Last Tuesday night I ran my in person game – being the Skull and Shackles adventure path that was put out by Paizo for Pathfinder some two or so years ago. We are into the third module – Tempest Rising and the group were previous to this week on an underwater jaunt to find the secret of the Brine Banshee’s (a ship of renown that was lost at sea) speed. The party actually swanned past the reason and headed into the hold of the ship where they were last found fighting the illusion of a giant shark. Last time they had all just realized it was an illusion just after one of them fell unconscious and I held it over for a hangover.
Now that all sounds exceptionally cool – and it is. This sequence of events has just had me enthralled by the game and the interaction of the pirates on the crew. This is my groups release to be evil and they are having fun and doing it in style. Put on top of that the fact that much of this game is spent under the freaking water makes it so much better, and the game this week will be one that we will all remember because of how great it was set up. Oh, and possibly the fact that two of the player characters died this week too.
In essence the game was complicated by the fact that the players had found the lair of an Aboleth. Aboleth’s are bad news. They like to enslave people and force them to do their will and they cast illusion just as easily as they swim through water. The beauty of this encounter is that much that was obvious slapped the players in the face when they realized that they had in fact been deceived by the creature. For example, I was using “Theater of the mind” approach and so I drew a couple of rough maps on the fridge of where we play with a white board marker to give them the idea of the layout of the gun deck (where they started) and the cargo hold (the Aboleth lair). I do not have an exact picture but it looked somewhat like the following diagram.
So there is possibly a pretty big difference that you can note there. We will get on to that. Anyhow, the party descended into the cargo hold to aid their companion that now lay unconscious there. As they did a school of odd looking fish arose to look at them from the broken portion of the ship (illusions) and started moving in a hypnotic pattern (spell). The party all succeeded their save but the Aboleth took the distraction to dominate the Captain and order him to attack a member of the crew (an Undine summoner). The necromancer has a permanent form of arcane sight fixed to him and I advised him that he detected illusion-like auras at the Eastern and Western portion of the ship.
The distraction of the Captain attacking the Undine worked and the Aboleth then dominated the other summoner in the group (a Tengu) and ordered him to attack the Necromancer who had just announced he believed the wall at the Eastern end of the room to be illusory. The group were well into battling one another when the Captain broke free of the domination and the Aboleth, seeking to stall the investigation of the Eastern Wall projected its image at the Western edge of the ship where it was open to the sea.
This tactic work and the Necromancer and a couple of others attacked it. In the confusion the Aboleth used its third and final domination to take over the parties buccaneer and have him attack the necromancer also. The Necromancer with his attack realized that the Aboleth was in fact another illusion and decided to test his theory and five foot stepped into the illusory wall where he came face to face with the real Aboleth. The remainder of the battle was a brilliant play of the Necromancer running for his life and plunging the battle area into deeper darkness, the buccaneer breaking his domination (the Tengu never did) and the Captain, who was one of the most concerned at battling the beast actually taking it down in complete darkness without anyone else scoring a hit on it.
Unfortunately, there is a toll to these creatures. When they hit you with their slimy tentacles they can damage your body (courtesy of the Pathfinder PRD);
Slime (Ex) A creature hit by an aboleth’s tentacle must succeed on a DC 20 Fortitude save or his skin and flesh transform into a clear, slimy membrane over the course of 1d4 rounds. The creature’s new “flesh” is soft and tender, reducing its Constitution score by 4 as long as it persists. If the creature’s flesh isn’t kept moist, it dries quickly and the victim takes 1d12 points of damage every 10 minutes. Remove disease and similar effects can restore an afflicted creature to normal, but immunity to disease offers no protection from this attack. The save DC is Constitution-based.
The necromancer, Undine summoner and the buccaneer all fell foul of this power. The Necromancer had enough hit points to scrape through the loss of con but at the time that the summoner and the buccaneer fell foul of it they were both unconscious and that sudden loss of health caused both of them to die suddenly and irrevocably.
Irrevocably because through that battle the pair had used up their hero points and on top of that dying among a bunch of bloodthirsty, money grubbing pirates is not the best thing that can happen to you. Almost before their souls had departed there was the call for the character sheets as the looting began. I normally outlaw this behavior in games – but in this setting where they are largely evil and piratical it is amazing that they are not pulling out pliers and going for the gold teeth as well!
The pair that died were good about it though and the game pretty much finished at that point so that I could spend the next couple of hours with them building their characters. They are the two that are newest to the game and so I help them understand the choices they have and leave it with them. The summoners player in the end chose an Undine again and went with a Bard archetype that is pretty well native to them, the Watersinger. Something that would not have happened if I had just thrust the Strategy Guide under their nose and left them. The buccaneer’s player admitted to me that he normally plays a spell caster though in my games so far he has only played martial characters. He then chose to take a Samsaran Elementalist with a Water focus (again something that would not have happened with the Strategy Guide).
All in all it was a good night. The game had been a lot of fun. Underwater combat and illusion that really spiced up the battle and made for a really memorable encounter. Then getting to spend some time with my newer players in an almost one on one situation was good also. It helped me to get to know them a little better and gave me the chance to help them show where Pathfinder shines – customization. In fact one of the players sat there with the books open and then admitted to me that he just did not know where to start so it was great to help him along as I had made his first character for him to get him into the game as quickly as possible. I am making them up their equipment packs as it was getting late and it was the only thing left undone. With the amount of gold that they will be receiving it is probably better that I do this step for them as the sheer volume of possible equipment is incredible and can be very overwhelming.
It is great to see the way our group has come together. We have expanded with three new players this year and they fit in well. I really do have the feeling as I look around the table and manage the character interactions that I am in a “golden age” of gaming at this table. It is always laughter, fun, surprises, pirate jokes and booty collection! The game is forging on ahead really well and for a game that I was not enjoying a little over a month ago I am really pleased. So pleased in fact that I felt compelled just to share this night as a snapshot of our game and hope that it reflects the fun you are having at your table. Keep rolling!