Way of the Wicked—Book Three: Tears of the Blessed (PFRPG) (based on
Fire Mountain Games
Lead an Army of Darkness into Battle!
Inside the Vale of Valtaerna is found the most sacred site to the benevolent god Mitra in all of Talingarde. From this holy site, your enemies draw power and comfort. This is the story of
how you raised an army of wickedness and stormed that stronghold of light slaughtering all who stood in your way!
No longer are you a petty servant of darkness. Here is your chance to become a master of evil. But beware! This will not be easy. There are more than just priests in the vale. This is the lair of countless good celestials who will do all in their power to stop your rise. Can you defeat them? Will you be destroyed or will you emerge triumphant amidst the tears of the blessed?
Welcome to the third chapter of the “Way of the Wicked”—the only evil adventure path for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!
Inside you’ll find:
“Tears of the Blessed,” an adventure compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game for 10th-level villains by Gary McBride
Full color art and maps by Michael Clarke
A gazetteer of the city of Ghastenhall
Detailed information about the Church of Mitra, your most determined foes.
All you need to run a vicious narrative battle with your PCs in command.
102 pages of full color!
Raise your army, dark lord, and march to war. There will be no one to stop you this time!
When's the print coming online? I'm sorely tempted and can just barely keep my fingers from hitting the purchase-button - After all, I actually bought Knot of Thorns twice - once pdf only and once in the bundle...
Thank you very much for supporting a small start-up and buying our first product twice. Those first few sales were really important to me convincing investors to take a chance on us. So, there is more Way of the Wicked because of people like you.
That said, there is no reason to buy this one twice. The print version is already submitted and as soon as I see the proof copy and all is well, it will be available.
There is much that is out of my hands so all I can say right now is soon. I will post here immediately as it is available.
Oh, it can die. It just takes multiple times to do it, and the right kind of spell casters in the party. I can't help but wonder how quickly my PCs will take this down, or if they'll actually have trouble against it. Two of them will be immune to fire by the time they get to this point. It's going to be interesting to see.
Looking it up and doing reference checks on circus adventures, 99% of all ring masters are a type of wizard or wizard/fighter. I'll probably stick with that for Vex, and straight up cleric for Lao. Unless you had better suggestions in mind.
Also, already found something that needs to be errated. Aasimars are native outsiders, not humanoids.
I loooooove this AP... but there are some formating and orthographic errors, the blink dog sorcerer stat block has a weird heading and I think there shouldn't be references to vampire PCs because the only vampire they may know can't make true vampires until they end this adventure and give him the magical chalice. Other than that, I like it very, very much.
I have a question about reactions to the NPC our villains encounter in Act 2, Event 4.
Dessiter asks the players to pass on his greetings to Tiadora if they mention her.
How would Thorn and Tiadora react if the players are foolish enough to tell them, or they otherwise find out such as if the Nessian Warhounds come up in conversation. I can't imagine them being comfortable knowing that another of Hell's agents is visiting their minions without permission, the Pact with the players notwithstanding.
How would Thorn react to Asmodeus transforming his brother's armor to show the characters his pleasure? I can see him being happy with the sign, but would it also disquiet him? Especially after the 7th Knot turns on him?
I really love these sort of deep background questions. They show real interest in the material.
Thorn knows of Dessiter's presence on the island and right now (as of Book 3) thinks of him as a servant of HIM. He will be surprised that Dessiter acted without orders and sought out the Ninth Knot.
Thorn will probably act nonchalant about it. "Ah, I've see you've met Dessiter. A whiny little braggart and a liar. Be wary of him."
But what he's thinking is... "Crap! What else do they know that I've missed?" Thorn is paranoid. Always always paranoid and by the end of book three, he's beginning to become afraid of his Ninth Knot. They aren't merely doing his bidding anymore. They're building their own army. And now, Dessiter is having private conversations with them?
What can Dessiter contract with the PCs for? They're already going to Hell so many times over that they make the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune look like pikers.
My read on this was...
...that it doesn't really matter. He'll cut them an incredible deal (e.g. "I'll upgrade your hellhounds if you promise to kill celestials" - which they were going to do anyway) just so he can use the clause in the contract that lets him scry on the PCs. At this point, he just wants to observe their progress.
Thanks for the quick response Gary. It helps that the material is so good that you just can't help but try to connect some extra dots.
One of my players has a legal background, and I can imagine that they may become over paranoid about the Pact they have to strike with Thorn. I may have Dessiter present at Thorn's request to answer a few questions about the contract; after making the necessary statements to assure them that no one has told him to give any particular explanation, of course.
Evil Midnight Lurker wrote:
What can Dessiter contract with the PCs for? They're already going to Hell so many times over that they make the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune look like pikers.
Infernal contracts don't have to be for souls. He can contract them for Specific Performance.
He specifically wants them to kill Ara Mathra or at least drive him out of the Vale.
So he gives them Nessian Warhounds, they get rid of the angel. He also finds it far easier to watch them and judge their abilities for himself.
I think the right answer has already been written here, but let me just reiterate it and maybe clarify.
Dessiter acts like he's here to ensure that Ara Mathra is destroyed and indeed he wants the angel destroyed so he's not lying.
But really, he could less about Ara Mathra. He's confident that the PCs are already going to try to kill the angel. So, why is he here?
If he gets them under an incredibly generous contract, he gets to scry on them all day long. And that's what he's really after.
What he really wants to know -- are these the guys I need to take down Thorn? After the battle of Saintsbridge, killing a phoenix and slaying Ara Mathra, he'll have his answer. He's found Thorn's replacements.
And so, he'll pick the right moment to return in Book Four.
I am really enjoying the third book after picking it up last night. As usual, the story is top notch, with epic encounters and a real build on the PC's villainous path.
While production values are good in that the layout is nice and the artwork fantastic, quality control seems to have suffered. There are a lot of grammatical mistakes and the bookmark to Mitra: Lord of Light is broken for me. Of course, the great thing about the electronic format is those things can be fixed.
An example of an important mistake:
Page 91, under Priests of Mitra both the Shining Lord and the Fire Undying are listed as LG alignment.
I'm not saying anyone needs to stay away from this book, but it appears you guys are having a harder time keeping up, and it's bleeding through some. I'm just glad book 3 still stands strong, despite those.
First and foremost, thanks for supporting "Way of the Wicked". I'm glad you are enjoying the read.
We spend a lot of time editing and playtesting the adventure and do our absolute best to deliver to you the best product we can. That said, we're only human.
However, to comment on one thing -- The Fire Undying being LG is not a mistake. I'll admit I vassilated. LG or LN? But in the end, I decided that while the Shining Lord is lawful GOOD, the inquisitors of the Fire Undying are LAWFUL good (though many of them slip and in their zealotry become LAWFUL neutral).
Mitra's divine law is all that matters. Burn out evil and anything that opposes that divine law. That is the code of the Undying Fire. It may seem callous and but it is a code -- hence Lawful. And they do it because they believe it is for the greater good.
You know, if you want to change it to Lawful Neutral, it wouldn't hurt my feelings. But in a world where infernal forces actively fight to destroy Talingarde, its difficult to say that Undying Fire isn't right to resort to any means necessary to defeat those forces.
Regardless, if you have a moment please email any errors you find to me at gary|at|firemountaingames|dot|com. We will review them and see about including them in the next errata release which will probably be out later this month.
And thanks again for your interest and support in Fire Mountain Games and "Way of the Wicked".
Wow, I completely thought you were going for LG/NG/CG aspects. I really thought Fire Undying was CG, with statements like "cares nothing for civilization or serenity". My mistake in jumping to conclusions, there.
First, I have to say that I'm quite enjoying Tears of the Blessed! Look for my review in the next few days.
That said, when you make the errata update, you might want to consider adding a line of inquisitions (inquisitor class-specific "domains") to each of Mitra's deity information. The inquisitions can be found in Ultimate Magic (with two more in Ultimate Combat). While I imagine most inquisitors belong to The Fire Undying, technically any deity can have inquisitors, so each entry should have some.
Of course, since there's apparently no rhyme or reason to how many inquisitions a deity has (Paizo's range from three to six, depending on the god), The Fire Undying likely has more than the others.
I would say this is the weakest of the series so far. I would also say that just means it has failed to clear a very, very high bar. The first module was an A; the second, an A+. This is in B+/A- territory IMO. What's interesting is that it doesn't fall short through mediocrity. It's an action-packed, incredibly cinematic adventure that's full of WOW and potential Crowning Moments of Awesome. What pulls it down a bit is that there are a number of flaws and problems.
Here's the first and biggest one: the module wants the PCs to slaughter everyone in the valley and make it look like the bugbears did it. This is -- no offense, Gary -- kind of dumb.
-- It forces the PCs to become mass murderers, killing thousands (!) of perfectly nice and completely defenseless villagers purely to preserve their secret. Gary wisely instructs us to move quickly past this part and back to pulp villainy. But then why put it in there in the first place?
-- The point of the secrecy is so that nobody yet knows that Asmodeus is back in Talingarde. Really? After the events of the last two modules, nobody will have figured this out yet? Nobody from Balentyre? Nobody from the Horn -- including Sir Richard, who is guaranteed to have survived? No Mitran cleric has cast a simple Commune spell? It stretches the imagination to think that nobody is at least suspecting Asmodean intervention by this time. But it's frankly ridiculous to think they won't figure it out after the events of this module.
-- Framing the bugbears. A bunch of bugbears climbed that mountain and killed a CR 14 phoenix, then took down iron golems, ghost paladins, some 14th level NPCs and a powerful celestial? That's like my ten year old trying to convince me that his three year old sister cut down the old apple tree. It's just not going to fly. Obviously some greater, darker power is at work here, and the good guys are going to devote the resources of a kingdom to figuring out what it is.
-- Keeping the secret. Gary does make a decent attempt to deal with this by noting that the PCs probably /can't/ keep the secret -- unless they've taken fairly harsh and careful measures, someone will get out. And he covers many of the bases, though he misses a couple. All those celestials with teleport at will: nobody blips away to warn the world? The Shield Archons, the Legion Archons? The Flame-that-Sings doesn't use her Flame Jump? And what about that storm giant -- the dude has two rocs and fifty frickin' hippogriffs at his disposal, and he can't send a simple message that Timmy is in trouble, if I'm not back by Tuesday call the Feds?
But that doesn't even cover it. Even if nobody gets out or sends a warning -- nobody in the outside world is going to notice a thing for three months? Nobody ever scrys the Vale, or tries to communicate magically with anyone there? Nobody ever uses Fly or Wind Walk to pay a visit? No hardy ranger or druid ever crosses the snowbound pass to deliver welcome news from the outside? A town of 3,700 people and the kingdom's holiest shrine can just go offline for three months and nobody will notice? Really?
The thing is, all this seems really unnecessary. Thorn could run this as a false-flag operation if he wanted to, for one thing -- Asmodeus is a deity of trickery, after all. Have all the PCs kitted out as cultists of Demogorgon or something. Or he could just say, the hell with it -- time to let our feindish freak fly, proud and high. What's more effective (and, from a gaming POV cooler) -- "bugbears did it", or the red and black banner of Asmodeus, waving from a standard in the town square, atop a pyramid of skulls, decorated with the torn wings of angels?
I guess you could handwave it by saying that Thorn is both paranoid and a cryptomaniacal control freak. Which is totally true and consistent with his character. But then you've missed an opportunity to make it about the PCs' evolving relationship with Thorn. "Our boss wants us to do this, which is totally overkill and is not going to work anyway. Do we obey orders to the letter, or do things our own way?"
From a meta POV, I'm guessing that Gary wanted to delay the Big Reveal for a subsequent module. I'm sure that he has something neat in mind. But I think that the desire to do that distorted the plot of this module in a not-good way.
Okay, there are a number of other things that made me go "hm" -- the Dessiter one has already been mentioned; how could anyone recognize them from Branderscar if they're wearing the circlets; what's the point of that army showing up on the last page if they didn't keep the secret (yes, I know it will affect the next module, but the consequences of failure should be clear in /this/ module)... but let those bide for now; I'm interested in hearing what others think about the whole "frame the bugbears, keep our involvement secret" thing.
Having said all that, let me repeat again that I found this a fun, engaging adventure, full of action, innovation and cool ideas. It's still as good as most of the modules and AP installments that Paizo puts out (and I like most of Paizo's stuff just fine.) I'd be delighted to run it sometime.
Thanks for buying and supporting "Way of the Wicked"! I'm glad you've enjoyed it and I'm glad you want to run it.
Obviously I've done a bad job of explaining this plot point so let me first try to make it a little clearer and then suggest an alternative if you still don't like it.
Secrecy is not important. Everyone will soon know about the slaughter at Valtaerna. What is important to keep secret is that Asmodeans are behind it. Yes, the higher ups have already figured this out, intuitively if nothing else. The King as much as says so in the little scene at the end of the adventure. We suggest a "let's hunt Asmodeans" craze in Ghastenhall started by the duke. And so forth.
But the people -- the common clay -- they aren't so sure. The Darian regime has always been quick to blame Asmodeus for every trouble (see the Asmodean purges of Markadian IV) but where's the proof? The real villain that everyone knows about is Sakkarot Fire-Axe.
The Fire-Axe has already done what no bugbear has ever done. He's sacked two fortresses of the Watch Wall, raids unopposed in the north and even threatens the third largest city in Talingarde. The fact that the Fire-Axe was clever enough to strike against and destroy Valtaerna...I think the people of Talingarde will buy that.
This plot point is important in Book VI when an army of Asmodeans "saves" Talingarde from the Fire-Axe and wins the hearts and minds of the people. That is why Thorn wants to keep evidence of their involvement to a minimum. Who cares what a paladin, king or priests of Mitra think. Of course they think Asmodeus is behind it. They think Asmodeus is behind everything. Hopefully soon, they'll all be dead. Thorn is concerned with the common people.
Can the vale go offline for three months? In the dead of winter -- yes. Virtually no one visits in winter. It is an isolated mountain vale far from the front of the war. Still, every once and a while someone desperate does visit. We cover that in the section entitled "Manning the Watchtower". But powerful spellcasters? No. There are few of those in Talingarde and people do not randomly "wind walk" around. Actually, having a "hardy ranger" or two visit over the mountains is a good idea for an encounter. The PCs have to deal with these interlopers fast or their true nature will be revealed.
No, the celestials will not leave (save for the ghaele Taranea as mentioned in her description and she only leaves when she's sure things are lost). All the celestials if you read their descriptions are tasked to defend this vale and in its darkest hour they will not abandon it. Many of them like the peri actually can't abandon it. It mentions in her description how is she bound to the phoenix's mount. She longs to aid the army at Saintsbridge but cannot.
The Storm Giant Anteus is a creature from the clouds. He leads an assualt upon the vale in fulfillment of an ancient pact. He knows nothing of Talirean politics and frankly couldn't care less. If he isn't defeated, then yes, he will likely raise the alarm. And the rocs and hippogriffs are beasts (Int 2). They cannot raise the alarm.
Ara Mathra is doing his absolute best to summon aid. But he will not abandon the Cathedral of Mitra Made Manifest. If he abandons the Cathedral he abandons the Flame Undying and I hope the book makes clear why that is a Very Bad Thing.
So, its important the PCs keep Asmodean involvement in the raid a secret and it is difficult (but not impossible) for them to do so. That is one of the objectives for this adventure.
Wow, this has gotten long. Next post I will talk about alternatives.
Regardless, thanks for taking the time to read this adventure and comment on it.
And if you still don't like secrecy being important, I say "ditch it." Seriously, just have Thorn not mention that objective.
At the end of the day, even if the people of Talingarde do think the Asmodeans are behind it, what does that matter?
So the Asmodeans and the Mitran are fighting? They always fight. What matters in the end is who saved their lives. Thorn works diligently right now to ensure that the answer is "The servants of Asmodeus". His plan will likely outlive him.
And I do apologize for not fully detailing what happens after winter. The adventure does end on something of a cliffhanger.
There simply was not room in this adventure (we were already two pages over our target of one hundred). This adventure is about slaying the celestials that guard Valtaerna and it ends with their defeat. It doesn't fully detail all the reprecussions of that defeat. Not quite yet. But all that is coming.
We do discuss how to end the adventure if it's run as a stand-alone or if you make this the end of a shortened campaign, so I think we cover everyone.
We start up in Book IV detailing what happens come spring...
Anyways, I hope that helps and again I really want to emphasize -- thanks for supporting "Way of the Wicked". I really do appreciate such honest, heart-felt criticism from someone who has obviously read the book and thought a lot about it.