Sunday, January 22, 2012

PF Beginner Box Play Report II

The Dragon Black Fang Defeated!
Rogar of Gorum
 I finally had the second session with my two younger nephews.  (Session I.)  We play for 6 hours (8 pm to 2 am).  Two long game sessions will get you through the dungeon that comes with the Pathfinder Beginner Box.  In the adventure, the GM is advised that Black Fang is so challenging that care needs to be taken to prevent a discouraging experience for beginners.  My nephews (11 and 12) are not really beginners, but they only get to play a few times a year.  For this session they were joined for the first time by their dad, a 2e player who had not played since high school.  Yet, he easily picked up play with Merisiel the elf rogue, and Ezren the NPC wizard rounded out the party.

The biggest What? moment our returning gamer had was when he asked why everyone's armor class was so bad.  All it took was a single, short explanation of how attacks worked now, and he was golden.  After one session, I'd say he's definitely a tactical player.  Together, they came up with a good plan of attack, using the magic items found in the rest of the dungeon, and fortuitously came upon the dragon's lair last, knowing its presence and relative location thanks to a clue in the dungeon.  Their plan took Black Fang down to 9 HP in three rounds, forcing him to flee.  I was very pleased that they got to defeat him without me pulling any punches, and I had made so clear to them the deadliness of the encounter, that they were thrilled to drive him off so grievesouly wounded, and to take his treasure hoard.

The next day, we divvied up the treasure and leveled the characters up to 2nd.  My brother-in-law is making Merisiel a bit more his own character, rechristening her Minerva and buying her a longbow. I'm looking at the other Sandpoint materials from Paizo (Rise of the Runelords and Jade Regent) to think about what might be in store for the characters, but since Black Fang and King Fatmouth (the boys really resonate with this goblin villain) escaped in the cleansing of the dungeon, they probably should be watching over their shoulders...

For character creation, play, and advancement, the Beginner Box delivers.  It is much easier for less advanced or returning players to navigate and understand the materials, so I imagine the same certainly would be true for complete beginners.  Having had a more complete experience with the set, I am confident rating it 5/5 now, and not being overly influenced by appearance.  The only thing that did strike me as odd among their decisions was that they offered the Barbarian class instead of the halfling race in the free supplemental material (scroll down for free downloads), but maybe this is just their way of saying they prefer Howard to Tolkien.  I blame Erik Mona.  Giving you 5 full levels of play, balancing a nice variety of choice with simplification?  There's plenty of room to spread the praise around for that, but I'm thinking Jason Bulmahn and Sean K Reynolds deserve lions' shares.  Very well done, Paizo.

Also, my new dice tray proved a hit in play!


  1. Glad to hear you had fun with it! The real reason there are no halflings and gnomes in the set (or the free materials) is that all of the size modifiers are "behind the curtain" in the Beginner Box, and we didn't want to confuse people by getting into that whole side issue just so they could play their character.

    It doesn't have anything to do with Howard vs. Tolkien, though you correctly note my sympathies there. :)

    --Erik Mona

  2. Erik:
    Thanks! I saw your post the next morning, and my nephews were in the bathroom brushing their teeth, so I went in there and read your response to them. When they heard who you were, they cheered and danced in their PJs because the boss of Pathfinder had replied to "their post." (They had input into it while I was posting, and so had some ownership of it.) I made a quick exit, so that their aunt could clean up any excess toothpaste that might have become part of their celebration.

    While the real reason is 100% less needlely than my ad hoc reason, this is good example of how the Beginner Box simplifies and reduces the game to make it more manageable and friendly -- so not odd, upon reflection, but well-designed.

  3. Thanks! That's an awesome story about your nephews!