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I've owned Shackled City for years, and a couple of years ago attempted to run a game set in Eberron, which for better or worse failed. Still I always loved the setting of the city in a volcano and wanted to run a more streamlined version of the Adventure Path.
The reason for this is threefold -
1) New Players - I've recently found a group of players completely new to D&D (or Pathfinder for that matter) and I thought giving them a truly 'fantastic' experience in the Shackled City would be a great way to get them hooked on the game. The Adventure Path is notoriously difficult, and the first adventure alone is very arduous, I don't want to discourage my players who have never even played Baldur's Gate from learning the game by giving them a campaign that requires deep and intimate knowledge of the rules to complete.
2) Confusing Plot - I've read the Shackled City adventure path a number of times and ultimately it leaves me confused and I'm the DM privvy to *all* the information. Valantru wants to control the city, but he ends up allying with the very people who are going to destroy the city, to free Adimarcus who went mad and is trapped in another dimension because they had some bad dreams? I can't help but feel that the PCs actions aren't really driving any of this story whatsoever. I can't think of a reason why anyone would care if Adimarcus got free, and while hell on Earth is a terrible thing ultimately that plot left me feeling a little cold. So I'm going to try to simplify the plot by focusing on the themes I enjoyed most about this adventure path.
3) Pathfinderizing and Setting - Since I'm going to be using Pathfinder for these players I'm still going to have to do some conversion work. So since I'm writing anyway I might as well do as much as possible.
What I need from you.
What do you think the most iconic moments of the SCAP are?
Right now I have the following:
Chapter 1 (Life's Bazaar)
Opening Scene - The PCs are brought together when they stop the mugging of a Priest.
Fun Traps in old Gnome town - The occasional trap spicing up combat to highlight the dynamic nature of combat. One fight in an elevator was particularly interesting.
The Slave Bazaar - Kazmojen trying to sell the kids into slavery and being stopped by the PCs was a great Big Damn Hero moment.
Chapter 2 (Drakthar's Way)
Nothing of particular note as interesting. Although perhaps using bits and pieces from Rise of the Rune Lords Burnt Offerings might be fun.
Chapter 3 (Flood Season)
Werebaboon! This has to be one of the most fun villain ideas ever.
Shensen Teseril - Sexy NPC fun!
Fighting the Flood - the moment where the waters recede is another Big Damn Hero moment.
Chapter 4 (Zenith Trajectory)
Umberhulk Smash! - Big monster causing chaos in town. Gold!
Fight a Dragon! - The PCs get an opportunity to face one of the most iconic creatures in the game. The only problem is that it feels too much like a random encounter. Dragon fighting should be a climax not a mid-point.
The Pit of Seven Jaws. That's right, not long after fighting a Dragon, the PCs are pitted against a hydra on a very precarious stair-case. This could be a great fight but with a dragon already fought it gets somewhat overshadowed.
Fingerlings - creepy, weird and fun!
Dhorlot - Another dragon, but this one is a big chicken and flies off.
Zenith - Prophecies of doom.
Chapter 5 (Demonskar Legacy)
Tax Riot - Very great moment for an Urban campaign.
Fire in the Night - Racial tensions boiling over, again v. cool.
Rage of Nabtharon - A demon murdering a paladin is a very great moment.
Chapter 6 (Test of the Smoking Eye)
Dimensional Travel - Entering a strange new hell 'tainted' by good, very nifty.
Kaurophon - from ally to enemy in the blink of an eye.
Gaining the Smoking Eye Template - The ability to rule another dimension is kind of cool.
Chapter 7 (Secrets of the Soul Pillars)
Spellweaver Coffins - Creepy + Interesting
Dracoliche - Fighting dragons is fun!
Chapter 8 (Lords of Oblivion)
Fight with Valantru
Chapter 9 (Foundation of Flame)
The whole thing!
Chapter 10 (Thirteen Cages)
Chapter 11 (Strike on Shatterhorn)
Chapter 12 (Asylum)
Final Fight with Adimarcus.
Perhaps ending the campaign with Foundation of Flame might be the way to go? Or changing the ultimate goal from defeating Adimarcus to defeating Valantru?
Anyway what do people think. Have I missed any iconic moments that are important to the game?
Definite emphasis on the fight with Valantru at the end of Lords of Oblivion. In my game, I plan on making Valantru a patron of the PC's so his betrayal hits more to home. The battle royal in House Rhiavadi is pretty awesome, too.
Oh come on, nothing in Thriteen Cages?? How about a fight against a ridiculously crazy Lava Dragon? Furthermore, you can play up the fights with the Thirteen by having them team up more so they are bigger threats. 2-4 Other cagewrights, plus Dyr'ryd at the base of the Tree of Shackled Souls makes for a very awesome climax, I think.
I will admit Strike On Shatetrhorn seems somewhat weak (only because it seems kind of tacked on). You could consider adding a story element that Embril is trying to wake Adimarchus since the original plan failed. A big finale on that chapter with Embril and the stupidly ridiculously powerful spellweaver and the greater shadows seems pretty epic.
Asylum is just nifty all-around, really. Travelling to Carceri, fighting lots of demons, a Lichfiend, and a suitabley awesome killing machine that is Adimarchus himself. In my opinion, even though the campaign is pretty dragon-heavy (six I believe), I think a Tarterian Dragon (Draconomicon) would be a fine addition.
Story-wise, I understand that some people see some weaknesses, particularly concerning the Cagewrights and Adimarchus. I played in the campaign once a long time ago, unaltered, and I still found it one of my most enjoyable games.
Starting from scratch, I would recommend the following:
1) Read up on the Alternate Villains storyline. It replaces much of the confusing stuff you mentioned with a more streamlined plot. You can read about it here.
2) Consider foreshadowing the villains before the party gets to fight them (ideas are here)
3) Run the Demonskar Ball. 'Nuff said.
4) Read up on the Glories thread for great moments from other games.
As perspective, my group is 4 days away from the completion of the Tree of Shackled Souls ceremony on Walpurgis Night. They are about to start Chapter 9, with Vhalantru and his doppleganger still around. I am replacing the Derro attack with them (should be a fun Council meeting). We have played 84 sessions, with lots of roleplaying and gone through all of the suggested stuff above. It has come together as the best campaign I have ever run. The idea that a person's first campaign is this one is mind-blowing.
I have been having so much fun running this game. It does take a bit of work to iron out the plot because if you run it straight it as written a lot is missing. I second that you should take advantage of the resources here and at theRPGenius.com, especially delvesdeep's alternative foreshadowing and the Demonskar Ball. With a little bit of work this can be a supremely awesome campaign.
Some of the early changes I made to chapter 1 were to smooth out the transition into the campaign instead of opening with the attack on Ruphus. I started the party in Redgorge so they would have some ties to the town so later, when it becomes a prominent locale, they would have some motivation to save it. I also ran the siege of Redgorge side trek later. I used The Burning Plague found on the Wizards website as a starting point. The party had some encounters on the road to Cauldron including one with the Stormblades to help foreshadow that animosity too. Then I hit them with the Last laugh attack. By this time they were nearing the end of the first sessions and already into their characters and the setting. I also had the attack occur to the characters themselves as there was a paladin in the party prominently displaying holy symbols of my St. Cuthbert replacement. This helped bring the party into the plot a little more. At the church I had them meet Sir Alek and make friends with him before meeting Lady Jenya. This helped foreshadow him as a character later and he was prominent several times before taking off for Redgorge in Zenith Trajectory, not to be seen alive again for some time.
I made several other changes to the chapters and if you're interested in my conversion notes I'd be happy to share them. I smoothed out the plot, foreshadowed important characters and tried to make things a tad more logical than they were written. I used a lot of what delvesdeep wrote but did a lot of my own customization too.
Thanks for the great suggestions everybody, and yes I must run the Demonskar Ball! I'll keep people posted.
I might start the campaign in Red Gorge, run Hollow's Last Hope (replacing Falcon's Hollow with Red Gorge). After that have the characters move in to Cauldron.
Anybody have any answers as to how I can tie Hollow's Last Hope with the SCAP?
Anybody have any answers as to how I can tie Hollow's Last Hope with the SCAP?
Here are some ideas:
1) A number of years back, a disease afflicted Cauldron. By having the same disease in Redgorge, it may be required to have the party journey to Cauldron to find out what is needed to cure it (from the BlueCrater Academy, from Jenya, or someone else). (In my campaign, unbeknownst to anyone, the disease was caused by Skaven while he resided in Cauldron. This was revealed in his diary which the party found in his quarters in the Kopru ruins)
2) Have the monastery related to the Splintershield clan. It is in disrepair due to the inattention/loss of Zenith. This would foreshadow Chapter 4 (and possibly have the party interact with the dwarves in Cauldron prior to the finding of the Malachite Fortress).
3) In Cauldron, the priests of Pelor (not sure what god they would follow in Golarion) were killed by Embril a year or two back. You could have that the priest in Redgorge was killed while visiting the one in Cauldron, leaving the town without a local priest. This is why the herbalist is the only local healer.
4) Possibly have a baboon encounter while in the jungle. (This foreshadows the more aggressive primates at the Lucky Monkey)
We've only finished Chapter 3 (Flood Season) but so far the most memorable moments have been:
- Nothing from Chapter 1 except the appearance of the Beholder, which in retrospect is only actually memorable if your party are longtime D&D vets.
- The Flood Festival was a grand hit since it gave every PC a chance to individually shine and have some fun creatively, since there were no real repercussions if a reckless decision or action went wrong. Plus it was the first time so far that Cauldron, with the various Churches, the lake-themed events, the fire/flame motifs, seemed like a living city and not just a backdrop.
- The Demonskar Ball was a huge hit as well for many of the same reasons (creativity, a nice break from combat)
- The Ebon Triad went down in infamy, as each of them (Skaven, Triel and Tarkilar/T-Rex Skelly) almost destroyed the party. The first real "boss fights" of the campaign in my opinion.
- Anything related to the Stormblades, mostly because my group is pretty mischievous and love tormenting and harassing the Stormblades.
One of the best encounters I ran the first time I tried a Shackled City game was when I had some of the Hobgoblins in Jzadirune come out of the dungeon and try to assassinate the PCs in one of their homes. The brawl spilled out into the street and the Warforged Artificer accidentally set the roof on fire trying to take down some snipers.
The city watch arrived a couple of rounds later and attempted to arrest him for using a fire spell within city limits.
It was at this point I realised that I loved the Cauldron City setting over the AP itself.
One of the best moments is the encounter with Kazmojen in the first chapter. It can be a brawl, or it can be negotiations. But either way, the show stops when Vhalantru shows up.
The paladin was leading the kids out through the hall when he popped in. The look on his face when I pulled him aside and showed him what he was facing was priceless. The rest of the party yelling encouragement to hit it, while he refused very emphatically was great. While it may not make sense to show up and take the kid away just to put him where the PCs would have anyway, there is plenty of discussion around here about the justification.
Play it well and it will be the signal of an excellent adventure.