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Congratulations to Michael Eshleman for earning his 4th GM star! All but four of his GM credits were earned within the past 8 months as seen here. What's more impressive is that he participated in RPG Superstar 2013 and made it to top 8 during this time period.
Last night I hosted a party for area RPG Supertar past contestants and Paizo authors. We read through the encounters discussing the virtues and misteps of each.
Now you go host a RPG Superstar party and playtest these encounters!
On the 27th of Lamashan, 4712 six parties of Pathfinders answered Shelia Heidmarch's call to obtain the Runecarved Key by any means necessary.
Special thanks to 1d3 Creations for her hard work on creating the Runecarved Key
People in the photos include:
V-L Joe Jungers
V-L Myles Crocker
Michael C Allen
RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8 Sam Polak
Rescue Under the Steaming Sea
Within the Arcadian Ocean lies a world as vast, varied, and complex as the land dwellers’ sunny home above. The undersea mountains, canyons, forests, and volcanoes may seem vaguely familiar, yet the oddly-shaped creatures crawling on the sea bed and the gargantuan beasts lazily swimming past accentuate the differences from the windy realm of the surface world.
Rescue Under the Steaming Sea is a Pathfinder Module designed for four 9th-level characters. By the end of this module, characters should reach 10th level using the medium XP advancement track.
Qwoshokk initially planned to send one of his minions, a sahuagin witch, to perform an act of mass sacrifice by sinking a small island and its inhabitants, but his paranoia prevented him from trusting anyone else with his invaluable implement of destruction, the sphere of annihilation. To ensure absolute loyalty, the elder kraken cast a simulacrum spell to create a duplicate of his arcane spellcasting minion, which could direct the sphere in his stead. He directed another of his minions, Trentar - an undine druid, to populate the sacrificial island with as many souls as he could capture. Qwoshokk put at Trentar’s disposal a small tribe of loyal sahuagin, including their champion, a four-armed monstrosity, to aid in the task. This band of minions quickly rampaged throughout the Steaming Sea, abducting intelligent creatures and confining them in air-filled caves deep within the ocean.
Rarely do those on land know much about life below the waves of the Steaming Sea, yet sages humble enough to acknowledge their limits may speak of others with more knowledge. Residents of Hermea know about the waters surrounding their island; however, they do not give aid unless the PCs have previous relationships with the exclusive island nation. The party may have more luck gathering information from the Mordant Spire elves, who frequently treat with undersea creatures and explore the undersea realm. Moreover, they can assist parties that lack the means to venture underwater for long periods. If well-suited for underwater travel, parties possessing extraordinary knowledge of the Steaming Sea can proceed directly to the whale sage (below).
Part One: The Mordant Spire
The elves proceed to tell the party of a vast trench miles below the surface where dark creatures reside. They claim Gartanica Trench likely holds the travelers that the PCs seek. The elves have little else to offer the PCs, save some travelling advice: Don’t swim too low - reefclaws, shipwrecker crabs, and lacedon packs roam the Hermean Plain; don’t swim too high - lest the roc’s talons or the fisherfolk's nets find a surprise.
Part Two: Gartanica Trench
Once inside the lair, perceptive PCs notice that unusual methods carved these chambers for it appears that something simply swiped the rock from the walls like a fin through water. Caverns sized for gargantuan creatures provide the battleground for the next encounter where a party of cacaelia barbarian/rogues strives to defend their home and prove their worth to Lord Trentar.
In a vast chamber the party finds a diagram of a complex device etched into the walls. Here Qwoshokk obsessed over an ancient machine called the Cholcorite Mechanism, which he believes can grant immortality and power over all denizens of the sea. From the vague map of Varisia depicted next to the diagram, it appears the final piece to completing the mechanism lies somewhere near the Fenwall Mountains. Though the elder kraken is not currently in residence, Qwoshokk’s fiendish giant squid pets keep the PCs company in this chamber.
A graveknight cavalier atop a nightmare hippocampus obediently follows the elder kraken’s orders to guard one of the complex’s many alternate exits. Seemingly out of place, a pearlescent shawl wraps around the knight’s gruesome shell and chitin armor. The PCs would do well to defeat this guardian and obtain the shawl before encountering its original owner elsewhere in the lair. If they defeat the graveknight but do not destroy its armor, the undead knight rejuvenates and continually harasses the party.
Separated from her most prized possession, a shawl-less nereid begrudgingly holds sentry over the air-filled chambers. Unless the PCs return her shawl, she mercilessly assaults any who attempt to pass; whereas, PCs who return her prized cloth find a surprising ally. If reunited with the shawl containing a portion of her life force, the nereid recounts the tale of a vile cavalier who stole her garment as he stole a glance at her bathing. She repaid him with a watery kiss of death and discarded his body in the sea. She grew furious when the cavalier returned to claim her shawl once more, this time in a form immune to her charms. The nereid also knows that Lord Trentar and his sahuagin minions have taken all but the most useful slaves to the Ironbound Archipelago for sacrifice.
From the final area of the lair, the PCs can hear slaves working and conversing; however, before reaching them, the party must first overcome a bound piscodaemon and its hydrodaemon servitors. The slaves in the multiple chambers beyond all have specialized skills. Some huddle around a lava vent, forging armlets of tremendous size while others create intricate nets. Another group prepares to clean and enchant these items. If the PCs offer salvation, none eagerly leave the only home they’ve known since birth, claiming that Lord Trentar loves them and that the master treats them well. They also can tell the PCs the fate of the other captives. One of the slaves, a triton smith tells the party that he overheard Lord Trentar claiming that “a mass sacrifice will hasten the master’s ascension to godhood.” If the PCs manage to convince or force any of the slaves to leave, powerful wards conjure elder ice elementals to detain any would-be escapees as they pass through an exit.
Part Three: Seeking Brike
Nearing Brike Isle, the PCs experience an odd presence attempting to seize control of their bodies. A recently-attacked sentient coral reef lashes out with its spell-like abilities, attempting to possess, dominate, and subsequently destroy any non-animal creature it senses. When Lord Trentar, his minions, and the throng of prisoners passed this way, this immobile normally peaceful hive mind reached out with its consciousness to communicate. The troop reacted violently and now the enraged reef’s exoskeleton is riddled with several perfectly-circular two-foot diameter holes. In order to placate the creature and resolve the situation peacefully, PCs need to fully heal the reef’s wounds. If they do so, the reef telepathically thanks the PCs and apologizes for its actions. It continues by recounting the recent events which caused its rage and reports where the attackers went. From the depths of its rock-like aggregate, the reef offers up a gift to those who restored it: a sword with a blade of sharp jagged coral. The pommel and hilt depict a mermaid with her arms outstretched and her hair intertwined with the base of the coral blade. This magical sword does not suffer the normal penalties for attacking with a slashing weapon underwater. In addition, it grants ability to communicate with and power to control animals of the sea. The PCs can find this item among the carnage if they choose to destroy the reef instead.
Should the PCs choose to visit the small village on the island, they discover that the islanders have suffered numerous losses to their fishing fleet, but fortunately no one has died. They know nothing of the dozens of captives held below their island. The islanders begin repairing boats and an acolyte begins casting a make whole spell to hasten the process.
The party easily finds the series of sea caves within the foundation of Brike Isle holding the sacrificial prisoners. A charmed sea serpent keeps the captives from leaving via the main entrance, whereas powerful abjurations prevent magical egress. After defeating this last guardian, the PCs finally reunite with the missing travelers. A host of other captives taken throughout the Steaming Sea accompany them and the wisest warns that the water breathing spells that Lord Trentar cast soon expire. The prisoners also tell the party that the sahuagin witch has hollowed out a massive cavern, leaving only a few pillars remaining and they invite the PCs to see firsthand through viewports in the back of the cells. However, by this point, the witch has already destroyed a few supports and continues to hold forth her talisman directing the sphere to pass through remaining pillars. The magical wards of the holding cells prevent suicidal PCs from engaging the witch from this direction. Seeing their imminent doom, the aquatic elves, gillmen, locathah, merfolk, and tritons can easily swim to safety, but the Mordant Spire elves, dwarves, Chelaxians, Nidalese, Ulfens, and Varisians anxiously seek the surface as the water breathing transmutation fades.
Soon after the PCs and their rescued friends reach the beaches of Brike, the island begins to shudder and sink. As the waters rise, the villagers panic and retreat uphill, yet the PCs know their only hope lies in the boats down at the docks. Unfortunately the land dwellers far outnumber the available spaces in the boats. If the PCs wish to save their recently rescued friends and prevent the sacrifice of Brike, they need to scour the swiftly sinking island for life rafts and organize the panicked inhabitants. Moreover, a large four-armed sahuagin baron surfaces and seeks to ensure that no one leaves the island alive.
Once the witch sets the collapse in motion, the elder kraken who controls her fabricated body summons the sphere to his side, continuing his excavations in the Fenwall Mountains, hundreds of miles away. Qwoshokk directs the simulacrum to flee and stay clear of the sinking island until the turbulence subsides. After a few minutes the witch investigates the sunken island so that Qwoshokk can marvel in the power of the mass sacrifice, but quickly notices less casualties than anticipated. Swimming to the surface, she summons a fiendish elasmosaurus and attacks the PCs. If Trentar survived his encounter with the PCs, he rejoins the fray when the witch surfaces. If defeated, the simulacrum sahuagin witch reverts to snow, instantly melting; however, her talisman of the sphere remains for the PCs to contemplate the possibilities thereof.
Concluding the Adventure
Having thwarted the kraken’s plot, the party has earned something else for their heroics - Qwoshokk’s malevolent ire. Rather than give the mastermind time to plot revenge, the PCs could wisely take the fight to Qwoshokk, especially if they have learned that he needs only one more item to complete the Cholcorite Mechanism. Also, if the party destroyed the undead cavalier, but not its armor, the graveknight reforms and continually seeks vengeance. If the PCs wish to end the creature's unholy existence, they may seek the sphere of annihilation to completely destroy its armor.
Conversely, if the PCs fail to save half of the creatures intended for sacrifice, the ritual completes. The souls of the slain fuel the elder kraken's growing strength. Though not attaining godhood, the ritual raises him to a new plateau of terrible power.
EDIT FROM THE JUDGES: Please read this information about playtesting these encounters. We've also added hyperlinks from the encounter's short stat blocks to the full stat blocks in the PRD so you have the information you need to run the encounter.
The Sacrifice of Brike (CR 3 or 6)
Returning to the surface, the air is filled with the smell of fish and the sound of gulls’ cries. A small island lies ahead, hosting scores of villagers going about their business, mending nets, repairing huts, or carrying baskets. A few of them are speaking well-know Taldane, but others are conversing in a more lyrical or guttural tone. Adjacent to a shattered hull, a spellcaster is immersed in an incantation. Unfortunately for the villagers, the height of their islet looks significantly shorter than the massive cavern below. Though the impending catastrophe is unavoidable, keeping the islanders alive will thwart the witch’s plan; however, there are only a few longboats at the simple dock. How many islanders can be saved from sacrifice?
Two rounds after the PCs arrive, Brike sinks 5 feet and continues sinking 5 feet per round for the remainder of the encounter. Lines on the map indicate the new waterline for each round. 100 inhabitants are currently on the island. Use the Dwarf Fighter and any of the human miniatures for them; however, every islander need not be represented. For individual statistics, use the Village Idiot (GameMastery Guide 308) substituting Climb +5 for Profession (fisherman) +3.
Five boats are docked and each has a maximum capacity of 10. One boat on land has been destroyed, but is currently the target of a make whole spell. Another boat on land has been mostly repaired, requiring only a little more attention. Finally, three of the longhouse roofs can serve as boats as well.
For any PCs that are not of a race that grants a swim speed, assume the Mordant Spire Elves have loaned them a minor talisman of the sea (see below). Animal companions, special mounts, eidolons, etc. can use these as well. Familiarize yourself with the swim skill special rules for creatures with swim speeds. PCs can pull a boat at their swim speed.
Talisman of the Sea, Minor
The first round that a square is covered in water it is considered calm water (Swim DC 10). In successive rounds a tremendous undertow makes swimming difficult for those without swim speeds; Stormy water (Swim DC 20). Any debris and NPCs in this zone are pulled underwater.
Reward creative thinking if the players propose a task not listed below, but consider assigning a DC comparable to the examples.
What else can the characters can do?:
Creatures: Dangerous creatures lair in sea caves lying just east of Brike Isle’s dock. When the island shudders, powerful currents sweep these creatures to the surface. In the low tier, a constrictor sea snake emerges on the dock, attacking any nearby creature, which it presumes has disturbed its lair. In the high tier the witch’s minion, a dominated scrag, is ordered to surface and prevent anyone from escaping.
Low Tier (CR 3):
Adelain the Able CR 1/2 LINK
High Tier (CR 6):
Adelain the Able CR 4 LINK
Development: Any villagers still in the water on round 11 are swept under and assumed dead. Rowing the boats to Three Hag’s Rock takes a little over a half an hour, where the surviving villagers disembark and recover from their ordeal. Eventually they seek refuge on other islands in the region, and begin spreading word of the PCs’ heroics.
Word of your valiant efforts to save the inhabitants of Brike Isle spreads throughout northwestern Avistan. When in the Land of the Linnorm Kings and Varisia, you gain a +2 circumstance bonus on all charisma-based checks when you mention the Brike Isle refugees and how you assisted them.
Reeking of death and decay, this monstrosity lumbers forward flailing its skeletal appendages. Thousands of tiny tentacles protract from the plant-like mass, groping for prey.
Necrotic Reef CR 7
----- Defense -----
----- Offense -----
----- Statistics -----
----- Ecology -----
----- Special Abilities -----
Piercing Coral A necrotic reef’s slam attack is treated as piercing in addition to bludgeoning for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction.
Sightless (Ex) A necrotic reef is blind and is not affected by any effect that relies on sight.
Susceptible to Shatter (Ex) A shatter spell damages a necrotic reef as if it were a crystalline creature.
Violent storms, passing ships, and careless spells can severely damage coral reefs upon which so much marine life depends; however, a more dire ruination is inflicted upon coastal regions when a necrotic reef rises to unlife. A mass of undead flesh within a skeletal shell, this undead abomination animates when latent necromantic effects permeate clumps of recently dead coral. Hundreds of polyps that once fed on minuscule plants and animals now feed on dweomers and possess an insatiable hunger for these magical auras. Ceaselessly searching, this creature grabs and crushes any creature it finds radiating magic. Though magical items cease to function while in the creature's grasp, no permanent damage is done. Treasures from its previous victims can be found within the hulking mass and quickly return to full strength once the creature is destroyed.
I believe that Pathfinder Society players/GMs should be especially interested in the outcome of the competition. Not only will the ultimate winner write a Pathfinder Module (which will be sanctioned for PFS play), but the three runner-ups will write a scenario for Pathfinder Society.
Also, about half of this round's contestants are Pathfinder Society players, including a few starred GMs, a V-L, and a V-C.
Reminder: Voting for this round of RPG Superstar ends today at 2:00 pm PST. So go vote for your favorite 8 organizations.
Sailors consider it a sign of good luck to see dolphins swimming with their ship, yet the wisest among them are wary when humanoid forms are seen amid the pod. If the Arcadian Interceptors board your ship, you must have something to hide.
The Interceptors patrol the Arcadian Ocean searching for anyone disguising their true identity. Typically comprised of merfolk, aquatic elves, and gillmen, these squads quickly resort to violence when they detect any deception, whether magical or mundane. It is easier to ascertain the truth once a deceiver is glued to the deck, entangled in nets, or magically incapacitated.
Structure and Leadership
Though their official headquarters is in the undersea city of Avashtana, the Interceptors rarely travel there fearing that enemies might follow. Instead they frequent a sleeping zaratan adrift in the ocean. This enormous sea turtle, the size of a small island, serves as a mobile base where the Interceptors can rest, regroup, and resupply.
Of all the detection methods deployed by a squad of Interceptors, their favorite tactic is to cast speak with animals to corroborate a story with the crews’ own pets, cargo animals, or even ship rats.
How many know Tieradel's secret (that the commander is, in fact, a malenti) and choose to ignore it is unknown.
I opened my case on January 11th and got a complete set.
Note: not being able to edit my original post after a time, the above may be out of date - see below for an update.
Night Monarch Vardo
A greater boon is revealed when an animal animated from a figurine of wondrous power is harnessed to the wagon. A Night Monarch Vardo does not encumber these creatures, provided they are at least large size. Moreover, if the animated animal takes flight, the wagon can accompany the creature without hindrance. A Night Monarch Vardo can even follow an obsidian steed during its plane shift and ethereal jaunt powers.
When a Night Monarch Vardo is part of a caravan, use the following caravan rules statistics:
Would a Silver Smite Bracelet (APG 309) aid a Hellknight using Smite Chaos (ISWG 278)?
The relevant passages are:
Inner Sea World Guide wrote:
Smite Chaos (Su): This ability functions as the paladin’s smite evil ability, but against chaotic-aligned creatures.
Advanced Player's Guide wrote:
The wearer of this bracelet treats her paladin level as 4 higher than normal for the purpose of her smite evil class feature.
The two times I've run Skinsaw Murders the PCs check out the lumbermill, the sanatorium, and head to Foxglove Manor all in the same day no matter what I do to slow them down. This time the PCs left in the middle of the night to reach Foxglove Manor the same day. I even had them hear screaming from off in the farmlands, but they didn't check it out.
This means that the party gets a lot of experience from the Misgivings and are higher level when they get back to town to hear about Farmer Grump and the farmland scarecrows. The Farmlands wouldn't be much of a challenge for a 5th level party. The first time I ran RotRL, I just told the party that the town guard and some locals went and took care of it, with a few locals dying. This time I decided to do a spilt storyline and let the players choose an NPC from town to take on the persona of and combat the farmland ghouls.
Our party of NPCs included:
They still mopped up the ghouls in the farmlands, perhaps more so than the PCs would have, but they really seemed to enjoy it more than I thought they would. Now the players need to cure the Phage their characters contracted from the Misgivings and the ghoul fever the NPCs contracted from the farmlands - should be interesting.
-just an idea for GMs who keep messing up like I do
I'm working out some of the kinks of underwater combat.
Would you be able to use the brace feature of spears and tridents if you were not adjacent to a solid stationary surface? (also would apply to flying)
Would swimming creatures get the +1 for attacking from higher ground? It would seem that the effects of water would lessen this bonus, if not entirely remove it.
If you are swimming, can you have the prone condition?