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As others have posted for engaging and unified story CoCT remains the best of the APs. I'd add JR and WoTR as other contenders but from your original post I think you and your group would be most happy with CoCT unless your players really want to be pirates, go to the orient etc. Player interest is a always a good place to start.
A few tips, I ran this AP a few years back with the same size group:
1. Max HP for significant villains.
2. Add significant henchmen (-1 to -3 CR of solo boss) to boss encounters or add minions/hazards.
3. Slow the XP progression by 1 level. Its not a big change but will make for less work in adjusting encounters.
If you're running PF remember CoCT is 3.5 which means the villains are generally 1 to 2 CR lower than provided for.
I ran WoW and I think the group enjoyed it mostly. I did try to tie the events of the adventure a bit closer to the Way's grander plot.
My general idea was that the mi-go (I replaced them with mind flayers) were brought in to develop essentially a biological weapon to be used against the Ustalav populace. Adivion hoping this would ensure that the Way's plans were left alone while the powers that be fight this infestation.
Illmarsh is essentially a testing ground for this weapon. However, in my interpretation the illithid themselves not realizing the true power of Shub-Niggurath become infected and thus minions to Shub-Niggurath.
It still felt a bit of a side trek but tying the events to the machinations of the WW (at this point to in my campaign they knew who Adivion was) definitely helped.
Also have a large group for JR (started with 8 players, now 6 with one person occasionally guesting as Ameiko). We are at book 5 after nearly 2 years of playing.
I highly recommend attempting to fold some of the NPC roles with players especially Ameiko. I dropped Shalelu as someone essentially took her role and a regular player was doing Ameiko but now due to other commitments joins here and there.
I've done some pretty similar things as you have:
1. Essentially doubing the monsters (a lot of monsters have brothers or sisters it seems!)
2. Regular monsters I'll often take their max hp and multiply by 1.5. Bosses I've even tripled.
3. For ease of play I generally will provide the monsters ACs, encourage rolling in advance, be pretty particular about keeping turns flowing quickly.
4. I will use automated dice rollers for complicated monsters/opponents and roll in advance so I'm not rolling 8 attacks and managing the action at the table. I generally put in their full attack repeat it 8 times and cycle through it as necessary.
5. For dungeons double sizes so 5' squares are 10'. It gets frustrating and boring if players can't get involved or monsters can't attack more than one guy.
6. Pretty well all what Dustin said as well.
7. Also, as with most APs be up front with the players about the premise of the AP, encourage them to build characters that would want to help Ameiko, explore the orient etc. With a large group it will be harder to go off script and it still be fun.
We've had a lot of fun with a good mix of rp and combat. Its a fun AP but with larger groups be prepared to do a bit more tweaking and prep work to make it run on all cylinders.
Re the map folio, I got a lot of use out the Ustalav poster map and the city maps but I also am a sucker for props.
Rule of Fear is somewhat useful in providing further background on the country and regions but in truth I didn't make great use of it but if you're expanding the campaign as written it should provide some good fodder.
I would note that Carrion Hill while a good adventure on its own when grouped with six other horror adventures might make the AP a bit much. My group is a session or two from wrapping up the campaign but I think there is definitely a feeling of looking forward to something that is not horror-themed.
also what Lord Snow said, I would add mythic is broadly considered a failure (or at least a failure from tier 3 onwards). Check out the wrath of the righteous threads there's lots of information there. If you're looking for mythic feeling I do think the best solution is to be generous in the use and allotment of hero points as this can capture that heroic feeling without too much work or ramifications.
Yeah Auren using the components he's gathered thus far to ascend to lichdom would make sense.
Re Feldgrau, when I ran it I expanded Feldgrau into an entire ruined city haunted by the spirits of the war's victims rather than just a small town. The party had to crosses trenches to get into the city where there were all manner of wwI inspired undead. I made the operation feel much bigger with more WW cultists raising undead so that the party needed to use stealth and recon to locate Vrood. Auren's main base was a cathedral and I added some daemons he had pressed into service for some added fun. As written Vrood is a pretty challenging foe so I didn't do much to ramp him up just added minions to the showdown.
Things that I've found mostly GMing over twenty years in no particular order:
1. Soundtracks - music can be a great tool not only for combat but to help build scenes (e.g. royal feast, holy temple etc.)
2. Handouts/props - rather than describe a map they find or some document from the ambassador provide it to the group.
2. I certainly use voices and posture, gesture, using/miming small props (e.g. a cigar chomping half orc merc) quite a bit for NPCs of note. My groups seem to enjoy it but I am also mindful of not going that route for every single NPC and still mostly focusing on what the players want out of the interaction rather than just me taking up all the time being a bit silly.
3. Narrative, description - avoid detailing combats as you take 30 hp or deal 10 damage. Embellish with some narrative touches (e.g. you deliver a reeling blow to the ogre, the thief's scimiatar cuts deeply into your flank for 10 hp)
4. Depends on your group but any campaign really depends on motivating the PCs and giving them something to care about (e.g. their hometown, building a pirate fleet). If the players are just grinding their way through a dungeon with no real reason to save for gaining XP any drama is likely to fall flat because there are no stakes.
I'm sure there's others but have to get going.
I'm a session or two from finishing running CC. It is one of the better APs out there though not without its flaws. The pluses gothic horror atmosphere, lots of role playing opportunities (save for the last book which turns quickly as written into a grind), loads of support material both published and on the boards. Recommended but will need work in adapting/tweaking to get the most mileage out of it.
I've used roll20 a while back and thought it was pretty good but I haven't used it as I moved and now have gaming groups to meet in person.
I've been running JR for 2 years now we just started book 5 its a lot of fun I think you're group will have a blast. Re introduction if I recall I had my group bringing a caravan in with Sandhru when they ended up being attacked by a horde of skeletons dressed in Minkai armour that emerged from the swamp chasing Scribbles the goblin who had a Minkai lantern. Its been awhile but I recall inserting that as a hook and way to meet Scribbles (who was a favourite NPC).
Pretty well what Neirikr said, you may also suggest some connections that come up in later adventures; Varisians, Shoanti, ties to the Cerulean Society or Old Korvosa, and for upper class characters the local nobility. My players included a Varisian bard with ties to the community in Korvosa, a town watch copper, a Shoanti and relative of Thousand Bones, and a noble character whose house ended up hosting the zombie party in book 2. These players had a blast throughout the campaign whereas one of the players who played an elf with no connections to the city (despite ongoing suggestions) while I think he had fun he was obviously not as invested as he could be. I had a great group for this campaign and was able to really weave the character's background and goals into the fabric of the AP. This I think is also one of the reasons this AP continues to be held up as Paizo's best. Good luck with the campaign!
Since you have JR up there, I'd recommend it as well. I've been running it for nearly two years we 're on book 5 and its been very good overall. The fixes are easy to make (see the boards here) and require minimal effort. This has definitely been one of the easier APs to run as is. The only thing of course is to gauge your groups interest in the premise of the AP and the asian setting.
I've been running JR for a group of 8 players (1 being a more occasional guest star as Ameiko). We're on book 5, been running it now for nearly two years. The campaign is a lot of fun and mostly as written it is good to go.
A few recommendations:
1. Kick the caravan and romance rule systems to the curb. These add nothing but pointless mechanics that could be done with some rping and a little GM interpretation (i.e. how much money the caravan makes in Kalsgard) and from others on the board here this seems to be the consensus.
2. Even with a large group of PCs the caravan community is important. Encourage players to build those lins b/w them and the NPCs. Also, suggest that players take on those characters (as starting lvl 1 characters). Having a player as Ameiko adds alot to the game. I did remove Shalelu entirely so as to focus on Sandhru, Koya and Ameiko. The caravan really acts as a town that the party returns to throughout. It is a great feature with lots of RP potential.
3. Re caravan combat, my method to run raids and such were to simply focus on one aspect of the battlefield and narrate that the NPCs were also fighting valiantly and essentially their performance mirrored the party's results (i.e. getting beaten up good or stomping on the raiders)
4. In terms of the supporting cast I did have them aid the PCs here and there rotating them when the party went on a mission.
Another recommendation for Harrowstone, as a solid halloween dungeon crawl.
Other books from Carrion Crown could work very well as a stand alone:
-Trial of the Beast
Hangman's Noose (Paizo 3.5)
Skinsaw murders (Book 2 in RotRL) provides some great halloween material.
And of course another recommendation for the original Ravenloft (or the 2e House of Strahd remake). Avoid expedition to Castle Ravenloft.
My group is starting book 5 in JR. I highly recommend it. Re the subsystems such as caravan and romance just jettison it, it was completely unnecessary and adds nothing to the game that couldn't be done with rp or a little narration by the dm.
Since you mentioned CoCT and from your post sounds like you're at Escape from Old Korvosa.
-Depending on how your party has acted in previous adventures the villain may have a good sense of the PCs strengths and weaknesses. Meaning a few encounters with the Red Mantis that know what they're up against allow you to tailor a few 'mean' encounters.
-The Emperor is pretty easy to deal with though the Rod of Wonder can make for a memorable encounter. the gnome barbarian I remember can be pretty deadly if the dice are hot.
-The rakshasas on the other hand need bump up. Max HP is a must. Defensive buffs like Displacement and Stoneskin are handy. Again the raks should have a home field advantage and some of their minions are pretty deadly (the flying fungal skeletons in the pit I remember being nasty).
-As a 3.5 adventure everything needs to be bumped up a bit for Pathfinder characters which have more resources/power. A good rule of thumb might be to add to 2HD to opponents and up the CR of encounters principally by adding monsters. A lot of beasties in my campaigns have siblings as a result.
-Re the druid with ice storm prepared twice. Assuming the player didn't just pull a fast one, wouldn't worry about it. It happens especially with spell casters and the player should get some measure of satisfaction of having the right spell for the job.
hi olivier, thanks for the response and reasoning. I mentioned it actually as it was really the only thing from reading over the players manual that arched an eyebrow. I understood some intent and especially as you mentioned M&M being a faux retro RPG it even makes more sense. Still certainly for my group I would ditch those restrictions. I'll have to check out the Companion. I have to say I was quite impressed with M&M and think it'll be a lot of fun.
Hi all so I'm wrapping up a Carrion Crown and JR campaigns and looking to take a break from PF. One of the ideas thats picked up some traction from the group as a next campaign is a Greek style campaign. Basic idea is the PCs are establishing a colony in Thrace. Magic, monsters and all that good stuff. I have been looking at M&M as a potential system rather than PF but was wondering what were people's actual experiences at the table running this system. There are a few odd things that I'm not sure about such as gender restrictions for the classes (even though I can understand the authors intent they strike me as off-putting to players). So wondering if anyone had any thoughts about actual play using M&M?
Did a search on this thread and didn't see anything so thought I'd post a question here re Black Well, a rather fun spell I'm hoping to hit my players with next session.
So as the spell is cast, the caster can move opponents towards the well up to their CL in squares. If someone is pulled into the square with the well they're hit by the hold person effect (assuming they fail their Fort save) and it appears that characters are held next to the well but still capable of movement on their turn. Are they pulled back or do they lose movement? I'm a bit unclear on how the spell works after the first round it's cast.
One thing after looking over the Advanced Class Guide that I'm seriously considering doing in my campaign is replacing the rogue's sneak attack ability and replacing it with the precise strike from the swashbuckler (without the requirement of panache points). I found in my campaigns the rogue is fine for the most part (in that the players seem to enjoy their character) its just often they aren't able to use the sneak attack ability due to the circumstantial nature of it. The only other thing is making rogues qualify for Combat Expertise without the Int 13 requisite.
So curious what others think on swapping out sneak attack with precise strike?
Yep I'd agree with Alzrius, the character being from Lamordia makes perfect sense. If you can give the player the Lamordia gazeetteer to read so he can pick up on the Lamordian persepective (basically a very materialist and condescending attitude toward magic and well all of the other countries in the Lands of the Core). Players while free to come up with the concept of their character should also strive to use material from the setting as a basis and an arrogant Lamordian fits this very well.
On the other issue about being a jerk to gracious hosts well the player is making choices and consequences result (it doesn't mean to go out and punish the player but sounds like he may very well get the cold shoulder from a lot of society)
I'd recommend JR we are starting book 5 (almost), its been great and a lot of fun rping, combats and story. The journey across the world can be great, I would check the threads here for some common fixes (i.e. shortening book 3, avoiding the dungeon in book 4, throw out the caravan and romance sub systems and consider trimming a character or two from the supporting cast).
Book four in JR is one example. The hunting lodge in Book three of CC is another good one (it covers the setting of the lodge, the host of characters visiting complete with brief backstory, personality and secrets (including a memorable red herring at least for my group). It also contained some other information re clues that would help their investigation. Lastly, there were a few trigger events included that provided some response to the party's actions as they snooped about.
1. I do agree with you re the gothic horror themes though that is more of an aspect of being a pathfinder game. The REH Solomon Kane stories or the old universal monster movies are probably a better analog - pulpy gothic horror.
2. The lead to help the beast should be grounded in the notion that the museum was broken into and a relic stolen. The adventure as written doesn't necessarily tell the GM to play up the possibility of the Way's involvement which I think is where your disconnect comes from (and truthfully this is an issue for the next two adventures). What got my players interested in this was I gave enough hooks to make them believe that the Way was behind the robbery and that either the beast (or his creator) was in league with the way or a patsy but either way investigating the crime would lead them to the Way.
I do think a sandbox AP similar to Kingmaker but centred around court intrigue, espionage and diplomacy would be a good framework to punch up the RP but still leave the field open for groups that want to get their hands dirty (though they might have to put some thought into how to cover their tracks).
Absalom, Brevoy and Taldor or Cheliax come to mind as potential settings.
Though I'd be happy with a module along these lines as well (especially given the new format).
I'm running this and on the last book so here's my take:
1) GM Ease of Play - The books, encounters, and maps require little change. I had to beef things up due to a larger party but as written I'd say 8/10
2) Story - 5/10 - The connection b/w modules is thin in most places and necessitate GMs to make changes. The msg boards here provide a trove of material for this. The individual modules often had quite strong stories especially the first three. It is vital that the GM weave in a way to make
Adivion a strong presence throughout much of the AP.
3) RP - 8/10 Strong RP possibilities in this AP that my group responded to. This has been one of the more enjoyable APs for that. Wake of the Watcher and the last book are the notable exceptions as they devolve into grinding crawls (WoW starts with a lot of promise, eerieness but after the party does some preliminary investigation they essentially are charged with exterminating the town)
4) Combats - Due to my party's size I modded a lot of encounters. I would give the combats 6/10 as I suspect I would change things even if i had the party of 4.
5) Fun - 9/10 I would strongly recommend this AP (with the caveat re the story issues)
I would like to see more RP-oriented content in the APs as well. As Wraithstrike mentioned CC I thought by way of example I would point to Trial of the Beast and Broken Moon (the hunting lodge part) as good examples of RP oriented content that Paizo has done. Hangman's Noose and Gallery of Evil are other examples that come to mind.
As written there is plenty opportunity to RP in most of the APs, modules I've come across (for instance I was quite surprised that Shattered Star had quite a bit) but I would like to see if Paizo tried to up this area a bit more rather than rely on some grinding dungeon to pad out the content (Forest of Spirits in JR being a good example of that).
I would add that while content like this I think would be good to see more of it still really is up to the GM/group to infuse the RP.
Different strokes... Though it sounds like your experience with Masks might be a GM issue. Its been a long time but I only have good memories of the campaign. I certainly remember plenty of danger and adventure (though as with any CoC campaign the investigator body count can get pretty high).
Anyways Masks is one example. Chaosium has a good track record of strong pre-written adventures. Trail of Cthulhu has some excellent tools to gear the campaign to a less deadly and more pulp adventure style.
Truthfully, think you're better to go with CoC or Trail of Cthulhu (for something more pulpy) and take a look at some of their campaigns. CC is great (I'm running it and we're on the last book) but Chaosium has excellent modules and campaigns that make great use of the 20s setting. Masks of Nyarlathotep is a great globe-trotting campaign and I've heard good experiences with Horror on the Orient Express. Also the Unspeakable Oath is a great magazine (especially the older issues from the 90s).
Vanthus Vanderboren, he didn't have a whole lot of screen time, but the party hated him from the second adventure onwards (especially when they picked up the whole predatorial vibe towards his sister). The battle for Farshore was a great set piece as was the abyssal prison (for the second showdown). Another truly great bastard players love to hate.
My group is on the last book of the campaign. One player started with a sorcerer but seemed sort of glad that his character got offed as he began to find it a bit boring (lots of scorching rays). I would recommend a wizard (as mentioned something other than an enchanter). As for the necromancer suggestion I would talk to the GM about it. It could work but could also be an issue with the party (I mean the campaign is really about fighting the undead). A transmuter could be an interesting addition.
Magus and alchemist might be another possibility.
Ileosa was a fun villain and memorably evil, twisted. Also, the Gray Maidens and the plague doctors were another memorable group. Oh and how can I forget Laori (though sort of an ally)
Can't remember his name but the boss of Brinewall was a kooky character
If you mine the stuff here on the boards Adivion is another great villain for a campaign. Auren Vrood is another if used.
It depends on the AP and the group. From the APs I've ran a quick overview:
1. CoCT - nothing signficant save cosmetic changes for History of the Ashes re the setting (made the Shoanti homeland more Mongolia in winter with volcanoes)
2. Carrion Crown - wove alot more plot points to make Petros more of a presence throughout the campaign. Also books 5 and 6 went through a lot of changes mostly taking cues from what interested the players.
3. Savage Tide - again mostly unchanged save the last three adventures were greatly condensed, I think we left off around 15th level.
Leave some clues like spell components, arcane tomes that indicate Ileosa had created simulacrums. A NPC they rescue from the castle having seen two Ileosas at the same time, the ghost in the dungeon etc.
And truthfully I'm sure the players will deduce it on their own once they take her down quite easily and the fact that they're still playing.
I find all the aps combats need to be thinned to avoid grind and my groups while they enjoy rping are still pretty combat oriented. A lot of excess combats are there purely for the xp to fit the rules so if you're handwaving xp this becomes easier. Also just attempt to insert rp alternatives to the combats with hints or clues to the players that maybe they can bribe their way out of this or somehow trick their opponent as opposed to throwing down. I've found JR to be a good rp with lots of built in rping opportunities and an easy AP to thin the combats. Though if you're interested in JR I'd recommend replacing Forest of Spirits with the Ruby Phoenix Tournament
While there are far better systems for playing in the horror genre I wouldn't rule out PF. PF can do something like Solomon Kane fairly well from low to 8ish level.
I'm nearly done running CC as we're starting the last book, its been fun had some genuine moments of suspense and horror but PF is not Call of Cthulhu or Kult.
Savage Worlds is another system to look at for horror on the pulpy side.
Sounds a lot like the GM is trying to make the adventure a bit more dramatic and the conflict personal. Not necessarily a bad thing, even if it does take some rule bending/breaking, but the way it was done here seems clumsy and heavy-handed. The GM essentially forced the desired resolution without any opportunity to derail the NPCs plans. On top of that, seems to have gimped your character permanently. Chasing down the scylla thief and getting revenge on her could be fun for the group but having your character be useless until that point equals no fun for you. Talk to the GM he obviously has some plan for the scylla which could be good and it sounds like you enjoy the group so roll with it but yeah your character needs a way back in the fight (i.e. restore your character's abilities). Give the GM some constructive criticism suggesting this was heavy handed and hopefully they'll avoid it in the future but give the GM some slack it sounds like he was trying to up the drama in the story and Shattered Star could use it.
I'm running this AP and we're just about finished up Forest of Spirits. The caravan and the romance systems are both unnecessary and as written compeletly fall flat on their face anyways.
I'm pretty sure players have been protecting caravans and interacting with NPCs before these rules were created. So toss these rules and you know do some role-playing. Your players will be travelling with these people to the other side of the world so they'll have plenty of time to get to know them better.
Its been a good AP so far but I certainly have no regrets not using these and I have a hard time imagining any group actually enjoying these mechanics.
I find when running PF while I do some stuff off the cuff and leave multiple choices open to the players I am less comfortable winging it than I am with a more rules-lite system (Savage Worlds, CoC etc).
However a good DM should provide a platform for the players (e.g. setting, genre, general premise) and good players respond to that platform. Improv, group storytelling is a two way street. In PF I generally run APs that are considerably tweaked as we go along responding to player goals/interests but I still have something to fall back on to keep the ball rolling and the group hopefully interested.
To add my two coppers re the batch of NPCs in the first volume of WoTR. I can't speak for the author, but my clear feeling from this and the second volume that these recurring NPCs were there for the players to recruit as friends and to guide them, finesse them into a working unit. The AP is pretty much a military campaign and this is the first example where the PCs effectively have people working under their command (though they have to try to earn the respect of this rag-tag group or manage their often clashing personalities).
So I feel the notion that these are GMPCs is not only erraneous but very much the opposite of their intended role. These people are there to be the first followers of the party and give them the players an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership and guide by example.
That said, in the hands of some GMs that could morph into what the OP has described. So I think this specific example is more of a matter for that individual GM. I still don't see any sort of "GMPC" trend in Paizo's Aps. There's no Elminster running around, that's for sure.