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Black Stars Beckon (GM Reference)

Strange Aeons

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I'm using that angle (with Winter as the one tgat points it out) to express the alien nature of outer gods. Those slain by XD disease, or,sacrificed to Star Stelae, rtc, are melded with Carcosa, bypassing the regular natural cycle

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So my group finished this on Friday!

I made some changes to the final section. For one, I moved the Shrike Worms into the mist around the asylum. Which is good that I planned that, because as the party was moving through the mist TO the asylum, one of the party asked "Wait, weren't there horrible things in this mist?" Yes, yes there were.

The party actually really enjoyed moving through the asylum as it existed before they altered it. When they realized the state it was in they commented "We can fix all our past mistakes! Don't help the doppelgangers! Don't heal the enemy. DON'T TRUST THE DOG!" They also joked that the weird eye, which they found as loot in the first book and the party witch STILL had, would transform into the final boss.

Next I reskinned the Bythos Archon to being The Tatterman. Renamed its abilities to something Tatterman appropriate, but didn't actually change them at all. The group seemed to like facing it down. After he was defeated, he collapsed into a mist that started to enter their sleeping alternate selves. The party slayer immediately went to wake himself up, and then the party got to witness themselves starting their adventure.

At the tower I had moved the Brairstone Witch down to the second level, and moved the level 14 cleric to the top with Lowls. Then I changed the cleric into Weiralei, the Denizen of Leng that has been plaguing the party, though kept her a level 14 cleric. I figured it would be more thematic for the last fight to include someone they knew rather than a witch they'd never really interacted with.

I though they'd fight the witch-lich and the cultist rogues as they went up the tower. They did not.

As soon as I finished the initial box text for the tower, the group decided to just fly up to the roof ><. Just in case this happened, I prepared two hand outs. One that showed the entire map that the party would see as they flew. The other was that map superimposed over a complete Yellow Sign. I was thrilled that as I showed the group the first handout followed by the second the group witch said "Hey, that kinda looks like a... DAMMIT!" The witch and the bard then proceeded to miserably fail their saves.

So the group lands of the roof, I read the description, show them the enemies, start playing "The Final Countdown" on the Roll20 music player, and the fight starts. The party witch blasts her own party with Storm Bolts, and the Bard starts buffing the bad guys. The Cleric gets the dominate off the Witch, and the Slayer shoots the bard down. Then Lowls finished the bard off (and I send the bard a handout with the Seeded Creature template and tell her she gets up in 6 rounds.) A few rounds later, the cultist rogues and the Briarstone Witch join the party.

It was really touch and go, and a few more party members almost died, their cleric barely keeping everyone up. But at the end the party prevailed! And the bard stood up just as the fight ended. She used her insanely high bard bluff to convince the party that it was totally her Vampire Corruption that was the reason she wasn't dead.

Then they summoned some angels to hand over the Necronomicon, which surprised me, since the party witch had already fallen to Chaotic Evil through her Accused Corruption and I thought there was no way she'd give that book up. But it was actually her idea, she didn't trust herself with it.

So the party Interplanetary Teleported back to Golarion and went their separate ways. The cleric sold off all his gear and built a temple to Shelyn in Thrushmoor where he stayed for the rest of his life. The Fighter went home to his 3 wives and 9 kids in Absolam. The changeling witch went to hunt down and kill her mother, then fell to her corruption and became a hag herself. The bard eventually became the new host for Xhamen-Dor. And the Slayer, possessed by the ghost of Upianshe, dedicated the rest of his life to hunting down and slaying the bard.

It was a wild ride and a great adventure! Much appreciating to the writers and to other people on this board for great ideas in running it! Everyone had a blast! Though as exhausting as running campaigns can be leaves me glad its over, I'm also sad that it's over.

After a GREAT roleplaying interaction with the Pallid Mask, I altered the order of tge adventure, sending them instantly to Thrushmoor and erasing them from existence after they refused to «bend the knee».

Btw, this is one of the best scenes I've ever played in an RPG, the shock value was incredible, my players were in awe.

So... after they started FEARING the Pallid Mask and his Reality Altering powers, I have decided that the Pallid Mask deserves to be the final fight, and thus, need extra oomph and shock effect, because the CR17 won't work as a final boss of an AP, specially vs a well rounded team of 6 lvl 16 characters.

I'm thinking about giving him a mythical level (to get two actions), but not sure which else could he have.

Things like Maze, Greater Mindscape, Vision of hell, or Weird, are good powers to represent his alien nature and reality warping ability. Not sure what else I can give him. Adding Weirelai might work, as henchmen always help «solo» type bosses. Using Hastur as a template, I could give him a few extra SLA, such as Quickened Feeblemind.

Anyone has any good suggestions?

Play up the reality warping by jacking 5Es lair actions that boss monsters have. Basically a free action at Initiative 10 from a small list that's premade and changes the board and terrain state.

Let him shift the board, warp them to corrupt versions of places they've been, illusions and mirage arcana, make the players guess what is real and what isn't. Have the ritual call in Byakees each round and have him call up simulacrae of your NPC allies over the adventure (Winter, the Sages from your boat ride, The Yellow King, the Nethyians, Mother Grimmoon, Erich, etc).

I already have the plan that the final encounter has a yellow mist about up to ankle height and his (in my case Ariadnahs) first action if to majestically sweep it away, revealing a Yellow Sign on the entire floor.

I have been thinking about this. I think the Stranger needs to get at least +3 to CR as a boss to become a threat vs a decently (but not extreme) optimized group of 6 lvl 16 characters. I'm going to give him the Agile Simple Mythic template, and Advanced Template, at the very least. Probably will need to raise his AC, and touch AC, or otherwise he'll go down in one full round action. I have an an alchemist in my group that do a lot of damage vs touch AC, and the magus and inquisitor can also attack vs touch AC in a given round, with the magus being able to dimension door-full attack. 270 hp with touch AC 16 won't cut it. Also, he lacks any way to avoid improved invisibility, which makes him mostly a sitting duck at this levels. I thought about adding Worm that Walks template (or a modified version, based on those stats) to reflect the fact that, under the robes, he's of alien nature. However, Worm that Walks takes x1.5 damage from alchemist bombs, and that's not good for a BBEG in my campaign. Maybe I could just swap his stats with Cassilda's, to make him last longer, as a final boss should do.

I think I'm going to give him Greater Create Mindscape, which will work well as the Reality Warped lair. He'll trap them in some kind of "mirror dimension" or similar weird dimension, like endless stairs, or a cube cell with gravity toward each wall or such. Maybe making it change between mindscapes whenever you reach certain milestone, such as a number of rounds. He can make the dreamscape harmless, so no physical damage can be transferred back to reality (this helps him, since he can do charisma drain and other mental damage), while making the PC to spend resources trying to beat him, not knowing (probably) that it's a mindscape. As a bonus track, if I make him change the mindscape 2-3 times, at least one of those mindscapes could have Dead Magic, which WILL be something my players will fear. Normally Dead Magic zones aren't a great idea in my opinion because it frustrates wizards and other full casters without anything they can do about it. But here, with a turn limit, in a certain "stage" of a bigger fight, within a mindscape, might work. It will certainly crush my wizard's hope, making him (briefly) realize that the Pallid Mask is right, and there's nothing he can do to avoid defeat, because the Herald of Hastur works on a higher level, warping reality. This works well with the nihilism of Hastur, the inevitability of lovecraftian horror, and the feeling of "this is not how the Universe is supposed to work" that this genre should inspire.

I still have a few weeks to prepare for this, probably won't end until after christmas. But I want to make this an epic, memorable fight that honors the great roleplaying encounter we had with The Phantom of Truth.

Thoughts on if Ariadnah (plus her Ratling), The Pallid Mask, and Lowls all together would be too much for an at least average optimized party and possibly more optimized?

Thinking about it, maybe giving the Pallid Mask some of the traits that Hooded Harbinger have (making him, basically, the quintaessential Hooded Harbinger) could work well, better than Worm that Walks or other templates.

There are already lots of similar things, as Hooded Harbingers have:
Prophetic Utterance (which thematically works similar to Horrific Revelance, even if the in-game effect is different)
Manifest Yellow Sign (the Pallid Mask can actually cast Yellow Sign as SLA)
Thematically, Terrible Visage (although the Pallid Mask doesn't have this, in the original story, knowing that his face wasn't a mask produced a similar insanity effect)

Things that Hooded Harbinger have, and can help The Phantom of Truth, are:
Constant See Invisibility
Profane Reek (CHA to AC as deflection bonus, plus mind fog aura)
Freedom of movement.

This, plus Advanced Template and Agile Mythic template, plus 2 or 3 spells like abilities such as Greater Create Mindscape, Frightful Aspect, and Prediction of Failure, might give him enough to give them a difficult evening, without becoming Rocket Tag. He can mess with them without being overpowering.

Hubaris wrote:
Thoughts on if Ariadnah (plus her Ratling), The Pallid Mask, and Lowls all together would be too much for an at least average optimized party and possibly more optimized?

Probably not, if they are played as they come in the adventure. However, I think Hastur (or "this is just like Hastur but we can't use Hastur or we'll kill everybody") is the quintaessential "Solo boss" fight. I know this kind of fights are hard to pull off in PF because of action economy, but I want to try.

I'm going to put Ariadnah, the Star Seed and Weirelai again all together, I think.

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8

IIRC, I gave the Pallid mask full spellcasting as a wizard based on his hit dice, and piled a couple mythic tiers on to give him the archmage “swift action cast whatever spell you want” power.

Of course, I also kept Xhamen-Lowls in the fight to take some of the heat off him. If I were building him as a solo monster, I like Hubaris’ suggestion of using something like Lair actions.

How does XD's Fungal Snare ability work?
It's a ranged attack (with 3 shots), that makes the target subject to Dread Decay and Grab.

Grab produces the grappled condition. Is XD also grappled? does he has to spend standard actions to keep the target/s grappled? If not... do the grappled target get free? Or is he forced to make a grapple check to get free? If so, vs what? XD CMD?

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