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Their demon lords like having drow around to worship them, are amused by their plots, and sponsor cloning vats for all the major drow houses, so there is always a new supply around, with bonuses for the extra memories of all the times they backstabbed each other.
"So, that's now 14 times I've murdered you, compared to 8 times you've murdered me!"
The maze is a bunch of twisty little passages, all alike. The reason is to confuse people trying to scry on someone living in the maze -- because it's all alike, they can never be sure that they've teleported into the right place when they try. Stocking it with traps and weird monsters is just to make sure that intruders never make it out again... or at least that they won't be at full strength when they reach the center.
Watch out for summon-monster types -- they're not superlatively powerful but they can bog down gameplay. insist that the guy summoning monsters have all the statblocks conveniently to hand and run them fast and well.
No single tough monster is immune from one-shot knockouts. Have mooks! Or pairs of monsters. Single BBEGs don't work well in tabletop.
Give him some places where he has choices -- e.g., use Stealth to get across the room, or Climb to go up the wall? Don't always force him to use one skill.
Maybe there is someone in the maze he can talk to -- perhaps the gorgons are willing to toy with their prey, or they hate each other and can be convinced to do each other dirty....
Don't make every skill failure lethal -- give him a cushion where the first couple of failed checks just make things more difficult. E.g., gorgons start off sleeping and the first bit of noise only wakes them up, and then they start patrolling.
Have some traces of lingering poison that slow him down (Dex poison, maybe), and perhaps some things in the maze at help counter it (e.g., a potion or two of lesser restoration).
Don't forget Knowledge (local), Knowledge (geography), and Knowledge (nobility and royalty) -- all of these are very very useful for knowing what's up, what the possibilities are, and who all the local power structures are and what can be done about them.
Most definitely talk to your GM! This is really a matter of campaign direction more than anything; there are no particular rules for it.
The Leadership feat will help you have a coterie of devoted followers, but it's more along the lines of a gang or a business or a monastery or a private guard than it is of taking over a kingdom.
All evil works on appearing pretty -- or at least impressive.
It's only after you're in the snare that the masks come off, and you see that Asmodeus isn't laughing with you, but at you. Norgorber isn't selling you secrets, he's buying yours and selling them to your enemies. Lamashtu might have the hot-and-heavy vibe, but you're not her children, you're their food.
The remaining evil deities are left as an exercise for the nightmare-prone.
Divination spells fall into several categories -- you may want to figure out which one(s) of them your class will use. (Note that not even diviner wizards or Knowledge-domain clerics get all the divination spells; figure out a theme and stick to it.)
Category one: Special Glasses let you see things from where you are. Darkvision, most of the detect spells, see invisibility, and others fall into this category. They negate environmental obstacles, help you see through illusions of various types. They're nice if you can fight, or can cast them on combat types accompanying you, but usually don't reveal hidden mysteries. Most of these are low-level spells, though some of them (like true seeing wait till the mid-levels). Magic that boosts your Perception or Sense Motive probably belongs in this category as well.
Foiled by: invisible medusas. "You really didn't want to see me."
Good for: People who want to do things while wearing Special Glasses -- so either buff spells to cast on someone else, or spells for a magic/martial hybrid class to cast on themselves.
Category two: Remote Viewing lets you see things that are far away, usually (but not always) on the same plane. Clairvoyance, scrying, arcane eye; these are usually mid-level spells, and good for remote scouting. Seeing through a familiar's eyes, or an animal's, provides similar abilities. These spells effectively place your eyes somewhere else and let you look around.
Foiled by: being on another plane, lead sheeting, and (sometimes) measures that defeat sight. Some of these spells work with Special Glasses, many of them don't.
Good for: High-magic people who can scry (sometimes) and do other things (most of the time), information gathering types.
Category Three: Brain Implants let you know things and ask questions and act on information that you wouldn't otherwise have. Speak with dead, blood biography, tongues, comprehend languages, speak with animals, find the path, and so forth. Spells that boost your Knowledge skills (including Linguistics and Appraise) usually fall into this category, as do abilities that boost your initiative or let you act in the surprise round. These things are found at all levels.
Foiled by: asking questions of things that don't have the information in the first place, or want to lie. This is where your own skills in intepreting the information (Sense Motive, knowledge skills, ability to think on your feet and/or read the GM's hints well) become important.
Good for: Classes that schmooze with people and use Knowledge skills a lot, detectives and investigators.
Category Four: Plot Breakers are similar to Brain Implants, but are more noted for their ability to make unimaginative GMs cry if used effectively: divination, commune, vision, contact other plane, legend lore, etc. These are mid- to high-level spells (though some classes can get an improved familiar with commune as early as 7th level.
Foiled by: GM fiat, player boneheadedness (GMs may not want to reveal their plots, players may persist in asking the gods the wrong questions), and (sometimes) inability to afford expensive material components. USE WITH CAUTION. Note to GMs: This is one of the things that happens in high-level play; maybe you should talk over these things with your players before getting too high-level. Also figure out what your BBEGs are doing with these spells.
Good for: Any adventuring class, but you can also sometimes get the same information from NPC Mouthpieces of the Gods, or GM Informants. Spells of this power should probably only be available to full-caster classes or very thematically appropriate classes.
When you're designing a class, think about which categories you want them to be able to use, and when they're usable. Special Glasses are mostly good for combat or dungeon-crawling and in the heat of action. Remote Viewing is good for scouting and dungeon-crawling but you probably wouldn't cast them during combat. Brain Implants can be good at any time depending on what ability they enhance, but they're often handiest in face time or scouting outside of combat. Plot Breakers are almost always non-combat spells. Try and make sure your class has more than one option available -- it should be able to do something (not necessarily magic) in all situations.
Witches are great at using their hexes for debuffing (and some buffing), with their spells for backup and utility purposes. Usually it's fairly obvious what to do.
Wizards are probably the best overall buffers and debuffers in the game, if they are built right, and if they spend time thinking about what they need to do, learning about their opponents, and knowing the right thing to do. Plus if they work on adding to their spells known they can very often come up with the perfect tool for the occasion. (Research, divination, and Knowledge skills are all very important!.) You need a fair amount of system mastery and tactical knowledge to be highly effective at this.
(Clerics and bards are really good at buffing, not so good at debuffing, depending on the build.)
In either case, you want to look for several things:
1) who is the rest of your party? what spells would really help them, or really hinder enemies as they work to take them out? You need to work with your fellow players on this, and figure out what makes them shine the best.
2) Look for spells that have no SR and/or no saving throw -- sometimes just changing conditions around someone is enough, and you don't want to fail against high-save enemies.
3) Have spells (or hexes, or whatever) that target several different saves -- and know which save an enemy is weak at. Then use the right spell for the job. Don't throw a Fort save at a giant (good Fort save, high Con) -- throw a Will save instead.
4) Know what your spells do, and how to get around them. Shutting down enemy archers with a pocket rainstorm is clever, but not so clever if your party's main damage-dealer is an archer. (Put up an illusion of a fogbank instead and let him know it's not real so he can easily save against it.) Buff your friends, debuff your foes, and watch out on the overlap between those zones.
5) Research your enemies ahead of time if possible, so you can prepare the perfect spell for the occasion. The middle of combat is not the right time to be thumbing through the 38-volume Encyclopedia of Targets!
6) Have a light hand on the scales -- do enough to let your friends win the battle, not enough that you run out of spells partway through. Often a single spell and some aid another actions (or wands, or cantrips) will be more than sufficient for one encounter. Save your best spells for when they really make a difference. And that way, if things get really tough, you have reserves to pull from that your foes (or the GM) may not be expecting.
7) If you can, get some wands of handy utility spells (the sort of thing you regularly cast), and some scrolls of key helpful spells (the sort of thing where you go "I'll only need this once every seven years, but when I do I will need it very badly." Wands of mage armor, scrolls of stone to flesh. Wands of protection from (alignment of favorite enemy), scrolls of water breathing.. Prepare during downtime, and you'll be able to save the day when things go haywire.
8) If it gives a saving throw, you cast it; if it doesn't, wands or scrolls are an OK source. Higher DCs from you than from items.
Asmodeus would work just fine. No evil is petty -- what matters is to slowly turn the soul away from its orbit around the Light and redirect it into the outer Darkness.
Big evil gets noticed. Big messy evil gets fought. Slow, petty, stuff --- that's the ticket.
(And now you know why Cheliax is so bureaucratic...)
I prefer a static setting, maybe with some revelations of mysteries as things go on. It's just way too fatiguing to try and keep track of everything that's happening.
And static situations make it possible for GMs to do their thing without worrying about it all being invalidated by a change to the setting.
Rule of thumb: if you want the players to get something, give them three clues. That way at least one of them ought to pick up on one of them. A single chance to pick up on the obvious will usually be missed -- and remember that what's obvious to you is NOT obvious to them. You have the whole background of the story in your head; they do not.
Leaving aside such obvious basics as dimensional barriers, scrying barriers, walls of force, and the like...
Putting the tower on another plane.
A permanent gate with a programmed illusion of the wizard laughing and taunting his foes, then walking through the gate. Needless to say, the destination is (a) not healthy, and (b) not easy to get back from, with (c) lots of unfriendly natives.
A golem under orders to take down a blanket covering a symbol if any intruders enter the room, then attack those incapacitated by the symbol. (The wizard always recites a password when entering the room. This is a blind. The real trigger to the golem is "if anyone enters without having a raven perched on their left shoulder", a raven being the wizard's imp familiar's favored shape).
That old favorite guards and wards. The uses are manifold, and limited only by your imagination (e.g., a built-in suggestion to, oh, walk through a doorway similar to the above portal.) The combinations are very possible.
A mighty and powerful guardian that will attack anyone approaching except those who knock politely, identify themselves, and ask to be admitted.
Illusions making the tower itself appear to be a humble cottage near a frightening tower. The tower itself is a deathtrap dungeon to rival the Tomb of Horrors, but the cottage conceals a portal to wherever the wizard actually lives.
An illusion of a beaded curtain beyond which a room full of great treasure awaits. The doorway is actually filled by a prismatic wall and right above the oubliette.
A screen spell that shows the wizard cavorting in his bathtub with a nymph. If one attempts to teleport into the scene, one will discover the room is actually filled with non-breathable atmosphere, the "showers" are hydroflouric acid, and the teleport trap on the room brings one straight back into it.
I can think of several possibilities.
Ghouls if they cannibalized others in order to survive, though you'd need to do something tricky to make any number of CR2-3 ghouls a threat to a 9th level party (6 ghouls with some terrain advantages, maybe extra equipment, maybe attacking with surprise as they know the area well.) This would be a straight combat encounter.
Maybe a vampire (and the others now its spawn), perhaps turned by one of the people who abandoned them and thought it would be funny to make one member of the family a vampire and make them eat the others, or perhaps just a case of blood drinking instead of cannibalism. Play up the pathos (child blood-drinkers, for instance...) One vampire isn't much of a threat to a 9th level party unless it can turn them against each other somehow; 4-6 vampire spawn would be a combat encounter much like the ghoul bash.
Perhaps most likely ghosts of those who starved to death, who need either to be fed or to escape. Having several of them try to possess PCs (and then savagely tear into their rations, or run straight for the exit) might give them a challenge. Especially if they use telekinetic abilities first to attack, before manifesting. Bonus if the PCs talk to them and help them: they can tell about a treasure hidden in a back corner, or a secret way (or something) further along in the dungeon. Or the PCs can fight their way through, which should be fairly easy. This would be a more intellectual/tricky encounter.
Male Human Cleric 1
AC 16 t.12 ff.14, hp -2/9, saves F3 R2 W7, init +2, Per +6, touch of good 7/7, calming touch 6/7, channel 1/3
Strategically, reporting the situation with that message scroll would certainly seem to be in order. ;)
Tactically, if Red Team went down fast, Blue Team is going to have problems. Our combined strength might be sufficient, but how to free Red Team without getting noticed?
Generally, if you want a lot of encounters, run lower-ECL encounters than you normally would. You need things that can maybe hit the players if everything goes well, but aren't likely to hit.
Pursuing mooks work great for this. Tracking parties with dogs, for instance. These guys can catch up, attack, and run away when a few of their number fall (instead of fighting to the death -- they might fall back and sound their horns, hoping to attract more pursuers. Having more horns then sound further away and getting closer can really scare PCs.)
A flying scout or something that tracks them and signals for other pursuers (horns, fireworks, wand of dancing lights, whatever). Can they shoot it down, or lure it into range?
Archers who aim at the horses instead of the PCs (sure, the PCs can ride double if a horse or two dies, but that tires the horse out even more quickly.)
Have a couple of encounters where the PCs can try something safe and slow, or speedy and risky. If they do "safe and slow", they're likely to face another encounter; if they do "speedy and risky" then they gain an edge on their pursuers. For instance, ride a couple of extra miles to reach the bridge over the river -- or ford it right here (but they have to make Swim checks or something).
Bridges can be fun in other ways. Can they destroy a bridge to gain time? Can they trick their way past the guards on another bridge ("yes, we're pursuing those guys too!") -- allow things like Bluff or Diplomacy to work instead of just fighting.
A herd of buffalo crosses their path -- can they stampede them into their pursuers and gain some time that way? Other monsters that might be talked or tricked into letting the PCs pass ("yes, mr. bridge troll, if you let us go then the guys behind us will race right after us and you can catch them all by surprise.")
Generally, have some encounters solvable (or that can be made easier) by wits rather than brute force.
89. An extremely tough guy (description to taste, but can obviously take the PCs entire party blindfolded with one hand tied behind his back....without magic) walks in, slightly out of breath, and tells the bartender. "Quic, three of my usual. Big Jim's a-comin' and I have to get out of town." The barkeep turns pale and immediately starts packing his strongbox.
90. Four halflings are playing a complicated game of cards at the back table. Oddly enough, the only thing in the pot is a heavy golden ring. One of the halflings incite the Pcs over to adjudicate a rules dispute. That's when the wraiths come out of the walls...
91. A dragon pokes his head in the door and roars "This is a stick-up!" He opens his jaws and demands that everyone drop all their valuables onto his tongue.
Don't do BBEG. Do BBBEG -- Big Bad BUNCHES of Evil Guys.
Action economy kills anyone who doesn't insta-gib the PCs. So don't even try to have one single titanic figure they must bring down -- have a bunch of people on a level with the PCs, or slightly below. Have an Evil Opposite Party. Have a bunch of buffed minions running around. Have two guardian shield golems with the wizard. Definitely have terrain and environment help the enemy instead of the PCs (bad weather against archers, a lot of pillars and chasms against a rage-charge-pounce-lance monster, some kind of LOS or anti-magic barriers against casters, whatever.) Have five or six DIFFERENT bad guys hanging around doing things.
A bag of holding usually works, though a portable hole has a much larger volume.
Using illusions (e.g., disguise other) to hide your undead minions in plain sight as not-un-dead minions might also work. Invisibility also works, but you might need to develop long-term invisibility spells.
"Don't bring your bones to town, son." Keep them away from public sight (move them at night, or in rain/fog, or underwater/underground.)
Teleport with them from point to point instead of entering constable-viewed space.
Talk with the local law enforcement about licenses for transporting undead.
Tell the undead not to move and tell observers that you're just taking all these coffins to a proper burial ground. (Or, if they're animal bones, that you've got a bunch of industrial raw material you're talking to the grinders.)
As a GM, I'd probably rule that just studying the lich's possessions doesn't make you "familiar" with te lch -- that's something that requires long-term interaction. The body part watching would work, though.
Also, the lich isn't "there" until it finishes reforming. So you'd have a window between the time it finished reforming and the time it cast its anti-scrying spells -- assuming its phylactery wasn't in, say, a lead-lined vault in a graveyard or something. Admittedly, not all liches are that paranoid, but there are countermeasures to a lot of divination magic, which is why you might need to pull out the big guns.
Any noir film will give you this -- the person who tracks down the Guy Who Done Her Wrong (or the Gal What Dumped Him) is an inquisitor of Calistria.
She's about revenge, and sex, and other passions -- and while an "inquisitor" as part of a formal church structure doesn't work for a deity that doesn't have a formal church structure (hello, chaotic neutral? fiercely individualistic? ELVEN?) -- an investigator helping others in need of revenge, or wronged in love, or those who abuse some other passion, seems to me to be firmly in the cards.
Any other passion... I have just thought of an inquistor of Calistria whose job it is to hunt down, and revenge himself upon, those who falsely claim to be great gourmet chefs, and serve up horrid pap in exchange. The Hamburgler strikes again!
It would help to know what level of party you're dealing with -- some things will be deadly (and appropriate) for a level 1-5 party but a level 11-15 party will stomp them flat (not to mention the question of how any of the regular occupants of City Hall survived anything...)
There's probably a general anti-teleport and anti-scrying shield over the whole building. A number of doors are probably arcane locked -- the evacuaees MAY be able to give the PCs the password to some ("sure, every janitor's closet opens to 'Broom Hilda'"), but maybe not to others ("no, nobody knows the password to the Mayor's washroom! Or the evidence vault!")
Animated objects may be very plausible (desk, chairs, tables, tapestries, candelabrae...) some as guards put in place by City Hall, others as part of the ongoing attack.
Mayor's Office -- a succubus and a hound archon are weaving back and forth around the desk (respectively tempting and supporting the mayor, and usually invisible, but right now they're too focused on each other.)
City Council Office -- the table, animated by WAY too many coffee spills over the years, doesn't want ANYONE to sit around it droning ON AND ON AND ON about sewage cleanup financing details. It might try to bargain with the PCs (after it, it knows ALL the passwords). Or maybe it just wants to run away back to the hills and be a tree again, and is trying to escape...
Public Works -- a delegation of otyugh sewer workers are there to talk about the pay increase. They got there via their regular secret tunnel to the sewers just after the evacuation, and will assume that the PCs are the new negotiation team ... if they're not attacked on sight. They'll spend the first round waving union cards at the PCs. One might inquire if the PCs want to join the union (after all if they're not management, they must be labor, right?)
A random mephit (or other CR-appropriate mischeveous monster) of some sort may be skipping around the place writing "HASTUR WAS HERE!" on the furniture. Do the PCs read the graffiti?
The horses weren't evacuated from the stable. Pity about that, since the nightmare the Big Bad rode in on is also in the stable... and in heat. (Or maybe it's just killed them all, if you'd prefer, and then animated their corpses. Yeah, it's got a few special powers, and the master's pet familiar got into its sack of wands and is waving things around. Did I mention one of them is a wand of wonder?)
Waiting Room -- the ghost of someone who died here a few hundred years ago and is STILL waiting for someone to talk to about the foundation inspection so they can get busy building.... PCs can exorcise the ghost by finding the permits on-file in the City Clerk's office and giving them to the ghost. Of course, that means facing the animated incinerator with its three minion flying knives.
There will probably be quite a few magic mouths yelling about intruders.
Look up the guards and wards spell covering the attic and all the pigeon coops up there. Did I mention that the gargoyles are getting free?
And whatever you do, DON'T look in the Mayor's breakroom... the illusions there are horrificly bad....
Another suitor shows up and challenges the groom for possession of the bride. Maybe this is an armed challenge, maybe this is a legal challenge... ("she was betrothed to me first! I have a betrothal contract!")
An infestation of mephits gets into the kitchen. Can the PCs drive them out without blowing up the place?
An old witch shows up, angry at not being invited -- can the PCs deal with or distract her before she curses the wedding rings?
A bunch of beggars show up and pester everyone for largesse. (Give them food and they go away...). Or maybe the King of the Beggars shows up and says this will happen unless the PCs pay him something...
An angel, or other servant of the PCs' patron gods, shows up to bless the ceremony -- but one of the guests thinks the angel is after him and starts a fight.
An angel shows up disguised as a beggar and sees what the PCs will do. Secret Test of Character, anyone?
A devil shows up to deliver a message to the Pcs. Nasty hijacks MIGHT ensue, particularly if the PCs are anything less than strictly polite. (The devil shows up with a copy of Emily Cross's book on famous etiquette blunders under its arm -- verbum sap.!)
A belligerent champion of Goum shows up and wants to start a wild wrestling match in honor of the wedding. Does anyone take up his challenge?
A delegation of peasants shows up to beg for the customary lightening of feudal dues for a year in honor of the wedding.... Is there such a custom? Well, they think there is.
A gnome subtler shows up with a whole pile of gifts to sell to the other wedding participants. Including a really POTENT bottle of ale that somehow gets into the punch.
Someone casts animate object on the wedding cake. Can the PCs defeat the monster without destroying the cake? (The cake has AC 5 and vulnerability to bite attacks, but its hits also do Charisma damage.)
The caterer's entire staff came down wth food poisoning the morning of the baking... What do the PCs do?
Further recommended reading: Barbara Hambly, Stranger at the Wedding
Kingmaker is a really good AP if you like to swing your own adventures and design your own stuff -- much of it is modular, so you can swap various encounters and dungeons out or in, you can add (or subtract) whole threads as to what's going on. You can do a LOT if it strikes your fancy.
1) figure out what kind of campaign your players like. Emphasize elements that swing that way, de-emphasize elements that don't. We ended up having a lot more interaction with the Swordlords than the AP envisions, which made for a much better campaign. For instance, the part where the Swordlords tried to use Vordakai's phylactery to enslave the lich to help them against the rest of Brevoy... still quite memorable.
2) Treat the kingdom-building rules as rough guidelines and encounter generators, not a system to try and game for maximum advantage. I got a lot of work out of that, mostly by looking at what the locals might want and what they weren't getting. Some players will love the idea of building and influencing their own kingdom and towns, but not everyone will. (Try getting one town per player -- suddenly a lot more interpersonal politics comes into effect if it's "my town" instead of "random village #4".)
3) You can change the ending if you want -- but whatever you do, foreshadow where you're going more heavily. If Nyrissa is involved, play up the fey element. If you want to turn this into a game of political warfare with Brevoy, you can do that too (whether or not Choral the Conqueror shows up at all). Or you could end it after book 5 if the players are happy at that point.
4) You can have additional elements -- for instance, one of my players wanted a Hellknight cohort. I had SO much fun with the interplay between the Hellknights trying to establish Law and (Terrified) Order, led by the cohort, and the priesthood of Erastil trying to get together a written lawcode for Law and (Traditional Village) Order. Work with what the players do, add themes, etc. -- this is an AP that really allows for this sort of thing to happen. (The PC who tried to establish an order of tiger-riding knights did not fare nearly so well, mostly because the other players were Not Happy with the idea...) I did a lot with Candlemere (a site just crying out for more use!) and it eventually became the Hellknight base.
5) Tie things together. If the PCs had a good interaction with an NPC in the previous books, let them live, and use them as a quest hook as much as possible. The mad alchemist in book 1 can be the guy delivering the "odd ingredient" quest hooks in book 3 or 4, and maybe he knows someone in Irovetti's court in book 5... Keep the number of NPCs under control that way.
6) If they're running with the kingdom rules, USE THOSE NPCS! Have the players roleplay recruiting them. Have them speak up for different goals (e.g., army vs. exploration vs. other stuff; locals vs. outlanders; etc.) Don't be afraid to have the particular appointee come to them with a quest hook that falls under their area of expertise, either!
7) Foreshadow the other Stolen Lands groups from the beginning -- Magnus Varn's fate means more if the PCs have previously met him, knowing that Baron Drelev is building stuff up in the West means the PCs are more aware of what it might mean when he attacks, etc., etc., etc.
8) Stop hex-by-hex exploration somewhere around level 10. By then the thrill is over (and PCs of that level should be having minions do this sort of thing anyway). Save your gaming time for fun additional dungeons suggested by the PCs' actions and choices during previous games.
Well, Nualia will want the PCs to sacrifice to Lamashtu.
Given the nature of Lamashtu, this may involve keeping them alive for a long time for various unpleasant experiments in impregnation. (Do NOT do this if your players wouldn't be comfortable with it -- or at least don't tell them what Nualia has in mind.)
Then have Shalelu sneak in and set them free somehow. (Look at Thistletop, consider where Nualia might keep prisoners to keep them out of range of the goblins -- maybe in a big cage dangling over the crab pool? PCs might have to make some climb/acrobatics checks to get out of there even with Shalelu's help -- always make the escape dangerous and snazzy and dependent on the PC's achieving things, instead of having an NPC do all the stuff -- the NPC will just make it _possible_.)
Try and have some of the more aware NPCs target PCs with particular sins.
Theme it off the adventures as well -- book 3 is a good one for Lust to come up, for instance, as book 4 is good for Wrath. Have some of the more aware evil guys (Nualia, Xanesha, Lucrecia, Mokmurian) comment on this with the PCs, or make suggestions.
The pit fiend in the dam would certainly be able to notice that -- perhaps offer the most sinful PC a wish fulfilling his desires? Do some temptations... play up that element as you notice the PCs being more or more sinful.