In my campaign, Kendra came to Lepidstadt, where she stayed at the university in order to research methods of contacting the dead. She became obsessed with speaking to her father, to find out the identity of his killer. She convinced the witch PC to help her perform a dangerous ritual (adapted from Zombie Press's "Incantations From the Other Side"). When the PCs got into the trial, they sort of forgot about Kendra, which had been my plan.
During Chapter 2, the PCs also met Avidion Adrissant. He was a jerk to them, and Kendra implied that he'd had a falling-out with Petros shortly before his death.
After returning from Schloss Caromac, the PCs checked in, but Kendra had disappeared after trashing her dormitory room. Some witnesses saw her leaving town with the Crooked Kin (with whom my PCs were not on good terms...a long story). The need to assure Kendra's safety became a B-plot motivation for the PCs, and they inquired after her at each stop in Chapters 3 and 4.
Written on the wall in blood was "Vrood" -- the first time my PCs had seen the name.
Enroute to Caliphas from Illmarsh, the PCs met the Kin again. Caleb told them they'd dropped Kendra off at the Haraday Theatre, where she said friends of her father hung out. When the PCs entered the theatre, they encountered two figures fencing on the stage. They remove their masks and greet the PCs: Kendra and her fiance, Avidion.
That's as far as the campaign has gone, and I'm of two minds about where to go next. The easiest route would be to substitute Kendra for Count Galdana, but I loathe the damsel in distress trope. Plus the PCs are suspicious of Avidion, so I'd rather go with the unexpected.
Thus Kendra could be the mastermind, having deceived the PCs by feigning madness in order to stay close enough to observe them. And Avidion could be her pawn, and/or even the last heir of Tar-Baphon.
Or perhaps Petros Lorrimor is the BBEG -- Avidion's former master in the Whispering Way, he was betrayed by AA and murdered by Vrood. Now, he has corrupted Kendra's mind and steered her close to AA in order to get revenge...and somehow find a way to bring himself back to the material plane, to make a final claim upon the Carrion Crown.
This second option still makes Kendra something of a victim, but it affords more chances for autonomy (or, failing that, at least some juicy psychodrama).
Hello! My PCs are just starting CC #5, after slogging through a heavily modified version of "Wake of the Watcher" (I say "slogging" because, even after my attempts to streamline it, and tie it into characters' stories, that chapter still induced a lot of campaign fatigue). And, for the first time, I find myself running a game with mostly evil PCs!
The details aren't really important; suffice it to say, the moral quandaries in "Watcher," combined with a lot of increasingly selfish motivations, served to tip the scales. At the end of that chapter, I dropped in a Contract Devil and gave the PCs the chance to sell their souls; all but one PC signed on the dotted line.
Now I'm wondering how best to proceed, in order to keep the AP on the rails. Making deals with
in Chapter 5 won't be a problem, obviously. But what should I do if the PCs don't feel inclined to chase the Whispering Way into Chapter 6?
I'm also keen to hear any general advice about running campaigns with evil PCs. I'm delighted to have the opportunity (the idea of "corrupting evil" has intrigued me since the days of the Ravenloft box set), but I expect it will be my only chance, so I want to do right by my players.
I love DoomCrow's twist, and have been planning a similar device to bring Petros back late in the game. But I also really respect what Tirisfal has to say.
It wouldn't surprise me if the Carrion Crown authors deliberately made Count Galdana the "damsel in distress" in order to subvert a sexist gender trope. That's not to say you can't change it for your own campaign, but it's worth considering the effects of taking the road less traveled.
A friend of mine contributed to the development of Phoenix, a set of superhero expansion rules for d20 Modern. The results are free, and available at http://phoenixprojectrpg.com/
I was involved with a few playtests, so while I might be biased towards the system, I also have a pretty good idea of how it plays out. The goal was to create some modicum of balance between the Supermans and Batmans of the superhero world (that is, heroes who come with massive superpowers built right in, and heroes who tinker or train their way to the top).
The results aren't perfect -- as the site notes repeatedly, players who seek to break the game will almost certainly find ways to succeed -- but it's a fun, accessible system, especially for those of us who feel most comfortable with d20 rules. Character creation takes time, but can be delightful, considering the range of powers, feats, and gadgets. There are even rules to include magic and psionics (under "F/X").
Check it out!
There's a lovely ambiguity in the name "Stolen Lands," because everyone can assume it was stolen from them. If there are tiny elven outposts, they may recall (or believe) that the elves once dominated the region, but it was "stolen" from them by humans. Likewise, the humans (in Brevoy for instance) may assume the elves stole it from them.
With this conflict, your half-elf has his work cut out for him; but his half-breed status also positions him perfectly to unite the different factions, if he plays his cards right.
So, basically I'm saying, yes. You've got the right idea.
My campaign world-in-progress is set on a flat planet, which allows me to throw away all conventional wisdom about planetary physics, meteorology, etc. and invent fresh.
For a map, I researched and adapted a medieval map of the world prior to the discovery of North and South America. It's ideal for my purposes because, while some aspects of it will seem vaguely familiar, it really does look like an alien world. If you are stuck (or even if you're just curious), I highly recommend researching very old maps.
That said, the donjon map generator linked to above is also pretty cool.
My homebrew campaign has a few verboten classes; most significant is the wizard, since the PCs are rebels in an empire where arcane magic is strictly controlled, so none of them would have access to spellbooks.
This choice was partly motivated by my growing frustration with wizards. They're fine mechanically, but at higher levels their sheer volume of spells becomes awkward for players to manage. I've had players record, memorize, and cast spells...and only then bother to look up their specific details. They can't keep track of the range, duration, etc. of all the spells they're flinging around, so it falls to the GM (me) to look it all up.
I expect the same would go for magus and summoner, but no one in my campaigns ever expressed any interest in playing them.
(Oh yeah, paladins are also out, but that's more a matter of campaign world flavour (standard dark-and-gritty).)
Hi, I just received a notice that AP chapters #60 and #61 are preparing to ship. It had been my intention to cancel my AP subscription after receiving AP #60. Hopefully that is still possible.
I wish I could continue my subscription, but my financial situation has changed. I will still enjoy purchasing Paizo products on an individual basis, when my pocketbook permits.
Thanks very much!
Doesn't "ruined town" imply a history in and of itself? Won't each building you design have its own original purpose, suggesting what treasure might be left behind, what creatures might have moved in, and so forth?
Unless you are literally generating rooms and encounters at random, I don't see how you can avoid past and future in your design.
I don't have the books in front of me, but aren't the PCs supposed to be approached by the Prince's Wolves after the Stairs of the Moon, with a potential alliance in mind? This tribe can pick up the scent of the Jezeldans travelling with the WW.
As for the consecration ritual, if the PCs are resting in the Tower, then Desna could visit their dreams and beseech them to help purify her tower.
I have seen at least one Paizo product that makes use of the principle that (polluted) water conducts electricity.
In Crypt of the Everflame,
a flooded room contains azure fungus which discharges electricity if disturbed. Because of the water, everyone in the room takes 3d6 electrical damage.
RuyanVe's point is a good one (and s/he did not strike me as especially negative). The Kingmaker AP is mostly about running a kingdom, and I think it is assumed that most of the nation's population will be human. Would a human nation happily allow themselves to be ruled by goblins? In my campaign, the queen and councilor are a half-elf and a dwarf, and even THAT causes some tension with the humans (to say nothing of the kobold alliance, or the tentative pact with the fey).
But it's also your GM's job to make your choices work. I would suggest talking to them before you settle on a race, and asking them how it might affect THEIR version of Kingmaker.
You write, "The key thing is what best way to survive in the kingsmaker adventure path setting?" My answer: race is less important than class. Choose a class that complements the rest of the party, plus maybe think of a class (or an archetype) that operates well in natural environments. Especially in the first half of the AP, there are a lot of forest encounters. Maybe a catfolk ranger who can extend their bonuses to the rest of the party?
When your gaming sessions are so far apart, hooks like Professor Lorrimor dry up quickly. He's somewhat abstract to begin with, since he is a mentor for the characters, yet the players never get to meet him.
I have used Kendra's ongoing presence as a living reminder that the PCs need to avenge the Professor's murder. While they were defending the Beast in Lepistadt, I had Kendra ransacking the university's library to find necromantic rituals with which she could contact her father (sidebar: rituals are great gothic flavour. I recommend Zombie Press's "Incantations from the Other Side" supplement for this).
If you level her up along with the PCs, Kendra can hold her own in combat, which helps justify her use from the players' perspective. For the GM, she's invaluable for keeping the PCs focused; while they scrounge around for gold or glory, she can be single-minded, spot clues the PCs miss, and generally keep them on the rails.
Also, don't forget that meta-gaming can sometimes be your friend. Before a session, you're justified in saying, "Look, this part of the module doesn't have a very strong hook, but you're gonna love the combat encounters, so please just play along."
I have a ranger in my campaign who wants to make his own magic arrows -- or, failing that, to collaborate with the party's sorcerer to make them. But I'm having trouble finding information about enchanting arrows, and I need your help with the cost-benefit analysis.
How much does it cost to craft masterwork arrows?
The ranger is 5th level, so he wouldn't be able to take Craft Magic Arms and Armor until 8th. But he could max out his Craft ranks to make masterwork arrows, and convince his sorcerer buddy could take that feat at 5th.
Any advice would be helpful, thanks!
I'm actually doing prep work for this adventure path, except I am eliminating books 1 and 2 and substituting the Kobold King series of modules.
That seems like a shame, since "The Haunting of Harrowstone" is a fabulous kick-start to the AP, and maybe the best haunted-house module ever written. "Kobold King" is a serviceable dungeon-crawl, but it isn't on the same level as "Harrowstone."
"Trial of the Beast" is loads of fun too.
Agreed. Most of the writers drew inspiration either from gothic horror literature, or from the films inspired by gothic writing, especially the Universal horror films of the 1930s. The exception is Book 4, which owes its content almost exclusively to Lovecraft's stories (particularly "The Shadow Over Innsmouth").
Read Dracula, and then steal liberally from its prose to give your flavour text the right tone. Other relevant reading includes:
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
You can get by in CC without undead specialists. But I notice a lack of healing in your party. Unless your witch takes a lot of cure spells, or your rogue carries a couple of cure wands, your party is going to be exclusively reliant on potions, which could be trouble.
As my CC campaign nears the half-way mark, my thoughts turn to "Wake of the Watcher." Initially, I thought I'd run this adventure more or less as written, but so far I've managed to maintain a strong gothic feel to our version of Ustalav, and I'm anxious about the effect that Lovecraftian horror will have upon it.
So I've decided to make some radical alterations -- keeping the same locations and (mostly) structure to the module, but changing the story and threats to fit a high-gothic, low(er)-magic campaign. To do this, I have incorporated three elements, most of which come from Victorian Gothic fiction. Since this writing is contemporaneous with early sci-fi (H.G. Wells and Jules Verne), there is still a slightly fantastical element to my version of events, but no unspeakable terrors from between the stars.
The elements I used as inspiration are:
With those things in mind, I welcome any suggestions to help fill in the details of my revised WotW. I'm especially shaky with math, so suggestions on ways to match the CR ratings of WotW encounters would be a big help.
Horatius Croon met Taian Zhu in Minata, where they shared accommodations at Jiaolung Academy. Young Croon had travelled from the far side of the world, having come of age in Ustalav. He crossed the globe to study Tian engineering, but Taian was a different breed of genius: a polyglot historian, he dabbled in dozens of esoteric subjects, but his secret obsession was diabolism. Drawn together despite their vast differences, the two became friends, and proceeded to travel the Dragon Empires together...until their friendship was split, and for the oldest of reasons.
Lai Feng was Taian’s betrothed, but her heart was only for Horatius. The lovers eloped, narrowly escaping Taian’s wrath; Croon left his dear friend a letter of apology, but he was careful to omit any clue to where he and Lai Feng might hide. And, indeed, he chose the most unlikely honeymoon in the world, taking his lovely bride to live in Illmarsh. He knew it as place to which no one ever goes, and from which no word chances to emerge.
But Croon slipped up. He forgot that, years earlier, he’d chanced to mention Illmarsh to Taian Zhu, while they were discussing the construction of pagan stone circles. Croon had recalled reading of a seven-stone menhir on Tern Rock near Illmarsh; he speculated it was similar to a wayang stone circle on one of Minata’s Wandering Isles. Somehow, Taian’s dredged this reference up from memory, and one day, he arrived in Illmarsh, purchased the property on Tern Rock, and stole Lai Feng back through wicked enchantments.
That was thirty years ago. Croon still lives near Illmarsh, pathetically hoping his bride will return to him; but neither he nor any of the villagers have seen Lai Feng or Taian Zhu for decades. No one knows the dark secrets of Undiomede House, the manor built around the stone circle generations before. The locals know it as a foster home for girls, supported by the temple of Gozreh as a mercy for the impoverished and overpopulated village. They suspect that the girls are eventually sent to the Neighbours Down Bay, but they do not ask questions. There is no one to ask.
In fact, shortly after arriving in Illmarsh, Taian used the menhir to summon a contract named Valefar. The mad genius exchanged his soul for three simple wishes: first, the undying love of Lai Feng; second, an army at his command; and third, the secret of eternal youth. In payment, the devil awakened an “army” of skum from hibernation deep beneath the earth. Furthermore, he activated the skums’ long-dormant mental powers, including the bizarre ability to transfer consciousness from one body to another. This is how Taian stays young; he has recently transferred his mind into the body of an eight-year-old foster child named Mara. But his new, less imposing form has caused skum morale to falter, so Taian/Mara made a deal with the Whispering Way, in order to obtain an ancient idol worshipped by the skum.
The PCs ride from Feldgrau to Thrushmoor, where their defeat of a Whispering Way assassin leads them to Illmarsh. After an initial run-in with Horace Croon, the PCs explore the town, but find only xenophobia and fear. One drunken sailor complains to them about the recent theft of his boat (it was stolen by WW agent Gaster Lucas to transport the Seasage Effigy to Undiomede House). Then a frantic ten-year-old girl begs the PCs to rescue her infant sister, whose parents have just “fostered” her to the Temple of Gozreh.
The PCs discover that the Temple is a front for aspiring devil worshippers. They rescue six girls from the clerics’ clutches, but learn that a far greater threat awaits those children who have already been sent to Undiomede House, on Tern Rock. Using Croon’s trawler (or stealing a boat for themselves), the PCs cross Avalon Bay and arrive at Undiomede House, where they are greeted coldly by Matron Jessop, who seems to be the only ward for thirteen girls.
Undiomede House is haunted, both by daemons drawn by past atrocities, and by the devils that serve Taian (in fact, Matron Jessop herself is a disguise shared by a trio of polymorphed Greater Host Devils). As the PCs investigate the House’s strange goings-on, they discover that one of the girls now houses Taian’s mind—but even as they learn this, the skum attack the manor, absconding with the other children. Now the PCs must trust Taian/Mara to guide them to their underwater complex—or else brave the dark waters themselves.
Deep below Tern Rock, the PCs fight their way past a monstrous sea creature and in-fighting skum before rescuing the kidnapped children. Here, they learn the fate of Gaster Lucas, the WW’s contact whom Taian betrayed (keeping the Raven’s Head mace here for himself). They also discover Lai Feng, the once-lovely subject of Croon and Taian’s feud, now mutated and driven mad by exposure to the skum’s psychic energies. The PCs’ final confrontation is with Valefar, the Contract Devil who awakened the skum, and who rallies the grotesque beasts to defend him. What role Taian (or Croon) takes in this battle depends on how the PCs treat Lai Feng. Regardless, the PCs must escape from the aquatic nightmare with the Raven’s Head mace, their key to defeating the plot of the Whispering Way.
You've done some impressive integration work here. As an old-school Ravenloft player, I'm having some trouble accepting that Strahd von Zarovich would be a minor player in the Whispering Way conspiracy--but if your players have never heard the name before, I doubt they'd think twice about it. I'm also not sure why a vampire would follow the Way.
I had AA appear first in Lepistadt. He was described as the "Golden Boy" of Caliphas University (and a former student of Professor Lorrimor's).
When my PCs find the note on Vrood's body, I plan to have it signed "AU" not "AA." That should keep my PCs guessing until they hear the nickname "Golden Boy" again. Then the party's Alchemist will probably figure out that "AU" is the symbol for gold.
I agree with Trinite, the layout of the chapter was my biggest source of frustration.
My party was off the rails before they even got through the front gates of the Lodge, so it's hard for me to judge its playability as written.
I think it's supposed to feel like a claustrophobic (ie. "crammed") murder mystery, with the twist that the werewolf is really a ghost, and the ghost is being controlled by a wizard (and he would've got away with it too, if it weren't for you nosy kids!). And I think it could succeed if a GM played up the atmosphere (for instance, I set mine during a howling hurricane which, coincidentally, kept the PCs trapped inside the Lodge), and the PCs acknowledged the needs of the genre and accepted a bit less control in the early stages.
But all in all, I'm glad to be past it and on to the werewolf jamboree.
Sure, that makes sense. The party's alchemist will probably take Lesser Restoration etc., and he already has the Share Infusion discovery.
What happens at the end of Book 3 that would facilitate a Heal spell? I could see bundling it up with
the Halo of Dreams
but I don't see a lot of opportunities for healing magic in
My game is only starting to reach the point where ability drain is a threat. I'm not sure how I will address in the short term, but eventually I think the Order of the Palatine Eye will equip each PC with a medallion that can cast restoration 1/day.
No paladins. Nope nope nope. And yes, I'm making some changes to encounters, but you'd be surprised how many of them can play out as written, provided you change some colour text to make it less obvious what spells/magic items are being used.
gustavo iglesias wrote:
I won't outlaw clerics, but making them a monotheist god seems appropiate. Maybe 2-3 gods, or versions of the same god (like Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinists etc). I do feel religion is VERY important in this kind of setting, though. Inquisition and witch hunting make for a good atmosphere.
I should clarify: I didn't outlaw religion, only divine magic. My setting does employ a monotheism (Pharasma) with many pagan gods and cults (Desna, Urgathoa, etc.). Some of the evil NPC clerics may get spells as a result of deals with devils.
If a player had really wanted to play a cleric (or oracle), I would have made her keep her spells a secret, just like the witch. But I discouraged those class choices because I thought it would reduce the sense of horror to have constant access to cure spells.
(Of course, both the witch and alchemist PCs chose cure spells as soon as they had access to them...so, yeah...)
gustavo iglesias wrote:
How far have you got into the adventure?
Mid-way through Broken Moon. The initial premise that "magic is mere superstition" has largely fallen by the way-side, but there is still a satisfying sense of Gothic mystery at the start of each chapter, as the PCs discover what their next nemesis will be, and role-play their ignorance, as in: "Werewolves? Do those really exist? I've only heard legends and whispers...how do we defeat them?"
My campaign is low-magic and high-gothic. I did not introduce firearms -- my characters did not seem interested in them, and I knew they wouldn't help much against many of the creatures they would face.
Since CC has the characters coming to Ustalav from distant lands, I gave them some choices (inspired by, but heavily modified from, the Golarion setting) which effectively let them choose what era they were from. Thus the sword-and-shield Fighter arrived from Irrisen, an isolated and superstitious land that still clung to medieval practices; whereas the Alchemist and Witch came from more "civilized" lands where technology had begun to replace magic (the Witch was a fugitive from an inquisition).
To keep the low-magic feel in place, I prohibited several base classes, including Wizard and Sorcerer. The Gothic feel didn't mesh well with polytheism and divine magic, so I even outlawed Clerics. These are extreme measures, and I wouldn't expect other GMs to go this far; but if your players are on board with the Gothic setting, they might be willing to compromise with you in some respects.
To compensate for a potentially huge power imbalance, I have made other changes, including legacy items, a more democratic healing system and the liberal distribution of hero points. So far, it's working well to maintain a sense of dread and menace in the game. The players sometimes grouse about the general lack of magic treasure, but nobody has threatened to leave the table yet [crossing fingers].
In my opinion, a Chaotic Good character can still harbour prejudices (ie. against goblins or necromancers), and it was a reasonable deduction that the necromancer in the bar was connected to the zombies in the woods. Let the cleric of Wee Jas demonstrate his good intentions somehow, and see if the rogue eases up.
Failing that, get the player to nail down his character's prejudices -- make his make a list -- and then stop exposing him to good-aligned examples of those things. Let him beat up a few goblins; it comes with the territory.
I think you need a very mature, very dedicated group of gamers to make Kingmaker thrive. It's not a standard AP, and it expects the PCs to get invested in things that they normally wouldn't give a hoot about (exploration for its own sake, politics, a feudal economy). Plus (as you have discovered) it's a LOT of work for a GM, so doubly frustrating if the PCs don't buy in.
It sounds like you've been burned a few times before when running Adventure Paths. Why not adopt a more episodic approach to gaming for awhile, at least until (a) your players prove their commitment, and (b) you get a better sense of what sort of gaming they enjoy. Run some stand-alone modules or Pathfinder scenarios.
If it works out and you feel compatible, then you can start fresh at level 1, or else steer the existing campaign into a more epic narrative.
In my game, the birth didn't happen yet. If it were to happen, I would try to run it as a non-combat encounter, with the demon-wolf-child escaping as you suggested. But I would try to add a few details to suggest the little critter has a great deal of power -- flight perhaps, maybe concealment or DR -- anything to ramp up the PCs expectations that, if or when they encounter it again, it will definitely put up a fight.
I assume it happens before the "tower" encounter that is at the start of Broken Moon?
I deleted that encounter, and inserted the plot item into a different event. You could certainly keep the tower, and present them in any order you prefer.
How did the "demon child" encounter work out in your game? That is the only one that confused me a bit.
Yeah, sorry about the vagueness there. I didn't think it was necessary to get into all the character-specific stuff. But since you asked:
One of my PCs is a witch from Absalom in search of her sister (also a witch). I plan on modifying the backstory of the hags in "Ashes of Dawn" to include the PCs' sister. Essentially, the "pregnant" hag is Oothi, and the trauma of her supernatural delivery causes her to break down and become trapped in spider swarm form. The midwife is one of the other two hags, and the PCs' sister will eventually make her appearance as number three.
Since I sent my PC off to retrieve an ingredient for the witches, she may yet return to the inn. So I don't know how it's going to play out yet. I'll let you know!
Great ideas, thanks for sharing.
My CC game is likewise set in a post-medieval setting, with Ustalav as the superstition-laden Transylvania analogue. One of the changes I felt most necessary was the elimination of wide-spread divine magic (in fact, there are only two churches permitted to operate, and their clerics do not have spells or channeling). This, obviously, leads to difficulties surrounding hit point recovery. Do you have any similar problems (or suggestions to compensate)?
I had forgotten about the Taint system, and now that you've reminded me, I wonder if it may be possible to introduce it mid-stream. The PCs have started to amass magic items (which are rare, as in your game), and I feel that some of them should contain curses, but I'm having trouble finding mechanics-based penalties that can lead to role-playing (as opposed to player griping).
I'm using character-specific relics, too. The system is adapted from the 3.5 splatbook Weapons of Legacy, although I've tweaked the "penalties" system considerably. I had hoped that the characters' individual relic items would keep them happy throughout the campaign, but now that they are hitting 7th level, they are beginning to yearn for some of the standard stuff, ie. AC-boosting items, +1 weapons, ability-boosting gear, and of course healing potions.
And yet, I can't quite justify going E7 (especially not mid-stream, but maybe not ever). I find my players take so much joy in watching their power levels increase, it would feel like taking the wheels off their toy cars if I stopped their progression. I realize that Pathfinder above level 10 is so magic-heavy and epic-flavoured that no trace of the gothic may remain, but I feel like that's my compromise for getting the tone I wanted in earlier sessions.
Maybe there's a middle ground between armour-shunning gentlemen vampire hunters and magic-soaked knights of badassery?
Great journal! I am also running Carrion Crown (currently starting Broken Moon), and I chose to adapt the setting to a approximate a low-magic, high-gothic feel. From these and other posts, it sounds as if you've done something similar. I wonder if you would care to provide specifics about the changes you've made to keep CC close to its gothic roots?
Does anyone have a suggestion for a quick mechanical adjustment that would allow a GM to remove the greatswords and longbows etc. from the werewolves in Chapter 3, without reducing their CR?
I feel that natural attacks are better for the mood and genre, plus they always carry the inherent risk of infection. However, I'd rather not re-do all the wolves' stats if I can avoid it. Thanks!
I think the timeline is meant to be a bit flexible, so that you can adapt it to serve the needs of your campaign.
In my case, I simply assumed that Gibs was able to paint one letter per night. But I also took pains to ensure that the PCs got to the monument early (the town's stray dog led a PC there after the first letter).
If your PCs are taking it easy in Ravengro, doing lots of research and role-playing, consider spreading out the timeline to allow them more breathing room.
I don't think the Ravengrans are supposed to see the letters on their own. Maybe no one hangs around the monument any more. But once the PCs point the letters out to them, they would certainly dispatch somebody to clean them off. Which makes it even creepier if they start appearing somewhere else...
Hmm, it's hard to summarize, and it may depend upon the preferences of your players and your own style as a GM.
Kingmaker is a sandbox, which means the GM constantly needs to have a handle on many different possible encounters, because the PCs can go just about any direction at any time. In "Stolen Land," this means brushing up on ALL the hex-based encounters (maybe prepare recipe cards?), as well as the timeline of events that result from the bandits' attacks on Oleg's Trading Post.
Many GMs also make liberal use of the wandering monsters table, to compensate for the phenomenon of the "15-minute adventuring day" (ie. one encounter per hex = one encounter per day, so PCs are ALWAYS well rested and topped up on spells). If you plan to use this table, you may also need to prepare cards or sheets for any of the monsters they may encounter. Some wandering encounters are very high-powered, so you may wish to introduce them more subtly (eg. trolls sighted from a distance, thereby giving the PCs the choice not to engage).
Kingmaker introduces new rules systems gradually, so you needn't worry about them all at once. But when you get to Book 2, you'll need to become conversant with the kingdom building rules. I highly recommend you use one of the Excel-based worksheets to keep track of this. Or maybe your PCs don't care about Build Points, and you can just let their kingdom grow in the background.
One of the biggest challenges (and rewards) for me as a GM has been the number of NPCs both within and beyond the borders of the PCs' nation. If you allow it to expand in all directions (ie. River Nations to the west, Galt to the south, internecine political craziness in Brevoy to the north), you could easily end up with a George R.R. Martin-sized list of players and pawns. Maintain lists, charts, family trees, and try to stay one step ahead of the players -- since, even in a high-magic game, word of political developments may take time to make its way into the hinterlands.
As far as game-breakers go, some players have complained that the Stag Lord encounter is too tough, and the Dancing Lady in the tower (Book 2) is a potential TPK as well. Several encounters in Book 3's dungeon crawl are quite deadly -- but by then, you'll know more about your party's power balance, and can adjust accordingly.
I hope you find some of that helpful! KM is a masterpiece, and I'm sure you will have a blast running it. Stay in touch!
My gamers just started Broken Moon this week. To spice up the journey through the Shudderwood, and to provide some teasers and clues concerning all the werewolf clans, I designed a mostly-flavour encounter in the haunted ruins of an inn. It did a good job of intriguing (and creeping out) my players, so I thought I'd share it with the boards.
The timing of the encounter presumes that PCs are taking the Silent Path to Ascanor Lodge, and that the journey takes more than a day (it's over 50 miles from Lepidstadt, which I decided was two days by horseback).
"As twilight tightens its grip upon the Shudderwood, all sounds of nature fall away. But through the gloaming, your ears pick up the faintest sound of music. Distant torchlight flickers through the trees, beckoning you from just beyond the path. As you draw near its source, you are surprised to find the first sign of hospitality since you entered the forest: a two-storey building made of sturdy stone, adjoined by stables and other well-kept outbuildings. Above the main door, a sign depicts a peaceful deer at rest, with the name 'The Slumbering Hart' curled around it like a blanket."
In fact, the Slumbering Hart has not been inhabited for centuries. The lights and music are part of an elaborate Haunt that also involves the spirits of those who stayed at the Hart in better days. Most of the phantom NPCs awaiting within have ties to the forest's various werewolf packs, although this may not become clear to the PCs until later in the game.
In my game, I did not provide any initial opportunity to detect or resist the haunt. But my players quickly suspected something was amiss, based on a few clues. For example, an Appraise or Know(History) check might reveal that the bartender's coinage is over 200 years old; or a Know(Religion) check might suggest that Padre Mordrin's (see below) clerical robes have not been used by Desnan priests for generations. My PCs initially thought they'd traveled back in time!
The most boisterous guests are a quartet of Szcarni hunters who call themselves the Prince's Men. They are playing poker in the inn's common room, and will allow PCs to join the game, but will try to cheat them (Bluff checks etc.). If accused of cheating, the Szcarni defend their honour verbally, but do not engage in violence. One of them will show the PCs a bronze medallion depicting a crowned wolf; he says, "When you meet the Szarni of the Prince's Men, you do not challenge them. You bend your head and say, 'your honour, sir.'"
This clue may help the PCs when they need to establish an alliance with the Prince's Wolves in Part Three. Perception checks will reveal that Rhakis Szadro wears a similar medallion; if they show the proper respect for him, they will gain his respect and support more quickly.
In the corner of the common room, a silver-haired Desnan priest sits alone, wringing his hands and muttering to himself. This is the original cleric whose son first brought the curse of lycanthropy to the Shudderwood, during the reign of the Whispering Tyrant. The priest concealed his son and experimented upon him, ultimately infecting his own congregation with the curse (as described Part Three).
If PCs approach Mordrin and win his trust, he will reveal some of his sins to them, but his confession is fragmented and cryptic. For instance: "It was all for the good of the boy. He was so sick, he was so hungry ... I didn't mean to infect them all. My poor flock ... I thought he would be safe, in the adytum ... I never meant for it to come to this."
The word "adytum" is odd enough that it may stick in PCs' memories. A clever PC might even think to look the word up while researching in Ascanor. Alternatively, you could offer them a Know(religion) check to define it. In any case, this provides a clue for the PCs while they are searching the Stairs of the Moon in Part Three.
The demon child:
Cries from upstairs suggest a young woman is in pain. A raven-haired midwife descends the stairs, demanding food and water from the barkeep. If any of the PCs are arcane spellcasters (especially witches) or evil clerics, the midwife might ask them for help. Her ward appears to be a bedridden young woman, very pregnant and utterly ravenous.
In fact, both of these women are hags who worship Jezelda, the Mistress of the Hungry Moon. Jezelda spitefully answered the hags' requests for power by infecting one of them with a demonic parasite; her insatiable hunger is a result of the demon's swift gestation.
This encounter could play out in many different ways; in my case, I used it as a hook for a sub-quest (the widwife asked our party's witch to retrieve some "herbal remedies" from Ascanor). If the PCs attempt to help or cure the pregnant hag, they may trigger the demon's violent birth. The demon is a coal-furred wolf-child -- foreshadowing the Demon Wolves whom the PCs encounter in Feldgrau.
Credit: this encounter was partly inspired by the adventure "Call of the Spider Crone" by Tim Connors, in "Tales of the Old Margreve."
Dorzhev the Woodcutter:
A short, russet-haired woodsman sits at the bar, sweating profusely. He orders water by the gallon, and complains about the heat (though the PCs do not feel hot). A Heal check or an appropriate spell reveals Dorzhev is running a high fever, but he refuses to accept treatment. When the other encounters have run their course, Dorzhev will suddenly leap from his stool, screaming in pain and tearing at his clothes.
Since this will be the first lycanthrope the PCs encounter, I chose to make his transformation particularly sinister and weird. The PCs witness Dorzhev transform into a "Broken One" -- but in my campaign, I decided to change this tribe to "Burnt Ones," and to make Dorzhev's metamorphosis appear like spontaneous combustion; his skin erupts in boils and burns, and finally he bursts into flames. When the flames subside, his hybrid werewolf appears charred and skinless, and he howls in pain as well as rage. This flavour need not affect the stats of later Dorzhanevs, although I suppose one could easily slap fire resistance and/or cold vulnerability on them.
After he transforms, Dorzhev will attack the nearest targets. At this point, I gave my PCs Perception checks to detect the Haunt; if they fail, they are vulnerable to damage from the wolf's attacks (although not to the curse of lycanthropy). After 1 round, Padre Mordrin will throw himself into the fray, demanding that Dorzhev devour him, as penance for the priest's blasphemies. If the PCs do not intervene, Dorzhev will disembowel Mordrin; meanwhile, the flames from his transformation will spread to engulf the inn.
I did not intend for this to be a combat-focused encounter, so I ended the Haunt two rounds after Dorzhev's transformation. Your mileage may vary; but I feel it's better to reveal the phantom nature of the inn and its inhabitants quickly after violence erupts. Once the Haunt ends, the inn becomes an abandoned ruin, but a few scorch marks and ancient bloodstains attest to the historical veracity of what the PCs witnessed.
These mini-encounters, supplemented with research or conversations at the Lodge, can help the PCs understand the various werewolf tribes that war for dominance in Shudderwood. Note that my encounters do not include any references to the Vollensag or Primals; I would love for someone to suggest another NPC or encounter to remedy this omission.
I'm going with the general trend here, ie. replacing Galdana with Kendra. I also made her adopted, and replaced her class levels with Oracle, giving her the clouded vision affliction. My explanation for her semi-blindness:
When Kendra was a girl, she snuck a glance at one of Lorrimor's evil tomes, and it instantly struck her blind. The Professor knew that this could only have happened to someone with Tar-Baphon's blood, so he retired and moved to Ravengro, to keep her out of the (whispering) way.
In my game, during Trial of the Beast, Kendra was in Lepidstadt, researching the runes the PCs found at Harrowstone, trying to find out who murdered her father. She became increasingly obsessed, trying to convince the PCs to help her perform incantations to question the spirit of her dead father. My long-term plan involves sending her to Caliphas and joining the Palatine Eye.
I'm GM, we just wrapped up Trial of the Beast.
I have long-term plans for the Crooked Kin, but not as allies. They were initially friendly towards the party, especially after they helped them on the (modified) mini-quest before Lepidstadt.
One PC is a 7-foot half-orc monk, and once the Kin arrived in Lepidstadt, they offered him a job portraying the Beast in a dramatic reenactment of the Beast's creation, crimes and apprehension. He declined, mostly because they were on a tight schedule investigating the crimes. The Kin didn't take kindly to being turned down, especially when there was profit to be made. They left vague, threatening messages in his room, and even set traps for two other PCs (ie. help us, or we'll hurt the ones you care about).
Eventually, the monk went to meet the Kin, to tell them to lay off. I timed it so that he arrived just as the play was about to start (with Trollblood playing the Beast). When the MC spotted the monk in the audience, he coerced him up onto stage...but the monk cleverly changed the script, improvising some new explanations for the crimes which called the Beast's guilt into question. (This quick thinking helped them later by reducing the size of the mob.)
Finally, the Kin interfered with a chase scene in the streets of Lepidstadt, after the golem-dog at V&G's escaped and ran wild. They tried to trap it, to use it as a sideshow attraction. The PCs insisted it be killed instead. The Kin swore revenge and scurried away. They'll probably turn up in Caliphas or something.
I did this too. My PCs figured it out, but it took a lot of prodding. I would suggest the GM include a direct reference to the Thrall's capability to temporarily restore dead flesh to life, in any (or all) of the following places:
1) The papers affixed to the door in L1.
Also, when the PCs enter the upper room, you might make a point of saying "the Beast's inanimate corpse lies in the centre of the room, beneath a cluster of coiled metal rods that descend from the roof above." This might give them the final clue they need to resurrect him -- or, at least, save them the trouble of moving his body around during the fight with the Promethean.
It's a deadly fight, and it may be unrealistic to expect your players to be puzzle-solving at the same time. But if you think they're up for it, it makes for a terrific climax.
I'd like to resurrect this thread, and extend my sincere gratitude to Mortagon for creating such detailed backstories and motivations for Ravengro's otherwise bland collection of NPCs.
These details bring the town to life, and provide a host of subplots and quests to keep the PCs engaged while staying in Ravengro. Not all of these plots will be suitable to all players' tastes, but GMs can mix and match at their discretion.
Thanks again, Mortagon! Your posting history suggests you've moved on to Jade Regent now, but if you have any other resources or recommendations for Carrion Crown, I'd love to read them.
In my campaign, I used Jack on the journey to Lepidstadt.
He basically replaced the Feaster in Watery Shadows. One of the Crooked Kin had wandered off into the woods near Cortaud and stumbled upon Jack's unhallowed grove.
I tried to describe the grove in very evocative terms, with mist and strange lights and large stones that looked like tortured, petrified human figures. I also described Jack in an ambiguous way--as if he might be a normal human wearing a devil's mask (at least, until they got a close look at his feet).
I absolutely gave him Spring Attack.
The encounter was suitably freaky. The party was especially fascinated with Jack's knife, but they lost interest after discovering that it's not magical.
I dropped Fellnight Queen in between Chapters 2 & 3, with the following changes:
Queen Rhoswen is Nyrissa's daughter.
The forest has become the Narlmarches, and the town of Bellis was a new city in the PCs' kingdom (where the abandoned elven keep is currently located).
The dryad seeking help from the PCs is now Tiressia, and several other members of the fey conclave have been changed to recognizable NPCs from earlier explorations.
The battle between local fey and Fellnight invaders will be played out using the mass combat rules from Kingmaker Chapter 4.[/i]
While it's possible that later adventures will seem overly familiar after including Fellnight, I hope to frame them as a sort of narrative motif -- ie. "all this has happened before and will happen again."
Once Fellnight is done, I may also drop in The Harrowing. It's not quite as germane to the Kingmaker setting, but it's a delightful self-contained adventure with a fairly light tone (useful to contrast with VV, or with Carnival of Tears if you plan to run that one).