Trial of the Beast (GM Reference)


Carrion Crown

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Great stuff! Not sure how I'll blend both of your suggestions yet, but I'll try to implement some of it. (Side note: anyone got a spooky soundtrack or music loop I can use? Most of the old ones that have been posted seem to have been taken down, and I need something I won't have to constantly fiddle with when a track ends and starts playing the next random thing.

Party hit level 5 after the day of the trial, even with 5 PCs. I've probably been more generous with letting them get XP off of failed skill checks than the book recommended, and have occasionally added monsters to encounters or added new encounters. They are way behind on WBL though, and this AP has such a reputation for being under-financed. I'm wondering if I should give them some sort of wealth/gear infusion now and/or after they clear Schloss Caromarc. Ideas on that how below, but I'm not sure if I should let them clear the trial at least before dumping stuff on them. There's loot to be had at the Chymic works, at least.

I ran the trial as a full courtroom drama, complete with a guest star prosecutor who played himself in with "The People's Court" theme song. I've got some thoughts I can type up on how to run that better, if folks want. (Also, my party really liked the Mind of a Child Beast and were pretty cool with the poor traumatized golem not answering questions about his dad.)

One interesting wrinkle: the party announced in court they found tools belonging to Vorkstag at the crime scene, after ringing the Chymic work bell and telling Grine they had tools belonging to Mr. Vorkstag. So now Vorkstag and Grine *know* the PCs are getting dangerously close. What sort of actions should V&G take? The book mentions V&G spread rumors which grows the size of the mob on night 2, but I can't find mention of other offensive actions they take.

I'm currently thinking that Vorkstag may use one of the aliases from the Cabinet of Skins and Faces to hire some quality assassins or mercenaries. Perhaps the reclusive merchant Borgo Znojmo. That way the party can trace their way back to his house, only to discover it looks like no one has been there in weeks. The mercs can be carrying some solid equipment to boost the party, of course.

Anyone have ideas for where and when would be best to attack the party? It would make sense to do an ambush in Hergstag, but there's already so many elements in play there. I'd have to start having the mercs fight the ghosts and get caught in bear traps and stuff. Also, can I just handwave that they use their local connections to keep themselves from being summoned to court? Did anyone elaborate on that?

EDIT: Another idea for a gear infusion is a big ol' crate of weapons and such, secretly from the Order of the Palentine Eye. But I'm not sure if that might be too hand wavy.


This music
is what I used for Herstag (its really creepy, though I had a sound editor to crop the last half).
However, as new soundtracks for games and movies come out, the choices increase. Might I recommend:
This or
This or
This as alternates if you don't have a sound editor.
Regarding V+G: Honestly, other than inciting the crowd, there's little in public that the duo can directly do to the PCs due to the superstitious nature of Ustalavic folk (even in Lepistatd) and the existence of a society with detection and divination magic available. After all, any investigation into the pair might shed light on the fact that the two are not what they claim to be ("monsters"), an offense that might get them ran out of town if such things were public knowledge, which would probably dissuade them from acting out publicly beyond the confines of what's written, even in disguise. What I would do is have them figure out a way to lure the PCs to their business where the two can murder them with impunity and not worry about any bystanders that might watch and report. If you do want to give them an additional encounter, your above suggestion is a good one; I would attack on them on the road back from Herstag. Since it's after any pre-written encounters, you can add or take away the number of mercenaries to adjust for how resource-depleted your PCs are at that point (its possible one or two might be dead if Brother Swarm gets lucky). Remember that its Ustalav, so if your PCs are having a hard time, you can have a horribly powerful wandering monster attack everyone, starting with the mercenaries.


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Captain Morgan wrote:

They are way behind on WBL though, and this AP has such a reputation for being under-financed. I'm wondering if I should give them some sort of wealth/gear infusion now and/or after they clear Schloss Caromarc. Ideas on that how below, but I'm not sure if I should let them clear the trial at least before dumping stuff on them. There's loot to be had at the Chymic works, at least.

One interesting wrinkle: the party announced in court they found tools belonging to Vorkstag at the crime scene, after ringing the Chymic work bell and telling Grine they had tools belonging to Mr. Vorkstag. So now Vorkstag and Grine *know* the PCs are getting dangerously close. What sort of actions should V&G take? The book mentions V&G spread rumors which grows the size of the mob on night 2, but I can't find mention of other offensive actions they take.

I'm currently thinking that Vorkstag may use one of the aliases from the Cabinet of Skins and Faces to hire some quality assassins or mercenaries. Perhaps the reclusive merchant Borgo Znojmo. That way...

I recommend waiting until after the Schloss to decide if the PCs need an infusion of wealth before the next AP section, because the players may or may not loot the place.

If the players are convinced Count Caromarc is a flesh-golem-manufacturing maniac or dead, they'll probably loot the place. In this case, they'll be pretty close to their WBL at the section's end, and you can make up any difference by adding a little gold as a reward from Judge Daramid and the Order of the Palatine Eye. In this scenarion, Caromarc has been driven completely insane by his stay inside the idol, and winds up getting sent to a sanitarium; he'll never miss what was stolen. You might have him pop up in Ashes at Dawn as a patient (or escaped patient!)

If the players aren't suspicious of the Count, or think he might be a useful ally against the Whispering Way, they probably won't want to burglarize the Schloss. In this case, the Count is not totally unhinged when they rescue him from the misery idol, and rewards them, perhaps with a stack of gold, perhaps with a selection of potions he brews on their behalf, perhaps some of both--enough to get them up to their WBL. In fact, if you give potions, go somewhat over the WBL, and give them potions that will be fun to play with, not just generic defenses and buffs and remedies.

Captain Morgan wrote:
One interesting wrinkle: the party announced in court they found tools belonging to Vorkstag at the crime scene, after ringing the Chymic work bell and telling Grine they had tools belonging to Mr. Vorkstag. So now Vorkstag and Grine *know* the PCs are getting dangerously close. What sort of actions should V&G take?

I had a LOT of fun in my game with Vorstag's alternate identities. One player came sooooo close to sleeping with it in the guise of the courtesan Olga Slovech...the reaction when they found her distinctively pale and freckled remains hanging in the Cabinet of Skins was everything I could have hoped for.

Instead of (or in addition to) arranging an ambush, you could send your players on a dangerous wild goose chase by having Vorkstag approach them as university lecturer Katarina Vilt and feeding them a bogus clue. That would widen the possibilities for the encounter to just about anything dangerous in Vieland.


Keep Calm and Carrion wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:

They are way behind on WBL though, and this AP has such a reputation for being under-financed. I'm wondering if I should give them some sort of wealth/gear infusion now and/or after they clear Schloss Caromarc. Ideas on that how below, but I'm not sure if I should let them clear the trial at least before dumping stuff on them. There's loot to be had at the Chymic works, at least.

One interesting wrinkle: the party announced in court they found tools belonging to Vorkstag at the crime scene, after ringing the Chymic work bell and telling Grine they had tools belonging to Mr. Vorkstag. So now Vorkstag and Grine *know* the PCs are getting dangerously close. What sort of actions should V&G take? The book mentions V&G spread rumors which grows the size of the mob on night 2, but I can't find mention of other offensive actions they take.

I'm currently thinking that Vorkstag may use one of the aliases from the Cabinet of Skins and Faces to hire some quality assassins or mercenaries. Perhaps the reclusive merchant Borgo Znojmo. That way...

I recommend waiting until after the Schloss to decide if the PCs need an infusion of wealth before the next AP section, because the players may or may not loot the place.

If the players are convinced Count Caromarc is a flesh-golem-manufacturing maniac or dead, they'll probably loot the place. In this case, they'll be pretty close to their WBL at the section's end, and you can make up any difference by adding a little gold as a reward from Judge Daramid and the Order of the Palatine Eye. In this scenarion, Caromarc has been driven completely insane by his stay inside the idol, and winds up getting sent to a sanitarium; he'll never miss what was stolen. You might have him pop up in Ashes at Dawn as a patient (or escaped patient!)

If the players aren't suspicious of the Count, or think he might be a useful ally against the Whispering Way, they probably won't want to burglarize the Schloss. In this case, the Count is not totally...

Thanks for the tips. I was already planning on having a flexible end reward based on the to loot/not to loot dichotomy discussed in the thread, but I wasn't sure if they might need some before then. I'm still considering some well armed mercenaries dropping some +1 Rings of Protection and +2 Belt/Headband type stuff, maybe a +1 long bow or two since the party has been so terrible at ranged. (I figure if they sell them like they did the Rope of Climbing, that will be on them later. Hellooooooo Erinys!)

I had a pretty diabolical idea for Katarina Vilt. Our Aasimar Swashbuckler woman started a relationship with Kendra in book 1, and convinced her to visit Professor Lorrimor's old colleagues and work place. She hasn't gotten around to doing it yet... This is a pretty excellent opportunity for Vorkstag to add a new outfit to his cabinet, and use it to try and poison or otherwise take out the party. Assuming the party goes directly to Hergstag, and gets further delayed by the mercenaries and trying to find Borjo.

I like it because this horror campaign has felt a little light on things that are truly horrifying. I'm reluctant because of the "Women in Refrigerators" and "Bury Your Gays" tropes. (Though to be fair, most NPCs in my world are assumed pansexual until proven otherwise, because I subscribe to Doctor Who's logic on sexuality for multi-sentient species based societies.)

Currently, I'm thinking Gustav Kapple will point out that if they are wrong about V&G, the party just falsely accused some very well connected gentleman. And if they are right about V&G, the party just painted a target on their own back. If they fail to take the fight to V&G at that point or do anything to protect Kendra... Well, no more Mr. Nice DM.

I don't want the only purpose for murdering Kendra to be upsetting my players though. Volkstag should definitely use her identity to sabotage the PCs some how. Need to look over the poisons he has access to in fine detail. This could potentially kill a PC or two.

I am considering a last minute save for the Swashbuckler from Spring Heeled Jack, who I introduced in book 1 as trying to court the Angel-Kin with art pieces of severed animal parts and such. The Swashbuckler told Jack she would be in Lepidstadt after Ravengro, and Jack had mentioned he'd see her there... I like the idea of him crashing through a window and trying to gank "Kendra," and seeing where the dice fall from there.


Another idea for a reward from the Count: Constructs. Preferably that provide utility without being super relevant in combat. I'm thinking a pet Homunculus would be a pretty great reward, especially for a party without Familiars or other decent scouting options. An Iron Cobra would be cool and could give the party a way to utilize the poisons from V&G but definitely isn't OP. A Tattoo Guardian would be really cool but might be a little OP.

Anyone have thoughts on using this as a reward, or suggestions for constructs to grant?

EDIT: I also had some fun statting up the count for the helluva it. I made him a Promethean Alchemist, which removes his bombs and mutagen and makes it easier to explain why he was overpowered by the Whispering Way. It can also make Waxword into a decent fighter-- perhaps create another construct on top of Waxworth to act as body guard and butler. Perhaps with the Cooperitive Crafting feat for added assistance. I'll call him Elric. Will need to decide if he was destroyed by the Way or somehow disabled to leave open the possibility he could interact with the party.

His Discoveries include Vestigial Arms and Tentacle, because having extra limbs is handy in the lab and why wouldn't he start stitching body parts on himself at some point? Also took Mummification-- that means there isn't actually any danger of him starving to death, unbeknownst to the Whispering Way. His only real danger is boredom. XD

Liberty's Edge

Sorry if this has been addressed before, but of all the crimes the Beast is being tried for, why not the university break-in where it was caught red-handed? Shouldn't it be punished for that whether it's found innocent of the other crimes or not? Would Khard sentence it to time served? One of my players has already questioned this out of game and I agree it doesn't make sense.


Copernicus Mandrake I wrote:
Sorry if this has been addressed before, but of all the crimes the Beast is being tried for, why not the university break-in where it was caught red-handed? Shouldn't it be punished for that whether it's found innocent of the other crimes or not? Would Khard sentence it to time served? One of my players has already questioned this out of game and I agree it doesn't make sense.

It is a weaker plot point, certainly. I think time served works though, especially when the guards mercilessly tormented the Beast for most of that time.

My understanding is that the urban legend/scapegoat nature the Beast holds in Ustalav made it impossible to try the Beast for everything he'd ever been accused of, so the 3 crimes selected are sort of meant to be representative samples of the Beast's character as a whole, which also happen to feature 1st hand witnesses. Theoretically, if the PCs conclusively demonstrate the Beast wasn't involved with these crimes, it makes the Beast's claim that he has no idea how he got into the University more believable. In my game, I made a point that he gave up when the guards showed up and no one had actually been hurt.

If the Judge has reason to think someone else may have been controlling the Beast, no one got hurt, and he already served a couple brutal weeks in jail... Well, what more can the court want of him? They certainly wouldn't sentence him to death for breaking in, and it really isn't worth the hassle of keeping the Beast in prison. Especially after the mob attacked the court house on Night 2. Khard would be eager to get this guy out of town before someone tries to burn his courthouse down again.


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Incidentally, I came up a bunch of red herring stuff for who the Beast's father was, using a list of NPCs someone in the thread came up with for other A.C. named folks. (I'll try to comb through and remember who later so I can give credit.) A lot of this was pulled straight from Rule of Fear, but it may be helpful if your players want to pull at these particular plot threads.

Alezandaru Caliphvaso – 10: brother of the infamous Millaera Caliphvaso (mother of putative heir Reneis Ordranti) and the equally infamous Countess Carmilla Caliphvaso. He has been a prominent member of the medical faculty at the University for many years. He arrived in Lepidstadt from Caliphas many years ago, apparently to avoid involvement with the political machinations in Caliphas.

15: Ustalav’s internationally renowned center of learning, Lepidstadt University endorses the s ocalled “mortal sciences,” espousing the ability of medicine, mathematics, and the sciences to unveil wonders rivaling the miracles of magic. Presided over by dean Acciani Viacarri, the campus includes the Laurelgauge Library, Vighkeir Hall, the Treyes Museum of Antiquities, half of the nearby Fort Cindercairn, and various other lecture halls and dormitories. Aside from its faculty’s advances in the understanding of anatomy and medicine, the school is also known for its numerous dueling fraternities, brotherhoods like Gateguard and Malkenclaw, that pride themselves on teaching the artistry and honor of swordsmanship.

20: Alezandaru is the faculty head of the Malkenclaw dueling fraternity, and can often be found at Brazen Skull, the favored pub of local duelists. He is said to be able to dissect dead bodies and live opponents with equal amounts of anatomical precision. The mark of honor known as the Lepidstadt Scar is said to look particularly dashing from his rapier, and they say he’s been using the same set of corpses for over a decade for demonstrating dissections.

Adula Cindercairn – DC 10: A current member of the Palatine Council of Vieland. Her family moved to Lepidstadt several generations ago once their ancestral lands, home to Fort Cindercairn, became overrun by orc hordes.

DC 15: Of the three councils ruling the Palatinates, the council of Vieland functions most like the realms’ architects intended—to the endless frustration of the land’s people and rulers alike. Populated by several of the palatinate’s wisest and best-intentioned citizens, the council’s members include altruistic landowners, deep-thinking patriots, esteemed judges, and the more erudite faculty of the University of Lepidstadt. Yet when the doors close upon the council chambers, the matters discussed often have less to do with regional administration and more to do with the philosophies and morays of an ideal government. That is to say, with the literati in control, governance strays from the needs of the moment into endless academic debate. Due to the gravitas with which each of the council’s members regards his or her position, every decision faces scrutiny from myriad angles. Meetings become mired in academic lecturing, much to the frustration—and boredom—of the council’s less scholarly minority. Systems of debate and reorganizations of responsibilities to streamline the council’s efforts inevitably result in further waste. Frustrated council members argue for and against the time spent in argument, and so the whirlpool of inefficiency spirals on.

DC 20: Breaking with the spirit of the council’s mandates, several members have resorted to administrative vigilantism. While the land’s ruling body can’t be trusted to address pressing matters with the necessary exigency, council members like Adula Cindercairn have employed personal agents to effect change. Utilizing their own fortunes, calling in favors, and patronizing adventurers, the frustrated council members ostensibly seek to create the change they joined the Palatine Council to foster. While such might be their goals, already agents in their employ have paid lethal prices.

Aldus Caromarc -- DC 10: Schloss Caromarc is the dwelling of Count Alpon Caromarc, the former ruler of Vieland who abdicated his position when the Palatinates threw off the heavy yoke of the aristocracy.

DC 15: An eccentric recluse, Count Caromarc has built a dwelling that both attracts and deters visitors. Known as the Hanging House, Schloss Caromarc lies to the northeast of Dippelmere Swamp, and is actually several buildings built into the walls of a gorge above a waterfall. Although the lower parts of the house are as luxurious as one might find in any city, the further up the gorge one goes, the more treacherous and inhospitable the buildings become.

DC 20: Paranoid about his safety amid monsters and revolution, the eccentric Count Caromarc has, it is rumored, trapped parts of his castle to prevent theft, and constructed and collected numerous guardian creatures to serve and protect him.

Acciani Montagnie Crowl – DC 10: Montagnie is actually his middle name. He used to go by Acciani many years ago, but he started going by his middle name when Acciani Viacarri became the dean of the University.

DC 15: While Crowl’s good nature is widely recognized, there are those among the faculty that believe that he may let his enthusiasm get the better of him. They worry that in the name of science and learning he may push the envelope further than others are comfortable with. This is exacerbated by the general disapproval of magic among the faculty, but even those with more liberal attitudes towards the arcane note Crowl has little practical training in magic. Still, Vieland is a place of enlightenment and there has yet to be a major incident involving Crowl.

DC 20: Crowl greatly dislikes Viacarri because Crowl thinks he is more interested in construction than scholarship. The Treyes Museum of Antiquities is also said to hold more arcane power than the rest of the University, and the rest of Lepidstadt as a whole, combined. This magic takes not only the form of minor artifacts, but of various magical wards placed around the building to defend said artifacts. The incident with the Beast is the first major robbery in 50 years.

Aldiain Caise 10: Retired Caliphas Constabulary. He graduated decades ago with top marks from Lepidstadt University in a newly pioneered program of criminal forensics. he went on to solve a series of high profile investigations across Ustalav. He has since retired to Lepidstadt and occasionally gives lectures at his alma mater.

DC 15: Not many like to besmirch the local hero, but they say Aldiain retired after failing to crack the biggest case of his career—a serial killer dressed as a plague doctor known only as “Dr. D.” Aldiain has refused to answer any questions about this infamous string of incidents.

DC 20: There is a darker version of this story—Aldiain only abandoned the case after years of chasing Dr. D., who privatley mocked the investigator in a series of letters. Finally, “The Bad Doctor” paid a visit to Aldiain’s home while he was away but his wife Lisara and their children were home. No one knows exactly what Dr. D did to the family, but Caise was never the same since.


Had a total party TPK in Vorkstag and Grine's! It was their fault ultimately. They got themselves separated in the dark, one player forgot about the flesh golem dog they avoided in the courtyard, and then the others trapped themselves trying in vain to save that PC. This was their first ever character deaths, but they handled it very maturely and identified what went wrong with only a little finger pointing.

This was the last night before the third day of the trial, so to the rest of the town, the whole defense team simply disappears overnight, leading to a bewildering trial where the Beast is ultimately sentenced to death, and then escapes.

I then informed them that after the traumatic experience of death and a brief stint in their respective afterlives, their characters awaken strapped to tables. Vorkstag and Grine inform them that they have been raised as alchemical zombies, just as the monks that guard their cadaver pool. They tell them about their new alchemical dependance and use the threat of losing their minds as incentive to do their dirty work as they pick up shop and move out of Lepidstadt. This felt appropriate to do and not a cop out meant to salve the wounds of their loss, as the monks have been similarly coerced in the written adventure path, although Vorkstag and Grine only bought the zombies.

I offered them a chance to play the undead characters, planning to somehow direct them back along the adventure path, but they opted to make new characters. They will start as aspiring initiates to the Order of the Palantine Eye directed by Judge Embreth to investigate Schloss Caromarc in the wake of the Beast's last words, "I am innocent! Caromarc can prove it!"

Carrion Crown now claims two TPK's of mine. The first was with a different group who wandered into the Splatterman's area in the Haunting of Harrowstone while still low level. I have no problem with lethality as I think the difficulty and threat of death make the rewards of smart play more sweet, and it makes the hero's journey more epic. I'm definitely enjoying Carrion Crown and plan to take the PCs to level 20 by extending the campaign after Garrowspire. I love all the varied horror influences and I can't wait for the later modules!

Liberty's Edge

Just finished this book last night and the final boss fight was amazing. Our alchemist climbed the tower and took control of the Beast while the ranger followed him to provide cover fire. Meanwhile the magus and bloodrager fought the promethean on the ground, using fireballs to burn its webs and overcome its DR. The cleric, suffering the effects of mummy rot, dropped from max to negative hp in one turn thanks to a critical hit from the promethean and had to be dragged downstairs by the bloodrager for some quick heals. Two rounds later the Beast arrived under the alchemist's control and started wailing on the promethean. The promethean then paralyzed the Beast but eventually fell under a combined assault of arrows and fireballs. With it reduced to a smoking heap on the other side of the room, the party freed Caromarc and we will pick up next session with his interrogation (and learning that they killed Waxwood on sight because after all the homunculi they've faced in this book, they weren't taking any chances).

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