Glass Half Full

Last night’s Pathfinder game was effectively one long brawl — which is fine, because we’re playing this as a tactical miniatures game with a little role playing on top.

After some preliminary farting around, which saw our heroes gain some intelligence on the local goblin tribes from the Ranger Shalelu Andosana (about which more in a later post), our crew was essentially press-ganged into becoming Sandpoint’s home guard while Sheriff Balor Hemlock went for reinforcements (never a good sign when a guy named Hemlock thinks he needs more muscle).

Shalelu Andosana

Shalelu Andosana — cooler than we are

We had a preliminary adventure were we arrived too late to prevent a goblin from killing a woman’s husband (characterized by the spectacular failure of our Cleric, Glenwine, to break the news in gentle fashion to the wife), but the meat of the adventure revolved around the Sandpoint Glassworks, and intrigue involving the Kaijitsu family, who may or may not be conspiring with the Goblins to burn Sandpoint to the ground. Since Ameiko Kaijitsu is the closest thing we have to a friend in this town, we felt honor-bound to follow up on her midnight disappearance at the Kaijitsu family Glassworks.

Sandpoint Glassworks

Bad juju! The Glassworks were a charnel house, overrun by Goblins and piled high with the bodies of workers and Ameiko’s old man. A desperate battle followed, with Roog and Haywire holding the door against the Goblin horde, while Amrudrel failed to hold the rear with her oh-so-clever placement of a Grease spell at the top of the stairs, which big bad Tsuto Kaijitsu nimbly avoided before putting a fists of fury beatdown on my Wizard.

We prevailed, but only just; Amrudrel hit the canvas and Roog was down to a single HP at one stage. By the end we’d recovered Ameiko (who has lost a family, but inherited a Glassworks), finished Tsuto, and uncovered a sinister plot to destroy Sandpoint by Goblin raid and the hellish machinations of a she-devil named Nualia.


Much killing in our future! At least we know who stole the body from the tomb last adventure. Tsuto, poor fool, wrote it all down in his handout diary!

dear diary, I am insane

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Of Rats And Redheads

Our second Pathfinder game kicked off with a bang — more goblins, more chaos in Sandpoint. We arrived in time to save Aldern Foxglove from some gobbos he should have been able to handle himself. Turns out he’s a big deal noble from down south with some rats in his basement — he slummed with us that night, took us on a boar hunt the next day, and flirted with Haywire instead of Amrudrel (the cad!). He actually wore out his welcome pretty fast, but he gave us horses and it’s nice to have a contact in the upper crust.

Aldern Foxglove


Aldern Foxglove, cad and bounder

The night of the goblin raid was spent at the Rusty Dragon, where we witnessed some family drama between Ameiko Kaijutsu, the inn’s proprietor, and her father, Tsuto Kaijitsu, a Level Ten Blowhard (of whom Amrudel may have made an enemy, after loosing a Grease spell under his feet at a moment of maximum pomposity). It was a great night, actually, as our gobbo-slaying exploits had made us local notables — food and drink were on the house, and room offered for a week. We told tales of our victory, with Roog in the middle of the slaughter, severed goblin heads bouncing to the four corners of the compass while the critically impaled body of a goblin commando twitched on his spike shield.

who can blame me?

Shayliss is trouble … but she’s the kind of trouble you want

Ah, poetry … and that might have been what attracted a busty redhead named Shayliss to the table, with some shaggy dog story about rats in her basement (again with the rats). Off she went with Roog to slay said rats, and in her basement one thing led to another, and to another, and finally to Roog getting laid out stiff by Shayliss’ shop keeping father, Ven Vinder. Poor Roog woke up hogtied and it might have gone poorly for our boy had the party not intervened, stiffened in numbers and resolve by two new friends from the tavern, the singed sorcerer Pyro, and the lawful stupid paladin, Spam. Roog would take the whole episode to heart, and later returned with a horse as an offering to the old man, to start off on a fresh basis … which got him in the door, and invited to tea, but picking his nose and farting in the fireplace put Shayliss off her lunch, and so went poor Roog’s shot at red-headed bliss (and also, his horse). Live and learn.

Mummy Momma

not quite the mummy we got to fight, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

Away from town we had our share of action, too, delving into a desecrated tomb to uncover clues at behalf of Abstalar Zantus, the top cleric in town. Someone stole the body of the prior … eh, Prior … and we were none the wiser after making that discovery, but did acquit ourselves well against the sundry skeletons and the rotting mummy on display. Against the mummy, especially, Roog was able to reclaim a bit of his romance-wounded pride, fully occupying the attention of the shambling horror while lesser heroes quailed in terror, then flanking the damn thing just in time for Haywaire to put paid to it. Fighting defensively rules!

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Goblin Soup!

The start of our game was pushed back a week when I had to make a last-second cancellation, but Andrew, Dave, and I did eventually get together to kickoff our Pathfinder campaign.

We spent a little time flipping through books and finishing off characters, then Andrew introduced the Kingdom of Varisia, and the coastal frontier town of Sandpoint, which is to be our home base for the first several games. My fighter, Roog, was joined by my own Elven wizard of indeterminate gender — Amrudrel — and Dave’s pair of characters, the cleric Glenwine and his rogue, Haywire.

We found ourselves gathered to witness the dedication of a new temple in Sandpoint,  and when those proceedings were interrupted by a goblin raid it didn’t take our heroes long to make a soup of the first of them.

Pathfinder Goblins

Actually, it took only seconds, as Amrudrel took out three goblins with a single Sleep spell; a second wave, led by a goblin warchanter, took a little more effort, with Roog soaking up attacks with his sword and board, while poor Glenwine had some bad luck with his crossbow, and Haywire got to vault around and deal some critical damage. By the time Amrudrel finished the (not so) big bad with a Color Spray spell we were feeling ready to brave the slopes of Mount Doom.

Roog fought well — he took a few points of damage from a torch-wielding goblin, but that was the result of a critical. His two-weapon fighting was more effective than I’d anticipated — in fact, against these fodder-level foes, his biggest problem was that he’d commit to a two-weapon strike only to kill his foe with his first blow, and have nothing near at hand for his second strike (a happy problem to have).

Amrudrel will take a few levels to grow into his/her full potential as a “battlefield control” wizard, but this was a good maiden outing, twice dropping the decisive hammer in the encounter. In between, Ambrudrel got to bless Haywire with a Protection From Evil, and then worked the grid, staying on the fringe and using more Acid Darts than I expected.

wizards: on their own scehdule

Overall it was a fun night of fantasy miniatures skirmish gaming, with a little role playing on top, which seems to be the sweet spot for this game. We spent a bit more time with our noses in rulebooks than anticipated, as the Pathfinder Core Rules proved less efficiently indexed than I would have liked; we also stumbled right into a few fuzzy corners of the rules, being not really sure if ranged touch attacks were subject to cover penalties (they are, I think), and also tripping over half-remembered fragments of previous editions and rules systems when trying to recall rules for shooting through friendly characters. Overall the game ran smoothly — and if we’d been overly concerned with pace our every issue could have been dismissed by gamemaster fiat — but we were interested in figuring out the rules so we took it slow.

We ended the game with a new encounter brewing; down on spells, the next round may not go so swimmingly for Amrudrel, so hopefully our cleric can step up. We took away some rulebook homework, and I’d eventually like to get some spell cards printed up to ease the burden of playing my wizard, but I think this game is going to work. We have good momentum toward making this game a Monday night tradition (and I think Andrew has a line on adding another player) — so far, so good!

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Chunky Soup

Our first Pathfinder game is less than 24-hours away as I write this, and I am feeling a bit less than prepared. After purchasing an electronic version of the rules direct from Paizo, I spent most of the last week’s leisure time reading rules, and most of today hammering on character creation. It hasn’t been an entirely smooth process.

These are chunky rules, with plenty of options, and the multiplicity of those options practically requires that character creation be spread over multiple chapters (rather than pages). Still, there was more page-flipping than I would have liked in working through the many possibilities on offer. As a mature game, there are no limits to the player-created resources on the web for character creation, but it was still a pretty study-intensive process to put together my fighter and (about half of) my wizard today. I expect we will finish up character generation at tomorrow’s game, and hopefully have time to bash some orcs as well.

Notice that I said the rules were “chunky,” and not “clunky.” This is a rules-heavy system, but the rules appear to work, and make their own kind of sense. It is a system that demands study. I hope it will reward study, as well. It has been some fun figuring out my character. I was tempted to leave everything up to an on-line character generator, or to just grab a pre-generated character, but if we are going to use such a rules-heavy system, it seems defeating the point to avoid the rules. You just have to embrace the horror, and try to appreciate the severe beauty of bonus feats, skill points, and racial and class bonuses.


this might be my guy … twenty levels from now!

The rules did let me create a vaguely interesting fighter. Roog is a Varisian youth, six-foot-three and still carrying baby fat at age sixteen, checking in at a hefty 320 pounds. I figure he was a carney or a rube for his family’s Gypsy-like traveling circus, but now that he’s come into his majority (and scored a longsword and a spiked shield) he’s off to carve a name for himself. I optimized his attributes and hacked the two-weapon fighting rules to make him a sword-and-board killing machine — at least to the degree that a first level character can aspire to such ambitions. With low charisma and low intelligence, he will be a secondary character to my still-in-progress Elven wizard — and I know from experience it is best to let a character’s personality emerge during play — but I already have a couple character tags in mind for Roog. For one, there are the aforementioned man-child physical dimensions, and the promise that Roog may not know his own strength. For another, for some reason I expect Roog refers to himself in the third person — “The Roog” — and that he shouts “ROOOOOOG!” when rushing into battle.

I am certain that he will annoy Dave, which is reason enough to play him.

More after our first game.

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Seventeen months after my last post — and nearly two full years since I declared myself done with old-school roleplaying — Andrew asserts that he’d like to run the Rise of the Runelords campaign using Pathfinder.

And so this blog lurches back to life and gets a new header and a new coat of background paint.

This system and this campaign is about as old-school as it gets, so we’ll see how it goes. For those who don’t know, Pathfinder is essentially a revised edition of Dungeons & Dragons version 3.5, which forked from the main branch when Wizards of the Coast embarked on that whole, unfortunate 4th Edition business. Pathfinder seems to have thrived while the official game failed to impress, and so the tail wags the dog, with Paizo leading the charge with the rebadged version of the “old” game while the WotC boys go back to the drawing board for D&D Next.”

I gave 4th Edition D&D a good shot in it’s “Essentials” form and am not interested in trekking that path again, but I don’t mind going back to the future … I played a bit of D&D 3.5 in the 1990s and I trust the rules will come back to me.

Pathfinder is a far chunkier RPG than I would pick for myself at this time in my gaming life, but Andrew has flushed a pile of cash into books, figures, and Dwarven Forge Kickstarter pledges so it is the least I can do to show up and roll a D20. What the heck … I go into this with an open mind and an open heart.

I will post here from time to time as I grapple with the rules and eventually play the game. First up will be character creation, which I expect we will attempt to handle away from the table, to preserve our first night for pulse-pounding free actions and attacks of opportunity!

Here we go!

Meanwhile, what of poor Irv, caught up in Regina intrigue? I dunno. It’s been a year-and-a-half since my last post, so there’s little urgency in returning to my solo, blog-based Traveller game. But as the unexpected resurrection of Goblin Soup attests, nothing in this crazy, mixed-up RPG blogging world is ever completely dead. Stay tuned.

But for now, let’s find some paths!

Rise of the Runelords!

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The Regina Monologues: Follow That Groundcar!

Before we get back to the pulse-pounding saga of Irv avoiding encounters, a bit of retroactive accounting! I realized that I assumed Irv had a revolver because he mustered out of the merchant service with that skill, and so had him carry his gun around in the last adventure (and nearly get caught by a security detail when they spotted the bulge in his pocket). But I forgot that Irv would have had to buy a gun someplace on Regina, because his service days didn’t award him a piece. Rather than play out Irv’s acquisition of a weapon on law-happy Regina, I’m going to assume that he picked up a revolver on the black market, for three times list price — CR 465, though they threw in six shells for free. So now we know how Irv came to have that hot rod in his pocket when that celebrity’s chief of security spotted him in the plaza.

Because Traveller is nothing if not an accountant’s game, we should deduct the cost of that weapon — and a week’s room and board — from Irv’s little nest egg. Irv enters his second week of travelling with CR19435 and no clear idea of where to find his elusive patron. About the only thing he knows for sure is that he’s going to give the starport town’s streets a miss this week and concentrate his efforts in the dive bars and wrestling clubs that ring the space fields.

Because I’m bumping up against the narrative limits for solitaire Traveller play I’m bringing in a supplemental rules manual starting with this post. Mythic is a universal role playing system and “GM emulator” that I’ve noodled around with in the past. The core of the system is a probability engine which indexes the basic likelihood of something happening with a “Chaos Level” to produce a range of dice results used to answer yes/no questions. By addressing the Mythic charts as a kind of dice-driven Magic 8-Ball a solo player or GM-less group can (slowly) work themselves through a series of scenes making up a role playing adventure.

Mythic has a full-on character generation and action system, but I’m just going to use it for GM emulation, leaving as much as possible to the basic Traveller rules, including the chance and basic nature of random encounters. I will use Mythic to build on and explore the situations generated by Traveller, and will use a good deal of common sense and artistic license to nudge things in the most interesting direction.

Mythic structures a game into scenes. The basic nature of my first scene is driven by Traveller’s encounter system. In his second week on Regina, Irv continues to look for a patron. He doesn’t find one, but he does have an encounter on day four.

The rules say the encounter is with “non-committal adventurers” (the story of my life!), quantity one. We know Irv is hanging around dive bars, and it makes sense he’d find adventurers there. Fudging a bit with my Names book tells me the bar is named “Huppo’s,” and I assume this is the same shady place where Irv scored his revolver. We pick up our scene as the as-yet undefined adventurer enter Huppo’s, where Irv is already nursing a mug of Basic Plus. But Mythic throws me a curve — rolling against the basic “Chaos Factor” of the scene (which starts at five), I get a result of three on 1D10. Because this number is less than or equal to the Chaos Factor, it means the setup is modified, and because the number is odd, it means an altered scene.

Thursday night at Huppo’s

Under the rules of Mythic, this requires that I ask a yes/no question about the scene. I want to respect the Traveller encounter system as much as possible, so I’m firm that the scene is an encounter with a non-committal adventurer. My question — Is there something different about the setting? — results in “no.” Is there something different about the adventurer? Mythic says “yes.” Hmm. Is it an alien? I consider this “unlikely,” but roll for it — nope, not an alien. Maybe she’s having a private meeting and Irv won’t be so welcome? Nope. Does she already know Irv? No, but just barely so. Is she trying not to be noticed? Again, no … but since this question allows me to surmise the opposite, I am going to assume the adventurer is trying to attract attention, but ultimately proving non-committal about … something.

Next I need to decide what the adventurer is on about. Is she part of a starship crew? I rate the answer “very likely” yes, and roll — the dice say no. Maybe a mercenary? Nope. Merchant? Yes! Now I’m starting to understand the scene. This person is in the merchant service, and she’s non-committal toward Irv because she runs into guys like him all the time.

To make the scene more interesting, I assume the merchant is both female and attractive (and the girl in the picture above will do) — if she’s trying to get attention, but non-committal toward Irv, that already gives the scene somewhere to go. What’s wrong with Irv? Not good enough for her? Let’s find out.

Irv slides up to the bar next to our merchant and the scene is finally ready to get moving.

Irv opens with smalltalk, mentioning he’s just out of the merchant service himself, seeing if he and Judith Clark (another mundane name!) have any colleagues in common. They do, but this doesn’t improve Judith’s disposition — she still seems interested in anyone but Irv. Irv knows when he is wasting his time, and slides back down the bar, but is still more than a little wounded when Judith practically throws herself at a young Marine that doesn’t do much more than give her a look. The two leave in a hurry, but something isn’t right, and certain that this isn’t the random hookup that it appears to be, Irv trails the two out of the bar.

there’s our jarhead

Now here’s where Mythic finally gives me something to work with. I ask “Is there violence?” and “Is it against the girl,” and get an emphatic indication that the violence is against the Marine … so following the principle that no event is truly random, I figure it goes down like this:

Just outside the bar, Judith drunkenly lurches against the Marine — and that’s definitely not right, because Irv was with her a moment before, and she wasn’t drunk. The Marine catches her, and Judith’s hand reaches up inside his coat. The Marine stiffens, like he’s been shocked, then half-slumps to the pavement. Judith catches him, then bundles him through the door of a silver late model hovercar that screams around the corner and halts at the curb. Of course it’s the same car that nearly ran Irv down last week. Irv isn’t spotted but he catches a glimpse of the driver and it’s the same face from before. The door slams shut and the car takes off.

Irv looks around for a cab, and luck is with him. It’s like an old movie as he leaps in the back and commands the driver to follow that car! The suspect car weaves off through traffic, heading away from the starport district and out of town. The cab driver starts to back off, but Irv waves fifty credits under the driver’s nose so he keeps up the pursuit. Once out of town it is harder to tail the car without being spotted, and the cab drops back a good way, nearly missing the turnoff where the silver car leaves the main highway and speeds up a private drive toward one of the estates that ring the city. The silver car shoots through a force gate which snaps shut behind it and the cab has to slide to a halt — Irv is certain they were spotted. He tells the driver to get out of there — fast.

a glimpse of the estate

On the way back to town, Irv asks the driver who lives in the estate. And again, because nothing is truly random or wasted in role playing, the driver replies that it belongs to Adorina Mattan — the celebrity Irv saw in the square last week, when his gun was spotted and he had to run from security.

Which seems like a good place to cut the scene …

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The Regina Monologues: On The Town

When last we saw Irv he was freshly mustered out of the merchant service, still dealing with father issues, a bit richer but not much wiser for his twelve years of quasi-legal free trading, bush piloting, and tail gunning along the Spinward Main.

Let’s see what happens next.

In honor of this blog series subtitle, Irv begins his travelling career on … Regina! If you look real close you can see him there in hex 0910 of the Regina Subsector map:

Far be it for a guy writing about solitaire Traveller on a role playing blog to wonder at the geekiness of anything … but Traveller Wiki? Really? OK, I’ll go with it (and I’ll take your maps!) God love the internet.

Because the romantic-as-a-parts-catalogue ethos of Traveller demands it … Regina is classified as A788899-C. It’s a sub-sector capitol, a pretty high-tech place, a watery moon in orbit around a gas giant with the unfortunate name of Assiniboia. There are a lot of bureaucrats and cops around, and everyone’s jumpy because of some new Zhodani panic that the wags say is going to brew up into a Fifth Frontier War.

planet-rise on Regina

Normally it’s the kind of place that Irv would leave but rather than risk his life with a Low Passage to some equally depressing system, Irv’s instead booked himself a characterless, beige room out by the starport and has decided to nose around for a bit. Room and board cost CR100 a week but Irv’s got 20K in the bank so small money is no problem. He’d like it if big money was no problem, too, but has little idea how to make that happen.

His master plan of finding a Psionics Institute thwarted by Regina lacking the requisite 9+ population rating, Irv decides to explore the town and look for a patron. Patrons are easy to spot — they have one-and-a-half dimensions, rather than just the one like everyone else. After all, as the rules assert, “The patron is the single most important NPC there can be.”

Irv doesn’t find a patron in his first week of searching, but he does trigger a random encounter on the first day of his search — a couple “hostile traders”, probably gun runners or drug dealers. Both of the mooks have blades, and one of them has an autorifle in the trunk of the vehicle the encounter table ensures me is present. They have Strength 7, Dexterity 10, and Endurance 5.

got a look at one of the mooks

The dice give Irv the element of surprise, helped a bit since the mooks are in their vehicle. The encounter begins at very long range. The biggest danger on Regina is usually a police sweep so Irv isn’t packing his revolver today (he fails to throw greater than Regina’s Law Level, and so doesn’t pass his weapons check).

Now to knit these numbers into an encounter.

I figure that Irv steps off a curb and nearly gets run over, flips off the occupants of the hovercar as they speed by, then knows he’s in trouble when the car shwooshes to a halt and starts to back up. The encounter is at very long range — eighteen range bands. Irv wants no part of these guys, so he fades into the crowd (using his surprise to disengage), but he commits the vehicle to memory — a silver late model hovercar with mud splashed on the plates.

plenty of these in the streets around the starport

A bit paranoid now, Irv decides to keep his revolver in his coat pocket, and breaks out in a sweat when he encounters seven “enthusiastic guards” later in the week. They’re armed with halberds and daggers, and one of them has a revolver, so they sound like some kind of private ceremonial guard, maybe the security detail for one of the countless minor celebrities taking up space at the subsector Capitol. I decide that the “enthusiastic” part applies to everyone, rather than just Irv — these guys must be working the crowd, trying to get citizens to wave or raise a cheer when the celeb goes by, doubtless accompanied by a horde of media members recording everything for watchers on the Regina Grid. Irv must have come out into a square or plaza someplace and gotten caught up with the crowd.

stand aside, minor celebrity coming through!

All that matters to Irv is if one of the guards spots the bulge from the revolver in Irv’s pocket. The basic throw for anything to happen in Traveller is 8+. I’m applying DM -2 because of the size of the crowd, plus the enthusiastic guards are concentrating on a photo op more than security. I roll an adjusted 9, so … yep, one of the guards spots Irv, points him out, and all hell breaks loose.

The encounter begins at medium range. The guards are Strength 7, Dexterity 9, and Endurance 9, and they have Irv outnumbered. Irv throws an adjusted 11 to escape, and bolts through the crowd and down a couple alleys, with shouts and whistles ringing in his ears.

What a week! Irv is out CR100, he’s looking over his shoulder for that silver hovercar, and now he’s worried that someone got a description of him fleeing the square. Should he ditch his revolver? Should he cash in that Low Passage and head out of system? Should he use his revolver on himself in his beige room by the starport? Tune in next time (if there is a next time) to find out!

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