On Saturday I had session 2 of my Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder campaign. It was great fun but at the same time it was frustrating and really showed me my limits as GM. I’ll really have to work on my skills, and am already nervous that the group might fall apart. That would make me very sad. But let’s start at the beginning.
My campaign consists of a seasoned player who used to play DSA, Germany’s biggest RPG, my SO who has some experience from our D&D group, and three co-workers and a spouse who have never ever played any Pen&Paper game at all. Everyone is very enthusiastic though, and they got really into creating their characters. As for the party, we have a half-elf druid, a human barbarian, an elven paladin, a half-elf rogue, a gnome ranger and a halfling sorcerer. We are playing Burnt Offerings, the first of five adventures of this adventure path.
The Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path starts with a peaceful festival in the town of Sandpoint that then gets raided by an unusual amount of goblins. The party is supposed to assist the citizens of Sandpoint, develop some attachment to the place and then figure out the sinister background why the raid happened. The first session in September went really well. I think everyone had fun at the festival, and then liked to kick goblin ass, defeating the raid.
On to Saturday’s session. The party had saved a noble, Aldern Foxglove, from the goblins, and our druid Calandria in particular caught his eye. They were to join the noble at the Rusty Dragon the next day at noon, because he wanted to express his gratitude and invite them to hunt with him. Problem number 1: the party split up. The paladin invited the ranger to stay at the crafter’s guild where he is living. No real discernible reason that the two would have bonded, beyond being a RL couple. My SO plays a very aloof loner druid, also doesn’t help. So the next morning, only two of six people are at the inn, and of those two, the halfling has IC reasons to not like humans. Awkward. The paladin and the ranger arrived late, so no opportunity for group bonding, or really, even an introduction. When the druid arrived, she decided to not join the others. Aaaaah.
The sheriff of Sandpoint arrived to ask everyone’s help, and no one really seemed interested in actually helping him heroically. At that point I already felt I was descending into railroad territory, because I really needed them to investigate the crypta. Hrm. Then the noble arrived, and invited them to the hunt, and no one seemed interested in that either. The druid latched onto him for very valid IC reasons, but the others simply weren’t interested. Now, the segment of Burnt Offerings we’re at is called Local Heroes. It’s to establish that the citizens view the party as valiant heroes and to establish a connection to the town. That part really did not seem to work.
Eventually, they did actually investigate the crypta, and found signs that goblins and a humanoid scaled the walls to steal the bones of the former town priest, and that they have left skeletons in their wake. The party dispatched of the skeletons and then investigated the outer town wall, for more signs of the goblins, before calling it a night.
The next day, the noble wanted to pick them up for the hunt, but the party was only interested in the free horses that he gifted to the characters. Not a single person wanted to join him for the hunt, which left a very miffed noble behind. Instead, they wanted to leave the town to find the goblin leader.
The plot continues to be that a scout of the town arrives to report that all tribes of the goblins seem united, and that there is a mastermind behind it. The sheriff then asked the party to please stay in Sandpoint to be available if the need arises, so that he can travel to the city of Magnimar to ask for more troops. Well, bugger that, none of them actually wanted to stay, or listen to the scout’s report. They wanted to leave the town and blindly go find some goblins. Here I had to use some extreme railroading and strong-armed by offering individual amounts of gold for staying, and Shalelu the scout actually called them idiots for not actively listening to her report.
They then went to see the mayor, because they all mistrusted the sheriff for wanting to leave the town in need. She confirmed however that he was leaving on her behalf, sweet-talked them some, and that was that. They still wanted to look for the goblins themselves and left town on their new horses. I had them run into Aldern who was still out hunting and they were attacked by a boar. We called it a night after they defeated the boar and gathered all escaped horses again.
I think my frustration should be obvious. The party is split, no one seems interested in the others, and for adventurers they’re rather…unwilling. It’s like they don’t actually want to be heroes. Maybe I confused all the new players by asking them to think of a character motivation. Now they’re all entirely focused on the character motivation and not really on the adventure. But I also probably failed here because I should just have run with it. Let them run free and look for goblins, create some random encounters and maybe a bit of a new backstory, and somehow try to get them back on track for the adventure.
Or maybe I am just a sucky GM. I am very anxious now.