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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
I'm just now wrapping up Forest of Spirits in my pbp campaign. I figured it would be a good time to share some of the things I tweaked along the way.
Ordu-Aganhei: After the grueling hike over the Crown, coming back into civilization was enjoyed by the party, especially with the gracious welcome they receive from Prince Bat. I looked forward to, and enjoyed using the city for some meaty role-playing sidebars and PC/NPC bonding. The feasts started off great, and the players were able to integrate their parts in nicely. Where the train went off the rails was at the marriage proposal. I tried to use situation, and Prince Bat in general, in a mostly awkward/comedic fashion... Unfortunately, the player proposed to took to all *very* seriously and ultimately quit the game because of it. I probably could have handled it better, but I honestly thought it would come off more silly than serious... the joys of electronic communication!
Instead of ambushing the party in the city, I had them get attacked while they were split/exposed in the palace and at the caravan. In my mind, it set up better to stress the group, and also kept them from blaming the prince. They took the hint and fled the city.
Lastly, I introduced Miyaro early on, insinuating herself as a cultural adviser. She sprang to help during the ambush, later revealing her true nature.
Forest of Spirits: Once free of the city, I kept the road encounters quiet until they entered the forest. To play up the place's strangeness, I highlighted its seemingly 'stasis-like', unchanging nature. The spirit encounters I ran were kinda cool and awkward at the same time. The semi-haunt mechanic didn't seem to mesh well ('if everyone passes their save, does the spirit just leave?') with the descriptive elements of the encounter. If I could run them again, I'd probably re-think how to mech these.
The approach to the ward zone and kami meeting I ran pretty much as printed. I analogize it to the ent moot in LotR, and tried to give it that bearing.
Withered Blossom Gardens: As the group neared the House, the climate steadily changed from winter to balmy heat, given off by the energy of the House. This accounted for the more jungle-like, overgrowth feel of the gardens. After the group defeated Munasukaru and broke the wards, this effect died out and the gardens slowly returned to winter.
I used Richard's rough draft of the garden terrace encounters to flesh out the approach to the House. After a couple spider fights, the party just cast air walk and skipped the rest. I'm glad I didn't make up a whole map!
House of Withered Blossoms: Knowing the dungeon was going to be a grind, atop the sloooow pace of pbp, I went in planning to cut/merge encounters in the module. I also wanted to skip the whole aranea section unless the group wanted to push it. They were pretty mission-focused, and basically ignored Akinosa's crew. I introduced the conflict between the hobgoblins and aranea right as the group entered the main floor, walking into an ongoing melee.
In all, I was surprised by how easily the group dealt with the encounters. Only a couple of fights really stressed them. Granted, their make-up was 5 PCs (monk, magus, oracle, vanguard and bard) and 1 NPC (Kelda), but I amplified most every fight with either additional enemies, advanced template, better gear and/or increased/max hp.
Here's a quick summary of the encounters I used/changed:
Munasukaru: Probably the most drastic change I made was by respec'ing Munasukaru as a ToB:Bo9S Warblade. Love it or hate it, the Bo9S maneuvers are pretty flavorful for the mobile/wuxia/oriental vibe I was going for with Munasukaru. Additionally, just having Uncanny Dodge kept her from dying in the first round. She got a few colorful hits in with her maneuvers, but still died rather quickly once the melees got to her. Even with max hit points, a haste-flurrying monk and 2 x spell-striking gish make life short for solitary foes!
Stats, if you're interested...:
Female ja noi warblade 9
LE Medium outsider (oni, goblinoid, native, shapechanger)
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft, Perception +20
AC 28, touch 17, flat-footed 23 (+7 armor, +2 deflection, +4 Dex, +1 dodge, +4 natural)
Speed 20 ft, fly 40 ft (good)
Str 24, Dex 18, Con 24, Int 12, Wis 16, Cha 12
Gear do-maru of broken flesh, Thundering Blade of the House of Sugimatu, flawed crystal ball, pink rhomboid ioun stone, ring of protection +2
I also improved the stats on the Sugimatu naginata significantly, to bring it closer to par with Suishen. Essentially +2 shrieking thundering naginata, with greater shout (CL 15) once per day. I didn't bother with the flying/crossbow tactic (see: air walk). I think the agile template and mythic boost (like Xeno posted above) would make her a better (solo) end boss, depending on the party.
After she died, I had the kami sweep in and clear the rest of the dungeon, a la the Valar host in the Silmarillion (sorta).
In summary, I really enjoyed this module, from the role-playing bits in O-A, to the flavor-heavy dungeon crawl. There really isn't another dungeon crawl like this the JR path... I especially enjoyed the graphic artistry displayed in nearly every room, which gave a memorable evil vibe to the place. Many thanks Richard!
Yeah I was waiting for Kiyomi's input, since it's a close thing.
DM Secrets Revealed!: The 'book' Munasukaru is a fighter, but that version would have died in Round 1 (not kidding). I converted her to a Warblade (3.5 Bo9S) spec. Has about the same numbers, but a few more hit points and a few cool 'wuxia' flavor maneuvers.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Funny, I was just looking to make a PF conversion of this class! I planned to keep the class more or less the same as the 3.5 version, with PF skill list. I like your ideas regarding the maneuver/stance progressions. I'm a fan of the d10 hit dice argument.
There are some suggested errata from Richard Baker regarding the maneuver refresh, but I think the WB mechanic is fine. The random crusader one is goofy as heck, so I'd change that for sure (N/A for the WB).
This adventure is, by far, the largest dungeon crawl in the AP. I've tried to keep things moving steadily forward, and have trimmed about 1/3 of the encounters, or merged them kinda-sorta. That being said, without giving too much away, you're on the home stretch now... =D
EDIT - I should add that my 1/3-ish cut doesn't include the entire upstairs part of the House of Withered Blossoms, or the hobgoblin city you flew over! You can imagine how much longer this would take had you gone there...
No one has specifically said what they're buying. Post it before you get to the Gray, or it will be left out.
Heads up that I will be on vacation for the next two weeks. I will be able to check the boards and make minor updates, but I'm pretty sure I won't have too much time for anything major... maybe. I just wanted to let you know in case there's a long delay between posts. Otherwise, keep it movin'! =D