Actual Play – Heroes of the Shackles (3/10/2015)

Skull and ShacklesGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Meg Pressley, Rocko Moran, and Adrienne Mueller
System: Pathfinder
Adventure Path: Skull and Shackles

After gaming with Rocko and Meg at Endgame the four of us talked about starting up a regular game, and Pathfinder was it! We talked some about possible adventure paths and opted on Skull and Shackles for some Pirate action. Adrienne joined us so we’ have a party of four PCs (the adventure path standard).

As usual for high prep games, I prepped way to much, ready for the first four scenes (which are arguably pretty tightly scripted so prepping for them makes sense), but we only ended up doing character creation. But what cool characters they are.

Our Cast

Meg is playing Vyv, an androgenous appearing child or the sea half-elf aquatic druid. Half way between man an woman, between human and elf, between water and land. Trapped between too many things! Vyv has a peg leg and is a totally bad ass sailor! Vyv used to travel with a sorcerer but since being separated has lost much of their power.

Rocko is playing Madeline, a young witch who was found on the shoreline as a small child by a woman called the Crone. Taught the ways of the sea, magic, and hexes, she is dangerous and often mistrusted.

Adrienne is playing Davey McTavish, grandson of Vicnet the Vile, an easy going human rogue with few ambitions. He’s spent his life a drift, taking up work on ship long enough to save up a nest egg and then blowing it all on drink and men. He’s had a few loves, but like his riches they have all slipped away. Now growing a bit older and past his prime, he’s feeling the pressure to make that “one last big haul”.

Karen is playing Anand Mordwyr, a Chelish brawler who saw the writing on the wall and left Cheliax before he ended up rotting in prison cell, or worse, the ingredient in some diabolical ritual. Anand is a dirty fighter looking for a job. He’s shaved his black hair and done everything he can to get a tan so his heritage won’t be recognized. Not many in the Shackles take kindly to a Cheliaxian.

House Rules for our game

X-Card – As with all game, I kicked off our game with the X-Card. This isn’t really a house rule but it went in the part of the session when I said, “here’s some things to know”.

20 Point Buy – Pretty standard.

Strain and Injury – Hit Points are defined as abstract in the Core Rulebook as “the ability to take physical punishment and keep going, and the ability to turn a serious blow into a less serious one”. The trouble is, when it comes to hit point recovery all lost HP are treated as physical punishment. This leads GMs to start thinking of all HP as physical punishment, which becomes increasingly hard to describe when the PCs reach high levels.

By separating damage into Strain and Injury, and changing the rate at which these different types heal, we hope to make combat description easy and logical. We hope to make battles believable and action-packed. We hope to make getting wounded a tragic and important event in the course of an adventure.

Attacks of Opportunity – In principle Attacks of Opportunity add to the dynamic tactical nature of combat. In practice they make us overly reliant on a battle map or grid and slow down the game immensely. To alleviate this, movement will not draw attacks of opportunity unless you have the feat Combat Reflexes (which grants a single attack).

Devil’s Bargain – I’m stealing this right from Blades in the Dark. Because it’s awesome. Anytime before rolling a d20 the GM or another player can offer a Devil’s Bargain (some complication that will ensue regardless of the roll) to grant the PC +4 on their roll. Really excited to see how this works in play!

What Rocked

Everyone had really cool ideas for their characters. We sent a few emails back and forth before the game to talk about possible concepts and I think that paid off. By the time we got there we had some bad ass characters. An old druid, separated from their magical partner, a young witch who doesn’t know her origin, a dockside brawler with a troubled past, and a part-time pirate with illusions of grandeur. Good stuff!

What could have improved

I wanted to integrate a few of the NPCs (Sandara and the boatswain) to the PCs but didn’t find a good opportunity. There were too many other things going on. I’ll try and make a few ties before the game kicks off next sessions.

Making Pathfinder characters takes a LONG time. Between races, alternate race options, classes, archetypes, feats, traits, skills, spells, and gear… damn. I tried to keep the lists short by making several suggestions (only using the core races, only suggestion a handful of classes) but even then I can’t resist trying to help the players get the best out of their characters. Which means offering other options. It’s a bit insane. We played for a little over three hours and still weren’t done at the end. Though pretty darn close!

2 thoughts on “Actual Play – Heroes of the Shackles (3/10/2015)”

  1. Nice! Thanks for the detailed write-up! I agree with you about the character creation being a little grueling. I enjoyed it, but it’s hard to keep the momentum going after a couple of hours. Your sublists were super helpful, as was the fact that you knew the rules (and feats etc) so well. I think that if we were all just getting used to the system it would have been quite punishing.

    And yes, our characters totally rock.

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