Our new Friday night game group has decided to give Pathfinder a shot. Because some of us have not played DnD3.* or Pathfinder, plus some have not played in quite a while, it was decided that we would start this off by having the players work their way through the practice adventure that came with the Pathfinder Beginner Box. This gave everyone a chance to ramp up their familiarity with Pathfinder but also gave us as a group the opportunity to sit down and meet each other as well.
The Beginner Box gave us everything we needed to get started. The box included players instructions, DM instructions, sample maps, four pre-gen characters, and pawns (or tokens) with plastic bases to use as the characters and monster miniatures. The DM instructions comes with a sample dungeon and that is what we played on this Friday. Once the players decided on what character to play the character miniatures were placed on the map and off we went.
The set-up was that livestock had started disappearing or had been found half-eaten. No one had seen the mysterious killer, but the townsfolk were getting spooked so a substantial reward was offered for the group of adventurers that could put an end to this menace. Our group heeded the challenge and soon found themselves in front of a drape-like wall of moss and vines covering the mouth of a cave.
The party edged forward slowly and just as they were ready to enter the cave mouth two goblins appeared through the drape of moss and vines, likely coming out to investigate the noise. The battle was quick and brutal and the two goblins soon lay dead. The party moved into the room where the goblins had come from and found two straw mats and a chest. A key was hidden in the mats and the opened chest revealed a Masterwork Dagger, a Potion of Healing, 20 GP and a 50 GP Ruby.
The only other passage from this room was through a large pair of double doors to the north. As the party stepped through the doors they found a glowing fountain with water that merrily spilled from the top to the bottom of the fountain base. The mage quickly determined that the fountain was indeed magical, but that the magic was more clerical in nature. The cleric then determined that the runes on the fountain specified that a boon would be received to anyone who offered a gold piece to its deity. Each party member flipped a GP into the fountain and took a drink and received a boon.
Now invigorated the party decided to not take the passage leading east out of the fountain room but instead continued in a northerly direction, only to suddenly become aware there were voices that were emanating from ahead. The voices appeared to be goblins and these still unseen goblins appeared to be involved in some sort of argument. The party used the loud argument as an opportunity to get in a surprise attack on the four goblins and the fat goblin chief. The chief sent his minions into battle and zapped one of the characters with a magic missile, but soon three of the four goblins were dead and the chief was severely wounded.
At this point the goblin chief fell to his knees and began to blubber, asked for mercy and offered to help the party. The chief continued to grovel and asked the party about his missing sister and a toy dragon - both had recently gone missing after she had gone in the direction of the fountain room. The party offered to let him live but it would cost him his lockbox that he had tried to hide behind his makeshift throne. The wails continued as the chief stated that he would tell the party about the dragon if they would let him keep his treasures.
At this point our rogue decided to put the chief out of his misery and the remaining goblin decided to make a run for it only to be struck down by the fighter before he could make his escape. The goblin chief's treasures were revealed to be three 100 GP pearls, a Wand of Cure Light Wounds, a Ring of Protection +1, and 422 GP.
With several directions to choose from, the party opted to continue north. A 20 foot climb was required to get up to the next room, so our rogue scrambled up and used pitons and a rope to provide easier access to the rest of the party. As soon as the remaining members of the party clambered up the small cliff face they quickly realized this room had been part of a burial ground at some point. Tell-tale signs of broken coffins, shattered crypts, and bones and debris - and three shambling skeletons that moved towards them - told the party the world of the undead was at hand. The party quickly engaged the skeletons only to find that their bladed weapons just weren't quite as effective as they had anticipated they might be. The skeletons were soon dispatched though and the party continued on.
The passage wound around a bit and soon came to a set of stairs that took the party down fifteen feet to the room below. As the party came down the steps they saw the entrance to another room and sparkles of sunlight revealed a pile of treasure scattered on the floor just beyond an uneven floor. The uneven floor began to undulate and shake and a young black dragon stood before the party.
The party quickly moved into attack mode and began to nick the dragon, but the dragons attacks seem to knock out one of the party members every turn. The Wand of Cure Light Wounds kept the party functional, but with no real damage being done to the dragon it looked like the inevitable end was near. The dragon had substantial claw and bite attacks, plus he could send a stream of dangerous acid at unsuspecting adventures - a formidable opponent indeed.
DM Note: OK, it looked pretty bleak. I didn't want a TPK on the first night, so I gave the players an opportunity to observe the dragon and allowed them to each ask one question. It was determined that the belly scales on this young dragon hadn't fully hardened yet, making the dragon somewhat vulnerable there.
Somewhat beat up still, the hearty adventurers began to target the soft underbelly of the dragon, which seemed to annoy the dragon. Our fighter finally landed a brutal blow and the dragon decided it had had enough and it was time for flight over fight and the dragon suddenly flew up into the air and with a beat of its mighty wings disappeared through a hole in the ceiling.
Bloodied, beat up, and barely alive - but definitely still alive - the party quickly poked through the dragons treasure and found a +1 Shield, Half-Plate Armor, a Potion of Bull Strength, a Scroll of Fireball, a Scroll of New Life, and 600 GP. Fearing the return of the dragon the party quickly grabbed the treasure and scuttled back out of the dragons lair, back through the crypt area, and back down the small cliff face.
The party then decided to investigate the remaining rooms in the cave. Directly to the east of the goblin chief's room was a large pool of water that surrounded a small island. On the backside of this island something glittered and caught the eye of the party, so the rogue decided to swim over and check it out. The rogue swam over safely and pulled himself up on small piece of land, only to find himself face to face with a Reefclaw (i.e., a lobster on steroids). The Reefclaw offered dangerous claw attacks against the rogue and grabbed him with one of those claws to prevent his escape. The rogue was able to smack the Reefclaw with a mighty blow and that plus the ranged attacks from the remainder of the party soon finished off the monster. The rogue swam back and the treasure was revealed to be a Potion of Levitate, a Potion of Invisibility, 175 GP, and (insert drum roll) a +1 Dragon-Bane Longsword. It was at this point the party said "Hmm, perhaps we should have gone the other direction first."
The party then moved south where they found an Obsidian Pillar covered with strangle pictures and designs. The mage determined that the pillar was magical, and after further inspection determined that the symbols for water on the pillar seemed to be the key. The mage then touched each of the four symbols, they glowed briefly, and the mage felt like he could breathe underwater, which might have come in handy a few minutes previously.
The party continued south and came to a room filled with spiders webs. The was undoubtedly the room where the goblin chiefs sister had gone to when she disappeared and sure enough, the dead body of a female goblin was found to be hanging from the huge webs in the back of the room. At this point a huge spider swopped down on the party, hoping to bite them and inject its poison and maybe add to his eventual dinner choices. It was the DM's turn to have cold dice and the spider never bit anyone, and it too was soon dispatched. The body of the dead female goblins was hiding some additional treasure: A small dragon toy, a Wand of Magic Missiles, and 14 GP.
The passageway swung around back north to the room located directly east of the fountain room. The room had two statues flanking an alter on a raised dais. In the middle of the altar lay a red glowing gem. As the party stepped into the room a deep sonorous voice commanded that all who enter should do so humbly. The cleric knelt and crawled forward to the altar and as he reached the altar two fire traps went off and filled the room with a burst of fire, but safely over the head of the kneeling cleric.
The rogue knelt and approached the altar as well as the fire trap continued to set-off about every five seconds, but not hitting those who had "entered in humility." The rogue attempted to disable the trap and despite a valiant attempt failed to do so successfully. With nothing subtle or clever left to do the cleric timed the next fire ball, jumped up and grabbed the gem off the altar and ran quickly from the room. The magical gem turned out to be an Energy Heart which offered protection from fire, lightning, cold and yes, acid attacks as well.
With no more rooms to investigate the party discussed their plight. The goblin chief had offered to tell them about the dragon, plus he had given a large hint that perhaps the party should go in the direction of the web room first which would have allowed them to find several magical items that would have been very helpful in fighting the dragon. But they had lived to tell the story, they got to keep the treasure they had found, plus they would get to claim the offered reward. Huzzahs and hoorahs!
Despite the obvious mistake of going in the "wrong" direction the party was very happy with the dungeon in general. As an introductory level adventure it served its purpose - the party got to gain combat experience but was also exposed to several different aspects of skills challenges as well. Someone at Paizo definitely had their thinking cap on when this was designed.
But this was just a practice, so in two weeks we will begin our adventure for real as the party will start the Rise of the Runelords adventure path. Each of the players will have the opportunity to take the next two weeks to build their own character and to review the Rise of the Runelords Players Guide to familiarize themselves with this new world in which they will be entering.