Pathfinder Night Below Campaign (Session Two)

We had the second session of our Pathfinder Underdark Campaign last week. Honestly, it wasn't the best session. It's not that it wasn't fun... it just wasn't all that exciting. The session was more of a transition piece than anything else, moving from the "lead you by the nose" opening of the Night Below adventure to the entirely open-ended nature of a true sandbox-style campaign.

They began by defeating the orcs that had fired on the party while they were floating downstream on their raft, and then they spent quite some time scouting out Thurmaster (Shadowdale) before entering the town because they feared that the townsfolk would be itching to kidnap spellcasters as well (Eric's character, for instance). When they finally felt safe, they entered as a groupand did some housekeeping before their next adventure. The group:

  • delivered the box to Tauster, the wizard who serves the "old mage," and found out that the old mage is beginning to lose his mind to old age
  • picked up their gold from the Twisted Tower and then argued for a while over how to split it (Matt wasn't there, so there was a pretty heated debate over what share of the gold his character should get)
  • sold a bunch of spare (looted) equipment at the general store
  • checked out the message post, where they are most likely to pick up the trail of a new adventure
I printed off the following for the message post, some of it lifted directly from the 2md edition Shadowdale book, and some of it mixed in to draw the PCs in other directions:
  • Reward: 20 Silver Pieces for anyone who brings to justice the unknown cattle drivers who have wrecked crops and fences. See Silas Standard at grain booth on Market Day to collect.
  • Personal to Zeke. An envelope with a wax seal is attached.
  • Wanted: Adventuring party to perform reconnaissance. 100 Gold Pieces, plus percentage of any booty found. Inquire with the Captain-of-Arms and Warden of Thurmaster. This notice has been badly overwritten in some places with smudged and barely legible pencil markings to read: “Wanted: Adventuring party to perform suicide mission. 100 gold pieces, plus burial of your body, if found. Inquire with Captain-of-Harms and Worrier of Thurmaster.”
  • Rumors for Sale. Inquire of Llewellyn the Loquacious. Also available to sing at weddings, funerals, and other celebratory affairs.
  • Missing! Jelenneth, my bride to be, has gone missing. She is beautiful, of medium height, with dark hair and always wears a royal blue cloak. See Andren for more details.
  • Delivery. I'll be payin five silvers for any travelin to the Halfcut Hills willin to carry a message to me nephew. Simple job. Just ask for Old Grizzler at the Old Skull Inn.
  • Wanted: Guards for a shipment of goods from Thurmaster to Harlaton. Inquire at Baron Rodorigo Enano Casta's manor.
  • 6th Annual Challenge of Champions coming in three weeks.
We'll see next time which (if any) of these leads the party decides to investigate. No matter which way they turn, I'm sure they'll find something equally interesting and dangerous!

Also, I decided to go ahead and bump everyone to 2nd level even though they only legitimately had about a third of the xp necessary to advance. What can I say? I really don't like super-low level adventures! Jeremiah stayed the path of the paladin, while Rachel is contemplating her ranger taking levels in the witch class, and Eric clings to the idea of his mystic theurge.

Modifying the Night Below Setting: Adding Shadowdale

Although I plan to add a lot to the underdark regions of the Night Below campaign, up to this point I haven't had any plans of changing the surface world setting. However, when I stumbled on my copy of Shadowdale from the old 2nd Edition Forgotten Realms boxed set, I knew I had to work this old favorite in. Milborne is thematically a better fit for a Shadowdale switcheroo, but since the players have already visited Milborne, I don't want to confuse them by changing a location they thought they knew. Instead, since they're headed to Thurmaster anyway, "Shadowdale" will just take its spot instead!

Of course, just because I am who I am, I can't just drop it in as-is. There will be some changes to the new Thurmaster, starting with...

  • Tauster will be the second most powerful wizard in town. Elminster will be there in spirit, but will be an incredibly powerful but unpredictable mage who is just known as "the old mage." In truth, he'll probably have more in common with Fizban than Elminster.
  • Other ultra-powerful characters will be absent (Storm Silverhand, for example). Although I want the PCs to live in a world where there are major movers and shakers, I don't want them to feel like they can run off to this or that super-NPC to save the day.
  • The message post, while important to the original Shadowdale, will be emphasized even moreso in Thurmaster/Shadowdale. This will be an opportunity to present the players with lots of different hooks that they can investigate or ignore at their leisure. I'm going to develop a sizable list of rumors and jobs to be posted there, and they'll be able to pursue whatever they want.
  • I'm going to use this version of Thurmaster to introduce a lot of key NPCs that will play more and more of a role as the PCs gain experience (Hadrogh Prohl or Baron Rodorigo Enano Casta, for example)
Having a Shadowdale clone for the centerpiece of the surface world will be perfect. I'm surprised I hadn't thought of it before!

Most Awesome Game Trailer Ever

This isn't flashy like a lot of the game trailers you'll see nowadays. Instead, it takes things slow... and the effect is quite amusing. Watch the trailer... relax a bit...

Sweet Digital Gaming Table

I don't have the time or money to set up something like this... but if I did, it would be awesome...

Underdark Map (GIMP)

I haven't messed around with GIMP too much, but I can do some of the basics... enough to get digital maps that look considerably better than my freehand work. This is the starting point for my map of the underdark that I'll use for the Pathfinder Night Below campaign we started a few weeks ago. We aren't following the adventure very closely, so I want to make sure I have a big sandbox for the party to explore. I'm going to want a map to keep track of where everything is, especially since I'm piecing together elements of a half-dozen or more different supplements. Here's what I have so far...

Blue areas are water, tan areas are the big caverns, and dark
areas are the spaces between bigger caverns that are
riddled with smaller passageways.

Yeah, it's a blank map, and it isn't much to write home about. I generated the caverns by fiddling with cloud rendering. The water is just a transparent layer with those sections filled in.

Still, I don't think it's too bad for a 30 minute job. Now it's just a matter of labeling important locations, such as...
  • The Sunless Sea
  • Dylvwyllann
  • Sshamath
  • Underspires
  • Oenkmar
  • Mantol-Derith
  • The Vault of the Drow
  • Skullport
Not sure what else I'll end up dropping in the mix... I'll probably end up creating a few locations myself. Any suggestions for other classic locations that no underdark campaign should miss out on?

Tablescapes - Miniature Wargame Boards

When I first saw this, I immediately thought of the Realm of Battle board by Games Workshop. However, after taking a closer look, I think this might be better. The material looks very similar, and the cost is much more reasonable. Check out what Mister Justin has to say:

A few notes...
  • It sounds like the thickness of these boards is just about a millimeter or so off from the Realm of Battle board, which means it might not be too tough to combine the two sets on the same tabletop.
  • I'm intrigued by the idea that they're going to make lots of different themed tiles. The Realm of Battle board is getting a little stale, to be honest, as they only add a tile or two every once in a while.
  • I'm glad he mentioned transition pieces in the video, because I wondered when he was first showing off the pieces whether or not there would be any support for elevation.
If you're serious about awesome tabletops but can't quite justify the Realm of Battle board, I would suggest checking them out and throwing in your support.

Gatecrash Spoilers

That's right, folks. It's almost that time for a new set release, so it's time to start looking ahead to how the new cards will impact tournament play. Here are a few resources to help you keep up...

Spoiler discussion is here.
The official spoiler is here.
The (less than official) spoiler itself is here.

Tau Sun Shark / Razorshark

Although I wouldn't say it's as cool as the Riptide Battlesuit, this new Tau kit is pretty cool as well. I like how 6th edition releases are continuing the trend of adding a flyer to every army as they are released. I haven't seen the rules for these yet, but they look pretty sweet. This is the type of model that, as I say fairly often, I would love to assemble and paint even if I don't even play the Tau.

Pathfinder Night Below Campaign (Session One)

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was thinking about running an Underdark focused campaign, and since then I've gotten the chance to start. The beginning of the game will follow the Night Below adventure, but as things progress, I intend to just use the setting (combined with a few other Underdark-focused modules) and open it up like a sandbox for the players. With that in mind, we assembled a group of four 1st level characters and set off to deliver Gordrenn's chest to Tauster.
  • Matt - Half-Orc Paragon (Unearthed Arcana stuff - rules here)
  • Eric - Elf Magus
  • Rachel - Changeling Ranger
  • Jeremiah - Human Paladin
The first session went well. The heroes managed to...

  • Negotiate a better deal from Gordrenn than his initial offer
  • Survive a kidnapping attempt by bandits/farmers on the road to Milborne, despite the magus getting knocked unconscious after the first two or three rounds of combat
  • Agree to help Andren search for the missing Jelenneth, although he runs off to search for her alone because the heroes take too long to start the search
  • Travel down the Churnett River, stopping when they spot places it looks like Andren also stopped
The module states, "The PCs should reach the village of Thurmaster without anything eventful happening." Ha! I don't think so...

The session ended when the players decided to continue searching for Jelenneth through the night without resting. They continued down the river on their raft, using the exceptional vision of the demihumans to scout the riverbanks.  Unfortunately for the party, some orcs took notice of their passage, and we left off after the orcs fired their first volley of arrows at the raft.

The Pathfinder Switch
Honestly, I don't think anybody noticed! We didn't have any combat maneuvers that came into play, so we didn't use those rules at all.  Aside from the small differences in character creation, it was pretty much business as usual. Eric loves the "new" magus class, though. He mentioned at the beginning of the session that he was planning to go magus/cleric/mystic theurge. However, by the end of the first session, he was talking about going magus all the way. It's definitely an interesting class. He equated it to playing Oblivion with a sword in one hand and magic in the other, and I think that's a pretty good analogy.

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