Paizo Top Nav Branding
  • Hello, Guest! |
  • Sign In |
  • My Account |
  • Shopping Cart |
  • Help/FAQ
About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Pathfinder Society

Pathfinder Beginner Box

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Comics

Pathfinder Legends

Three Faces of Evil (TFoE): some new plot tweakings


Age of Worms Adventure Path

1 to 50 of 182 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | next > last >>

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hi !

I am currently DMing an AoW campaign, and "the Whispering Cairn" is well underway. If all goes according to plan (Mwahahahaha !), we should start "Three Faces of Evil" at the end of this year.

The catch is that TFoE has probably the most feeble plot of all the modules of the campaign. So, why not skip it ? Because it's the first contact between the PCs and a mysterious conspiracy, and because the joining of Balakarde/Bucknard three soul shards much later would be less fun if the players can't realize that they did what the evil guys tried and could not...

I have read the classic threads on fixing TFoE (“two faces of evil: auuuugh”, etc.), and the main points of trouble are well known:

A. the layout of the dungeon;
B. the Ebon Triad;
C. the Faceless One;
D. the Smenk connexion.

I have some new ideas to submit to your sagacious criticism, before my players blow them out of the water during play. Please take into account that we play in Greyhawk, so world-dependant tips relating to Eberron or FR would be nice and fun to read, but not useful.

A - Layout:

TFoE as written: the dungeon is organized in three independant parts, accessible in any order (in theory; Hextor goes first most of the time). Hextor temple and Erythnul caves are fine, but Vecna hideout has this annoying maze…

Problem: most of the time, the PCs can’t handle all three parts in one go, and have to regroup. This layout can lead to the not-so-false impression that the bad guys are waiting twiddling their thumbs for the PCs.

Suggested solution: reorganizing the dungeon, so the access elevator leads to the temple of Hextor, which leads to the pool cavern, which gives access to both Vecna’s hideout (behind a secret door, it’s more Vecna’s style) and Erythnul’s caves. So the PCs would be able to cut the access to the exit, bottling up the bad guys; if their presence become known (if they wait waaay too long), they would have to repulse an assault. I get rid of the maze and of the kenkus in Vecna’s place, because my players would probably expect a Zagyg high priest (Greyhawk god of eccentricity and bad puns) on the other side: who else would think of building such a thing in a dungeon (security-wise, it seems inefficient and a complete waste of resources)?

B – The Ebon Triad:

TFoE as written: “the Ebon Triad seeks to create a fiendish Overgod combining the power of Erythnul, Hextor and Vecna” (TFoE, p17) and “is a fraud launched at the direction of Kyuss” (TFoE p18). It was founded in Alhaster by Lashonna and her avolakia masters (PoR) as a tool to fulfil one of the prophecies that should lead to the apotheosis of Kyuss, “the reunification of a tripartite spirit” (SoLS).

Problem: as Tenser/Manzorian says much later, the (re)unification of these three gods doesn’t make much sense in Greyhawk. Hextor and Erythnul belong to the oeridian pantheon; Vecna is an ascended lich, previously a flan archmage, who wasn’t a god, or even born, at the time of the last Kyuss resurgence. The reunification of Myrkul, Bane, and… (I forgot the third one) in FR is much neater. It seems that the Ebon Triad was shoehorned in the AoW campaign, just for the sake of creating an useless link with the Shackled City campaign (where the Ebon Triad featured prominently in only ONE module anyway). Only avolakias with a limited comprehension of the human religions involved could conceive such a harebrained scheme.

Suggested solutions:

1. To explain why the avolakias even had the crazy idea of joining these cults/gods, you have to modify/clarify the prophecy. Maybe it’s something like “the evil pits will see the reunification of hate, rage and study”, which was misinterpreted as the unification of three evil gods from the Lower Planes with matching portfolios. Of course, you have to modify one of the Balakarde/Bucknard shards (the artistic one) to match the prophecy.

2. Scratch the Ebon Triad link. The Faceless One pretends to work for Vecna, but really is a Kyuss cultist (I intend to heavily modify his journal, and insert hints such as “the fools still believe I do the work of the Maimed One, and don’t suspect my true allegiance” and “I hope we will succeed where the Ebon Triad project failed”). This way, if the PCs do their homework, they will discover that the Ebon Triad is a fringe group aiming at unifying the churches of Hextor, Erythnul and Vecna, and will get the idea that they are against an unknown organization who created schisms within three evil cults at the same time, and tried to fuse them for an unknown reason (an attempt which obviously failed, but hint at powerful means and very long term planning). In the mind of the avolakias, the Ebon Triad project was meant to fulfil the prophecy by joining the three CHURCHES. Heh, it doesn’t hurt to try !

3. The black cathedral is supposed to be very ancient, from the days of Vecna’s empire (roughly a millennia ago). So be it, let’s say it’s a laboratory, with an ongoing and never finished ur-flan experiment (a prototype golem incubating in the dark pool, maturing slowly by leeching divine power). Let’s say that it was created by Vecna as a mortal (err… undead) lich, and is already infused with his essence. So you only have to add divine power from Hextor and from Erythnul to obtain a creature joining three gods matching the prophecy.

4. Theldrick is an outcast within his own church after a failed coup. He could be forced to cooperate in this vile ur-flan ritual by good old blackmail (a very vecnian modus operandi, by the way, reinforcing the illusion of a vecnian operation). Grallak Kur is quite primitive; he could have been tricked by false visions courtesy of the Faceless One’s avolakias masters. I know that ur-flan magic is supposed to be the n°1 item on any cleric hate list, but the (true) fact that they are cooperating in the creation of a powerful creature which, once awakened, will lay waste to Diamond-Lake will help to secure their cooperation and soothe any scruples they could have (helping in a good old slaughter for Erythnul, and most probably the annihilation of the Heironeans in the garrison for Hextor isn’t so bad).

C - The Faceless One:

TFoE as written: “his face is a blank, featureless slate, save for a short, sharp nose and a toothless mouth. (…) His frame is gaunt, almost fragile looking. His skin is as white as an albino’s”.

Problem: this guy has unique looks and could make an interesting villain, but is used as a two-round wonder. There is nothing about his origins, no useful hints or hooks to gain about him. He is just there to get pasted. Some people suggested to make him come back later in the campaign, possibly as a Kyuss knight. But it's quite artificial, just for the sake of a cameo appearance: why the bad guys would waste their time to recover the corpse of a 4th level loser? Just for fun and spite, to unnerve the PCs? Not really the style of inhuman, millennia old, schemers.

Suggested solutions:

1. Why is he so defigured? I don't want to go with a lame and easy explanation such as "well, he had a alchemist grandfather, went to his place for a summer break when he was young, and had an unfortunate accident". I guess he really doesn't want to be recognized. But why going to such lenghts? Nobody in his right mind would stuff his head in a vat of acid just for the sake of anonymacy; a hat of disguise has more appeal. So I intend to make of him a simulacrum of an elven wizard (remember the gaunt frame, and the absence of all facial features, including…ears?). The base subject is one of Ellival Moonmeadow’s followers (more on this later); the simulacrum has been so disfigured to disguise his face (which could have been recognizes) AND his race to the casual observer (because if you see an elf in Diamond Lake, you instantly think “Moonmeadow estate”). It’s also a result of the torture/brainwashing process that made of him a fanatical follower of Kyuss; he is not dominated, because it could be detected/dispelled by Theldrick or maybe Grallak Kur if he was sufficiently subtle to think of such things. My thought is that he NEVER exit his hidey-hole, except at the appointed times for the ceremonies (of divine energy infusion). I give him a ring a sustenance, so he doesn’t starve to death inside. He get his instructions via Sending spells from the big boss (I add hints in his research notes, such as “The Master’s voice told me this… and that”). His simulacrum status has two big advantages. First, added security for the big boss: if the Faceless One is killed, he dissolves into a puddle of snow: no dead body to speak with. If he is captured, same thing, via a Dispel or a Fanatic Cultist’s Tatoo of Spontaneous Combustion™. Second, the PCs get again the nasty and delicious feeling of having big-league and unknown opponents (well, someone had to cast the simulacrum…). And they will cast a very suspicious glance on the frame on any wizard they cross (could HE be the original?)…

2. I borrow the idea of a link between the life forces of the clerics having contributed to the maturing of the Ebon Aspect, the Faceless One being the final trigger (or only one of them). Of course, only the Faceless One knows that, and say so in his notes… When the time is right (when the creature is mature and has optimal chances of animation) he intends to kill himself the clerics and end his life to fulfil the prophecy (what the creature does afterwards is irrelevant).

3. So we have a hidden laboratory, set up by Vecna himself a millennia ago (why here? Well, maybe the black pool is a minor vein of Oerthblood, like the one in Tenser/Menzacorian’s castle not so far away). I guess its location isn’t openly advertised, even among Vecna’s cult (which isn’t known for promoting the free flow of information), so learning its existence, its purpose and pinpointing it had to take a lot of time even with Divinations. And who is here in Diamond Lake for the longest time, and is known for his reclusiveness? Ellival Moonmeadow, a so-called noble elf from Celene whose presence in Diamond Lake, an ugly little town, is quite surprising. In truth, an avolakia “head of project”, sent here to discreetly further the goals of his divinity under an elven guise. Or maybe the location of the Dark cathedral is known to the avolakias for a long time, and he is here only to keep an eye on it (and had to intervene when Ragnolin Dourstone chose to mine directly above it); maybe the avolakias want to accomplish the prophecies in a particular order, as written for example, just to play safe, and had to wait for the accomplishment of the previous prophecy before attempting this one. So it’s true, as hinted in Diamond Lake backdrop, that he is here “on a temporary assignment, that the mine is an excuse for his presence in the region”. The first night following the death of the Faceless One and the rise of the Ebon Aspect (fulfilling the prophecy and closing his mission), he will torch his place and skip town, taking with him his elven thralls (which he will later release in the Cairn Hills, infested with slow worms to jump start the next prophecy; never waste a good thrall). That will leave the players wondering what is happening… until they cross an elven son of Kyuss on the road to Greyhawk City, in a few modules. It also permits a better link with HoHR: who is going to tell the Greyhawk cultists who interfered in the Diamond Lake plot, if there is no big boss escaping?

4. The Faceless One is supposed both having found the site of the Black cathedral two years ago (TFoE, p18) and having influenced the choice of the site of Dourstone mine forty years ago (DL backdrop p63). Well, one of the assumptions has to be false… Let’s say that Dourstone is under surveillance and/or sway of “Ellival”, and that the Faceless One was created, broken and conditioned until ready more or less two years ago, to serve as a front and manage the final part of the plan without endangering his avolakia master.

D – The Smenk connexion:

TFoE as written: “Allustan’s studies show that the worms might be somehow connected to an ancient temple hidden beneath the earth. According to his calculations, the temple is located below Dourstone’s mine. (…) Allustan suggests that the merchant Belabar Smenk could provide a useful gateway to Ragnolin’s mine”

That’s the most awful introduction I have ever read. Ever. Now the “secret temple” is such common knowledge that the local sage know of its existence and can pinpoint its location with accuracy. And how would he know that Belabar is looking for adventurers to infiltrate the place? Did he hire public criers? Heralds? With huge placards “In need of adventurers to infiltrate secretly one of my rival’s mine; not serious go away”? Scrap it, bury it, dance on his grave. The PCs just know (if they got Filge’s note or interrogated him) that something is amiss under Dourstone mine, and that Smenk knows it and has called in a "specialist" necromancer (I cut out the mention of “unkillable zombies in the hills”; it’s way too much, way too soon).

TFoE as written: “Ragnolin Dourstone came to Smenk with an offer of a secret alliance. Sages and mystics had set up shop in his mine, and he asked Smenk to run secret food shipments. Smenk agreed, but only if Dourstone let him visit the Black Cathedral”. He went a month ago, saw evil cultist, got threatened and snatched a green worm (WC p 40 and p46). “Belabar provides the cultists with food and supplies”, and then got greedy, sold them spoiled food and asked for bribes (TFoE, p20). The next day, “he woke up next to the severed head of his right hand man” (Mestal Fixx), maybe two weeks ago (idem, + AoW Overload p22).

Problem: this one fly like a lead dove. Why would the cultists need another mine owner to get supplies? Why would they choose Belabar, the most resourceful and less easily cowed of them all? I agree that Belabar would be overjoyed at the prospect of a secret alliance with Ragnolin; but why would he accept (or worse, request!) a secret meeting, alone, deep within his rival’s mine? A canny bastard like him would see the possibility of a setup; Ragnolin could have been secretly allied with his enemies, and it’s only the most obvious deception that comes to mind. I can accept that he didn’t he go straight for the authorities, when he felt overwhelmed, because he was then too deep in his shady deals with the cultists and had a lot to lose. But how did the Faceless One know that he wouldn’t do it, just after seeing evil cultists during his tour? Threatening him isn’t a sure thing; he isn’t exactly a sissy, and at the time he had NOT committed anything wrong (just selling supplies secretly to a rival; so what?) and could become the hero of the day by spilling his beans to the garrison, eliminating Ragnolin as a rival in the same stroke (the balance of power in TFoE as written is heavily in favour of the good guys, between the garrison, the Heironeous temple, and the St Cuthbertines who would join in the evil-bashing at the drop of a crumpled hat despite the bad feelings between the high priests).

Suggested solutions:

1. Going to Belabar is a huge security breach for the avolakias, and I don’t like stupid mistakes made by supposedly intelligent villains. They wouldn’t do it just to get more supplies. After all, who is going to notice that Ragnolin order more that his (big) mine needs? No, they would only take this risk to get something that only Belabar could get them, with his contacts in the Thieves’ Guild. I am thinking about “necromantic reagents” (the sort that get harvested on unwilling subjects), courtesy of the Gravediggers Guild. You can add to that ordinary supplies, but it can’t suffice. I stick to the idea of Ragnolin pretending to lodge “scholars and sages” in his mine.

2. Letting Belabar in for a grand tour of the evil temple, including the secret laboratory, is an unbelievably stupid mistake from the Faceless One; nothing justify this risk. My players won’t swallow it. It would be more in style for Belabar to smell something fishy and get his info by sending Mestal sneaking around to try to dig up some dirt on Ragnolin. So Mestal was the one that got in (maybe stuffed in a supplies crate, greek style), snooped around invisibly and snatched a worm in his magic gloves, triggered some alarm and escaped narrowly. He put his gloves and a succinct report of his findings in a dropout for later recovery, and got tracked by magic and nailed by the big boss and his goons (“Ellival” and his olves, maybe the kenkus). They couldn’t locate or retrieve the green worm because it was at the time in an extradimensional space. It explains why Belabar knows that something is VERY wrong with Ragnolin mine, but can’t give to the PCs any accurate details on the place (if he had went there himself for a grand tour, as written, why not giving a map to the PCs?).

3. Which leads to a new problem: Belabar wouldn’t do anything blatantly illegal for Dourstone, and open himself to blackmail, without a strong incentive. Maybe the prospect of a secret alliance would suffice, but I don’t think so. We know that Smenk rised into power by taking over his rivals’ mines “by forcing them out of business” (DL backdrop, p57); in particular, he “bankrupted Garavinn Vest years ago” (WC p37). Well, let’s say that Smenk paid an overseer to engineer a timely cave-in to tip Garavinn over the financial edge, and then killed him off to cut out any loose thread, hiding away his body in the (closed) Deepspike mine. Let’s say that it didn’t escape the notice of “Ellival”, who recovered the head of the said body and Gentle Reposed it just in case. Then, years later, Ragnolin could have made to Smenk an offer that he couldn’t refuse, without showing him the head of course (just telling him the exact place, and inviting him to go check that the head is indeed missing). Smenk comply, but send Mestal in, etc. Smenk tell the PCs to recover the head, not some supply crates (who would deliver contraband in supply crates with his brand on them, anyway?). In this case, delivering Mestal’s head (jawless of course) to Smenk is both a threat and a reminder of the kind of blackmail material the cultists have on him. Then Smenk launch the rumor of Mestal’s long trip (AoW overload p22) to hide the fact that he lost his best agent.

4. What Smenk tell the PCs, and why don’t they go themselves to the authorities thereafter? Well, it depends on the dirt that Smenk has on them. Maybe breaking, entering and assault charges if the PCs were brutal in their dealings with Filge (technically, he didn’t break any Greyhawk law by practicing necromancy at home; nothing proves that he knew that the Land family bones were stolen. I know, it’s a bit farfetched, but that why you bribe judges. Remember who is the law in Diamond Lake: Sheriff Cubbin and Lanod Neff). Maybe he goes for the honest citizen angle, concerned by the “strange activity” he uncovered beneath Dourstone mine, but unable to go to the authorities because they have got his dear brother/nephew/best agent/whatever in hostage. Worse, he doesn’t know who is in the conspiracy (very true), so going to the Governor-Mayor or the garrison could doom the hostage; besides, before bothering a known and honoured citizen such as Ragnolin, the authorities would follow proper channels, dither, etc, giving the bad, bad dwarf time to hide his nefarious activities (true). He also tell them he was blackmailed into sending them “supplies” (sort of true, he just omit to tell the kind of supplies), and want them to rescue the hostage (good luck!) or recover his remains for raising (sob, sob, booo) for a handsome fee, of course. Remember that he doesn’t know if the cultists have got a skull, a rotten or a preserved head, so the risk of a PCs recognizing the overseer is acceptable from his point of view. The fact that the PCs are (supposedly) unable to cast Speak with dead is an added level of security.

Thanks in advance for your comments !

Osirion

Wow; that was some thread.
I recently finished TFoE, and agree with many of your comments above.
It does take a tweak or two, and running it smoothly is highly dependent on the makeup of the PC party and their previous actions.

I was lucky that my group were mostly good, divine, local PCs who had been caught smashing up The Feral Dog, so Smenk had the moral high ground.

Fuller post later.


I think it would be good to break up the three temples and hide them in separate locations. The Hextor temple can stay hidden in Dourstone Mine. Only Theldrick needs to have a connection with Dourstone (maybe he charmed him?). The Grimlocks can be hidden in the abandoned cave, near the Whispering Carn. Or - there can be a secret entrance to their layer via the Stirge Nest Cairn. The trio from Greyhawk can mention that they killed a few while exploring. Then Theldrick's notes should provide enough of a connection to make the PCs go investigate further. The Vecna temple - I'd hide below the Church of St. Cuthbert! In fact, I'd make Justin Wierus (the crazed priest who whips himself) the Faceless One (in this case, the mask is used simply to hide his true identity - he's not really disfigured). He's been busy recruiting impressionable people into the cult. The other priest of Cuthbert suspects something, but hasn't dared speak up - yet. You can use him to advance the plot, if necessary. The cool thing here is that once his true identity is revealed, all local worshipers of Cuthbert (even the good ones) become suspected cultists. Couple this with the Ebon Aspect's rampage shutting down Dourstone mine (and putting lots of miners out of work) and you have a real messy situation in town (politically, socially, and economically). The Ebon Triad are all pawns of the cult of Kyuss - but they don't realize it. Only the higher ups know the truth. I think this is important - because later, when the truth comes out, it's a big "a-ha!" moment. At this point, the Kyuss connection should seem like an annoying side effect of just ONE of their many nefarious schemes. You can have Smenk be suspicious of Dourstone, because of all the extra activity going on due to the Hextor temple. Smenk sends a spy, who sees cultists, and grabs a worm (some of the priests should have potions with slow worms in them, maybe?) This causes Smenk to recruit Filge to investigate further. Once the PCs cross paths with Filge (and most likely kill him), they'll begin to suspect Smenk. At this point, Smenk can come clean, tell them what he knows, and ask them to investigate (to make up for killing poor Filge). He can say it's for the good of the town, and it is, but it's also good for him, since it hurts Dourstone, a rival mine manager.


Well, first, thanks for your input DMR.

But you are somewhat off topic: you just didn’t say a word about my suggestions, which was the point of this thread.

If I may, I also see some hole plots in the way you propose to handle TFoE. The main ones are :

- So, you break up the temples and keep the black pool in Dourstone mine. How are the grimlocks supposed to participate in the ceremonies? They are, say, a little bit too conscupious to just walk into town. And miles-long convenient tunnels between the mine and their caves would be stretching believability well past the point of breaking.

- Justin Wierus is the head priest, but there is a lot of subpriests of St Cuthbert in the church,not just one (see AoW overload); I think it’s a bit weird that nobody noticed he had no clerical powers. In my opinion, he is just a too highly visible figure to have a second life as a… wizard villain on the long term. And St Cuthbert cult is especially notorious for a branch of priests (the Stars) dedicated to the rooting out of heretics within its ranks, but well, why not. Just curious, how does he de-disfigure himself before holding mass? Hat of disguise?

- You keep the Ebon Triad as is. But I guess it’s a matter of taste.

- You suggest Smenk went suspicious, sent a spy, uncovered nefarious activities in which he didn’t participate in any way. So, why doesn’t he go straight to the authorities? Why does he need heroes? He just has to present his evidence to eradicate Ragnolin! Let's say that he has not enough evidence yet, and needs the PCs to get more; what keeps them to go to the authorities as soon as they see an evil temple? Why would they go farther, excluding metagaming notions such as "we need to finish the level to get more xp"?

See ya,
-smarnil


Well, maybe August wasn't the best month to get input on my plot tweaks... Let's try September. <Bump>

You will find below a draft of the Faceless One's notes. I got rid of the coded message sent to Theldrick (the one which was supposedly a taunt, but weirdly included orders to kill Belabar) and replace it with notes written in the margin of a ledger containing daily measurements of arcane things such as « divine energy infusion level », « divine energy balance », « embryonic growth », etc. Entire pages can separate two paragraphs.

I came to life today, in this dark place. Then, the Master's Voice taught me my place in this world, and spoke of my role in the accomplishment of the Ninth Prophecy. He told me I have to forget the surface world, the trees and the sunlight, that these dreamlike memories weren't mine but would stay with me, and that he had taken away from me the face that wasn't mine too. Toiling on the Master's Great Work makes me happy. I hope to prove him my devotion by succeeding where the Ebon Triad project failed.

The preparatory rituals are done. My lifeforce is now linked to the Spawn. The womb left uncompleted by Vecna, then a simple lich, already wears his imprint. We only need to melt in the two other divine essences needed.

The Hextorians came, trickling down by small groups from the mine. They seemed pleased by the rooms prepared for them, and began at once the consecration of their temple. In accordance with the Master's plans, they mistook me for a servitor of the Maimed God and don't suspect my true alliegiances.

As foretold by the Master's Voice, the grimlocks came by the caverns. I presented myself as an emissary to their prophet, named Grallak Kur, and was welcomed as a divine messenger. Apparently, their complete collaboration was mine even before I spoke, as I appeared in the prophetic dreams that led Grallak Kur and his tribe to this place. This fanatic has even burnt his ships by provoking a cave-in. I have to laud the Master for the clever manipulation of those barbarous humanoids.

All necessary attendants being here, we proceeded to the first infusion of divine energy, under the cover of fake and uselessly complex rituals. At first, Theldrick was reluctant to lend hand in what he called « blasphemous ur-flan rituals ». I had to remind him of what he owed to our timely help, and of what he risked by rejecting our demands. The thought of the future destruction of Diamondlake, and most notably of the Archpaladin followers dwelling there, also seemed to help him stiffling his scruples.

I had to inform the Master's Voice that the embryonic growth is slightly behind schedule. He told me that specific necrotic reagents could be used to optimize the divine energy infusion. I should receive new instructions soon.

As instructed, I transmitted the Master's Voice orders to Ragnolin. He will contact this Belabar under the false pretense of an alliance proposal, then demand the delivery to Dourstone mine of the raw materials needed for the distillation of the necrotic reageants. With the arguments given by the Master, his full cooperation is ours.

An intruder has been located in the temple, but managed to escape by the mines. A sample of Tenth Prophecy material has been stolen in my laboratory. The Master's Voice has been informed of the situation and took care of it. The instigator has received a little reminder. Alas, the sample hasn't been recovered, despite the divinations used.

Those idiots are impatient to see the birth of the Threefold Spawn. If only they knew that their participation in the infusion rituals tied their lifeforces to it, as mine is! Soon, our deaths will give the needed impulsion for the womb's bursting. I giggle in glee thinking of my part in the coming of the Age of Worms. But the right time hasn't yet come. A premature birth would only produce a weakened Spawn.

Comments welcome...


I want to keep the Faceless One as a recurring villian so I don't want his life force tied to the entity. :-)


The Ebon Triad:

I'm not sure this needs fixing at all, even though (as stated) it doesn't fit with Oerth's other details. Think about it. The stereotype of evil cults is that they're aware of hidden, but accurate, Evil Secrets (the rituals of ancient and forgotten gods, the true names of demon lords, or whatever). It was a refreshing change (IMO) to see evil cultists who were being duped by another, greater evil, and who were both dangerous and truly, fatally, pathetically wrong in their doctrines and beliefs.


Dennis Harry wrote:
I want to keep the Faceless One as a recurring villian so I don't want his life force tied to the entity. :-)

Me too, in a way. It's why the Faceless One is a simulacrum (read earlier posts). So, the PCs can paste it, all they get is a pool of snow and answerless questions.

But tying his lifeforce isn't mandatory; it's just one of the mant triggers of the Spawn birth. You could just as easily rule that the death of the two priests having participated in the ritual is the trigger. actually, it even make more sense... Just delete one sentence in the second paragraph ("My lifeforce is now linked to the Spawn.") and modify the last one (delete ", as mine is!, replace "our" by "their" in the next sentence), and whazam, you are done!

Other comments?

Osirion

Well, I'm back from holiday.
I'll give the above a good read, especially the diary entries. I'm a sucker for extra creepy material like that.

I will say that, though you have a point about the composition of the Triad (Vecna's divinity being too recent to be included in an ancient plot by K), our group have already played Shackled City, where the members of the Triad were revealed, so I'll be keeping that part the same and working round it.
If you haven't yet played SC, then that part can be altered, of course.


Misanpilgrim wrote:

The Ebon Triad:

I'm not sure this needs fixing at all, even though (as stated) it doesn't fit with Oerth's other details. Think about it. The stereotype of evil cults is that they're aware of hidden, but accurate, Evil Secrets (the rituals of ancient and forgotten gods, the true names of demon lords, or whatever). It was a refreshing change (IMO) to see evil cultists who were being duped by another, greater evil, and who were both dangerous and truly, fatally, pathetically wrong in their doctrines and beliefs.

Well, I also do like the idea of evil cultists being duped by others, more devious evil cultists, so I would agree with you if the Ebon Triad dogma didn't sound as... stupid (sorry; I know it's a matter of taste) and wouldn't be ruled out by mere Divination spells. The fact is that in Greyhawk those three gods had never been one, and have very different (and well documented) origins and point of views. I think it works better with the three FR gods.

So, my opinion is that the Ebon Triad is not only unneeded, but weaken and confuse the plot. Using it in the background as a previous (failed) scheme to unite the three churches (and not the three gods) looks better in my eyes. But as I said, it's a matter of taste, and DMs reading this thread are free to choose whatever option suits them better.

We can console ourselves with the Evil Secret our cultists do have (the soon-to-come Age of Worms). For comedic villains, we already have the Wastri cult.

Anyway, thanks for your comments.

Osirion

Smarnil le couard wrote:
Problem: as Tenser/Manzorian says much later, the (re)unification of these three gods doesn’t make much sense in Greyhawk. Hextor and Erythnul belong to the oeridian pantheon; Vecna is an ascended lich, previously a flan archmage, who wasn’t a god, or even born, at the time of the last Kyuss resurgence.

What if the Ebon Triad followers had been convinced, that the Vecna that achieved divine ascension was but the most recent in a line of wizards/liches, stretching back through the Oeridians, to the days of Kyuss, constantly reincarnated, living, dying, being reborn, until reaching true enlightenment and godhood?

Maybe that part could actually be true? And thus not set off any divinatory alarm bells? What normally happens to souls with enough willpower to not accept the authority of the rulers of the outer planes? Do they get thrown back to the Prime for another go round?

For a twist, Kyuss could (falsely or not) be mentioned as a servant of the primal Vecnan ancestor, and needs to be awoken in order to herald the Overgod's coming. Then, any accidental references to Kyuss could be accepted, and not raise suspicions?

The fact that Kyuss has no intention of sharing his new power with anyone is the small detail that is left out.


I like that the Ebon Triad confuses the plot and makes things murky. That is part of why I am elaving it in there. Also I am running in the Forgotten Realms so the Dead Three that replace their Greyhawk counterparts actually makes this portion of the plot more viable I think. For Greyhawk I can see why it is a little out of place as the gods already exist and are established but from a Greyhawk perspective I would view them as heretics of the faith.


In my campaign I have set up the Faceless One as a recurring villian. I've yoinked and idea in that FO can steal peoples faces and wear them (Hannibal Lecter style) with a bit of necromatic magic chucked in to make it "seamless". The party have already found two discarded faces and have become just a little paranoid.
He will be a clone of the BIG Faceless One who will follow the PCs around causing trouble for them...


The Snorting Tip-sniffer wrote:
Smarnil le couard wrote:
Problem: as Tenser/Manzorian says much later, the (re)unification of these three gods doesn’t make much sense in Greyhawk. Hextor and Erythnul belong to the oeridian pantheon; Vecna is an ascended lich, previously a flan archmage, who wasn’t a god, or even born, at the time of the last Kyuss resurgence.

What if the Ebon Triad followers had been convinced, that the Vecna that achieved divine ascension was but the most recent in a line of wizards/liches, stretching back through the Oeridians, to the days of Kyuss, constantly reincarnated, living, dying, being reborn, until reaching true enlightenment and godhood?

Maybe that part could actually be true? And thus not set off any divinatory alarm bells? What normally happens to souls with enough willpower to not accept the authority of the rulers of the outer planes? Do they get thrown back to the Prime for another go round?

For a twist, Kyuss could (falsely or not) be mentioned as a servant of the primal Vecnan ancestor, and needs to be awoken in order to herald the Overgod's coming. Then, any accidental references to Kyuss could be accepted, and not raise suspicions?

The fact that Kyuss has no intention of sharing his new power with anyone is the small detail that is left out.

Hi, everyone !

Well, it’s of course possible to mend the Ebon Triad, instead of scrapping it (you always have this choice with troublesome plot elements). Your proposal is one of the many ways in which you can enhance the appeal of its dogma (in the eyes of potential cultists) and make it more coherent. I do like that your way of doing it stay low-key and doesn’t involve a major rewriting of known elements. But my point is, is the Ebon Triad WORTH saving ?

To salvage it, we have first to address two basic flaws in the whole Ebon Triad idea, concerning 1) the feasibility of such a fringe cult in a fantasy world, 2) its usefulness to its hidden masters.

First point: I do agree that (as in the real world) you always can find a bunch of weirdos to believe in anything, even if it’s outrageous. So, why not a cult aiming to fuse together three evil gods? Heresies, schisms and fringe cults aren’t unheard of (look at the Pholtus schism).

But the difficult part here isn’t to find basic cultists, but to make clerics of the said gods join your cult and keep their divine powers. The difference between Greyhawk (and other classic fantasy worlds) with the real world is that the said gods are very present. There is many ways to forward your god’s goals, which gives you some liberty. But if a cleric strays too far from the part in the eyes of his god (not in the eyes of the main, official church), WHAM, he loses his powers (see PHB p33).

Hextor, Erythnul and Vecna have very different points of view. In particular, Vecna hates and is hated by the other two, and seeks to destroy them (see Dragon #348). They would know that this Overgod crap is a pipe dream (especially Vecna, a master of arcane secrets) and would likely be insulted by the idea (especially Vecna and Hextor, two megalomaniacal types). In my opinion, adhering to a fringe cult seeking such a fusion against the will of the gods themselves most certainly qualify as “grossly violating the code of conduct required by the god”, by acting against the god’s wishes.

This flaw comes from the inception of the Ebon Triad, in the Flood Season adventure (Dungeon #98). At the time, it was a GENERIC adventure using Hextor, Vecna and Erythnul as GENERIC gods without any reference to Greyhawk. The author thought it was a cool idea and went for it; he couldn’t care less about existing Greyhawk trivia. He was aware of the discrepancy (“how the clerics joining the Ebon Triad keep the favour of their gods is a mystery”) but chose to ignore it. It’s only later that the SCAP and Cauldron got a location in Greyhawk.

I wouldn’t be surprised that the inclusion of the Ebon Triad in the Age of Worms AP as a bogus cult was as much a way of shooting down this “cool idea” that a tie-in to the previous AP (Erik Mona being known as a stickler for accuracy on Greyhawk matters).

Second point: we do know that the main purpose of the Ebon Triad in the mind of the avolakias was to fulfill one of the prophecies needed for Kyuss’ apotheosis, the one featuring prominently in TFoE, involving the raising of the Ebon Aspect. We also know that the avolakias made a mistake in its interpretation, and that this particular prophecy in fact refers to the rejoining of the three parts of Balakarde/Bucknard’s soul later in the AP. Alas, its exact words are nowhere to be seen, so we have to write it up ourselves (BTW, what is your opinion about the one I proposed?).

Last, we also know that the Ebon Triad serve as a cover organization for secondary objectives, such as lending aid to the Cagewrights to help in the destruction of Cauldron in the SCAP.

Up to this point, I think that we are in agreement. Here it comes…

What do we learn in TFoE? That the raising of the Ebon Aspect, supposedly fulfilling the prophecy, only needs the participation of TWO clerics: one for Hextor, one for Erythnul (surprisingly, there is no cleric of Vecna, only a layman, the infamous Faceless One).

So, from the Kyuss’ cult point of view, the Ebon Triad scheme has two critical birth defects: first, it wouldn’t help at all securing the help of clerics of the needed faiths, for the reasons detailed above; second, it’s a huge waste of time and resources. Think about it: almost a century to create a bogus cult and get it running, earning by the way the attention and enmity of three evil churches, just to secure the help of TWO clerics? They would have been better off using simpler and more cost-effective methods (such as good old trickery, coercition, etc.) for that, and get the help of the usual goons, pawns and unwitting go-betweens for the secondary tasks.

Worse, in Prince of Alhaster, the PCs are confronted mere months later with a second, probably older, Ebon Aspect. So, if the prophecy has already been fulfilled in Alhaster, what the point of the Ebon Triad presence in Diamondlake? And if it can be done in Alhaster, under the comfy aegis of Lashonna, why go in enemy territory to make a second one?

You could answer that the Ebon Triad is a discarded tool having outlived its usefulness, and that its pathetic members keep trying to raise their Overgod independently of their avolakias masters (incidently involving the PCs in the Kyuss scheme; the avolakias should have taken care of this loose thread, but well, even immortal evil schemers make mistakes sometimes).

But it can’t be, because we know that somehow the Diamondlake operation is important in the eyes of the Kyuss cult. Else, why would they try to mastermind the murder of the PCs in HoHR for interfering with it, especially if in the process, the Ebon Aspect got raised, fulfilling the prophecy? If the Ebon Triad is a bunch of expendable goons, why bother? (as written, the adventure assumes that Loris Raknian was a friend of Theldrick and intended to avenge his death. Not very common among egotical, narcissic, evil fighters. It’s a bit weak as links goes.)

The link between TFoE and HoHR is much stronger, and makes more sense, is the Faceless One is secretly a Kyuss cultist leading a meaningful operation, instead of a Vecnan stooge in charge of an useless ritual. I also suggest replacing the Alhaster Ebon Aspect with something else (a special golem maybe).

By the way, that you already used the Ebon Triad as written in SCAP doesn’t keep you from not using it in TFoE, or maybe just as a background element as suggested in a previous post.


Spacelard wrote:

In my campaign I have set up the Faceless One as a recurring villian. I've yoinked and idea in that FO can steal peoples faces and wear them (Hannibal Lecter style) with a bit of necromatic magic chucked in to make it "seamless". The party have already found two discarded faces and have become just a little paranoid.

He will be a clone of the BIG Faceless One who will follow the PCs around causing trouble for them...

Ooooohhhh, very nice twist! Evil and scary stuff...

Could you give us more details about the way in which you used the Faceless One in the Whispering Cairn adventure to foreshadow TFoE, and about the way you plan to use him later (you can post here or in a new thread, as you please; you're my guest).

Cheliax

Smarnil le couard wrote:
First point: I do agree that (as in the real world) you always can find a bunch of weirdos to believe in anything, even if it’s outrageous. So, why not a cult aiming to fuse together three evil gods?

Hyuk!

Sounds good to me!
Where do I sign?

Osirion

Smarnil le couard wrote:
Could you give us more details about the way in which you used the Faceless One in the Whispering Cairn adventure to foreshadow TFoE, and about the way you plan to use him later (you can post here or in a new thread, as you please; you're my guest).

I can't speak for anyone else, but I saw the text that the Lurking Strangler had been sent by the FO, but got trapped underground.

As it stands, this is rather a waste, since there's no way the PC's would ever find this out. The thing doesn't even have a mouth, so they can't slap it around to make it talk!

So, I added two more stranglers to the Vecna temple, as well as several failed prototypes, in jars (a possible red herring, for anyone who hadn't seen the Kyuss worm at Filge's). One of the stranglers was curled round the FO's neck, like a pet, and helped defend him with its eye-rays, during the fight and his flight throught the labyrinth. I was going to have him stroking it, like Blofeld, but events got too chaotic for a villainous monologue.

Osirion

Smarnil le couard wrote:

But the difficult part here isn’t to find basic cultists, but to make clerics of the said gods join your cult and keep their divine powers....if a cleric strays too far from the part in the eyes of his god (not in the eyes of the main, official church), WHAM, he loses his powers (see PHB p33).

...In my opinion, adhering to a fringe cult seeking such a fusion against the will of the gods themselves most certainly qualify as “grossly violating the code of conduct required by the god”, by acting against the god’s wishes.

In my game, Theldrick was a fallen cleric of Heironeous, to twist the knife in my paladin player, and ensure an almighty grudge fight.

One 'natural 20' Religion check, after his appearance, and I told him 'Despite the different trappings, you recognise the man, from one of the portraits in your chapel. This is Father Theldrick, who you've lit a candle, and said a prayer for, every day of your stay in Diamond Lake. He was believed dead, fallen in battle with orcs in the Cairn Hills...'.

He renounced Heironeous, for failing him, and seeks a way to pay the Garrison back for their 'cowardice'.
He already had the basic abilities of a cleric, but swapped deity some time ago, undergoing the usual loss of abilities.
Maybe the Ebon Triad is the first and only church of Hextor he has ever known, fake though it is? He's never lost Hextor's favour, because he never (officially) had it?

Grallak Kur, on the other hand, is a bloodthirsty cannibal, who could simply follow the overall concepts of Death, War and Chaos. If the grimlocks, and the Faceless One, want to give that a name of 'Erythnul', then it's no trouble to him.


Snorter wrote:

I can't speak for anyone else, but I saw the text that the Lurking Strangler had been sent by the FO, but got trapped underground.

As it stands, this is rather a waste, since there's no way the PC's would ever find this out. The thing doesn't even have a mouth, so they can't slap it around to make it talk!

So, I added two more stranglers to the Vecna temple, as well as several failed prototypes, in jars (a possible red herring, for anyone who hadn't seen the Kyuss worm at Filge's). One of the stranglers was curled round the FO's neck, like a pet, and helped defend him with its eye-rays, during the fight and his flight throught the labyrinth. I was going to have him stroking it, like Blofeld, but events got too chaotic for a villainous monologue.

Yep, I intend to do the same (jars and all). Otherwise, it would be absolutely pointless.

But I was asking about the "discarded faces" stuff, not the lurking strangler we already know...

Osirion

Maybe the stranglers ARE the discarded faces of previous victims?

Brrrr!

[Edit: went back and adopted my 'DM-only, players keep out'-alias...]


Dennis Harry wrote:
I like that the Ebon Triad confuses the plot and makes things murky. That is part of why I am elaving it in there. Also I am running in the Forgotten Realms so the Dead Three that replace their Greyhawk counterparts actually makes this portion of the plot more viable I think. For Greyhawk I can see why it is a little out of place as the gods already exist and are established but from a Greyhawk perspective I would view them as heretics of the faith.

I do appreciate keeping the PCs in the dark, but you should be wary of murkiness for the sake of murkiness.

When your villains have bad plans who wouldn't work even if no PCs showed up, when they act against their nature in illogical ways, when even with a DM birdsview you can't tell why they should be doing what they are doing, what you get isn't a good mystery, it's a awful mess going against the coherence of your world.

To tell it bluntly (it's not against you, your post makes sense; I intend to make a general observation), if supposedly supra-genius and inhumanly patient schemers like avolakias make stupid mistakes and put up weirdly inefficient plans just for the sake of fun, it's another way of telling your players that they don't need to bother with the effort of trying to understand the bad guys motives and plans, because they are just plain illogical and inintelligible in the first place, and that they should instead sit down and wait for the big glowing clues pointing to the next dungeon. (end of rave)

Alas, I'm blessed/cursed with players who go the extra mile to understand and outsmart the bad guys (the sort who triggered a three-front war in the good old Temple of Elemental Evil using glibness, surprise attacks and disguises; the old timers will know what I mean), so I have to make the evil plans of my big bad guys extra airtight.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Smarnil le couard wrote:
What do we learn in TFoE? That the raising of the Ebon Aspect, supposedly fulfilling the prophecy, only needs the participation of TWO clerics: one for Hextor, one for Erythnul (surprisingly, there is no cleric of Vecna, only a layman, the infamous Faceless One).

Do the sacrifices need to be clerics?

Or just 'cult leaders'?

One of the things I have to remind players, when they go looking for cures, raise dead, etc, is that 'priest' is a job title, and doesn't always have to be filled by a member of one particular class. As long as one has faith, one could be an adept, expert, or wizard (especially in the case of Vecna).


The Snorting Tip-sniffer wrote:

In my game, Theldrick was a fallen cleric of Heironeous, to twist the knife in my paladin player, and ensure an almighty grudge fight. <snip>

He renounced Heironeous, for failing him, and seeks a way to pay the Garrison back for their 'cowardice'.

Always nice to use tailor made villains, sure to push the right buttons on your players/PCs...

The Snorting Tip-sniffer wrote:

He already had the basic abilities of a cleric, but swapped deity some time ago, undergoing the usual loss of abilities.

Maybe the Ebon Triad is the first and only church of Hextor he has ever known, fake though it is? He's never lost Hextor's favour, because he never (officially) had it?

Well, technically it would be hard to pull off. Sure, he lost his Heironeous-given powers, but to gain new ones from Hextor he would have to join a cult which he (Hextor) condones. The problem is the same than if Theldrick had been an mainstream Hextorian from the start. To give him Hextorian powers while adhering to the Ebon Triad, you have to accept that Hextor approves of this fringe cult despite its goals (and the fact that it's bogus, which is harder to hide from a god, especially Vecna).

The Snorting Tip-sniffer wrote:
Grallak Kur, on the other hand, is a bloodthirsty cannibal, who could simply follow the overall concepts of Death, War and Chaos. If the grimlocks, and the Faceless One, want to give that a name of 'Erythnul', then it's no trouble to him.

I agree that Erythnul is, among the three gods, the less likely to care about the Ebon Triad tenets. Gore is gore, slaughter is slaughter. Who cares how it cames?

It's another story for Hextor, a god of tyranny expecting harsh discipline from his faithful, and for Vecna, who simply hates and wants to destroy the other two gods.


Snorter wrote:

Do the sacrifices need to be clerics?

Or just 'cult leaders'?

One of the things I have to remind players, when they go looking for cures, raise dead, etc, is that 'priest' is a job title, and doesn't always have to be filled by a member of one particular class. As long as one has faith, one could be an adept, expert, or wizard (especially in the case of Vecna).

In fact, it's said nowhere, but I assumed that the "heads of temple" fed divine energy to the growing Ebon Aspect by casting cleric spells into the black pool (and that the Faceless One only had to fake it, because the Ebon Aspect was an experiment started by Vecna, and already had his imprint).

But you can rule out that any Hextor, Vecna or Erythnul faithful could be linked by the proper arcane ritual to the Ebon Aspect. Beware of the consequences, because it means:
1) that the Ebon Triad bogus cult is even less useful. Tricking two or three laymen to cooperate in the needed ritual is even easier that getting clerics to do the same;
2) you end up with a Theldrick devoid of divine powers and have to rewrite it (same thing for the other Hextorian clerics).

Osirion

The Snorting Tip-sniffer wrote:

He already had the basic abilities of a cleric, but swapped deity some time ago, undergoing the usual loss of abilities.

Maybe the Ebon Triad is the first and only church of Hextor he has ever known, fake though it is? He's never lost Hextor's favour, because he never (officially) had it?
Smarnil le couard wrote:
Well, technically it would be hard to pull off. Sure, he lost his Heironeous-given powers, but to gain new ones from Hextor he would have to join a cult which he (Hextor) condones. The problem is the same than if Theldrick had been an mainstream Hextorian from the start. To give him Hextorian powers while adhering to the Ebon Triad, you have to accept that Hextor approves of this fringe cult despite its goals (and the fact that it's bogus, which is harder to hide from a god, especially Vecna).

I was meaning he was never a cleric of the official church of Hextor to begin with. He is found, raving in the wilderness, having abandoned his post at Blackwall, to charge off with his closest troops, on a doomed suicide mission to rescue his wife and other prisoners.

(The Blackwall link is there, as a back-up way to inform the PCs who he is, in case no-one recognises him during 3FoE. Players get more out of the game if they can join some dots, and see links between scenarios. Often a good idea to have multiple clues.)

As the last survivor, staggering around, slapping the corpses of his soldiers, cursing Heironeous, shrieking about courage and discipline, he is taken in by the Ebon Triad, who teach him to regain his spells, and access his new domains, as a godless cleric (or via an intermediary, the way clerics of demon lords do. Does Kyuss grant spells yet?).
He believes himself to be a cleric in the 'true, reformed' church of Hextor. He also got told that there are lots of 'orthodox, out of date' clerics of Hextor around, but 'we don't consort with fools like them'.


The Snorting Tip-sniffer wrote:


I was meaning he was never a cleric of the official church of Hextor to begin with. He is found, raving in the wilderness, having abandoned his post at Blackwall, to charge off with his closest troops, on a doomed suicide mission to rescue his wife and other prisoners.
As the last survivor, staggering around, slapping the corpses of his soldiers, shrieking about courage and discipline, he is taken in by the Ebon Triad, who teach him to regain his spells, and access his new domains, as a godless cleric (or via an intermediary, the way clerics of demon lords do. Does Kyuss grant spells yet?).
He believes himself to be a cleric in the 'true, reformed' church of Hextor. He also got told that there are lots of 'orthodox, out of date' clerics of Hextor around, but 'we don't consort with fools like them'.

Kudos, nice backstory!

Well, as a DM, you can decide if such things as godless clerics do exist (for my part I don't but they are covered by the rules).

A big black spot though: if Theldrick get his divine powers from another source than Hextor, how can he lend to the Ebon Aspect Hextor-tinged divine power to let him grow these lovely two extra pairs of arms? If he got his powers from Kyuss, even unknowingly, wouldn't the Ebon Aspect grow worms everywhere instead ? Whug!

Osirion

Smarnil le couard wrote:
Kudos, nice backstory!

I'm afraid I can't take credit for that. I got the majority of it from Rodney Thompson. Steal from the professionals!

Rodney Thompson, in some long-lost thread wrote:

Last night the party spent most of the session interacting with soldiers and people at Blackwall Keep. During the dinner following the battle, the current commander revealed some fun little tidbits about Theldrick to the party. Twentysomething years ago, Commander Theldrick was in charge of the Keep's garrison. He was a devoted cleric (in my campaign, to the god of battle Terak from GR's Book of the Righteous) who had convinced many of the members of the garrison about his god's glory. Hordes of orcs flooded into Blackwall Keep, slaughtering innocents and kidnapping Commander Theldrick's wife, dragging her off to parts unknown (more on this in a moment). The orcs managed to seize control of the keep and hold it for three days. At that point, Theldrick rallied the remaining troops and re-took the Keep, slaughtering every last orc mercilessly. Believing that his god had abandoned him in his time of need, allowing orcs to kidnap his wife, Theldrick deserted his post and turned to Hextor (in my campaign, Naran).

This backstory has really intrigued my players for a number of reasons:
1) The party cleric worships Terak, and now believes Theldrick to be worse than a cultist -- he's a traitor to the faith!
2) The party's ranger is a half-orc, born about 22 years ago and native to the Diamond Lake region. I've not come out and said it, and probably won't for the rest of the campaign, but his mommy was, in fact, Theldrick's wife who was kidnapped by orcs. I'm going to drop clues over the course of the campaign, but I think the ranger already suspects.
3) In the night, the current commander in the Keep attempted to murder the party. Secretly a member of the Ebon Triad (converted by his old mentor and former commander of the Keep, Theldrick) he knows that the party could impede the Triad's efforts to bring on the Age of Worms. I've definitely instilled some paranoia in the party, who realizes that cultists of the Ebon Triad could be anyone, anywhere. Mwa ha ha.

I was toying with having Kullen be Theldrick Jr, and having Mrs Theldrick turn up as a non-combatant NPC in some rat-hole like Alhaster. The PCs have Theldrick's locket with her portrait, and may recognise her, or she may recognise the dragonclaw that the PC paladin now wears.

Kullen and his gang, after an initial, non-lethal beating in chapter 1, grudgingly helped the PCs vs the (souped-up) Aspect, having guarded their exit (the PCs having been persuaded by their own paladin to help Smenk!). Now he 'runs' Dourstone Mine, as a front for Smenk (a loophole exploited by Smenk, when the paladin asked him to swear he would make no bid on the empty mine).

Reuniting her with Kullen, and having him become a reformed character, would be a nice closure, no?


Smarnil le couard wrote:
Spacelard wrote:

In my campaign I have set up the Faceless One as a recurring villian. I've yoinked and idea in that FO can steal peoples faces and wear them (Hannibal Lecter style) with a bit of necromatic magic chucked in to make it "seamless". The party have already found two discarded faces and have become just a little paranoid.

He will be a clone of the BIG Faceless One who will follow the PCs around causing trouble for them...

Ooooohhhh, very nice twist! Evil and scary stuff...

Could you give us more details about the way in which you used the Faceless One in the Whispering Cairn adventure to foreshadow TFoE, and about the way you plan to use him later (you can post here or in a new thread, as you please; you're my guest).

First of all I had the players turn up to a interview in the Feral Dog. The chap was from Greyhawk City investigating the disappearance of a fellow Seeker in the Whispering Cairn 60 year ago. This foreshadowed the run in with Ulavant.

In the upstairs bar area were Kullen and his band, a known NPC from the garrison and the PCs waiting to be seen. The Patron first called in Kullen, etc. who came out of the interview grinning and putting the PCs abilities down. Then the Patron called in the known NPC who then after five minutes came out on his own and left the building. After a while the PCs decided to see why they were waiting and entered the room were the interviews were taking place (room 17 on the Feral Dog map) to find the Patron dead with is face peeled off.

The party split up at this point with one group staying at the Feral Dog, the others going to report a murder to the sherrif. When the second group left the Feral Dog they spotted a mass of blood and hair thrown to one side. They took this to the sherrif's office and then realised what they had was not the face of the Patron but of the known NPC. They "Ohh! No!" that went around the table was worth it! The players quickly realised (correctly) that the Patron would probably be staying at the Able Carter Coaching House. When they got there the were told that the Patron went to his room and left only a few minutes before. Searching the room they found nothing as the FO had taken all notes pertaining to the Whispering Cairn.

The players gave up and just went around trying to find the known NPC, they found him with his face peeled off. The players started to get a little paranoid now.

The dwarf went off on his own to register his claim to the abandoned mine office and check the maps of the area to which Dietrik Cicaeda said "Thats odd, you're the second person to look at those maps this week." It became clear that the Patron had studied the old maps and was especially interested in the one with the Whispering Cairn marked on it.

So off the party went to explore the Cairn, and they got trashed by the beetle swarm and slasher. After the PC rested in the Cairn and we stopped for the night. There were two fully conscious PCs and one driftting in and out, the rest sparked out. During the down time I sent emails to the players of the three PCs.

To the Fighter's Player:
"Azif leaves Duiranin standing near the entrance to the Whispering Cairn and heads west towards the abandoned mine office. The sun is low and a chilly mist rolls down from the hills, it will soon be dark.
The young desert warrior moves as stealthily as he can mindful that the goblins which inhabited the place until a week ago may have had friends. Climbing over the low wall which surrounds the place he makes his way first to the well.

Ravens in a skeletal tree watch as he ties a rope to the old bucket near the well. Soon he has a full water skin and a full bucket. The water has a strange peaty taste to it but Azif has tasted worse. Casting his eye about it is apparent the wood scattered about is too damp to burn. Perhaps there is dryer wood inside the squat, crumbling building.

Crossing the threshold Az looks at the blood stains on the floor and offers a prayer to Istus (goddess of fate/luck) that the goblin warriors were weak. It could be his blood spilt all over the floor. Moving into the study Az begins to rip the wooden shelving off using a crowbar and stuffing the kindling into the many backpacks he brought with him. As he works Az becomes aware of the ravens outside cawing. Something has disturbed them.

Notching an arrow Azif moves quietly from window to window searching for any signs of what could have disturbed the ebon birds. His eyes dart from side to side straining in the poor light and lengthening shadows but he sees nothing. With the blood ringing in his ears and his heart racing with the adrenaline, Az ties the packs together and drapes them over each end of a staff which he then carries on his shoulders. Brushing his hair from his eyes Az walks quickly away from the demesne, glancing over his shoulder frequently for any danger. By the time he spies the yawning entrance to the Whispering Cairn he is nearly running and it crosses his mind things are probably going to get a lot worse.

Moving down the black corridor towards the dim green light in the sarcophagus chamber Azif is relieved to see the young priest, Duiranin, moving between the wounded companions making sure that their dressings aren't as tight as to cut the blood off from a limb or so loose to be ineffective. Az is impressed by the healers ingenuity, "An old healer's trick..." he says in way of explanation as the priest applies a pad of webbing to the deep acidic burns on the dwarf.

Azif breaks the wood down further and soon has a fire lit. At least they will all be warm.

For now."

To the Priest's Player:
"Duiranin watches the desert warrior head back towards the abandoned mine office to gather wood and water. He stands vigilant as Azif blurs and eventually disappears into the chill mist which is beginning to form. Heading back towards where his new companions lie unconscious from the wounds that they have sustained in the fight only two hours previously.

Three lie nearly dead and the priest's comrade from the Diamond Lake garrison moans as he drifts in and out of consciousness. The dwarf has been badly burned by acid from the swarm of beetles which erupted out of the depths. Thorfinn, the dwarven fighter, his beard wet with the serum leaking from the red burns on his face needs water soon. The elf and halfling were wounded by the bony protrusions which a strange creature which came up with the beetles slashed them with. The Son of the Sun changes the blood soaked bandages and applies a healing balm to the deep cuts to help try stave off any infection.

About an hour later Azif returns, his face red and out of breath as if he ran back. Az drops the packs jammed with firewood and hands the priest a waterskin. Duiranin moves towards the dwarf and starts to trickle the peaty water down the fighters parched throat, supporting his head to prevent choking. Out of the corner of his eye, Duiranin watches the desert warrior build a small fire. Something seems odd, out of place.

"He was gone a long time...."

"Did anything happen?".

Staring at each other over the crackling fire the two strangers share a meal in silence.

"Didn't he have blue eyes?"

Azif offers to take the watch and takes up a position at the top of the stairs leading up out of the vast chamber which they currently reside. He lies in the shadows with a light crossbow ready for intruders.
Fitfully the young priest tries to sleep, tries to rest so he can be refreshed and use his healing prayers on his wounded comrades."

To the Warmage's Player:
"The Warmage covered in numerous insect bites and small acid burns drifts in and out of sleep. The wounds burn and makes getting comfortable difficult. All is dark except for a small fire burning fitfully in the vast chamber. The dull orange glow does little to push back the encroaching darkness but takes the chill off the wounded comrades circled about it.

Opening tired eyes Malik watches a figure squat down near one of the wounded. The figure has his back to Sung but he guesses that it must be the priest checking that all is well. As the Warmage observes whoever the man is tending stiffens and lets out a low gurggle. The figure turns his head around as if looking to see if the soft sound has awoken any of the slumbering fortune-hunters gathered in this cold, ancient tomb.

As he does the Warmage is struck with primal fear for the figure is not the Priest but has the apperance of the desert warrior, Azif, and the face of the person Malik thought was being attended to is now nothing but a red, bloody pulp. The fire glints off a knife clutched in the right hand of the assailent, a blood-soaked mass in the other.

Malik shifts in his bedroll trying desperately to reach the crossbow which is just within reach. The movement causes some of the warmage's wounds to open and he lets out an involuntary moan. The figure springs around with catlike grace and locks eyes with the wounded mage.

Malik lunges towards his weapon but Azif is quicker. A bolt of pale blue light streaks from his hand and the warmage is surrounded by a nimbus of cornflower blue.

The mage is frozen.

Picking his way stealthily the desert warrior makes his way towards his paralysed victim. The sleeping dwarf snorts loudly in his sleep and turns over, Malik wills Thorfinn to wake but to no avail. Cold, ebon eyes stares deep into the warmage's soul and just a flicker of a smile passes over his lips. With one hand the stranger grasps the underside of his chin and peels away the face of Azif revealing a white featureless visage. A glinting scalpel his held in the strangers hand. Sweat rolls down the warmage's face going into his eyes making them sting.

The warmage feels a sharp cold sting along his jaw line as the blade cuts his flesh as easy as a knife through butter on a warm summer's day. Malik tries with all his might to throw off the enchantment which holds him immobile, screaming inwardly.

Suddenly the warmage manages to open his mouth and lets out a blood curdling scream."

I included a picture of the FO in this little missive.
Sorry if this post is long!


Oh my... What can I say, Spacelard? What you got is probably the best introduction for AoW I have read until now. Rule brittania! I guess you got your players to sit on the edge of their seats from the start, with this one. Too bad you are so far from my place: otherwise, I would have have pumped you full of cognac to extract from your brain all the nasty tricks crawling inside (to better my gaming style).

Could you clarify some points for me? The part you sent to the warmage is a dream sequence, right? Then (next game session) he woke up and put Azif down for interrogation, as you said earlier? English isn't my prime language, and I may have missed some details.

I wish I had thought of someting as devious, but I went for a more classical introduction: intertwined PC backstories, most of them are relative newcomers in Diamondlake (having gotten there for some months at most), some of them have hidden agendas, etc. One of them is the pampered son of Dietrik Cicaeda. One day that he was manning dad's office (as he is due, as a cartographer guild member and frustrated would-be adventurer), Khellek went by looking for the Whispering Cairn (which the PC knew from his teenage years). He jumped the claim and fed misleading information to Khellek, sending him away for a wild goose chase on the other side of the lake, met on the evening with his friends, and went with them to the WC the following day. They know they only have some days to pilla... explore the cairn before a very pissed-off Khellek comes back in town. That's all... Full details (in french, sorry) on this thread. I don't feel that my english is up to the task for a full blown campaign journal.


Smarnil le couard wrote:

Oh my... What can I say, Spacelard? What you got is probably the best introduction for AoW I have read until now. Rule brittania! I guess you got your players to sit on the edge of their seats from the start, with this one. Too bad you are so far from my place: otherwise, I would have have pumped you full of cognac to extract from your brain all the nasty tricks crawling inside (to better my gaming style).

Could you clarify some points for me? The part you sent to the warmage is a dream sequence, right? Then (next game session) he woke up and put Azif down for interrogation, as you said earlier? English isn't my prime language, and I may have missed some details.

I wish I had thought of someting as devious, but I went for a more classical introduction: intertwined PC backstories, most of them are relative newcomers in Diamondlake (having gotten there for some months at most), some of them have hidden agendas, etc. One of them is the pampered son of Dietrik Cicaeda. One day that he was manning dad's office (as he is due, as a cartographer guild member and frustrated would-be adventurer), Khellek went by looking for the Whispering Cairn (which the PC knew from his teenage years). He jumped the claim and fed misleading information to Khellek, sending him away for a wild goose chase on the other side of the lake, met on the evening with his friends, and went with them to the WC the following day. They know they only have some days to pilla... explore the cairn before a very pissed-off Khellek comes back in town. That's all... Full details (in french, sorry) on this thread. I don't feel that my english is up to the task for a full blown campaign journal.

Yes it is a dream sequence. And the party did put Azif down for interrogation. I gave the players six weeks worth of what they had been doing in Diamond Lake and the questioning revolved around that, fortunatly the player had read the background and could answer the questions. I tend to use dreams a lot in my games, it keeps people guessing! My prime game is Call of Cthulhu so I like to put a bit of horror into all my games.

My other choice for the Faceless One is a Mi-Go. In Lovecraft's stories they can masquerade as humans using wax masks, bulky clothing etc. I am kind of drawn to brain cylinders... The Mi-Go use science instead of magic could the Ebon Aspect be a geneticly created beast?
Thank you for the compliment, the written intro was a bit weak but I guess for a generic scenario it had to be. Feel free to yoink any of it for your game, it is never too late to bring in the horror!

Osirion

Spacelard wrote:
My other choice for the Faceless One is a Mi-Go. In Lovecraft's stories they can masquerade as humans using wax masks, bulky clothing etc. I am kind of drawn to brain cylinders... The Mi-Go use science instead of magic could the Ebon Aspect be a geneticly created beast?

Hah!

The Mi-Go are great! I've had a player be a brain-canister, in a CoC game, after a little 'accident'. He had a trolley, and some sensory attachments, so I wasn't totally mean.

Have a Mi-Go picture, on me.


(Aside) Gotta love the Mi-Go! I plan on running Beyond the Mountains of Madness next summer as a weeknight campaign.

I love all the ideas that are thrown up for the AoW, its all good stuff! My approach to strengthen the ties between stories was to have all major villains be enemies or in some way connected to the PC's, whether major background enemies, part of the family legacy, or in some cases secret masters and allies [its too much to post at work though :-).] I use a background system based on the Vampire the Masquerade game and it works very well. No one in my game is actually starting in, nor are they from Diamond Lake but some of them have interests there.

The Ebon Triad works better from an FR perspective than a Greyhawk one because the Gods involved are dead! There is no real schism to worry about. (There is a feat that needs to be taken at first level to access spells from these dead Gods but that is a small tweak). In the past all of these Gods actually received their power from one God, so reforming the Dead Three as One God is a viable plot/goal for these low level NPC's. Whereas in Greyhawk it makes less sense because these three Gods never really had a prior connection.

I don't think this makes the plot too murky because these clues lead them on the trail of the real villains. It makes sense in a way that these low level bumblers are the ones who create the first opportunity to actually uncover this conspiracy of Kyuss. The NPC's that truly know what is going on are too smart to make these types of mistakes.


I plan to have the FO have his own apotheosis using the Lair of Maldred the Mighty.


Spacelard wrote:
I plan to have the FO have his own apotheosis using the Lair of Maldred the Mighty.

That's an VERY old one... and appropriate. It suggests that we are from the same generation of players.

Apotheosis into what? Kyuss knight? Many tentacled horror? A cross between Dr Octopus and the Ebon Aspect? (just kidding).


Dennis Harry wrote:
I love all the ideas that are thrown up for the AoW, its all good stuff! My approach to strengthen the ties between stories was to have all major villains be enemies or in some way connected to the PC's, whether major background enemies, part of the family legacy, or in some cases secret masters and allies [its too much to post at work though :-).] I use a background system based on the Vampire the Masquerade game and it works very well. No one in my game is actually starting in, nor are they from Diamond Lake but some of them have interests there.

I myself use the Hero system rules, in which the PCs are built with Character Points, some given freely, some bought with Disadvantages (ennemies, quirks, disabilities, you name it). Most are in fact designed to tie the PCs to future modules.

Dennis Harry wrote:
The Ebon Triad works better from an FR perspective than a Greyhawk one because the Gods involved are dead! There is no real schism to worry about. (There is a feat that needs to be taken at first level to access spells from these dead Gods but that is a small tweak). In the past all of these Gods actually received their power from one God, so reforming the Dead Three as One God is a viable plot/goal for these low level NPC's. Whereas in Greyhawk it makes less sense because these three Gods never really had a prior connection.

I couldn' agree more. The Ebon Triad needs almost no reworking in FR.

Dennis Harry wrote:
I don't think this makes the plot too murky because these clues lead them on the trail of the real villains. It makes sense in a way that these low level bumblers are the ones who create the first opportunity to actually uncover this conspiracy of Kyuss. The NPC's that truly know what is going on are too smart to make these types of mistakes.

I also agree, but only in FR. This goes with the "bogus cult discarded as a no longer useful tool" idea. Too bad that they continue their useless rituals and ring some alarm bells in the process... It works.


Smarnil le couard wrote:
Spacelard wrote:
I plan to have the FO have his own apotheosis using the Lair of Maldred the Mighty.

That's an VERY old one... and appropriate. It suggests that we are from the same generation of players.

Apotheosis into what? Kyuss knight? Many tentacled horror? A cross between Dr Octopus and the Ebon Aspect? (just kidding).

It is one of my favorites and here is a link to a 3.5 conversion of it. A Wormy Horror is likely to burst out of the pod!

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Those are some very old-school resources there.
Took me back a bit; though where's the Russian Doll Monster?


Snorter wrote:

Those are some very old-school resources there.

Took me back a bit; though where's the Russian Doll Monster?

Ha!

Some of the stuff in WD was rubbish but most of it was genius, IMO.
Brilliant scenarios, nothing fancy but very intresting.
Halls of Tizen Thane, The Lichway, Maldred...ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.........


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This is a great thread, and I've already yoinked a couple of ideas for my own AoW campaign. I'm currently running a PBP game and am in the middle of TFoE. I'm trying to think of some ways to spice it up - stuff here is awesome. I am thinking of modifying the maze also, maybe to an illusory trap, where the kenkus can move through the walls and shadows - there's also no way to reach the Vecna section without defeating the illusion. If I come up with some specifics, I'll post them...

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Have fun with the kenku; it helps if you have a player you can trust to play along, shouting out false directions. Pass him a note, offering him bonus xp for every other player he leads astray.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Snorter wrote:
Have fun with the kenku; it helps if you have a player you can trust to play along, shouting out false directions. Pass him a note, offering him bonus xp for every other player he leads astray.

That's devious - I like it! ;)


Just to let people know Filge survived.
The players were appalled by the Slay-mate in his bed who ran to him screaming "Daddy"...
When captured he showed the receipts for all the bodies, "I bought them from the morgue in Greyhawk..." and explained that the party just killed his daughter "She died of the Red Death twenty years past and I just couldn't be parted from her."
He now works in Greyhawk making pies...


Spacelard wrote:

Just to let people know Filge survived.

The players were appalled by the Slay-mate in his bed who ran to him screaming "Daddy"...
When captured he showed the receipts for all the bodies, "I bought them from the morgue in Greyhawk..." and explained that the party just killed his daughter "She died of the Red Death twenty years past and I just couldn't be parted from her."
He now works in Greyhawk making pies...

Happy ending for him... You should also post this on your "Crime and punishment" thread, by the way.

But how did the players recover the Land family's corpses? If Filge had (presumably false) receipts, why would he give them away for free? Did they (the PCs and Filge) reach a compromise, satisfactory for both parties? Maybe something like "well, don't look too closely at my receipts, and I will skip town, give you the skeletons you seek and forget about the breaking and entering in my modest ghoulish home...".

Thanks for sharing.

And also, could you (all of you) express your opinion on the "Smenk connection" part of my first post? Do you all agree with the reasoning and proposed solutions, or do you see potential plot holes I could have missed ? (until now, we have almost exclusively discussed the Ebon Triad).

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I agree that both Smenk and Dourstone need to have some kind of dirt on each other, to prevent either going to the legitimate authorities, so forcing them to settle things in a dirty vendetta.


I'm going to go with Smenk being pretty much involved with the cultists from day one. I have developed a bit of a backstory for Smenk involving his past and family. As befitting the cult of Vecna they have collected the bodies of the deceased family memebers and cast Speak With Dead on them.
So ruinous blackmail for Dourstone ("Let us stay here or we'll spill the beans about that little mine accident") and Smenk (Supply us with food or we spill the beans about you murdering that watchman in Greyhawk"). That will be the starters for the dirt which would ruin both of them.
Now have a copy of Mad Gods Key and seeing how I can tie that in with the FO.


Okay, just skimmed The Mad Gods Key...so the Vecna cult went and stole a book from the Great Library. The obvious is probably the best so what book is it?
Chronicles of Chan?
Heretical works of the Ebon Triad?
A Kyuss bestiary?
And I plan the party to meet Filge again..."Loverly pies!...Get yer loverly pies here!"

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

"Kate and Sydney Pie!"

"Kate and Sydney Pie!"

oh! ....err....I mean,

"Steak and Kidney Pie!"


Snorter wrote:

"Kate and Sydney Pie!"

"Kate and Sydney Pie!"

oh! ....err....I mean,

"Steak and Kidney Pie!"

It tastes like chicken...


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I didn't spend a whole lotta time or brainpower on Smenk, as he was more of a means-to-an-end than an important story point. The players knew he was a sleaze, from both background info and Filge. To start the 3FoE module, I skipped the Allustan "predictions" because they were pretty weak.

Instead, I had Smenk seek the PCs out and hire them to investigate the mines - win-win for Smenk (in his mind). The cultists are obviously blackmailing him into supplying them (for a steal) and to keep quiet. If they trash the place and take out his rival Dourstone, then he wins. If they defeat the cultists and free him from the blackmail threat they hold over him, also win. If the PCs die, no great loss...


The Cult of Vecna is driving things to bring Kyuss back and being the Keeper of Secrets IMO he is doing a fantastic job. Vecna hasn't got to keep the Ebon Triad secret from anyone but Hextor and Erythnul. Everyone involved in the pure cult doctrine of Hextor and Erythnul can go around warning who ever they like about the heresy as Vecna is only intrested in blocking that knowledge to the two deities.
Vecna is *helping* Kyuss as they both have similar backgrounds in that they were both once mortal, the exact motivation is unknown as Vecna ain't telling.

1 to 50 of 182 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | next > last >>
Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo Publishing / Older Products / Dungeon Magazine / Age of Worms Adventure Path / Three Faces of Evil (TFoE): some new plot tweakings All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.

©2002–2014 Paizo Inc.®. Need help? Email customer.service@paizo.com or call 425-250-0800 during our business hours: Monday–Friday, 10 AM–5 PM Pacific Time. View our privacy policy. Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc., and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Online, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.