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PFS#7 Among The Living [SPOILERS]


Pathfinder Society GM Discussion

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The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Michigan—Detroit

What, no one has posted on this yet? I'm the firstest one??

Spoiler:
I played this one last night with my new Taldan bard. When I read the blurb, I thought it would be a perfect scenario to premiere a PC that belongs to the Taldan faction. It didn’t work out as well as I had hoped it would, but what ever does? We had a full table, two 3rd level PCs, two 2nd level PCs and two 1st level PCs. The key to our success was the 3rd level Osirion cleric of Pharasma with Improved Turning. At Tier 1-2, this PC made short work of the undead. However, it was the human opponents who gave us the most trouble.

To begin with, our judge for the night (our group rotates this responsibility) volunteered to eat this adventure after he read the blurb because it sounded like a barbarian PC would be at a severe disadvantage interacting in an opulent opera house. However, after the initial role-playing amongst the high society in Oppara the adventure quickly got down to the business of hack-and-slash. Barbarians do fine. However, I couldn’t see a way for a druid to bring an animal companion to the event, so her wolf remained tied up outside the entire scenario. The external doors were (we were told) welded closed, so once the fighting began there was no way to get to the animal. This was my only real gripe about this scenario.

Part of the risk/fun of this scenario is the potential to trigger multiple encounters. The opera house map is a fantastic setting for a drawn-out slugfest in the main chamber. Our judge for the night has a mean streak and apparently adjusted an enemy cleric to carry two ‘cause fear’ spells instead of one. Two PCs got frightened and ran away from the fight and opened doors which triggered additional encounters. The fight against the undead was great for atmosphere but amounted to little more than a speed bump for the turning cleric. An interesting part was when the cleric had expended his daily turn attempts and we weren’t sure if we had faced the last encounter.

Despite the zombie’s [brief] appearance, the living opponents ganged up on our druid and beat the snot out of her until our two rogues started getting hot on the dice and the tide turned. What worried us the most was the use of heavy picks as the bad guy weapon of choice. A x4 crit from a heavy pick is bad news for any PC, as our 3rd level rogue discovered. I understand that for followers of Zyphus this weapon is absolutely appropriate, but it still made a sad ending for a dedicated player.

Later on in the scenario when we got down in the lower level the last fight would have been a pushover if not for the crit on the rogue that ended his life. I think that the heavy pick with its x4 critical modifier accurately illustrates the portfolio of Zyphus—unexpected death. However, the incident touched off the reoccurring debate about 3.5 critical hits vs. 4E critical hits. I’m fine with the 3.5 system, but I also lost 13 PCs in the 3 years that I played Living Greyhawk so I’m hardened to the shock and dismay. I can’t say that the heavy picks were inappropriate but I just wish they weren’t so devastating when they crit.

I am running this scenario for a lightweight party of 4 PCs tomorrow. Hopefully they won’t touch off multiple encounters. It is going to take some fancy DMing to keep them alive, especially when they can’t run away because the building is sealed.
.

**

Well...

Spoiler:
Doug Miles wrote:
The external doors were (we were told) welded closed, so once the fighting began there was no way to get to the animal. This was my only real gripe about this scenario.

The doors weren't welded, they were magically sealed. :-)

Sovereign Court ***

Joshua J. Frost wrote:

Well...

** spoiler omitted **

Regardless, it was merely a phrase.

Spoiler:
My own Taldan bard also died to a x4 critical, and I've always considered them to be way too brutal and unfitting. Frankly, it sucks the fun out of the game when your character just POOF drops from 4 hp to -20.

**** RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Deussu wrote:
Joshua J. Frost wrote:

Well...

** spoiler omitted **

Regardless, it was merely a phrase.

** spoiler omitted **

Well.. don't get hit.

Spoken by a GM who nicknamed the fighter in the party Sir Bleeds-a-lot when he ran in and cleaved a crossbow weilder in Silent tide. The other 4 took 5 foot steps back...

**

What this scenario needs in my opinion is MORE ZOMBIES at every tier possible. What I did when I ran this was add "scenery"-zombies that were there just to create a sense of urgency. So, at any given time the PC were running away from undead banging on pretty much every door. Whenever the action seemed to slow down I just added more zombies. Sure enough, the atmosphere was very much akin to a proper zombie movie in the vein of the excellent Dawn of the Dead remake.

Oh, btw, an ogre zombie in a cramped basement room is a bit strange. How on earth did they manage to smuggle that motherlover in there? ;) I'd have settled for just more ordinary zombies with maybe a few super-templated nasties thrown in for laughs.

All in all a very enjoyable scenario. So much fun that I've so far DM:d it twice and will probably run it a third time when I find a few more fools.. er.. players to play it.

Lantern Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Australia—Melbourne aka DarkWhite

Doug Miles wrote:
I couldn’t see a way for a druid to bring an animal companion to the event, so her wolf remained tied up outside the entire scenario.

There was much attention given in the early part of the scenario of having to dress for the occasion, or risking having your seats double-booked etc. My players went to great lengths to purchase courtiers outfits, and left their armour and any not-easily-concealed weaponry at the inn, expecting this to be a diplomatic mission. *sigh*

They didn't do too badly, despite triggering two encounters simultaneously. As with Doug Miles' group, ours had an effective rebuking Cleric. The players scavenged weapons and armour from any they defeated, not ideal, but at least they were able to protect/defend themselves, and it kind of added to the tense drama of the situation.

I'll be running this scenario again at an upcoming convention in a few weeks, and was wondering whether the scenario expected PCs to attend the event armed and armoured? Roll-players will no-doubt try to, while roleplayers may get caught with their plate-mail shorts down! Maybe they check weapons/armour in at a cloakroom (not one on the map) where they can retreat to when things go bad?

Any suggestions/advice regarding this?

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Michigan—Detroit

DarkWhite wrote:
Doug Miles wrote:
I couldn’t see a way for a druid to bring an animal companion to the event, so her wolf remained tied up outside the entire scenario.

There was much attention given in the early part of the scenario of having to dress for the occasion, or risking having your seats double-booked etc. My players went to great lengths to purchase courtiers outfits, and left their armour and any not-easily-concealed weaponry at the inn, expecting this to be a diplomatic mission. *sigh*

They didn't do too badly, despite triggering two encounters simultaneously. As with Doug Miles' group, ours had an effective rebuking Cleric. The players scavenged weapons and armour from any they defeated, not ideal, but at least they were able to protect/defend themselves, and it kind of added to the tense drama of the situation.

I'll be running this scenario again at an upcoming convention in a few weeks, and was wondering whether the scenario expected PCs to attend the event armed and armoured? Roll-players will no-doubt try to, while roleplayers may get caught with their plate-mail shorts down! Maybe they check weapons/armour in at a cloakroom (not one on the map) where they can retreat to when things go bad?

Any suggestions/advice regarding this?

I ran this scenario for the third time this past weekend. The table had 4 out of 7 new PCs (it was a Gameday event and I didn't want to turn away a walk-in) and they lacked the resources to buy courtier's outfits. We did about 30 minutes of ad-libbing their efforts to find courtier's outfits and signet rings. I told them two-handed weapons had to be checked at the door, but swords and smaller weapons would be allowed. I followed the City of Greyhawk rules for weapons in public. I never dealt much with armor, but none of them had anything heavier than a chain shirt except the 2nd level dwarf fighter who wore half-plate and said he got his outfit tailored to go over his armor and was extra-bulky. I assume that some of the nobles in attendance had bodyguards who hung out in the lobby. GMs are left to improvise the countermeasures against efforts by the PCs to get around security. I described the 'bouncers' pulling the PCs out of the line and frisking them, making them check the weapons a slight-of-hands check couldn't conceal. I wasn't too hard on them because it unbalances the encounters if the PCs end up naked. Several players did waste time trying to get out of the building to find their weapons while the others fought against the zombies. They had no cleric, and I seemed to hit a lot with the slam attacks. Anyway, I think you handled it pretty well DarkWhite. Much is left up to the GM to decide if the players don't have any resources to fall back on.

Dark Archive

Although in different adventures different abilities/roles will come into play I did think it a slightly unusual decission to have a combat adventure in which the combat characters get nerfed, particularly given the number of undead -- parties without clerics (there are a few, particularly if this gets run at a con) are already at a disadvantage, in this scenario they'd be toast.

We played it a week-or-so ago, and although we got through it quite easily by lots of turning & spells it did feel as though if you were a melee specialist you were in trouble -- 30+50 GP for clothes, leave your armour+weapons at home, then fork out another 150GP for remove disease if you do go into melee (however, though I spent half the money I made for the adventure on clothes+remove.disease I must concede I was buying his third set of courtier's clothes & additional jewelry).

Sure, we don't want adventures trying to be all things to all players, but setting things up to be non-combat and then making it all-combat (excl, presumably, secret missions) seems a little mean.

**

Nowhere in the scenario does it say the PCs have to leave their weapons, armor, gear, or even pets behind. In fact, I go so far as to say the opposite at the beginning of Act 1:

Joshua J. Frost wrote:

The PCs are allowed to attend the opera for free (regardless of how they’re dressed), but anyone wearing less than a courtier’s outfit and 50 gp or more of jewelry suffers a –2 penalty on

all Charisma-based checks when dealing with any Taldan nobles throughout the scenario.

A barbarian PC could show up in full combat gear and because he/she is a Pathfinder, the Taldan nobles would be snobby about their presence, but would secretly be thrilled by standing in the presence of a Pathfinder.

There is no need to encourage players to leave behind anything. They shouldn't be frisked in line or have their stuff taken from them before they get there. The intent of this scenario is that Pathfinders are Pathfinders and most of them are just going to show up as they are--something the nobility may frown upon at first but later appreciate as the PCs are kicking zombie butt.

Lantern Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Australia—Melbourne aka DarkWhite

Thanks for the feedback, Josh.

I am used to playing scenarios at conventions in which characters are stripped of their armour and/or weapons, and need to find creative ways of dealing with situations. Characters usually have to check their weapons in at the gatehouse before entering City Greyhawk; female characters aren't allowed to carry weapons or wear armour in Hainan (Oriental) Living Arcanis (cultural restriction), etc. So common-sense suggested similar policy would apply attending a noble theatrical production.

I'm happy with the approach I took, and my players (also frequent Arcanis players) took it to be an in-game challenge appropriate to the scenario. It was a slot zero session, so these are the kind of issues it's useful to work out before running at a con.

However, at a convention, I'll probably use your approach, so players aren't penalised for playing a heavy melee character, or a Druid with companion. All I needed was some role-play context, such as the characters being given a pass which allows them to attend with said accoutrements, and other theatre-goers making celebrity status out of them being "adventurers".

**

Glad I could help. I love reading everyone's stories about how any of the scenarios played out for them.

Lantern Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Australia—Melbourne aka DarkWhite

I took this feedback back to my players this weekend, and asked their opinions. Was the scenario too harsh with limited access to weapons and armour? Would they have preferred attending the opera with armour and weapons? They all replied with a resounding "no" - they all enjoyed the challenge it presented, thought it was appropriate to the scenario, and they coped well enough with the combats.

Might their response have been different without a Cleric? Very well maybe.

When running this scenario again in a couple of weeks at Arcanacon, I'm thinking of running it close to how I did with my home group slot-zero.

Note that they weren't totally unarmed - two characters strapped daggers to their legs beneath their clothing, and one decorated his "Taldoran Falcatta" claiming it was part of his uniform.

I think as long as players can justify their entry with certain weapons, I'll go easy and let them through - as long as they've made a reasonable attempt to roleplay their inclusion.

For example, I'll have the doorman pat them down (fake search roll, just to make them nervous and think they got away with smuggling something in), or they wrap their weapons and claim they're bringing in stage props for the opera, etc.

I'll also closely monitor how the combats are going, particularly if the group doesn't have a Cleric, and go easy on them, making certain weapons/armour available between encounters, either in a cloak-room, props-room, mounted on the walls, or on the bodies of the fallen, so that characters have an opportunity to re-arm/armour themselves if things get tough.

I think the scenario loses some of it's tension, flavour and appeal if characters attend the opera inappropriately armed and armoured - though if the players can justify through roleplaying, I'll let them get away with it. I don't want players feeling unjustly penalised, but I do want to present a dramatic, memorable encounter they'll talk about long after the event.

**

DarkWhite wrote:
... but I do want to present a dramatic, memorable encounter they'll talk about long after the event.

I couldn't agree more. :-)

Liberty's Edge **

A handout in the middle of the page again?

Is this going to be a theme?

**

Handouts, as part of the layout formula on all Pathfinder products, will occur in the scenario/adventure/AP where they are referenced. May I ask why is makes a difference where they occur?

Lantern Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Australia—Melbourne aka DarkWhite

Joshua J. Frost wrote:
Handouts, as part of the layout formula on all Pathfinder products, will occur in the scenario/adventure/AP where they are referenced. May I ask why is makes a difference where they occur?

I like to take players out of the room one at a time to read their faction missions. This helps keep each player's mission fresh in my mind as I'm running the scenario. But I also cut faction missions out and hand to the players so they can refer during the game - one player even likes to glue his faction missions to his chronicle sheets forming a diary or brief memoir of each scenario.

As for other player hand-outs, it's easier to cut them out if they're printed along with the faction missions after the scenario, like the clue in Silent Tide was. If that clue had appeared amongst the layout of the scenario, likely I would have just read it out and not cut and handed it out. Eg, the notes found in Dralkard Manor were just read aloud and not handed out for this very reason.

Also, when preparing for a Con, I usually carry only one copy of the adventure printed double-sided, but multiple copies of faction mission and chronicle pages printed single sided. Having player handouts included in this batch of pages would make good sense.

Liberty's Edge **

Joshua J. Frost wrote:
Handouts, as part of the layout formula on all Pathfinder products, will occur in the scenario/adventure/AP where they are referenced. May I ask why is makes a difference where they occur?

A few things. Cutting up my mods isn't really most practical use of my prep time. The placement makes it impossible to print double-sided. It creates another slip of paper to lose between runs of the mod.

While these might seem minor complaints it causes a lot of grief when you have (as I currently do) 6 printed mods, 30 faction missions (on slightly fewer slips of paper given the make up of the groups I've run), and now a handout cut out of a larger page (that is harder to handle since the handout was in the *middle* of the page).

Since I'm running a modestly successful PFS gameday (2-4 tables per slot, drawing from a proud LG heritage) every little bit of bookkeeping is multiplied amongst myself (running each mod at least twice) and other judges.

Granted I don't expect to see any page spanning handouts, but surely the handouts you do have can be placed with the faction missions to keep the pages whole.

Sczarni *** Venture-Lieutenant, Connecticut—Manchester aka Cpt_kirstov

I usually print and extra copy of any pages with art or handouts. This way I can show a cut out of the picture/handout.

Liberty's Edge

We had a good time with the scenario. I was DM'ing for a couple guys that looooove talking - so of course they had to go talk to the actors before attending the show. Lots of adlibbing about who was out sick and who was filling in for whom. Good stuff! I like the comment about more zombies, I threw in a few random ones just to keep things moving, so to speak.

Liberty's Edge *

I ran this for my players who were regrettably a bit short staffed. The only real complaint I heard about it however was the thought that they could not bring their armor and weapons.

This was a belief incurred from the venture captain's monologue, where she talks about how proper dress is essential. My party's full-plate wearing dwarf couldn't see any way to justify having his armor and attending. I tried to mitigate the expectation with a knowledge check from the Taldan to point out the fascination with pathfinders. How the opera goers would be thrilled to see 'real pathfinders, ooh look at that they do carry all that stuff with them!' but I think it came across as too vague and he took on the tier 3 adventure in clothes.

They didn't really give me opportunity either to pull in all the acts. I loved the open-ended design of the module, but the group focused entirely upon the end objective and ignored their faction goals almost completely. They left the nobles to flee and scamper away from the zombies while they rushed backstage and underground.

The ending fight was a little odd, with the ogre and the cleric but I explained the ogres presence as he was smuggled in as a very large set piece brought inside a crate. The ogre did a fantastic job of tying up the bulk of the party, freeing up the cleric to rush over to the poor bard taking potshots from the side. A death touch later, and an animate dead and there was a new zombie in the fray.

All the same, they seemed to have fun with it. But I do need to ask now; is there any provision for home brew campaigns to allow this player who lost his 3rd level character to continue playing with the rest of the group? With him coming in at 1.0 and the rest of the party now at level 3.66 (8 mods played), it's a bit uneven.

Scarab Sages ***

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I finally got around to running this for my group last night. It went fairly well, except that the sorcerer kept insisting on resting. Needless to say, they didn't rest. My only complaint would be that it was kinda hard to logically insert Acts 2-4 since most rooms only connect to the main hall. I kept having to have monsters burst into the main room from other areas. All in all, the party had fun and the clerics saved the day (one was a pregen level 7). Never did manage to crit anyone with a heavy pick, though. I wouldn't mind seeing more adventures using the cult of Zyphus.

One question - how did megaraptor zombie get four attacks when zombies are limited to single actions?

The Exchange *****

In the Pathfinder Companion "Taldor: Echoes of Glory" the worship of Sarenrae in Taldor is illegal. All her temples and places of worship were destroyed in retribution as a result of Taldor's bitter defeat by Qadira. In many Taldan minds Sarenrae = Qadira, so hating Sarenrae is patriotic and/or a way to soothe wounded Taldan pride. The Companion states that Sarenrae's faith has pushed its way back into Taldor but is still underground, especially in the big cities where Taldan nationalism is deep seated. With that in mind...

"Among the Living" takes place in Oppara, capital of Taldor. Next week I am running a group through this scenario who is entirely Qadiran. Their leader is a cleric of Sarenrae. I would like to put the screws to them in terms of role-play. I'm thinking that the Taldan nobility would be very deft at verbal fencing. This DM is not much for impromtu insult-slinging. I'm wondering if anyone would like to help me with some suggestions on backhanded remarks a Qadiran might hear while in Oppara. Short of starting a fight, I would like to put my favorite cleric of Sarenrae at extreme odds with her deity's ethos of kindness, caring and understanding. Let's throw some mud at Qadira her her patron deity!

The Exchange ***** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Doug Doug, just checking: the party is undercover, yes? So your question is: 'what would the PCs overhear', as opposed to,' what would the Taldan nobility say if confronted with a cleric of the hated goddess, right in the middle of their capitol', right?

(And boy, it's going to be fun playing a cleric who can't publicly display her holy symbol when confronted with undead!)

"Did you hear that we have Pathfinders coming? I have it on good authority that they're here to help loot the ruins of some of those open-air temples, not that I'd expect them to find anything that the jackals haven't already picked over."

(As a jovial toast while holding a glass of whiskey) "What was it those 'Dung-flowers' always used to say? 'For the sinful fury!'"

When a tedious party-goer, annoying and persistent, finally moves on to find someone else to engage in conversation, the previous victim breathes a thankful sigh. "Now I know how Ninshabur felt."

Taldans try to stay out late, but it's considered bad luck to actually see the dawn.

Dawnflower Bread is the stuff given to criminals.


Winteraven wrote:
But I do need to ask now; is there any provision for home brew campaigns to allow this player who lost his 3rd level character to continue playing with the rest of the group? With him coming in at 1.0 and the rest of the party now at level 3.66 (8 mods played), it's a bit uneven.

Homebrew solution?

I don't see a problem with allowing his player's character to continue, from the other players' perspective it's as if someone is playing a pre-gen, but his character would NOT generally be playable outside your own table. I think having him be 1 scenario behind the other players (and not gain any benefits from the scenario he died for) would be about fair. You probably should figure out some RP/in-game reason as well, given it's your regular group and that aspect is probably bigger than convention play (which seems more the target of organized play rules than just a circle of friends who always and only play with each other)

...You probably want to hear Josh's take on that before running a bunch of mods with your other players whose characters DIDN'T die and might want to stay legal for other PFS games.

Liberty's Edge *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules Subscriber
Doug Doug wrote:

In the Pathfinder Companion "Taldor: Echoes of Glory" the worship of Sarenrae in Taldor is illegal. All her temples and places of worship were destroyed in retribution as a result of Taldor's bitter defeat by Qadira. In many Taldan minds Sarenrae = Qadira, so hating Sarenrae is patriotic and/or a way to soothe wounded Taldan pride. The Companion states that Sarenrae's faith has pushed its way back into Taldor but is still underground, especially in the big cities where Taldan nationalism is deep seated. With that in mind...

"Among the Living" takes place in Oppara, capital of Taldor. Next week I am running a group through this scenario who is entirely Qadiran. Their leader is a cleric of Sarenrae. I would like to put the screws to them in terms of role-play. I'm thinking that the Taldan nobility would be very deft at verbal fencing. This DM is not much for impromtu insult-slinging. I'm wondering if anyone would like to help me with some suggestions on backhanded remarks a Qadiran might hear while in Oppara. Short of starting a fight, I would like to put my favorite cleric of Sarenrae at extreme odds with her deity's ethos of kindness, caring and understanding. Let's throw some mud at Qadira her her patron deity!

Well those Taldoran can promply kiss my you know what. I saved those so called "nobles" with my mighty cleansing fire of Sarenrae and some positive enerygy bursts. Then again...I am not Qadiran.


What is the DC for the Grease spell in area 12? Also, the Pathfinder rule book indicates that a character can walk at half their normal speed with a DC 10 Acrobatics check, but what happens if they walk at their regular speed or are unaware of the spell?

*

The grease effect merely requires a DC 10 Acrobatics check to move at half speed. If the PCs try to move at full speed, they go ass over teakettle.

I'm more concerned about the Grey Render Zombie at tier 6-7. Is that OGL?

If not, any ideas on substitution?

Also, substitute Orison for cure minor wounds?

Paizo Employee ** Developer

Just run the gray render zombie as written in the d20 SRD. Replace cure minor wounds with stabilize.

*

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Thanks, I'd argue that they'd have bleed instead but, I don't think any of them will last long enough to worry about zero level spells.

Any idea on what to do with the rebuke undead feature? I have a feeling I'm going to have a negative channeling cleric with command undead in my game on Saturday and am not sure how the two different mechanics should work.

I know the guide says we should make as little modification as possible, but I feel I should change the clerics to being able to channel negative energy with Command Undead and swap their domain powers for the pathfinder equivalents. But then that would mess up their feats and combat abilities, so I guess I won't. I don't know.

I also saw the comment on the Mega-raptor zombie and it's multitude of attacks, I think I'll just consider it to be a unique monster rather than trying to adapt it into a fast zombie or something else.

The map has me a bit confused. There is a stage, which I assume is elevated at least 5-10 ft up to give the room the chance to see it, but there are no stairs from the orchestra pit (which I assume is sunken at least 5 ft down) nor are there any backstage? I'll just draw in some stairs, south and west of the spiral stairwells backstage respectively, and assume the orchestra pit floor slopes up on either side.

Over all I am going to try to have the scenario play out thus:

Act 1 in room 1A, during the fight the doors to room 6 will be closed by patrons fleeing and barricading themselves in that room (the gabby survivors described at the end of the scenario).

Act 2 in room 5, the victims will be crowded along the North wall, trying to get into the barricaded room, and the bad guys will have just entered from room 4 after having killed everyone in the bar.

Skip to Act 4 in room 4, the destroyed bar will make a great scene of carnage where bar patrons and theater staff alike rise from the grave.

Now comes Act 3 in room 3, if the PC's enter from room 4, the bad guys can enter from room 1A, having come out of either room 7 or 9 while the PCs were busy in the bar. This will give the party rogue (if there is one) the opening requested by the author to get into flanking position by backtracking through the now cleared out bar and into the main room behind them.

Act 5 takes place downstairs, going to try to have the bad guys block the PC's from entering the room, thus forcing them to fight on the slippery corridor floor.

So, since the scenario says the PC's will be sitting in back by room 6, this seems to be the simplest way to lead them by the nose around the theater until they get to the backstage area. I'm afraid that is where they are going to want to head right away if they have any sense of where the main bad guy is hiding (pay no attention to the man behind the curtain).

When I played this, my group wanted to head backstage immediately, since we assumed that's where the basement entrance would be. The GM wound up having to throw every encounter at us one after another as we ground our way towards it, I'm hoping I don't have to do the same so I get to describe the destroyed theater and play out the scene a little more.

***** Venture-Lieutenant, Arizona—Tucson aka Sir_Wulf

To "steer" the party, let them make Perception checks to hear fighting and calls for help from other areas. If neded, you could even add a "damsel in distress", a courtesan beset by undead (aristocrat 1; S 8, D 12, Ch 15; HP: 5) in the direction you wanted them to go.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Michigan—Detroit

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I start the combat in the main auditorium. Zombies enter from areas 4 & 9 (opposite sides of the room). I use pennies to represent the audience members. The zombies stagger into the closest crowd of victims who sit watching things curiously, believing that this must be part of the performance. It's not until the victims begin to shriek in pain and terror that it creates an instant panic. The crowd is a constant impediment to the PCs until they have time to make it to the auditorium exits. With the PCs seated at the back of the room, it's not likely they can reach the zombies in the first round. Inevitably they will split the party in an attempt to save people. This delay allows the zombies time to drop several victims which will later rise up as zombies at an opportune moment.

The panicking crowd is a good distraction for the players also. I describe the reason the aristocrats & bodyguards attending the play don't help the PCs fight is they are attempting to settle old scores during the confusion. Other members of the crowd are crushed underfoot in the rush to the exits. When the front runners discover they can't leave, the panic leads those in the rear to attack each other in order to get to the doors themselves. The front runners try to backtrack and find another unlocked exit, and have to fight their way through. A diplomatic PC (typically a cleric of a Good deity) can take control of the crowd and get them to stop hurting each other.

The closest PC to Room 3 during Act One can hear the ruckus in there (Act 2). Usually the PC separates from the party to stick his head in there and then can't avoid getting drawn into the conflict. Remember how spread out the PCs have become. If you want to split the party further, have the cleric hit a low Will-save fighter-type with cause fear. If they flee far enough to get through a door, you can start Act 3 while Act 2 is still active ;)

Finally, you can spring Act 4 whenever you think the moment is right. If the PCs have gotten beaten up, give them a breather. If they are handling things well and have expressed "That was easy..." sentiments, let them have it sooner. My favorite way to spring Act 4 is when a Qadira faction asks if any of the slain audience members are wearing merchant house livery (Faction mission). I'll appear to consider the question, then nonchalantly say "Sure, the dead guy right there has a jerkin with a merchant sigil on it". The player states they'll strip it off the body. Then I spring Act 4. I give the player an easy perception check to notice the body's eyes were closed before, but now appear to be looking at him. Then I savor the fear response in the player rather than in their PC.

I guess the point is to keep the players on the defensive. Try to prevent them from forming together by creating distractions and opportunities to perform their Faction missions that will spread them out. Build as much confusion as you can by using the crowd to obscure their view and slow them down. I have run this scenario 11 times and it's always been a player favorite.

*

Hmmmmm the crowd. Yessssssssss

So basically we're looking at unfriendly bodies in a combat situation. What kind of mechanic did you use to represent them getting in the way? I have a player coming with a fighter/barbarian/cleric with the travel domain, so saying they're just difficult terrain will give him a free pass.

There's the possibility of making the PC's use the acrobatic skill, moving through a target's square, vs. CMD (7) +5 and only move half speed, stopping if you fail and provoking attacks of opportunity. Or bull rushing the crowd to plow through, again provoking AoO (which will consist of rapping canes, being swatted with fans, and a round set of curses about unhanding their betters).

Guess I better go buy a roll of pennies, the theater looks like it seats about 320.

Dark Archive ****

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If they have the travel domain, let them take the free pass. It does mean they'll be on their lonesome if they head into the fray without backup.

Don't make the panicked crowd potential enemies, lest one of your characters decides "it's us or them".

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Michigan—Detroit

I've never counted the pennies that have been used. If you draw out the map to scale you'll find the seats hold less than 320 medium creatures. It can become tedious to move the pennies individually. I just sweep them in the general direction with my hand to show the surge of the crowd (leaving behind some dead body markers). I think your suggestion on the difficulty of moving through may be harsh, but you know your players and their tolerances. You're onto something though, I'd refine your idea and perhaps scale it by sub-tier. I've just made them move around the pennies in the past. Once I gave the mob stats and allowed the PCs to utilize them in the fighting, but it proved too unbalanced so I never allowed it to happen again.

Dark Archive ****

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Keep in mind that there are archetypes like the urban barbarian that ignore difficult terrain penalties for crowds. Calling the crowd of people not difficult terrain would be very disappointing for a player who doesn't get to use an ability like that very often.

***** Venture-Lieutenant, Arizona—Tucson aka Sir_Wulf

Doug Miles wrote:
The panicking crowd is a good distraction for the players also. I describe the reason the aristocrats & bodyguards attending the play don't help the PCs fight is they are attempting to settle old scores during the confusion. Other members of the crowd are crushed underfoot in the rush to the exits. When the front runners discover they can't leave, the panic leads those in the rear to attack each other in order to get to the doors themselves. The front runners try to backtrack and find another unlocked exit, and have to fight their way through. A diplomatic PC (typically a cleric of a Good deity) can take control of the crowd and get them to stop hurting each other.

Thanks for the suggestion that the crowd members start fighting among themselves. I've always added extra "scenery zombies" to explain why the nobles and their bodyguards aren't helping the party: They're busy fighting these additional zombies. Your suggestion allows for even more chaos and mayhem in the auditorium.

*

PRD wrote:

Crowds: Urban streets are often full of people going about their daily lives. In most cases, it isn't necessary to put every 1st-level commoner on the map when a fight breaks out on the city's main thoroughfare. Instead, just indicate which squares on the map contain crowds. If crowds see something obviously dangerous, they'll move away at 30 feet per round at initiative count 0. It takes 2 squares of movement to enter a square with crowds. The crowds provide cover for anyone who does so, enabling a Stealth check and providing a bonus to Armor Class and on Reflex saves.

Directing Crowds: It takes a DC 15 Diplomacy check or DC 20 Intimidate check to convince a crowd to move in a particular direction, and the crowd must be able to hear or see the character making the attempt. It takes a full-round action to make the Diplomacy check, but only a free action to make the Intimidate check.

If two or more characters are trying to direct a crowd in different directions, they make opposed Diplomacy or Intimidate checks to determine to whom the crowd listens. The crowd ignores everyone if none of the characters' check results beat the DCs given above.

I'll give anyone like an urban barbarian, rogue, or ranger their crowd surfing ability. But I think I'll give the panicked crowd a circumstance bonus on ignoring any PC who tries to tell them what to do.

I'm also pretty sure I'm right on the seating count. The last time I checked, theater seats were not 5x5 ft each. I'm assuming half that per medium sized creature. That's right kids, unless you're small, you start act 1 with the squeezed condition until you get out of the row.

Bwahahaha, ye gods I'm evil.

Dark Archive ****

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Wraithcannon wrote:
PRD wrote:

Crowds: Urban streets are often full of people going about their daily lives. In most cases, it isn't necessary to put every 1st-level commoner on the map when a fight breaks out on the city's main thoroughfare. Instead, just indicate which squares on the map contain crowds. If crowds see something obviously dangerous, they'll move away at 30 feet per round at initiative count 0. It takes 2 squares of movement to enter a square with crowds. The crowds provide cover for anyone who does so, enabling a Stealth check and providing a bonus to Armor Class and on Reflex saves.

Directing Crowds: It takes a DC 15 Diplomacy check or DC 20 Intimidate check to convince a crowd to move in a particular direction, and the crowd must be able to hear or see the character making the attempt. It takes a full-round action to make the Diplomacy check, but only a free action to make the Intimidate check.

If two or more characters are trying to direct a crowd in different directions, they make opposed Diplomacy or Intimidate checks to determine to whom the crowd listens. The crowd ignores everyone if none of the characters' check results beat the DCs given above.

I'll give anyone like an urban barbarian, rogue, or ranger their crowd surfing ability. But I think I'll give the panicked crowd a circumstance bonus on ignoring any PC who tries to tell them what to do.

I'm also pretty sure I'm right on the seating count. The last time I checked, theater seats were not 5x5 ft each. I'm assuming half that per medium sized creature. That's right kids, unless you're small, you start act 1 with the squeezed condition until you get out of the row.

Bwahahaha, ye gods I'm evil.

GM - "Roll initiative! Okay Valeros, you're up!"

Valeros - "Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, pardon me, excuse me, excuse me, oh I am so sorry, excuse me..."

***** Venture-Lieutenant, Arizona—Tucson aka Sir_Wulf

Pardon me for picking a nit, but the cover provided by crowds is often considered "soft cover", which doesn't provide a Reflex saving throw bonus and may not necessarily allow Stealth attempts.

*

Just played this and unfortunately our GM totally ruined what sounds like a very dynamic set of encounters by handwaving the crowd away.


Lab_Rat wrote:
Just played this and unfortunately our GM totally ruined what sounds like a very dynamic set of encounters by handwaving the crowd away.

Well, one person's dynamic and unique environment is another person's slow-as-hell and tedious obstacle. When we played it, it took us a long time to kill the zombies since our only melee character was a monk; I shudder to think what would have happened if we had to s-l-o-w-l-y shoulder our way through a crowd as well!

*

Well, without that slow-as-hell obstacle course, how am I going to build up the scene as the zombies eat their way through the crowd? I mean, I've got damn near 150 NPCs to kill off here man!

Brains don't just eat themselves!

On a different note, I just noticed that in the higher tiers, the cult leader's desecrate spell will be at double power since he's in a location with an alter, shrine, or permanent fixture to his God! Go Zombie go!

One last thing about the map, I'm placing a hand rope operated 10x10 ft elevator platform in the back center of the stage that drops down into the storage rooms SW corner. I don't want my players rolling their eyes when I tell them the cultists must have carried the Grey Render down the spiral staircase and it shouldn't affect the scenario at all.

And dammit, I wish this place had some balconies!

*

Well, I ran this on Saturday and I think it went pretty well. I started off the scenario in the Grand Lodge with the VC giving them the lowdown, and a set of opera tickets, and then skipped ahead through the week long voyage to Oppara. I read the Taldor Companion so I described the players entering the harbor, the giant bridge, the layout of the city.

They then spent some time shopping for clothing and figuring out the latest fashions before heading off to the theater. They arrived too early to be seated but were allowed into the bar to wait. I had pre-prepared some NPC's to talk to, but I don't think I did a very good job at presenting them to the players, I should have put more effort into that. They talked with one of the Archbishop of Aroden's aids, a senators son, a dockmaster, a boomrafter from Wispil, and a bard from the Rhapsodic College. None of the NPC's had anything useful to offer the PCs in the way of answering their questions or helping with faction missions, so the players soon seemed to lose interest in talking to them.

We then moved on to the opera and the begining of Act One, I sat them near the back by door 6 and then had the Bard sit with them. As the cultists struggled through the opera, the bard was stage whispering to the players that this was the most god awful production he had ever seen, and that he was sure the lead actress wasn't the one listed on the playbill. The PC's who made the perception check to hear him got to act in the surprise round as their suspicions were aroused.

When Act one began, I used the penny idea for the crowd, it worked really well. I had 100 pennies spread out across the map and then gave the crowd an initiative to move around. As the players tried to engage the Zombies from area 6, I described the scene of carnage of people being trampled, zombies eating brains, the nobles screaming, making inane comments, and attacking each other in the confusion. The players were frustrated, delayed, shocked, and flabbergasted at the crowd's behavior. All in all exactly what I wanted.

It took quite some time to finish the first fight, so I had plenty of time to thin the crowd with the scenery zombies, have the crowd funnel around the sides of the PC's melee to take shelter and blockade themselves in room 6, and disappear entirely from the main hall. All as planned.

I gave the PC's 2 rounds to heal themselves and then began act 2 with the screaming and the shouting of the cultist cleric in room 5. They went right in and creamed the bad guys in about 2 rounds, but they did rescue Hustavan in the process. No one's faction mission had anything to do with him (all qadira and osirion) but he decided to tag along with them anyway and add some gruesome comic relief.

I wasn't able to suck them in to the bar as well as I had hoped because they then had time to examine the outer doors and discover the magical seal, that the inner door from room 5 to room 6 was simply barricaded, and the patrons on the other side were refusing to let anyone else in, zombie or not. This almost started the PC's hacking at the door (you know how much players love being told "No") but instead they decided to go into the bar with Hustavan and the small crowd of pennies they had.

Act 4 began as planned, the bar was full of bodies and the qadira players saw that some of them were dressed in the house merchant clothes they were looking for. I told the players that two groups of merchants must have entered the bar to have a few drinks while the play was going on, and had gotten trapped. As the players were slicing off the patches, those bodies animated and we had a fun little surprise round before the party beat them down. This started getting the players worried about some kind of "zombie curse" as I descrbed the animated bodies as all having bite marks.......

The door from room 4 to 3 was halfway open and that purple carpet got the Osirion players attention and he started heading that way. For some reason at this point the party thought it would be a good idea to split up and half of them started heading to the double door in room 6 to attempt to force their way in again, even though I had made sure to have every noble penny except Hustavan run screaming away when the bar fight started, so there really was no reason to go over there. Regardless, act 3 began as planned when the player entered room 3. I described the room as being set with a load of smashed banquet tables, shattered wine casks, broken ice sculptures, and food thrown everywhere. A few perception checks later and the cult fighters walked in from the main room. For one heartstopping round he was on his own against the 3 cultists. Lucky for him he cast obscuring mist and ran back into the bar. The party soon rallied and killed them off, but the mist certainly made it an interesting fight.

At this point I had Hustavan, who had been in the main room after following a character, run into room 3 and shut the doors as fast as he could, babbling in terror that the dead in the main room were rising! The players started to hear sounds of moaning from the bar area and saw the piles of bodies starting to move. This led them to promptly shut and barricade that door as well. This (exactly as planned) gave them only one way to go, backstage.

They healed up and went down the spiral staircase into the basement storage, I described the one corner to the north as dark and shadowy and they picked up on that. This caused them to stealth/scout the room with some trepidation instead of just walking across it, I just love ramping up tension. They then got to the cavern and I described the stone as though it were rotting, with a sickly green tinge to it, and how the ceiling was dripping oily cold water down the back of their necks as they carefully sluiced their way down the tunnnels. One fighter was so bad at acrobatics that they tied a rope around him and just dragged him along the slimy floor.

Act 5 began with the team rounding the corner and my description of the scene, then they heard an evil chuckle from an unseen source, which was the cue for the minions to attack. We played the tier with the Ogre zombie, and let me tell you, it was a brutal fight. It smashed a few players down but then the party fighters got there and it went from full to dead in one round. By that time the cleric had cast spiritual weapon and joined the fight but, 5 players vs one cleric is one dead cleric.

All in all the scenario went well, the players said they had a good time, and I had fun running it. I'm glad for all the advice and ideas I got on here before game day, it made things much smoother.

I'd now like to offer some suggestions and (hopefully) constructive critisism for when this scenario is ever updated.

Add more flavor text, 2 boxes for each room, one for before the zombie attack and one for afterwards, describing the areas in detail just in case the players manage to sneak into them. Maybe describe some campy horror, like severed heads sitting on platters, or other gruesome mockeries of the noble lifestyle that the cultists would prepetrate after the slaughter.

This is a Zyphus cult and there isn't one single trap anywhere? One, if not both, of the stairwells going down should be trapped.

Add more roleplaying opportunites and tie the faction missions to them, having Hustavan be the focus of more than one seems just silly, there are hundreds of people here and a huge theater, use them and it.

In Act 1, establish a better segway from opera to carnage. Having the zombies enter the room and the crowd believe they are actors is much better than having all the actors run off stage first and then the fight starts. Give flavor boxes that describe the rest of the scene as the players fight their inital opponents. Also, establish the rules for the crowd and the environment, I had players wanting to hop on the backs of the seats and pull a Roberto Benigni.

Roberto at the Oscars

I guess they didn't like my idea of being squeezed in the rows, so the crafty and agile ones found a way out by crowdsurfing in a different way.

The Zyphus zombies, there needs to be more of them. Described as green and rotting, the actors and staff of the theater that were turned before the play and kept hidden, the zombies should all be Zyphus in act 1 and accompanying the cultist cleric in act 2. Also, when the conversion happens, there should probably be more of them since PFRPG zombies aren't as tough as 3.5 ones. An idea to make them unique monsters might be to give them an additonal bite attack (and make Zyphus Rot a contractable disease as well) and also give them the special rule of maximum HP. That way you don't have to have that many more and not only are they more dangerous than regular zombies, they're also tougher. You could just make them plague zombies as well. Also describe the process in creating them for any player with KN: Religion after the end fight.

The last thing I would suggest is to take into account the 1d4 minutes it will take the dead to start rising. The players are on a timer and they need to know about it! Being caught upstairs once the crowd gets up again should be a death sentence. The gong in act 1 should only signify the attack beginning on the main hall, all of the rooms on the perimeter should be behind the scenes carnage that happens before act 1 as the cultists kill the rest of the staff, surround the audience, seal the doors mystically, and prepare for the harvest....

That's why you can have a few regular zombies rise in act 4 with bite marks on them, to let the party know that things are about to get much, much worse.

Anyway, thanks for writing this and I look forward to more PFS fun in the future!

The Exchange ***** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Wraithcannon wrote:
...when the conversion happens, there should probably be more of them since PFRPG zombies aren't as tough as 3.5 ones.

I believe we have to run the 3.5 zombies. Since the Pathfinder RPG monsters are significantly different, we are directed not to convert them. Dig out your D&D Monster Manual and run them as is.

Silver Crusade ****

You can run a PFRPG monster if it's CR is the same as the 3.5 version.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Michigan—Detroit

I'm sure updating the Season 0 scenarios to the PRPG rules is something that is on Mike Brock's to-do list, but that list is very long (getting shorter every week, though). Most of us who have previously run Among the Living and the other Season 0s have made adjustments ourselves and accepted that these scenarios will never be updated. It can't hurt to agitate for the updates to be made, just recognize that it's been over two years since they were released. Don't hold your breath.

I'm very pleased that Wraithcannon's table went well. Players appreciate a GM who can fill in the gaps and bring a scenario to life. I'm positive that future GMs will benefit from his shared experiences.

*

Chris Mortika wrote:
I believe we have to run the 3.5 zombies. Since the Pathfinder RPG monsters are significantly different, we are directed not to convert them. Dig out your D&D Monster Manual and run them as is.

I did.

If you read my post, you'll notice that part about the zombies was in the "future suggestions" section.

Doug, I hear you, let's just all keep our fingers crossed.

Shadow Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Eastern Washington aka WalterGM

I feel like the 'revamping scenarios' is something that we, as an educated player/GM base, could accomplish by taking those encounters, and writing out current, equivalent CR, monster statblocks then posting them up on these forums. If we generate enough interest, Mike and the others might consider giving them the once over to make sure they're legit and then consider copy-pasting them into errata.

Dark Archive ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber

Walter, this is my understanding of what has been repeatedly covered regarding the issue isn't the conversion work, but the development work of putting the corrections into the source documents for the PDFs.

That work is done by an internal Paizo employee who is good with the desktop publishing package they use, and goes into their internal document management system (of whatever sort that is).

That work is, looking at the full bandwidth of the company, a non-trivial undertaking which competes for resources which have a much higher ROI for the company, so it's just not something that's going to happen until the employees with the necessary skills have the bandwidth to do it... which means something else has slowed down.

It'd be "nice to have" but it's probably not going to happen.

Shadow Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Eastern Washington aka WalterGM

Well it wouldn't even need to be incorporated into the .pdfs (although that would be nice), it could just be a second document. And if it is going to slow down the processes to have a document uploaded, then just make a blog post saying "in silent tide, replace mob X with mob Y," etc.

While "hard" it's nothing beyond the outstanding job that Mike, Mark and the rest already do for us on a regular basis. I feel like we just need to help in anyway we can to get the ball rolling. That is, if we seriously want something like this to change.

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