Shattered Star: The Quest Begins…

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the campaign journal for my Shattered Star gaming group.

Shattered Star is the Pathfinder Adventure Path that just wrapped up a couple of months ago, and I’ve recently managed to put a group together to play through it. It’s a campaign that ranges from investigation through to old-fashioned dungeon delving and Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider artifact hunting.  It’s also a direct sequel to the earlier Adventure Paths that have taken part in the country of Varisia, but for the most part avoids retracing the same ground – As far as I’m aware the only revisited locale is the city of Magnimar.

Anyway, onto the journal itself. At the moment I’m undecided about how I’m going to write this. Since I’m pressed for time at the moment, the first update is just going to be an overview of the party and a bit of an explanation about optional rules that I use. Later on I’ll be doing recaps of each session, but am still unsure as to whether or not I’ll be doing it as a story with notations about out of character details, or just summarizing events.

Now, there are a few things I often do to help encourage my players to come up with character concepts to work towards. I’m sure a lot of GMs would consider the thought of these sort of changes madness, but I find that it works really well:

  1. I allow one free character rebuild per player prior to gaining second level. I don’t believe players should be punished for misunderstanding how a certain mechanic for a class works, or realising too late that they really don’t enjoy a certain class.
  2. At 2nd level each character gets +1 to any one ability score (after this they gain ability scores as normal, at 4th level and every 4 after that). I also allow a bonus feat at 2nd level, but it has to tie into developing their character concept (and as the GM I have the final say on if a particular choice is justified).
  3. I work with each player to develop their character, and in the process I choose an item (or if necessary, design one) that will suit their character. While these are magical, and certainly useful for the characters, I try to make sure that they aren’t ridiculously overpowered. The goal is to make the characters a little more unique and special, not allow them to tank their way through the campaign single-handed.

So, with that said, it is time to meet the party. These characters were built to a slightly higher power level than normal for an Adventure Path, as I like my players to feel heroic from the start. That said, I still like to throw them a challenge, which you’ll see as the campaign continues. I don’t have proper back stories for them yet, as the players provide them to me I’ll post them.

  • Aeros Rasta, played by Jimbles. An aasimar cleric who doesn’t follow any particular god as such, preferring to instead focus entirely on what good he can do in the world. The only member of the party who holds a position as an agent of the Pathfinder Society as of the beginning of the story, he has come to the country of Varisia on exchange from one of the many other Pathfinder Lodges in Golarion. His favoured weapon is a mace.
  • Dashiell ‘Dash’ Valdemar, played by Mike. A former favoured son of the affluent Valdemar family, after discovering the shady dealings his family is involved in he chose self-imposed exile and became a pistol-toting seeker of justice. Dashiell is a human gunslinger, built using the Mysterious Stranger archetype.
  • Tybalt, played by Michael – An arrogant elven wizard. Obsessed with discovering as much about magic as possible. Nothing is known yet of his background, beyond the fact that he’s at least 150 years old, and has a surprising amount of knowledge about the ancient empire of Thassilon
  • Zamnil Blackaxe, played by Evan. A dwarven ranger who is a veteran of many a conflict. What he lacks in social graces, he makes up for with his sheer will to survive and his skill with his dual axes.

Once we had finished building characters for everyone, I explained a few ground rules to the players.

  • First of all, as always in my games, Rule Zero is in effect.
  • Second, I reward creative play, as long as it makes some kind of sense.
  • Third, we’re all there to have fun, and everyone needs to respect that.

After these had been covered, the only thing that remained was to explain the concept of Plot Twist Cards to the group. For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, Paizo released two decks (Plot Twist Cards and Plot Twist Cards: Flashbacks). Each player gets two of these cards to start with, and receives an additional card at each level. In addition to this, I will sometimes reward a particularly cool use of a card with a free replacement card, or just hand one out for some particularly awesome role-playing. Each card has a theme, for example, the Deja Vu card (seen below) focuses on a situation being familiar to a character.

"A déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something."

“A déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.”

The card always contains a one use mechanical effect that the player can invoke (in this case, a +5 bonus to attempt to repeat an action from a previous round), this effect is in the black border. The rest of the text suggests possible ways the theme of the card could be used to introduce a plot twist. Essentially what this does is give the players a little more control over some of the story, while still leaving the final decisions in the hands of the GM. For example, one of my players could suggest that they may have had a sense of Deja Vu about an ambush being set for them, and therefore they were able to warn the party about it before hand and prevent a surprise round. However as the GM, if I felt that effect was a little too powerful, I might say that they realised why the situation was so familiar at the last second, allowing them a bonus to their initiative roll and the ability to act freely in the surprise round, with the rest of the party being affected normally.

We’re one session in and I’ve already had one hilariously awesome use of a plot twist card from Jimbles, which I enjoyed so much that I decided to award him a replacement card on the spot. I’ll explain exactly what happened when we get into the journal of the first two sessions.

Anyway, that’s it for this time. Join me next time as I start chronicling the adventures of the group through the first volume of the Shattered Star campaign, Shards of Sin. Until then, feast your eyes upon the cover of the book.

Behold the Venture-Captain of the Varisian Pathfinder Lodge, Sheila Heidmarch

I wish I’d looked that good in a dress back in my cross-dressing days…

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Written while listening to Fair to Midland. They’re a progressive/alternative metal band from Texas. I was lucky enough to catch them on their first tour of Australia when they were playing with Dead Letter Circus and Twelve Foot Ninja last year. They put on a great show, one of the most intense performances I’ve ever seen. They’ve got a really unique sound, and I’ve found that I just can’t get enough of them lately.

Have a listen to their last two albums, Fables From A Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True and Arrows & Anchors. In particular I’d recommend the songs Dance of the Manatee and Vice/Versa from Fables From A Mayfly; from Arrows & Anchors I’d recommend Musical Chairs and Amarillo Sleeps On My Pillow. The lyrics rarely if ever seem to have anything to do with the names of the songs, but I love them anyway. Something about them just makes me happy.

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