I was GMing Pathfinder, specifically the Crypt of the Everflame Adventure Path a few months back.
I’m thankful to have some really solid players who never miss games: my college best friends Shelby and Michelle, and Shelby’s little brother Connor.
In this game, Shelby was playing a Halfling Ranger named Marigold with a snake companion animal. She agreed that she couldn’t use it in combat until level 4 when rangers actually get their companion animals, so it was more like a mascot for the party. Her character constantly referred to what her big brother, Astrid, did or did not say. “My big brother says—!” she’d exclaim in an annoying voice before launching into some long exposition. He had her very scared about the Crypt of the towns founder, Kassen, that the characters were about to visit, even though in the adventure path, the coming of age journey the characters take there is supposed to be safe.
Poor Shelby couldn’t roll very high against Astrid’s bluff checks, and so her character dumbly fell for every one of his lies. In a way, he was actually preparing her for their trip going horribly, horribly wrong. Astrid gave Marigold a parting gift before her journey - what was essentially a dog whistle that would allow her to make easier wild empathy/handle animal checks. This whistle comes back in later.
Connor was playing a Paladin of Iomadae named Brynn Brighthand. Brynn was ridiculously handsome, having thrown everything he had into charisma (Over 20). He had the typical tragic backstory of his parents both dying during a battle against orcs at Last Wall, and was the adopted son of their friend Sir Drammott. Sir Drammott is the NPC mentor for whatever Paladin PC ends up in your party. He became kind of an inside joke in our group, being an old, gruff man who went on long winded rants about his time serving in the war. According to Sir Drammott, you only need two things to be a man: a good pair of shoes to get you where you need to go, and a good beard on your face to charm the ladies. The gift he wound up giving Brynn as he left was some magic beard wax that made his beard grow 1d12 inches per application with 20 charges in the jar.
Michelle, the more experienced player, and was rounding the party out with two characters, twin half-elfves Varren and Vaelyn. Vaelyn was a JuJu Oracle who scattered bones for premonitions. Varren was a Wizard who was obsessed with becoming a Litch one day. Together they were quite the odd pair, preferring to talk in Infernal or Elvish rather than leting the other characters know what they were thinking. Brynn, being a Paladin, definitely objected when Vaelyn used her JuJu magic to do necromancy. He begrudgingly accepted it as a means to defeat a greater evil after some role-play conversations. In general, Vaelyn was a very OP character for this adventure path, with both healing magic to do double damage on undead and some really interesting JuJu magic that made her able to completely vanish from unintelligent undead and hold undead. One orison in particular, Beast Tongue, came in real handy later.
Our team of teenage characters received summons from the elders of the town telling them to retrieve the “Ever Flame,” from the Crypt of Kassen, the town’s founder. In years past, this coming of age ceremony to retrieve an ever burning flame was completely safe. The villagers even would set up relatively harmless traps along the way to test the adolescents’ resolve. This year, however, was different. Some bandits had broken into Kassen’s Crypt and woken up his rival, a Necromancer named Asar who had been interred with him. Asar made short work of the bandits and raised them from the dead to do his bidding. When the villagers went to set up the trap in the tomb, they were assaulted by these minions and most lost their lives, unbeknownst to the rest of the town.
After fitting the pieces of their maps given to them by the Mayor together, the players set off into the woods. Varren’s master, the wizard mentor Hogarth, set up some Orc Illusions, which the PCs realized were fake pretty quickly. Well, except for poor Marigold, who seemed to roll high enough to see through anything—except lies or illusions. The other players literally had to slap her silly to get her to believe the Orcs were fake.
The party's first night alone in the woods went well. They kindly gave a starving wolf some of their meat and evaded an entire encounter with the pack it would have brought back had they done anything else. My animal loving players even tried to tame the wolf, but I had it immediately run off with the meat—a sign of what was to come.
After growing Brynn’s beard hair out to fashion a rope and climb down Serpent’s Gorge, the party arrived at the Crypt. Almost immediately, they realized something was wrong, as they saw the bloodied bodies of horses around the entrance of the Crypt.
Now the real fun was starting.
The first few floors of the Crypt were pretty by the book — until — they came to a half-submerged room on the lower floors. Some good perception checks at the water-logged door by the ranger told everyone that there were frogs croaking in the next room. By the adventure path, the frogs are hidden in the waist deep water. Upon breaking down the door and entering, the players hit their perceptions in time to notice the first two. By the book, the giant frogs were supposed to try and grapple the players with their tongues before swallowing them whole. Brynn gets swallowed by frog number 1, but manages to cut his way out. He’s acting as a meat shield for the rest of the party, who are bottlenecked near the entrance. Meanwhile, my other players have a ridiculous idea.
Shelby asked, “Can I use my whistle on the second frog?"
(narrator) “Uh… I guess. Roll a Wild Empathy Check,” I said.
Shelby rolls a Nat 20.
(narrator) “The frog looks confused by Marigold’s playing and has, for the time, forgotten about attacking. It seems to think you’re doing a mating call.”
I take note that the frog has gone from hostile to unfriendly on the diplomacy progression track.
Marigold spends another round doing this while the rest of the team peppers the other two frogs with acid darts and crossbow bolts.
The frog at this point has gone from unfriendly to neutral.
The other players start to seize on to the idea of turning the frogs against each other.
Michelle declared, “Vaelyn’s going to try to talk to the frogs.”
(narrator) “Oh… Kay… But how are you going to—”
Michelle cuts me off: “My new orison I took when leveling up: Beast tongue.”
I check the ability and give her the go ahead.
(narrator) “You can talk for a free action. What do you say?”
“I tell them we aren’t their enemies and that we don’t want to hurt them.” Michelle says.
(narrator) “Roll a diplomacy.”
Michelle winds up rolling higher than my garbage dice.
(narrator) “The frog Shelby is playing to seems as though it’s listening. The other two aren’t. Roll a Knowledge Nature or a Heal Check.”
Michelle succeeds, so I tell her the frogs seem to be starving and in bad condition and aren’t going to listen.
Michelle thinks for a second and then says, "Okay then, Vaerryn is going to use charm monster."
(narrator) "Crap… Go ahead and roll it."
Her wizard succeeds against my frog’s nat 2 and he is instantly charmed.
After explaining that they were his new friends and he was allowed to eat the other frogs if he helped the party kill them, the frog turned on his brethren.
One he grappled and bit to death while the party made short work of the other.
Now, we aren’t rich. My players and I were using Legos for our pieces, specifically a lot from the Lego Ninjago and Harry Potter sets. The giant frogs were from the Ninjago set, with ridiculously big faces and teeth. My players ended up naming their new frog friend TOOTHY. Using beast tongue, Vaelyn got Toothy to explain that he had fallen down into the Crypt after an earthquake in Serpent’s Gorge. The players were immediately attached to the goofy, dumb way I played this low intelligence frog. Imagine a gravelly yoda voice but without the backwards talk, and that’s how I role-played him.
The party decided to leave Toothy in a nearby fountain, fearing that they would get him killed if they brought him along. Toothy promised to stay put, so long as they brought him food and helped lead him back outside to Serpent’s Gorge after they got the flame. Vaelyn went so far as to bring back the dead bodies of villagers to feed him when Brynn wasn’t looking to keep the frog around.
After some argument about Toothy's usefulness in combat, the party decide to turn around before the final chamber of the Crypt and pick him up.
Asar is waiting for them in the final chamber. Laughing maniacally, he launches a wave of six undead at the party. Brynn stalwartly guards the base of the stairs and dispatches a few skeletons. Marigold uses acrobatics to jump off the stairs to the left and slink into the dark behind some columns. From there, she deals bludgeoning damage to the skeletons with her slingshot. Vaelyn uses the spell Hide from Undead and miraculously rolls higher than me, making Asar oblivious to her presence. Vaerryn takes potshots at the Necromancer lord from the top of the staircase with his crossbow. At this point, I decided I didn’t want an OP giant frog with the party so I was going to make it act recklessly to get it killed off. Let's be honest, I have enough monsters on the field to deal with. I have Toothy jump down on the right side of the staircase and try to flank the skeletons. He manages to swallow one whole… again… and kill it easily. The things only have 6 HP, after all.
Having dealt with the minions, Brynn charges, engaging Asar in one-on-one combat, managing to do a good chunk of damage with a SMITE and a swing of his blade. After a horrific confirmed crit from Asar, however, Brynn is left bleeding out and in danger of a coup de grace.
I have Toothy come to his aid since it’s his turn and he’s the only one close enough to Brynn to save him. He lashes out with his tongue and gets the grapple, but Asar cuts free of his tongue before Toothy can swallow him. Wounded, Toothy slinks away in fear, back to Vaelyn, who heals him and convinces him to rejoin the fight.
Vaeryn decides to serve as a distraction, and runs all the way past Asar to his coffin, using a diplomacy roll to annoy Asar into targeting him. He summons a water elemental, which dies in one hit to Asar’s blade, but which serves as a meat shield long enough for Vaelyn to get Brynn up again.
The rest of the party come together while the glass cannon of a wizard retreats, charging the severely outnumbered Necromancer Lord. Brynn lays on hands for massive damage, Vaelyn uses her last healing spell of the day in a similar fashion, Marigold cracks his brittle bones with her slingshot, and finally Toothy successfully grapples and swallows Asar.
He was at such low health from the rest of the party’s attacks that he died to bludgeoning damage in Toothy’s stomach.
My players were pretty pleased with that, and having gotten to level 4, they discussed whether Marigold should have him as a Ranger animal companion or not. In the end, Vaelyn decided to multi-class into Druid so that she could immediately adopt him.
I still have no clue how I’m going to work this big boy into the second book of the adventure path. Who knew Giant Frogs were so overpowered?