Phlebas' Pirates! Playtest Report (Possible Freeport trilogy spoilers)


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Last Sunday kicked off my new campaign using Beta (as opposed to one off playtests)

Its a pirate based campaigns using bits of the Freeport Trilogy, and the rest is homebrew / various published adventures

number of players will vary week by week, so each player has two pc's and will play one per session. means we cover the maximum number of classes and races.

Prequel started with a raid on the players hometown (they were refugees fleeing a war). The party preceeding the execution of a war criminal was interrupted when the 'veil' covering orc and ogre mercenaries failed (due to a chair disintegrating under an ogre giving everyone saving throws). this session players played both characters. effectively it turned into a fighting retreat for the pc's, trying to save as many bystanders as they could, while the orcs cleared a path through the inn so they could rescue the war criminal. the party was completely overmatched here, but it was an ideal opportunity to have a smack down combat, and knowing that the enemy would retreat as soon as the rescue was complete.

anyhow. PC's were (all 1st level)

1/2 Elf Monk
Gnome Sorcerer (destined)
Gnome Bard
Dwarven Fighter
Dwarven Cleric
1/2 Orc druid with crocodile AC

(the player of the Human Rogue & Elven Wizard couldn't attend)

by the end of the combat the monk, bard, cleric and fighter were on the floor. the party managed to save a dozen non-combs by retreating to a corner and using entangle, grease, flare, acid splash and the croc to hold off the orcs

observations - none of the players were new to playing D&D, but most were playing classes they hadn't done before. did take a while to thrash out some of the class abilities / spells

the use of orisons / cantrips at will was a MAJOR factor in this combat. because of the sheer voume of attackers, spells were used up in first few rounds as the players tried to get themselves into a defensible position. however the use of Stabilise at range prevented any fatalities even if the pc couldn't be recovered / healed, and the continuous use of flare and acid splash meant that every character was contrbuting. the new AC rules seemed fairly balanced. the croc was capable of taking on a single orc, but wouldn't have lasted long against several so was retreating alongside the druid.

Players described the encounter as pretty scary but quite good fun. the burning down to the waterline of the boat containing the PC's families has set in motion the long term plot.

Frmo DM's perspective, virtualy enough XP earnt in that one encounter to take the group to 2nd level under the fast progression. do like the way we now have xp cost / CR as it makes calculating xp easy per encounter.


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second half of the session was another homebrew encounter designed to play around with the skills more than the combat. this time each player played a single 2nd level PC so group was

1/2 elf monk
gnome bard
1/2 orc druid

party investigated a dwarven barge that had beached on a sandbank, investigated the boat to find the clues as to what had happened to the crew and then followed the trail back to a lagoon full of bullywugs and their temple of gluttony to rescue the dwarves pre-sacrifice....

skills worked well, the monk had maxed perception and didn't have too many issues distinguishing between visual and listen type checks.

eventually the party followed the trail in a small boat and after a succession of low perception checks paddled into an ambush. two bullywugs managed to successfully entangle the monk and the druid with thrown nets, the bard being ignored. two other bully wugs then started stabbing the party while the net throwers dragged the party into the water. the druid was hit a lot and then rescued by the croc AC, the bard killed two bullywugs while the monk (who failed to roll the 14 needed for an escape artist check 8 times in a row!) was dragged slowly off. after healing the druid, the bard and druid paddled off in a low speed chase until the croc was sent ahead to intercept

net rules worked fairly well - it was scary for the PC's, but more so because the monk didn't even have a knife blade to cut his way out of the net

at the temple the gnome got swallowed whole by a dire toad guard before being rescued by the group. they then had a stand up battle with 6 bullywugs before facing the dark cleric, a sahuagin cleric 2 who used negative energy to wound the party (and incidentally kill off the few bullywug survivors) before being rushed by the group and cut down

since the group didn't have a cleric they purchased a wand of cure lights and had a few potions. each pc went unconscious at least once but in the fight agaisnt the dark cleric the monk piled in, the bard sung, and the druid used the wand to keep the monk & croc active

negative channeling is a fun mechanic at low level, but a cleric 4 could have decimated the party very quickly - i'm going to keep using this mechanic for the NPC's so we'll see how balanced it is....

next session the party sail to Freeport and we begin the freeport trilogy!


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first part of freeport (will keep spoilers to a min)

note. i deliberately kept conversion to a minimum - in fact the only changes i made were to NPC sorcerers & clerics as i wanted to highlight PF changes

group
Human Rogue 1
1/2 orc druid 2
gnome bard 2
1/2 elf monk 2

battle with the press gang was over quite quickly - but deliberately had crowded battleground with boxes and rogue especially had fun risking AoO's to get flank and sneaks. really like the fact that 'tumble' is no longer a flat dice roll which makes you more likely to tumble vs mooks and more nervous against anyone competent.

when bard cast grease and took an AoO I assumed it was non-lethal damage for the subsequent conc check but the table is a little confusing. dc is 10 + spell level + damage for normal damage, 10 + spell level + 1/2 damage for continuous damage. doesn't mention N-L so i ruled 1/2 dam as I thought it should be less than normal but not sure thats correct interpretation

rest of session was a lot of rp'ing - using diplomacy / gather information / linguistics / perception etc as and when required. all worked fairly well

ended up with the ambush. the npc sorcerer i converted to PFRP aberrant and so used has acid blast from a distance but got caught in the bards grease and so was out of combat for a few rounds. rest of the combat was over v quickly as rogue critical'd his flanking strike on the leader and took him down

the druid was keen on casting stabilise on the downed enemies to avoid unnecessary fatalities and to be able to question them afterwards. works well for investigations but became a bit of a pain in that she wanted to question everyone. could have done the same thing with heal checks but the at will orison 'seems' to make it easier.

tried a chase mechanic i've worked out based on distance between people and gaining / losing ground depending on results of skill checks to overcome obstacles (easier than big maps). finally caught target when monk jumped over cart to get in front of the cultist who crawled underneath it. dunno if dm tips like this should make it into rules but any sidebar space available......?


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Session 3 -

group was

1/2 orc druid 3 (crocodile AC - revised rules)
gnome bard 3
1/2 elf monk 3

game started with the investigation of the cult headquarters. again i did some conversion work on NPC clerics & Sorcerers

group worked there way through the monsters quite happily and ended up entering the temple from behind the waiting ambush.

final encounter with the cleric though was very tough - the two assistants died early (first one in surprise round, second one immolated by druid with burning sphere)

however the leader alternated spells / special abilities (bleeding touch was especialy effective on the monk) with channeling negative energy and that got most of the group crying out for the healer at some point in the combat.

I like channeling negative energy - it does make evil clerics scary without being OTT - but i'd have concerns about a PC abusing this power....not sure about solution tho'

one thing. AGAIN the druid used the orison to prevent the NPC from dying. this was to question the cult leader but the party decided to not risk waking him and ended up slitting his throat. since it was only a 6 hp attack that took the npc down i didn't think i could say it had died in 1 round but this is becoming an annoying habit of stabilising everything they come across 'just in case'

second half of game had the sailors out on the ocean trying to rescue some Halflings from a Selymul (MM3)

this was a CR7 in its natural environment against 3 x level 3 characters so it was always going to be a tough ask but it has a low intelligence so it decided to toy with the party and then leg it when below 1/3 hit points

early on the parties boat was turned over (DC 20 strength check) and when various members of the party stood on top shooting arrows at it, it charged in and rammed the hull (I ruled a balance check with a DC = strength check of the creature ramming). Much hilarity ensued as the party took it in turns to climb onto the hull, readying attacks for the charge and then hurtling off the boat into the water as the boat rocked.

The crocodile animal companion came into its own here though did suffer a little (I did modify the pain ability slightly to reduce the impact on the party but the crocodile did run on first contact until the druid managed to rally

By the end of the fight only the bard had not dropped below zero – interesting use of drowning / swimming rules as bodies sank and druid with wand had to dive to heal…and then bard dive in to heal druid…. And then monk dived in to rescue bard….

Once again at will orisons came into play as a default – ‘cant think of anything else’ action.


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Session 4 -

group was

human rogue 2
1/2 orc druid 3 (crocodile AC - revised rules)
gnome bard 3
1/2 elf monk 3

Basically played through the Freeport interlude I “Swagfest, Yarr”

Assassination attempt was unsuccessful though the rogue applauded the ‘act’ on the stage for three rounds before working out it was real…..

Since this took place on the dock side the croc AC patrolled the water and basically cut off the escape route. But since the party members took full advantage of the ‘free’ grog they didn’t question motives too closely

Games – jacks stand was just basic combat. Good fun for all

Fat rat chase was amusing, monk went off on own and tried grappling rules and then found spider, after escape artisting the web he ran away only for the low wis rogue to go “wow, a talking spider” and dive back in

Gave a good opportunity to use entangle, escape artist and lots of tumbling into position to try and flank a mobile magical opponent. Probably made easier by being in cramped quarters – if I’d been better prepared there might have been more house to retreat through and then some tightrope walking across the roofs….

Plot restarted with Freeport II, quick punch up with orcs and then another chase through the streets after the book thief. The session ended after they’d talked their way into the abandoned temple but fell victim to a cause fear spell and ran away (aided by obscuring mist)

Players getting into characters now. Starting to use CMB especially for tumbling and as a DM I do like the target being relative to opponents BAB to make it less of a cert at high levels….


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Session 5

PC's
Human Rogue 3
1/2 Orc Druid 4
1/2 Elf monk 4
Gnome Bard 3
Gnome Sorcerer (Elemental - Air) 2

new player this session playing the sorcerer - only second ever RP session so good sanity check for the rules ease of understanding. The only criticism of the rules from a beginners perspective is an opening paragraph for classes and races to give a little flavour.....

1st encounter was clearing out a wasp swarm to introduce the characters. the monk and rogue were getting stung to bits until the sorcerer 'colour spray'd the area - the swarm failed its save and after a certain amount of hacking to get the nest off the rafter the rogue ran screaming through the streets and dropped it in a stream nearby.

the reinforced party now went back to the cellars - after spotting the lookout left after their last attempt they chased him into the ambush (which failed to make much of an impression). eventually the gnomes turned up and mopped up. the last survivor was the erstwhile lookout who ran on through the shrine and almost made it back outside before being clobbered and - once again - "Stop Bleeding" to keep him alive.

bit of investigation in the town - found gather information under diplomacy (eventually) and so managed to pass on the important plot clues

session ended with the crew back aboard ship, chasing down some orc pirates and then suffering the same sahuagin ambush. although there were npc's around I made them pretty ineffectual and 12 std sahuagin plus two warrior 1's lieutenants bit the desk fairly quickly

shipboard combat can be very cramped and theres a few narrow stairways etc. however the rogue and monk spent a lot of time leaping between levels and tumbling past opponents. at the moment its not too difficult to work out DC's and does make it more of a swashbuckling feel. high comedy when the gnome sorcerer (now ships cook) had a sahuagin open the door to her galley, elemental blast,missed attack, colour spray, elemental blast (critical) meant the sahuagin was blasted off the side of the ship having made just one attack....

on fast progression so leaping through the levels fairly quickly - quite interested in how long the monk can keep being the frontline with the rogue, bard & druids AC in support. hopefully the sorcs range support will help.

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