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568 posts. Alias of B_Wiklund.


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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).

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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.
While I ended up going through that material relatively quickly depending on the group that easily could have provided 2 sessions worth of material.

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Re Umbranus:

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.

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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.

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Domains could be associated with saints of that religion thus providing some rationale (e.g. Saint McGee famous for his ocean faring pilgrimages)

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).

Savage Tide

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)

Jade Regent:

Can't remember his name but the boss of Brinewall was a kooky character

Carrion Crown

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.

I resubbed for this AP but wish I hadn't. As others have said the mythic rules were overpowered and unnecessary clunk in a very clunky system. I know that others like the mythic rules but I hope that they see little or no use and certainly if another mythic ap came along I would sit that one out.

Having run Savage Tide, CoCT, 5/6th of CC and 4/6th of JR I've found the level to be just right overall. My groups have all been a blend of new players-experienced. There will likely be some PC deaths (CC in particular) especially if you're not using hero points.

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.

also especially if your running an ap, its often simpler to hand wave xp points and just tell the players at appropriate points to level up. The advancement notes in the intro to the adventure are helpful guides.

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.

Just finished Bernard Cornwell's The Pagan Lord, and started on We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson.

I'd avoid WoTR unless you and your group are inclined to dive into working with the mythic rules or your willing to put in extra work as a DM to not use the mythic rules.

I'd second Jade Regent (and the advice of ditching the caravan subsystem) we're 2/3 through and its been a lot of fun and would connect nicely if you've been playing RoTRL.

Carrion Crown is another one I'd recommend. Each adventure is fairly episodic the only work really is to flesh out some story connections which the boards here are a trove of adivce to do.

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I don't really see what you're getting re the proliferation of supposed DMPCs. Many of the APs have an ongoing supporting cast which is a good thing in my mind. The only case I can think of is perhaps Ameiko in JR. Really its up to the DM and the group how they use friendly NPCs. Sometimes they're just like Q; you get some fancy gear from them, others provide some intelligence and if the group is inclined maybe some extra muscle.
I'm running JR and I often use the caravan NPCs in the first few books as one would volunteer to go with the "away team" but I think its pretty clear the campaign is about the PCs. Granted my group helps that Ameiko is one of the group's PCs. So while I haven't read RoW I did sub for WoTR and did notice again a 'supporting cast' that by certain DMs could be twisted into a gallery of DMPCs but I don't think Paizo presents that as a default assumption.

Yep pretty well resubbing for this now.

The problem does very much seem to be not necessarily fudging but the GMs reliance on this and curious whether other players at the table are finding the same thing with their spells or abilities? As with most issues best thing is to talk to your DM about it in a friendly manner. Maybe the DM has done some fudging but hasn't thought about how often he's been doing it and a bit of feedback to the DM should be appreciated.

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I didn't see anyone else post this in the thread so thought I'd provide a link to an excellent article from Steve Winters.

Saying no

Banning or saying no to certain propositions can be just as important as saying yes to a player's suggestion. Balancing those can be tricky though and as other posters have pointed out its important for a DM who is banning or limiting options to explain why upfront and then also listen and heed the players inputs or take on those ground rules.

For the record, I now do just simply ban the summoner class and while I'm fine with gunslingers they'll never come across advanced firearms.

Just thought I'd throw in another vote for CoCT, probably the best campaign I've had the pleasure to run and if you have a group that enjoys rp it provides some very fertile ground.

Seugathi are also a good stand in for Mind flayers.

I haven't ran it but as a regular DM I read through and was impressed with the Dragon's Demand as a good starting adventure.

Ran and finished Savage Tide (albeit with some condensing of the last abyssal adventures)

Ran and finished CoCT

Over halfway through running CC and JR hope to finish this fall.

Werebat wrote:
Wyrd_Wik wrote:

Gunslinger isn't really an issue. He isn't doing the type of damage the barbarian is reliably and remember the touch attack only applies in the first range increment (20').

If the gunslinger IYC isn't using Distance weapons, then I suspect he isn't even remotely optimized.

Quite possibly while I know the class I can't necessarily say I know all the tricks to optimize it and the player isn't inclined to powergame. I wasn't aware of the distance magical property until I just looked up at the pfsrd. That certainly is a game changer for the gunslinger.

Been running this for awhile, just started Ashes at Dawn.

-Unless you're wanting to do signficant tweaks to the campaign I wouldn't recommend E8.

-I've been running the campaign with allowing any paizo published material though banning the synthesist and master summoner archetypes.

-The party includes an alchemist and gunslinger (pistolero) along with cleric, barbarian, bard and Inquisitor.

-Gunslinger isn't really an issue. He isn't doing the type of damage the barbarian is reliably and remember the touch attack only applies in the first range increment (20'). He often gets pulled into melee as a result (wake of the watcher has lots of tentacles!). I don't feel the gunslinger is anymore of a concern. The class does fit well into this campaign I would add.

Also this thread should be moved to the Carrion Crown forum.

Sledge Hammer wrote:

It's no coincidence that synth summoners are banned in PFS. totally broken.

Yep pretty much this. The only option is to tell him to replace the character. This entire class is not worth the headache for not just the DM but the other players as well.

There's a fun encounter I ran the other week from Wake of the Watcher (Carrion Crown)

The party uses a diving bell to descend 400' to the bottom of the lake. Halfway down the bell is attacked by a sorcerer devilfish (who the party ran afoul of earlier but backed away from). The party is squeezed into the bell and have to exit the bell. Luckily prepared for underwater action but hard pressed as the devilfish uses its unholy blood to essentially blind the party underwater (it can see through the cloud). The party won but there were a lot of nervous rolls.

Name: Roga
Adventure: Wake of the Watcher
Catalyst: Gug

So after exploring the skum tunnels the party got batted around pretty good by the gug. Dropped two players to unconcious before outright killing the cleric. Only the gunslinger left and down to his last shots on the pepperbox. Two hits and then explodes his gun on the third shot (misfired previous round). Good thing those two other shots finished off the gug.

For straight up classic, the mind flayer for sure (though I of course still use them whenever I can in my home games). Probably one of the best D&D monsters (though some of that background started getting silly, brain tadpoles, from the future etc.)

Otherwise from Spelljammer I always liked the Witchlight marauders; kind of like a biological weapon used to waste entire planets.

I think the criticism towards the OP is rather misplaced. It happened and now the question is how to turn things around so as to still finish the campaign. the silver lining is I think the initial defeat makes the last adventure more high stakes. Whether the players take on some of the caravan NPCs to lead a rescue mission. Remember you have the Amatatsu Seal so I think you can be somewhat liberal in how it reacts to the situation (wouldn't save them entirely but maybe give them another chance to save themselves -i.e. raise them from the dead).

I think you've got options as a GM and truthfully I think if the players manage to bounce back from this defeat then their final victory will be that much sweeter.

As other posters have mentioned see which one strikes your group's interest. As someone who DMed CoCT and quite a few other APs it is probably the best done AP published thus far. I highly recommend it.

CoCT has a great city setting and as the AP more or less revolves around Korvosa it was a lot of fun for the players to have invested backgrounds that actually mattered to the campaign. The Ap has a host of memorable NPCs, variety of adventures and a well connected storyline. 7 days and Scarwall are great modules out of the group but all of them are quite good. With the right group this is a fantastic campaign.

Crown of the world would be nice (JR has a good article on the region but I think this could be greatly expanded)

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Aravar Eveningfall wrote:

As a DM, one thing that bugs me is when you have a setting and ideas about the campaign, whether it be an adventure path or a custom made game, and a player shows up with this whole back story that doesn't fit with that. Mr. Real Roleplayer has his brilliant concept and lengthy back story and he doesn't care that it doesn't work with your plans. He's such a brilliant thespian that of course you'll alter your campaign so his character can have his epic arc. And then he'll have the spotlight and all the other players will be second stage to him.

I'd almost rather have the casual players without much background who just go along with your game because that's what the game is. If the players can be a little more invested, work out a short back story that fits your game, and go from there, that's the ideal.

I'd concur with you it doesn't help when a player comes up with a concept entirely disconnected from the rest of the group or the premise. (i.e. insisting on playing an elven ninja in a viking campaign). One of the things that has entered talk in rp circles the last several years is borrowing the always say yes concept from improv theatre. What is often forgotten is that for this to work the player also need to yes to the DM (i.e. ok guys I'm running a gothic horror themed campaign set in this particular city, the players respond by building characters that have a stake in the city and somehow play to the premise). As a DM I don't want an overly long background but I do want the player to build something based from the context I've provided.

Anguish wrote:

Ask yourself: what's the point?

Seriously. The traditional reason for backstories was to give the DM material that the player approved of which they could use to involve the character. To personalize an adventure so that the player felt invested.

If you're running a homebrew game, that makes a lot of sense. If you're running an adventure path, there isn't very much room to make things personal in that sense. The BBEG isn't going to turn out to be a PC's long-lost abusive uncle who betrayed the family, leading to blah blah blah. There's just MUCH less wiggle-room to actually use backstory elements.

So I think that a short one-paragraph background is useful for the player, but when running an AP anything more is pointless.

I somewhat disagree re the APs. Hopefully from info from the player guide and from the Gm the player can use that material as a springboard to involve their character in the campaign's action from what's been shared. Also, there's no reason why in an AP the gm can't swap stuff out from the campaign and insert characters drawn the player's backstories. I've certianly done a fair amount of that in the APs I've ran. I imagine there are a few out there that this might be harder to do (second darkness comes to mind). I think APs benefit enormously from personalizing content and getting players to invest in their character, setting etc.

Theo Stern wrote:

I notice there is no map of the town of Thrushmoor in this Module. Does it exist somewhere in another Paizo product?


It's in Rule of Fear.

Funny just about to run the recondite temple and was thinking the same thing. Given I now have six players in my group I'm inclined to have two chuuls in the mix.

Having ran savage tide, coct (3.5) and halfway through CC and JR + a handful of modules I generally find the difficulty level is just right for my group (competent characters but generally not OP). The most common tweak I do to encounters is to add cannon fodder so the enemy casters aren't overwhelmed in the 1st round or double up the monsters if they're solo.
Character deaths happen, in CC I've had two so far, none in JR but we're using hero points in that one. I would guess that we probably would have at least two deaths in JR without them. I'm pretty lenient with the cheat death ability.

Depends on the campaign. I mostly DM and I appreciate some background and sense of where the character came from and some motivation but only a few concise paragraphs/bullet points. I also find simply talking to the player about their characters is often the best way to draw some ideas out. I do find the APs that I've ran provide some springboard for players of all types to concoct something and the traits are a helpful tool to elicit this from the more rp reluctant players and usually give some stake or motivation to the character to be involved (I can only speak for CoCT, CC and JR).

yep also if you're group is familiar with 3.5 and not PF then stick with 3.5. Less work for everybody and really there is no substantial benefit to switch to PF if you're using this AP. Its a great AP (probably the best actually), happy gaming!

In my campaign Ameiko is being played by a PC. It works much better I think than having her as an NPC. We changed her class to gunslinger as the party already had a bard but otherwise kept her the same.
As per Brinewall, the player joined after this adventure so I didn't have to change it but I imagine it isn't really necessary for her to be in a coma during this time. The kami could just try to talk to her and be unable to do so or speak in cryptic hints (because you know spirits do that).

I haven't really had to change anything else. Ameiko is supposed to be kidnapped in Frozen Shadows but this isn't necessary as the party already has enough hooks (recover Suishen, Ulf Gormandr).

Really the only issue is to make it very clear to the rest of the players that once they get the seal they are Amatatsu and defenders of Minkai. This isn't just Ameiko's story. As long as you have that dynamic it plays very good.

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