The Night of the Natural 1’s!

The all time horror movie for players is the Night of the Natural 1’s and that is what my players all called last nights game at the Pathfinder Skull and Shackles Adventure Path.

I arrived pretty close to start time last night as I had gone home and made sushi for tea.  I always make too much which is all good for my players as they had a spread of sushi to enjoy while they played.  I was dog tired last night as I am getting a little run down, working six days a week full time and roleplaying three nights a week generally to late is beginning to catch up with me.  One of the players asked me if I was ready to get my pirate on and I replied I would be when I needed to but I actually wondered if I could get through the night at that stage.

I am still using the ships cabin map packs
from Paizo’s Gamemastery brand as they
show the actual ship from the adventure.  I
will bring out the model boat I built for the
players when they finally capture their own
ship!  Makes it more special!

I found though a few minutes later when I got under way that I did indeed have it in me, and while we were playing there were few times that I truly felt how tired I really am.  I got straight into it and we made it through 4 days of being on the Wormwood, the pirate ship that the players had been press ganged into serving on.  The game is a smattering of work detail handled individually and set events, with the chance of a random encounter here and there.  The players are separated into three jobs, Lem the Blackhearted (halfling ranger played by +Cam Mcloughlin ) is the cooks mate and is generally involved in meals for the day dependent on how drunk the ships cook is, Claude (the Tengu summoner played by Mark Desmond) and Daranis Skyborn (the drow necromancer played by +scott desmond ) are swabs generally told to do all the jobs no-one wants to do and Skye (the vishkanya fighter played by my daughter Courtney) is a rigger and spends most her time up the masts.

The work detail requires the players make general skill checks for the day to see how they go with failure bringing anything from verbal abuse to lashes during “bloody hour”, the time just before meals are served at the end of the day.  Well, let us just say that last night there were a LOT of failures on the checks and a LOT of natural 1’s were rolled to make things worse.  Skye fell from the rigging during climb checks at least three times, possibly four.  Most of these falls were from forty feet or above and she spent a good part of the night unconscious from her wounds.  Daranis is the object of hatred of the Master at Arms, Master Scourge and he delights on dealing out lashes to him where he can and the old (Daranis is feebly old) drow did not fail in giving him plenty of opportunity.  In fact the final set of lashes he was given came very close to killing the character.  Claude suffered the worst with rolls of natural 1, in the thick of a massive storm where they had to pull a double shift to keep the ship sailing he managed to roll natural 1 twice in a row.  And even Lem failed his first work detail roll.

Mark considering life as a 6′ Tengu Summoner who only
ever seems to roll 1 on his d20!

There is an event where the players are challenged to fight the simpleton brute kept as a kind of pet by the first mate but the players were so wounded from falls, rat bites, lashes and brawls that they all suffered humiliation where none of them would step up to the challenge giving them the reputation of being soft.  Those that were conscious set to work ingratiating some of the crew to them and they are beginning to form a bit of a posse around them for when the opportunity arises that they can attempt to mutiny but more work is required.  They are suffering though a lack of time to do so.  At one stage half the party was out cold as a result of falls and lashes so the amount of befriending that could be done is shortened.

As a GM reading this Adventure Path I thought there was little danger in this section but playing through it I am amazed that none of them are dead yet.  In fact, if I had not introduced the optional rule of Hero (read Villainy with this group) points Daranis would definitely have been slipped over the side this week for shark bait.  His “Brother in arms” aspect (see my discussion on Fate Core earlier this month) with Lem allowed Lem to step up and take some lashes for the old man (in fact the three that were meant for Daranis and another three for insolence).  I said to my daughter on the way home how dangerous this bit seemed for first level characters.  None of them have any healing capability (there is no cleric) and they are taking regular damage.  Though the whip is non-lethal damage, it soon becomes lethal as three lashes nearly always takes them over their normal amount knocking them out and then changing to lethal damage.

Aren’t I a kind DM bringing in sushi for the game.
California rolls a go-go!

The players are all seriously trying their hardest to keep out of too much trouble.  They brawl a bit here and there but they try and get their tasks done and try to keep out of Master Scourge and Mister Plugg’s bad books but at first level this is really hard to do with their skill levels.  They are mucking along as the lowliest of the low on ship trying to build their empire from the ground up.  Only three of them have managed to get their original equipment back from the quartermaster as the final one has been unconscious for a major amount of time and does not often find the opportunity to attempt to influence her.  The change they are dearly hoping for is coming but is a way off yet.  They will soon begin to get the taste of true piracy and hopefully things will look better for them in the near future.  I find myself actually rooting for the players in this game, which is a surprising turn around from my normal style.

Not too much dice rolling on my side of the
screen last night.  Most was when Lem beat
up an uppity womanising gnome…

The roleplaying in the game so far has been top notch.  I am really enjoying watching the way that they approach the NPC’s and attempt to select who to try and befriend and who to keep away from.  It is also interesting to see how they started (evil campaign yeah!!!) to now having moral issues about what type of evil they are.  Mark Desmond who plays the Tengu summoner was asking about alignment and his summoner had Chaotic Evil as his.  He asked about how that should play and I told him that essentially he revelled in violence and destruction without a care for the consequences.  He then asked if it was OK to change alignment and I said seeing it was earlier in the game that it should be fine.  Five minutes later his character had turned Lawful Evil after a quick read of the alignment section.  I thought this was funny how they differentiated in such a way.  But it is also good as three of the four players are conscious of having to work well together.  My daughter Courtney really wants to be just evil for evil’s sake (her character is Neutral Evil) and she gets a little annoyed whenever we have the “Just because you are evil does not mean you can’t work together” discussion!

This campaign is looking like it will be real fun.  If the players survive to level 2 it should give them a bit of breathing space.  I know that they will love the way the six module path is built and the story that plays out.  They have no concept at the moment that what they do now will actually have ramifications long into the rest of the campaign.  Relationships built and opportunities lost or taken all feed into the drama that unfolds over the next five modules.  It is exceptionally well designed like that!  That said we are putting it aside for two weeks.  Next week I am taking the week off running games and having a break, hopefully get some energy and verve back.  The week after that is set for us to continue in +Cam Mcloughlin‘s Rise of the Runelords adventure path.  I get to go back to my alter egos of Coltyn and Grellyk which I am looking forward to!

But tonight Traveller awaits!  I might see you there…

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