My players have made it clear they'd love to continue to level 20, so I have work to do. Damn those pesky players!
I'm pretty happy with my overall plot outlines, key NPCs and so on. But before I start to get into the details (and maths) I'm wondering - did you try the same thing and how did you do it?
Once I've written the adventure I'll share it here (expect a few months before that happens). I have hacked at and incorporated much of the Witchwar Legacy module, as well as drawn a lot of inspiration (but no direct use of) the Beyond the Vault of Souls 3.5 adventure. So you'd need Witchwar to be able to play it. But here's a summary:
When the PCs defeat Karzoug, the souls he'd captured are released into the Astral plane. Karzoug's soul is also released into the Astral plane, on the way to the River of Souls and judgement. However certain beings are waiting and steal select souls. The PCs have to follow the trail, in an outer planar as well as material plane detective story, to track the stolen souls down and recover them.
The main soul that doesn't make it to the Boneyard because of this is Karzoug. That gets taken by a powerful Demon, who has reasons to be angry at Karzoug - namely that the Demon's own soul was stolen and Karzoug was involved. The PCs have to go chase down the Demon's captured soul (cue Witchwar Legacy adventure), in order to trade it for Karzoug's soul.
They must then adventure through the Abyss to meet with the Demon lord and make the trade for Karzoug's soul - which they deliver to the Boneyard for judgment.
Pharasma judges Karzoug, and he's sent to Abaddon. But with a specific condition - that they immediately destroy it. The PCs are sent there to deliver the soul and make sure that happens. A powerful Daemon tricks them, wanting to take Karzoug's soul for himself and turn it into a daemon.
The PCs have to chase the daemon across Abaddon, kill it and retrieve Karzoug's soul. And then travel to a place in Abaddon where they can make sure it's finally destroyed so that Pharasma's ruling is carried out (echoes of the one ring and mount doom).
There's also a side trip to Belkzen to a Red Dragon's fortress to get some clues, and plenty of other details. Plus some sub plots in Magnimar for the breaks. But that's the core of it.
If anyone's tried anything like this or has any suggestions, i'd be keen to hear them.
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I'd be reluctant to keep playing keep away with Karzoug/Karzoug's Soul.
I can easily see players getting annoyed at repeatedly yanking the rug out from under them - "HA HA, Karzoug's soul is free, you gotta go track it down, uh oh, not this time, you gotta go trade for it with a demon, whoops a powerful Daemon got it now..."
Monkey in the Middle isn't fun.
If its just a number goal to reach, I'd be inclined to add more to all of Spires, then just do the first part of what you have planned (I'm not familiar with the Witchwar Legacy), capping off with a Tuerny the Merciless style Karzoug (Glabrezu with lots of wizard levels...)
If its the 20(+) level experience that the players want, well I'd keep Karzoug's soul out of reach until the finale.
Thanks for the feedback. Makes a lot of sense.
My plot is too dependent on Karzoug's soul being stolen to alter that. I'll make sure the NPC that informs them immediately makes clear that Karzoug is really dead and no longer a threat. But that his soul is valuable asset, that could be used with many undesirable consequences.
That sort of begs the question of consequences- what is/are the bad thing(s) the PCs are trying to prevent here? His soul doesn't make it to the boneyard- how is that bad for Golarion? What prevents the PCs from saying "A demon is going to use his soul? I'm ok with that."
'Many undesirable consequences' should be fleshed out.
Indeed it does. Good questions, and my PCs might have them too! Thanks.
I don't want to make a consequence be that Karzoug might come back as a mortal - that would undermine the main campaign as the Lorax pointed out. So that's not a usable 'undesirable consequence'.
The initial push is party-specific for my campaign - one of the PCs is an inquisitor of Pharasma. And Pharasma is all about souls going where they should. So she has direct motivation. Essentially the PCs are asked for a favour - to help out, by some representatives of Pharasma. That should be enough to get them to at least start the job.
And then my hope is that the PCs feel a desire to 'finish the job'. Karzoug is dead yes, but having his soul properly judged in the boneyard and sent to Abaddon (for likely extermination) is the cherry on top of the cake.
You're right though, some extra meat on what those undesirable consequences might be would add a lot. I'll try to flesh that out and see what it could look like.
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What if Karzoug's soul is ancillary to the story? What if the new BBEG needs the souls of the ultra powerful to fuel the construction of the "Death Star?" What if the BBEG needs even more souls of the ultra powerful? Hmmm, I wonder who we know that might fit that description? Maybe Karzoug's soul is as much bait as anything else? What if the BBEG is in Leng? He is trying to free Mhar. What if Mhar is stuck between Leng and Golarion and he's mostly on the Leng side, making it a nasty unpleasant place? What if the BBEG is simply trying to free his own world by pushing Mhar into Golarion? Who says paladins are the only pc's who have to face these kind of no-win moral dilemmas? Welcome to the responsibilities of being the highest level characters in the world.
Interesting! Perhaps i wasn't clear about, but Karzoug's is only one of the soul's that's gone missing - some 'high value souls' from the runewell have also been taken. Which fits nicely with your suggestion.
I take it that the BBEG is using Karzoug's soul as bait to capture the PC's souls... which is deliciously evil.
Maybe making the bargaining/soul snatching happen with multiple souls (of which Karzoug is just one among the bunch) will help diffuse the Karzoug-saturation we're reacting to. This all sounds pretty solid, though- I'm very interested to hear how it goes. My party is hinting that they will also be interested in a post-runelord adventure. I'm partial to having them deal with another runelord (Rise of the Runelords, after all)and Mhar for this later adventure.
Information on those highest level adventures is few and far between so all that I can get my hands on is good, and RotRL-specific is even better.
I considered the campaign extension being about introducing a new primary BBEG, but came to the conclusion that I wanted Karzoug to not lose his status as that. For the same reason Mahr wasn't really working for me.
Hence my plot involving a collection of different major enemies, all fairly equal in their own ways, and all up to their various tricks. Karzoug doesn't get overshadowed, and the consequences of PCs major achievement is amplified by all the mischief that these Outsiders do in response to the PC's destruction of the Eye of Avarice.
After the intense combat at the end of RotRL it also gives space for a bit more role play. So the players get to experience their 'epic-ness'' through the way that a wide variety of Outsiders interact with them in some epic settings like the courts of the Boneyard, and the dark dust-covered wastes of Abaddon.
Still, I love the feel of the moral dilemma that Latrecis suggests - so before I hit the play button I want to find something at least that strong that fits into the story. Something to avoid the stark evil versus good trope.
Thanks for the feedback. It's really helpful to see from some different angles and find areas for improvement. Still have a couple months before it needs to be ready so plenty of time for adjustments.