Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Apologies, Play Reports, and... Disneyfication?!

First off, apologies to all following the work on this blog: partly due to work, partly due to no less than three friends getting married this month, and partly due to having started running my campaign for my group sooner than originally thought, time has been a little tight. The upside of my free time mostly going in to preparing the campaign to be run means that I have quite a lot of notes on the conversion of the adventure ready to be typed up into something more substantial for the blog; my group have reclaimed the monastery and have now moved on to their first "guerilla" run on Kelmarane, so I hope to have part two and some of part three up on the site before too long. Meanwhile, my group have opted for a theme for their party that is somewhat... unusual.

Legacy of Fire is one of Paizo's more mature adventure paths with it's darker themes (although almost all of their Pathfinder adventures have tended to be rather "grown up" in this respect) and my group decided that all their characters were going to be from Disney cartoons. Originally, they were all going to be from Aladdin due to the vague Arabian flavour to Katapesh, but the idea grew a little bit in scope, so we now have: -

  • Aladdin - Human Rogue
  • Jasmin - Human Shaman with Rajah as the spirit companion.
  • Jaffar - half mummy Warlock-Invoker hybrid class (actually a refluffed Shadar-Kai race and lots of reflavoured powers into things like beetle swarms). The character is a little sinister in tone, which I would usually be wary of including, but I believe the player behind the character should be able to avoid the characters nature becoming an obstruction to the rest of the group.
  • Mowgli - a Warden who in game is perfectly human, but mechanically uses the gnoll race after being raised amongst a tribe of the creatures, which could provide some interesting contrasts with Dashki later in the adventure.
  • Rafiki - a mandrill Monk (more reflavouring, this time using the rules for the halfling race for the simian character). Thankfully, the player decided that the character can speak Common perfectly, although he doesn't always present this fact up front.
In our first session, there was a bit of settling down, questions about the characters and little bits of tweaking to account for my house rules (half level stacks with odd stat bonuses and the background traits listed in an earlier post being the only pertinent ones so far). When we got down to the actual play, the group managed to make it through the opening group of skill challenges before we had to call it a night. As two of my players had never had any experience of 4th Edition prior to this but had heard some rumours of it being "nothing but combat", I felt that this was a nice introduction showing the adaptability of the rules and also a gentle way of introducing some of the rules without the comparatively larger amount of rules involved in the combat aspect.

After the players had introduced themselves (as far as their characters were willing: Jafar, for one, had been a little reticent to fill the group in on his full background) they came to Almah's camp with the fire having fully taken hold. They needed little prompting to actually start getting involved with helping out, although Jafar kept his distance from the fire and any manual work and involved himself with bossing about the guards to form a more organised bucket chain. Aladin busied himself carrying several buckets at time, Mowgli briefly assisted with trying to push the second cart but then moved to assist Jasmin in the rounding up of animals, and Rafiki started helping out Father Zastoran with the injured mercenaries, but opted to forgo speaking any common just at present to avoid startling the rather shaken priest.

A few things became apparent as I was running these challenges, the first of which was that I could really have done with a single sheet overviewing all the skill check DCs for each challenge, as I ended up shuffling backwards and forwards through my sheaf of notes frequently moving from one player to the next. Thankfully I was very familiar with the design, which helped in this regard, but if such a thing would have been useful for me, it would obviously be very useful to anyone running the adventure who didn't have the benefit of having designed the encounters. This is obviously something that will need including when it comes time to compile all the notes in to a reference document.

The other thing was that it was very useful to have the social skill challenges for befriending members of the camp available for certain members of the party to segue into after they had dealt with the physical challenges most appropriate to their areas of expertise. With the higher complexity of the Healing the Wounded Firefighters challenge, this particular section of the encounter outlasted the extinguishing of the fire and rounding up of the animals, but only two of the party had skill training in Healing, while one had enough of a stat bonus to be able to make fairly consistant Aid Other checks. This still left two characters (Jafar and Aladin) with little to do after success in the other challenges, but thankfully they started to ask questions of the camp inhabitants, which allowed for a few early checks on the social challenges. This was little more than a happy accident in design on my part, but a valuable lesson for going forward.

With both the mercenaries in stable condition, the other members of the party started getting involved in the social and investigative side of things and the group mostly split up to interview the NPCs most appropriate to their characters: Jafar continued to try to take charge with the guards; Mowgli spoke to Dashki to assess his knowledge of things gnollish; Jasmin conferred with Hadrod and Hadrah regarding the livestock; Rafiki meanwhile shocked Zastoran by enunciating the common tongue perfectly and once the old man recovered, struck up a quick friendship.

The party was quick to point the finger at Dashki as the source of the fire, but were rather eager to bury him up to his neck without investigating his claims of little pixie like creatures. Thankfully, mention of the missing goat set Mowgli out looking for goat tracks, which he easily found along with many tracks of tiny bipedal creatures, which swayed much of the group towards believing Daski's story, although not enough that they didn't insist on him being kept under the close watch of the Pactmaster guards while they struck out into the night on a pugwampi hunt rather than have the man accompany them. And so, as party headed out into the moonlit desert, a few torches in hand, our first session came to a close.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Skill Challenge: Negotiating Payment with Almah

This skill challenge could theoretically take place later (perhaps after clearing the monastery with the party asking for a little extra coin after receiving their reward) but after returning with the pugwampi(s) is the first time that Almah will entertain the negotiations.

Skill Challenge: Negotiating Payment

2 (6 successes before 3 failures)
Level 2 (250 XP)

The party convince Almah to raise their initial payment of 350GP (treasure parcels 5 and 10 from level 2) by a further 180GP (treasure parcel 6 from level 1). They may also receive up to half of this in advance, should the party request it.

The party fail to impress Almah with their negotiation skills: the reward for clearing the monastery shall be 350GP and Almah refuses to part with any of the money until the party have completed this task.

Main Skills
Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate

Other Skills
Arcana, Religion, Insight

Special - Befriending Almah
If the party have acheived a victory in the Befriending Almah skill challenge, they gain one success automatically in this challenge. If the party is at the defeat condition in that skill challenge at the time of attempting the negotiaion, the automatical accrue one failure in this challenge.

Special - Befriending Garavel
If the party have achieved a victory in the Befriending Garavel skill challenge, they gain one success automatically in this challenge due to Garavel having spoken well of the party to Almah.

Special - Using Information
Using certain topics or information in their negotiations may assist the party. For the first time any of the following subjects are raised, award one automatic success. If the same point is continually brought up, Almah wearies of it being mentioned and it accrues one automatic failure from that point on. However, if the party raise any of the subjects in a particularly disrespectful manner, you may rule against granting the automatic success.
  • Being reminded that this may be Almah's last, best chance to reverse her families legacy.
  • Raising the fact that Almah knows more of Kelmarane's history than she has previously revealed (if the first time mentioned).
  • Respectfully pointing out that they are willing to continue despite this fact after the matter has already been broached.
Diplomacy DC 12 (1 success, maximum of 3 successes)
The party engage in the general "cut and thrust" of negotiations with Almah.

Bluff DC 12 (1 success, maximum of 2 successes)
Almah may be quite susceptable to outside counsel, but in a business negotiation she is more keenly aware of bluffs and deceits.

Intimidation DC 14 (1 success, maximum of 2 successes)
The party employ more "strong arm" tactics in their negotiations, such as pointing out the time and difficulty in finding someone else to help free Kelmarane.

Arcana or Religion DC 16 (1 success, maximum of 1 success between the two skills)
The party take advantage of Almah's interest in astrology and divination, lending strength to their negotiations. The first success at either of these skills also grants a +2 bonus to all further checks in this challenge.

Insight DC 5 (0 successes; 0 failures)
A character takes the time to study Almah for clues to her motives and thoughts during the discussion. Success at this skill grants a +2 bonus to the next skill check that the character makes during this challenge. This bonus may be conferred to another character only if they have some method of comunication that Almah is not party to. Almah speaks Common, Kelish, and Varisian.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Pugwampi Hunt

The party can find the pugwampi tracks in the hills north of the camp with a DC 10 Perception check, while a DC 15 Perception or Nature check can identify the tread of Rombard. When the party near the ravine where the pugwampis have tied up the goat, the cry that Rombard makes can be identified with a DC 12 Nature check as being from the goat.

Pugwampi Hunt
Encounter Level 1 (500 XP)

5 pugwampi snivellers (P)
Rombard (G)

Unlike the original adventure, there are five pugwampi that have kidnapped Rombard. They have secreted themselves about the cactus patch--two on the large boulder, one behind some rocks next to Rombard, and two behind some rocks at the front of the patch--and wait for someone to stumble into range of their unluck ability.

Rombard has an AC 10, Fortitude 12, Reflex 9, Will 7. He has 5 of a total 20 hp, and one healing surge. He makes Acrobatics checks at +2.

Perception Check
DC 23:
You spot small creatures peering out from behind rocks and coarse brush.

The pugwampis will remain hidden if not spotted. With their stealthy sabotage ability, they will aim to use three minor actions each turn to ensure that their unluck attack is maintained on as many foes at the same time as possible. That likely means a lot of dice (potentially up to fifteen a round), so you may just wish to rule the attacks as automatically hitting until the pugwampi are revealed, or else roll a large number of d20 checks before the session and make a note of them, crossing them off as they are used. The advantage is that it helps avoid "tipping your hand" as to the presence of the pugwampi until after a few cases of "bad luck".

The pugwampi wait patiently for the party to start attempting to rescue the goat, preferably through some ingenious scheme that will provide plenty of skill checks for the unluck penalty to affect. Any time a character suffers a mishap that causes them any damage, the pugwampis are unable to control their snickering, lowering the Perception DC to spot them by 2 each time party hit points are lost. The pugwampis will attack if they are spotted or if the party looks likely to escape with Rombard (likely if they free him).

Once combat is joined, the pugwampi prefer to stay out of melee where possible. If one does find themselves in melee, another pugwampi will attempt to use unluck where possible to reduce the chance of an opportunity attack hitting when the pugwampi moves away.

The pugwampi are still cowardly, but now they flee when bloodied. If all the pugwampi look to be set to escape, engineer some mishap to befall them, or have Dashki step in to land a final blow.

Features of the Area
Illumination: Assuming that the party headed straight off at Almah's request, it should be night and the area should be dimly lit (moonlight).
Cactus Patch: Moving full speed through the dense cactus requires a DC 17 Acrobatics check. This is reduced to a DC 10 check when moving at half speed, shifting, or being pushed, pulled, or slid through the area. It increases to a DC 24 check when running. Failure at the check results in 1d6 damage being taken from the cactus spines for each square moved through.
Spaces within the cactus patch also counts as being heavily obscured.
Ravine: The ravine is 10 ft deep and the sides require a DC 10 Athletics check to scale.
Boulders: Three large, mostly flat boulders sit on the western side of the patch. The two on the ground are roughly 10 ft high. The one on the westernmost edge of the map provides enough room for a run up, making a DC 10 Athletics check to leap the gap between it and the largest boulder on the ravine edge. The stacked boulder at the edge of the ravine is 10 ft high itself, making it 20 ft above the ground when combined with the other boulder. It takes a DC 8 Athletics check to successfully climb the boulders.
The other rocks only stand a few feet tall. They provide cover to small and medium creatures and superior cover to tiny creatures (like the pugwampis).
Rombard: Rombard is tied to a scrub bush and in his panic makes attempts to rescue him difficult. It takes a DC 12 Dexterity check to untie the rope. On a failed check, Rombard running around the character makes a +6 vs Reflex attack. A hit pushes the character 1 space towards the ravine edge.
If a character makes a DC 12 Nature check, the check to untie Rombard is reduced to a DC 5 Dexterity check.
The rope can be cut (AC 10, Reflex 8, Fort 8; 5 hp) leading to Rombard running unless someone is ready to grab him or the rope.

Returning with at least one pugwampi to camp is handled as detailed in Howl of the Carrion King, except the payment that Almah originally offers the party is 350 GP (treasure parcels 5 and 10 from level 2). The party can negotiate a further 180 GP on top of this (treasure parcel 6 from level 1) in a skill challenge that will be presented in a later post. Returning with the pugwampi also gains one success or removes one failure in the Befriending Almah skill challenge.

For solving the mystery of the fire reward the party 125 XP. If the party return Rombard alive award the party a further 100 XP, and also leads to gaining two successes in the Befriending the Camel Drivers skill challenge.