Got the box in the mail yesterday. Popped it open, was very impressed by the production quality, as well as the density of box.
I had only skimmed over the "Black Fang" adventure in the GM's Handbook. But I was confident enough in my xp as a GM to basically wing it. And the box was sold to me on the fact that it should be able to get quickly going right out of the box without a deep reading.
We had four players, only one of which had played TTRPG to any extent at all. He and I would both be considered rusty. The three new players used the premades, the Cleric, Fighter and Rogue. The other rolled his own sorcerer, which we shoe horned in BB rules. The power level was even across the board.
First hour was spent on background and motivations. Two of the players (the rogue and fighter) were both returning from a war, and had heard of opportunities in Sandpoint to make some money. They were both broke. One had a serious case of PTSD. The other was a bad gambler. There were both dealing with a tremendous amount of baggage from the prior experiences in death and carnage.
They were staying at the local temple, where the Cleric was a novice priest of Sarenrae (sp?) Seeing that these two blokes were down on their luck, broke, and in serious need on therapy, she offered them the mats in the temple storeroom, for exchange of a bit of physical labor to help around the Cathedral.
The Sorcerer was a local kid, who had exhibited signs of natural spellcasting. This freaked his parents out, and so they forced him to attend classes at the Cathedral, hoping that he would become a priest or anything but a sorcerer.
The day everything pretty much kicks off, the Mayor came to visit the High Cleric, who inconveniently was out of town. She came to ask for help, and instead found only the cleric and a couple of drunkards. Without many options left, she explained that something had been destroying live stock, leaving a few corpses of half destroyed bulls in the farms right outside of town. The only piece of evidence left behind was a single blackened tooth, about 6 inches long, found embedded in one of the destroy cow corpses. A few nights ago a shipment of Dwarven Octoberfest came in and her normal go-to adventurers have been out of action after a night or three of binge drinking, but she the farmers were beating down her office door demanding that something be done.
After examining the Fighter and Rogue, she asked if the Cleric knew anyone else that could help or when the High Cleric would return. Feeling the cabin fever, she suggested that she knew just the people.
The first thing the Rogue and Fighter wanted to do was examine a scene of one the attacks. Here are the clues they got: One of the victim bulls was torn in half, after making a decent perception check the fighter noticed something odd, and tried to lift the bull, or the half that remained, and he noticed that the bone structure was completely destroyed. Some had "broken" bull, and then tore it to shreds and left no tracks, though there had to have been gallons of blood about.
The Rogue, went to question the farmer, and he was told, that on the night of the most recent attack, the moon was nearly full, and then it seemed to disappear, and then reappear. There was only lite cloud cover and no rain. The bull cried out from across the field for only 5 minutes. There was a thud, and the silence.
More background about how the roles were playing out. The rogue and fighter got into, for lack of a better word, sort of an a$$hole grove. Their characters were being cocky and their internal monologues were sort of mean. Basically leaning neutral evil, though their stated alignments were otherwise. Here's how I pivoted that.
With the rogue, the lady at the farm that they interview first thought the two were there to take the corpse away (the Mayor had said she would send someone). She pleaded with the rogues to help, because it had been two days and they didn't want the meat, and it was rotting and destroying their property. At first, he was like "This is not my problem," but after her heartbreaking story about her dead husband and young disabled child, he folded and he would talk to someone in town to come remove the corpse. She gave him a gold piece.
After they returned to town, the towns folk seemed different. Crowds slowly parted for them. Everyone was looking, and there were whispers. They almost freaked out, but then a young child approached, maybe 6-7 and she gave the 6'5, 250 lbs, donned in Scale armor, scarred from battle, with a generally bad disposition, a flower. She send thank you, and that she "had never seen a hero before. Where they really going to kill Blackfang."
The next day, the fought their way through the first two goblins at the door, the five goblins arguing. They drank from the fountain. They had sparred three of the goblins, and after showing them the black tooth they had from evidence. The goblins pointed. They tied the goblins up.
I had misread the map/adventure and thought that the path was a 20ft drop and not a 20ft cliff above them, so the sorcerer threw the goblins over the side to "anchor the rope". Cleric was appalled. This also "woke" the skeletons who attacked the first two to climb down (sorcerer and fighter). When the cleric finally got down, she did her AoE cleric thing and totally destroyed the two remaining skele's.
Then next room, black fang circled the room and landed on the opposite side of the room. The whole moon disappearing thing all made sense. The broken bones came from being picked up and dropped. And that's where we stopped.
All in all, it was a fun game, with perhaps 10 mins of prep time.
Review (or things to note):
After playing in a couple 4e campaign if felt that with the later encounters, starting with the five goblins, the enemy AC seemed a bit to high (unless I'm doing something wrong). AC: 16. The fighter had +4 to hit, which was the best in the group, rogue was +1 (+3 range, with no precise shot), cleric was +1. Even with flanks most the PCs we're not hitting 50% of the time. Granted combat in PFBB is a lot faster than 4e, but still, I can recall 3 whole rounds were the PC were hitting no one, even with flanks. Bad rolls, I know, bad enough they might not have hit AC: 12, but still, it wasn't building tension. It was just sort of annoying. The battle starting taking long enough I subtracted a hit point or two, so that they were one-shoting, just to keep excitement alive. I still try to keep it so they are hitting mooks around 55-60% of the time. Players just have more fun when that is the case.
NPC damage level was great though, 1-2 points was my average roll on a 1d4, and they felt the sting, since it took a while to hit something.
The pawns are a bit to tall to mix with the prepainted minis from Wizards or WizKids. I was standing, so I could see, but the players that were sitting, had a hard time figuring out who was who and who was where. One solutions is to not mix them, but I think I read/heard from Paizo was that the idea was to be able to use both.
On the good side, combat was really fast. I think we'll leave AoO out, even after we transition to the Core Rule Book.
The basic options were easy to explain to new players. I think once we get to Core they will appreciate the plethora of options Paizo has developed since CRB release.
The battle mat is awesome. I'm going to get some more from Paizo. The premades seemed slight under-powered for my taste. I usually use 20pt buy. In theory the pawns are a great idea, but I couldn't getting to mix well with plastic minis.
The game system is a great intro for new players, except I wasn't sure if I was suppose to not let them take actions/movements that would normally provoke AoO, or if I was suppose to ignore AoO and let them do what they wanted.
I noticed that not thinking about AoOs really made the combats faster and allowed me to manage the tension within a fight a lot better. But when I was tempted to not let players move, because that movement would provoke, I had an odd feeling. 1) that that sort of thinking was abstractly technical and 2) who gives a crap, just let them do it. Ultimately everyone gets a swing, and enemies were typicially smart enough to know, they should do whatever it takes to get the flank. And because the really needed the +2 flank bonus, I needed them to get that tactical advantage, just to keep the game moving.
|Sean K Reynolds Contributor|
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I'm glad you enjoyed the Beginner Box. I'll address some of your comments.
Yes, the ACs for the goblin encounter are a little high. Goblins are dodgy little jerks and it's hard to squish them... but fortunately they don't do much damage. And that's an encounter the PCs can bypass by talking, so it's okay if it's not a cakewalk to finish (the PCs have an incentive to avoid a fight).
The premade characters are supposed to be not optimized characters. We don't expect players to be skilled at minmaxing their characters, so the example characters are built pretty average. This has two benefits:
(1) When we test encounters, we use the pregenerated iconics, and if the iconics can handle the encounter, that indicates a group of average characters can handle that encounter. Otherwise, if we built the iconics optimally and tested encounters against that power level, people using average characters would be likely to lose.
(2) If a player first plays a premade iconic, then creates his or her own character that's more powerful than the premade, that gives the player a sense of accomplishment and system mastery. It's a reward for reading the game and understanding how it fits together. After all, we wouldn't want their first character to be so optimized that their second character feels weak by comparison.
The game doesn't have AOOs at all, for the most part and it doesn't let you do things that would normally provoke an AOO (with some exceptions). For example, in the Beginner Box rules, you can't fire a bow when adjacent to an enemy. Likewise, you can't cast a spell when adjacent to an enemy... with the exception of touch spells, which are allowed. And there aren't AOO-type limitations on movement (because restricting it would be hard to explain in an understandable way, and would really limit what PCs can do in combat).
That way, when you play the Beginner Box and transition to the Core Rulebook, the GM can say, "Remember how you used to not be able to do X at all? Well, now you can, but there's a risk if you want to try it." Giving players more options as they increase their experience with the game is better than taking away options as they play more.
Or, as you put it, "who gives a crap, let them do it." :) The full game is a pretty complex game, and if you eliminate some of that complexity to maintain the amount of fun, that's a win. :)
It sounds like you had a great first session. As your players make their first characters beyond the Box, you might consider limiting their options to the Core Rulebook . . . too much choice can be paralyzing, and there is plenty in that rust-red tome to play around with. Of course, play as you wish. All the best as you continue with the hobby!
Thanks for the reply. One of the reasons I switched to PF was because, I consider the staff interaction with players an important element of great game design.
Thanks for clarifying your thoughts on AoO (or lack of) in BB. Part of my issue, was clearly my own issue, because I read somewhere that BB "doesn't let you do things that would normally provoke an AoO" and I didn't read through the exception. I had mentioned I had only spent about 10 mins with the books before the game, in order to test out how quickly we could get the game started.
To your credit and to the credit of the team, the players and I had a lot of fun. I heard from most of them today and they wanted to schedule another session. I left my HB copy of the Core Rules Book as a teaser. But I think you have some new customers.
I'm looking forward to getting them into the Core Rules. I am thinking about leaving AoO out of the game, just cause it seemed to work so well with BB. I agree that having APG, ARG and the Ultimate books, would probably be to much for the first campaign, but I think I'm allow players to "respec" as long as there character narrative maintains a level of fidelity. Which allows us to buy books, read them, and use what we want at a reasonable pace. That way we all win. Paizo makes some money, players expand their choices, and I get more high quality books for my book shelf.
I played 3.x on and off for a few years, took a hiatus, then came back to 4e, and played that for about 2 years.
As a tactical board game, 4e just seemed to have better options for players "on the grid". Granted battles were long, but it didn't matter if the battles were fun.
But, imo, 3.5/PF is a better game to facilitate a "role playing" type of experience (this is merely my opinion, and I know plenty of folks will differ on this matter). I'm saying this because, AoO seem to be a major factor that pushes PF into the tactical board game type of experience, but it seems to me that 4e does this better. Leaving AoO out just seems to enhance the aspects that makes 3.5/PF shine.
Again, only my opinion. I love all editions of our classic RPG for what they do well.