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4-04 King of the Storval Stairs ** SPOILERS Tips and Clarifications **


Pathfinder Society GM Discussion

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Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Rummaging through the final version of the scenario and I thought it might be a good time to toss up some suggestions about running this.

  • There is a great illustration on the stairs on page 12 of the Rise of the Runelords players guide (available here free). It makes a solid player hand-out and it's a good reference for understanding the map. You can also just Google "Storval Stairs" and there are a couple of hits near the top that show the same image.
  • The fights in this are meant to be BIG and very epic feeling, the map isn't 3d, but the towers and statues are huge and should stick up so any flyers can use them for cover.
  • Pay attention to the transition between Encounter D & E, the two encounters should flow together but not *quite* bump into each other. The queen's goal is to split the party and she isn't afraid to sacrifice a pawn to do it.
  • The harpies are smart and *really fast* so it should be hard to pin them down.
  • Area F is meant to be difficult to find. If the party 'takes 20' searching the ruins, ask them where they search and don't give it to them unless they mention at least roughly where it is.
  • In the high tier, the king has righteous might, it's not precast, but there is a lot of time left in the slot and the players have the upper hand and he has the chance, consider breaking it 'breaking out the big guns'.
  • Oh look, dismissal is handy for extra-dimensional creatures.
  • Faction Missions... are meant to be a little off the beaten track and challenging, let me know what you think about that since I'm working on another scenario.

    A couple clarifications:

  • (This is not an official clarification). I meant for Queen Lareecan to have "Rapid Shot" not "Rapid Reload". Most likely it's a non-issue, she has plenty of spells and abilities to put the hurt on the PCs without a few extra arrows flying around.

  • Paizo Employee ** Developer

    Dennis Baker wrote:
    I meant for Queen Lareecan to have "Rapid Shot" not "Rapid Reload". Most likely it's a non-issue, she has plenty of spells and abilities to put the hurt on the PCs without a few extra arrows flying around.

    This will be changed when we get back from Gen Con. I don't know how that slipped by Dennis, Sean, and me before hitting print. Oops!

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    I didn't even notice it on this pass, someone asked me about it.

    Cheliax ****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber

    Yeah, dismissal. I noticed that while prepping.

    Also, the bigness and epicness of the fights. It makes me happy to see things that look like tier-appropriate levels of cool.

    I suggest strongly that prepping the high tier of this, judges make a gridded chart so that they know which of the harpies still require saves from which of the PCs.

    Andoran **

    I just drew the BIG map in preparation for a game next week.

    It's beautiful but hard to draw!

    The scale is so massive...it took me 8 sheets of chart paper to complete.

    I'll let you know how the game went after I GM it.

    Best!

    Shadow Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Eastern Washington aka WalterGM

    Sweet tips. I've decided that 4-4 is going to be the first scenario I try my hand at building terrain for, so if it turns out to be not terrible, expect to see some pictures, Dennis!

    Andoran *****

    Ran this scenario over the weekend (before I had a chance to see this thread). I didn't have much time to prepare, so I was a little confused about some of the terrain specifics. I would have liked it if the picture of the Storval Stairs from the RotRL players guide were included with the scenario.

    All I can say is...holy crap. The 6 fairly well-built PCs I ran for were quite challenged. I hadn't seen this thread, so I had the harpy encounter start right after the encounter with the Hill Giants and the cookpot (as the scenario seems to imply should happen). The group needed both the life oracle and cleric of sarenrae with healing domain to both heal full-throttle and needed three animal companions to soak up damage to survive. One PC death, though it would have been more if not for two lucky critical hits from the archer in the last encounter.

    If this is the increased Season 4 difficulty level, I expect that there will be a lot of "buyer's remorse" from the players who asked for it to be harder...

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    The harpy encounter is supposed to be right after the cookpot encounter, you did it right. Hope I didn't confuse things above.

    What was the APL of your group?

    The last encounter is tough and I don't expect most scenarios will have a slugfest like that. I'm certainly not writing one that tough into the next scenario.

    The big question is whether the players enjoyed it.

    Andoran *****

    Dennis Baker wrote:

    The harpy encounter is supposed to be right after the cookpot encounter, you did it right. Hope I didn't confuse things above.

    What was the APL of your group?

    The last encounter is tough and I don't expect most scenarios will have a slugfest like that. I'm certainly not writing one that tough into the next scenario.

    The big question is whether the players enjoyed it.

    The group of 6 averaged out to APL 11 (two level 11 PCs, one level 10 PC, three level 9 PCs).

    The players and I all had a good time, despite me having to pause a few times to figure out the terrain. (The picture in the scenario makes a lot more sense after I googled "Storval Stairs." Should have done this before running...ah well.)

    The scenario did scare us into probably not playing up during Season 4. Six level 8 PCs would have been in deep trouble at high tier.

    Cheliax ****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber

    GenCon AAR:

    Thursday AM: 5 player table, low. TPK'd by the harpies, including Mike's son playing Kyra, and Wes the VC whose surname I kept failing to get.
    Thursday Evening: 4 player table, low. Success with challenges. VC Dan Luckett's table.
    Saturday Evening: 5 player table, low. 1 dead bard, 1 cleric died twice. Succeeded eventually after retreating and returning for two go-rounds with the harpies. Dragnmoon's table.

    Encourage players to find or lose a player to the 4 or 6 player table size. Do not muster 10 players onto two equal-APL 5 player tables, muster a 4 and a 6. Really. 5 is bad news.

    Cheliax ****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber
    Tristan Windseeker wrote:
    Dennis Baker wrote:

    The harpy encounter is supposed to be right after the cookpot encounter, you did it right. Hope I didn't confuse things above.

    What was the APL of your group?

    The last encounter is tough and I don't expect most scenarios will have a slugfest like that. I'm certainly not writing one that tough into the next scenario.

    The big question is whether the players enjoyed it.

    The group of 6 averaged out to APL 11 (two level 11 PCs, one level 10 PC, three level 9 PCs).

    Based on my understanding of Guide 4.2:

    Six players of levels totaling 59 is APL 10 for Season 4.
    Six players of levels totaling 48 is APL 8 for Season 4.

    The old APL calculation rule applies for scenarios prior to Season 4, though.

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    From the guide:
    "Starting with Season 4, scenarios are designed for six characters and contain instructions on how to adjust the scenario for four-character parties. Do not add +1 to the APL for six and seven character parties in these scenarios."

    APL = 2*11 + 10 + 3*9 = 59/ 6 players = 9.83

    A touch on the low side and they had the option to play down. That's always a tough call when you have characters on the high side of one of the subtiers though.

    Andoran *****

    Dennis Baker wrote:

    From the guide:

    "Starting with Season 4, scenarios are designed for six characters and contain instructions on how to adjust the scenario for four-character parties. Do not add +1 to the APL for six and seven character parties in these scenarios."

    APL = 2*11 + 10 + 3*9 = 59/ 6 players = 9.83

    A touch on the low side and they had the option to play down. That's always a tough call when you have characters on the high side of one of the subtiers though.

    Oops, my mistake. This particular group of players would have voted to play up regardless though.

    I don't think this was a touch on the low side though...9.83 vs 10? If one player had an extra level, they would have clearly been APL 10 and required to play 10-11.

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    Look at it this way. The scenario is most appropriate for groups with APLs from 9.5 to 11. So 9.8 is pretty firmly on the low end of the power curve for that subtier.

    Cheliax ****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber

    9.83 rounds to 10 and has no choice, though, Dennis.

    Shadow Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Eastern Washington aka WalterGM

    I believe Dennis is saying that the scenario's higher tier was designed with a party between an APL of 9.5 to 11 in mind. So it's probably best suited for APL 10.25, or something around there.

    So when a 9.83 plays in that higher tier, it's going to be harder on them than on an APL of 10.25, or whatever it was built for. In other words: 9.5 to 11 is a spread, with an APL of 9.5 having a rougher time than an APL of 11, and some APL in between being ideal for a fair and fun challenge.

    Cheliax ****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber

    I never ran the high tier at GenCon. The low tier with five players was brutal, the low tier with four players was challenging.

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    Re-reads the APL stuff

    You're right, they didn't have the option to play down.

    All I'm saying is Subtier 10-11 is going to be much tougher for a group that is APL 9.8 than it is for APL 10.5. I hear you on the five player groups. Maybe they should play the same as four player groups rather than six players.

    Keep in mind in season three the same group would have faced encounters which are 1 CR lower across the board. It's a big jump.

    Cheliax ****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber

    The 5 player group doesn't get a choice with the current-season rules. I've started encouraging people to muster a group of 10 equal-apl players to tables of 4 and 6 for Season 4 content, rather than 2x5.

    It may only be really necessary for this one, but it seems like it'll be true more often.

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    I know they don't get a choice. I was thinking in terms of rules/ policy.

    Andoran **

    Hey there.

    I know that Section D and E are covered/caverns, but is section C?
    That is: Is section C an open courtyard or does it too have a roof?

    Cheliax ****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber

    Open courtyard, based on the RotRL graphic Dennis linked at the top. It really helps visualize what's going on at the location in question.

    Andoran **

    TetsujinOni wrote:
    Open courtyard, based on the RotRL graphic Dennis linked at the top. It really helps visualize what's going on at the location in question.

    Ah. I see it now. Thanks!

    Cheliax ****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber

    I like the story that is going in the adventure a lot. I look forward to more opportunities to run it...

    *

    I may have missed something but there doesnt appear to be any way in the scenario for Osirion Faction members to complete their faction goal as their is only reference to one of the required items in the scenario.

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    There is a red herring in the faction mission. In essence, the stairs have a reputation for having creatures A&B. The faction heads aren't psychic so they ask for any components the party stumbles across. It says what the actual success criteria is in the success criteria at the end of the scenario.

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    I'm printing this out for running at Pacificon this weekend and I noticed on the map it appears the stairs sort of rise up from the plateau near the top of the map, there is even a shadow cast on the plateau. This is a bit misleading. The stairs are sunken into the plateau the entire way, like a ravine cut into the side of the cliff face. The two rooms on the north part of the cliff are actually underground chambers. Areas C, D, and E are structures well below the cliff top. The absolute tops of those area are a bit lower than the cliff face.

    *

    Dennis Baker wrote:
    There is a red herring in the faction mission. In essence, the stairs have a reputation for having creatures A&B. The faction heads aren't psychic so they ask for any components the party stumbles across. It says what the actual success criteria is in the success criteria at the end of the scenario.

    Thanks for that, its quite easy to miss.

    I also notice that Formoch has Heal listed as one of his level 5 spells. That cant be right surely?

    *

    One thing to note about the Queen. She has Haste in both tiers. In the high tier her statistics sections mentins that she has cast it on herself (although it hasnt added the extra attack) but the pre fight buffing doesnt mention it. The tactics also has her buffing herself and her allies with Good Hope but seemingly forgetting that Haste also affects multiple people.

    Of course that might well be intentional. Giving a whole bunch of flying bow wielding enemies another attack at their highest bonus when they are already significantly buffed may well be a little overkill but those who like to run enemies to the hilt might be interested in doing so.

    Andoran **

    Dennis Baker wrote:
    I'm printing this out for running at Pacificon this weekend and I noticed on the map it appears the stairs sort of rise up from the plateau near the top of the map, there is even a shadow cast on the plateau. This is a bit misleading. The stairs are sunken into the plateau the entire way, like a ravine cut into the side of the cliff face. The two rooms on the north part of the cliff are actually underground chambers. Areas C, D, and E are structures well below the cliff top. The absolute tops of those area are a bit lower than the cliff face.

    Elevation in feet would help me understand this.

    -The bottom of the stairs is 0 feet in elevation
    -The first set of stairs rise ? feet in elevation.
    -Area C is flat. Therefore the elevation does not change.
    -Area D's roof is 50 feet higher than area C.
    -Area E's roof is 30 feet higher than area C.
    -The next set of stairs rises a total of ? feet in elevation.
    -The next landing is flat. Therefore the elevation does not change.
    -The last set of stairs rises ? feet in elevation (I think)

    Can you help me fill in the "?"
    After your post, I'm really confused about areas C,D, and E.
    Thanks!

    *****

    I ran this last night and had an absolute blast. My interpretation of the map, judging from the various descriptions and this picture is thus:

    -The bottom of the stairs is 0 feet in elevation
    -The first set of stairs rise 80 feet in elevation to the 'little' landing.
    -The next set of stairs up to area C is 50'.
    -This would put area C 130' above the bottom level.
    -Area C is 50x50' and is open to the sky.
    -The area between areas C & D (between the squares) also has no roof.
    -Area D's roof is 50 feet higher than area C.
    -Area E's roof is 30 feet higher than area C.
    -The next set of stairs rises a total of 75 feet in elevation, to the next landing with the 2 open-air balconies.
    -The next landing is flat. Therefore the elevation does not change.
    -The last set of stairs rises 45 feet in elevation. I took this to be the top of the stairs, and level with the top of the plateau.

    This puts the top of the stairs at 250' higher than the bottom. The two large statues of Karzoug are supposed to be 300' tall, and about even with the top of the plateau, so this about works out. I envisioned that the cliff isn't a straight 90 degree angle, but slopes down a bit from the top before making a sheer drop behind the buildings.

    Keep in mind that each step is 2' high and 2' deep, so the stairs rise at a 45 degree angle. Also, each square in the map is 10', not 5'.

    I hope that helps!

    Edit: I don't know where that picture is from originally, I just did a Google image search for "Storval Stairs" and that popped up.

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    Myron's elevations are about right. The stairs are actually supposed to be 400' tall, but it's really difficult to compress that much height into a single map. The uppermost, unlabeled rooms are meant to be underground chambers, but you can also run them as open air as well. The big thing to remember is the bottom of the stairs is at the valley floor and top of the stairs is on the plateau. The stairs don't rise above the plateau.

    @andrew - I did not include haste in any of the stat blocks though they will almost all be under the effects of the spell. I thought it would be confusing to add the extra attack to the attack lines and rather than apply half the bonuses left it off entirely so GMs would apply the movement, +1 on AC and attacks, and extra attacks separately. Not sure what the best way to handle that would be, it's not like a normal static bonus.

    As for Heal... I have to go back and look at it but probably a gaff on my part. *cringe*

    *

    TetsujinOni wrote:

    GenCon AAR:

    Thursday AM: 5 player table, low. TPK'd by the harpies, including Mike's son playing Kyra, and Wes the VC whose surname I kept failing to get.
    Thursday Evening: 4 player table, low. Success with challenges. VC Dan Luckett's table.
    Saturday Evening: 5 player table, low. 1 dead bard, 1 cleric died twice. Succeeded eventually after retreating and returning for two go-rounds with the harpies. Dragnmoon's table.

    Encourage players to find or lose a player to the 4 or 6 player table size. Do not muster 10 players onto two equal-APL 5 player tables, muster a 4 and a 6. Really. 5 is bad news.

    Wow, it’s hilarious how different tables play out. When I wrote my review I had no idea it was challenging for some groups. Maybe we just had the counter to everything.

    My run was very easy. Our table had 4 pregens (gunslinger-who was ineffective, ninja-was ‘ok’, Ezren- was ‘ok’, Kyra – was ‘ok’), a witch (effective here even though sleep was never used), and me (the only heavy hitter). Never felt threatened once. I think I took a total of 19 damage, and 13 in another fight, which is significant since my PC and the ninja were the only melee.

    The reason it was easy was because the main NPCs were affected by all humanoid spells, and their Will saves were weak. Hold Person, Charm Person, Glitterdust, some kind of witch possession. Fail, fail, fail. Blind opponents have trouble hitting you, are easy to hit, and don't get AoO.

    ”Encounter by encounter”:

    First encounter was a warmup and we took minimal damage because of Glitterdust.

    Second encounter they were blinded with Glitterdust, Hold Person, and then possession on another. The fight was over in round 2, saved X, we more or less had to wait to finish them off.

    Third encounter was cool, but we all made our saves and then I destroyed the wall with my adamantium falchion. I think the flyers were fireballed.

    Fourth encounter, we hid in the ruins (avoiding ranged attacks). Boss appears and I put Darkness on myself (preventing targeted spells and adding concealment) which worked since I have Dark Vision. Kind of a funny I used the same tactics that are usually used on us. Boss missed (because of concealment), I crit (twice), it was over.

    It was a good time, even though they felt like punching bags. Have no idea why other groups had trouble. Either you have DPS and focus fire and kill everything quick, or you have arcane/divine support and just make everything silly.

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    Thanks for putting up a detailed review Jason!

    Andoran **

    Dennis Baker wrote:
    The uppermost, unlabeled rooms are meant to be underground chambers, but you can also run them as open air as well. The big thing to remember is the bottom of the stairs is at the valley floor and top of the stairs is on the plateau. The stairs don't rise above the plateau.

    Thanks Dennis and Myron.

    How high are the ceilings in the uppermost, unlabeled rooms? Also, do they constitute one large chamber or three separate chambers?

    One thing Myron said confuses me:

    -The area between areas C & D (between the squares) also has no roof.

    According to the description of area D: "Three openings provide access to the ground level" page 10. Therefore, it seems that the area between C &D must have a roof since they provide three ways to get into the cave structure. Unless the area is covered, then there's really only one way into D.

    Edit: OH! Myron's referring to the holes in the roof in the area between C & D. Okay. That makes sense. I suppose a flying creature could descend or ascend those holes into the ruins below? Hmm....

    *

    If some groups find a scenario easy and some groups find it hard, the scenario's challenge level is probably exactly right.

    My only regret is that we didn't have more time in this scenario. Thanks for the fun.

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    @Silverhand - I'm not sure what Myron means.

    The stairs and all the landings on the stairs (flat sections like area C) have an open view to the sky. The chambers to the sides are large enclosed chambers, either buildings, or caverns carved out of the cliff face.

    Andoran **

    Dennis Baker wrote:

    @Silverhand - I'm not sure what Myron means.

    The stairs and all the landings on the stairs (flat sections like area C) have an open view to the sky. The chambers to the sides are large enclosed chambers, either buildings, or caverns carved out of the cliff face.

    Edit: OH! Myron's referring to the holes in the roof in the area between C & D. Okay. That makes sense. I suppose a flying creature could descend or ascend those holes into the ruins below? Hmm....

    There are two 10 X 10 and two 5 X 10 holes between areas C and D. They appear to be shafts leading down to the ruins below.

    Is that what they are intended to be? I treated them as pillars holding up the roof of the structure of area D.

    In short: I'm still confused. Getting better...but still confused.

    Andoran **

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Here's my last "contribution" to the math of "The Storval Stairs". :)

    There are 25 squares designated as stairs (two are "half" so I grouped them as 1 to total 25). Each square is 10 feet long.

    If each step was 3.2 feet high (instead of 2 feet high RAW) and 2 feet wide:

    3.2 feet high X 5 steps (2 feet wide) = 16 feet in elevation per 10 foot square.

    16 X 25 = 400 exactly.

    Does this work?

    This is significant if the module was going to be reprinted and tweaked.

    Getting to area F is very difficult if the players can't fly. The relative elevation from, say, the roof of D becomes important if the players want to climb up and try to get to F from there.

    With the current published reckoning, the elevation on the roof of C is: 180 feet.

    With the new reckoning above,the elevation on the roof of C is: 258 feet.

    This is significant when you consider the statues are said to be 300 feet high.

    Anyway...I'm done with this. :) Just trying to help make the map fit the description. Cheers ya'll.

    *

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Sorry to bump again, but I just wanted to mention that the suggestion by Dennis to print out the picture of the KS in the RotRL guide worked really well for us, because that's what our GM did. After we saw that, the other maps made a lot more sense and it was easy to visualize.

    I hope all authors in the future provide free tips for GMs to use. Other resources (like Dennis did), or even additional material that didn't make it into the scenario (like Jim Groves has done) is very welcome, so that GMs can do a better job running the scenario.

    Cheliax **

    I enjoyed running this and of it's a sign of things to come in Season 4. I usually GM for a fairly high-powered group so it was good to be able to challenge them even a little. Although they triggered the Harpy encounter second as one of them flew directly up to the top of the statues to get a better look around, so I had to adjust things a little.

    The terrain never came into play for us really, as everyone could either Fly or Teleport to some extent. (3 Sorcerers and 1 Witch)

    We did a double-take at one part though... Heh.

    You're provided with a CL 18 Greater Teleport Scroll at the beginning of the Scenario and have access to it at the end. That's all well and good, but we worked out that, by RAW, only two humanoids on Golarion are capable of creating that; Razmir and the Queen of Kyonin. Respect to Guaril, he's got some contacts!

    Cheliax ****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber
    Dezhem wrote:

    I enjoyed running this and of it's a sign of things to come in Season 4. I usually GM for a fairly high-powered group so it was good to be able to challenge them even a little. Although they triggered the Harpy encounter second as one of them flew directly up to the top of the statues to get a better look around, so I had to adjust things a little.

    The terrain never came into play for us really, as everyone could either Fly or Teleport to some extent. (3 Sorcerers and 1 Witch)

    We did a double-take at one part though... Heh.

    You're provided with a CL 18 Greater Teleport Scroll at the beginning of the Scenario and have access to it at the end. That's all well and good, but we worked out that, by RAW, only two humanoids on Golarion are capable of creating that; Razmir and the Queen of Kyonin. Respect to Guaril, he's got some contacts!

    Hmm. Need 25 strand of prayer beads with beads of karma to make that work...

    Cleric 16 with Travel domain, plus an orange ioun stone and another permanent +1 caster level item.

    A little more in reach.

    *****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

    Ready to run this three times tomorrow at Dragon*Con. I smell several PC deaths and several gallons of player tears.

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    Didn't you run this at Gencon already?

    *****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
    Dennis Baker wrote:
    Didn't you run this at Gencon already?

    I was an OF GM and I got used at HQ instead.

    Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

    Well at least you get to run it this weekend. Feedback is mandatory for you Baird.

    I'll be running it twice this weekend. Once with Painlord at my mercy.

    Silver Crusade **

    Kyle Baird wrote:
    Ready to run this three times tomorrow at Dragon*Con. I smell several PC deaths and several gallons of player tears.

    Thinking you are smelling the dead PC's from my tables of Rats 1 & 2 tomorrow....

    ****

    Pathfinder Card Game, Modules Subscriber
    Alexander_Damocles wrote:
    Kyle Baird wrote:
    Ready to run this three times tomorrow at Dragon*Con. I smell several PC deaths and several gallons of player tears.
    Thinking you are smelling the dead PC's from my tables of Rats 1 & 2 tomorrow....

    Rats 1 and Storval kill very different kinds of PCs (well, the same kinds if they're played like blundering idiots...)

    *****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

    It was a bit of a massacre today. 2 sessions, 10 players, 1.5 PP awarded total.

    Cheliax ****

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber

    So, my assessment is that a competent at-tier 4 or 6 person table is challenged-but-OK....

    I'm guessing there were a couple of bad saves and a couple of bad decisions in that total, Kyle?

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