Once every couple of weeks, myself and a group of like minded gamers get together to experience a fantasy version of Africa. Put another way, we get tother to play Paizo’s Pathfinder “The Serpent’s Skull” Adventure Path. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is an outgrowth of the old Dungeons and Dragons RPG and many would argue (myself included) that it is the purest incarnation of the original Dungeons and Dragons rules set and flavor.
I am part of a gaming group that get’s together routinely to play Pathfinder, and this is the third “Adventure Path” which we are attempting- my second at Game Master. Amongst the Adventure Paths (which are a series of adventures designed to take a group from level 1 to level 12-15 or so), the Serpent’s Skull is one of the more maligned of Paizo’s Adventure Paths and has gotten little third part love. I must confess I started the Adventure Path with rather low expectations.
Our player group had dwindled down due to natural attrition so, with the help of our recently formed Meetup.com group I started the new path. I got a huge response, and we thought of dividing the group into two based on factions (which Serpent’s Skull naturally provides). Thus far, however, our group has hovered around the 6-8 range which is not quite enough two run two groups of 4 with 2 GMs. However, I did involve one of the other players as a co-GM.
It turns out, Rick, my new co-GM, is quite ruthless when it comes to combat. Furthermore, he’ll check the minions intelligence level and, if it’s intelligent, he’ll assign them tactics to react to the players. As he puts it, “I play the monsters as though they actually wanted to live!”
Well it turns out that this combination of Rick running most of the combats and breaking in some new players who had never played Pathfinder before caused the combats to be rather deadly. It didn’t help that the Serpent’s Skull AP had some very tough monsters. The AP started ship wrecked on a deserted island which was occupied by cannibals that were level 1 Barbarians with a strength of 18. With opposition like that, low level characters can start dropping like flies.
We are now on our 10th session, and so far we have been averaging 1-2 PC deaths a session. A series of adventures this deadly is certainly not for everyone, and we’ve had some players never come back once their character died. For others, however, they found they enjoyed the challenge. They would sit down a player new to Pathfinder with a sub-optimal character, have it die after a few sessions, and return with a better optimized character. This only added to the Darwinian “battle of the fittest” theme which was present in the AP anyway.
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