From Hell's Heart (GM Reference)


Skull & Shackles

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I've been told by another forum member to make a new thread with all the changes that me and my players have done to the AP and I'm probably trying to see what comes out.

Let's go with the Aiger's Kiss thing. It's going to be a looooong story.

First, I'm GMing it in a Dragonlance setting. That means that the goddess of the Sea is Zeboim, a CE capricious and volatile stormy goddess. I made her to be a lot more relevant to the campaign. I.e. all the Impositions that the party can gain by spending disrepute are granted as divine blessings. Most party members are devout followers.

Zeboim was also the goddess that the Shrouded Queen followed. There was a time when the gods went missing. The Shrouded Queen went mad because of losing the connection to her goddess and searched for different kinds of magic (thus becoming a Mystic Theurge, probably an Oracle/Sorceress) to find her goddess.

She opened a dimensional portal to try to access her goddess, but she wasn't able to do it, only to bring some outsiders.

Tevenida Aiger was a follower of Takhisis, the main evil goddess. She had her weapon blessed by her. Takhisis was the only goddess who wasn't missing (just hiding herself) and gave her follower the task of getting rid of the Shrouded Queen and her troublesome creatures.

The rest of the backstory is still the same. The only thing I have to mention is that Takhisis was slain and Zeboim (who was her daughter) hates her for having betrayed all the gods.

Here is where the players come to play. Sandara starts dreaming of the Black Tower. She hears the screams of a desperate woman who is trapped inside. She looks like she's suffering in agony.

They investigate the story of the place and realize that the woman might be the Shrouded Queen. They are not actually surprised when they get to her and see what Lovecraftian horror she has become.

The fight was interesting because they refused to go into the room where the Shrouded Queen is trapped so they used a Lyre of Construction to be able to have LOE from the floor above while she remains trapped. She wasn't able to come close to her.

When everything is over, the captain comes close to the sword and she (having the outsider type) is affected by the Antipathy effect. So aside of not being able to touch it, she decides she hates that weapon.

After recovering it, they face Barracuda. He tries to intimidate him but they are not impressed. The PCs are convinced that they have recovered the weapon for their goddess and that they have still something to do with it, and are adamant about not giving it to him until they are done. Also, they tell him «we need ships to defeat our enemy. We want 10 ships for the sword after we are done with it». Barracuda doesn't have 10 ships nor he is able to get them.

Second part of the story, the crossover: at this time one of my players was GMing a story in the same setting where I was a player where some planar portals appeared and they had to be closed. That happened just at the same time that I was GMing the Black Tower. So we thought it could be cool to have a small crossover between the two stories and have Aiger's Kiss to be a relevant tool in both stories.

So with my other GM's permission I made one of the portals from the other story appear to the S&S PCs and gave them a small mission to close it before it became a big threat. Then we got the PCs from both stories to negotiate an arrangement between them so the S&S characters lent Aiger's Kiss to the other PCs and my other GM gave us a quest to find a way to recharge the magic of Aiger's Kiss so it could be able to close the other portals. Note that the wording of Aiger's Kiss is confusing, as in some places it seems to be able to destroy the portals and in its description it says it is only able to seal them while the sword is inside. We took it as it was able to destroy them as it was more interesting for the story.

So Aiger's Kiss was returned to the PCs after a while and they sent a Sending to Barracuda saying that they were willing to sell the sword now. They still wanted 10 ships for it.

So the fleet battle against Harrigan started near the PC's island. The skies were blue and it was a perfect morning. Sandara lead the charge with her Tropical Storm Squadron. And... guess who had joined Harrigan's fleet? You're right, Barracuda Aiger.

The PCs were furious. Sandara had still Aiger's Kiss with her. She looked to Barracuda, held the sword like she was going to throw it overboard, gave him a wicked smile and yelled:

«Look at what you have done, traitor! I'm offering your mother's sword as a sacrifice to the Goddess!»

Here I was expecting that the PCs would ask Sandara not to do it. But they encouraged her. It was the foul sword who mutated and held trapped a priestess of their goddess. They were all pissed at Barracuda. So they started yelling her to do it. Sandara went on:

«Zeboim! This is the sword of your hated mother! It was used to imprison your followers and to destroy your magic! It's all yours!»

And she throwed the sword overvboard.

It never reached the water. A single lightning came from the sky and hit the sword. It was instantly vanished in a huge explosion that knocked everybody prone (no real effect, just flavor) while black storm clouds started to fill the sky. All the battle took place in the middle of an epic storm and everybody who went overboard was swiftly killed by the sea's fury (both allies and enemies). I gave the PCs fleet a +1 to their morale bonus, as it seem that Zeboim was on their side.
Also, when they were hit by the energy wave released by the destroyed sword the PCs were given a boon as a reward for being so devoted to the goddess: I allowed them to give them a bonus to the Ability score they chose as with a Wish spell. My players don't usually buy manuals or use Wish spells to do this so it felt like a very special thing.

I wanted to reward my players for putting roleplaying above material reward. For what they knew they were losing an artifact to no benefit (knowing me as a GM I'm sure they realized that if they let Sandara sacrifice the sword I would have it destroyed) and still they chose to do it.

After the fleet battle, Sefina found Barracuda at the shore among the corpses and debris of the battle. He was the only survivor. She told the PCs and they immediately thought their goddess had him to survive so they could take care of him themselves. They thought they could provoke the wrath of Zeboim if they killed him after she had spared him so they had the Magus to cast Baleful Polymorph on him and turn him into a small fish. And so were Aiger's Kiss and Barracuda Aiger vanished from our game.

As I said, there's a lot in the story that is too specific of our setting to be useful for another campaigns, but I enjoyed GMing this as much as my players enjoyed playing it. As you can see I have added a lot of relevance to Zeboim in my story as Dragonlance had always a lot to do with gods.

And if you wonder, I had issues with the Black Tower and Aiger's Kiss from the very beginning. I loved the story. I loved the dungeon. I loved the sword.

But...

My players wouldn't be interested in sidequesting for some mythic treasure when they were preparing the defense against Harrigan. The sword was useless to them, even in the last book they wouldn't have a good use for it because it didn't fit any of the PCs. And it was an ARTIFACT. The only one in the whole AP. I wanted it to be relevant, not just an useless loot from a random side quest.

With the quick crossover and the sacrifice to their goddess I think Aiger's Kiss got the relevance it deserved. Even if it's gone forever. Let it rest in pieces.

P.S. Sorry for the loooong post.


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It has been a long way but it is over! Today we finished the campaign.

My players went to the Filthy Lucre instead to the house first, and they were kinda subtle, so they took care of Kerdak before they fought Hyapatia. The ressult? They carried him with them when they faced her. After she tried to defeat them and casted Suggestion trying to make them free the unconscious Kerdak she negotiated for his life. The PCs felt empathy for the lamia and let both live with the promise to leave and never come back.

I never expected this outcome!


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Pretty cool ending. I would've been concerned that my campaign was doomed not to end on a high note (hurricane king already defeated, just clearing some mooks), but I guess it worked out well for you. Always nice to be suprised as a GM.

My players just entered the lucrehold through the crypts, so my campaign will be coming to an end soon as well. As I made sure they despise the hurricane king I'm pretty sure he will not survive the adventure.
He tried to have them assassinated after they defeated the chelish armada, knowing they archived what he was supposed to do. Out of fear he basically created a self-fulfilling prophecy of rivals grasping for his throne.

I slightly changed the story of the crypts so they actually contain the remains of the first hurricane king himself, who was so powerful that his ghost haunted the crypt until his successor (and murderer) had them sealed. The archdevil told Druvalia about the crypt, but as the second hurricane king is long gone there aren't any mortals left knowing about it.

After the party managed to free the former king from the magic binding him to the crypt, I plan on having him support the final attack on the current one. While the players fight his officers above deck the ghosts will keep the hurricane king himself occupied for a short time, so there is a logical reason he doesn't enter the fray early.

Getting the help of the first hurricane king is also a pretty neat legitimation to grasp for the crown I guess, not that my players need it.


Some cool changes there!
I was a bit concerned too about ending the campaing fighting some mooks, but in the end it made it more personal, and it was fine.


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I have made many changes to the AP as a whole. We play weekly and have just finished Book 4, having started the AP in Jan 2016. Here's an outline of what I did in Books 1-4 so far, and what is planned for Books 5 and 6...

It has been lots of fun to run and play, but I had to make a lot of changes for it to work for me, and cram in every pirate trope I wanted.

Spoilers for any players...

Book 1: Ran this one more or less as written...

Book 2: Expanded on Rickety Squibs... in return for the ship fitting the PCs had to go and rescue his lost son from an old gold mine, now full of Troglodytes. I replaced much of the 'pirating' of Book 2 with a long "Whalebone Pike" (slight name change) side-quest. The PCs first headed to Tidewater Rock (expanded the tower size) which was home to Whalebone's wife and daughters - Kerdak's curse that made Whalebone undead had also turned them into vampire/vampire spawn. The PCs managed to slay the lot, plus their undead servants, and then followed the map carried by Isabella and found Whalebone's treasure hoard at Mancatcher Cove. As they left, Whalebone arrived for revenge, and the PCs then had to slay him and his rotted ship of ghoul crew in Book 2's finale. The PCs learned from Whalebone that Kerdak had slain Pike, but Pike had cut off Kerdak's hand in the duel. Kerdak then entered a pact with Raugsmauda (in my version she is an exiled Chelish Sorcerer) to protect him - his soul actually resides inside Brinebones (like a phylactery). Brinebones was created by Raugsmauda for Kerdak for this very purpose, after Raugsmauda and Kerdak slew Aashaq's offspring...

Book 3: Lots of changes. The PCs befriended Tessa, and had to help her when assassins (Red Mantises) hired by Harrigan (on Kerdak's orders) attacked her Port Peril mansion. The PCs then met the Pirate Council (they gained an audience by virtue of their fame, having found Whalebone Pike's treasure). At the Council the PCs were challenged to take part in the Captain's Regatta to prove their mettle. The PCs were then sent on a quest (on Tessa's advice to help them win the race) to find Jalazar's (first Pirate King) magic wheel. They found Jalazar's shipwreck (sharks, evil Merman, etc) , but the wheel was gone. It was eventually found on a volcanic island with demon-worshipping Kuru barbarians (the wheel was used as the sacrificial frame for victims, suspended over a lava pit... picture Indian Jones Temple of Doom). The PCs returned to Port Peril with the Wheel, and with the help of its magics won the Regatta. They were then told by the Council to go and claim the Island of Empty Eyes, as per the adventure.

Book 4: I played out the Chelish Fort as written, but Bikendi and his hired crew had been sent by Raugsmauda to get the Soul Gem, a cyclops item that can draw out and capture souls. Raugsmauda had learned of Kerdak's Chelish plots, and wanted him dead (she likes the Shackles as they are). But she needs the Soul Gem to pull Kerdaks' soul out of Brinebones (otherwise if slain Kerdak will just reawaken 24 hours later). Bikendi had stolen the gem from the cyclops as per the adventure, but it was taken back by the cyclops. The PCs headed off in pursuit. I changed Sumitha (too big/hard to map at the table) to a ruined cyclopean ziggurat with a maze/dungeon underneath, with a cyclops/lich guarding the Soul Gem. I ended Book 4 there, before the Feast of Spoils.

Book 5: We are starting that this week. Raugsmauda will intercept the PCs and steal the Soul Gem! The PCs will then host the Feast of Spoils, but Kerdak sends Arronax and Chelish marines and devils to slay the upstart PCs.... he has promised his pet Harrigan that he won't let the PCs become Pirate Lords. Clues in the raid point to Harrigan (he briefed Arronax), and the PCs finally head off to kill their old rival. In his sanctum they find details of the planned Chelish invasion, and Kerdak's treachery. Then the PCs will head off to Raugsmauda's island to get the Soul Gem back. They are going to face lots of voidstick zombies, giant insects, spiders and the like on her jungle isle, plus her ruined tower and lots more undead. They will find the gem, but as they leave she ambushes them on her massive ship, the Naiegoul, crammed with undead. They should parley (she has the power to slay them), and negotiate a pact with her to slay Kerdak, their common enemy.

Book 6: The PC's head back to Port Peril to slay Kerdak, but Tessa is about to be executed by hanging! She is their ally, and they have been declared traitors... (and blamed for lots of stuff that is all Kerdak's fault). But maybe Tessa's hanging is a ruse by Kerdak to flush the PCs out (since they have vanished off radar whilst on Raugsmauda's island). The PCs crash the hanging (at the Locker, Port Peril's prison) and free lots of prisoners (they need followers). They then assault Fort Hazard and eventually face Kerdak in Lucrehold, and slay Brinebones and Kerdak in the finale on the Filthy Lucre. They use the Soul Gem and drag Kerdaks' soul into it. They think its game over... but then find more details on the Chelish invasion and realise it’s happening NOW, and must rally all the pirates to follow them to vanquish the foreign fleet. I might throw in a side-quest to a ruined sunken city (because I think the AP needs one) for some kind of McGuffin that helps sink the invasion fleet. Still debating that. Either way, a battle on board the Chelish flagship will be the campaign finale… .

The AP will end (hopefully by December of this year) with the surviving PCs as Pirate Lords, under their chosen Hurricane King.

Raugsmauda (and maybe Aashaq) will be left as possible loose ends, for one or more sequels (one day), for levels 15-20.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Neat tweaks to the story. Hopefully Fort Scurvy gets finished in time for the big finish, assuming you want to assault the full pirate fort in the final adventure!


I'M about to run the fleet battle, and am having issues with the fact that half of the Chellish fleet is galleys, which, as written, can't handle long sea voyages. What would happen if I replace them with warships?

The PCs fleet is somewhat boosted after they held an impromptu pirate council meeting without Bonefist, and bribed various people into joining them, so they have 58 ships, including the Indomiinable (formerly Dominator).

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Neriathale wrote:

I'M about to run the fleet battle, and am having issues with the fact that half of the Chellish fleet is galleys, which, as written, can't handle long sea voyages. What would happen if I replace them with warships?

The PCs fleet is somewhat boosted after they held an impromptu pirate council meeting without Bonefist, and bribed various people into joining them, so they have 58 ships, including the Indomiinable (formerly Dominator).

The fleet battle rules were actually written after I wrote the adventure so I can't offer any particularly useful advice on that score, other than to handwave it and say it all just worked out somehow and run the battle without worrying too much about how the galleys got there.


Jason Nelson wrote:


The fleet battle rules were actually written after I wrote the adventure so I can't offer any particularly useful advice on that score, other than to handwave it and say it all just worked out somehow and run the battle without worrying too much about how the galleys got there.

I did a bit of fudging here and there. and it ended up an epic naval engagement. We ran the encounter with cut out ships from the player guide to represent squadrons

Broadly speaking...

The right wing of the Chelish fleet were attacked and boarded by Avinar Sorrinash and his werewolves. This tied a squadron up battling enemies they couldn't kill.

the centre of the Chelish fleet headed straight for Arronax Endymion and slaughtered his squadron, then Tessa's, then a couple o others who came to help. They really don't like traitors. Only the timely arrival of Sandara Quinn, blessed by Besmara (and very good dice rolls) saved the other captains from drowning.

the left wing of the Chelish fleet went for the Indomitable (formerly Dominator) and the PCs personal squadrons. Unfortunately they were no match for the cunning tactics of Mr Squee the rat, and were lured into a pincer movement, were mauled badly and eventually turned tail and fled.

Jolis Raffles was at the battle, but suffered an unfortunate sail malfunction and arrived slightly late to help mop up the stragglers.


I'm about to go into the fight against Druvalia Thrune, and I have to say she seems like a scary customer to me. Perhaps I'm unusual in that my group is NOT super heavily optimized players, but if I'm understanding all of her buffs, etc. correctly, doesn't she make full attacks (against humans, which includes every member of my party) for +23/+23/+23/+18 for 1d10+4d6+18+1d6 fire?

They handled the fleet battle fine--it was just the right amount of challenging, but the way losses add up and the Thrune ships' relatively low morale helped to ensure that some of the enemy ships routed. But Druvalia definitely seems like she's a big threat to a group of players with only average mobility and no easy ways to fry her from afar!


Finally got around to thoroughly reading the tail-end of this adventure, and I'm a bit confused by Hyapatia's tactics/statblock. She has 6 levels of Sorcerer - with no multiclassing - and somehow has several non-Sorcerer spells, specifically Shield of Faith, Aid, Grace, Weapon of Awe, Cure Serious Wounds, Divine Power, Slay Living, and Planar Ally. That's a LOT of mistakes, which has me thinking it's not a mistake, and I'm just missing something, but I can't figure out what...

Can anyone shed some light on this? I thought maybe she had those Divine Obedience feats, since she worships Besmera, but she doesn't have anything like that, and her Bloodline doesn't grant her any of these spells.


As a Lamia Matriarch Hyapatia is allowed to cast both sorcerer and cleric spells (both count as arcane). It's in the monster entry.


Ah, that was my problem - I was looking up the Monster entry for a regular Lamia. Thanks for the reply.


Welp, it's finally over...my group just finished From Hell's Heart! They went straight for the ship, bypassing the residence with a mass fly spell and a wall of force to block off the exits. Fortunately I remembered the teleportation circle in the Filthy Lucre, so after they cleared the decks they found Kerdak fled back into the Residence...leading them into a slightly reordered comb through the residence until they faced Kerdak on the beach outside.

I have to say that Kerdak himself was kind of a disappointment...definitely a heavy hitter (three pistol shots to the captain put him dangerously close to death, but the inquisitor got him with a scroll of heal), but on the very first round the wizard hit him with a greater dispel magic that took out all three of his buffs (lucky roll on the caster level check). After he went down to a persistent cacophonous call, it was all over but the shouting...

It ended up very satisfying, though. They'd set the Lucre ablaze before teleporting off, so I had the magazine explode just as bonefist emerged to do battle with them, and the final fight came down to him face-to-face with the swashbuckler captain. The music cooperated, too...the track from Gladiator where the Emperor is being killed reached its high point just as he went down!

All in all, a satisfying conclusion to the AP. ;)

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