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New GM running Curse of the Crimson Throne. Need Advice.

Curse of the Crimson Throne

Hey all, like the title says I am a new GM, I have only run the beginner box stuff a couple times. I am getting ready to start Curse of the Crimson throne for my group and would like to know if there are any pitfalls that a newbie GM should look out for in the campaign?

This is actually a pretty good path for a noob GM. However:

1) It is D&D 3.5 instead of Pathfinder. Most of the time this makes no difference, because the two are very similar. However, there may be some minor differences in the final dungeon crawl. If you noodle around online you'll see plenty of conversions of NPCs and such.

2) Like all APs it's a good idea -- not strictly necessary, but a good idea -- to read at least the first couple of modules before starting to run. There are a lot of optional things you can invest in, from item cards to miniatures of the various NPCs. If I had to pick one I'd say the Guide to Korvosa, but none of them are really strictly necessary.

It's a fun AP. Enjoy!


Doug M.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber

Read... stay 2 books ahead so that the harrow readings can accurately foreshadow things.

If you plan to run as many harrow readings as mentioned, pick up the harrow deck. The tactile props make it seem real and bring the world to the players instead of making you bring the players into the world. If you don't feel comfortable making up a reading off the cuff, stack the deck and write it up beforehand.

Don't be afraid to let the PCs go off the track...

It took almost 3 game sessions of the PCs scouting Lamm's hideout before my group even went inside. One of the biggest complaints about edge of anarchy is that the PCs were expecting Lamm to be a typical BBEG, and he's one quick encounter. After that, some more headstrong PCs may not have a reason to stick together. Just be aware of this, and watch for plot twists that the group hands you. Don't be afraid to take notes at the table if needed

Lastly, don't be afraid to make a table ruling that you may need to look up after the session ends, if you feel that the flow of the story would suffer from the arguement

Silver Crusade

Like mentioned above, reading the entire AP will help a lot. The players' guide for this AP is really helpful for getting players onboard with the AP, particularly the campaign traits. The Guide to Korvosa can also really help bring the setting to life for your players, and letting them in on the publicly known info from that book can help get them to buy into the setting. There's a ton of additional resources here on the CotCT forums to pick from as well!

Don't be afraid to go away from what's written as well, according to your players' actions and interests and the group's preferences. You and your group might also prefer some alternate takes on this AP from the forums, though they'll require careful reading of the AP to maintain consistency. For example, someone here replaced Venster's part entirely with Zellara, with the latter fulfilling both her original role(minus the plot element of her dead son) and Venster's role in the background of the AP. She just couldn't remember entirely until the appropriate part of Crown of Fangs.

The most common complaints about CotCT, and YMMV on all of these:

1. It's sold largely as an urban campaign, and it is, but it does step out of the city for two whole volumes(into the wilderness for the first and a huge dungeon crawl in the second).

2. Some did find History of Ashes a bit too "railroady". Working to make the rails as hidden as possible will help you here. Also, having a Shoanti PC or NPC follower can do wonders with making this part mesh better with the rest of the AP.

3. Skeletons of Scarwall is huge. Awesome, but it can wear out its welcome for many players. Don't be afraid to cut some content here if dungeon crawlin' isn't their thing. Interactions with the NPCs that tag along for this adventure can help alleviate the grind a LOT if the players go for it.

The one thing I absolutely required from my group when I ran this was that each of their characters had to truly care about Korvosa in some way. It helps keep the party motivated beyond the initial Lamm part that brings them together, even if being tasked by the queen herself with protecting the city isn't enough to get 'em goin'.

Another thing that this AP really benefits is if the group, GM and players alike, avoid extreme black-and-white mentalities towards the game. This AP and the setting itself is awash in shades of grey, and while there are plenty of truly despicable villains and truly noble heroes, there's also a lot of complicated issues and characters that can be a joy to explore. Players that roll with a "it's evil, kill it" mentality, or GMs that enforce it, will miss a lot of the potential this AP has to offer. For those that don't, this AP offers a LOT to play with.

Here's a few tips, make up a list of "random" encounters. Create a list, with the stats all set up before hand so you can throw them in quickly if you need them.

Make another list of all the NPCs in CotCT, try to sum them up in a few sentences; craft a personality for each one based off what is in the book. How are you going to run each one? How will they respond to questions or to certain personalities/races? What do they know about Korvosa and the region? Some of these are answered in the books themselves, but not always.

Make sure to read through and study each book in detail before play. Try to make notes of a timeline of things that happen. For instance, the introduction of the Grey Maidens in Seven Days to the Grave, I thought was a little odd as there was no hint of it in the first book, something that confused the players and I a little. Another example of something to drop a hint of, is at the beginning of Escape from Old Korvosa, they mention Old Korvosa being quarantined during the plague, but it wasn't mentioned in Seven Days.

This references the first rule, but during History of Ashes, make a large list of things that could happen that the PCs may witness or encounter. Things like watching an Angel of Storms (a tornado that mostly forms during a wildfire and picks up burning brush and ash; my players saw one of these and felt the same awe and fear the Shoanti did and joined them kneeling in prayer when it passed nearby), or watching a group of Shoanti hunt and kill aurochs. If you're going to use the Cinderlander as an enemy, really make him a thorn in their side with constant hint and run attacks.The random encounters in HoA can be so very different in nature.

One that I used is the PCs were following mysterious tracks of a group of animals in which some of the tracks of the animals would appear and disappear following the same path. They were being tracked by Phase Spiders at the same time, and when the Spiders attacked, they engaged in a very creepy, spooky method. Vanishing and reappearing at random places, charging a PC only to got ethereal just before hitting etc. trying to appear as hostile spirits and really creep them out. They were unnerved and slightly off guard for when the attack actually happened and they were in a tight spot. Turns out the PCs had unintentionally messed up an ambush set by a large pack of Blink Dogs (both creatures make home in the Cinderlands) and the Blink Dogs came to the PCs aid. They ended up befriending the Blink Dogs afterward and they loved the encounter.

Make sure to handle the end fight in HoA very carefully. It doesn't say so in the module, but the Assassins aren't stupid people. Cinnabar has been spying on them through magical methods and it's very possible she may have picked up on some of their tactics. We had an Oracle of Fire in the party that loved throwing fireballs and other things around. To help counter this, the Cinnabar ordered to have kegs of oil dropped by the gargoyles onto the Flameford camp.

I haven't yet run Skeletons of Scarwall yet, though I've been doing a lot of studying into the module itself so that I am very familiar with the castle. I'll be doing the same with Crown of Fangs.

The final bit of advice is that you make sure to re-make each enemy and update them to Pathfinder RPG rules. I've seen a lot of conversions online, and I've used a few of them, but I had to make sure to look over each conversion because, sometimes, the people just threw out the normal method of creating an enemy and gave them ability scores or DCs that didn't fit in with normal game mechanics. I really liked Father Dale's conversions and Steve42's are good as well, though I would advise caution on Dale's as some of his don't follow normal mechanics and are very powerful and deadly monsters. The Cinderlander, for example, is one I would mention, and one I ended up re-re-designing but followed his same basic set up. My PCs HATED when he'd be riding by on his horse with a Repeating Crossbow of Speed.

Tels and Mikaze pretty much hit every nail on the head. I will reiterate only 1 - You need to develop the close ties Mikaze metioned between the party and the city. You can't rely on the Lamm connection to do that for you. My method was to kill-off or harm some of the PC's connections/family, but I am certain you can come up with a few others.

Of the first three PF AP I feel this one is the best so enjoy it!

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

As the PCs go up in level, consider giving them some property in the city as well. Let them flesh out their own shop, guildhall, whatever to make them REALLY attached to the city.

Our GM did that (I was a player in CotCT) and it worked perfectly. We would have gone to hell and back to protect the little soup kitchen/butcher shop we set up and scraped together money for. :)

(NOTE: and my 16th level cleric went back there and is still running the place in his retirement. If you're in Korvosa, just stop by "Heavenly Meats" and ask for Alex. But don't start any trouble...) :)

walter mcwilliams wrote:
Tels and Mikaze pretty much hit every nail on the head. I will reiterate only 1 - You need to develop the close ties Mikaze metioned between the party and the city. You can't rely on the Lamm connection to do that for you.


If the PCs' only motivation for adventuring is to get revenge on Lamm, it'll be a short adventure path!

Hmm, I didn't need the close ties as much as others did, I managed to play off the actions of Ileosa and others as suitably evil and horrific they couldn't NOT oppose her. I did some messed up things, like really role-playing out the Plague Doctors in the end of Seven Days. When they made the assault on the Hospice, the Plague doctors all put daggers to the throats of patients and told them to surrender or the patients died. Many patients ended up dieing in direct response to the actions of the PCs. I tell you, I've seen some nasty stink eyes in my life, but 6 people giving you the best stink eyes of their life is a quite a sight.

However, now that I think about it, the initial characters did have stronger ties than just Lamm, but they were first time players (never played an RPG game in their life before this) and didn't really role-play much.

As a player and GM, Curse of the Crimson Throne is the most fun I've had in an RPG to date. The story, the NPCs, the encounters are all amazing and flow together in such a wonderful way. In a lot of ways, Curse is a very easy AP to run as you don't need a lot of rule books, mostly just the Players and Besitary, though I would suggest picking up a Harrow deck. I try to buy everything through our local Hobby Store (fully knowing I can get it cheaper online), and I placed an order for a Harrow deck shortly after I started Curse. That was a year ago, and it only came in 4 days ago because of back orders and lazy distributors. I've got it now, and it has made my attempts at Harrowing a lot easier.

Tels wrote:
Hmm, I didn't need the close ties as much as others did, I managed to play off the actions of Ileosa and others as suitably evil and horrific they couldn't NOT oppose her.

"Close ties" wouldn't be the way I'd phrase it. I'd just point out that an adventure path requires adventurers, not just vengeful civilians.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Pawns Subscriber

We're just finishing Skeletons of Scarwall, and both the PCs and I have adored the entire campaign, even the much-maligned "History of Ashes".

Three things have made the campaign extremely enjoyable:
(1) The richness of the NPCs.
Familiarize yourself with the NPCs, their motivations, and how they might react to something. The Guide to Korvosa is immensely helpful. My party had already settled down in the Three Rings tavern before Cressida even suggested it because I'd allowed them to read the public section of the guide so they'd be familiar with Korvosa "like natives". It also made them love Korvosa, which is really of key importance for this campaign. We had a LONG sidebar of the wizard evacuating his family from Korvosa for their protection, which added immensely to the party's sense of closeness and consideration of Korvosa as "home".


His background was that Lamm had crippled his father because his father had taken out a loan from Lamm to pay for the wizard's training at the Academy. It made it a particularly poignant scene, and spectacular when his Poison Frog (Summon Monster I, baby!) critical hit Lamm down to 1 HP, Lamm fumbled his poison save, and that was the end of him.

I think the greatest testament to this was in "A History of Ashes". A grossly-underpowered NPC joins the group. They took her along, she got killed, and the party took her corpse AND THEN PAID WITH THEIR OWN MONEY to get her resurrected. Now THERE'S an NPC!

(2) The open-endedness of the campaign.
My group has taken weeks off at a time to travel Varisia, going to Riddleport and Magnimar to shop and explore. Add wandering monsters and they've had a jolly old time. (Nothing like being an 8th-level party travelling the rivers and finding out you really are much tougher than most of the stuff out there).


(3) The dual nature of many of the NPCs.
Laori Vaus and Shadowcount Sial are a blast to GM. I have a paladin of Iomedae in the party, and we had to roleplay out his decision as to whether to kill or trust Laori. And there's where Mikaze's comment comes in: I am not an "absolutist" GM. The paladin made demands of Laori: "While you are with us you will not cause unnecessary harm to any being we encounter. You will not mutilate or re-animate the corpses. Yada yada yada." Since Laori needed the party more than they needed her, she agreed, and since she's lawful, she abided by her end of the bargain and now they have long arguments as to whether helping or torturing people is the best way to improve their lot in life. The paladin's convinced he can "save" her, and she has a blast tormenting him psychologically. It's a hoot, but it only works if your PCs are willing to see that not everything with an "E" in its alignment chart has to be killed immediately.

Anyway, I have added vast amounts of content to the campaign just because the richness of the world in that area has made it really easy for me, and the group really, really, REALLY doesn't want the campaign to end. (We're going on 5 months now, and we're only in Scarwall).

So yeah, it's the best AP I've run from any game system, but as GM you have to be on your toes and keep your NPCs in character. Then it'll be a blast!

Silver Crusade

Admittedly, I could have used some of the advice the good folk of the community doled out here before I started this one with my Saturday group!

I would advise reading the "flavoring" in the back of the booklets. (Example: Understanding the Shoanti through the "journal" fic helped me later in the series.)

My biggest problem has honestly been trying to find the monsters that are referenced from the 3.5 stuff! I've been taking my laptop along and using the PRD for assistance.

I'm not looking forward to memorizing Scarwall or the queen's castle areas...that's a lot of work and I'm going to have to pre-prep like mad.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber

I, too am using this AP as my first GM experience. I do have to say that I found the story awesome from the first time i picked it up.

Like the others on this board have mentioned, if you have the time I'd highly recommend reading through the CotCT messageboards here. There are a lot of questions answered and pitfalls exposed within them. There are suggestions for encounters as well as alternate ways to play certain NPCs or situations that could work out better than originally written. I've gathered an arsenal of information and ideas to integrate into my campaign.

Good luck, and keep us posted!

I am too a first time GM running this campaign with a group of friends, most of which have never played pen'n'paper RPGs before, and its really been a blast.

Picked up Edge of Anarchy at a con and blazed through it. Before I knew it, I had read through the whole AP and just had to find someone to play this with.

Already found a lot of good tips and ideas here, including updated stat-blocks (which I was barely aware of before coming here)

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Pawns Subscriber
Oragada wrote:

I am too a first time GM running this campaign with a group of friends, most of which have never played pen'n'paper RPGs before, and its really been a blast.

Picked up Edge of Anarchy at a con and blazed through it. Before I knew it, I had read through the whole AP and just had to find someone to play this with.

Already found a lot of good tips and ideas here, including updated stat-blocks (which I was barely aware of before coming here)

As I mentioned (and Tels clarified on), the "big one" is getting the characters enough experience to progress at the appropriate pace. The stat blocks are definitely secondary; I used the 3.5 stat blocks with my group for the first 3 modules, and the players (my wife and 2 kids on their first PF game EVER) found them challenging enough; you'll find that the conversion from 3.5 to PF gives the villains more HP and a better chance to hit, which doesn't always work well with novice players who don't know how to mini-max, optimize spells, or even play their strengths to best advantage. Our bard (my wife) is finally using her talents to ruthless, brutal advantage, but it took 4 modules to get there. (And if you're a GM who doesn't have a bard in your PC party, count yourself lucky -- they're downright NASTY when they know what they're doing).

The biggest thing I did for my group was to add "mini adventures" between each adventure to let the group bond, give them extra EXP, and add to the story. After Edge of Anarchy, they had extra cleanup to do under the city, including an otyugh, a carrion crawler (they had to flee from it), and some darros. After Old Korvosa, the group traveled on foot to Magnimar, had a party in Harse interrupted by Mantises, and then went again on foot across the entire Cinderlands, gathering PLENTY of experience and encountering all kinds of NPCs not in the modules. After History of Ashes, the group traveled first to Magnimar to resurrect their dead NPC, then returned and defended the Shoanti from an invading orc army (Cloudkill vs. army of 1st-level troops = bad).

They've finished Scarwall and returned to Korvosa, only to be confronted with the wholesale slaughter of the resident pseudodragons on top of everything that's in the module. The bard has vowed vengeance (she spent the entire campaign playing songs for the pseudodragons every night so that they would trust her and be her 'eyes in the sky'), so before Crown of Fangs even starts there is going to be an imp genocide that I'm REALLY looking forward to GM'ing. (Yes, she happens to have a paladin with a bonded composite bow, so "It's raining (dead) imps" keeps running through my mind...)

In short, what happens BETWEEN the modules is just as important as what happens IN them. Don't sell that part short.

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