The New Year rings in a new campaign. This time we are playing a mini-campaign of the classic mega adventure The Temple of Elemental Evil, using the Pathfinder Beginner Box rule-set. Old School Renaissance is the theme of this game, and I let all the players know that we would be playing this game retro style. Save or die, baby!
Most of the players only have 4th edition experience (Dave, Caleb, Joel, Beth) while the rest also have 3e experience from our previous campaign (Lori, Jackson, and the absent Khar and Shannon.) Playing the Beginner Box adventure during our X-mas party struck me at how old-school it felt, and I resolved right then to scrap the Gamma World campaign idea and go back to the roots of gaming. The classic Temple of Elemental Evil, using the newest, sleekest Dungeons and Dragons game on the market. The Pathfinder Beginner Box is the closest thing I have found to the D&D Basic edition of the early 1980′s, even moreso than the new Red Box by D&D 4e last year. (which is a great set in its own right, but not as “basic” as I had hoped.)
The evening began with pizza (minor rant – why cant I use a single coupon multiple times, if I am needing large amounts of pizza for instance? Do they NOT want to make the sale??) Once people had plates of food in front of them and were just getting down to some serious face time, I sprang it on them – Ok, everyone roll 4d6. Gulp. All right, now take out the lowest one and add the three together. Good, write that in the box next to strength. Oh yes, it was on.
While we ate, we rolled up characters the traditional way: 4d6 drop the lowest in order. I mentioned that they would be able to switch their scores around, but not many people chose to do that. For some players, the rolls they came up with helped shape what character they wanted, as I had hoped and intended. Then it was time to pick race and class. The Pathfinder rules offer three races: human, elf, and dwarf, and the four classic classes. Every player had a photocopy of the 4-5 page spread describing their class, and we worked through it in the easy manner laid out on the photocopied official character record sheets.
Obviously skills and feats were the most difficult part of the creation process. For one, we only had one Players book, so I had to sort of dictate what the skills and feats were all about. Adding skills was also complicated, but we worked through it, and by the time we got to feats, except for two exceptions (the rogue and human fighter) everyone just agreed to take Toughness! Finally I told everoyn how many gold pieces they had (I wish we had rolled for that) but told them not to spend the gold – we would do that in game.
The cleric and wizards had a bit more work to do, picking deities, schools, and spells, then we went around the table. At this time, I bestowed upon each character an additional personal side quest. First up, Dave who rolled up Derp the hammer wielding Dwarf fighter. He was Chaotic Neutral and his side quest was to retrieve a stolen family heirloom. Next around the table was the wife Lori, who naturally rolled up a re-born Cady the human female fighter. She too was Chaotic Neutral. Her side quest was night terrors that led her to this place.
Next around the table is Caleb, the new guy at the table. He has the honor of being the DM who took over for me when I recently retired from Dm’ing D&D Encounters. He rolled up a human rogue named Caribou the Cunning, and his side quest was that he was on the run from the authorities for a crime he didn’t commit. He was chaotic good. Jackson rolled up a chaotic neutral dwarven cleric of Desna. Beth rolled up an Elven Wizard whose side quest was to find her missing sister. Finally Joel rolled up John Smith, true neutral human wizard, cursed by gypsies to forever roam the earth.
The Village of Hommlet
The small community at the crossroads
is a completely unknown quantity. What is
there? Who will be encountered? Where
should you go? These are your first explorations
and encounters, so chance may dictate
as much as intelligence. Will outsiders
be shunned? Are the reports true — is the
whole community engaged in evil practices?
Are the folk here bumpkins, easily
duped? Does a curse lay upon those who
dare to venture into the lands which were
once the Temple’s? All of these questions
will soon be answered.
Each member of the party was a young adventurer searching for fame and fortune. Each of them had recently arrived struck out north, towards lands rumored to be rich in excitement. Each of them had a pouch of gold to spend on arms and equipment. Approaching the first house on the lane into the village, it appeared to be a wealthy farm. A buxom farmwife stood in the doorway wiping a mug as she watched them come up the lane. The charismatic rogue engaged her in conversation, but didnt come into the yard due to the two growling guard dogs. Four tiny heads poked around the goodwife’s skirts to stare at the strangers.
She let them know that the whole village was worried about robbers, and appeared to be quite frightened of the party, eventually threatening to call her husband and son in from the fields. The party moved on, speaking for a moment to Elmo’s 12 year old brother who sat milking a cow in the front yard. The boy said his mum was worried about kidnappers, and that they should seek out his big brother Elmo in the tavern.
The adventurers walked into the village square and saw a leatherworker, a blacksmith, and a large sprawling building – The Inn of the Welcome Wench. The path also continued north across a stream and to a large stone church at the top of a hill. Another path turned east towards a tower on the edge of the village.
They headed for the smith, who proved to be honest and skilled, though he was low on stock. He had some daggers, a hammer, rapier, and a long sword for Cady to borrow while he made her a great sword. He had no metal armor and suggested the leatherworker across the way. He also knew of an armorsmith in the village of Nulb, ten leagues north.
From the leatherworker both fighters and the cleric bought fine suits of hide, and the rogue bought a suit of leather. Enquiring about a bow,he was directed to the druid, who lived near the grove at the edge of town, and was also a woodworker. While talking to the druid, and buying a bow and arrows, he learned of the trouble with bandits from the druid, who was as a protector of the region.
For equipment they were directed to the trading post at the bottom of church hill. Upon arrival, each of the characters grew instantly distrustful of the overly jolly Rannos and the nosy Gremag. Matters were not helped by the fact that they sold all items at twice the prices listed in the book. This caused some intense bargaining which almost led to Cadt being thrown out of the store.
With the necessities done, they returned for lunch at the Inn of the Welcome Wench. They spent the night and were not wakened by the scream of one of the wenches during the night. Next morning, they discovered she and two farmers had been kidnapped from the inn about 3 in the morning. The innkeeper saw them running off into the trees, towards the ruined moathouse.
The party immediately went to the to the “Lords” tower, where they met Burne the wizard and his lifelong companion, the fighter Rufus. They offered to search the moathouse, rescue the wench and kill or capture any bandits. In return, they could keep any treasure they found, excepting personal possessions of villagers, and that if they succeeding in destroying the gang, they would be paid 200 gold.
Cady was impatient to get started, and requested horses. The lords agreed to loan them steeds. Derp the dwarf instead chose to buy his own, and almost got away with buying an actual riding horse before it was remembered that he was a dwarf and must resign himself to a shetland pony. His fellow dwarf Will was loaned a pony, and they set off towards the moathouse.
They rode into a miasma of growth and rotting vegetation which they had to hack through with their swords while following a game trail that looked recently used. Finally after hours of sweaty labor they caught a glimpse of the moathouse through the hanging vines and creepers.
But what was that sound? A splash of water and dark shadows passed overhead to land in a curcle surrounding the paryy.Suddenly they were surprised by six giant frogs, two of average (man) size, and four smaller frogs. The frogs were ravenously hungry.
Time for Battle (at last)
It was ten minutes to ten. This is what I had been waiting for since the missed opportunity at the inn. At this moment I was very happy about the suggestion for horses, for the forgs are especially frightening to horses, 90% chance to spook a common horse according to the encounter. Gary Gygax must have had fun with this encounter. I have fond memories of it from when I was younger. All the horses bolted except for Will the Dwarven cleric’s pony. Everyone else had to make a DC 15 reflex save or get bucked off their horse rather than safely dismount. (I should have had them make a riding skill check but oh well.)
Now it was the frogs turn to act and the first average sized frog shot out a 12 foot long tongue at Derp, wrapping about his neck and, for added fun, commenced drawing him towards the gaping maw of the giant frog. Derp had one chance to try an chop through the tongue but his hammer bounced off the rubbery thing and he was swallowed. The four small giant frogs then attacked with spiked tongues that damaged that lashed at the rest of the party. Lastly, the final frog attempted to swallow the elf wizard, but she narrowly dodged its tongue.On his turn, Derp tried to fight his way out of the frog (needing an 18 to succeed) but was roiling around in the stomach acid and it was difficult. On his second try he burst through the frog, killing it instantly in the process. He splashed out onto the ground, angry and froggy. Cady slew one frog, then cleaved into another, slaying it as well. The rogue stabbed with his rapier, and when the dwarf rolled out at his feet, they teamed up to bring one of the frogs down.
Meanwhile, the elf wizard was flustered and threw her arcane bonded at the frog, losing it in the grass. On his turn, the rogue searched for it but couldnt find it. THe other wizard had a long running battle with one of the small giant frogs as he slowly turned the cold blooded bastid to ice, one ray of frost at a time.
Will the cleric had to ositive channel energy twice during the battle. After the wizard lost her dagger, she was swallowed on the giant frogs second sally. She was swallowed and failed twice to break free, unarmed and hovering at unconciousness. The second wizard John Smith was also felled by a lashing frog tongue, ad his head was being swallowed by the frosty frog until Will channeled positive energy, bringing both wizards back from unconciousness. Cady slew the frog that had the wizards head in it mouth while the implacable Derp chased down the other giant frog as it hopped ponderously back towards its fetid pool.
With a mighty swing of his hammer, Derp split the frog asunder, and the elf exploded gasping from its rubbery corpse. They shared a moment, Each of them being covered with intestinal frog fluid. It was a tough fight, and when it was over we realized the dwarven cleric Will had remained on his pony the whole battle!
Stay tuned Next week for Rustling Back those Horses loaned to us by the Lords Rufus and Burne.