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The most important thing about Starfinder is its AP.
Frankly. I don't much CARE about the system. I know it will be mostly familiar and it will have some cool things and some not-so-cool things. Ooooh; Aaaaaah. Whatever. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I'll enjoy most of it. But it isn't all that important in the final analysis.
There have been literally DOZENS and DOZENS of SF RPGs in the past 40 years. People buy them. Most people don't end up actually playing them. Those who do play them tend not to have long campaigns with any of these systems. For the most part, SF systems have a role in gaming groups: they are filler RPGs. They are the games that are played for some limited period of time in beteween D&D or Pathfinder campaigns. Yes, all of them.
It's degrees of difficulty with all SF based RPGs. These are inherently difficult games to run. If you run an improv game, the scope of a single planet it usually too big to "wing it", let alone a galaxy -- for all but the most Iron of GMS. The options are unlimited and the available material is always too thin. Even if it's the Spinward Marches.
In the whole HISTORY of SF games, the only thing that comes CLOSE to a series of good interlinked adventures on which to build a lengthy SF campaign was a 3rd party product for Traveller, FASA's Sky Raiders campaign. (Legend of the Sky Raiders, Trail of the Sky Raiders and Fate of the Sky Raiders by the Keith brothers).
Written for Traveller in the early 80s, Sky Raiders tried to do for Traveller what GDQ1-7 did for AD&D. A valiant attempt, but Sky Raiders was still modest in scope and size and it lacked nearly all of the details that we would think essential for a "real" AP by today's standards. Still, it was a worthy attempt. Raiders of the Lost Ark in space, essentially.
That's IT. In forty YEARS -- that is IT.
I suppose you could point to WotC's Web Only Dawn of Defiance campaign for SW:Saga Ed too. DoD meant well -- but lets face it, it was severely limited by a non-existent budget. It had its moments, but it was simply not a serious professionally produced product.
So why all of this gushing about this that and the other rules aspect of Starfinder may be of interest to some -- I don't care. I DO very much care about the AP though. That is going to make or break this game.
And the fact that Paizo is doing it fills me with hope and, at the same time, sadness. Think about how many awesome Star Wars APs we would already have if Paizo had got that license instead of FFG. *sigh*
In preparation for the release of the revised CotCT next month and our new AP campaign of CotCT, I have been reading the older 3.5 versions of this classic AP.
One thing I am concerned about is differentiating the campaign in a tangible way from the many other PF APs we have played (or are playing). We have played (or are playing) 14 of Paizo APs so far. That is a LOT of Adventure Path play over the years. One of the major problems we have run into is that there is an emerging "sameness" that had been developing after playing so many of them. So we have gone the extra distance over the past few years to try to address that emerging sameness issue. Most of our attempts have been working rather well, actually.
In that regard, my thought for this AP to change the feel of the campaign is to strive for a Musketeer Era feel to the game in terms of promoting derring-do, acrobatics and swashbuckling play styles during combat -- and for cultural assumptions out of combat during roleplay and court intrigue. The PCs would all be drawn from an elite Kingsguard Unit, (an imagined offshoot of Sable Company) dedicated to protecting the life of the King.
The Grey Maidens, as a nascent Queensguard will therefore become the arch-enemies of the disbanded and soon-to-be-outlawed Kingsguard.
More controversially, gunpowder would be introduced to the campaign at all levels. The intention is not to turn this into the Wild West, but a late 17th Century France take on Korvosa.
Each of the PCs would start at 2nd level, each having their 1st level as either Gunslingers or Swashblucklers (Players can spcifiy an archetype within that if they wish) they then move into the regular chosen class at 2nd level for the rest of the campaign as play begins.
We would not level up any PC until that point in the AP when the PCs are intended to "ding" 3rd level. We went with a very similar approach in our All Dwarven Giantslayer run (all PCs were dwarves and started as 2nd level with their 1st level as a fighter or ranger) and this has worked out extremely well. To the extent that any of the early encounters are underpowered against 2nd level PCs, that's trivial to tweak encounters in an upwards direction.
I am still reading through CotCT and my opinion on the viability of a Musketeer take on the AP will be informed by reading as we go on, but does this sound particularly wise or unwise to any of you at first blush, given what is to follow later in the campaign?
I am greatly interested in your thoughts and opinions on this spin on CotCT.
We've been playing Giantslayer for about 7-8 months now and are in Book 3, about to head in to Nargrym's Tomb.
All five PCs are playing Dwarves from Janderhoff and members of the same clan -- all brothers. The Dwarven vibe has been excellent and that aspect of the game has made it truly unique. No other gaming group has felt like this one, ever. And after playing for going on close to 40 years -- that is saying something.
I have made some changes to the plot with the aim of bringing the Orcs of Belkzen back into the story at times as I thought they were extremely well done. Droja, the half-orc Oracle, is a fascinating character. I LOVE this NPC.
Giantslayer has been a blast and for our group has been as enjoyable as Kingmaker. It takes some time to customize all of this for your own players and what appeals to them. Maybe that's not the sort of thing that appeals to many GMs who want more of the work done for you.
I don't want to suggest I have done all THAT much to the AP, but I have made changes here and there to make it all fit a little better for my group and their tastes. It has been hella fun to play and run and is one of my faves. I happen to think that Tim Hitchcock's Forge of the Giant God is especially well done and calls back to his Kingmaker 1: Stolen Land in terms of its design. He's left enough open in the module that I can plop in a huge centrepiece custom designed explicitly for my players in one part of the Valley.
I won't berate people for liking what they like; but Giantslayer is an excellent AP and I think it will "find love" and its audience over time, in much the same manner as Carrion Crown has.
So I was considering on integrating in Arwyll Stead into my Giantslayer campaign, when all manner of difficulties presented themselves with doing so.
Never mind the main plot, my problem is where the hell to put Arwyll Stead.
So it's time to be a bit pedantic here, because the overwhelming majority of the time, Paizo gets its topography right as it builds on to the MASSIVE imaginary land of Golarion. But this is not one of those times when it comes to Arwyll Stead.
The shifting locations and topography of some of the settlements and geography in this area - and even the name and length of a river - are inconsistent and require revision at some point.
Here's how we get to the (pedantic) problem...
On the original map of Golarion in the 3.5 Campaign setting, the River Esk and the Kestrel rivers do not exist. The Path river stops a good deal short of where its headwaters are now drawn.
Fast forward to when Belkzen was first detailed in the AP line - and we find it the subject of an article in Pathfinder #11 - Skeletons of Scarwall in an article by Jamers Sutter. A map is included in that article, and both the Esk and Kestrel Rivers are added to the geography as depicted in the Map of the Inner Sea Region that came with the 3.5 Campaign Setting.
At the time of Skeletons of Scarwall, Freedom Town is not located on the branch of the Path river at all, but appears to be in the plains, beyond the borders of Lastwall and not quite in Belkzen proper. A sort of no man's land. It's described as such, too.
By the time of the Inner Sea Map Portfolio, the Path River is redrawn again, this time to go right by Freedom Town which is no longer in the plains, but the town is moved to the shores of the newly drawn and lengthened Path River.
Giantslayer Vol #2, The Hill Giant's Pledge concurs with the placement of Freedom Town on the borders of the now lengthened Path River. Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes concurs that Freedom Town is within the boarders of Belkzen, but omits any reference to the river on the area map in that product. However, on the map of the town included in the same book at page 24, a map of the town is provided and the name of the river changes from the "Path" to the "Aren".
Daughters of Fury changes the topography again, by placing the town further up the headwaters of the now lengthened Path River. Yet somehow, Arwyll Stead is clearly described in the appendix to Daughters of Fury as being within the borders of Lastwall. Problem is, Freedom Town -- which is closer to Vigil, indeed, only two days ride from the town, is not within those borders. It's in Belkzen and this is discussed in the context of the politics of Chieftain Uldeth and the Empty Hand in Urgir.
So, one (or more!) of these things is wrong, or alternatively, the borders have changed and some event has brought peace and Order to Freedom Town. That would be a definite violation of a basic premise to Golarion's design where events in a given AP are not assumed to have happened and the mutually independent "Theme Parks" of each of the stores in the world have not happened and all is "at rest".
Problem is, the map in Giantslayer Vol 2 clearly tells us that Freedom Town is in Belkzen and beyond the borders of Lastwall. Indeed, the criminal scum of Freedom Town play a role in the 1st volume of that AP and its location within Belkzen is noted.
So, all by way of saying, I must conclude that this map of "where on Golarion" Arwyll Stead is located is messed up and just wrong.
Arwyll Stead needs to be closer to Vigil and on the Path River, or the Aren, or whatever the hell you want to call it - just near Lastwall's border so as to leave Freedom Town beyond it within the borders of Belkzen, as also depicted in Giantslayer, Curse of the Crimson Throne and Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes.
I suggest Arwyll Stead should be properly located on the Aren River (that name makes sense for that tributary), located essentially in the area under the letters "F" and "r" in the word "Freedom Town" on the one part Inner Sea Poster Map.
Cole Deschain wrote:
I'm frankly bored to tears of the Dragon as BBEG or just before BBEG "special" encounter. We've had that in what is now narrowing in on nearly two dozen volumes of the AP and modules. It might even be MORE than that at this point.
I understand that to some people this is what they want. Well, if so, you have it. Countless times over, too.
Why can't we have something else now, for those who are interested?
I want a whole bunch of Draconian foes and themes and variations thereof. I want it turned up to 11.
Gimme a new and improved and better Dragonlance. There; I said it.
It was the first real AP, after all. I've played in WotC's 5E Tiamat homage and it's not recapturing that magic for me.
Bring that magic back, sans too much Choo-choo.
While not run in Chronological order, Azmyth and I have managed to run through:
(part of) Rise of the Runelords, Legacy of Fire, Council of Thieves, Kingmaker, Serpent's Skull, Carrion Crown, (part of) Jade Regent, Skull & Shackles, (most of)Shattered Star, (part of) Mummy's Msk, Iron Gods and Giantslayer -- with the last two underway right now.
And Curse of the Crimson Throne is on our immediate horizon.
The problem is simple: to really do these justice, it takes a looong time to run them. 1.5 years with weekly play, and 2-3 years with bi-weekly play.
Basically, unless we are playing in MORE than 4 APs at the same time (and the highest we have hit is 4 at once), Paizo is pumping more water in at their publication rate than we are pumping out at the same time.
And that's without getting much of a chance to play any stand-alone modules or very many society scenarios, either.
Paizo's publication schedule for adventure material is intimidating. There is more released than anybody can soak up and play. You need to pick and choose.
But, overall, that's a much better place to find yourself than the alternative.
All NEW Chronicles Podcast Episode 20 - The Dragon's Demand with Mike Shel
Available Now! Download HERE
Chronicles Podcast Returns from the Dead with an all new episode. Steel and Azmyth catch up on their games and campaigns and what they have been doing lately in the intro. We interview Ben Loomes, creator of Syrinscape as well as Matt Morton and Tobias Drewry of Mesa Mundi, publishers of d20Pro. Chronicles welcomes the return of authors Richard Pett and Greg A. Vaughan for a special spotlight on The Blight by Frog God Games. On the review, author Mike Shel checks in to discuss his unique 64 page stand-alone module "The Dragons Demand" in spoilerific fashion. To finish, Azmyth and Steel discuss the module with an in-depth (if not protracted) review. Brevity? Never! We stretch it out with 4hrs and 20 mins of podcast, cause that is how we roll!
We are playing through Vol 1 now (8 sessions in) and I have listened through and prepared in d20Pro the first 2 AP volumes so far.
When I say "listened through" I mean it is because I have taken up as a habit of learning the AP by doing the following:
1 - Copy pasting out the entire text of the adventure and key NPCs pf each AP volume into its own Word file. I omit most of each stat block.
2- I do a search and replace of "f_l" and "l_i" removing the space Paizo inserts into these characeters in layout as Paizo addition of this extra space into between those two characters in their layout messes things up when processed by a Text to speech synthesizer.
3 - I save that all to a .doc file and then put it on my Android phone.
4 - I then use the free Android app @Voice to listen to it during my commute. I purchased a voice pack for Android made by Acapela Group that make voice synthesis software. I prefer "Lucy", a 30-something British woman as my reader. You may have other preferences.
5 - Play the books. Listen to them all. REPEATEDLY. Follow along with maps from time to time; listen to it with eyes closed at other times. Let it all come to you, absorb the overall plot and characters and choose the parts you want to emphasize to customize your AP run and smooth out the parts of Giantslayer you don't like - and emphasize the ones that do. Be Prepared. Have a plan.
The audio book preparation method has really had my overall understanding of this AP at a much higher level than a skim or read through I have used with other APs. It works VERY WELL for me. YMMV.
From all of the above, I have formed the following opinions about Giantslayer:
1 - Giantslayer is traditional meat and potatoes Western European focused fantasy. And that's A Good Thing.
Consider the overall production arc that precedes Giantslayer and that which follows it:
Reign of Winter - Planet Hopping and time shifting in Baba Yaga's Dr. Who Police Box;
Seen in the publication context in which it is placed, Giantslayer is the breath of normative Western European fantasy that many of us were craving. What makes Gorbacz dismissive is the thing which attracted me to it. It flipped my switches.
Now, that said, there are problems with parts of the AP from where I sit, what I want to run and what my players want to play. The nice thing is that its traditional fantasy makeup makes it easy to adapt.
I would agree with the observation that the Orcs were among the best thing about the AP. While I appreciate that this was the "Giantslayer" AP and not the "Orc" AP, I found that I really liked the Orc aspect of things so much I adapted the AP to bring the Orc flavor back in, especially in Vol 6. What can I say? Both Katrezra and Droja are amazing NPCs to me. I refuse to let them go with nary a whimper.
I've played or GM'd all 3 Dungeon era APs and 11 of the Paizo era APs. Over the course of that time, I have come to appreciate that every single one of these APs, without exception, is improved by adaptation by the GM and treating it as a base to develop a campaign from. While they can be run out of the box without too much tinkering -- they ALL benefit from tinkering more than a little.
In that regard, one of Giantslayer's strongest design elements is that its traditional Western European focused fantasy roots makes it the easiest to adapt. The authors have left large holes where that can be easily done and significant plug n play hooks are there to pursue if you care to. And if you don't want to -- you don't have to.
I have found Giantslayer to be great fun so far. A more thorough deconstruction and review is ahead on our podcast over the next 18-24 months. But suffice to say that if you are a fan of D&D and Pathfinder, there is a LOT you will like here and LOTS more that you can change to emphasize the things that you prefer while de-emphasizing the things you do not. It is not perfect; nothing is and there are many aspects I watned to change and have. But in that regards, traditional Western European fantasy is the most easily amenable to such home brewed adaptations. It's a significant strength.
It is a solid AP. Tim Hitchcock's Forge of the Giant God in Vol 3 is my favorite of the 6 installments, but 1 and 2 are close runners up after some re-jigging and buffing out of the necessary body filler.
I use PDF Extraction Wizard (not SomePDF Image Extractor, which extracts a lower quality image from many Paizo PDFs). Image Extraction Wizard extracts the best .png in the interactive map.
You then follow the guideline here and use the Excel file at that page to resize your map (whether you use it in a VTT or not - the procedure is the same).
It works perfectly, provided that Paizo has not screwed up their map. Sometimes they do -- though they are FAR more careful about it these days. The older the AP gets, the more difficult they are to use on a technical basis when it comes to Fog of War and grid lineups on a VTT.
For some groups they are too long; for others (though a smaller number) they are too short.
But what these are, in reality? Is exactly what they need to be. They are, by any objective standard that counts, almost perfect.
Pathfinder AP is the life blood of a company that lost its license to print Dungeon and Dragon Magazine. And in the course of doing so, and having no business at all -- these guys looked at the possibilities and rolled forward without laying off a single staff member.
How successful was that? The AP line is an evolutionary step in adventure design which is now at Issue #100. That's a design that has stood the test of time -- and then some.
That is a serious milestone in this business. And it IS a business.
What makes a product so overwhelmingly successful that a full color 96 page book with custom artwork and the highest production quality levels in the business can lat for #100 consecutive issues? The answer is: commercial success.
What you see before you every month is that and more. It is successful because it is what it needs to be in order to BE and remain a success.
And these are a commercial success. Each adventure in each issue of PF AP is as long as one developer can manage to develop over the required time span. They simply can't go longer. The APs are as long as they need to be in order to fill a production schedule based on 1 issue a month, 2 APs a year because those are the commercial subscription realities in the business in which they are engaged. And it is that monthly subscription that made everything here on this website possible from the get go -- and it continues to keep the lights on.
If they were making stand alone adventure books from scratch without a deadline, we probably would see a *somewhat* different design.
But they aren't and we don't. Adventure Paths are a commercial product, meant to fulfill a customer demand and roll out within a tightly constrained production schedule. Stray off the edge but a little and it is a cash flow nightmare in the offing.
And one other thing. In the more than 41 years that have now passed since the Original D&D was created? In all that time, through every edition of the game that has ever been made?
Pathfinder AP is the most detailed, longest running and most commercially successful module line for any RPG ever released. Ever.
Seems to me that whatever Paizo is doing? They are doing it better than even they expected -- and better than any of us ever dreamed they would, Once Upon a Time, whether a fan in the business or a professional manufacturing or selling RPG products.
The cancellation of Dungeon Magazine was my darkest moment as a fan of D&D since 1977. Nothing else made me as angry or as bitter and disappointed as a fan as that event at the time.
And while that remains true, it also turns out that it was the best thing that ever happened to me as fan of the game too. It just took a while for that to reveal itself. And it was the best RPG thing that ever happened to you, too.
I am not saying APs are perfect (though at the time of its publication, issues #26 was as close to perfect as they ever got, imo). God knows I criticize and deconstruct every single AP I play or run after the fact. (It's my sub-hobby within my RPG hobby.) But I do that with such seriousness only because I enjoy them all and the product line so very much, and appreciate everything they represent about the game.
We have never, ever, EVER had it so good. It's never been better than this.
Here's to issue #101-200. Salut!
Probably a more persuasive argument against time traveling is more elegant: if your setting is so poor in potential adventures that you have to leave it in order to tell a great story, you've got bigger problems that maintaining a timeline.
There are plenty of potential stories within Golarion as it exists right now.
I still want to see a Kingmaker II though. Not sure where or what; but that's my preference.
KingMaker II - Old Azlant
Rumors of the arrival of a bold Seafarer returning with tales of discoveries in the Far Western Ocean have been building for months. The variants on the tale seem numberless, but they all contain the same promising seed of truth: the ancient ruins of Old Azlant have risen from the depths of the Ocean as if rising from time itself. Grand treasures and artifacts of unspeakable power await those who are bold enough to seize the opportunity and explore these Shattered and sunken Lands of Old Azlant before they slip beneath the waves again to be lost for 10,000 more years. Or before somebody else gets there first.
The ripple of the rumors builds, until it is as if a tidal wave breaks over the nations of the Inner Sea and Distant Shores. The wealth and power of Old Azlant is there for the taking by those bold enough -- and lucky enough -- to find it. It is a new gold rush as Explorers the world over descend on the Isles of Old Azlant to find this fabled Risen City and secure its wealth and power.
In the dimly lit back of a disreputable tavern in Riddleport, the PCs save the life of a crewman from the ship that first claims to have found the Azlanti ruins; their reward is a map to the island on which his ship found the ruins.
All they have to do is get to the island, explore it, find the ruins and secure its treasures... before anybody else does...
That is the premise for an Exploratory campaign -- one of Hexplortation and ultimately, Colonization -- set in the shattered remains of the islands of Old Azlant. The competitors will be explorers from Cheliax, The Shackles, Arcadia and other Distant Shores.
Essentially, Kingmaker II: Atlantis.
And let's get real, all these AP's are railroads; you either have to accept that or don't play them.
The social contract at the table is that you play the adventure that is presented by the GM, that much is true. And yes, some of those obvious plot hooks are what you are intended to follow up on in any AP. That also is the social contract at the table. I agree with you wholeheartedly on this point.
That said, there is a qualitative difference between some of the stick and carrots that are deployed in these APs vs those that manifest in others. Some of them, (aspects of Second Darkness and Legacy of Fire, say) are MORE "railroady" than others (Skull and Shackles, Giantslayer, Kingmaker, say).
There is a point where when you get whisked off into another pocket plane without a chance to sell or buy more stuff for a volume or two that you can say, yes, "that's too railroady" without over-reaching.
I think it is fair to say that in RoW the pocket plane/ world shift device is used in a manner where the PCs do not even have the illusion of voluntarily throwing in with the social contract and that can affect players' enjoyment of the Adventure Path.
Sometimes, it is a matter of presentation. You might be eating the same steak presented on a fine china plate, a steak board, and a garbage can lid. Same steak, very different platters.
If you say it doesn't matter as the steak is the same, I put it to you that you need to eat out more often. :)
In terms of resting, I have the following change to the plot cooked up in case it is needed:
Nearing the entrance to P1, the party will see Silvermane step OUT of the standing Stone obelisk that stands in the Hopespring pool. I use the largish rock already present on the map as the new Trunau standing stone. Its presence in the Hopespring also explains Silvermane's interest and devotion to Trunau.
Silvermane is able to speak to the party and make himself understood through using the voice of his special Raven animal companion.
When the PCs see Silvermane step out of the gateway, he is holding the Ghostlight Lantern and it is lit.
The reason that Silvermane has stepped out of the Standing Stone is because Silvermane has just traveled there. Time in the pocket dimension known as the "Vault of Thorns" moves VERY FAST compared to our own. Silvermane was able to travel there using the Ghostlight, rest off the path in the vegetation near the Obelisk at J1 in the Vault using the spell Campfire Wall to do so secretly. Silvermane regained his spells, healed himself and looked about the Vault briefly and did not like what he saw. Deciding against further investigation in the Vault for the time being, he then stepped BACK through the Standing Stone, nearly healed and with freshly prepared spells. All the while, only a few minutes at most had passed in Trunau and the battle still rages...and he sees the PCs. [Hopefully the PCs saved him earlier and he now returns the favor; perhaps not.]
Silvermane knows that the Vault of Thorns is not safe. Alone and injured, he had to heal first. After he recovered most of his strength, his priority was to return to Trunau and aid the people in the battle. Silvermane planned to return to the Vault after the battle and see what the mischief was.
But seeing the PCs in their weakened state, and hearing the devastating siege engine throwing flaming death down upon the city, Silvermane makes up his mind quickly. Silvermane will pass the Ghostlight to the PCs with a quick word on how to use it -- advising them to rest off the path in secrecy in the area still protected by his Campfire Wall spell -- and quickly return to Trunau. The party must return before the light from the lantern fades or they will be lost there. [This provides the GM with some more narrative control re: light flickering out on the Ghostlight Lantern in case the PCs go poking about the Vault anyway] There is not much left at all. Silvermane is an 8th level druid and his Campfire Wall spell still has at least 8 hours left on it; He tells them about the time differential relative to the "real world" that passes in the Vault, exactly where the campfire is and how to find it, advises them to rest in secret and to return as quickly as they can to save Trunau. "Go - go now". Time is moving quickly there and the campfire wall spell is burning off FAST relative to Trunau time.
[Time in the Vault moves not as a constant fast river relative to Golarion's, but more like an unpredictable storm, with winds, strong wind gusts, luffs and eddies. This provides "Fudge Factor" so that resort to resting in the Vault as the AP progresses as a quick "spell refuel point" can be narrated around and avoided later in the AP if you need to. Rope Trick is bad enough on its own; Don't let the Vault of Thorns become your Rope Trick nightmare later on in the AP!]
They must hurry. But just as importantly, Silvermane warns the PCs they must NOT go into the Vault or near its doorway. Silvermane will explain the place later to them when they return, but the Vault is >>NOT<< empty and powerful foes lie within it and near its door that are beyond their strength to meet. Should they perish in any attempt to give battle in the Vault, Trunau will not have their aid and could be lost.
With that, Silvermane transforms into a bird and flies into the night to deal with the [other] siege engine raining rocks and casks of burning oil down on to the town, leaving the lit Ghostlight on the ground where he stood. Silvermane will deal with the other siege engine. The party needs to rest.
In this manner, the PCs get to leave the battle -- rest in a pocket dimension where time passes differently -- regain their power and return to the battle >>IN PROGRESS<<. It also strengthens the hook into the next installment of the AP and the reason why they must travel there.
Of course, on their return to Trunau, the Ghostlight gutters out and fades. Without the light from a Will 'o Wisp to open the doorway, the PCs must travel to the marsh and gain a new Wisp corpse. Silvermane does not have another and there are simply none nearby that might be recovered.
Which will lead the PCs into Vol 2 of the AP -- after the end of Skreed and the conclusion of Part 3 of Vol 1.
I think this makes for a better adventure in Vol 1 and ties Vol II far more organically and naturally to the overall AP's progression.
Rob McCreary wrote:
While that may be, 1/3rd of this AP deals primarily with Orcs, and it is the first part of an AP which sets the tone - and the theme. Players experience the theme as they play. And I promise you, for the first 4 months to 1 year of play? The theme is not going to be Giants, no matter the name of the AP. The theme from the players' perspective is "the Orcs of Belkzen".
That more than merits the attention from where I sit, notwithstanding the subject matter of Vols 3-6.
I appreciate your point; please consider mine and how it is perceived by players who don't get to see the AP from 40,000 feet. They eat the AP one encounter and NPC at a time. My bet is that for a VERY long time during play, this Giantslayer AP "tastes like Orc."
Regarding some of the other specific topics brought up, it is important to realize that Trunau was fully detailed in a Campaign Setting book, Towns of the Inner Sea, published in 2013. And many of those things were established there: the town's view on half-orcs, the relationship between Sara Morninghawk and Agrit Staginsdar, hopeknives and how and why they are used. These were not things included in the adventure for any "messaging" or political correctness or tokenism. They were included in the adventure because they were a part of the setting two years before this Adventure Path came out.
I am aware of that. To be clear, the same-sex relationship was not the part that got me; the relationship between a Dwarf and a half-orc was the part that seemed to pass without comment when one might have been offered. The dwarves of the Mindspin Mountains have "racial hatred" as one of their default special ability when dealing with orcs, yet we get Sara and Agrit as spouses? That merits some comment I think, but not because of the gender issue.
As for hopeknives, I understand those were also mentioned before in the Inner Sea World Guide's entry for Trunau initially. This could have -- and imo, should have, received more and closer examination, and a mature questioning, frankly. What does this all mean and how does it fit?
The entire concept is plainly extremist and fanatical. It's definitely interesting, I grant you that -- but it has many implications the AP does not attempt to develop. Hopeknives are either 1) Nutty and unjustified or 2) Logical & justified. If it's #2, that makes the treatment of the town's half-orcs pretty much wholly at odds with this desperate view, hardened philosophy and the whole symbology of the hopeknife. It's a very hard sell otherwise.
Towns of the Inner Sea tells us that Trunau treats half-orcs well, but also implies that they are the product of rape. And that their children survive the event of getting raped in order to carry those children to term. So they would sooner kill their own children rather than have them be raped by orcs (even if they survive it), but they embrace the bastard off-spring of such couplings? Even when they appear to be monstrous and are clearly non-human?
Does that make any sense? Really? For some, sure. For most? Not Really, no. I think it is necessary to admit that extremism is practiced by extremists.
It is also a very difficult thing to accept if Hopeknives can be reasonable and justified while their attitude to half-orcs is the subject of a sidebar going very much the other way at p. 20 ("Half-Orc Witch Hunt"). Canonical only goes so far.
I thought the realistic way to deal with this was for the PCs to discover, through Brinya, that Rodrik secretly considered the hopeknife to be a symbol he despised. That's why he lost it -- he hates wearing it. The poet in him considers it to be a symbol of Trunau's intolerance and hatred and fear. (Contrast against his forbidden love for Brinya, "Other Side of Contempt" poem, et al). I would also have also used the fact that Rodrik and Brinya had exchanged hopeknives as a sign they had married in secret, without the consent of the father -- an act consistent with the entry for hopeknives in Inner Sea Towns. That could have been developed further in the investigation, but appears left unexplored. (Perhaps that was a space limitation issue.)
Still, instead of exploring the mixed meaning of this symbol, what it means and implies, it is reduced to a McGuffin relating to a "receipt", the need for which in a such a small town is a most improbable plot device.
While I appreciate that these sorts of conundrums seem small, in the context of the adventure as presented in Vol 1, a great deal of time and effort is spent by the PCs thinking about and investigating this hopeknife and what it means. And yes, suspecting the half-orcs and if they are to be trusted or rounded up, and if so, how. The players are not just going to breeze over this stuff.
In the future, please try having a little more conviction next time before you post a five-point screed...
I'll take that under advisement.
My position (and my objections) are not necessarily a binary proposition. There is room for nuance, there is a spectrum for discussion, and there is usually a range of possibilities.
What I will run, and what I understand the commercial and practical pressures facing an author or Paizo to be, are very different things.
It appears that you want it all Black and White; On or Off; Troll or Fanboi.
I do not share that view nor do I share that approach.
I've been inside "the cool kids club", thanks; spoken with *many* of the Paizo designers and freelance authors as part of Podcast and print reviews of their products I have done in the past. I continue to do so on a daily basis with some of them on Facebook. We're friends.
It's not about that.
And I don't agree that Paizo designs their AP products with any overt "kid friendly" design mantra. The only time I have seen that ethos have any effect on their product design is in the Beginner Box -- and I happen to agree with their choices and motives with that product. The sorts of things you are mentioning have had real impact at Wizards of the Coast over the years, especially when licensing electronic games designs at WotC (I have first-hand experience with that) but that's WotC and this is Paizo.
So it's not about that either.
I certainly do understand that when it comes to games, people want to get away from the troubles of this real world and escape into a fantasy RPG to have fun. That is an entirely legitimate objective for any player to want, and it's legitimate for Paizo to serve it up, too. There are a diverse number of people playing RPGs and they want to see themselves depicted in that world: whether it's sexuality or race, rubbing people's noses in those aspects of the real world in their game world isn't much fun.
I certainly DO "get" that.
As for same sex relationships and marriages, I get all of that and have, generally, no problem with any of it. I'm a leftie Canadian and the Kim Davis style social divisions don't exist here in any significant manner. I really don't have a personal problem with it being depicted in a shrug-worthy manner in this AP. I'm okay with that. What I did have a problem with was then a layering of an odd racial coupling added on top of that, too: half-orc and dwarf, together, in a land where the orcs and dwarves have fought one another since the Quest for Sky - more than 9,000 years? That's going one Bridge Too Far.
I would have thought THAT aspect to their relationship would have been worthy of at least a sidebar.
Rape isn't fun and there isn't much about it that could be considered fun or escapist. So that's something I think we can all understand at an intellectual level -- and which we can admit that most of us cannot understand at an emotional level.
And yes, that a particular half-orc has been the product of a conception that arose out of rape has been mentioned before in several Paizo products, so that's hardly a ground breaker. The problem with this particular adventure is that given the presence of Trunau within the fringes of Belkzen and the population's well, zealotry, in deciding to stay there and the methods they will resort to up to and including deliberately slitting the throats of their own children and loved ones to avoid capture? Well -- all of that is very dissonant with how it is that there are so many half-orcs in their society, and how "orcish" a particular half-orc looks (or 1/4 or 1/8 orc blooded, say) would seem to be a reasonable leap and have some bearing upon their social status and how they might be treated.
Which brings us back to race and I can understand how all of that becomes a very distasteful and very unFun theme for many players.
The problem with this particular adventure is that all of those things seem to be twisting into a confluence, a maelstrom of distasteful and unpopular real world social and historical themes converging all at once, with race and rape being far and away the biggest aspect of it.
But the Hopeknives is where they lost me. There is NO REASON, zero, zip, zilch, nada where those can be breezed over as no big deal. The idea that capture by the orcs would result in such a horrendous fate -- or perhaps, merely believed to result in such a horrendous fate -- that a mother slitting the throat of her young child rather than allow him or her to be captured would be seen as a socially responsible thing to do and part of their duty as parents in Trunau...
From my perspective, that's frikkin extremist nutbar CREEPTASTIC stuff. And it's not a small point in the adventure; it is, in fact, the point of departure to the entire first Act of the adventure. And yet we don't get a sidebar about that?
No. No, no, no. That's crossing the line. You don't get to make creative decisions like that and not get called on it. Add in all the other mounting social issues studiously ignored for whatever reason and the whole thing just loses me.
It's fixable. And I can and WILL fix it in my Giantslayer campaign. But all of this was at the very least deserving of a sidebar discussion somewhere within this volume of the AP and we didn't get it. We should have. It would have made for a better adventure and inspired others to make their campaigns a better adventure too, I think.
After reading through the Battle of Bloodmarch Hill a few times, I have to say this about all of that.
No, just...no. This is too damned Black and White. This is portrayed as KID's STUFF.
The area is too clear cut, too cartoonish, too simple in its morality and absolute in its depiction of the people's ideals. Nobody feels real.
It misses the mark for me. Completely.
Here are some of the issues for me:
1- Racism without being Actually, you know, RACIST
There is racism and racial tension without there being any actual racism. Why? Because that is unrealistic, or is it simply that it pushes the wrong politically correct buttons?
Here is an enclave of human within the unclear borders of Belkzen and these CRAZY people are both distrusting of -- and somehow protective of -- their half-orcs? ALL of them?
No, no and no again. **NO** This rings FALSE to me. The opportunities for Jim Crow and deep prejudice among the human and half orcs is missed. The opportunity for a grim and gritty Trunau is avoided -- not because it would ring false, but because it might offend. And that wouldn't be "fun"? Screw that.
2. Same-Sex and Multi-Racial Relationships Without Consequences
Similarly, the AP seems to go overboard on same-sex relationships and then layers on top of it a multi-racial relationships, too. Without providing any context, tension, or consequences to ANY OF IT; it ignores opportunities to provoke controversy and then examine it in game. It's just an immature DisneyLand approach to these serious subjects.
We see it in the relationship between the Female Half-Orc Smith and her Dwarven wife in Vol 1, and another opportunity is missed in Vol II between the Saboteur and the Half-orc Cook. I haven't got to the rest of the AP in depth yet, but given the missed opportunities in the first few volumes, I am guessing it will happen again as it moves forward.
3. Class and Ethnic Prejudice and Hatred in Family Relationships
They could also have developed the theme of racial tension further in Vol 1 with the Father of the murder victim and his antipathy towards his son's lover (who actually seems to have been his wife, as they exchanged hopeknives.) But they miss it. It's just treated with a middle-school level of complexity here. It BEGS for more.
4. Race, Rape and Jim Crow beyond the Walls of Trunau
We could have explored this theme further with WHO does the farming outside the walls and who is safe within them. The number of half-orcs, who conceived them and why, Orc raiders in the area, the signal fires, and the issue of half-orcs within the town just screams RAPE and what THAT means for their society. But no, another opportunity missed. I well understand why Paizo might have decided to ignore this given those uncomfortable implications in this "triggering" society we seem to now live in, but it's the elephant in the room.
5. Hopeknives are VILE Fanaticism
The very idea of the Hopeknives and what they represent is a fanaticism which is portrayed as noble, but which if explored with some maturity is as offensively over-the-top extremist as almost anything ISIL did last week. It may well be best summed up as potentially bat-s!*@ crazy. An opportunity to explore how the victim felt about hopeknives is lost as well. This demands moral complexity but we get middle school theme park out of it.
Why? Because the entire approach seems appropriate to a teenager's sense of moral complexity. It misses the mark, fails to feel real, and in general, seems just ... silly.
I won't do it. I won't run a module that BEGS to have layers of grime, grit and moral complexity like a patina (if not a pall) over everything -- and run it instead as if it was some Banana Yellow and Pink theme park ride in DisneyLand aimed for 10 year olds.
I won't do it. I won't.
Am I the only person who sees this? I can't believe that, yet, nobody else is complaining. I am mystified at the lack of a reaction to this by Pathfinder GMs and subscribers.
Lord Fyre wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
This is a harder nut to crack than it sounds, honestly. WotC's "delve" format, which they started using toward the tail end of 3rd edition, was one attempt to make adventures easier to run, but it made them VERY difficult to write and quite unsatisfying to simply read.
James Jacobs wrote:
One of the things you mentioned in the first quote James was, I think, perhaps lost upon some of the people who read it and then posted here. DeathQuaker got it right. It's not a small point, so it bears repeating (if I may be so bold).
The OP and others mention a number of things that might make the adventure easier to use during play by a GM on the fly. These comments are not wrong. I am not suggesting that they are wrong. Most of those comments are right.
The problem is that those who posted them are approaching the utility of the adventure merely as a game product, the purpose of which is to aid a GM in running an adventure. That's actually not what a published adventure by Paizo is; or rather, it is that, but it is also something else.
A Paizo adventure (and most definitely an Adventure Path volume), is a published book whose "value in use" lies not only in the using, but in the reading of it. In fact, its principal value probably lies mainly in the reading, and not in the playing.
I have no idea what percentage of adventures Paizo sells that actually end up being run as part of a RPG session. I could pull a stat out of my colon, but it wouldn't be very reliable. I am not sure that anybody knows the answer to that question - in Paizo or outside of it.
Erik Mona has mentioned to me some years ago that Paizo had data on the number of Adventures that were actually run when Paizo published Dungeon. Erik told me it was actually quite low for the most part, and that most often, an adventure was never actually run by a GM at all.
Fast forward in time to Pathfinder RPG and those adventure and subscription lines and matters may have changed somewhat. But whatever the "real" answer is, it is still merely a subset of those who buy the adventure, read it (if they do even that) and put it on the shelf to be used "someday". Often (if not most of the time), "someday' never comes.
That's right, the adventure is purchased, sometimes read, and even less frequently than that, actually used in play as a RPG aid.
Consequently, Paizo must publish adventure material that is not only interesting to play, but is also interesting to read as a form of (non-fiction) gaming fiction, as it were.
It's not just important to their business, it's very important. You can't sacrifice that value-in-use for another purpose which you might prefer without consequences.
Looking at my Pathfinder comics collection tonight, I observe that of the issues that came with a map (by FAR my favorite feature of the comic line!) Paizo, in partnership with Dynamite, has now have released 18 individual battle maps.
The comic maps themselves are essentially the equivalent of 4 Map Pack cards assembled into one map. Ignoring the promo/box art in a typical Pathfinder Map Pack, each with 18 5x8 cards in each pack, that makes the 18 total released comic maps the equivalent of 4 Pathfinder Map Packs. That's a rather significant amount of content!
I prefer to use my maps online with a VTT, and yes, I have scanned all of the comic maps in at 150 dpi for that purpose. But tbh, it's an awkward task and no matter how careful I try to do the scans, some glare and imperfections in the scanned maps are inevitable. In addition, the colors are not as vibrant as Jason Engle's original "camera ready" art.
So here is a product I would like to see: a PDF product of the maps released with the comics to date. I would think a 24 map collection would be an auspicious number to include for sale sometime in the spring of 2016.
Whatever the case, I would be very happy to buy this as a PDF only product at normal map pack DPI resolution, in pre-assembled map form. While I know there is also a market for the comic maps as a stand-alone print products, I am concerned that to release them as stand-alone print products (assuming Paizo even has the right to do so) would devalue the existing printed maps that ship with the comics, so I'm a little iffy on that idea.
I would also point out that phasing in the encounter maps in some form for generic use in Pathfinder Society Scenarios would also make sense and make good use of existing art assets.
In short, I love the comic maps and the comic maps and encounters are among the most under-appreciated and hidden gems in Paizo's product line. I want to be able to make better use of the content created and released so far.
How about it?
I would imagine that within days (and certainly weeks) this #100 issue will be arriving at Paizo's offices to await eventual shipment to subscribers and stores.
I remember receiving my copy of AP#1 in the mail, as a replacement for my then expired Dungeon subscription. While I wasn't angry about getting Pathfinder AP, I certainly wasn't happy about the end of Dungeon.
Eight years later and I am still not happy about the end of Dungeon, but at least I can be philosophical about it now. Moreover, if I had to choose between Pathfinder or Dungeon/Dragon, it would be Pathfinder a million times over. I'd make that choice awoken at 3:30 a.m., dead drunk. Every. Single. Time.
What a supremely *satisfying* moment this must have been for you all to ship this one off to the printer.
Congratulations to Lisa Stevens, Erik, James, Wes, Jason and the entire Paizo staff.
Ciaran Barnes wrote:
What's wrong with the standard viewer?
Nothing is wrong with it. It is simply that Goodreader is faster, allows for notations and its built in support for Dropbox makes it far easier to transfer files to your iPad and organize them in folders for use.
The less use I am forced to make of iTunes, the better.
#1: Kingmaker 2.0: Set wherever. I don't care. But it's time to go back to that well.
#2:Godfathers of Absalom An entirely urban campaign, with lots of sandboxy capers, where the PCs are thugs, thieves, second story-men, fences, pimps, bookies, enforcers, loan sharks and wanna be Made Men. Rise from the Puddles district of Absalom, run the rackets, fight for turf, survive the gang-war and have your crime family rise to the top; become the Godfathers of Absalom. (Paladins need not apply).
#3: Quest for Sky: A historical AP set almost in its entirety underground, in the past after Earthfall when the Orcs rule the surface of Golarion. A pure Darklands style campaign where the party are in service to the Dwarves who are pressing to discover the path to the surface above. This almost entirely underground aspect of the game removes the need to redo the Inner Sea World Guide for the past.
#4:Orcslayer: It's time for the Orc! The heroes must take their stand against the most dangerous of all foes; the ones that are just as clever as humans, but stronger. The Orcs take the roll of the Big Bads.
Woah, woah. Slow down everybody.
Nearly ten years ago when Paizo was publishing Dungeon, there were a few of us who were using LCD projection technology to shine an image on the table during the game so we could move our minis directly on the map image surface. We wrote into Dungeon and asked if they could make it easier for us to access their maps so we could use them for that purpose.
LCD projectors were seen as avante garde cool tech at that time and Paizo, being made up of gamers, thought it was cool, too. They listened. At some expense, they began to break out the maps then published in Dungeon only in paper form and release online supplements to the issues of the mag. They were sometimes delayed a few months after publication -- but they listened.
Fast forward several years and during a conversation I asked Erik Mona if there was something that Paizo could do to make it easier for electronic maps to be accessed for GMs as part of VTT play. Paizo listened again. One of the significant problems users of VTTs faced was having the grid line up properly in the VTT display. The realities of having to size and rescale art as part of the publishing process meant that a grid that was embedded in the image made this very difficult.
Paizo listened again. In the products in which they could rigidly control their image sizes, all grid alignment problems went away, so that the Flip-Mat and Map Pack lines were easy to import into VTTs.
While that approach was impractical in dealing with the realities of deadlines and variable image sizes in a print publication where maps had to be resized to fit the page in an arbitrary way, they still tried their best. At considerable expense, they began to publish the Interactive Map pack as part of their .PDF downloads for each issue of Pathfinder Adventure Path. The images are produced so that we can turn on and off the secret doors and grids.
Using screen captures, we can take those images we need, capture, crop, copy and paste the images into a VTT for easy use during play. I do this for all my online games and the process is very easy now. I can prep an AP volume of maps for use in a VTT in a few minutes now.
If there is something the OP is finding difficult about the technical part of this, it may be he is doing it wrong -- and it may be that he wants to use maps and art for some other purpose where problems are occurring which might be remedied.
My point: you'll catch a lot more of your quarry with honey rather than vinegar. Paizo has been extremely accommodating on this issue over the years. They aren't playing catchup -- they've been at the front of the pack in this issue. So explain your technical issues, difficulties, preferences and druthers concerning images patiently and precisely. It might be that there are tips we can provide you on how to do it better -- and it may be that Paizo can take some steps so that they they can do it better, too. And it might be that there are reasons your preferences cannot be accommodated as easily as the OP would prefer.
Point is, you need to be more precise concerning the technical difficulties you are facing than the rant in the initial post.
Seriously: what's the problem? How can we help and how could it be made better for you by Paizo if we can't?
Council of Thieves was always a stronger AP than it was made out to be. The title of the AP was the worst thing about it, as it engendered an expectation in players that the AP itself did not deliver on. Shadows over Westcrown might have been a better title.
This seems more in keeping with a true sequel to the real plot of Council of Thieves. And in the sense that #100 is a sequel to the beginning of the Pathfinderized portion of Pathfinder AP, I'm good with that.
I do wish that it was more to do with Molthune, but I see this as more of a northern independence movement that if successful, will have no real impact upon Cheliax itself. La plus ca change... I get the necessity, but, doesn't mean I have to like that aspect of it.
Just in time for the drive to Gencon, Chronicles: Pathfinder Podcast returns with the Chronicles Re-Rolled Pre-Gencon Special: Featuring guests Stephen-Radney MacFarland and Rob McCreary of Paizo Inc., Colen McAlister and Liz Theis from Lone Wolf Development, Matt Morton of d20 Pro, and Jason Nelson of Legendary Games. Join Azmyth and Steel_Wind for the return of Chronicles: Pathfinder Podcast and their featured review of the Mummy's Mask Adventure Path, Vol. 1 The Half-Dead City. The all new episode weighs in at 3 hours and 20 minutes.
Available NOW! Right Click and save Here
Please NOTE: The old iTunes/RSS Feed for Chronicles: Pathfinder Podcast no longer works, but we will be updating an all new iTunes subscription link later on in the week. For now, used the above link to download.
Just in time for the drive to Gencon, Chronicles: Pathfinder Podcast returns with the Chronicles Re-Rolled Pre-Gencon Special: Featuring guests Stephen-Radney MacFarland and Rob McCreary of Paizo Inc., Colen McAlister and Liz Theis from Lone Wolf Development, Matt Morton of d20 Pro, and Jason Nelson of Legendary Games. Join Azmyth and Steel_Wind for the return of Chronicles: Pathfinder Podcast and their featured review of the Mummy's Mask Adventure Path, Vol. 1 The Half-Dead City. The all new episode weighs in at 3 hours and 20 minutes.
Available NOW! Right Click and save Here
Please NOTE: The old iTunes/RSS Feed for Chronicles: Pathfinder Podcast no longer works, but we will be updating an all new iTunes subscription link later on in the week. For now, used the above link to download.
"Class changes" in Unchained are an easy way to bullet point a book still in progress, without saying anything of greater substance at this point about **what will specifically be changed**
Fundamental alterations to the underlying action economy during combat are, far and away, one of the biggest changes to Pathfinder from 3.5 that could be made. Apart from reworking the math behind high level characters, the problems with SR and saving throws (which will probably have to await a full blown PF 2.0 revision), changes to the action economy in the game are what interests me most.
In particular, MY biggest problem which is inherent to the design of Pathfinder/3.xx is the trade-off which favours STATIC MOVEMENT by mid to high-level characters engaged in combat. The trade off for a full round attack action in order to be able to inflict multiple attacks on a foe tends to always favour a rush to the middle and then minimal 5' step movement by melee combatants. And as the trade-off "cost" of movement during combat gets more "expensive" the higher level the combatants are, the worse the disparity becomes.
That underlying reality makes the combat element of the game BORING the longer an AP continues as it tends to rule out all the cool combat maneuvers which the game theoretically now allows. Not cool.
The problem tends to make most combats feel exactly the same. We need more variation not simply with environmental factors and theoretical combat maneuvers, but with an action economy system which does not punish those choices being used at 6th level and beyond. Low level combat should not, in practice, be more dynamic than high level combat. Nevertheless, it often is. That's counter-intuitive to me.
And this needs to be fixed. It's been 14 years -- and it's still screwed up.
That's always been my main beef with Pathfinder/3.xx and one of the few things which 4E improved upon. I'm interested to see what Paizo comes up with as options to mediate these gameplay issues.
For what it's worth, I do think that the first volume could have been more closely connected in terms of plot motivation to the balance of the Adventure Path's metaplot for my tastes. To a lesser extent, the same applies to Book 2.
All of this is pretty easily fixed with some minor tinkering, so it's not that a big a deal. While the lack of a central "plot villain" in Book 1 is a real weakness - or at least a change of pace -- from most APs, it's not a disaster by any means.
These are not difficult things to elegantly fix. The core of the AP is solid adventure material.
As it now appears that my Age of Worms AP has now come to an end, I am posting my Conversion notes for Golarion here and will discuss any questions you may have about it here as well.
Groetus and the Age of Worms
I have removed Kyuss and replaced him with Groetus, the God of the End of the World. Groetus is still essentially Kyuss and continues to be a worm god, but Groetus was never mortal, so that needs to be changed.
Groetus' official symbol in Golarion lore, that of a full moon, remains though in many visions and depictions there are great worms crawling out of the craters like it was a rotten apple.
In Golarion lore, Groetus is not a minor god - although he typically does not grant spells to his followers (for the very good reason that, along with Aroden, he now exists "out of time" and is not able to do so). From time to time, Oracles and even some crazed Druids claim to receive spells from Groetus, but most scholars believe this is a case of a divine caster getting power from another source and misattributing it to Groetus.
According to lore, Groetus is ultimately destined to be the last Being left in the universe, together with Pharasma at the End of All Things. It is for this reason that His symbol of the moon can be seen hanging above Pharasma's twilight garden. The Age of Worms campaign is about stopping his return and the End of All Things.
Seen in another way, Groetus as the God of the End is Entropy incarnate. He is opposed by Aroden, the Lawgiver.
The Moon holy symbol of Groetus is a play on the prophecy. Groetus is in fact imprisoned in an extra-dimensional space which exists beyond time. There are two halves to the Gateway leading from this dimension to the Prime Material plane.
One half of the Gateway is located on the surface of the moon of Golarion; the other part to the Gateway is located on a large comet/asteroid, Groetus Cauda (the "Wyrm's Tail"). As the comet approaches the sun, the ice warms and melts and the dust trail it leaves in space takes on an almost greenish hue. This tail is referred to in prophecies as the "Great Wrym" and its appearance in the firmament is the sign of the coming End of All Things.
The campaign started with the comet seen in a telescope which becomes accidentally pointed at a region of space which is otherwise dark and void of stars. It is a triangular shaped area in the night sky, lying between three constellations representing minor gods of destruction upon Golarion: the gods Gyronna, Dahak and Ghlaunder. All three minor gods have destruction as one of their portfolios in the lore of Golarion. The dark triangular area of space which their constellations form is known to the Wise as the "Dark Triad".
The return of the God of Destruction is prophesied to occur from the merger of the minor gods of destruction. The cult of the Ebon Triad believes this prophecy refers to an Overgod which results from a fusion of the gods of Gyronna,
Dahak and Ghlaunder. They are wrong of course. The prophecy refers to the appearance of the comet in the Dark triangle of space in the night sky, the Dark Triad; however, the cultists have twisted it around and misinterpreted the prophecy's true meaning.
Timeline: The Year is 4737 A.R., 25 years in the Future
I have also set this in about 25 years in the future. Supposedly, I did this so that nothing I did in Age of Worms would have any effect on the official APs etc.. That's not why I did it. I did it so that I could age up the Iconic characters and have them play a pivotal role in something else I have changed in Golarion: WAR.
The Impending War between Galt and Cheliax
The Age of Worms AP takes place as a major war in the Inner Sea is brewing. In my future, Galt finally stopped its perpetual revolution, and like Post-revolutionary France, became a major military power. Galt has conquered Taldor and now marches on Cheliax after allying with Molthune. The coming war between Galt and Cheliax leaves Andoran caught in the middle. The war is something that happens "off-screen", but its importance is such that the Iconics are doing everything they can to stop the war or militate its effects. That's why the Iconics are not returning to band up together to adventure and stop the Age of Worms. They've got more urgent and immediate matters to attend to.
References to the coming war begin in Diamond Lake during the opening pats of The Whispering Cairn when the heroes hear of a HUGE order of arrowheads at the foundry which promises an increase in hiring at most of the local mines. Mining towns undergo boom and bust cycles and war is good for the mining business. The coming war promises great wealth to flow into Diamond Lake and Balobar Smenk intends to stuff as much of this gold into his pockets as he can.
Later, during the Encounter at Blackwall Keep, smoke from a massive fire, 100 miles away near the Chelish/Andoran border greets the heroes as they wake up at their morning campfire. The morning is strangely dark, with vision greatly reduced and all light spells give off a curious blue quality to the light cast. The in-game effect is purely narrative, but the fact that there are ominous events happening far over the horizon is brought home with such portents.
Later, troop movements between Egoria and the border are observed, and discussions and gossip with the members of a company from the 3rd Legion (which is the Legion that the unit currently assigned to Blackwall Keep was detached from) serves to put all sorts of rumours, both true and false, about the war.
Military recruitment in Egoria is often featured during the events of Halls of Harsh Reflections and The Champion's Belt. The point of all of this is to remind players there are larger events going on and the entire context of the campaign is that War wages across large swaths of the Inner Sea.
Greyhawk NPCs OUT -- Golarion Iconics IN
I have replaced most of the significant NPCs in Age of Worms that had been played by Greyhawk's iconic NPCs with counterparts in Pathfinder lore. The players don't know the extent of how far I went to do this.
Allustan became "Eruztan" and he is no longer the mayor's brother - though he certainly is the smartest man in Diamond Lake. He also has an advanced case of Parkinson's Disease (he learns "Age Resistance, Greater" at the end of Three Faces of Evil which allows his vigor to return and to accompany the PCs to the Swamp). But his real name is Ezren. He is one of the mentors to the PCs and the main iconic NPC in the AoW.
Ezren is undercover in Diamond Lake living under an assumed name along with a dwarven companion, known to the locals as "Harry". Harry is, in fact, Harsk and along with Ezren he has also been living undercover in Diamond Lake for the past 20 years. They know the Age of Worms is coming and that it has something to do with Diamond Lake, but beyond that -- things are pretty hazy. Uncle Harry brought up one of the PCs (his nephew) and acted as foster father to another.
The PCs have only recently discovered who he really is.
I introduced Seelah as the Lieutenant-Commander of the Knights of Lastwall. She is now an enemy of the lawful good Paladin in the party (yes, really), who professes to be the Last Knight of Aroden.
The iconic cleric, Kyra, is dead. Her daughter, Kylen, is alive and will be one of the main benefactors of the heroes. She's very much worried about her father, however, who took her mother's death very hard and changed and grew very bitter at Sarenrae after Kyra's death. Her father is Valeros, and Valeros has replaced Loris Raknian and fills his role in the tale.
Manzorian has been completely removed and his part in the tale will be fulfilled by Ezren. (Ezren evolves over time after his Parkinson's Disease is cured -- and as he comes to grips with the enormity of the Age of Worms and the war).
Ezren does not know everything, and he relies upon Harsk, Grandmaster Torch, Seoni, Kylen and Marzena as his main sources of intelligence. The progress of the war and other vital details concerning those plot elements are presented principally through Ezren and his allies.
Celeste has been replaced by Seoni. Seoni is particularly close to Kylen.
Eligos has been completely replaced. Instead of a Sage, he is now the Information broker Grandmaster Torch, a recurring Golarion NPC who frequently appears as a source of critical information in Pathfinder Society scenarios. Torch is now secretly living in exile from his former haunts in the Puddles district of Absalom and now lives in a secret hideout in Egoria. Torch is exceptionally wary of strangers as he is actively hunted by agents of the Scarzni controlled Pathfinder Society. In my AoW, the PCs rescue Marzena at the end of Encounter at Blackwall Keep and then travel with her back to Diamond Lake briefly to look for Eruztan. Unable to find him in Diamond Lake, at the urging of Marzena, the Heroes travel to Egoria to find Torch as he is the best lead Marzena has on where her father might have gone to seek help for Harsk.
The main impetus for the attempts on the PC's lives is not only Valeros, but Ragnolin Dourstone, who escaped at the end of Three Faces of Evil and is now in hiding in Egoria.
The subplot to the Champion's Belt and the role of the rival adventurer's is complicated by what emerges to be their attempts on the life of GM Torch at the behest of the Scarzni. The chance for the party to engage the rival adventurers in direct combat during the Champion's Belt should prove to be a FAR more serious and cathartic moment. They are not simply rivals, two of them (Khellek and Merisiel) are outright enemies of the PC's main allies.
Marzena, the female wizard in Encounter at Blackwall Keep is still Marzena, but she is now the estranged daughter of Ezren. The party is traveling to Blackwall Keep along with "Eruztan" to meet up there with Harry, who left Diamond Lake in session 1 when he remained at the camp of Seelah. Harsk is in the Mistmarsh because he's been tracking down the source of the worms. When the party meets Harsk on the road, he's staggering, delirious and rambling. In fact, he's been exposed to the worms and is about to change into a Spawn. Ezren FREAKS when he understands what's happened and uses a scroll to teleport away with Harsk in order to try and save his best and oldest friend, leaving the PCs behind on the road to Blackwall to save his daughter, Marzena. This new motive fixes one of the cheesier plot holes in the AoW where Allustan teleports away without a good reason to do so.
Ezren in desperation to prevent Harsk from changing into a Spawn willingly enters into the stasis trap carrying Harsk to await rescue by the PCs in A Gathering of Winds. (It will be the only thing Exren could think of on short notice to stop the transformation of Harsk into a Spawn.)
Balakarde (who was just a made up name for Bucknard in the original Greyhawk premised Age of Worms) has been replaced by the iconic Seltyiel.
Merisiel replaces Tirra, one of the team of the "rival adventurers" encountered in Diamond Lake. Merisiel ultimately becomes an opponent of the party in The Champion's Belt. Like Khellek, Merisiel is a Scarzni recruit and a member of the Pathfinder Society.
The Seekers, the unethical organization of archaeologists referred to in The Whispering Cairn (and which Khellek, one of the "rival adventurers" met in Dimaond Lake is a member of) is of course The Pathfinder Society. In the future, the Pathfinders have been shaken by internal strife and the Scarzni faction has essentially taken over the Decimvirate. Grandmaster Torch is in hiding in Egoria and is still alive, however, and will be introduced as an associate of Ezren who has vital information to advance the story. Ultimately, it is Torch who knows about the ruins of Kulluth-Marr and the legends that surround it.
Darl Quethos has also been subtly recast, though Darl is not a willing participant in all of this. Darl is an adventurer with a neutral, self-interested world view. Some time ago, Darl managed to penetrate Gallowspire and recovered a bone collar and helm from within the doomed fortress. Darl does not know what he found, but he has substantially over-reached and got himself into trouble he cannot escape from. Darl is being subtly influenced by the spirit of Adivion, a lich who resides in the bone collar phylactery Darl recovered from Gallowspire.
Lashonna has also been recast -- and this is a HUGE change to the AP. While Lashonna goes by that name and appears to be mortal, she is, in fact, the lich-queen and fallen demi-goddess, Arazni. Her motives are far from pure but at the least, she wants the Age of Worms to be averted. The mad spirit of Adivion, however, believes that Tar-Baphon will be released during the Age of Worms and so is working against her, through Darl Quethos.
The Free City = Egoria
My Free City is Egoria, the capital of Cheliax. More important than where the Free City is, is where Alhaster is.
Alhaster = Westcrown
Alhaster has been dramatically reskinned to become Westcrown. I also used the advance in the timeline to make some significant changes to Cheliax. In my Golarion, the fallout from the consequences of The destruction wrought upon Westcrown in the Council of Thieves AP had a significant impact upon Cheliax and all clerics and druids of all religions other than Asmodeus and Aroden are banned in Cheliax now.
The Chelish Inquisition
The "heroes" of the events that occurred in Westcrown 25+ years ago are wanted criminals by the Throne (in fairness to the Thrunes, they DO have a point). As Ezren and Harsk were part of that group, this forces them to hide their true identities while in Cheliax (hence "Eruztan" and "Harry"). The Thrune dynasty has since used the entire crisis as a pretext to begin a systematic repression of all significant religious opposition within the Chelish Empire. This is popularly known as "The Inquisition".
Current clerics who profess to continue to worship Aroden are no significant threat to the throne as they do not have spells and in any event, it would not be possible to stomp out the worship of Aroden as it is too deeply rooted in Chelish society.
Active spell-casting clerics other than those of Asmodeus and Pharasma are actively hunted by the Inquisition. Currently instrumental in avoiding detection among the underground clerics of light in Cheliax is a subtle but powerful tattoo which acts as a slotless ring of misdirection. While it will not suppress the magical aura of a healing spell as it is being cast, it does prevent the cleric from "pinging" if detect good, evil, chaos or know alignment is cast. Kylen arranged for the PC cleric to receive a preserved tattoo, sent on a small piece of skin that had been removed from the back of a dead cleric and preserved for 1 week with gentle repose. The tattoo can be transferred to a live recipient by those who know both misdirection and the relevant tattoo magic (see the spell transfer tattoo, Inner Sea Magic, p.61). Detect Thoughts, however, remains an effective inquisition technique as does torture and old fashioned spying and scrying.
The Silent Brothers and Sisters of Pharasma are technically also banned in Cheliax, but in practice the priests of the Lady of the Grave are allowed to continue to operate within Cheliax without harassment, provided that they do not publicly preach (other than at solemn funerals) and further that they do not openly offer spell-casting services to the public. Why Pharasma is tolerated when no other god's priests are permitted to openly operate within Cheliax is not known, but it is widely believed that the Thrunes are not so foolish as to openly challenge the Lady of the Grave -- and besides -- member of that Order are apolitical and have never been known to interfere in the temporal affairs of the Empire.
The Fate of Aroden
Aroden isn't really dead of course -- but he might as well be. He removed himself from time and is in the same timeless dimension where Groetus is. By leaving the known universe to go to the Time Where There is No Time, Aroden sacrificed himself to try and prevent the Age of Worms. His presence behind the doorway of the Gate where Groetus will ultimately emerge gives the heroes a chance in their final battle.
Campaign Seed: The Last Knight of Aroden
One of the players is playing a Paladin of Aroden. Unlike any other Paladin of Aroden in Golarion (except one, who is now dead) the PC paladin of Aroden actually has Paladin powers. He converted to Aroden in the first session when he was asked to come to see his "grandfather" at a nearby Varisian camp. His grandfather, on his death-bed in a Varisian Gypsy wagon, was an ancient half-elf and the titular Commander of Lastwall.
The old Commander, a half-elf, was not REALLY the PC's "grandfather" -- but was his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. The Last Knight of Aroden made the PC Paladin swear his Oath and then gave him his sword, Justicar the "Sword of Justice", an ancient masterwork bastard blade said to be have been given to a former Commander of Lastwall by Aroden himself, centuries ago. Technically, the bearer of the Sword of Justice is revered as the Knight Commander of the Knights of Ozem. When Aroden died and his Paladins lost their powers, they converted to Iomedae, but as the Last Knight kept his powers, under the law he was promoted to and remained Commander of the Knights of Ozem for most of the last century.
Seelah expected to receive the Sword from the Last Knight on his deathbed and her followers were furious that it had been given to a boy, who they refuse to acknowledge as their Commander. Thus, we have a PC Paladin who is technically in charge of the Knights of Ozem -- except they won't listen to a single word he says!
Nearly a millenia ago, Justicar was only indirectly given to the Commander of Lastwall by Aroden. Aroden, even then, no longer acted directly upon Golarion and used his herald to deliver her sword to the Commander. You may not know this, but in official Golarion lore, the first prophecy which went awry and changed the future was not the death of Aroden, but that of his herald, Arazni.
It was Arazni who unexpectedly died at the hands of Tar-Baphon and changed everything. A part of her soul remains in the Sword of Justice and in the hands of a true Knight, her spirit is enough to grant that knight spells and powers as a Paladin. The so-called Last Knight of Aroden has been (and in fact, the new one still is), getting his "powers" from the last part of the divine spirit of the goddess Arazni, a part of which became bound to the Sword of Justice through persistent use of the Paladin's bonded weapon ability used over the ages upon it by successive Commanders of the Knights of Light.
As the PC Paladin's divine bond with the Sword of Justice grows, this mere masterwork bastard blade grows in power. As a free action, the sword can cast true strike once per day. At third level, the sword became +1 magical and increases by a further +1 for every three levels it is wielded by a Paladin who has the weapon as his divine bond. By the end of the AP, Justicar should be a +7 Magical Sword, able to manifest into almost any magical weapon through the use of a Paladin's bonded weapon power. Justicar is the weapon what will probably end up killing Groetus if the PCs win.
As the last untainted source of the holy spirit of Arazni, it is also possible for the Sword of Justice to either defeat Arazni or potentially, to even redeem her if the players are willing to take the risk and are extremely clever.
And of course, none of my players have any clue about this.
A Tangled Web of Phylacteries: Arazni, Dragotha and the Age of Worms
This is where it gets complicated. Just as Arazni is looking to defeat Dragotha by seizing his phylactery, so the spirit of the dead dragon, Naraga seeks to control Arazni by recovering her Bloodstones and threatening her phylactery with destruction. Arazni is powerful and Naraga is weak. But her weakness has instilled in Naraga great patience and subtlety through necessity. Naraga is playing the long con.
As noted previously, Lashonna is no longer a vampiric silver dragon of unknown origin and even more uncertain motives. As a vampiric silver dragon, Lashonna in the original Age of Worms was a case of "nerd templatism": "wouldn't it be cool if we put a vampire template on a silver dragon?" Well, no, it's not so cool when you do that and then don't take the time to figure out why this happened, or how it all fits into the campaign. I was also very unsatisfied that Lashonna could not be redeemed in the original AoW. Accordingly, as initially presented in the original AoW, Lashonna wasn't "real" and was simply a paper cut-out villain who-wasn't-really-a-villain (except she sort of was).
So I have dramatically changed all of that.
In my Age of Worms, just as Aroden lurks in the tale from outside of time in his struggle against Groetus, the spirit of his former herald, Arazni, is unwittingly aiding Aroden by striving against Dragotha in a bid to make herself the herald of Groetus. Arazni seeks to eliminate Dragotha and so be the servant that Groetus will reward upon his re-entry into time through the gate in the Moonscar.
The goal of the PCs is to make use of Arazni to defeat Dragotha, and then make use of the Bloodstones and Justicar to defeat or even redeem Arazni. With both immortal lich generals defeated, and the Wyrm's Tail redirected directly at the gate, the heroes should be able to defeat Groetus.
The bone collar that Darl Quethos found within Gallowspire is, in fact, the Phylactery of Adivion Adrissant, the spirit of the lich villain from the Carrion Crown AP. This phylactry acts as a "failed" phylactery and the lich sprit within it can communicate with and possess its bearer. With Adivion's aid, Darl escaped from within Gallowspire bearing both the collar and a horned bone helm - the Horns of Naraga (Artifacts and Legends, p. 28).
Quite apart from utterly despising the Whispering Tyrant, Naraga is loyal to Dragotha. While Adivion's spirit is able to possess and take control of Darl, Naraga lacks this power. All Naraga can do is whisper. But just as Adivion whispers to Darl, so Naraga can also whisper to Adivion. Unlike Darl, Adivion was *quite* insane to begin with. So while Naraga's spell power is less than Adivion's, her influence may, in the long run, prove to be the greater of the two.
Adivion does not dare possess Darl directly as Naraga has convinced Adivion - posing as the Whispering Tyrant whispering to Adivion's spirit - that Darl's soul must be untainted to touch and recover two of the Bloodstones of Arazni that are hidden within the Library of Last Resort. Naraga knows that the holy power of Aroden that resides within the Bloodstones will prevent a possessed Darl from touching them, so instead, Naraga is subtly affecting the thoughts of both Darl AND Adivion. Naraga manipulates Darl by enhancing his intrinsic greed, thereby making him more vulnerable to Adivion's more direct control. With Adivion, Naraga's task is easier as Adivion is quite mad to begin with and the mad lich is open to subtle emotional manipulation. Adivion wants to believe in the whispers and wants to believe he is the Tyrant's "chosen one". He has always believed this.
Naraga is the real ally of Dragotha in all of this; Darl and Adivion are both merely pawns. Naraga needed Adivion's aid to guide Darl free of the prison while bearing the Horns of Naraga. Naraga is also prepared to use Adivion's arcane power when temporarily possessing Darl to further Dragotha's ends. However, Naraga needs Darl's mortal soul to be free of true evil or Darl will not be able to safely touch and carry the Bloodstones of Arazni. So Adivion must be convinced by Naraga that Darl cannot be possessed permanently.
While complex and tangled, all of this is simply a means to relate the story as a layered "slow reveal" to the heroes of the actual identity of "Lashonna". As it also ties into the tale of Tar-Baphon and how Arazni fell, this tangled web is part of the continuum of events which touches on how the prophecies of Aroden twisted when Arazni died, the Last Knight of Aroden and the sword Justicar, which brings us back to the Bloodstones of Arazni (Artifacts and Legends, p. 13). The Bloodstones, collectively, are Arazni's Phylactery, stolen centuries ago by the Knights of Ozem from Geb. If Arazni recovers the Bloodstones and reintegrates that divine power within her, the artifacts might make Arazni near invincible.
What Arazni does not know is that part of her true divine spirit, untainted by evil, still resides still within the Sword of Justice. While Arzni can sense the presence of the Bloodstones, she cannot sense her divine spirit from within the sword -- as she has been corrupted while the Sword remains pure. Using the sword Justicar, the Bloodstones can be destroyed -- or the divine spirit within the Bloodstones truly purified, depending on how Justicar is used. If Arazni is tricked into then attempting to re-integrate the Bloodstones into her being after they gave been truly purified, Arazni will be redeemed.
As a more vague and longterm goal, Arazni has always wanted to recover the Bloodstones. Like Naraga, she can't touch them nor can her undead Knights. She must act through uncorrupted mortals to recover the Bloodstones. Arazni, in her guise posing as Lashonna, seeks to use the PC Heroes as her unwitting pawns to defeat Dragotha. She cannot sense the presence of the Bloodstones within the Library as that extra-dimensional space is cut off from her senses. Once they are removed, she can sense them as soon as they are used. The Heroes coming into possession of two of them from within the Library of Last Resort will be seen by her as ironic divine provenance.
The Whispering Cairn and Old Azlant
I made the Whispering Cairn the tombs of old Azlanti generals who fought the Aboleths before Earthfall. I went with all of this from the word go - and completely removed all that Mishka the wolf-spider stuff from The Whispering Cairn and instead vaguely referenced the fall of Azlant in those tombs and the role that the Aboleths and Mind-flayers (I added the mind-flayers back in) to the entire idea of Earthfall, and I had Dragotha appear in one of the murals at the end of the Whispering Cairn. I thought this was important so as to keep the role of the Age of Worms front and centre throughout and not get distracted by Mishka and these elemental lords.
The idea was that the Aboleths and the Mind-Flayers were the ones who, went to Eox and used a Runestaff as a control panel/key to cause one of the orbital weapons above Eox to alter the path of an asteroid to hit Azlant on Golarion millenia ago. That's how Earthfall happened. When they learn more, my players will ultimately assume that the comet Groetus Cauda is headed towards Golarion and that is how Groetus will return.
It will only be at the end when they are on Eox that they will learn that the initial gravity disruption of the asteroid field that caused the comet that hit old Azlant (Earthfall) ALSO disrupted the orbit of Groetus Cauda at the same time. It's just taken gravity a lot longer to cause Groetus Cauda's orbit to decay into its current collision course. The prophecy predicting the return of the God of Destruction "arising from the Ebon Triad" is, literally, an astronomical projection. The comet has been on its way for thousands of years as its eliptical orbit has decayed over time. The PCs will discover that they have acted too late and that the gravitational beams on the remaining operational weapons platforms above Eox are now too weak -- and the distance to the target too great -- to stop the comet. All the PCs can do at this point is alter the path of the comet a very, very little so as to impact the Spire directly on the Moonscar.
Icosiol's Tomb and The Last Gate to Eox
In keeping with the off-world origin of the Worms and the ultimate goal of travelling to Eox to attempt to alter the path of the asteroid Groetus Cauda, several paths in the plot have been tweaked in A Gathering of Winds.
Additionally, the nature of the tomb itself has also been changed. All living foes within the Tomb have been removed and replaced with Elementals or Constructs. The two exceptions are Flycatcher, whose access to the Plane of Shadow permits the Shadow Spider to enter and leave the Tomb (and so he can access food to keep himself alive) - and Moreto, described below.
Firstly, the Tomb has been dimensionally isolated so that it is not possible to teleport into or out of the Tomb, other than by using the two gates which lead to it. Once inside, it is not possible to leave the tomb through the gate that the Heroes have entered through from the Whispering Cairn, as Ezren's triggering of the stasis field has caused the Tomb gate to enter into "lockdown" mode.
The tomb features many elements which are future tech and the area is a genre mash up between fantasy and SF. Ezren and Harsk, (who is on the verge of changing into a Spawn of Groetus) are caught in the Temporal Stasis field in Area 14. The nature of the stasis field, however, is that it is technological, not magical in nature. The only way to free the duo from the stasis field is to recover a "key" and shut-down the power in the Tomb.
The key has been removed from its location in Area 10 and is now in the possession of Moreto, who is now trapped by Iron Golems behind a forcefield in an alcove in the Star Chamber at Area 21. The series of crazy doors in Area 12 on the second level has been re-imagined as the main control station for the power generator in the complex. The source of the power is a generator harnessing the electricity created by the Falling River, and a future tech force-field turbine has been installed in the top of the falls near Area 20.
Another small series of chambers has been added to the area beneath the Star Chamber (the map is in exactly the same style of Rob Lazareti's maps and you can ask me for it and I will send it to you). This area leads to a devious door with a monstrously powerful magnetic trap, isolating the complex from the hard vacuum beyond the door -- and to the Last Gate to the surface of the dead planet Eox which is forced into an open state and has a Sphere of Annihilation in the middle of it. Due to the nature of the trap, It is extremely unlikely that the Heroes will ever reach the room with the gate operational and live to tell the tale (the vacuum would suck the Hero through an anti-magical zero G zone straight towards the Sphere), but after disabling the power to the Tomb, they should be able to ascertain the location of the other side of the gate on Eox for travel to the planet through interplanetary teleport. This will be the clue the Heroes will need to ultimately travel there near the end of the AP. The sphere of Annihilation itself, however, will end up on the surface of Eox after the trap is disarmed and the Last Gate will have been rendered permanently inoperable by its brief interaction with the Sphere.
The Ghoul Moreto has been recast as a well-intentioned Spellweaver warrior of the ancient past who was himself caught in a stasis field for the past 8,000+ years - though Moreto has no idea where he is or how long he has been there.
Moreto travelled through the Last Gate hot in pursuit of another Spellweaver, the Harbinger, in order to prevent him from destroying Golarion by spreading the worms. Moreto did not succeed in preventing the Harbinger from reaching the surface of Golarion as Moreto was caught in a stasis trap (similar to the one in Area 14) which has been added to the new level of the dungeon. When Ezren deliberately triggered the stasis field in Area 14, the power generator in the Tomb could not keep both stasis fields up and the complex released Moreto.
As Moreto requires negative energy to survive, and the Tomb has been sealed off from access to all the Planes (except the Plane of Shadow, which the Azlanti did not know about), Moreto has been trapped here and has been starving for some time. Accordingly, Moreto is now on the verge of death and cannot be saved, though some limited interaction with the warrior is possible depending on the Heroes' choices. Moreto's bears one of the original Eoxian worm symbiotes. It is possible for the Heroes to recover this symbiotic worm after Moreto's death to deliberately infect a PC with. This symbiotic worm, unlike the other worms of Golarion, allows a PC access to the Wormhunter Prestige Class as inspired by the article in Dragon #338.
The fragmentary nature of the recovered memories and hive mind of the original worms allows the GM to dole out snippets of information and back story as required over time, without the symbiotic worm triggering a massive AP spoiling information dump.
When successful in turning off the power to the Tomb, the Heroes will free Ezren, destroy the Last Gate and the Sphere of Annihilation that prevents anything from entering the Last Gate will be lost on the surface of Eox. A ventilation shaft can now safely be ascended to the surface which emerges in the Sargavan jungle, near the ruins of Kuluth Mar.
Some other changes...hmmm, oh yes. The source of the worms is from off-world. In Distant Worlds, that book's entry speaks about the world of Eox as a dead planet now full of "liches" where a portion of the population of the planet survived destruction by voluntarily becoming undead. My Eox was initially populated by a civilization of Spell-Weavers and is now a planet with pockets of Spell-Weaver liches. The Harbinger is obviously from Eox. The Harbinger first brought the green worm to the Sargava in Koluth-Marr. That planet, which continues to be orbited by ridiculously powerful orbital weapons, will be visited by the PCs at the very end when they realize that the comet is not aimed at Golarion, but at Golarion's moon. The comet is intended to destroy the Spire and release Groetus free from his prison.
The PC’s will be able to use one of those weapons to alter the gravitational path of the comet ever so slightly, so that it will directly impact the spire and do great damage to Groetus when the gate is opened. I've decided to move that final battle off of the surface of Golarion and move it to the Moonscar, as something like that is too world-shaking otherwise.
The Rift itself I will probably moved as well to the Moonscar. I have not made my mind up about that yet, but that's where I am leaning.
I have moved the Library of Last Resort to the Isle of Terror in the Lake Encarthan region.
I added three medium sized black dragons, "Ilthane's Brood" to Encounter at Blackwall Keep. You can eyeball this as you like, but the CR level in that module is completely underpowered for virtually all adventuring parties.
I was also clear to remind the PCs through Marzena that when Ilthane returns, the garrison from the 3rd Legion would likely be destroyed. Marzena spent some time in game after she was rescued and back at the Keep trying to convince the 3rd Legion to leave. I did this so that the destruction of Diamond Lake in the events of Gathering of Winds would appear more organic and easily foreseen. I have been aiming for that feel throughout the campaign. Events have consequences.
The theme so far that I have been trying to establish is one of continuity and consequences. Filge was left alive by the PCs and he will be a possible ally and source of information in Egoria. Smenk was someone that the PCs actually allied with and Smenk will prove useful -- up until Ilthane attacks Diamond Lake. After that, Smenk will turn on the heroes and betray them out of anger.
Whenever possible, I have tried to establish NPCs, even minor ones that are completely new, who later reappear some modules later when it makes sense for them to appear. Because Westcrown is only a week's ride from Diamond Lake, the whole triangle between Diamond Lake, Egoria and Westcrown is far more inter-related in terms of trade, governance and proximity. I don't want the PCs moving on from an area never to return to it or to feel as if it no longer matters to the plot. While certain places visited in later parts of the campaign are clearly exotic and far away, the campaign itself is still clearly based in Southern Cheliax and that is "home". Even though the PCs hate the Thrunes, the area is still home for them and the people who live there include members of their own families. This isn't a place the heroes can just abandon or walk away from. It matters.
I think that's most of the changes for now. I am in the midst of doing a considerable rework of The Prince of Redhand and will update this document to reflect those changes when complete.
Additionally, I will be adding an additional off-world adventure on the planet Eox that will take place after the destruction of Dragotha and before the final battle with Groetus. The 20th level adventure takes place on the space station orbiting Eox, the automated defences of which remainm staffed by droids and will draw extensively from Star Wars Saga edition. The party gained the first access key to the base station's computer at the end of The Whispering Cairn and have gathered up two more as the AP has progressed. They also have two light sabres, one is still operative (the other is corroded beyond repair). The operative light sabre simply has no power and was gained in Icosiol's tomb. The broken light sabre and the drained tablet computer were found in the Harbinger's gear in Vol VII.
Jim Groves wrote:
I am going another route with this Jim. My players are undercover Pathfinders, given the Pathfinder Society's persona non grata status with the Ruby Prince. The PCs secret benefactor, the so-called Sapphire Sage, Amenopheus, secretly paid the very significant entry fee into the dig lottery for the PCs. While the entry fee would indicate that a more experienced group would get the assignment, the PCs cannot be known Pathfinders because of the problems with the Ruby Prince. This need for anonymity explains the PCs inexperience.
I am also changing the backstory a little. Neferekhu knew Amenopheus in her youth and shared her oracular prophecy of doom with her then lover, Amenopheus. Amenopheus knows from Neferekhhu's prophecy nearly 50 years ago, that a dire event stems from the looting of an artifact of great power from the Sanctum of the Erudite Eye this year. He shares the name of this tomb within the Necropolis with the PCs at the outset. They know it is their goal within the rigged lottery.
Amenopheus has a contact within the Pharasmins, Nakht Shepses, the leader of the Voice of the Spire. Shepses is highly placed and can "fix" the lottery -- but his price for doing so requires that two unique treasures from the Necropolis be recovered first and given to him so that the Voices of the Spire will have control of the items.
Amenopheus knows the location of the two treasures that Shepses seeks. (Each treasure has been placed in each of the two initial tombs and its recovery is the "goal" of each tomb.) The items are powerful and extremely valuable and would break the treasure rules, but their purpose is not to be sold by the PCs; rather, they are to be given to Shepses as a bribe the PCs must pay so that they are "randomly" selected as the team that will get into the Sanctum. Amenopheus and Shepses have "fixed" the lottery; it is up to the PCs to ensure that the fix is carried out.
The treasures the PCs are to recover more than justify the prohibitive entry fee for the lottery if they were to be found by others. Shepses believes that the recovery of such valuable artifacts cannot be leaked to the other tomb raiding teams without a loss of all semblance of order within the Necropolis dig site (the Pharasmins practically lack the power to enforce order within the Necropolis). So Amenopheus and Shepses choose secrecy as the best means of avoiding subsequent chaos in the Necropolis dig sites. The PCs are "randomly" assigned two locations within the ruins as the site where Amenopheus believes the items Shepses seeks are to be found so that they can be recovered by the PCs and given over to their mysterious Pharasmin contact, Shepses. (Whom the PCs never actually meet). The treasures are essentially to be left at both dead letter drops within the Necropolis.
The major "Encounter in the Ruins" event has been changed to be a consequence of the competing adventuring team trying to recover the 2nd treasure before Shepses can do so. The PCs move to stop this from happening to ensure that Shepses gets the treasure -- and the PCs get the keys to the Sanctum of the Erudite Eye.
TL;DR -- I prefer more story continuity in my APs. This is my way of adding it in.
Jim Groves wrote:
A group of 4 PCs, three of which can form a human pyramid to give the 4th PC a way up to the shaft opening by climbing on top of his fellow PCs, can then use pitons and climbing to get out of the shaft and lower a rope down for the others (assuming they cannot climb as well as the rogue who is the one who likely goes up).
For a group who can be that human pyramid to get them up to the shaft, the shaft does not present a "magic only" problem. Instead, it become a "group only" solution that a sole tomb raider cannot bypass. - especially with broken legs. :)
I care about one thing and one thing only as a "must have" rule development in Pathfinder 2E:
Current 3.5 mechanic for "Full attack" and OP attacks leads to static play. Most melee characters rush to the middle and by 6th level, there is VERY little movement at the table. This leads to boring mid and high-level play.
I want to see changes in the combat system that greatly reduce, if not eliminate this aspect of combat. I want more movement, more maneuvers and less static combat on the battlemat.
Gary Teter wrote:
An observer mode for a public game would be good. Observer = gets to watch, otherwise locked out of input.
In terms of longterm API, hooks for someone to ultimately get basic combat values from, ultimately, a Herolab sheet would appear to be optimal.
We'll be chatting tonight, Sunday March 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm PSt/9:30 pm EST with Chris Pramas of Green Ronin on Chronicles LIVE. Check it out on Google Hangouts, on Youtube when complete, or you can wait for the podcast audio feed on iTunes tomorrow. Psst: that Jason Bulmahn fellow might be joining us as well. See you there!
So far, I think it has been very successful. I credit that to having run 7 of the 12 installments before; knowing the overall story arc very well; and knowing Golarion very well.
All of that has allowed me to make more out of the Age of Worms than could be achieved by just running it out of the book, as written.
I also believe that modification of the story, settings and encounters, and using a judicious rasp to file off the burs and make the whole thing fit "better" for your group is an approach that can and SHOULD be used running every single AP that Paizo has ever released, without a singular exception.
Given the manner in how they are written, the one constant throughout the past seven years is that they are written and developed under incredibly tight time pressures. Accordingly, it's just not possible for one developer to do everything they can to shepherd the best possible AP out the door that they could develop if they had twice the time to do it.
Those are their workplace realities. But they are not OUR workplace realities. We have more time. LOTS more time.
So take that time and add + reduce, trim and cut, mold and strengthen whatever AP you choose to make it your own in order to fit your players' needs best. It doesn't matter which AP you run using this approach, your game will be the better for those efforts.
Age of Worms, Re-Rolled: A Pathfinder AP set in Golarion
I thought I would post an update to my current Age of Worms, Re-Rolled campaign. As I have posted elsewhere in this forum, my Age of Worms campaign has been converted to Pathfinder RPG and has been completely converted to Golarion. Without giving too much away, the central conceit is that the Greyhawk NPC's and mythos which lies at the heart of Age of Worms has been completely excised and has been redesigned with the NPCs and mythos of Golarion substituted.
Note: I have created a design document to convert Age of Worms for use in Golarion for this and anyone who is interested may PM me for that design document as I do not want to post it here (my players read this message board). The current document is a work in progress, but weighs in at 5600+ words.
Events in The Champion's Belt
The Heroes travelled from Diamond Lake to Egoria, (the "Free City") a journey of about 3.5 days along the Imperial Highway on horseback in search of Ezren ("Allastan") who disappeared via a telepport spell carrying Harsk at the beginning of Encounter at Blackwall Keep. At the time, Harsk had been infected by a "slow worm" and was on the verge of turning into a Spawn of Groetus.
During the course of the events of Hall of Harsh Reflections, Ezren's daughter, Marzena worked with Grandmaster Torch to find the location of Ezren without success. As The Champion's Belt began and the Great Fire was lit to start the Games, the heroes met at the ding room of an absent Chelish noble. The home's owners were absent, but the great dining room was in use by GrandMaster Torch as he entertained the heroes, Marzena and a new companion, the sorceress Seoni (Celeste). Seoni confirmed that no trace of either Ezren or Harsk had been found in Absalom. Given the considerable enchantments placed upon the former "Heroes of Westcrown" to prevent them from being magically located -- no spell would ever locate the missing pair. Still, where magic would fail, old-fashioned intelligence, rumours and informants might yet provide a clue. A few pointed to the involvement of Lord Valeros (Loris Raknian) as the man who was behind the attempt on the PCs life at the hands of the doppelgangers.
As the dinner unfolded and the Heroes prepared to feats, a silver chafing dish was uncovered to reveal a rack of lamb. Beneath the cover of the dish, a delayed blast fireball went off at the table severely injuring the Heroes and almost killing Grandmaster Torch. In the panic, smoke and fire which followed the Heroes escaped from the capital and returned via teleportation to Ezren's home in Diamond Lake to heal up and prepare for entry into the Champion's Belt. While there, the PC Wizard, Felinx who had been working on his familiarity with Ancient Azlanti, noticed amongst Ezren's papers the old Azlantui runes for the word "Icosiol".
Thinking little more of it, the Heroes prepared to return to Egoria and to enter the competition for the Champion's Belt. Under the protection of the Fires of Peace, even the hero pledged to the worship of the Dawnflower might safely reveal his divine spellcasting power safely within Cheliax -- as long as the Hellfires of Peace burned, at least.
Gladiator Studs for Hire...
The tourney progressed and, with some difficulty, the Heroes prevailed against the competition. Between matches, the Last Knight of Aroden was visited by the Chelish noblewoman Ilya, who the Heroes had rescued from bondage in Sodden Hold. Entering into a private chamber beneath the Arena, the Lady Ilya had paid dearly for the privilege of spending some... quality time... with the gladiator of her choice.
Following their tryst, the Last Knight learned that last year's champion, Auric, had a similar tryst last year with Hakim's (Ekaym) missing sister, the Lady Lahaka last year during the games. Understandably, Auric was reticent to speak of his tryst with the Lady Lahaka, given that she was the second wife of the Minister of Punishment, Lord Valeros of Blackstone -- the Chancellor of the Arena and patron responsible for the Champion's Belt tournament.
Later investigations of the rest of the chambers beneath the Arean ultimately lead the Heroes to Bozal's lair, the Apostolic Scroll and the Great Worm. Bozal was defeated and slain and the secret passage to the wine cellar of Blackstone castle found as well -- but the Scroll could not be touched and the Worm remained in its force field cocoon.
On the eve of the final battle against Auric and Khellk, the Lady Seoni, in disguise visited the Last Knight posing as a matron who had paid for his stud services. Seoni revealed that in an attempt to hunt down GM Torch's would be assassin, the clues lead to Merisiel, a former adventuring companion of Seoni from the old days. Seoni advised the Heroes that she had defeated Merisiel's plot to have Bozol raised from the dead in Absalom, but Merisiel had eluded capture. Seoni also revealed that a copy of the Apastolic Scroll she had read in the holdings of the Arcanamirium indicated that a sacrifical event involving the great worm Ulgurstasta and the Blood of a Champion could have apocalyptic consequences. Seoni subtly suggested to the Last Knight that it might be best if he and his companions did not win the match -- but Takomah rejected the advice.
Other events in the city in the two days leading up to the final battle in the arena also changed the celebratory tone of the city of Egoria. Some event in Andoran -- a great battle as the rumor went -- had emptied the city of most of the troops that had patrolled the streets. The Queen and the Infernal Court was also said to have left for the battlefield and many of the Infernal Court's Wizards who had acted as Umpires at the battle and tended the force field surrounding the competition had also left the city for the front.
The Final Battle
During the course of the final showdown with the Grand-Champion Auric, Khellek and their Flesh Golems, the heroes witnessed a fatal attack on the Archmage Talibir, Umpire of the Games, by Lord Valeros from within the Royal Box. At that time, the Ulgurstasta burst from its holding chamber into the arena and Pandemonium ensued.
As matters turned out, the battle against the Ulgurstasta was touch and go. The worm did not burst through the floor of the arena until the 4th round of combat and by that time, Auric had been brought to near death by the efforts of the Heroes during the contest. The Great Worm had the Champion in its mouth and if it had swallowed the Champion, an apocalypse would have been unleashed upon Egoria.
As chaos unfolded, the Last Knight strained to hear the urgent whispered words of a far-off woman, pleading help -- or perhaps providing instructions. Whatever the case, the words could not be heard and the Champion was soon to be swallowed. The world's fate teetered on the edge of the razor's blade.
However, at that moment, the elven Ranger Yuimiara saved the day (and the world) by firing three arrows at the Worm, doing 89 points to it with one attack. The demon worm was brought to (Un)Death's door and was easily dispatched before the worm could swallow its sacrificial prize.
In the immediate wake of the attack on Talibir and the worm's entry into the arena, the Crown Prince and Lord Valeros had vanished during the chaos and there was still fighting within the Arena halls. The surviving Umpire dropped the force field and the Heroes quickly provided to the Infernal Court their notes concerning the worms and the cult of Groetus. As the Wizards traded words, Seoni dropped to the sands and told Takomah that earlier that morning Diamond Lake had been destroyed by a dragon.
We resume on Monday, Feb 25, 2013 with Wolfgang Baur's "A Gathering of Winds".
Downtime systems, story feats and -- perhaps the best and most obvious thing to emerge in a D&D RPG since 1974: an Honor system which rewards a player for sticking to his PC's personal code.
"A man's got to have a code."
- Omar Little, The Wire
Paizo continues to take risks and forge new paths with the Pathfinder hardback series. I continue to look forward to Ultimate Campaign more than any other hardcover that Paizo has yet released. Let's hope the reality lives up to the hype -- and most of all -- to the hopes of fans.
Stephen Radney-MacFarland wrote:
Map Pack - Sewer System:
Simply Awesome. Buy *three* copies with complete confidence. (And yes, I have three copies of the original Sewers map packs as well - but only because they were on sale during the 10th anniv sale.)
SRM's approach to Map Packs is the best thing to happen to the GameMastery Map Pack line since the product line started (and yes, I'm well aware that's saying something).
When it comes to adventures, the market has clearly indicated that people prefer long and epic adventures and have very little interest in smaller adventures. (At least when it comes to buying them. What people actually play is anybody's guess).
The Adventure Path concept itself is Exhibit "A" in this trend. As we look at other 3rd party adventure products, once more, it is the long and lengthy campaign adventures that sell: Rappan Athuk, Slumbering Tsar? These sell. The Rise of the Runelords hardcover? Big seller once again.
Compared to 32 page modules? The sales figures are rather telling. While we don't have hard data on this from within Paizo, we do have sales figures from retailers. At Black Diamond Games, for example, sales at that store indicate that the entire 32 page module line is less than 3% of the store's overall Pathfinder RPG sales volume. Their turn rate is low as well.
APs are three times -- and closing in on four times those sales figures at BDG. Because of the subscription model that Paizo uses for direct sales, my guess is that the AP line clearly sells better than that directly to hardcore fans and the AP line is Paizo's flagship for a reason.
Which leads one to wonder why Pathfinder Society is emphasizing the play of one-off unconnected adventures at all. Put bluntly, I think the entire concept behind PFS Scenarios is the perpetuation of a play style that has not existed since 2nd Edition. It is the selling of yesterday's game using yesterday's adventures. Why? There has got to be a better way of accommodating casual attendance than presenting an endless supply of one-off adventures where the story content is only a little above that presented in Farmville.
In a world where players are linked to the web via smartphones, tablets and computers virtually everywhere, at every time, there has GOT to be a better way than promoting a playstyle that has its roots in the 70s and which clearly isn't selling any more.
(Yes. I get to say things like this again Jeff :))
I think I approach this topic from a very different perspective than many posters here, in terms of the foes I prefer to see in PFS and those I look forward to seeing in the future.
No Thematic Approach to Monsters
With perhaps a slight bias in Season 3 to Eastern flavored monster types (and that's *quite* a catch all) there has not been a thematic approach to what monsters we are fighting at the table. The themes in terms of season design breaks down, more or less, as follows:
In short, what I want to see is a coherent STORY emerge out of a Season of PFS, not a series of theme park rides set in a region. The story should engage the player, the use of interesting environmental challenges should entertain them and make them think, while the maps and minis should be eye candy which creates and sells visual excitement to both players and non-players alike.
Enough with the Multiple Files Already
Lastly: Can we PLEASE stop sending the GM to some other stat block published in another book in a PFS scenario? We have PDFs for these scenarios and there is no print product or page length concern engaged. At all. Ever. EVER. Yes, I have the books in hardcover, yes, I have the books in PDF (all VC's do) but the stat blocks are available online anyways. Can we just STOP with this file/book chase? Especially if we are going to use more monsters from Bestiary 2 and Bestiary 3 in the future?
My pattern is to run the scenario straight from my iPad and from what I can see, that a habit a LOT of PFS GMs are following. The more I need to open another document in another tab and navigate to it, the more my game slows down. Please put the stat block in the scenario and don't make me go look somewhere else for it.
This design "feature" slows down my game and there does not appear to be a valid commercial goal behind this decision at all. Convince me that there is a valid commercial interest being served here and I'll shut up. To date, that argument has not been made and the design feature is adversely impacting the quality of my game. I can't be the only GM out there that this is affecting.