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Fighting the Harbinger (Spoilers)


Age of Worms Adventure Path

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airwalkrr wrote:
How you choose to use these advantages should be up to you and the environment of your campaign to challenge your players properly......If there was a problem on your end, it was operator error, not an inherent flaw in the campaign or the game system.

No, there was no problem at all: no operator error nor inherent flaw in the campaign or game system (well, that last one is debatable). I think we can agree to agree now. To reiterate, I agree with the arguments that you and ninja make. This particular villain can be as powerful as you intend him to be; we can all agree to that.

In my story, he simply wasn't as powerful. And yes, he could have been extremely powerful like you suggest - many foes in the AoW have been, and many more will be (many of which are spell casters).


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

It states under "tactics " in room 13 which is where the Harbringer resides that Mak'ar will not attack the party unless he himself is attacked by them. With that said, he most likely would have heard the battle with the overworm in room 11. If in fact he does hear the battle he would summon the kyuss knights from room 12 to his side and while he waits for them he would put some defensive spells up. While the party is then fighting the overworm & wormcallers he would engage them in some conversations. From there if the group kills all in the room an engages Mak'ar all bets are off. Try that senario and get back to all of us, were waiting.


As my group finished Mak'ar yesterday after a climatic and tactical battle, I wanted to share my take on him and SoLS with those of you who still run up for that installment.

Changes to SoLS:
- I changed a lot of rooms down the shaft: Mak'ar got a huge hexagonal room 90 ft. across; the floor was entirely covered in worms.
- I changed the entrance to the fountian so that there was an altar and many elaborate frescos telling in explicit detail a hundred ways to be sacrificed to Nerull. Behind a secret door, the fountain was located in a natural cavern, which seemed oh so refreshing with cool, clear water and three fey-like beeings asking to share a bath...
- Mak'ar's phylactery was still intact, located precisely inside the fountain. He didn't go after the players until late, though, as he trusted the task of defense to Nezzarin the watching Kyuss Knight.
- Nezzarin was mounted on one of the hounds of Kyuss (60ft. movement! climb speed!), had an unholy lance, spirited charge and ride-by-attack. He harrassed the PCs many times, often organizing a new line of defense and then retreating (and reporting to Mak'ar).
- Sruggut porposed a deal as written, but as a token presented to the PCs two things: The knowledge about where the phylactery was to be found, and Bucknard's note from the later adventure.
- I came up with a riddle on the door to Mak'ar's sanctum, as my PCs enjoy some guessing every now and then. That gave him some time to prep (actually, fully prepare), and ran out some buffs on the PCs. If you are interested, I can give you the details (it involved spellweaver numbers, hexanary equations, and UMD-checks)
- Mak'ar was rewritten as a sorcerer specialized in necromancy, so horrid wilting was on his list (which did a lot of damage) and maze was out. In retrospect, I'd keep maze and loose power word, stun.
- Nezzarine joined the fight against Mak'ar, still mounted on the beetle. In combination with the silent image / wall of force trick, that gave him some rounds to impress the PCs with 6 magic missiles at once, power words, and more horrid wiltings :) They won't forget him soon.

The key factors to a long(er) lasting final encounter (6 rounds), was the much bigger sanctum, the floor covered in worms so that they couldn't reach him within an antimagic field (no flying), and Nezzarine as a backup.

Thanks to clever tactics, the PCs eventually won.


Thanks for the ideas everyone, I may incorporate some of them into the encounter with the Spellweaver (which probaby will not take place till next year around this time). I took a look at his build last night and threw him some levels of Psion and swapped out some of his basic spells for Spell Compendium selections.


I had this to say back in August of 2008:

My PCs are power-house slayers. They've dominated most of the modules so far, but the Spire was a different story. The entire module was difficult, but the Harbinger was the most difficult boss of the campaign yet. Let me say more...

When the Harbinger noted the PCs ransacking its Spire, it was prepared. Once the group accessed the lower levels, it began buffing itself. When the overworm was attacked, the Harbinger floated out of its sanctum, invisible, with stoneskin, mirror image, displacement, cold shield, and repulsion cast.

Only the sorceress could see the Harbinger, and the spellweaver immediately noticed this. It communicated with the sorceress in a calm, collected tone, to come down and explain the actions of the PCs, and surprisingly enough, she did, swooping down to the tunnel leading to the Harbinger's sanctum to parlay. In an attempt to hit the Harbinger in the back, the sorceress did as she was told, and laid down in submission while the Harbinger assessed the situation (5 PCs tangling with the overworm).

Once the spellweaver turned its back on her, she fired an empowered disintegrate, missing horribly. The Harbinger whirled around and used a greater dispelling on her, which stripped her of all her magical protections. She was warned to stay down, and promised that she will be given "accession" should she comply, as will her comrades if they do the same (accession is transformation into a spawn of Kyuss, by the way, though the Harbinger wasn't clear about that). The Harbinger, now fully visible, turned to examine the destruction of its overworm, and the sorceress fired her own greater dispelling, which only stripped the Harbinger's cold shield. In the next round, the spellweaver unleashed an empowered magic missile using all six arms, dealing over 200 points of damage to the sorceress, turning her into a blackened pile of bones.

The remainder of the encounter went down as follows:

The elf scout was swallowed and digested by the overworm.

The lizardfolk druid (the only PC to breach the Harbinger's repulsion) was readied-action mazed and was rolling INT checks for the duration of the encounter.

*By now, the spellcasters had been neutralized, leaving the brawlers to pound away at the Harbinger's mirror images at range, since none of them could breach the spellweaver's repulsion.*

The half-orc fighter was slain after suffering from a prismatic spray and a chain lightning.

That left the awakened dire ape ranger and the half-orc werewolf ranger/warshaper (who was immune to stunning--warshaper benefit--and had listen lorecall active). A power word stun was strangely ineffective (warshaper), as was a power word blind (listen lorecall). Wielding a ghost strike hammer, the ranger threw it three times, ultimately destroying the spellweaver on a critical (ghost strike weapons can critical undead), whose spells were dwindling by that point.

The awakened dire ape ranger (Zorgus from Dungeon #131) was airborne firing arrows with the legendary, enlarged Nimbus Bow, though he was doing paltry damage even when he hit.

Really, I allowed the half-orc ranger to succeed. I could have obliterated the party with the spellweaver lich, but I didn't want the campaign to end. ;-) The players were genuinely scared (and so was I) that the game was going to end with that awful encounter, but I hadn't put all this effort into a campaign just to run a TPK. Oh no...

The Harbinger is a thousands-year-old lich, and simply should not be hosed without #1 being totally buffed with spells and #2 slaying at least one party member in the process.


by the time my group faced the harbinger it consisted of:

human cleric 8/mighty contender of Kord 6
tiefling ex-monk 2/ swashbuckler 3/ rogue 7/ fighter1
aasimar Sorcerer 6/exalted arcanist 5/holy scourge2

the fourth member of the group got eaten by the overworm in the previous room. (human fighter 8/ cleric 1/ wormhunter 5)

the tiefling won initiative and charged in hitting the Harbinger for 25
harbinger went next and cast repulsion, which everyone but the tiefling and the sorcerers familiar promptly passed.
aasimar then casts a sanctified purified empowered scorching ray. Harbinger goes down to the second ray of the three.

If i ever run the campaign again, all major undead NPCs get Unholy Toughness, no question.


Is Unholy Toughness enough of a HP bump though to make a real difference? I guess they would need to take it a few times to make a big difference. Maybe just maxing out the HP would help.

I think perhaps Protection from Elements or Energy Immunity spells are as important as HP. It prevents characters from nuking out the villains.


Dennis Harry wrote:

Is Unholy Toughness enough of a HP bump though to make a real difference? I guess they would need to take it a few times to make a big difference. Maybe just maxing out the HP would help.

I think perhaps Protection from Elements or Energy Immunity spells are as important as HP. It prevents characters from nuking out the villains.

I agree,most PC's like certain spells so I would have energy immunity or at least energy resistance up. I would also use spells that incur miss chances such as mirror image, and blur. Once PC's get to higher levels a bit of pre-planning is in order.


Dennis Harry wrote:
Is Unholy Toughness enough of a HP bump though to make a real difference? I guess they would need to take it a few times to make a big difference.

unholy toughness is a special quality, not a feat, it grants creatures (usually undead) that have it use their charisma modifier in place of their (non-existent) constitution modifier. Most of the major undead in AoW have pretty high charisma scores. Harbinger has Cha29 which would grant him 135 extra hp.

The same special quality would grant Lashonna an additional 527hp...

not that energy immunity wouldn't be good too of course..


Ah I see. Maybe it should be converted into a feat for the major Undead baddies then :-)


armnaxis wrote:
I came up with a riddle on the door to Mak'ar's sanctum, as my PCs enjoy some guessing every now and then. That gave him some time to prep (actually, fully prepare), and ran out some buffs on the PCs. If you are interested, I can give you the details (it involved spellweaver numbers, hexanary equations, and UMD-checks)

Armnaxis, I'd be interested in the details of your riddle on the door, if only for future reference... sounds v. cool.


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Lawmonger wrote:
If i ever run the campaign again, all major undead NPCs get Unholy Toughness, no question.

In which book does Unholy Toughness appear?


Lawmonger wrote:


Armnaxis, I'd be interested in the details of your riddle on the door, if only for future reference... sounds v. cool.

Here you go:

There is a 5ft. wide, 30 ft. long hexagonal corridor that leads to the hexagonal door to Mak'ars sanctum. On the corridor's floor, an inch above the stone tiles hover six strange, greenly glowing runes. On the corridors ceiling, there are two different glowing runes, smaller and at the intersections between every two floor runes.

ceiling.....+.....:.......DOOR
floor....5 5 2 1 1 2..DOOR

The door features six runes as well, along its perimeter. These are not glowing above the stone, but instead carved into it.

The door will only open if the right solution to the equation is given to the door's engraved runes. Otherwise, the whole corridor crushes down (no save, instant death) and a new equation will appear.

For the numerals, I didn't use normal numbers 0,1,2,3,4,5; but instead the runes that can be found in the Dragon article "Ecology of the Spellweaver". On page 66 (Dragon 338) there's a picture that features strange runes for numbers 0 through 5 ("Spell weaver numerals").

I used these numerals for a hexanary system as opposed to a decimal or binary system to formulate the equation. Thus, the above given example is solved as follows:

55(hex) = 5*6 + 5*1 = 35(dec)
21(hex) = 13(dec)
12(hex) = 8(dec)
35 + 13 : 8 = 6
6(dec) = 10(hex)

Thus pressing the runes "1" followed by "0" in spellweaver runes opens the door.

To make matters a bit more complex, I avoided the operators "+", "-", "*" and ":", but came up with alternative runes (<,>,-,|).

Now for the hints and helpers:

1) They had found Balakarde's note earlier when dealing with Sruggut, and in addition to the note from prince of redhand, it had some scribblings on the back side that stated not to try a solution out (again); and had a list of runes he had seen so far (5 of the 6 numerals, and 3 of the 4 operators).

2) With an succesful DC30 Use Magic Device check, they could change the equation. Failing by up to 5 did not change it, and failing by more than five would have resulted in the ceiling crushing down.

From there on, they were on their own. It took them about an hour to figure it out (which I counted as in-game time and thus ran out some buffs).

I had to come up with some alternative equations (succesful UMD checks) and figured out it would be a bit easier if all featured the same result (6). Once you get familiar with the hexanary system, it's pretty easy to make up new equations; however as the biggest number that can be displayed by the hovering, glowing runes is 35, I'd advise to have some prepared beforehand.


@ Armnaxis: Thanks, this looks awesome! :-)

@ Oti:

Oti wrote:
In which book does Unholy Toughness appear?

unholy toughness first appears (so far as i'm aware) in Monster Manual III

with the Bonedrinker (p.18) and the Drowned (p46)

Paizo gave it as an additional special quality to Dragotha in Into the Wormcrawl Fissure (Dungeon 134, p84) though I'm still wondering if I should make him tougher...


Hey Lawmonger. You can always give Dragotha more HP on the spot if they seem to walk over him too fast. Against major villains such as Dragotha it is what I do.

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