Saturday, November 12, 2011

We Be Goblins! (You Be Food!)

"We Be Goblins!" is a charming little Pathfinder module which Paizo has made available as a free PDF through their online store. I printed out a copy a month or so ago, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Despite the short length of only 16 pages, there are some remarkably charming touches which make this module memorable for me. The adventure is well designed with a good mix of challenges for the players. The pregenerated characters are interesting, and developed well enough to give players a baseline to role play from without being constricting. There's a good sense of humor throughout the adventure as well, with a number of catchy songs scribbled in the margins. I must admit, I've recited a few of them to myself while driving. They are quite catchy:
We be Licktoads! We Make Raid!
Put the longshanks to the blade!
Burn them up from feet to head,
Make them hurt, then make them dead!

Cut the parents into ham,
Smush the babies into Jam,
All the rest in pot get stewed,
We be Licktoads - YOU BE FOOD!
Which brings me to one of the biggest draws to this module: playing as evil goblins. Players have never been prevented from playing as evil characters, or from playing as goblins; the Monster Manuals and Bestiaries even have racial traits for goblins which players could use if they liked. But as I've discussed in the past, while not forbidden it's certainly not encouraged. Despite that, something about Pathfinder's version of goblins has caught hold of players. As any sensible company should, Paizo is cashing in on that with a number of products. The artist who designed Pathfinder's Goblins can be thanked for that, I think. He or she somehow managed to take the most generic-of-the-generic fantasy monster, and reinvent them into something which is both classic and novel, adorable and terrifying all at once. The song above is a testament to all four seemingly contradictory traits.

On a lark last weekend, I decided I wanted to see how this adventure played at the table. What's more, I wanted to do it with enough people for all four of the pregenerated characters to be in play. So during the week I conferred with the players from two of my gaming groups. Remarkably, each of them had Saturday free. Considering how difficult it can be to get either group together for a game, I thought it might be a titanic effort to get both together at once. But everybody was open to my first suggested date and time. So this morning I got up, cleaned my apartment, and was going over my notes just in time for people to start arriving.

The opening of the adventure is somewhat wordy for my tastes. My rule of thumb is three paragraphs. If I've got more than three paragraphs to read before the players get to start taking action and making choices, then I edit down. I may pride myself on my writing, but my friends didn't make room in their busy schedules to listen to me read aloud. They came to play a game. All the same, the introduction didn't go off too poorly. The players got a good sense of who and where they were. But to be honest, if I were to run it again I think I would cut a lot of the introductory crap and jump into the bonfire as quick as I could. That's where the game really got moving.

After the goblin leader provides the PCs with their mission in the opening scene, the tribe has a bonfire celebration to, as cheif Gutwad says, "burn bad luck away from [the PCs]." Essentially it's a big rowdy goblin party in honor of the PC's upcoming quest. Here, I think, would have been a much better place for a lot of the exposition which happened at the start of the adventure. Rather than have the goblin chief tell the players to avoid the creature known as Lotslegs Eat Goblin Babies Many, the PCs could have overheard frightening stories about it from other goblins during the feast. But this is a minor nitpick at worst.

The content of the bonfire are four "dares," as the goblins call them. To test the bravery of the PCs, the tribe presents them with challenges. If they succeed, they are rewarded with the right to borrow a few pieces of magical gear. If they fail, or refuse the challenge, they are mercilessly mocked. I must admit I was somewhat worried that this was the kind of thing which sounded good on paper, but wouldn't work out in play, but I was wrong. It was during this more lighthearted, role-playing heavy activity that my players really started to get into their characters. I'm not often fortunate enough to have excited, in-character conversations going on between players. More on that later.

My players ended up succeeding at each of the four challenges without much incident. It was then that I began to realize that the pregenerated characters were extremely overpowered. I honestly cannot comprehend how the rogue managed to have a +16 to his stealth check at level 1. [Edit: Okay, I see. The Goblin size bonus, and the Goblin racial bonus, stack.] This ended up detracting from the game somewhat, as I never really felt the characters were in real danger. Though, in fairness, I did significantly reduce the difficulty of each of the challenges. Not to make things easier, but simply because I can't make it seem exciting to ask players to make a DC 15 ride check three times in a row.

In the morning, the players set off on the grand one mile (1/6th of a hex) journey to the grounded ship marked on the treasure map, and the cache of fireworks it held. They were nearly there when they were accosted by Lotslegs Eat Goblin Babies Many, a giant spider who hungered for goblin flesh! Two of my cowardly players hid from the beast, the rogue succeeding at doing so despite the bells which another player had secretly attached to her clothes. The fight was brief, with minimal damage on the part of the players. Considering that this is probably the second most difficult fight in the adventure, I was somewhat disappointed in how quickly the spider was felled.

From there, the players moved on to reach the ship. And that is where things took a turn for the awesome. One of the four goblins is a cleric named Poog. According to his character sheet, Poog is ashamed of being one of the worst animal riders in the clan. The character sheet also says Poog is brave to the point of being overconfident. So when Poog was acting as a scout into the the muddy area surrounding the ship, and was charged by a rabid horse, Poog's immediate response was:

"POOG WILL RIDE HORSE!" Complete with my player's best goblin voice.

As it turned out, Poog failed to mount the charging beast, but managed to deal it a crushing blow by bracing his javelin in the mud when the horse came around for a second charge. From there on in, the events of the game took a back seat to the hilarious role playing exchanges between the characters. The woman playing the aforementioned rogue took it upon herself to goad Poog on. She heaped insults onto him, and quickly discovered that there was nothing she couldn't get Poog to do by simply telling him that he wasn't good enough to do it. And all of this simply goaded Poog onward, culminating "POOG CAN RIDE ANYTHING!" being shouted several times. In one combat, Poog and the Rogue actually took turns mounting and pushing each other off of a very confused dog which the other two party members were desperately trying to kill.

The climax of the adventure came when the four goblins were attempting to flee the ship with their firework booty. Just as they were about to escape, they were accosted by Vorka, the goblin cannibal whose fireworks they had just stolen. She had cast Spider Climb on herself before the party reached her, so her first action in combat was to walk up the vertical mast of the ship high enough so that melee attacks couldn't reach her. Unfortunately, this prompted Poog to remember that he'd earned an Elixer of Dragon's Breath during the bonfire challenges. Before the rest of the party knew what was happening, the mast was on fire, and Vorka was quickly jumping down onto the deck to avoid the flames.

The rest of the adventure proceded entirely without incident. Vorka's rolls were so terrible that she was killed without much of a fuss. And despite my attempt to destroy the player's fireworks by having the chest catch on fire, they were all dexterous enough to get the prized explosives to safety before they were ignited.

Having now played through it, "We Be Goblins!" is an entertaining way to spend four hours. It suffers significantly from lack of challenge, though. When I run a one-shot game such as this one, my expectation is to see one or more players lose their lives. Since they're never going to play these characters again anyway, what's the point of coddling them? This failing is particularly bad since the game comes with its own pregenerated characters. If they knew how powerful the PCs would be, why couldn't they make the adventure a little tougher to give it the edge it was missing?

I must reiterate that it was fun, though. It brought my group together and gave them a situation which they had a lot of fun with. I'd be a little wary of starting up yet another campaign, but I'm pretty sure everyone agreed that it would be fun to return to those characters (and that group) again someday.

Maybe I'll run them through an edited version of The Sunless Citadel next...


  1. That really sound like fun. I might no know much about RPG but I am liking your beliefs as GM. In the other hand the cuddling of the PC for this game, may make the game appropriate for starters.

    I guess overall it was a good experience.

  2. @Kaynil Yes, I could see this being a good adventure for beginners. It was certainly a good experience overall. But, in the future, I think I would buff up some of the bad guys, and maybe make all 3 dogs attack at once rather than separately.

    <3 Kaynil.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...