.Pick a select few - perhaps one per NPC - and really put some work into them. Flesh out their personalities, make them integral to the story somehow, make them the 'go-to' guy for the group when they need (blank).
Ameiko, Hemlock and Zantus should be no-brainers as NPC's the PC's deal with regularly. Tie-in's take place in the opening chapter. Added to that, for us, Shayliss and her father Vinder, Jubrayl Vhiski, Brodert Quink, the horsemaster Hosk and Madam Mahavsti (sp?) were the 'major players' in our campaign with everyone else for the most part being faces in the crowd and even those select few took their time developing.
Trying to throw all of Sandpoint at the PC's will be too much and end up homogenizing all of your encounters. Choose some favorites, make them relevant, and have some fun.
The desire to actually get a chance to use those capstone abilities was a major factor in our deciding against using the Mythic rules in Wrath of the Righteous. We're following a scheme where the PC's will level at what would have been mythic tiers 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 meaning that at the end the characters will be 26th level.
We're all looking forward to it.
Having said that, I know the guys who do our builds look completely differently at characters designed for specific levels of play than for 1-20.
I would think the biggest 'land mine' you would have to worry about is prepping for the mythic rules. It's a different set of variables, a good bit of extra book-keeping and gives the PC's options you might not be ready for. Ditto mythic foes though to a lesser extent.
We chose to use a different option over the mythic rules and this far it's worked just fine.
The rest to me is just personal preference stuff. I put low level demons and fiendish creatures in the warrens instead of some of the encounters presented. I'm going to hand wave the mass battles and alter or replace a few of the NPC's. Make sure you have a handle on how you want your PC's campaign traits to resolve themselves in book 3. There's much more potential there IMO than the generic way it's presented.
Just my 2 cents.
We have had some adult situations in our games as well as some pretty intense moments - the most being during the Wormwood Mutiny when one of our female players was raped. Now its never role-played in explicit detail, the 'good' sex nor the bad and its never gratuitous or without purpose germaine to the story. As well, we're a group of adult players who are very open with what we find acceptable to us at the table and what isn't. I was running the SnS game (I'm a woman) and if I had not felt that the player of the character raped (also a woman) wouldn't have been 100% alright with that scenario, I never would have considered it. As it happened, it and the actions taken after in revenge were transformative for the character and player both and went a long, long way towards defining the direction the game went. The other female player and two female NPC's colluded to murder the perpetrator (Scourge) and pulled it off amazingly - I still get chills thinking about Sandara whispering in the pirate's ear exactly what Besmara was going to do to him as he bled out... The male players went from seeing the new girl as an add-on to revering her and that moment and its aftermath is still talked about.
We've had other adult scenarios as well. The characters we made for Reign of Winter (on hold for a while with Wrath of the Righteous out now) were three sisters (all members of a witch's coven) who shared a single husband (barbarian). Rise of the Runelords as written had plenty of gruesome moments, especially in the first two books and in Wrath there's going to have to be some moments which are suitably 'demonic' to keep the theme and feel of the campaign alive. By and large though, while we take our gaming seriously, it tends to have a lot more light-hearted and even comedic moments than that sort of drama... we try for a Game of Thrones 'feel' but often fall short simply due to being doofuses of the highest order.
As always, the answer to the question how far is too far resides within the shared opinions and maturity level of the group. To this end consideration and communication are paramount. I'll never forget walking out of the movie Rob Roy marvelling to my girlfriend over how amazing the rape scene with Jessica Lange was, how powerful it had been and how brilliantly performed... until I discovered that she (my girlfriend) had once been raped and that scene for her had been anything but entertainment. It taught me a valuable lesson that I try to carry over into my gaming.
(because while I want to run it, I also want to play it--this AP whole-heartedly embraces every cliche about fantasy that I LOVE)
Agree completely with this sentiment - don't know if I wanted to run it more or play it more... and I prefer to think of those 'cliches' as 'classic'. Dragons, demons, good vs. evil, epic battles on both a massive and a personal scale, fallen heroes and risen villains seeking redemption... and not a firearm in sight.
Exactly how large are the scales? I would think given Terendelev's age and statute they'd be buckler sized at least... certainly no smaller than a dinner plate?
REALLY excited about the spoiler btw as one of my players has decided to be the sole survivor (?) of a small cadre of Terendelev's offspring and inheritors being groomed for the Crusades when Kenebres falls. Should make for some dramatic moments.
I'm planning on having the scales all work for him and only for him, but only once each per day. They should serve as an excellent focus for his eventual pursuit of the Dragon Disciple prc.
Players who over-specialize and build characters with achilles heels or glaring areas of weakness deserve to have those weaknesses exposed from time to time - ditto groups who don't take proper precautions to shore up those weaknesses.
Having said that, I try to keep such effects to a minimum (not non-existent) unless I have a party which makes extensive use of such effects themselves. Ditto summoning effects and the abuse of certain feat combos. If a player exploits something, he or she opens the door for NPC's to exploit it as well.
Jubrayl played a big role in our campaign early on, in large part due to one of our character's choice of campaign traits.
She made a Kitsune Sorcerer (Fey bloodline) who's heritage was a mystery even to her given that Kitsune would be so rare in that part of the world. She had been taken in by the Scarzni at an early age as a misfit and a misanthrope, and had spent most of her youth learning to hide the fact that she wasn't human (level 1 feat - Realistic Likeness). She had been 'passed along' to Jubrayl in payment of a debt from another gang, and was considered a valuable asset given her ability to change her appearance at will and cast powerful charms and sleep spells. She had been in Sandpoint for a few weeks by the time the Swallowtail Festival took place and had already proven her worth to Jubrayl, though he used her 'mongrel' status as a means to keep control of her.
With the events of the goblin raid, she got swept up and became a 'Hero of Sandpoint', something Jubrayl at first thought to use, but then decided it was a bad idea due to her sudden visibility. Moreover, for the first time in her life she wasn't being shunned or treated like a valued pet, but as an actual hero worthy of respect. Combine that with the fact that another PC took a romantic interest in her and witnessed Jubrayl's verbal abuse and all of a sudden the Scarzni were losing a valuable asset. Even worse, Jubrayl feared that she might turn on him and reveal what she knew. His threat of exposing her questionable heritage kept her from doing just that until after Burnt Offerings, although the PC whom had expressed interest in her was jumped by some thugs of Jubrayl's and warned to keep away from her.
The group learned of her racial background when she fell victim to the Vargouille's kiss from the Catacombs of Wrath - Father Zantus was able to heal her with a scroll of Cure Disease when the symptoms manifested themselves in the night, and he and the PC's agreed to keep her secret.
Things came to a head between Burnt Offerings and The Skinsaw Murders. The PC's had decided to purchase the land of Choppers Isle and build a shared hall and dwelling there - once the Skinsaw Murders began, Jubrayl began spreading rumors that the PC's had awoken the Chopper's spirit, that they were in league with the monster. He used Ven Vinder's emotional state (Shayliss was kidnapped by Aldern in a 'Lust' plot twist not long after her sister was killed) and the suspicious nature of a few others to turn public opinion against the PC's. He hoped to discredit them and drive their interference from the town, culminating on a group of the townsfolk marching on their hall, torches in hand, demanding that the PC's leave. It was there that Jubrayl played his trump card, exposing the Kitsune as a 'monster' who had taken human form in order to hide amongst them.
Hemlock, Zantus and the Mayor interceded, but it was Ameiko who held the crowd at bay, telling a story (Bardic Fascinate) of the werefoxes from her homeland, as told to her by her mother when she was very young, and of the luck and protection they brought with them. Eventually the crowd was dispersed, but the event served as a great incentive for the PC's to figure out who was truly behind the murders.
Much later, after Ironbriar was revealed, the PC's returned to Sandpoint and had a showdown with Jubrayl, resulting in his death and the arrest of many of his gang members. All in all, he was a very useful NPC.
In our campaign, due in part to the PC's effectiveness, I made use of many more goblins than are included in the book, especially during the raid and as made mention of during the 'impending' raid.
I see absolutely nothing wrong with either 1) letting the PC's go out and find some goblin village to attack or to encounter a goblin war party or raiding party, representing the increased goblin activity in the area or 2) setting the PC's go out and find some abandoned goblin villages, suggesting that the goblins are gathering somewhere.
At that level, the PC's are hardly infallible trackers, and while they maintain the belief that they have the freedom to go anywhere and do anything, the truth is they only encounter what you put before them.
There's also nothing wrong with speeding up the Glassworks encounter either. Shalelu's visit could even take place after they deal with the glassworks, pieces of the puzzle coming together after the fact rather than beforehand. Hemlock's departure from the town could happen as soon as the day after the goblin attack, owing to the need to bring in more soldiers from Mangimar, at least temporarily, if only to replace what was lost during the raid.
captain yesterday wrote:
as written nualia hasnt yet figured out how to open the pillar door that seperates E5 and the areas of E8 thru E10, also E10 has arcane lock (CL20th) but can be opened via key in E9. All that said considering they both are followers of lamashtu there is no reason malfeshnekor wouldnt help her out in exchange for some sort of favor
.That's what it was. That's exactly right.
I'm going through our game notes from a while back, thinking about putting together a nice journal from beginning to end - I remember now that I was setting up something for later and I wanted Nualia to have just discovered Malfeshkenor but not yet freed him. Thanks for the reminder.
In our game, Nualia had her mercenaries ambush the PC's, standing back beyond the trapped corridor to watch and sending in her Yeth Hound (flying) to help out when needed. Once the PC's defeated them and advanced on her, the first was caught in the trap (the eidolon, fortunately) and she used the 'reset' time to cast Obscuring Mist and flee.
In this particular case, she fled to where Malfeshnekor was imprisoned. The PC's were blocking her only known escape route and while she was more than willing to fight, she saw no reason to throw her life away - she figured that taking refuge in the chamber would allow the Barghest to aid in her defense.
Now did I misread something? From what I can tell Malfeshnekor is bound to the room, but Nualia is certainly aware of his presence and has communicated with him - the key to his chambers is laying out in the open amongst an array of surgical tools right outside his door, and it takes a form easily recognizable by Nualia. This leads me to believe that she has found the key and used it during her time at Thistletop - is this a correct interpretation?
I ask because if so, then there is no reason whatsoever she wouldn't take advantage of the creature's protections and if she did, she and he combined would be far too much for a 3rd level group of four to handle. In our game, I had the insane beast slay her in response to her demands (she was already injured), the PC's arriving upon the grizzly scene and menaced by the monster themselves before they recognized that they were completely out of their league and fell back. They returned to town where they leveled up and gathered a couple of allies before returning to Thistletop to rid the region of the devil's threat for good.
I was still never clear though on whether or not Nualia and the Barghest were actively allied or if she had yet to discover (for some unknown reason) how to contact him directly. The doors are still magically sealed after all...
They did do Thistletop in two goes. The first, they eliminated everything up to Nualia and then beat a retreat with Lyrie and Nualia prisoner. Then they returned to deal with everything else (ie, Shadows, Crab and Mal).
To clarify an earlier point, the party did the briars and the upper level of Thistletop in one go, rested on the briar side of the bridge where they were ambushed by Gogmurt and the remaining goblins, then delved back into the dungeon levels of Thistletop to take on Nualia and her allies (including the escaped Tsuto). After that epic battle, they retreated once more, this time back to town and returned several days later to deal with some straggling goblin dogs, the shadows, the crabs, the tenatmort, the bunyip and the Malfanshee as part of the 'clearing out' process of Thistletop - and the final trip they had Shalelu with them. The group didn't want to leave Thistletop until they had cleared out its 'defenders', but whatever might simply be left living there was a lower priority and of lesser concern.
Another part of what may have been the difference in how difficult the dungeon was might be that we had a nearly fully charged wand of CLW going in, so almost all fights started at full HP.
Obviously a wand of CLW can make all the difference in such encounters... but I'd hate to thihnk that scenarios required the use of such items in order for players to be successful - if you can't win the battle without 40 extra CLW spells, did you really win or did the wand win for you?
Not directed at you obviously or at anyone else in particular (except perhaps maybe game designers)... I would just rather encounters be a little less difficult than require such outside crutches to get through.
How big was your party (you mention only two casters) and did they rest at any time once they arrived at Thistletop?
Going by the expectations of the AP, your 15 point buy characters should be 3rd level (or close to it) when they journey to Thistletop and they aren't expected to level again during that chapter.
Looking at the set-up of the location, the characters are first faced with a series of encounters in a very difficult environment, then a goblin stronghold and then multiple lower levels featuring much more fearsome foes - the Yeth Hounds in particular seem like a particularly difficult threat for such low level characters... and nowhere from beginning to end is there a practical pause to rest and recover before continuing on.
I know how my players did - I've been reviewing game notes, contemplating putting together a journal of our experiences - but the more I look at it the more I wonder how others fared. Its far too big a 'dungeon' for a third level party of four to engage in without running out of resources at least once or twice over... did the PC's retreat to rest and regroup? What did the villians do to fortify their position when they did? Did Gogmurt warn Ripnugget ahead of time? Did Ripnugget warn Nualia when they were attacked? It would seem common sense for both to take place, but had it, the fortress would have been impregnable.
All-in-all it struck me as a very difficult scenario for the level the players were at. Ours was a well-built and well-played group and they still had to pull back to base of the bridge to make camp which led to their getting ambushed in the night... and even though I didn't have the goblins alert Nualia and her allies below when they were attacked, it was still a series of very difficult fights that could have gone either way.
The PC's had the advantage of first a charmed Gogmurt, then a charmed Ripnugget, and then a charmed Orik - all providing intelligence and the last actually fighting alongside them in what was an epic final battle... and it was still a very near thing. By design summoned creatures and timely sleep spells that the goblins were basically helpless against made the difference throughout - as did a small supply of healing potions I had them discover when rooting through the chambers of Nualia's underlings. Even still I'm actually fairly certain that they would not have survived the final battle had they not managed to flip Orik earlier on.
FWIW, the party was:
Human Arcane Duelist (Archer Bard)
I'd really be interested in hearing what players and especially what GM's did to make this potentially deadly dungeon an exciting adventure rather than an epic fail for their group.
Also, did you do anything with Thistletop afterwards? My PC's thought it was too prime a piece of real estate to simply leave behind and worked with a local druid to clear the place of its evil influences. They established it as their own personal stronghold, leaving the druid as its caretaker in their absence.
Free captains are supposedly free from being attacked by other free captains and pirate lords. If you are not free captains and you are wondering around the shackles, you are just meat for much higher level pirates.
Consider this, but take it to a more extreme degree. They don't want 'freelancer' pirates gobbling up what they consider to be their loot, they don't want unaligned pirates starting fires they may have to put out or disrespecting them in their own territory. Create a culture where rogue pirates are preyed upon with deliberate intent and greater ferocity than even merchant shipping... let the players know that they'll be running from other pirates and that selling their goods or even putting into Free Captain held ports for supplies without 'getting with the program' could be problematic at best, deadly at worst.
My first thought would have been to reverse the order of encounters in the tower (Scarecrow up top, X-girl down below), but I also wouldn't have wanted to penalize the PC's for being so creative, even if they'd never know.
I would have put some penalties for fighting upside down, though, for as long as they were. That's gotta throw you off.
Lol I like those kind of decisions too. It's a great way to give players a sense of reality in their games because quite often in rl we make choices and are unaware or unable to compensate for the consequences of our actions. I see too many games where its just so linear and players really just have "one path to follow" and not have like many forks in the road to choose from so yeah thats really cool!
Actually the way it all got started was I wanted to introduce a new group of players into a campaign world I had developed, but I hated 'faking it' when it came to all the historical and cultural stuff their characters should know but that the players didn't... so I used that as a way to kick off the campaign, letting players explore the world as the characters rediscovered it.
I ran it kind of like an episodic television show. They would go on adventures but there would always be hooks that hinted at one player's history or another, or clues about who had done that to them that would tie in. It wasn't as sandboxy as it sounds.
I remember there was a time when two PC's were kidnapped by different groups - one found himself in the lair of a group of assassins, a society of which he had apparently been a member before his disappearance. He had been contracted to assassinate the local ruler, a figurehead type known as the Beyess (Bay-ess)... and with money paid and accepted, he was honor bound to carry it out or his life would be forfeit.
Every generation the country was scoured for the most intelligent and beautiful of young girls who would be chosen as candidates for this position and after years of intense schooling in all (and I mean ALL) the arts, one would be selected as 'The First', and would serve as the visible leader for their people, engage in all diplomatic functions, etc. while in reality the country was ruled by a shadow council who gave her her marching orders. There was always a 'Second' operating in the shadows at the Council's behest, waiting to take over should something befall The First or she be touched by scandal. The Beyess was traditionally wildly popular with the people and her assassination had been in fact secretly directed by the Council in order to 1) get rid of a free-spirited and difficult to manipulate figurehead, 2) supplant her with the vicious and spiteful but utterly loyal Second, and 3) to instigate war with a neighboring country.
At any rate, the other player discovered he had been captured by agents of the Beyess herself and snuck into her palace where it was revealed she and he had been clandestine lovers - he being a pirate and smuggler type - and she had had people quietly scouring the countryside for him ever since his disappearance, suspecting the Council's complicity. Let's just say it made for some interesting RP between the two PC's when they finally met back up.
The possibilities really are endless. A PC may discover that he had a Father who needed to be avenged, a sister who had disappeared the same time as he and needed to be found. A hero might discover he had been a villain an uncouth lout might discover himself heir to a noble title... who they were doesn't affect who they are any more than they want it to, but the repercussions of who they've become might still need to be dealt with. Think Total Recall x however many number of players you have.
Okay, I've totally got a handle on how to play your usual NPC's from literally every walk of life. I can do smart and dumb, inciteful and clueless, viscious and calculating, reckless and naive...
...but how do you play someone with mental abilities not just so far beyond your own but beyond that of any human who has ever lived? How do you represent thousands of years of experience? Presumably by giving the NPC every advantage possible when it comes to preparation and foreknowledge, but even if I could do that realistically, how does my party stand against such a foe?
I'm reading through the Wrath of the Righteous and see Demon Lords with an Intelligence of 24 and a Wisdom of 32. We're talking about creatures whom have engaged in every manner of warfare imaginable and have still managed to survive for thousands upon thousands of years. How do I play such a foe and how do My PC's prepare for him? I would expect that literally anything they can come up with would have already been encountered, anticipated, prepared for and mitigated... I want to keep it realistic, but how?
This isn't anything official, but when I write and run my campaigns, I try to do the following:
Keep the groups small, 3-5 players at the most. Its important that everyone be able to show up for all the games and cutting down on players cuts down on no-shows. It also keeps everyone actively involved, not waiting an hour or more for their turn in combat to come around.
I try to write in one sub-plot for each character as well as an over-reaching plotline that ties them all together. A classic example of this would be the way I've started many a campaign: everyopne wakes up on the side of a hill with no memory of how they got their, no memory of their past and no knowledge of one another. There will usually be a chest with a handful of select items and perhaps a mysterious note left for them. The over-reaching subplot is 'how did we come to be here and for what purpose' while the individual subplot would be 'who was I'? What's great about that is the player might over time discover that he was someone very different than he has chosen to be and it can lead to some very interesting RP opportunities. Tons of more specific examples from play to give but it would take all day.
I use a handful of minor theater techniques - for one thing, I'll select a piece of music (usually from some movie score) that I feel captures the mood of the campaign I want to run. I'll play it immediately before we begin and during that time everyone stays silent, re-reading their notes from the previous session, updating their character sheets or just getting into that headspace that is their character. Kind of like the opening credits of a favorite TV show signalling its now time to be 'there'.
Another technique I use is I make everyone stand for combat. We have a seated area for RP and a table to the side for our combat. Standing keeps everyone involved and creates a sense of urgency about what we are doing. I'll even lower the lights and play by candles or small lamps while underground or at night. Minor things that can go a long way towards suspension of disbelief.
I'm a big fan of recurring characters, both villainous and otherwise, and of having people, places and events that seem innocuous early on take on larger significance as the game progresses. Things PC's do actually impact the world and events take place, people live and die and change whether the PC's are there or not.
Ultimately its about having a group who share a vision of what fantasy role-play is to them and having a GM who listens and responds to that.
One other little thing - my players very rarely die. That's due in large part to their skill at character building and their use of tactics, but at the end of the day a beloved character dieing is fun for no one, especially if its as a result of bad dice rolls and not to some greater purpose. I fudge plenty of dice-rolls to prevent death, but will often exact some penalty as a result - the loss of a magic item or a permanent condition (like losing an eye).
Since no one in our group has a particular fondness for Clerics, its rare when we don't have a Bard type - the most successful have been a Human Bard (Sea Singer) for a Skull n shackles campaign - see below - an Arcane Duelist for a Rise of the Runelords run and a Halfling Archeologist who was in our Jade Regent group.
While they all had their moments, the Sea Singer was far and away the most successful, as detailed in part here.
Out of battle her face skills, be it through seduction, manipulation or negotiation really aided the group and allowed her legend as the captain of the ship to grow. In combat her ability to buff the group (Inspire Courage, Good Hope, Haste) became a force multiplier for us, especially considering that we also had a Master Summoner in the crew. After the opening rounds she just free lanced, using a well-timed charm or illusion here, debuffing via Dazzling Display there, flanking for the Rogue, using a timely heal for the Barbarian or running interference for the Summoner... while each party member might technically be considered more 'powerful' individually, there was no one in the group more effective. She tied them together and gave them direction, she made all the difference in the game.
Bards are awesome, whatever kind you run. Just don't make the mistake of falling into the role of buff-bot, forgotten except when its time for someone to make a social roll... BE the group's heart and soul and take full advantage of your versatility both in and out of combat.
OoooOoohh... Shattered Star has the best option in the world for reincarnation, one that would have made your group sorry they joked.
2) Having said that, everyone's campaign is their own unique campaign. I don't think there's anything wrong with how the OP handled the issue, particularly since he's the GM and he knows his players.
3) Having said that, how does a group of close companions whom have travelled and fought together not use every means of their disposal not to bring back one of their comrades from the dead? I know the player in question was being called to the carpet for metagaming a bit, but what about being cavalier regarding the death of a teammate because of out-of-game knowledge?
Alright, after a great deal of deliberation, we've decided that we aren't going to be using Mythic rules in this campaign - mostly. These are the following adjustments we'll be making:
PC's will level up at recommended points in the module as well as at what would be Mythic Teirs 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10... meaning that the character will finish the AP at 26th level. No characters will be allowed to advance past 20th level in a single class, but attack iterations will continue apace and attribute bonuses will continue to accrue every 4 levels as normal. Additionally players will be given access to Mythic feats as they would regular feats (not as bonus feats) beginning with what would be their first mythic tier and will also gain the Mythic Surge ability.
In my opinion this will serve as a nice introduction to some of the Mythic concepts and give them appropriate boosts in power without things getting overly complicated or imbalanced. One of the primary driving forces behind this decision was that players might finally get to use their capstone abilities in an ongoing campaign which has never been an option for us before. Since the group is 'full-caster' light, I'm not worried about their gaining access too early to potentially game-breaking 9th level spells.
My intention had been to hold off beginnning WotR until after all six books had come out, just so that I didn't make any changes that I would come to regret, but excitement for the AP has been brewing for some time and its looking as if we will be starting sooner rather than later. Expect a campaign journal of some sort to follow.
.I have to tell you, our Owlbear fight was absolutely epic. We have a big Barbarian whom Plugg attempted to goad into fighting Owlbear; even that early on Plugg was viewing him as a potential rival since he had excelled at the tasks put before him and earned praise from other officers. The truth is that the Barb would have plastered Owlbear (the group started out at 2nd level and he was an Invulnerable Rager, so he would have had DR 2/- against non-lethal damage, a decided advantage). Instead, the party Rogue, a lithsome and petite female with incredibly high Dexterity forstalled him, telling him that's exactly what they wanted him to do and that they needed to do something to put Plugg's 'faction' off-balance... so she stepped forward to fight him instead while the Wormwood's crew jeered and placed their bets.
She had good Perception and had already noted Owlbear's bad eye and had a high enough Acrobatics skill that he would only hit her if she rolled a 1, so she used Bluff to set up sneak attacks (which I allowed her to use unarmed to deal non-lethal damage) in the form of hitting vital areas like the knee, groin or eyes. The fight lasted a good long while with her getting the better of him across the board - until Owlbear was tossed the club and he hit her hard enough to almost kill her with a single blow. She got up off the ground and promptly crit'ed him, roleplayed as a kick to the knee and then a knee to the jaw when it buckled... she jumped on him to claw his good eye out but the Barbarian pulled her off. A staredown between he and Plugg commenced while the crew murmurred about what a wildcat she was and Sandara led her off to heal her broken ribs. The party Bard (a Sea Singer who would later become our captain) later visited Owlbear in secret to soothe over any hurt feelings and laid the groundwork for Owlbear's switch in loyalty in the fight against Plugg.
It was one of the highlights of the WWM for us and really gave a PC the chance to effectively use skills in combat. It started a trend too, of the rogue becoming known as the most deadly member of the crew because of her unpredictability and her willingness to do anything it took. Another scene much later featured a one-on-one battle between the Barbarian and Avinarr Sorenesh (sp?) where the werewolf was defeated in solo combat before the assembled pirate council members to the surprise of most in attendance... one of the other pirate crew members pointed out the rogue and murmurred 'And I hear she's the dangerous one...'
Our party is made up of a Paladin, two Dervishes of Dawn and a Sorcerer/Dragon Disciple (silver), so no Cleric, Oracle or dedicated healer... then again, every one of them will eventually be capable of in-combat healing (Swift action self-heals for the Paladin via Lay on Hands, Swift+Move action Cure spells for the Dervishes and Fractions of Heal and Harm for the Diciple should he need it) so I doubt they'll really miss it.
Honestly, I'm done trying to explain my 'secret motivations'... I thought I was incredibly clear in my first post and all of those positions have been further clarified in the posts that followed. I honestly and sincerely believe that there is nothing I can say that will sway people who - like you - opened the very first post with their minds all but made up, and as such I expect this back and forth to continue until whatever answer is being fished for finally gets offered up. I've spoken my piece and I'm content to leave it at that.
I would like to suggest however, that another question should be troubling you more than my motivations for bringing up the number of LGBT in the first two installments of a RPG... your initial reaction, and I don't doubt that of some others. My analogy of sound taking form when it hits the ear rather than when it leaves the mouth remains true. Think about it - when you read my title line 'Get Your Pride On', you had had no contact with me before, had no reason to suspect anything of my nature or any position I might hold... yet your admitted presumption was spite. There was absolutely nothing in the context of that title line to suggest anything other than a literal appreciation for the inclusion of LGBT, yet you immediately saw hate. I'm quite certain those words have been spoken and typed by both homosexual and heterosexual individuals countless times with no trace of spiteful or hateful intent, but in your mind, the presumption was exactly that.
That should be concerning, far more than my ability to count to four. Its been my experience that people who actively seek hate tend to find it. People who look for racism and bigotry and homophobia invariably discover it everywhere they look, and often to the exclusion of all else. Conversations that should be about subjects which are deserving of discussion instead devolve into debates over the motivations for bringing up the subject at all and usually over the character of the individual who did so... which in turn lead to defensiveness, the drawing of lines, division and ultimately silence rather than discourse. We've seen that here where the focus has often been what's wrong with me rather than the subject at hand.
The 'mental whiplash' you experienced was not the result of the contents of my post but rather your pre-suppositions based purely on a title that was in no way in and of itself offensive. That reaction alone tells me that there is little ground to be made in this discussion since the entire premise of it has been colored more by the assumptions of certain readers than by the intentions of original post itself.
I wish you and Lord Snow and others whom may have taken my words other than as intended the very best, and I hope that one day the presumption of spitefulness in others is something you can free yourself of. Understanding one another is the only way we will ever have true tolerance and inclusion in the modern world, and understanding has always been a two-way street.
Lord Snow wrote:
.Actually no, I didn't illustrate how 'valiantly we accepted the presence of LGBT NPCs through previous APs' as if it were something to be grudgingly endured... what I did was use specific examples of how the PC's in my group themselves actually engaged in play representative of alternate lifestyles. I even made direct mention of how pleased one of our GLBT players was when she discovered she could play the character true to her own nature.
You must have missed that somehow when dissecting my original post looking for quotes.
What I am saying now is what I said then, just as what you are hearing now is what you heard then - in your case that being what you want to hear in order to prove your original point.
I very much appreciate your renewed efforts at civility, but it seems to me that the only thing you're getting out of this discussion is the continued opportunity to hear yourself pontificate and judge others because you know what they mean, what they think and what they feel better than they do. Fortunately for all of us, that simply isn't the case.
James Jacobs wrote:
The iconic NPCs should instinctively trust the PC though... that's what sets them apart, after all, and you want the PCs to trust and like them. Furthermore, if ANY paladin is going to be accepting of another despite race... it's Irabeth, who's had to go through the same prejudices in her time in Lastwall due to her orc blood.
.We have a Tiefling Paladin who's going to be in the group and that is EXACTLY what I was thinking, that Irabeth would in particular champion his cause once she comes to know what kind of person he is due to her own experiences... conversely, Horgus would be the hardest to win over, but the most loyal friend once he has been (even if he's still a curmudgeon about it).
That dynamic is one of the things I'm looking forward to most in RP in the early books.
James Jacobs wrote:
Consider too how many individuals in the City - likely at its very gates - have easy access to a Detect Evil spell.
Lord Snow wrote:
Point is, I lost it for a bit, it can happen to anyone, and I wish to find a truce where both of us come out of this less angry than we are now. I would also like to repeat my question - could the increase of focus on the intimacy of the LGBT relationships have really been the part about them that got you to notice them more?
.For the record, I'm not angry now nor was I then. I just learned to pick my battles a long time ago when it comes to trying to convince someone of something when they've already decided otherwise. Better by far to keep other who are more open-minded from falling sway to that pattern of thinking than to try and lock horns with someone who's mind was made up before you set foot in the door.
An interesting scientific fact was pointed out to me once, one that has reverberations when someone points out the way something another says may have 'sounded'... things aren't heard when they leave the mouth, they're heard when they reach the ear. In other words we bring our prejudices with us and they color the things we hear, not the things being said. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, in my experience, people who become offended are very often people looking for reasons to become offended.
At any rate, apology accepted and indeed, any other comments I made, such as the Gay Pride Parade comment, were in no way intended as offensive. In a Gay Pride parade, the primary intent is to celebrate homosexuality and to promote general awareness... that also seemed to be the primary reason for these couples inclusion, an assumption given creedence by JJ's post above. And this leads to one of my pet peeves - the presumption that if someone says the word 'black' followed by a fact or opinion you don't like, then they MUST be racist, or if someone draws a comparison to a Gay Pride Parade in any but the most glowing of terms, then they MUST be a homophobe. Its attitudes like that that prevent important discussions from taking place and causes people to hold inside whatever they might be feeling, be it curiosity or frustration, for fear of being cast as a villian. It divides people, unjustly forcing an otherwise open-minded middle ground silently away from what could be a greater understanding.
Something to keep in mind as well - not everyone has read every AP nor made an effort to conduct a statistical comparison. Some could be picking up WotR as their first AP ever and for better or worse this could be their introduction to Paizo as a company.
As I said in my original post, I was planning on not including Horgus or Aravashnial in my campaign during the second book (I had other plans for them and I like reunions). I was also seriously eyeballing the halfling in the second book for exclusion as well, replacing her role with an NPC of my own cmaking. It wasn't until then that it occurred to me that 4 of 5 or possibly even 4 of 4 of my party's NPC's were going to be GLBT. In turn, that got me thinking about the trend of a rather dense population of GLBT characters in the first two books (not knowing what might come after, of course) and thinking of the progressive mindset displayed by many here at Paizo, JJ in particular. That then prompted me to come onto these boards and question their deliberate inclusion above and beyond what was required for the story and to caution against pushing a social agenda too hard or too quickly in a medium intended for entertainment and escapism - as worthy a perspective as it might be, pushing inevitably results in getting pushed back, and that's not the road I wanted to see this game company (or this product line) go down.
That's my take and that's where I'm coming from, plain and simple.
Lord Snow has flat out said that 'he doesn't believe me' because, whatever my personal experiences may have been, they don't pass the litmus test of HIS personal experiences. He doesn't leave open the possibility that perhaps I have had more experiences in my life than the ones directly involved in gaming, doesn't leave open the possibility that perhaps it was HE who needed more shared experiences and that others in the world might need less... but mostly, he doesn't allow for the possibility that someone can have a problem with potential over-inclusion of socially or politically charged issues without having a problem with the subject itself. If you think that two out of two couples in the first two books being LBGT seems forced or gratuitous, well CLEARLY you have a problem with LGBT, even if you aren't as wise and experienced as he and can't see it for yourself.
Its an incredibly ego-centric way of looking at things, to suggest that if a person hasn't had your experiences they can't possibly have achieved your level of enlightenment, to suggest that a person's stated comfort level is either a lack of self-awareness or an outright lie simply because they haven't walked the same road as you. As I said earlier, that kind of close-minded thinking is exactly the kind of thing this 'inclusiveness' is suposed to combat, even if it is from the other side of the aisle.
I wouldn't have made the initial post if I wasn't prepared for some degree of backlash or judgement, and I'm quite comfortable with his believing whatever he chooses to believe as its his right - but I would caution others against sharing the same view point lest they fall victim to the same arrogance.
Diamond B wrote:
Honestly I'm still in the planning stages, but I felt the character was too cool to just kill off and so determined from the start to rework her involvement in the story.
In our run, she was a mercenary hired by Harrigan who had cultivated Sahuagin allies on her own...
I have to say that this was far and away the best AP we've ever run as a group. I made a number of additions and changes to a lot of the encounters, including some interesting side treks. If you want to discuss some specific ideas, feel free to drop me a PM as I'd love to share some ideas with you.
Are we certain here that 'interesting' character isn't really code for 'insanely hot' character?
At any rate, I was kind of hoping my PC's would capture her as I was relishing the idea of her being a real handful as a prisoner - I envisioned her as a sadist with a deathwish - but their fight with her was a rough one and in the end they ended up killing her outright.
From the hints that have been dropped, the challenges being underwhelming doesn't seem very likely... quite the opposite in fact.
After a lot of back and forth on the fourth (and potentially fifth) party member, we've finally got the characters that will make up our party decided as well as starting attitudes and personalities and individual backstories.
There was some consideration of having a fifth 'GM/PC' who was a Halfling Archeologist who just 'got caught up in all of this', but the introduction of the mongrelmen in the first book and the halfling character in the second book made it feel as if there might be a bit too much overlap. Thought was also given to making a Mongrelman Archeologist instead who joins the PC's early on in book 1, but the confusing rules for making Mongrelmen PC's kind of squashed that. Since the fifth character was likely going to be played by someone who couldn't fully commit to the game and would be in and out (played by the GM the rest of the time), it has instead been decided that our fifth player will instead take up the role of many of our villians and run the bad guys in combat.
I'm really looking forward to being able to adjudicate battles rather than setting myself against the PC's - I'll let him know what his creatures know about the PC's and what their motivations are and let him go. We've tried this once before and the most surprising benefit was the depth the middling bosses gained, leading to more recurring villians with genuine motivations than we've ever had before.
At any rate, the party will now be four, and I encouraged everyone to take a 'mythic' mindset when creating their characters. There was a time to be scurvy (Skull n Shackles), a time to be adventurous (Rise of the Runelords), but this... this was the time to be truly heroic, and my players didn't disappoint. Please keep in mind that we always start off at 2nd level in our games, level up when indicated in the AP and as yet we're not 100% sure if we're going to use the Mythic rules as written or if we're going to replace them by instead granting additional class levels at what would be Mythic tiers 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10
Khoresh Cimmerin, Tiefling 1st level Oracle (Lore) / 1st level Paladin (Oath of Vengance, Oath Against Fiends)
He is reserved and stoic by nature, used to concealing his heritage when necessary and accustomed to being mistrusted and feared if not outright attacked by virtue of his appearance alone. There is an honorable, noble and devoted heart beneath his rough, scaly exterior but it is rarely seen by those who have spent generations battling the evils of his forebears.
Khoresh has selected 'Stolen Fury' as his campaign trait and 'Champion' as his Mythic Path should it come to that. He will continue to pursue the Paladin class as he levels up.
Lloren and Llyra Seneschal, Aasimar 1st level Dervishes of Dawn / 1st level Masters of Many Styles
In time they took up blades in the tradition of their patron Goddess, the battle dance coming to them as naturally as breathing, and have followed their visions across much of the continent to this place where it seems they might have finally found their purpose - the redemption of a land and a people as blighted and corrupt and without hope as could be imagined, and the opportunity to avenge themselves on those responsible. They were in Kenabres three days before it fell, just long enough to appreciate the city and its people before the darkness came.
Lloren and Llyra have selected 'Touched by Divity' as their campaign trait and 'Champion' as their Mythic Path. They will dip a couple of levels more in MoMS and Unarmed Fighter before devoting themselves fully to the Dervish of Dawn archetype. Teamwork feats taken by both will represent their long experience fighting side-by-side and their intuition when it comes to one anothers thoughts and deeds.
Dragoravan, Human 2nd level Sorcerer (Draconic)
Dragoravan has tremendous respect for the history of Kenabres and its role in the on-going fight to stem the tide of evil. He is at least passingly familiar with most of the prominent figures in the city though in his self-imposed isolation has never developed any real relationships with them. His family were his brothers and sisters, six in all including he, though he knows not if any have survived Kenabres' fall.
Dragoravan will continue to pursue the Sorcerer class and eventually add levels of Dragon Disciple as well. His campaign trait is 'Child of the Crusades' and his Mythic Path would be Archmage.
I've done as much as I can to guide the PC's a bit in developing their backgrounds and character concepts without revealing too much, and I think I'm going to be able to really tie them into some of the revelations we're destined to see in Book 3. I'm very, very excited about what this AP may hold for us as a group.
...just to say that this is without a doubt the most gorgeously illustrated and decorated AP we've seen. Just absolutely amazing. Well done Wayne Reynolds and all of those interior artists who's talent and passion for the subject matter shine through. It adds so very much to the experience as a gamer and as a GM.
James Jacobs wrote:
Horgus is as important as all the NPCs, pretty much. Not necessarily in combat, but to the overall story, all the NPCs have important roles to play in supporting the PCs in future adventures.
I find this confusing. During my initial read-through I noted that there seemed to be many opportunities for one of the NPC's - particularly Horgus - to wander off (or storm off) on their own and end up dead. That's all well and good but it seemed to signal that they were unlikely to have important roles to play long term if they can so easily become lost so early on.
When you say 'important roles', do you mean the sort of roles that they HAVE to be around for that are central to the plot, or do you simply mean that they are a potential asset that the PC's might find valuable, like a magic weapon or spellbook that could easily go overlooked. I don't want to make any seemingly minor changes early only to have them come back and bite me down the road because I mistook the author's intent.
I believe in the past - and I could be wrong about this - that certain NPC's who were important to the story had little warnings attatched to them so that, even if they wouldn't know exactly why, GM's would be sure to know that they shouldn't be arbitrarily killed or written out of the story.
Last but not least, make Queen Galfrey a later in the game obstacle/antagonist who sees this mythic heroes as a threat to her 100 year old holy war.
I'm also considering doing something with her, but I need to see what is done over the course of the AP before I can decide exactly what I'm going to change, even at the beginning. Still, I think its important for this campaign to not just have 'good' and 'bad' in the classic, generic sense... there's the whole 'Abyss stares back into you' thing and the 'so dedicated to defeating evil they've lost sense of good' thing... I would think there are some very 'good' people involved in this war who've begun to lose all perspective and their zeal carries them into some dark places.
Besides, our heroes aren't the only heroes in this war... and after so long, what's a hero without a cause to fight for? Some might discover they need the war more than they need victory.
I'm not 100% sure how smuggling works in waters ruled by pirates. There aren't any inspections or pirate patrol boats making sure you've paid your taxes... I mean, what's forbidden in the Shackles?
Now, at the beginnings and end of the voyage (from Sargava to Cheliax for example) I could see there being some peril, but there's not exactly any reason to 'smuggle' within the Shackles themselves that I can see, and if you start finding your adventures concentrating on regions outside the Shackles it could draw you out of the AP entirely.
That's not to say there aren't options - getting an individual safely and secretly through these danger-infested waters, whether in order to get them somewhere or to get them away from somewhere (or someone) could be one possibility. Dodging other pirates while carrying cargo that there is a bounty on could be another. Lots of uses for hidden compartments apart from traditional smuggling.
In essence, the closing-the-Worldwound campaign becomes a "capstone" adventure path, where the players wind up seeing all their characters, past and present, taking some sort of role in saving the world.
While the manner in which it is implemented remains to be seen, or the manner in which other groups might implement this idea, I think it is a spectacular one.
One thought though - if you do allow former PC's to become cohorts to the current PC's, even if not necessarily cohorts to their former player, are you going to allow them to run the former PC's or are you as the GM going to do it? I could see potential problems arising with a player when a beloved former character is RP'd by another, even a GM, with immediate reactions like 'I/they wouldn't have acted like/said that'...
Lord Snow wrote:
Well, we are at an impasse, Story Archer, because I simply don't believe you.
So it is in fact being deliberately over-looked. Fair enough. You choose not believe me which is absolutely your right. I on the other hand choose to believe that you are either trying very hard to find some way to be offended or are trying very hard to judge someone you have no knowledge of under the veneer of sounding enlightened. Perhaps both. I don't imagine either of us is overly worried about what the other thinks of us so long as we are able to express our views.
An impasse it is, then, though I would humbly point out that I have had a lot more exposure to LGBT in my life than you have had to me in yours, which might perhaps explain the disconnect.
Now, this could be an issue of parallel design: these chapters have two different authors, and if both wanted to include this element, no designer is going to write them and say, "Sorry, Neil, we have to change the characters you wrote because Amber already used up the gayness quota for this AP."
This is a possibility that honestly never occurred to me, but it would make perfect sense.
Frerezar: it sounds like you're saying that the AP is less valuable to you because it's got gay all over it.
LOL - of course that's not what he's saying.
Lord Snow wrote:
I keep trying to make this point and it keeps getting ovcerlooked by some, to the point if I wonder whether it's deliberate:
I have no problem with LGBT. Nor do I suffer from a lack of exposure to them. My best friend outside of my marriage is a much-loved gay black man (to quote one of his favorite movies Chasing Amy, "a minority of a minority in a minority and notoriously the most 'swishy' of the bunch"). We have a player who is actively and openly bi-sexual and we have had a lesbian member in the past. I not only don't think its unusual, its part of my daily life.
I think your presumption may very well be the case in some situations... but presuming the only reason that I might have a question about over-inclusion of one group or another is solely due to my limited experience or personal prejudices is exactly the kind of thinking you want to discourage rather than fall back on yourself. A person can have a problem with Obama's political views without being a racist. A person can find the inclusion of an unusually high number of LGTB individuals in an AP odd or otherwise motivated without being homophobic or ignorant. I can promise that I won't presume LGBT individuals all think and feel the same way about things - so I would like to invite you to avoid the presumption that non-LGBT individuals do the same.
The addition of a second LGBT couple seemed odd and forced to me within the context of the story. Oftentimes when such things are forced they can create either a backlash or an antipathy towards the subject which is worthy of cautioning against. I felt it was worthy of mentioning since I did not see that others had, so I mentioned it.
I come from a school of gaming where RPG's are an artistic form akin to storytelling, and by virtue of their being interactive, can be a real tool for personal introspection or growth in addition to simply being entertaining. As such, whenever I designed my own adventures or campaigns I was always sure to tailor encounters, especially RP encounters, to the specific players I had on hand. If there was a time when it would have been good for the group in my opinion to include a member of an alternative life-style or a person suffering from drug addiction or mental disorders or anything else outside of the 'norm', I would have. Likewise, if I felt a pre-existing adventure or campaign lacked such necessary or appropriate qualities, I would of course customize them for inclusion. Pre-packaged adventures like this particular AP are notoriously short on space, so if a salient detail about an individual (or couple) is included, I like to think its done so because its germaine to the story, not a gratuitous add-on designed to push an agenda. Just as a GM is perfectly capable of making those two a hetero-sexual pair of friends instead of a gay couple, so too could a GM have made the pair of friends a homo-sexual couple if presented in reverse... the difference is that the GM probably would have had an actual in-story reason for doing so.
And for the record, I don't own and haven't yet read Carrion Crown, but it IS on the list. Think about it like this - I own Jade Regent, Skull n Shackles, Shattered Star and Reign of Winter, all of which feature some inclusion of LGBT... and this is the first time you have heard from me on the subject at all.
Honestly, in a game where a gnome ninja, a half orc wizard, a dwarf bard, a tiefling fighter, and a kitsune paladin can come together and fistfight demons in a literal Hell on Earth (Abyss if you want to be pedantic ;) ), I find that getting hung up on an LGBT character in the game to make little sense.
There seems to be a lot of deliberate misinterpretation of my point... my point isn't a problem with LGBT characters, and that's pretty clearly stated a number of times, even using specific examples. My point is the distraction created by using a gratuitous number of them. Let's use your 'race' analogy - if all of a sudden the majority of NPC's were all gnomes, wouldn't you say 'wait a minute, this doesn't make any sense... what's up with all the gnomes?'. You wouldn't ask the question because you're a gnome-hating racist, you'd ask it because demographically speaking it simply doesn't make sense within the story.
Moreover, let's acknowledge that LGBT characters aren't remotely the same as non-human races for the purposes of these adventures. Nobody is including gnomes specifically to make sure the gnomish among us are properly represented or so that a confused or outcast teen-aged gnome might feel a sense of inclusion and acceptance.
As I said, ZERO problem with LGBT characters in Pathfinder adventures, especially considering that we have had and even now have players who fit that category... I simply felt the need to overpopulate the key NPC's with LGBT characters might have the effect of pushing an agenda to the point of making people deaf to it, or worse reactionary against it. I think Irabeth and her mate's story is interesting and provides some fascinating depth to the characters, even if it is just backstory with little if any direct impact on the here and now... but the additional inclusion of a second gay couple already in just the second book for no other reason than just to shoe-horn it in, the likelihood that out of 5 main NPC's in my game 4 of them would be LGBT stretches believability to the point of distraction from the story. Their sexual orientation in no way affects any aspect of the game, the characters' motivations, anything at all the way it does with Irabeth and as such the inclusion of that aspect of them takes on a very gratuitous feel.
If you were to make Irabeth and Anevia a hetero-sexual couple, it would unravel the entire character concept and rewrite much of the game history... it would undermine their motivations and utterly diminish them as characters which would be wrong in my opinion as a responsible storyteller. If you were to make the gay couple in the second book (sorry but the names escape me) into a hetero-sexual couple it would change absolutely nothing about their backstory or the adventure itself. Hence the feeling of gratuitousness.
My opinion as expressed is in no way (and quite obviously so) an attack on LGBT players or the inclusion of LGBT characters in the game... its a concern that as so often happens, the pressure to be SO inclusive that you start getting exclusive can quickly undermine the legitimacy of any well-intended agenda.
And for the record, one of my biggest pet peeves is the over-use of exotic races anyway. These travelling menageries that many parties tend to be these days drive me nuts... and I say that with a likely party of a Human, a Halfling, a Tiefling and two Aasimars. When exotic races are used in our campaigns, its always with a very specific purpose and story concept... ditto when alternative lifestyle characters are included as mentioned above.
As someone who ran this AP all the way through with three humans and a half-elf, I want to express my appreciation for avoiding the 'exotic race mania' that seems to have infected pretty much everyone else. I can't even imagine some of these menageries/floating zoo's on the high seas...
simon hacker wrote:
My players were made up of a Human Barb, a Human Knifemaster, a Human Sea Singer and a Half-Elven Master Summoner. Rosie and the Knifemaster bottled them up in the doorway while an absolute horde of dire rats was summoned to shred them and the Summoner spent the rest of his time Dazing whoever made it past them while the Barbarian, Sandara and Owlbear dealt with Plugg (they had murdered Scourge much earlier in the AP). Our Sea Singer stayed in between the two battles, using Inspire Courage and casting as needed.
Honestly, it was one of the easiest battles in the entire campaign for them due to good planning.
Fabian Benavente wrote:
If they think to run away and jump into a body of water, let that work. It'll be enough to warn them off from future encounters and make for some comic relief as well.
Keeping Aron Ivey alive was one of many changes I made and was one of the best as well.
simon hacker wrote:
My opinion for what its worth, as soon as the wormwood is out of sight let them do what they want, just go with the flow. As long as you have the 2 crew members go missing once the ship hits the reef and the water barrels get broken it wil not make any difference at all. My group left the ship under Rosie and Kroop, leaving the crew to fix the ship, the Druid purified the sea water (just make sure there is only enough containers left to hold 1 or 2 days worth of freshish water and use the dehydration rules for the crew ie they only have a ceratin amount of time to find the missing crew before the rest of the crew start to die off from lack of water, there is a lot of crew and each member needs at least 2-3 gallons of water each per day to aviod dehyration in hot climates). This fixes a time limit and makes the rescue more thrilling. If they find a wayto circumvent the water just think of another time constarint.
Also, make sure one of those missing crew members is Sandara Quinn - you know, the one who can cast Create Water many times daily if she so chose? Surprised the AP doesn't address that, though FWIW, they would have gone after her anyway since by then she was a favorite of the group and romantically involved with one of them.
Total departure from your question, but something I want to throw out there as it made for a great adjustment in our game: have Aron Ivey be alive. Have him locked away behind his wooden stockade, almost desperate and half-crazed but alive. The PC's might miss out on a battle, but he is a wonderful way to introduce the entire Infernus backstory. Him telling the PC's about its sunken wreck and the likelihood of potions of water breathing being stored there (that's the only place on the island I had them) made for a nice side adventure before heading down into the sea caves. He was also able to tell them about the Grindylows directly and warn them off about the botfly swarms if they haven't encountered them yet (too difficult a challenge for a low level group IMO).
I actually made him the ship's carpenter on the Infernus (hence his well-built hut and pallisade), a role he took on aboard the PC's ship as well. It was him rather than Kroop which offered much of the 'advice' suggested in the books and eventually he retired (after losing his leg) to oversee construction of the PC's flagship... it was just a great RP opportunity for the entire AP by keeping him alive and utterly loyal to the crew that saved him.
An intro scene was rp'ed before the plaza opening cutscene, during which the players got to help Lord Horgus be relatively merciful with a beggar (I felt his obnoxiousness would need some leavening, so their first glimpse of him was actually him doing something charitable, in a pompous sort of way), dealing with a pickpocket, introducting themselves to each other, and formally swearing the Crusader's Oath for the first time as part of the Armasse ceremony. /Then/ I dropped the hammer on them.
I like this. A little more time in the city, a chance to encounter future NPC's and one another before the bottom falls out (literally). It makes the big scene that opens the story a bit more dramatic in my opinion.