The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Oil

After liberally spreading the oil all through the week with our “squeaky wheel” syndrome (see last weeks post) we had our first game last night.  Unfortunately one of our group could not make it due to illness (my daughter Courtney) but what a difference a week has made!

The (excellent) module!

The party were ready to enter the big fortress at the end of the “The Thousand Fangs Below” module in Paizo’s Serpent Skull adventure path.  Seleca the Cavalier had previously entered the fortress on a reconnaissance mission and returned with her findings.  The party are after two objectives in the fortress.  First and foremost they are seeking to ally with a group in the area and to do this they needed to find a treasonous General who had defected to the serpent folk.  Secondly they are seeking a lost Pathfinder by the name of Eando Kline who was captured and may possibly be dead.

All week I have been talking to the players about working as a team and how there will be no margin for error as they entered the fortress and to be honest I was quite interested in how my discussions would go so as we transitioned from work into our game I advised the group what Seleca had found as I was NPCing her and sat back to see what would happen.  Firstly they discussed their plans of entry, having settled on the two easiest routes in (a hole in the fortress or the entry on the water) and then a plan for what they would do once they entered.  They consulted with Seleca’s cleric Stark to use a divination spell to narrow down where the best location of entry would be to find the General.  That done they decided the entry on the water was the best point of access.

The plan was a simple one although a risky one also.  They decided that only one would enter the fortress, and that would be Janthir, the rogue/sorcerer due to his excellent stealth skill.  The remainder of the party would all enter the portable hole that Seroquel had and Stark would cast mass planar adaption on all in the hole so as to stop everyone suffocating.  Janthir would carry the portable hole with him and release the party when, and if, he located the General.  I was impressed with this plan.  It showed they were capable of innovative thinking and trusting each other.  With the plan in place the group spent a night getting prepared, discussing spell options and flew across the lake in the morning to begin their search.

What followed was an enjoyable nights roleplaying!  Janthir did very well in his role as a scout and quickly tracked down the frustrated General.  The party slew him and his honour guard reasonably efficiently (although my hot and cold dice caused Seleca to take a fair bit of damage) and Hank spent a little too long “buffing” and missed the battle all together!  The party panicked a little, sure that a flood of serpent folk would pour out into the corridor and slay them all.  But the absence of the horde caused them to do more research.  At the end of the night they had also confronted the General of the fortress and high tailed it out of an encounter with a guardian ghost.

The real beauty of this game was watching the players.  They role-played in every sense of the word.  Playing as their characters appropriately.  In fact, most of the non-combat time was spent in-character.  I drew them a rough map as Janthir explored and watched in awe as the party stood around the table referring to the map and discussing the viable options on where to go.  Also watching as the rogue managed to dissipate an arcane lock with his dispel magic, only to be stumped by the highly intricate lock.  the monk took over by turning gaseous and promptly high tailing it out of the room when a ghost popped out and said boo!

The players all thought they had the Serpentfolk General
in the bag!  Then he disappears on them.

At the end of the night I left the group on a mini cliff hanger as the serpentfolk General disappeared.  The group were really happy with their progress for the night.  They felt that they had real information on the fortress and had mad some excellent inroads into their appointed tasks (after all they had achieved one of them within the first hour or so).  They knew that their second task had become a little harder though as they had failed to take down the sepentfolk General and he knew what they were there for.  they are getting ready for a hectic game next week.

See how much I suck at freehand maps!

I learnt a couple of things too.  Firstly, I suck at free hand map drawing!  The picture to the right is my attempt at roughly scrawling them a map of the area.  Scale is hideously out and my curving corridor is pitiful!  Secondly, my descriptions in game are good, but I need to be better prepared next time.  I have read this section of the module over and over again but the complex is BIG and although I feel as though I have my head around the section I do need to reread the areas likely to be encountered just prior to the game so it is in my working memory.  Last night I had to reach for the module far too much when they listened at doors or popped them open.

My last lesson is that my discussions of last week as detailed in the previous post have had a positive effect.  That said I need to keep my focus on these issues and make sure that it is not just one game where they come together and work like a well oiled wheel.  They have to push themselves to do this every week and not fall back into bad habits.  That means that I have to be ready to step in and deal with behaviours as they begin to arise again which they surely will.  Also, last nights game had the three most experienced players in it.  They know how to work together.  What will happen when the rookie comes back next week?  Will it be as harmonious then?  We will have to wait and see.

The good thing is there was an immediate improvement and this meant that the players also could see issues with the game and they are working with me to improve it.  Talking to them directly about this stuff has had a great effect.  I just need to maintain the dialogue now and ensure the game remains as fun and functional every week from here.

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