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491 posts. Alias of M P 433.


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Silver Crusade

Our Session #12 - Dark Passage to Fogmire

- If you have a lot of NPCs like our group, water becomes a major concern. No one washed up to shore with a waterskin. While the module says frequent rainfall suffices, spending hours walking in subtropical settings along a mountainous coastal path works up a sweat. My NPCs constantly complain, and the spell "Create Food and Water" needs a container to be carried. Also, Thunderstrike can't lift his head into the rain to drink that way.

- Used forum suggestions to make Olangru's acts more creepy. He wants the party to FEAR. This is key. I have the party roll a lot of the dice. 1d4 for whose night shift something happens, a Perception check (which means they spot something or nothing, difficult if your enemy is invisible or teleporting).

Night #1: Olangru teleports in and steals Thunderstrike. Our PC makes a check with enough time to hear a "snort." A mystery as his tether is still tied in a loop to his saddle. Avner wakes up and accuses the PC (a sorceress) of finally doing what she always wanted and killing off the horse. Now because of her petty revenge, they have no ride for our pregnant Penelope. (this worked great because our PC has REALLY been spiteful to him).

Night #2: Party's food supplies manipulated. Our PC notices just in time to see some vanilla wafers (from Create Food and Water) go marching cartoon style to the cliff and throw themselves off. Avner wakes up to Thunderstrike's leg (freshly ripped off at the socket) curled up against his back, spooning him. Creepy.

Speaking of food, the NPC kids are making it very well known they HATE the vanilla wafers. They play a game ("eating this is worse than....(insert a gross item, like Pete's socks"). If you're doing this and the last adventure right, your PCs will love your NPCs.

Suicidal Olman: modified it to be a native in loincloth who turns his face to the party. His eyes are gouged out. He takes a ceremonial knife, smiles at them, punches it in his gut, and topples over the cliff edge. Creepy.

Gargoyles: could have had them attack NPCs, but they are smart. They'll kill the shepherds first, then the sheep. I modified the chief into a barbed devil to shake things up.

Vine lift: Great spot for NPC concerns. I've been having Tavey try to impress his hero with dangerous cartwheels near the cliff edge, etc., and having him roll a check (20% for something bad). On the vine lift (it fell but party was testing its weight with a summoned horse anyways, no harm), the group used an immovable rod, grappling hook, and rope harness to haul people up. At the top, Tavey decided to impress his hero by playing "jungle boy" ("lookit PC NAME, I'm jungle boy, woohoo!") and leaping to a vine to finish the last bit. Player rolls and Tavey's stunt might fail, I had his save at a 50/50 chance.

One of my players later remarked her heart was pounding at the roll. They really liked the little guy. The save was made, and I probably would have allowed a heroic leap to try and save him if Tavey's grip failed.

Fogmire: Man, what's to adjust? This place is creepy. The zombie if you do the right voice is creepy. My players think they're in a dream. I simply had Urol vanish, his bedroll slashed, and under it written in blood was the word "mine." By this time, Olangru has had enough fear building. It can't get much higher. Throw in some freaky dreams (consider using an exact script for your dreams rather than summarizing, I had them fleeing the jungle from creatures that would rip them to pieces, eat them, and the ocean is a black pudding that will dissolve them).

- Finally, I mentioned making sure Avner isn't one dimensional. If so, the party might shove him off a cliff. He's an ass, he's scared, and he hides it behind bravado. I've been having his veneer crack at times, then back to his old ways (describing how the peasants need people to lead them, people with education and proper training). However, Avner has attracted a following from the impressionable passengers. It's not mutiny, it's just people who nod along to his complaining.

Silver Crusade

I'd make sure your PCs are 3rd level before tackling the next adventure. Savage creatures can be really nasty (or at least they were in my 5E conversion).

Silver Crusade

Our Session #11, shipwreck to dark passage

- If the T-rex (or birds) go after NPCs, makes encounters that much more challenging. We lost two more crew (one to the T-Rex) and another when terror birds went after the children (the kids were saved).

- It's been a crusade for them to keep our pregnant passenger alive. She's slowing them down, can't climb well, but they're moving heaven and earth to make it happen.

- As a druid novice, I'd question why Urol isn't more accepting of the circle of life when terror birds go after a weak creature. He's supposed to whine about it later. Our party accepted it as the laws of nature and didn't interfere. Doesn't seem like a druid would get upset.

- Urol's attempt to show how edible the local fauna is turned out to be a pretty good icebreaker to a serious setback.

- Water became a major concern. With so many NPCs, there may be nothing to carry water in (our salvage found a lot of horse feed). A thirsty Avner complained why the Players are hoarding all the water in their skins. In the Dark Passage, getting some fresh water become a side quest.

- I find it a lot more interesting with a larger group, having to set perimeters at night, salvage for supplies, and so on. Make sure your NPCs are vibrant. For example, in a terror bird fight, I had Tavey leave the big group and run for his idol hero (he felt safer by him). Now the battle gets more complex, not just keeping the attention of the birds but making sure Tavey doesn't die.

- I've toned Avner down from 100% gripes (you've led us into a fine mess now, how many more of us are you going to get killed) into a buckle-down and get things done guy with griping on the side. He can be a bit more complex than an arse 100% of the time. But he's still 99% irritation. If played right, he's the most memorable NPC you'll have in the path (thus far anyways).

- Left the Dark Passage as is, except the water issues.

- As a final thought, DMs should be prepared if the party wants to "hexplore" the island (detailed more fully in the next module). The presence of a lot of passengers might dissuade them, and I had Urol mention once they've made it to Farshore, the party should check out the sights.

Silver Crusade

Nice! As noted our encounter wasn't worth the page or two of print. Was over in 10 seconds with two fireballs. SWW only has one traditional "dungeon crawl" and a substitute allows for an adventure where resource management is an issue.

Silver Crusade

Our Session #10, Renkrue to Shipwreck

- Recommend finding some nautical descriptions of the eeriness of leaving land and having the open sea for your passenger reactions

- Sargasso should be creepy. I envisioned vine horrors as corpses filled with the plants animating them, like loose shells, and the ground and other plants as mildly sentient, seeking to absorb them.

- I also used the Sargasso to invade the Wyvern, to explain a weakened hull (not detected at the time) that further complicates the later storm

- The trip to the "forest" section may take into the night, leaving the Wyvern open to attack. For every hour away (unless major precautions taken), I had that 1 passenger/crew would randomly get killed, excluding the 4 major NPCs from the next adventure. They're not immune; if the party is foolish they could all perish.

- When the Mother emitted her beacon call, I had it apply to all sentient creatures, including the party, so that they could tell where it came from but weren't affected. Rather, they were bombarded with hunger and hate. This has the purpose of (1) giving them an idea of where to go and (2) if at night a major time constraint as hundreds of the brood are heading back to the Mother.

- If on a timeline, consider having the treasure in the hold easily accessible/transported, such as already in a bag of holding, or in a single small chest, etc. The party has a big incentive to get out quickly later.

- The Mother could really be fought anywhere, adventure leaves it open, but I had her wait in the pit bottom, which I treated more like a living maw with her creepy brood. The Mother fight took place in knee deep water with a cacophony of voices from both her and the maw above.

- Shipwreck. This is a major railroad, didn't like that it seems the party's actions are largely meaningless. So here's my fix:

(1) The ship is going down in this storm thanks to the Sargasso damage, and even if not, the hurricane winds, but having spent several sessions with the NPCs (see earlier posts, created an entire crew and passengers, each with a little story), the party really cares about them.

(2) Using this forum, came up with nice descriptions of what it's like in a storm, and how a captain might try to weather it. The captain has a plan that might save them (drop anchor, try to turn bow into the wind), but when they hear the crash of water on the reef, it's near-certain death.

(3) If no one has sailing skills, I had a player who was sleeping with the captain make her rolls (a +6 vs. a DC 20, or whatever you see fit). She had 2 checks to steer the ship right. If a check failed, a random passenger (excluding the 4 NPCs from the next adventure) was lost in some way; failure by 10 lost 2. No matter how the checks turned, we move to the reef:

(4) 2 successes are required to use the wind and sails to get off the reef. For each failure, someone perishes as above. If the party has plausible ways to keep the mashers away (which in our case they did with a spell), anyone who went over might be saved. Below decks could be a hole in the ship, or battered so badly they died.

Once 2 successes are had (or the entire crew dies except the next module's NPCs), the ship goes off the reef. I had 3 more people perish as the ship begins to founder and everyone is on their own.

(5) If the PCs have a plausible way to save someone, they could focus on a particular person (one player had a Cloak of the Manta Ray). If that NPCs number came up, it could be rerolled, showing her attempts to save that person. One of our players was having a relationship with the ship's cook and was willing to risk much to save him.

By the end, we had about a dozen NPCs who survived, including 2 kids, 1 teenager, the major NPCs, and a handful of others. I used a printout of thumbnail faces (see earlier posts for ideas), and used red ink every time one perished. The party had gotten REALLY attached to the crew and had lost some earlier to monster attacks. Knowing they saved some, including a pregnant woman (who lost her husband to the hydra attack), the NPCs have become a cause.

SWW is one of the best chances for NPC interaction. I don't like the idea of just having them all killed off without a shot at saving them. If they can get the survivors to Farshore, it's all the more accomplishment. We'll see.

Silver Crusade

Our Session #9, Tamoachan to Renkrue

- It's a good idea to script out your passengers in a player handout, use some stock art from the net. One of my gamers thought the ship's cook was attractive and sought him out based on the pic; later Rowyn pulled her tricks and it made it all the more despicable. This adventure becomes one of the best with the NPCs. If you don't flesh them out, it gets boring (oh gee, another coastal fort...or oh gee, more dolphins swimming). I worked up a passenger sheet as well with a paragraph on major NPCs (e.g. a list of Captain Amella curses), and a line or two for everyone else. The adventure leaves it wide open and you should take advantage.

- Rowyn's shenanigans for the most part aren't lethal to characters of levels 5-6 except when she impersonates people. These have potential to be deadly. However, remember how crowded and tight a real ship is. There's little privacy.

- As written, the plot device of the storm stands to kill off many of the passengers, but consider how many are caught by earlier events. Hence the player handout. I've been marking a red "X" through those who died during encounters, such as swimming when the hydra attacked. It's hitting the party pretty hard when they see faces crossed off, and they learn the dwarf who was snatched by the ooze was going to open a quarry, a huge loss to the colony.

- I've worked up the backstories of the NPCs, using forum suggestions and other people's campaigns. For example, one family has a son who saved his younger sister from a fire in Sasserine. He's permanently scarred on one side but a hero. When the hydra attacked, that family was swimming, and the girl was killed (I random roll). Another passenger, Mr. Jask was swimming while his pregnant wife watched from the ship (the hydra got him too). 1-2 lines is all it takes.

- The point isn't to kill off passengers so much as to make the party care about these single random events. Killing the hydra was so much sweeter realizing not only did they save more of the crew, they saved future ships (after diving down).

- The Scarlet Brotherhood pirate attack is pretty pathetic. Ship to ship combat seems pretty "bleh" when your caster has a fireball.

- If you play this adventure right, your players are going to know the ship's NPCs, their quirks, who's pregnant, who's sleeping with whom, Captain Amella's favorite phrase and the weird look she gets in her eye when talking about her dead husband, and of course the cad Avner. I've slowed the hack n slash heavily because of this. Still, if your players need more of it, consider expanding the hydra into a cave system behind the waterfall, and so on.

- We stopped in Renkrue. Expanding the Avner "purchase" is golden. Details matter. Our party HATES him. Whether it's because he has his manservants get on all fours to make a human chair when the argument drags on, or because he is never wrong and has a retort (and a reminder this all falls through without him financially), you should have him fleshed out. But, keep him a tad human. Avner got somber when the hydra killed the kid. He's not a good guy, but he's not a monster either. This conflicts the party even worse because you hate the guy, but not enough to make him walk the plank. It's a good medium if you can achieve it.

- I borrowed some Avner retorts by reading other people's campaigns. When I need, I glance down at my "Avner" sheet for some one-liners, put downs, logic arguments, and so on. The guy's ego has no bounds, and he's never truly wrong. Lavinia is in a bind because her future is tied to his, for now.

Silver Crusade

Like the idea of the ship already being damaged before the storm. None of my players are sailors, so they're really at the mercy of the DM on this one, but still planning on playing it by ear to allow them a chance to save more than the core NPCs suggested by the next adventure.

Session 8, a short one and a player absent, to Tamoachan

- Avner makes the dull moments on the ship come alive. Although NPCs are fun, after awhile my players want to hack and slash something and explore a dungeon.

- My players loved a part where I had Tavey swear he spotted a ghost ship. This got the superstitious sailors riled up, and Avner attempted to put it all down by saying the boy is lying for attention and needed to be switched. He volunteered his body servant to do the switching.

- Later, during a calm (they happen, it's real sailing when you're dead in the water for a day or so), he blamed the lack of a switching as a sign of the god's displeasure, then got bored with the whole affair.

- Like other threads, if you've been playing Avner as the pompous cad he is, they should be entertaining ways of an untimely end. On the other hand, it should be stressed he's the financial backer and so on, a key cog in Lavinia's hope for a better future not just for herself but for every other colonist. Avner turning up dead would likely derail all the Meravanchi funding.

- I ran Tamoachan as written. In retrospect, I'd flesh out the dungeon a bit more. The inner chamber, sealed off (but now accessible due to an old earthquake, is something my players loved as a detail. Makes sense to have a "false" chamber and then an inner one where the good stuff is).

- As converted (5th), the finale battle followed by the will o wisp can be a really lethal combo if the party has had a hard time. We lost a party member (admittedly were a player short this week). Consider Urol calling upon his one favor in life to seek out the Druid for this area and the possibility of a reincarnation (I played the druid as more of a spirit of nature that appeared, took what it wanted in value for the spell, and created a ring of trees, urging a humanoid body to come forth from a tree).

- Alternately, the party could use one of Urol's salves to bring a petrified adventurer back if you need to replace someone.

- Since players are at sea so long, consider pulling a side dungeon that fits the theme to trek through. Add some ancient traps, some puzzles. Tamoachan seemed a little too short, and the solving of the only real trap too easy. Pilfering any small dungeon from an old adventure would work. Just keep the ruined city chamber and the access to the inner chamber.

- Finally, there's great flavor text about the Olman but the DC checks are really high. I'd generate a way to introduce this into the game. Maybe someone on the ship could explain later or Urol knows.

Silver Crusade

After a holiday hiatus, we resumed with Session 7, sailing to the Isle of Dread.

- Getting the Sea Wyvern is a pretty forced plot device. I told my players afterwards the story was wide open about how they got a ship: deception, theft, calling in favors, taking a loan, etc. But when you have a handout of the Sea Wyvern... in retrospect I'd skip the part where the party has to get a boat and a crew and just tell them Lavinia has lined things up.

- We had a roleplay about gaining the salvage rights, players used their respective factions to get some ideas of who to talk to.

- Avner rocks. By now he's been foreshadowed since Module 1 as an ass. Now he's got Lavinia in a bind. Not only is his family funding the lion's share of the journey, but I had him gain "courting" rights to her (though he mentioned at the 1st dinner if her fortunes didn't work out, she'd be below his station of the most eligible bachelor in town).

- The party didn't want to deal with Avner, and Lavinia had booked the ship tight on colonists. So I had him pay off everyone in the bunk room to sleep in the galley. Problem was there wasn't enough space. Per the law of the sea, "a deal is a deal." Creative solutions needed.

- Per some other posts here, created a visual table of the crew for the party with pics for the major NPCs (there's a Baldur's Gate II site of character portraits which are great for this). Because there's open space, you should create some interesting NPCs to fill up the crew. Not everyone needs to have an amazing story, but all colonists should have a one-liner about why they're headed to Farshore.

- Same with the Blue Nixie, in case the party interacts (which they might to investigate mystery sabotage).

- Created singing songs (just went to a medieval sailor website and modified for the fantasy setting). Made handouts for the group and after some prodding got them to sing along. The more ribald the better. In the old days, singing was essential to keep everyone in rhythm and it helped pass the time.

- Shipwrecks are a cliché. One player asked beforehand if he should bother buying plate mail. I'm thinking of working a method where the party's actions during the big storm affects how many are saved. A work in progress.

- You should find some sites about medieval sailing, superstitions, and incorporate these in. Find some nautical lore (e.g. the log to measure speed), then toss this in as background flavor.

- Create a timeline. Don't hold up the game by randomly rolling or flipping through events. It's a 90-day journey, so many days will be nothing unless the PCs want to interact with the passengers or crew. This way you can track major stopping points, events, etc.

- I didn't bother with getting lost. If the party isn't sailing the ship, seems pointless to tell them the captain got them lost. What are they going to do?

- Shore leave is great. Work up some planned NPC interactions.

- The day to day of ship travel is boring. The players will feel like they're sitting waiting for the next encounter to happen. Can't be avoided. A trip on a ship is supposed to be dull. So mix in singing, Avner shenanigans, and so forth to liven up the spots in between major encounters.

- The author suggests changing Father Conrad's religion if a party member shares the same. I say make it the same (by coincidence ours was), and have the guy memorize a few lines of dogma. Makes him a bit more interesting as a fraud.

- We stopped at the floating ooze battle. A nasty one by 5E standards. Players wondered if any of the crew would be helping out. Only one was skilled in ranged weapons (Skald), so made sense he'd stay back and help. You may want to play up that many in the crew are skilled in small arms to repel boarders but things like sea monsters and giant oozes are beyond their skill set.

- Did I mention Avner? You should be ready with many, many smart-ass comments on his part. For example, at the first dinner had him give Lavinia a locket (both sides of himself) so she can be close to his heart, and he warned her to keep it safe as peasants tend to have sticky hands and loose morals.

- Be ready if the party goes to the Captain of their ship or Admiral Lavinia to resolve issues. As a rule, a Captain's word at sea is law, and it'd be almost sacrilege to violate this. There needs to be some reason the party would be forced to make calls. For example, when Avner bought out the passengers so he could have more space, she told the party to figure it out and the above "a deal is a deal."

- Played up Lavinia's desire to weapon train and Tavey's hero worship. Unexpectedly, one of our characters has struck up a relationship with the handsome cook. The voyage is all about these NPCs. Because experienced players smell a cliché a mile away, it's a decent move to give more of them a chance to survive the storm. It'll make the trek through the Isle of Dread even that more interesting.

Silver Crusade

Luna eladrin wrote:

Lavinia borrowing from the Meravanchi family however offers lots of opportunities for devious plot twists. Suppose Lavinia borrows money for a raise dead and in return is forced to marry Avner!

Oh man, nice. Keeping that one in the back pocket. At the very least, he'll probably feel entitled to her virtue.

Silver Crusade

After a prolonged break due to real life, we're back in action.

Session #6 (Bullywugs in Sasserine)

- If it weren't for the urgency, the first two flavor encounters would be fun.

- My players didn't take a stilt-walker alive, so no conspiracy was unveiled. Loss of a political aspect to the campaign, but if you want to preserve, possible the guard or some other entity draws a connection between the Kellani family. Or, if you're angling this route, you can plant a clue on one of them (though a good assassin doesn't carry clues).

- This session was primarily a hack n slash fest, letting the party flex some muscle against lowly bullywugs. After the life and death struggle in Kraken's Cove, a nice change of pace for players, especially the melee ones.

- There's a strong temptation to loot Lavinia's house. The party rescued her first and she stated how to find her family's hidden armory. While she's probably not keen on them looting what little she has, this can be some reward besides bullywug spears. (3rd/Pathfinder balances this part with loot from the bad guys, but if you're in 5th, you'll want to consider something different as it's quite a bit different loot system. I put in some magical boots along with a silvered weapon and healing potions in the armory).

- Had the bullywugs break Liamae's fingers so she couldn't cast cantrips. If your party is pretty beat up by this point, consider whether she can aid them with a spell. Mine had a pack of 3 mastiffs tailing along (they were heartbroken when two died, and just as miffed the poor dogs were kenneled instead of running around the manor).

- Reading ahead is key. Looking back, I would have had the 3 dogs greeting the party at the door, and would have taken a bigger tour of the home when the party visited in the 1st adventure.

- They took the loss of Kora pretty hard. No more blueberry scones, or altering dresses. Next session I'm holding her funeral and likely Lavinia will ask the party if they have anything to say about her loyal seneschal.

- Our party didn't react quickly enough to save Lavinia from being sliced, but I had her go "down and dying," twisting aside at the last second. With the party there, the bad guy didn't have time to check his handiwork. As a major NPC, she's the crux of the campaign path. Not sure what Savage Tide would look like without her. Having been a DM for a long time, don't like "essential" NPCs. They seem death proof. In this case, just make it all plausible.

- Consider some alternative angle to her presence and adventure hooks if for some reason she can't be saved.

Silver Crusade

Inspired to see ours to the end! Awesome!

Silver Crusade

PC: Grym, level 1/2 sorcerer/warlock
Adventure: Bullywug's Gambit
Location: Harliss cavern
Catalyst: Harliss said the Vanderboren line will be wiped out for Vanthus's treachery.

It was a bold move, but the party was really beat up and not full strength, out of spells and low on hit points. They didn't stand a chance. Harliss gutted Grym (the instigator of the attack) and left the others when one player, who refused to attack, explained their connection and concern with Lavinia.

Silver Crusade

Our Session #5 (Kraken's Cove):

- Not sure if it was my conversion of savage creatures, but they're really tough and nasty. As a result, a party might need to rest often.

- If they need to rest, you should have a timeline of what happens inside the caves with any survivors. What happens if the party takes 2 days or never goes to the back?

- One impetus is the knowledge that if even one of these creatures makes it to civilization, you're looking at epidemic. Refer to the movies 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later.

- Harliss' speech refers to "a day ago" but my party took 2 in reaching her due to having to rest after some nasty fights.

- In 5th, magic weapons don't come so easily. The damage resistance is very frustrating on savage creatures if no one has a magic weapon. However, they found a way, and there are going to be times when one character class shines and others don't as much. It might suck to be a fighter-type at this stage.

- Also be ready if the party attacks Harliss. It's not a fair fight - she's really strong. My party attacked her when she said she was wiping out the Vanderboren family (one player refused the fight, so some dissent in the ranks). If the party had been full strength, they might have taken her. But they weren't, and she took down 3, leaving the one who refused. She told her to pick one or all 3 died (she picked the instigator).

- Since they dissolve in acid sprays, consider what effect this has on equipment. If you really like the idea of finding Brissa and the locket, then maybe it fell off in the cave instead of still being worn, or having Brissa wander around with it, calling for her love.

Silver Crusade

PC: Thorin, lvl 2 dwarven cleric of Torm
Adventure: There is no Honor
Location: Lotus guild water cavern
Catalyst: Vanthus opened valve to flood chamber before fleeing

A crocodile took a bite out of the cleric and dragged his body out to deep water. Although the party's fighter managed to swim out and slay the beast, Thorin expired before anyone could aid him.

Fortunately for Thorin, his recent donations to the orphanage in the Sunrise District had gotten the attention of the Lightbringer's priests, who agreed to perform a raise dead (5th edition rules, they're cheaper, and as an RP factor it's a major undertaking to convince any religion to perform it).

Silver Crusade

After a long break, we are back in action near the end of Module #1 and beginning of Bullywug's Gambit.

- Lotus Guild is really awkward to run if you're not thinking ahead of what the guild might do if the party takes a rest. My group entered around 10pm (prime activity aboveground) and rested till around 7am (time to rest for many). Stood to reason only a handful of folk would dare to disturb Rowyn. As above, be flexible.

- The crocodile trap is great but lethal, killed our cleric. I initially had the room flooding in 2 rounds. But that's nasty, so I ran it gaining 2' per round until 8' deep. A crocodile + snipers for anyone treading water? Consider removing snipers if the party kills enough of the guild. But if they jump in from the well, that's asking for trouble.

- The torturer is an interesting RP encounter. I ran the guy as somewhat deranged and a racist. He is used to playing psychological games with his victims and gambled by playing one with the party (getting an alert when they killed Cruncher). But, rather than play the role out, he couldn't help his anti-demihuman ways and tried to off the party's dwarf prematurely.

- Be ready if the group wants to involve the city guard in cleaning out the guild and exposing the areas that may be bribed. Either immerse in it or gloss over. I glossed over at the epilogue party (wherein Avner brought Lavinia a dress to wear, citing she's noble, he's noble, why not...her refusal...and then our female player wearing the gown with Kora's skilled adjustments...wherein a drunk Avner grabbed her arse thinking she was Lavinia...wherein Avner is a great NPC. Have fun early with him, don't wait for the 3rd module).

- I play with my imaginary moustache when RPing Avner. If I'd been very creative, I would have bought a fake moustache.

- Had the player who looked at Vanthus's letters to Rowyn read them aloud to the group. Much more interesting that way.

- It's going to feel like a railroad, but the campaign provides that there's time to go on a side quest and so on if you want. However, it's meant to be linked. You're going to Kraken's Cove if you want to see how this plays out. My players were ready to roll.

- Introduced Captain Amella (and her foul mouth earlier) as a captain Lavinia's family used in the past for business. She doesn't own her own ship but is competent enough. Keep reinforcing that Lavinia isn't rich and connected like her parents. She's got a name and what's left of her family wealth. She can't afford the best.

- Had Amella give a "landlubber" speech before anyone sets sail. Even on a little cog, she'll give the speech. Recommend scripting one, complete with lots of cursing or whatever gives her personality.

- Amella won't try her luck at coral reefs. Ask anyone, that's suicide without knowing the exact lay of the water, which no one has. That's why she sets them on a beach a mile north.

- The Savage creatures have the party freaked. Converted to 5th edition, they're really nasty. Play up how relentless they are, the true savage nature. Monkeys attacking armored men?

- As noted in another post, you need to change some of the flavor text. Savage Creatures don't leave corpses. An "oops" moment if you don't.

Silver Crusade

Paizo says they have issues for sale, except the last two (149 & 150). The player's guide is a free download on their site, or you can pay $1 for a print copy it appears.

Silver Crusade

Like the idea of offering a crew member of SWW early, good idea.

Silver Crusade

3 sessions in and Vanthus may be one of the most hated villains in any of my campaigns. It's not because he's a high level, impossible villain who taunts them before escaping until they're strong enough to face him. So much better. He's the complete arse, totally despicable yet still somehow loved by his sister.

Per Potsticker, as much as I've wanted to build up Sasserine, have resisted (e.g. haven't tossed in side quests). Finding a focused story line is what the players are interested in currently. They don't want distractions to run an errand to recover elder centaur blood. They want to kick Vanthus from the Azure to Sunrise district. They want Lavinia back on her feet. After Rowyn called them "Lavinia's flunkies," well, it didn't endear her to the party...

Silver Crusade

Session 3, Lotus Guild mostly.

So how do you break it to a young woman who has just lost her parents and inherited an estate with a single Halfling crone as her greatest ally that her only sibling is a murderer and thief? Great RP opportunities.

- The Lotus Guild ambush wasn't needed. My players immediately went to the Taxidermist Hall and broke in at night. There's a ton of opportunities here. One player remembered Penkus's note of being under the guild and checked out the well. If it hadn't been daytime, he might have jumped in. Know your map if players take an inventive way in.

- You may wish for notes to distinguish the guild's level of activity at day or night, make it live and breathe a bit more. I figured late evening was a period when many of the guild are above ground. Same with Rowyn. Does she always happen to be in her room waiting for PCs to break in? Figured the late night was a chance to read a book, then a bath. The party caught her in the middle of reading a tawdry erotica novel, though she was alerted to their presence.

- Enlarging Rowyn's lounge, a much appreciated idea. Doubled the dimensions, left the bedroom the same.

- The game system may make this difference, but adding 2 rogues in secret chambers (complete with peepholes, chair) helped make the battle last a bit. Made it a lot tougher.

- Made the secret door to the treasure room radiate a slightly different temperature. Like the 5E idea of a bit more inventive search for secret things than simply a die roll.

- Treasure room traps, at least as I converted them, can be very dangerous, especially if the group goes straight for the loot rather than take a breather. No rogue in the group nor anyone proficient in thieves' tools, so disabling traps a bit problematic as was getting the door open. Fortunately, Rowyn's bed had a massive headboard. Made a serviceable ram.

- Decisions decisions on whether Rowyn would circle back and rally her guild behind her. Be prepared. As scripted, she likely won't given the carnage it takes to reach her.

- I hijacked a hand-drawn map of the guild someone prepared from a thread here from one of the rogues if they surrendered. GREAT IDEA! Incomplete and a great prop.

- If you've modified your campaign for a more Sasserine-heavy game, consider creating a Sasserine map with pins to demonstrate Rowyn's strategy room. Party was intrigued but I'm not modified too heavily.

- Same with the chalkboard with ships. Consider a handout. Maybe the party can affect some of the Lotus Guild's activities.

- Players got a great kick out of having their names on the board. True to player fashion, they erased much of it and wrote "Vanthus sucks!" They really don't like this guy ever since he tried to trap them in with ravenous zombies...

- If they trash Rowyn's area, they may not have incentive to search the rest of the area except to find Vanthus. Important you've made them hate him by now.

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Making the room more manageable by enlarging a good tip, add in room features and it's pretty tight. I want to reserve the option to include 2 more rogues as guards (if the party is cruising through), so more space better.

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Betting on the Jade Ravens playing a much more prominent role in the Sea Wyvern, lots of RP opportunities, especially if a romance begins and Tolin makes a move on Lavinia. Also chances to talk about Vanthus with her.

Borrowed V's attack on the Fort. While it doesn't fit with the overall plan, maybe it was an experiment or a test, isolated, for when the big event happens.

Will check out the Darkwind page, thanks!

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The DM in me wants to sketch up a paragraph for every inn and brothel in the city and flesh out NPCs, political landscape. Not what Savage Tide was designed for, but great workup.

Session 2

- Searching the city, great chance for some role play. Where does a guy like Vanthus go.... could have easily left out Lavinia's clue other than reducing it to some "gutter trash artist girlfriend" or the like.

- DM needs a backup in case the party doesn't take Shefton (modified to nickname "Chef," took away his right hand, he claims lost in a shark attack while serving on a ship that later sank, also a junkie) up on his offer. My party did, but if they don't....

- They hate Vanthus. Shopowner who revealed his purchase of a boat referred to him as the "little prick" with the "smuggler jerk." Business is business, however, and coin talks. I've been using "V's Campaign Log" for inspiration. He learned poison in my campaign when his parents forced him to Farshore, and now he's using it. Pricked Chef and tossed his body down the shaft, then a taunt and some coins for the ferryman. Party wants revenge. He uses silver pins topped with opals. Guess what was used to kill the harbormaster... (one in each eye, body bloated by poison).

- This is a problem. Revenge on Vanthus has to wait several levels. It'll likely be job #1 come module #3 (sea voyage), but no leads will exist. Hard to let a bad guy go, not usual D&D fare. Not sure what they'll do.

- 5E zombies are nasty for low-level parties. They just won't die. This was a great intro to undead and has given a healthy respect to undead. The oversized maws and fanged teeth of the rotted corpses, just a great addition of flavor text. Monsters have to be more than just stats.

- Penkus's note. Had a player read it aloud. Masterful, full of bile. Provided a printout of the dragon lotus tattoo. Visuals have a use. Every time we speak with Lavinia, her graphic comes out. Others have suggested a "theme song," might add if I get my mobile speaker purchased to sync with my phone.

- 5E has no wealth by level. As a result, my Tormite cleric sought out an orphanage and donated half his wealth (he could have bought better gear, healing potions, so on). The headmistress didn't even know what the faith of Torm was about. Interesting dynamic...

- Again little modification needed from the original. Party reached 2nd level. Using milestones, the escape from Parrot Island is the spot. On the side, Vanthus is cruel. Just in case the party escaped, he punched holes in their rowboat. More jerk behavior. A "mending" spell did the trick, but no one was amused. After all, they had rented the boat and wanted their deposit back.

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Drawing from what others have done and my own touch, laying out what seems to be working and not working as far as style and personal touches for future DMs. As we're just getting started (using 5E rules if it matters), a work in progress.

A Matter of Honor

- Largely running as-is, with a prologue that I call Session 0 to allow players to create a story to unify them without any dice rolling. Ours dealt with surviving the events of Kyuss that gave rise to the Wormfall festival. During that event, they saved Vanthus, who was a jerk making inappropriate comments about paying them with his sister since he thought they were "mercs."

- Lavinia, using the princess from Braveheart, thick French accent. Having her cover up her loss of wealth, a fancy dinner to start but then when the party visits next, Kora is making stew. It's so important to get the party to like her, to play her not as a damsel in distress but a person whose life has imploded as her parents have recently died, her brother struck her, and now she's head of a declining household. Played up her memories of Vanthus (a laugh describing the good old days of the elixir of love and then a somber description of him hitting her).

- Playing Kora as the matron (she knows one PC already), concerned about their weight and health. The sole servant / messenger / seneschal, she's also a great cook who likes to have some blueberry scones handy for her favorite visitors.

- Changed Soller Vark to being in the act of getting it on (we're all adults and things like this are a lot more interesting than monsters just waiting in a room to be killed) as the party navigated a boat rented from a jilted noble whose girlfriend never showed up. Since it was his stepdaddy's boat, he didn't care. Later, the party lamented they didn't keep his fishing poles on board to make it look more authentic as they snuck up on the Blue Nixie.

- Burning monkeys curling up into little balls as they died really, really got the party fired up and angry at the smugglers on the Blue Nixie.

- The vault below Teraknian Castle has a unique puzzle lock; DMs should carefully read it to understand the sequence. If your PCs are really having a difficult time, maybe allow them to hear a "click" if they've gotten a tumbler in sequence.

- Sasserine is such a troublesome setting. Love making it come alive, but 90% of the path takes place somewhere else. Wouldn't overplay the city.

- Factions (affiliations) didn't grab everyone's attention as I thought they might. Different strokes for different folks.

We will pick up after clearing the vault. The party talked Lavinia into taking her last chest of coin in case Vanthus (whom they suspect) comes back to clean her out. Party is invested in her cause, and since she's a big part of the story line, this is important.

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Expectations are high! Just kicked off the campaign and entered Lavinia's vault. Everyone's loving it, great story and great start.

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Same thoughts on the "letdown" from Farshore. Two straight dungeon crawls after all the excitement seems meh. Not sure what to do for a replacement or modification at this point, but have some time.

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I'm trying to find ways to make them loath Vanthus using pre-campaign roleplay. Perhaps they won't loath him until his actions become more apparent, but the setup is important. We begin this next Sunday.

As my group comes into shape, the 5th edition "backgrounds" become more useful. One player chose a background where he sees visions of a terrible calamity befalling the world. So appropriate...

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I love Mad God's Key; 2/4 of my gamers have already ran it. Whatever idea we end up with, it'll be pure roleplay to explain their notoriety and hopefully tie them to Vanthus and Lavinia in some way. Working on ideas, but since the players will be inventing the prologue, just need a loose frame.

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In two weeks we're beginning our foray into the Savage Tide adventure path, using 5E rules (though I'm more concerned about the story than the rule set). I'm big on prologues and feel the setup (you've done something to gain fame in town, so Lavinia seeks you out) is too generic for my purposes. I like to use pure roleplay for each campaign start (e.g. in Kingmaker, it was "you received a charter to scout the Stolen Lands, so how did it happen?" We started at a wedding 6 months prior and everyone invented why they were there until we had intervened in an politically motivated assassination attempt).

Has anyone worked something like this for ST?

Having read the whole thing and scoured the forums, I'm very aware having the party like Lavinia is probably key. Tips or special encounters to make this happen?

I've read, but obviously not played, that after the battle of Farshore, the quality of the adventures (routine dungeon crawls) wanes. True? If so, fixes? The story seems strong.

I'm always on the lookout for home-brewed handouts, enhancements, etc., if you have a recommended resource. I've taken a lot of inspiration from Vermilleo's campaign journal and google site, though unfortunately his group fell apart.

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Kagehiro wrote:
Pathfinder is great, but system fatigue begins weighing me down after a certain point. The wheels still seem to fall off at or just after 12th level, things are too overly codified for my tastes, I feel like there's too much emphasis on min/maxing to "play it the right way", etc.

This is why I'll be giving D&D another chance. I hoping, having taken a lesson from Paizo, that they'll listen to their gamers, and I'm intrigued by the fixes, which I hope to explore more of at GenCon. Rules bloat, the Christmas tree effect, and the insane amount of modifiers deter me in PF, and now that we're at high-level play, there isn't a session that goes by where someone gets lost in the numbers or an obscure rule gets quoted. It's taking away from a greater focus on Role-Play.

It appears the two systems won't be so incompatible that I can't continue to use the APs, which is where I feel PF shines.

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Can't argue, some of my picks mirror the rest. The first 3 will take you from levels 1-3, and all can stand alone if you want to keep going without playing more of the same.

* Sunless Citadel (minor conversions, Meepo is memorable, great dynamics for a dungeon with multiple factions in play)
* Whispering Cairn (minor conversions, designed to be lethal but very imaginative dungeon with one of the more well-developed starting towns)
* Stolen Land (1st Kingmaker adventure, license to conquer the savage frontier, explore and map the wilderness)

The last is a 1 shot adventure, 1st level.

* Mad God's Key (Dungeon Magazine #114, 3rd edition, minor conversion, great chase scene and storyline, detective work to find out who stole a key that can open any lock)

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Two issues:

1. How to make magic interesting. House rule (see suggestions forum) to incorporate "plus" items into leveling. The current Pathfinder system does not bode well for giving "plus" items a story. No matter how interesting you make that +2 sword's background, it's gone the minute a +3 weapon comes along. That +2 Belt of Strength was worn by the famous General Armageddon when he slew the Pit Fiend Malicious, thus saving the world from a demon war? That's great, but I'm pawning it off so I can buy a +4 Belt. Don't bother with a story, I'm moving to +6 as soon as I can.

2. The Magic Shoppe? An eternal question on these forums. Since the game is pretty much fashioned mechanically on the idea players will get "plus" items and be more likely to die if they don't, you can't restrict too much on those. Just have the players role-play their search for items, whether by barter, trade, or other ways. If you don't approve of what they want, don't let it into the campaign.

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I converted only the tomb itself in conjunction with the 3rd edition free conversion.

What I did:


* Kept it as close to 1st edition as possible
* Allowed players to use a "backup" character instead of their primary when entering with the understanding the "final loot" would go to the player regardless of whether a backup survived it or not
* Used 3.5 update for the pit traps and some other mechanical traps. For an optimized character, the pits pose no threat other than to prime them to overlook a certain pit...
* Used 3.5 for the gargoyle. It's supposed to punish a party that loads up on rogues; in retrospect I would've made it a construct.
* Changed the "dart" rooms to one that fired magic missiles instead, based on sight. Clever parties found a way around it.
* Kept many of the lethal traps that were discoverable by trial and error only. The big draw to this dungeon was players had to cleverly think their way through many things and not "roll" their way through. And sometimes, a wrong decision gets one killed.
* Provided an early hint from prior adventurers that they had found the means to destroy the ultimate evil and at great sacrifice had gotten the weapons there. Presumably, they failed. This is a hint as to the nature of the teleporters and gives a big hint to the finale battle.
* Added swords in the dungeon because not every party carries them for a certain lock.
* Kept the finale as a "trap" rather than a creature. Players expect a monster that fits the traditional mold, and the finale is more like a trap that requires some extremely special figuring out. I gave it a death attack with a DC 26 Fort save rather than no save but otherwise kept it the same. I modified that if it failed an attempt, it would try again next round. If it succeeded, it would rest as per the original. At 40+ damage (out of 50), I had it attempt every round.
* Added a 1-wish ring at the end for parties to have a chance at restoring lost characters. If this is a 1-shot, there's not much point in counting up the loot at the end.

What worked/didn't work:


- Still lethal, so the backups definitely worked
- With a skill monkey in the group, any trap that converted per 3.5 is a pushover, automatic find and disarm. This isn't a bad thing but the party enjoyed more the dynamic traps that they had to figure out.
- I know players sometimes read ahead or have heard about certain adventures. They were expecting a demi-lich, CR 14 creature. I gave them the original trap. I trust player creativity.
- Didn't use much of the 3.5 monsters/loot added from Libris Mortis. Seemed more like an advertisement for the supplement and detracted from the dungeon by adding needless multiple combats. Unless you've added a plot device, combat is largely pointless because players can rest as long as they need. The gargoyle served a purpose because it nicely sets up apprehension at the 2nd gargoyle.
- There's no way players figure out (legitimately) to use certain items to fight the finale unless you foreshadow it somewhere. If you're going demi-lich or something of the like, not a big deal.

Anyhow, my conclusion is you can run the original tomb much like the original with very little conversion needed, and I would discourage allowing everything to be solved with a die roll alone. But if you're staying close to the original, accept that whatever characters go in, several will die.

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As noted by Ryric, per the rules on energy drain and level loss, only "permanent negative levels remain after a dead creature is restored to life." If it were intended that temporary negative levels also remain, it would have been stated. The inclusion of the word "permanent" would be rendered meaningless if it meant all types of negative levels. (Plus it would be silly if a character would be killed off automatically with a raise dead).

The next question raised here is whether dying by level drain is considered a "death effect" so as to require a Resurrection instead. The Pathfinder FAQ states "Energy drain is not a death effect."

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With a 9th level cleric, you'd best be ready to explain why they don't use Commune to figure out whodunnit. I'd drop the cleric to 8th. Beyond that, augury and divination really aren't useful in a murder mystery to identify a wrongdoer. Plus, if the murder were uniquely arranged (a newly built holy statute of CG deity falls on LG victim, killing him), there may not be an obvious suspect other than examination reveals the statute was tampered with so that someone could easily push it. Other questions might be why the LG priest was in front of the statue in the first place.

Players could be commissioned as an independent investigative group, especially if they've achieved some degree of fame locally. In medieval settings the community usually decides who's guilty right away; you may want a suspect picked out as the "obvious choice." As a twist, players are used to this device (the first guy is always innocent), and you may shake things up by having him be guilty, just not how everything thinks. (e.g. He had an alibi but summoned something to do the dirty work for him using the cult's book that lies belowground in a set of tunnels that run below the town's river).

Consider also a short side adventure built in where a lead takes them to something unrelated to the murder, such as the strange tree that gives the town its namesake and a dryad that needs a favor, repayable with a spell or small gift, or a secret cache left over by the famed bandit king a century ago that was rumored buried in these parts. This keeps things realistic (not every action they take someone connects back to the murder).

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Think that sounds reasonable and with a player's character in limbo, I like to err on the player's side.

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Need help on a ruling. Would the Talisman of Ultimate Evil work on a Paladin who took the archetype "warrior of the holy light" which sacrifices spellcasting for enhanced uses of lay on hands? For reference the Talisman instantly kills a "good divine spellcaster." The user saw his holy symbol and made an educated guess.

I've made a preliminary ruling of "yes" because the Paladin still has other divine spellcasting abilities such as detect evil and divine bond. However, the archetype notes the paladin has no caster levels, gains no spellcasting abilities, and cannot use spell-trigger items. Note that I've already checked and Paladin is listed as a "spellcasting" class.

Thoughts? Given there's a PC on the line, insight appreciated.

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Can a player "drag" (let's say with a lasso) someone in an Antilife Shell so as to force its collapse by pulling them within 10', or will the shell prevent any further "dragging" under the premise the caster is not the one being aggressive in forcing the barrier?

Also, I saw an inconclusive post on Antilife shell and people teleporting into it. The consensus seemed to be that since it's an "emanation" teleportation would not work as intended; the emanation effect would serve to push the offender outside the shell. Any additional insight?

Antilife Shell
Area 10-ft.-radius emanation, centered on you

You bring into being a mobile, hemispherical energy field that prevents the entrance of most types of living creatures.

The effect hedges out animals, aberrations, dragons, fey, giants, humanoids, magical beasts, monstrous humanoids, oozes, plants, and vermin, but not constructs, elementals, outsiders, or undead.

This spell may be used only defensively, not aggressively. Forcing an abjuration barrier against creatures that the spell keeps at bay collapses the barrier.

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Check the forums for house rules as the RAW for Kingmaker create a loophole for insane wealth acquisition through selling of magic items. Otherwise, I wouldn't "scheme" your players with money sinks or try to alter the costs of armies (which are expensive, but generally disbanded quickly).

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Max out Spellcraft
Improved Counterspell
Parry Spell

The Advanced Player's Guide has rules for a subset of the Abjuration School called "Counterspell." The ability is iffy (because it's touch), but you can, by melee touch, put a disruptive field around the caster. The 6th level feature gives you Improved Counterspell and ability to use it as an immediate action once a day.

While others may say it's better to go on offense than defense, your caster can shine when it comes time to take down a caster and do whatever it is casters do when not facing other spell slingers.

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It all goes back to the power fueling a summons. If you feel it's a form of involuntary servitude, that the beings summoned are "forced" to fight for your amusement, then it doesn't really matter what alignment you summon - you're causing possible pain and suffering to benefit your own desires. This creates the premise that Summons are inherently selfish and mired in evil intent.

But since summons are not described as such, it's more likely again as suggested (in role-playing terms, not game mechanics and not a rule-as-written since not every rule needs a written description), that the Summons is a preset agreement. Alignment exists because D&D and Pathfinder are based around simple concepts of hero vs. villain rather than the real-world notion of everything is grey. Summon enough evil and you're infusing yourself with evil. Remember, the game is meant to take place in a fantasy world, not a reflection of modern mores and morality. As such, those who summon good creatures are likely furthering an agenda that favors good-aligned agendas (which perhaps occur on some Outer Plane over a period of centuries) rather than an evil-aligned agenda (which might involve as described strengthening evil combatants or any number of agendas for the Blood War or something more nefarious).

Just because the caster cannot comprehend (in role-playing terms) does not mean there isn't a consequence.

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It's a form of planar travel that functions like the spells (dimension door) described. In spirit of the spell as well as letter of the spell, I'd rule it blocks since it is a form of planar travel. Note that "supernatural" abilities by definition are still "magical." Although they cannot be "countered" by traditional means, they are still subject to being suppressed or negated by other spells (the example given is anti-magic field, but Forbiddance is a prime example as well).

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Landon puts it well; if it's an issue your game world can account for it in a variety of ways. I prefer the notion that a Summons involves an agreement between the mortal and an outer planar power wherein both gain something. The summoned creature can never be permanently destroyed (part of the agreement) and obviously gains something for its temporary service. It's up to your imagination what this may be, and the magic may be so old that no one alive remembers what that deal is.

As for morality, if there's an agreement, then the matter is moot other than whether a caster is making deals with the Abyss or Celestials. In fantasy literature, there's never a good reason to summon a demon to the mortal realms, even if you're absolutely sure it's "safe." There's always a price to pay, and if not today, another day. Perhaps the premise for a campaign idea...?

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For Kingmaker, invest into the storyline and setting, regardless of the mechanical benefits. It's fey-rich, wilderness heavy, and depending on your GM, possibly intrigue laced. Something rugged yet capable of handling politics for (as you can guess by the name) when players begin to build their own kingdom in these wild lands.

Down on your luck, denied by so-called "legitimate" schools of magic, your character knows he's got potential, and if proving himself in the Stolen Lands is the only way anyone will notice, so be it. His [insert spell type, like fireballs] will get everyone's attention.

Having GM'd the campaign, besides the random encounters the fights aren't generally killer, so you have a lot of freedom to play something intriguing rather than a combat machine.

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Done is done. I'll rant first about good players assassinating with poison, then finish by congratulating your players on creativity.

Shakespeare set the tone for the contemporary view on poison: a dishonorable tool allowing those with lesser strength, wits, and political power to prevail, thus serving as a tool against order and hierarchy. Contrast this with combat, believed to be righteous because divine providence was afforded an opportunity to intervene (whether it did or not is another question...)

Poison strips men of defenses normally guaranteed them by strength or skill. We see this with Hamlet. His superior skill with a sword allowed him to hit Laertes mutliple times, but then Hamlet is hit with an otherwise non-fatal wound that carries poison. A foe with poison needs no skill, no courage, no wits, to slay someone of greater skill and status. A servant can kill a king.

Assassination means the players have taken it upon themselves to be judge, jury, and executioner, without consideration of the citizens or what they want (or who they want to rule them...may be odd but a corrupt ruler may protect them from far greater harm).

With that rant out of the way, your players may not have been role-playing alignments as I might see it done, but they engaged in some creativity that you properly let play out. Chances are they'll be talking about that one for awhile, and why not. So, I'd chalk it up as a good day for everyone and a good game overall.

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If your campaign is just getting started, recommend starting the players off being captured. Players hate being captured and even more so if it appears the whole ordeal was simply a GM plot device. Some players will mutiny, suggesting that if the GM wants a story to go exactly his way, then why are players rolling the dice?

So start them being captured rather than a farce of pretending like they had a chance at not being taken captive.

Next question is why this powerful wizard is wasting his time with a bunch of 1st level nobody adventurers. It takes a lot of effort to kidnap. So maybe it's an experiment. Maybe this caster is developing a new breed of spell, an arcane version of Imbue with Spell Ability and a viral form of Charm Person with a longer duration. He charms a target with a long-lasting charm, imbues the target with the ability to charm person, and (unique to this villain only), the villain lures more minions in. But, he needs minions who can cast offensively to protect, so he imbues some with a magic missile or a burning hands, etc. Have the longer duration of the charm be ensorcelled in the form of a magical tattoo. The villain might also like to use children because civilized foes are less likely to suspect them.

So, the players could be aware people in town were being "kidnapped" and had set out to investigate. Maybe their memories are vague (the caster was trying out memory-related spells and they weren't working as well), something about a magical attack at night.

Until they can be charmed, they remain prisoners, or perhaps they are meant to be combat test-dummies for the charmed minions.

When the party escapes, and presuming they kill the mayor's son, the town can announce the mayor's son had set out days before them to find the kidnapper. The magical tattoo was not on him before he left. The mayor accuses them of murdering his son. The magistrate agrees it doesn't make sense the party would announce their crime, but he's bound by the mayor's words. Maybe he arranges for them to surrender weapons but be allowed to investigate any leads. At this point, you can have a mystery on your hands. Although a local base has been cleared, the villain isn't done yet and probably has agents in town.

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I borrowed a version of 4E's "ritual" for raising the dead to give lower-level characters a shot at coming back (500gp per hit die if you can find a cleric capable of casting Raise Dead and 8 hours).

Beyond that, if I mix and match too much, I may forget my own system! But so long as you give your players a "cheat sheet" for creating characters with house rules, you'll generally be fine. Just be careful adding too much; much of the appeal of the BB is that it strips away a ton of rules.

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Horror in RPGs, aka "how to creep out players who are lounging back in chairs with some Cheetos and a soda in hand." Horror builds up, it reverses our sense of normalcy and shocks us with the revelation. Horror symbolizes a loss of control over not only the abnormal environment but our own sanity. But again, how can you make a player with a d20 in hand feel it? Besides what's been stated:

1. Don't make it about fighting monsters. You can't make a "scary" monster because players know you roll a d20, you kill it or it hits you. Have your monsters be threatening in an insidious way (like Spawn of Kyuss, zombies whose bodies crawl with worms that leap from it to try and burrow through flesh of nearby creatures). Definitely tweak your foes.

2. A horror mechanic? Ravenloft pushed "checks" upon characters who saw something horrific (maybe a will save or some similar mechanic), each "horror" or "sanity" point gained pushed the character closer to irrevocable madness. You may not scare players munching on chips, but you can create a mechanic to literally freak out the characters. Unlike other conditions, these points don't go away, and a player whose mind breaks won't be the first who has seen too much...

3. Horror is about not knowing. One of the best AD&D horror modules began with players fighting a vampire in a crypt. No explanation as to why, and the battle was pitted so they were losing....then they awoke in an Inn, having no memory of how they got there but finding out they were committed to the local asylum for a brief time and had just been released with some unknown party paying their board bill...

Maybe the circus has a freak show, a wall of heads that talk, a dog-headed man, etc., and the circus replenishes its freak show by taking a select few candidates from the local towns....or on the flipside, the circus's performances are an ancient ritual that keep a dark evil locked away. Efforts are made to sabotage the shows by the local cult which seeks to stop the circus and has convinced the town that the circus is behind many evils (that the party is hired to investigate and stop). Suspicious of any but their own, the circus will not share their reasons until they begin dying off...

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Your character is not unique because of its race, class, abilities, or mechanical scores. Why? Because anyone else can duplicate. Rather, your character is unique based on the storyline you create for it. Avoid clichés like "my family is all dead murdered by [insert race] and he has a lust for revenge" or "my barbarian speaks in the 3rd person and likes to bash everything." Add some flavor.

Torg of the Hawk Clan is embarrassed that he cannot read as well as his friends and he cannot seem to grasp Dragonchess when everyone else knows the moves. While he pushes himself to excel in honor of his deity in physical arts, there is a part of him that admires the shamans of his tribe, normally regarded as the weakest. As a result, Torg is hesitant and reserved around those who remind him of his tribe's shamans. As a GM storyline (for sandbox campaigns), Torg may unknowingly have a sibling who became a shaman as they are culled from the weak children and not permitted to be part of a family.

If you're in Pathfinder Society and/or playing a one-time session with strangers, don't bother. Few, if any, are going to remember (or care about) your cool background or how you tricked out the rules to do 4d4+12 damage at 3rd level with each attack. But if you are in a campaign that may last, memorable characters have always been the ones who contribute to a good story.

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Make the orcs into a swarm.

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Pack mules. Porters. They served a purpose once, and for those who track encumbrance, they will rise again and have relevance.

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