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

Pathfinder Beginner Box

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Comics

Pathfinder Legends

What were your favorite / least favorite elements about Council of Thieves AP?


Council of Thieves

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This inquiry is for players and GMs alike who have played through/GMed the Serpent's Skull AP.

GMs: please use spoiler tags when necessary.

There are 2 intentions of this post.
1. For others to be able to make an informed decision of whether this AP will be a good fit for your players as well as to see if the AP style works with the GM's storytelling style.
2. For Paizo staff to be able to keep track of what their customers/fans think of the APs and use the information to improve the APs in the future.


I loved the urban exploration style of the game. I really liked being in a city for almost the entire game. I wish my GM was much, much, MUCH more into it-- I would've been too. Can't blame him-- first time he ever ran a game, and he did well, but I really love Westcrown as a place.

There's something much cooler about breaking into a church, a ruined mansion, a massive ruined lodge than just like kicking around a forest, a desert, a ruined temple.

One thing I didn't like was that #6 was a big departure from "adventuring" and became more like... I dunno. It just changed the game from urban-ex to quelling an uprising, and it was jarring and sudden. You don't talk to the Hellknights or hear about them for almost 5 books and then boom, now you're their ally, etc. etc. down the line.

Actually like having the Council of Thieves present in the story would've been good, too. It would've been pretty good to actually see, interact, etc. with them. But, instead, they die anonymously offstage. Meh.


I'm really enjoying the AP as a judge, and how it allows me to build the D&D city that I've always wanted to.

I need to emphasize that a bit more with my players. We're doing well on feel, but poorly on geography.

Maybe it's frowned upon, but I don't run anything 'as written', but customize it for myself and my players. We're having a good time with this one.

On the down side, it's a challenge to get all that back story INTO the hands of the PCs. That's the one suggestion I would make; the PCs need to know a bit more of what is going on.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
William Bryan wrote:

This inquiry is for players and GMs alike who have played through/GMed the Serpent's Skull AP.

GMs: please use spoiler tags when necessary.

There are 2 intentions of this post.
1. For others to be able to make an informed decision of whether this AP will be a good fit for your players as well as to see if the AP style works with the GM's storytelling style.
2. For Paizo staff to be able to keep track of what their customers/fans think of the APs and use the information to improve the APs in the future.

Favorite Parts:

Our GM really got across the "Feel" of Cheliax. We constantly wore masks and kept our identities secret and under layers of misdirection, and it was fantastic. You'll also get the kinds of monsters you expect from Cheliax--devils and undead, and aplenty! Roleplaying in the urban setting was also great.

I'll disagree with Ice Titan--we really liked the last part. It was an interesting challenge for our high-level group because our GM had them keep doing some of the events (like summoning a Hamatula yo spread fire) as often as they could prep the summon spell, rather than have them just give up after once. This caused us to be on patrols and often have to use clever signalling and Teleport-ready casters or risk facing challenges with only a small fraction of the available PCs.

Worst Parts

The lead-in hook was a bit weak--particularly Janiven's speech was unexpectedly and unnecessarily anti-Thrune. You really don't need to be anti-Thrune at all to want the Shadowbeasts gone.

The "thirteen-step plan" was problematic even though our GM made it better than standard by giving us more info. Out of character, we all (except one) really really wanted to do the play, but the in-character justification could have been much better. Many Underpants Gnome jokes were made "Step 1--Do a play. Step 2--??? Step 3--No More Shadowbeasts!" Later with better intel it became "Step 1: Attempt to try out for a torture play and hope we get cast, Step 2--If we get cast, we are horribly tortured and attempt to survive being attacked by monsters while also acting well, Step 3--If alive, we will be invited to the mayor's feast, Step 4--Once there, we will attempt to sneak out after dinner and find his hidden evil demiplane, Step 5--We then search the demiplane for a crux thing that will somehow help us open Delvehaven, if we survive..." We were asking why we couldn't Disjunction the wards on Delvehaven, but in the end we bit the bullet and just ignored verisimilitude to follow the rails (since we wanted to do the play).

Pacing-wise, a good number of endings of individual modules are not really satisfyingly endings in the way that in Runelords you could distinctively say that the current threat was gone after all three of the first modules, for instance. Sixfold Trial leaves you with the crux but the info for it is in WLiD. WLiD lets you kill a few mooks, but now you want to go after Ilnerik--pacingwise the Council's Pit Fiend plot in Part 4 is an annoying roadblock, as the PCs haven't definitively done anything major since eliminating the Bastards in Part 1, and all their work in 2 and 3 are put on hold for 4. If you have a party who is really into ending the Shadowbeast threat, this is going to mean that there is almost no downtime, as they continue onwards after Ilnerik. Thankfully our GM did Walcourt before the Mother of Flies--I recommend it to any GM who thinks their players can survive it.

Tied in to the above--if the PCs bite hard on eliminating the Shadow Curse, the Council of Thieves doesn't have as much stage presence as Ilnerik himself. Our GM did an amazing job of adding a new CoT member who specialized in psychological warfare to really demoralize the PCs and make us hate the Council. This saved the emotional flow of the campaign and made Part 6 awesome for us.

*Note--overall, I really enjoyed CoT, and our GM's improvements made it amazing. My criticism section was longer mostly because it's easy to remember the parts that stood out as weak when everything else is awesome. Rock on!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Our game was heavily customized and also a tbug-style "backwards path" (we played the leaders of an ambitious noble house). So our moments are unlikely to be duplicated, but here are a couple:

The murder-play was a lot more fun than I expected: the contrasts between the PCs and the roles they were playing were bizarre and funny. Those roles have cropped back up throughout the game--the PCs revert to them whenever they want a certain kind of publicity for what they're doing.

The PCs worked out a lot of what was going on, painful clue by clue, and then confronted Visendo Dravinge (pardon my spellings, I've never seen any of these names written down). That was awesome--it felt like the proper culmination of all that detective work. And Visendo's reaction ("I like how calm you're being about it--most new members of the Council get all upset") was also excellent.

The lead PC, Lily, at her first Council meeting as a member--the one where she exposed the doppleganger, the one where Visendo finally backed down Eirtein by saying "You'd better listen to this girl, she's going to be your next leader"--that was great too.

Ilnerich's death, at the hands of a PC priest of the Midnight Sun, was a total non-event as a fight but really intense as a roleplaying scene. (Ilnerich never did understand that the PC embraced his own death, even his death at Ilnerich's hands, if that would reunite the Aol. And this lack of understanding killed him.)

The time when the Arodenites were marching to the center of the city to announce their revolution, and were confronted by the Sixfold Survivors--"We'll fight, and if you win I will acknowledge Aroden and join your cause, but if you lose you are banished from Westcrown"--was one of the most tense fights ever. I don't know what Lily would have done if we'd lost! It would have been her utter political ruin.

The point at which we saw the full scope of the enemy plan, and it was apparent that we had missed by less than a day being recruited in on their side. (Though Lily is too ambitious to have been working for the bad guys forever, we might have had *quite* a different plotline for a while.) We had several sessions in a row of Lily saying "*I* should have done that! Damn, they're good!" I really like to see a smart NPC plan and this one was better than most.

Oh, and the time the GM grinned evilly and said, "Yes, it's a *house* spider."

Low points? We *hated* the Asmodean Knot. Had to go there twice. Would be happy if it vanished from the face of the earth, but the GM didn't run that part. Wasn't overly fond of Delvehaven either. Big dungeons don't really fit this campaign. We did Wallcourt disguised as the bad guys, which meant that it wasn't annoying--I think otherwise it might have been too. (Knowing the enemy plans, which we did by that point, is darned useful.)

The play was fun but the reason for doing it was exceptionally weak. If we had understood the structure of our backward path better we could have used "You need to do this to impress House Arvanaxi" and that would have been a lot smoother.

This was not the module's fault, but we botched Mother of Flies and never got to talk to the swamp-hag, and I regret that.

I want to write an essay about how Council of Thieves can be made to run better. We had a great game--for me the best Adventure Path yet--but it was in large part because we had a totally different party concept than expected, one much more tightly tied into what was going on. There was no "what's this plot about anyway?"--by the time we did Wallcourt Lily really did know enough to convincingly impersonate Chammidy, and also to wonder very much whether she should have sided with Chammidy rather than with the old Council.


Mary Yamato wrote:


I want to write an essay about how Council of Thieves can be made to run better. We had a great game--for me the best Adventure Path yet--but it was in large part because we had a totally different party concept than expected, one much more tightly tied into what was going on. There was no "what's this plot about anyway?"--by the time we did Wallcourt Lily really did know enough to convincingly impersonate Chammidy, and also to wonder very much whether she should have sided with Chammidy rather than with the old Council.

I would very much want to read this. Your take on CoT sounds sooo great, I would really like to do something like you did if I ever GM this AP, so any deeper information on your campaign would be most welcome :>


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I don't think I'm getting to the full-fledged essay, but here are a couple of thoughts:

What made this AP really shine for us was intense PC and player involvement in what was happening, much more than I think the main line will generally produce by itself. The key event was right at the start, where the PCs met the Children of Westcrown and realized that they were dangerous, hotheaded liabilities who needed to be redirected. The PCs roped them into a neighborhood watch system which they themselves rapidly took over and controlled. Much of the rest of the campaign grew out of the neighborhood watch--the Chain of Lights--and the PCs' attempts to parlay it into political power.

For this you need political PCs with a stake in the setting. This is a poor campaign, in my opinion, for standard out-of-town adventurers. (There aren't many APs where that conception fits well; Rise of the Runelords and Serpent's Skull, I guess.) We had the PCs as the younger generation of a failing Minor House whose older generation had recently died off. They were based in the Spera, so Spera economic progress fed back directly to them. The Chain of Lights literally started at their doorstep.

The lead PC also wanted to see her House become a Great House, which was a good long-term motivation. For example, module #2 could be motivated by presenting it as a way to get the Mayor's patronage, a valuable political and economic asset. (The motivation presented is very weak so it's good to find a better one.)

We then broke up the events of the AP, partly by mixing in Savage Tide #1 and #2 (they fit well) and partly by allowing the PCs to engage with elements of the BBG's plans earlier, when they were still small. The PCs drove a lot of this by identifying threats to the Chain of Lights and proactively going after them--we broke up a doppleganger factory, a doppleganger takeover of a Minor House, some gang action, several nests of dark creepers, etc. There was one largish assault on the Chain of Lights and a number of smaller ones, but more often the PCs had identified something that *would* be a threat before it turned into an overt one.

The Chain of Lights turned out to be an economic success and the PCs' House, skimming the profits, became steadily more significant in the city, leading eventually to recognition as a Great House and an offer for the lead PC to join the Council of Thieves. This is, in my opinion, *totally* where you want the PCs for the events of the late game. The Council is the body with the most at stake. It was particularly nice that Lily (lead PC) had been making recruiting attempts toward young members of the Great Houses exactly as Accardian had, only she was about a year behind him. (The PCs actually had an appointment to meet with Accardian the day after things blew up--he would have had his chance to recruit them.)

I don't know how to start off the campaign in order to point toward having a PC on the Council. The lead PC had that as a goal from the time she was aware that the Council was real, but that couldn't have been predicted by player or GM in advance. I do think it's more likely to happen if the PCs are driving more of the action, and that having them as stakeholders--which the Chain of Lights did very effectively-- does a lot to put them in the driver's seat.

My other concrete recommendation would be NOT to run module #4 where it is. Module #4 is totally reactive for the PCs--a disaster happens and they must respond--and it breaks up the coherent thread of PCs versus nightbeasts. My GM just skipped it. To our surprise, it is now happening halfway through #6 because the PCs forced it to happen (they deliberately removed the maintenance staff, knowing that the place might blow, because they felt they were in position to exploit the resulting chaos). As much as possible the flow of the AP should follow the PCs' agenda, not fight against it. #4 will probably work better after #5 than before it, with appropriate modification of difficulty. I know another poster's group did that with success.

The other thing unusual about our campaign was that the PC cleric was a cleric of the god that the Aol belongs to. (I don't know what the mainline calls him: we called him the Midnight Sun.) This made that whole thread matter a lot more. He ended up with the Morrowfall, of course, and we played up the idea that the Morrowfall is only marginally better for its user than the Totemrix. But I think that while fun, this was secondary to the Chain of Lights in making the game work. (And I'll warn that having what's arguably a demon-priest in Westcrown is not very easy. The PC party has two dark secrets--the cleric's deity and the lead PC's tieflingness--and I found it really hard to keep them.)

This set of PCs were neutral to evil. I don't think that's essential, but a strongly good orientation will need a different approach--good guys do not belong on the Council of Thieves, and will be more likely to wreck Westcrown's social fabric than try to preserve and manipulate it.

Andoran

Mary, I'm looking to do exactly this. Any furhter details you could provide as to what worked and what did not would be very much appreciated. I can't find the actual names of the twelve noble families, so I'm going to need to make one up for the PCs.


We are now farther along, and here's where I expect my players to go....a halfling revolutionary, a lawful monk of Torag, a tie fling urban Druid, and a new addition, an andoran paladin who is undercover.

We're going to break off from book 3, and detour into a1: slaver's stockade and tower of the last baron. That should get us most of the way to creating an underground railroad to free the slaves of Westcrown. Shutting down Ilnerik will be the final step.

Meanwhile, I took the advice elsewhere, and incorporated Mad God's Key into the game early. The Pcs befriended the Green Dagger guild, and have been selling their magical loot that direction. They will make their move soon, and that will allow me to introduce the Council. I think that being on the Council will be a good place to finish up, as per Mary above.


" detour into a1: slaver's stockade "

I'm coming late to this, but... A1? I love that module. I've run it in 1e, 2e, and 3.5. Would be happy to try it in PFRPG. And, yeah, it fights just fine in Cheliax (or anywhere you have slavers, really).

Doug M.

Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo Publishing / Pathfinder® / Pathfinder Adventure Path / Council of Thieves / What were your favorite / least favorite elements about Council of Thieves AP? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.

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