Signs in Senghor: Part Two

My family and I recently finished playing Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-10: Signs in Senghor, a delightful adventure written by my brother. This marks my husband and both of my children’s first official Pathfinder Society adventure. We made their characters the other day, registered them, and played through the adventure in two sessions; the first yesterday evening after dinner, and the second this morning after breakfast.

Adventures always take a bit longer when my children are playing, as their tactics aren’t always… the most effective, and social encounters and small details always gets expanded by their actions. There’s nothing my kids love more than having conversations in character with NPCs and describing extra fun activities their characters to–whether it be dancing, singing, or playing with their pets. That being said, we finished Signs in Senghor in about five hours, which is the high end for a scenario session, but not exceptionally slow. As mentioned, we split that into two days of play. Not because they ran out of patience or got bored, but because it was their bedtime. Haha. They REALLY wanted to stay up late to finish it last night, but bedtime prevailed and we continued in the morning.

Signs in Senghor begins in Eleder, a colonial port city in the hot and humid country of Sargava. There they meet their Venture Captain for this adventure, Finze Bellaugh. Finze is a scholarly, portly fellow who comes off as educated but personable. Written into the text during his mission briefing are lots of colourful, humanizing actions that my kids really related to. He circles sections of map, rubs his chin in thought, crosses his arms over his big belly, and waves his arms around to calm the group’s excitement. During this part of the adventure my kids really enjoyed introducing themselves to each other, and their Venture Captain. My daughter acted out her shy rabbit-breeding druid (Bunny Paras) and her goofy parasaurolophus who likes to perform tricks at her command (Paras). My son shivered with cold despite the heat, with his ranger, Senton, more commonly known as Mr. Ice. And my husband shared his occultist’s vast knowledge with the group, providing them with all kinds of background on their upcoming mission.

The Pathfinders and their rivals, the Aspis Consortium are constantly butting heads and fighting over control of discoveries throughout the world. Although the Pathfinders are by no means a virtuous organization, the Aspis are most certainly a foul group. Known for exploiting their workers and locals, using slave labour, and caring more for profit than anything else, the Aspis Consortium are a thorn in the Pathfinders side, and a blight upon Golarion. Recently, the Aspis Consortium has started up a suspicious mining operation which doesn’t seem to be netting them any profits. When word reached the Pathfinders of the strange occurrences happening near the mines (which never happened before the Aspis arrived) they were understandably suspicious about what the Aspis Consortium are really up to. Unfortunately, in the Mwangi Expanse, the Aspis Consortium have a lot more power than the Pathfinders. In order to move against the Consortium, the Pathfinders are going to need allies. And while other, more experienced Pathfinders begin to investigate the mines, my group of players gets tasked with making those allies.

Nearby the mining operation is the port city of Senghor and my lovely little group of players are tasked with proving to the ruling council of Senghor that the Aspis Consortium are exploiting the nearby ruins of Boali for profit. Boali is considered taboo and haunted among the citizens of Senghor, and is off limits. Unfortunately, the council of Senghor isn’t just going to take your word for it. You need evidence. And what better place to get evidence than in Boali itself!

250px-Mirian_Raas
Mirian Raas, Captain of Daughters of the Mist, and star of Beyond the Pool of Starsby Howard Andrew Jones.

After the mission briefing, Bunny Paras and her pet parasaurolophus, Paras, along with the ever cold Mr.Ice, Enzo the Chelaxian occultist and (because all PFS scenarios require at least four players) Amiri, the iconic barbarian from Pathfinder, all socialized a bit. Mr. Ice played up his shivering, despite the hot and humid weather, Bunny Paras made Paras dance and ‘sing‘ by making annoying sounds with her crest, Amiri played up her strong and gruff demeanour by doubting the other weaklings around her would be any help, and Enzo put his noble upbringing to good use by taking charge of the group. They travelled down to the docks to meet Mirian Raas, a sailor and Pathfinder who is scheduled to bring our Pathfinders from Eleder into Senghor on her ship, Daughters of the Mist. Mirian is also the main character in one of the Pathfinder Tales novels, Beyond the Pool of Stars by Howard Andrew Jones.

After a quick sailing summary, they make port in Senghor without difficulty. From there, the group had a chance to traipse around the city, speaking with locals and looking for information about the Aspis Consortium’s work in Senghor. Enzo and Bunny Paras (along with Paras) took advantage of the opportunity, and discovered a lot of information about Boali. Mr. Ice did the opposite, instead using his free time to find a patch of sunlight to sit in. He sat there for a full hour (in game time) shivering in the sunshine while bundled up in his furs. Amiri mocked him. Haha. My son had a blast. He was chattering his teeth and shaking to act out his character.

After an hour in Senghor (in game time) the group returned to the docks where Mirian had procured a fishing boat for them to use to sail to Boali. She offered them a sailor to help, but Mr. Ice insisted he could sail them there. Of course, he has no ranks in profession (sailor), so whether or not he would succeed was entirely up to lucky rolls. Fortunately, luck was on their side, and they made it to Boali in only eighteen hours, a full six hours faster than the expected travel time. My son was extremely proud of himself and took to insisting he was a master sailor.

Upon arriving in Boali they looked around for signs of the Aspis Consortium, eventually discovering their old camp and some muddy, discarded boots with a hole in the toe. Mr. Ice took extreme care in approaching the camp stealthily. An effort which Bunny Paras handily thwarted by telling her parasaurolophus to ‘sing’ loudly and dance. Despite the foiled stealth attempts, the group was unmolested. They found the camp empty. My son thought the holey boot was particularly suspicious, but finding no real troubles, they followed the Aspis’ trail into the ruins of ancient Boali, a city in the jungle now partly-flooded with swamps.

Eventually they came upon a flooded section of the ruins, where they found an interesting statue toppled over in the water–a statue which proved entirely suspicious to my son. He spent a solid five minutes interacting with the statue. Examining it, and offering many, many theories about why it might have toppled over and what it might mean. Listening to my six year old son talk about erosion, and how swamp water might affect a marble statue was thoroughly entertaining. His theories ranged from people knocking it over, to earthquakes, and erosion. But wait! Why, oh why, is the statue irregularly eroded? Why can we still see its helmet clearly?!? Cue another stream of suspicious theories from my son.

Boggard_Champion_by_ilkerserdar
Boggard, as seen in Pathfinder’s Bestiary

Fortunately, boggards hiding in the deeper parts of the flooded ruins ambushed the Pathfinders, putting an end to the many conspiracy theories being put forth by Mr. Ice. The boggards quickly wrapped up Mr.Ice and Amiri with their sticky tongues–preventing them from escaping–but they had less luck actually striking either of the Pathfinders with their morningstars. Mr. Ice took great glee in shouting insults at the frog-people and attempting to chop their tongues off with his short swords, while Amiri laughed. Escape was the furthest thing from her mind. She swung her massive great sword at the boggards and dealt a ton of damage. Bunny Paras made an exceedingly useful tactical decision: she made her parasaurolophus dance and trumpet loudly. Yup. Another wonderful use of a turn from my daughter. Enzo proved far more practical, using a ancient stone figurine of a dog to summon a magical dog, which attacked the boggards on his behalf. The group made quick work of their enemies, but over the sounds of Paras’ loud saurian ‘singing’ they heard something else: a man calling for help from a nearby building.

Curious, the group hurried to the sound. Once inside the building in question they split up: Mr. Ice and Amiri checked one room for dangers, as Mr. Ice was incredibly paranoid this was a trap, while Enzo led Bunny Paras and Paras to the cries for help. Mr. Ice and Amiri found a weird room which Enzo later determined was an arcane laboratory, while Enzo and Bunny Paras discovered a man calling for help. With the lower half of his body stuck in the stone from a magical trap (quick application of transmute stone to mud and then transmute mud to stone made him sink into the floor and then get stuck) and the upper half of his body stuck in a half triggered mechanical trap he only managed to stop from slicing him in two by shoving his metal gauntleted hands into it’s gears, this fellow found himself in a tight spot.

“It’s about time you–” the man exclaimed angrily as Enzo and Bunny found him–only to realize they were not who he expected. “Hi!” he exclaimed with a smile, downplaying his predicament. “The name’s Gideon Wren! What brings you fine folks to my humble home?”

And thus entered my son’s favourite part of this adventure: Gideon Wren. A freelancer for the Apis Consortium who was left for dead by his colleagues, Gideon’s a fast talking, fun NPC to run at the table. With melodramatic, mournful tales of his friends leaving him behind and the boggards who were tormenting him by tossing leeches at him while he was stuck, and promises of telling you everything he knows about the Aspis’ work in Boali and Senghor, if only you’ll get him to safety back in Senghor, Gideon provided a wealth of role-playing opportunities. My son took great pleasure in threatening and intimidating the fast-talking Aspis agent, thinking of a ton of ways in which he could threaten and torment the fellow. Meanwhile my daughter regarded him with worry and suspicion, squeaking with worry at the table, and running around whispering to my husband and son the results of her sense motive checks. Enzo really latched onto the idea of bringing Gideon to safety in order to learn everything he knows. After eliciting promises of not only sharing information with them, but also testifying against the Aspis Consortium in front of Senghor’s ruling council, Enzo finally disabled the trap that threatened Gideon’s life. He then left Amiri to dig the fellow out of the ground, while he explored the other rooms in this building. Bunny Paras spent her time dancing happily to Paras’ irritating and loud ‘musical’ calls. Mr. Ice kept guard over Gideon, informing him of the many ways he would hurt him if Gideon backed out on his promises.

A few hours later Gideon was free, and the Pathfinders moved out into the city in search of more evidence. Unfortunately, the boggards who call Boali home found them soon after, led by their massive ‘Great Queen’, a frog-monster known as a mobogo, which was chasing a group of Aspis Consortium agents through the streets. None of our Pathfinders managed to identify the creature, but they all realized it was incredibly powerful. As the mobogo magicaly makes an eight foot tall wave of water chase the Aspis Agents, carrying rubble and smashing buildings as it goes, they all decided to do what any brave hero would do! Like the great, brave, Sir Robin, they ran away.

Mobogo
The Great Queen, a mobogo, found in Pathfinder’s Bestiary 3

So began what I thought would be one of the most fun, and the most difficult parts of the adventure for my lowly level one players: a dramatic chase through the ruined city of Boali with a powerful creature hot on their trail. The DCs for this chase are quite high, but after modifying it as necessary for their level, I was hopeful they’d have a good chance. Fortunately for them, their early arrival to Boali via Mr. Ice’s masterful sailing, and Enzo’s good luck with disabling the trap that held Gideon, meant that Gideon would be helping the Pathfinders during this chase, instead of being in need of their assistance from horrible wounds.

After escaping the waves of water, the Pathfinders had to suffer through the mobogo’s terrifying croaks and a stampede of terrified Aspis Agents, only to have the monster frog leap upon the road and crush most of those same Aspis Agents. After narrowly avoiding being squished by a mobogo bum, they ran from his hurricane-like breath, and got tangled in poisonous vines. After escaping the vines they managed to pick up a few stone tablets the remaining Aspis Agents dropped, dove through a crumbling archway and reached the beach–only to have the mobogo flick its tongue out at them and wrap up Gideon. As Gideon was dragged back towards the gaping maw of the mobogo, the others panicked.

“Not Gideon!”

They hacked and slashed at the ‘Great Queen’s’ tongue until it let go of Gideon, then escaped with him on their ship. Deciding they’d had enough of Boali, the Pathfinders sailed back to Senghor.

Despite the difficulty of the chase, my group did awesome, only failing against the poisoned vines, which still allowed them to escape with time to spare.

Upon arriving in Senghor the next day, back in good time thanks again to Mr. Ice’s masterful sailing (luck), they probed Gideon for information. Mr. Ice threatened the poor ex-Aspis agent with bodily harm in many ways (seriously: never underestimate a child’s creativity!) while Bunny Paras listened to everything with great suspicion, and Enzo took thorough records. After learning much about the Aspis Consortium’s purpose in Boali, and their operations in Senghor, Enzo decided he’d like some further evidence before going to the Senghor’s Council. They agreed to head for the Aspis Consortium’s local warehouse from which Gideon’s boss, Shinri Dells, leads the operations in Boali. Unfortunately, there’s no way Gideon was going to fight Shinri. By his account, she’s a terrifying woman.

Enzo and Bunny Paras tried to convince him to wait for them in safety with diplomacy, but Mr. Ice and Amiri decided to threaten his life instead. Shaking in his boots, Gideon waited for the others to finish up at the warehouse at a nearby restaurant–or at least he said he would…. Would he really wait for Mr. Ice to come back and threaten him some more? My children were unsure.

After casing the warehouse (and with some help from the intel they got from Gideon) they decided to split up. Enzo and Amiri went in the front door to speak to the Aspis agent masquerading as a secretary whose job it is to shoo nosy visitors away. Knowing the guard was going to try to warn the others in the warehouse if the Pathfinders didn’t leave, Bunny Paras, Paras and Mr. Ice wait at the loading doors, listening intently for the alarm to be sounded by the secretary, which will also be their signal to enter the warehouse.

The plan goes off without a hitch. As the secretary drops pottery on the floor and loudly bemoans how much trouble he’ll be in, my children’s characters rush into the warehouse, effectively splitting up the guards and getting the jump on them. Facing off against these two, they make poor progress. It doesn’t help that Bunny Paras’ first turn is spent telling her parasaurolophus to ‘sing’ and dance instead of attacking. Still, Mr. Ice gets in a hit with his short swords, while the guards put up a fight. Back in the front room, Enzo slips past the guard as he loudly looks for a broom, and hurries into the warehouse. Angrily, the secretary charges after Enzo and throws a dart at him. Lucky for Enzo his aim is poor. Also lucky for Enzo? The secretary turned his back on Amiri. It’s not a mistake he lived to regret long. She knocked him unconscious with one swing of her massive sword, and finished him off on her next turn. Enzo summoned another dog to battle the remaining guards, while the fight continued. Eventually, Bunny Paras ordered Paras to swing her tail at the enemies–missing, but hey, she tried!–and shoots a few stones at the guards with her sling.

As the Pathfinders triumph over the guards, Enzo hurries to the side door, hoping to catch the fearsome Shinri Dells unaware. Unfortunately the door opens right before he goes through, revealing Shinri herself. Not very scary looking, Enzo knows better from Gideon’s many accounts of her battle prowess. He immediately orders his dog to get in her way. It misses her, and Shinri retaliates, destroying the dog with two quick punches.

“You shouldn’t have come here,” she taunts.

Alone in front of a woman who’s bound to kick his ass, Enzo remarks cleverly: “Eeep!”

Now, this fight is tough. In addition to being a CR 3 enemy, Shinri’s got the monks flurry of blows ability, which lets her make two attacks every turn, and the ability to deliver her sorcerer’s corrupting touch with one of her punches, which can scare her victims. That’s not even taking into account the monk’s handy stunning fist ability. Things are not going to go well for Enzo.

Or so we thought.

Amiri went next, charged at Shinri with her sword raised, and scored a critical hit. Dealing a massive 33 damage in one hit, Shinri Dells fell to the ground, dying.

They are SO lucky! Seriously. I was expecting at least one of them to fall unconscious, but to come out unscathed? I was honestly flabbergasted.

LUCKY.

Enzo quickly stabilized Shinri, which prevented her from dying, then stuffed her in a big sack with the intent of brining her to Senghor’s Council as proof against the Aspis Consortium’s presence in the city.

But first? Investigating! My kids LOVE clues. As fans of Scooby-Doo and Murdoch Mysteries, they set out to find clues, clues and more clues–also loot!–on the bodies of the Aspis Agents and the warehouse. Happily, they found lots. Including, that Shinri Dells is in communication with some kind of evil fiend during her daily meditations. This fiend gave Shinri magical powers, new fighting techniques and knowledge of an ancient relic. Known as the Twelve Rites, these stone tablets were what Shinri had her agents searching for in Boali. And our heroic Pathfinders have six of them. Armed with that important bit of information (and lots more that we won’t go into here), the Pathfinders leave the warehouse and look for Gideon.

Who is waiting for them, as promised.

They leave together for an audience with the ruling council. Along the way they meet a poor child, begging for food and coins. Although Amiri rudely ignores the child, the others are all suckers, giving the urchin over five gold. A healthy sum in Pathfinder! As they turn to leave, Bunny Paras suddenly exclaimed in pain. She turned to find the child was not a child after all–he was a tiny asura demon who used illusions to mask his appearance. The asura jabbed her in the back with his poisonous stinger.

Woozy and afraid, Bunny Paras exclaimed “Help! I am poisoned! I’m dying!” and fled down the road in hysterics, with Paras hot on her trail.

Leaving the vicious little assassin fiend to the rest of the group, Amiri and Mr. Ice slaughtered the creature in one turn. Considering the creature was a CR 3 challenge, they are very luck–again! After working together to help the frantic Bunny Paras overcome her poisoning, they set out again for the Council offices, this time arriving without further incident.

They easily earned themselves an audience using their Venture Captains’ letter of introduction–Thanks, Finze! After arriving in the waiting room they are offered dried fruit and water–which Bunny Paras suspiciously checked for poison. It comes out clean, so they eat and socialize with the other guests. Enzo sought out gossip and information about the council members they’ll be meeting with, discovering their identities and how best to influence them.

Soon, they enter the last stage of this adventure: presenting their case to the representatives of the Council of Senghor, and winning them to their cause in the hopes of driving the Aspis Consortium out of Senghor, and gaining the Council’s aid in the Pathfinders efforts to shut down the Aspis Consortium’s suspicious mining operations.

Now, this part is going to be difficult for my players. None of them are well trained in diplomacy, and intimidation won’t work for them here. Other than one of the nature-loving council members who can be influenced by Mr. Ice and Bunny Paras’ knowledge of the natural world, the other methods to get the council on their side are not skills my players are trained in. Fortunately they presented a good case–bringing Gideon to testify, the paperwork and clues from the warehouse, and the six clearly evil tablets of the Twelve Rites–as well as the fiend-tainted Shinri Dells herself–all granted them bonuses on their attempts to influence the council. Even with these bonuses some of the rolls were tight, but the Pathfinders managed to get the entire council on their side!

Happy at their successful first mission, the Pathfinders are dismissed. They bid Gideon farewell, only to have Mr. Ice–the same Mr. Ice who has been tormenting him and scaring him the entire mission–tearfully bid farewell to Gideon.

“Goodbye.” he waved sadly. “I’ll miss you.”

Gideon looked incredibly surprised. He gets only a few steps away before my son decides he couldn’t possibly say goodbye to the shifty ex-Aspis agent. He decides to try to fulfill one of his faction missions, by recruiting a named NPC scholar, archaeologist or similar character to join his faction: the Scarab Sages. Unfortunately, the DC to do this is a 16, and my son’s modifier on his roll? A zero. Zilch. Nothing. He needs to roll a 16 or higher on his d20 to pass. Still, he grabs his dice, and looks incredibly nervous.

“Wait, Gideon! You should join the Scarab Sages!”

“You want to give me a job?” Gideon asks suspiciously.

My son nods vigorously. “YES!”

He rolls his dice…. getting a 16.

My son jumps for joy and exclaims happily, proud to have brought Gideon into the Pathfinder Society.

And so our session came to a close.

We filled out our paperwork, spent their earned coins, and wrapped the session up, bringing their first Pathfinder Society Scenario to an end.

The verdict?

They loved it.

My daughter and husband’s favourite part was the chase scene where they fled from the “frog-bat.” My son’s favourite part was his interactions with Gideon Wren. And mine? I loved how excited they got during this session. I loved seeing their eyes light up in excitement, and their super, creative roleplaying.

Also? I loved this adventure!

So thanks to my family for playing with me. Thanks to my brother, for writing this adventure. And thanks to Paizo, for making scenarios affordable!

I’m sure we’ll be off on another PFS scenario soon!

Welcome to d20 Diaries…

Welcome to d20 Diaries!

Here it is… my first post. You might be wondering what’s coming. You might expect me to start with a BANG! A big, bold first post sure to grab your interest and hook you!

You’d be wrong. Haha. I’m going to be starting far humbler than that. I’m going to be giving thanks.

Firstly, thank-you to my husband. Without his unwavering faith in me, and his belief that what I have to say is worth hearing, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be doing this. d20 Diaries wouldn’t exist. Thanks, babe.

Second, thank-you to my GMs. The game masters. The story-tellers. The people who make a game that you can play. This is not an easy job. More often than not, this person is me. But when it’s not there’s only been a few of you who’ve taken the entire world on their shoulders. My husband–the craziest GM you’ll ever have the pleasure of playing with. He’ll come up with ideas that will surprise you, entertain you, and leave you talking for years to come. He hasn’t GMed much, but everything he’s done has been memorable. Dear: you’re a blast. My brother: there’s not person I know who’s better at this than you. You’re constantly crafting campaigns, and though I rarely have a chance to play in them, I hear about them constantly. I wish I knew my game mechanics half as well as you do! My son! Six years old and he’s constantly telling tales and forcing everyone with a voice to play his adventures. I wish I had as much energy as you! I’m very proud. And lastly, the first GM who ever crafted a game for us: Rene. If you ever read this know that even though our time together as players was short, you changed all of our lives more than you’ll know! Seriously. Massively. Thank you!

Third, thank-you to my players. d20 games take more than one person. No matter who you are, you cannot play alone. (Well, technically you can, as I’ve proved on more than one occasion when very, very bored; but that’s a discussion for another time…). To properly enjoy a d20 game, you need a team of players. I’ve GMed a lot, but my players have been a pretty small group. Family, friends, and friends of friends. To all of you who’ve been there and played alongside me: this one’s for you. Thanks to my children and my siblings. It’s you who’ve played with me most (excluding my husband, of course, who must put up with me constantly begging him to play just one more session…). Thanks to the friends who’ve played alongside me, and the friends of friends. If you’ve played with me, then thank you!

Fourth, to the many, many online player’s I’ve recently joined on Paizo’s play-by-post boards: thanks for letting me join you and keeping the games rolling! I’m loving the community, and the games.

Lastly, thanks to all of you. The new readers of d20 Diaries. Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride! We’re just getting started.

Now, without further ado…

Let’s get rolling!

Jessica