Pathfinder 7 – Garycon ’08

Holy crap.  It’s been way too long since the last post.  Stupid university projects and their… stupidness… yeah…

In any case, Garycon ’08 was last weekend.

Characters present:

  • Nox, Changeling Swordsage
  • Reza, Dwarf Cleric
  • Thorbar, Dwarf Barbarian
  • Ristan, Half-Elf Bard

Missing: Nonnie, Halfling Sorcerer.

We played a regular-length session.  Somehow, though, it felt like we just didn’t get as much done as normal.  And some of the things we did get done just didn’t feel as substantial.

In any case, as the game starts, I give the players a few days around town to rest and do whatever they wish to do.  Reza makes a comment to the effect of “waiting for the next railroad”, which is somewhat discouraging,and a bit foreboding for the rest of the session.

<sidebar>

Explicit railroading bothers me as well, as a DM.  Guidance is usually necessary, but I do try not to force the players down a certain path, though I admit I fail at this occasionally.  When running a published adventure, it’s a bit difficult to avoid sometimes, and it does bother me when I end up resorting to it.

</sidebar>

In any case, the game gets officially underway as the Sheriff approaches the party with a bit of a mystery on his hands.  Now, running investigative adventures can be tough sometimes, making sure the party gets enough clues to solve it, yet making sure it doesn’t seem linear.  I’ve been meaning to write about that, and hoped to use this adventure as a bit of a case study.  I ended up not having a lot of prep time last week, though, so I was basically running it as written and modifying it on the fly to make it either more solvable or more nonlinear as needed.

It turned out to be unnecessary.

The sheriff finishes telling them about the murder, and hands them the note left at the scene.  The party immediately accuses… well, the murderer.

The murderer isn’t in town, and can’t be accused directly at that point, but the rest of the murder investigation was basically the party traveling around, and collecting more confirmations of the killer’s identity, until they had both solid evidence and a location.

Now, that said, there were some great moments in this part.  When interviewing the insane witness, Grayst, we had some great fun with the interaction.  Reza ended up complimenting me on getting into the character so well, while Nox wondered why it is that I get into character best as Gully Dwarves and the insane.

What can I say?  I guess insanity comes naturally to me. :D

There was also a good deal of mood-setting going on this whole time, and I think we got a nice “creepy” vibe going before the party had a plan of action to confront the killer.

And then, well, I kinda ruined it.

The adventure has a crazy farmer stumble into town, muttering about scarecrows.  He did this the morning that the players were about to go to the killer’s manor.  He was an interesting old coot, and the players figured they should check out this story.  (I think it was more of a “DM’s telling us stuff, it must me more important” moment, but anyways.)

I had figured the scarecrows/ghouls would be a groups of interesting, creepy, mood-setting encounters, and would help keep the ghoulish feeling going.  (I also kinda hoped this would allow Nonnie to be here when they entered the manor, and since it was getting later it would allow the party to traverse the manor in one session.)  But I had a couple things going against me.

  1. Some things are creepy at any time.  Ghouls stalking through fields are only really creepy at night.
  2. Things don’t seem creepy and dangerous when they aren’t interesting to fight.

Ghouls do little damage (though they can hit on a decent roll), but have two special abilities.  Stench (save or be sickened for 5-10 minutes, not fun), and paralysing claws (save or be paralysed for a few rounds).  The paralysis can be a fun tactical challenge… when it’s actually possible to fail your save occasionally.  Those with low Fort saves had high ACs and thus didn’t get hit often.  The low-ish AC Barbarian was tanking and taking most of the hits, yet could only fail the save on maybe a 2 or less.

So my hopes were dashed, and what I had expected to be a easyish, but mood-setting, part was instead turned into a tedious slog through uninteresting CR 1 creatures.

In any case, we ended for the night, ready to head to the manor next session.  (Which, by the way, will be one week from now, as school projects are preventing me from running a game today.)

What the players liked:

  • My little bit of method acting.  Getting into it is always kinda fun.
  • The investigation was fun and flavourful, despite being somewhat obvious.

What the players didn’t like:

  • Boring “busy work” monsters.
  • Being interrupted by the farm/ghoul thing.

Lessons learned:

  • When the players have momentum built up, be sure not to crash that momentum.
  • Be sure to look over the CRs and stats before putting the players up (gradually) against 15 of a monster, to make sure the encounters will actually be interesting and fun.

7 Comments

ChattyDm  on March 16th, 2008

Good lessons all.

I guess that a good hindsight-fueled mod would be to add Fighter levels to the Ghouls.

But Paralysis, even for a few round, SUCKS as it basically puts out a character for a whole fight sometimes…

What would be better would be to adapt Mearl’s Rust Monster mechanics and make ghoul attacks inject a poison that deal Dex Damage and as written in the rules, the character gets paralysed completely if Dex drops to 0.

my 2 cents.

Graham  on March 16th, 2008

So… temporary paralysis SUCKS…

But Dex Damage is better?

Yeah, I’m going to have to disagree on that…

Temporary Paralysis, for a couple rounds, isn’t all that annoying, since you know from the start that it’s temporary, and you know how long it will last. But I should have modified it, had it ever come into play, in one of the following ways:

1) As Hold Person, with a save each round to break it.

or

2) As 4e, change it to immobilized (can’t move, can still attack/defend).

But Dex damage? Boo-urns!

ChattyDm  on March 16th, 2008

I started using the save each round tactic and it helps keep the game moving and leaves the player in the fight.

Okay so Dex Damage isn’t a good idea, granted… what I had in mind was a slowly progressing Paralysis like Petrification seems to shape up in 4e.

What I was seeing was a Penalty to Dex for each hit that disappears at encounter’s end.

:P

Graham  on March 16th, 2008

Well, 4e has me rallying against things that alter ability scores in general, but it’s an alternative for sure.

I’m intrigued as to how they will be handling petrification, though. The currently revealed mechanics don’t seem to address gradual mechanics, with the exception of the death and dying rules. Possibly petrification will follow the “3 failed saves” model.

Reza  on March 18th, 2008

Hey, sorry about the ‘railroading’ word. The hard part for being a player and knowing its a premade event is that you really have no idea how much you can go off-course with the plot. When starting in a new town with nothing to do, us PC’s go shopping, drink and try to snag a few wenches, then get bored and don’t know what to do. Once I’ve been to the church, got my new supplies, and watched male PC’s fail at hitting on NPC’s, I’m at a loss of what to do next. I always consider having Reza go off and look at -something- but at the same time we’re a group of adventurers, not solo ones, and i dont want to haul us off-track or monopolize DM time on useless stuff that will just annoy everyone else. I liked having the Sherriff approach us because it gave us several options to run with when we were getting bored with “hero worship”.

Graham  on March 18th, 2008

It’s alright, Reza.

You might actually be surprised at how much I’ve already had you “off course”, as per the adventure. I just try to make it not seem that way.

Altogether, though, you guys have an uncanny knack for choosing to do exactly what the adventure expects from you. :P

The small bit of downtime at the beginning wasn’t meant to take up much game time, anyways, unless you actually did have something you wanted to do. It was primarily there to emphasize that you have time to get done with whatever upkeep you need, and once everyone’s ready we’ll fast-forward to the next scene.

That said, don’t worry about monopolising time for the most part, unless it gets extreme. If there is something that you want to be doing, and it’s a bit of a solo thing, it doesn’t usually take long, so go ahead. If it does end up taking too long, I’ll just suggest that we go through it outside of the game instead, but always feel free to ask.

Reza  on March 19th, 2008

Heh, feel free to keep moving us off course then! Confuse us real good too, Id enjoy the chance to play a char thats been duped!

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