March 9, 2014

Hackfinder - Pathfinder with a Story Gaming Emphasis

This was my first experience with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Previously, I played 4E D&D for 4 1/2 years. Since we played "Hackfinder", a version of Pathfinder that Jerome Virnich created that involves more roleplaying scenes with NPCs, I didn't really learn that much about the difference between Pathfinder vs D&D. Two of the players were Pathfinder veterans and they work for Goblinworks and Pat (who's also in the D&D Next game) had played Hackfinder before.

Before we launched into it, we each created several NPCs that ranged from Timmy, Velt's 10 year old son, various Guild heads, Frey, a cult leader, Yana, a brothel mistress, and Simeon, a snake oil salesman. Much of the information gathering was accomplished by having scenes with NPCs that were played by anyone who wasn't in the scene as a PC.

During two of the smaller battles, half of us who weren't in the battle played the NPCs that they were fighting. It was fun to be involved in the scene and we weren't so invested in our PCs that we felt like we were being traitors. However, for me, who had a bit of hard time reading the NPC sheet stats and how to do battles, it was somewhat of a challenge.

Jerome Virnich - GM
Me - Velt Render, male, pampered rich Halfling who ran away from the Mainland, learned how to be a rogue by paying for lessons.
Pat - Lok, female, born in the lost colony settlement, grew up feral, works as hired muscle.
Stephen - Doc Splody, male, traveled around the world to learn more about alchemy.
Tork - Chetan, male, 3rd incarnation, works as bookkeeper for the shop.

The settlement of Ardis was founded by people who were escaping the mainland for religious reasons, entrepreneurs looking to profit from exporting the various goods of the area, or just people who were looking to make a new start. The surrounding forest was extremely dangerous, full of large kaiju and a mysterious madness that seemed to befall anyone who spent too much time in it. The four guilds that make up the settlement are:

  • the Vice Guild, who maintain the black market and the hired muscle, 
  • the Alchemist Guild, who supply the drugs, other remedies, and explosives, 
  • the Fish Mongers Guild, who treat the ocean and nearby river as their personal playground, keeping the settlement supplied in fish and the fish extract needed to make a popular drug.
  • the Blacksmith Guild, who make the weapons and build the structures that make up the settlement.
  • the Quarriers Guild, who manage the quarries.

Velt, Lok, Doc Splody, and Chetan all work for the Alchemist Guild at Rainbow Remedies. Velt gathered information, Lok was the muscle, Doc Splody was the shop owner, and Chetan kept the books.
Rainbow Remedies Shop Sign
Image created by Stephen Cheney

Several rumors had been floating around and as is their wont, everyone congregates at the local tavern to suss out the truth from the falsehoods. The most tantalizing rumor, that the Vice Guild was throwing a big party, turned out to be the rumor that was verifiable, and everyone manages to secure entry into the exclusive event.

At the party, the Vice Guild unveils their newest product, moss ale. Moss, gathered from within the forest, is one of the drugs used within the settlement and is a popular export. Simeon, the snake oil salesman, claims to be able to cultivate the moss to make mass production feasible. The moss ale is delicious, light, and produces ecstatic euphoria. Several people have problems that they need help with and in return, they mention interesting tidbits of info.

  • Catherine, the caterer, needs to impress as many people as possible with the food because her business is not doing well. Unfortunately, she stained the front of her dress. Magic is used to "clean" her dress for a few hours and she mentions that she saw a fire burning on the surface of the water some ways down the shore.
  • Lucretia, head of the Alchemist Guild, wants to know which consortium one of the merchants is from. Lok intimidates him into telling her and Doc Splody confirms it by recognizing the merchant's monocle. She told them that she heard that the Vice Guild set up a camp deep in the woods, at the outskirts of the abandoned settlement.
  • Yana, the brothel mistress and Velt's date at the party, wants to hook up with one of the merchants. Velt begrudgingly helps her make an introduction, and she mentions that one of her girls was hired by a merchant and might be investing lots of money into the Vice Guild if the moss ale pans out.
  • Fal, a hired muscle, wants to steal a barrel of the moss ale to sell it. Lok unwittingly helps him but in the morning, he's found floating in the port. Before his untimely death, he tells her that one of the ships that sailed into the settlement for the party was filled with a small mercenary company of rangers and survivalists that disembarked down the coast and were equipped for a long stay in the woods.
  • Anton, friends with Velt and head of the Vice Guild's muscle, needs help to kill his brother, who is the head of the mercenary company, Velt falsely promises to help him. Anton tells Velt that the Vice Guild wants to expand their operation in the settlement and are going to level the Low Quarter (the slums of the settlement) for their land.
  • Simeon, the snake oil salesman, is being praised for his method of cultivating the moss but he wants help with a get-rich-quick scheme. He tells them that he just gave the Vice Guild a plant growth potion and he has no idea how they're cultivating the moss.

After the party, the Vice Guild floods the market with moss ale. However, it seems like people are starting to act strangely, seeing things where there is nothing. And this is affecting even those who haven't touched any moss ale. Mother Comfort, a healer/wise woman of the Low District, fears for her district and wants the moss growing operation to be stopped. Meanwhile, Frey, leader of the Cult of the Dark Tapestry, has been trying to recruit Lok the whole time and wants them not to interfere with the moss growing. Timmy, Velt's son, comes down with a touch of the madness and Velt and Doc Splody decide to go to the Low District to find Mother Comfort, who might be able to cure Timmy. Lok and Chetan stay behind at Rainbow Remedies to look after the shop and Timmy.

When Velt and Doc Splody arrive in the Low District, they find it ablaze. They manage to defeat fire elementals and chase off a Bloodfire sorcerer though Velt was sadly unprepared for a fight with fire and had to resort to using his slingshot with apples scrounged from a nearby market stall. "How do you like them apples?" might have been said.

Back at the shop, Lok and Chetan successfully defend against looters though the percentage of spiders increased exponentially. When Lucritia, head of the Alchemist Guild, hears about the fire, she's convinced it's the work of the Vice Guild. Velt, Lok, Chetan, and Doc Splody are dispatched to the rumored mercenary camp to investigate and put an end to their whole operation. The camp is a four day march away.

Along the way, they run into a group of fungal apes and fungal badgers, all seemingly acting weirdly slow and breathing madness spores all up in their faces. They make it to the Dark Shrine without any further mishaps. Six obelisks make up the shrine and the moss growing and harvesting is happening in the middle. The mercs look like they've been constantly fighting off the kaiju. As if on cue, a fungal T-Rex crashes through the forest and starts stomping and eating the mercs. Everyone but Lok, feral as she is, thinks it's a good idea to watch the chaos from their safe vantage point, but Lok immediately climbs down and joins in on the fight. It's a little painful, but they manage to take everyone out, including the T-Rex, who is a bit clumsy and has a hard time keeping its balance due to some conveniently placed grease by Chetan. Yeah, we had a T-Rex on its back, flailing around for a while.

Unfortunately, almost immediately after the T-Rex is finished off, there's a low rumble from the middle of the Dark Shrine and a fungal Frey bursts out. Looks like she's some sort of extraplanar queen now and starts doing some dark evil eldrich fungal zombie shit on the dead mercs.

Everyone is low on the healths, except for Lok, who manages to get mind controlled by Frey and starts going to town on her allies. Chetan is taken out. Doc Splody spends most of the time on the verge of dying while being tentacle hugged by Frey. He's double-fisting potions and throwing all sorts of defoliant, and whatever else he has in the bag at the fungus that's penetrating his skin. Velt scampers around, sling-shotting whenever possible, and manages to turn invisible at last minute, the edges of blacking out creeping in his vision. Luckily, this breaks Lok's mind-controlled mission of attacking her allies and with a rage that would quell the sternest of hearts, she ends Frey with a slash of her great sword.

As the moss is systematically destroyed, the madness recedes from the minds of the townsfolk. It takes some time for the settlement to fully recover, and everyone is more wary of the moss from then on, but with the Cult of the Dark Tapestry destroyed, it seems like the world is safe for the moment.