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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.
I think you raise a good point. My group is just about at Foxglove Manor and I doubt they'll want to have a sustained conversation with Aldern once they find him. My plan is "bullet point" the most important bits of exposition I want him to reveal, not ask for Initiative until the transformation, and remember that talking is a free action if combat starts early.
Session # 7 Recap:
27 Rova 4707 (continued)
The adventurers, along with Vachedi and Sabyl Sorn, begin walking back down the tunnel towards the mysterious chambers they were forced to retreat from just hours prior. But as they reach the point where the tunnel turns from west to north, Daviren Hosk appears with a message for Vachedi. The adventurers can't hear their conversation, but it's clearly heated and at one point the two scuffle before Felix intervenes and breaks it up. Vachedi stalks off back towards the basement of the Glassworks, while Daviren explains that he's gone to fetch something to aid the adventurers on their mission and they should wait for his return. The stable-master goes on to say that Mayor Deverin has asked him and Sabyl Sorn to separately scout the other two branches of the tunnel to ensure Sandpoint can't be invaded from any previously-unknown entrances to this subterranean network. The two head off on their mission, leaving the adventurers to wait for Vachedi's return.
Sometime later, the town jailer does arrive pushing a wheeled cage. Inside, bound to an upright wooden-frame, is a masked, heavily-muscled figured. Vachedi scowls as he starts the laborious process of unlocking the multiple sets of restraints that keep this figure restrained. Vachedi tells the others to watch their backs before sighing and unlocking the final restraint. The figure steps out of the cage as Vachedi kicks over a bag of gear, and the former prisoner starts donning armor, weapons, and a strange mask from the bag. Vachedi gives a meaningful look to Felix before heading back down the tunnel.
In a deep, gravelly voice, the newcomer asks for a report on the nature and disposition of enemy forces. The others provide a summary and the whole group begins marching again. Soon, the rough-hewn tunnel reaches the point where the adventurers were first attacked by a strange monster in these catacombs. This time, no monster lurks in the side chamber but a giggling voice taunts them from further north. It is clearly Erylium, and she says that she's ruled this "empire" for thousands of years and that the adventurers are foolish to return, for they will surely meet their doom just as their wizard companion did. The adventurers follow the sound down the tunnel until it turns to the right and emerges in a chamber of worked stone with three passages (north, south, and east) branching off. In the center of this room stands a red marble statue of a beautiful, enraged woman holding a glittering metal-and-ivory ranseur in one hand and a book with a strange seven-pointed star on the cover in her other hand. Bey's research into ancient Thassilon leads her to believe that the star symbol is called a Sihedron, and that each of the seven points represent one of the types of Sin Magic, which is how Thassilonian wizards divided schools of magic. The statue matches the medallion previously worn by Xeveg, and clearly depicts Alaznist, the Lord of Wrath.
The mocking voice of Erylium continues from the north. The adventurers know they're being led into a trap, but they're determined not to let the quasit escape them again. They soon find themselves atop a rickety wooden platform overlooking a large stone chamber with several barred cells. When they get close to the edge of the platform, two of the monsters with three-fingered hands attack from the darkness under the platform, trying to knock the intruders to the ground! The battle is hard-fought by both sides, but soon the adventurers emerged bloodied but victorious. Erylium's voice echoes from the west, stating that she's sending another gift now that her "sinspawn" have properly welcomed the group. The adventurers hear the sound of something moving towards them quickly and take up defensive positions. Seconds later, a massive three-armed, deformed goblin charges into the fray! But the adventurers were ready for them, and he's dropped in seconds. The group’s new ally, who gives his name as Nedrin, quickly strips the attacker of weapons. The adventurers conduct a search of the chamber and notice that one of the cells has a secret tunnel leading to the rough-hewn passages that brought them to this underground complex. But unbeknownst to the adventurers, the strange goblin attacker possessed the ability to heal his own wounds! He rises to do battle again, but is again defeated and this time the group show him no mercy, stomping his skull into thin paste.
During the battle, Nedrin briefly removes his mask and is revealed to be a member of the militaristic and expansionist race known as hobgoblins! His new companions pay little mind, however.
Erylium mocks the group again, but Felix discerns the tremor in her voice that makes him realize she is actually terrified and is just trying to lure them away from the cathedral. The adventurers give chase and reach an ancient interrogation chamber full of rusty torture devices. A small chamber to the south is filled with rubble and debris, but Bey cleverly uses a spell to determine that there is one item of note within: a black vellum scroll that is magical.
The adventurers continue to the east and see a large chamber that features large square wooden boards in a regular pattern on the stone floor, with another passageway heading south. Strange moaning sounds can be heard from somewhere below. Erylium makes herself visible, obviously hoping to trick the adventurers into treading on the boards, but they're too clever and avoid them when they attack. Erylium still has some tricks up her sleeve, however, and uses powerful magic to make Bey fall asleep. And then, the tiny demon manages to push the adventurer onto one of the wooden boards, which collapses and sends her tumbling into a deep pit containing an undead abomination! The other adventurers frantically try to both contain Erylium and rescue Bey, but succeeding on both tasks simultaneously is difficult. Oliver tries to fashion a make-shift lasso to grab onto Bey, but his wild swing instead entangles Felix! Fortunately, Bey wakes up after being repeatedly smashed by her zombie attacker and manages to climb out of the pit on her own, just seconds before she would have succumbed.
Nedrin fires a powerful composite bow at Erylium and his arrows seem to have an effect. When she flies close to the ground, Felix leaps on her and locks his grip tight. The seconds that follow see everyone trying to stab, cut, and stomp their demonic tormentor until Erylium pleads for mercy and even telepathically offers to make Felix her "general" if he lets her go. But when he angrily refuses, she summons all of her wiliness for one last desperate maneuver. She slips free of his grasp just long enough to roll onto one of the wooden boards herself, fall into the pit, and then fly free! Near death, she turns invisible and flies away frantically. The adventurers give chase to the west but can't keep up with her.
They decide that they should seek out what she obviously cares about the most: the strange pool of orange liquid in the cathedral. They find their way back to the shrine adjacent to the cathedral and realize that Erylium has set one of her minions to guard the chamber. This strange creature looks like a demon's head with bat-wings, but although it unleashes a piercing shriek to paralyze its foes, the adventurers' anger and frustration give them strength and they resist the effects. The last sentinel before the cathedral is quickly and efficiently slain.
Twice now the heroes of Sandpoint have fought Erylium, and twice now she's escaped their clutches. The adventurers are badly hurt and low on resources, but Erylium has unleashed her "armies" on the group to no avail. A third, and final battle, is ahead, and only one side will emerge victorious . . .
I was quite proud of the introduction of Nedrin, the new PC being ran by the player who previous ran Xeveg. I went full on "Hannibal Lecter" and thought it was pretty cool. I don't know if the players care a lot, but I always try to find new and interesting ways to introduce new PCs. Surprisingly, no one batted an eyelash (in-character or out) that the new PC was a hobgoblin, which was mildly disappointing from an RP perspective.
Erylium's ambush plan was pretty good and in-character for her, but the PCs had no difficulty with any of her minions. Indeed, Koruvus, this three-armed mutant goblin with a terrifying picture, got curb-stomped and I don't think he even did a point of damage to the PCs. The battle against Erylium was another long, frustrating one, and I think I was hoping for her death as much as the PCs. Still, I had to play with as much cunning as a I could. I made a rules mistake when it came to Bey and the zombie pit--I forgot that the first time the zombie did damage to her, she should instantly wake up. I'm really glad she survived, because I would have felt quite guilty if my mistake had led to a PC death.
It's kind of funny that many gaming groups happen to skip the Catacombs of Wrath altogether, whereas my group spent three full sessions on it . . .
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
You've got a 550+ page core book and several other products being released at the same time. If you released a full page from the book each day until August, we'd still only see a third of it. Please don't be stingy with the previews :)
If the player's PC gets arrested, you could just treat it the same way you would if he were turned to stone, lost on another plane, or dead: tell him to roll up a new character to play. After all, the wheels of justice may turn quite slowly and it's not fair for his chaotic evilness to ruin the adventure path for everyone.
Don't be hard on yourself, Erylium is one tough cookie for most groups to handle. She doesn't deal much damage, but she's hard to kill. It took my PCs three tries (each lasting most of a session) to finally get her. What I had her do after she fled the first battle was gather all of the other monsters in the Catacombs. That second battle ended in her narrowly escaping again! The PCs when back to Sandpoint and invested in some cold iron weapons (to bypass her DR) and finally managed to kill her in the third battle . . .
Fleeing to Thistletop isn't crazy. I just played Erylium as agoraphobic and convinced that the Catacombs were her "empire" so she wasn't going to leave.
Session # 6 Recap:
[27 Rova 4707 continued]
The adventurers set off towards the basement of the Glassworks, planning to explore the recently-discovered tunnels branching off of it. On the way, Xeveg shares what he knows about quasits, a type of creature mentioned in Tsuto’s journal: that they are tiny winged demons from another plane of existence and are resistant to fire. In the basement, the adventurers see the sentries posted by Mayor Deverin. The sentries say they are stretched thin guarding the multiple approaches to Sandpoint, as there’s only a dozen guards in the Town Watch. One of them, Jodar Provolost, says that if things get worse and Sheriff Hemlock hasn’t returned from Magnimar yet, Mayor Deverin may have to call out the citizen militia.
The adventurers face a choice of three directions when they enter the tunnels: northeast, east, and west. Xeveg suggests the group choose the west route, and they do. A rough-cut passageway, it meanders for about fifty feet west before turning north for another hundred feet and continuing down through a torn-down brick wall. From a side-chamber barely visible in the light of Oliver’s everburning torch, a monstrous form suddenly appears! The creature, a hairless humanoid with back-bent dog-like legs, tiny arms with three-fingered hands, and a mouth full of sharp teeth immediately leaps to attack Felix. The Shoanti warrior is scratched by one of its claws but he fends it off and then pummels it to the ground as Oliver’s greatsword and Bey’s bardiche slash it to pieces. The terrifying incident is over almost as soon as it has begun. A search of the rough-hewn chamber reveals nothing of interest.
The tunnels continue north but also branch off to the east. Choosing east, the adventurers discover a solid, worked stone wall that has been torn down to reveal a finished underground complex. Still filled partially with debris, a heavy stone door is pushed open to reveal corridors winding north and east. The adventurers again choose east, and as their footsteps echo heavily through the ancient darkness, they come across a small shrine to an unknown entity. Steps lead up to a platform of gray stone, and sitting atop the platform is an altar, little more than a jagged block of black marble with a shallow concavity on top of it. The basin is filled with what appears to be filthy water, but Xeveg insists it is, in fact, holy water. Oliver decides to drink some and immediately becomes queasy and ill. After he recovers enough to continue, the adventurers examine a locked set of stone double-doors leading off of the shrine room. Oliver spends several minutes loudly picking the locks, but finally a rusty tumbler turns and the doors open.
A large underground cathedral reveals itself. With small stone doors hanging just ajar on either side of the main entrance, the walls of the cathedral are carved with strange, spiky runes. In the center of the room is a large pool with a ring of polished human skulls balanced on stone spikes around it. At the far end of the room, a pair of stone stairways lead up to a dais on which sits a second pool, this one filled with churning, glowing orange liquid. But what demands the adventurers’ attention is the sudden appearance of a quasit hovering above the pool. “How dare you intrude in the Mother’s sanctum!” she shouts before slashing the palm of her hand with a dagger. Blood drips into the churning pool, and the quasit becomes alarmed as the orange glow diminishes noticeably. But from out of the pool, another monstrosity like the one that guarded the approach to these catacombs emerges. It sniffs the air and moves to attack the intruders.
An epic battle begins! The monstrosity is soon felled before the adventurers’ might, but the wily winged quasit flies out of reach and turns invisible at crucial moments. It hurls spells and charms to vex the adventurers, such as magically compelling Felix to flee twice! The quasit, whose name is revealed to be Erylium, shouts that the adventurers are committing blasphemy merely by setting foot in her “empire” and that she will punish them on behalf of the Demon Mother. Xeveg is the subject of several magical attacks but manages to fight them off, and then, through either desperation or mistaken strategy, decides to cut his own hand and drip blood into the cauldron of bubbling orange liquid! Another abomination emerges and attacks the young wizard, rending at him with claws and teeth! The adventurer falls to the ground, unconscious. As the battle rages on, a stalemate begins to show: Erylium has exhausted most of her magic and has only a tiny dagger to harm the adventurers, but her ability to fly out of their reach combined with demonically-strong skin and the ability to slowly heal wounds means neither side can gain an advantage.
Bey, realizing that Erylium is paranoid about protecting the pool, conjures a rush of water into it to force it to overflow. Erylium screams in rage that if the adventurers do not flee, she’ll slit the throat of their downed companion. But the remaining adventurers keep fighting and Erylium follows through on her threat! In seconds, Xeveg’s lifeblood splatters the floor and walls of the cathedral and he dies. Recognizing that Erylium is both visible and near the ground, Felix leaps and grabs the demon before she can escape! He squeezes to crush her frail bones and punches her repeatedly in the face, and it looks like she’s about to succumb until somehow she squirms free of his grasp and flies away!
The adventurers give chase as she hurtles out of sight into the darkness. They hear her shouting at someone to “gather everyone to repel the invasion!” and, after a few moments’ equivocation, they decide that a retreat is in order. The adventurers make their way back to the Glassworks, with Oliver dragging Xeveg’s body with a loop of fishing line around the corpse’s neck. Jodar Provolost is sent to get reinforcements as the adventurers spend tense moments wondering whether an attack is imminent. He returns with the skeleton crew that had been manning the garrison, and says that Mayor Deverin is calling out the militia. Meanwhile, Oliver starts stripping Xeveg’s body of wealth and possessions. A couple of hours later, Mayor Deverin arrives with several townspeople serving as volunteer soldiers. Felix notes that an attack hasn’t come yet, and suggests another expedition into the catacombs. Mayor Deverin, worried that an attack could come from anywhere, says she can spare two members of the militia for the scouting mission. The group select Vachedi and Sabyl Sorn, and prepare to set forth again.
Director's Commentary (26/02/2017)
The big event in this session, unfortunately, was the first PC death of the campaign. Although Erylium is extremely hard to kill (fast healing, flying, invisibility, DR), she does an incredibly small amount of damage with a Tiny-sized dagger. The reason Xeveg died was that the players at the table, other than the one running Xeveg, either didn't know about or forgot about the coup de grace action, and thus didn't take Erylium's threat to slit Xeveg's throat seriously. The dagger did 1 point of damage, doubled to 2 with the automatic critical hit, resulting in a DC 12 Fortitude save for the wizard to live or die. Alas, the check failed. It was sad at the time, and still a bummer, as I thought Xeveg was a really interesting character with a lot of potential, and having a full arcane spellcaster is something that would have made subsequent encounters later in the campaign *much* easier.
I had to improv, of course, Mayor Deverin's response when the PCs retreated, but I thought it worked out pretty well.
It sounds like you're getting frustrated with your players, but just try and stay patient and it will become clear to them that this isn't a video game and that things change all the time. If, for example, they set their camp someplace near Thistletop that can be tracked, have them get attacked by a night-time raid (most of the enemies can see in the dark better than they can). Have the bridge be cut if things get really dire so they have to try an amphibious, cliff-climbing assault, etc. You guys should find your rhythm over time.
Alright, as a follow up to my earlier stab at libraries in Sandpoint (http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2u415?Sandpoint-Libraries), here's a first take on libraries in Magnimar statted out with the Ultimate Intrigue research rules. Suggestions on improvement, or libraries I missed, much appreciated. A lot of what's below is conjecture, as there's only a little bit about these two institutions in the "Magnimar, City of Monuments" book.
Museum of Ages (Capital District, Building C4)
This museum, curated by esteemed scholar of Varisian history Doctor Ernst Landis (N male Chelaxian expert5/wizard5), is the largest in Magnimar and lavishly supported by public funds. It holds displays on the history, inhabitants, and culture of not just Varisia, but Golarion as well. Of particular note are three of its permanent displays: the ancient Eye of Rakzhan (a magically petrified cyclops eyes from a remote island in the Shackles), the Gemstone Regalia of King Chadris Porphyria III (held on public display here much to Korvosa’s disdain), and the Lions of Siv (two matching lions, one of red marble and the other of black). The Museum of Ages funds the region-wide expeditions of renowned explorer, treasure hunter, and Pathfinder Doctor Archisa Aparna (NG female Vudrana bard 5), who frequently lectures on ancient Varisian monuments on the occasions she is in the city.
Information On: Ancient Monuments, Famous Historical Figures, Famous Historical Events
Research Check: Knowledge: History (untrained), Knowledge (Local) [legends], Knowledge: Nobility
Knowledge Bonus: +2
Research Thresholds: KP: 18
Founder’s Archive (Capital District, Building C4)
This library, open to the public, is well-funded by the city and contains the personal archives of some of Magnimar’s most notable public figures, as well as the scholarly output of generations of historians and researchers of the arcane, occult, and divine. The premier library in western Varisia, the Founder’s Archive is run with an iron fist by the stern, half-Shoanti/half-Varisian Madam Irba Demerios (LN female expert 8). Madam Demerios holds the only key to the library’s Forbidden Collection.
Information on: Magic (all types), the Planes, Politics, Government, Foreign Policy, Dark Secrets*
Research Check: Knowledge: Arcana, Knowledge: The Planes, Knowledge: Local, Knowledge: History, Diplomacy
Knowledge Bonus: +4
Research Thresholds: KP: 36
I would just ask in the "Gamer Talk" forum.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, I bought several used books from someone who had to downsize and got them at a very reasonable price. As far as I know, he still has all of Legacy of Fire available: http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2u55b?APs-and-other-books-Mint-condition#4
This will sound completely ridiculous, since the game doesn't even come out for about six months, but I've spent way too much time trying to contrive a way to fit Starfinder into my schedule come August! (I already play in one weekly Pathfinder game and GM another). I might have to try Play by Post . . .
I made this up for my game (the PCs will encounter them for the first time on Sunday!) and thought you might find it useful:
1. Before a haunt begins to manifest, the only way to detect it is with Detect undead or Detect alignment at a -4 penalty vs. the Notice DC.
2. Once a haunt is triggered, a surprise round instantly begins. PCs who succeed on the Notice DC can act during this surprise round.
3. The haunt acts on Initiative rank 10; prior to this point, positive energy applied to the haunt (via channelled energy, cure spells, etc.) can damage the haunt’s hit points, and it doesn’t receive a Will save to lessen this damage; attacks that require a successful attack roll must hit AC 10. Unless the haunt has a special weakness, this is the only way to reduce its hit points.
4. If the haunt’s hit points are reduced to zero, it is neutralized (if this happens before Initiative rank 10 in the surprise round, it does not manifest).
5. A neutralized haunt is not destroyed, and can reset after a set amount of time with a DC 10 caster level check (if failed, it must wait that amount of time before trying again).
6. Some haunts are persistent, and continue into regular rounds, triggering once per round on Initiative rank 10.
7. All primary effects created by a haunt are mind-affecting fear effects, even those that produce physical effects.
Every haunt has a Perception check DC, and every character that makes that check and has an initiative higher than 10 in the resulting surprise round could do something like run out of the room, buff, or (for a cleric) channel energy and hope that the haunt is within range to destroy it.
If the haunt does manifest (on count 10 in the Initiative order), only the affected creature sees any of the spiritual manifestation (a ghostly dance partner, etc.); the others, however, will see whatever actions are taken by the affected creature or any other real things manipulated by the haunt. So yes, others would see a character dancing by himself, trying to kill himself with a sharp splinter of wood (instead of a dagger), etc.
"While under the effects of this spell, the target is immune to any new attempts to possess or exercise mental control over the target. This spell does not expel a controlling life force (such as a ghost or spellcaster using magic jar), but it does prevent them from controlling the target. This second effect only functions against spells and effects created by evil creatures or objects, subject to GM discretion."
Tough question. Part of the answer might depend on what the haunt does: if it starts the room on fire, than no. If it tries to take over a PC's mind to make them think they're someone else and angry, and the haunt is evil, and we consider a haunt an "evil creature or object" (unsure about that), and we factor in the "subject to GM discretion" text, than maybe.
I don't want to proselytize, so I'll leave it alone at this post. If you think of role-playing as something to do to pass the time between combats, then that's all a role-playing game will be for you. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, and Pathfinder is an incredibly crunchy system that absolutely 100% supports that kind of play.
Role-playing games can be so much more than that, however. Think of every novel ever written; how many of them are *not* about the main characters killing monsters? Anything that a novel can do, so can a role-playing game. You could have a game centered around a murder mystery, torrid romance, slapstick comedy, inter-family drama, exploration of an alien (but friendly) culture, medical emergencies, or about a million other things. Pathfinder is certainly not the best system for some of those things, but it can still be used to tell those stories. When we broaden our horizons, RPGs can be about more than just combat, just like prime-time TV can be about more than police procedurals--even though neither usually are :) The hard part is finding the players and the GM to tell stories outside the conventional ones.
Relax, have fun. Enjoy trying out something different and don't overthink it. Not every campaign requires super-tough adventurers, so give the GM the benefit of the doubt. Don't even "aim" for a class at Level 2. Instead, focus on being a commoner for now--put a rank in a Profession and see where the campaign takes you, organically.
Session # 5 Recap:
26 Rova 4707 (continued)
In the basement of the Sandpoint Glassworks, a team of adventurers has discovered the whereabouts of Ameiko and her kidnapper (and brother), Tsuto. As the team is distracted by seeing Ameiko’s unconscious, bound, and prone form, Tsuto launches a surprise attack. His punch, aimed for Bey’s throat, slides harmlessly off her armor and the battle begins! Tsuto’s quick reflexes and mobility are of limited use in the narrow basement corridor, and soon he’s wounded from multiple strikes while barely landing a glancing blow on Bey’s jaw. The kidnapper turns and runs for it, but the adventurers give chase! Xeveg and Felix manage keep up with the spritely half-elf, and corner him in a small cul-de-sac in one of the long tunnels. Xeveg conjures a freezing ray and Felix punches Tsuto square in the nose, and in moments their target is unconscious. They drag him back to the scene of the initial attack and Xeveg uses the ropes binding Ameiko to bind Tsuto instead. The group exit the Glassworks carrying the unconscious siblings and receive general applause from the small crowd of townspeople assembled outside. Ameiko is taken to the Rusty Dragon to rest while Tsuto is deposited in a jail cell underneath the Sandpoint Garrison. Bey estimates the villain will awaken naturally in a couple of hours and can then be interrogated.
The adventurers discuss whether they should go to Chopper’s Isle and investigate Das Korvut’s believe that he saw the ghost of his missing son Simon there. The thick fog, 120’ high cliff face, and realisation that the isle can only be reached on foot at low-tide lead the group to determine they should wait for a better opportunity and gather additional information. After Bey delivers a note asking for an audience with Madame Mvashti to discuss spirits, Felix suggests that a conversation with the locals about what happened five years ago during the “Late Unpleasantness” could be useful. They talk to Jodar Provolost, a part-time member of the Town Watch. Provolost tells them that five years ago, in a span of just a couple of months, three tragedies struck Sandpoint: Lonjiku Kaitjitsu’s wife, Atsuii, slipped and fell to her death from a cliff near the family home; a fire consumed the town chapel and resulted in the death of Father Ezakien Tobyn and his foster-daughter, an aasimar named Nualia; and a serial-murderer nick-named “The Chopper” terrorized Sandpoint and claimed over two-dozen victims. The Chopper was revealed to be an eccentric but seemingly gentle man named Jervas Stoot, beloved in Sandpoint for the delicate and graceful wood carvings he did of birds. Stoot built his home on the small tidal island just north of Old Light, nimbly climbing up and down the cliff face in good weather until the townspeople chipped in and had a set of wooden stairs built. After Stoot’s crimes were discovered and he perished in mortal combat with the town’s previous sheriff, the house and stairs on the isle were burned.
As they wait for Tsuto to awaken, the adventurers go through the half-elf’s possessions which have been piled neatly outside of his cell by the town jailer, Vachedi. Bey and Xeveg work together to determine that Tsuto carried a magical potion of healing and minor ring of protection, and each are assigned to Felix. Tsuto’s journal is also found, and when read reveals that the real goal for the raid on Sandpoint on the night of the Swallowtail Festival was the theft of Father Tobyn’s body. Tsuto writes that his “love” burned the remains at a shrine in Thistletop to “start the transformation” and remove her “celestial taint”. The journal also mentions the names Ripnugget, Bruthazmus, Malfeshnikor, Lamashtu, and a potential plan to have a mysterious quasit attack Sandpoint from below using the old smuggler’s tunnels under the Glassworks. Xeveg recognises the name Lamashtu as the demonic goddess of deformity, miscarriage, and madness, while Bey makes a connection between Father Tobyn’s body being stolen and his foster-daughter being a member of the celestial aasimar race. To test the latter theory, the team ask one of the longest-serving members of the Town Watch, a grey-haired veteran named Bosk Hartigan, about Nualia. He says that Nualia was presumed to have died in the chapel fire, but that her body was never found. He describes Nualia as having been a great beauty, so much so that she could be off-putting to regular people. After Bosk departs, the group speculates whether the fact that next month is Lamashan (named after the demon goddess) could have special significance. Bey says that if the group can’t figure out when the true invasion will occur, they may need to evacuate the town!
Tsuto awakens with a groan, and realising his situation, he sits with his back to the adventurers and starts meditating. At first he ignores them entirely, but Bey and Xeveg manage to get a reaction out of him by mentioning his “love” and his deceased father, respectively. Xeveg suggests that Bey poke him with the blunt end of her bardiche through the bars of his cell, but when she does so, Tsuto suddenly jumps around and pulls the weapon from her hands! He stabs Xeveg with it and then starts attacking the cell’s lock. He tells the group he’ll see that they’re treated mercifully if they let him go, but Oliver draws his greatsword and impales Tsuto! The prisoner slumps to the ground, hovering on death’s door before Bey manages to stabilize him. The commotion draws Vachedi and other guards from the garrison. Vachedi takes Felix aside and says that he’s happy to give his fellow Shoanti plenty of lee-way when it comes to interrogation, but he’ll have to be more subtle next time, especially once Sheriff Hemlock returns.
The adventurers decide to discuss Tsuto’s journal and the discussion of further attacks with Mayor Deverin at the town hall across the street from the garrison. Mayor Deverin grants them an instant audience, and is horrified when shown Tsuto’s journal. She exclaims that the tunnels below the Glassworks need to be secured and asks the adventurers to scout where they lead. The potential menace of Thistletop is also discussed, though Mayor Deverin is loathe for the town’s new heroes to be publicly seen leaving during this time of crisis. She says she’ll trust in the adventurers’ expertise, however, as they’ve always come through for the town. She agrees to post guards in the Glassworks’ basement and at each entrance to the town.
Xeveg decides that research in the library at the House of Blue Stones could be useful in gathering more information about some of the names mentioned in Tsuto’s journal. He is admitted entry by Sabyl Sorn in order to discharge the debt of honour she says she owes the group for doubting their word outside the Glassworks that morning. Inside, Xeveg sees that the interior of the building consists of a single large chamber, the floor of which is decorated with polished blue stones set within winding pathways of reed mats. Sabyl lifts a particular reed mat to reveal a trapdoor leading into a library of scrolls below. She lectures Xeveg about the rules for using the collection, most of which she says was gathered by her now-deceased father. She also stays and watches Xeveg at all times. Although he turns up nothing in regards to the name “Malfeshnikor”, he is able to set aside at least one theory: the cultists of Lamashtu are not known to pay any particular reverence to holy months, days, or the lunar calendar.
After waiting outside for some time and realizing they have no idea how long Xeveg could take, the other adventurers decide to return to the Rusty Dragon for the afternoon. They learn that Ameiko has been visited by Father Zantus and has been healed of her physical wounds, but has kept to her room. As Madame Mvashti has not left word for them, the group ask around and learn that the aged seer is often taken on walks throughout Sandpoint or its environs by her niece Gianya. The trio wander around Sandpoint hoping to run into them, but the fates are not with them and they end up back at the House of Blue Stone to wait for Xeveg. After the young wizard emerges and shares what he’s found, Bey expresses excitement about attending the play “Local Heroes” at the Sandpoint Theatre that evening. Xeveg adamantly refuses to attend, but the others decide to go and even show up early.
Bey, Felix, and Oliver find that the theatre’s box office is attended by surly teenager Bimmy Beems, who explains that he quit working for Daviren Hosk “because horses are stupid.” Beems says that the actor’s entrance is around the side and, intrigued, the trio use the door to enter backstage. Cyrdak Drokkus, proprietor of the theatre is there, and he enthusiastically welcomes the group. Although they refuse Drokkus’ attempt to get them “in costume,” Felix is ambushed by a make-up artist before the play “Local Heroes” begins before a packed house. Local children dressed up like goblins riding broomstick goblin dogs rush on stage to “attack” the heroes (with Bimmy Beems taking on the role of Xeveg). Bey recites impromptu dialogue that goes over spectacularly well with the audience before whirling her bardiche impressively. Felix is grabbed by two “goblins” and he spins the youths about, but overdoes it and one of them vomits! Oliver does equally as well as the group saves “Aldern Foxglove” in the final scene. The crowd loves the production and claps frenetically. Cyrdak follows through on a promise to split the take with the performers and then the cast and crew head to the Rusty Dragon for an after-party.
During the party, Ameiko comes out to the common room and everyone hushes. She offers her sincere thanks to the adventurers for saving her life and gives the room a strained smile as she says she’ll be back to normal in no time. Later, Bey speaks with Ameiko about Tsuto; Ameiko says her brother can be extremely stubborn, and will never talk unless forced to do so by magic.
27 Rova 4707
At breakfast that morning, Shayliss Vinder enters the common room and draws Felix aside for a private conversation. She implies that she is pregnant and asks Felix for 25 gp so she can “take care of it.” Felix clearly disbelieves her, leading Shayliss to start sobbing uncontrollably, drawing everyone’s attention to her. When Felix turns to leave, Shayliss’ tears suddenly dry up and she coldly says he better pay because she wants a new necklace; if she doesn’t get the money, she’ll ruin him! She says he has 24 hours to make up his mind. Felix returns to his allies and explains the extortion attempt, but says he’s not worried about “women’s gossip.”
The adventurers decide to investigate the tunnels underneath the Glassworks, but their first stop is to dispose of some of the spoils of war they’ve accumulated to date at Savah’s Armoury and a store filled with an eccentric array of items named The Feathered Serpent. There, Xeveg makes an arrangement with the proprietor to be informed if any rings of sustenance become available for sale.
One of Sandpoint's most popular citizens has been rescued by its newest heroes, but what secrets lurk in the catacombs beneath the town?
Tsuto, who I guess is the "boss" villain of the Glassworks, was a real pushover for the PCs, even though he had the element of surprise. My favourite scene with him this session was when he *almost* escaped from the cells under the Garrison by readying an action to disarm Bey's bardiche. That certainly ramped up the drama of the interrogation.
I'm glad that the writers of the adventure path put a lot of letters, journals, and other forms of exposition into the game; they help explain the story to PCs in a way that might otherwise be quite fuzzy, and it's always fun to have handouts.
I was glad to see my players do some research into the Late Unpleasantness. All of that backstory, much of it quite important, shouldn't go to waste!
The bit with the play was my own addition. I just thought it would be fantastic fun to see how the PCs would "act" if forced on to the stage, and although none of them had any ranks in a Perform skill, the results weren't *too* bad. I really wanted to play up the PCs being treated like heroes, and having a play produced about their exploits was a good way to show the town's enthusiasm for them.
Really careful readers familiar with Sandpoint might notice a minor mistake on my part: I shouldn't have had the "after party" at the Rusty Dragon, as, for a mysterious reason, Cyrdak Drokkus and Ameiko Kaijitsu don't get along at all. I just have to assume that, for this session, Cyrdak was swept up in the high spirits of the success and forgot about his grudge for a night.
The session ended on a downward note, as appraising and selling the loot took a long time and wasn't especially exciting. I try to handle that sort of thing via e-mail between sessions when possible, but sometimes it isn't and it can be quite important for PCs to be properly equipped. I do a better job in some later sessions of role-playing the shopkeepers to add some better flavour to scenes set in The Feathered Serpent and elsewhere.
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