This past weekend, I had the opportunity to put on my PC hat and took part in a Pathfinder Scenario, The Stolen Heir (#5-04). If you are planning to run this yourself one day, you might want to skip the text post-Maul image. There are spoilers.
I was anxious to sink my teeth into this, as it was the first time I’d had to play my character, an Ascetic Oracle named Gorr, since he dinged Level Two. I was also excited because I’d found my footing with his character, including his voice (a mix between Darth Maul and Illidan Stormrage).
My boy is an Intimidation wrecking machine. Consequently, due to his build, his Diplomacy is also pretty good. I was looking forward to having Gorr solve most of his problems with his fist. The rest of the party (Bard, a blood-thirsty Druid, and a Half Orc Inquisitor with a Greatsword), had a bit of a murderhobo feel to it. Everyone expected blood, including the GM.
Such was not the case.
Since Pathfinder Society characters cannot be evil, and having taken a level of Monk in my build, Gorr’s Lawful Neutral alignment really helped steer him in a certain way. A huge man wearing a hooded robe, and with skeletal facepaint covering the lower half of his face, Gorr was as unlikely a group face as you might think. But when many of the decisions needed to be made, I just thought to myself “What would Darth Maul do?”
Possible Spoiler Ahead. I’ll try keep things vague, so as not to spoil things. But if you run this, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
It was this mindset that had Gorr making Diplomacy rolls, and succeeding. I explained it that Gorr leads with Diplomacy, and with his scary appearance people tend to listen to him. Of course, if that fails then he’ll pull back the hood and show his scary face with a bit of Intimidation. He’d keep things controlled and orderly, as a Lawful character would.
As the group set up for the big finale, everything boiled down to two options. The GM was expecting a throw down. The group looked at Gorr to make the decision. So when I reflected on his alignment and his mindset, he made his choice. “Order must be maintained,” he said, and he followed through with what was the appropriate action (you’ll know if you run this). No combat. No blood. As he walked out, Gorr had the Bard play the Imperial March. For me, the player, the result felt wrong. But for Gorr, it was essentially the best decision in the situation.
The group and the GM all said the same thing: “Really?”
And that was it. Mission Accomplished. Flavor text and paperwork. The GM told me later, repeatedly in fact, that he was surprised the encounter went the way it did given the people involved. He was expecting the fight, and was pleasantly surprised there was none.
Lesson Learned: Sometimes it’s not about beating someone to death with your bare hands. Sometimes you can talk it out (while looking like you’re ready to beat someone to death).
In retrospect, I think I deserved the nipple on my forehead.
I’d been playing the Pathfinder RPG for the past several months in a home campaign that my cousin was running. He’d wanted to GM the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path for quite some time. It was his first time running the show, and he’d been doing a great job. But as was often the case, real life kept getting in the way and our get-togethers were only once or twice a month at best.
My brother wanted to get his geek on a little more on the regular. One day, he asked if I’d be interested in giving Pathfinder Society play a shot. I was somewhat familiar with it, as far as it being more of an “official” style of play. Only Paizo products (Paizo being the company that created the Pathfinder RPG) were allowed, and certain other rules were in place for more of a structured playstyle. You actually registered as a player on the Paizo website, and the character you created could be used in any Pathfinder Society game across the globe.
“Sure,” I said. “Why not? It’s not really much different than what we’re doing now. We’d just be doing it with a bunch of strangers.” The awkwardness of that statement hit me as soon as the words fell out of my mouthhole.
It was agreed. We’d both make characters and give it a shot. I’d done a little bit of research on Pathfinder Society. Research that consisted of a search on the Pathfinder Reddit board, and a quick scan of the Pathfinder Society manual. No big deal, I thought. My brother was hip to the game mechanics. If I got hung up on something, I’d just ask him and we’d keep on rolling. Like I said, no big deal.
If I may, I’d like to take this moment to pull a quote from the iconic TV series, the Simpsons – Don’t Do What Donny Don’t Does.
My first mistake was thinking I could learn as I went. Here’s a tip – If you’re going to a PFS game for the first time, whether it’s at a Gamecon or a get-together in the attic of the local hobby shop, Know What the Hell You’re Doing. There may be game mechanics that you’re not familiar with, but at the very least you should know the basics for your class. Various combat or skill mechanics relevant to your character.
PFS Scenarios are usually on a time schedule of about four hours, and the other folks at the table don’t want to have to wait while you hum and haw about not knowing how to do something. Depending on the table, players will probably help you to a certain degree, but it doesn’t hurt to be proactive. Be respectful of their time be knowing how to use yours.
For the next two weeks I tried to nail down the character I was going to use. My brother and I were going to play brothers (innovative, right?) and barbarian brothers at that. Not necessarily the class, but characters somewhat based off of one of our favorite B-movies of all time entitled “The Barbarian Brothers.”
My brother’s character, Kutchek, was a Bloodrager. Definitely barbaric, and really fit the “I just want to smash things” feel he was going for. I, however, wanted to do something a little different because I didn’t want us to be seen as the two noobs who showed up with the same characters. I took our backstory and put together an Ancestral Oracle named Gorr.
This was completely new to me. I loved what I read about the class, but I’d never played an Oracle or even built one before. I couldn’t dig up a good build for that specific flavor of Oracle on the Internet, but I didn’t care. The build was rich in RP. He had the ability to buff his armor (protected by ancestral spirits) and create a family weapon artifact out of thin air (the God Killer, a weapon used by the descendant my brother and I used to develop our characters.)
Now I had read that there wasn’t a big emphasis on roleplay for Society play. You had four hours to complete the scenario. That wasn’t a whole lot of time to do the mission AND reflect on your character’s troubled history. But I felt that I could shoehorn it in and maybe try to be memorable to the other players at the table.
Turns out that was pretty on the
There were four of us at the table, as well as the GM. The scenario began, and there was a moment where we were to introduce our characters. My brother and I played our RP card and played it hard. When we were done, the other two players stared at us, then delivered a few sentences. Short but sweet and we immediately knew what we needed to about them.
I thought to myself, “Did we overdo it?”
Then the fun began, or as I like to call it, “Donny Don’t Know Shit.”
Anyone who has played an RPG knows that there’s growing pains when you make your first character. Things look good on paper, but when the rubber meets the road you find out pretty quick what works and what doesn’t. Your first play session is usually ugly, unless you’re playing a class that you’re very familiar with.
Unfortunately for me, I was showing my ugly play in front of complete strangers. I was playing a character that I knew zero about except what was on paper. I’d used Hero Lab to create the character, which made the creation easy. But I hadn’t read much of anything about what the abilities did. I found out a number of things very quickly, and most of it was that the abilities I’d selected didn’t work. The “spirit protection” armor didn’t stack with the armor I was wearing, so it was useless. The “spirit weapon” never got summoned because I was scrambling like a chicken with its head cut off and never thought to summon it. The spells I’d chosen were somewhat beneficial to those I buffed, so it wasn’t a total loss. But when it came time to drop a heal, I healed the group’s monk rather than my own brother (who was down and unconscious) because I didn’t want to seem like I was playing favorites with my own kin.
What a shit show. How I breathed with my head that far up my ass, I still don’t know.
The crowning moment of the gong show happened right in the middle of an encounter. A nasty goblin lobbed a vial of some strange goop at me and it smashed against my head. “Roll a Fortitude save,” the GM said almost dismissively, clearly expecting me to make the save.
On top of everything else that was falling apart for my character, my luck with the dice had been abysmal. That streak continued when I failed my saving throw. One of the other players at the table, a GM who had run the adventure a few times before and was playing this time just to fill out the group, smiled and said, “Oh no.”
For a brief moment, I hoped it meant Gorr was dead. It seemed the only way out of the hole I had dug for myself.
The GM smiled as he read the text block beneath the goop description. His was the smile of a man who never got to unleash this particular can of whoop ass because everyone else either avoided getting hit, or managed to make their Fortitude save. “The toxin begins to warp your flesh,” he said. “No one will ever mistake you for your brother again as a nipple begins to grow on your forehead.”
A nipple. In the middle of my bald character’s head. “Like, just a nipple or…”
“Oh no,” said the GM. “Areola, nipple, all right there in the middle of your forehead.”
My humiliation was complete. I could feel my own forehead start to glow red. It was bad enough that Gorr – no, I – was failing miserably. Now this. I just wanted this to end.
Luckily my brother picked up my slack. Kutchek’s smashing skills were impressive, and our group mowed through most of the encounter. After disposing of the Big Bad, the GM started reading the flavor text conclusion to us while everyone else packed up. We filled out our Chronicle sheets, and got the appropriate signatures verifying what we’d written down. The GM added a note onto my sheet since I didn’t have the gold to heal my nipple-ism.
“Has a nipple on his forehead,” he wrote almost apologetically. He looked at me. “That’s the kind of stuff real stories are made of,” he said. My brother agreed. I smiled, defeated, and just wanted to get out of there.
Here’s another tip. It’s a game. It’s all about having fun. Sometimes the dice go your way, sometimes not. Enjoy yourself. It’s not like we’re developing the cure for anything.
Looking back, my stupid reaction was one of stupid hurt pride. I’ve been playing these games since the Dungeons and Dragons Red Box came out in 1983. I’ve fought dragons, gods, aliens, and armies. But walking out of the hobby store with a sheet that said my character had a nipple on his forehead seemed fitting because I felt like I’d played as if it was the first time I’d picked up a d20.
One of the great things about PFS play is that they take into account the Level One mishaps. You are allowed to change everything about your character except his Society ID number. I took advantage of that almost as soon as I got home. I didn’t exactly do a full wipe. I did change a few things, and made sure I understood my character much better. Less fluff, more function.
My schedule opened up, and as luck had it there was another Society game with some openings. My brother and I signed up. I was more stoked to go this time than I was before. I’d learned. Grown, as a player and a person. Gorr was ready to get out there and really make a difference for the Pathfinder Society.
And hopefully earn enough gold to get that nipple off his forehead.
Dumping site today. That’s what this is, because I’ve got some free time and about a dozen things I need to get done. But I want to post something because I don’t want to let this blog slip. So yeah, I’m posting.
Useful? See picture above. I had a long weekend. So, things!
- In World of Warcraft news, I made about 90 grand in gold with my Horde
garrisonorder hall. Alliance-side, I sold a few Hexweave bags but made about ten thousand gold with three halls running. Both of them ended up netting me enough gold on each server that I managed to buy two tokens. One went to pay for a month of gameplay, and the other got banked so I could transfer an alt to the new Horde gold machine. He’s slowly getting set up.
- Briefly, setting up an Order Hall – for me at least, consists of getting six champions, unlocking slots to add the buff tokens on each, then getting their iLevel to 890. At that point, I will run the Meatball questline for the BEST ORDER HALL CHAMPION. Once I have him, I’ll either unlock the seventh slot or I’ll check the flowcharts and deactive the champion that’s performing the worst.
- Blizzcon just over two weeks away. I need to print out my ticket stuff, flight info, confirm my AirBnB closet that I’m staying in, and keep the Vitamin C rolling to stay healthy. I’ll be living off of protein bars, clean underwear, and cleaning products. Packing light is what I’m saying here.
- Tomorrow night I’ll be GM’ing my second Pathfinder Society scenario. The first one was a decent 6/10, but with the players a little more comfortable with their characters and me repeatedly running the scenario in my head to prepare, I’m hoping to put up some stronger numbers. I may even get some character scalps – it’s poor form to kill new players in their first RPG session ever. That’s out of the way, so all bets are off.
- I want to get my short story published before Blizzcon. Yeah, I’m working on a short story. I’m overthinking it, and I know I just need to get it all down and out into the world. But there were parts of it that I wasn’t happy with. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but a couple ideas hit me when I woke up this morning. I made notes. Now I need to make it all happen.
- I have to get my gym routine sorted. Currently I’m doing the “hit the cardio to try and look pretty for when I meet my fellow nerdlings at Blizzcon”, but I need to get back to doing what I was doing at my old gym. I moved to a closer gym because the commute to the old place was eating up precious hours in the day. But the new place doesn’t have the gear that the old one did. So I find myself nitpicking when I just need to give my head a shake, find something heavy, and lift it repeatedly. And by “something heavy”, I mean something other than my lead ass.
See? Busy nerd here. No life-altering updates here, but I thought I’d touch base.
Consider this base touched.
Hello. I’m Donny, and I’m a great big ol’ nerd. From, like ever I guess.
I’d always been a fan of video games, but the first real immersive gaming experience I had was with pen and paper RPG’s. Specifically, Dungeons and Dragons. I was probably in the fifth grade when I was approached by a kid in the sixth grade. He’d been scouting me for some time, paying attention to my lack of social skills coupled with a vivid imagination and a love for fantasy and sci-fi books. “Have you heard of D&D?” he asked.
“No…” I felt like I was getting set up. I was, in a way. He told me that one of the high school kids was trying to get a group started, and we would play during lunch break. He borrowed me a few Xerox copies from the player’s manual so I would have a clue what I was doing. I took them home and started reading.
That group fell apart. We never played a single game. However, I was hooked.
I managed to get my younger brother and two cousins into the fold, and for the better part of three decades we played – D&D, AD&D, Marvel RPG, DC RPG, RIFTS. Epic characters were created, as were moments that are still laughed about today. But Real Life, as it does, gets in the way and our gaming time pretty much ended.
Then, two things happened that got us all back on the horse – my cousin’s insistence that we give this new Pathfinder game a try, and the Glass Cannon Podcast.
The GCP is an actual play podcast of the Pathfinder adventure campaign, “Giantslayer”. The players are comedians and actors, entertainers who not only make the listening fun, but infectious. You want to have the kind of fun they’re having. So once my cousin dangled that carrot out there, the rest of us bit and bit hard.
We were back. We started setting up “boys nights”, and although none of our significant others were interested in the game and tossed the “nerd” tag around freely, they all admitted it was better than the four of us hanging out in some bar somewhere. For us, it was a chance to not only play together, but reconnect with each others lives. Sometimes the nights were game heavy. Other nights, it was doughnuts and chips and laughter.
World of Warcraft has me in a bit of a “meh” right now. I’m stoked to be going to Blizzcon and meeting some great people, but I just don’t feel that desire to log in. I’ve spent the last week rebuilding a Pathfinder character that was giving me fits, and I got more enjoyment researching builds for that than I did planning gold-making runs or gearing selections. The new patch, the new planet, isn’t doing much for me.
So, for the next little while, I think my focus is going to be more
MMORPG. Less RNGesus and more shitty d20 rolls. Because you gotta blame something, right?