|Sam Polak RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8|
I wouldn't do it. Why did you buy the middle modules of the AP for, if your group suddenly decides it wants to do something at level seven which everybody else in the world has failed to do successfully for thousands of years?
I would impress upon that group what a bad idea this is.
Well to be fair, PCs do stuff noone else has before fairly often... and he's not the only one I've seen with this issue. The other one was in Golarion and they wanted to charter a ship through/past Arcadia, despite the problems mentioned. Not sure what they ended up doing.
I changed the thug ambush to a ninja ambush, on a whim since the players said we expect this when approaching the temple to reunite with the guides companion...
very bad move lost 2 characters and should have lost a 3rd (ninja moved away from just downed character rather then making sure of the kill)
should not have listened to the players paranoia and then played on it,
i'm surprised about how little xp the pc's have admittedly i'm running for 6 people but no one is 5th level yet and they are heading to ravenscrag
Anyone got suggestions for story xp which is easy to miss?
1) I think the adventure paths are worth buying even if I don't use everything in them. In the case of the middle module, I can always take salient plot points and adapt them.
2) If I didn't want PCs to eventually cross those mountains, I shouldn't have put them in. Not only is trying to do the impossible par for the course for PCs, but it can be a lot of fun when I have to adapt the game to fit a new path.
Sorry, but in my case I buy the AP's for their content. I simply have a different mindset here. I'd hate to have to work up all that extra content by myself and discard all the good stuff from the third and fourth module.
Just because I don't use it right away doesn't mean it gets discarded. At the very least, I'll have to transfer major plot scenes and adapt them to fit the current scenario. Anything else I like will probably get worked into future adventures down the line.
The plot of Hungry Storm at least is pretty much self contained. The only 'necessary' event (and there's a good chance if the caravan stats are good enough it won't even happen) is the caravan getting attacked/infiltrated by an oni. THat's only necessary to give Suishen a chance to level up too.
Charlie Brooks wrote:
This. Exactly this. If I don't use a part of an AP or miss out an encounter I can slot it into future campaigns when I need some filler or a side quest or something.
As a GM, a lot of my enjoyment comes from linking plotlines together and finding encounters that fit the storyline or area the PCs are in and using them in an evocative way to introduce or elaborate upon the culture or history of the region.
I'll second all of that. Of course, I don't know that I have the right to play the "as a GM" card yet. Prior to running this AP, my experience with tabletop play was limited to a single 3.5 campaign run by a friend, and a quick playthrough of We Be Goblins. It's something I'd always wanted to try, but never had an opportunity for. The friend who introduced my husband and me to 3.5 hates GMing, so I volunteered to learn the ropes and do it for us. I stumbled across Pathfinder while looking to buy 3.5 resources, and ended up here.
At first I ran everything by the book, but I figured out quickly that there was just so much *more* I could do with stuff. Plus, since we're ALL learning as we go, I figure I've messed up enough anyway that sticking directly to the book doesn't matter so much right now :).
All of that said, I've done some pretty massive edits to The Hungry Storm. I started off using the tweaked CR stats someone else suggested, but the boys still hated caravan combat. So I went to rolling out all of the encounters ahead of time, charting them on a calendar, and converting combat to straight PC encounters. I handled all the other caravan rolls on my own time, and then filled in the travel bits with role play opportunities.
My biggest changes, though, were to the second half of the book. I knew the boys were going to hate the repetition of the yeti caves, and I also knew I wanted to compensate for some of the poor character choices we made in ignorance early on. So I hacked up what was there, along with the "No Response from Deepmar" module, and came up with this:
So I started my tweaking with the Storm Tower. In areas M3 and M4, I gave the plant matter a more cultivated appearance, and included a frost loving variant of cytillesh, from NRD.
I also included a trap door in the floor of M3, which lead down into a recently collapsed tunnel under the sludge lake. This was, until just recently, a highway of sorts between the necropolis and the tower.
I removed the cold damage from the Frost Phantoms, and instead added cytillesh extract poison to their bites. The memory loss was a TON of fun to play.
Because we're all so new to this, we've needed a little hand holding. It's a big shift in mindset to go from RPG style video games to something as open ended as Pathfinder, so a lot of possibilities just aren't obvious to us. As such, I opted to play a character touched by Desna to sometimes guide the group toward rabbits they don't realize they're allowed to chase. I know that's not a problem for most of you, and I'm sure there's a much more elegant way to handle it, but it's worked for us.
Anyway, when Koya suggested heading to the necropolis, I did my "speaking for Desna" bit and told them that the sacred site had been perverted by dark forces, and that if they could overcome the evil lurking there, she would reward them beyond their wildest dreams.
I eliminated the tie-in with Fumeiyoshi, and completely removed the yeti caves. Instead, the skull cairns bore the three fingered symbol of Sithhud and were covered with cytillesh growths. The yeti cave was replaced by the cave system from NRD.
The Derro are working with Katiyana because she's promised to completely block out the sun with the morozkos, thus allowing them to dwell above ground. Their work with the icy chytillesh variant is meant to augment the undead army that Katiyana is raising, giving her further control of the North as she seeks to bring about Sithhud's return to power.
The captives are a mix of Erutaki, Yeti, and unfortunate Tian adventurers. Katiyanna will still be possessing Bormurg, but his throne area will have been removed in favor of a more elaborate altar/shrine to Sithhud.
When the PCs are ready to leave the necropolis, they'll have a divine encounter with Desna. She'll commend them for reconsecrating the site, and offer them three gifts: a boon, a vision, and a choice. The boon will be a teamwork feat. The vision will be a staged harrow reading with specific clues for things I think will prove tricky in the upcoming books. And the choice will be "The Path of Wisdom" (a chance to learn from their adventure and re-choose 2 feats and 3 spells) or "The Path of Chance"(a single draw from the Harrow Deck of Many Things). I already *think* I know which they'll choose. The Path of Wisdom will allow one of the PCs to "redo" some poor character choices that he's since come to regret now that we understand the game better, and the Path of Chance will just be hella-fun. We should reach this point tonight, and I'm excited to see what happens :D.
I can't compare this AP to others, as this is our first. But so far we're absolutely loving it. It's been a great way to jump in and learn the game.
Before I get tagged as unimaginative or somesuch, I have very little time anymore to make up my own stuff. I used to run homebrew campaigns for years, but at this point in my life I simply don't have time anymore for that. So I want a well balanced pre-written adventure which I can put before my players. And in the "well-balanced" department Paizo has been leaning quite heavily on the "make it work for noob groups" department, as far as I am concerned. Really tough encounters seldomly happen ( and when they do, it can happen in incongrous places, like random bridges in Carrion Crown ).
Eh, sorry for the tangent about game difficulty. I've been dealing with a very well optimized party for the last months and it's gotten to me.
But personally I wouldn't encourage the group to straight up deviate from the pre-written stuff in such a major way, because I cannot spare the time anymore to think up a whole new journey. Also, the journey as written already is pretty cool.
My group is in Brinewall castle now, having found the back door and having the battle with the creature there turn on a lucky crit. I've had to pump up the monsters considerably (making trogs all advanced trogs, adding another ogre and making them both advanced) to keep them challenged (we have 5 PCs and a Luckbringer/Cleric NPC). They hit Brinewall at 3rd level due to a few road encounters and a memorable chase in Riddleport (during which they angered the Sczarni, and that will make for a fun trip home). I haven't decided about how to handle the harpy's possible betrayal yet but I like the idea of her wanting the Pazuzu statue (which is currently being carried by the very pissed-off wizard) and willing to take it and go.
We've also pretty much scrapped the caravan fight rules and just have straight fights instead around the wagons.
Just started part three of Brinewall Legacy.
Part 1 : Played it pretty much as planned, though the characters missed the Soggy River Monstr and bypassed Old Megus's shack by building a raft to float along the waterways.
Part 2 : The Caravan. I used some of the extra caravan events and bumped the chance of encounter to 25%/day. Since the players were eager for some XPs and real action instead of the basic caravan rules, I made a special encounter while they camped near Churlwood Forest. In the middle of the night, a dire elk plowed out of the woods and charged through the caravan. The characters attacked it with arrows but noticed it already had several arrows in it. Once they dropped the elk (it was running away really), the quickly realized that they were poison arrows and Shalelu recognized goblin designs. They figured the goblin hunting party would slowly follow, letting the poison do the dirty work. Later on, ten goblins and one hobgoblin archer came along and lost the fight against the PCs. Early the following morning, while the mist was still hanging near the ground, the saw that a dozen angry shoanti warriors were standing in front of the caravan, wondering what they should do with them. The shoanti leader was curious of the caravan's act against a sacred animal. Our chelaxian fighter calmly pointed towards the goblin heads she put on spikes as a warning and explained about the poison arrows and that the group's druid purified the elk's body. This appeased the shoanti, and long story short they shared the bounty of the elk's body. Figuring that the shoanti would use 100% of the carcass, they left the caravan use some of the meat to feed themselves for the next day. The could've carried the antlers (caravan hood ornament?), but decided they were too cumbersome.
Other unexpected caravan event was the young fugitive boy who killed his employer/slaver in Roderic's Cove and stowed away in Koya's wagon. They found him, and bless Koya's big heart, they kept him. Not much later, the horse riders came with accusations, but they kept him hidden and with mention of Sandru's family name (to his annoyance), they left the caravan alone. In any other town, save for Riddleport, it wouldn't have worked, but we're talking about pirates and den of thieves here. He's now a barely competent cook for the caravan (he'll cost 0 food overall), but if he pulls any crazy s~%@, he's out on his own.
Part 3: Brinewall castle. Players went over the wall instead of through the gate, killed a few corbies, found Zaiobe with whom they forged a quick alliance (the PCs are an all female group, so Zaiobe was far more cooperative). They dropped Kikonu in a single round (godly dice rolls) and quickly used fire to finish him off. So now I'm adding a dire corby bard "director" for the corbies practicing the play in the throne room. My director will have a old silk scarf around his neck and a director's "baton" (club) to give directions (hitting them). I'll have him doing some bardic support during the fight (performance, spells: daze (0); hypnotism, charm person, etc.). The PCs are one fight away from 3rd level, so they'll be able to handle it.
Night of the Frozen Shadows
Based on some suggestions from these boards, I've made a few changes:
Major NPCs (Ameiko, Sandru, etc)
Too many dead ends
All the major bad guys were packed into Ravenscraeg
I may do the group split-up thing as well. I would like the NPCs to contribute something more than they have so far. I may even split the PCs into two groups, with some NPCs accompanying each. I don't like to split the PCs very much (too much waiting around while the other group adventures) but it might be kind of fun that way.
Good call on Too Many Dead Ends. I am getting ready to run NoFS for my party, and I was thinking exactly the same thing. I was debating where to have them hook up with Helgarval, and I think Asvig's farm is a perfect.
I may have to leave all the bad guys in Ravenscraeg. I have a pretty big party, and I may have been too nice with the goodies early on. Having them all packed in together should make for a nice, challenging encounter.
I foreshadowed the Rimerunner's Guild a bit for my players prior to them leaving Sandpoint and heading north. I did it by inserting a Rimerunners' Guildhouse into Magnimar. My justification for doing this? The Rimerunners' Guild in the LotLK is essentially a massive fencing operation for Ulfen raiders to ditch their plunder. Therefore, the increased interest in Xin-Shalast down in Varisia also impelled the Rimerunners to set up shop in the city of monuments.
The way I used the guild was to give the PCs a nudge out the door and on the road to Brinewall.
Behind the scenes (in my head):
, the guild heard some of the rumors of fireworks and goblins. And as the PCs explored Brinestump, a few nuggets of their exploits made their way into the right/wrong ears. A few communiques were sent north, followed by a not so subtle...find out more!
So the Rimerunners started questioning around about the PCs and the goings on in Brinestump Marsh. They made first contact with the PCs via an intermediary (I used the Sandpoint Scarzni, which also helped me weave Sandru in a bit, and unlimber some of his and Koya's backstory on the PCs). I tried to keep everything non-threatening but slightly ominous. The PCs politely rebuffed the request to inform the Scarzni where they had found the wrecks in Brinestump Marsh.
The second point of contact involved an actual member of the Rimerunner's guild (a grunt level errand boy) asking if the players would be willing to consign the treasure that they had found thus far, and any future hauls to the Rimerunner's guild for a price (which was about 10% over the calculated value of the treasure that I tallied up). The PCs were a bit less cordial, and sent the guy packing. The money was good, but Players don't like giving away treasure they haven't found yet, no matter the price...in my experience anyway.
My final point of contact was to have a ranking member of the guild and a number of hand picked bullies confront the PCs and Ameiko in the Rusty Dragon. They have determined that Ameiko is a Kaijitsu, and thus a person of interest. I monologue a bit about the guild's masters being very interested in her life story. The PCs and Ameiko have read "the letter" by this point, and so they know that they may need to step up plans to leave town early. Luckily Sandru's caravan was planning on leaving in a couple days already...time to stomp some Rimerunner's Guild bullies.
Behind the scenes:
, the Rimerunners launched their own search of the marsh at the same time the PCs were approached by the Scarzni. Then, shortly after the PCs sent the Guild envoy packing (with some wine in his face), they found the Kaijitsu shipwrecks. It was then only a matter of time before the guild learned of the Kaijitsu family (since they had a residence in Magnimar and all that). Determined to get any potential clues pointing them at any survivors of the Amatatsu fleet, the Rimerunners decided to stop playing nice and make an overt move against the PCs, and young Ameiko Kaijitsu.
The PCs put down the slap-n-take crew and then were off and away with Sandru's caravan before the sun came up the next morning. By the time the Frozen Shadows learned about what happened, the PCs and Ameiko Ryuu, as she began calling herself, were well on their way to Brinewall to figure out why people wanted Ameikos family destroyed so badly...
I don't know how well it'll actually pay out in Night of Frozen Shadows, but I have a feeling that my players will try and keep things on the down low once they get to Kalsgard, and start to investigate in the home territory of the Rimerunners' Guild. I figure it'll also make some of the actions of the guild/ninjas make sense and generate some "these m---- f---- knew we were coming and took the last unafiliated guide!!"
In the end I at least had a good push out the front door for the PCs, and I won't have to spend a great deal of time in part 2 stressing how powerful and important the Rimerunners are.
Here's a caravan encounter I created after digging through the various sourcebooks (requires some familiarity with the Harrow deck). No real effect on the characters, but it gives some insight on things to come:
The caravan meets with another Varisian caravan going in the opposite direction. Ameiko notices that they have a harrower and asks to have her fortune told.
The harrower prepares the cards as usual. As she is about to pick her card, a sudden gust of wind blows the card out of her hand and drops it face down on the ground. No other cards were affected by the gust. Sense Motive checks confirm that the harrower is just as surprised as everyone else (if not more), in a "That's *never* happened before!" sense. The harrower tells Ameiko to pick up the card without looking at it and place it on the table face down.
The harrower places the other cards and asks Ameiko to flip over her card last. The card revealed is the Empty Throne. (A coincidence that it's an actual Harrow deck card and the last book of the AP?) ;-)
Had I been more familiar with the Harrowing rules, I would've tweaked the encounter more. But I went with a generalized "I will tell of your past, present and future" harrowing.
My party started Jade Regent by playing We Be Goblins, but this seems like a pretty common alteration to the storyline.
The party got drunk at the Rusty Dragon and stormed into the swamp to kill dragons in a fit of drunken bravado. Along the way their buzz died and they fell asleep before making it into the swamp. They did the swamp in two separate trips - the first involving Walthus, the goblin village, and the cave; the second involving the sin-eater and Old Megus (they wanted to be thorough). The second trip was side-tracked by the appearance of some Hush Men from Riddleport who were stalking one of the PCs (back stories). This resulted in a side-track to Riddleport to "bargain" with Boss Groat. It didn't end well, and the party barely escaped, though the wizard was killed.
The elemental wizard's dying wish (written out by the PC ahead of time) was to be laid to rest in a semi-dormant volcano out in the Barren Lands, so we had side-track #2 involving a dormant volcano and a mad redcap (shades of Return of the King in that final battle).
My party really took to the caravan rules and began tracking the caravan obsessively. One PC took the reins (literally) on this; another PC took accounts of gathered treasure. What's gonna work? Teamwork!
The Brinewall Castle also went a little astray. After scouting through the village (meeting Spivey), the party discovered the secret entrances and entered the castle via the far-west passage (clearing out the entire basement level save for the decapus and rescuing Kelda at the same time). Kelda and her lover (female barbarian, new PC to the group) reunited, and the gang shrewdly decided to re-enter the castle via the OTHER secret door, taking the decapus by surprise, claiming all of his treasure, including the gem of summon elemental. They then regrouped for a THIRD foray into the castle, and this time scaled the front wall and came into the main courtyard. I ruled that the denizens of the castle were paranoid at this point that something evil was stalking them in the castle.
The big battle went down without much interactions - Zaiobe, Nevakali, and Kikonu all went head-to-head with the rest of the grunts against the PCs. A summoned stone elemental (via the aforementioned gem found earlier) proved to be the tide-turner in the battle. The PCs found their way down into the dungeon after some consternation, battled the undeadies, and emerged victorious. All the NPCs stayed at the caravan throughout.
After the battle, one of the gang went off with Spivey for new (and unpublished) adventures. A PC wants to change things up a bit, and their GM doesn't want 30+ NPCs to track.
Now we're in Kalsgard. The team (nicknamed The Rusty Dragons and their Rusty Wagons) have attracted some attention for themselves (selling the boat, asking the wrong people the wrong questions, etc) and I've also gone with Kelda being kidnapped instead of someone else (though I kidnapped her with the 'Ransacked Room' trigger). The group's about to check out the funeral boat (after gutting Asvig and friends) this weekend - we shall see where we go from here...I could say more, but occasionally my PCs read these threads!
Forgive me; I love reading and sharing DnD stories. Tweaks I’ve made:
I didn’t care for how the decapus utilized the minor image at the start of the final battle in Brinewall Keep. Reading it, I thought to myself "Who in their right mind would believe a brand new person claiming to be the herald of the death god insisting they must put down all their weapons before venturing forth?" So what I did is have the image request the party first restore the defiled crypt in exchange for a divine reward and perhaps some guidance. Place the bodies back in the tombs, use mend extensively, etc. Nothing makes a party believe they are entitled to a reward than a side-quest. I told the party that the entire restoration took the better part of an hour, meanwhile the image watched with god-like patience. Then I explained to the party that the disc they sought was hidden in a secret alcove with an illusion concealing it further in the cave that was triggered by weapons. When I got the expected confused looks, I explained that the builders of the secret alcove realized all tomb raiders were typically armed, so in case the keep ever fell, it was the best trigger to avoid the alcove being found and is the reason why the concealed treasure is as of yet undisturbed. The party went for it, hook, line, and sinker. Thankfully, the party decided only one member should drop all their weapons and go looking for the supposed alcove further in the cavern; otherwise it most likely would have been a TPK.
Had the party seen through the ruse, the backup plan was to have the decapus cast a new illusion (go go at will abilities) of a kingly looking human man covered in symbols of Brinewall, congratulate the party on seeing through the illusion, and claim to be the outward expression of an intelligent magic item further in the cavern with the ability to cast illusions a certain amount of times per day (currently taking the form of the item's maker). The illusion of the divine herald and the task of restoring the crypt would be explained away as a test of the intentions of the party to ensure they were good, allowing the illusion to do so without endangering itself or prematurely jeopardizing the security of the disc the magic item was stored with. In fact, the magic item would have revealed all this to them after they recovered him, but it didn’t want to risk its first chance at being rescued in so many years by coming clean too soon. The item would explain it has a limited range at which it can cast its illusions, and that its illusions were how it perceived the outside world. As such, it has known only dark empty caverns and this crypt for the decades it has resided here since the fall of Brinewall. Therefore, the party would know full well they were talking to an illusion, but still may believe the illusion to be sincere (the decapus has a nice bluff skill) and go along with it.
Failing that, the decapus would just attack.
My party fell for the first illusion, accused me of be a cruel evil b@st@rd, and thanked me for an extremely memorable final battle.
Side note: Remember to use the decapus’ illusions in battle too. I had him do an illusion of stoneshaping the entrance to the cavern closed when the sorcerer turned to flee. Despite knowing by now that the monster they faced was great at illusions, none of them suspected the stoneshaping was another illusion until the fight was already over. I thought about pestering them with illusions throughout the fight, but they had a rough enough go of it as is, so I held back.
Brinewall Keep – Andril (wight):
One of my players (the samurai) took the campaign trait where he is Ameiko’s childhood best friend. This player also wanted to be a true Tian samurai, not a Varisian who just happened to take the class. Since the Amatsus went to such great lengths to destroy all traces of their true identities, it didn’t make much sense for him to already know Ameiko’s destiny. Therefore, I made his family bound to protect Ameiko’s through the generations, but his own family had lost the reason why as the PC’s grandfather died before passing on that detail to the PC’s father.
So when they get to the Andril fight, I made it to where the former captain of the guard and wight was in fact the PC’s dead grandfather. The samurai PC made rolls each round on his turn to recognize the family resemblance. On the second or third round he made the check and I switched the fight to a story one. I made the sword on Andril’s hip a +1 keen katana, made it the PC’s family sword, and made the reason Andril never drew it during the fight was due to the disgrace of what he had become preventing him from being able to touch the family relic. He believed the sword would be his burden to bear, his constant reminder of his failings, for all time.
I kept the dialogue vague to confuse the other PC’s and not diminish the vision at the end of the adventure. “My line continues?”, “What of our charge, are they secret? Are they safe?!”, etc. Ultimately, the wight asked his grandson for one final measure of honor. The party went through the whole seppuku, and I learned how little I really knew about it. All in all, it was a great game session and I’m pretty sure the samurai will continue to use this sword even after suishen is found. Which is fine, I plan on have the samurai’s grandfather’s soul inhabit the sword, granting it empathy soon, intelligence later, and gradually more powerful abilities. The samurai got a weaker item out of the final chest than the rest of the party, for balance reasons, but don’t think he minded
edit: removed one since it had potential spoilers for my party and didn't want them to see it. I'll repost it after they finish NoFS.
I wasn’t sure what to do with The Hungry Storm until I read Under Frozen Stars.
My modified back story for The Hungry Storm:
In primordial Golarion, as the elder ones retreated to their last city at the north pole, they created there an intelligent computer called SITHHUD to help control the climate via a network of weather-altering machines. SITHHUD continued to operate long after the elder ones abandoned their nameless spires, and as more humans ventured into the frozen north, the legend grew of intelligent “hungry storms,” or morozkos, descending from the high ice to wreck settlements. Eventually in the age of enthronement, a small team of expert hunters led by the Erutaki hero Ihalik managed to reach SITHHUD and damage it, limiting its control over the morozkos. Legend, of course, named SITHHUD a demon rather than a machine. The Five Storms Oni knew of these legends, and when they learned the Amatatsu family had fled across the crown of the world, they dispatched one of their Ja Noi generals from Kaoling to see if he could return the lord of the hungry storms to power. When he arrived at the storm tower, the Oni didn’t know where to start repairing the alien technology, but he succeeded in releasing a portion of SITHHUD’s power source-- a half-fiend sylph imprisoned there, sleeping away the long millennia in a crystal tube. Once free, Katiyana laughed gleefully at the Oni’s offer to aid her, and rather than turn against SITHHUD, she styled herself as its high priestess. Katiyana immediately set about salvaging the technology of the elder ones and distributing it to the various monsters inhabiting the crown. Those monsters in turn would drive the Erutaki out of their settlements, clearing the way for Katiyana to replace the long-destroyed weather stations and restore SITHHUD to his former glory. The Oni lingers near the storm tower, hunting the beasts there for amusement and awaiting the chance to face an Amatatsu in battle.
Even in my games the legends of Golarion don’t speak of alien computers, and some of my PCs had good enough knowledge of religion to know of Sithhud as a fallen demon lord specializing in cold and undead. I drew a transistor to show them what the “three-clawed symbol of Sithhud” looks like. My party was also exposed to the legend of the White Peacock Crown of Waj Khor while competing in a “Saga Slam” with some local Skalds in Kalsgard, and I plan to remind them about it if necessary when they get closer to the nameless spires.
Essentially they will be fighting alien robot monsters most of the way to Hongal, and more importantly they can lay the blame for their troubles squarely on the Five Storms Oni.
As an example, this week my players had to fight something I called “The Linnorm Apparatus.” It was a construct made to look like an ice linnorm and piloted by two kobold adepts in the head segment, with five warriors behind them in line, sitting on little bicycle seats and pedaling furiously. It coughed out a 60 foot cone field of caltrops in place of a breath weapon, and then shot electrolasers from its eyes as part of its full attacks.
Tommy GM said wrote:
...Epic battle and a couple of the players (who up to this point in the campaign hadn't yet been seriously injured) were seriously injured and completely freaked out. Priceless.
I'm happy that it served you well. I think my players will find some comfort that I'm not the only one who pulled this on them.
Karlsgard Notoriety (long one):
I have a PC, an inquisitor, that didn’t like the idea of lying low in Karlsgard. He’s singlehandedly been ramping up the party’s NP (a mechanic I’ve kept hidden from the party, although I’ve tried to make clear there are dangers to getting noticed in this town) since they stepped foot into town. After killing the barbarian raiding party before reaching the city, he posed their bodies in position on the ship and set it loose on the river as a “ghost ship, and warning to their enemies”. He then brazenly wore two of the gold armbands into Karlsgard. I attempted to clue his character in that this may be a bad idea with an innkeeper in Karlsgard who asked casually where the Varisian got armbands clearly of Ulfen design. The PC responded “Two stupid Ulfen raiders attacked me and I took them off their corpses.” The innkeeper replied, “Are you not at all concerned that the two stupid Ulfen men may have two hundred stupid Ulfen friends in a town of this size?” He got the hint, temporarily, and took them off. Of course, after killing Asvig Longthews, he couldn’t resist equipping the platinum armband (/facepalm).
I’ve had to improvise a bit with the NP because the PC kept thinking of new and different ways of attracting attention. The PC and the party sorcerer staged a fake argument; the PC went to a gambler’s den and proceeded run up a debt to the house. He allowed himself to get roughed up a bit and thrown out. He wandered the street pretending (did very well on his bluff check) to be very distraught and tried to make himself a good lightning rod to be contacted by “whoever is keeping tabs on the party”. Fortunately, this coincided with the “someone is tailing you” NP event, so I played it as a first contact with a handler instead of a capture the tail encounter. The bluff check and DC still applied wonderfully. The tail stated he could speak to his employers about bringing the PC into the organization, but could make no promises. That’s where things left off for the night.
The next session I had the PC approached by the handler and led to Goti in a warehouse. After a brief dialogue, the PC is told to drink a cup full of drow sleeping poison(lots of fun as the PC was trying all kinds of tricks to figure out what it was until I informed him he could ask Goti, who answered quite honestly). The PC initially told me he’d try to bluff passing out, but after some clarification revealed to me he that drank the full cup, not just a sip. I ruled it as taking multiple doses (~10) and had him make successive fort saves, adding 2 to the DC each time. He failed outright at about 4 saves. If he had refused, he would be ambushed by 4 ninja as Goti made an escape, then the ninjas would fade using vanish.
The PC woke in a dark room (Dim light with darkness spell cast by final boss) without the darkvision the final boss enjoyed and chained up without his gear. After some dialogue (a few bluffs and sense motives) to gauge his sincerity, the final boss asked him so swear “To obey my command and never betray, in word or deed, myself or the League of Frozen Shadows”. The PC has some issues with this wording and they negotiated a bit. I think the final result was actually worse for the PC, ended up being “never to betray her or the Frozen Shadows, in word or deed, until the day the PC dies” or something like that. I think he was a lot more concerned with the obey clause than the betray clause. Silly.
After they agreed on the terms, the boss used Oathtaker’s ability on him. The PC was choked out by Goti while hearing words chanted in an unfamiliar language and a rhythmic pounding noise in the room (or is that just the blood flow rushing out of his head?)” Basically I made it 10 minutes of chanting with rhythmic thumping of Oathtaker on the ground. In absolute darkness, he didn’t get to spellcraft the spell (it requires you to clearly “see” the spell being cast) before passing out and he didn’t even try to bluff on the oath (although even if he had bluffed, he still would have been “agreeing to the terms" required by the spell; and before anyone gets fussy about it, explain to me how the excuse “I didn’t mean it” would go over when making a Faust type deal using planar binding :p). All in all, the PC did a good job mixing in truth with fiction during the dialogue and only had to make a few bluff rolls. Unfortunately, he admitted to striking down an Oni in Brinewall Keep (more NP points for that) and mentioned they were looking for an ancestral sword (/facepalm) for someone riding with them in their caravan (/doublefacepalm). Point in fact though, the boss made her sense motive checks and knew exactly where he was lying, but went through the ritual as the PC could still serve as a warning. As expected, upon being released he almost immediately related to the party that he met with their enemy and mentioned the frozen shadows, triggering the effect. He looked around to make sure no one was watching, but sadly still failed to notice Wodes watching them, so the boss even knows he betrayed them already.
At full HP, in a noncombat situation, he dropped to negatives and was 2 hp from bleeding to death. I described it as "Your blood, sensing your treachery, refuses to remain associated with you, and forcibly expels itself from every available orifice." With his party there, he was almost immediately stabilized and healed back to consciousness using wands, but from the party’s perspective the mere mentioning of Frozen Shadows almost obliterated a relatively tough party member. I specifically worded the agreement so that he would proc it at this point or shortly thereafter to make sure the effect was gone by the time they make it to the final boss, and wouldn’t be a factor in that fight.
At this point, I explained the NP mechanic to the party. And when prompted, explained some of the ways they had gathered NP during the previous sessions. They agreed it was best they didn’t know it was in play, and that they, as PC’s, should have known better without the meta-game knowledge of the mechanic. Mix in that I had two deaths that night, one directly resulting from the NP they had acquired (the sniper event), and I’d say it was a humbling evening. The party was reminded they had a charge to protect and a mission greater than themselves. (Don’t worry about the deaths, the party paid for a raise dead and a reincarnate. I think they are scared of what I'll do if they open the seal. Muahahaha)
Sometimes you have to remind PC’s that there are consequences to their actions. They were a bit more cautious after this, but had already racked up enough NP at this point to reach that slippery slope where each event causes more NP and they got to Ameiko’s kidnapping by the end of the night. Now knowing what their enemy is capable of, this event is weighing heavily on the party’s consciences.
But the silver lining is that the samurai is coming to understand the difference between being a samurai and being a paladin. Honor above all, but if your enemy is without honor you will show him no mercy in return. His character is sufficiently motivated now to rescue Ameiko, and I’m filled with a nervous excitement to see his wrath fully unleashed. I’ll have to see how this motivation translates into the game mechanics, but by the end of the night, the player (not the PC) was swearing blood oaths of seeing the empire of the Frozen Shadow burned to ash.
With my final JR party fast-approaching the end of Hungry Storm, and my experience of the Uqtaal Necropolis being a total flop last time they faced it, I've created a massive rework of the whole dungeon.
I reshaped the necropolis into the vague shape of a butterfly (symbolic of Desna), allowing Koya to give them some idea of their path through it. I then left the first bit of the dungeon (the upper-right wing of the butterfly) mostly-empty, filled the middle (the lower segments of both wings of the butterfly) with undead, and left the final sections (the upper-left wing) with a reduced version of the yeti caves. The final battle with Katiyana's Ghost (possessing Bormurg, as in the AP) taking place in the head of the butterfly.
One big change I made was giving Katiyana the ability to be both inside and outside the dungeon (in ghost form and storm form respectively) simultaneously, and about halfway through it's going to be revealed that while the PCs were fighting their way through the dungeons undead, storm-Katiyana was zooming around outside and alerting every Five Storms member she could find to their location. The caravan will find themselves trapped between the yeti caves ahead, and the fortified oni behind, hopefully having to deal with both groups back and forth, the threat of one attacking from behind keeping them wary of moving too far forwards into the other group. Hopefully it should convince them that their best course of action is going to be to fortify a position in the undead caves (I deliberately left a spot well-suited to such a thing empty of this very purpose), and pick off the yetis (who lack the ability to reinforce their numbers) slowly and carefully while simultaneously fending off the oni behind them.
I look forward to a nice grueling siege. >:3
As for monsters and other events, I set up the cave's encounters as follows:
The oni caves (most of these caves are empty originally, or form the fringes of the undead caves, their inhabitants move in once the PCs are already halfway through the dungeon, thus sandwiching them between two groups):
1 Spirit Naga (Leader)
The undead caves:
The yeti caves
That sounds quite interesting, Gluttony. Could you elaborate a bit why the Necropolis didn't work out the first time around?
Lacdannan, I ignored the whole NP set-up, when I noticed that the group was moving faster than NP points were accrueing. It worked out quite well so far, my group feels pressured immensely and just now is getting ahead of the constant surveillance and ambushes the Five Storms have sprung upon them lately.
That sounds quite interesting, Gluttony. Could you elaborate a bit why the Necropolis didn't work out the first time around?
The major problem could be summed up as "Oh look, more yetis and nothing else, sigh".
Aside from lower 1/3 or so of the necropolis, and Katiyana, every single encounter in that place is a yeti, and it's not even a huge variation of yetis, they're all either standard ones straight out of the bestiary, or the Yeti Barbarian 3 presented in Hungry Storm.
So I shortened the yeti caves a lot. Mine has 13 yetis, and Bormurg himself, compared to the 30, and Bormurg in the AP. And my version has 5 varieties of yeti (Bormurg not included), compared to the 2 varieties (again, Bormurg not included) in the AP.
In the undead caves, I reduced the headless wardens from two per guard tower to just one per tower (mostly to keep the dungeon's total XP as close to the original's total XP) and I added a haunt, pulled from the back of Carrion Crown's first volume, for variation.
The oni caves were obviously, entirely new, and I felt that adding a third aspect to the dungeon, making it yetis, undead, and five storms, as opposed to just yetis and undead, gave it a more interesting variation. I was also able to make the oni cave the most varied ones, considering the yeti caves were full of nothing but yetis, and the undead caves almost entirely filled their XP quota with just the Stone Tree/spectres/Tuezaar/Ivol Vuutiin encounter.
It's not their level but the group composition. Some... excentric class/combat focus choices and poor synergy add up to even standard encounters being nailbiters if our sole poor frontliner will bite it again. They think it will turn around soon, but as the encounters only get harder, too...
OTOH, my other group is just brutalizing a lot of the encounters, but they have a much better class composition and it's six PCs there, not four, so that they do better is to be expected.
But the contrast is pretty striking, I can tell you. ^^
Aah, a group that doesn't remotely optimize, I know that feeling (normally I see those more in my homebrew games since players know they can tone down their builds in those games).
This JR group (aside from the fighter) are sort of hit and miss though. The witch and alchemist have their moments, but don't often pick the right time to use abilities, or forget that they have them. The sorcerer is powerful, but has recently been buffing others more than blasting, for RP reasons. It's the crossbow-wielding readied-action specializing fighter who does best in this group (not to mention really messes up enemy spellcasters with all the spell disruptions his readied actions dish out).
Hungry storm, village if Ilquait
I left the hunter in the tunnel, but made him appear badly wounded and semi-concious. As the party nears, he "wakes" and tells the party that he was one of the dragon hunters who managed to barely escape. He crawled back to Iqaliat and found this tunnel, but was ambushed a few minutes before by Tunuak.
The bluff isn't very good, and a Heal check let the party know the wounds are self-inflicted. But, if they fall for it, he's at their backs when they face Tunuak in the Bore.
Note: with hunter's focus and the profane damage, he can put out a lot of damage per round. That, more than the bluff, took my party by surprise. I played up the profane aspect to help them identify the possession.
Another couple of somewhat big changes I've got planned:
Ameiko joined my second group's party immediately after defeating Katiyana at the storm tower. Since then suring their travel across the north, they've alternated between the opinion that her bardic performace and constant attempts the flank are very helpful, and the opinion that the risk of having her on the front lines (she's already died once) just isn't worth it.
And so, upon reaching Tide of Honor (and if everything goes as planned), Ameiko will go into tutelage under Jiro. Jiro worked extensively with the nobility of minkai before his exile, and he himself is related to one of the royal families, so it will likely be argued that he will be a good man to both defend and teach Ameiko while the party is away.
Ameiko as the NPC who accompanies the group will be replaced by Habesuta Hatsue (entirely reworked as a Monk (Flowing Monk) 3/Paladin 2/Champion of Irori 8 during the rescue of O-Sayumi, Miyaro during the meetings with the Three Monkeys, and of course Sikutsu Itsuru during the attack on Sikutsu Sennaka. Ameiko will rejoin them in time for the Siege of Seinaru Heikiko, having picked up a level of Samurai, and several more Bard levels under Jiro's instruction, catching her up to the PCs somewhat, in time for the final book of the adventure.
Additionally, I've put in some pretty big edits for the dark shogi-ka game while attempting to rescue O-Sayumi:
Instead of a dream Hatsue fighting alongside the PCs, it will be the real one who does so. The board will lose its shadow walls (which were cumbersome and annoying when my first group did the encounter. PCs will take the starting positions of Gold and Silver generals of the player of white, Hatsue will be the party king. On the side of the player of black, the gold and silver generals will be the 4 greater shadows (formed of the souls of the world's 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th greatest shogi players), and the other side's king will be a magical duplicate of Hatsue herself. Each side will also get 9 illusory pawns that exist mostly to block squares and fight each other. The pawns of either team won't attack PCs or enemies, only other pawns. Other shogi pieces, aside from the kings, generals, and pawns, will be absent.
The game will vaguely follow a twisted version of shogi rules, though only to a minimal degree, following PF combat rules much more so. Players will be restricted on moving backwards based on what type of general they are, and shadows will always be set at an initiative so that each action alternates between teams; no two players on a team will have consecutive turns without an enemy in between, unless that enemy is already defeated. The encounter is immediately completed upon to death of one side's king, Hatsue in both cases.
Winning the game cures Hatsue of her nightmares. The magic "angle mover" shogi piece will still provide its +1 bonus, but will not have its summoning effect. Numataro-sama will explain that merely carrying it can channel the greatest player. At the end of the shogi battle, if Hatsue still has the piece, she will break it herself, coming to terms with her own status as the greatest shogi player in Minkai, and the world.
Oh boy. Let see...
The Bard started to romance Niobe right off the bat, and was really hurt when she betrayed the party in the lower levels.
They found one of the secret paths into the keep after accidently causing the defenders to chase them into the town below. So that means they fought the Decampus pretty much the first 'boss' fight of the Keep itself.
I had to play up the foes above more to keep them interested. It kinda worked.
Same fight featured the Summoner throwing the Monk to hit the Decampus in the air, the Barbarian doing a airborn grapple and BEATING the Decampus mid air to crash them both into the ground. Que nastiest party gank up I've seen in years.
Making me change my tactics with flying foes. More suprise, less time to position.
The group freeded and equiped Kelga right away. She was a major NPC ally for the rest of the Keep and along the road for a while.
They fought off and clamied the vikings boat and then SOLD IT in town automatically raising ther Frozen Shadows score.
They allied themselves with Kelga's family and gave them the secret of the Rimrunner's guild in order to equip and support the caravan.
Causing me to use Kelga as a major NPC and giving her more details.
The group has developed a forced entry method that blinds and disrupts the NPCs and allows them to take on most ninja groups with eash. Forcing me to mix in more enemy casters to even things up.
So many little edits going on.
The Kelga angle really ties the group to the Vikings. I have to play up contacts on the other side, because the AP might transform into a Lindnorn Kings game the way the group is warming up to folks in town.
It's been an interesting road so far.
Finished Night of Frozen Shadows this weekend, and made some pretty serious changes to Ravenscraeg, as suggested upthread (or maybe in the main NoFS thread).
My party is five players and scary-effective, so the "fight the Frozen Shadows a couple at a time plan" was never going to work, but the players didn't have the foresight to get them all out of the fortress. Rather than have the whole dungeon consist of "witch sleeps enemy, gunslinger, ninja and mangos kill it in its sleep," I had a NPC (Ameiko's brother's lover) let it be known that she was pregnant and well protected, after the party had already killed Jorgan (PC Kelda's father) and Omoyani. That was enough to get Kimandatsu to move against her, for fear of another heir being born before she could dispense with the two she had captured.
So the party made their way through Ravenscraeg very, very quickly, since one of them has Scent. Triggering the ravenswarms, though, brought Kimandatsu back, along with all of the thugs and ninjas. As a result, the party fought 8 thugs, 7 ninjas, 2 trolls and Kimandatsu in her bedchamber, after they rescued Ameiko and company (and made friends with Skygni, thanks to a well-played Plot Twist card). The ensuing fight was epic, ending with one dead PC, and a PC, Skygni and Shalelu at negative HP. Both the of the last two characters standing and Kimandatsu were one hit away from going down, so it could have gone either way in the last round. The party squeaked out a win, but they really knew how close it was.
Not only was the last battle more interesting because it included (just about) everyone, the rest of the dungeon was more creepy because it was empty but could have had ninjas around every corner.
Other changes: a massive (literal) witch-hunt in Kalsgard, thanks to a poison-happy witch PC and a lot of other murder going on in town (all of the Frozen Shadows murders were pinned on her). Luckily, she died during the final battle, so the party will be collecting the reward offered for her: dead or alive. The witch-finder offering the reward? Another PC's father.
I'm adding in The Baleful coven, in between Turvik and the Rimehurst mountains, tied into that same witch's backstory (involving her grandmother).
This I've learned: if all of your PCs are from The Inner Sea, you need to dispense with the links to their backstories in the first two books. After that, it's much more difficulty for a "long lost father" to show up.
Well my players on on their way to finish Frozen Shadows. They've done a partial sweep of Ravenscraeg and rescued Lute Haggersly. They're now aware that the big baddie is an ogre magi (successful knowledge checks and oni knowledge from Brinewall custom treasure documents).
Now my group is pretty powerful in their own way. I've been upping the encounter challenges by raising the number of baddies or giving more HD. In either case, they get through.
Now I want to up the level of the final bosses. Wodes, an extra caster level or two and use his summon Nature's Ally V from the start (ettin). Probably an additional HD for Kimandatsu, but the one that really worries me is Goti.
I intend to give Goti an additionnal sorcerer level, meaning lvl 3 spells. Already nasty stuff, but I've also noted that he has the "size alteration" power of spriggans. If I give him the full spriggan size bonus to his stats (+12 Str), he can become extremely dangerous at 30STR and rock throwing from across a created pit. It will probably be safer to leave him at half bonus boost (from M to L for +6 Str for example) whcih should be more manageable.
Additionnaly, I should bring back Zaiobe, they've been paranoid about her return ever since she killed one of the caravan minor NPCs and managed to flee (lots of feathered creatures since the beginning).
I'm sorely tempted to take this for myself, I really like this Gluttony.
Going to have to give some thought to it though, as I would like to get the other NPC's involved as well.
For my part I made Kelda a Sister of Rapture(3rd party class adult themed)/ Barbarian, as that was where my players had already headed. The one player that was trying to start a relationship with her didn't to many chances to move his score up to keep her from leaving so he is planning on tracking her down again before they leave Kalsgard and challenging her to a duel in hopes that he will win and can get her to come along with the caravan.
I have kind of tweeked the caravan rules so that it runs more as a settlement. this has been to keep one player from crying that they can't use the caravan to make money and to give it the feel that it is their home away from home that the adventure was trying to get across. With Spivey traveling with them the party now has 3 clerics of Desna, so I have introduced a belief/myth of a "Final Travel". Basically if 3 cleric of Desna find themselves traveling together one of them is destine to die and the other 2 are there to make sure the others spirit passes on peacefully. As Spivey is a celestial being & the PC cleric is quite young he believes he is there to help Koya on her "Final Travel".
as 3 of the players are tied to Koya through traits, this one should be good
My plan is that if they get to the kidnapped event in Kalsgard it will be Koya not Amieko that gets kidnapped
I've increased the number of opponent's and added the advanced template to almost every monster in the AP. I have increased the levels of any classed Npc's and added new challenges to almost every encounter because my pc's manages to steamroll almost everything I throw at them.
Uthak: I'd love to see what you did with the caravan. I'm planning to keep the caravan rules in place through the Crown (since one of my players doesn't keep a journal or paint minis but wants the extra hero point that comes with doing out-of-game work), but giving them a modified Nigh Monarch Vardo at the pole, which should help to shift the caravan to the background. Then, in Minkai, I'd like to turn the caravan into an encampment until the adventure is over. If we could make it a mobile town in the meantime, that could be fun.
My players have finished Frozen Shadows two weeks ago and last week's game was a transitional game session in preparation for Hungry Storm.
Ulf left the characters for a few weeks to head back up to the north to get news of favorable travel conditions, remarking that the morozkos are unusually active this year. But seeing that they could miss a proper travel window, the caravan left anyway.
For the characters, I have most of them some extra motivations or side quests, with a little help from the Dragon Empires gazeteer.
As a general reward for uncovering Kimatatsu's shenanigans, the king granted each character a favor. Most of them used theirs to find someone to enchant their gear to something better. They still had to pay for the service, but at least the king made some people available for them.
To my LE fighter Hellknight aspirant who wields Suishen, Suishen gave her some proper samurai etiquette (how to stand, walk, act like a samurai) and she noticed a definite change in the attitude of people of the Jade quarters. Lots more bowing and respect. As she just learned Tien as a language, she noticed at a calligrapher's "write your name in Tien" stand that one of them was from a Hellknight that traveled through here several years ago and was an acquaintance of her old master.
To my NE halfling fighter-thief, her Brinewall custom treasure included a headband that gave her a boost to her Perception skill. IN the Jade quarter, she was snuck up on by someone with a similar headband of a different color. The stranger claimed that she was destined as on the "Children of the Twelve", a secret Tian spy organization based on the twelve Tian zodiac signs. In essence, think of it as the Red Mantis Assassin equivalent of a spying agency. Not mere spies, but divinely ordained to be spies where their knowledge can make a kingdom rise or fall. He also gave her the basic training to become a Shadow Dancer (which the player wanted). I'll add further story elements once they cross over.
To the LN cleric-monk, in the Fire quarter, she stumbled upon a sword display show with comprised a high level monk, a Lion of Taldor, an Aldorian Swordlord and their duelist leader. She was amazed at the different fighting styles (especially the duelist's ability to anticipate attacks), especially when a barbarian challenger lost his cool and raged at him. She learned that they were a group of wandering heroes, and by talking to the monk about the oni the characters just beat, they agreed to give her some special fighting style training, giving her the knowledge to become a duelist (which the player wanted).
The oracle is from Hermea (you know, the gold dragon eugenics program island) and joined the other characters *after* Brinewall so isn't one of the Amatasu scions. She was amazed to discover some Tien in the Jade quarters speaking draconic casually as if it was their first language. He befriended them to find out about the kingdom of Xa Hoi in southern Tian-Xia, which has been ruled by dragons for millenniums. She would like to open diplomatic relations between Hermea and Xa Hoi since they must have much in common. Now if she could gain some rep by restoring a certain Minkai...
After the fall of the Rimerunners Guild, I had a bit of chaos added to Kalsgard, just to show how much power the guild actually held. Once the king seized the assets of the guild, a lot of unpaid wages were left around and more and more riots occured. The group's bard is the only character from Kalsgard and managed to quiet some of the riots (that and our Suishen wielding fighter beheaded an attacker in front of the crowd, samurai style). The bard and our fighter used their king's favor to find a solution to the mess. As a result, someone did step in to fill in the void, the Aspis Consortium. It's just the kind of opportunity they needed to get a solid foot in the city. ;-)
I've just finished reading through the AP in preparation for running it with my group. My main concern is one that people have posted about in other threads: a big deal is made at the beginning about these four NPCs and the player's relationships with them, and then three out of the four are barely even mentioned again for the entire AP. This seems like a huge missed opportunity for roleplaying and character development. Plus, I think players who choose backstories and traits that tie them to NPCs other than Ameiko might rightfully end up feeling resentful that the campaign doesn't "pay off" those ties at all, especially compared to the payoff for an Ameiko-tied PC.
So, I plan to add ongoing subplots for the other three NPCs to the AP. Here is what I have worked up:
By the end of the campaign, Sandru represents a path "back home" for characters who don't want to remain in Minkai. His story arc involves developing a network of suppliers and trading opportunities along the caravan's path -- essentially, he is blazing a kind of Silk Road, and if the PCs help him achieve this goal then he (and they) will have the opportunity to amass great wealth by the end of the AP.
Here are the steps involved in completing his subplot:
"The Brinewall Legacy": Sandru asks for the PC's help in assembling some special cargo for the caravan. I'm not sure I'm using the caravan rules (most people don't seem to like them) but if I do I will count these as four "special" units of trade goods. One is an assembly of expert glassworks (magnifying glasses, eyeglasses, advanced alchemical glassware, and glass artworks such as mobiles and statuettes); one is a collection of woven rugs and wall hangings featuring characteristic Sandpoint patterns; one is a shipment of smoked and salted fish (preserved this way, it will last a long time, especially in colder climates); and the last is a crate of bog nuts, a local spice that adds a characteristic nutmeg-like flavor to Sandpoint cuisine.
Sandru can assemble the glass, textiles, and fish on his own, but he has been stymied in his attempts to procure a suitably large supply of bog nuts -- the local spice merchant refuses to divulge his source for the nuts. Bog nuts are known to grow in the marsh, so Sandru wants the PCs to help him locate and harvest some during their explorations of the swamp. If Walthus is rescued, he will be able to direct the PCs to a bog nut grove; alternately, the PCs can locate a grove on their own with a DC 15 Survival or Knowledge (nature) check. Helping Sandru harvest a suitable amount of bog nuts gives +1 to his relationship score.
During the caravan's travels, I plan to stress Sandru's concern over the shipment of glass. Although it's well packed and no more subject to destruction than any other unit of trade goods, Sandru will fret about the glass every time the caravan faces a disruptive threat. Depending on what sort of random encounters come up, it may also be necessary for the PCs to intervene in order to protect the wagon that carries the glass. After one or two of these incidents, Sandru will remark that he's looking forward to unloading that shipment at Kalsgard.
"Night of Frozen Shadows": Sandru takes the first possible opportunity to search for a buyer for the caravan's goods, *especially* the glass. However, the next time the PCs see him, he's dejected: he's only been able to make a meager profit selling his caravan goods, and none of his special shipments seem to interest the merchants of Kalsgard at all. Local fish is plentiful; the hearty Northmen warriors scoff at fragile glass "baubles and trinkets"; the people of Kalsgard prefer the work of their own weavers to the fabrics brought from Sandpoint; and Sandru can't get anyone to even try a taste of the bog nuts. ("Maybe it's the name," he muses.)
When the PCs go to visit Fynn Snaevald, Sandru becomes hopeful that a man with his reputation -- a merchant and collector, someone with both wealth and cosmopolitan tastes -- might be more open to foreign tastes. He asks to accompany the PCs to the meeting, and prepares a small batch of spice cookies using the bog nuts.
While the PCs talk with Fynn about the sword Suishen, Sandru unwraps his package of cookies and offers them around, waiting hopefully and expectantly as Fynn takes his first bite. Unfortunately, the merchant finds the spice disgusting and is barely able to conceal his revulsion: his mouth puckers and he sets the cookie down after only a bite. Sandru nurses his disappointment for the rest of the conversation.
However, as the PCs prepare to leave and Sandru wraps up the remainder of his cookies, Fynn's eyes fall on the cloth bundle in which the cookies were carried. The cloth bears a pattern common to Sandpoint designs, which Fynn recognizes as an ancient motif that goes back to Thassilonian times. He rather excitedly asks Sandru about the weaving, and within a few minutes a surprised and pleased Sandru has found a buyer for his entire shipment of textiles.
Fynn pays a premium for the "rare and historic" weavings, and a happy Sandru will share the profits with the PCs: 600gp for each PC, and +2 to his relationship score.
"The Hungry Storm": Sandru continues to fret over the fragile glass as the caravan ventures into harsh arctic territory. He will do his best to unload the glass shipment at the village of Iqaliat: but the villagers only examine the glass pieces with polite confusion. The irrepressible Sandru will then try his luck with the bog nuts, going so far as to grate one over the cups of hot fermented goat's milk that the characters are offered during their meeting with the hearthmistress Sonavut. Unfortunately, it turns out that the two flavors do not blend well, as even Sandru will be forced to admit. At this point, dejected, he will sit back and let the conversation with Sonavut play out normally.
It will be up to the PCs to remember that the caravan carries one additional special shipment: the preserved fish. If one of the PCs mentions the fish, both Sandru and the villagers perk up. Iqualiat is after all under siege from the dragon, and their food stores have grown low as the hunters are unable to venture far from the village. They have little in the way of coin, but are willing to trade valuable furs and exquisitely carved pieces of ivory in exchange for the smoked and salted fish. When the caravan reaches Ordu-Aganhei, Sandru will be able to sell the furs and ivory for a substantial profit, which he again shares with the PCs: this time 6,000gp each (and +3 to his relationship score).
"Forest of Spirits": Sandru also hopes to unload the troublesome glass shipment at Ordu-Aganhei. However, it is not to be: Ordu-Aganhei has its own glass artisans, and a protectionist dictate from the prince forbids the local merchants from importing any goods of this type.
However, Sandru does have an opportunity to shine in Ordu-Aganhei. At the Feast of the Honored Visitors, if the PCs consult Sandru, he will suggest offering the bog nuts (which he now despairs of ever being able to sell) to the prince's chefs for use in the meal they are to prepare. If the PCs take his advice, they are able to automatically succeed at the cooking aspect of the challenge, and win +4 to Sandru's relationship score.
"Tide of Honor": While meeting the geishas at the Kiniro Kyomai teahouse, the PCs are advised by Jiro to bring a gift. If consulted, Sandru offers one of the delicate glass mobiles brought from Sandpoint. If the PCs take his advice, O-Kohaku is very pleased by this gift. Later, after O-Sayumi has been rescued, the module instructs that "the mistress of the teahouses arranges meetings for the PCs with several nobles and merchants opposed to the Jade Regent." If she has seen Sandru's glasswares, O-Kohaku ensures that the mobile is hung in the meeting room as decoration while the PCs and the merchants converse. The mobile is sure to catch the eye of one of the visiting merchants, at which point O-Kohaku will smile demurely and incline her head to the PCs, saying they "have brought many treasures from foreign lands." If the PCs follow up on this opening (either by bringing Sandru into the negotiations or by arranging a sale directly) they will be able to finally unload the troublesome glass cargo for a profit of 15,000gp per character and a final +5 boost to Sandru's relationship score.
"The Empty Throne": Sandru's subplot is essentially complete in "Tide of Honor," but of course he will continue to aid the PCs as they secure the Jade Throne for Ameiko. After her ascension as Empress, however, Sandru announces his intention to retrace the trade route between Avistan and Minkai, this time carrying a load of silks, exotic weapons, and another valuable goods from Minkai. With the contacts gained along the journey and his now-excellent understanding of the markets along the way, Sandru and any PCs who care to join him have the opportunity to set themselves up as merchant princes. He looks forward to many more years of travel and profit, with the opportunity to visit his friends regularly and to cement the trade links between Avistan and Minkai.
This got long so I will do Koya and Shalelu separately!
Koya's journey is a spiritual one. I plan to have her character arc advance the philosophy that all things have a sacred nature, and that every place, creature, and object in the world should be honored for the part it plays in the larger whole. Koya displays the ability to find beauty in the harshest environments and to take joy in life to the very end.
Koya's subplot will mostly advance through conversation and role-playing.
"The Brinewall Legacy": I plan to add a beautiful illustrated copy of the Tayagama to the treasure of the Kaijitsu's Blossom. Koya will take an immediate interest in the manuscript, and giving it to her will improve her relationship score by +1. However, damage to the book makes translation difficult, and Koya will find that even using her comprehend languages spell, she is left with the nagging feeling that she is missing some nuances of meaning. She will ask the PCs for their perspective, sharing the plot of the book with any PC willing to listen (or encouraging them to read it themselves if they have the ability).
After describing the book, Koya will share that she is troubled by the nature of the oni. The Tayagama seems to indicate that it is their materialistic passions and desires that corrupt them to evil. However, the material world is sacred to Desna, and Koya does not believe that passion is sinful. She asks the PCs for their opinions on the subject, listens thoughtfully to their answers, and then offers a Harrow card reading to any PC who considered the subject respectfully (regardless of their conclusions).
In general, for PCs who express mistrust of material things, Koya says the cards indicate they are guided by higher purpose, but she warns that they must remain compassionate towards those who follow different paths. The next time they fail a Will save, these PCs will gain the opportunity to immediately re-roll the save.
For PCs who embrace the material world (or reject the notion of spirit/matter dualism), Koya says the cards mark them as favored of Desna, but also warn of danger and temptation. The next time they fail a Fortitude save, these PCs will gain the opportunity to immediately re-roll the save.
"Night of Frozen Shadows": If the PCs recover and ally with Helgarval, Koya will take an immediate and abiding interest in the angel. If the PCs allow her regular access to the helm, she will develop a habit of settling in for lengthy discussions and debates with Helgarval over a cup of tea. (The angel does not drink, but despite its lack of apparent sensory organs, it claims to enjoy the scent of the tea and the sight of steam curling from the cup.)
Over the course of these conversations, Koya's initial sense of awe quickly evolves into an irreverent affection for the angel, which in turn seems to mimic her patterns of speech. Soon the two are going back and forth like old friends: "Now see here, you old tin can, that might true in Elysium but here in the real world things are mighty different!" To which Helgarval snaps back "Old, yes, and where's your respect for your elders, whippersnapper?"--prompting a delighted chortle from Koya.
At some point during a lull in the action, Koya will invite the PCs to take tea with herself and Helgarval, and "settle a dispute." It comes out that the two have been debating the nature of free will. Koya believes in freedom rather than destiny, and holds that until the moment of death all creatures retain the possibility of change. "You can never know which lowly worm will transform to Desna's butterfly," she says. But Helgarval responds that all things have no choice but to be what they are--Desna's freedom is the freedom of self-expression, but destiny cannot be denied. "Time is an illusion," the angel says, "and the caterpillar and the butterfly were always one."
Again, Koya asks the PCs for their perspective, and once more listens thoughtfully regardless of how they respond. PCs who participate in the debate gain a +2 to their relationship score with Koya no matter which side they endorse. When they have shared their views, she drains her cup of tea and invites them to do the same, offering to read the leaves that remain at the bottom of their cups.
For PCs who express a belief in free will, Koya says the tea leaves speak of allies in unexpected places. The next time they are asked to make a Diplomacy check, these PCs may proceed as if they had rolled a natural 20.
For PCs who express a belief in destiny, Koya says the auguries tell of hidden enemies brought to light. The next time they are asked to make a Perception check, these PCs may proceed as if they had rolled a natural 20.
"The Hungry Storm": Earlier in this thread others suggested giving more foreshadowing of Katiyana's return. I plan to do that through Koya--after Katiyana is defeated at the Storm Tower, Koya will grow withdrawn, scanning the skies with a worried expression and repeatedly shuffling and laying out her Harrow cards as the caravan continues. Sometime before the undead show up at Dead Man's Dome, Koya will take the PCs aside to tell them her auguries tell of a coming storm and an enemy "more powerful in death than she was in life."
After Katiyana is destroyed, Koya will ask the PCs to participate with her in a ritual to reconsecrate the Uqtaal Necropolis, which gives a bonus to her Relationship Score as detailed in the module. At the conclusion of the ritual, Koya will again become pensive. Finally she will admit to the PCs that while she is revulsed by the destruction Katiyana caused, she could not help but admire the power and beauty of the storm. She confides to the PCs that she has taken a great deal of joy in their trek across the Crown of the World--tasting new foods, speaking to new people, seeing amazing sights with her own eyes. But she has also witnessed suffering and evil, and she wonders if it is selfish of her to take pleasure in the world while others remain in so much pain.
So long as the PCs respond respectfully, they will earn an additional +3 to their Relationship Scores with Koya no matter how they answer. (PCs pursuing an enmity relationship with Koya may earn points by mocking her instead.) However, some weeks later, Koya will return to the subject. To PCs who generally endorsed finding joy and beauty in the world despite the presence of pain and evil, she will tell them that she has decided they are right. To PCs who endorse any other view--such as the notion that pleasure is fleeting and virtue lies in self-denial--she will tell them that their way may be right for them, but she has decided it is not right for her. To thank them for helping her along the journey, she has crafted a magic item for each PC tailored to their class and abilities and incorporating materials harvested from the significant enemies they have defeated so far (such as dragon's claws or yeti pelts). (I plan to give Koya additional crafting feats as she levels up, but she can make the PCs a gift of potions at the very least.)
"Forest of Spirits": Koya is delighted and fascinated by the kami, who to her embody the link between the material and spiritual worlds. She does her best to befriend Miyaro, and is pleased with the PCs if they recruit the kitsune and are generally friendly to the kami. She is very interested in exploring the House of Withered Blossoms. I intend to use her interest as a way of guiding the PCs to discover the various pieces of information they need to gather there (using her fortune-telling as a guide if necessary). If the PCs give her time to peruse the oni library, not only will her Relationship Score improve as detailed in the module, but I will probably allow her to discover the important secret that not all of Anamurumon's descendents were destroyed: one grandson was deemed promising enough to live, although Anamurumon did kill the boy's mother in order to ensure that his loyalties were not divided.
In general, I plan to portray "Forest of Spirits" as a sort of culmination of Koya's spiritual journey. Meeting the kami brings her an enormous sense of personal fulfillment. She feels the journey was tremendously worthwhile and that it has brought her a far deeper understanding of the world and her own place in it. After the events in the House of Withered Blossoms, Koya remains an enthusiastic ally, but she is no longer driven by a sense of restlessness and missed opportunities. Instead she simply looks forward to each day and each new opportunity as it comes.
"Tide of Honor": In this module, I'm concerned that the riddle of O-Sayumi's inro will mean nothing to my players. Koya and her divination magic can serve to guide the PCs as they attempt to decipher the various clues that O-Sayumi has left them.
In addition, provided the PCs introduce Koya to Numataro-Sama, she will obtain permission from the kappa to spend a few days working beneath his sacred magnolia tree. During this time she will "upgrade" the items she made for each PC, infusing them with new powers appropriate to the PCs' advanced level.
"The Empty Throne": Koya may be helpful to the PCs in discovering the various secrets that they can use to destroy the Teamwork Scores of the Jade Regent and his allies.
At the conclusion of the campaign, assuming that Ameiko has been installed as Empress, Koya will announce her intention to return to the Forest of Lost Spirits. She would like to spend more time with the kami, ensuring that the House of Withered Blossoms remains a locus of good rather than evil, and helping the spirits of the forest find rest.
If she has grown particularly close to any PCs, Koya will invite them to accompany her, perhaps even suggesting that the House of Withered Blossoms could become a site of pilgrimage or learning for those who wish to study under the PCs. In time the site could be transformed into a famous monastery, temple, or academy, spreading wisdom throughout the land.
I admit, I find Shalelu the most challenging NPC to develop. She seems rather...colorless, and I might end up swapping her out for another character altogether.
Assuming I keep Shalelu though, I would probably make her subplot a romantic one. In the early adventures I would look for ways to reveal that her stoicism and aloofness masks her essential loneliness (perhaps she might look on wistfully as another romance develops between two of her friends). Of course, if one of the players decides to romance Shalelu, I can have a lot of fun portraying her initial alarm at being courted, and the flashes of fire that lurk beneath her stoic exterior.
However, in my particular group, it's most likely that nobody will choose to romance Shalelu, because I play with a group of my gay friends (all guys) and they generally like to play characters of the same orientation. So, I'm considering having Shalelu fall for Habesuta Hatsue. It doesn't have to be Hatsue, of course -- it could almost as easily be Jiro -- but I like Hatsue as a character. And I feel like she doesn't get much "screen time" in the adventure as written, so it's likely that PCs won't get to know her well unless given an extra hook. Also, her sense of honor combined with practicality seems like it would strike a chord with Shalelu.
I think it could be fun to show Shalelu developing a sudden interest in the game of shogi following the initial meeting with Hatsue (perhaps asking one of the PCs to help her practice the game) and becoming uncharacteristically flustered when she learns of Hatsue's appearance in the Maze of Shadows. She may betray an anxious desire to return immediately to Jiro's fortress if she hears a siege is developing. During the battle, she may focus her fire on oni threatening Hatsue. (Again, all this could easily reworked to make Jiro the love interest instead, for groups that default to hetero romances.)
If the PCs notice Shalelu's "crush" and ask her about it, she will initially deny having any romantic feelings for the ronin's lieutenant (or the ronin, as the case may be), but her protests are unconvincing as she cannot help blushing while discussing her love interest. She refuses, however, to speak to them directly. After so many years alone she does not really believe in the possibility for love, especially not with someone whose race and culture are so different from her own.
There are lots of ways that a romantic subplot with Shalelu could be resolved, but I think it would be especially cute to get the geisha involved. O-Sayumi, after her rescue, might be more than willing to conspire with the PCs to throw Shalelu and the object of her affection (whether a PC or NPC) into a series of romantic vignettes (e.g. a slow boat ride on a placid lake, while cherry blossoms spin in the air and a geisha strums love songs on a samisen...) Part of the humor of such a scenario, of course, would be Shalelu's discomfort with it!
Eventually, of course, I do see Shalelu accepting a happy ending with the object of her affection. The PCs might even be asked to help arrange a wedding...
I don't know, I freely admit that I don't have as good a grasp on Shalelu's character as the others, and my plan for her isn't anywhere near as detailed. I'd be interested in hearing what other DMs did to tie Shalelu into the adventure path!
I love those, Siduri. I wish I'd read the Sandru one a long time ago, because that would have been an excellent way to link him in. He's actually the one I have the hardest time with, at this point.
One of my players went for Shalelu (it was going to be two, but the second one had was already set up to be her half-step-sister, in my background, and that got weird). I tied her in before that, thanks to some good advice here on the board, by making her protective of Ameiko (her "heart-sister"). In particular, she didn't know what happened with Ameiko and Sandru, since they agreed never to speak of it, and only knew than Ameiko came back from adventuring with him with a broken heart. This meant a lot of tension on the road between Shalelu and Sandru. (In my backstory, he left Sandpoint for the Varisian life because Shalelu told him to stay away from Ameiko, because of the confusion, and threatened his life. The first time she caught them alone together, she tried to make good on the threat until the party stopped her.) This tied into Koya, as well, because she had decided that Ameiko and Sandru should be together, and blamed Shalelu for keeping them apart. Some nice soap-opera drama, there.
Remember that the "relationship scores" don't have to be romantic. It's possible to have a close tie to Shalelu as an apprentice, and for that to be the relationship that gets built up.
One of my PCs is engaged to Sandru and apprenticed to Koya, so I expect to kill Koya off at some point, for drama's sake (and because there's no one left who would be mechanically affected by it). That said, your Koya write-up is great. Really useful stuff, there.
Not sure if anyone is still reading this thing, but I'm getting ready to run Jade Regent for the first time and looking really forward to it. I've been preparing for this game for going on a year now on and off (as our group rotates through GMs and whatnot) and have done a fair bit of tweaking and enhancement to the first three books so far far, I'd love to know what others think of some of my ideas.
First of all, I have to say I'm using some straight up house rules that both enhance PC durability and power level a bit, as well as make combat potentially more dangerous. Starting HP are Con score + hit die, Feats every level, Armor provides Damage Reduction that is overcome by crits and certain weapons, alternate massive damage system that makes it happen more frequently but causes injuries/ability damage/ and status effects rather than instagib, and a dying system that doesn't have negative HP, once you hit 0 you start losing Constitution. The universal dead condition is at 0 Con you die.
I've also re-written the core NPCs a bit, making Ameiko a Bard (Arcane Duelist) 5, Sandru a Rogue (Swashbuckler) 3/Fighter(Free-hand) 2, and Shalelu a Fighter (Archer) 2/ Ranger (Skirmisher) 4. Oh, and Kelda is now a fighter with the Viking Archetype, because it's awesome. I plan to try and keep her around, hoping they take to her. I've also created a new creature subtype, hengeyokai, and assigned both Tengu and Kitsune to it, which gives Tengu the ability to assume human form.
Anywho, I've at this point added so much to the first two books that I switched to the slow XP track in order to make sure things were still moving at the right pace. The game will start with the party in Sandru's caravan returning to Sandpoint after a trip to Korvosa to pick up some supplies ordered by Ameiko. Some of them are traveling with the caravan as guards, others as passengers that joined in Korvosa. As they pass Brinestump, they get attacked by some goblins with fireworks, and after the fight may notice a strange blue/green light off in the distance at the edge of the swamp.
They get back to town and learn about the rash of goblin attacks over the last week or so while they've been gone, and with a little more background and a warning about "ol' soggy" (who is now a merrow nightstalker, heh) they head for the swamp.
I've basically doubled the number of skeletons in the swamp, and added a two more unique ones, an archer at the Blossom wreck and in the cave replacing the giant amoeba. I like that one actually:
Wakana the Despairing (unique skeletal champion necromancer 3)
Wakana is located in area L4 (replacing the encounter with the giant amoeba). She begins the encounter disguised to appear as if she was still her living self. She is kneeling in front of the pool of water staring down into her reflection, sobbing uncontrollably and talking to herself in a quiet keening wail. 4 skeletal warriors lie in various states of disrepair throughout the room (1 archer, 1 spearman, and 2 swordsmen). She doesn’t react unless someone steps in the water or attacks her.
Once active, she turns and unloads her burning hands (cold) in the direction of whatever disturbed her while commanding in a strangled whisper for the skeletal warriors to rise and attack the living. If pressed immediately she uses vanish to buy a few rounds to prepare her spectral hand and chill touch before hitting a primary fighter type with ray of enfeeblement.
I'm also using variant skeleton equipped with eastern armor and weapons, and have scattered a bit of tien flavored treasure throughout the swamp. Such as the Five Dragon Lantern carried by Scribbleface, that is responsible for the strange light they saw earlier. Which provides him with a continual sanctuary effect (as well as doing a few other things he is unaware of).
Later on, I'm using the caravan rules because I think they're neat overall, but will probably be mixing caravan combats with PC combats, and probably taking some liberties with it in general. Nice set of guidelines to start though, I think.
After a few not-so-random encounters on the way to Brinewall (some bandits, some ogres, and a brush with the "Duchess of Riddleport", my character from Second Darkness a few years ago), I moved the ettercap from the castle courtyard to the lighthouse in town, and filled the town with spiders and ettercap traps, since they're hilarious. In their place in the courtyard stables is Porkchop the dire boar, a pet of the ogrekin.
After the party interrupts Kikonu's "dress rehearsal", they encounter their first ninja, who is actually Kikonu's lover (trying to figure out with Zaiobe, I like her, but think as writ she seems stupid and arrogant, need to change it some):
after defeating the four corbys Kikonu starts screaming “No, No, NO, NO! WRONG! YOU RUINED IT! YOU APES RUINED IT! MORIKO! KILL THEM!” before escaping with his dimension door ability.
Moriko (tengu ninja 5), who has been hiding in the shadows behind Kikonu’s throne (perception DC 25), steps out. She briefly introduces herself with a slight bow, “I am Matsuoko Moriko, and I am your death.” She then flips a blue winnis poisoned kunai at a character she suspects to be a spellcaster before using her vanish ki power to turn invisible and move towards the PCs.
Her first strike is against the most imposing or confident warrior character, after poisoning Butterfly Razor with medium spider poison to impair their strength, as well as using her bleeding strike.
She then seeks to even the remaining odds with blue winnis or lesser insanity mist. She plays hit and run through the shadows and columns along the edges of the room, trying to use her vanish ability sparingly since she can only do it four times. If reduced to below 15 hit points, she attempts to withdraw in order to drink her potion of cure light wounds and inform Kikonu that the intruders are more competent than they appeared.
I'm also trying to decide if I like Nindenzego as written or not. I was planning to swap his creature type out for something else, but some of the suggestions on here for using his illusion ability make me think he might be fun as is. Andril Kotun is a frost wight, due to reason's that become apparent in book 3, when they meet the original master of the Frozen Shadows and his army of undead ninja. (Muha! I'll admit, I didn't like the stuff with Katiyana at all, as she has nothing to do with overarching plot.)
I've added a big pile of stuff after the castle (nevermind the awesome unique treasure), a raid by a bunch of nolanders instigated by Wodes, some other semi-random encounter stuff, and a probable side trek to the legendary shrine of Desna, Moonwing Bough, located in the SW part of Grungir forest, which is currently having a problem with mindslaver mold.
Once they reach Kalsgard, following the attack at Skalsbridge, things return to largely as written, though I've added more ways for NP to be gained, such as assuming that there's a good chance that any shop or inn they enter has a chance of having a Frozen Shadows informant or ninja operating in it, which the party might notice eavesdropping on them.
I made Hekja, the sniper, a Fighter 7(Crossbowman), whose first appearance will likely be brutally shooting someone from a rooftop hundreds of feet away after sending a street urchin into an inn to lure them outside with some sort of claim of information or something.
Currently I'm trying to decide how I want the bit between Asvig's Farm and the Funeral Boat to go, because while I kind of like Helgvarl, I think the angel's assistance is overly contrived as is, in that he just happens to be there. I might do something with having him be cursed or something so that he's stuck seeming like a nice helmet unable to communicate, after being caught spying on the Frozen Shadows.
There's more, but I risk writing a novel here. ;p