The further adventures of Luna, Meowmena, and Khaltooie. Last time we ended things with a cliffhanger. Our heroes had come into a new chamber and found a bunch of mischievous Kobolds who were so engaged in trying to breaking and entering that they didn’t notice the newcomers.
5 year old and 8 year old were still feeling a little uncomfortable – creeped out – due to the Undead encounter in the crypt and that carried forward into how they approached the Beginner Box.
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.
Between sessions, I decided to swap out the Kobold tokens for something more familiar and less serious. Fortunately, Trash Mob Minis had just the thing up on DriveThruRPG – a pack of “Turtle Tyrants” that just happened to resemble Koopa Troopas.
5 year old and 8 year old are less sociopathic than many of the players that I’ve had over the years. That is, they didn’t want to jump straight into murdering Kobolds just for breaking down a wall and stealing some salted fish. They wanted to stop the Kobolds…but they were rightly uncomfortable with jumping straight to murdering them. Later, I’ll introduce them to non-lethal combat but I decided to wait until we finish the pre-published adventure. Instead, switching to turtles let us, for now, ignore the lethality of combat by having the turtle’s retreat into their shells and ricochet away on defeat in typical Mario fashion. I even made the sound effects.
Luna started off the encounter by trying Diplomacy but her roll was awful and she succeeded only in getting the
Kobolds Koopa Troopas’ attention. I am a Game Master who likes to reward social solutions to combat encounters and I would have done so here despite it being a published adventure, but ignoring the die roll would have taught 5 year old the wrong lesson. Chance is an essential part of the experience.
Meowmena started combat in hiding and stayed there the entire time. 8 year old had eagerly been jumping into each encounter up until now but since the Undead encounter she’d become far more cautious. Even if that left her two companions on their own.
Still it wasn’t a difficult encounter. Khaltooie had no trouble tanking it with support from Luna. After the Koopa Troopa were defeated Meowmena emerged from hiding to check out what the Koopa Troopas had been trying to break into. Khaltooie chided her for being as bad as the Kobolds but Meowmena still picked the lock and was rewarded with money, jewelry, and a magical weapon.
Luna took the lead in exploring the next corridor and discovered the Beginner Box’s first trap. She stepped on a pressure plate and some stones fell on her head. As an introduction to traps it was simple and effective. But, like most traditional tabletop traps, it didn’t really enhance the experience, wasn’t all that interesting, and instead served as a warning to “have someone specialized in trapfinding take the lead or get hurt.” Which wasn’t helpful when I wanted to preserve 5 year old‘s boldness.
The next room held a puzzle. Which Luna and Meowmena promptly decided to ignore. Khaltooie was somewhat interested in it but decided to stick with the group. And that, pretty much, sums up my decades of experience with puzzles in roleplaying. One person is into it, no one else cares. It either slows everything down to that one person’s pace or that one person just moves on with the group.
The next room held a new variety of
Kobold Koopa Troopa that set snares. This was interesting in theory and clearly signaled to the players “hey, you can set snares in combat!” but in practice it didn’t do much to challenge the group. They just avoided the snares. I did try to Shove them into the snares a couple of times but my die rolls were awful. It is another example of good design for the Beginner Box because it got 5 year old and 8 year old thinking about different ways to engage in combat instead of just running up and hitting something.
The third session ended here as they had cleared the first half of the Beginner Box map. The group decided to head back to Otari and rest up before proceeding. I had explained to them explicitly that normally things would change if they left to rest but that the Beginner Box had instructed me to keep everything exactly the same for them. So they could leave and rest without consequence. They had still decided to finish the first floor first.
The fourth session started with them arriving on the lower floors on the flip side of the map. They were ambushed by two
Kobold Koopa Troopa scouts in this chamber. They all rolled poorly on their Perception rolls but the ambush didn’t really matter because the Koopa Troopa rolled miserably on their Strikerolls.
The ambush was an abject failure for the Koopa Troopa. Until…Luna used a fear effect to chase off the last Koopa Troop and Khaltooie set off in pursuit. The Koopa Troopa and Khaltooie ran through the next room, which held a very interesting trap, and straight into a chamber full of Koopa Troopa.
This immediately became the most challenging encounter to date, dramatically harder than anything they had faced up until now. I had a similar experience when running Doomsday Dawn – The Lost Star in the Pathfinder 2e Playtest. Individually each encounter is well balanced but when the players do something that combines them they become much, much more difficult. In this case, the addition of another Koopa Troopa scout didn’t throw off the balance of the large encounter too much. Instead it was the fact that the players didn’t examine/figure out/disarm the trap in the room before it.
It was the trap that scored the Beginner Box’s first Knockout. Luna triggered a pressure plate and was reduced to 0 HP by a blast of water. Meowmena healed her back up but was too distracted by Khaltooie’s fight with the horde of Koopa Troopa and didn’t examine the trap. This proved to be a mistake as the trap later blasted her!
I used the encounter between Khaltooie and the Koopa Troopa horde to introduce hit and run tactics. Taking advantage of the 3-action economy to Stride into position, Strike at Khaltooie, and then Stride back. Khaltooie and Meowmena quickly adopted the same tactic. So then I introduced Readying an Action and had some of the Koopa Troopa prepare to Strike any hero who exposed themselves. 8 year old got a crash course in Cover during this encounter but the die rolls for it ended up entirely in her favor. Khaltooie then remember that she could shoot Energy Beams out of her eyes and started to blast the Koopa Troopa from range. I had the Koopa Troopa learn from this as they formed a gauntlet with the surviving scout at one end armed with a crossbow. This resulted in a ranged stand-off. Their spells exhausted and health rapidly diminishing, the group decided at this point to retreat back to Otari to rest. On the way they triggered the trap again but the damage roll was low enough that they didn’t go down.
5 years old and 8 years old are really starting to get the hang of Pathfinder Second Edition. It is a bit sad that their caution from the Undead encounter has persisted but it was good to see how they rallied to support Khaltooie when she ran into all of those Koopa Troopa.