It’s been three long years since I wrapped up my last in-person tabletop roleplay, put my miniatures into storage, and moved to another country. I did get some virtual tabletop and play-by-post in during that time, but for the most part there was very little roleplaying going on for me.
This summer we were able to return to our passport country for the first time since we moved and I picked up the Pathfinder Second Edition Beginner Box intending to run it for my immediate family.
- My Spouse: She’s an experienced player who has been in about a dozen campaigns in a variety of systems including D&D 3.5, White Wolf, d20 Modern, Pathfinder, and Pathfinder Second Edition Playtest.
- 8 Year Old: I ran some “Pathfinder lite” for her before we moved – just the most basic rules – but this is her first time playing for real.
- 5 Year Old: This is her first experience with tabletop roleplaying. She can’t remember life before we moved.
We play a lot of in-depth tabletop games – including the likes of Unicornus Knights, Ni No Kuni II, and Heart of Crown – so the kids are familiar with advanced mechanics and some of the games involve light roleplaying.
Before we go on… This post will include some SPOILERS for the Pathfinder Second Edition Beginner Box. I’ll try not to get excessive but stop here if you want to experience it fresh for yourself.
The Beginner Box comes with a cool number of cardboard token miniatures but, knowing my children, I decided to purchase some made-to-print miniatures from Trash Mob Miniatures on DriveThruRPG. The official Paizo tokens are fantastic but the art style is slightly too serious for the kids. The undead, in particular, gave them the creeps.
I’ll do a full write-up on Trash Mob Miniatures later, after I assemble a few more, but it’s been a positive experience. The art style is fantastic, the directions are great, and it’s easy to put together. I just wish that I’d been able to find cardstock here. I heard it’s available in a neighboring country that we’ll be visiting in October but, so far, no dice on finding it here.
I made custom characters for the three players. After we finish the Beginner Box and the children understand the rules I’ll walk them through character creation for whatever we do next. I, wisely, gave 8 year old and 5 year old the Royalty Background. One of the first questions they asked was “Can we be princesses?” Yes. Already taken care of. Though, really, monarchy is an outdated and overall negative system of governance so please, children, stop idealizing it. Democracy is the way to go. Guess we know what theme we’ll be exploring after the Beginner’s Box is completed.
5 Year Old was playing Luna, a Wood Elf Sorcerer with the Fey Bloodline. Also a princess.
8 Year Old was playing Meowmena, a Catfolk Rogue. Also a princess.
Spouse was playing Khaltooie, a Automaton Monk. Notably not a princess. Apparently built by a Gnome Wizard named Glinda to be a superior Khal. Whatever that means.
So those are our heroes. The children jumped straight into roleplaying their characters and developing their backstories.
The Pathfinder Second Edition Beginner Box takes place in the town of Otari and contains an adventure that will take the players from level 1 to level 2. I’m estimating that, at our current pace, we’ll be through it in 6-7 more sessions. It is absolutely – as advertised – not a product for experienced groups. The design is clearly meant to slowly introduce new elements with each encounter and it’s a fantastic product for completely new-to-TTRPG players. Maybe even the best that I’ve seen.
The Otari fishery is having a problem. Something has broken into the basement storage and has been eating the salted fish stored there. 8 year old did a hilarious take on roleplaying Meowmena’s eagerness to eat some of the fish herself. The players are tasked with exploring the basement storage, discovering what’s been stealing the fish, and putting a stop to it. Their reward 10 gold coins each.
The first encounter takes place in the basement storage room and introduces basic combat. There’s one foe assigned to each player and the book instructs to have them each stubbornly attack their target. There are no tactics or broader motivations. This is a good introduction. 5 year old took a critical hit and started to get upset that I was picking on her. The role of the GM, and that it’s not personal, is an important lesson for new players. The encounter only lasted 2 and a half rounds. Everyone took some damage with Luna being the worst for wear. But 5 year old perked up after using her Heal spell powered up by three actions to heal the entire group.
Realizing that someone, or something, had broken into the basement storage the group descended deeper into the unknown depths beneath Otari on their mission. The next challenge was skills based. They had to safely climb down a cliff. Meowmena, who has the best Athletics of the group, took the lead but rolled a natural 1. Fortunately, Meowmena as a Catfolk has the ability Land on Feet so she only took half damage from her tumble. Next 8 year old remembered that they had ropes in their backpacks and had Khaltooie secure one to a nearby stalagmite to make the descent far easier. 5 year old rolled a natural 20 to descend the rope and ended up descending with a critical success. This ended up being a good lesson on the core game design. There’s an element of chance – even the character with the most investment in an area might have bad luck and fail. But one can also mitigate risk with abilities like Land on Feet.
The cavern below was dark. All of the characters had lowlight vision but that wasn’t sufficient to descend further into the cave. Meowmena lit a torch and Luna used her Dancing Lights cantrip spell.
The next chamber held some environmental hazards and a challenging single foe who used more cunning tactics. Meowmena did manage some impressive acrobatics to completely avoid the environmental hazards. This encounter should have been another lesson in game design but Khaltooie rolled a critical hit and one shot the encounter. There’s that element of chance again.
The next corridor introduced branding paths, optional exploration, and stealth elements. There was a rough barricade blocking a branching path. 8 year old first tried to burn it with her torch but it was too wet to light. Then she carefully and quietly dissembled the barricade using her Thievery skill. If the players had broken it down by force there were instructions to have the undead denizens of the chamber attack them. But since they entered quietly they had the drop on the Undead.
The players slipped by the barricade and discovered a crypt. This was, by far, the children’s least favorite room. They’ve faced Undead in games before but the serious illustrations on the token upped the creep factor for them. The idea of exploring graves also unsettled them. The undead did teach them about resistances and weaknesses. And 5 year old had a moment to shine with a well placed Burning Hands spell. But if I had a chance to do it over I’d either swap out the Undead for a different encounter or use the Trash Mob Miniatures versions.
The next corridor introduced the concept of in character and out of character knowledge. This is a concept that we’ll need to revisit because the children, like a lot of players I’ve had over the years, didn’t quite get it. There was a secret hidden room 10 feet up in the shadows on a ledge. 8 year old and 5 year old clearly saw it on the map but Meowmena and Luna both failed their Perception checks. The players decided to immediately roll Perception again and kept rolling until their characters noticed the ledge. Through this effort they discovered a little shrine that I won’t describe here and were made their first use of Recall Knowledge. But, still weirded out by the Undead encounter, they decided to retreat from the shrine without further interaction.
The session ended with them coming to a chamber where several reptilian creatures were trying to break into a cage holding crates and barrels. Another successful Recall Knowledge identified these creatures as Kobolds.
We ended on that cliffhanger. The kids are excited for the third session but haven’t decided what to do in the upcoming encounter. They were hesitant to leap into combat so maybe they’ll try a more diplomatic solution? Or maybe something cunning? It will be interesting to see what they do as the Beginner Box starts to open up and give them more of the freedom that tabletop roleplaying delights in.