My friend Kevin asked me to run a game for his 12-year-old son and his friends this weekend. They’ve been getting vaguely interested in RPGs (I think he gave him both the 4e and Pathfinder Beginner’s Boxes) and wanted a) an experienced DM to run and b) him to have a chance to actually game with his son et al, both for the fun of it and also to show in a non-DM role “how to do stuff.”
I was like, “Twelve year old boys eh? OK, I know what to run,” and pulled out the Paizo Free RPG Day adventure “We Be Goblins,” (I had it in print but it’s also available as a free download from paizo.com) where the PCs are goblins sent to get some fireworks from a boat in the swamp. As many of you know, Pathfinder goblins are insane little melon-headed pyromaniacs that sing violent songs, like pointy things, and are generally demented little balls of energy.
It went great! Of course they were trying to kill each other before they had fully read their characters’ descriptions. As there were 5 players, I cloned Mogmurch the alchemist goblin into two brothers, Mogmurch and Mogmarch, with completely identical stats and backstory (except that their wives’ names are Rempty and Rumpty, also twins).
The dad played Reta the big fightery goblin (of course the one left unpicked due to being female) and the others played the rogue (Chuffy), cleric (Poog), and the two alchemists.
They got totally into it starting with the “Dares” at the opening bonfire, which is like Fear Factor for goblins. First was “Dance with Squealy Nord,” where they have to rodeo-ride a squealing piglet for three rounds. I like it when serendipity arises from dice rolls and snap GM calls – each goblin that tried, the first round the pig ran around and they managed to hold on. Then the second round, it jumped back and forth, and they all made that roll too. On the third round was when they all failed, so the first time I said it had run by a root sticking out of the wall of the mud pit and clotheslined the goblin off. Second goblin, same thing, because “goblins don’t learn.” Third goblin, same thing – it was the big-headed gobliness so I ruled that she tried to duck but there wasn’t enough clearance between the root and pig so off she went too. Finally the last goblin (Mogmurch) made all three rolls and won the rodeo and everyone was really stoked.
Then they tried the “Eat A Bag Of Bull Slugs Real Quick” dare. Three goblins managed to get 1-2 of them down before puking. Finally Chuffy managed to eat all five, but at the cost of failing a save to become sickened for 24 hours, so he fled to an outhouse with projectile diarrhea. They came and pushed his prize (the chief’s magic dogslicer) under the door. The gross factor was also a big yuck-but-hit with the lads. “You hear a sound like ‘ptthpthppttthhhAIEEEEEEEEE’ coming from the outhouse,” I said.
Then it got even more hilarious. They played “Hide Or Get Clubbed,” which is like Hide and Seek but if you get found the goblins that find you give you the Rodney King treatment. Each goblin took a turn hiding and the others looked. The funny thing is that we went around, and they’d fail, fail, fail, but then the sick goblin, Chuffy, would make the roll. Each time I said that he ran out of the outhouse, found them in their log or tree or pile of skulls, whacked them with the club and then ran right back into the outhouse and slammed the door. Finally it was his turn to hide, and he rolled super high on his Stealth and no one came near it. I said that he declared he’d go hide and went into the outhouse. They ran over and opened the door but he wasn’t there! They had the presence of mind to look up to see if he was lurking ninja style, but he wasn’t. They wandered around looking for him in vain till time was declared, at which point Chuffy surfaced from within the latrine. They came and slid the next prize under the outhouse door. A double big hit.
Then came the “Rusty Earbiter”, a tunnel of blades and barbed wire to crawl through. Poog tried it first and kept rolling natural 1’s on his Escape Artist checks (which I ruled to be ear loss, the module was lamer and just gives damage for missed checks) – he lost an ear, got stuck got stuck some more, and lost another ear. They had to drag his unconscious body out of the thing. And then Chuffy came sprinting out of the outhouse. Being smeared with poo gave him a +2 (no really that’s in the module) and he totally went through it immediately and ran back into the outhouse. The third prize (he won 3/4) was pushed under the door.
Now, this was an opportunity for envy and maybe scuffling over one guy winning three of the prizes, but it was done with enough flair that no one was sad.
The next morning they were kicked awake, except for the sickened Chuffy who was still awake and hating it in the outhouse, and sent on their task. As they went through the swamp they all decided they were going to try to collect frogs/bugs/fish so I had then roll Survival – high meant yes, fail meant no, low meant something scary or unfortunate requiring them all to run away. And Poog rolled a natural 1 – not his first, and not his last this session. The boy had the knack for it. Anyway, he was trying to catch frogs and snakes when the giant spider they had heard lived in the swamp, “Lotslegs Eat Goblin Babies Many,” descended upon him. He ran for it and the “Boom Brothers,” the alchemist goblins, bombed it while Reta shot arrows. It closed with them and bit a couple when Poog came around the side and Burning Handsed it bad. It fled into the swamp and they ravaged off in pursuit. When they found its deadfall lair, Reta used a Desnan candle (firework like a Roman Candle) to try to flush it out and natural-20’d it, blowing its head off. They looted all the goblin and human bodies around, and showed great inventiveness in picking body parts from humans and spiders to take along (Poog was constantly trying on new items to use as replacement prosthetic ears).
They got to the shipwreck, wandered towards it, and got attacked by Stomp the horse. Now, they’d done plenty of collateral damage on their own party with the alchemists’ bombs before but it was about to ramp up. Chuffy nearly one-shotted the horse with his magic horsebane dogslicer, and then Mogmarch finished it off with a bomb that also hurt about everything else. Mogmurch his brother had lit a skyrocket with the hopes of killing the horse, and he said “the explosion makes me let go of the rocket headed back towards Mogmarch.” So the skyrocket shot out and exploded, but it has a large radius and so all the goblins were caught in that as well! Both Mogmurch and Mogmarch went down. The party blamed Mogmarch and Poog was going to just heal Mogmurch, but he made a natural 1 on his Perception and accidentally healed the wrong one (they are twins after all!).
This was where it was good the dad was playing. Though they were having fun, they all wanted to “kill Mogmarch” – I think it was 50% his continual damaging of them with the bombs but 50% just boy interpersonal dynamics, he was definitely the low man on the social totem pole in the group. Dad/Reta declared “Anyone kill Mogmarch, Reta kill them!” and that plus residual dad-authority got us back on track. Of course, then Mogmarch was the only one who figured out the next trap was a wasp’s nest and decided to not tell anyone. (He was kinda asking for it).
While the rest of them ran around being stung by wasps, the dad and his son went on deck and fought a pair of dogs – Reta has special anti dog powers and they killed both. Poog came running up at the end, it’s his life goal to kill a dog, but the son landed the last blow right before he got there. “Noooooooo!” he said, but then the huge dog Cuddles attacked. Humorously, the group killed it after a couple rounds of fighting but Poog could just not land a single blow.
Then Vorka the cannibal gobliness and her pet giant toad attacked. She spider climbed to the rigging and started tossing produce flames at them. The kid running Chuffy was using his gear like a pro. From the chief’s robe of useful items he pulled out a ladder and climbed up to her. He rolled a natural 1 on the climb check though so I ruled she just pushed the ladder back and he came smacking back down on the deck. But he leapt up, drank a potion of jump, and leapt up into the rigging to fight her with thechief’s ring of climbing to help ( in the intervening round she tried to summon a swarm, but Mogmurch interrupted it with a bomb).
Down on deck things were going poorly though. Her first produce flame took Mogmarch out. Then the frog took Mogmurch to negative and swallowed him. Then took Reta to negatives and swallowed her. Then swallowed Poog – “There’s always room for goblins!” But Poog was alive – he did a burning hands inside the frog, which hurt it but also caused hitpoint loss and loud objections from the other two dying goblins in there. But the next round he went to 0 hp but managed to cut his way out with that last staggered action. The frog hopped around angrily but couldn’t swallow; three goblins stabilized at negative and one (Mogmarch) was plain dead.
In the rigging it was round after round of Chuffy cutting at the cannibal and her threatening to roast and eat his <face, thighs, buttocks, lips, intestines, nipples>. As a rogue he had a good touch AC, but she was hitting him 1/3 rounds and doing a lot of damage each time. He was hitting her half the time but his damage was 1d4 and she was made of hit points.
Finally he stabbed her and brought her to 0 hp! Everyone cheered! And she used her staggered action to drink a potion of healing. Everyone shrieked! Then they fought another couple rounds. He stabbed her right in the same place and brought her to 0 hp! Everyone cheered again! And she used her staggered action to drink another potion of healing (she had three!). Everyone shrieked again! Then more fighting. Finally he hit her enough to take her to -1. I said, “You stab her in the chest again right in the same place! She pulls out another healing potion to drink it. But then you twist your dogslicer and she sprays blood out of her mouth and falls to the deck below!”
Everyone was psyched. The combat went long enough that the players of the dead/unconscious goblins were wandering around and looking at books and miniatures and not paying a huge amount of attention for a while, but once the “She’s at zero… Now she’s not!” started they came back and were glued to the action.
The frog ran off and Chuffy managed to scrape together enough healing to get the three non-dead goblins mobile. They were all happy Mogmarch was dead, but gave him a good sendoff by strapping his body to a skyrocket and shooting it off. “He died as he lived,” they remarked as he exploded for the last time.
As usual goblin looting is a frenzy of who can make initiative and Perception checks first. In true goblin style every time they were looting it was free for all – even when the chief gave them fireworks it was initiative for each person to grab something they liked. Chuffy found a crystal flask shaped like a heart, which even 12 year olds immediately identified as a love potion. This was awesome because when they went back, the Chief declared that Chuffy, who had clearly been the bravest in the whole thing, was to wed his daughter—the fearsomely corpulent and ferociously lusty Gupy Wartbits. “DRINK THE POTION!” counseled his friends, and he chugged it down. “Sounds great! When’s the wedding?” Poog declared his intent to take Mogmarch’s stuff and wife and burn down his hut, which caused Mogmarch’s player to strangle him around the neck, but that was all quelled by some parental scolding.
It ran about 5 hours, 2 to 7 PM. This would make a great con module and is certainly a good introduction for kids new to the game – they loved it, and only a couple had any experience with the rules.
The only downside there was that 3.5/PF is so frickin complicated, I tried to keep it simple but even in this adventure there’s a lot of touch ACing and poisoning and splash damage and… Ah, for a true Basic D&D again (and no, those 4e/PF box sets don’t count, they are still 100% more complex than Basic). The dad is torn on whether to try to just get old Basic stuff and have them play it, but that’s hard to get much of nowadays.
He talked to me about 5e, his take is a lot like mine in that it seems “OK” but they’re not resisting the urge to overcomplicate the base game and he hasn’t seen anything about the playtest that has that spark that says “Cool I want to play this specifically.” So he’s trying to set his son and his friends up for some good gaming, but is at a crossroads there. They all had a really good time, mostly paid attention the whole way through, and left excited to go to the game store and buy minis, so mission accomplished I reckon!