Actual Play: Skull and Shackles – Part 2

Continuing the play report for the Skull and Shackles game, as always GM’d by +Jeromy French , with +Matt Sutton (Malgrim) , +kung fu hillbilly (Alejandro) , +Joshua Taylor (Gimbal) as my (Pel) more-or-less trusty allies. Hey, we’re pirates, trust is a guideline, not a rule.

Play started with us waking up to find one of our new crewmembers missing from the ship, but clearly bad things had happened. There was evidence – messy evidence – that a Sahuagin had climbed aboard and munched off with him. Boo!

Not likely going to find him, we went marauding.

Naturally, before we found prey, prey found us. Six sahuagin (bipedal piranha beasts) came aboard, and the four of us plus Malgrim’s pseudo-dragon creature (Matt’s character).

Initiative was ours! My first shot was a sneak attack, single shot on the farthest enemy from us . . . which was a rousing success. A good hit, and 15 HP later, one went splash. Malgrim cast Enlarge Person on himself, stepped up and nailed another with his masterwork greataxe. He did even better than I did, for 16 HP. Thunk and dead. A sleep spell, a +1 rapier thrust for 6 HP, and then they got to go. Miss, attack on the dragon-familiar (hit, 6 HP), shoot at me with crossbow (miss), and claw/bite at Gimbal (miss).

To borrow a line from 300: “A good start.”

Next round, I tried two shots at +4, with one missing totally, the other barely missing vs. the AC 16. No luck. Malgrim beheads one, another claws him for a minor wound. One claws at Gimbal to small effect. Then Alejandro whiffed a stab with both rapier and dagger. Gimbal, our resident bomb-throwing alchemist, quaffs a couple potions – anything labelled “Mutagen” can’t be good, and yet it is – chucked a bomb at his foe after a quick step backwards. 6 HP and his foe is on fire. At least it’s not the ship.

I pivoted my fire to Alejandro’s target, hoping that I could kill him and then Alejandro can do his Bardsong thing. Two shots, two hits, total of 7HP. Decent, not great. Malgrim wastes another with a mighty axe blow. The key here seems to be allowing Malgrim to cast his enlarge person spell and stepping out of the way. The rest flee at this point, grab hold of sharks, and skedaddle. Well, they are IQ 14 – and they were going to be short-lived.

Only real loot was a coral and somethingorother heavy crossbow.

Gimbal, our resident evil-aligned character, gets out some Pathfinder Pliers of Dentistry, and decides to make a tooth necklace out of the fallen foes. He then gifts me with some naga poison and giant wasp poison, for future arrow-envenoming.

We then go looking for trouble, and find an oared fishing boat. Not worthy of our attention in a violent way, we try and engage the dwarven leader Vesgal Falkirk. Or something like that. We chat for a bit, and once again we crit-fail the Diplomacy roll. Sigh. We do know that they’re from Bloodcove, a pirate-neutral village/town to the south. Though it’s neutral ground for piracy, it’s strongly influenced by the Aspis Consortium . . . a group of magic-wielders who groove on artifacts. Powerful, and opposed to the Pathfinder Society. We’ll have to deal with them at some point.

We look for a ship to attack, and find one. We sick the seadragon on the other ship’s rudder, so now they can’t turn. We maneuver up so they can’t hit is with their own catapults, and then to the tune of a lively pair of bard songs, we pepper the foe with one successful catapult shot, and a bunch of really ineffective ballista fire; I manage to crit-fail a roll and jam up one of the ballista, but we do fire through one of the windows, hitting someone.

We whittle away at the crew with arrow fire, spellcasting to put a few more to sleep, and seadragon harassment, then grapple to board. The captain (female half-elf) and mate (male human) come out, weapons drawn, and Malgrim does enlarge person again, and goes for Intimidate. He doesn’t crit this time. She is cowed, and gives in fairly readily. The ship is loaded with manufactured goods – tools, furniture, and the like. We transfer their one catapult to our own vessel (making three total), and inspect and take the choice bits from the other crew’s stuff. We also don’t have enough crew to actually make off with the ship itself, so that value, which can be tens of thousands of gold, is left behind.

We keep the rest of the crew alive, and go our way. Jeromy will be emailing us the rest of the treasure and loot offline.

And that was the game.


Let’s see. This was a pretty good game, but the system definitely has some quirks to it. For one, we seem to always follow a bit of the same pathway. A bit of chatting amongst the characters, usually to re-establish momentum from a previous session. Then some NPC interaction, perhaps, and then, the “pseudo-wandering-monster combat de jure.” After which, we move the plot forward, which may or may not also involve combat.

I’m starting to get a better feel for Pel, but I still chafe a bit at the level of detail and tactical choices we get at this point in our character development.

Examples: Pel hid in the rigging in one of the battles, and so got to use his sneak attack. The rule seems to be once you attack, you’re exposed. So despite our foes being widely separated and me rolling very well for Stealth, one I shoot, my sneak-attacking days are done. So I was able to do a very respectable 15 points of damage in one shot, but after that, back to 1d6 each. I can’t do careful aim to target vulnerable spots like I can in GURPS (at least, not yet . . . perhaps there’s a later Feat). The tactical variability of how you smack down your foes also seems fairly low, but again, we’re playing 4th level characters at the moment, so perhaps “Hit Him With My Mace” is all that we should expect.

Also, I’ve got Rapid Shot, which is two attacks at -2. For any hit value for me down to something where I’m rolling 1d20+6 vs. AC 24 (so a 15% chance to hit), it is always better to take two shots. it’s not really a trade of many mediocre shots vs. one good one. It’s Just Better.

I rearranged Pel’s skill ranks in accordance with the “no more skill ranks in a skill than you have Hit Dice,” which I missed the first time through; this actually was more fun, since it gave me more things I was good at, which was satisfying. Next level I will likely become eligible for a Prestige Class for an open-water pirate. We shall see if I want to go down that route or not!

I also definitely need a better bow. So-so would be adding my STR bonus (a meager +1) for each shot. Better would be something, if it exists, that allows me adding either my BAB or DEX bonus – or both! If those aren’t real things, then if there’re magical bows that deliver proper smackdown, I’ll have to go searching for one.

One last point: the ability to go to the Pathfinder Wiki and various other online resources to look things up, whether it’s creature stats or the gp value of a ship, is huge.

4 thoughts on “Actual Play: Skull and Shackles – Part 2

  1. Pathfinder like it's predecessor is combat heavy, but I will say, that even with the adventure path we are using, I do actually cut out combats and don't run them all. Part of that is the time frame we have as I don't want to spend the entire two hours every week just doing combats. What I need to do is add more flavor and history about the world which I admit have not been doing as good a job as I should have.

    Running an Adventure Path is a double edged sword, it is a bit cookie cutter some times (though I will give the designers credit, they try hard to not force everything down our throats giving the PCs more freedom than adventures designed back in the 80s and 90s). On the other hand, it allows me to run the game on a regular basis with lots of obligations which I could not do with a true home brew campaign.

    Having everything posted online is a great resource, especially as a GM, but it exasperates the problem that has been around since day one with our kind, you get to a point where you know too much about the stats of monsters to make it fun. Though I developed early on to change up stats so they are not as cookie cutter.

  2. Doug, your sneak attack problem is because you use a bow, most rouges use sneak attacks when flanking. but you also get apply sneak attack damage any time your opponent is considered flat footed or is denied its dex bonus to armor class. The easiest way to do this consistently, and without your opposition being able to roll to defend ageist is to make yourself invisible. So my recommendation is to go after an item that gives you improved invisibility. or go after a prestige class that has the hide in plain sight ability.

    1. While I agree on all points, my blog point above was more along the lines of requiring a Perception roll to detect the arrow being fired from hiding. The skill list actually has a DC for a bow being drawn, and it should be a certain amount lower for a bow being shot. So you'd maybe say that firing a ranged weapon from hiding would be spotted if you can beat the LOWER of the DC of the sound of firing a bow (and you could have a magically silenced bow as Something Cool) and your personal Stealth roll. So even if you're awesome at stealth, you're DC can't be any higher than the sound of a bowstring snap and arrow swoosh. But if you're not very stealthy, that's the rate-limiting step.

      For Pel, in nearly all cases it'll be the bow – which is as it should be. As a GM I'd give monsters that are engaged in combat +10 or more DC, since they're focused on something else.

      Anyway, that's me imposing my GURPS-like train of thought to Pathfinder, which might be a mistake. But one thing Pathfinder does pretty well is the equivalent of Contests of Skill, and this seems a great place for such, rather than an absolute prohibition!

  3. I want to say "yeah" about the flanking. That's the way it's done and it gives you bonus damage every round.

    Also pay attention to your Rogue Talents. For a rogue they are as important as Feats. Look at Bleeding Attack in specific. At your level that would add an extra 2 pts of damage every round afterward in most cases.

    I think your group's too small for a dedicated sniper but if you must snipe the routine goes something like:Fire from concealment and gain bonus dice. Seek Concealment again and make stealth roll (1 turn). Then next turn fiire for bonus dice again. Wash, rinse, repeat though a ship sin';t necessartily a good place to seek Concealment..

    Incidentally, "Concealment" is very much a Pathfinder Technical Term. As is "Lose Dex bonus". . You can look them up min the Glossary and index. It's one of the virtues of 3.x descended games that they do spell out the technicalities.

    If you don't like melee combat because your ST is poor compared to your DX look at the Weapon Finesse Feat. There are few rogues who shouldn't take it.

    For enhanced bows your options are Composite for a damage bonus (+1 for your ST), Masterwork for a +! to hit (stackable with Composite)) and then magic +1 to hit and damage (and stackable with composite but not asterwork).. The really interesting part comes after +1. You can get another +1/+1 _or_ a special effect like +1D6 elemental type damage on every arrow. A +1 bow is 2000gp plus the cost of a masterwortk bow and a +2 or +1+1D6 is 8000GP

    Other Ranged attack proceedure would be FEATS and not Enchantments. I believe there is one that allows you to add your Int bonus to your damage but it may not be corebook..

    As to Invisibility, it's very good indeed but also vanishes when you attack. The item that would let you go invisible, attack, go invisible (a Standard action), attack again etc is a 20,000 GP Ring. Use Magic Device Skill might let you use a Wand of Invisibility but by the time your high enough level to pull it off reliably you'll be able to afford the ring. There are Potions of Invisibilty but you'll go broke using them to get in just one special attack per potion.

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