Sunday, July 17, 2011

Unlikely Heroes: Mushroom Quest

Game Date: 7/16/2011
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Davor (Ted): Half-Orc Sorcerer
Durp DuDerp (Cliff): Half-Elf Bard
Moxie (Michael): Half-Orc Fighter
Snidely (Greg): Halfling Rogue
Nishallivexiania "Vex" Corman (Matt): Half-Elf Monk
Kimi & Savram (Tam & Sheree): Child Lookouts

The Session:
I joined this Pathfinder campaign already in progress.  The existing party had taken on the task of finding some mushrooms in an old Dwarven monastery.  These shrooms are a key ingredient for a medicine that will hopefully cure the plague infesting a nearby town. Meanwhile, Vex had hired Kimi and Savram, a couple of children from town, to guide her to the same monastery in search of religious artifacts.  As the existing party was making camp, one of them heard Vex's group and went to make sure they weren't enemies.  Once Vex heard about their quest to cure a plague, she agreed to help.  The group headed for the monastery together.

We entered the courtyard of the monastery and started looking around.  In one tower, we encountered a large spider.  During the fight, it bit Vex, causing her to lose 2 points of STR.  After a failed fort save, she lost 2 more... then 2 more... then 2 more.  She finally made her save, but she was down 8 STR (her only decent stat) for the rest of the session.

In the another room, we found a secret door leading to some open prison cells.  The cells contained three skeletons, which attacked us.  During the battle, another door opened down the hall, and two wolves joined the battle.  But our biggest opponent this fight was a lot of extraordinarily bad die rolls.  The two kids actually did the most damage in this battle.

Next we checked out the room the wolves had come from, and found ourselves face-to-face with a large Worg.  He asked, "Who dares disturb my lair?"  Of course we didn't trust him, but in hopes of avoiding a fight, we told him about our quest.  He told us where we could find some mushrooms, but warned us that the room was home to a pair of darkmantles.  We decided to check out that room last.

We explored a couple of small rooms, and found a few minor items.  While examining some fungus, Vex triggered a spore cloud, which gave her -2 CON.  Not a good day for Vex.  In another room, Davor and Moxie were attacked by a bed.  Well, actually it was a kobold hiding under a bed, who kept attacking them by stabbing through the mattress from underneath.  During the battle, Vex was still standing in the hallway, and kept seeing shadows moving on the walls.  She used her sling to "attack the darkness", but nothing happened.  She was left wondering if she really saw it, or if it was just aftereffects from the spores.

Finally we entered the room with the darkmantles.  Our light could not penetrate the magical darkness in the room.  A few party members cautiously entered the room, but kept tripping over furniture.  The first darkmantle dropped on one of us, and we fought it as best we could without being able to see anything.  Once it was dead, the darkness dissipated for just a moment before the other monster cast darkness again.  Once we finally killed it, we searched the room.

No mushrooms, but we'd figured the Worg was playing us.  He probably just wanted us to take care of the darkmantles for him, or hoped the darkmantles would kill us.  We headed straight back to the Worg's lair to lodge a formal complaint.  The Worg got the drop on us, pouncing from a hidden area up above, but we soon had him surrounded.  Moxie rolled one particularly nice crit that nearly killed the Worg instantly.  Once the Worg was dead, we searched his lair thoroughly, and found a few more mushrooms. 

There were some stairs going down, but our quest had a time limit.  If the townsfolk didn't get their cure soon, people would start dying.  And besides, we were low on hit points.  We didn't think we could make it back to town before dark, so we headed towards the ruins of an old orphanage we thought we might be able to use for shelter.  We had to build a raft to get across a river, and eventually we reached the orphanage.

While most of the place was burned out and falling apart, we found one door that led down to a cellar that looked promising.  We found a body down there, and were attacked by a large spider and a swarm of smaller spiders.  We looked up Pathfinder's rules on swarms, and discovered that none of us really had anything that could damage one.  So we fled.  We closed the door behind us and moved far away before finally setting up camp.  We ended the session there.

Assuming we successfully camp the night, Vex will regain 1 point each of her lost stats, bringing her up to -7 STR and -1 CON.

This was my first time playing Pathfinder.  I haven't decided if I like it yet, but I also haven't seen enough to judge it fairly.  With Vex suffering stat loss in her first round of battle, I didn't get to do a whole lot.  Since I was already at a penalty to hit, I generally just kept using my basic attack all session, since it seemed most likely to hit.  Pathfinder does have an interesting set of combat maneuvers, which includes Bull Rush, Disarm, Grapple, Overrun, Sunder, and Trip.  I didn't try any of these because the time never seemed right.  I just don't see Vex tripping a spider or disarming a worg.  So maybe I'll warm up to the system once I've had a chance to do something besides punching someone.

I like the nostalgic 3.5 feelings it gives me, and I was extremely happy that the battles were quick.  I've been playing 4e, which is basically combat porn - you get a few minutes of poorly-acted dialogue bridging the gaps between long scenes of hot action.  Sure, I enjoy the fighting, but when you look at the clock and realize you're entering hour three of the same combat - which in-game is only supposed to represent a few minutes - sometimes you have to say "Enough already!"  There's something wrong with the system when you're actively disemboweling someone and still feeling bored.

So Pathfinder was a huge improvement there.  But I also keep coming across problems that 4e has effectively fixed.  So in that respect, it feels like I'm taking a step backwards.  The risk of hitting an ally when firing into melee was a bit disappointing.  I understand the reasoning for the rule; it's that "realism" thing that stupid people babble about just before doing something totally realistic like casting Magic Missile.  Rules like this severely limit a balanced party, where the tanks surround the monster while the strikers shoot at it.  Sure, there's a feat to fix the problem, but who wants to waste a feat to fix anal game design?  Besides, I'm not saying you're such an expert that you can fire through your teammate's legs.  It's more like you yell, "Bob!  Duck!" as you let loose your arrow.  Bob, not being an idiot, ducks.

The slow health recovery is also annoying.  Of course, I know a lot of people complained that it was too easy to heal in 4e, but you know my feelings on that.  I know this sounds a bit like "my character got hurt so I hate this game", but that's seriously not it.  I hated slow recovery systems long before I was hurt by one.  Which is more fun to roleplay, taking a week of bed rest, or getting up and facing the next challenge?  Sidestepping challenges because you're down to 1 hit point is boring.  This is a game, something people do for fun.  Sitting around waiting for bones to knit is boringGames.  Should.  Not.  Be.  Boring.  It's such a simple and obvious rule, and yet I spend so much time resisting the urge to tattoo it on people's foreheads.  Again, the Rule of Fun should always be the #1 rule of every system.

But some of this might just be a problem with early levels, and again, I don't feel like I've seen enough to fairly judge.  I still enjoyed the session, and I'm looking forward to next time.  Only time will tell if I fall in love with the system.


  1. I kind of like the friendly fire aspect of the system. Although I do agree with you on the slow healing times. Pathfinder is a decent system, as is 4E. But my opinion on all the D20 variants is that they all lack something. With 4E it is the "combat porn" as you so eloquently put it. with 3 and 3.5 (and by extension Pathfinder) it was the general clumsiness of the combat mechanics (you try anything not basic, and it can get a bit hairy if you don't know the system). Keep in mind I am also coming from a gaming background that did not include any variant on the D20 systems until the last 10 years or so. All in all, I think you have it right, games should be fun, be all end all. I feel system does play a role in this, but I feel it is more dependent on the story being told, and the folk playing it. But that is all just my opinion and ramblings.


  2. Ted, I would really like to try some of the other systems you keep suggesting sometime. Having played nothing but D&D and its close cousins, I sometimes regret not having a frame of reference for comparison.