|Paizo Pathfinder® Paizo Games|
|About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ|
Excellent analysis, Pizza Lord. The problems become apparent when you try to actually use this cool-sounding spell. I know the official Paizo position now is that open playtesting creates too little signal and too much noise, and that freelancers who design spells can playtest their own material, but this is a perfect example of what happens if neither the community nor the writers are playtesting material.
For a Star Wars Saga game, I did an experiment with implementing 3-d space battles. Basically, I had rulers taped vertically to a heavy base, with starship miniatures clipped (with those black clip thingies) to the ruler. By moving the base, the ship would move horizontally, and by moving the clip, the ship would move vertically (using the inch measurements on the rulers to tell how far "up" or "down" a ship was from another). Ships on the exact same vertical plane would move onto the same ruler, etc. It was kinda fun, but I only tried it for a few battles. If I were more crafty, I probably could have streamlined the idea better.
I think you guys are missing the point. Yes, there are a million ways to change encounters to address the problem. The OP wasn't asking for help, he was expressing annoyance that he has to take the time and effort to change printed encounters to address a single PC's usual tactic. In relationship talk, he's asking for "sympathy, not solutions." ;)
I sympathize with you. When a player finds an "I win" button (and grapple+pin can be one of those in many encounters), it's really hard to get them to understand that their success means the GM and other players will have a lot less fun. And although there are many, many ways to adjust encounters to address that particular problem, it's an annoying amount of work (on top of everything else) for GMs running adventure paths to do.
Session # 11 Recap:
[3 Lamashan 4707 continued]
Having made the final preparations necessary for their impending raid on the goblin fortress of Thistletop, the adventurers collect their mounts from the Goblin Squash Stables and leave Sandpoint. Their departure is punctuated by excitement when their goblin prisoner, Grizzlenik, runs away rather than being seated on a horse; after a lengthy chase, Grizzlenik is subdued with a modicum of violence and the journey begins.
The adventurers set off east along the Lost Coast Road, expecting the six mile journey to Thistletop to take only a couple of hours. Short after leaving Sandpoint, however, they notice a listless cow swaying oddly on the road in front of them. Noticing that blood seems to be dripping from it, Oliver approaches to see if the animal is hurt when, much to his disgust and dismay, two dire rats leap from a wound in the cow’s side and attack! The ranger is bitten by one of the rats, but his companions react quickly, with Felix stomping one and Nedrin killing the other with his longsword. The group continue east, passing by the broken hills of Ravenroost, the boar-hunting ground called Tickwood, the goblin-infested Shank’s Wood, and the stony hills known collectively as The Tors. There, just before reaching the western edge of Nettlewood, the adventurers decide to go off road and head north to the cliffs overlooking the Varisian Gulf. They set up camp and post sentries before experiencing an uneventful night.
[4 Lamashan 4707]
The adventurers are startled during their morning routines by an uncanny squeaky howl coming from nearby. Felix and Nedrin react quickly, realizing that a pack of the mangy, beady-eyed canines known as goblin dogs are slinking towards the campsite! Believing they’ve found easy prey, the craven creatures encircle the adventurers and attack. Oliver suffers a serious bite to the abdomen, while Felix, who has quickly mounted his Shoanti-bred steed, takes a minor wound to his leg when flanked by two goblin dogs. But the skilled pugilist responds in kind, lashing out with both legs simultaneously to either side of his horse and kicking the beasts in the head. Nedrin circles the campsite on his mount and comes to Bey’s aid by having his horse stomp on a goblin dog’s back. Oliver and Felix make short work of the last attacker, and the battle is over almost as soon as it began. Bey exhausts her reserve of healing magicks to address Felix’s and Oliver’s wounds.
It’s a cold, crisp autumn morning when the adventurers talk over how they should approach Thistletop. They settle on a plan to scout the goblin fortress during the daytime, rest nearby overnight, and then launch a raid at dawn. Oliver’s wilderness skills come to the fore as he leads the group through the dense, tangled undergrowth of Nettlewood. At about midday, the adventurers reach a hedge wall made of thistle and sharp brambles. Grizzlenik is persuaded to reveal where a secret door can be found, so the adventurers tie their horses in a safe place nearby and prepare for their first incursion into Thistletop.
The secret door made of a rigid mat of thistles and nettles is pushed open easily to reveal an unexpected sight: a veritable maze made from 4’ high hedges that grow together at the top to form a thin canopy overhead. The adventurers are forced to crouch to navigate the goblin tunnels and, with no reason to pick one direction over another, decide to follow the eastern path. After passing next to a chamber containing a hole from which the distant sound of sloshing waves could be heard, the adventurers stumble unsubtly into a goblin-dog kennel! Four of the mangy mutts are tied to wooden stakes by fraying rope, and they begin to howl when they scent intruders. One of the goblin dogs breaks free and jumps at Bey, while Oliver gets too close to another and is bitten viciously under the armpit. Bey cuts deep into one with her bardiche and drops it as Oliver begins hurling flasks of fire and acid into the kennel. Nedrin lines up a seemingly-impossible shot with his longbow, but somehow the arrow flies true and catches a goblin dog in the eye!
The immediate battle is won, but the results have been disastrous: Thistletop has been placed on alert! The first defenders to arrive on scene, seconds later, are the goblin druid Gogmurt and his beautiful firepelt cougar, Tangletooth. Gogmurt literally steps out of a hedgerow towards a startled Felix and slashes him across the chest with a blade made of fire! Simultaneously, Tangletooth pounces on Bey’s back and knocks her to the ground unconscious! To make matters even worse, Grizzlenik’s predictable betrayal occurs, as he stabs Nedrin in the back with the very dogslicer the hobgoblin gave him! The adventurers seem moments away from being completely routed by the surprise attacks, but, somehow, they rally. Felix gets Gogmurt in a headlock and begins punching the druid in the face, while Oliver and Nedrin combine their efforts to cut down Tangletooth. Grizzlenik changes sides again and helps the adventurers. Seeing his dearest companion dead, Gogmurt draws upon his magicks to change into a dire badger! Although Felix tries to hold on, Gogmurt wriggles free and burrows into the ground to make good his escape.
The heroes of Sandpoint make an immediate decision to withdraw before more reinforcements arrive. Felix uses a healing potion to awaken Bey, and the group quickly makes their way out of the hedge maze and back to the horses. Disoriented from their hasty flight, the adventurers find themselves temporarily lost in Nettlewood and have difficulty finding a safe campsite. Eventually, after unfortunate run-ins with stinging nettles and goblinberries, they are able to make camp. Nedrin uses corporal punishment on Grizzlenik for his earlier betrayal. Desna favours the adventurers, and they face no further dangers in the night.
[5 Lamashan 4707]
Bey’s divine abilities to heal the adventurers allow them to return to Thistletop immediately. This time, Felix bursts through the thistle door to see ten goblins ostensibly on sentry duty. Alas, some are napping, others are distracted with arguing or playing games, and only a couple are ready for a fight. Rather than repeat the mistake of fighting the goblins in the cramped tunnels, the adventurers cleverly lure the goblins to the entrance and fight on their own terms. The disorganized, easily distracted goblins are mowed down in seconds.
The first battle of the group’s second incursion into Thistletop has been a rousing success! But will their good fortune continue?
The dire rats bursting out of the cow's stomach and the goblin dogs attacking the early morning campsite were, of course, random encounters. The adventure path assumes that PCs will face random encounters and gives tables of monsters for different areas. The challenging, but fun part of random encounters is trying to very quickly think of a semi-original reason why the PCs are running into the monsters. This has to be done while the GM is frantically trying to organize the grid, finding minis, pulling up stats, and so forth, and all of the players are either staring expectantly (bad players!) or taking the opportunity to role-play (good players!).
The first intrusion into Thistletop really was as suspenseful as the recap described. As the GM, I was shocked that Gogmurt (a goblin druid) and his animal companion were doing so well but then, somehow, the PCs turned things around and narrowly won the day and escaped with their lives. They were wise not to press on any further, and were lucky the rolls were with them to avoid further random encounters while they rested.
For the second intrusion, I had to make notes to remind myself that the goblins should be really bad--verging on ridiculous--when it comes to combat. It's part of their schtick that they're easily distracted, take ridiculous risks, and are the furthest things from sensible tacticians. But since the PCs will face plenty of much harder challenges down the line, I don't mind throwing them some softballs early on.
RE: spoilers, one of the things people need to remember is that the title of threads appears in the "Messageboards" sidebar on the main Paizo page. So something like this thread, with the title "Nualia's accomplices escaped" could very well spoil someone playing in the early stages of Chapter 1 (because Nualia is assumed to be have died in the chapel fire) even if they're disciplined enough not to go to the Rise of the Runelords sub-forum.
I don't care about format, but I'd be really interested in seeing stories featuring characters from some of the newer (and more unusual) character classes in the game--like the Occult ones, for example. I still haven't quite wrapped my head around how they fit into traditional sword & sorcery stories and settings, so it'd be great to see how they "work" in Golarion.
Whatever you come up with, just don't tell that Tolkien dude. He'll swipe the idea right out from underneath you!
More seriously, a fungus who spores gradually infected the dwarves with cannibalistic hunger. It's pretty grisly, and the longer the PCs stay to investigate, the higher the chances they'll get infected too!
Session # 10 Recap:
[2 Lamashan 4707 continued]
As the adventurers cross the short distance between Chopper’s Isle and Junk Beach, they discuss what transpired in the basement of Jervas Stoot’s home and whether they should return. Bey is keen to return in the morning, but Nedrin says the ghost of the Chopper will kill them! Felix whispers to Bey that perhaps Nedrin isn’t right in the head, as no one else saw a ghost. Bey confirms, however, that she did hear the ghostly sobbing of a child, and if they can find the ghost’s mortal link to the material realm, perhaps they can lay its spirit to rest. The consensus is that the group should return to Chopper’s Isle, but that they’ll avoid the area with the book and prepare by asking Father Zantus specific questions.
The return to Sandpoint is uneventful except for the adventurers’ failure to anticipate that a load of junk would be dumped down the side of Junker’s Edge while they were trying to climb up! Nedrin takes a hard fall, but survives. Once in Sandpoint, the adventurers head straight for the Cathedral. There, they see Father Zantus finishing a homily about Desna to a small crowd of worshippers. Once the ceremony is over, he sees the adventurers lurking at the edge of the audience and greets them with a wry observation about their frequent visits despite their observable lack of interest in religious matters. Felix relates what happened on Chopper’s Isle. Father Zantus explains the difference between ghosts, complex manifestations of the dead that may be intelligent and mobile throughout the material realm, and haunts, spectral phenomena that convey the memory of a traumatic experience but that are bound to specific areas or objects. When asked about the wooden statue, Father Zantus says that it sounds like a representation of Pazuzu, Demon Lord of Avians. Finally, conversation turns to the tracks and bones found atop the foreboding island. Father Zantus is dismissive about the suggestion that they could belong to the legendary Sandpoint Devil, stating that reports of a mythical, winged, fire-breathing horse-like creature that devours animals and brings curses upon anyone who sees it are unfounded and uncorroborated. He notes that his friend, Ilsoari Gandethus, is quite interested in the folklore surrounding the Sandpoint Devil.
The adventurers walk across town to Turandarok Academy in order to speak to Ilsoari, headmaster of Sandpoint’s school and orphanage. They’re reluctantly escorted in by prim House Mother Dorienne Vilch. In his study full of exotic souvenirs from his adventuring days, the normally reserved Ilsoari is quite interested in the group’s tale that they may have found signs of the Sandpoint Devil. Ilsoari explains that he politely disagrees with Abstalar Zantus about the veracity of sightings of the creature. He admits that few who claim to have seen it can offer concrete descriptions, for it always appears at night or under the cover of fog; some describe it as a strange horse, others as an enormous bat, and still others as a saurian behemoth. Ilsoari goes on to say that the signs the Sandpoint Devil leaves behind are more common than actual sightings: deep, hooflike prints carved or even burned in places no hoof prints should be found, like the tops of high roofs or on the side of cliffs; missing or partially burned livestock; strange illnesses; and more. Ilsoari says that although no one knows for sure where the Sandpoint Devil has its lair, some believe it lies in the nearby rocky plateau known as Devil’s Platter. Ilsoari gets more and more excited as he continues his stories, and eventually talks the group into letting him come along on the next morning’s planned expedition to Chopper’s Isle.
The adventurers find accommodation for the night, with all but Bey staying at the White Deer. Apart from a heated argument between dwarf carpenter Aesrick Battlehorn and a lanky wheelright named Bilivar Wheen (which is settled by the timely intervention of Lartie Viskalai), the evening at the White Deer passes quietly. Bey stays at the Rusty Dragon and starts an enjoyable game of blindfolded, backwards darts (losing to Ameiko in the process). She also converses with a farmer named Maester Grump; he and some other farmers hint at a reward if the adventurers can stop the Sandpoint Devil from devouring their livestock.
Late that night, the adventurers are awakened by messengers sent from the Sandpoint Garrison, with those at the White Deer receiving a visit from Bosk Hartigan and Bey encountering one of the new recruits, a nervous lad named Benmo. Each messenger says that an emergency meeting is being held by Sheriff Hemlock, and that the adventurers’ presence is requested. The adventurers get dressed hurriedly, apart from Oliver who inexplicably goes in his bathrobe. Once inside the garrison’s war room, the adventurers see that Sheriff Hemlock has been joined by limping elven scout Shalelu Andosana. Shalelu hefts a large sack onto the conference table, unties it, and turns it over; a small goblin spills out, bound and gagged! Shalelu explains that this goblin, whose name is Grizzlenik, has something important to say. She holds a knife to his throat until he explains that he’s a member of the Thistletop tribe who was sent by Warchief Ripnugget to tell the other goblin tribes in the region to get ready for a big attack on Sandpoint in a few weeks’ time. Grizzlenik goes on to say that he was instructed to say that any day now an invincible ally will be set free to aid in the attack, and that this time Sandpoint will be razed to the ground! Nedrin interrogates the goblin about the defences of Thistletop and learns that it consists of a wooden stockade atop a small island, with a rope bridge leading from the mainland. Access to the bridge is guarded by a goblin named Gogmurt and his pet cougar. When the goblin has finished revealing what he knows, Shalelu tosses him back in the bag and into a corner.
Everyone assembled discusses what to do next. After raising and discarding some initial proposals, the group accedes to Bey’s suggestion that a small strike force could raid Thistletop and at least discover what the goblins are doing there. Bey tells Sheriff Hemlock that she and her allies will undertake the dangerous mission, but only if the town supports them by making weapons, adventuring gear, and even healing potions available. Recognising the extreme risk the adventurers are taking, Sheriff Hemlock agrees. Shalelu says she would like to accompany the adventurers, but that she’s limping from an arrow fired by her bitter rival, the bugbear Bruthazmus. She says that as soon as she’s healed, she’ll be back in the field. The adventurers settle on a plan to explore Chopper’s Isle first thing in the morning, and then travel the six miles to Thistletop at sunset, with a plan to camp overnight and attack at dawn when the goblins will be asleep and unable to make full use of their advantage in being able to see in the dark. Nedrin surprises the group by stating that Grizzlenik could be very useful, and receives permission from Sheriff Hemlock to oversee the prisoner for the duration of the raid.
After the excitement of the late-night meeting, the adventurers return to their rooms to rest. Bey has a strange dream of being entangled in sharp-thorned vines.
[3 Lamashan 4707]
The adventurers assemble at Junker’s Edge at seven bells (with Nedrin carrying Grizzlenik in a sack), and see Ilsoari Gandethus waiting for them. Felix and Oliver had difficulty getting back to sleep, and each is dragging as the group make their way back to Chopper’s Isle. Once they arrive, Oliver makes the surprising decision to curl up for a nap, while Ilsoari investigates the nest of bones and the other adventurers return to the burned-out cottage. Nedrin, Bey, Felix, and Gizzlenik carefully lower themselves into the basement and take the tunnel opposite the room where Nedrin believes he encountered the ghost of the Chopper. They reach a small circular chamber littered with tiny bone carvings of horrific winged creatures and leathery papers. In the center of the room is a small hole in the floor, along with a bucket tied with a rope to a metal ring. Bey lowers her bardiche to disturb a small pile of clothing at the bottom of the hole and uncovers a child sized skeleton. Immediately, she feels something trying to push her into the hole! She resists, however, and the adventurers act quickly to lower Grizzlenik into the hole to recover the bones. They then make a run for it, with Felix growing progressively more and more tired from the chilling touch of a ghostly figure that looks like a sad little boy. The adventurers reach the surface and hurry away from the remnants of the Stoot house. The tragic story of what must have happened to Simon Korvut is all too clear.
The adventurers make their way back to Sandpoint, leaving Ilsoari behind at his own request to further investigate what he believes are signs of the Sandpoint Devil. Once back in town, Oliver and Felix spend the afternoon resting. Bey and Nedrin (with Grizzlenik in a sack “for his own safety”) take the skeletal remains to the cathedral. There, Sister Giulia says she will arrange for a suitable disposition of the body once Das Korvut arrives. The adventurers shoulder the burden of informing the blacksmith of what they found on Chopper’s Isle. Das is overwrought and rushes to the cathedral to say a final farewell to his son.
Late that afternoon, the adventurers assemble at Savah’s Armory. Sheriff Hemlock, true to his word, has arranged for the town to cover the cost of weapons and armor needed for the planned expedition to Thistletop. Felix arms himself with a bola, while Nedrin is thanked profusely by Grizzlenik for the gift of armor and a dogslicer. The grateful, but gullible, goblin is even happy to wear a dog-collar (with attachable leash) purchased from Rovanky Tannery “to protect his neck.” The adventurers purchase additional supplies from Nisk Tander, half-elf proprietor of an alchemical supply store named Bottled Solutions. With the day’s shadows lengthening, the adventurers make final preparations for the coming journey.
Having solved the mystery of Chopper’s Isle, the adventurers now ready themselves for a very different adventure: a raid on the most fortified goblin tribe in the region!
This was an enjoyable session, as the PCs finished off a side-quest and got ready to venture into the last section in Chapter 1 of the adventure path.
Sometimes a little information can be a dangerous thing, as the player running Nedrin was convinced that the spectral apparition initially encountered on Chopper's Isle was a ghost (and thus extremely hard to kill at low levels). In fact, it was a haunt and not nearly as dangerous.
I played up Ilsoari's interest in the Sandpoint Devil, and, although I have to be careful about what I say since the campaign is still on-going, I'm happy with his portrayal as someone with a keen interest in local legends and superstitions.
In the adventure path, Shalelu's arrival to talk about Thistletop is done as more traditional exposition. I tried to add some colour to it with the idea of the captured goblin, Grizzlenik, but little did I know that Nedrin's player would seize on the opportunity to take a veritable slave. It was a fun twist, so I rolled with it.
A good example is how d20pfsrd treats the Perception skill: http://www.d20pfsrd.com/skills/perception/
The *first* listing is unofficial third-party expansions (not even set aside with a bold or underlined header) and then it gets to the official skill description and then it slips into Unchained and then it slips into stuff from FAQs and message boards. I appreciate that they're trying to be comprehensive, but it just causes too much confusion for many players (and some GMs) who don't read carefully enough . . .
I've grown increasingly skeptical of d20pfsrd, because they've started integrating 3PP stuff into official material with nothing more than an easily unnoticed disclaimer at the top. That's led to players quoting me "rules" in the middle of a session that simply do not exist. I've told my players to rely on Archives of Nethys as a consequence. . .
My group is in the Misgivings, and although I've had them hear the sobbing twice, it scared them rather than attracted them. So although they've done a couple of the first and second floor haunts, they've decided to seek out the "root" of the evil in the basement and have now made it to the caverns.
It's too bad that they'll miss out on a lot of the explanation for what's going on, but the only way to cure that is to have a very linear adventure. Different groups are going to get different stuff out of the Misgivings, and that's okay.
Okay, thanks everyone. One last related question: in a situation like this:
The Hydra's Fang Incident Minor Spoiler:
Treasure: In Darsielle’s private quarters is a chest
Rewards: If Du Moire and his brigands are defeated,
Is the amount of gold in the actual chest significant, or just there for flavour? If this happened earlier in the scenario, could they take what's in the chest and use it to buy something?
I'm just trying to wrap my head around how equipment works in PFS. I've been playing home Pathfinder for a long while now, but I'm a bit confused about things work in a PFS scenario. During a scenario, is a PC allowed to take any equipment found on a dead/subdued NPC and use it for the rest of the session (assuming they know what it is)? I think I understand (though I could be wrong) that they don't get to *keep* any looted equipment after the session, though a Chronicle sheet might let them spend their gold (awarded separately) on items that they could otherwise not purchase?
I wouldn't read too much into things from a random NPC's stat line. It could have the somewhat unusual explanations given above, or it could just be an honest mistake. Remembering the prerequisites for prestige classes isn't always easy, and stat lines can't be tested in the same way a full stat block could be through HeroLabs or something similar . . .
I'd interpret that NPC stat block to mean that if the rogue is within 30', he'd use Spring Attack, but if was further away than that would do two move actions to get closer and gain the concealment from Lightning Stance so he'd stay alive long enough to attack on a subsequent round.
"We just started that's why I'm not sure if we will be encountering many Will save casters, that's why I'm asking on these forums lol anyone have any experience with this campaign?"
Um, yes, Rise of the Runelords is the oldest and most iconic Pathfinder campaign, and there's a lot of us who are familiar with it. The reason the early posters were keeping things general is that it's often seen as not cool to bypass your GM and come to the boards asking for adventure path spoilers. Instead, ask your GM for advice on how often Will save casters will appear in the campaign, but understand it's perfectly reasonable for them to say "You'll just have to wait and see!" It's part of the fun of adventure paths--you have the Player's Guide to get started, but the rest you just have to figure out as you go . . .
Spring Attack is a "Full-Round Action", and thus isn't a Move action or a Standard action (even though it includes movement). Thus, I don't think Lightning Stance would apply.
A good way to think about this is "Move actions" are *often* used for movement, but there are Move actions that don't result in movement (like drawing a weapon) and actions that are not Move actions that do result in movement (like taking a 5' step). One might argue that the original designers of D&D 3.0 could have chosen better names, like "Primary" and "Secondary" actions instead of "Standard" and "Move", but without a time machine we're stuck with what they did.
Do the adventurers not take any precautions at the house they're staying in? Even commoners in Magnimar would lock their doors at night, and trained adventurers would usually keep a watch, set alarms (spells or noisy traps, etc.). But if not, I'd play it straight. Remember, even a coup de grace won't necessarily kill a PC (the war razors don't actually do that much damage) and the noise of one getting their throat slit could be enough to wake the others unless the cultists time the attacks perfectly, which isn't easy to do when creeping around a strange house in total darkness.
I wouldn't do the Sihedron ritual thing unless the PCs are known for being greedy, because otherwise their souls wouldn't go to the Runewell . . .
So this happened to me last night.
The session previous, we had a near TPK as 3 out of 5 PCs were Dominated by a Veiled Master and the other 2 PCs were forced to flee. My character Sarabian, whom I've been playing for over a year (real-time), was one of those Dominated.
In last night's session, those of us with the Dominated PCs had new characters to play. I just decided to roll with a pre-gen Two-Handed Fighter.
So the Veiled Master and the Dominated PCs attack the castle where the new PCs and the two surviving old PCs are. The GM has us control both our Dominated characters (instructed by the Veiled Master to kill anyone that doesn't kneel) and the new PCs defending the castle.
My new PC, knowing that my old PC is actually a good guy who has been Dominated, tries to knock her with nonlethal damage. Critical hit! At first this seems great, as I know so much nonlethal damage will safely drop my Dominated PC. But, a critical hit with a 10th level Two-Handed Fighter with a halberd and various feats like the Vital Strike chain does something like 120 points of damage. My old PC suffers *so much* nonlethal damage that the she actually dies!
It was all great fun, and that's how my new PC accidentally killed my old PC in a hilarious incident that I shall never live down . . .
I think what you're suggesting is plausible. Skeletons are completely mindless animated undead, so if they don't see any active enemies, they might essentially go inert. They're not like ghouls that are going to feast on their enemies, for example. So my instinct would be that if the surviving PCs are able to wake up on their own, you might let them off with the GM equivalent of a serious warning to fight smarter/better next time :)
Session # 9 Recap:
[1 Lamashan 4707 continued]
In the aftermath of their victorious battle against Erylium in the hidden cathedral underneath Sandpoint, the heroes search the dead quasit and the room, finding little of interest. Bey magically heals Nedrin’s wounds and, after some minutes, the hobgoblin stops trying to burst his bonds. Judging that the effects of the magical orange liquid that enraged him have subsided, the other members of the group untie him. Nedrin rails at Oliver for having attacked him, but Bey speaks up in the ranger’s defence. For his part, Oliver merely sharpens his sword and fills a canteen with the glowing orange liquid.
After informing the sentries in the Glassworks’ basement that the demon quasit has been slain, the adventurers return and search the rest of the underground complex. With bows and crossbows they destroy the zombies in the pits without putting themselves at risk. Down a side tunnel, they find a spiral staircase descending down; alas, it is completely blocked with rubble. Another room presents a strange sight: several objects floating gently in mid-air! The walls of this spherical room are plated in sheets of strange red metal that ripple periodically with black electricity that occasionally coalesces into ancient Thassilonian runes of anger, wrath, and revenge. After much discussion and cautious trial-and-error, the adventurers retrieve a bottle of wine (of recent vintage), an arcane scroll, an ancient, ragged book written in an unknown tongue (with illustrations depicting grisly and cruel rituals), and an iron wand that Bey identifies as a wand of cure light wounds. Another previously-unexplored room holds a pool lined with skulls, and the last features a spiral staircase around a pillar leading into darkness above. Exploration shows that passage upwards is blocked by tons of stone that has collapsed from above, but that small fissures allow air to flow to and from the surface. After speculating about where this complex lies in relation to Sandpoint, the adventurers work together to confirm that the fissures place the staircase somewhere below an alleyway between Tower Street and Junker’s Way.
Having completed their exploration of the catacombs, the adventurers walk to the Sandpoint Cathedral. They arrive in time to witness the end of a memorial service for the victims of the goblin raid on the Glassworks and for Xeveg, who heroically fell during the initial foray into the catacombs. After the service is completed, Bey speaks with Mayor Deverin about the fissures from the surface to the catacombs. Mayor Deverin promises to have the alleyway inspected and paved over with stone tiles. Mayor Deverin reports Brodert Quink’s impatience to explore the catacombs, though Bey warns that the aged sage should not be allowed to enter without an escort. Father Zantus approaches the group after he finishes consoling some of the families of the murdered Glassworks employees. When asked, he assures Felix that the severe rash that broke out on the brawler’s skin from fighting the goblin dog should pass in a day or so. Bey shows Father Zantus the book found within the strange spherical chamber; he identifies it as a prayer and ritual book to Lamashtu, and states that it must be burned immediately. Bey is reticent to have it destroyed at first, but eventually agrees; due to suspicions raised by Oliver that Father Zantus may be misleading them, the entire group of adventurers go with the priest to his private study to witness the book being reduced completely to ashes in his fireplace.
Later, after Felix learns the hard way that what Bey identified as a wand of cure light wounds was actually a wand of shocking grasp, Nedrin is filled in about the adventurers’ activities in Sandpoint to date. They provide him with Tsuto’s journal to read, discuss Nualia, and mention that they’ve also taken a commission to explore Chopper’s Isle. Nedrin says that he’s been placed within the care of the group and that staying with them is the best alternative to being imprisoned or forcibly run out of town.
The adventurers settle in for an evening in the common room of the White Deer. Felix buys everyone a round and introduces Nedrin to Garridan. Bey begins drinking quite heavily. Cyrdak Drokkus, the local theatre director, comes in alongside a somewhat stiff middle-aged man. Bey goes over, and the stranger is introduced to her as Sir Jasper Korvaski, day manager of the Sandpoint Mercantile League. Bey, who is getting drunker by the minute, tells Cyrdak about the fight in the catacombs and he enthusiastically promises to use it as the basis of another theatrical production. Bey also mentions her friend Bodowen, a well-known actor and singer in Magnimar, but Cyrdak scoffs at both Bedowen’s and Magnimar’s “unearned” reputations. Over at the bar, Nedrin suddenly punches Felix in the mouth! The two tussle until Felix lands a solid blow, dropping his new ally to the floor. It turns out, however, that the fight was a friendly one to add a little excitement to the common room (though Garridan is not best pleased). As the evening goes on, Oliver brings the suspect bottle of wine from the catacombs over to Cyrdak’s and Jasper’s table and watches them drink it with no ill effects. He quickly discerns that the two are lovers, and hears how the Sandpoint Mercantile League can arrange journeys by boat or carriage all over Varisia, deliver messages to distant communities, handle land purchases and construction contracts, and arrange for the import or export of valuable trade goods. Over a few hours’ time, Jasper begins to loosen up a bit and shows a dry sense of humor. After a heavily-intoxicated Bey singes her hand in the fireplace trying to prove something, she’s put to bed. Nedrin retires as well, while Felix and Oliver stay up late into the night gambling with Cyrdak and Jasper.
[2 Lamashan 4707]
In the morning, the adventurers head in the direction of Junker’s Edge to inspect the tides in preparation for an expedition to Chopper’s Isle. On the way, they see Jodar Provolost and two new members of the Town Watch, youthful recruits from Magnimar named Jeyver and Bothon. Jodar says that Sheriff Hemlock wasn’t happy with the condescension he received when asking for help in Magnimar, and that he was even more steamed to return to Sandpoint and find out that a “deputy” has been appointed without his being consulted. After asking some questions about Chopper’s Isle, the adventurers decide they had better visit the Garrison to talk with Sheriff Hemlock.
At the Garrison, the adventurers see Sheriff Hemlock and grey-haired veteran Bosk Hartigan drilling the raw new recruits. Noticing his new audience, Hemlock shouts an order for Oliver to follow him and stalks off towards his office. Once there, he angrily demands Oliver’s immediate resignation. The ranger refuses. Hemlock asks how Oliver managed to get the position, and the latter shows the former the letter from Aldern Foxglove. After reading it, Hemlock crumples it up and says that if Oliver won’t resign, things are going to have to be done the hard way. He orders Oliver out of his office. On the way back to the others, Oliver passes by Bosk Hartigan; the older guardsman makes it clear he’s not happy at being passed over for promotion after having been a founding member of the Town Watch more than 40 years ago.
The local heroes reach Junker’s Edge and climb down to the beach below without difficulty. Having timed their expedition correctly, they wade over the slippery rocks between the beach and the base of Chopper’s Isle. Once there, they spot an area in the rounded cliff face where stairs had once been affixed before being burned along with the house itself. Felix adroitly climbs the face of the rock and lowers a knotted rope for the others. Everyone assembles at the top to see a windswept area of about two square acres. Heavy moss sags from the branches of old oak trees, nearly every branch of which has been carved in the shape of owls, hawks, eagles, and vultures. In the distance, little can be seen beside the remnants of a small, burned down cottage overgrown with tangled weeds and vines. Searching the clifftop, the adventures find tracks belonging to what Oliver says is a three-clawed large winged quadruped. The tracks lead to a small cache of gnawed bones, both recent and years old.
Felix is the first to enter the burned-out cottage, and pays a price: rotted floorboards crack underneath his feet, sending him tumbling hard to a hidden basement! Nedrin tries to climb down to lend a hand, but slips and falls as well. Oliver and Bey secure a rope around the base of a nearby tree and manage to descend safely. The basement has walls of packed earth and shaky wooden support beams, all carved with bird motifs. Two narrow passageways lead off in opposite directions, while the center of the room is dominated by a man-shaped wooden statue with the legs and talons of a giant eagle, two sets of eagle wings, a snake in place of its genitals, and a gem-studded avian head. The sound of whimpering and distress is heard by Nedrin and Bey, though Oliver and Felix hear nothing.
Nedrin angrily pushes over the statue and the group head down one of the side tunnels. The hobgoblin takes the lead, using his excellent darkvision to good effect. He turns a corner and sees a small chamber, the walls of which are covered in small alcoves. In one corner of the room is a pedestal with a dusty tome. Nedrin uses the blade of his longsword to flip open the cover of the book, and suddenly finds himself being attacked by the Chopper! Nedrin tries to fight off the nightmarish attacker, but his longsword passes right through him! Eerily, the others see no attacker; only that Nedrin is bleeding from several deep red wounds carved in his flesh in the shape of birds! At the rear of the single file line, Oliver feels a gentle touch on the back of his neck, and loses the ability to speak!
Facing an attacker he cannot harm, Nedrin runs for it. Oliver looks terrified and gives mute gestures to indicate his inability to speak, leading everyone to decide to escape the basement while they still can. A furious scramble up the wall keeps the adventurers alive, and they regroup to discuss what to do next. Nedrin says the group should leave Chopper’s Isle and tell no one what happened below, but Bey insists that the group would get reputations as cowards and failures. The consensus is that it’s too dangerous to return to the basement, at least for the moment, so the group scour the clifftop for any other clues and, finding none, wait for low tide before climbing safely down to the base of Chopper’s Isle.
The rumours that Chopper’s Isle is a forbidding, haunted place have been proven true. What remains to be seen is if Sandpoint’s local heroes will find the courage to return . . .
The group found some very interesting things in the Catacombs of Wrath. The tricky part was that it took them almost 15 sessions to identify some of it! I've taken to trying to give a sort of "keyword" adjective now whenever I hand out magical treasure to help me figure out what it is if it's being identified down the line. So for example, every potion has a colour ("a magenta potion") and every wand has a description ("a forked iron wand") that should match what's in my notes. Otherwise, if players just write down "potion" on their character sheet, I'll have no idea what it is later on.
Everyone was aghast that Oliver would intentionally test out what could be a poisoned bottle of wine from the Catacombs on two perfectly innocuous NPCs. Fortunately, it really was just ordinary wine so he didn't have murder on his hands. Speaking of Oliver, the stuff with him getting named Deputy worked out quite well and was probably the highlight for the character. Later, when the player ran a different PC, the new one just never really gelled.
The group first got the adventure hook for Chopper's Isle back in Session # 4, and I was happy to see them follow through. I had to do some quick Googling to figure out how tides work (i.e., the time between low tide and high tide), but I was happy without the characters' terror of the place.
Hm, I'm surprised you're worried about the Misgivings. I've never heard of a TPK inside the house, and there's definitely more dangerous sections of the adventure path. Keep in mind that there's very little actual combat inside the house, except for the caverns below the basement when the PCs are approaching Aldern himself. Most of the dangers in the house are from haunts, and they tend to create "save or suck" situations--if the PCs have any luck with saves, many of the haunts will be purely cinematic ways to better understand the story. The beauty of the carrionstorms is that keep the tension ratcheting up inside the house, because if the PCs could leave and return at will, the overall effect would be diluted. It's also a good wake-up call for those players who plan their PCs around the "five-minute adventuring day." The group I GM for just entered Foxglove Manor last session, and although I think it's possible one or two PCs could die from some of the nastier haunts, I'm not nearly as worried as I was when they were fighting the ghouls at the Hambley Farm (three attacks per ghoul, each of which could paralyze an opponent? That's a recipe for a TPK!). So, overall I would say not to worry too much about a TPK in the house. If you're really worried, make sure the PCs get some Knowledge rolls on the carrisonstorms so they realize they're swarms and not invincible auto-killers--they can be destroyed if the PCs are desperate to leave.
Ah, the Internet! Ruining good things for decades.
If I may change topics: James, I've got PCs about to head for Magnimar and I'm hoping to work in the Monument Boons concept, which I think is really original. Is the idea here that these monuments were intentionally constructed to provide the magical benefits (if the correct ritual were followed) as a sort of "gift" to the citizenry? Are the rituals to get each boon widely known?
Pocketing a bag of coins is nothing: the first time I ever played D&D (back in second edition), my first Paladin kept waking up to discover his possessions disintegrated. Including, one time, his Holy Sword! He kept assuming it was some incredibly stealthy monster, but it turned out to be one of the other PCs with some kind of grudge!
If I could survive that, the other players in the situation above can live with losing a little gold. Remind them that it's *pretend* gold if they forget ;)
I can see why a GM could be frustrated. Yes, there are forty different ways to make encounters tougher for this alchemist, but all of those ways force the GM to change an adventure to deal with one PC who is dominating every fight. This is especially true if a GM is trying to run modules or adventure paths faithfully where changes like "don't let them rest" or "have them fight monks" might not fit the premise of the campaign. It's okay to accept and acknowledge the fact that a class ability that does area of effect attacks vs. Touch AC a dozen times a day is really powerful, and not every GM is going to be enthusiastic about trying to accommodate for it. Calling the GM a bad one isn't helping anything.
Session # 8 Recap:
27 Rova 4707 (continued)
Standing before the doors to the subterranean cathedral to the Mother of Monsters, the adventurers discuss whether to press ahead or retreat. Bey expresses a strong preference to return to Sandpoint for healing and Nedrin agrees, citing the need to discover the quasit’s weaknesses before battling it again. Felix says he would rather continue the fight now and smash the profane cathedral to pieces, but after much discussion and (seeing he is outvoted), he reluctantly agrees to return to Sandpoint with the others.
The group reach the basement of the Glassworks without further incident. In addition to the expected sentries, they also see Das Korvut measuring the width and height of the point where the tunnel meets the basement; it becomes apparent that he’s been retained by Mayor Deverin to install a thick steel door. The adventurers are told by members of the Watch that the militia has been fully deployed and that all known entrances to the town are being guarded.
The Sandpoint Cathedral is the first stop for the adventurers. Father Zantus happens to know a little bit about quasits and shares with the group that they are vulnerable to cold iron weapons. He provides them with some emergency healing but is loath to expend too many resources given the widespread fear that an invasion is imminent. Before the adventurers depart, Father Zantus leads them over to a side chamber. There, in a stone alcove, lies the covered body of their deceased adventuring companion, Xeveg Kishalq. Father Zantus asks if anyone knows where in Varisia he hailed from, but no one does. Father Zantus says he’ll ask around town and then arrange a suitable disposition of the body. The adventurers go through Xeveg’s possessions (to the distaste of Father Zantus) and Bey takes the medallion of Runelord Alaznist.
The adventurers discuss whether to return to fight Erylium immediately or instead spend a few days recovering from the day’s intense fighting while planning a fresh assault. Oliver is reluctant to wait, but he is persuaded by the others and plans are made to reunite on the morning of 1 Lamashan.
28 Rova 4707 to 30 Rova 4707
Over the next few days, the adventurers try to make the most of their downtime.
Felix trains vigorously with Sabyl Sorn at the House of Blue Stone. She is impressed by his ferocity in hand-to-hand combat but dismayed at his lack of discipline. One night, returning to the Rusty Dragon covered in sweat and fresh bruises, Felix runs into Lartie Garridan. Lartie asks if Felix wouldn’t mind paying a visit to the White Deer. She explains that there are very few Shoantis in Sandpoint apart from the jailer Vachedi and some of the bouncers at The Pixie’s Kitten, and that her husband would surely appreciate Felix’s company. She says that Garridan has sacrificed his ties to his tribe in order to be with her and that, although he’d never admit it, he is lonely. More to the point, she adds, the adventurers’ custom of spending all of their time at the Rusty Dragon has proven to be a draw that the White Deer Inn can’t match. Felix promises to try to stop in more often.
Oliver also spends time training, though his exercises take place in the courtyard of the Sandpoint Garrison. After one practice, part-time guardsman Jodar Provolost congratulates Oliver on his new position. Oliver is confused until Jodar explains that a courier arrived from Magnimar just a few hours ago carrying a commission from the Justice Council appointing him as Deputy Sheriff of Sandpoint! Along with the letter of commission and a metal insignia of rank came a personal missive from Aldern Foxglove. This letter begins by thanking Oliver again for saving his life, praises the ranger’s martial prowess, states that Aldern pulled some strings with a friend on the Justice Council for the commission, and promises that after a respectful amount of time for the sake of appearances, Belor Hemlock can be removed from office and Oliver appointed in his place.
Oliver is quite pleased with the news and goes to visit Mayor Deverin. She is not nearly as pleased, and notes that he must have friends in high places as the commission by-passed her traditional prerogative to appoint law enforcement officials in the town. She extracts a promise from Oliver to take his new rank seriously and to confer with her before ordering the Town Watch into taking any drastic action. The discussion turns to the potential threats facing Sandpoint. Mayor Deverin says that no further dangers have manifested and that perhaps the whole thing was overblown. She’s stepped down the commitments of the members of the citizen’s militia, citing their need to return to families and businesses. She reports that their scouts have returned from the other two branches of the tunnels leading off from the Glassworks basement and that one leads to a dead end and the other leads all the way to a cave on the side of a cliff overlooking the Varisian Gulf. Given the crude collection of goblin beds and remnants of meals, this latter route must have been the surreptitious entrance taken by Tsuto and the goblins occupying the Glassworks. Finally, she confirms that she’s asked blacksmith Das Korvut to fashion a steel barrier or door to block off access from the tunnels to the Glassworks, since it is obvious that brick walls are not enough of an impediment.
Bey spends the days holed up in her room at the Rusty Dragon attempting to develop a new spell, but her efforts prove fruitless. One night, after throwing her books down in frustration, she hears a knock at the door. The visitor is a stern-looking older man named Ilsoari Gandethus, former adventurer and headmaster of the town’s school, the Turandarok Academy. Ilsoari explains that Father Zantus asked him to come see Bey after learning that Ilsoari knew Xeveg. Ilsoari explains that in some of his letters, the youth had mentioned growing up in the nearby town of Galduria with his adopted father. Ilsoari says merchants from Galduria come to the Sunday markets in Sandpoint and that he could arrange for Xeveg’s body to be returned, but that if Bey and her companions would like to escort the body and explain to his father how his son died they would be welcome to. Bey expresses no interest in the idea and Ilsoari leaves.
The seer instead seeks out her old friend Brodert Quink to ask about the figure on Xeveg’s medallion, Runelord Alaznist. Brodert explains that much of what he believes can’t be proven to the satisfaction of scholars, but that he thinks ancient Thassilon was a vast empire ruled by powerful wizards, as the massive monuments they left behind testify to the extent of their might. He says that Alaznist must have been one of these powerful wizards known as “Runelords” and that each ruled a particular region of Thassilon and was linked to one of the seven schools of magic recognized by the ancient empire. He adds something that Bey already knows: the seven Thassilonian schools of magic were also said to correspond to virtues and their concomitant vices.
Nedrin’s experience in Sandpoint is much different than the others. Whereas they are known as local heroes and often receive praise and discounts from shopkeepers, Nedrin is forced to wear a mask to conceal his hobgoblin heritage and is increasingly the subject of rumours and hostile gossip. The warrior spends his time crafting arrows and sells a batch of them to the Town Watch for a small profit. As he leaves the garrison, Nedrin sees that Daviren Hosk is waiting for him, holding the reins of a beautiful, well-muscled stallion. Daviren is terse as always, but says that the horse is partial repayment for the debt he owes since Nedrin’s father saved his life. He adds that he’ll stable the horse for free as long as Nedrin wants, and then departs.
1 Lamashan 4707
After spending a few days apart, the adventurers meet up in the common room of the Rusty Dragon for breakfast. Felix says that Sabyl was a harsh taskmaster but good at what she does. The Shoanti man notes that Nedrin’s presence in town has made him seem less threatening in comparison! Bey expresses her frustration at having failed her spell research but then turns the conversation to the future. She says the adventurers should investigate the purchase of cold iron weapons and then return to the catacombs for a final confrontation with the quasit.
The adventurers’ first idea of a place to obtain cold iron weapons is the Red Dog Smithy. Inside, they see Das Korvut working on a massive rectangular sheet of steel propped up by wooden blocks. All around him are empty liquor bottles, and his large red mastiffs snore lazily near the rear. Das swears at them when they ask about cold iron weapons, annoyed that they can’t see he’s busy and that they haven’t followed through on their promise to investigate the sighting of his son on Chopper’s Isle. When Oliver presses, Das grabs a massive forging hammer and advances threateningly. The adventurers depart to the sound of a door slamming behind them.
Next, they try Savah’s Armory. The proprietor, Savah Bevaniky, is happy to see them but says she can’t offer quite the discount as before: Sandpoint’s heroes have lost some of their lustre in the locals’ eyes given recent events, and she alludes to Felix’s “ungentlemanly” treatment of Shayliss Vinder, Oliver “going behind Mayor Deverin’s back” in being appointed Deputy Sheriff, and the general presence of Nedrin. Still, she’s more than willing to do business with them. Nedrin sells the silver dagger he took off of Koruvus’ body and uses the funds to help Felix buy a cold iron shortsword. Bey and Oliver pool their resources so that the latter can buy a cold iron greatsword.
From there the adventurers head to The Feathered Serpent, a cramped and cluttered shop smelling of exotic incense and spice. Vorvashali Voon greets them enthusiastically and says he has a lead on the ring that Xeveg is looking for; the adventurers decide not to divulge that the young wizard is dead. They ask Vorvashali about potions or scrolls of see invisibility but he says the former are impossible and that the latter are quite expensive. They follow his suggestion, however, and buy sacks of flour from the local bakery.
Before heading back to the Glassworks, one final stop is made: at the athedral. Inside, Bey asks Father Zantus if he would give or loan her a holy symbol of Desna to aid in the coming fight against Erylium. Father Zantus hesitates and pulls Bey aside. He explains that he doesn’t want to embarrass her or cause a problem since the adventurers have been so useful, but that he believes her frequent prophecies of an impending apocalypse are heterodoxical to Desna’s teachings of optimism, luck, and joy. Bey explains that her prophecies are, ultimately, optimistic because they allow for the apocalypse to be prevented with luck and courage. The two debate the teachings of Desna for some time. At one point, Father Zantus is about to accede but further argument hardens his position and eventually he refuses while still wishing the group luck in its efforts.
In the middle of the afternoon, the adventurers decide to return to the catacombs before Das Korvut can finish installing the thick steel door. The group travels single-file in total darkness, trusting Bey’s and Nedrin’s ability to see in the dark to lead them. The reach the ancient underground complex without incident and make their way straight for the cathedral. Oliver pulls out an everburning torch to reveal that the cathedral’s stone doors bar their way, but Felix and Nedrin put their shoulders to it and eventually burst through. The repeated pounding has alerted Erylium, however, and she stands ready for a last, desperate battle. “I will show you no mercy!” she vows. “Soon my general will arise, and then your precious Sandpoint will be destroyed!”
The battle begins in earnest as Nedrin, Bey, and Oliver shoot arrows and crossbow bolts at the quasit while Felix closes the doors to bar escape. The barrage of projectiles rarely strike Erylium, however, and when they do few manage to even pierce her skin. The ancient demon responds with a succession of summoning spells that manifest goblin dogs and dire rats to fight for her followed by enchantments to try to paralyse her foes. The adventurers are able to fight off most of her magicks and eventually slay the magically-summoned creatures, but one of Erylium’s spells has a dramatic effect: Nedrin falls prey to a command to approach Erylium, stepping into the strange orange pool to do so! He instantly becomes enraged and turns on his allies, attacking whomever is nearest with the full force of his longsword. Oliver is on the receiving end of a vicious slash from the hobgoblin’s sword, leading the ranger to respond in kind using his greatsword! Oliver decides that he has no choice but to subdue Nedrin, and despite the calls of Felix and Bey, turns his attention away from Erylium, leading to much cackling laughter. Nedrin succumbs to Oliver’s assault, bleeding and unconscious, but alive. The ranger quickly binds Nedrin.
Erylium casts a hex on Bey to make her fall asleep again, but Felix moves quickly and wakes her before the demon can slit her throat. Bey retaliates by uttering a divine curse which succeeds in shattering Erylium’s magical dagger. The stunned quasit is then on the receiving end of a leaping charge by Felix, who manages to grab her by the throat! He begins pummelling her and stabbing with his new cold iron shortsword while Oliver joins in with his cold iron greatsword. Erylium struggles frantically to get free, but this time her luck runs out: with a mighty overhead swing, Oliver cuts the ten-thousand year-old demon in twain!
With victory at last in hand, the adventurers have a difficult decision to make: what to do next?
This session started with each character taking a few days' worth of Downtime. I planned one role-playing encounter for each PC to help fill in the gaps while this was taking place and thought it turned out pretty well.
I thought the trick Erylium pulled on Nedrin was pretty clever and wicked, which fits the quasit's profile well. Things could have gotten pretty bloody if Oliver hadn't subdued Nedrin so quickly. Speaking of Erylium, I think we were all relieved that the PCs finally managed to take her down. She took up three sessions of gameplay!
IIRC, previous editions of D&D had a rule that searching for traps took a full-round action and only applied to a single 5' square.(*) As far as I can tell in Pathfinder, there's no such rule. So, a character can stand at one end of a 50' corridor and search the whole thing for traps, with the caveat that their check is slightly less accurate the further away they are from the trap.
(*) I know to modern players this sounds incredibly tedious, but that's just how we did it--with graph paper, square by square mapping, etc.
That's a good question, and I also don't think there are rules for it. I tend to handle obstacles that don't completely block a square's movement (like a chair or a table that's partially in a square) as difficult terrain. I would only apply the squeezing rule if I'd literally imagine the character not being able to freely swing their arms or stand up straight because of an obstruction.
I'm in one camp, but I can definitely understand the argument from both sides. That's why Paizo is doing this experiment: it's going to figure out how strong the "I won't buy it if it's too much Golarion" camp compared to the "Everything should be Golarion" camp and make future publishing decisions accordingly. It might continue splitting the difference, or it might start changing the way it's been doing business for a decade now.
It sounds to me like this:
1. In most terrain, characters can move at full speed through the Cruel Thicket squares, but if they do they take the bleed damage.
2. In areas with numerous plants, the area around the caster becomes difficult terrain. Characters who move at 1/2 speed (normal for difficult terrain) take damage, but those who move at 1/4 speed do not.
The last line about characters able to move through natural undergrowth unhindered means that druids with Woodland Stride or characters with other similar special abilities (through class features or spells) wouldn't be affected by the Cruel Thicket at all.
Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, Starfinder, the Starfinder logo, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Legends, Pathfinder Online, Starfinder Adventure Path, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.