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2-13 Murder on the Throaty Mermaid [SPOILERS]


Pathfinder Society GM Discussion

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Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

Okay, while I have only skimmed, and not having done the typical GM research on all the stat blocks, NPC actions, etc, my initial reaction is, AWESOME! Well done Mark. IMO, this plot is well laid out, and the encounters are challenging without being TPK'ish. It provides a framework to direct the action, but still allows the GM some freedom. And the chance to throw an iconic, particularly nasty monster at the PC's, cool! As a bonus, I don't have to try and channel my poor excuse of an artist skills since it uses a flip map. Really look forward to running this a few times over the next two months.

Will definitely post more feedback after having run it once or twice.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

I look forward to your feedback and a 5-star review ;-)

Glad to hear you like it thus far.

Qadira ****

I just ran this last night for a group of local guys. I wanted to get this under my belt because I get to run it at a Con later, and I didn't think I was going to get to play it (since no place around here has scheduled it).

Anyway, I think this scenario is wonderfully written! The party hated how this ship seemed to be run by a bunch of incompetent, douchebag pirates. And every 'suspect' weaves a web of mystery and intrigue, leaving people wondering 'whodunit?'

The one drawback this Mod has is knowing party factions are EXTREMELY important. The story depends SO much on knowing this information, it would have been best to know this prior to running it. This is definitely not one of those scenarios you can just sit down and run as a GM (as in, if you're at a Con and you wipe a table, I wouldn't choose this one to be the go to scenario to run for the rest of the time). Even with my prep time, it got pretty confusing to keep track of what information I'm supposed to give because a lot of the actions of the NPCs are tied together depending on who is an accomplice.

Someone should create a handy GM cheat sheet to list 'if ??? NPC is the murderer, abc information is given. If !!! NPC is the murderer, xyz is given...etc.' I will definitely be doing this before the Con, because doing so will definitely help keep a nice flow to the story.

Summary: Awesome scenario! Make sure to take a while longer to prep as a GM than your average scenario (and possibly get party factions long before you sit down to play)!

*

I played through this last night. More so than most scenarios, this one is going to be hit or miss at a convention table.

1) A relationship map of the NPCs would be a good thing to print for this or add to the download library.

2) You need to know whose faction is doing what - and what factions you have in play.

3) This is a scenario that can leave certain play styles flailing. Badly.

When this thing works - and adding item 1) (A map of which NPCs like and dislike each other on the ships, and which ones have ties to PCs) will make it likelier to work, it's quite awesome.

On the other hand, I can see that trying to run this for my local group would cause me to hit the fast forward button through the mystery plot, or have to lead them through it by painting clues Flaming Safety Orange and having NPCs Say Dumb Things. It doesn't provide a standard "D&D" style of engagement of "Execute cool tactical plan." It is an awesome scenario, and I like it a lot - but boy is this one going to either be awesome or painful depending on your play group.

I really enjoyed playing this last night. It suits my playstyle to a tee. I also had a character who had high checks in Sense Motive and Diplomacy, enjoy police procedurals, and the GM really ran with the faction information and player-NPC roleplaying interaction, to the point where we ran long because we roleplayed for longer than he expected.

There is a potential problem in that it is possible for suitably diligent players to prevent the murder from happening. I specifically metagamed not having my character, and an NPC who was not the murderer, stay in the quarters of the murder target when the call of "Boarders! Repel Boarders!" went up. (They were literally 15 feet away when the cry went out).

Qadira ****

Oh yeah, I wanted to know: as a GM and I give this credit to a character, what 'Items' does the character find from the murderer? I don't think the scenario covered that (or maybe I have just failed at reading comprehension). Or does he not get any of those items at all?

Cheliax ***** Venture-Captain, Nebraska—Omaha

Joseph Caubo wrote:
Oh yeah, I wanted to know: as a GM and I give this credit to a character, what 'Items' does the character find from the murderer? I don't think the scenario covered that (or maybe I have just failed at reading comprehension). Or does he not get any of those items at all?

I haven't read the module yet, so without knowing the chronicle sheet, all I can say is that as a GM you get full PA, full gold for the tier that is appropriate for your character and full XP. You do not get any boons or free loot or free dice rolls that are awarded in some scenarios, but I believe you still get access to the items listed for purchase (someone correct me if I'm wrong on this).

Qadira ****

I know what GMs are allowed and not allowed to get. It's just weird because the majority things listed for purchase are dependent on how you ran the scenario. Do I treat the varied items like boons?

Paizo Employee ** Developer

What items are available to you as a GM depends on who the murderer was, same as for the PCs.

Qadira ****

Mark Moreland wrote:
What items are available to you as a GM depends on who the murderer was, same as for the PCs.

Thank you for the clarification! Much appreciated!

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Sorry about the long post...
So I ran this for a group of five last night.
Halfling Alchemist-1, Taldor
Elf Cleric of Desna-2, Osirion
Half-Orc Rogue-1, Andoran
Human Summoner-1, Osirion
Human Ranger-1, Osirion

spoiler:

With no Qadira representation, our assassin was Killik.

Act One
So that the PC's would have time to equip themselves, I decided to give them a day in Magnimar and scheduled their departure for the following morning at dawn. As it turns out, not a good idea. They decided to try and learn more about the Throaty Mermaid and her crew. This took a lot of game time as they wandered around. While I like to allow players the freedom to play their style of game and go/do what they want, I should have told them there was nothing to learn or just given them some minor tid-bits about the crew so they could move on.
I'm not sure how to handle the week they spend on the ship prior to the ambush. They wanted to wander the ship. This would have revealed Snig before it was time, as well as the smuggler with his "pets", and could have further slowed the game down as they spent their time snooping about (as players are known to do). I decided that since they were technically only passengers, the Captain did not allow them access to the cargo hold nor the crew's quarters. To prevent too much interaction with their ward, Sephriel spent his time locked in his cabin. Only Thanzeril was permitted entry and that was to deliver meals. He spent the rest of the time outside the door guarding against unwanted "visitors." He displayed disdain for the PC's, as he considered himself more than adequate to provide protection for Sephriel. This would foreshadow him as a suspect after the murder.
At night, all the crew of the ship retired. I had a new moon, so there was little/no ambient light at night. This justified not having any lookouts, since no other ships would notice them in the dark. Despite this, the PC's set up a rotating watch. The ambush went off without a problem, although one of the PC's was standing at the door to Sephriel's cabin at the time. If he had remained there and not participated in repelling the boards, I was not sure what I would have done. As it was, they had little problem with the attackers.
Thinking about it now, I think I would have had Killik (disguised as the Captain) instruct the PC to join his friends on deck to protect the ship. At the same time, I would have had the real Captain emerge from his room on deck. This could have caused some confusion as the PC's would have to figure out how the Captain was in two places at once. He, also, would likely have been the first suspect.
Act Two
It was difficult and a little clumsy during the investigation. There isn't a lot of text on what each of the NPC's say or do. Normally, I would like that freedom, but in a game with a limited time frame, I would have liked a bit more pre-generated responses from the suspects. At a few points, the players focused too much on their faction missions which, IMO further slowed their investigation.
They managed to re-capture the rust monster, which made Velagon a bit more open to talk, although he didn't wind up revealing much info.
They negotiated with Snig and even offered to help him have an "experience" of his own with Azuretta as it seemed, until now, he was relegated to just watching. I granted a circumstance bonus to the Andoran PC and he completed his mission.
The halfling spent a fair amount of time trying to find the cookbook and get it from Shira. In the end, she attacked the party, and they easily dispatched her.
Act Three
Due to time constraints, we skipped the storm.
The PC's were no closer to solving the mystery, but I had to force the final encounter (it was late). The PC's were pressing Azuretta for more information, and Marzack took the opportunity to sneak up to attack. Unfortunately, he missed in the surprise round (nat 1) and despite winning initiative, he missed again. i.e. sneak attack wasted. He had to back away due to the party coming at him in mass. The eidolon (with the pounce evolution) made short work of him.
Killik fared no better. The Sanctuary was not necessary since they provoked the final encounter. Because the main deck was small enough for a PC to reach him in a single round, he never got the chance to use his bow as the tactics suggested. Also, since his Charisma sucks, his Channel Energy did only 2 points of damage. IMO, he needs to start the combat by spending the first round using Copy Cat and Battlerage and just skip the Channel. Otherwise, they PC's close on him too fast and he cannot afford to not attack for a round while he puts up his defenses. With 4-6 attackers, he's gonna get wiped anyway.

I like Azuretta's motivation as the killer best, but I do not know how to run it. Apparently, after seducing Thanzeril, she ties him up in the hold. This would pretty much give her away immediately as the killer. If the PC's start their investigation in the hold and work their way up, the mod will not last long and the "whodunnit" aspect with be largely lost. As far as her participation in the final encounter, it could easily be a TPK, especially at tier 1-2. A couple uses of Sleep with Marzack running interference would pretty much secure the party's fate. If they successfully save, she's not much of a threat.

I think Thanzeril being the killer, would provide the best challenge to the players at tier 1-2. His combat skill (good AC + power attack) would support Marzack very well.

I'm not yet sure who would be the best partner for Marzack at tier 4-5.


All-in-all, while I really like the mod in theory, I do not feel I pulled off the mystery aspect of this mod very well. The players had some "what if" feedback that, hopefully, will help, as I am scheduled to run it two more times over the next couple weeks. I hope it gets better. One of their ongoing questions was how such a small crew was able to maintain a full-sized vessel in the open ocean. Not being a very naval-savy guy, I didn't have an answer for that.

Shadow Lodge ***

Uncomfortable situation arose yesterday. Gming at a con. Twelve year old boy and his mother sit down at my table. Boy is playing Cheliax. I take the mother outside the room and have a conversation.

Spoiler:
As a result Azuretta's profession changes from harlot to entertainer and the bond between her and the bodyguard is much deeper. She is also staying with the PC's, though she is not in the room when the elves attack takes place. Killick was our murderer.

Taldor **** Venture-Lieutenant, Indiana—Northwestern Indiana aka VanceMadrox

Had a blast playing this last night and looking forward to running it.

One concern though.

The mod seems to says that the PCs have already been on board for 50 days before the mod begins.

By then they should know the crew pretty well and probably have completed faction missions already.

Any thoughts?

I think when I run it they will be just getting on board at Magnimar and replacing another set of Pathfinders.

Andoran *****

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

I changed it up a Bit, I had them on another ship for 50 days and not actually escorting the Envoy until they left Magnimar, which is where they got their Faction missions.

Taldor **** Venture-Lieutenant, Indiana—Northwestern Indiana aka VanceMadrox

That makes sense too.

I'm still leaning towards having them be replacements.
Another group of Pathfinders (more important ones) were initally escorting them but were needed for something else. So a switch is done in Magnimar.

And the killer waited till these lower ranked Pathfinders were around in case they needed to be taken care of.

Qadira ***** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

That's a nice twist, Vance.

Qadira

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
TwilightKnight wrote:

Sorry about the long post...

So I ran this for a group of five last night.
Halfling Alchemist-1, Taldor
Elf Cleric of Desna-2, Osirion
Half-Orc Rogue-1, Andoran
Human Summoner-1, Osirion
Human Ranger-1, Osirion
** spoiler omitted **...

in your spoiler you had a naval question that is not a spoiler. i will address it. as a navy vet, avid small boat sailor, and all around squid.

"full size" vessel is misleading. the flip mat puts it as a 120' sailing ship. one main mast, two smaller masts. figure two sailors per mast for rigging and duties, one Petty officer in charge of the seamen, one Officer at the helm. the seamen when not attending rigging are doing other deck duties, i.e. swabbing, fixing lines, other minor repairs. the officer can and most likely is one of the following. First mate, captain or navigator. for most evolutions at sea two seaman are on duty for minor rigging adjustments. more are a short call away for major evolutions (all hands on deck) the watches are ussually 6-8 hours and rotate in three or four sections. making total crew 6-8 seaman, 3-4 petty officers, 3 officers (already listed as NPC's.) add in the crew members listed with more unique duties. and you have a the crew.

Ship board life is always low on space. people look at small quarters and go "how can 12 people live in there?" answer is Hot bunking. no one in the "crew" and even lower ranking officers" have their own Bunks to sleep in. they have a personal locker (trunk) and share beds when one is on watch the other sleeps. Hope that helps you explain to your players why there is so little room and flesh out the NPC crew not listed because they are just background NPC's with no direct knowledge of shipboard events because they are too busy performing their duties in the rigging. and do not get involved in combat because they are not fighters, this is not a pirate vessel where the sailors double as marines for ship to ship fighting.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

raylyynsedai wrote:
Stuff

By your calculations the ship should be crewed by a minimum of 12. The 'Throaty Mermaid' has only seven. This would seem to support the contention that it is under-manned. I supposed some of the passengers could be utilized to support the crew, but there are no guarantees there would be any on any given voyage. So how do seven crew (including the captain) keep this ship from sinking in a storm, or repel a boarding party of pirates, etc?

Qadira

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
TwilightKnight wrote:
raylyynsedai wrote:
Stuff
By your calculations the ship should be crewed by a minimum of 12. The 'Throaty Mermaid' has only seven. This would seem to support the contention that it is under-manned. I supposed some of the passengers could be utilized to support the crew, but there are no guarantees there would be any on any given voyage. So how do seven crew (including the captain) keep this ship from sinking in a storm, or repel a boarding party of pirates, etc?

Like i said i am assuming that level 1 seaman are not written in by the author. 8 npc's not there because their only role would be to sail the ship.

as to repelling borders. most ships in pirate eras did not. just like today, pirates are armed thieves that picked on unarmed cargo vessels who could not repel borders. Ship to ship combat as seen in the movies was between Pirate vessels and/or Naval warships with Marines. In a fantasy setting, I would give officers and senior enlisted some combat skills to defend against the occasional monster encounter that they could not sail around. This has been done with the listed NPC's. But the level 1 seaman in the rigging would cower there hoping to avoid a fight he/she could not win. I remind players often that just because they are hero's does not mean every NPC is of heroic caliber as well.

in a storm, All hands on deck would be sounded to batten the hatches and secure rigging. This does not happen in a few rounds it often takes 15 to 30 minutes. once done only the helmsman and a lookout would be left topside to ride the storm out. having untrained seaman topside would be stupid of the captain unless the storm caught him unawares (which can happen to the best sailor) and he needed everyone with two hands and a brain to help secure rigging/hatches. the biggest threats to a ship in a storm are taking on water below decks, loose cargo and damage to rigging. once the rigging is secured and the hatches are secured the only threat to the ship are rogue waves and debris in the water punching holes in the ship. thus a helmsman and lookout doing their best to keep the ship heading into the waves. in a sail boat this is a monumental feat without any propulsion. and that is why more boats where lost at sea to storms than any other threat. of course we did not have sea monsters lurking in the depths so these numbers may not be as skewed in a fantasy setting. this specific encounter adds another threat to the ship as well that would necessitate the crew coming out in the storm.

if another reason is needed to spur the characters to action in place of regular seaman or account for a lack of them for interrogation. Act 1 could be used to justify the lesser numbers. making the Captain press the players into the roles of seaman instead of passengers between their questioning.

Qadira

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Of course all my "assumptions" about why the author wrote anything are based on the Author having naval knowledge. the discrepancies can just as easily be accounted by a lack of said knowledge. I am just trying to give a logical response to the question of why so few for such a large ship? especially since the ship is not all that large.

Shadow Lodge ***

TwilightKnight wrote:
raylyynsedai wrote:
Stuff
By your calculations the ship should be crewed by a minimum of 12. The 'Throaty Mermaid' has only seven. This would seem to support the contention that it is under-manned. I supposed some of the passengers could be utilized to support the crew, but there are no guarantees there would be any on any given voyage. So how do seven crew (including the captain) keep this ship from sinking in a storm, or repel a boarding party of pirates, etc?

I would argue, with a Helmsman who can control weather, and perhaps a few 'magical' modifications (I'm not sure, living next to the seas of Colorado, my maritime experience is limited) could account for the small crew, things like the sails furling/unfurling with command words etc?

Yes the ship is not magical, but filling in the gaps with small details like this seems fair enough.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

Kerney wrote:
Yes the ship is not magical, but filling in the gaps with small details like this seems fair enough.

Actually, I thought of that, but there really isn't anyone on board who can legitimately fill that role, especially at the low tier. For long, over-seas trips, it would require a lot of scrolls or wands, but none are to be found on board.

Qadira

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
TwilightKnight wrote:
Kerney wrote:
Yes the ship is not magical, but filling in the gaps with small details like this seems fair enough.
Actually, I thought of that, but there really isn't anyone on board who can legitimately fill that role, especially at the low tier. For long, over-seas trips, it would require a lot of scrolls or wands, but none are to be found on board.

I checked the map. from Absalom to Magnimar is all inner sea/coasting. just from Magnimar to Mordant spire is open ocean. but i agree magic is a good idea until l you look at the level of the main "weather wizard" on board. i think just throwing in 6-8 level 1 sailor NPC's as background is the best fix. when players interview them, the officer on deck or captain chastise the party telling them to leave them alone so they can sail the ship. below decks they are either sleeping or getting ready to go on watch and have no patience for stupid questions they know nothing about.

Silver Crusade *

Played the Murder on the Throaty Murmaid last Tuesday and Liked thae Mod with the exception of the Taldan Faction Missions,

I was playing a Paladin and one mission invovlved aiding the assination of another by delivering a note. An out right Evil act.
I Let the other Taladan player complte the faction Mission. There is no mechanic for one member of the Faction Smiting the minion asking a Paladn to Commit an evil act.

The Other Faction Mission was to recover a book on posions I did not have much of a problem with that as I got to stop the rest of the party from killing the dwarf alchemist. that was fun. The was no mechanic for what the Paladin wold have done after recovering the book.
personaly I would have brought the book to the faction contact and burned the book befre his eyes and told him that I was saving his soul for the sin that he was going to commit by using the book,

Sorry about not using tags I'm anot sure how to se them.

Cheliax ***** Venture-Captain, Nebraska—Omaha

I would just like to add my 2cp.

IF you choose to have the PCs be replacements, and have them be brand new on board the ship, you potentially run into a few 'game breaker' characters that refuse to leave the guys' side for any reason. It's MUCH MUCH easier to run this as written because after 50 days of NOTHING happening, every character's guard has been relaxed. As for already knowing the crew, well it's easily hand-waveable. They treat you as cargo, ergo, little to know communication. They are an inclusive group and really would probably just want to deliver their cargo, and leave.

Getting faction missions at Magnimar is a good idea, however.

I REALLY like this mod and it was by far the fan-favorite at Gamicon this year (even better than the Special).

Qadira *****

Todd Morgan wrote:

I would just like to add my 2cp.

IF you choose to have the PCs be replacements, and have them be brand new on board the ship, you potentially run into a few 'game breaker' characters that refuse to leave the guys' side for any reason. It's MUCH MUCH easier to run this as written because after 50 days of NOTHING happening, every character's guard has been relaxed. As for already knowing the crew, well it's easily hand-waveable. They treat you as cargo, ergo, little to know communication. They are an inclusive group and really would probably just want to deliver their cargo, and leave.

Getting faction missions at Magnimar is a good idea, however.

I REALLY like this mod and it was by far the fan-favorite at Gamicon this year (even better than the Special).

Agreed, I thought about doing the replacement idea, but came to the same conclusion, easier to do what Todd said and up to now the crew has basically left them alone.

Taldor ***

I used the replacements idea as the previous pathfinders had all mysteriously become ill. I just let them know that the elves felt there was no "real" danger and that it was largely a ceremonial escort and so the party was confined to their quarters and the main deck. They accepted it. Let's not forget the motivations of the elf they are escorting. I don't think he would allow a pc to stick by his side at all times.

Only ran it once so far for a party almost entirely comprised of dwarves and a halfling with few "soft skills". It was fantastic fun!

My favourite part was when being given the mission I had the venture captain say something to the effect of "when my first escorts became ill I sent for a group of qualified individuals with appropriate skills and training for the job. Unfortunately they weren't available so they sent you instead.". Much mirth from the elf hating heavily armoured dwarves.

They also nearly wet themselves during a certain encounter in the hold.

I loved it and will run it again.

Osirion ***** Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Rafael

Lou Diamond wrote:

Played the Murder on the Throaty Murmaid last Tuesday and Liked thae Mod with the exception of the Taldan Faction Missions,

I was playing a Paladin and one mission invovlved aiding the assination of another by delivering a note. An out right Evil act.
I Let the other Taladan player complte the faction Mission. There is no mechanic for one member of the Faction Smiting the minion asking a Paladn to Commit an evil act.

The Other Faction Mission was to recover a book on posions I did not have much of a problem with that as I got to stop the rest of the party from killing the dwarf alchemist. that was fun. The was no mechanic for what the Paladin wold have done after recovering the book.
personaly I would have brought the book to the faction contact and burned the book befre his eyes and told him that I was saving his soul for the sin that he was going to commit by using the book,

Sorry about not using tags I'm anot sure how to se them.

Yeah, that was a little awkward for a paladin. I think you handled it well, however.

*

After reading some reviews, I was actually looking forward to running this scenario for my home group, but after reading it, I'm not sure I'll be able to use it.

My biggest problem is that I have smart players. It's the PCs job to to protect the diplomat.

Intro problem:
I know my players and it doesn't matter whether the job is ceremonial or whether Seph wants them there or not, at least one of them is going to be guarding his door (overtly or convertly), the entire time. This guard WILL NOT leave to fight in act 1. That's such a typical bait-and-switch or misdirection tactic used for assassinating people or stealing stuff, I've used it far too many times in home campaigns and they just won't fall for it.

There's no way the murderer will convince the PC to help either. If that NPC does convince them to fight (unlikely), the killer will be the #1 suspect.

So my main problem is Seph won't die. The only way Seph would die was from something supernatural coming through his small window, not the blundering "common" assassins we have in the scenario. And honestly, if I was playing the mod myself, I would play the same way.

If someone has an idea to fix that, then I'll consider running the scenario. Keep in mind my players are very determined people. They might even sneak a familiar into Seph's room.

Spoiler:
For my group, the killer is supposed to be Killiak, the doctor.

I also found it strange that the scenario wanted the party on board for 50 days prior, but I've fixed that by making them board at Magnimar. Especially with

Spoiler:
the cook, who would easily be dispatched before then (Detect Poison is compulsory for bodyguard missions). He wouldn't even be a suspect in the murder.

Even so, with 4 days before anything happenning, my home group will easily finish every faction mission and investigate everyone and every inch of the ship (whether the captain likes it or not). Once they know the characters involved (which I admit should be fun), the investigation should go rather quickly with very little mystery. The "mystery" part only takes a long time if the GM is unorganized (doesn't have cheat notes) imo.

The other major problem is the lack of combats. My home group are smart players and won't attack everything they see. And they certainly won't kill. I can see them going through the entire scenario with only the combat at the start and the end. I'm not sure they'll find this satisfying. Maybe if they played more PFOS they'd find this an interesting "change of pace" (from combat driven scenarios) but they haven't, they're just getting started.

Another problem, as written, is that the storm comes way too late after the murder. As written, I think most PCs will resolve the murder situation in the same night, maybe less than an hour after the murder. I know my PCs will. I'm fixing this by having "the storm" come a maximum of 1-3 hours after the murder. Before the murder, there will be foreshadowing by people saying "There's a storm coming", some praying, and thunder/clouds rolling in. Bad weather will probably even start an hour before the murder. It will make the transition into "the storm" much more fluid, because I'll be able to do it whenever I want, maybe even during an escape/fight scene.

The last major problem is that the final encounter makes no sense.

Final encounter:
Why would the two murderers attack 4-7 PCs? Can you say "insane suicide mission"?

It makes even less sense considering the PCs either won't have enough evidence and/or the evidence they have will be mostly heresay (their word against trusted shipmmates). It makes no sense at all that they'd attack, they have everything to lose and nothing to gain. If you think about it, if the PCs and 1st mate were fighting, I think the entire ship would come to the defense of the 1st mate (with the exception of maybe the captain)!

I also think that if the killers feel threatened, it makes a lot more sense that they'd convince the rest of the crew to attack the PCs!

In any case, I can't imagine anything but a dead crew at the end of this scenario, unless the PCs quietly and quickly dispatch the killers. As I imagine it, the crew should be dead and the PCs should be stranded in the middle of the ocean.

If the killers felt threatened, they should:
a) Kill the pet tamer and throw him overboard, or "convince him" to change his story. (He's the only one with any damning evidence, but even that can be explained away); or
b) If they really need to attack the PCs (which would be stupid), it should be done when they're not all together.
c) Convince the crew to attack the PCs, which makes the most sense of all. They're pirates, to them the PCs are the murderers. They have everything to lose (captain or 1st mate lost, maybe more retribution who knows) and nothing to gain from delivering Selph's body to the elves at this point. Most of them hate elves anyway.

So sure, I could get around this by either skipping the last encounter altogether (like some people have done) or play it in a silly way (suicide mission), but the scenario just won't add up for either myself or my players. They'd leave the scenario thinking "Wow, are those NPCs are stupid". The victory wouldn't be earned by the PCs, it would be thrown into their laps by the stupidity of the NPCs.

That's how I see this scenario anyway.

Just to recap, the main problem is how the scenario starts, especially with my home group.

Qadira *****

Mark .. fyi for ya .. Kyle B. tpked a group of lvl 1s on the first encounter -- we were vindicated by the fact that he cried

Qadira *****

Jason S wrote:

After reading some reviews, I was actually looking forward to running this scenario for my home group, but after reading it, I'm not sure I'll be able to use it.

My biggest problem is that I have smart players. It's the PCs job to to protect the diplomat.
** spoiler omitted **

If someone has an idea to fix that, then I'll consider running the scenario. Keep in mind my players are very determined people. They might even sneak a familiar into Seph's room.

** spoiler omitted **

I also found it strange that the scenario wanted the party on board for 50 days prior, but I've fixed that by making them board at Magnimar. Especially with
** spoiler omitted **

Even so, with 4 days before anything happenning, my home group will easily finish every faction mission and investigate everyone and every inch of the ship (whether the captain likes it or not). Once they know the characters involved (which I admit should be fun), the investigation should go rather quickly with very little mystery. The "mystery" part only...

A couple of quick thoughts ... in regards to the pfs bodyguard not leaving the cabin .. depending on who the murder is

Killick - there to help take care of seasickness

have the captain yell for help from everybody and he and the first made can herd the bodyguard pfs person upstairs to deal with the elves

ways to throw them off the trail:

I always describe seph's body as having a large sword sticking out of it, the sword is described as a non-descript practice sword; easily obtainable at any apprentice weaponsmith or blacksmith shop. This is usually good to throw them off the dagger stabs in the back for awhile, however, they may try a heal check and then you can reveal what really happened... but my experience is that they stop at the sword and get lead around for awhile.

With the cook, she is lamenting the fact that noone likes her goat steaks or goat stew ... make the taldan rep eat her stew to gain her trust...

front hold in the bottomw -- always described as a room of boxes and barrels -- higher perception checks get to notice the barrel in the corner that has kind of a dented top and claw marks on the sides -- depending on the group can add in that there is some sort of whitish streaking on the barrel

rust monsters -- if they make a high perception check -- there is an outline of a dagger -- they have to figure out how to get past the smullger to get the peices of the dagger out of the cages -- i've had them lasso'd and tied to the cage walls, soothed by a ukelale, and then totally ignored.

those are some of the things in interject into it for my players.

*

Thea Peters wrote:

Killick - there to help take care of seasickness

have the captain yell for help from everybody and he and the first made can herd the bodyguard pfs person upstairs to deal with the elves
ways to throw them off the trail:

Honestly, my PC isn't going anywhere, no matter what the captain says. Is the captain going to fight him? Because that's what it would come down to.

If, by chance (not likely), the captain convinces the PC to go upstairs (through threat of force), it's going to be REALLY hard for the captain to say that the PCs are at fault or are the murderers (it's impossible). Sorry, the captain takes all the blame.

Spoiler:

As for Killiak going in to check for seasickness. He goes in, no words are spoken (that the PC can hear), door is closed, stab stab stab (PC would probably hear combat without special skills or talents). PC still hears no talking in the room. Killiak leaves with blood all over himself and his hands, the murder weapon, and he's the last one to see the diplomat alive. End of scenario.

Also Killiak is supposed to do his killing during the fight, like every other assassin. I'll have to re-read the scenario, but it might fall apart if you change this.

Qadira *****

Jason S wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:

Killick - there to help take care of seasickness

have the captain yell for help from everybody and he and the first made can herd the bodyguard pfs person upstairs to deal with the elves
ways to throw them off the trail:

Honestly, my PC isn't going anywhere, no matter what the captain says. Is the captain going to fight him? Because that's what it would come down to.

If, by chance (not likely), the captain convinces the PC to go upstairs (through threat of force), it's going to be REALLY hard for the captain to say that the PCs are at fault or are the murderers (it's impossible). Sorry, the captain takes all the blame.

** spoiler omitted **

I can see your point .. and at some point there is going to have to be some fancy footwork to make it all happen ... perhaps thanzeril can take offense to the pathfinders automatically assuming that he doesn't know how to guard his master, azzuretta could ploy him with her wiles -- an entertainer's best friend is new meat...

Cheliax ***** Venture-Captain, Nebraska—Omaha

Not only that, but it is physically impossible for him to be there 24/7. Food and rest will need to occur at some point and it's only so easy to say "while you are resting/eating/pooping..."

OR you start them roleplaying every day for 50 days how they will get around this stipulation. The player will either be pressured by his compatriots to stop or be so bored themselves that they remove themselves from the ridiculousness.

If you have the PCs board at Magnimar, you are doing a disservice, because they won't have the sheer boredom of being on sea for 50 days, and thus the complacency that should be there. It's easier to be vigilant for 7 days, rather than 50.

As for them already solving their faction missions, THOSE you can have them pick up at Magnimar and it makes more sense.

As for the argument that they will already know everyone on the ship after 50 days, can you name the people that pick up your garbage? How about the name of your local route bus driver? Other people that you see regularly? Do you know their backgrounds, etc? For most people, the answer is a resounding no.

These sailors are doing their job, and you do yours, which is to hang out and be bored for 50 days (whether or not you have to RP this to death depends on how stubborn your players are).

*

Thea Peters wrote:
I can see your point .. and at some point there is going to have to be some fancy footwork to make it all happen ... perhaps thanzeril can take offense to the pathfinders automatically assuming that he doesn't know how to guard his master, azzuretta could ploy him with her wiles -- an entertainer's best friend is new meat...

I can definitely try to:

1) Say the mission is ceremonial, to make the PCs relax.
2) Seph doesn't want a guard.
3) Thanzeril does want a guard.
4) Have the captain herd the PC to the main deck.
5) More?

But the truth is, I still think my PCs won't move. I can see us using Stealth and covertly watching the door, or using Diplomacy to get certain NPCs to relax. If all of that fails, I almost have to make

Spoiler:
Azzuretta the killer, because she has the best skills to deal with a PC guard. She can seduce Thanzeril, come back and cast Sleep on the PC, and then do her thing.

Another thought. If the PCs accuse the 1st mate and Azzuretta, you'd think the crew would definitely stick up for them. And she could surely convince the pet tamer to shut his mouth or change his story. I see the PCs in trouble again, lol.


I'm open to other solutions though, but that's all I have so far. This scenario could be short!

Qadira *****

Jason S wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:
I can see your point .. and at some point there is going to have to be some fancy footwork to make it all happen ... perhaps thanzeril can take offense to the pathfinders automatically assuming that he doesn't know how to guard his master, azzuretta could ploy him with her wiles -- an entertainer's best friend is new meat...

I can definitely try to:

1) Say the mission is ceremonial, to make the PCs relax.
2) Seph doesn't want a guard.
3) Thanzeril does want a guard.
4) Have the captain herd the PC to the main deck.
5) More?

But the truth is, I still think my PCs won't move. I can see us using Stealth and covertly watching the door, or using Diplomacy to get certain NPCs to relax. If all of that fails, I almost have to make
** spoiler omitted **
I'm open to other solutions though, but that's all I have so far. This scenario could be short!

Can I just say that, and this is from one who did the same thing at first, you're over thinking the module. This is not a module that can be uber-prepped before you sit down at the table. And no matter what you try and do to circumvent things to make the mod run "properly" the players are going to screw up your planning.

*

Todd Morgan wrote:
Not only that, but it is physically impossible for him to be there 24/7. Food and rest will need to occur at some point and it's only so easy to say "while you are resting/eating/pooping..."

So let me get this straight. Thanzeril is seduced and at that same time, my PC guard goes to the washroom and the boat is also attacked? Sounds unlikely. Besides, my PCs will either hold it or find bed pan and a dark corner nearby they can use (while still watching the door).

The PCs take turns guarding Seph. I have between 4-6 PCs, that's only 4-6 hours of guarding per day and it doesn't have to be done in all one shift. It's 24/7.

Todd Morgan wrote:
OR you start them roleplaying every day for 50 days how they will get around this stipulation. The player will either be pressured by his compatriots to stop or be so bored themselves that they remove themselves from the ridiculousness.

My job as GM is to keep the scenario flowing and make it entertaining. Why would I make them roleplay guard duty every day for 50 days when they tell me exactly what they want to do? Maybe I should just sit there for an hour, staring into their eyes until they give up or walk away?

I don't think boring them until they give up is an option. Knowing some of my players, they'll just open book and start reading if I want to play like that. Or have a beer and go outside and have a smoke.

It's up to the GM to keep things moving, not derail the game and make people wish they were doing something useful somewhere else.

Todd Morgan wrote:
It's easier to be vigilant for 7 days, rather than 50.

It would make them more complacent, maybe. I doubt it. I think our players are different.

Todd Morgan wrote:
As for them already solving their faction missions, THOSE you can have them pick up at Magnimar and it makes more sense.

I assume they get the mission in Magnimar. Their faction missions alone will be enough to force them to get to know the crew (even if they didn't know the crew before), especially since several faction missions imply some of them are assassins.

Todd Morgan wrote:
As for the argument that they will already know everyone on the ship after 50 days, can you name the people that pick up your garbage?

Actually, I do. lol. That's too funny.

But that's not the situation here. The PCs are trapped on a boat with 6 crew members over 7 to 57 days and their job is to assess threats and guard the diplomat. You're doing pretty s@&~ty job if you don't even know what's on the ship and you don't meet a total of six crew members on the ship. Especially if you're at sea for 50 days, what else do you have to do?

That's a real minor point though and I don't really have a problem with the PCs finishing their faction missions before the murder, I actually think that's how it's supposed to be done.

Spoiler:
However, I think the cook will be ousted in that time. But maybe it's fine, maybe that makes the crew trust the PCs more so that they don't try to kill them later.

The main thing I need help with are (valid) ideas to kill Seph and getting rid of the PC guard. Everything else will fall in place (even if I have to TPK them or have them stranded for days on the Mermaid).

*

Thea Peters wrote:
Can I just say that, and this is from one who did the same thing at first, you're over thinking the module. This is not a module that can be uber-prepped before you sit down at the table. And no matter what you try and do to circumvent things to make the mod run "properly" the players are going to screw up your planning.

Maybe, but if I can predict how my players will act and I know they won't let this guy die (easily), the entire scenario kind of falls apart.

But like I said, my players are smart, non-lazy and determined.

Thinking about contingencies is good, because you don't get surprised. If the players are lazy etc, you just run things as normal.

Silver Crusade ****

I must of had the best PCs to have at my tables then. They were all complacent and happy to let me lead them to Sephriel's death, and then actually surprised when he died. lol

Andoran *****

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

My group was easy... realizing that they were also diplomats and guards they were willing to except that the he only wanted his guard near him, not willing to threaten the delicate relationship with the elf’s and pathfinders. Also I had to threaten them a few times with Captain as the law on the ship while at sea.

Grand Lodge **

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber
Jason S wrote:
So let me get this straight. Thanzeril is seduced and at that same time, my PC guard goes to the washroom and the boat is also attacked? Sounds unlikely. Besides, my PCs will either hold it or find bed pan and a dark corner nearby they can use (while still watching the door).

If the poison soup is still in play, perhaps it is ends up stronger that night causing extreme intestinal distress.

Really though- you need that scene to play out and you have no adventure if it doesn't. If you know that your players are going to prevent the opening scene from ever happening don't give them the option (for the sake of playing the game). All you have to do is extend the intro text describing their trip at sea up to that point and how Thanzeril rebuffed them, and whatever works for you so that the box text ends with the first fight beginning.

Qadira ***** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Part of the problem, of course, is that the title of the module warns the players that there'll be a murder, and there's only one likely victim: the person the PCs are set to guard.

If you need to disguise things, somehow, make it seem that Sephriel and Thanzeril are plotting together to kill someone else on board. It is true that Sephriel is plotting someone's death (his own). And if the PCs conclude that the two are tying to kill Character A, and Character A is up on deck, and murderous assassin elves climb over the sides, then sitting around, watching Sephriel doesn't sound terribly heroic.

*

Chris Mortika wrote:
Part of the problem, of course, is that the title of the module warns the players that there'll be a murder

I agree, the title is a huge problem. Can we not give away major plot devices like this in the future? A more suitable title might have been "Voyage of the Throaty Mermaid". Boring yes, spoiler no.

My players don't know the title luckily.

Chris Mortika wrote:
If you need to disguise things, somehow, make it seem that Sephriel and Thanzeril are plotting together to kill someone else on board. It is true that Sephriel is plotting someone's death (his own). And if the PCs conclude that the two are tying to kill Character A, and Character A is up on deck, and murderous assassin elves climb over the sides, then sitting around, watching Sephriel doesn't sound terribly heroic.

It's metagaming to try to protect someone else based on the title (which automatically makes it lame). Plus, it's not their mission to protect the evil blood-sucking smugglers on the boat, it's their job to protect the non-evil elves. :) So I'd be really surprised if my players did that, even if I made Seph act suspiciously. I said my players were smart right? :)

Regarding Seph acting suspiciously, what specific "suspicious" activities would he be doing? He's not plotting with Thanzeril, so it's not like he's quietly chatting with anyone. He already has a plan, which he created before he even left, so what's there to be suspicious about?

I also don't have a logical reason why Thanzeril (or the captain) would mind if the PCs were guarding Seph closely, or at least outside his door. It's their job. Especially the captain, the captain doesn't care unless the elves are particularily disturbed.

We'll see how it plays out. I'm going to use all of these suggestions, plus I have contingencies if they covertly guard the door (which they will). I'll mention these later.

I think I can get the scenario to work now, with the brainstorming we've done here.

Qadira ***

Just tell the PCs that the Society wants them to do everything possible to keep Seph happy. He then demands they keep away, he's got a guard. Familiars get found, divinations fail, and if they stand outside, he gets enraged. Strongly warn them OOC that if they keep this up they will definitely fail in their mission (that means not get a chronicle sheet) since Seph will be upset with Pathfinders as a whole.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

Hey Jason,

Thanks for raising these questions. You obviously know your players very well, and it's laudable that you are taking their play style into consideration as you prepare the scenario. I think the responses and suggestions of the community here are all pretty good. I'm curious if you're running this as an official PFS event, for credit and Chronicles and all that, or if you're using the adventure in an unofficial home campaign?

*

[sarcasm]You could always do what our DM did. He didn't tell us Seph was sleeping in another cabin, and didn't let us set up watches outside his door (which we would have if we'd known, and fought the crew if they tried to prevent us). Then the DM was like OH LOOK HE DIED.[/sarcasm]

I don't know how to make this mod work for smart, experienced players. The fight on deck is a pretty obvious distraction, and with 5-6 players having one person down below isn't a huge combat loss. Even with only 3 players up top, they'll *probably* be OK.

If Seph doesn't like it, tough. Parties have stealth, familiars are even better at stealth, and it's pretty hard for an eye to fail since it scries a location not a person. The party was engaged to keep him alive and happy, but happy is secondary to alive, and the PCs are not going to let him make their job impossible. Diplomancers exist for a reason, including soothing cranky nobles.

*

Hey Mark,

PFOS in 2 weeks. But it's a home game and it's people I know.

I've decided to do PFOS this summer instead of an AP, because of busy schedules.

Melissa Litwin wrote:
[sarcasm]You could always do what our DM did. He didn't tell us Seph was sleeping in another cabin, and didn't let us set up watches outside his door (which we would have if we'd known, and fought the crew if they tried to prevent us). Then the DM was like OH LOOK HE DIED.[/sarcasm]

See, that's exactly what I want to avoid. I really hate GM railroading myself, "to make things happen for story purposes", it's like Deus Ex Machina and I won't do it to my players. It's L-A-M-E.

Melissa Litwin wrote:
If Seph doesn't like it, tough. Parties have stealth, familiars are even better at stealth, and it's pretty hard for an eye to fail since it scries a location not a person. The party was engaged to keep him alive and happy, but happy is secondary to alive, and the PCs are not going to let him make their job impossible. Diplomancers exist for a reason, including soothing cranky nobles.

Exactly. How in hell is Seph supposed to detect a stealthy familiar or a rogue if he's asleep and can't even detect a CLERIC? lol. And a fighter detecting a rogue? Unlikely.

Also, Seph's motivation is to see how the Pathfinders will respond to a threat on his life. Aren't measures to prevent his death valid?

I find it really hard that more players aren't more invested in keeping Seph alive. It might have been different if he was part of a faction mission maybe? :)

Anyway, I already have lots of ideas which I'll share later. Thanks everyone.

**

Melissa Litwin wrote:
I don't know how to make this mod work for smart, experienced players. The fight on deck is a pretty obvious distraction, and with 5-6 players having one person down below isn't a huge combat loss. Even with only 3 players up top, they'll *probably* be OK.

My experience: 6 level 1 PCs (basically) + DM's hot dice (Kyle) = TKO (they didn't kill us). Had a lot of fun with this adventure.

Jason,

Don't tell them that they are escorting the elf, he's just one of the passengers. Have them board in Magnimar and give them their faction missions. Let them worry about their faction mission for a while then on the ship and get use to ship life. You could tell them they will receive their Pathfinder mission when they arrive in Mordant Spire.

Just an idea.

-Swiftbrook

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This scenario was brutal! What a killer you designed Mark! ;-)

How those 4 wimpy sea elves knocked 6 PCs unconscious, I will never understand. I'm thankful you all stabilized on your own.

*

Kyle Baird wrote:

This scenario was brutal! What a killer you designed Mark! ;-)

How those 4 wimpy sea elves knocked 6 PCs unconscious, I will never understand. I'm thankful you all stabilized on your own.

Just curious, how did that end? Did the sea elves find Selph dead, leave, and the scenario continued on as normal?

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Jason S wrote:
Kyle Baird wrote:

This scenario was brutal! What a killer you designed Mark! ;-)

How those 4 wimpy sea elves knocked 6 PCs unconscious, I will never understand. I'm thankful you all stabilized on your own.

Just curious, how did that end? Did the sea elves find Selph dead, leave, and the scenario continued on as normal?

There was only one elf left, and at 2 hp to boot. So I had Veane kill it off screen. The rest of the scenario went about as planned. Killik didn't heal them, and one of the PC's was at -1 hp, so he woke up the next day. He also happened to be an Oracle and was able to heal the party enough to start waking people up. So they started their investigation a day late. :-)

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