I am looking for some feedback on our 5th session. We are all new to Pathfinder and started by picking up the beginners box set. I'll add some direct questions at the end after recounting our session. For our 5th session this unfortunately got very broken, it got interrupted forcing us to break it into 2 halves and since our group had multiple house moves we were not able to play for several months. So we took some time after this to agree to a schedule rather than just playing when we can. So we now play on the first Sunday of each month. We also made a point to keep to time, since a new member joining us will be driving 45min to get here so I though it would be unfair for us to be so lax with start times and start 2 hours later than intended.

This session I had 3 objectives. First to grant some bonus XP to Methias who was a level behind, and second to teach the attack of opportunity rules. It is one of the last things the beginners box brings in. For anyone who has not done the beginners box, its actually not in the rules, its in the handout of what to add next. I also wanted to rebalance the way I was letting the rogue do rolls since after some reflection I was making it way too easy to do things he liked to do. Think Legolas in lord of the rings where he runs up the chain to get on an ogres head. Taerinar makes all of his attacks with this sort of crazy flare. So we had a chat about it. My view is that he is a low level adventurer, not a seasoned legendary hero. Its fine if he wants to attempt a triple backflip into a wall run to get a positional advantage in a fight but as a low level adventurer it is also likely he would fail such a convoluted move. I thought it only fair to pre-warn him that the rolls for this type of move would be more difficult. I must admit though that I am not too clear on the rules for non-standard attacks. I've been making stuff up on the fly based usually on acrobatics or sleight of hand. Its something I intend get more familiar with in our upcoming sessions but for now I figured it was best to just forge ahead and have a good time and worry about the hundreds of rules we don't know later.

Our story for this session was based around our fighter asking an NPC to train him. She chose to do this by applying a potion to their drinks, secretly, which will induce a shared dream state. All the players know is that they had a round of drinks in an inn and wake up in the middle of nowhere. They are then set upon by waves of increasingly difficult enemies. The last 2 waves are Ameiko, the NPC which the fighter is on love with, and then a custom boss I wrote. The Ameiko fight went really well. I started with her wearing a cloak so everyone would at least have a shot at her before her identity was revealed. She is 3 levels above the players and I've given her a good pair of weapons for this fight. It was great to see how the players resolved this fight because most of my players are murder hobos but meeting a player who is a valued friend they repeatedly tried to reason with, or subdue Ameiko in non-lethal ways, but due to Ameiko's over powered gear eventually they were forced to treat her as a threat and kill her. Before they did however the Cleric during this becomes convinced that they are in a dream state and stabs herself in the chest as she would rather risk being wrong than fight a trusted ally. The player at this point kept asking me to confirm it was a dream state, and of course I refused to confirm anything while the other players were still playing. Valerus the fighter also decides during this that this is Ameiko's way of testing him, since he asked for training and he decides to fight her. Despite being 3 levels above the party she is no match for the 3 remaining players once they commit to the combat and she goes down quickly, leaving 2 glowing orbs on the ground

The boss in this fight was intended to be practically unbeatable. I had a monster ready just incase but the premise of this session was to add increasingly difficult fights until the players all die, and then wake up from the shared dream state. They did try to run from the boss, which impressed me. I was really hoping they would start to try and overcome some fights by retreating or subterfuge. Sadly there was no way to leave. I also though it might be good for them to learn their limits without any consequences to their death. The boss was based on "Monstro" from the binding of Isaac. He would leap into the air for several combat rounds, leaving a shadow marker where he will land. This gave players time to reposition. He also had a bite attack that was 3 tiles wide. Monstro was 10ft wide but sites on a central square and then the 8 outer squares are passable but at half speed. Any player in one of those squares at the end of Monstro's turn also takes damage. After some attempts to reposition and tackle Monstro from range they inevitably go down easily since they no longer have a healer.

When they all die they wake up at a table in the inn with 2 glowing orbs on the table. Ameiko points them in the direction of the town magic shop to ask what they are. One is identified as an "Orb of Essence" which contains some of the skills and essence of the person it was taken from. In this case it is a rogue. This item effectively grants one level in Rogue to whoever uses it. It will catch up the other rogue. While this was partly shoehorned in to forcefully give some bonus XP to the rogue and put him level with the rest of the party, part of our longer story involves a big bad experimenting with stealing the memories and skills from one person to transfer them to another. Sometimes by subtle means with a slow bleed, sometimes with more dramatic means which kill a victim in order to steal their essence and grant it to another. Our fighter accidentally became part of this experiment when he consumed (yes hes a special boy) a toy which was actually an enchanted item designed to steal essence from one person and transfer it to another. The party of course have no idea of this yet, but they do know that Valerus consuming a toy has some random, usually beneficial, effects.

So going forward theres a few things I am really stuck on. I want my players to be able to explore town more and I'm looking for advice on how to make this more natural. I'm stuck with the issue that I myself am not very familiar with many of the NPCs and shops in town. I could of course send them on a quest which starts with visiting INSERTNPCHERE for more information first but that seems a very long winded way to introduce the towns characters. I think I'm just going to at the very least become familiar with all the shop owners and other notable NPCs so I can be ready to improvise should the party explore town.

The other issue I have is I want to start bringing my NPCs to life more but I'm not really good at doing voices. I struggles to even get some characters voices clear in my head. Does anyone have any advice for improving

Also posted to reddit here https://www.reddit.com/r/Pathfinder_RPG/comments/aib0jr/feedback_pease_5th_session_long_break_character/