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Souls for Smuggler's Shiv (GM Reference)


Serpent's Skull

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Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber
Garm Sumner wrote:
Though I do have a question: how did people deal with NPCs staying at home and making and dealing with camp stuff until they are helpful and complete their individual quest? It seems like i might reach problems regarding the realistic relationships between the PCs and NPCs...

Are you refering to the fact they WON'T help out until they are made... uh... friendly is it? (don't have my books and been a while since I ran this part.) I just made them very sulky and somewhat standoffish to the PC's attempts at leadership until they could raise their attitude.

Say if Sasha is still unfriendly and they try to tell her to go build traps (as a defender) she'd laugh at them, say "Who put you in charge? I'm gonna go explore down the beach" and wander off for a bit. Gelik would follow them around, cracking jokes but not doing any productive work. Jask and Aerys would sit and meditate or write poetry. Ishirou would wander off on his own for a bit (not too far! The island is still dangerous after all)

BUT! If you're saying that their current attitude isn't matching up with how the PCs are roleplaying with them, then feel free to change it. Say if Sasha is still unfriendly but the PCs are roleplaying really well with her and you think she'd really help out at camp, either just say she's now friendly (rewarding great roleplaying) or even make another diplomacy roll with a really high circumstance bonus for good roleplaying.

Honestly I didn't have that problem because I had a party "face" with high CHA and Diplomacy. He gathered everyone together on the first day and explained how things were gonna go. I think he had everyone at least friendly to him by the end of the first day on the Shiv. Shrug.


Pathfinder Cards Subscriber
martryn wrote:
Also, take it easy on the diseases. It really makes the game drag. I've had my group sit for days in camp to get over a disease or heal up ability score damage. If they contract another disease while waiting, it's going to be hard to have the group move forward in the game.

Yeah, thats a good point, it does make the game drag on...but I believe my players are having a fun time getting into the realistic portions of the island (disease, foraging for enough food, and getting lost being one of them)

I always rolls the percentage chance of mosquito biting them in front of them. But then I roll the saves and the type of disease behind the counter...gets them scared and on the edge. I feel that if I stop that...i think it would make it worse...

Right now, I've let them sleep in caves that they find after they clear some of the monsters on the island. So they're bitten chance is down to 5-10% (depending if they have a tent/canvas roof up).

Jenner2057 wrote:

BUT! If you're saying that their current attitude isn't matching up with how the PCs are roleplaying with them, then feel free to change it. Say if Sasha is still unfriendly but the PCs are roleplaying really well with her and you think she'd really help out at camp, either just say she's now friendly (rewarding great roleplaying) or even make another diplomacy roll with a really high circumstance bonus for good roleplaying.

Honestly I didn't have that problem because I had a party "face" with high CHA and Diplomacy. He gathered everyone together on the first day and explained how things were gonna go. I think he had everyone at least friendly to him by the end of the first day on the Shiv. Shrug.

Yea, I've given them bonuses because of their true enthusiasm to know and help the NPCs be involved (Sasha espicially). We do have a cavalier, but he is away from the camp as he took the order of the dragon order granting him bonuses to foraging food for survival and against saves vs the temperature and weather (and his survival is good), I'll try and encourage more roleplaying with all the NPCs. So I'll have to bring their attention to the personal part of the game (not including chasing after women!)

Maybe a feud between Gelik and Aerys might boil down to a fist fight. (I wonder who will win that one! )


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

So, just finished my fourth session with my group tonight. Things got off to a rocky start, but I think the momentum has picked up and the action is about to intensify.

Party managed to hit level 3 already. With all the random encounters, they've averaged a level every other session. We play between 4 and 5 hours every week, so maybe this is ok. I'm expecting things to slow down considerably now.

Session 2 the party spent easing it's way south into the jungle. They discovered the landing site of Yarzoth, and followed that to the trails cut through the jungle. They encountered the cannibals traps along the trails, and then were ambushed by the cannibal close to the end of the session. The session ended with the party's fighter contracting Demon Fever and using 2 Hero Points to rid himself of it.

Session 3 and the party were already sick and tired of the diseases. They didn't have a dedicated healer in the party, either, and every time they ventured too far from Jask, they started feeling the pressure. They did some exploration of shipwrecks, hiked up to Red Mountain and encountered the chupacabra, though it didn't attack, only buzzed them from the sky, which prompted them to run back down the mountain in fear, straight into a wandering pack of zombies (a random encounter). At the end of the session, they attempted to sneak up to the cannibals camp, but with a nat 20 on a Perception check, the cannibals took note and moved out to engage them in force (they were all in camp because I figured the NPCs had been captured and they were preparing for a feast). The druid cast Entangle, which slowed them down, and the party managed to defeat 5 cannibals and the shiv dragon outside of camp before they decided to retreat, the druid taking off through the woods carrying the unconscious gnome sorcerer, and both the rogue and fighter diving off the cliff face into the waters below, and action that earned them both Hero Points, considering how epic it was and the exchange between the two right before they did it.

Session 4 started with the rogue (staggered at 0) and the fighter drifting toward the wreck of the Thrune's Fang, not being able to swim effectively to shore. The wreck was inhabited by Lacedons, but I allowed them to make Perception checks, and only had a single ghoul attack them at first, telling them that they heard a few more in the distance, which prompted them to use the potion of Waterwalking that they had picked up earlier to make it back to the mainland. They ended up setting up a few ambushes for the cannibals to thin their numbers, taking out an additional 4 (bringing the dead cannibal count up to 10), before the cannibals moved enmasse against them. Escaping with the druid's Obscuring Mist, the party ventured north into the dryad's territory, who provided them with information, as well as the location of Pezock and a reason to explore the "dead island" that my party has been curious about. The party explored a few more shipwrecks, encountered and befriended Pezock (always good for a laugh), and then easily dealt with the vegepygmies. I decided to have Ishirou captured by the vegepygmies to work him back into the adventure, and had Pezock notice Aerys get taken by cannibals to force the party to deal with that threat next session or else forever lose Aerys, something Ishirou certainly wouldn't want.

I think with the dryad, I'm going to allow the PCs to use her "grove" as a safe place to establish their more permanent base camp. All the NPCs will relocate there. I'm going to say that the dryad's aura and power prevents bugs, mosquitoes, and other disease carrying bacteria to affect the party, and the local wildlife leaves her alone, so that the party can have a safe place to rest without worry of disease. I'll also use this as an excuse to completely cycle the disease out of the adventure path, as I think my party has had enough of it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

We started Serpent's Skull yesterday with a short session.  The PCs made it to the wreck and back to shore, set up a camp and did a short bit of scouting before the session ended.  It is dusk on day 1.  

They rolled well enough to know about the lighthouse and had recovered the maps from the captains cabin.  I gave them a handout with the outline of the island on it but no other information (Much like the players map posted here but I printed it on a piece of parchment looking paper to make it a nicer prop.  One of the players immediately took the map and plotted a direct route to the corner of the island where the lighthouse is supposed to be.  As they were packing up after the game, he was advocating a plan to leave the NPCs in a safe camp, strike off directly to the lighthouse, signal a passing ship and then have the rescue ship pick up the NPCs after they're on board.  

Of course, this is the evening of the first day.  All they've encountered so far are the eurypterids.  They didn't roll well enough to hear about the Thrune's Fang and have not encountered the cannibals. They also have not had to deal with poison (due to bad rolls, only one stinger ever hit and the PC saved) or disease.  They really haven't even talked to any of the NPCs so far except Jask (who has been freed). I imagine things might change a bit once they experience a bit more of what the island has to offer.  Or maybe not. We shall see.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

You should definitely find a way to distract them from heading straight to the lighthouse. There's a lot of stuff they'll miss if they don't take the time to get their bearings. I'd definitely utilize the NPCs a bit to slow them down.

Course, having the dreams, dealing with disease, wandering random encounters, and chupacabra sightings will likely do the work for you. Definitely interested to hear how things play out for your group.

What is the composition of your PCs?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I have: a human paladin, human cleric (both from Magnimar originally), Mwangi rogue, changeling witch, half-orc fighter (aiming to be an archery ranger) and an aasimar fighter.

I definitely intend to distract them. So far, they've been focused on salvaging anything g they could from the wreck and setting up a camp. They really haven't had much of a chance for anything to happen yet. I figure I'll start off next week with encounter and disease rolls.

If they take the proposed route, they'll miss the landing site and walk right into the area with the area with the cannibal traps.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Are you modifying anything to accommodate 6 PCs?


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Session #5. Party attacked the cannibal camp with aid from Sasha, Pezzok, and Ishirou. Party rogue and the NPCs all snuck around to the witch's hut, and when the witch heard something outside and stuck her head out to investigate, Sasha critted her, dropping her to 0 HPs. An epic battle against the entire cannibal camp erupted, with the high point of the battle being when Pezzok got his hand cut off from a cannibal crit.

I had a great scene set up where the PCs burst in an free Aerys from the cannibal's clutches right before she is eaten, and it played out alright. Party was hurt, weary, but determined to finish all the cannibals off in one go.

Moving to the lighthouse proper, the quick battle against the chief was a bit disappointing. The chief fumbled on his bite attack, but managed to still do max damage on the attack from the critical fumble card I drew, which left him stunned for two rounds. This put the party's fighter dangerously low on HP, but the rest of the party mopped up the room.

The PCs came up with the idea of using the lighthouse to signal passing ships on their own, which made me proud of them. They missed the lair of the mother's entrance, but I had an NPC point it out to them. Curiosity was all it took to get them to go down the hole the next day after they rested up. Session ended with the big revelation that Ieana is some sort of snake lady from discovering the captain's note. The party instantly thought of the lamia matriarchs from Rise of the Runelords, and I could see them visibly sweating. Even with all the anthropomorphic images of snakes everywhere in the temple area, I'm not sure they know that they're wrong yet, but that's ok.

Party still wants to explore the wreck of the Thrune's Fang, help Ishirou on his treasure hunt, find Ieana, and find the Brine Demon for Jask. They know they've missed some things on the island, but at this point feel as if they're on too much of a time crunch to explore without purpose, which isn't a bad thing because they might actually hit level 4 next week.

I stopped rolling random encounters and disease today, and my PCs were relieved, so I think three or four weeks is enough for them to get the idea.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I've been adjusting by adding extra creatures to encounters.  If I had it to do again, I think I'd make encounters and diseases more frequent.  I am sure some of it is dice luck but they've almost completely avoided random encounters the week or so they have been on the island.  They've had exactly one.  They've also avoided diseases almost as well and shook them off almost immediately.  The whole environmental danger thing has been almost a non-issue so far.

They've proceeded toward the lighthouse without letting themselves get distracted. I tried the brown island in the distance, the personal quests for three of the NPCs (the other two have not gotten a good enough attitude to reveal theirs yet) and foreshadowing the chupacabra but they have pressed resolutely on. When they got ambushed at encounter M, I even tried to use the fleeing cannibal and sound of running water to distract them toward the cabin with no luck.  They know about Sasha's quest and camped right next to some Dimorphodons one night but would not try to capture one since it would just be one more mouth to feed and is not a proper pet anyway. 

They are fairly close to the lighthouse now and actually got ambushed by cannibals in camp the last night we played through. Aerys and Ishirou were panicked and fled as soon as they woke up.  By random roll, Ishirou went right toward the camp and I had him get captured.  The next day a couple of PCs scouted the camp and did not get spotted by amazing luck (they've had a LOT of amazing dice luck). I figure the cannibals were mostly inside planning a bigger war party to go after them, especially since they made no effort to move or hide their camp after the last encounter. 

I'm considering having the remaining NPCs leave under Jask's leadership. Aerys because she is panicked and wants no part of a fight and she wants to search for those berries more (one of the PCs is keeping an eye out as hey travel but there have been no diversions to search). Sasha because they refused to help her get her pet (I'm playing her a bit like a spoiled rich girl). Jask, of course, is worried about being imprisoned again and intends to look for evidence to exonerate himself.  He hasn't told the PCs about the ship yet, but his observations so give him no reason to expect they'll help even if he did since they seem pretty focused on leaving the island.  Under other circumstances, he would be with them all he way but he just can't leave without trying to clear himself.  Gelik is the only wild card. He's told the PCs about the Nightvoice.  It hasn't gone anywhere but he wasn't actually brushed off like Sasha was either. He could go either way. 

I expect the PCs to attack the Thrunefang net session to take the light house.  They will be 2nd level. I expect them to try hit and run tactics once they realize the numbers they face.  Everyone is an experienced player so I expect they can pull off a guerilla campaign and may prevail. We will see.  Assuming they do, it will be interesting to see if they ignore the caves below the lighthouse. 


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

If your party is as experienced as you say, you might consider having the full contingent of cannibals present, and include both the witch and the chief in the battle. Remember how fast the cannibals are, with a base speed of 45 feet, so unless the PCs use something to slow them down, they're not going to be able to just run. This is the primary reason my party resorted to jumping off a cliff to escape the cannibals. Even spells like Entangle won't hold the cannibals for long.

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber

If they want to make a straight bee-line for the lighthouse and ignore the rest of the island, I'd say let 'em!

I told my PCs right from the start that they felt their "destinies were intertwined with the other castaways on the island." They got the hint that there would be story award xp for winning over the other survivors and assisting with their quests. Also xp bonuses for getting the other castaways off the island. You may want to tell your players this straight up if you want them to help the castaways.

Of course there's really nothing that says once the PCs get the lighthouse lit, they can't go back and help the castaways with their quests after. It could be quite a while until a passing ship sees the signal (i.e. as long as you want)

As for the caves of the Mother under the lighthouse, do you have any good aligned characters? You could try the rescue approach. Have one of the castaways go missing and the party finds ghoul tracks leading back to the hole down to the caves.

Alternately, if they start the lighthouse and just camp and wait, have ghouls come out of the caves and attack... night after night. The party will either eventually have to fall back from the lighthouse or go down into the caves (Remember, there's a water exit from the caves as well. Even if they block the hole down, the ghouls can go around and climb the cliffs to get at them). If they fall back from the lighthouse, have the ghouls steal pieces of the lighthouse and retreat into the caves. If the party wants to restart the signal, they'll have to go down and recover the pieces from the Mother.

Alternate: have crucial pieces of the signal light missing and drag marks leading towards the hole. Maybe the cannibals took the shiny reflectors and dropped them down to the Mother as an offering long ago.

Just some thoughts!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
martryn wrote:
If your party is as experienced as you say, you might consider having the full contingent of cannibals present, and include both the witch and the chief in the battle. Remember how fast the cannibals are, with a base speed of 45 feet, so unless the PCs use something to slow them down, they're not going to be able to just run. This is the primary reason my party resorted to jumping off a cliff to escape the cannibals. Even spells like Entangle won't hold the cannibals for long.

Before the campaign started, I had decided to beef up the number of cannibals because of the size of the party. Even with current losses, they're still above 20 cannibals and neither the chief or the witch have made an appearance. Of course, the logical course of action right now is another night raid since they know where the PCs were and the PCs haven't moved.

I'm going to have to be careful since I just did the math and realized the PCs have skipped so much they're still going to be 1st level when they attack.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Jenner2057 wrote:
I told my PCs right from the start that they felt their "destinies were intertwined with the other castaways on the island." They got the hint that there would be story award xp for winning over the other survivors and assisting with their quests. Also xp bonuses for getting the other castaways off the island. You may want to tell your players this straight up if you want them to help the castaways.

I flat-out told them there were quests associated with the NPCs.

Jenner2057 wrote:
Of course there's really nothing that says once the PCs get the lighthouse lit, they can't go back and help the castaways with their quests after. It could be quite a while until a passing ship sees the signal (i.e. as long as you want)

I won't rule that out but I'm not feeling optimistic about it either.

Jenner2057 wrote:

As for the caves of the Mother under the lighthouse, do you have any good aligned characters? You could try the rescue approach. Have one of the castaways go missing and the party finds ghoul tracks leading back to the hole down to the caves.

Alternately, if they start the lighthouse and just camp and wait, have ghouls come out of the caves and attack... night after night. The party will either eventually have to fall back from the lighthouse or go down into the caves (Remember, there's a water exit from the caves as well. Even if they block the hole down, the ghouls can go around and climb the cliffs to get at them). If they fall back from the lighthouse, have the ghouls steal pieces of the lighthouse and retreat into the caves. If the party wants to restart the signal, they'll have to go down and recover the pieces from the Mother.

Alternate: have crucial pieces of the signal light missing and drag marks leading towards the hole. Maybe the cannibals took the shiny reflectors and dropped them down to the Mother as an offering long ago.

Just some thoughts!

Yes, I have plenty of good-aligned PCs. There are both a paladin and cleric of Sarenrae. They already feel like they're on a rescue mission since Ishirou got captured and they want to rescue him. I'd hate to force a second rescue just to get them in the caves. The lighthouse part thing is good and I'll consider that, though I wonder if they'll take the bait laid out in the caves and move on to the next temple if I do get them down there.

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber
MaxKaladin wrote:
Yes, I have plenty of good-aligned PCs. There are both a paladin and cleric of Sarenrae. They already feel like they're on a rescue mission since Ishirou got captured and they want to rescue him. I'd hate to force a second rescue just to get them in the caves.

Totally agree with you. Don't want to use the rescue trope twice. It can certainly get overplayed (and it comes up again with Eando Cline anyway in Book 4/5). Plus you also don't want your PCs to start seeing the castaways as incompetent. It could make them hesitant to join one of the castaways and their faction in Book 2 more difficult.

MaxKaladin wrote:
The lighthouse part thing is good and I'll consider that, though I wonder if they'll take the bait laid out in the caves and move on to the next temple if I do get them down there.

Yeah a friend of mine came up with the lighthouse idea. He had a group of PCs that were happy just camping out at the cannibal camp to wait for a ship (and not explore the Mother's cave). He had a group of ghouls come out of the caves and attack the party. While one group did that, another group of ghouls scaled the lighthouse and stole pieces of the reflectors dragging them back to the caves below.

As for moving from the caves of the Mother to the Zura temple, make sure they see the CRACK/BOOM from Ieana/Yarzoth entering. This should tip them off that something big is going on over at Red Mountain. If they don't bite the first time, maybe have it happen again and have the whole island shake (maybe Yarzoth had to leave and return for some reason).
Worse come to worse, when Captain Tegerten on the Red Gull picks them up, have HIM see the flash of lightning. Have him ask the PCs to check it out before he'll take them to Eleder (maybe he's hoping there's something valuable there?) That route is kinda weak, but eh. :)


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Sessions 6 and 7:

I actually had to prod my party along in several areas. I didn't want to give anything away or railroad anything more than is already necessary, but there were some close calls.

The party finished up exploring underneath the Thrunefang camp. They defeated the ghoul cleric, though the battle was close, with the party's rogue going unconscious again, and almost dying from the channeling of negative energy. They again expressed exasperation by the lack of decent loot. The group typically gets along quite well with a Wand of Cure Light Wounds, being the first item they always buy in a campaign, but they've not had a chance to purchase anything, and they're running the adventure with a single druid to provide all healing. The party starts getting jittery when they move too far away from where Jask is camped. And yet they haven't been in a hurry to use their potions of healing, which I guess they reason is a last resort action to bring an unconscious party member back to consciousness. Whatever...

So after clearing out the entirety of the cannibal camp, the party still manages to take five days or so to get around to heading to the final encounters. They spent a good deal of time traveling back and forth to the dryad's tree where they've set up camp, and then to the lighthouse to set up a new camp. By the time they get to Tide Stone, it's dusk five days after the first activation of it by Yarzoth. They've completely misinterpreted her intentions, and figure that she's doing some sort of foul ritual in some secret temple, and that it's too late to stop her, so what's the hurry. They defeat the Red Mountain Devil, but can't figure out how the Tide Stone works, so I have to remind them about the drawings they saw, since they did say they were taking rubbings of them. Then comes the disbelieve that the fighter just did 8 points of damage to himself to wet all the stones, which I have to admit, seems a bit severe. This would kill normal people, commoners, 4d4 points of damage. I allowed heal checks to do precision cutting, reducing the damage down to 1d2, and then to even less at the end. The druid made survival checks to find a snake, instead of summoning one, which was fine, and the way was opened (after a night's rest and some deliberation on whether it was worth it).

The party managed to more or less skip every encounter up to the temple, jumping over the water, spotting the shark with high perception checks, not exploring too much of the ship, etc.

In the temple, the two serpentfolk skeletons more or less killed themselves leaping off the ledge, giving the party some easy experience points. This was due largely to the druid hitting the bridge with fog cloud or solid fog or... one of those spells. Exploration otherwise went poorly for the party, and a single pit trap knocked the rogue unconscious (17 points of damage). I couldn't seem to roll a high enough percentage to have anything investigate until everyone was out of the pit, though the gibbering mouther did show up the round after everyone was out. It's confusion effect reached the top of the pit, and ended up forcing the sorcerer to burning hands the rogue back to unconsciousness. (the sorcerer's idea of attacking the nearest creature, as determined by the player).

A side note. We've rolled for hit points, and the party's rogue has rolled poorly. And suffers from being an elf. He's been unconscious probably seven times in this campaign already.

This bumped everyone up to level 4, which was good enough to continue onward. They decided to try a different approach. The rogue now took the trap spotting ability, and then promptly failed to find the very next pit trap, having looped around to come at this portion of a dungeon from a second angle. Yeah, they hit all three pit traps.

The rogue passed his safe and jumped to safety, and the fighter feather falled his way to the bottom of the pit. Being pissed at the gibbering mouther, and figuring his AC was high enough that he could take it in combat, and having just recently passed his Will save, he decided to stay in the pit and lure it out to attack him. It did. Alot. And it critted. Twice. For no real damage, true, but it took it's toll on the fighter. Especially since he couldn't hit it, what with being blinded almost immediately. Luckily the, now level 4, sorcerer had scorching rays available, and a few well placed hits from those were enough to drive the gibbering mouther off and rescue the irate fighter.

All of this warranted a swift retreat, as the party decided not to drink any of their half a dozen healing potions. A full 24 hour rest and a full compliment of druid healing spells later, they performed the ritual a second time and descended back into the temple. The rogue failed to find yet another pit trap, but again made his reflex save, and then failed to notice the scythe trap, becoming stuck alone in the crazy pendulum trap room, the bronze sheets sealing him in and crushing the druid. Course, the rogue took a total defense and the trap had no chance of harming him. It didn't take him long to find the button to deactivate the trap, and once the trap was deactivated, it wasn't hard to kill the soulbound dolls that were attracted to the trap's noise.

Which leads us to the final battle against Yarzoth. She played up the entire evil, superior race of serpentfolk, and how little she cared for the "lesser races". Lots of Hitler references were made around the table, and battle was joined. Yarzoth attempted to dominate the big, dumb fighter, but because Yarzoth more or less told the party which characters she was going to eat and which characters she was going to dominate, the fighter saw this coming and used a hero point before rolling, and managed to swing the 18 Will save. The fighter and rogue completely ignored the skeletons, provoking massive attacks of opportunity to run straight past them to Yarzoth. I decided not to summon any creatures as she was in melee already, so she cast her defensive spells and started attacking. Yarzoth doesn't hit very hard, though, and the most damage I did was with her channel energy that she used to kill off some stirges that the druid had summoned to harass her. The katana wielding fighter critted her twice, the second crit doing 32 points of damage, which was just enough to knock her unconscious before she could escape. So much for using her as a recurring villain. Oh well.

The party didn't figure out the way into the high priest's chamber above the temple, though they did take note of the hole and the fact the statue was magical. Neither the druid or the sorcerer rolled high enough on their Spellcraft checks. The session ended with the party leaving, taking Yarzoth's head with them in case it knew anything and they gained access to Speak with Dead in the future to question it. Grotesque, yes. They have a pretty good idea that they'll be trying to visit Saventh-Yhi in the future, though no one can read Aklo to translate Yarzoth's notes, and no one in the party has either Knowledge Religion or History to know more about large portions of the backstory.

The next session the party said they plan on wrapping up business on the island, including trying to finish Jask's quest, go on a treasure hunt with Ishirou, and try to learn more about the Thrunefang cannibals. I figure Pezzock will likely accompany them off the island as he's only got one hand now, and will probably be a major NPC throughout the rest of the campaign. I'll keep him one level lower than the average party level, and the other castaways two levels lower. I think the fighter will take Leadership at level 7, and he might decide to pick up one of the castaways as a cohort. The party has expressed a lot of positive feedback about this particular adventure, especially once I stopped rolling all the random encounters and diseases. If I ran this again, I would probably use less of both, as the character's are 4k from level 5, and they haven't completely wrapped things up yet. A lot of this experience came from the random encounters.


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There has been a lot of DM aids for Smuggler's Shiv shared on these boards. Here is my contribution, a google spreadsheet I created to help me track day-to-day items: disease, morale, random encounter, etc.

Here is a link to a copy I cleaned up for the forums: Shiv Tracking Summary

It is partially filled out to help you guys understand. You may want to save a copy and customize. I use conditional formatting to highlight rolls under 15% for random encounter. In cases where PCs had a camp with guards I would simply ignore that encounter. You'll find a second tab with the random generator.

The sheet was invaluable to track the many rolls each day. In my actual campaign, I was adding comments in the various cells with notes. For example, for each encounter extra details in comments. I already created a sheet for Book 2, I'll share it soon.


Pathfinder Cards Subscriber

Your documentation is pretty thorough Maplewood!

I have a calendar that I have the players fill in for what important things happened that day, but never to the detail of your document. Good Work!


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I got through it low tech, using index cards and a lot of time before hand. I'd make a card for each day, prerolling encounters and noting whether the encounter would be ignored if the PCs posted guards. Also allowed me to make notes of when things were going to happen, like when Yarzoth accomplished certain things or how long the party had before the cannibals would eat a captured NPC. Course, I had to use over 30 index cards, and carrying those around sucked.


Hi all! I'm hopefully gonna be GM-ing a run of this adventure path soon (just need to find a few more players) and here's an interesting idea I had regarding navigating through the jungle:

I feel like a speed of 1/2 mile per hour is so laboriously slow that the PCs won't want to move around very much due to extremely long travel times between areas. So what if after the first trip through a particular section of jungle, the PCs cut down enough of the undergrowth so that their speed along that path from then on is 1 mile per hour. It's not quite a forest trail, but hopefully it'll encourage them to roam around a bit more.


Wonton wrote:
I feel like a speed of 1/2 mile per hour is so laboriously slow that the PCs won't want to move around very much due to extremely long travel times between areas. So what if after the first trip through a particular section of jungle, the PCs cut down enough of the undergrowth so that their speed along that path from then on is 1 mile per hour. It's not quite a forest trail, but hopefully it'll encourage them to roam around a bit more.

I thought of the same thing for my group so I did something similar. When the PCs went back to a trail that they cleared I would add 50% to their speed. I also added a trail from Yarzoth and the captain for them to follow. This trail conveniently went nearby some of the interesting encounter areas (essentially railroading a bit). This trail started from location F then E, G and then on one of the cannibal trail between I3 and I1. It got them going and worked out well.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I did the same thing as you guys did, actually. And, of course, the party, once discovering the trails, always used those to get close to where they wanted to go, which speeds things up after the group reaches the southern half of the island.


Just ran my first session of this, it was great. My suggestion: Make a contingency plan in case your party somehow avoids EVERY dot on the map. On their journey South, my party walked within like half a mile of several interesting things while missing them all. This resulted in a hour-long lull in the session, one that could have greatly benefitted from a random/wandering monster encounter if I'd prepared one.

I'm also looking for advice the fantastic GMs on these boards. What should I do if the PCs actually make all the NPCs friendly or helpful? It's not like I can group them all in and make a party of 8 - combat would be slow as hell and the 5 level 2 NPCs would easily outshine the 3 level 1 PCs, which means I'd basically be playing against myself.

I had an idea that I would send Sasha, Ishirou, Gelik, and Aerys to the southeast of the island. This effectively splits them away from the party and also allows them to "scout" the Blood Temple to make sure the PCs don't just leave the island once they reach the lighthouse. The only issue (and I know at least one of my players will bring this up) with that is that it just makes more sense to stick together as 8 - they could check both corners of the island as a group and it'd be safer.

The only reason I can think of for splitting would be "it's easier to find or track a big group" (a rather weak reason) or some sort of time pressure (of which there isn't any). Ideas?

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber

Best way to do it is have the majority of NPCs stay behind to watch/guard their camp. The party will most likely need to move their base camp 3-4 times to make it all the way across the island so when they do that, just say the NPCs are behind them just off board carrying all the gear (tents, dried firewood, food, etc). If the party needs help while they're moving their camp, then you have the option of sending someone forward to help out.
If the party is trying to trek across the island without some kind of base camp to fall back to... well that's just a bad idea. Make sure to up the chances of disease and wandering monsters. And wandering monster attacks at night mean less rest and spells recovered. An easy survival roll will tell them they'll really need some kind of camp... that the NPCs can establish and maintain.
Now with only 3 PCs, you may consider sending 1 NPC with them anyway. The cannibal village can be kind of rough to some parties that blunder into it unprepared. I'd play that by ear.


Jenner2057 wrote:
If the party is trying to trek across the island without some kind of base camp to fall back to...

Well, with decent Survival checks they've been setting up a new camp in about 2 hours every day, so they left the camp on the first day and haven't looked back.

The only NPC they had any real interaction with before leaving was Jask. That part actually worked out really well since they have ZERO healing between the 3 of them so getting a Cleric to follow them has been very beneficial. But it still means they missed out on 4 NPC quests and a bunch of interesting RP.

I dunno, maybe I've been too loose with the carrying capacity rules and I need to make it so that they can't carry all the supplies for setting up a camp plus 24 days' worth of food with them. That would give a -5 on that Survival check and make them have to backtrack to previous camps more.

I guess the root of the problem is that I just don't see how "maintaining the camp on the beach" is important enough to get any NPCs to stay behind - once they're Friendly/Helpful, why not just have them abandon that camp, group with the PCs, and set up new camps every day as they push south through the jungle?

Edit: A camp in 2 hours every night is DC 24... hm. Either I failed at math somewhere or they've been rolling really well (which is possible with +3 Survival and +6 aid another). I guess the first time they fail I'll have some wandering monsters attack to show them that there's a real danger to their "new camp every day" strategy, especially if they only start building it 2 hours before sunset.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Wonton wrote:
The only NPC they had any real interaction with before leaving was Jask. That part actually worked out really well since they have ZERO healing between the 3 of them so getting a Cleric to follow them has been very beneficial. But it still means they missed out on 4 NPC quests and a bunch of interesting RP.

Lead the PCs to a point where they need to make a social skill roll, to try to win over NPCs to their side. If the NPCs are unfriendly, I would have them question the PCs leadership skills as the PCs try to give orders/suggestions. (This should generate some need to start working on Diplomacy checks.) If they are indifferent, they could still suggest alternate plans on occasion, countering the PCs propose as the best course of action.

Make sure you are aware of how the NPC interactions will come into play later in the adventure path. This is an important staging ground the later, as the NPCs will be the ones to represent the other factions initially, (and then presumably continue representing the faction).

It is important that most of the NPCs should survive. At least one should be favorable to the PCs. If one or two of the NPCs doesn't get along with the PCs, that can carry over later as well.

Wonton wrote:
I guess the root of the problem is that I just don't see how "maintaining the camp on the beach" is important enough to get any NPCs to stay behind - once they're Friendly/Helpful, why not just have them abandon that camp, group with the PCs, and set up new camps every day as they push south through the jungle?

The NPCs should continue with the PCs as they travel the island, so they can continue to keep up the relationship developments. However, they don't always have to be at the front line. They can stay at a "base camp" while the PCs explore the local area, then everyone heads on together to make a new base camp.

As this is a survival situation, there will be many tasks to handle. Smoking meat for preservation, processing plants to collect enough edible material. There should be a lot of time devoted to maintaining equipment, as the hot humid air quickly rusts, molds, or otherwise weakens the limited set of materials on hand. It is important to stress that this environment supports life so well, they are under a constant assault of eat-or-be-eaten aspects, from the microbial (diseases and organic parts of equipment decomposing), to annoying monkeys stealing food, to large predators deciding the PCs are a snack.


Interesting issue, and I'm curious what others would do in the same situation:

My PCs are level 2: a TWF Ranger switch hitter (thrown weapons), a 2-handed Ranger, an Inquisitor switch hitter (spears), a Rogue with an Elven Curve Blade, and a Monk*

They did some basic exploring, found where Yarzoth and the captain landed, and moved their base camp there. Then they blazed off after Yarzoth's trail. They lost track of it just about as they found the cannibal's hunting paths, and they blazed down the paths at all possible speed.

Note: traveling on the paths is crazy fast. In one day, they ate quite a few of the traps to the face (kept rolling 19s to find them). They decided that the captain and "that damn Varisian scholar" must have gone to the red mountain, since they couldn't really see any other landmarks besides the fungus island (which they only recognized as being oddly colored from a distance, so they rested and just kept heading that way, down the path.

They were aware of something with bat wings on the island drinking blood. They received a warning monkey left near their camp, and I ran a random encounter with some goats as the herd of them fleeing the chupacabra. They're running theory was that Ieana was actually a shape shifting vampire of some kind, or that she was interested in such a creature.

Anyway, I guess long story short, most of them are injured, still, from the traps, and they are speeding towards the Red Mountain Devil's nest.

I do not think they can win a fight with that thing, especially not in their present condition. I tried to warn them off. I described the path as being much less traveled. I described little wards and fetishes left around the path. Further down it, progressively larger creatures were left purposefully in the path, drained of blood, as warnings.

They passed under a trio of drained monkeys hung on branches across the path. A pile of drained goats they had to climb over to stay on the path. A pair of drained cannibals slumped against trees. It dropped a goat on them as a warning. I had them find a sacrificial altar with a long dead corpse chained to it, so they have to know the cannibals think this thing is a frickin' minor deity. But no, they just kept going.

They really think they'll find Ieana up there. Of course, why they think they could take her out in their present condition is beyond me, too. We cut for the night there, so I have a week to ponder this.

I think I am going to have it attack them before they get to the actual nest, and hopefully, it will rough them up badly enough that they'll back off. But then, I'm not sure why it wouldn't just finish them off at that point.

What would you do in this situation? Would you let them just wander into its nest, where it won't flee, and slaughter them? Would you have it be away hunting when they get there? Would you move its nest elsewhere? Would you do as I'm thinking above? How would you justify it not finishing the job?

*Normally, I'd have warned my players away from Monk and Rogue, but I'm running this as E6, so they actually end up pretty good in that context.

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber

The warning attack sounds like a pretty good idea where - just like you said - you can have the creature (or PCs) fall back.

From there you can have them pick up more tracks from Ieana or the Captain heading towards the cannibal camp. Have them recongnize the boot prints as opposed to the barefooted cannibal tracks they can also find on the trails leading back towards the lighthouse.

Or - not sure exactly WHERE on the island they are - fudge things a little so they can see the top of the lighthouse above the jungle trees on the southern tip of the island. Maybe that will pull them towards the cannibal camp and the Caves of the Mother. After they level up there, they should be much better off to take on the chupacabra and Red Mountain.

Other option that more than a few DMs have used to get them to the cannibal camp first (including myself) is have a hunting party of cannibals hit the PC camp while they're gone. Take some of the supplies and NPCs back to the lighthouse. Use that somewhat sparingly though. All of Book 5 is a rescue mission and you don't want to overuse that if you don't need to.

Just some thoughts!


One thing I did to focus the attention of my group was to force a meeting with with the Dryad Aycenia. She can offer to cure them and give them information about the Shiv in exchange for a favor (the fungus island).

Most likely your group is not near her tree right now. So there are 2 options (1) you can move her tree nearer to where they are or (2) have her travel to their camp and suffer the penalties of being away from her tree. Personally, I used the second option, the rationale being that the danger of the fungus is so great in her mind that she had to make contact with the PCs. Once they go toward the fungus island they can also meet Pezock along the way.

Another idea would be to have them find the abandoned hut of Captain Leven Beliker. They then find his notes. You can add information in the notes if you feel they need to know more, perhaps something to steer them away from the Red Mountain.

Aycenia, Pezock or the Abandoned hut can all be used to steer them to the cannibals.


I guess I was unclear. They are currently walking the path up Red Mountain. They crossed the rope bridge and are heading directly for the Red Mountain Devil's nest, which is why they kept finding warnings on the road.

There would be no tracks from the captain or Ieana over here, and they haven't been back to their base camp for almost 48 hours at this point. They'd have no idea if something happened there.

They are aware of the cannibals, and even guessed correctly the direction their village was--they actually wanted to avoid a frontal assault on an entire village, though--surprisingly smart given their current situation.

I'd love the chupacabra to attack and drive them off--but given the nuisance they've been so far, I am having a hard time justifying the Red Mountain Devil not just finishing them off.

Seriously, it could just hunt some poor goat down nearby, drain its blood, haste up, and then fly-by attack using the tree line or mountain side to get essentially full cover from reprisal. Even if they ready actions, they're going to drop very quickly--much faster than the devil will. And where could they run? Why would it let them? It's so much faster and make its own shortcuts. It's already been established that it knows where their camp is.

Heck, if they pull off a miracle and drive it off, I don't see why they wouldn't try and pursue it to finish it off. This is very tricky.


Didn't realize they were already there. Well, yet another option would be to have them encounter something else. A not so random encounter, strong enough so that after the encounter they are too weak and must go back to camp.

Perhaps the Chupacabra has a young one? One (or more) of the nearby Shiv Dragons?

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber

Well you could always let them just tangle with it. Sounds like the 'cabra is pretty well-fed/full on monkeys and goats that you've left for your PCs. If it attacks the PCs it won't necessarily drag them off to eat. It can defend itself and then fly off leaving the PCs unconscious and bleeding. From there, the dryad can come patch them back together. Have her watching the party as a possible solution to the Silent Island. In return for her aid, she asks them to clean up the island. And she probably saw Ieana and the Captain head towards the cannibal camp too helping to steer them back in the correct direction.


Maplewood and Jenner have some great suggestions. There may be a number of reasons why the Chupracabra wouldn't finish them off.

1. As Maplewood suggests it may have young nearby and is attempting to drive them away before heading back to tend to the eggs/hatchlings, which are it's primary concern.

2. This thing has lived with the Cannibals all its life - and may have learned to respect the pointy things these odd hairless apes carry.

3. Any display of magic during the attack may spook it at first, much like certain animals are driven off by fire until they have encountered it once or twice.

4. And finally, you can let them get decimated - TPK. This is not the worst idea as some players fail to play intelligently when they are in an AP - thinking ah, I'll never have to re-roll.

If they do force the issue simply let them die, you have given them ample warning. You now have two choices - Continue as written or start from scratch.

A. Try to finish the module as written by either letting them take over the NPCs as PCs (describing the events of the original group leaving from this group's perspective) or if they do not want to do that then it's re-roll only this time they are stranded in a jolly-boat as castaways from a ship that was sunk by an encounter with a big sea-beast. They drifted for days and had passed out from dehydration and exposure only to wake up being nursed to health by the NPC castaways - who have organized a camp, set-up guard shifts, hunting and gathering parties, etc. The new PCs may get to hear some candid opinions about how others raced headlong into the jungle and vanished because they did so without proper preparation.

B. Simply have them re-roll and start in Sargava as hired explorers by a faction to check out the Shiv. See this group of 5 people (the castaways) were wrecked on the island and survived they overcame the hardships of the island and have been rescued after they took out a tribe of cannibals and a serpent folk who was after something big. The downside of this option is that it does take some re-writing on your part and they start in the pocket of whichever faction you choose.


Ok, so an update:

The next session started, and they had apparently been talking all week about it (the 5 players all live in the same house).

They immediately retreated away from the mountain and decided to go after the cannibals first--or more specifically, to go back to base camp--because they were concerned the cannibals would be raiding their camp if they found it.

So, thankfully, the problem solved itself.


Okay, guys. I plan to run this for the first time with two significant changes:
A) It'll be run in the Forgotten Realms setting (probably somewhere in the Sea of Falling Stars or off the Sword Coast).
B) It'll be a one shot. No further adventure once they get off the island.
So what modifications, if any, do you guys recommend?
I'm not converting to 3.5, though. It'll be the Pathfinder system.


Bill Kirsch wrote:

Okay, guys. I plan to run this for the first time with two significant changes:

A) It'll be run in the Forgotten Realms setting (probably somewhere in the Sea of Falling Stars or off the Sword Coast).
B) It'll be a one shot. No further adventure once they get off the island.
So what modifications, if any, do you guys recommend?
I'm not converting to 3.5, though. It'll be the Pathfinder system.

Just let it resolve. Make the thing Yarzoth wants actually be on the island--some MacGuffin or whatever instead of research.

That way, when the leave, they don't feel like there's more. It would defeat the purpose of the one-shot if they all started asking things like, "Well, wait, what did she want?"


mplindustries wrote:
Bill Kirsch wrote:

Okay, guys. I plan to run this for the first time with two significant changes:

A) It'll be run in the Forgotten Realms setting (probably somewhere in the Sea of Falling Stars or off the Sword Coast).
B) It'll be a one shot. No further adventure once they get off the island.
So what modifications, if any, do you guys recommend?
I'm not converting to 3.5, though. It'll be the Pathfinder system.

Just let it resolve. Make the thing Yarzoth wants actually be on the island--some MacGuffin or whatever instead of research.

That way, when the leave, they don't feel like there's more. It would defeat the purpose of the one-shot if they all started asking things like, "Well, wait, what did she want?"

Pretty much that would be it. You should try to give her a shorter term goal - something that might interest your players as well.

If you feel the need to make sure your PCs know they need to go after her and the captain make sure that they find evidence or remember her taking something important from them. For instance, one of my players chose "Boarded in Cheliax" as a background trait, it wasn't until they were gathering things back aboard the wreck of the Jeniver that he realized his precious map of the Mwangi was missing. This triggered a memory of seeing her wave his map case at him as she and the captain escaped the ship.


Basically, I plan to have her take a vital piece of the lighthouse, assuming she wouldn't want to be disturbed until she's finished at the temple. If they want off the island, they'll have to track her down.


I have read through this thread and love all the advice and resources, but I don't think I saw any advice on how people have ran the Flensing Room trap (my apologies if it was in there, and I didn't notice.) I ask in terms of handling 3 rounds of in game play while not necessarily tipping the players off to being timed before the trap springs, and doing so if they don't figure out if it has reset. Thanks in advance for the help!

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber

Knowing that moving into initiative order would tip them off, I just asked each of them what they would like to do. I then quietly counted down 3 6-second turns on my fingers under the table as we resolved their actions. Wasn't exact, but it wasn't bad.


Thats a really good idea. I was also thinking about having a counter on my laptop with a little buffer past the 3 rounds to make sure it covers enough time in game. The devious part of me really wants someone to have to avoid the door, haha.


On a second run-through, and I just realized how difficult the morale saves are to make, as written.

The only potential boost is a +2 from having an entertainer, which you are less likely to get quickly. (The bard has the hardest diplomancy rolls, among other things.)

Sasha, Ishrirou and Aerys all have -1 will saves, though Aerys has bravery and I suppose this is a type of fear effect. . But they are also all shaken.
So on the first day, without an entertainer, Sasha and Ishri have a 15 percent chance of moving up to normal and a 60 percent chance of getting "below a 5" and moving down to frightened. Aerys is 5 percent better and an entertainer makes everyone 10 percent better.

A panicked Sasha or Ishri (-3 to will saves, due to shaken condition)can very easily get morale-locked- and bounce between panicked and feared throughout the adventure.


I have to admit, I have totally ignored the morale system. It's tedious, I find it offers nothing to the story, and the results rarely make sense anyway. It's worked out well, so far.


I've come to the conclusion that is what the DM who ran this the last time I played did. Even if you set Aerys to poetry and Gelik to telling jokes, the chance of the -1 will save guys crawling their way up from panicked to hopeful is pretty minimal.

Since I'm using it, I think I'll at least give a +4 bonus to anyone friendly or helpful on the morale roll, to avoid having a bunch of helpful but panicked npcs


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Ditto on your conclusions, Sloanzilla. I've been playing the morale system exactly as written, and everyone except Sasha has moved up to normal. She's gotten stuck in that exact same scenario you desribed above, swinging between fearful and panicked on consecutive game sessions.

It's gotten so ridiculous that I threw the whole system out durng my last prep session. I've decided to emphasis role playing instead of mechanics. Logically thinking, why would a 2nd level ranger with obvious combat experience be so frightened to be shipwrecked anyways?


I have been giving morale bonuses to the saves based upon how the PCs have been treating their fellow castaways:
+1 for a camp
+1 for generosity (sharing of goods and weapons)
+1 for effective casting of spells to directly aid/heal the NPCs.

Strangely, the only one not to make it to hopeful at this point is Gelik - but then again he is close to being voted off the island.


Khelavraa wrote:


Strangely, the only one not to make it to hopeful at this point is Gelik - but then again he is close to being voted off the island.

Gelik is the most annoying/useless NPC of the crew, in my and my former group's opinion... though I admit a perverse glee in using his catchphrase. ("And they'd be right not to") after almost anything he said, if he could work it in. Uppity gnome prat.


Did anyone pre-generate undead and treasure for the Shipwrecks of the Shiv? I'm about to pre-generate for all of them and was wondering if anyone has already done so.


Have anybody tried switching out the four skeletons by Yarzoth's side in Z8 with two degenerate serpentfolk skeletons? My 6 PCs have had an easy time so far in the dungeon. I guess they have spent 2 cure spells and a couple of channeling attempts so far, and have neutralized the flensing room trap. They have yet to encounter the mouther or dolls though.

I have read that Yarzoth is a tough opponent, but I feel that her four skeletons will disappear in one round courtesy of the cleric, and that even though she has formidable defenses around her, the sheer economy of actions of the PCs will do her in quite easily. They did take down the mountain devil in 2-3 rounds though, mostly due to the cleric casting Sound Burst, stunning the devil and causing him to plummet 30 feet to the ground with a (for them) lucky 18 points of damage.


trellian wrote:

Have anybody tried switching out the four skeletons by Yarzoth's side in Z8 with two degenerate serpentfolk skeletons? My 6 PCs have had an easy time so far in the dungeon. I guess they have spent 2 cure spells and a couple of channeling attempts so far, and have neutralized the flensing room trap. They have yet to encounter the mouther or dolls though.

I have read that Yarzoth is a tough opponent, but I feel that her four skeletons will disappear in one round courtesy of the cleric, and that even though she has formidable defenses around her, the sheer economy of actions of the PCs will do her in quite easily. They did take down the mountain devil in 2-3 rounds though, mostly due to the cleric casting Sound Burst, stunning the devil and causing him to plummet 30 feet to the ground with a (for them) lucky 18 points of damage.

I had a table of 6 experienced 4th level PCs. To up the challenge I used the skeletal champion stats for the skeletons and increased the number of them to match the number of the party. I also added a cannibal (Savage Barbarian 3rd) whom Yarzoth dominated after she left the lighthouse.

I must say while it was still a fairly fast fight it was memorable, with lots of back and forth with odd rolls making for some great play.


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long-staff sixpenny striker wrote:
Did anyone pre-generate undead and treasure for the Shipwrecks of the Shiv? I'm about to pre-generate for all of them and was wondering if anyone has already done so.

Never mind. Should have looked harder.

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