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.
Yes. You can't see the mirror images so you're not affected so you only get the 50% miss chance for total concealment. Easier to hit if you're not distracted by the flashy visuals. (Taking the Blindfight feat helps a lot here! It's very helpful for high-level martials with lots of tricksy foes.)
However, (a) a 50% miss chance is still pretty ugly, (b) you never hit and take out one of the mirror images so it never gets any better, (c) if you've got your eyes shut, everyone else trying to whack on you gets ugly bonuses (you get no dex, they get +2 to hit on op of that), and (d) you're effectively blind so you may not be able to see or perceive other enemies doing stuff, sneaking up on you, etc., etc.
Aboleths are mastermind-type characters; they're not really designed so much for a fight, but for ruthless manipulation behind the scenes. It's hard to have them be a memorable encounter in themselves -- either their illusions, misdirections, and pawns work like a charm and the PCs never even know they were dealing with an aboleth, or they don't work and the thing gets slaughtered. Plus you can mostly do the same thing with a non-aboleth character (anyone with good enchantment and illusion spells, basically).
Also you have to have a GM who is really adept with illusions and keeping track of what _is_ the case, and what the aboleth is making the case _appear to be_ -- not an easy task, especially if your players aren't used to thinking and doublethinking situations.
Remember, you get more of what you reward. If you want the PCs to do clever stuff, roleplaying, etc., then you need to let them get somewhere by being clever and doing this. I'd be overjoyed to have PCs that thought of this and pulled it off!
Hobgoblins really work nicely as an army enemy -- which is hard for Paizo's CR system to handle. But I would like to see an adventure path where they're a major chunk of the villain's army, though I suppose one could just always play Red Hand of Doom instead.
Evil druids are a real hoot; I've used them a few times.
Animated objects don't get enough love; neither do minotaurs, unicorns, or giant insects of one type or another.
A summoning room, with altered gravity so walls and ceiling are also floors than can be walked on. (Reflex save to avoid "falling" prone onto the wall if you're adjacent to it; the wizard is immune to this as he's had decades of practice). All six sides of the room have summoning circles on them. This allows him to summon a bunch of different creatures at once and negotiate with them all simultaneously. Or possibly have intraplanar tea parties, given the hovering coffeepot in the middle of the room.
Lots of unseen servants tidying up. Anything dropped is instantly whisked away to a storage shelf; PCs who stand still for too long find invisible hands brushing their clothes, combing their hair, and possibly providing shaves, haircuts, and sponge baths. (The wizard didn't want to waste good research time on personal grooming, and was a little loose in his instructions to the servants).
75. A cute child shows up and begs for the PCs' help. Mommy is being taken off to jail and there's no money to pay the rent. Do they want to buy her younger sibling? (Mommy actually died four years ago and the kids have been running this scam ever since. The younger sibling will escape as soon as the PCs' back is turned -- they're all rogues of moderately useful levels.)
76. Two dwarves are arguing in the middle of the street, in an obscure dialect of Dwarven (-5 to Linguistics checks). As the PCs watch, one of them pulls out a hammer and swings it at the other. (They're brothers, and this is their usual spring bet about who has the harder skull. PCs that attack one will face two infuriated dwarven berserker brothers with teamwork feats.)
77. A small mob is chasing a white-robed woman down the street, throwing stones, dung, wine bottles, et cetera. (The woman is a social worker who is trying to better the lot of the poor, who don't want to be interfered with or have their tipple taken away.)
78. A beggar approaches the PCs and gives them a sealed letter, then waits for an answer. (He has mistaken the PCs for someone else; the invitation is to an exclusive party in a highly decadent nightclub -- just entering the door is probably an alignment violation for a paladin). All the beggar knows is that he is supposed to take the reply back. Oh, and that the PCs are supposed to tip him 10 gp for safe delivery.
79. A random street preacher wanders by, shouting about the end of the world in three days when the dragons attack.
80. A wagon comes rolling down a steep local street and crashes against the wall. A bunch of cages spring open, and a number of very angry animals emerge. They're all very hungry and start attacking if no one offers them food in two rounds.. Three rounds later, the wagon driver comes running down, tearing his hair, and hoping that nobody has killed the very rare, expensive, and ferocious trained animals that were supposed to be performing at a very decadent nightclub tonight.
81. Same as above, but instead of animals, a hatchling dragon emerges and starts attacking local street preachers.
82. A street magician offers to perform a conjuring trick for the PCs' amusement. He asks to hold one of their items, then casts vanish and takes off around the corner, where he casts disguise self.
83. A wagon rolls by with the dolorous chant of "Bring out your dead!" eachoing. It's followed by quite a few children carrying dead dogs, cats, etc. Apparently there's a market for the fur...
I tend to use Rule of Cool a lot for lich's phylacteries (like the one who had as his phylactery a Really Nifty undead-slaying sword, which all the songs said was the one weapon he was vulnerable to -- of course, he'd written all those songs way back when...). Naturally he had several fake phylacteries hidden around, including one on his person with a magic mouth that screamed most despairingly when the object was destroyed.
From a GM's point of view, the important thing is that it make sense story-wise where the lich hides his soul, and that the players have some way to figure out where it is, preferably not too easily.
I agree that temporarily suppressing the phylactery will not destroy the lich.
Pretty much all APs assume that the GM will do a certain amount of adjusting, random encounters, sidequests, on-the-fly additions, etc.
The notes about "PCs should be level X at point Y" are general guidelines, I think, not intended as absolute commands. It's more "the PCs should be this powerful before running into these encounters."
The only time I had a GM try to run an AP exactly as written it was not particularly successful. This may have been more of a GMing issue than a adventure design one, however.
There are historical examples of churches cheering on wars (e.g., the First Crusade, or the Muslim jihads, or Japanese state Shinto in the 1930s), as well as of religions slowing them down (e.g.,the Byzabtine reluctance to war on the Bulgurs after they converted to Othodox Christianity, or the Truce of God in medieval France, or some modern anti-war movements), as well as of states submitting war questions to the judgment of a religion (e.g., the Romans asking the priests of Mars to judge the legitimacy of a war before starting it, or Henry I of England asking the Pope's sanction for his invasion of Ireland).
So you have a wide range of historical examples to support whichever story you're trying to tell. You may even have different churches being of different opinions about a particular war, which gives the GM a great tool for drama, employers, support, and so on.
Also note the feat Unsanctioned Knowledge, which allows you to add some spells from other source to your paladin's list, and the Use Magic Device skill, which works off CHA and would allow you to use arcane spells from wands or scrolls.
Also note that some professional soldiers did exist in this period -- the Byzantine army, the condioterrri like Hawkiwing and the White Company, and a number of others. S any long-lasting state with a good bureaucracy and budget could probably do stuff like this.
In Golarion, for instance, the knights of Lastwall, the Taldor and Chelaxian andj Andoran armies, probably Geb and some other areas, at least have the capacity for a budget to keep trained professional armies available,
Also note that in a world with fireballs, countermeasures will be taken. And bards and clerics will have quite a few interesting spells, probably some that don't show up onthe standard adventurers list very much, for group protection. A cleric with channel energy can heal a lot of fireball effects, or boost saving throws.
You probably won't see too many walls of pikemen or low-level spear levies, but maybe testudo formations taking cover behind tower shields, or looser skirmishes/archer formations, will be more common.
Or a advanced young black dragon (CR9) with some extra magic items.
An adult black fpdragon with some wounds and a negative level, or perhaps a curse from the cleric he killed. "I curse you to be unable to fly" would make it reasonable that the dragon was sticking around, or a -6 to his Dex...
Have Nyrissa reincarnate him on a regular bais. He's the guy who wakes up the giant owl bears, and arouses Vordakai, and.leads the Tiger Lords on their first attack... until the PCs find a way to keep him from being reincarnated.
Though I do like the idea of a stag-headed Minotaur...
As part of the backstory in my campaigns floating around that area, I have a Hellknight order that was in Mendev -- the Order of the Scalding Cauldron, known for its ruthless interrogation of conspirators and betrayers, led by a very charismatic knight of Iomedae...
...except she was actually a succubus anti-paladin, infiltrating and controlling the Order for reasons of her own. (Let's just say that combining a succubus' tastes with a Hellknight dungeon leaves way, way, way too much room for abuse of prisoners.) The Order was destroyed, and execrated, and its castle sown with salt, and...
...all-in-all, Mendev isn't real eager to see another Hellknight order anytime soon. Oh, and Polly got away. ;)
Foreshadow Nyrissa a lot. Otherwise Book 6 comes out of left field. Play up the fey element a lot, all through. Take the Stag Lord's ring and give each of the major BBEGs something similar (well, maybe not Vordakai -- but maybe she sent an agent to wake him up?) Have some fey talk about the coming Queen, always in vague terms (they don't know very much either). Plant the Picnic book somewhere (maybe with the Dancing Lady, or in Svetlana's little library of Grimm Tales.)
Have the PCs run into Magnar Varn and Baron Drelev early on (maybe at Rostov, maybe with trade emissaries, maybe foreshadow the Rushlight Tournament a bit more and have the PCs show up to an earlier one a few years later, or at least hear about it.)
Definitely agree on dropping hexcrawls as you get past the midpoint of the campaign. PCs got minions to do that sort of thing. Sometimes they will lose them... try and make that meaningful, or worrisome, or something.
Figure out if your players want to run armies or not. (Mine did, and had bucketloads of fun doing it. I ramped up the system slightly.) If they don't, then come up with something else to do in place of army combat (maybe sabotage missions, maybe getting the PCs up against some portion of the army -- the 3.5 Heroes of Battle book had a lot of possibilities there).
Have some additional stuff prepared. This is a sandbox. PCs will go somewhere else than you expected and do something else. Be prepared for them to take a left turn at any time.
Think of some recurring NPCs who can be antagonists/allies depending on how the PCs react. Kesten Garess, maybe. Gregori, definitely. Add some others, maybe younger sons from Brevoy coming down and throwing their weight around. The Old Beldame has possibilities. A recurring fey villain who always reincarnates back until the PCs figure out how to keep him tied up... see if you can develop foils for one or more of the PCs.
It isn't just wandering wild animals that farmers have to deal with.
"Convincing" the bull to go out to pasture, or to get out of the neighbor's pasture, without goring you a lot -- that's XP.
Getting the better of the grain merchant to get an adequate price for your crop so you don't have to sell daughter #3 into slavery to pay the taxes on the farm this year -- that's XP.
Facing down the Primievally Wrathful Father of the girl you want to marry -- bucketloads of XP. (Takes a lot more courage than facing orcs. Especially if you happen to know from the regular militia drills that the PWF has Weapon Focus: Pole With Lots of Spiky Bits On The End).
Defeating the next village's champion in a wrestling match at the annual farm festival -- that's XP.
A couple of things. One is, who guards the prisoners on the way back to Restov? If there are no guards available, the PCs will have to escort them or the prisoners will have to be kept insite till some arrive.
Then have Kesten Garess arrive, shake his head, and start building a gallows. He can explain to the PCs that their charter gives them the legal right to try bandits, and are they going to have the trial today or tomorrow?
Or have Oleg explain that he doesn't have any cells, and certainly no spare food, and the PCs will certainly have to pay for food, guards, and his expenses in turning one building into a cell and then have Svetlana sell tickets to the hangings. There will probably be a few interested locals cheering the hangman on.
Oh, and Oleg will sell bits of the rope afterwards.
I'm guessing that it means both. If you don't qualify physically or mentally or spiritually, then you're sent away from the community.
Another way to think of it is that nobody inherits a shot at Hemea. No one gets in just because their parents did. Everyone has to qualify on their own. (This is, I think, where Mengkare's experiment is most likely to fail -- dragons are fine with raising their offspring and sending them off into the world to sink or swim. Humans, maybe not so much. A look at, say, the history of New England's Puritans might prove enlightening.)
I'm thinking of Mengkare and the Council, good version, as something like the haut in Bujold's Cetaganda. They want to improve things, to make a better human, but they dont necessarily know exactly what it will look like. So they concentrate strengths, look for unexpected random improvements -- one reason they have agents out in the world -- and monitor what's going on to see if they can do better. It's still very much a work in progress, and a participatory scheme, not just a dragon breeding humans for qualities only he likes.
Mengkare realizes that, at some point, the Council will be enlightened enough to overrule him. He doesn't think it's happened yet (not after only six generations), but he's willing to listen and argue with them, not just overrule them arbitrarily.
I remember looking at a class guide that says enervation is amazing. Is that true?
It is not. Enervation is MUCH MUCH better than that.
Seriously, a ranged touch spell with no save that gives stackable long-lasting penalties to EVERYTHING and eventually kills the victim? At which point it becoms a wight and you are free to take control of it using one of your many other spells or abilities? Without even an expensive material component?
The only thing that's amazing about I is how many wizards don't take it.
The silent type. Doesn't say anything about himself or his goals. Then, when someone asks him why are you doing something, walked out of the campaign because that question shoes that nobody had many any effort to fathom the motives buried inhis dark and tormented soul.
Yes, that's right. He blamed us for not knowing what he had never told us.
Don't do goblins. Do kobolds. There are more of them later in the adventure path, so it will look like good foreshadowing.
Have the wreck of a caravan attacked by bandits, with a couple of scavenging animals (wolves, dogs, rats?) feeding on the corpses of the dead. Foreshadow Kressle with a few chopped-off hands. Of course, you have to figure out what happens if the Pcs decide to track the bandits.
Animals of various local types -- see the random encounter tables -- are always good
Have a crazed traveller who thinks the PCs are more bandits attack them from ambush or something.
Have a wandering orphan kid (parents killed in a bandit attack) show up at the fire looking for food, warmth, whatever. Or maybe the kid is a spy for the bandits?
Explain that you're giving evil people a chance to "serve again" and work off their bad deads to purify themselves. (Be sure to max out your Bluff check before doing this.)
Do the undead as commandos striking in the night. Explain to the locals that obviously your holiness is keeping the undead from affecting them.
Or just flat out tell them the truth and hope they don't burn you. If it's going to derail the campaign, do it early.
Aid someone in melee with your spear. Or aid their AC.
Use scrolls or a wand.
Think about the fight and what's going on, and what you might need to do.
Ready to shoot someone with your crossbow when you have a clear line of sight, if you can't shoot anyone right now and don't have Precise Sot.
Use your school powers.
But mostly, use one good spell to set up the battlefield and let the martials shine. Your contribution isn't in doing hit point damage, it's in doing other things.
Yup, pretty much.
Like I said, I'm mostly coming at it from the viewpoint that charm isn't dominate, and isn't suggestion. Suggestion can get you to do crazy things, within limits. Dominate makes you do whatever the caster wants, and even then you get a save if its too alien to what you are. So no way should charm be as powerful as either of those spells.
The fundamental point of my guide, by the way, is that you don't win as a enchanter by winning the opposed charisma check. You win by managing things so you never have to make that check at all.
I'm assuming that you want a corrupt or adventuresome city, yes?
Well, there's always the guards at the city gate. That will let you set the scene, show what the guards are up to (e.g., in a corrupt city they might even solicit bribes -- do the PCs report them, bribe them, or just pass them by).
Find a temple to one of their gods -- small, run-down, in a back alley, with kids mocking the priest(ess) or throwing mud at it. Can they restore the respect the temple ought to have without slaughtering the kids (which would provoke the parents, or the guards, or somebody).
A beggar asking for help, and offering to sell them information. Maybe they get something useful. Then he pickpockets them -- an agent of the Thieves' Guild, reporting to his masters on the new people in town.
Someone who wants to hire them for slave market security. Decent wages, opportunity for a little sampling of the merchandise, whatever. What do they do? (If they react too badly, his other guards show up and become annoying, but they won't fight unless attacked first.)
A family being evicted from their apartment for non-payment of rent (or non-payment of loansharking fees, or something) -- one of them spots the PCs and asks for help. If they do help (it's a matter of 50 gp or so), they have an ally or two in the family, and a secure shelter, but they also get a lot of other beggars. If they skip the trouble, have one of the girls show up a few days later being dragged down the street in chains as a slave (family had to sell her to get the money to move in somewhere else).
A festival of some sort is always fun. PCs can enter contests (some maybe rigged, some simple, some designed to let them shine), run into bards telling stories, get pick-pocketed, find out which gods are popular with which people (the rich are going to the festival of one god, the poor to another, maybe the people of one neighborhood in the city have their own special festival.)
A half-orc or tiefling being chased down the street by the mob. Do they rescue him? This might quickly turn into a combat scene, but maybe a good Diplomacy or Intimidate check will face down the mob.
What if the end results in a greater good for a greater number of people?
If I'm a paladin, and someone uses the phrase "greater good" around me, I detect evil on them. You may have to ally with someone evil. You might have to fight hard and maybe dirty. You don't get to be evil yourself.
This is not always easy, nor should it be. And that's why the atonement spell exists. Sometimes you make mistakes.
What does everyone think of the GM deliberately putting the paladin in situations that test the paladin's adherence to the code of conduct?
You volunteered to play a paladin. You signed up for dealing with issues of good and evil. You will run into them, at least in my campaigns. And some fiends will try very hard to make you fall, recruit you, whatever. Comes with the job description.
Now, a GM putting a paladin through nothing but that sort of thing, or forcing fall/fall situations, is just being a dick. I try not to do that. (It is, by the way, REALLY TRULY IMPORTANT that both you and your player be on the same wavelength as what's good or evil, what's acceptable and what's not, and it may differ somewhat from paladin to paladin. If player and GM aren't in accord on this, only grief awaits, and it would probably be better not to try. I speak from bitter experience.)
I generally ask them if they think their character ought to be on the same page as Joan the Maid, or Lancelot, or George Washington, or William Marshall, or Steve Rogers, or Clark Kent, when it comes to moral fibre. Because that's what a paladin (legendary or fictional)
Paladins ought to have moral issues hitting them at about the same frequency that wizards have hefty-magical issues hitting them, or clerics have issues-of-their-god, or bards have diplomacy issues, or samurai have loyalty issues. Some of those tests probably should be hard. Moral dilemmas do exist. But they also ought to have the chance to shine. Sometimes good and evil really are clear-cut, and the shining knight in armor deserves a chance to really, truly shine. Fiendish foes should fall. Wavering ones should be redeemed (or at least redeemable). People should trust and admire the trustworthy and admirable. Not all dilemmas are simple or easy to solve -- and falls need to be clear and unambiguous, and even a vague saunter downwards needs to be given plenty of warning.
And (in my campaigns, at least) no fall is unredeemable. You can always get up, atone, and try again: the only unforgivable sin is refusing to seek forgiveness. A paladin can choose the least bad course of action even if it isn't great, but he isn't allowed to do evil that good may come of it.