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Chapter 9; How hard is it in terms of the endurance of the party?


Shackled City Adventure Path

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

As I continue to pick my way through SCAP, totting up the XP, I reached chapter 9. Now, even giving out full XP for everything, the total falls short (to the tune of 8k XP apiece) of the projected 15th level. (Up until now, it's been about right.) In fact, the projected total for this chapter only just takes the PCs to 15th level when they've whomped Hookface.

(Let alone the half XP total...)

I think I may have to add some story-based XP awards in somewhere. (Since everyone is going to be sick and tired of random encounters; spicing up the encounters in Occipitus stretched me to the limit, never mind those one the way to and from Karren-Kural!)

Mostly, though, I'm concerned about the endurance needed for this chapter. There's a lot of encounters to deal with without a pause (forteen in fact) and several of them modest combats, plus two arguably 'boss' fights (to say nothing of resources used in non-combat encounters). Possibly more if they have to do the combat encounters more than once if they screw up the others. It seems an awful lot to do on one rest (even at the chapter's specified 15th level and not 12 or 14, where you have access to potentially 8th level magic).

So, folks who have played the module, how well did your parties handle it? Did they manage, or did Hookface pulverise the at the end of the chapter?


Aotrscommander wrote:
So, folks who have played the module, how well did your parties handle it? Did they manage, or did Hookface pulverise the at the end of the chapter?

Amazingly, we just "finished" this chapter last session. I will admit I have delayed the Hookface battle until later. I substituted Vhalantru and Gortio for the Derro barbarian attack at the Council meeting (these two escaped from previous encounters).

I did not give my group any time to rest between the Council meeting and the rumbling. They made their way all around the city, fighting many demodands and finishing up with the Fire Elemental and Morkoth combat (with 3 summoned Vrocks).

The key thing about this character group is that they have many fly spells, increasing combat mobility and making them able to "zip" from encounter to encounter. We have 3-4 characters with at least minor healing capabilities (2 with full Heal spells). A Heroes Feast at the beginning of the day made a HUGE difference, along with Mass Resist Energy spells. As you can tell, my group is very experienced with buffs and are careful about healing all party members after each encounter. They finished the whole thing at 13th level (due to missing Karan Kurral).

This is why I have moved Hookface to next session, when they rest up and are looking for the path down to the Tree.


I, too, had some trouble with the party to let them reach their intended level around chapter 7-8, especially their expected wealth total. I did have the house rule that characters without players at the table only earn half XP, so some portion may have come from that. I remember, that I did give out occasional story based awards, but they were at the 5% level max.

What I did just after Occipitus (between ch6 and ch7) was to send them on a side-trek to Sasserine, looking for the roots of Vhalantru and stumbling into a hideout of vampire rogues with plenty of treasure. That made up for a lot of otherwise sparse treasure and also enough XP not having to worry again until chapter 11 or so. That's when I nudged them towards finishing off Hookface, who escaped after Foundations of Flame and throwing in his mate Talirimnia, an even bigger dragon. Since they were prepared, they managed to defeat both, as expected.

I have decided to now let them try the rest at the slightly lower level than expected just because they have learned how to efficiently combine their vast array of magical capabilities (buffs, specialized attacks against certain foes, etc.) and have yet another house rule at their disposal (drama dice, gives them opportunities to roll 2d20 instead of 1d20 once per session for the occasional saving throw or confirmation of a critical...) Has proven quite powerful, so I'm not concerned about them failing for being underpowered.

Also, reports of other DMs have suggested that even a group of average level 17-18 had successfully finished the path.

So, I guess, having some side-trek opportunities won't hurt to help them stay on the expected leveling path, but don't worry too much about the later chapters, there is not a big difference between levels 18-20 anymore...

Cheers,
Nib


The chapter (Foundations of Flame) went quite well, according to my memory. Noteworthy mention only goes to the Morkoth, which was close to killing one (and if successful, probably more than one) character.

But giving them advance warning of Hookface with a decent spot check by the elf and spending a lot of charges from their wands of healing made them quite capable of handling Hookface well. Hookface just managed to eat one of the characters, whose player was leaving the group anyway, so it was merely an administrated death.

That chapter, while at first glance quite a challenge, first showed to me, what a cooperating party of that level is actually capable of doing. It was quite amazing.

Don't worry, unless your players continuously invent new ways to hinder themselves. They'll be up to the task.

Cheers,
Nib


In my campaign - in which the PCs were closely tied to the FR deity Ilmater - I had the angel Nidrama make a new appearance at the start of the adventure (Nidrama also played a part in the background story I created for Adimarchus as his former lover).

She offered the PCs a crystal bottle from the divine realm of Martyrdom, which the PCs could use to replenish their strength and courage. Drinking from the bottle had the same effect as a full night's rest. There were 5 applications and the effect would only last for a couple of hours (so the PCs could not save it for later).

This drink allowed us to go through the adventure, respecting its time pressure and experiencing all the fun and challenges it had to offer, including my adaptation for Thirteen Cages, which immediately followed with no rest in between.

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