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Alright, I have some complaining to do about this Volume of Mummy's Mask.
Despite the reasonable text that leads us all through the adventure areas with logical Letter Keys, it's pretty clear that there are "missing" maps.
I cannot help but feel that the Osirion Gods piece later in the volume wiped out one or two pages of maps we were supposed to have.
Is this just me?
"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.
I have received a number of posts over the past month with people asking me for "my notes".
I posted my notes here. It's in the post right above this one. If you are looking for "my notes" you now have them.
I think what people are asking me for is my converted campaign files. I can't post those. They are direct conversions of the text stripped from the .pdf files from Paizo's magazine issues. Those are copyrighted by Paizo. Many of the people who work at Paizo are personal acquaintances of mine (and a few are close enough I would call them friends) so I'm not going to do that. That's not a "technical response", that's something I'm just not going to do because I would feel that I betrayed my friends - and it would bother me. A lot. Are we now clear on this part?
This isn't rocket science folks. The important (and difficult stuff) when converting the AP to Golarion is in the plots and NPC identities and how those shake down in your campaign. The stat blocks are trivial (and you will want to eyeball those as your campaign progresses in any event.)
I would note this word of caution: Introducing the Mythic Rules into the AoW camapign RUINED my campaign and I would NEVER, EVER under **ANY CIRCUMSTANCES** do it again. The Mythic Rules in Pathfinder are utterly broken. If your players optimize for Mythic feats and abilities, they will be VASTLY more powerful than any Mythic monster stat block you will throw at them. and I don't mean "maybe". I mean FOR SURE. DON'T DO IT.
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.
First, I think this is a GREAT IDEA. Kudos on going with this spin on things. I may steal some of this myself.
There is some material in Rule of Fear on the Esoteric Order, but really, Brandon Hodge's article in Carrion Crown Vol II has all of what is in Rule of Fear and more. There is nothing in the new Osirion book on it at all; nor is there anything in the older Osirion companion. The reference to Kazuvon and Scarwall is an oblique reference to "Ustalavi arcanists" without any substance whatsoever. That's it and that's all.
So build from Brandon's article and draw upon some Call of Cthulhu and other pulp inspirations to fill in more details, as you may prefer.
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.
Vic Wertz wrote:
Digital downloads will be available on paizo.com ($12.99) and BigFinish.com (£8.99).
When looking at the Big Finish site, it notes that Burnt Offerings is available for "pre-order".
So I take it that this is an error, and that the digital version on that site is not a pre-order, but will be available immediately for purchase?
This is a product description that would be worth fixing.
If I had my druthers, I think I would introduce Mythic Levels earlier and would have spaced them out more widely.
I think the end of The Champion's Belt and the defeat of the Ulgurstasta is the natural story point in the AoW to award the first Mythic Level and go on from there. In strict Pathfinder RPG terms, that's the point in the campaign when under normal rules, the party begins to transition to high level play.
The more time the GM has to integrate the effects of the Mythic system, the better you will appreciate its effects as a GM. Of course, that also means, the more changes you will have to subsequently make to the power level of your encounters to compensate for it. It's a mixed blessing, to be sure.
Tangible Delusions wrote:
Well, it might not be what you would select as "Mythic Trials".
The Heroes gained Mythic Levels for defeating/completing:
1 - The Harbinger (Mythic 1) (End of The Spire of Long Shadows)
There are seven more opportunities to gain Mythic levels remaining, with three of them mandatory.
As for what I've done in response to adjust, I must be candid and say "probably not enough". All monsters have had their power level continuously turned up (with many having mythic levels added) as I become accustomed to the increased capabilities of the Mythic level party and I am certain that I have not done enough.
A GM ideally needs a lot of experience working with the Mythic system in Pathfinder and as this is my first time, I don't know it as well as I would prefer to. I am learning Mythic as we go along. Frankly, it's not a well balanced system. The power curve can be quite dramatic and in practical terms, how well your players will "metagame" the Mythic level powers available to their own characters will be different at every table and I think it can have dramatically different effects on the party's combat effectiveness.
For example, it is difficult to overstate the power surge that "Mythic Haste" lends to a party of well optimized adventurers, especially when combined with a Mythic Surge for an extra attack. The melee damage the Paladin and the Ranger can let loose in one round of combat with 11 or 12 melee attacks between the two of them is awe inspiring and north of 800 hit points. In one round. And that's just two party members. There are 6 in the party in total.
At their current power, given the presence of a high level Paladin and the effects of his Aura of Justice on the party as a whole, the Heroes could probably blow through a 3.5 statted Kyuss in 2 rounds, right now. The only thing which would stop a 1 and done combat round result is Kyuss' ridiculously high AC and crit immunity. Even then, I'm not really sure. I hope to BE SURE by the time we get there so I can adjust it properly.
All by way of saying, it's a work in progress guys. I'll let you all know how it goes here and, of course, the episodes are available for a week or so after each session to view them online. I have the entire campaign recorded on video (a few sessions glitched here and there, but really, I have it all recorded on video from the first session onwards) so I will probably post it all sometime on Archive.org when the campaign is complete.
Yes we broadcast *mostly* every Monday night, typically 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on the East Coast.
Party is now level 17/Mythic 3. They just arrived in the Moonscar, on Somal, Golarion's moon -- the setting I chose for Kings of the Rift, which is now a slight mashup beteen Richard Pett's The Moonscar and Greg A . Vaughan's Kings of the Rift - Vol X of the AoW AP.
Thanks. I sent him my AoW Re-Rolled background.
I do have to say that it has worked out remarkably well. The merging of the iconics into the Age of Worms in one of the better campaign ideas I've come up with in decades. It just fits.
Practically speaking, my players had two party member who could cast burning hands. They used that spell to burn off the worms before they could burrow into the flesh on the next round. They also obtained a wand of burning hands as a "worm burner" to deal with the threat.
This tactic made the worms a mere minor nuisance.
Where did you obtain all of the digital maps you use for your game? I've watched a few of your sessions and the maps look really good. I'd love to get my hand on those maps.
I have a complete set of the Flip Mats in electronic form (subscriber) so I simply made them. The same answer applies to my copies of all the Map Packs I have assembled for use in our online AoW campaign (I have them all).
As for the digital AoW maps, while I have the paper versions of the original Dungeon magazines, I also purchased the entire AoW series of Dungeon from the Paizo store in PDF format. I did that so I could copy+paste the entire adventure in text format into Word for conversion to Pathfinder (and so whatever other changes I made would be integrated in my own PDFs). It's not that expensive when you realize you are getting an entire AP for less than $30 or so. (The Paizo Dungeon PDFs were made from the original digital files, not scans. They are vastly superior to any unofficial version.)
The digital AoW maps were all released by Paizo as downloadable freebies with and without map keys. You can find them at this link. Look for the High Res supplements for issues #124 through #135.
The maps can be easily stripped from the PDFs, but usually require reassembly in GIMP as sometimes the images were carved up first by Paizo back in the day (probably as a crude form of copy protection). Whatever the reason, they will only take a moderate level of skill for you to strip out and reassemble.
The Heroes have progressed, have achieved Mythic Tier 1 and are about to either die - or achieve Mythic Tier 2 as they fight Krathanos the Titan in The Library of Last Resort.
The fight, which features a very significant chance of a TPK, will start about 7:00 p.m. PST/ 10:00 EST on Monday, December 16 on Twitch TV on our Grumpy GM channel
The End of the Shadows of Long Spire to the Beginning of The Prince of Redhand
My Age of Worms Re-Rolled Campaign continues.
The Heroes have defeated the Harbinger beneath the Ziggurat in Kuluth-Marr. Having destroyed the great Spellweaver Lich, the Heroes absorbed some of his near divine essence and ascended to Mythic Power, Tier 1.
In the aftermath of the destruction of the Harbinger, the Heroes also "rescued" the dead body of a late middle-aged halfling. Preserved along with many other corpses in the room, the halfling looked entirely out of place. Raising the corpse from the dead in the Temple of Sarenrae in Absalom, the Heroes took time to speak with a legendary figure Hero of the Pathfinder Society, Lem.
Lem revealed that he and his companion, Seltyiel had been on the trail of a human artist, known as Garland, a certifiably insane painter believed to be of Taldan origin. Garland was first encountered by Lem, Ezren and Seltyiel while on a mission for the Pathfinders in Cassomir, nearly 23 years ago. All of the adventurers found Garland's paintings to be disturbingly prophetic and seemed to foretell the End of Days. It was not lost upon them that Garland also claimed to be a prophet of Groetus - the God of the End of the World. As Ezren and Seltyiel came to discover -- Groetus does not grant spells or powers to those who profess to worship him.
But nevertheless, the artist undeniably had some divine gift. How and why was as clear as mud.
AS the years passed and many of Garland's prophecies appeared to come true, the Heroes of Westcrown became increasingly convinced that there was something to the artist. Seltyiel, in particular, became convinced that Garland's prophecies could lead to a means to avoid the Age of Worms. Then, a few years ago Seltyiel and Lem began their hunt for the missing artist across the Inner Sea. Ultimately, their journey lead them south through Osirion, Katapesh and to the very borders of the mana wastes and the lands of Geb. There, Lem halted -- but Seltyiel pressed on into Geb alone. Lem refused to enter the Kingdom of the Undead and begged Seltyiel not to enter, but the Eldritch Knight would not listen.
Lem confirmed to the Heroes that after waiting for about five weeks and on the verge of losing all hope, Seltyiel returned out of Geb. Seltyiel told Lem that the trail of Garland had been lost, but an ally in Geb, who Seltyiel described as a "mysterious benefactor" had also been searching for the artist and had seized at least six of Garland's paintings -- and had given Seltyiel one as proof. In order to verify the authenticity of the painting, Seltyiel proposed that he and Lem attempt to teleport to the Ziggurat enclosed by the Black Wall depicted in the painting. Lem reluctantly agreed.
And so it was that Lem and Seltyiel teleported near to Temple of Groetus at Kuluth Marr. Soon enough, the duo were exploring the ruin when disaster inevitably struck. Lem fell and remembered nothing more until he was raised from the dead in the Temple of Sarenrae. Seltyiel must have abandoned Lem to his fate. Lem fell in the Temple approximately 17 months ago.
Lem did assure the Heroes that Seltyiel had promised that they could meet their benefactor in Westcrown and that Lem would know who the benefactor was -- "it would be obvious to me", Seltyiel had explained to Lem coyly. Lem did not have a chance to get Seltyiel drunk and press the wizard for more details before Lem was slain in the temple.
With that, the halfling vowed to take a rest from adventuring. They could find him in Magnimar for a good long while, drinking peaceably in disreputable bars. After having been betrayed and left for dead by his best friend, Lem's zest for adventure appears to have been quenched - for the time being at least.
The Heroes' arrival in Westcrown was largely uneventful, though signs of the War with Galt and Molthune continue to stir across the land; the manpower to bring the harvest in from the fields has been decidedly weakened. Famine in Cheliax does not appear likely quite yet -- but a harvest is not nearly as consuming with the need for labour as planting is. Next year, the Empire will face real challenges just to feed itself if the war does not end.
The Twelve Guises of Aroden...
Their entry into Westcrown was also underscored by a chance viewing of ancient religious street art depicting the Twelve Guises of Aroden. Both Takoma the Paladin and Felinx the Wizard became ... "disturbed" that they have seem to have encountered so many (though not all) of the individuals depicted in the Twelve Guises of Aroden. Unspoken was the concern that Garland, the mysterious prophetic Artist is one of the last depicted individuals in the Twelve Guises of Aroden the Heroes have not yet met.
A New Hero Joins the Quest...
Shortly thereafter, the Heroes met an adventuring cleric from the Order of the Knights of Ozem, far to the north in Lastwall. The cleric Dakkuh reveals to Takoma that he is here because of a prophetic vision from Iomedae that he had which showed to him the destruction of Takoma's sword, Justicar. Knowing that the blade was sacred to the Knight of Ozem, Dakkuh was tasked by Lord Commander Seelah to journey to Westcrown, find Takoma and ensure that Justicar was not lost. Swearing loyalty to the Heroes, Dakkuh joined their quest to stop the Age of Worms.
Soon after arrival in Westcrown, the Heroes also learn of a great banquet for the privileged and powerful, to be presided over by Prince Maximillian and the new Mayor of Westcrown, the Lady Chammady Drovenge. The Lady Drovenge was believed to have been slain at the hands of the Heroes of Westcrown over 20 years ago. The Wizard Felinx reasons that to Lem -- Chammady Drovenge might well appear to be the somebody "obvious" in Westcrown referred to by Seltyiel. After all, Chammady is supposed to be dead -- and Lem was personally responsible for Chammady's death 20 years ago. It would stand out like a sore thumb.
And so the Heroes resolved to seek out this Lady Drovenge and see if she was the "benefactor" and knew where Seltyiel was - and what had become of the other five paintings Seltyiel spoke of.
A source for invitations to the banquet was located by Takoma, but word also comes to the Heroes that hundreds of Westcrown's fishermen, hunters and commonfolk are combing the Great Swamp to the East in search of a fabled dragon hoard - the dragon itself said to have been recently slain by a great elf warrior.
A Promise Given to the Mother of Lies...
Recognizing that the dragon rumours seem to refer to the death of Ilthane near Diamond Lake -- and that Ilthane's hoard was never located -- the Heroes are enticed to the swamp by riches they believe to be rightfully their own. On their journey in the swamp, the Heroes encounter the Great Hag, the Mother of Lies.
The Hag promises to trade the secret location of Ilthane's lair for one bauble within it - and a promise from the Paladin that he will slay the imposter Chammady Drovenge, who the Mother swears is an evil imposter up to no good. The Hag even assures Takoma that his Oath to Aroden will not be in conflict with the mission and he may withdraw from it should he believe that it is; otherwise, he will keep to his word.
Sensing a trap, reluctantly, Takoma agrees to the terms and the Hag fulfills her promise and provides the location of Ilthane's lair, four leagues to the northeast.
We resume The Age of Worms Re-Rolled with Episode 51, this Monday, August 12 at 9:30 p.m. EST on our channel on TwitchTV , the GrumpyGM.
The last session may be viewed on demand, here: Session 50 AoW Re-Rolled
We are down to about two or perhaps three sessions (we play short sessions on Monday nights, so 6-9 hours left) in my heavily revised Golarionized Shadows of Long Spire left to go. The Heroes are currently in an epic battle now with the three Swords of Groetus (Kyuss).
I foreshadowed this encounter to the party's cleric for the past four months in real time - since the beginning of Champion's Belt. Of all encounters before Kings of the Rift, this battle has the highest possibility of a TPK, which of course, I wanted to avoid without nerfing the encounter. I had hoped the prophetic dreams would accomplish that. I am not sure it had that effect as the PC cleric seems so spooked, he has a scroll of Word of Recall in hand.
It turns out that my party figured out a non-standard protection against the Swords: they have used Walls of Force to split up and contain the foes so that they are only fighting one at a time. It looks like this will prove to be a winning strategy.
The only effect which should "stack" is the modest increase in damage due to increased strength by reason of the enlarged person spell. Gravity bow should work per normal. I would not permit a "double bump" to arrow size, no matter how clever the ammunition is crafted. To permit this with such a low power spell combination breaks game balance.
Frankly, enlarged person in potion form is already the best low level spell in the game. We don't need to break it more.
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.
P.S.: You can chain a contingency spell to key off the casting of another spell on the same target with the same action. With this tactic, you can hit a target with two maximized touches of idiocy in the same round. That's -12 to CHA, INT, and WIS, no save. Even with PC uber stats, that is likely to wipe out most 7, 8, and 9th level spells possessed by that character at a stroke. Following a disjunction spell that screws up major stat gain items, you might effectively wipe out BOTH party casters with this tactic.
With spectral hand and a lich's BAB from surprise? You won't miss either.
You absolutely CAN screw over just about anybody with a 19th level lich. Play it smart, patient and mean. Don't be fair about it. You'll be surprised how quickly the party can fall.
Last I checked, a lich can cast vampiric touch, enervation and energy drain. Most importantly limited wish permits a lich to cast harm, which essentially fully heals it.
The suggested spells for this encounter allow for maximized enervation and enervation, both of which can be used to heal it, but you can vary as you see fit. Limited wish used to cast harm is the easiest way to add a heal spell to the lich for this encounter.
If you can't challenge a party -- any party -- with a lich? You really aren't trying hard enough. or you don't know to play a Wizard to maximum effect. Try adding a contingency and greater dispel magic along with something uber. Etherealness and noncorporeal body adds surprises as well. Change it up.
Throw off a hit and run Disjunction to strip their buffs, break their stuff (even artifacts) and REALLY piss them off. Reverse gravity fields are still horrendously powerful at an opportune moment, as are surprise anti-magic fields near powerful environmental threats.
Greater dispel magic and a quickened enervation in the same round or an energy drain -- empowered feeblemind after a disjunction on the Wizard PC and then teleport the Wizard away to kill him -- all of these things can be utterly devastating. Use hit and run. Teleport away -- FAR AWAY and use selective spells to split up the party -- or just leave and come back after the buffs wear off (some times this simple tactic is the most effective). Don't let your lich show himself. They should not even be able to even reach it without real effort.
Really, any caster that can cast 9th level spells has its finger on the "I win" button if you want to give the appropriate spells to it as long as it has superior knowledge and the initiative. And as the GM, you decide if you have that or not.
Running high level encounters is difficult because with access to that much power and being devious about things, it's quite easy to TPK the party. Playing up the threat without pushing it over the top is the hard part.
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!
I guess this speaks to the dev time issues; though I am surprised you went in support of an AP release BEFORE Shattered Star. Didn't see that one coming. I thought we might see a more generic branded set followed by Wrath of the Righteous.
Well, I'm a player in this one too. *grins and dodges bullet*
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".
Ultimate Campaign is now "too player focused"?? WOW. Tough crowd. Can't win for losing.
There will be PLENTY in Ultimate Campaign for GMs. Indeed, my main concern when it was first revealed was that Ultimate Campaign would appear to be too much of a GM oriented product and so not sell very well.
I am glad that Paizo is marketing the player oriented aspects of a book that appeared, on its face, to be squarely aimed at GMs.
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.
N43: Torture Chamber! Please note that the damage potential of Asaam the torturer with an improvised weapon is SOOOOOOOO over the top it's not even funny. I have never been exposed to such a blatantly BROKEN encounter as this one in all my years of playing 3.5 and Pathfinder.
Using the uber Advanced Rogue Trick "Hunter's Surprise" (EX): Once per day, a rogue with this talent can designate a single enemy she is adjacent to as her prey. Until the end of her next turn, she can add her sneak attack damage to all attacks made against her prey, even if she is not flanking it or it is not flat-footed."
Not that it does not say "until the end of their turn", rather, it is until the end of the "NEXT turn". So this would appear to give Asaam two rounds of attacks, or SIX attacks with full sneak attack going.
6d8+6d4+42d6+30= 27+15+147+30=194 hit points to one foe.
Asaam will do, (if he hits with all attacks, which is not all that unusual against Barbarians and two-handed weapon wielding fighters) an AVERAGE of 194 hit points over two rounds. Even at level 15 or 16, there are not many characters who will be able to withstand this damage -- or even know where it is coming from seeing as his first three attacks are from invisible -- and the next three might be as well.
It is a pretty clever stacking of feats to get the catch-off guard and improvised weapon mastery to turn a red hot poker into a 1d8+1d4 weapon -- all while invisible no less.
But for all its cleverness, it wasn't a whole lot of fun on the receiving end. I don't mind dying, but this one comes off as an outright assassination of a Player Character.
It didn't feel epic; rather, it felt cheesey.
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 :))
As I have mentioned earlier this week at 401 Games, I am retiring as Venture-Captain effective Monday, December 3, 2012.
A number of factors have contributed to this, but the essence of it is that after a year and a half, Pathfinder Society is less satisfying for me than it was. Often, it seems to feel that is has evolved into an obligation. As a consequence, it is feeling a lot more like work and a lot less like fun. That’s not a lot of fun to me — and it isn’t fair to you all as players either. You need a Venture-Captain who is fully engaged and excited to be involved in the game. Right now, that just isn’t me.
While Jeff Mahood has done an excellent job as Venture-Lieutenant and co-ordinator at Dueling Grounds, he has a number of other obligations in his professional and family life which have lead him to prefer not to act as the new Venture-Captain.
Instead, Adam Mogyorodi will be stepping up as our new Venture-Captain for Ontario. For those who do not know Adam in person, he posts as Mergy here on the Paizo Message Boards. For those who do know Adam from in-store play, Adam has selflessly assisted many new local players in creating their own characters for PFS play in the Toronto area. Pathfinder Society and the Southern Ontario Lodge will be in good hands.
While I will continue to be involved with Pathfinder as an Adventure Path player, GM, sometimes reviewer and podcaster, I will be withdrawing from all PFS activities until probably well into 2013, at a minimum. My career and family can use the extra time — and frankly — so can I.
I wish Adam all the best and hope that you all will support him as he steps up and takes our local PFS lodge to the next level (or three).
Wishing you all Happy Gaming and a great Holiday Season and prosperous New Year.
Kyle Baird wrote:
Saying it only takes 14 seconds for the developer and also no additional time for editing and layout over and over doesn't make it true (and is a bit insulting). Sure saying it over and over might make it true in your own head, but it still doesn't make it a truth in the real world. Once you actually work for Paizo, then you can speak on the matter. Until then, we'll just have to trust Mark Moreland when he says that adding more words to scenarios will cost Paizo more money.
Crap to that Kyle. *I* can certainly do it in 14 seconds. Sorry if I am saying things you don't want to hear - but that doesn't mean that the solution is not to say them.
The reason behind this initially was about training new authors. It isn't about cost and never was. There has been a technological change in the intervening period. It requires revisiting.
Why are you saying things like this? It's just not true. No matter how many times this stuff is chirped out loud - it doesn't make it true.
If the issue is: we want our noob authors for PFS scenarios to abide by a word count -- then make them do that. Make them refer to these statblocks in other products when assessing the length of their submission and paying them for it. NO PROBLEM.
But at a developer level, take the 14 seconds extra and copy+paste that stat block in for us. THE END. No extra cost, no extra time on the Dev side and NO EXTRA TIME on the GM side.
This is not an extra cost issue. That's PLAINLY AND OBVIOUSLY not true.
Don Walker wrote:
In a word -- nonsense.
If the issue is "we don't want to pay an author for copy pasting in an existing statblock" -- then deal with it on that level. Don't pay for a copy+paste stat block -- and then copy+paste it in at a dev level. There is no word length in a wholly electronic product except for one that is arbitrarily imposed without a valid commercial purpose.
This approach will serve the purpose of training authors that seems to be behind the rule, without inconveniencing GMs.
I put it to you that these design assumptions inherent in PFS scenarios were put into place long before GMs started running products digitally without ever printing them off. We have iPads now, and they don't deal as well as we might like when switching between multiple documents.
Technology has changed since Season 0. This necessitates that the submission/printing assumptions behind wholly electronic products should change as well.