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Self-cleaning cookware - cleans itself on command. The command word is: clean. (Works more effectively when shouted at the top of your lungs.)
Instant Hair-Dye: changes your hair color instantly! The catch is that the GM picks what color. Lasts for 8 hours.
Clean Candy -- cleans and whitens your teeth while you chew it. Tastes great, too! No downsides to this one.
Burbling Doll - a children's toy, which laughs, cries, burbles, and makes other baby noises any time anyone holds it.
Allspice - a dash of this will make any food taste delightful. No, really. It doesn't matter what kind of food, how it was spiced to begin with, or what the user likes. No matter what, it makes the food delicious. Provides no nutritional value.
Endless Top -- when set spinning, this top just won't drop. Spins until it is picked up again or until friction wears it away to nothing, whichever comes first. Rare examples may have adamantine tips, which in theory could bore their way to the center of the planet given a few thousand years to do it.
Unending Pen -- supplies its own ink. Available in multiple colors, 5 gp each. Deluxe version can change color on command (50 gp).
Perfect Tie -- this tie ties itself on command, in any knot the user cares to name, perfectly. Changes pattern and color on command.
Rainbow Lipstick -- when applied, shifts lazily through all the colors in the rainbow. Cycles once every 5 minutes or so. One tube contains 30 applications.
Cat Whistle -- no one but cats can hear this whistle. When blown, any cats in the area look at you in annoyance and then ignore you pointedly.
Fleamaster's Kit -- Start your own flea circus! This kit contains all you need to train fleas in any number of amazing tricks: tightrope walking, trapeze, clown cars, and more! Amaze your friends! The only real disadvantage is that you have to feed the fleas somehow, which tends to make you itchy and unpopular.
Mathematician's Smock -- the pockets of this loose smock always contain everything a mathematician might need in the course of performing mathematical calculations: bits of loose paper, pencil stubs, even an abacus. Also very stylish, if you ignore the pocket protector that just won't go away.
Hmm. That's pretty cool, but it's going to be tough. Let's just walk through this.
Ogre Cattle Rustlers:
If the PCs are under cover when you reach this encounter, they could join in the cattle raid, help out the ogres, eat delicious beef (that's not theirs), and gain some valuable intel about Jorgenfist: directions to the area, a few named NPCs, such as Cinderma, and maybe a couple of the leaders in the camps outside the fortress proper. They may know passwords (which could well be out of date, considering they're deserters!) The raiders probably don't know anything about the interior of the fortress, but they might know about the rocs and harpies.
If they wind up camping with the ogres, one of the ogre raiders develops a crush on the PC disguised as an ogre. Does the PC reject their advances, potentially triggering a fight? Delay, and hope to escape before it can come up again? Accept, and then have a dreadfully awkward time explaining why they can't take off this one bit of shiny gear (their disguise item)?
The adventure doesn't specify, but presumably the guards have orders to allow their allies through, and probably some kind of password. They're also hill giants, and not terribly bright. I'd let the PCs talk their way past without too much difficulty.
Iron Peak Patrols:
Stone giants are brighter than hill giants, and more likely to be suspicious. The PCs would be best advised to evade detection if they can.
If the patrol discovers them, though, I'd run this as a combat encounter, more or less as written -- the PCs need to prevent those stone giants from reporting in, or their cover will be blown.
Any passwords garnered from earlier encounters should now be out of date (unless they manage to get one out of one of the Iron Peak Patrols, perhaps). Anyway, Cinderma is no dummy with an INT score of 12 and WIS of 17, and she's immune to illusion and enchantment spells (which makes it difficult to supplement their disguises with magic). The PCs would probably have an easier time presenting themselves as new recruits, but it doesn't match up with their story about delivering a piece of the Old Light.
If the PCs are smart enough to observe the watchtower closely from cover before approaching, let them realize that Cinderma takes off in the evening. That leaves it in the hands of her Runeslaves, who are dumb as a bucket of rocks. If the PCs say they're here on Mokmurian's orders, the Runeslaves will probably just let them pass.
If the PCs make it this far, most of the tribes probably won't be terribly interested in them beyond noting the arrival of a couple more lamias. They all know the two lamia sisters, who branded them with the Sihedron.
The ogres of the Red Shield and Nightshade clan may potentially be interested in your ogre-impersonating PC, as this is logically someone to join their contingent. They'll probably have questions like "What your clan?" "You join Red Shields, yes? We strong! Much stronger than Nightshade pansies." "No, you join Nightshade. We smarter than Red Shield buffoons. See? We know word 'buffoon'!"
The Harpy Monks:
Man, for guards they have lousy Sense Motive. I'd have the harpy monks just let them in. I mean, I doubt Mokmurian briefed them on all his plans, and they sure look like his allies, and if they've reached this point they already passed a whole bunch of other guards, so if I were they harpy on the wall, I'd just look them up and down, then call one of the stone giant guards to open the door and escort them inside to General Galenmir.
The general is the logical person to have the PCs sent to. Mokmurian is the big boss; he makes the big plans, and it falls to Galenmir to see to it that those plans get executed. Galenmir knows who was sent on that raid to Sandpoint, what they were trying to get, and that he didn't send any ogres or lamiakin with them. He's mostly a melee bruiser, but not dumb by any means. He probably doesn't know every ogre in his command, but there are only 2 lamia, and they live down the hall.
He'll want to know all kinds of things:
1) Who are you?
He doesn't have a great sense motive, but I would impose a significant penalty on bluff checks, because he knows exactly what was going on, and the PCs probably don't have all the details.
If they straight up fail to persuade him that they're legit, roll initiative.
If he's wavering and unsure whether they're legit, he'll demand to see the ogre's Sihedron brand. Unless the PCs have figured out that they need one, then that will give away the game -- and roll initiative.
If the PCs have managed to persuade him that they're legit: "Hrm. Well done for making the best of a bad situation, and completing a mission that wasn't even yours. Give me the stone, and then get yourselves some food in the kitchen before you head back out to the camp." If they try to persuade him to let them stay with the stone all the way to Mokmurian, that probably raises his suspicions. "I gave you an order, soldier. Hand over the stone, get back to camp, and wait for further orders." If they still won't do it, roll initiative.
But if they do, then ... well, at that point I'd say they have effectively infiltrated Jorgenfist, and you'll have to play it by ear from there.
Conna won't know that they're on her side, so she won't try to contact them. But perhaps they could discover her from gossip in the kitchen with other stone giants. Maybe someone wants to prank the newbies by sending them into the flayed giant trap.
The two lamia sisters are going to be a problem. They'll probably be very interested to meet these two lamia they don't know. Perhaps they want to swap gossip about happenings in Xin-Shalast (that the PCs won't know). Or maybe they want to invite their new sisters to join in a celebration of Lamashtu, complete with all the squicky bits that make Lamashtu so fun -- you know, eruptive childbirth, ritual sacrifice of prisoners for the greed in their souls, crossbreeding with monsters, the usual.
If they avoid that, someone is likely to notice that they're wearing magic gear, unless they go to extraordinary measures to conceal it (making it muddy and tattered, and using Magic Aura to conceal its magical properties from Detect Magic.)
Ultimately, there is no way that this can go on for very long. Sooner or later, somebody will figure it out, and then they'll suddenly be up the creek. They will need an escape plan. If possible, perhaps Conna can intervene and show them a way into the redcap tunnels to escape. Perhaps they can teleport out. Perhaps one of the dwarf prisoners from the armory has been working on an escape tunnel, and they can hide there for a bit until things quiet down. I don't know. You're going to wind up playing it by ear.
It could be awesome. But they definitely need some kind of escape plan, otherwise when things go south they will be in deep, deep trouble.
William Sinclair wrote:
Good lord. What were they crafting that was so all-fired important that they thought ignoring an army of cloud, storm, and rune giants was the way to go?
If Karzoug is not already free, he should be by the time your players get to him. Having a hard time seeing how the party is not going to wind up as stylish new gold statues in his palace.
The following is a reworking of the Library of Thassilon area from the Fortress of the Stone Giants, using the Research system from Ultimate Intrigue. It contains spoilers. If you are a player rather than a GM, do not read further.
Rather than write one monolithic research stat block for the library, I have chosen to write several smaller stat blocks, one for each research topic spelled out in FotSG and SotS. Each research topic has its own knowledge point total and thresholds, but shares the basic stats of the library. Each includes an event that triggers when the PCs reach the threshold just before it.
As written, the adventure does not award XP for completing these knowledge checks. If you do award XP for the research, I recommend waiting until all three topics have been fully researched.
If the party successfully befriended it, the Clockwork Librarian may supply Aid Another checks to the primary researcher at +4 rather than the usual +2 bonus because of its intimate familiarity with the collection. This uses one of the two secondary researchers allowed by the Research rules.
You could easily expand the list to add more research tasks connected to ancient Thassilon, such as the River Avah, rune giants, Leng, runeforged weapons, Alara'hai, sin magic, the other six Runelords, etc. But since those are less relevant to the adventure, it is probably better to treat them as single knowledge checks.
Therassic Library (CR 11)
Complexity 31 (average)
Research Check Knowledge (arcana) or Knowledge (history); Knowledge Bonus +5
Event The tome that reveals this final piece of information bears an ancient spell trap left by the jealous former owner.
Dream Dalliance Trap CR 6
Effect spell effect (dream dalliance, DC 17 Will save negates); single target (the reader)
Since the reader does not need to sleep while in the Therassic Library, they will not notice the effects of a failed save until after leaving the library. The clockwork librarian has read this book, but is unaware of this trap because it is immune to mind-affecting effects and does not sleep.
Event The Clockwork Librarian has been tremendously excited and pleased to have researchers in the library once more. In its eagerness to assist, it loses track of the key used to wind it up. The construct is stricken with terror at the thought of winding down just when its services are finally needed again, and begs the PCs to assist in locating the precious key. The key was knocked off its peg and accidentally kicked under a chair. Locating it requires a DC 28 perception check, and costs the PCs a full day of research time. If they can use divination magic (such as locate object), no research time is lost. If it is not found, the clockwork librarian winds down one day after alerting them to the key's loss, and reactivating it requires a DC 25 Knowledge (engineering) check.
Event The book that reveals this is a lengthy treatise on engineering magical protections into large structures, and notes that having a sympathetic focus makes the process easier, but that once complete, the focus is no longer needed. If the primary researcher succeeds on a DC 28 Knowledge (arcana) check and a DC 30 Perception check, they can locate the sympathetic focus that was used in the library's temporal warding: a clear spindle ioun stone, embedded in the stones at the bottom of the library shaft. Freeing it requires a strength check: 15+ succeeds; 11-15 succeeds, but the stone is flawed in the process; lower has no effect. Removing the ioun stone has no ill effect on the library's temporal warding.
Adjust the research DC according to taste. I have assumed it should be average. Easy = 26, average = 31, difficult = 36.
I opted not to assign serious time pressure to the research tasks presented here, because although knowing these things are useful, they are not crucial to advancing in the adventure path. Also, since the PCs will just have finished a long dungeon crawl, they may need some down time between 4 and 5 anyway to rest up, shop for gear, pursue romantic interests, and so on. If you want to assign time pressure to the Runeforge research task, I recommend giving them no more than a week.
The following is long. I've split it up into chunks and spoilered it.
General thoughts on the OP's predicament:
I think the basic problem you're struggling with is that you don't want the story to end prematurely. If you kill off the PCs, it does -- as long as you're committed to following the AP as written.
Things already sound like they're pretty much off the rails. But that's okay; it shows that your players have been acting in interesting, dynamic ways. Your group -- players and GM alike -- are reshaping the written story to make it their own.
I advise against a deus-ex-machina solution. "Doing a reset" like this cheapens the choices of the PCs. Besides, you don't need that yet. One of the PCs lived, and that means that one PC has the opportunity to flee, rally support, and keep the story alive.
If one of the PCs explicitly prays for divine aid, consider providing it. Perhaps a helpful archon/azata/etc pops up at a key moment, or a mortally wounded PC gains DR 5/epic and the ability to act while in negatives just long enough to turn the tide (after which they should fall unconscious again). Divine aid should be rare, focused, short duration, and aimed to maximize dramatic effect.
What I would do about the captured PCs:
Nualia's goal is to free Malfeshnekor, thereby fully purging her celestial "taint", and releasing a powerful servant of Lamashtu into the world again.
The adventure is not clear about exactly what she needs to do in order to accomplish his release. He's restrained by a Binding spell at CL 20; generally, it takes either an anti-magic field (Sor/Wiz level 6, min CL 13), or a Mage's Disjunction (Sor/Wiz level 9, min CL 17) to take one of those down. As a level 4 cleric with two levels of fighter, Nualia simply doesn't have the magical oomph (or monetary resources) to deal with that directly herself.
I suggest, therefore, that she's using an occult ritual whose purpose is not to dispel or remove the binding, but to change its target. Thus:
Upon successful completion of the ritual, the original target of the binding (hedged prison) spell is freed, and the new creature takes its place in the prison.
Nualia has learned this ritual, and trained a cadre of 20 secondary casters (mostly goblins) to assist in it. All she has needed are suitable prisoners. She was reluctant to use goblins, because it would have taken quite a few of them to come up with an equivalent to Malfeshnekor's 10 hit dice, and that might have disrupted her somewhat tenuous alliance with the tribes.
The captive PCs are exactly what she needs, and she wastes no time in putting her plan into motion. The very next day after capturing the PCs, she conducts the ritual, and it's a success! With the following results:
- Nualia gains the fiendish template;
Since Nualia is a devoted follower of Lamashtu, she is cruel. She would very likely mutilate them in painful, humiliating ways. Then, having used them to free her ally, she would abandon them alive in the deeps of Thistletop with plenty of water and no food, trusting that as they slowly starve to death, they will descend into insanity and cannibalism. She sees this as a fitting offering to the Mother of Madness.
Of course, this also means that they are alive, and can be rescued. It may be somewhat tricky for the PCs to do so, but they could always use the same ritual that Nualia did (it's not inherently evil; arrange for them to find notes on how to do it in her room in Thistletop). Perhaps Nualia and some of her minions could wind up in Malfeshnekor's binding. I leave the moral quandaries of leaving Nualia bound in Malfeshnekor's prison to you. She does have to eat, after all, so just leaving her there is a slow death sentence. Some of the good-aligned deities might balk at that, particularly Desna; others might be okay with it provided Nualia (and any others) are mercifully executed after the ritual is complete. Some of the more lawful ones would prefer a formal trial and sentencing first.
Alternatively, the PCs could buy a scroll of Anti-Magic Field in Magnimar. Cast it from the scroll, the bound PCs walk out of the prison; when the AMF wears off, the Binding spell snaps back into place, and they are still the targets. But because they are now outside the bounds, its effect is that they are incapable of ever entering that room again.
It's somewhat pricey for a low-level party at 1,650 gp, but if the alternative is being stuck in Thistletop for the rest of their lives, it's well worth it.
What I would do about the raid:
Let the players whose PCs were captured roll up new PCs who -- by a great stroke of fortune! -- happen to be passing through Sandpoint when your second raid hits.
Give them -- say -- 3 days to prepare. On Day 1, Nualia is busy casting Twist the Bars. On Day 2, she and her minions are recovering from the ritual, and possibly doing terrible things to the captured PCs for giggles. On Day 3, Nualia, Malfeshnekor, and Ripnugget have to martial their disorderly goblins into a horde and travel to Sandpoint. They attack on Day 4, before dawn and under cover of dark so that the goblins can benefit from Darkvision while their human targets are blinded. Perhaps it's a full moon so your normal-sighted PCs are not totally screwed, and anyone with low-light vision can function normally.
In terms of tactics, goblins are sneaky. It should not be a charge-in-head-first-yodeling-war-cries type raid. I would divide them into three groups:
Group 1: A general raiding party of goblins, led by Bruthazmus. These would sneak in first, under cover of darkness, through the dump, and aim to create as much chaos as possible as fast as possible. Set buildings on fire, hurl thunderstones through windows to flush civilians into the streets, kill people messily and painfully to sow terror. However, they are primarily a distraction.
Group 2: A group of goblin commandos led Chief Ripnugget. They enter over the wall behind the cathedral (Stickfoot can just climb over it, allowing Ripnugget to haul ropes over for the others.) Their goal is to kill known town leaders. In order, their targets are Father Zantus, Sheriff Hemlock, and Mayor Deverin. Zantus is first because he has magic, especially group healing, and because he is old he is a weaker target. Hemlock next because he leads the soldiers. Mayor Deverin last, because killing her would essentially throw the town into political chaos even if the goblins are forced to retreat, making the town a weaker target for future attacks. If they get an opportunity, they'll try to free Orik and order him to assist them with the slaughter, or kill him if he won't cooperate.
Group 3: The big one. This is composed of Nualia, Malfeshnekor, Gogmurt, and two goblin commandos. They are concealed in the woods outside the north gate, under cover of an Invisibility Sphere provided by Malfeshnekor. When Group 1 starts, they spend a few rounds buffing: Malfeshnekor casts Mass Bull's Strength and Mass Enlarge on everyone (he can't enlarge himself, not being a humanoid). Nualia does her normal buffs as per her stat block, but skips Bull's Strength since Malfeshnekor is doing that. She has Silence in that slot instead to deal with enemy casters. Gogmurt has finally gotten some rest, freeing up a second level spell slot for Barkskin. He buffs himself with Barkskin, Flame Blade, and has 2xFaerie Fire prepped instead of Charm Animal and Speak with Animals.
After buffing, Malfeshnekor uses Dimension Door to put them right inside the gates. Their first goal is to kill any defenders on the wall and open the gates, to secure an easy route of retreat if it should be needed. After that, they intend to meet up with the others -- first Group 2, then Group 1 -- in order to provide direction for the remainder of the raid. Their primary goal is to destroy Sandpoint by killing as many of its people as possible. However, Nualia is a servant of Xanesha, and knows that her mistress has plans for greedy souls. If they get an opportunity, they'll take some live prisoners to be marked with the Sihedron and sacrificed for the greed in their souls.
Allow the PCs to make knowledge or intelligence checks to identify likely avenues of approach (the junkyard because goblins like junk, the wall in the cathedral because they evidently came that way once before, perhaps the unguarded bridges by the mill). Then give them time to come up with defenses. Alarms, whether magical or mundane; traps; sentries at key spots; requisitioning better equipment for the guards; arming commoners with clubs or daggers, and maybe crossbows for a few. Sandpoint is large -- they may need horses or some other method of getting from one spot to another fast.
Creativity is good. When my PCs defended Sandpoint against the stone giants, the party bard asked if she could play the bells in the cathedral to Inspire Courage across the whole town, and I said yes because that was cool. The result was a pretty embarrassing death for Longtooth.
I do not think that a TPK at this stage is very likely. There are lots of goblins, and Nualia and Malfeshnekor are extremely dangerous. However, since the fight is happening in Sandpoint, there are lots of people available to help. It's a lot harder to wipe out a whole town than it is to crush a party of four or five adventurers unsupported in the midst of a hostile dungeon.
Ameiko: can use Inspire Courage and provide minor healing.
Shalelu: can provide ranged support.
Father Zantus: can provide healing if the party saves him from Ripnugget. Give him the Selective Channeling feat so he can heal everyone in an area but exclude Nualia and company. He likely has some lower level acolytes (adepts and level 1 clerics) who can also assist in this way.
Belor Hemlock: can provide a fair number of guards, and is a pretty respectable combatant himself. Have him coordinate closely with the PCs during the preparations stage.
Orik: I'm not entirely clear on how well your party is getting along with Orik. If he is cooperative, they could use him as a source of information about likely tactics by Nualia et al. But honestly, at this point they probably know everything he has to tell them on that score. The more interesting potential arises if he has decided that he needs to undo his former errors -- or at least save his skin from prosecution -- he might be enlisted as a defender. But if he learns that the party killed Lyrie, I suspect that would likely drive him fully into the arms of evil. There is much potential for dramatic switching of sides here.
Last, but definitely not least, there are the players. This is a prime opportunity for your players to try out some new PCs. Perhaps some of them will prefer to keep the new PCs after the dust has settled. Or perhaps they will prefer to resume playing their original PCs (in which case, the ones they use for this raid could reasonably become "backup characters" in case somebody dies further down the line).
Either way, they get to keep playing, and the story goes on.
In between Book 3 and Book 4, I did solo sessions for each of my players. One of them, an Arcane Trickster, wanted to investigate the Old Light more. So I declared a small earthquake had opened up a passage deep under the ruins, leading to this:
The Old Light (Hell Flume) -- 3.1 MB, 100 pixels to the 5-foot square, prints fine at 100 DPI.
The Old Light (Hell Flume) GM reference -- much smaller
Here's a description of the areas:
General features: ceilings are 10 feet high in the corridors, rising to 15 feet in the rooms. The walls are made of magically-hardened masonry, per CRB.
T1 and T2: are pit traps (use plain, camouflaged or camouflaged and spiked as suits your player level). The trigger for these traps is magical. The hell flume's personnel carried tokens that identified them as authorized to pass in safety. Some of these can be found in a chest in B. Reset is manual; the pit needs to be closed again by one of the guardians (see G1 and G2).
G1 and G2: golems, faithfully patrolling the perimeter for intruders even after all this time. I used Clockwork Soldiers. Patrols proceed clockwise at a steady, even pace. It takes a golem 1 round to traverse 1 quarter of the circle, and their perception scores are poor. Sneaky players (and ones who don't charge blindly in) can easily wait for one to pass and then walk in behind it.
B: Barracks. Little remains. The few soldiers on duty here who survived the cataclysm of Earthfall stripped it of useful loot and departed millennia ago. As mentioned, pass tokens for the traps can be found in one of the chests.
M: Mess hall. Nobody cleaned up the dishes; they're still here, buried in drifts of ancient, dry dust.
K: Kitchen. The fire was not put out before the human complement fled, and something got knocked over into it. The resulting fire destroyed most of the kitchen. There's little left here but ash. Fortunately it did not spread to the rest of the complex.
L: Library/meeting room. (This could probably use a table.) The statue depicts Lissala. Most of the books are technical manuals pertaining to day-to-day operation of the Hell Flume, plus religious literature for Lissala, and a bit of light reading for the soldiers. All texts in ancient Thassilonian. One of the books is a roster of the personnel assigned to this station at the time of Earthfall. There were ten soldiers assigned (not including Xaliasa) at the time of Earthfall:
Mieli Tenris, lieutenant, 2nd in command (F)
Every member of the Hell Flume's personnel at the time of Earthfall were human. Although I have given genders here, this information is not listed in the the roster.
C: The command center. The pool of water at the upper right is a minor artifact containing an incorporeal construct called an Adjutant (Str -, dex 13, con -, int 16, wis 10, cha 13, HD 15, Sense Motive +15, Perception +15, Lore (Hell Flumes) +15, construct traits, incorporeal subtype, constant True Seeing). It radiates an overwhelming aura of transmutation and illusion magic. When a creature approaches the dais, it flares to life, projecting an image of itself above the water. In my case, I settled on a female human in a trim military uniform with a neutral expression, but feel free to customize the Adjutant's appearance and personality. Its purpose is to assist the commander of the Hell Flume in operating the structure.
The Adjutant is intelligent, but still at base a construct, and it was slightly damaged shortly after Earthfall. Its conception of time is out of skew; every night around 2 AM, its perception of time skips, and it reverts back to the state it was in at the time it was damaged. As far as it is concerned, only a few hours have passed since the crew fled. When approached, the Adjutant demands identification. The PCs can attempt to fool the adjutant into believing that they are authorized personnel. Doing so requires possession of one of the trap-pass tokens from B, and giving a name known to the Adjutant (retrievable from the roster in L), followed by a Bluff check opposed by the Adjutant's Sense Motive. The Adjutant is aware of the race and gender of its crew; if the PC does not match, the bluff automatically fails. Disguise Self and similar magics are a dead giveaway that something is wrong: the Adjutant can see through such illusions via its True Seeing. Mundane disguises can work, as usual. In addition, the only language that the Adjutant knows is Thassilonian. It will not, however, notice a Tongues spell should the PCs happen to use one.
If a PC persuades the Adjutant that they are Mieli Tenris or Oskarin Valnia, the Adjutant will give a status report on the facility, and ask questions about the current state of affairs. If they can further persuade the Adjutant that those higher up the chain of command are dead, then command devolves to the PC, and the Adjutant treats that PC as their new commander. Becoming the commander gives the PC full control of what's left of the facility, via the Adjutant. Further, they can designate "new personnel" authorized to work in the facility (whom the golems will not attack). The adjutant can communicate telepathically with the golems in the facility to relay orders and new authorizations.
If a PC impersonates Severi Belis or Kal Benro, they can get detailed technical readouts on the entire works of the Hell Flume, but the Adjutant will not discuss other matters with them. The arcanists were not authorized to designate guests, and were not in the chain of command.
If a PC impersonates any of the privates or the cook, the Adjutant will demand information from the PC regarding the whereabouts of the rest of the personnel, and order them to go fetch Commander Xaliasa, Lieutenant Mieli, or Lieutenant Oskarin at once, as the structure has sustained severe damage. They won't get much more than that -- the Adjutant outranks privates.
If a PC attempts to impersonate Thassilonian personnel and fails, the Adjutant says: "Intruder detected. Human complement unavailable. Initiating secondary defense protocols." At which point, both of the two statues in the room come to life and attack (I used Caryatid Columns for this). As for the Adjutant itself, it does not have any offensive capability, but it can cast Force Cage around itself at will, and does so at the start of combat.
Of course, if the PCs return the next day, the Adjutant will have reset and forgotten their attempts to lie to it, allowing them to try again. If they manage to persuade it the they're the commander, it might be possible to repair its time sense, but doing so would require a series of difficult skill checks (UMD, Disable Device, Kn [Arcana]).
I: The central chamber is the Ignis Core, a major artifact. It contains an enormous, partially incorporeal ruby that channels energy from the elemental plane of Fire, hovering mid-air on a jet of white-hot flame. If a PC manages to enter, they take 1d4 points of fire damage per round unless they have suitable protective magics in place (such as Resist Energy). A DC 20 Knowledge (Planes) check allows them to realize that the ruby is the focus for a direct connection to the elemental plane of Fire. A DC 10 Knowledge (Arcana) check is enough to realize that messing with it is a Bad Idea. I leave to the GM the exact effects of removing or even misaligning the ruby; however, the resulting explosion should result in a crater large enough to wipe out at least a quarter of Sandpoint. Possibly more.
The Ignis Core itself is heavily warded against teleportation; the only way in or out is through the doors. Both of the two stone doors into this chamber are sealed with Arcane Lock spells, and guarded by Rune Guardians of the wrath school. The rune guardians stay nestled in niches on the face of the door until a creature approaches within 10 feet, at which point they pop out of their sockets and use their Burning Hands special ability, followed by making loud alarm noises to attract the other golems in the facility.
There is a ladder on the east wall leading up to the upper level; there's an Arcane Locked trapdoor at the top. Getting up there the PCs would discover a partially collapsed room full of broken arcane machinery, with no other exit. This is not mapped.
X: these are Commander Xaliasa's quarters. The PCs can discover his private journals from before Earthfall here. He does not speak directly of his treachery against Alaznist at first, but as he slowly grew less and less sane, the ramblings in these journals reveal his role as a double-agent for Alaznist and Karzoug, and finally that he had begun seeking something or someplace called "Runeforge".
Status Report on the Hell Flume:
The facility consisted of several levels. This is the base level, and the only one routinely accessed by most crew. The upper levels consisted of:
level 1: ignis core (status: operational)
When fully operational, the Hell Flume produced (essentially) a 20d6 fireball, disregarding the usual cap on the number of dice. Energy would be drawn from the Plane of Fire through the Ignis Core, fed through the intensifier array (Maximize, Empower), then optionally the expansion coils (Expanded, Enlarged), and finally directed towards its target with the targeting mirror (itself a minor artifact). The result was a blast of 180 damage at any area within a mile of the structure, targeting as precisely as a single 5-foot square, or as broadly as a 60-foot radius, depending on how the shot was configured. It could be fired once every 1d4 rounds.
My PCs asked if they could use this during the giant assault on Sandpoint at the beginning of Book 4. I told them No, because the upper half of the facility is totally destroyed, and recreating it would take years or decades of dedicated arcane research and crafting.
On Adding Crypt of the Everflame
It's doable, but you'll wind up making a lot of work for yourself.
You could add Crypt of the Everflame to the Swallowtail Festival easily enough. The festival begins when the lantern is brought back. The crypt holds one of the founders of Sandpoint instead of Kassen. The Razmiri cultists who woke the dead are actually servants of Karzoug (perhaps Nualia and company) gathering resources for his plots.
To combat the problem of moving out of town immediately, I'd insist that your players all be natives of Sandpoint, rather than random strangers passing by. Collecting the Everflame is a local ritual. The town would have no reason to involve random passersby in this aspect of their celebration. If somebody REALLY doesn't want to be from Sandpoint originally, then they should at least be a resident -- maybe their parents moved there a few years ago, and they've lived in town long enough to become part of the community.
If you run it as written, everyone will hit level 2 in the crypt, before the swallowtail festival even begins. With a party of six players, starting at 1 level higher than usual, you'll probably have to adjust the difficulty of the all the encounters in every book of the adventure path as you go along, especially if your players are experienced. That's a ton of work. I wouldn't do it. But if you want to, go ahead.
Back on the original topic of the thread, some more things I've changed in my RotRL campaign:
Dragon color swap: copper instead of red
I made the 2 young red dragons in Fortress of the Stone Giants copper instead, and gave the PCs a reason to rescue rather than kill them.
The full details:
In Fortress of the Stone Giants, there are two young red dragons (Suleminga and Encontredor) charmed into working for the two lamia clerics with names but no backstory. They're a speed bump.
I switched their color: they're not red, they're copper. Then, on the way to the Fortress, the PCs encountered a souped-up Krampus with some redcap minions, intent on punishing a misbehaving child. They dutifully intervened, and the "child" turned out to be a five-year-old wyrmling copper dragon named Vernalia. She had snuck out of her mother's lair despite being forbidden to do so, and gotten lost. Mokmurian found her, and aided her in getting home.
But later, Mokmurian returned with a bunch of his minions. He petrified Vernalia's mother with a Flesh to Stone spell, then charmed and abducted her two brothers. Vernalia hid; the Krampus was out to punish her for disobedience (going outside without permission), betrayal (showing Mokmurian the way to their home), and cowardice (hiding while her family were attacked). After the PCs rescued her from Krampus, Vernalia gave them a small hidden stash of her mother's hoard (the rest was stolen) and begged them to save her two brothers.
The lamias are now diligently stoking the greed in Suleminga and Encontredor's souls, and pushing them into increasingly evil acts until they tarnish enough to sacrifice. Vernalia has accompanied the party (and stayed out of combat, because dragon or not, she's five!)
The dragon color swap subplot will probably get resolved next session. Depending on how things turn out, the party may find themselves with Vernalia's mother (a mature adult copper dragon) as an ally in the fight against Arkrhyst in book 5. If you use this, adjust as appropriate to your party; mine is distinctly underpowered and in need of aid.
Introducing Viorian Dekanti in Book 4
I introduced Viorian Dekanti is an allied NPC in Book 4. When she re-appears in Book 6, the party will have history with her, and reasons to try things other than killing her.
Discussion and updated backstory for Viorian:
Viorian Dekanti, in Book 6, is a pointless walk-on. As written, the players have no idea who she is or where she came from. They have no reason to do anything other than kill her.
To rectify that situation, I have introduced her as an allied level 10 NPC who is accompanying them through the Fortress of the Stone Giants. She has a pre-paid contract on a Raise Dead/Restoration at a suitable temple in Magnimar, and she has told the party that, so barring a TPK she has an excellent chance of surviving the adventure.
Meanwhile, she is forming connections with the party now. Maybe they'll be friends, maybe rivals. Maybe one of them will strike up a romance. Regardless, she'll go off-screen again in Book 5, and then when she shows up in Book 6, she'll be a real person to them, someone worth trying to save, not just a speed bump on the way to Karzoug.
Her original backstory is totally unsuitable. I decided that she grew up in Kassen, in Nirmathas, and that her early adventuring career consisted of the events described in Crypt of the Everflame, Masks of the Living God, and the City of Golden Death. I may throw in other modules if the players keep asking for more backstory. That gives her AMPLE history.
She needs to be greedy, so as to be susceptible to Chellan. I've played up that she's a mercenary, and that she really likes getting paid. She grew up destitute, and resented by her siblings because she was adopted and a drain on family resources. Her personal goal is outdo Kassen, the founder of her hometown. He raised enough loot by adventuring to found a town. She wants more: she's shooting for 200,000 gp to bankroll a small kingdom (that's the equivalent of 50 BP under the Ultimate Campaign kingdom building rules). Nobody can say she's a useless drain on resources once she's ruling her own kingdom.
As for her reason for accompanying the party, she's working for the Magnimarian government. Due to OTHER plot modifications, the Magnimarian military don't trust the party fully, and sent their own hired merc along to make sure they could get the straight story from someone working for THEM.
I'm curious -- what became of Shalelu Andosana in your campaigns? She has had many fates, I'm sure.
In my campaign, Shalelu proved a bit too insightful. The party leader, Micah, was about as shallow as a puddle, and wrapped up in his own emo-outcast self-image. Shalelu pointed out that everbody else saw him as a hero for his repeated acts of selfless courage, and suggested that the outcast loner schtick was all in his head, and continued mainly because he himself wouldn't let anyone get close.
Micah was disturbed by this assessment of his character. It struck too close to home. Therefore, he started telling everyone that Shalelu was creepy, and he didn't know if you could really trust her. The other party members picked up on his distrust, and in short order she became a pariah, tolerated only because she hadn't actively done anything to harm the party.
No one wept especially when she got crushed by a lucky critical hit with a boulder thrown by a stone giant in the very last fight of Book 3. Her final words were: "Tell ... Micah ... he really is ... a hero. And also ... an !@#$%^&."
This wasn't a PC death, but it was so epic I'm going to put it here anyway.
Name of NPC: Longtooth
My PCs had acquired some hippogriff mounts during an interlude between books 3 and 4, and had also managed to uncover some intelligence alerting them to the upcoming assault on Sandpoint. They rushed to Sandpoint and set up defenses. Among these, the party bard asked if she could use Inspire Courage on the whole town by playing the bells in the cathedral tower. I thought that was awesome, so I said yes.
When Longtooth made his appearance, he naturally noticed the bells clanging, and decided to deviate from his scripted plan of attack and assault the cathedral bell tower first. He flew towards it, flaming and roasting the bard pretty well; he ended his turn in mid-air with the bell tower at the edge of his breath weapon's reach.
The bard baled out of the far side of the tower using Feather Fall -- and then the party's arcane trickster vaulted onto her hippogriff, used its motion to get into range of the dragon from behind it, and cast: Glitterdust.
"Okay, fine," I thought. "So we'll have a shiny red dragon."
Then he rolled a nat 1 on his Will save to avoid blindness.
Blinded, confused, Longtooth kept flying in the same direction he had been, and crashed straight through the bell tower. It crumbled around him with a clangor of falling bells. On the far side he failed a Fly check to remain aloft, fell, and plowed a furrow in the cathedral grounds. The 6d6 of falling damage didn't kill him; nor did the extra 1d6 for debris raining down on him. He even survived two hits from the bard's holy flaming shortbow (Batman!).
When the arcane trickster flew her hippogriff in and hit him with an acid arrow, he would have been fine too -- if he'd been able to see. But he was still blind, flat-footed, and the sneak attack dice did for him.
So in the end, really, it was Glitterdust that killed him. The bard and the arcane trickster high-fived each other and later had leather hot-pants made out of his skin.
disclaimer: rules-wise, this might not be kosher)
You're right, technically that shouldn't have worked -- prismatic wall has no effect on its own caster.
But! This is a classic villainous end -- defeated by a clever trick that turned his own power against him. Seems to me that's a textbook case of the Rule of Cool, which trumps the normal rules out of sheer awesome.
I dislike it when people don't start thinking about what they want to do until it's their turn. Use the other player's turns to plot out your own turn. Conditions may change, but you should have at least some idea what you want to do.
I do like Pathfinder. But the rules tend to hamper creative gameplay. So. Many. Rules. And every time we have to go look up something in the rules, gameplay grinds to a halt.
Half the time we figure out that the player can't do what they wanted and have to come up with something else to do, which is frustrating for the player, and boring for everybody else who tuned out during the rules consultation part.
Honestly, the longer I play the more I find myself eying rules-light systems like Fate Core.
On the evening of July 3rd, I ran "The Night March of Kalkamedes" -- PFS scenario 4-19 -- for a party of 5 vigilantes. All PCs were level 5, 20 point buy. Since they weren't created for PFS, I did not enforce any PFS-specific rules, and just picked vaguely appropriate faction missions for them after they introduced their characters.
The cast, with linked character sheets:
Frank, playing Galannon, stalker vigilante (page 1, page 2)
Notes on the character sheets:
1) Frank didn't actually have Hide in Plain Sight -- I pointed out to him before the session that you need to be level 8 to pick that. He substituted the talent that gets you a Rogue talent, picking Fast Stealth. Also, he was clearly using a form-fillable PDF. I am uncertain why he printed it out and sent me scans of the pages (in two different file formats) rather than just emailing the PDF. There must be some kind of reason.
2) Connor's initial plan was to hide his full plate and a scythe in his Tattoo Chamber, popping them out and using Serren's Swift Girding to put them on when he needed them. Sadly, neither one meets the "fits in one hand" requirement. So he wound up hauling his full plate in a backpack, and switching to a trident for his weapon.
3) Andrew seems to have gone over-budget on his gear, but I don't think it mattered. The keen property on his axe might as well not have been there, considering he never rolled a crit threat during the evening.
We recorded audio of the full session. The session ran just over 4 hours. For convenience, I have split it into separate chunks of audio for each encounter in the scenario, plus one for cleanup after the privateers ("The Ballad of Laurie and Howard"), and one for post-session discussion of mechanics.
There was a television running successive episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation in the background, so there is some more or less constant background noise, but for the most part it doesn't get in the way.
In listening to the session after the fact, with more leisure to check rules, it seems I was running the Acrobatics check for Up Close and Personal incorrectly. We were using a DC of 10+opponent's CMB to go through its space, when rules actually specify CMD+5 as the DC, which would generally be higher. Galannon was rolling pretty well on his Acrobatics, but even so, he likely would have failed to pass through the opponent's square on at least a couple of occasions.
Up Close and Personal was very powerful as long as he had cover to use for Stealth; it will probably be at its peak at level 8 when a Stalker can take Hide in Plain Sight, allowing a pretty reliable way to get Hidden Strike. After that point, it will slowly diminish in power because it only allows a single attack; its damage output will be lower than a full-attacking fighter type. I do wonder how it will interact with feats like the Sap Master chain.
In retrospect, I also wonder if I interpreted the "aware of your presence" clause correctly or not. Gallanon always cover available to re-stealth. But the other bandits were well aware that their comrades were getting cut down by something fast and dark. Should that have meant that they were "aware of his presence" even if they didn't know quite where he was? The extra conditions for determining whether the vigilante gets his Hidden Strike, compared to standard sneak attack, seem a great deal more open to interpretation. I am unsure how I feel about the matter.
We double-checked after the session, and Connor's belief that the Warlock specialization does not gain extra spell slots for a high INT was incorrect. Even so, I am in agreeance with him that the Warlock and Zealot seem distinctly underwhelming compared to the Avenger and Stalker.
I hope this is useful. The class seems like an interesting idea, but the dual identity is difficult to integrate with existing published material.
93. Reading the adventure in advance (as a player), carefully thinking through the best possible way to tackle every encounter, then steering the group to your preferred solutions through subtle hints.
(The player I saw do this only got caught out because the group made a bad choice, with some very negative consequences that he knew were coming. He had his PC commit suicide. That way he got a new PC, and didn't have to live with the results of his former PCs actions. The group broke up over that.)
I recently had a lovely encounter prepared for a fight with a nemesis who'd been a thorn in my player's side for about 6 levels. I made the foolish assumption that the PC would follow standard adventurer protocol: kick down the door and roll initiative.
So what does she do instead? She convinces the kingdom's guards that there's an invading army. The council (on which the nemesis sits) was duly convened, and the PC taken straight to them as a material witness -- where she decides to destroy the nemesis' reputation instead of just attacking her.
That's right. She went for character assassination instead of an actual assassination.
Here's a mythic reincarnate I came up with for use in a campaign I'm GM'ing. Add the following to the end of the spell:
Updated for the 6/29 draft!
Terra Australis Incognito moved from J to A
As usual, please post any corrections here.
Okay, I've added an additional overlay for the territories of the three first-gen settlements.
And I've updated the alignment for the Agents of Erastil.
Succubi. They're a "challenging" encounter for an APL 6 party, but the save DCs for their Charm Monster and Dominate abilities are sky-high.
A level 6 cleric with an 18 Wisdom would have a Will save of +9. That's not bad, but it'd still take a 14+ on the die to save against the DC 23 dominate person -- meaning a PC who's supposed to be GOOD at will saves has a 65% chance of failing that save. Compare to the poor fighter, who is likely to be a good bit lower than that even if he diligently took Iron Will and didn't dump Wisdom.
Of course, a succubus only gets to Dominate once per day. But she can use Charm Monster and Suggestion at will, which is almost as good, and has a DC of 22, so there's a very good chance you will soon believe wholeheartedly that this lady is your trusted friend and ally, whom you should probably help if she asks you to do something reasonable. And her Bluff skill is ridiculous, so she can make some truly outrageous things seem like a terrific idea.
But suppose you saw them coming, and had Protection from Evil running on the party. Hooray, she can't curdle your brains! But she has ethereal jaunt and greater teleport at will, so really all she has to do is make a tactical withdrawal, wait a few minutes for the spell to wear off, and then come back and curdle your brains all she wants. It'd take Dimensional Anchor -- a 5th level spell that level 6 PCs don't generally have access to -- to actually corner a succubus.
And if you DID manage somehow, as a sixth level party, to confront a succubus with both Protection from Evil and Dimensional Anchor in place, then she's pretty much ... oh wait, she can summon a Babau demon. Babau demons have Dispel Magic at will, and carry spears. So she can summon one (50% chance), directing him to keep spamming Dispel Magic at the PCs, starting with the ones wearing heavy armor, so that she can curdle their brains.
So basically, if you throw a succubus at a level 6 party, they are either going to be REALLY lucky, or they're going to be sock puppets for Team Evil in short order.
You can potentially use planar binding to summon an outsider enemy. At least, I hope so. There are three succubi loose in the Kingmaker campaign I'm playing in, and we've been having a hard time getting them to stand and fight. Why would they? They can just ethereal jaunt away and leave behind a trail of energy-drained corpses, enchanted puppets, and mentally scarred victims.
So I'm thinking we may need to try researching their true names in order to summon them and kill them.
After the second or third time I misinterpreted the position of a guild in the land rush because the icons aren't labeled, I decided to fix that problem.
Mouse over a settlement, and a little box will pop up containing the name of the guild that currently holds it, a link to their page in the list of guilds, and the letter of the settlement.
Initial scale is 25%. A full size version can be seen by clicking "larger". Sorry, no fancy zoom effects, they would have made developing it a lot slower.
Guild icons can hidden or revealed with a checkbox.
Please note that I do not have permission from Goblinworks to do this, so this is totally unofficial, not affiliated with them in any way, and please don't sue me into little bits. I hopefully point out that I'm not hosting the images (they're still on the Goblinworks site) and it's all in service of furthering a community of people who are going to give Goblinworks lots of money over time.
I'll need to update this each time another round passes, so there will be a delay after each draft till I can do so.
EDIT: Oh, and what's that guild symbol at position T? It wasn't labeled in the legend on the Goblinworks site.
Yeah, that's fine.
But don't discount random encounters. They can really enrich the game if you let them be more than "1d6 monsters show up and try to eat you, roll initiative".
Example: a recent encounter with a Sphinx turned into a trivia contest. The player posed the sphinx a question about the BBEG that the sphinx just couldn't answer. Sphinxes get Legend Lore as a spell-like ability, so I decided she would use that to learn the answer. No sphinx would admit defeat in a contest of wits if she has any other option!
I had no idea it would take 1d10 days. The player rolled a 9 for that, and the sphinx wound up joining the party for 9 days.
So that random encounter turned into a named NPC (Beshala), and a chance for me to introduce some neat backstory the player would otherwise have been unaware of. It added a lot to the game, and I never planned it.
Nobody speaks "Common" ... but everyone speaks Druidic. It's not secret yet.
Use the Primitive Armor and Weapons from Ultimate Combat.
The Words of Power system is fluffed as a more primitive form of magic that eventually gave rise to the the more refined schools of the day. Could be interesting, but it's also a fairly complex subsystem which will take some serious study for both the GM and the players.
If this is a Golarion game:
- Curchanus is hale, hearty, and very much alive.
Out of curiousity: What stuff do you use when GM'ing that wasn't originally intended for the purpose? The NPC Codex is nice and all, but I find myself using my 1994 copy of the Writers Digest Character Naming Sourcebook way more often.
It's got loads of inaccuracies, but I don't care. Since I began GM'ing on a regular basis, it's been SO USEFUL. Someone will say "What's the cook's name?" And I'll flip it open and say "Anniki!" Or whatever.
So what's in your GM toolkit that was never meant to be there?
All too often it's short hand for "I'm evil, but I can't admit it to myself." There's one of these at my table right now.
The best chaotic neutral RP I ever saw cast the character as, essentially, a libertarian. Freedom of choice was paramount; any and all external restrictions were unacceptable. More often than not, the character behaved in a chaotic good manner; but that was NOT guaranteed. The player argued that if you're not free to choose differently than you did in the past, then you're a slave to your own previous choices. In short, the character was basically a libertarian transplanted to a fantasy setting.
The violent dislike of enchantment spells also made for interesting role playing.
Protection from Evil says two things about saves.
1) It gives "a +2 resistance bonus on saves [...] against [...] effects created by evil creatures."
2) It also grants a new save against existing mental control effects "with a +2 morale bonus, using the same DC as the original effect."
Those two save bonuses have different types: resistance and morale. Does that mean they stack, for an effective +4 on the new save versus an ongoing evil mental control effect?
Dominated minds want to know.
To get back to the topic of stuff that's been added/altered:
In my campaign, Xanesha has not spent the last five years sitting on top of the Shadow Tower buffing her nails and idly taking reports from Justice Ironbriar. No, she's been a busy, busy lady.
Specifically, she's been Diana Baythorne, with a timeline like this:
- 5 years past: reached Magnimar, suborned Brothers of the Seven
- 4 years past: joined Magnimaran society in human form, presenting herself as an independently wealthy merchant. (Her wealth actually derives from all the greedy people she's been murdering.)
- 3 years past: purchased a patent of nobility from the Mayor, making her Lady Diana Baythorne, Baroness Ravenmoor. (The fact that she has no connection Ravenmoor is utterly irrelevant to the Mayor, who pays close attention to the opinions of shiny coins).
- 2.5 years past: through a careful campaign of bribery, enchantment, seduction, and one assassination, Xanesha secures herself an appointment as Chief Intelligencer of Magnimar. She's the head of the CIA and the FBI, wrapped up in one. She proceeds to build a vast intelligence network. Her agents tend to be loyal more to her than to Magnimar, and she uses the intelligence they gather to direct attention away from her own activities while also monitoring those of her rivals in Karzoug's employ (Lucrecia, Mokmurion, etc).
- Present: the PCs slip under her radar -- by the time she knows they're a threat, they're barging up the stairs of the Shadow Clock. And by amazing bad luck, she's actually there and not in her offices at the Pediment building. Sometimes a girl's just got to let her scales down, you know? She just picked the wrong day for it.
She is severely wounded in the fight, but manages to flee. Thanks to her wealth (and her own magic) she can heal up that night and show up at work in the morning looking as if nothing happened.
From here on in, she's going to play double agent:
1) Justice Ironbriar survived his confrontation with the PCs. Once they're off to Fort Rannick, she'll quietly reactivate him, assemble a new cult of acolytes, and continue harvesting greedy souls. She will instruct Justice Ironbriar to conceal his kills more carefully.
2) She will personally equip the PCs with excellent gear, and send them to disrupt the activities of Lucrecia and the Kreegs.
3) What she will do later depends on how things go. She can always turn the PCs over to Karzoug, or one of his other minions, and claim she didn't think they were as big a threat as they turned out to be. But on the other hand, if the PCs do well, they'll eliminate her rivals for position in Karzoug's hierarchy.
4) If it looks like they stand a serious chance of actually defeating Karzoug, she'll follow them to Xin-Shalast and monitor the fight, so that she can at any time step in. Ideally, the PCs will take a beating but destroy Karzoug: whereupon she will step in and finish off the PCs, leaving herself undisputed ruler. Alternatively, if it looks like Karzoug is going to wipe the PCs, she'll step in and help. Being second-in-command of a renewed Thassilon would still be pretty good, even if she has to put up with Karzoug.
Bits of this I borrowed from this post by Mathmuse. The basic idea of Xanesha as more of a scheming manipulator appealed to me, and I liked the name Baythorne. The Chief Intelligencer bit was my own addition.
This is a good plan. But the Apple of Eternal Sleep should be for the paladin. Once the paladin is snoozing permanently, store him someplace safe and the horse can be delivered to the purchaser secure in the knowledge that the paladin won't be coming to punish the miscreant who dared touch his horse.
I thought Aroden as well.
No. Aroden raised the Starstone from the bottom of the sea, along with the surrounding land (now Absolom). He achieved divinity before that, apparently due to sheer force of awesomeness.
Okay, here we go. Here are some pictures of the banner map:
This is 2 feet by 6 feet in dimension, and includes all four structures in the Graul homestead. I made a generic parchment background for them to sit on, and added labels.
- The material seems reasonably tough, while remaining flexible. It rolls up nicely.
- The edges did not have any protruding threads, one issue that the blog I initially found reported. They were smooth, and did not need to be sealed or anything.
- The surface has a little more grip than paper or wood. Dice roll on it just fine. The table it's pictured on is at work, and my Warhammer-40K-playing co-worker tried it too. He pronounced himself satisfied with its dice-rolling qualities.
- I tried markers on it. Wet erase markers go on smoothly and come off smoothly. Don't use dry erase on it, they do not come off cleanly and leave smudges.
- The image I uploaded had 100 dots per inch, and came out to the correct scale, as you can see from the alchemical golem mini in the close-up above.
- The print quality is rather grainy. This is most clearly visible in the close-up picture, above. I have emailed BannersOnTheCheap.com support to ask whether they have the ability to print at higher resolutions, for example 150 DPI or 300 DPI. I probably won't bother with images pulled from APs, since their resoluton starts so very low anyway. But Paizo flip-mat PDFs come at 150 DPI, and I'm fully capable of making my own 300 DPI maps. If they can produce a slightly nicer print quality by upping the resolution, that'd be nice. I'll report back on what they say on this point.
- The final cost for this 2x6 foot color map, including shipping, was $18.19 USD.
At that price I will probably be using them again, especially if I can get better prints by increasing the DPI on the image file.
EDIT: Support got back and had this to say:
We do print all banners at 100 DPI, so increasing the DPI of your file would not increase the print quality.
Too bad. That said, I can live with a little graininess in the print, considering how cheap and comparatively easy to store these are.
The map arrived today! Unfortunately, I'm in the middle of preparing for a job interview, which will be out of state, so I'll be traveling till Tuesday. I promise to post a full write-up once I get back.
Well, we don't know yet. Once the one I ordered arrives I'll report on how durable it seems.
When I said it only needed to last "a few sessions", that's because it's unlikely to take more than 2-3 sessions for the party to clear the area and move on. After that, we probably won't need that map again this campaign. So I'll just roll it up and store it someplace cool and out of direct sunlight.
Although the one you are purchasing you said is 2'x6', correct? That is pretty long. Are you putting multiple maps (floors) on one 2x6 section?
Yes. That 2x6 area includes all three floors of the Graul homestead, plus barn. If it doesn't fit on my table, or I just decide I want separate maps, I can just cut it apart. I left about an inch of space between each area.
My main concern right now is that in their help section that they state the JPG, EPS, or PNG file should be 20MB or under, yet there is no mention of the DPI at which their banners are printed.
The 20MB limit is for files uploaded through their web interface. During the upload process it said to contact support if I had a larger file, or something in a more obscure file format, and they'd work out an alternate way of getting the image to them.
As for DPI, that would be nice to know. Since I was working with Paizo maps extracted from the PDF, I scaled the map images up to 100px = 1 inch, then used Photoshop to create an image that was 7200x2400 px (6' by 2' at 100 DPI). When I saved that as a PNG, it came in about 8 MB.
After uploading, it showed me a preview of the banner. The image appeared to stretch all the way to the edges of the area, so hopefully it will come out at 100 DPI with nicely sized squares. We'll see!
Mysterious Stranger wrote:
Why should the bard get a free ride for dumping strength if the barbarian is not going to get the same thing for dump stat? Dump stats should have negative effects on the character who takes them.
The bard isn't getting a free ride. The low STR still has plenty of negative effects. Namely:
1) Crappy melee damage if the bard winds up mixing it up.
By the same token, the Barbarian is getting benefits too. If he ever gets his oh-so-amazing STR drained down to, say, 1, he will still be capable of moving rather than being immobilized by the weight of his armor.
As for dumping stats harder, my PCs don't have the option. We roll stats. They get what they roll. Their options for dumping are therefore pretty limited.
Anyway, heavy optimization is simply not a problem with my players. Several of them lack the rules knowledge. Others are more interested in RP than mechanics. And the one guy who's interested in optimizing isn't very good at it.
Mysterious Stranger wrote:
If you don’t want to do the book keeping then you should limit all characters to their light encumbrance load. Tell them they cannot carry any more period.
How about I go have badwrongfun my way, and you can go have badwrongfun your way.
Ah ha! BannersOnTheCheap.com got back to me. Here is what they had to say:
Banners on the Cheap Support wrote:
Yay! The rep went on to ask that I inform her when I put in the order to make sure it gets flagged. I'll give it a whirl and see how it goes.
Large scale prophecies work much better in novels. In a campaign, you run two risks. First, if the plot strays too far from the prophecy, then it can easily become totally irrelevant to actual game events. Some prophecy. Second, and on the other end of the spectrum, if the GM can't let go of the prophecy, then the prophecy can easily become a railroad.
I therefore much prefer tying prophecies to specific encounters. If the PCs avoid the encounter somehow, you can forget the prophecy entirely with no harm to the overall plot.
Spoilers for Rise of the Runelords:
An early encounter in RotRL is the fight on Thistletop, where there's some nasty difficult terrain composed of briars. I could tell that was going to be a serious problem for my group. So, I the NPC Madame Niska Mvashti appear to a PC and hand her a card from a Harrow Deck, the Briar Patch, together with the following prophecy: "Thorny briars do not hinder those who love the land." When the encounter happened, the card vanished and that one PC got freedom to move through the terrain unhindered.
Spoilers for The Harrowing:
This one was more or less impromptu. There's an encounter where the party comes across a centaur apparently getting mauled by an air elemental. The elemental is drunk and trying to dance. One of the PCs cast Divination and asked for advice on navigating the desert, so I told him "The dancing wind means no harm to the horse man." Of course, when they encountered the centaur and elemental mere minutes later, they failed to figure it out despite the air elemental shouting "Dance, horse man, dance!" Ah, well.
I've been doing the rescaling myself to save on costs. It's not all THAT difficult. Here's the procedure I use:
1) Put the PDF in a folder by itself.
2) Open the PDF in Nitro PDF Reader.
3) Click the "Extract Images" button in the Nitro toolbar. This will dump a copy of every image in the entire PDF into the folder the PDF is in. There will be a lot of them.
4) Go through and delete images I'm not interested in, e.g. page backgrounds etc.
5) Rename the map images to file names that make sense.
6) Open a map in Paint.net, GIMP, Photoshop, or other suitable image editor.
7) In the event that something needs correcting -- like maybe there's a secret door symbol that got accidentally burned into the map or something -- correct it now using a Clone Stamp tool or similar. This is fortunately rare.
8) resize it according to Jonathan Roberts' post on rescaling maps for VTT use. I usually set the resized image at 100 DPI for printing purposes. Scaling it up further won't do anything but increase the file size without adding any detail.
8) Save the file.
9) Take it to the print shop and tell them it's ready to print as-is. Be sure to tell them that it needs to be printed at 100 DPI.
It's not THE most straightforward process, but it works. I tend to process all the maps from one book at a time. Then they're ready to go when I need to get them printed.
Also, be sure to check and see if there are higher-resolution fan maps available. Certainly for Rise of the Runelords there are a number of those in the Community Created Stuff thread. Tintagel's version of Foxglove Manor is spectacular, for example.
They got back to say they'd forwarded my request to their legal people. I'll keep you posted.
Also, apparently their customer support is the "Customer Love Team". Judging by the number of exclamation points in the email, this team is composed entirely of hyper-enthusiastic teens. Friendly, but a little over-the-top.
I'm not sure if this is the right forum for this. If not, would a mod please move it to the correct spot?
I've been having the local copy shop print maps from RotRL for my group for some time. It's been my understanding that Paizo's fine with printing stuff out for use with your group, since that is after all the point.
Last night, I found a site called Banners On The Cheap, which prints vinyl banners up to fairly large sizes. As promised, it's cheap. And they got a very good review from a gamer who tried printing some battlemaps.
I'm very interested in trying this service out, but -- because I am crazy -- I read their Terms of Service in full, and there's a problematic clause in section 4.1:
You do not lose ownership of the Content that you design on, or upload to, the Web Site. By uploading Designs to the Web Site or creating Designs with Banners on the Cheap's design tools, however, you grant the following licenses to Banners on the Cheap: the nonexclusive, worldwide, transferable, sublicensable right to copy, crop, reproduce, publicly display, sell, and distribute the Design in or on Products and in advertising, marketing, samples, and promotional materials for the purpose of promoting the Web Site and Products; and the right to make modifications to your Design as Banners on the Cheap, in its sole discretion, finds necessary to achieve the above listed purposes.
I'm pretty sure I don't have the right to grant them a license to use Paizo's maps in their advertising. Does this mean I cannot use this service with Paizo materials?
I hope my reading is wrong. It looks like a very promising service for cheap, durable, mark-able maps. I'll certainly try it with maps that I've made myself, but it would be very nice to have the ability to use Paizo's stuff too.
While I'm at it, hey Paizo, have you considered partnering with these people to produce flip-mats? Maybe you could hammer out a deal that would leave a price point low enough to make it economically feasible. I know I'd rather have a nice rollable vinyl map than a folding cardboard-ish one that always needs to be weighted down a the corners to lie flat.
It's your campaign of course, but I might actually take that and riff on it. If they're expecting a hive queen -- give them one! Re-skin those demons as insectile horrors from the Great Beyond, acting on the orders of a terrible hive queen intent on turning the city/nation/planet into her personal domain. Then they can feel clever for having worked it out.
I just kind of like it when the players tell me what they want this way.
The catacombs of wrath are saturated with the psychic residue of ancient torture.
So rather than having them attacked by physical creatures, give them nightmares. Borrow the mechanic from Foxglove Manor -- if they fail a Will save, say, DC 14 or so, they take 1 point of Wisdom damage from horrific nightmares and wake up fatigued.
For extra credit, come up with a personalized dream for each one of them that ties into their backstory and stuff they've done so far, then distribute those to each player on a 3x5 card. For example:
"You dream of your hapless party member who got shoved in the furnaces of the glassworks above. His flesh turns to molten glass before your eyes. As his face liquifies, he turns his blind gaze to you and stretches his hand for your help. Then you wake up. You are fatigued. Make a Will save (DC 14). If you fail, take 1 point of Wisdom damage."
Putting it on 3x5 cards like this helps a lot, because it's personal to each player, and they can talk about it in character. It's a good role-playing opportunity, as well as a reminder that sleeping in a dungeon is generally not something to do voluntarily.