About GM Chris Mortika
(as vicar to Artful Dodger)
Character Creation Guidelines
These Character Creation Guidelines come from a fellow who called himself Artful Dodger on the boards. He fell away before he could get the campaign started, and I've taken over as GM in his place.
1. 7th Level PCs, from races and classes in the base Pathfinder RPG book. There's a new revision of the four classes from the "Advanced Players Guide" as of this past week. If you're interested in playing one of those classes, I'm fine with that.
2. 23,500 gold to spend on all equipment, magical and mundane (8000 gp limit for a single item).
3. 2 Traits per PC, only one of which may be a combat trait.
4. 20 point buy base for stats, from the chart on page 16 (modified per race and level advancement, of course).
5. Full hit points for first level, 1/2 hit points, round up, for each additional level. (Plus bonus hit points for high Constitution, plus any of those floating bonuses Pathfinder allows for favored class, which you decided to put into hit points rather than skill ranks.)
5a Reminder: From page 31: "Prestige classes can never be a favored class." Not even for half-elves with their Multitalented racial ability.
The northern wall of Bard’s Gate looks out over a vast river valley disappearing into purple hills in the hazy distance. The mighty gates fixed in that wall rarely open anymore. On the few occasions when the north gates do open to allow entrance to the occasional merchant caravan or especially daring traveler, they reveal a wide road, paved with great stone flags forming a smooth and level traveling surface striking due north for the hills. However, closer inspection reveals signs of a lack of maintenance, and after a few miles the road deteriorates into little more than a wide dirt track, overgrown with weeds and with only the occasional paving stone visible in the hard soil. It obviously sees little travel and even less care. Few from Bard’s Gate ever gaze out upon that hazy vista or care to think about what lies beyond those distant highlands. Fewer still are brave or foolish enough to make a journey in that direction. Bard’s Gate relies on its commerce from other roads in other directions and pays no mind to the north, for to the north, beyond the distant purple hills and across many leagues, lies the reminder of one of the most tragic moments in the history of the civilized kingdoms. To those who even care to remember, the north gate leads only to bad memories or mournful legend. To the rest it leads to where only madmen would dare to go — the ruined city of Tsar and the great Desolation that surrounds it.
Tsar, the great temple-city to the Demon Prince of the Undead, stood for centuries as a bastion of evil and hate. Foul beings of all kinds flocked to its mighty walls and found succor and purpose within. At Tsar’s center stood the great Citadel of Orcus, the black heart of the Demon Prince’s worship on earth. Countless evils were perpetuated in those corrupt precincts, and equally countless wicked plots were hatched and carried out therein.
Finally the goodly kingdoms could stand the presence of this festering boil in their midst no longer. The churches of Thyr and Muir led a delegation of good and neutral faiths to Graeltor, the last overking. Only with the backing of the nations’ secular armies would the holy churches be able to erase such a blight. In his last major pronouncement before the overthrow and fracturing of the kingdoms into the independent nations they are today, Overking Graeltor called for a mighty crusade to tear down the walls of Tsar and forever end the presence of Orcus worship in the world.
This crusader army, raised from all nations and almost every non-evil faith, became known as the Army of Light and marched for Tsar. In command of this army Graeltor placed his most trusted advisor, the archmage Zelkor. Supported by innumerable knight commanders, wizards, church patriarchs and scores of renowned heroes, Zelkor quickly advanced his army from its staging ground at Bard’s Gate, through Tsar’s outermost defensive positions and into the great plain that surrounded the evil temple-city itself. After many quick initial victories, however, the Army of Light suddenly found itself facing seemingly endless legions of every sort of vile warrior-race and fell outsider imaginable. Horrible beings had been called up from all over the multiverse, and they lined the battlements and fields before their citadel — one of the greatest fortresses ever erected in that time. The beginnings of doubt seeped into the ranks of the Army of Light.
However, hope was not lost as the heavens opened up and flight upon flight of angels and celestial beings descended from on high to swell the ranks of the Army of Light. With grim determination in both camps, battle was joined on the plain before the gates of Tsar. The war raged for over a year, the Army of Light advancing to the very foot of the walls and then being pushed back by a new surge of demonic power. The Grand Cornu, Orcus’s single highest-ranking priest on the mortal planes, led his initiates to throw every vile attack they could in defense of their foul city. Rains of horrific fire and acid fell from the skies or belched from fissures in the ground; great constructs crushed their foes before them; terrible clouds of poisonous gas choked entire regiments; and heretofore unknown plagues swept through the troops causing thousands of horrible deaths among the Army of Light. Nevertheless, the forces of good persevered and fought on.
Finally, though the forces of good appeared no closer to victory, the fates seemed to smile on the Army of Light. Unexpectedly, the evil stronghold fell. In a single night the entire city virtually emptied of defenders as they all were magically transported to a point several miles outside the city’s walls, complete with baggage train and mounts for many. The magical expenditure necessary to complete this miraculous maneuver cost the Grand Cornu his very life in sacrifice to Orcus, but the legions of the demon prince had broken free from the Army of Light’s cordon. They immediately fled before the stunned Army of Light, heading south.
Zelkor and his fellow commanders were immediately suspicious of this sudden retreat but could not afford to allow the combined followers of Orcus — still concentrated in one place — to escape and spread their insidious evil again. A cursory sweep of the city by scouts proved that the withdrawal was no ruse, so Zelkor left one of his most powerful heroes, the paladin Lord Bishu, with a company of knights to secure the citadel and hold it until the Army of Light could return and properly destroy it. Then, still with a small seed of doubt in his mind, Zelkor ordered the Army of Light in pursuit of the fleeing legions.
The tale of that long pursuit is an epic in itself. Finally the Army of Light cornered the forces of darkness in a forest near a rugged coastline. In anticipation of a great victory, the forest was prematurely named the Forest of Hope. The name proved to be a cruel irony, for in this forest the followers of Orcus had for many years been preparing a great trap in case of just such a circumstance. Both armies disappeared into the forest. Neither ever emerged. The Army of Light was lost to a man.
The shock of losing so many heroes, nobles, and powerful leaders reverberated throughout the kingdoms. The overking was dethroned in the unrest that followed. Minor wars erupted in the land as new factions swept in to fill sudden voids of leadership. When all was done, a semblance of peace was restored, and the maps were redrawn to reflect new allegiances and borders much closer to those of today. Some said the loss of so many was worth it for the eradication of the foul cult of Orcus. Others said the war itself had been a scheme concocted by the demon prince all along to destroy his most powerful enemies and sow hate and dissension throughout the civilized nations. Years later when a terrible graveyard and thriving dungeon complex devoted to Orcus was discovered in the Forest of Hope, popular opinion agreed with the latter theory. It seemed Orcus had not been eradicated after all — merely relocated, and once again his insidious evil began to spread throughout the lands.
For the past century some attention has been turned to delving into the so-called Dungeon of Graves and rooting out the evil now entrenched there. That complex is detailed in the Necromancer Games adventure series Rappan Athuk -- The Dungeon of Graves. However, what remained of the Tsar was a vast ruin, including many miles of surrounding wasteland, poisoned and scarred by the battling armies. It was all but forgotten — a bad memory, an eyesore, and a wilderness home for strange and fearsome beasts. The knights of Lord Bishu, left behind at Tsar, were likewise forgotten as they, too, were never heard from again. In the wake of the great tragedy at the Forest of Hope, no one was left alive who knew to check into the ruins themselves. The people of the civilized nations went on with their lives with, perhaps, a little less hope and optimism than before. Tsar was forgotten, and the land around it shunned and remembered only as the Desolation.
While the rest of the world looked southwards for the future, some few remembered the distant exotic markets of the far north. Those brave or foolish enough to try reopened the trade road that passed through the Desolation to once again reach the rich northern lands. Those that survived such treks and were able to trade the rare items they brought back made fortunes, but most who attempted the dangerous passage died — lost to the hazards of the Desolation. Eventually a small settlement of cutthroats and the worst kind of profiteering entrepreneurs sprang up on the southern fringe of the Desolation. This ramshackle cluster of dwellings, known simply as the Camp, serves as a staging ground for travelers to hire mercenary guards or fast mounts for the perilous run through the Desolation. Likewise it serves as a point of relative safety for those few managing to make it through from the north with or without goods in tow, often with denizens of the Desolation in hot pursuit. There is little to this unruly, fringe settlement, and many would-be adventurers meet their fates on its dirty streets without ever the journey out to the Desolation. Regardless, it manages to just barely eke out an existence by serving as a stopping point for those few travelers who dare to make the run.
These days, no one but miscreants and fortuneseekers pay much attention to the Camp and then only so they can pass through the Desolation as quickly and safely as possible. The temple-city’s ruins are universally avoided and little thought of. Why would anyone wish to go to almost certain death? What could still exist in the unknown holes and broken towers of Orcus’s greatest earthly bastion? What could lie undisturbed, awaiting some possibly preordained time to awaken in the ruins of slumbering Tsar?
Baccus Master of the Revels, who is also Dionysus the Mad God
Boube the Wrathful God, the god of barbarians and volcanoes.
Dre'uain the Lame god of crafting and the forge
Gromm the Thunderer, the god who genuinely likes humans
Freya, goddess of the Hearth and Fertility
Hecate the Somber Lady, goddess of magic, particularly turned towards selfish ends
Hel, Patroness of Death, Lady of Pestilence. Jealous rival to Orcus.
Father Kamizen the god of streams and rivers
Mirkeer, She who Dwells in Darkness, goddess of shadows
Mocavallo god of disguise and treachery
Muir, Lady of Virtue, Inspiration of Paladins
Ogham god of bards and song. He has a half-dozen servants and handmaidens, all of whom are worshipped as well.
Orcus Abyssal Master of the Dead and the Undead
Sefayreth god of commerce, trade, and coinage, one of the two gods of the city
Set the Black God of Evil and Night
Thursis the Slaughterer, the Charioteer, god of bloodshed in war
Thyr the Wizened King, god of laws and justice, one of the two gods of the city
Tsathogga the Pustulant, the frog god
Tybee, The Shy Lady goddess of Luck. Using her name is particularly unlucky.
Yenomesh god of glyphs and the written word
Zudastha the Wreathed Maiden, goddess of love
Four of the characters met while plumbing the Temple of Abysthor. This is their background:
North of the city of Bard’s Gate, in the hills of the Stoneheart Mountains, lie the ruins of twin shrines dedicated to Thyr and Muir—the God of Justice and the Goddess of Virtue and Paladinhood. Near the ruined shrines lies a series of catacombs used as burial halls for the followers of Thyr and Muir. Long abandoned, these catacombs are now home to various evil creatures. The complex has come to be known as the Stoneheart Mountain Dungeon.
In ages past, two vast temples to Thyr and Muir were erected in Bard’s Gate at the founding of that great city that still stands today. The priests of these noble gods erected smaller temples in a secluded valley to the north, known as the Valley of the Shrines. In the nearby hills they carved burial halls to house their fallen heroes. For years the worship of Thyr and Muir thrived, producing heroes and paladins of legend, some of whom are entombed in the burial halls.
But new gods came. And the worship of Thyr and Muir—both demanding deities— waned in favor of the more liberal gods of song, craft and commerce. Unable to maintain both the twin temples in Bard’s Gate and the complex in the Valley of the Shrines, the priests of Thyr and Muir returned their worship to Bard's Gate. Abandoned, the burial halls remained sacred places, and small groups of pilgrims continued to the sealed temples to pay respect to their fallen predecessors. As the years passed and the worship of Thyr and Muir declined further, the shrines in the northern valley fell to disuse and ruin. Only a handful of devoted priests, led by the high priest Abysthor, were left to continue the services. In his final years, Abysthor spent his days —bent with age and infirmity— in the main temple in commune with his deity. Declaring he had received a great vision, he traveled alone to the Valley of the Shrines, claiming he would return soon and that the glory of Thyr and Muir would be restored. Abysthor was never seen again. Many groups of priests followed after him, though none could brave the staggering corruption that had infested the abandoned burial halls.
Abysthor’s failed quest was taken as a sign of final decline of the faiths in Bard's Gate. For the last twenty years, no more paladins were ordained to Muir, the once-shining lady of virtue; no more priests entered the worship of Thyr, the once-great god of justice. Only a handful of acolytes now remain in the temples in Bard’s Gate, the cavernous temples falling to ruin, empty of worshipers.
The physical ruin of the shrines and burial halls is by far the least of the corruption of the once-holy sanctuaries. In the great caves beneath the burial halls, the tsathar, inhuman priests of the foul god Tsathogga, had raised a temple to their hideous demon-frog god. More vile still, a contingent of priests of Orcus—the god of the undead—recently came from the legendary Rappan Athuk to corrupt the burial halls and exploit the location as a base of operations. The followers of the two evil gods reached an uneasy truce. Both, however, sought a power darker still—the power of a legendary Black Monolith hidden somewhere in the caverns, sealed away long ago.
You were able to kill a gray slaad who claimed the rank of "the Most Foul of Tsathogga" and rout most of the tsathar forces, and break the foothold of Koraashag, the high priest of Orcus. (A nasty piece of work, that one. He memorized slay living as a common tactic, and had a word of recall contingency that kept foiling your chhances to take him out.) (You also turned him against both his lieutenant, the advanced wight Draeligor, and their erstwhile ally, Xarrr’x the Beholder.)
You faced “Dark Natasha,” a renegade drow sorceress, who sought refuge from the sun and a place to practice her demonic conjurations. And you temporarily allied yourself with Balcoth, an undead rune mage from another plane, before banishing him as well. (Balcoth had 21 rare tomes in his library; feel free to use this as justification for high knowledge ranks, or Nadeq's interest in the shadowrealms.)
Eventually, you found the "Tomb of Abysthor" himself, which supplied you with a key that teleported you to an inner sanctum, where you found an ancient construct known as the Black Monolith, the source of all the evil energies in the place, which all the other inhabitants were tapping. A sacrifice of 22 life levels from characters dedicated to Law and Goodness was necessary to break the Monolith's power.
There are still traces of evil and corruption in the shrines, but you've broken the major power blocs and the source of evil magics. You probably lost a few friends in the process, and you might well be reduced in power yourselves.
Cast of Characters
Alia Wolfsdottir, Ranger and her companion, Swiftpaws the wolf
Cast of Characters
Larcifer ........ Sachiko, human (Tian Xia) barbarian / sorcerer
Quandray ........ Yalka Kross-Dorm, human (Kellid) barbarian
niel ............ Milos Orislav
Gavgoyle ........ Martaug CrowsGizzard
Wandslinger ..... Kara Silvertongue, human (Taldan) fighter
Kelly ....... Valdisara, half-elf paladin
Cacosphinx ...... Grumblenaught, dwarven ranger
Deserach ........ Deserach, human (Keleshite) conjurer
Fax ............. Zosimus, human (Varisian) diviner
If Windrazor attacks: swoops down and attacks the giant ghoul wolf in P10-Q-11. (attack: , ) Neither claw lands an effective blow.
Windrazor doesn't have the Spring Attack feat, so the Ghoul Wolf will get an Attack of Opportunity against the bird as it moves off. (attack:; confirm critical: ; critical confirmed) (damage: doubled, or 46 points of damage) (paralysis and tripping seem irrelevant).