Hey, hope you had a great Gen Con!
I'm running Rise of the Runelords, and in my campaign, Nualia got away at Thistletop. My initial thought is that I'd like her to have become a half-fiend, which is especially attractive given the variants in the new Demons Revisited. With that inspiration, I've decided I don't want to use the out-of-the-box half-fiend template given in the Bestiary.
My problem comes in deciding what sort of demon blood to give her. She seems like she's all about wrath, so half-vrock seems the most appropriate. However, she's getting her power from Lamashtu, and while Lamashtu does have some vrocks under her command, that really does seem like a Pazuzu thing. The text suggests that she might even become a succubus, but lust seems like it plays a very small part in her makeup.
So what's your suggestion? Is there another type of demon that I should look at, or should I come up with my own variant?
My group is dealing with the same issue. I had them know it with a DC28 Religion check, and then they went to Magnimar to buy a Dispel Evil scroll. Of course, once they got there, they discovered the wave of murders going on, they investigated the townhouse, they were attacked by Tsuto (who'd been captured in the Glassworks and sent to Magnimar), etc.
My group will be heading to the Sawmill this next session, and because we play long sessions, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them get to the Clock Tower as well. Is Xanesha still as utterly brutal as she was in the 3.5 days? She looks pretty horrific to me. I have a well-balanced party (paladin, cleric, fire wizard, and rogue/fighter on the track to become a duelist). Tsuto will attack them on the way up the stairs, so they'll be down a little more in the consumables department than they would normally be, but I don't anticipate him providing a real impediment so much as a little speed bump. Do I need to tone down Xanesha to avoid a TPK?
Pathfinder Adventure Path #77: Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth (Wrath of the Righteous 5 of 6) (PFRPG)
Consarn it! Everything I hear about this makes me want to play it more, but I don't think I'll ever get the chance because it doesn't seem like the sort of thing my group would go for. Grrr.
Oh well, at least there's some demodand love at last! Huzzah!
Congratulations! This is a big step in the right direction, IMO. Online play is vital for a lot of people who are isolated from other gamers, and it can bring people together from all over the world. It's exciting to see that the online play community is getting its due.
And different people have different ways of having fun. There are plenty of games with rabidly passionate followings that I'd rather hit my thumb with a hammer than play. If you want to play your way and everybody's having fun, then you're doing it right. If I play my way and everyone's having fun, then I'm doing it right. The only wrong way to play is the way that isn't fun for you.
Therefore, "Going around and brutally killing characters 'because it's the smart thing for the villain to do' does not make for a fun game for the players" isn't universally true. It's true for you and your group? Great. It's not true for me, either as player or GM, and that's great too.
So have I, and the one thing that time has taught me, more than anything else, is that every table is different, and trying to force a group into a style they don't like is the Original Sin of GMing, the sin from which all others emanate. I've killed a buttload of PCs and had a buttload of my PCs killed, and my players still enjoy the games, even as they're getting infuriated at the villains for killing their PCs.
Different strokes, and don't tell me my way of playing is wrong, because then the only one who's wrong is you.
Yes, they are assumed to have their chance to be heroes. However, they are not assumed to succeed. Success, rather, is contingent upon intelligence and some luck.
Bad guys have agency too, and the ones smart enough to think (which certainly isn't all opponents, but it is plenty) may, if the opportunity presents itself, coup de grace or at least take another attack against a down PC if they don't feel like taking the full turn action and AoO a cdg incurs. PCs (at least mine!) do exactly the same against downed foes who might be healed, as circumstances dictate.
Now, I would almost certainly not have a BBEG cdg an opponent when there's something more pressing to attend to, such as active foes in their face or other, more productive things to do, but a BBEG with a spare round will certainly start tying up loose ends.
As for 'smart is new' or 'PC death is old school', yes and no to both. But neither would be an excuse to go out of your way to kill a player's character. See arcane locked inns for 'smart'.
I didn't say "smart is new." I said "smart is the new tough," by which I meant that Paizo deliberately constructs its APs to brutally punish stupid behavior. RotRL is no exception -- and why should it be? It set the mold. If your solution to every encounter is "I kick the door in and hit it with my axe," you WILL die unless the GM is inordinately tender with you.
And sometimes bad guys do get proactive. I had Nualia lay an ambush for the PCs when the came back for her a second time, and why not? She knew they were coming to kill her, she didn't want to die, and she was smart enough to make them pay for laziness. Next time they weren't so lazy in their approach. (Although I still can't get them to stop splitting the party no matter how many times they wander into monster dens while separated...but that's a different matter.)
I don't go out of my way to kill PCs, but I don't go out of my way to save them either. I have NPCs adhere to the printed tactics until they realize those tactics aren't working or need to change, and then they change. I treat the NPCs as though they want to succeed as badly as the PCs do. Anything else wouldn't be fair to my group.
As for 'old school', I seem to remember having to start over at level 1. I'm guessing you don't still use THAT rule, too, eh? :)
Oh Lord no, and I never did back in the day either. Even when I was 11, I recognized that advice as being suited to a vastly larger and more...internally diverse group than mine. In fact, I never once gamed with anyone who followed that advice.
My PCs are 4th level, and of 5 starting PCs, only 2 remain (though one player left the group, as is always the case when you assemble a group of strangers). One of those PCs has strong backstory ties to Sandpoint, the other doesn't. One views Sandpoint as HOME, the other got there on the morning of the Swallowtail Festival and doesn't feel entirely comfortable there for reasons of his backstory. So only one PC feels attachment to the town, and she's a squishy, and if she dies, well... <shrug> The story goes on. New heroes arise where old ones have fallen. The bad guys are still plotting and the good guys still have to stop them, and if I have to modify a couple of adventure hooks from what's printed, so what?
A bunch of stuff in response to wakedown.
I have to agree with Arnwyn here. In general, the PCs are going against very, very nasty people who aren't going to stand around waiting to be killed by the PCs. They have their own plans and desires and they will kill the hell out of anyone who gets in their way, and this includes PCs. Making sure a downed PC doesn't get up again is one way of doing it, as is not acting like a James Bond villain and introducing the most hackneyed of hackneyed cliches and monologuing-so-the-good-guys-can-escape. They're supposed to represent credible threats, not oafs who posture menacingly but meaninglessly.
At the risk of derailing the thread, the attitude of "I won't coup-de-grace a PC unless I know the player wants me to" is very much an innovation of the story game and its spreading influence, and not one a crotchety old buzzard like me cottons to. I tell my players to have a good idea of your replacement PC's replacement PC, because you might get there quicker than you'd like.
Just to echo what's already been said, PCs must use sound tactics, not just once but every fight. This isn't even an RotRL-specific piece of advice, because almost every AP is this way: if you come in stupid, you die. Period. You need to buff like a maniac, debuff where possible, sneak, come from unexpected directions in unexpected ways, innovate your tactics (and keep innovating because many, many times the BBEG of a particular book or section is scrying or otherwise observing the party's tactics as they wade through the preliminary encounters and will be prepared for what it's seen them do), use ranged attacks, and use every trick they can think of in general.
The thing is, the opponents you're fighting are, for the most part, not stupid, and if they are stupid then they're at least cunning. They're prepared for the obvious approaches and they will slaughter you if you hit them the way they expect to be hit. You need to outthink them before you can outfight them.
As far as RotRL goes, my group is just dipping their beak into the second book and they've had tough fights all the way along, in spite of good party balance and generally good tactics.
Spoiler:Every major fight has been harrowing, but they only lost a single PC in book one -- which to me means the books is extremely well designed. That's exactly the kind of balance you want, IMO. Players are supposed to have to strain every mental and physical muscle to win these kinds of things.
Elyrium, Gogmurt, Bruthazmus, Orik & Lyrie, Ripnugget, and the yeth hounds all put at least one character down, though there were no party deaths until they went up against Nualia herself. The first time they faced her, she killed their new buddy Orik and they ran away; the second time they faced her she ambushed them on their way back to the dungeon and one-shotted a PC and then fled before they could surround her; the third time, they finally managed to drive her off but not kill her...I wonder if they'll see her again?
Smart is the new tough.
Has Paizo been satisfied with the sales of the RotRL hardcover? Satisfied enough that you'd consider giving the same treatment to other hard-to-get APs in the future? What about an occasional (as in when you can allocate resources) AP that only appears in hardcover, such as the Emerald Spire book from the Kickstarter?
"Give five reasons you no kill goblins. Now give five more."
"Which party member you laugh hardest when die?"
After several lengthy answers have been gleaned by the others on the panel:
"How come you still have so many words if you can write?"
Unless the campaign is going to be very unusual, I think humanoid (human) should always be a ranger's first choice of favored enemy. You get by far the most mileage out of it in any of the APs I'm familiar with (not specifically familiar with RoW, however). You're always fighting humans.
It's moot now, but my players bought a swan boat and had two warrior types spider climb up the side with ropes. It worked well...until they reached the top and ran into four goblins and their mounts playing with a seagull! Still it was a very, very successful assault, albeit a bit touch and go at times.
However, when they went down a couple of levels and ran into Nualia, the fun times stopped...
I've just kicked off a rolld20 game of Carrion Crown, and I'm not sure how to do the Father Charlatan encounter. Obviously I can't tell one player to leave the room, nor can I leave the room -- we're one big happy video chat. Father Charlatan is a weird, not very good encounter to begin with so I don't want to dilute it any more than it already is by just running it with everyone knowing everything that's going on, or even with the sole affected PC typing away on text chat and everyone else in the video. Is there a satisfactory solution that others have found? Or am I better off just rewriting the whole durned thing?
I know I'll never play this AP. This may be odd, given that the Worldwound is the area I've wanted to see an AP tackle most, and that I'm perfectly open to Mythic.
The problem is my players (isn't it always? ;-) ). My group tends to like lower-power, gritty fantasy, and they tend to get fidgety when 5th level spells start showing up. One player flat-out told me he has zero interest in Mythic, which isn't surprising since he's a fan of E6 and was very excited when 5e started talking about Bounded Accuracy. An AP where you end up fighting something on the order of a CR30 opponent wouldn't go over well with several in the group.
Ah well. I'm looking forward to it, and I'll enjoy reading it if nothing else. And it's not as though there's a dearth of APs my group is eager to get into...
I have a question on the cosmology of Golarion. How is it handled when someone is of an alignment that doesn't remotely match, or even diametrically opposes, the deity(ies) that govern their occupation? Historically people tended to pray to the deity that had dominion over the place they were praying and/or the activity they were performing at the time, but that doesn't seem to be the case in Golarion.
Take the example of a chaotic evil farmer. Pretty much all his time is taken up by farming, and farming governs his livelihood and his continued survival. Obviously he'd pray to the god of farming, Erastil, for success with his crops, right? Only Erastil is lawful good and he hates chaotic evil types, so he wouldn't welcome the farmer's prayers, right? So the farmer looks around for a god more closely matching his alignment, but what do Lamashtu, Rovagug, or any of the demon lords care about farming, which is what keeps him and his family alive? Even taking it one step further along the alignment spectrum doesn't help much, since Calistria, Gorum, Norgorber, and Urgathoa don't give much thought to sowing and reaping. What's a chaotic evil farmer to do?
Would this sort of a system tend to mitigate toward most farmers being lawful good, or would most sailors be neutral because that's Gozreh's alignment, for example?
On another divine note, the Inner Sea World Guide says that Shelyn's worship originated in Taldor. However, Shelyn was worshiped in ancient Azlant, and Taldor didn't arise until the descendants of a few surviving Azlanti colonists mingled with some natives thousands of years after Azlant was dead and gone. What's the dealie-o?
Jeff Erwin wrote:
...I'm in the pro-fiction camp because I see Golarion and the APs as embracing more than scenarios and game mechanics. Potentially, Golarion's success as a shared world extends into fiction that is read by non-gamers, like FR.
I seriously doubt anyone is picking up a $22 volume for six pages of fiction, however. Pathfinder Tales novels certainly fill that role, but the fiction in the AP books certainly does not, IMO.
James Sutter wrote:
I actually consume more of the fiction that way than I ever do in the AP, because mentally it fills a different space for me when it's not in among the crunch. I was just thinking that a zine might be a way to do it where you could shake some more shekels free from me.
James Sutter wrote:
I honestly think having small nuggets of usable material in the six pages of fiction would be more irritating than anything, just a reminded that these pages could be used to present more stuff like that but instead are being largely consumed by stuff that is completely useless to me. It would be less aggravating to have the fiction as is and just ignore the six pages the way I've been doing since I signed on to this wacky ride. I admit that this may be a function of my personality, which is inclined to adopt pet peeves at very little provocation. :-)
Right now I'd ay my preference would be to remove the fiction from the AP book and expand the bestiary (more monsters = good!) and support articles (if for no other reason than it's fairly frequent occurrence that support articles leave me drooling and wanting more because they're so darned good).
Also, although I mentioned it above in an off-the-cuff manner, I think the idea of an e-zine of Pathfinder short fiction (preferably done in a pulp magazine style!) is very appealing, and you would be able to save print costs in an electronic format. It could be a showcase for new writers to show their stuff, for experienced writers to experiment with an idea that can't support a whole novel, and for everyone to poke their noses into corners of Golarion (and beyond!) that wouldn't get explored otherwise. You'd be able to expand the number of creative minds building your world at a relatively low cost and possibly with wide appeal. Forgive me if this product already exists and I'm too big a moron to realize it. :-)
James Sutter wrote:
Well, since you asked...
I understand how the fiction pages came to be, back when there was no other outlet for Pathfinder fiction and you were looking to replace a magazine of mixed content. However, I have only read a couple pieces of fiction in the APs and I've never been impressed either by the content itself or by its usefulness in running the campaign.
For me the fiction pages would very literally be more useful if they were blank pages to allow for note taking; however, a more constructive use of the pages would be to provide space for an in-depth background article, a good short side-adventure that can be run for parties needing more XP, more monsters or magic items, NPCs that can be slipped into the setting where that book of the AP takes place, or anything else actually game-related that can benefit me running (or occasionally playing) the adventure that's the heart of the book.
I feel that this would help address some of the issues that arise with the APs, and in particular two rather vexing issues that stem from the structure of the APs themselves. First, there's often a lack of "connective tissue" between books, such that they sometimes come across less as a cohesive campaign and more as six separate adventures that are somewhat thematically linked (Carrion Crown, for all its brilliance, was much this way). The pages taken up by the fiction could easily be used to suggest ways in which the current adventure could be linked either to the previous or to the next book, and maybe even have a short adventure (or adventure kernels) that can happen on the way from Point A (where one book leaves off) and Point B (where the next book begins. Just having that would dramatically help several of the APs, and wouldn't require a big, expensive art buy.
Secondly, in later books in particular, a lot of story/background gets omitted (by design or necessity) due to the fact that stat blocks swell enormously at higher levels. This is an unavoidable truth, unfortunately, so maybe the fiction pages could be used as a "safety valve" for that kind of material in the later books of an AP? I don't know how that would increase the workload of a certain already-burdened Creative Director, however.
Of course, those are only two ideas. Maybe you could have a recurring feature where designers trot out nasty traps/devious tricks that GMs can drop into their own adventures? Maybe you can have a rogues gallery feature where fully-statted NPCs of surprising and unusual builds can get some face time?
I guess the take-home for me is that I'm buying a game-usable product, and I want stuff I can use in my game. It doesn't necessarily have to be intended for the AP where it appears, but I want game-usable material of some description. Even brilliant fiction doesn't fit that definition, and the AP fiction I've read hasn't been brilliant. There are now plenty of other outlets for Pathfinder fiction, and I'm sure you've got plenty of excellent ideas for more. Honestly, put out an e-zine of short Pathfinder fiction and I might even subscribe if the price is right -- I just want something else from the APs.
You could always restat her as an inquisitor. I can't help but think that would make her more dangerous. Especially if Elyrium or a yeth hound is around to flank with(though Elyrium will need a reach weapon). Heck, she started this whole thing, throw some goblins in there as well.
I've been strongly considering giving her some goblins. It seems like some should be present for what will be, for all intents and purposes, the climactic battle of the book. Giving her, say, a few goblin archers in the far corner of the room might make the fight more...interesting.
I agree with DedmeetDM on the timeline. In the "Ask James Jacobs Anything" thread I asked him what campaign-specific piece of advice he'd give me for running this AP, and he said I should make sure to give the players plenty of time to wander around and explore off the rails, as it were.
Having Aldern hire a new party is one way to go, and it would tie him to the party from the outset, which is an advantage.
I think I might have Sandpoint hire a new party to investigate the fate of the Heroes, so that when the party returns victorious, the fickle Aldern can then become fixated on one of the new people. The odds are that the players are going to want to wander the Sandpoint hinterlands for a time anyway and they should be given the chance to do so, killing goblins and maybe having a close encounter with the Sandpoint Devil. Allow an appropriate amount of time to pass between the killing of Malfeshnekor and the ghoul outbreak and you're good to go.
I find Malfeshnekor to be anticlimactic, honestly. Yes he's a big bad guy, but when the party fought Tsuto I beefed him up to Monk 2/Rogue 3, gave him 3 goblin buddies, AND had him ambush the 2nd-level PCs in a position where he could run around getting flanking, and they still took him down (albeit it was a challenging fight). The party will be 3rd level (at least) when they breach the sanctum, so there will be three casters with access to 2nd-level spells, two big tough armored guys with two-handed weapons, and two animal companions. Malfeshnekor's by himself and doesn't have room to maneuver -- he's going down hard.
James Jacobs wrote:
That's awesome. It's one of my favorite HPL stories, and that scene is one of the most unsettling ones he ever wrote, IMO.
I think this whole question had best be spoilered.
In Rise of the Runelords...:
In the Catacombs of Wrath in Burnt Offerings, I got a serious The Case of Charles Dexter Ward vibe from the zombie pit room. Given that you're a massive HPL fan, was that story an inspiration for that room? If it was, are there any other specific Lovecraft allusions I should be looking for in that book/AP?
My group currently consists of an elf enchantment-focused cleric of Calistria, a two-weapon-fighting ranger, a rogue, and a gnome fire elementalist. They're going to be joined by a dwarf druid with a bear companion. There will be multiclassing and I'll make sure they're 3rd level by the time they meet Nualia, so they'll likely be:
1. Elf Cleric of Calistria 3 (Lust and Trickery domains)
With five PCs and an animal companion, it's obvious that I need to buff Nualia to keep her at the chapter-ending megabadass she needs to be, and there are, as I see it, three ways to do it:
1. Cleric 5/Fighter 2. This would give her third-level spells and another channel die but no iterative attack. She would probably concentrate on dropping a PC fast and then reanimating the corpse as a zombie.
2. Cleric 4/Fighter 3. This would give her an iterative attack. She would be the same as she's written in the book, but tougher in melee without any more flexibility.
3. Rebuild her from scratch as an antipaladin, which would make her a juggernaut with less spell flexibility and let me unleash the awfulness that is antipaladin.
Now I don't want to TPK the party but I've never been one to quail at a PC death or two, so I don't mind making her epically tough. Which build strikes the best balance?
I'd agree with posters who state that the book itself was well-enough written, but it didn't even attempt to take the race in a direction even slightly different from how it's been perceived since the beginning of RPGs. It was a wasted opportunity, in other words, to mark Golarion dwarves as a unique and special race you just couldn't find in other settings, like Golarion gnomes.
There have been many good suggestions in this thread, so I'll add my own. The most interesting thing about dwarves for me is their concept of honor. It's bound to be different from the human concept -- how? Might dwarven honor make it honorable to save the life of someone from a non-hostile race, but dishonorable to have one's life saved by such a person? Are dwarves living in places not ruled by dwarves considered to be exercising a simple choice, is it a specific sign of dwarven appreciation of that place, or is it considered an insult to family and clan that a dwarf would rather live under another race's rule? Is it honorable or dishonorable to have one's work traded to other races, i.e. is it good to have other races realize first-hand that dwarven craftsmanship is superior to their own, or does it sully the work to let other races get their filthy hands on it?
Likewise, how do these concepts of honor compel a dwarf to act? Do different levels of perceived disrespect mandate different levels of retribution (an unintentional verbal insult might demand a small monetary recompense while a deliberate slur against the whole dwarven race must be repaid by the deaths of the speaker and his two closest companions)? If a dwarf dishonors his clan and flees to the outside world, is it the job of the whole clan to bend every effort to get him back and punish him, or do they have certain people who do that, or do they think that living away from dwarven society is enough punishment for anyone? How do dwarves show respect to others of their people who have earned great honor, and how do such dwarves comport themselves among other races?
How would such views on honor shape dwarven society? Is failing to show appropriate and proper respect to another dwarf punishable, and does the punishment change based on the relative status of the parties in question? Are the constraints of honor relaxed within the family or are they strictly enforced even there? Do dwarves demand a certain respect from their non-dwarven companions, or do they just assume that other races are a bunch of grotesque barbarians who can't be expected to know how to wipe their own bums, much less comport themselves properly?
The best dwarven characters I've ever played adhered to a rigid code of honor, had strict expectations of others, and based their reactions to the world on criteria of race, caste, social class, economic status, and a host of other markers that those of other races considered baffling and arbitrary but that my character was ready and willing to die for. In Golarion terms they were almost like a cross between a Hellknight and a Tian-Min samurai. They were prickly customers to be sure, but they were very rewarding and memorable to play, and they defended the lives and honor of worthy allies with greater vigor than they defended their own. They had their own unique cultural outlook that had nothing to do with drunken, slobbish, foul-mouthed Scottish stereotypes.
One solution for making pawns was suggested by a fellow in my group: printing the image(s) on a full-sheet sticker or label, then simply cutting them apart, peeling, and sticking on the cardboard. That's much easier than pasting things on and will produce better results, especially since stickers tend to produce bright and clean images, and it's something I intend to do to produce rune giants for my RotRL game.
Judging by your picture, you're a tyrannosaurus rex. Do you find flying inconvenient? Do you have to buy out a whole row of seats? Or do they make you ride in a big kennel in the baggage compartment? These are questions that need answers.
James Jacobs wrote:
One more question: is "Black Magga and the Mothers of Oblivion" a great name for a rock band?
Wow, great work wading through the thread and culling that! I'm not sure I'd have the patience to do that. :-)
I'm about to start GMing Rise of the Runelords (Anniversary Edition). I'm very excited about this, obviously, and I'm thinking of ways to make the experience really memorable for the players. I don't have to make any changes to the text because it's freakin' brilliant. I've been in the game for enough decades to know plenty of general GM tricks. I intend to make Sandpoint as vibrant as possible and to make the key NPCs sympathetic and interesting. My mind is already racing with ways to make the Kreegs more horrible than they already are, to make the Runeforge oppressive and unsettling, and to make the overall menace palpable and urgent. However, I've never experienced this campaign either as a player or a GM, and who better to ask for advice than you? So my question is this: what's the one piece (or more, if you're feeling exceptionally generous) of campaign-specific advice you'd give me to get the very most out of this AP and give my players the best time possible?
James Jacobs wrote:
Well, I did mean players, but since you brought it up, both. :-)
Personally I'm really digging this AP. I'm not running it yet -- I feel like it spoils Rise of the Runelords enough that I wanted to run that first, but once that's done I will strongly consider this one if the group is interested.
Thus far (awaiting only the 6th book) I have no complaints whatsoever about the quality of any of the adventures. Kaer Maga is a personal highlight for me, but then Kaer Maga is my favorite place in Golarion and maybe my favorite fantasy city ever, so that' not surprising. The adventures are consistently excellent and provide a good mix of combat, exploration, and roleplaying (the roleplaying often coming at surprising times). In almost every AP (RotRL excepted) there has been at least one weak book, or at least a book notably weaker than the others, but so far Shattered Star has avoided that pitfall. And hey, I loves me some big ol' dungeons.
Initially I had the same complaint as some above in that I felt like the connecting tissue wasn't there between the books (which is a frequent issue with APs, IMO) but then I realized essentially what James Jacobs has said -- this is an AP about assembling pieces of an artifact and some of those pieces have been lost for 10,000 years -- how could there be a stronger connective tissue? The only nit I'd pick is that I'd have the PCs have to do research on where to go for the next piece rather than just know, but I can absolutely understand why they didn't do it that way and it will be easy enough to change if and when I run it.
I do admit I'm not super-keen on the obligatory Pathfinder involvement, because they're kind of jerks, but again, the writers have done an excellent job of making this an extremely easy fix for GMs to make. It's obvious too why they framed the AP that way in the first place, and I'm not sure I'll be able to come up with a better solution, just one more to my own taste.
So, big thumbs up from me, and I am not at all bored by it. In fact, it's shaping up to be one of my favorite APs!
I think the time is right for another undead AP. The last one was Age of Worms, which is all the way back in the Dungeon days -- it finished in June 2006, over six years and the entire Pathfinder era and more ago. That was before my time with the brand, and many others are in the same boat.
Carrion Crown was a horror AP, and while it did feature undead for some of its installments, it can hardly be said to be "an undead AP."
The two obvious places for such a campaign to be situated would be around Gallowspire and in Geb. A rising from Gallowspire could either go into Ustalav or to Lastwall. We've already had an Ustalav AP, and Lastwall would, IMO, be better served with an orc invasion AP, since that's the only place one could be set.
The problem with Geb is that it's not very aggressive, and what aggression it does display is directed solely toward Nex -- and who wants to play an AP defending Nex?
And besides, Paizo shows little inclination to go the obvious route, which is maybe their single greatest creative strength. So, let's look to the unexpected.
There hasn't been an AP set in Andoran, as has been pointed out, and we haven't paid extensive attention to the Darklands in a long time. We could kill not one, not two, but three birds with a single stone with an AP centered around an invasion of undead through Candlestone Caverns.
The first book could revolve around a party of adventurers being drawn to a town on the northwestern frontier that's suffering from mysterious attacks by isolated bands of skeletons and zombies; the PCs would secure the town and trace the incursions back to a previously-unknown entrance to the sprawling Candlestone complex, where a battle would ensue with an undead cleric of Zura who had marshaled his mindless minions from the cavern and the countryside and sent them on the raids.
In the second book, the PCs would act on information discovered in the defeated cleric's papers indicating that the raids he was conducting were in fact reconnaissance for a larger invasion force marshaling in the upper reaches of the Darklands. Possibly with the sponsorship of a local potentate, they plunge underground, fighting their way through swarms of reanimated vermin, cadres of goblin ghouls, an ambush by shadows, and a counterattack by a crack squad of wights to the fortress of the undead commander. There, in an ancient Azlanti fortress swallowed by the upheavals during Earthfall, they confront the general, a spectral sorcerer, and destroy her.
Unfortunately, the specter was only one of the undead commanders of a planned two-prong attack on the demesne of the Andoren potentate. The PCs, now far beneath the surface of Golarion, must spend the first part of the third book rushing back to the sunlit lands to aid in the defense of the "home village" of the AP, an assault involving waves of variant skeletons and, horribly, plague zombies. A bitter battle ensues wherein the PCs must coordinate and lead the militias defending the walls of the village, stand off a terrible attack by several young raveners, and finally mount an assault against the brilliant vyrkolakas oracle general and its bodyguard of spawn.
With the home village secure for the moment, the PCs are convinced to head underground once more in the fourth book to search out and destroy the shadowy menace behind all these undead attacks. Along they way, they encounter, and may either ally with or oppose, a party of adventurers sent by Cheliax to determine if the undead attacks pose a threat to that nation. What the PCs don't yet know, but may suspect, is that the secondary mission of the Chelish party is to encourage the undead leaders to continue and expand their attacks on Andoran to weaken their traditional foe. The Chelish contingent is large and composed of many separate parties and camps, and for a while the PCs may believe that Cheliax is behind all the attacks -- an idea bolstered by the liberal Chelaxian use of undead they have encountered and controlled. When a a delegation of fey from Court of Ether are captured by the Chelish forces before they can deliver their desperate message to the PCs, the PCs must infiltrate the main Chelish camp, liberate the fey, and thwart their diabolist enemies once and for all.
The fifth book begins as the liberated fey tell of their mission: the Court of Ether is under attack and on the verge of being overwhelmed by hordes of undead creatures. They promise that their queen knows the source of the undead menace, but the information will only be revealed if the PCs help save their city. Traveling deeper underground and battling bizarre undead fey creatures with unexpected powers, the PCs reach the Court of Ether only to discover that the city has all but fallen and the last holdouts are trapped in the formidable citadel. Aided by the few fey they can find who have not been turned into undead, the PCs must fight to disperse the besieging army and its undead drow commanders and rescue the gallant fey queen. When this is done, the PCs are told that the city was only attacked to provide reinforcements for the undead's main push: a massive shaft being driven underground beneath the heart of Andoran by their nighshade general -- the revivified corpse of a valiant angel who was lost in the nether reaches of the Great Beyond.
The sixth book is a race against time as the PCs must destroy the nightshade and destroy his army before he can unleash it upon an unsuspecting Andoran. The way will hardly be easy though, as the nightshade will throw everything he has at the PCs to thwart them -- from vampires to raveners, from a charnel colossus to the death-screams of mighty aberrations captured and given form. The final battle takes place in the great shaft being driven upward toward the surface, and here the PCs will either conquer the angel of death...or become his newest and most powerful minions as he unleashes his hordes upon the soft, vulnerable, and delicious living folk of the surface world.
I would rather see more done with hobgoblins. They are far more underutilized.
I think there's room for an orc-centric AP and a hobgoblin-centric AP, and I think they should both eventually be done. After all, the represent very different kinds of threats. Orcs want to kill, destroy, pillage, rape, burn, slaughter, and leave the land a ruin in their wake. An orc invasion would (despite protests upthread) look very much like the Mongol horde that reduced the population of Asia by 50%.
Hobgoblins, on the other hand, are brutal and regimented disciplinarians who want to come, conquer, enslave, and build an empire -- think of them as Romans without the better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order.
I wouldn't suggest doing these two APs back to back, but put them five or six years apart and I wouldn't have a problem with them.
James Jacobs wrote:
Oh yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. That screams awesome to me.
I think your boxes of pawns are some of the most amazing values in gaming...ever. I don't know how you can even make a profit selling them for such a low price, but I assume people smarter with money than I am have crunched the numbers and you're doing all right on them. My question is, when Paizo was launching the Beginner Box, did you (either individually or the larger "you" of Paizo) expect that the idea of pawns would take off like it has among people who didn't even buy the Beginner Box?
A very sound choice. So far, all the books I've had a chance to really examine (1-4) have been excellent, really well written, very creative, and a lot of fun.
I'm putting together a new group to play an AP, and for various reasons I've narrowed the field down to five (RotRL, CotCT, CoT, JR, and ShatStar...hehehe, I said "shat"). I'd be good running any of them and I intend to put it to a group vote as to which one we pick, but I'm wondering...
Now that lots of people have had a chance to finish the AP, do you feel that a group would get substantially more out of this by playing RotRL first? Of course the main thrust of JR is the epic journey, but the origin in Sandpoint and the ongoing relationships with the four main NPCs seem to me to make it pretty important to play RotRL first to get best emotional buy-in and commitment.
I know JR can be run without playing the older AP first, but should it? How much is lost by doing so? Is anything gained?
While I agree that Kingmaker is great fun, I have three significant cautions.
First is the quality of the second half of the AP. The first two books are very, very good and the third is chiseled from pure, crystalline awesome, but the fourth struggles greatly, the fifth is plain bad, and the sixth is both bad and comes so completely out of left field that you could substitute the final book from any other AP and not have it be any more the non sequitur -- and no, I'm not exaggerating.
But of course with Kingmaker the point isn't the adventures as written, it's your PCs founding and running a kingdom. In my game I intend to simply not run books 4-6 and instead concentrate on the many, many, many plotlines that arise organically through play. But of course that negates to a considerable extent the primary reason to run an AP in the first place, which is that someone else is writing the adventures for you so you don't need write them yourself.
This leads me to the second caution, which is that Kingmaker isn't a normal campaign. The GM isn't just running encounters and adjudicating a little RP on the side. The GM has to create an entire kingdom and more of NPCs, plotlines, and intrigue. Because every campaign will be different, necessarily essentially none of this is written in the books. Yeah there are a few NPC quest givers, but to run the game properly the GM needs to create and keep track of literally hundreds of NPCs before the whole thing is over. I can't overstate how much work this is. Kingmaker is more work for me than any campaign I've ever run since I started gaming in 1977, and that includes games where I created the whole campaign world from scratch.
Lastly, it's also complicated to play, assuming your players want to get the most out of it. Yes you can run the kingdom in the background if you want to focus on the adventures as written, but as I discussed above, the last half of the AP isn't worth the candle. The fun comes from creating and running the kingdom and really putting your mark on the world in a way no other AP lets you do, and that's a lot of work for the players too, and it involves subsystems that need significant nudging to keep from coming apart. It's a major investment on the players' parts too, very much above and beyond what they'd be asked to do in a normal campaign.
Just my thoughts.