Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pathfinder Complete, Part One

DSCN0205, a photo by The Gonk on Flickr.
Today was Number One Son's birthday. As I have been mentioning here, he got the Pathfinder Beginner Box. However, he also got the friggin' LEGO Batcave, so after opening presents, he immediately retired to his room to start assembling that! I peeked in a couple of times over the next hour or so, and he didn't even crack the seal on the Pathfinder box! However, before too long he came asking if we could play it. That actually threw me for a bit of a loop, as I had planned to play in the afternoon, when Number One Daughter would be available to play as well. So, I had to put my improv hat on.

Opening the Box

There are lots of reviews of the beginner box around, but as we cracked the box open, I have to say I was thoroughly pleased with the contents. Even the order of the contents was impressive. On top were the bags of dice and plastic stands for cardboard figures. Under that was a full-size "READ THIS FIRST" page describing four different ways to approach the beginner box, from a solo scenario using static stats instead of even a character, to full on character creation and GMing the included module.

The module included in the book, which I had planned to run for both kids, is set near a small city called Sandpoint. Even though none of the module took place in the city, there was still a regional map including the city location, the module's dungeon, and various other plot hook places, and a city map listing ten buildings of note in the city with some slight detail about the local inn and inn keeper. There are lists of weapons, armor, mundane equipment, spells, wandering monster tables, random minor and major magic items and a 44 monster bestiary. And, it listed a variety of adventure hooks to use after this module. That's some meaty stuff for an upcoming GM, in my opinion. I could play out of just this box forever.

So, since Number One Son wanted to play and Number Two Daughter wasn't available, I explained to him that I wanted to wait on the big included adventure, and I would just make something up for him. He was totally cool with that. He chose the wizard Ezren. We went over the character sheet, discussed Ezren's alignment (neutral good) and the alignment system, and read the couple of paragraphs of Ezren's back story.

Improvising the First Adventure

I explained that after Ezran began to wander after the ordeal with his father, he had arrived at Sandpoint and was staying in the Inn to study a little while. One morning, in the communal breakfast (like a hotel breakfast area, I explained), Sheriff Hemlock (a book NPC) showed up. He explained to everyone present that he was looking for an adventurer, and knew the Inn sometimes had them, for the farming family Torg hadn't been seen for three days and there were rumors of monsters roaming around their farm. His city guard were too scared to visit the farm, but he was prepared to offer 100 gold pieces if an adventurer would take up the task.

That was an obvious lead in, although I didn't point it out as such and Number One Son jumped up immediately and say Ezren would do it, citing his character sheet background that Ezren wants "to make a difference in other peoples' lives." The sheriff and the deputy led Ezren to the Torg's property, telling him he should try to be back in town before nightfall, as they wouldn't want to have to spend the night out here!!

The Beginner Box includes a folded up plastic map. On one side is the dungeon for the module, but the other side is blank. We laid that out and I whipped out the overhead projector markers. I started to draw the path into the Torg's clearing, but Number One Son excitedly said he wanted to draw it. So I outlined what I wanted-- a clearing surrounded by trees and a farming shack in the middle of it, and Number One Son sketched it out, jabbering about where the monsters might be hiding.

He walked in and I had him make a Perception test, and Ezren noticed the house was barricaded from the inside. He used his Detect Magic, and I stated he detected some weak magic off to the side of the woods. I had no idea what it would be, but I wanted his spell to work. I decided it would either be some magic idol attracting the monsters (I was thinking Skeletons or Zombies) or a deceased adventurer of some sort with some basic magic item.

Ezren ignored the magic source he detected, and approached the house. Father Torg spoke up to him, saying there were dead people walking about! He was safe so far in the house, but they were out of water. Ezren encouraged them to come out with him, but Father Torg stated that he wasn't coming out until the monsters were all dead! He also mentioned that the monsters were attracted to loud sounds.

Yes, I killed my son's character in his first RPG game ever.

That gave Ezren the idea of going to the center of the clearing and starting to yell. By now, I had selected Zombies as the monster du jour. I knew he would meet skeletons in the main module, and wanted some variety. And, hey, they are only Challenge Rating 1/2, right? How hard could it be? Better throw three of them out there. I did have Father Torg start yelling to Ezren, "That's them! That's all of them!" both to peel one off, just in case, and confirm to Number One Son that there were no more he had to worry about. One Zombie went to the house and started attacking the door, while the other two approached Ezren.

As soon as Ezren's Ray of Frost hit for d3 damage against one zombie's 12 hit points, I realized I had probably outclassed Ezren quite badly. Ezren got off a Burning Hands, hitting two zombies-- each for one point only! Inwardly, I groaned about my mistake. Number One Son explained how Ezren only did one point of damage to each zombie because he had done the spell wrong and only sparks had flown out from his hands! I was really glad to see him getting into the flavor of the game, but my joy was short lived as the first zombie hit Ezren for eight points of damage. Ezren has zero AC and only seven hit points!! Aye yi yi, I just killed my son in his first role-playing game!!

But wait! You're not dead in 3.5 until you hit -10. I explained to Number One Son that Ezren was badly hurt, and unconscious. He stabilized at -4, and the next morning, Ezren was roused by one of the town guard who had gotten enough courage to check on why he hadn't returned that night. Of course, there were no more monsters...and the front door of the house was bashed open and the Torg family was missing. Number One Son nodded his head knowingly. As the guard was helping him out of the clearing, I reminded him to Detect Magic again. He did, and I told him he could detect nothing magical anymore. He cheerily gave the dramatic, "DUNH DUNH DUUUUUUNH!" and I knew that whatever it was would have to make a reoccurance at some point! He seemed to naturally enjoy the story and feel it all had not been told yet.

Fun Was Had, Regardless

All in all, he seemed to really enjoy it. There was, surprisingly to me, no sign of disappointment that his mission had "failed." When Ezren got back to the tavern, Sheriff Hemlock praised him for being brave enough to try, and arranged for medical care to tend to his wounds. And the Innkeeper offered to let him stay for free from now on-- now that he had proved himself as a real adventurer! (A statement made about this NPC in the GM guide)

At this point, Mom, Number One Daughter and Number Two Son were all home and we needed to stop anyway. We arranged with Number One Daughter to start the module later in the afternoon, after Number Two Son started his nap. I'll have to write that up in another post. I did manage to get all the figures for the included module painted up-- finishing the Reefclaw as Number One Son was off assembling his Batcave! Here are the last few in terrible, overexposed glory. I'll definitely try to get some better pictures once I have finished the bases.


Here are the painting references I used:


  1. This is an awesome writeup, sounds like a good bridging moment between gaming generations, a solid boxed set value, and the Reefclaw looks great to boot.

  2. Awesome...

    Glad to see that the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality hasn't infected #1 and that we can take metaphorical beating and get back up.

  3. I concur, great to read of this passing of the rpg hobby torch.

  4. I enjoyed reading this :) I have written some adventures for the sandpoint Area, I would be honored if you DMed them for your players!!!