Gaming by Candlelight
Like most of the state of Oklahoma, I lost internet and power after a huge icestorm hammered the state at the beginning of this week. We had no connectivity for three days, and no power for two. (And many friends and family still don’t have power, and may not for days to come.)
Which is why I had no blog posts Mon, Tues, or Weds this week. I couldn’t even write them to post later. Normally when the power is out for days at a time I’d go cluster shoulder-to-shoulder with dozens of other people in an internet café or coffee house. But in time of pandemic? Absolutely not.
On our first night in the freezing dark, a friend who still had power came by to bring us batteries and food. And then… sit with us. In the darkness. And cold.
I mean, what else are four gamers going to do with no electricity and no place to go?
So, we played a four-hour 1-shot Pathfinder 1st edition game. By candlelight.
The GM kept is simple–humans only, core rulebook only, everyone gets a single +1 item of choices, and 50-point ability buy. (“50 points!!?” “Yeah, you-all are from a harsh place with few magic items and I am limiting options, so LOTS of ability points.”) The setting was similarly simple–a low-tech but sophisticated realm (“Nothing is made of metal, but your stone, bone and wood weapons are as good as metal.” “Your people’s main activity is gathering. It’s second is hunting. You are hunters.”) We began at 4th level.
It took us 30 minutes to make characters. On blank paper, by pencil, in candlelight. Being veteran players we did do SOME houserule customization. The GM said no one had armor, but we got a +2 armor bonus, with an additional +2 for each armor proficiency we got. I played a druid, who got to swap our prepared spells for healing rather than summoning spells (so I didn’t have to keep two books open to read by candlelight). We ended up with a greataxe barbarian, 2-weapon fighter, storm druid, and destined sorcerer.
It was a simple 3-encounter adventure. First, while hunting aurochs, we were attacked by a T-Rex. Then, we discovered our allies back at the hunting camp had been captured by serpent people. We had to track them down, which the GM handled as a 4e-style skill challenge. Then, we ambushed the serpent people and rescued our people.
We ended on a note that the serpent people where beginning to move out of the forbidden valley, and our people would need to find allies to oppose their expansionist assaults.
I played the druid (Tormuk Stormspeaker), and discovered I REALLY like the weather domain’s 1st level power — it does very little damage (and its nonlethal), but a foe hit takes -2 to attacks for 1 round (no save). That retains at least some utility well past the point of the damage being relevant. I had a really nice play experience, burning all but my last 2 buff spells in the first two encounters, and able to augment the barbarian and fighter before ambushing the serpent people, and becoming a wolverine to fight in hth.
I’m sure it helped that we were very specifically just passing time, and we knew if there were hiccups they were a result of it being a very casual, barely-planned session. And as a 1-shot, any weird issue could be shrugged off and never dealt with again. But we also had a LOT of fun… even if we had to point flashlights at the dice to see what we rolled.
I have a Patreon. It supports the time I take to do all my blog posts. If you’d like to see more gaming stories, (or Pathfinder 1st edition thoughts, or more rules for other game systems, fiction, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!