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8 bit for me: I love MM2. I think its one of the best soundtracks. However, for the sake of variety, I'm gonna pick the first Castlevania. I've used metal-ized versions of all the tracks in that game to highlight my Carrion Crown campaign. Nothing like a heavy metal rendition of 'Wicked Child' or 'Vampire Killer' to get the blood pumping.
There are no actual vampire clans as printed in the module and supporting material. What you have are two factions within the entirety of Ustalavic vampire culture that either support the Whispering Tyrant's return or oppose it. Of the two, the supporters are more rare since the Tyrant's return would usher in a world where the vampires would have no food supply (since the endgame is everyone alive being dead). That being said, in my game I utilized the old World of Darkness type of clans to parallel some of the unique personalities that are presented within the module. I don't know if you played Vampire (I assume you have since you're referring to vampire clans), but I broke it down as follows:
I had Desmond Kote be a villain and had a nest of Urgathoan worshipping vampires (Sabbat) lurk in the darkest catacombs as a red herring for the true vampire murderer. Some of the changes I used can be found in my Expanding Caliphas thread and my review of Ashes at Dawn here. Hope some of that helps.
These are the stats I used for the Blood Knight, Konas Esprillon. While the Champion path is more in flavor with his abilities, I gave him 5 tiers of Guardian for its defensive abilities. At this level, the more I can mitigate rocket tag, the better.
Konas Esprillon CR 15
Male human blood knight fighter 12 guardian 5
LE Medium Undead (augmented humanoid)
Init +9; Senses darkvison 60 ft. Perception +10
AC 32, touch 17, flat 28 (+12 armor +3 deflection, +4 dex, + 3 shield)
hp 286 (12d10 +220)
Fort +24 Ref +18 Will +13; +3 vs. Fear, mythic saving throws
Defensive Abilities , bravery +3 DR 10/mythic and bludgeoning,; Immune undead traits
Speed 30 ft.
Melee: +3 adamantium bastard sword +27/+22/+17 (1d10+14 17/20 plus bleed) or +3 adamantium bastard sword+23/+18/+13 (1d10 +14 17/20 plus bleed) and +1 bastard sword +21 (1d10+10) or slam +19 (1d4+10 plus blood drinking plus grab)
Special Attacks: bleed 1d8 and 1 con, blood drinking, fountain of blood (DC 22), weapon training (heavy blades +2, natural +1)
Str 22, Dex 18, Con -, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 23
Base Atk +12; CMB +18 (+22 grapple); CMD 33
Feats Bleeding Critical (Mythic), Combat Reflexes, Critical Focus, Disruptive, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Bastard Sword), Greater Weapon Focus: Bastard Sword, Greater Weapon Specialization: Bastard Sword, Improved Critical: Bastard Sword, Lightning Reflexes, Toughness, Two Weapon Defense (Mythic), Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Focus: Bastard Sword (Mythic), Weapon Focus: Bastard Sword
Skills Escape Artist +12, Intimidate +21, Knowledge (engineering) +5, Perception +10,Racial Modifiers +10 Escape Artist
SQ amazing initiative (mythic), armor training 3, blood body, bonded armor, clean blade (mythic),martial supremacy, mythic power 13/day (surge +1d8), mythic saving throws, parry spell (mythic) retributive reach (mythic),sudden block (mythic)
Gear +3 full plate, +3 adamantium bastard sword, +1 bastard sword, brooch of shielding cloak of resistance +2, ring of protection +3
Blood Body (Ex) A blood knight can store items within its liquefied form. It can retrieve any item stored in its body as a move action or as a free action that is part of a move. An item to be stored must be of a size and shape that fits within whatever portion of the blood knight's armor it is placed.
Blood Drinking (Ex) Any living creature damaged by a blood knight's slam attack takes 1 point of Constitution damage in addition to the normal damage. If the blood knight grapples an opponent, it deals 1d4 points of Constitution damage each round that the grapple is maintained. The blood knight gains 5 temporary hit points for 1 hour each round it drains blood.
Blood Slick (Ex) A blood knight constantly drips slippery blood in a 10-foot-radius spread around itself. The blood slick functions as a grease spell with a save DC of 22. Blood knights are immune to any blood kngiht's blood slick.
Bonded Armor (Ex) A blood knight always wears the armor in which it died. It cannot remove this armor or exchange it for another suit. If the armor is destroyed, the blood knight is destroyed as well. The blood knight has a +5 bonus on saving throws made on behalf of its armor.
Fountain of Blood (Ex) As a full-round action, a blood knight can spray blood from its armor in a great cascade. Each creature within a 15-foot radius is covered in blood and must succeed on a DC 22 Fortitude save as though it had ingested the blood knight's poisonous blood. The blood fills the area until the blood knight's next turn. Creatures entering the spray while it persists are subject to its effects, but a creature can only be affected only once per round. The area covered by the blood spray becomes coated as though by a blood slick and remains slippery for 6 rounds, or until the blood is washed away by at least 5 gallons of water or other liquid, or burned away by normal or magical fire as a full-round actions. Creatures and objects within the area that do not have total cover are coated with the blood, which functions as a grease spell for the purpose of using and handling items (DC 22 Reflex save negates). Failure means the item is immediately dropped. A creature coated in blood gains a +10 bonus on Escape Artist checks. Once a blood knight has used its fountain of blood attack, it must wait 1d4 rounds before it can do so again. Blood Knights are immune to this ability.
Poisonous Blood (Ex) Fountain of Blood- contact or ingested; save]/i] Fort DC 22;[i]frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; initial effect 1 Con damage; secondary effect nauseated for 1 minute; cure 2 consecutive saves.
MYTHIC SPECIAL ABILITIES
Clean Blade (Ex): Whenever you score a critical hit, as a free action you can make a ranged touch attack to fling the blood and gore at another opponent within 30 feet. If the touch attack hits, the foe is sickened for a number of rounds equal to your tier. If the touch attack is a critical hit, the foe is also blinded for the same duration. A blinded foe can spend a full-round action to remove the gore and end the blindness.
Martial Supremacy (Su) Konas Esprillon has fought countless battles gains a profane bonus on all saving throws equal to ihis strength modifier. Additionally, he gains bonus hit points equal to its strength modifier times his hit die. (+78 hp).
Mythic Saving Throws (Ex): Whenever you succeed at a saving throw against a spell or special ability, you suffer no effects as long as that ability didn't come from a mythic source (such as a creature with a mythic tier or mythic ranks). If you fail a saving throw that results from a mythic source, you take the full effects as normal.
Parry Spell (Su): As an immediate action, you can expend one use of mythic power to block a spell targeting you or an ally adjacent to you. The spell must be a ray, a single-target spell, or a spell that creates an effect targeting one creature (such as acid arrow, and the level of the spell's spell slot must be equal to or lower than your tier. Make an attack roll as if making an attack of opportunity. If the result of the attack roll is greater than the spell's attack roll or save DC, the spell has no effect on the intended target (though other targets from the same spell, such as multiple targets of, are affected normally). A spell that has neither a DC nor an attack roll (such as magic missle) can't be affected by this ability. You must declare using spell parry after the spellcaster's target is announced, but before the target's saving throw or attack roll is made.
Retributive Reach (Ex): Treat your reach as 5 feet greater than normal for the purpose of determining whether or not you can make an attack of opportunity. If a creature provokes an attack of opportunity within this area of increased reach, you can expend one use of mythic power to gain a bonus equal to your tier on the attack roll and damage roll of the attack of opportunity.
Sudden Block (Su): As an immediate action, you can expend one use of mythic power to hinder a melee attack made against you or an adjacent ally. Add your tier to your AC or the ally's AC against this attack. The creature making the attack must make two attack rolls and take the lower result. Once the attack is resolved, you or your ally (your choice) can make one melee attack against the creature. The damage from this attack bypasses all damage reduction.
Here's my conversion for the witch Aisa Dublesse, given four levels of Archmage with her spell selection slightly altered. Additionally, I changed her staff into a number of smaller items that give her more options with her abilities.
Aisa Dublese CR 16
Female human vampire witch 12 archmage 4
CE Medium Undead (augmented humanoidl)
Init +12; Senses darkvison 60 ft., see invisibility; Perception +18
AC 33, touch 21, flat 26 (+4 armor, +4 deflection, +6 dex, + 1 dodge +8 natural)
hp 190 (12d6 +148) Fast Healing 5
Fort +15 Ref +14 Will +16
Defensive Abilities , channel resistance +4; DR 10/mythic and silver; Immune undead traits Resist cold 10, electriciity 10; Weakness vampire weaknesses
Speed 30 ft., fly 60 ft. (good)
Melee slam +11 (1d4+7 and energy drain)
Special Attacks: blood drain, children of the night, create spawn, dominate (DC 23), hexes (DC 24,agony [12 rounds], cackle, cauldron, coven, evil eye [-4, 9 rounds], flight [feather fall at will, levitate 1/day, fly 12 minutes/day], retribution [6 rounds], slumber [12 rounds]
Witch Spells Prepared (CL 12th, Concentration +24, spellguard bracers)
6th-- flesh to stone (DC 24), mass fester (DC 25), slay living (DC 25)
5th- cloudkill (DC 23), mythic inflict serious wounds(DC 24), suffocation (DC 24), waves of fatigue
4th- debilitating portent (DC 24), dimension door, mythic enervation , fear (DC 23), mythic severance (DC 23)
3rd- bestow curse (DC 22), mythic dispel magic, lightning bolt DC 21, ray of exhaunstion (DC 22), stinking cloud (DC 21), mythic vampiric touch
2nd- command undead (2, DC 21), glitterdust (DC 20), inflict moderate wounds (DC 21), spectral hand, touch of idiocy
1st- command (DC 19), chill touch (DC 20), inflict light wounds (DC 20), mage armor, ray of enfeeblement (DC 20), unseen servant
0 (at will) bleed (DC 18), message, read magic, touch of fatigue (DC 18)
Str 20, Dex 22, Con -, Int 27, Wis 14, Cha 24
Base Atk +6; CMB +11; CMD 36
Feats Alertness, Brew Potion, Combat Casting, Combat Reflexes, Craft Wand, Craft Wondrous Item, Defesnive Combat Training, Dodge, Extra Hex, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Mythic Spell Lore, Spell Focus: Necromancy (Mythic), Toughness,
Skills Bluff +25, Craft (Alchemy) +27, Diplomacy +20, Disguise +10 (+20 with witching gown), Fly +16, Intimidate +23, Knowledge (arcana) +23, Knowledge (religion) +20, Perception +18, Sense Motive +15, Spellcraft +23, Stealth +20, Swim +9, Use Magic Device +22
Languages Auran, Abyssal, Aklo, Common, Draconic, Elven, Infernal, Necril, Varisian
SQ change shape (dire bat or wolf, beast shape II), exceptional resources, gaseous form, mythic power (11/day, surge +1d8), permanant spells, shadowless, spider climb, wild arcana, witch's familiar (cat named Nightfang)
Combat Gear bloodbrew elixir (4 doses), elemental gems (air, earth, fire) potion of bull's strength, potion of cat's grace, potion of eagle's splendor (2), rod of grasping hexes, scroll of planar ally, wand of enervation (16 charges), wamd of ray of exhaustion (22 charges) Other Gear amulet of natural armor +2, gloves of storing, headband of vast intelligence +4 (Knowledge [history] and [relgion]), lesser extend metamagic rod, ring of protection +4, spellguard bracers, witching gown (contains vampiric touch) spell component pouch, 715 gp
MYTHIC SPECIAL ABILITIES
Coupled Arcana (Ex): Whenever you spend a standard action, move action, or swift action to activate ahex, you can also activate an ability that uses mythic power as a free action. The mythic ability you activate must require the same action type as the other ability you activated or faster (a swift action is faster than a move action, and a move action is faster than a standard action)
Flexible Counterspell (Su): Your mythic power enhances your ability to counter others' spells. As an immediate action, you can expend one use of mythic power to attempt to counter a spell. This ability otherwise works like readying an action to counter a spell, except instead of using the exact spell of dispel magic, you can instead expend a spell or spell slot of a level equal to or higher than the targe spell
Mirror Dodge (Su): When hit by a melee or ranged attack, you can expend one use of mythic power as an immediate action to replace yourself with an illusory duplicate and teleport to any open square within 30 feet of your current position. You take no damage from this attack, which instead destroys your illusory duplicate (similar tomirror image). Using this ability requires a line of effect to the square into which you teleport.
Mythic Hexes (Su): Your hexes are more effective against non-mythic targets. When you use a hex that requires a saving throw against a non-mythic target, that target is automatically affected for 1 round (which doesn't count toward the hex's duration) and can't attempt a saving throw to resist the hex. On your turn the next round, the creature attempts its saving throw as normal. If it succeeds at this saving throw, it breaks free of the hex; otherwise, it's affected as normal.
Wild Arcana (Su) As a swift action, you can expend one use of mythic power to cast any one arcane spell without expending a prepared spell or spell slot. The spell must be on one of your arcane class spell lists and must be of a level that you can cast with that arcane spellcasting class. You don't need to have the spell prepared, nor does it need to be on your list of spells known. When casting a spell in this way, you treat your caster level as 2 levels higher for the purpose of any effect dependent on level. You can apply any metamagic feats you know to this spell, but its total adjusted level can't be greater than that of the highest-level arcane spell you can cast from that spellcasting class.
The Trust Mechanic is one that ultimately can't be resolved as written, so its extremely important to have a way to offset this imbalance by giving your own opportunities for your PCs to earn more trust (I had additional side-quests in mine to do this), which you seem to be doing. A few things:
1)I would choose the second option. It gives the PCs a chance to gain more trust by saving an NPC. The three encounters I would consider to use would be A) The Skeletons in the Lake (might be too brutal for NPC), B) The Rat Swarm in the tower, or C) the Haunted Scythe. The Scythe is probably your best bet since it needs to still roll moderately well to hit a moving target, giving your PCs time to deal with it; the swarm could be as bad as the Burning Skeletons for the same reasons (auto-damage).
2)Be careful with possession before your players have access to magic that can directly force some things out. While possession is an important theme in a horror game, without a means to deal with it, it might make your players mad if they lose control of their character for an extended period. I would allow protection from evil to allow a re-roll against the effect of the Rage Spirit. If you are treating it as a haunt or a spirit tied to Harrowstone (which in my opinion would give them even further reason to go there), I suggest tying it somehow either to the Splatterman or the Lopper.
3)There's a lot of resources for running it for 5 players or adding extended content to the first module in the Carrion Crown sub-forum. Its fascinating if nothing else to see the many different takes on the first module of the AP (which in my opinion is the strongest).
My group and I just completed Neil Spicer's Ashes at Dawn. Here is what was liked, what we (or I) didn't like, what I added and why. It should be noted that I made a few additions due to my PCs attaining a mythic tier at the end of the previous module's climax. This didn't really effect encounter balance too much, and I was even able to use the themes in Mythic to expand upon some of the aims and motives of the prime antagonists of the module. This was due to the excellent structuring of the fights, allowing a GM to escalate an encounter with the addition of enemies in proximity to the fight. Even those that don't escalate have excellent flavor
WHAT WE LIKED
You Can Play it both ways
Vampiric Powers defeated by spells common in horror campaigns
Don't let them fight alone
ADDITIONS (STORYWISE FOR MYTHIC AND A DHAMPIR):
Curing Madness with Conte Ristomir:
Spoilered for Length: On Curing Madness, Dracula, and Shortening a Trip to Caliphas:
Our Dhampir player previously had interactions with Ramoska Arkminos in Trial of the Beast (I had introduced him as a supplier who could procure expensive inflict potions for him in trade for his blood), so I wanted to follow up on that interaction by introducing his employer. I had an agent of the Count contact the PCs after the events of the previous module, arriving in a black carriage and explaining that they were being hunted by the Whispering Way and that their master would provide solace in return for a favor. I then triggered the fight with Barliss Rask (Dullahan), having him reinforced by three other riders (Lich, Graveknight, Wight Lord) to overwehelm the PCs. This resulted in a running fight, with the Dullahan defeated but the other PCs having difficulty due to their madness. Since two of the four PCs had permanent insanity resulting from the previous module, accepting the Count's offer seemed the wiser course rather than trekking overland to Caliphas while being hunted and half the party insane. (The fighter had Multiple Personality Disorder, emulating the personalities of slain PCs while the Dhampir had Schizophrenia, believing that the human members of the party wanted him dead.) They escaped the other three riders via the carriage Shadow-walking then met with the Count. I used this encounter to gauge my PCs reactions to working with vampires, then used the backdrop of the castle to run a 'madness-curing-session' that as best as I can describe was a combination of Dracula and Flatliners. I had two afflicted PCs enter dream-like trances induced by alchemical regents where they relived events that composed the essence of their afflictions. In both cases, a few skill checks and Will saves were made during the course of the visions to represent their coming to understanding and overcoming the madness. The other two PCs were allowed to aid these skill checks with Heal and Diplomacy. They also had to defend the camatose PCs against the deprivations of some of the castle's less obedient servants (vampire spawn, and the like). This made for an awesome, off-the-rails session and helped setup some additional motivation for the next module. In exchange for the help they received, the Count tasked the PCs with finding Arkminos, who had gone missing on a contract in Caliphas. I then had an old teleportation gate provide a quick means of arriving in Caliphas, specifically in a basement attached to the Quarterfaux Archives, where lurked...
Nightskitter in Quartterfaux Basement
Vampire The Masquerade Tropes I played this up to a large degree as far as each main vampire encountered (Marrick Sais=Gangrel,Luvick Sievrage=Ventrue, Lady Evgenya Zunaida=Toreador, Radvir=Brujah), going even so far as to altering some of the powers of the Advanced Spawn so that removing the bonus in one stat resulting in an additonal power (like giving Merrick's spawn no bonus to intelligence but additonal armor in the form of barkskin. In this way, it made it more memorable when each set of spawn and their master were encountered. I omitted Desmond Kote from the vampires above because I knew his presence might start a fight, so I instead used him as an enemy in a later part.
A Player's PC Dhampir Backstory As I've written here, there's a lot to consider if you have
Involving the Churches and (pre-)Killing a Paladin:As written the Church of Pharasma seems kind of ineffectual in not only dealing with the vampire murders but also helping against the Whispering Way as a whole. I try to explain the reasoning for this in the aforementioned “Expanding Caliphas” thread I wrote, yet still had a hard time telling my players that one of the most powerful clerics of a religion dedicated to destroying the undead wouldn't help them in wiping out a group of vampires. Fortunately the Pharasmans aren't the only gang in town; there's also the Church of Iomedae. In this regard, I had relations between the two churches on good terms, further deciding that it would be awesome for the fallen vampire paladin (Halloran Indriss) encountered in the Abbey's basement to accompany my PCs as a living Paladin before his demise. In this regard I had favors exchanged between the two churches that allowed the Paladin to accompany them into what would be a glorious battle. In the big fight described beneath, I was able to have the Paladin die to Energy Dtain and then have his body retrieved by the plot's antagonists. A tricky act to pull off, but ultimately one that worked well.
The Urgathoan Vampires (The Biggest Plot Deviation)
This is long but involves the use of Mythic in the back-story:
Since I am utilizing Mythic, I wanted to add that element to the story aspects of the module. I did this mainly by making the primary characters (Ludvick, Aisa, and Radvir) Mythic, yet I needed reasons for this power to exist within them. With Ludvick, I decided his very nature and age afforded him unquestionable access to such abilities. I decided that his heightened power afforded him jealousy from his main four children. These were Radvir, Merrick, Evgenya, and a fourth vampire I introduced who wasn't part of the vampire underground, Averith. I decided that she exuded the most willfulness of his children, and thus took to traveling the most among them. It is she that wanders the mountains of Virlych, discovering the Blood Knight Konas Esprillon, who is Mythic by nature of his service to The Whispering Tyrant. She comes to worship Urgothoa and seeks her way to free herself from Ludvicks's control, using the Blood Knight and her clerical powers to augment herself with Mythic Tiers. She begins discovering a crude way to transfer this power to other vampires though the results often end in screams and ashen remains. Radvir discovers this and attempts to bargain for the secret to her power, but she refuses. He contacts the Whispering Way, who set about an elaborate plan. They kill the Dhampir PC's mother, framing the murders upon the Urgathoan vampires. The Dhampir's father, a powerful vampire noble, wants revenge but knows that Ludvick won't take it on his own daughter over a human. He confides in Radvir to go after the vampires, who agrees with the aid of his new allies. The Whispering Way's more powerful monsters and the two vampires assault the Urgathoans but while some are reduced to ashes, it is clear that the Blood Knight is the primary goal of the entirety of the group except the PC's father. The group of necromancers easily take control of the Blood Knight, and Alverith, bereft of her most powerful guardian, flees to the deepest depths of the catacombs with her surviving followers. This sets up the disappearance and reappearance of the PC's father in the module's context.
I had both the PC's father and the Urgathoan vampires serve as Red Herrings for the vampire murderer. The Urgathoan cabal consisted of the Death Priest given the vampire template and Five Tiers of Mythic Vampire, the sample Mythic Vampire in Mythic Adventures, Desmond Kote (re-skinned as an Urgathoan Inquisitor), three vampires swiped from the Council of Thieves AP (again re-skinned Urgathoan), and the other four vampires presented on the DM thread and in the bestiary. Wish I'd had the Monster Codex when I ran this, but in total, 10 unique vampires and 16 Advanced Spawn. They lurked in the deepest catacombs beneath the city in the remains of an abandoned theater and required the Dhampir's vampire rival (home-brewed Duelist, Feisty Hotspur re-skinned as human and given vampire template.) to guide them to it. This is the fight where the PCs lose their paladin ally to the vampires before Radvir (who follows them) shows up, kills the Dhampir's Rival (who he had just reconciled with), grabs the Paladin's body, then flees to let his allies prepare an ambush for the returning PCs. This helped me to set up the fact that Mythic power was being used among some the of the vampires and involve the Dhampir personally against Radvir.
Mythic Wight Lord
Vampire Freedom, Mythic, and Elixirs A big theme I continually highlighted throughout the module was freedom versus blood-bound slavery that the vampires represented. In various dialogues, I reinforced the fact that vampirism was a form of slavery; one would constantly be enslaved to their hunger as well as the will of their creator. In this way, I gave Radvir a real, almost human reason for rebelling against Ludvick and setting so many other spawn “free”, though in a way, the drug that frees them represents a form of slavery all its own. To further up the ante, I decided that what truly made the Bloodbrew Elixir insidious was that it bestowed real power on its user temporarily, in this case Mythic. I felt that a small army of Mythic Vampire Spawn would constitute a real threat that would have to be dealt with whether by the PCs or by proxy. With the Blood Knight being Mythic, I had his blood be the catalyst for the creation of not only that elixir, but also a second kind, a potion that Aisa used to fuel her ascent into vampirism. This got me thinking about the overall plot of the module with regards to the AP itself: What if the endgame here was a potion that could turn a mortal into a vampire simply by drinking it? What if such a thing was to be used as a backup plan in case the Carrion Crown failed, what if they simply needed any sentient undead related to Tar Baphon to be present atop Gallowspire and accept his soul? It made sense to me to have the organization possess contingencies in case their main plot failed, and further helped cement the goals of the Whispering Way beyond “lets mess with the vampires because they might be enemies when our plan comes to fruition”. Finally, it let me give my PCs an ever-present physical temptation that could give them unspeakable power at great cost. This was not the only temptation of vampirism I presented, and the role-playing between my players discussing such things was utterly fantastic.
Encounters that I would have changed
-Bone Devil Trap:
-Barliss Rask (Dullahan):
-Greenhouse of Doom:
-The Nobleman's Stitch: A fun, dynamic fight to run. Remember about the lighting effects of daylight similar to the Greenhouse encounter, utilizing tapestries and heavy curtains to block sunlight where necessary. For my part, I changed the guards for a group of adventurers who had been charmed by Radvir and substituted some of the vampire sorcerers for alchemists, adding a Vetala Vampire contracted by Radvir to serve as the shop's face. (These additions are in the GM thread). Again, enough tools here for a GM to craft a good fight.
-The Nabassu:: I didn't really have high hopes for these guys, especially since I knew my PCs would likely be buffed with death ward and protection from evil, rendering most of the creatures' spell-like abilites useless, if not their powers. Surprisingly, despite the presence of the aforementioned spells, it was still kind of an interesting fight; some fai;ed saves against paralysis occurred through the combination of the ghouls and mass hold monster, while the creature's sneak attacks and silence kept the healing from not being quite-so-automatic from the Life Oracle. There is the slight chance that your entire party could have an unlucky round against paralysis, which makes this worth running.
-The Basement Vampires:
Konas Esprillon (Blood Knight) As written, a very effective bruiser who should buy time and actions for Aisa to buff herself and eventually join the fight. What can I say, I know he's a templated 12th level fighter, but the artwork, flavor, and special abilities won me over. This was before I even added five mythic tiers, which made him an absolute beast. I will post his Mythic stats as well as Aisa's in my mythic additions for Carrion Crown thread.
Wood Golems While this was an 'after-fight' (a term I use for battles that take place after the biggest fight of the module), I kept it intact due to the awesome flavor of the golems (stakes for arms). My PCs chewed right through them, but again, as long as a speedbump encounter is well detailed (which the room where you encounter them is), I like keeping it. Great flavor here.
Halloran Indriss I recommend pairing him with any vampiric survivors show he can spend the first few rounds trying to fight his vampire nature before it or Aisa's commands take over. Even still, since my PCs were completely depleted at this point, it made for a dicey fight when the ex-paladin actually decided to defend himself. Eventually, he was defeated, Aisa was killed, and Atonement was cast on him. Now to figure out what fight he will suicidally give his life to in the next module to repay his debt to my PCs… A great role-playing opportunity, good enough that I foreshadowed him earlier in the module.
In my opinion, this module was one of the stronger ones of the AP. This was due to the excellent writing, encounter diversity, and the ability to come at the story from multiple angles. I really want to thank Neil Spicer for being present on these boards to answer questions about what was printed, left out, and the backstory of some of the different elements within. Now, to take a slight break to play my Half Orc Inquisitor in War of the River Kings, then its onto the final part… Shadows at Gallowspire!
No there is a big difference. Hydraulic Push, Awesome Blow, and Bull Rush all require CMB checks to perform. Force Punch does not. It surpasses that mechanic because that's how the spell is implicitly worded. There are lots of effects that break a grapple without a roll: Freedom of Movement, Gaseous Form, and the aforementioned dimensional effects. There's no reason why a 4th level spell can't for one turn do the exact same thing. Absurd is a subjective word that doesn't quantify into a rules discussion.
Not at all. These are both magical effects that cause someone to be in a different position from where they started. In neither spell description for Force Punch nor Dimension Door does it state anything to the effect of what you're implying, nor does it in the grapple rules. The PC isn't using his CMD to move away, a magical effect is bypassing the need to make the check.
Sorry, but I really disagree with the logic here. A force Punch spell would physically move someone away from the space where they initiatited it, causing the grapple to end. Here's why:
Simple question. Intellect devourers can ride in a number of devious and dangerous disguises. In some instances, the CR of the monster they have taken over can be higher than the IDs, though whether or not the host body is as combat effective depends on the nature of the host. Anyways, do you award XP for the host and the ID or just the ID?
Our group will have a month or so hiatus before we begin; another player DMs Kingmaker for the same group, which I also play in. Oddly enough, we're about to start book 5 in that one (which he has said has lots of good RP in it), so plenty of time for me to develop stuff and adapt anything you might have out there. I would be most appreciative!
Thanks for replies all. I think everyone's advice here is spot on, and when I have time I'm going to write up an alternative path from Ravengro. I may swap out some of the enemies or expand some of the encounters, so I will let everyone know what happens with it. I will definitely be consolidating some of these battles so it isn't just fight after fight.
Fights that look interesting (on paper):
Fights that look like they might be filler:
Anyone disagree with these/ had a bad experience with the upper list while a good experience with the lower ones? (Trying to trim some of the fat from the dozens of fights.) Thanks all!
I suppose that I better come up with some sort of path that winds through the Hungry Mountains from Ravengro to Renchurhc but bypasses Adorak. Even though it seems to make the most geographic sense as far as traveling goes, I do not want my PCs going near Gallowspire before they've gone to Renchurch. It might be interesting to switch the two parts, but it seems kind of anti-climatic to defeat a vessel of Tar-Baphon then go on a rescue mission afterwards, not to mention the difficulty in switching the CRS between parts.
Did any of your PCs become vampires after running "Ashes at Dawn"? If so, how did you handle it in the next module? One of my PCs (Dhampir Magus) made the conscious decision to become one at the end of the module. I've gone over the dangers that will present themselves to the PC including the possibility of being controlled, traveling only at night, the logistics of hauling a coffin around, and the need to constantly feed, but for story purposes, we both feel like this decision serves his character's storyline the best. I should note that the Oracle of Life also in our group is a devout worshiper of Pharasma, while our two-weapon fighter is considering multi-classing into Paladin next level. My group is extremely mature and am confident that they can handle the role-play challenge of such a change, but I'm worried about how some of the fights will play out. Is he going to be empowered by the same effects that empower the denizens of Renchurch? What about the Mortuary Storm surrounding Gallowspire? Can he just fly through it.
I'd love to see a powerful old woman as an iconic, a la Flemeth from Dragon Age, The Queen of Thorns from Game of Thrones, or Mother Talzin from Clone Wars. Someone who could have fireside chats with Ezren.. "Some more tea, my dear? Now, you're gonna let me have that scroll of Limited Wish, or I could tell everyone about the time you lost all your clothes betting on those silly gladiators in the Free City.."
RotR: Spires of Xin Shalast: Again not the Vekker cabin (which is actually one of favorite parts of the AP), but everything after that before Karzoug. It feels like a giant slog through enemies that can't adapt or form a cohesive defense plan.
CotCT: Some people have issues with the railroad nature of the fourth module and the massive amount of combat in the fifth module. Still, I think out of all the APs, this one is the most flawless.
SD: Memory of Darkness: When your lead designers have commented about how the would fix the module, there's obviously something going on with it.
LoF: Jackal's Price I agree is the weakest. It also contains one of the biggest acts of railroading in any AP yet: the transition from module 3 to module 4.
CoT: The Thrice Damned Prince is just awful. I've never had to almost completely rewrite every encounter both social and combat for the endgame to have any semblance of cohesiveness, but that was the case here. I won't ever again say that about any module and love Paizo and all that, but this one is bad. Hey, out of nearly 100 volumes of APs, one is bound to be bad.
KM: Playing in it, and have loved every part of it. We're in part 5, so we'll see about Book 6. (Our DM has foreshadowed the BBEG in every module)
CC: Broken Moon in my opinion is the weakest for the reasons stated above, but also because its so geographically ambitious; there's a 124 mile journey through the heart of Ustalav that has nothing written for it. Still, I had a blast running it and my players loved it to.
I also own Shattered Star and Wrath of the Righteous, but have not had a chance to run or play them.
My group finished "Ashes at Dawn" yesterday, and I plan on writing a review of it as I have for the last four modules of the AP. I realized from the "List of Community Created Content" thread that most of my additions were scattered all over the forum, so here's an attempt to consolidate everything. As soon as I complete a freelance project (which is almost done), I will add my review of the fifth module as well. Hope this helps other DMs with some of the expanded material and tips in the first two modules for having 5 playes.
A review of Harrowstone and tips for running with 5 players
Freehold DM wrote:
Ventress' story was told in the Force Unleashed game series, although it is rumored that she will show up in the new Star Wars movies.
No, that's Mariss Brood, Shaak Ti's apprentice. No one knows what happens to Assaj after the aforementioned episode. Same with Cad Bane, Darth Maul (though he gets a comic adaptation of what happens after losing to Sidious), Captain Rex, and Aurra Sing. I'd love any of these to return, especially Cad Bane.
I have ran this AP twice, and in both instances, the PCs wiped out the Lizardfolk to a man, taking almost no damage themselves. At this point, your PCs are probably extremely paranoid about the deadliness of the AP, especially after the previous module. As a result, they are tossing fireballs, buffing up reach/combat reflexes fighters with enlarge person, and other tactics for dealing with 'trash mobs', which the Lizardfolk unfortunately qualify as. Personally, I knew what was coming in the next two modules, and decided to let them have that one fight to feel awesome about themselves before the more lethal parts of the AP resume. Any semblance of tactics will dominate this fight, so don't feel bad about giving them an easy victory. There are still a couple of dicey moments in that module even (the end of it), so my advice is to let them have their moment before they get turned into Spawn of Kyuss.
No, as much as I wanted to, I didn't have access to that book at the time I wrote it. A lot of the above was just magical theory-crafting transposed to a massive scale. I have played Rifts and World of Darkness (second edition) quite extensively, so just incorporated some of that knowledge into this. If you think about it though, it is strange that the Whispering Tyrant is imprisoned where he is considering that:
As far as repercussions, I am planning on having The Tyrant's Wishes duplicated on a minor scale (i.e limited wish) a little beyond geographically is given in the module. It starts as a creeping warp that extends about an 1/8 of the way into each neighboring county, which grows to a 1/4 by the time my PCs begin the next module. However, I plan on containing it there to signify the PC's victory over the Dark Young in module 4. My PCs are about one-two sessions away from ending Ashes at Dawn (though scheduling playing has been hard down here because of Carnival/Mardi Gras), so I will keep updating as it goes.
Okay, this is cool enough that I absolutely have to report it. During the fight against Hetna Dublesse which began with the charmed guards, combined with the invisible stalkers and ended with the joining of the Glabrezu (which got off two Vrock summonings), Hetna used every trick she had to try and put down the party. Their saves were really well rolled, and eventually the Dhampir Magus managed to corner her inside the bell tower. Using the spell Arcana Theft, he successfully targeted her and stole her Cloak of Dreams. She then rolled her save against the spell and fell asleep. Since the fight was in midair, she fell off her broom, plummeting to the ground, ending her turn prone on the ground but awake from the falling damage. The dhampir then flew up to the bell, which he theorized has heavy and easy to cut. It is, and the giant bell fell on Hetna for about a third of her hit points (10d6, which she failed the save on). Fortunately, she escaped to her sister's side, but as per the module, Aisa's gonna drain her dry. A heck of a fight, but its gonna be a warm-up for the mythic version of Aisa and Konas Esprillion in the catacombs...
Yes. Though the Beast is a Construct, he has an open mind and can be subject to mind-affecting effects, such as morale bonuses like that provided by Rage. It should be noted that he can also be affected by any mind-affecting powers your PCs might possess that don't have SR like Bardic Music and other powers (some witch hexes).
Hello Leech Swarm. Why not take 3 kinds of ability damage (one of which is Drain) on a CR 4 critter? Oh.. its aquatic, so good luck getting off those fire spells at the levels you are likely to encounter them.
captain yesterday wrote:
he is pretty much a pile of maggots himself, i'd allow it, and considering its the end chapter of a horror AP i say get brutal with them:)
Absolutely agree with this. In fact, you could allow perceptive players Spellcraft checks (at +20 DC for a "intervening barrier") to hear spells being cast from within the mass, as if the maggot swarm itself were spell-casting (which in a way, part of it is.).
I plan on giving him full mythic tiers (probably 5-7). I think most of that will focus on defensive abilities like Mirror Dodge, but some of it will reflect the tiers given to Tar Baphon as per his stats. I;m also going to have him utilize different stages of power during the fight to show his eventual possession and abandonment by Tar Baphon's spirit. My next session will be against a Mythic Konas Esprillion (the Blood Knight) and a Mythic Aisa Dublesse, so it should give me more in-game experience with running Mythic.
I have been running Carrion Crown as well as play in a Kingmaker game, and both I and the DM from that instituted a maximum 5 buffs per PC rule, which has made the choosing of which buff might be the most useful a fun tactical decision besides the usual 'buff everything, be immune to 90% of the effects, and stomp everything with un-typed damage and conventional ranged/melee attacks within 2 round' fights. Even in Carrion Crown, in which my PCs have 1 mythic tier, the horror factor has persisted due to the fact that someone has nearly died every session, even at level 12. I think a buff limit should be considered for 'Unchained' as something beyond a houserule.
Thematically speaking, having two sides on a conflict engage in an epic fight for the ages (i.e. mythic) shouldn't be resolved in less than six seconds. While its true that a lot of fights in PF can be as short as a round or two, Mythic accentuates this to such an absurd degree as to not even be believable. The problem isn't with both sides being fair, its the fact that both sides are armed with thermo-nuclear detonators that end the fight on their activation. This is okay sometimes, but when every single fight (and the from play journal, sounds like what happened) devolves into it, it looses everything that should make Mythic feel.. well, Mythic.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. The battles were great, the CGI wasn't as over-the top as the last couple, the characterization of Thorin and his descent into madness is great, and there's enough Simarillion sprinkled in to keep me happy. Yeah, Legolas is a total jerk who gets to use "Matrix" rules at two points in the movie, but otherwise the action seemed a bit more 'believable' than the last two movies. Oh, and the ending doesn't go on for 45 minutes; I had hardly noticed that 3 hours had gone by.
Second skullboy's idea, keeping in mind the mind flayer's enormous ego. The AP and module aren't really clear on who other members of the Unseen are (Telakin's clique), but I would imagine that Xyrxog would not only have ties to them but also to the agents of Kyuss in the next module, giving you a plethora of options for enemies to supplement a street-side assault by Xyrxog. I would give him the option of escaping, forcing your PCs to track down a potential arch-nemesis before he gets out of hand.
Interestingly enough, for some reason, Qlippoth do not share the mobility of their demonic cousins; some of them have dimension door abilities (which are limited, not at will), but no teleport. Another example is the Ceustodaemon, which unlike the rest of his Daemonic brethren gets D-Door but not teleport. I wonder why these specific ones are limited in their mobility more so than all the other outsiders?
I love the game, have been enjoying it since I got it (60+ hours into it). That said, the platforming DRIVES ME NUTS. The game isn't a platformer by design; the controls aren't precise enough and the map texturing isn't done well enough for it to be remotely considered in that vein, yet I find myself having to do ridiculous precision jumps to get to some of those shards (there's one particular one in the Hinterlands in the valley with the Fereldan Frostback and its wyrmlings, which up until I week ago my friends and I had dubbed 'The Valley of No'. I think I spent thirty minutes jumping around like an idiot, trying to scale up to the shard.)
I like the saber, but simply because it reminds me of the Kergan from The Highlander. As to the cross-guard 'problem', I'm hoping we get some sort of cool trick like Cortosis gloves (or whatever they would have to be called in Disneyland). Visually, I would love it if the bad-guy gripped the lightsaber away, like The Son in Clone Wars. It will be horribly ironic if said saber wielder loses a hand.