In order to keep getting our gaming fix during this time, my wife and I stayed active with Pathfinder Society, and we both finally started GMing occasional scenarios. We eventually started a PFS home game for our regular gaming group, so that those of us who remained local could still get together and game on a semi-regular basis despite the hiatus from my campaign.
(Side note: If you ever try any kind of organized play yourself, whether it's PFS, D&D Adventurer's League, or another group, please consider running some adventures yourself once you're familiar with the extra rules peculiar to these events. This will help reduce the burden on the more established GMs, who can get burnt out if they have to run constantly. It's also great practice for running your own campaigns. In addition, GMs often get access to special rewards beyond those available to other players, which might include special in-character boons or a few dollars of store credit from the shop hosting the event.)
Now, after several months off from "Time of the Tarrasque," we're all itching to get back to it. I spent some time thinking about the possibility of continuing the game with our two departing players through some sort of remote link. However, I decided that I wasn't entirely comfortable with the extra effort that would be required to learn to use the technology on top of the usual prep needed for a homebrew campaign. I also prefer gaming face-to-face, and have found that it's much easier to GM for 4 players rather than 6. For these reasons, I decided to continue the game without Jubair and Lucretia's players, and they were very understanding about that decision. (They've also found a D&D group in their new town, which is wonderful.)
Continuing without two of our original players also means continuing without their characters. Lucretia's backstory already came with an easy out there, which the rest of the party may or may not learn about when she bids them farewell. Jubair, on the other hand, doesn't have any particular ties to anyone except for the other PCs, so I needed to come up with a plausible in-game reason for him to part ways with them. His player suggested that Jubair die of a burst stomach from eating too much barbeque. While this is perfectly in character for our class clown, I felt it would be a too much grief to pile on top of the remaining PCs so soon after ZhaZha's death, and its meaninglessness would cheapen hers.
Thinking on this some more, I was struck again about how darn inconvenient it was that the death in our last fight didn't claim one of the characters who was departing anyway! I was inspired to offer a bit of retconning to the group: Instead of ZhaZha dying and needing a reincarnate spell, it was Jubair who fell in battle. This will help with a number of things besides the obvious question of Jubair's departure:
- Selling Jubair's magical amulet would pay for the spell's material components by itself. This would allow the other PCs to be reimbursed the funds they chipped in to help pay for ZhaZha's return. I'm still getting used to the fast advancement track requiring me to give the party more wealth, too, so draining their purses for this expensive spell would just put them more behind.
- ZhaZha's reincarnation was a bit rushed because we were trying to fit it at the end of a long session after a brutal combat. I would much prefer to give the players a bit more time to roleplay through huge dramatic moments like that, especially since they are fated to be big damn heroes someday. Rewinding a little bit will give us a chance to do that properly, and changing it to Jubair will allow the others to concentrate on their other goals rather than having ZhaZha's new burdens taking up too much of the spotlight.
- I can also use Jubair's reincarnation to lay some more ground work for Jumari's Lost Egg cult, which she told the other PCs about when they were traveling to acquire components for the spell. It's the perfect opportunity to introduce a couple NPCs tied to that, then having Jubair step off-stage for an indefinite time to get his brand-new head on straight. (I didn't want to push this too much with ZhaZha, but I've been given free reign with Jubair as an NPC.)
- And frankly, it seems a lot more fun to keep ZhaZha around as a half-orc. We've barely even begun to delve into her background, and her race is an essential part of that.
Because we're starting again after a long hiatus, and because the party will be significantly smaller, I will be allowing all my continuing players to make some tweaks to their characters. I had already been considering introducing the Background Skills rules from Pathfinder Unchained. The 2 additional skill ranks per level will be a godsend to the more skill-starved classes, and a nice bonus for the others. With the party losing some useful abilities due to Lucretia and Zubair's departure, these extra skills will help make up some of that deficit.
In the longer-term, at least two of PCs had already planned to take the Leadership feat when they reach 7th level. When they do that, they can recruit cohorts who can contribute class abilities that they still lack. Meanwhile, they might decide to adjust their own future feat selection, or even do a bit of multiclassing, if they feel the party can't wait that long to regain (for example) a skilled archer, scout, or trap expert.
Another necessity after such a long break was a recap of the story so far. Naturally, my session write-ups here provide the most complete summaries of the campaign's events. (See the links at the end of this post.) But I also highlighted some of the more important plot threads for my players, and we discussed the ones they wanted to follow up on. The general consensus at the moment is that taking on Asmolon's death cult has proven a bit too deadly for them at their current capabilities. They will be pursuing some other things for while, as they acquire the experience needed to survive their next encounter with the cult. The other subject that has their attention now is learning more about the desert giants and the ruined city of Tibul, but that too will likely require some lengthy preparation (and a bit more guidance on my part, as GM).
Our first in-character session after the hiatus will begin with a little rewinding to retcon the death and reincarnation scenes. I expect it will be mostly roleplaying, as we work through the aftermath of that tragedy and determine in character where the party will go next. Lucretia and Jubair will continue as NPCs for a short time (a session or two at most?), until we have enabled their departures.
Going forward from there, our party of heroes will consist of:
- Edel Naergon, high elf bard (magician) 3.
- Fatou, human wizard (evoker) 2/cleric of Yaziel 1; and Nochaesh, owl familiar.
- Jumari Boneface, half-orc inquisitor of the Lost Egg 3.
- ZhaZha, half-orc cavalier (order of the dragon) 3; and Zafira, camel mount.
Appendix: Previous Sessions
- #1: New Companions
- #2: Featherclaw, Terror of the Sands
- #3: Under an Autumn Moon
- #4: Rock Bits on a Dais
- #5: Beetle Mania
- #6: Where All the Bodies are Buried
- #7: Zombie Dogs
- #8: Privy of the Void Cult
- #9: I Double Dog Dare You
- #10: Where Do I Get a Bird Like That?
- #11: Where's the Cactus?
- #12: Alarming Some Orcs
- #13: Death Pleases the War Goddess