Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Pathfinder at Animefest: The Tower Adventure
So I finally got to play some Pathfinder over the weekend. The local Pathfinder Society was running games all weekend so I picked out a 1st-level pre-gen (they're all based on the Pathfinder iconic characters), started playing, and joined the PFS in case I make it to some other organized play stuff in the near future.
Coolest part: I finally got to play alongside Apprentice Blaster instead of running the game - that made it even more special.
Table size was six and we were the last two to join. the boy picked out a Fighter and I took a Monk - partly because I rarely see them in play and partly because it's been years since I played one. As it turned out we had an interesting mix in the party as the other four characters were a Bard, a Gunslinger, a Druid, and another Monk! If I had realized this I probably would have taken something else but I've never been too worried about party balance as a player and with six I figured we would power through things anyway. besides, I had a concept in mind and it was for a monk, so there's a good chance I'd have stuck with him regardless.
Soon enough we were in the big center-of-the-world city for Pathfinder when word came that an earthquake that morning had revealed an ancient tower, collapsing one side of it to allow access to whatever riches might lie within. That's really all the reason a group of broke low-level adventurers need to head out of town and that's exactly what we did.
The silliness started up early as it turned out that half of the other characters were a band, led by the other monk whose name was Lil' Jimmy, whose character illustration was quickly doctored up to look like Jimi Hendrix, and who spoke with a French accent for no adequately explained reason. The alleged talent in the band was with the bard named Lil' Zeph, who also had a French accent, and who was played as female and male at different times which I am pretty sure was not a deliberate choice, but who knows? The gunslinger was their roadie, the fighter and my monk joined up as security, and the druid was just a fan.
That's just kinda how it works out with a con game sometimes, but I did laugh a lot.
I've always thought of a tower as an inverted dungeon but the tower in this adventure had one trick I have (unbelievably) never seen before. There are stairs inside the tower but there is also the option to climb up the collapsed and now open side of the thing if the party can't get to the stairs (some are behind locked doors) or doesn't want to use them (monsters). It's been quite a while since I've been impressed with basic dungeon geometry but I really liked this one.
The other surprisingly effective innovation was the 3D model of the tower shown above. It's pretty simple compared to some of the 40K terrain I've worked on and with, but it is surprisingly compelling as a player to see that there are only 5 levels to explore, then later only 5-X levels left, and then a sense of accomplishment on reaching the top with the party intact. It also keeps you very aware of the height as you make those climb checks. I really liked it and I'm going to have to think about that kind of presentation for the future.
We entered the tower and worked our way up over the next few hours. It took a little while for the party to gel and there was the usual talking over each other you see with a new group but we had a solid DM who knew the rules and gave us time to work things out but reeled us back in when we went too far astray. Some of the combats were a little hairy and half of us dropped to zero HP's at least once. My personal trial was when I triggered a trap and was pinned to a door by a spear fired through my back, then as the other monk was pulling me off of the door, it opened and I took two more spears from the front - that was a very painful round.
We did manage to talk our way past a potentially nasty situation involving water, electricity, and animals thanks to the druid. The DM later mentioned that he had killed entire parties in that encounter when they handled it badly and I believe him - but it worked out for us.
In the end we had a big dramatic fight with a leader and his animal companion on top of the tower that got more dangerous as the fight went on. The big finale came as the other monk and I dangled over the edge of the thing and Blaster's fighter bull rushed the enemy over the side - a really nice finish to a good run.
Everyone seemed to have a good time and it was a memorable run.
I went and looked up what people thought of the adventure afterwards and a lot of people seem to regard it a slightly above average adventure. The main complaints are that it's mostly combat and there's no real plot?! I don't get that! In my view it's a perfect introduction to the setting, the PFS (both in-game and out-of-game) and it doesn't need any more plot than "you're broke and there's a dungeon - go". Considering it is specifically designed to bring new players in to the PFS as 1st level characters and I think it accomplishes that spectacularly. If you're interested it's "Master of the Fallen Fortress" and the Paizo page is here. I haven't read it yet, I just read through the comments.
I had a great time and Blaster did too. We had hoped to work in another session but the timing didn't work out. Red was interested too but he only had one day at the con as he had to work. We will be looking for another chance though.