Content of the article: "Barbarians and Princesses and Artificers, Oh My!"
So, tonight I ran my first Pathfinder game after waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long out of the driver's seat. (I'd add a few more 'a's there but you get the idea).
Still, I think it went okay. Took some interesting turns and had a chat afterward that looks like entirely altering the direction of the game, but hey, all's fair while everyone's still having fun, right?
Princess: Well, not quite a princess. She's the illegitimate daughter of an elven king, so close enough. Hugely into RP over combat, so worth keeping. Recipient of a homebrew class I worked out, based fairly closely on her expressed preferences in the character she was playing in a game that collapsed due to no fault of anyone in particular. The class is one I called 'Culinomancer'; literally a caster whose power was expressed through food. She basically prepared food so divine it could (depending on the situation) remove negative conditions, cure wounds or even remove curses (she can't do that last bit yet). Light on combat, heavy on cooking and healing. (And yes, she loves to play support characters).
Barbarian: Yeah, actually a barbarian (human). Ex-slave pit fighter, devoted to Princess ever since she fed him food that made all the other slop he'd ever been fed taste like crap, and hella scary in a fight. Has the Elemental Kin archetype, and is trying to be a better person (good rping right there).
Artificer: Three feet six inches tall (warforged), looks kind of like a steampunk version of C-3PO's and R2D2's love child. Backstory has it that he was an artificer whose mind ended up in a Warforged's body, but he doesn't remember how or why). . He's just started out in the game, so I'm giving him the chance to build/acquire gear.
Story beat 1: Princess and Barbarian were travelling along the road, along with Princess' two elven bodyguards, Caerwyn and Ellowyn. In this game, illegitimate daughters of elven royalty were trained as diplomats and travelled from place to place as envoys, learning about the world and acting as ambassadors, before being married off to one nobleman or another when the time was right. In this instance, she'd talked her dad (who was wrapped around her little finger) into letting her taking a vacay on her own. She'd met Barbarian and bonded a little with him (he was fresh out of being a slave, so he was still learning how to do civilisation, such as not punching people who made fun of his slave brand when he was drunk).
They're resting for the night along the road, when Artificer showed up. He was just walking, looking for the next town (the dwarven archaeologists who found his storage 'tomb' and accidentally woke him up from stasis were justifiably freaked out, so they gave him some money and any gear he wanted, and pointed him down the road, then went the other way).
A bit of RP ensues, whereafter he's invited to sit by the fire. Princess notes that he has unusual inscriptions on his metallic hide that she can't even begin to decipher, which is damned odd, given that she's got Linguistics and INT 20. She speaks more languages than the rest of the party combined (and that includes the elf bodyguards) and this is one she can't even begin to translate.
(OOC, the Princess asks me if this is important or just a throwaway aspect, and I tell her it might come up sometime, but it's not a plot point right now.)
About then, I decide to spring the first encounter; basically, a 'dip the toe' simple scuffle with some nasties. Ten goblins sneak up on the party, and the only warning is that the elf guards spot them on their last rush in toward the fire. Half the goblins shoot with shortbows in the surprise round, aiming for the bodyguards and the Barbarian (going for the tough targets first). Shots hit, d4 damage gets dealt, combat ensues.
Note that I was fully cognizant that they're gonna wale nine shades of goblin crap out of the attackers. The idea is to see how they shake down in a fight. Welp, I found out.
Barbarian is fourth level, and has STR 18; when he rages, he goes to +9 to hit, vs AC 16 gobbos. His base damage is so horrendous that hit=kill. No need to even roll. He gets three gobbos on him. It isn't nearly enough.
Caerwyn, Elf bodyguard #1, is a sword & board level 4 Warrior (not Fighter) whose shield is still on the ground. He's holding his own, but if he was alone against all ten, they probably would've murdered him. He gets two.
Ellowyn, Elf bodyguard #2, has a longbow and a shortsword (and buckler). She shoots one, gets pitiful damage, then kills it with her shortsword when it gets close. She gets two as well.
Artificer stands forth and proceeds to pummel the last one with his metal fists. He's not great at this, but his AC isn't too bad and he's standing firm.
The last two died on the way in, due to Caerwyn and Barbarian.
The fight goes on for a few rounds. I ask Barbarian if he has Cleave, and he says that he regrets not having it now. Power Attack is kind of overkill in this situation, but eh. The time will come when he needs to hit something really hard. He's murdering gobbos with his greatsword, even taking the time to help out Caerwyn when he gets flanked.
And then the Barbarian pulls his power move. I didn't even see this coming. He uses one of his Rage features to add 1d6 ice damage to his attack, and chooses to use Unarmed Attack to do it, on the last gobbo that's on him.
Rolls a legit nat 20.
So I asked him if he wanted to describe the goblin's demise or could I?
He said, go ahead.
"So, you rear back with your fist clenched. The goblin looks up at you, the expression in his eyes gradually beginning to dawn on the realisation that his life choices currently suck. You summon the cold fury of the ice elemental, as implacable as a glacier, as you swing your fist. The cold radiates from you, turning your skin blue for a second or so before washing down your arm in a frigid wave that splashes off your fist an instant before you strike. It impacts the goblin, freezing him solid in that same instant, then your fist arrives and shatters it like a cheap vase."
Me: "Okay, do you have Intimidation?"
Him: "One point."
I rolled a die for him. Legit. Nat 20.
"Okay, so the other goblins look at what you just did, including the frost spreading in all directions from where your feet are planted, and bolt screaming for the trees."
So, a good shakedown fight for the party, gave me a good idea of their capabilities, and one hell of a finishing move. (We counted up the damage he would've done, and it came to 18 points, three times what the gobbo had.)
They didn't have much in the way of gear, but Artificer salvaged their shortswords and set about building flick-out blades to strap to his forearms. I was fine with that.
Story Beat 2: This is where it gets a little dark (in game, not out).
Previous to game start, I had asked the players if they had anything they wanted to be kept sacred, not defiled or screwed with in any way. Princess had asked that she have good relations with the nobles and high officials she'd visited (and probably cooked for) in the region, and I was okay with that. What I didn't account for (and neither did she) was that she feels very strongly IRL about family loyalty. She probably didn't expect it to come up.
So when it was revealed in-game that the Elven Dominions were in a Morlock-Eloi situation, with drow living in underground cities and taking care of certain matters (and helping defend the land) in return for having all male bastard children sent down into the Underdark once they get to a certain age (in this game, there are no male drow) … she was unhappy.
(Just saying, it's a one way trip).
When she found out that the young elven males had no choice in the matter, and that the propensity of nobles (all the way up to and including the High King) to sleep around and procreate bastards was actually their way of making sure their own legitimate sons weren't snatched by the drow … she was very unhappy.
So she and the other two helped the distant cousin who had alerted them to this whole mess get out of town and evade the elven guard contingent who had been sent to fetch him back. (Barbarian managed to pull off some amazing rooftop-running rolls for this scene, which everyone was cheering him on for).
And then, after we wrapped up, Princess rang me and asked me about the scenario.
"Can we actually do anything about it, or would I be wasting my time?"
I said, "Sure you can. It won't be easy and it won't be simple, but tell me what you want to do, and I'll work with you on planning your next move."
Which changed her whole attitude about it. She'd been thinking it was a done-and-dusted situation, that she couldn't change no matter what. I assured her that I didn't have anything set in stone, and that I'd run with whatever course of action she wanted to try.
So now, instead of going off on her vaycay, Princess is on her way back to her homeland, in order to do her best to institute lasting societal change. And Barbarian and Artificer are along for the ride.
But first, someone's going to have to make sure that the elven guard contingent (who know that she's in the know about the whole drow thing, which is a HUGE no-no) never makes it home.
Oh, look. We have an excessively violent ex pit fighter who already doesn't like them.
So yeah, having an absolute ball.
- Barbarians, Princesses and Artificers, Oh My! Part 2
- Backing up the post about animosity toward human fighters, sharing my thoughts with r/dndnext
- Help with combat balance
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