Campaign Log: Under Iron Skies, Session 1

It finally happened! I started my long-awaited Pathfinder 2E campaign. It’s set in the world of Seliit (which I’ve detailed a bit in my “Building A World” series of posts) and focuses on the efforts of three soldiers to stop an evil empire from deploying a terrible new weapon.

Our cast is made up of Braith, a master archer who you can read more about in last Friday’s post; Sariel Amastacia, a defector from the Rehledar Empire; and Nepopepi Cirill, a man who lost everything in an Imperial attack and has been fighting them ever since.

It was everyone’s first time with the system, so I thought I would start things out by throwing us directly into combat. That way, I figured, we could get a lot of the growing pains associated with switching systems (‘What do I roll for that?” “Which modifier do I add here?” “Can I do both of these things in a single turn?” That kind of stuff) out of the way early. It worked, too–we had to recalculate a few things and re-read some of the combat rules, but I was happy to get that out of the way before we really started rolling.

Plus, narratively, it worked rather well. The party are all soldiers fighting on the front lines in service to the same military (a fighting force called the Eight Nations Alliance), so it was easy to start things off with them repelling an enemy force. Afterwards, they returned to camp and the actual plot began.

The group’s commander, a dwarf named Arro Teague, had received intelligence about a nearby Rehledari encampment–one which might hold valuable information about a new weapon the Empire had been developing. A weapon that the Alliance had first learned about from Sariel, who had been so horrified by it that it had caused her to abandon her nation altogether and defect to the other side: massive, arkicite-powered airships bristling with implements of destruction.

The group swiftly set out to capture this enemy camp and see if it truly held more intel about the airships. It turned out to be rather sparsely guarded; a handful of mechanical constructs patrolled the grounds, while two sharpshooters sat atop watchtowers by the encampment’s walls. The base’s commander was studying maps in a tent until the fighting broke out.

I was very happy with how my players handled this encounter. Sariel–a Swashbuckler–rushed in, slipping past the construct guards and quickly cutting a few of them down. While everyone was distracted by this, the Fighter Nepopepi charged forward and made quick work of the rest. Meanwhile, Braith, the Ranger, scaled the camp’s walls to get a better shot at the enemy archers. She swiftly shot one down before switching her focus to the remaining enemies below, backing up Sariel as she confronted the captain in charge of the base. Nepopepi made his way over to the watchtower the other sharpshooter occupied and cut clean through its supports, tumbling the poor guy to the ground; then, he bashed the dude unconscious to take him prisoner.

Despite the fairly low-level foes, it was an exhilarating fight. PF2E‘s action economy (everyone has three actions; most things–shooting a bow, moving your speed, the basics–take one action, while some more complex things–casting spells, mostly–take two or three) is simple, legible, and gives players a ton of freedom. In one turn, Braith could climb a wall, designate a target as her Hunter’s Prey, and use one of her Ranger feats to fire two shots. Nepopepi could double-move over to the watchtower’s base and get an attack in on its supports. Sariel could move, demoralize a foe, and attack. It works splendidly: everyone understood exactly what they could do in a single round, and everyone was able to do a lot (which helped combat move quickly). Frankly, it’s going to be hard to go back to games that don’t have this kind of action economy after seeing just how well this works.

Once the enemies were dispatched, the group searched the base, and sure enough they found a scroll detailing the forthcoming deployment of the airships. One would head southwest from Rehledar, to the orcish nation of Ark Sakon, while two moved southeast to the halfling realm of Selethor. Once both nations had been conquered, those three ships would join with two more to break through the defenses of the Alliance and conquer the rest of the continent.

The group returned to Arro Teague with this new knowledge, and the commander devised a plan: our heroes would journey to either Ark Sakon or Selethor to help them prepare for this threat. Meanwhile, another elite team would head to the other nation. Ideally, the three ships assigned to Ark Sakon and Selethor could be destroyed before arriving to support the remaining two, giving the Alliance a chance at victory.

I let my players choose which nation they wanted to go to. Ark Sakon is built on the remains of a massive interstellar craft that brought the orcs to Seliit centuries ago; Selethor is an impregnable fortress of a country where halflings live alongside powerful djinn. They chose to go to Ark Sakon, leaving Selethor in the hands of three NPCs I’ve nicknamed “the Thunderbolts.” Both groups were given a special jeweled necklace. When the gem in one necklace is broken, the wearer and all creatures of the wearer’s choice within fifteen feet are instantly transported to the other necklace. That way, whichever group finishes first can instantly provide backup to the other.

That’s where we ended things for the night. I’m still feeling a bit rusty when it comes to running games, so I don’t think it was the best first session I’ve ever run; the NPCs were a bit too stiff and I was a tad railroady. All things considered, though, I think it went well. I loved the system and my players came up with interesting characters. I can’t wait to see how this party progresses, and what dangers await them in Ark Sakon!

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