The further adventures of Luna, Meowmena, and Khaltooie in which they reach the finale of the Beginner Box. Last time we ended with a ranged standoff that was slowly whittling both sides down in a battle of attrition. Recognizing that they were not going to win the day, at least not then, the group decided to retreat back to town and heal up.
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.
On their return to the caverns, the group briefly considered resuming their battle with the
Kobolds Koopas but that would entail traveling through the room with the trapped fountain. The group had scant appetite for braving that traps again.
Instead they explored the barricaded passage and followed it to a mysterious tiled room. Elemental orbs rested on three corners of the room and the other, also the entrance, held broken glass shards and a pool of water. Meowmena Stealthed into the chamber to scout and I decide to the Beginner Box’s guidelines on immediately starting the room’s encounter since she was unnoticed. 8 year old was very interested in the obviously magical orbs and made it clear that she wanted to recover them.
There was a great deal of out of character plotting from 8 year old here – which slowed the session down – on what the orbs might do, how they might be recovered, and what the group would need to recover them. I let her process as, in my experience, this is also part of the tabletop roleplaying game experience. I’ve made many adult players break into long strategy sessions mid-game. I normally do a bit more to keep it from disrupting the ‘flow’ but in this case it’s a kid who is just learning to play and 5 year old was paying close attention. It’s fun to see their mental gears work.
The rest of the group did not stealth when they entered the chamber and so I activated the room’s encounter. The fire orb exploded unleashing a small flame elemental in the shape of a rodent called a cinder rat.
This encounter introduced ‘Auras‘ and permeant Concealment. The cinder rat landed some good hits but never presented a significant challenge to the group. It ended up being a long, drawn out battle, as the cinder rat’s Concealment and aura that caused Sickened 1 made many hits miss.
Staying true to her feline character, Meowmena completely lost her cool when the cinder rat appeared and bit Luna badly. Everyone was Sickened by the cinder rat’s smoky aura, including Khaltooie, which leads to a side rant.
Side Rant: Most of the character option mechanics of Pathfinder Second Edition are fantastic, deepen immersion, and integrate mechanics and roleplaying. The character options usually emphasize the different characters types, their unique traits, and allow players to explore an incredible array of fantasy archetypes. The design of the Leshy ancestry is absolutely fantastic and feels like playing a plant person. The Leshy heritages take it even further with Mushroom, Gourd, Root, and the others feeling meaningfully distinct from each other. Some of the latest content, like the ability to play as a Ghost or Skeleton, really doubles down on this roleplaying reinforced by mechanics modular approach.
But I think Paizo cheaped out and missed the mark on Automaton. It just feels wrong to have a construct get sickened, poisoned, need to breath, and so on. I get it, in the lore Automaton have souls and complex internal systems, so it’s makes sense for them to be vulnerable to death effects, critical hits, and even soul/mental effects. If positive energy heals them, then negative energy should harm them. But, consider this, Dwarfs can select a heritage that grants resistance to poison and the construct ancestry can not. In my Pathfinder First Edition Broken Covenant campaign I had a player field a construct and I definitely understand the challenges of handing a PC all of the construct immunities. But surely there was a better compromise here that would have preserved the ‘feel’ of playing a construct. Instead of feeling like a construct mechanically, it feels like playing someone in steampunk power armor. Rare misstep from Paizo on character options here. The new construct ancestry, Poppet, at least offers resistance to sickened, poison, and so on.
And back to the action… After using up her big spells, Luna explored the Wind and Earth orbs. She was able to figured out the mechanics and received a blessing from each orb. She never used the special powers that the orbs granted her but it was a confidence boost to successfully ‘solve’ a puzzle.
At one point, the cinder rat set Luna on fire and Khaltooie pulled her into the water to douse the flames.
This lead to Khaltooie attempting to the do the same to the cinder rat and…if you thought miss chances slowed down a session, let me introduce you to grappling rules. Actually, Pathfinder Second Edition is pretty straightforward on this front but there were some noticeable gaps in the rules. Specifically, once Khaltooie grabbed the cinder rat there were no rules – that I could find – around her throwing the cinder rat. Considering that Khaltooie is a strong, medium sized character and the cinder rat is a light, small sized enemy it seems that there should be some guidance here. I ended up just repurposing the Shove rules with a higher DC but not requiring movement and ignoring terrain. Though I just became aware of Whirling Throw, the existence of which seems to imply that it’s not possible to throw a character without the feat. Anyway, all of these rules checks slowed down the encounter even more. Again, this is part of the tabletop roleplaying experience but as much as possible I try to resolve these questions outside of the session. That’s not always possible when players want to do something cool and thematic, that their character really should be able to do.
There were no rules on what would happen if the cinder rat was pinned in water so I just improvised damage based on acid flasks. This provides an idea of the kinds of rules questions that come up even during the relatively curated experience provided by the Beginner Box.
The cinder rat was, eventually, defeated and that brought the fifth session to an end. 8 year old wanted to keep on going but 5 year old was done. The group only cleared one room but the session was about as long timewise as our previous ones. 8 year old compromised by outlining, in great detail, what equipment Meowmena would buy during their time back in town and how she would use it to recover the orbs and orb shards.
Between the fifth and sixth sessions the group leveled up. By the experience points, this level up came one encounter early but I prefer milestone and I wanted to finish the campaign on the sixth session. 5 year old and 8 year old enjoyed leveling up. It was interesting to see the options that they selected and how they’d be informed by their experiences.
The sixth and final session of the Beginner Box started off with the group splitting up on returning to the caverns. Meowmena hurried off to collect the orbs and orb shards. Luna made a good hearted attempt to disarm the trap in the fountain room. Mom let 5 year old and 8 year old take the lead, so Khaltooie waited in the starting room near Luna. Unfortunately, a series of bad rolls and a lack of specialization thwarted Luna’s attempts to understand and disarm the fountain trap. Luna retreated and began to explore the caverns near the tiled room that had held the elemental orbs.
Meanwhile, Meowmena decided to attempt disarming the fountain trap – she had selected Trapfinding when she leveled up – but, again, bad rolls thwarted her and she was unwilling to repeat attempts. Several times, she had one of the ‘right’ approaches to disarming the fountain trap but failed due to a bad roll. Instead of trying again next turn she would sprint off to try something new. I tried to draw her attention to this but she just gave entirely and headed after Luna.
Luna’s explorations lead to foul smelling caverns. The enemies here were suppose to be Troglodytes – which have a Stench ability – but I substituted Trash Mob Mini slimes instead of the provided Troglodyte pawns. The Beginner Box pawns are high quality and offer a great selection of foes but, after the creep factor of session 2, I decided to mostly stick with the more cartoony styled Trash Mob Minis. Mechanically, they were fighting Troglodytes but they just looked like slimes.
There’s not much to say about this encounter. The newly leveled up adventurers took some hits but were never in any serious danger and vanquished their smelly foes. It wasn’t a cakewalk but it wasn’t a challenge either.
There was much anguish from 8 year old now that the caverns had been fully explored. She really did not want to circle back and face the fountain trap again. But then 5 year old observed something strange on the map. It looked like the wall on section of the caverns was loose? This was a bit of metagaming but I was glad that she picked up on the visual cues.
Taking a closer look, Luna discovered cracks in the wall and that she could hear the
Kobolds Koopas talked on the other side. Something about their boss, their boss’ new pet, and…attacking the village above!
Khaltooie was tasked with breaking through wall (fans of the Ys series can reference Dogi here) which she did with a critical success coming off of a natural 20 Athletics roll. The surviving
Kobolds Koopas were waiting to continue their battle of attrition against the group and were caught off guard by Khaltooie flanking them by bursting through the wall.
Kobolds Koopas put up a brave resistance but with reduced numbers and their formation broken they were obviously outmatched by the group. But the Kobolds Koopas mentioned something about…a boss?
In the original Beginner Box this was a Kobold mage but, like with the Koopas, I substituted a special miniature from Trash Mob Minis. I kept the stats for the Kobold mage the same but described them as fire breath. For instance, when the Boss cast the Magic Missile spell I described it as a flurry of fireballs.
5 year old and 8 year old loved it. I provided strong characterization for the boss and there were some funny scenes such as Meowmena standing on the boss’ throne and the boss accidentally burning their bed when they torched Meowmena. It was a tense boss battle but the group were finally victorious. Instead of ‘killing’ boss, when it hit zero HP I described Khaltooie grabbing it by the tail and throwing the boss into the nearby pit.
Now we enter the final encounter of the Beginner Box. Luna, Meowmena, and Khaltooie journeyed deeper into the cavern to face the boss’ new pet that the
Kobolds Koopas had mentioned.
No surprise, it’s the dragon featured on the cover of the Beginner Box.
And I knew going in how 5 year old and 8 year old were going to respond. And I had already decided to break from what was intended by the Beginner Box and to allow them to try to befriend the Dragon. Meowmena botched her roll to make friends with the dragon. Luna, who has max Charisma as a sorcerer, thought to offer the dragon the dried fish first – remembering that that was how the boss had been taming the Dragon – and then rolled very high. I would have given it to her anyway on a decent roll – because it’s a good ending – but she managed to make friends with the Dragon.
So it was a very satisfying and fun ending to the Beginner Box.
Luna, Meowmena, and Khaltooie may return for future adventures – as player characters or non player characters – but next we’ll be starting a new adventure – a campaign focused on protecting the forest (the theme was their choice). Now that 5 year old and 8 year old have a grasp on the system, I’ll walk them through making their own new characters for this adventure. We’ll be using Pathbuilder2e.com so it won’t be too complicated.
In closing, I think the Pathfinder Beginner Box works well for children when run by an experienced GM. It’s clearly friendly to new GMs but I’m not sure about new GMs and new children players. It certainly helped to switch from the provided tokens to Trash Mob Minis and I’d recommend taking a lighter tone (e.g. koopa shells bouncing away instead of death). It’s well balanced and friendly to newcomers.
Some of my friends seem to think my kids are prodigies for being able to play Pathfinder. They’re not.
I think most kids can play just fine with the right introduction/onboarding and short one hour sessions. I think the crux is that many people assume you need to memorize all of the rules in order to play… But actually players just need to know how their character works and the GM can handle the rest. The Beginner Box was actually easier for the kids than some of the board games we play. Of course that would start to change at higher levels as player options stacked up. Good thing low level play in Pathfinder Second Edition is actually fun and engaging!