched the lacedons for treasure and returned to Man’s Promise.

The crew was ready to sail when they returned and the goblin-led pirates made way for Rickety Squibs….

And thus, did The Wormwood Mutiny end and the PCs sailed into the next adventure of the path, Raiders of the Fever Sea. I excised a vast portion of the island because after some clever playing over the last couple of sessions, there was really very little reason for them to be on the island, and certainly no incentive for them to explore the entire island. Now I’m going to have to work up a couple of worksheets so I can keep track of their Infamy and Disrepute, two mechanics which will become important once Man’s Promise is refit.

This week is Gen Con!

KermitTheFrogFlailI’ll be in the Dealer Hall most of the time, and when I’m not, most of my free time is spoken for already, and I am not even scheduled to play any games! (Gen Con has been a working convention for me for the last couple of years; I play at Gary Con in March). If you need to find me, the easiest way will be to come to the Dealer Hall and go to Author’s Avenue. I’m at Table AA, near Stan! and the Media Guest of Honor autograph area. I’ll be selling my novels there. (What? You didn’t know I wrote? Yup. Check it out.)

Categories: Pathfinder | Tags: , , ,

Goblin Skulls & Shackles, Session 7 – Ship’s Business & Storms on the High Seas!

After a successful mutiny, the Licktoad goblins were now in possession of their own ship! Discussion about crew positions took place, as well as discussions on what to re-name Man’s Promise. Spack Jarrow, who so often insisted on being called Captain Spack Jarrow was named captain by acclimation (like a Pope!). Brodo Faggins became his 1st Mate. Ent Cleastwood was assigned as Gunnery Master. Garagornne became the Bo’sun and Ship’s Surgeon/Carpenter. Shahn Dook Pizzard became the Sailing Master. Fishguts Kroop remained ship’s cook.

As they wrapped up their discussion on positions and names, a storm came upon the ship. With a skeleton crew made smaller by the mutiny, it was difficult to keep control of Man’s Promise as she was battered and tossed by the wind and waves. The crew did their best to hold her together throughout the night. Creatures from the depths took advantage of the storm and climbed onto the deck from the sea, grindylows, determined to take down the crew of Man’s Promise. They were no match for the seasoned crew of goblins and sailors.

The next morning, when the storm cleared away, three crew members were discovered missing. Not just swept overboard during the storm, but taken, presumably by unseen grindylows during the choas. Also, there was an island looming dangerously close. So close, in fact, Man’s Promise ran aground on a nearby reef. A quick spell from the friendly shipboard druid, Shahn Dook Pizzard and the damage was repaired, but it still left the problem of the missing crew members. if it had been anyone but Sandara Quinn, upon whom Captain Spack Jarrow had a crush, they would have been abandoned to their fate.

The officers took one of the small boats from Man’s Promise and went to the island. The investigated an abandoned village of mud huts and found a trail leading into a swamp. A few giant frog attacks later, and they entered a clearing with a lone tree. A tent covered the tree, creating a make-shift shelter, but wait awaited them was less than hospitable. Three ghouls attacked, and were quickly put down by the power of Besmara. The Licktoads stopped a moment to consider their next course….

The repairing of the ship was the second derailment of the adventure (the first being the early mutiny). At this point, the PCs could have just abandoned the missing crew, so I was actually thankful that one of them felt like he at least owned Sandara Quinn a rescue attempt. Of course, they have no reason to explore the island in general (as written, they have to explore the island to scrounge for supplies while the ship is being repaired, but that’s a moot issue now), and I’m not very good at improvising. Good sports, my players; they kept searching the island. For the next session, I’ll have some clues they can follow. The encounters on the island have also been a little easier because I bumped everyone up to 3rd level since that is the level they were supposed to be at just prior to the mutiny. I probably messed that bit up, but that’s what happens with sequence-breaking occurs. Maybe I should have dragons fly backwards or show Winston Churchill leading the Battle of Britain atop a t-rex or something like that to show ripples in the space-time continuum. It was really obvious the writer of the adventure did not take a particular 2nd-level druid spell into account when the ship was holed on the reef, but then again, without me bumping them up to 3rd level, they wouldn’t have had that spell in the first place…so maybe that was a mistake, but since the mutiny was pulled off so well, I felt like I needed to reward them. Oops.

One reason I’m reluctant to start willy-nilly start throwing out huge swathes of the adventure (like the whole island thing, which seems really superfluous now), is that I have not read far enough ahead in the AP to see if anything on the island becomes relevant later. Heck, for all I know, Sandara Quinn is only relevant in the first adventure and an Understudy NPC could easily take her place later.

Categories: Pathfinder | Tags: , , , ,

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