Once more into the universe of Sci-Fantasy table top role playing!
This will be my second run at GMing Paizo’s Starfinder system. This time I’ve decided to keep it ‘simple’ with an Adventure Path. Here’s the setup:
The crew operates a salvaged Tier 1, Renegade-class Transport the “Exarch Reliant”. While the ship has seen better days the crew manages to scrape enough credits together to keep it operational for hauling cargo and passengers seeking a certain discretion around the solar system and near space. It’s a solid frame with significant potential.
The crew have been operating for a few cycles now, sticking to safe space lanes and making the usual connections for freelance haulers. The pay is barely enough to keep the thrusters online but living as a freelance crew is ideal for beings that may have crossed the line a few times in their lives or are wanted in other less savory circles.
Each crew member found themselves involved with the Stewards (law enforcement) in some fashion. Due to the interest and intervention of an Android Agent, Cedona-17, they all found themselves with a clean record and operating a ramshackle ship in return for a few off-book hauls when the Stewards needed a ‘package’ picked up or delivered quietly.
A few months ago Cedona-17 transferred to a position on the planet of Nakondis out in the Vast. This event left the crew with less contact with the Stewards, less official sponsorship and fewer related paydays.
A job came across the links recently from AbadarCorp looking for a transport to haul basic supplies to Nakondis. Standard cargo, slightly better rates than usual due to the distance. A payday and an opportunity to visit with an old contact that may have more lucrative opportunities in an area way off the beaten path.
What could possibly go wrong?
I have added a link to my ‘official’ story line site, The Aeon Incident, in the main navigation at the top of RPGOracle. Instead of adding posts here I will be posting session summaries on that site so everyone can keep up with the fun.
Character summaries are up for review as well a a very thorough overview of the crew’s ship.
Everyone seems fairly hyped for the game and setting. We’ll see how long it takes to completely derail the planned course of the adventure and spiral out of control.
First, let me say, I was skeptical of a second edition because I lived and suffered under the constant development of Basic, 1st Ed and 2nd Ed of Dungeon’s & Dragons. It was an arms race of hard backs and splat books seemingly for no reason other than to drain any and all ‘disposable’ income gamers in the 80s and 90s had to offer.
With the release of 3rd Ed D&D it seemed to get worse with some excellent third party sources that meshed with varying levels of balance. That was about the time pirated PDF files began circulating around the Internet saving tons of $$ and simplifying hauling libraries of expansion and rule books from game to game.
Now, digital libraries are all the rage with troves of every game imaginable available for download for those that idly run a search on the right engine.
Enter Pathfinder 2nd Ed. I purchased the Core Rulebook and Bestiary PDFs directly from Paizo on release. I perused the digital pages and discovered the fundamental differences of the fresh take on a classic system. I bought the ‘deluxe’, physical core rule book to experience the system as the publisher intended. I must say it’s a completely different experience.
From character generation to how magic and gear are presented the entire system seems like an overhaul for the sake of appealing to console and computer gamers. Then, in the second glance of the rule set, it becomes apparent that they wanted to compartmentalize everything into bite sized morsels for ease of consumption.
Character generation isn’t a matter of rolling the dice to generate the core ability scores. It’s a basic point buy system by default but you can still use the dice method if you prefer. Character creation is still a bit cumbersome as your building an alternate ego; a complete persona.
You’re supposed to begin with a character concept. Then generate the ability scores. Those base scores are modified in various ways by the character’s Ancestry, Background and Class.
Ancestry, is a more encompassing term than Race. Each Ancestry still imparts some basic details that helps your character reflect their unique racial heritage. Ancestries establish a baseline for Hit Points, Size, Speed, Ability ‘Boosts’ and ‘Flaws’, languages, traits and other special abilities. Ancestry provides Heritages to reflect variations in the racial types that impact the cosmetics of each sub-race. Finally, Ancestry Feats are earned as the character advances in level. This allows your Ancestry to influence the character’s advancement as much as their Class. No more cookie cutter elves, dwarves or even humans.
Backgrounds, if you’ve ever played 2nd Edition AD&D, are much like Secondary Proficiencies. What did your character do before becoming an adventurer? What skills did they use to earn a living? What kind of lifestyle did they live? You’ll get some bonus Feats and Skills here.
Finally, Class choices are what your character is doing now as an adventurer. Balance between all the classes has always been a hot topic but, after reviewing the system a few times I think Paizo may have managed to reach a reasonable balance.
Martial classes have been top dog since 3rd Ed D&D with access to piles of Feats through advancement and access to combat tactics that none of the other classes could really compete against.
Magic focused classes all suffered from being relegated to support ‘buff bot’ roles to keep the martial classes alive and improve their capabilities. Not playing that role was challenging and, at lower levels, really never worked.
Now, all classes have the capacity to stand on their own more reasonably providing both support and active combat capabilities. The flexibility of Class focused Feats, steady progression of Ancestry Feats and more focus on skills during play allows everyone to play their character like they want instead of being pidgin holed into a single role.
Speaking of Feats, these are not the overwhelming Feats of 3rd Ed simply rehashed. Every Feat has been ‘re-balanced’. Many of the general feats apply skill modifiers instead of arbitrarily boosting a character into nearly superhuman status. More number crunching in several ways but hopefully they keep a reign on how Feats impact game play moving forward.
The role of currency has been adjusted a bit too. Gear is no longer hundreds of coins. Starting currency is a flat 15 gold with which you can comfortably purchase starting gear. I’m guessing some one finally ran the numbers on carrying large sacks of coin and figured out how impractical it was.
Magic, as a system is always complex for a player or GM to account for effects and impact on game play. PF2E handles spell progression allowing spells to grow with the caster as appropriate. In previous editions of D&D and PF, for instance, Magic Missile projects bolt of force at an opponent for 1d4+1 damage. The caster gains an extra missile every two levels to a maximum of five missiles.
In PF2E, with their new action system you can cast one extra bolt for every action you spend for a total of 3 in a single round. In addition you can cast the 1st level spell as a 3rd level spell and gain on extra missile. This progression continues but the level of the spell increases by two for each additional missile. The only limitation being the level of spell you can cast.
A further example, Fireball, traditionally inflicts 1d6 of damage per caster level to a maximum of 10d6. Now, as a 3rd level spell, it inflicts 6d6 of damage but can be increased by 2d6 by increasing the level of the spell by one. So, a 17th level Wizard could cast a Fireball that inflicts a total of 18d6 damage as a 9th level spell.
Beyond the impact of damage from spells, D&D and PF have both been struggling with legacy spells and effects. It feels like Paizo actually walked through the list of spells and carefully considered some of the arbitrary limitations that have been propagated since 3rd Edition.
Spell duration was one of the seemingly broken things we repeatedly encountered over the last decade. Mage Armor, for example, used to be 1 hour per character level and provided a spell caster or another touched creature with a +4 bonus to armor class. PF2E took the spell, eliminated the option for use on another creature and provided scaling to keep it on par with what a Fighter might have access to at a similar level.
Now Mage Armor provides a +1 Item Bonus to AC with a maximum Dexterity modifier of +5. Heightened to a 4th level spell provides saving throws with a +1 item bonus. At 6th level the AC bonus increases to +2 and retain the +1 to saving throws. In addition, the spell remain in effect till the next day when you prepare spells.
Overall, Pathfinder 2nd Edition is not just a rehash of the overgrown 3rd Edition D&D Open Game License rules. It stands on it’s own as a definite growth and re-balance that table top gaming has been looking for since Hasbro bought WotC.
This is not going to be a simple adaptation for us older gamers. It’s a new and complex system requiring patience and some unlearning of old habits. I plan on using the new system during my next turn at the GM seat when we cycle back to Fantasy. Meanwhile, I’ve got some studying to do.
Another cold night in the north. I wander into the village mead hall. Everyone looks up, scowls and turns back to their stew or mead. I take my usual seat, farthest from the hearth, and motion for a meal and drink. Ignored the first time I use an orison to illustrate it would be better to just serve me and be done with it.
Munin is back from his hunt, we nod politely to one another. I healed one of his hunting hounds last season. Since then he’s been positively friendly, in comparison with most at least.
Gabi is entertaining her friends with the usual feats of strength. I wonder if that claw mark from her bear hunt provided an appropriately gruesome scar. I heard the bear ran from her ferocity in the end.
Good folk in general, I’m content to serve my role even if it is only grudgingly acknowledged.
The hall door opens and an extremely large figure steps in. “I need volunteers”, he snarls. It’s a trollborn. What in all the gods names would a trollborn be doing in Skumasbjurk? The room is quiet, the tension is obvious.
Munin steps up,
“What kind of volunteers would you be looking for?”
The trollborn, two
hands or more taller than Munin, scowls (or was that a grin?), “The
kind needed to clear dirt and stone away from ruins to the west.”
“What’s it pay?”
Munin doesn’t appear moved by the trollborn’s request.
“Nothing, we’ve been sent to take laborers and thought asking might make things simpler.” Yes, that was definitely a grin.
outside and discuss this proposal of yours” Munin’s hand rests on
his ax. That’s never a good sign.
Feeling like I need
to give him some kind of encouragement I slip over to him as they
leave the hall and grant a quick blessing from Stehl. Now at least
he’s not dwarfed by the would be slaver.
Outside the hall, there are four more warriors waiting. Uneven odds but Munin gives a mighty war cry and strikes one down. Doesn’t take long to knock him unconscious and they begin hauling people out of their homes and the mead hall. I’m no match for them so, I run. Cowardice? Maybe, but if I can follow them maybe I can work out a way to free them.
I trail the forced march back to the west. They’re headed to the
great mountain in the hills. I can see torches and campfires at the
foot of the mountain. A great camp full of warriors and laborers.
There seems to be some exposed ruins and much effort is being focused
on what appears to be a great gateway.
Suddenly, a huldre
appears right next to me. I nearly jump out of my skin!
“What in Fingulf’s
name are you doing?” he seems, unaware, of how quiet he moves and
just shrugs. Before he can respond further a great sound, like
thunder but deep below the roots of the mountain erupts from the
camp. After the dust settles it seems like the ancient gate has been
Ignoring the huldre
for now I focus on the activity. He seems just as interested. Good,
he’s not here to eat me.
A large group of
warriors, surrounding an obviously important figure approach the
broken gate. The large warrior enters and everything goes quiet as if
everyone is holding their breath at the same time.
After a few moments,
another great rumble erupts from deep within the ruins. Then a scream
turns to a shriek and goes silent again. After a few more heart beats
the warrior emerges but changed. His form seems larger and appears to
be enshrouded in a liquid metal. The iron moves over his body
solidifying into very heavy looking plate mail.
“By all the gods,
that has to be the Iron King!” mouth agape I see Munin leaving the
camp and some other captives making a break for freedom. The huldre
and I move to intercept the group. Last thing I saw of the camp was
all the warriors kneeling before the Iron King.
Riding for what seemed forever we stop to catch our breath and figure out our destination. Those of us from Skumasbjurk press to ride for the village. Familiarity, supplies and maybe a place to lay low. The lady, a child and their man servant seem determined to make their way south or to Vil’Chiev. The child keeps mumbling about a foretelling and how we’re all connected and must stay together.
Howls in the
distance, pursuit. We have a lead but we’re losing it quickly.
While we’re discussing strategy the Lady turns and rides toward the
howls. Madness, surely Kar Ternan has stricken this woman. You don’t
face a pack on their terms.
Munin, the huldre
and I head for the frozen river and make it across. The pack appears,
lead by a great Winter Wolf. I’ve heard of the beasts but never
witnessed the terror myself.
I call on Magdish’s favor and ready my trusty sling. It’s not much but we have a river between us. A few shots from the Lady, the huldre and myself knock the Mordwynn from the Winter Wolf’s back. More of the foul creatures trail the pack. The lady, child and manservant manage to cross the river and we engage the beasts.
As the Winter Wolf
falls Munin manages to shatter the river ice dropping the pack and
himself into the freezing river. He retrieves the Winter Wolf carcass
and swims ashore.
Now we’re on the south side of the river. Looks like Vil’Chiev it is. Munin and the huldre start skinning the winter wolf. Meat for the trip and quite a pelt for a trophy.
The Lady insists we must speak with the Queen. She’s dressed in some well appointed traveling clothes and wields a very strange looking crossbow.
The child is in robes of some southern order and always talking about signs and portents of the end times; the King of Kings.
Their man servant, well, he’s an odd nut. Dressed in cold gear of southern origin but bearing no obvious weapon I wonder at his usefulness in the wilderness.
The huldre is apparently a warrior sent to investigate the strange alliance of wildmen and alfar.
I’m an odd bird in a strange land even though I was born to this
village. My mother was a raid bride from the south. My father was a
typical Ros-man looking to earn glory and wealth through strength and
blood as a raider.
My mother, too frail for the frigid northern climate, died the winter after my birth. The following spring my father fell during a raid never to return. With no family this left me to be raised by the village. The shaman provided me with shelter and guidance. My childhood was mostly punctuated by beatings at the hands of other children and barely contained scorn from nearly every adult.
You see, I stood a
full hand shorter than the other boys my age, my skin and hair were
darker, I never excelled at battle and none of the pretty girls ever
chose me to dance on festival days. I did seem to have a knack for
outsmarting people, even most of the adults. This earned me more than
a few beatings as making someone look like a fool, while satisfying
in the moment, tends to bite you in the arse later.
Deep in the night on my eighteenth season something happened. Voices, barely heard, as if in another room, mumbling, murmuring and finally disturbing enough to wake me. It wasn’t a dream, the voices were real. They sounded angry, almost like a mead hall brawl. Then I heard my name, as if they suddenly noticed I was in the room. It became more urgent as if all of them wanted my attention at once. Then, as I began to scream, small items from shelves and tables started to fall to the floor almost like someone were nudging them off their perches. The voices got louder.
When the shaman burst into the room with a candle; silence. He looked bewildered at the mess in my room and the fright that was obvious on my face. We stayed up till dawn, prayed for guidance and discussed the events. It seems I was to become an Oracle. The voices were apparently of people long past that wanted to send messages to their loved ones. With time and much patience I started to chronicle some of the voices and stories. I tried to pass one of the messages along but the family accused me to trying to hex them and set their dogs on my heels.
The visitors made quite the mess as they exhausted their patience attempting to get their messages to me. I decided that perhaps it would be better to isolate myself to keep the damage to a minimum and save myself the hex wards every time someone happened to glance my way. I found myself living in a fairly well appointed abandoned wolf den just outside of town. Ok, it was a hollow log with the barest of amenities, but it was mine.
Some times the
voices became apparitions and we would sit and discuss their life and
how they died. Some were from the village but most were just Tey Ros
spirits drawn by my strange ability to see and hear them. There were
a few outlanders but many of them didn’t seem to realize they were
As my abilities grew
the shaman taught me how to cast spells. Another skill at which I
apparently excelled. He told me that perhaps the celestial events
during my birth were a foretelling instead of a curse. Too bad that
revelation couldn’t have come sooner.
Many, many years ago one of our game masters created his own fantasy setting based on the Open Gaming License 3rd Ed D&D material and then update it to the Pathfinder 1st Ed rules.
Lynnyr is a broad, sweeping fantasy setting with no obvious baggage from established campaign settings. We have adventured across this setting several times since its inception with mixed results and many memories.
We are once again setting out in Lynnyr. This time we’re coming out of the frigid Cold Lands north of the more civilized kingdoms. Thus far we have an oracle, a barbarian, a slayer, a fighter, an inquisitor and a monk. All but the last two are natives of the Cold Lands with the fighter being an Ice Alfar (elf). Everyone else is some flavor of human.
I set out on the journey as Artair Aerodan, a Battle Oracle. I’m trying to model his personality after Floki from the Vikings series on the History channel.
We reached second level and I decided to toss in a level of Sorcerer (Boreal). These two classes track the same primary ability, charisma, so the benefits of arcane and divine spell casting seemed obvious. After forecasting up to 10th level (4th level per class plus two levels of Mystic Theurge) the benefits stack up nicely.
Character background sums up as: Child of a raid bride, mother dies, father killed on subsequent raid so now an orphan. Grows up as an outcast living just outside the village, bullied by native children for being weaker, shorter and darker skinned. His oracle powers emerge along with the associated haunted curse making him even more strange and avoided. Artair was eventually taken under the village shaman’s tutelage to learn more about his life path as an oracle.
Artair is devoted to the Cold Pantheon and asserts divine signs and portents in everyday life and events. He is also fiercely loyal to the people of his village even though they would not show him the same loyalty. This loyalty extends more broadly to the Tey Ros people of the Cold Lands.
Artair knows the barbarian and slayer as they’re from the same village. They’re not great friends but are aware of each other’s existence. The Ice Alfar is an unknown but seems just as confused and bewildered as the rest. The Inquisitor and Monk are outlanders with unknown goals, different beliefs and intolerant of the frigid conditions of the Cold Lands.