Raynulf's Rebellion (Spoilers)

Hell's Rebels

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Much as I did for Council of Thieves, this isn’t a blow-by-blow account of our play through of Hell’s Rebels, but instead a combination of a review, a summary of our own experiences and a number of recommendations.

I’d also like to take a moment to say that although I will frequently level criticism at the published modules, I would never claim them to be anything less than excellent – Paizo’s ability to consistently produce high quality content is something to be applauded. Loudly and frequently.

So without further ado… Hell’s Rebels.

Hell’s Rebels is frequently hailed as one of – if not the – best adventure paths Paizo have produced, and given the outstanding job they did with Barzillai Thrune and the truly epic finale in the last instalment, I can absolutely understand why.

After my own turn at the GM seat with this adventure path, I am going to have to dissent a little from popular opinion though: Hell’s Rebels is good – excellent even – but I would not suggest it was one of their best offerings. This isn’t simply nostalgia for Runelords or Crimson Throne, and will require a little bit more than a paragraph to properly explain, so I’ll beg your indulgence a little longer.

The old adage that it is a villain that makes the show largely holds true, and in Hell’s Rebels the Paizo team absolutely nailed it. Barzillai Thrune isn’t just a good villain, he is an amazing villain. Paizo also managed to avoid the primary failing of campaigns such as Carrion Crown and Council of Thieves and didn’t hide the villain away: Barzillai Thrune is not only excellently written, but on camera and being the villain from the first scene to the last. He is a vivid and brilliant antagonist that gives the players a clear focus for their efforts, and the story depth and meaning. My hat goes off to the Paizo team for an awesome job.

While Barzillai is most certainly the adventure path’s greatest strength – and one that will cause most groups to forgive any number of sins - there are a number of other excellent pieces of work within. Several characters – Rexus in particular – are well rounded personalities who neither steal the limelight nor fade away completely, and add some beautifully human drama to the game. Scenarios such as the Ruby Masquerade and the Tower of Bone are almost guaranteed to be remembered fondly for years to come.

It’s a fun, action packed romp where the players get to be heroes to a beleaguered city and the lands around it.

My earlier comment about Barzillai being such a grand villain that most groups would forgive any number of sins was not without reason; there are an unfortunate number of structural flaws with Hell’s Rebels.

If I had to level but a single criticism at the adventure path, it would be that it has a chronic lack of focus. As others have rightly commented, the campaign is one of heroic adventure, but despite the name and premise, features little to no actual rebellion on the part of the PCs. Indeed, the focus of the adventure appears to meander away from those elements that are integral to the theme of rebellion at every opportunity to instead feature monsters, criminals and cultists who have little (if anything) to do with the pitched story, but instead simply keep the PCs entertained while they level up enough to take on Barzillai. This is likely the issue that most players will take note of, as it is the most obvious.

There are a number of other issues that may not bother most groups, as the degree to which narrative cohesion matters to the table varies greatly from group to group. Considering my games often include those with backgrounds in literary and film arts, it’s something I am accustomed to paying attention to.


The plot of Hell’s Rebels is weird.

The premise of the game is that there is a greater revolution going on throughout Cheliax in the form of the Glorious Reclamation, but the mostly-chaotic-aligned Kintargo will not try to work with the mostly-lawful-aligned Iomedaen order (though they will work with the exclusively-lawful-aligned Hellknights of the Torrent). From a narrative perspective this makes sense: Involving the Glorious Reclamation in Hell’s Rebels would put the PCs walking in the shadows of giants, as the bigger and more interesting story isn’t theirs, and that makes for a poor game. From a strategic and character logic perspective, it makes very little sense to try to “go it alone” against Thrune when there are potential allies just on the other side of Menador Pass (literally).

Which also leads on to the second weirdness: Why would anyone of consequence side with the rebels against Thrune, when the PCs don’t discover any means of preventing Thrune from simply waltzing in and burning them to ash later until they have already killed Barzillai. The only logic that puts siding with the rebels as anything other than total suicide, is the assumption that the Glorious Reclamation is going to win…. But even then, if the Glorious Reclamation do overthrow Thrune, then the Kintargo Rebellion is largely redundant and there is no need for anyone to stick their neck out when they can simply wait for the paladins to overthrow Abrogail and save them all. Thankfully there is a relatively simple solution, if one that is tricky to implement: Get the Kintargo Contract (or knowledge of the loophole at least) into the PCs hands early in the adventure – by the end of Book 2 at the latest.

Which leads to the third weirdness: Who were the old Silver Ravens supposed to be? The writeup casts them as ‘rebels’ who were heroes of the streets with hidden safehouses, yet also responsible for defeating armies invading Ravounel. The problem is that these are contradictory. Either they were rebels trying (and failing for 30+ years) to overthrow an unwanted government, who would need safehouses and subterfuge, OR they were the primary military force in the region defending it from incursions from elsewhere in Cheliax – in essence making them part of a local, ‘rebel’, govenment. Both are ‘rebels’ in some fashion, but one group cannot be both simultaneously. Given the almost complete lack of any kind of context as to what the political situation in Ravounel was during the civil war, it’s anyone’s guess as to what they were supposed to be (and there are some reasonable suggestions on the forums), but they cannot be as is suggested in their writeup.

Coming back to the Kintargo Contract, we then run into a fourth batch of weirdness: The Cheliax Covenant appears to be introduced as part of Hell’s Rebels and isn’t mentioned even in Cheliax: The Infernal Empire. That would be fine, if they explained more thoroughly what it actually did. The writeup suggests that the Covenant grants a few devils as support for Thrune’s armies, but mostly exists to bind the church of Asmodeus to support House Thrune. That’s… fine, except it means the Kintargo Contract doesn’t do what Abrogail I intended it to do – which is to protect her if the Church of Asmodeus ever seized control of Cheliax, as they could simply break the covenant and actually then have an easier time. There is also the larger issue of the Glorious Reclamation, and the fact that Kintargo would probably be better off breaking the Cheliax covenant to weaken Thrune and grant the Glorious Reclamation greater odds of victory, rather than relying on the somewhat tissue-thin defense the contract offers.

The final batch of weirdness is the fact that the PCs defeat Barzillai at the end of Book 4 and largely complete the internal rebellion, leaving Book 5 and 6 to the very different challenge of consolidating power and establishing a new and independent Ravounel. The issue is that this is a dramatic change in tone, and for many PCs will make little to no sense that they are the ones doing it… except for the fact that “It’s a D&D game”. Adding to this, unfortunately Book 5 comes across as make-work to keep the PCs busy until Book 6, whereby the rules of Barzillai’s genius loci ritual suddenly change because of Plot: Rather than becoming Cheliax at the end of his natural life, he is instead going to become Ravounel (only) in… a few weeks.


As I’ve mentioned, most of the adventure path is spent fighting anything except House Thrune and the Church of Asmodeus. Some of these other foes make sense, as it establishes the Silver Ravens as a force that can provide security and justice where Barzillai cannot… but too many are simply distractions that consume page count and screen time while adding little to the overall story. To give a relatively quick breakdown:

Cult of Norgorber: Hei Fen and the cult of Norgorber add pretty much zilch to the story of rebellion against Thrune. She has a weak personal motivation while her cult has virtually no motiviation to oppose the PCs at all, and don’t advance the plot in any meaningful way.

The Lucky Bones: It arrives late (as the third base of operations), occupies the majority of a book, and achieves very little, if anything. Indeed, it is exactly what you don’t want for a hidden base in a settlement (what you want is somewhere with lots of entrances and exits and a cover story for the heavy traffic, and the Lucky Bones lacks both).

The Acisazi: In the middle of liberating your home city from Thrune, you detour off to help the independent, isolationist village, who in turn might lend some token aid in the rebellion. Overall, they largely serve as a distraction for novelty’s sake.

Tayacet Tiora: Tayacet occupies the position of a character who could have added a unique angle to the story – a private investigator or dottari detective who is won over by the heroism of the Silver Ravens. Instead, she is a tourist who ultimately adds nothing that could not have been done more easily and efficiently with other established characters.

Shensen: Shensen is loud, brash, confident, powerful (moreso than a PC at the time) and with a raft of achievements already, making her command spotlight time like no other. These are fantastic traits for a PC, and in my experience terrible for an NPC, whose first and foremost job is to support the PCs and not upstage them. I originally had a substantially longer and somewhat ranty series of paragraphs on the topic of Shensen, but instead I will summarise with one contraction: Don’t.

Natsiel: Hetamon Haace is awesome. One of the many reasons he’s awesome is that he is a settled, confident and mature man who isn’t angsting about his terrible ancestry. He is also an NPC, who the PCs may or may not develop a rapport with, and may well know nothing of his backstory. His mother, who is a CE demon-lord worshipping half-succubus and who should not be insane enough to even consider approaching an inquisitor of Asmodeus for an alliance, has no actual contribution to make to the story other than to provide some different monsters to beat up.

Church of Zon Kuthon: It has been commented that Nidal originally had a larger place in the story, but was cut late in development as it was decided it was a distraction. A decision I wholeheartedly agree with, and suggest that GMs go a step further and cut down the presence of Zon-Kuthon even more, potentially even removing the Shadowsquare altogether.

The Strix: Like the Acisazi, the Strix are big on novelty value… and have little to no importance to the plot or theme of rebellion and independence. They’re an isolationist tribe of monstrous humanoids hiding in the forest.

Mangvhune: Yes, he is part of Kintargo’s backstory. Yes, he is cool. No, he has no relation to the theme of rebellion and independence, nor does his showing up and murdering people advance the plot in any way. His sole potential value is in foreshadowing the soul anchor, but not only is that not actually required, but as-written he doesn’t really do so.

The Devil’s Bells: While these have a tactical element within the temple of Asmodeus… they also seem to mostly serve as a massive distraction, and to usurp the position of Barzillai as the climax of the fourth book. Interesting idea, but adds very little and has way too much prominence for my tastes.


The rebellion mechanics is a minigame with minimal tie-in to PC action or character mechanics – it is a severe abstraction, yet also mechanically somewhat cumbersome, especially at the early, formative levels.

It is rushed in its introduction, typically being rolled out at the end of the first or second session, which feels extremely forced when many PC concepts and the provided backgrounds don’t lend themselves to leading a rebellion quite so soon. It also has very little to do with actually rebelling, as the majority of the team efforts are related to acquiring magic items or wealth, or manipulating the city statblock or the rebellion encounter table results. Indeed, the best use of the system is to mostly focus on recruitment and then lying low to reduce Notoriety. It is also a touch inconsistent across the books exactly what the rebellion system is supposed to do.

Probably my greatest criticisms, however, stem from two perculiar aspects of it: Firstly that teams of 1st to 2nd level NPCs can frequently do with ease what PCs can only achieve with extreme difficulty – if at all, which strikes me as being patently unfair and undermining the heroism of the PCs. And secondly it is all too often used as a token (and ultimately useless) reward for PC activity and heroism. Take the Vyre Accord for example – effort, challenge, enjoyment and expense (500-1000 gp) to achieve what basically amounts to a bonus action each week that occupies a PC’s time to gain between 25-100gp a week for the rebellion – i.e. peanuts, especially in comparison to what it cost to achieve the accord in the first place.

My overall recommendation with the Rebellion minigame is to avoid it altogether.


Barzillai Thrune is an utterly glorious villain, and Paizo deserve a standing ovation for such a love-to-hate maniacal antagonist.

The other antagonists of note unfortunately don’t get the same treatment. Indeed, bit-part characters like Azvernathi Raul get more of a write-up than power houses like Vannases Trex, Tiarise Izoni, Corinstian Grivenner, Zella Zidlii or Kyrre Ekodyre. These five in particular are (in theory) Barzillai’s right hand minions in his diabolical mistreatment of the Kintargan people, but there is a major dearth of information on who they are and how to portray them, let alone anything to make them memorable.

While Barzillai having a significant stage presence is the main driving force of the adventure, I sincerely believe that giving some camera time to his main cronies would have added to the game, rather than detracted from it. Especially compared to the utility of characters like Molly Mayapple.


Given the proliferation of plot-irrelevant adversaries, it is not surprising, but still disappointing, that so many plot-relevant adversaries were lost or forgotten along the way.

House Sarini: They were mentioned in Book 1, with a bit of foreshadowing in the form of Blosodriette and… never mentioned again. Surely the Fools of Thrune should have some presence during the adventure path, opposing the PCs?

Hellknights of the Rack: Other than random encounter tables, they appear only in Book 4, when you chase them out of the city with their tails between their legs. They are absolutely the best Hellknight order to be antagonists in Hell’s Rebels, but managed to be almost completely unutilized.

Chelish Citizen’s Group: They were good thugs and troublemakers in Book 1… but are largely invisible in Books 2-3 and only mentioned as background text in Book 4 with the exception of the insanely-high-level Tombus. Given they were a loosely-tied and relatively week branch of Thrune’s rule, they made an ideal low-level antagonist against whom the PCs could score some early victories against Barzillai… but instead they are largely forgotten and cleaned up off camera in Book 4, along with everything else.

Aristocracy: Wealth, power, land, soldiers. The nobility form a tier of government who have seen the top position commandeered by a tyrannical lunatic by the name of Barzillai Thrune, and yet, they have virtually no presence throughout the entire adventure path beyond providing a bunch of extra supporters to crank the rebellion minigame wheel.

Alabaster Academy: One of the great hallmarks of Kintargo is almost completely unused – and I say ‘almost’ only because Mangvhune appears there (sort of) in Book 5. As a fan of Les Miserables, where are the student protests? I cannot help but feel this was a missed opportunity.


There is a curious thing in Hell’s Rebels: The dottari are all Lawful Evil. Even the Chelish Citizen’s Groups thugs are merely LN, but the dottari are LE. All of them.

This is curious because, unless Barzillai imported them all from Egorian (at which point, where are the old ones?), they previously are an organization that reported to Jilia Bainilus, who almost certainly would not have appointed and promoted recruitment of such a police force. You could argue that they’ve been brainwashed by asmodean inquisitors…. But Barzillai has only been in town a week.

Personally, I replaced most instances where LE dottari are needed with hellknight armigers, and instead made the dottari mostly N, locals, and generally just decent people doing what they’re told.


While many of the smaller details are gorgeous, the structural issues in Hell’s Rebels I found to actually be greater than Council of Thieves (which I’ve had a few words to say on in the past). In order to keep things manageable, I’ll try to punch these out by bullet point:

    1. Ignore the Glorious Reclamation. They are not intended to play a role in this adventure, and frankly it is usually better for the players if they are never mentioned or simply do not exist. The empire can be experiencing a period of heightened unrest without it being an organized force opposing Thrune.
    2. Decide Who the Silver Ravens Were. As mentioned previously, they either need to be rebelling against an internal or external authority – pick one. Once you decide who they were, be prepared to adjust a lot of things. My own preference is to have them be a long-standing organization that is an ancient tradition of Ravounel, who worked as rangers, protectors and mediators. Think a cross between Tolkien’s rangers and the Jedi Order. This means that there were no secret headquarters, but instead they were based out of Castle Kintargo and only stashed caches immediately before surrendering at the end of the civil war.
    3. Ignore the Minigame. Completely. I have some suggestions for an alternative if you want to keep track of player progress through the adventure.
    4. Figure out the Covenant. The Cheliax Covenant somehow grants Thrune some form of alliance with hell. And when it is broken, Thrune is weakened in some fashion. And it will also impact the church of Asmodeus too, in some way. Figure out what it does and what happens if it is broken…. And why the PCs shouldn’t do so. I recommend having its termination clause be that all of Cheliax (i.e. not Ravounel) is burned in hellfire, so that neither the PCs nor Thrune would want it going off. Furthermore, the earlier the knowledge of the Kintargo Contract gets into the PCs hands, the better – I recommend prior to the beginning of Book 3.
    5. Focus on the Rebellion. Throw in extra scenarios based on sabotage, stealing weapons and supplies, propaganda, fighting Thrune injustices in the streets. Put in some detail about who and what Barzillai’s forces are, which can be targets for the PCs. Throw out superfluous stuff like the Norgorbites and the Acisazi (and others).
    6. Show, Don’t Tell. Don’t tell the PCs they are leading a rebellion. Show them Barzillai’s atrocities – make them stand up and fight and have people follow them because of their actions. Don’t be afraid to go most of Book 1 before the PCs ‘feel’ like they’re rebel leaders.
    7. Establish the Main HQ Early. By the end of Book 1 by preference, or the start of Book 2 at the latest. Ignore the Lucky Bones it doesn’t work as a base anyway, and is too much effort for what it is worth. In hindsight, I’d preferred to have redesigned the Fair Fortune Livery to be a larger complex, where the initial exploration is only in the entrance, and the location and method of opening a secret door to the rest be encoded in the documents. This would be less of a “Silver Raven” base, so much as an old criminal hideout they cleared out decades beforehand.
    8. Give Personality to the Henchmen. Tiarise, Kyrre, Trex and so forth need some personality, and also a chance to get those personalities on camera for the players to feel any real satisfaction in their defeat. It’s not about how hard the fight is, it’s about how much the players want them dead.
    9. Don’t be Afraid to Shuffle. My own recommendations are: Move Vyre to Book 5; Get the Kintargo Contract to the PCs as early as possible (before Book 3); Move some of the named antagonists out of Book 4 and into Books 3 and 5.
    10. Avoid Busy Work and Railroads. Find a reason why certain tasks need to be done (like most of Book 5) that PCs will buy, and do your best to keep it feeling heroic. Also, avoid railroading the PCs into scenarios that don’t feel like victory – Jilia being Lord-Mayor again, for example.

As mentioned previously, the rebellion minigame doesn’t actually deal much with rebelling. To the point that when Book 4 rolled along and it was time to take arms and rise up against the Thrune oppressors in open result… a completely different system was introduced: Authority Points.

Now, the exact system published in Song of Silver is absolutely not appropriate for use outside that adventure, and I wouldn’t recommend doing so. But a system that was, perhaps, inspired by the Authority Point rules might be something that is usuable, both to measure PC victories, and to provoke reprisals/reactions from Barzillai to regain points, such that he is a dynamic and ‘live’ opponent.


Barzillai’s control over the city is abstracted as his Authority points, which goes up and down over the course of the campaign, though trends downward as the heroes whittle it away. Authority represents a number of things, including the number, morale and loyalty of his armed forces, the confidence/fear of the citizenry and the strongholds and assets at his command.

At the start of the campaign, Barzillai has 100 Authority points. As the campaign progresses the PCs will chip away at this with their actions, and Barzillai will recoup some via reprisals and recruitment.

Gaining Authority: Barzillai gains Authority through successful reprisals, crackdowns and recruitment. He also gains Authority whenever the PCs fail (or are forced to retreat) at a mission that would have caused him to lose Authority had they succeeded, albeit only typically a point or two. A captured or killed PC causes him to gain a number of Authority points equal to half their level (minimum 1).

Recruitment: As long as Barzillai has at least 1 point of Authority, he will gain 1d6 points of Authority per week, due to recruitment, fresh supplies and general enforcement of his will. In Song of Silver this will increase to 1d6 per day.

Losing Authority: Barzillai loses Authority whenever the PCs succeed at a mission that undermines his rule, when his minions are defeated (typically 1 Authority point per 2,000xp worth of minion), or when his assets are sabotaged or stolen. Other actions, such as propaganda by the PCs, can also reduce his Authority.

Details: I would recommend that Barzillai’s forces at the start of the campaign look something like;

  • Dottari: 100 Dottari (Fighter 1); 20 Dottari officers (Fighter 3)
  • Chelish Citizen’s Group: 80 Thugs (Warrior 1); 20 Patriots (Warrior 4)
  • Order of the Rack: 75 Hellknight Armigers (Fighter 2); 25 Hellknights (Fighter 5 / Hellknight 1)
  • Asmodeans: 24 Templar (Fighter 2); 6 Templar Officers (Fighter 5); 24 Acolytes (Cleric 2); 12 Priests (Cleric 5); A handful of named inquisitors, warpriests etc.
  • House Thrune: 30 Personal Guard (Mostly Fighter 3, with a handful of exceptions, such as Nox)


Liberation points represent the goodwill, morale and support of the citizens of Kintargo, as well as the strength and organization of the rebels. Liberation points are earned as the PCs aid the people of Kintargo, recruit allies and gain assets for the rebellion to use against Thrune. Liberation points are lost if the PCs commit atrocities, or their allies, assets or even good name are successfully attacked by Thrune.

Key allies such as Rexus, Laria, Octavio and such grant Liberation points when they are recruited – typically between 1 and 3, depending on the influence and capability of the individual. Gaining safehouses, recruiting combatants or simply earning the good will of the citizens such as by defeating threats to the city all earn a couple of points.

By the beginning of Book 4, the PCs should have accrued between 10 and 40 Liberation points, depending on their actions.


Reprisals: Whenever Barzillai is below 75 Authority, he will authorise a Reprisal once per week. Whenever he is below 50 Authority, he will authorise a Reprisal once per Day. These increase in Song of Silver. All reprisals should be run and resolved on camera by the PCs, by preference.
  • [01-10] Abduction (+2 Authority): Barzillai has a minor NPC suspected of being sympathetic to the rebellion abducted and tortured. They’ll be known to the PCs, but not be someone of significance within the rebellion. They are imprisoned and interrogated for 1 week, after which they are executed as traitors (reducing the population by 1) and Barzillai will gain 2 Authority Points. If they are rescued before then, their life is saved and Barzillai gains no Authority points.
  • [11-15] Arson (+1d4 Authority): Thrune agents target the homes or businesses of people suspected of being rebel sympathisers, damaging several buildings and burning one to the ground, killing 3d6 people. If the PCs are able to intervene and save at least some of the would-be victims, Barzillai gains only half the Authority Points. If the PCs save at least half of the victims, Barzillai gains no Authority Points.
  • [16-20] Assassination Attempt (+4 Authority): Barzillai organizes for an assassin to come after the PCs – or at least someone matching the best description he has of the rebel leaders. Alternatively, they may go after an important NPC ally. The assassin should be of a CR 2 higher than the average PC level, and be either a devil or mortal – either a Thrune agent or an independent sword-for-hire. If the assassin kills the target, Barzillai gains 4 Authority; If the Assassin only brings the target to 0 or fewer hp, but fails to kill them, Barzillai gains 2 Authority points; If the assassin is stopped or defeated, Barzillai gains no Authority points.
  • [21-25] Counterstrike (+1 Authority): If Barzillai’s Authority point total is less than 30, treat this result as No Reprisal. Barzillai orders a detachment of crack troops to form a taskforce dedicated to hunting down rebels, who vigilantly keep watch for rebel activity and leap on any such incident with zeal. The next time the PCs engage in any form of mission or rebel action, add a sizeable task force of soldiers who will rush to the scene as reinforcements – these reinforcements should form either a single APL +3 encounter, or two APL+1 encounters. If the PCs defeat the taskforce, Barzillai gains no Authority. If the taskforce defeat the PCs, or the PCs retreat or flee, Barzillai gains 1 Authority point.
  • [26-35] Defamation (+1d4 Authority): Agents of Thrune commit an atrocity, such as the vandalism of a home, the grisly murder of a commoner, or the robbery of a shop. They then plant evidence to frame the Silver Ravens.
  • [36-40] Devils on the Streets (+2d4 Authority): Barzillai’s Authority Point total is lower than 50, treat this result as no reprisal. A number of devils make a public attack on a group of suspected Silver Raven sympathizers. Reduce Kintargo’s population by 2d6.
  • [41-45] Diabolic Infiltration (-1d4 Liberation): Barzillai sends an infernal agent, either in disguise or possessing a would-be rebel, to infiltrate the ranks of the rebellion and sabotage it from within. The agent will attempt to undermine the rebellion as long as possible, causing it to lose 1d4 Liberation points per week until discovered. The agent should be challenging for the PCs to expose and defeat, but as they must act to sabotage the Silver Ravens, must leave some evidence of their activity.
  • [46-50] Dragon Strike (+2d6 Authority): Prioer to Book 4, treat this as Devils on the Streets. If Rivozair has been defeated, treat this result as No Reprisal. Thrune allows the blue dragon Rivozair to lash out at a building suspected of housing numerous Silver Raven sympathizers. Reduce Kintargo’s population by 3d6+12.
  • [51-60] Increased Patrols (+2 Authority): If Barzillai’s Authority Point total is lower than 50, treat this result as No Reprisal. Thrune increases the presence of his troops on the streets of Kintargo. This results in no loss of life but helps maintain Thrune’s authority.
  • [61-65] Inquisition! (+5 Authority) If Barzillai’s Authority Point total is lower than 40, treat this result as No Reprisal. Thrune sends agents of the church of Asmodeus into the streets.
  • [66-70] Invasion! (+2 Authority) Barzillai lures (by one means or another) a dangerous monster to invade Kintargo. The monster will run rampant through the more rebellious sections of the city, killing 2d6+6 citizens before being defeated or chased out by Barzillai’s forces – gaining him 2 Authority points. If the PCs defeat it, they negate this Authority gain.
  • [71-80] No Reprisal (-1d6 Authority): Be it because of diminished resources, dissension in the ranks, or just poor luck on Thrune’s behalf, a scheduled reprisal fails to manifest, resulting in a slight reduction to Barzillai’s authority over the city.
  • [81-85] Public Excruciation (+1d6 Authority): If Barzillai’s Authority Point total is lower than 25, treat this result as no reprisal. Barzillai doghouses suspected rebel sympathizers on trumped-up charges. Reduce Kintargo’s population by 3d6. If the PCs rescue some of the victims, halve this Authority gain. If they rescue all of them, Barzillai gains no Authority points.
  • [86-90] Snitch (-1 Liberation): Barzillai bribes or otherwise coerces one of the rebellion to confess and turn into an informant. Each week, the rebellion will lose 1 point of Liberation due to Barzillai acting on the supplied information. The Snitch will be a low level NPC, and can be exposed with modest social skills.
  • [91-95] Supernatural Weather (+2 Authority): If the PCs secure the orb of storms for themselves, treat this result as no reprisal. Using the orb of storms kept in the temple vault (area E31), Barzillai causes unseasonable storms to wrack the city. For the remainder of this day any outdoor activity is virtually impossible for most citizens and the rebellion grinds to a halt until the weather abates. Similarly, the sewers are flooded with stormwater and impossible to navigate. This reprisal can occur only once per day; reroll this result if it comes up more frequently.
  • [96-100] Violent Crime Spree (+2 Authority): Barzillai has a number of violent criminals released back into the city, complete with suggestions that they return to their murderous behaviour. They murder 2d6 citizens and rob, assault and brutalize many others before being rounded up by the dottari. If the PCs twart them, Barzillai gains no Authority Points.


In Book 4, Barzillai gains 1d6 Authority per day, instead of per week. Additionally, he will authorise as many reprisals as he is capable of, as written in the adventure path instalment.

Given that the PCs will have been undermining his Authority from the start of the campaign, the “Previous Victories” modifiers to his Authority points do not apply. Instead, carry over whatever Barzillai’s total Authority Points were from Book 3, and when open revolt breaks out at the start of Book 4, subtract an amount from his Authority Points equal to the PCs accrued Liberation Points.

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Oh, what an introduction! While I have a couple of niggles about In Hell’s Bright Shadow, I still thoroughly enjoyed it and consider it a top-notch piece of work.

Characters like Rexus and his personal drama are beautiful additions to a solid start to the campaign overall, and this book pulls off the difficult-but-vital task of introducing the primary antagonist with remarkable success.


This is glorious, and was thoroughly enjoyed by myself and my players alike. My one suggestion is that the dottari be replaced with CR1 Hellknight Armigers (fighter 2 with appropriate gear) though about half as many.

Disclaimer: I do not like vomit gremlins. I replaced the grimples with a monaciello and two young mites (riding centipedes!). I appreciate that this might just be my own quirks, but I just had zero enthusiasm for running the default encounter.

The Fair Fortune Livery is also a decent location for a potential headquarters – not the published basement, but with a secret door leading to a long-cleared out complex of disused basements and tunnels once used by thieves during the civil war. The documents could then include details of the hideout and its varied entrances, allowing it to function effectively as a hidden safehouse for the rebellion.

Laria Longroad: Unless the PCs get both interested and inquisitive, her backstory is unlikely to come out, and ultimately she comes across as having very weak personal motivation to get involved, especially compared to the likes of Rexus. She is also vastly more knowledgeable and prone to infodump than anyone of her position should be. She is just one of those NPCs who just didn’t work very well for me or my players, and wound up taking a back seat for the remainder of the adventure.

The Wasp Nest scenario was one of the early sticking points, due to a few issues, though the primary one was why she had been putting food in her basement, but hadn’t ever gone in to see what her ‘friend’ was doing if she was actually worried about him. It is… somewhat inexplicable.

The issue I had (and changed) was the Fushi sisters being there. Namely, that there is the unfortate problem of starting off with your first potential team not only being criminals, but Riddleport criminals with no actual ties to the city. They are interesting… but to me simply had the wrong tone for the game I was hoping to run, and the first of a long chain of recruits who are rogues and criminals.

The design of the area has the slight issue of the absolutely cavernous stormwater drain (such that it must be at least 60-100 ft down or it will collapse), but otherwise is a fairly solid design for a hideout, with one entrance being a heavily trafficked place (the coffeeshop), while the other is secret and out of sight.


My main issue with Part 2 is the fact that the rebellion is so rushed. Really, the PCs need time to work themselves up to being rebel leaders, and the module doesn’t really give them that, but instead is rather hamfisted in shoving the rebellion down their throats. It works… but it doesn’t work as well as it could.

Blosodriette is a fascinating character… who I generally recommend that GM’s either make sure there’s a Sarini in the party, or be removed altogether.

She is a gorgeous tie-in to the Sarini family as a whole, and the fact that she has memories of her life is great foreshadowing of the soul anchor… but only if the PCs actually get a chance to talk with her candidly, and that only happens if someone can take command of her contract.

Without someone claiming her contract, she simply serves to compromise the PCs organization before it even gets off the ground. All things considered, this kind of forced failure isn’t needed anywhere near the early in the adventure (if ever), and there are several mechanical issues with it.

In particular, there is a mechanical blunder on page 25, where it states that as the Perception checks being made are as much to hear or even smell her as spot her, that she does not gain a bonus to Stealth from invisibility – this is incorrect, as the +20 (or +40 when stationary) bonus to Stealth applies regardless of what sense you are using for making Perception checks, and appears to be more of a legacy of 3.5 when Spot and Listen were separate skills. Additionally, the detect evil method is exceedingly flawed, as not only does it require multiple rounds of concentration to locate an evil aura, but it causes the caster to have an aura of divination, and imps have constant detect magic – i.e. she can see someone trying to use detection magic, and has decent Sense Motive. Noting also that while a rat, her Stealth check increases to +23 due to increased Dex even without invisibility. In essence, Blosodriette is found only if the GM lets her be found, and even then she is wasted as a combat encounter.

My recommendation is to find a way to let her contract come into the control of a PC – either by one being a Sarini or by relaxing the requirement – and don’t have her betray the party at the first opportunity. Indeed, for those players drawn to drama and character development, this mixed up Imp is a unique opportunity to play with some unique bits of story, exploring her past-life regrets and chance at redemption. It is often said that outsiders can’t change their alignment short of divine intervention, but in a sense she has already been subject to such via the Soul Anchor – she possesses the memories and possibly the potential for change and growth of a mortal. And that is interesting… for me at least.

If you aren’t using the rebellion minigame (and I recommend that people don’t), then this can be handwaived and a lot of the details adjusted to suit your Silver Raven history. I don’t recommend handing this information out as-published, mainly for the issue with the weird Silver Raven published backstory, and the fact that many players (including most of mine) have a bee in their bonnet about walking in the footsteps of giants.

To be completely frank… I’m not altogether sure why you would. My PCs certainly had no interest in doing so and levelled a series of logical arguments why it was a needless risk and pointless waste of time.

But… otherwise you can if you want.

Noting that there is absolutely no reason why Barzillai would have outlawed Sarenrae specifically, as it is the only change from the norm in Cheliax. Also, why they would need to have a hidden shrine if it wasn’t outlawed before Barzillai arrived?

This is when we start to ramp up the action – busting sympathetic mercenaries out, and bringing them into the fold, sticking it to the Chelish Citizen’s Group at the same time. Excellent.

The only suggestion I have is not making Forvian a rogue, as they are… a little abundant among the PCs’ allies.

Rebellion: -1 Authority Point for the prison-break. +1 Liberation Point for the rescue. +1 Liberation Point for recruiting Forvian and his troops.

I’m going to be blunt: Tooth Fairies are absolutely not CR ¼. Yes, that is their published CR, but they make a CR 1 grig look like a pansy. I strongly recommend treating them like they were CR ½ or CR 1 and either avoiding swarming out with all of them at once, or avoid going straight for the teeth given the enormous bonuses to do so. I also recommend reminding people that there is no touch attack needed to grapple in Pathfinder.

That said, I loved this scenario, and my PCs adopted Zea immediately.

Rebellion: +1 Liberation Points for stopping the fairies. +1 Liberation Point for giving the child a proper burial. +1 Liberation Point for recruiting Zea and her friends.

Given that Clenjaw himself as no political inclinations and isn’t intended to in any way be an ally… I would heartily suggest that this instead be at the Tooth & Nail. It introduces Setrona nice and early, which works wonders when trying to lead into Turn of the Torrent later.

Rebellion: +1 Liberation Point for recruiting the fairy dragon (or House Drake in my case).

Another chance to dust-it-up with the Chelish Citizen’s Group. I love those guys, they’re wonderful thugs for the PCs to score some early victories against, whilest keeping on theme.

Rebellion: -1 Authority Point

The Silver Ravens bringing peace and justice to the streets of Redroof is an excellent idea, and helps reinforce their position as not just “we’re against Barzillai!” but “We’ll make things better!” which is a very important message.

I might suggest, however, that Scarplume not be a strix. If you’re planning to use the strix in book 5, she is an appalling introduction to their race and will set exactly the impression you don’t want. If you’re not planning to use strix in book 5… then you don’t want to use one here either. I suggest a half-vrock eldritch scion magus (and “sister” to Natsiel).

Rebellion: +2 Liberation Points for taking down the Jills.


Before we get moving on this, I want to point out a problem: As published, it appears that Rexus always knew of the secret monastery, and that his parents might be there, and had the key since the Night of Ashes…. But waited seven weeks to decode some documents before going and looking for them?

/brain explodes.

Might I suggest to GM’s that you work out a means of Rexus only learning of the Monastery immediately before the PCs go there? It hurts the brain less. My method was to make Hocum’s actually still in business until the Night of Ashes, and Hocum (an old dwarf) come out of hiding to approach the Silver Ravens to ask for help, when it appeared that the Asmodeans had gone and left it his home full of undead and monsters.

Personally… we found it far more entertaining to have the place have only been out of business for a couple of weeks. That said, it does work pretty well. And Azvernathi Raul is a wonderful, wonderful foe. So much joy was had beating him up and chasing him off.

It is also important to note that this (and the Monastery) are the first instances of the PCs going directly up against the Church of Asmodeus, and it feels right being the conclusion of Book 1. In essence, this is when the rebellion gets ‘real’, because after this there is no turning back.

In my version, I had Rexus’ parents escape their burning mansion alive and take refuge at the Manysteps Monastery, only for Barzillai, Tiarise and a pile of devils to attack a couple of days later and slaughter them all. Thus, the corpses didn’t need to be carried across town to be animated as zombie guards.

On the whole, I do like this scenario, though a few things bugged me.

First off was the map. Which is something of a tesseract that lets one go downstairs, then cut across horizontal corridors to return to an earlier spot without ascending or descending. It’s just a bit… weird. And forgetting this place is right on the riverfront, but that is sadly common in dungeon designs.

Yillev as an opponent is… problematic. He warns the entire complex that the PCs are coming, yet rather than muster a defense, they casually space themselves out amid various rooms, which would be fine for something with an Int of 1 or less, but is a bit conceited for a bunch of asmodeans. If you combined Nox, the Lout and the redactors in one coordinated defense, the PCs would likely be shredded – thus in many ways it is simply easier not to have them all forwarned in most circumstances.

In my version, he was the monastery’s librarian, and was bound in a circle and tortured for information by Tiarise, then forced to watch as his library was slowly destroyed by the redactors. Thus, what he is is a source of information and exposition on what happened, and what this place was before Thrune attacked. He could only return to his home plane if his planar anchor was returned to him – which Nox had in her pack.

I will make a comment or two on Nox: Firstly, she is a beast. Second, the fact that she is built to be able to escape with reasonable chance of success is somewhat inconvenient for the continued narrative. The immediate consequence is that she can get to the temple of Asmodeus and back with reinforcements within 3 minutes if in a hurry, cutting any time for looting, healing or recovery to an absolute minimum. The longer term consequences is that she can provide very vivid discriptions of the PCs – or even identify them in a line up - noting that they have attacked members of the holy church of Asmodeus and pretty much have a death sentence waiting as a result. This makes the award ceremony at the end of book two… well, a tad problematic, no?

Overall it may be better if, rather than waiting for the PCs to come for them, the Lout moves up to the artefact chamber as cannon fodder, and when the PCs reach the common room and engage the rest of the redactors, Nox uses her dimension door to trap them in a pincer move. Brutal… but far less problematic than having her running around as an eyewitness.

Rebellion: -5 Authority Points for beating down Asmodean agents and Nox, and thwarting Barzillai’s efforts to clean up his trail.


To summarise:

    1. Know/decide who the Silver Ravens were before you start this adventure path.
    2. The Fair Fortune Livery is a serviceable dungeon, but some love and mapping can make it a more useful part of the adventure overall.
    3. Laria is a bit heavy on info-dump and light on motivation. Consider tweaking or revising the character to cater to your players. I personally would rewrite her completely (see later)
    4. Blosodriette could be an excellent addition to the story or an immensely frustrating encounter unless you fudge the rules (which the encounter writeup does) to make it easier. Don’t run her RAW unless you want to irritate your players.
    5. Move the scenario at Clenchjaw’s to the Tooth and Nail instead, and as such ensure the PCs meet Setrona prior to Book 2.
    6. Find a means of Rexus learning of the Many-Steps Monastery after he decodes the documents.
    7. Consider revising Yillev to not telepathically alert the complex.
    8. Try to ensure Nox can’t use her dimension door to escape.

In addition, were I to run this again (which is likely) there are a few things I would adjust or outright replace.

Rather than dungeon crawl through two basements in a row, I would instead make the Livery somewhat more substantial, less foetid, and potentially usable in the future as a safehouse in Redroof, given that much of the adventure takes place on the southern half of the city. Indeed, I suspect the heavy emphasis on filth and overall gross was a deliberate move to deter PCs from wanting to use it as a hideout.

I’d have an old – and by this point collapsed – secret door in the basement leading to a larger complex that once served as a smuggling den before the war. It is in here that the Silver Ravens of old stashed their cache, and here the PCs can reclaim both the cache and a useful (if depilated) safehouse.

Rather than the somewhat odd backstory of an abertoir-turned-stable, I’d be pitching it as a liveried stable that was operated by an ambitious – and very corrupt – scion of the Juliac line, who used it as a front for a smuggling operation focusing on drugs, where many of the ‘clients’ were merely couriers. Over twenty years the operation grew and diversified, and as the surface business expanded to accommodate wagons and teamsters, so too did the underground facilities: hidden warehouses and vaults, secret tunnels stretching all the way to Bleakbridge to traffic river goods and even accommodation for “guests” who weren’t exactly simpatico with the local law enforcement.

During the Chelish civil war, the owner’s reach finally exceeded his grasp. He tried to cut a deal with a contendor to the Chelish throne to aid their attempt to capture Kintargo in return for lands and title. Unfortunately for him, the Silver Ravens of the time caught wind of the plot and ended his life along with his plans of conquest.

The Silver Ravens maintained the secrecy of the smuggling den and tunnels, finding it useful for moving people and objects discretely through a city increasingly under attack from within and without. When the war ended and the Silver Ravens scattered, died or surrendered, the leader of that era, Jackdaw, had one of several ‘seed caches’ stored in the den beneath the livery.

Laria didn’t work for any of our group, though for varying reasons. Running this again I would pretty much rewrite her and her campaign role completely, instead having her be a Callistrian and secret operator of a ‘free press’ within Kintargo. Her backstory would be that she was a junior acolyte in widespread underground worship of Callistria, which finally grew to the point of spurring the church of Asmodeus to take action – she survived the inquisition, but most of the other priests did not.

Rather than following the militant path to vengeance, she hid, survived and then took a different route. She used her savings and surviving allies to smuggle in a printing press. For over a decade the Silver Bugle has produced weekly broadsheets defaming Thrune and the church of Asmodeus and mocking their membership. Laria conceals her printing efforts beneath her coffeeshop and judicious use of an amulet of proof against detection and location, while her myriad of contacts and friends (mostly halflings) bring her news or distribute her publications. For the last few years she has also worked as the publisher of the Poison Pen of Kintargo, much to the frustration of the church of Asmodeus.

Rather than a dank underground smuggling den, the Wasp Nest is instead several adjoined basements, with secret and discreet entrances, which serves as a bunkhouse for visiting guests or Calistrians in trouble, printing press and a small shrine to Calistria. I would avoid having any combat in it, and instead have the Livery simply be more significant.

Laria’s role is then not an expert on all things rebellion, but instead a provocateur, host, information broker and baker of great repute.

In the interests of transparency, this is the module I had the most trouble with, and wound up altering the most. In truth, I replaced a large portion of it and heavily modified the rest, because I found the published adventure unworkable with our group.

There are a few reasons for this.

  • The first is that the Lucky Bones is an obligatory dungeon crawl that I was not interested in running, and my players saw absolutely no need for and even rolled their eyes at it when it was brought up.
  • The second is that the style of plot hooks used (repeatedly) for this book is “The NPC Quest giver walks up to you (regardless of circumstances) and tells you what you need to go and do”, which is anathema to both my GMing style, and my players’ enjoyment of the game. Once is unpalatable but tolerable, four times is liable to cause my players to start a rebellion out of character.
  • The third is that, although there are a number of neat ideas, I found them to be consistently somewhat off-the-mark in terms of style, tone and delivery.

On this third point, I feel I should elaborate. Take the Poison Pen scenario for example – it’s touching, it’s clever, and the “Poison Pen of Kintargo” himself is perfectly suited to the themes of the game. On the surface, it looks fantastic. The problems arise from the fact that it focuses on the wrong character. Cassius Sargaeta is an interesting character and all, but as a non-Kintargo native, LN chelish patriot and military captain, he has negligible investment or interest in the rebellion against Barzillai and is assisting purely to return a favour. By contrast, Marquel Aulorian, the “Poison Pen of Kintargo” is a popular, influential, local, outspoken critic of Thrune and would be not only invaluable as an ally, but vastly more predisposed to seeking out the Silver Ravens. Marquel is the true rebel, outlaw and ally in the making – his partner is simply a good contrasting perspective and able to provide limited assistance. The outlawed “Poison Pen” getting word to the Silver Ravens that he needs assistance is also infinitely more palatable than sending a LE gunslinger (who is high enough level to register as evil to a detect spell) to find the PCs hangout (by the power of Plot) and demand they march themselves over to a Chelish naval vessel.

With some less ham-fisted plot hooks this book could describe a solid adventure… but it isn’t what I was after for the second part of Hell’s Rebels. For starters, there is minimal actual rebellion.


I’ll be frank, I liked Setrona Sabinus. She’s a fun personality to have running a bar. I also introduced her in book one (replacing Clenchjaws) and found that my players liked her too. So when the Hellknights of the Torrent were outlawed and she asked them for help, they were happy to oblige, and saw the potential alliance with the outlawed order almost instantly.

Again, I sincerely recommend introducing the character in Book 1 when she doesn’t need something from the PCs.

Next, I found the concept that Octavio would tell his tavernkeep cousin secrets of his order that otherwise none outside the order are privy to… unlikely. In the extreme. I recommend having her not direct the PCs to the Shrine of Saint Senex, but instead to direct the PCs straight to Into the Holding House.

First off, while I do recommend running this, I would advise GMs to run it significantly later, and with different characters on the block. In fact, I would recommend Hetamon Haace be the one being excruciated.

The logic behind the suggestion being that after he found a murdered milanite, he went to the dottari for assistance in finding the killer… only to be locked up by the Asmodean overseer and after he refused to confess to the crime (he is a tiefling after all), was picked as the subject of the inaugural doghousing. Several characters (Zea, Setrona) know him, and would vouch for his character, and when rescued he would then lead them into the On the Slasher’s Trail.

I would also recommend having a handful of Armigers of the Rack guarding the affair, and none of the dottari guards. The affair should be difficult, especially if trying not to kill the hellknights, but not excessively dangerous.

Rebellion: -2 Authority Points, +2 Liberation Points for recruiting Hetamon.

While I rewrote this to suit my tastes, it could work as written with the following warning: The goal of the adventure is not to try and make the players look like cretins. Don’t push the players into combat – if they present themselves reasonably to the oracles, have them explain how to bypass the golem in no uncertain terms. If they don’t, do not under any circumstances have the oracles attack them.

Because murdering harmless old mystics flies against everything the adventure path is aiming for (or seems to be).

I would also recommend this be ignored until after Into the Holding House, where the PCs can be directed here by the armigers they rescue. This achieves two things: It shows the PCs have at least a little gumption and don’t need to be lead around by the nose; and it avoids having to trek back and forth across the bog several times, as Octavio can come with them immediately. Needless backtracking isn’t fun.

Rebellion: +2 Liberation Points for recruiting Octavio


This is a section I love. It is including material for the GM to help bring the people and place to life, which is something that every story benefits from. Massive kudos.

My only criticism is on the topic of Luculla, her cult and her “gotcha” plot.

Unfortunately, Luculla’s cult was written prior to Mahathallah being detailed in full, and as it turns out, the events in Book 2 are wildly off from what her cult is later established to do. Next, she somehow decides that the PCs are so remarkably significant that she is going to risk exposing her cult by establishing a mock romance with one of them for absolutely no reason whatsoever except to make the “Gotcha!” have bigger impact. Then when the PCs are invading her hidden lair, she will somehow know they are the PCs and to ditch her cultist getup to feign being a sacrifice so they’ll rescue her.

The word that comes to mind is “Contrived”.

Perhaps it is just that I play with a number of people who pay a lot of attention to characterisation and motivations, but had I actually ran with it as published, I am 95% certain I would have been accused of pulling a d*ck move.

The short version is that I would recommend skipping this entirely. Tayacet has little to no actual importance to the story.

The longer version is that the character smacks of being something of a snowflake, and a complete tourist with no investment or ties to Kintargo or its story, which made me at least conclude she was the wrong character for the role she was cast in. Note: She not only has dabbled in membership of three different cities’ dottari, but the hellknights and the church of Asmodeus.

Furthermore, her role is that of an adversary seeking to investigate and uncover the PCs identity and plot while in the employ of Barzillai – and given the PCs are being pushed to be subtle and secretive, this is actually a quite serious thing. Not only does the module not suggest any negative consequences of having a high level (the PCs are only 4th level when starting this book, while she is 8th) NPC exposing their identity and secrets to Barzillai, but seems to present her in a non-threatening manner. She is respectful (if evasive) to the PCs, regardless of their crimes against the church of Asmodeus and thus the laws of Cheliax, and she attempts to flee if confronted in combat and doesn’t return seeking reprisals.

Where she a local, less of a snowflake and most specifically not an Asmodean, she would actually be much more useful and appropriate as an adversary-turned-ally story arc.

Busting out the Hellknight Armigers? Sweet! I’d recommend doing this… pretty much immediately after talking to Setrona, and having the armigers lead the PCs to Octavio.

That being said, the setup here is… odd. You can pick one of three methods: Combat, Stealth or Trickery. Well, sort of. At 4th level the Combat option is basically there to kill the PCs, as it is an APL+7 encounter, plus reinforcements, which is overkill to a ludicrous degree. The Stealth option requires magic like silence and invisibility to pull off without turning into one-sided combat, but is at least doable. And then there’s the Trickery option, which is hailed as

Here’s my advise on the topic:

Combat: Replace all but one of the CR3 dottari with CR ½ dottari from In Hell’s Bright Shadow. Don’t have the kyton join in the combat. Have reinforcements be a mix of 2d4 CR ½ dottari and one CR3 officer. Just because combat is a less altruistic way of handling it doesn’t mean it should be suicide – just deduct some Liberation points as a penalty.

Stealth: Replace the Patrol Duty section. Place one CR3 officer at B1 with one CR ½ dottari. Place two CR ½ dottari at B7. Have the remaining four CR ½ dottari mostly in B2, where every 30 minutes two go out and check on the rooms, heading South-to-North, before relieving one dottari from watch at each of B1 and B7 (who then return to B2). If an alarm is raised (or other loud noise), all four dottari from B2 will investigate. If combat breaks out, all dottari, the officer and Sabo will rouse to action within 1d4 rounds. Consider ignoring the comment about all the other prisoners being half-crazed vagabonds, and put prisoners of your own design there – maybe some hardened criminals looking to cut a deal: their cooperation and silence in exchange for freedom.

Trickery: Replace the entire thing with the following: Forging the documents requires a Linguistics check. If the PCs have access or are familiar with release papers, they receive a +8 bonus (otherwise they don’t). Sabo is familiar with the document (+2) and the papers contradict her past orders (+2) giving her a +4 to her Linguistics check for a total of +13. The PCs can employ Ruba Fenquay at a cost of 400gp (she can be haggled down to half) who is familiar with release papers and thus receives a +8 on top of her +15 bonus. Ignore the Notoriety checks with her and Sabo.

When presenting the papers to Sabo, the lead PC must succeed at a Bluff check against her Sense Motive (+14). As long as the PCs are employing a form of disguise to conceal their identity (if it is known to the authorities, such as by Nox surviving Book 1), the other PCs can use the Aid Another action to aid the spokesman’s Bluff check - If the PCs are not employing such a disguise, they suffer a cumulative -2 penalty for each PC present. If the PCs employ a disguise that is appropriate to the task (such as Thrune soldiers, dottari or slavers), they receive an additional +4 bonus to their Bluff check. If the check succeeds, she’ll examine the papers, with both parties making opposed Linguistics checks as appropriate. If she fails to see through the forgery, she will release the prisoners to the PCs care, signing off on the papers accordingly. If she beats the PCs at either check, she will attempt to detain them for interrogation.

The kyton complication can run mostly as-is, except that when making the Diplomacy check presenting the papers with Sabo’s signature will grant a +4 bonus on the check, and each additional PC present can attempt to use the Aid Another action to support the PC making the roll – thus giving Diplomacy a reasonable chance of success if the PCs go that route.

Rebellion: -4 Authority Points. -2 Liberation points if going for a frontal assault.

As previously mentioned, I believe the Poison Pen mission focuses on the wrong NPC.

On the whole, this adventure played much better to instead focus on Marquel Aulorian (who I would recommend changing to either N or NG, rather than LN), and have him instigate the events. And having the legendary “Poison Pen of Kintargo” as a 4th level character with only 2 ranks in Craft (poetry) is a little… strange. I’ll go with “Strange”.

Specifically, here’s how I handled it: I had him having long operated as the “Poison Pen” through the assistance of his family’s halfing slaves and servants, as the “Young Master” is vastly more generous and kind than his father. The halflings courier his works to an unregistered printer in Redroof, and see to their distribution through the city. After Auxis locks his son in his home for fear of Marquel’s literary hobby drawing Thrune’s attention (he doesn’t know his son is the Poison Pen), Marquel sends a letter out via his halfling allies to both his lover (Cassius) and mutual acquaintences with the Silver Ravens (Laria).

Rather than having a LE gunslinger walking in on the PCs and demanding their obedience, they instead receive a request for assistance from a provocateur poet, to liberate him from his own home and deliver him to his lover – who knows they’re coming. Cassius’ role is then the stern and contrasting conservative, who will assist the PCs out of gratitude for his lover’s freedom. This was a much easier sell to my players.

And on this note, I would recommend continueing to focus on Marquel as the ally and rebel, rather than Cassius in later books. The Chelish captain is an interesting character, but not a rebel.

Rebellion: +2 Liberation Points for getting the Poison Pen of Kintargo on side.

Cracking the case and taking down a murderer preying on the people of Old Kintargo and Redroof is a great move for the Silver Ravens in establishing themselves as a force for justice that Thrune isn’t.

With the sole exception of the sentient dagger, it basically works as written, if being a little bit clichéd. The dagger, Balgorrah, is a largely unnecessary plot device whose greatest contribution to the story is made by removing it from the story. Wex living in a crappy tenement, but splashing out almost 12,000gp to buy a permanently bloodstained dagger at a market is absurd beyond belief, and worse, it lessons Wex as a villain by making him simply a “victim” of the dagger.

The story is better off without the dagger – it, like the church of Norgorber, isn’t needed.

If your group aren’t fans of stereotype, I also recommend fleshing things out a little bit and expanding upon the murder investigation. I made Wex an occultist with an obsession with Mangvhune, and who left behind one of his implements (and former possession of Mangvhune) at the crime scene when he was startled by Hetamon.

Rebellion: +2 Liberation Points for taking down a dangerous murderer


To be frank: I discarded the entire Lucky Bones section of the adventure.

I didn’t feel that a lengthy dungeon crawl added anything to the story, especially when it had nothing to do with the rebellion against Thrune, and gaining yet another (if larger) hidden base that played virtually no significant part in the continuing adventure seemed mostly like a distraction at this late stage in the rebellion. Plus it is laid out like a dungeon and not a safehouse, and is very ill suited to the task of hiding rebel operatives.

I could have replaced it with a shorter dungeon crawl in a different (and more appropriate) layout/setting… but honestly I didn’t see the need and neither did my players. They had already secured and invested in a number of other hideouts by this point in the adventure, and dedicating a chunk of the game on a detour to acquire yet another had little appeal.

Instead I replaced it with a series of homebrewed missions that pitched the PCs against Thrune’s agents, and in particular the Chelish Citizen’s Group, culminating in breaking the group as a political and military power in Kintargo.

Given the above, I have little desire to go too deep into it, other than to raise a few points:

  • The Advanced template gives more bang for its buck, and is a good way to take a dangerous creature and turn it into something excessively brutal. Though that is a good description of the dungeon overall.
  • Why did one of the guildmaster’s die against his own trap, when he had the keys to the vault? This seems absurd.
  • Kintargo is a coastal city and unless there is some form of water lock to maintain the high water mark, the water levels in the dungeon will rise and fall.
  • Magic pumps? Awesome. Are they a wondrous item? How much do they cost? What do you need to create them? An enterprising wizard could make a killing.
  • Why are their docks in a cavern no ship can reach?
  • If one can afford magic pumps and multiple bottles of air, why not actually build a water passage and hidden entrance (permanent image is a thing) to the dock so that the thieves could enter without requiring aquatic allies to move cargo for them?

Rebellion: I ran two separate missions that each cost Barzillai 3 Authority Points, and defeating and disbanding the Chelish Citizen’s Group cost Barzillai a further 10 Authority Points. If you instead run the Lucky Bones as-is, I’d recommend 5-10 Liberation points instead.


While I ordinarily don’t talk much about the rear matter in the adventure path instalments, I feel it worth noting that while the Old Kintargo encounters table is certainly varied… it does not feel appropriate for a single district of a city of less than twelve thousand souls. Old Kintargo would have a population of at most 2,000 souls in an area that can be crossed in under 5 minutes. Having over a half-dozen gangs and the PCs killing off 1-2% of the population a week while adventuring in the area seems… excessive.

Also it should be noted that the Alabaster Academy, despite the stereotype of anything labelled an “academy” in a D&D game, not an arcane institution. It is a medical school, who have only recently started teaching arcane magic, and with a restricted class. The “Spellcrafters” are entertaining… but sadly not particularly appropriate. Normally I’d overlook this, but one of my PCs is a student at the academy and found them… a little odd.

Given that this character is one who is only returning favors for the PCs and barely constitutes an ally, and is highly unlikely to ever fight alongside the PCs or otherwise get into combat on camera… I’m not really sure why he got a stat block. Also, his background is interesting and all – even if it seems completely at odds with his character – but given the previous comments, I’m not sure why it is included.

Once more, I can’t help but feel that the focus and effort should have been on Marquel.

There are some issues with Hetamon’s stat block.

  • He is supposed be a healer, and is described as having used medical kits… but has no ranks in Heal.
  • He is supposed to be a tailor… but has no ranks in Craft or Profession skills of any kind.
  • He is supposed to make magic items... but has no ranks in Spellcraft or any alternative skill.
  • He has Brew Potion… but has no potions, only scrolls that he can’t make.
  • He has Craft Wondrous Item… but has no wondrous items
  • He is a big, buff dude who once beat a man to death with a medicine kit. But has Strength 10, including a racial +2.

There are a couple of issues with Octavio’s stat block

  • He has Improved Critical (halberd), but as he only hit BAB +8 (which it requires) at 8th level and he does not get a feat at 8th level, he cannot have the feat.
  • His speed is listed as 20ft in armor, despite having the class ability to move at full speed in Hellknight plate.


To summarise:
    1. Have Setrona not know where Octavio is, but instead ask the PCs to rescue the armigers (who do know where he is). Run Into the Holding House first.
    2. Consider winding back the Holding House encounters. A lot.
    3. Consider simplifying the Shrine of Saint Senex a bit.
    4. Consider ditching Tayacet
    5. In the Poison Pen scenario, try to put the focus on Marquel (who is a rebel) as the ally, not Cassius (who isn’t).
    6. The Lucky Bones is essentially optional content. Skip it and replace with something else if desired.
    7. I recommend rebuilding Hetamon completely. I recommend correcting Octavio’s stat-block.
    8. Try to squeeze in some genuine acts of rebellion somewhere in Book 2
    9. Consider scrapping the “Reward Ceremony” scene.
    10. Try to get in news or knowledge of the Kintargo Contract loophole to the PCs before the end of this book.

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Richard Pett remains one of my favourite adventure writers, and the Dance of the Damned is another fine example of his work. Bravo, Mr. Pett! (Or “Huzzah!” as he would likely put it).

There are precious few criticisms I would level at Dance of the Damned, and they are mostly structural or a result of limited page count and too many good things competing for space.


In Dance of the Damned, I felt this section suffered the most of the page count limit. Firstly, Mialari Docur had been entirely absent through books 1-2, making her sudden introduction as a figure of significance jarring to say the least. More time to flesh out this character and her place in Kintargo would have helped smooth the transition. As it is, I simply removed her altogether (she isn’t all that relevant) for clarity.

The second part to this is the Alliance with Aristocrats, which I was deeply looking forward to, but found myself a little disappointed with how little page count these movers-and-shakers of Kintargo received. I appreciate that they received some effort and attention – vastly more than in any of the other books – but putting aside the typical stereotypes and urban myths regarding the nobility, they should have played a bigger role in the story than they did, in my opinion.

Rebellion: +3 Liberation Points for each great house they forge an alliance with.


I am not a fan of the Acisazi. Yes, the virtually insignificant aquatic elf village has novelty value, but little actual ties to the theme or plot of the game. I think this section is well written, with a good blend of social interaction, combat and exploration, and as a standalone or ‘vacation from Kintargo’ it works pretty well… but I personally found myself relucatant to spend most of Book 3 away from the action in Kintargo, and my players were very much opposed to doing so.

Good work, but simply out of place, I think.

My general recommendation is to salvage this for Book 5, when a political alliance with the Acisazi is more meaningful, and replace it with more actual rebellion against Thrune, such as taking out reinforcements, stealing weapons shipments and so on. In essence, the lead up to the eventual strike against Menador Gap.

Rebellion: +3 Liberation Points for an alliance with the acisazi. Otherwise replace with missions with their own rewards.


This thing is absolutely gorgeous. Well, except for the chelish crux section of the banquet. I hate those things (love the style statement, detest the mechanics) and the odds of success are horrible. But otherwise I found myself positively cackling when I was reading it.

The only criticism I have… is that it belongs in Book 5. I appreciate why it is in Book 3 - both this and the Ruby Masquerade are exactly the kind of thing one would wish Pett to create, as this is his forte – but it looks, plays and feels more appropriate to be part of establishing the alliance to enact the Kintargo Contract.

My suggestion is, like the Acisazi, to move this to Book 5, and instead have more open rebellion against Thrune. More work for the GM, sure, but worth it, I think.

Rebellion: +5 Liberation Points for an alliance with Vyre. Otherwise replace with missions with their own rewards.


This is the single most decisive strike against Thrune in the first half of the adventure, and one of only two acts of genuine rebellion.


(I couldn’t resist)

But really, other than a bit of confusion as to how many guards there actually are, I have to give this two thumbs up, and am running it pretty much as-published.

Rebellion: This costs Barzillai 5 Authority Points due to loss of morale among his troops, as they are now denied ready access to reinforcements.


You know those times as a GM when the mere thought of something sends into manic giggles of anticipation? Well, this is one of those. The Ruby Masquerade is a classic example of why Pett’s name on the cover of… virtually anything… is amble justification to throw money at it.

If I had to criticize, I suppose I’d make vaguely negative remarks about Tayacet’s involvement (which I’ve discussed previously), and the fact that the acquisition of Masque points is a little bit on the arcane and unintuitive side, and that GMs should take a very liberal license when implementing the system; if a PC does something that feels like it should work, let it work and gain Masque points, even if the published mechanics wouldn’t. But seriously, those are trivial quibbles about what is otherwise a beautiful set piece. Love it.

Rebellion: This costs Barzillai 3 Authority Points, and gains the PCs 3 Liberation Points. Plus a bonus Liberation Point per 100 people that survived the massacre (to a max of 3 bonus Liberation Points).

I’ve mentioned previously that I found the background given for the Silver Ravens to be… unconvincing. This also comes into play here.

Also somewhat unconvincing is the idea that the sheet music is written here… but not the lyrics. Which is both weird and nonsensical – why wouldn’t they write the lyrics on the sheet music, as is normal? Also, who came into the hidden chambers to make the crypt? Why did they leave behind a pile of stuff? If Shensen has explored all these caverns, why hasn’t she made use of the stash of coin and treasures left behind?

Perhaps it is just me and my group, but while most things about the adventure path are fun and flowing, anything related to the Silver Ravens of old just wound up ringing hollow.


To summarise:
    1. Consider scrapping Milari Docur, or introducing her earlier in the adventure.
    2. Consider moving Dead in the Deep and The Vyre Accord to Book 5, and instead introducing more acts of rebellion (sabotage, stealing weapons shipments, hijacking carriages bearing tithes to the church of Asmodeus etc).
    3. Consider fleshing out making alliances with aristocrats more – possibly involving some joint ventures (e.g. assaulting and capturing Deepmar).
    4. Consider adjusting the hidden chambers under the opera house to suit your version of the Silver Ravens.

The Rebellion minigame plays little role in Song of Silver, primarily due to rebel actions taking a week, while Barzillai’s authority gain and reprisals occur on a daily basis. Indeed, given the minigame has little to do with actually rebelling, a new system is introduced in Book 4: Authority points. As I’ve suggested previously, I believe it actually works better to use a version of this Authority Point system throughout the entire adventure, rather than the rebellion minigame.

Conceptually, Song of Silver plays out in a similar style to Twice-Damned Prince, the last book of Council of Thieves, showcasing the conquest of the city in a zone-by-zone series of high-action set pieces. And for the most part, it is pretty awesome. That being said, I did find a few bugbears that I wound up altering or replacing.

My biggest criticism is that there is simply too much in Song of Silver. It isn’t that you fight Barzillai in this book, it’s that you fight every named antagonist of note in this book, including some that otherwise had no real business being in at this time (e.g. Natsiel and Hei Fen). The issue with this is that by the sheer volume of them you bludgeon through they cease being special or even all that notable.

A lesser criticism is that at almost every turn there is an option to use rebellion actions to modify encounters… but as published these rebel actions take a week to perform, which in almost all cases renders them redundant.

Rebellion: Using the alternative system proposed earlier, subtract the PC’s Liberation points from Barzillai’s Authority Point total, and run the adventure from there.


This section is pretty much setting the scene for Part 2 – nothing much actually happens here, though you can have some neat roleplay scenes.

I personally avoided using Molly Mayapple, as I removed the involvement of the cult of Norgorber in my game. I also cut Shensen from my game, because she felt too much like a GMPC, and not enough like an NPC.



There’s a curious bit of writing in this section, as it raises the point that it depends on where the PCs have based their operations. Though it later notes that the PCs may encounter them elsewhere in the Lucky Bones, rather than having Tombus and some dottari (odd combo) burst into their meeting room.

The thing about this is that it is a randomly rolled reprisal, which seems to occur regardless of whether the PCs have been able to hide their base(s) of operation from Thrune detection. It also assumes that the PCs are actually using the Lucky Bones, and will apparently attempt in no way to detend it… such as by having a good solid steel door barred from the inside with a permanent guard who demands a password.

Barzillai going on the offensive against the PCs is cool. It makes him appear as a reactive and thus infinitely more dangerous foe, and he should absolutely send some people to target the PCs specifically… I’d just suggest that said attack come at a time and place where it is reasonable (in your game) that it occur, rather than feel it has to occur in the Lucky Bones.


I’m never a fan of forced failure, which is what the “Hetamon gets kidnapped” scenario feels like, especially since he’s not only my player’s favourite NPC, but from what I’ve read online, he’s popular with many parties. That said, if it’s a means of scoring victories against Thrune and the church of Asmodeus, I’d let it pass, and likely so would my players.

Sadly, that isn’t the case.

To be honest, I don’t understand why Natsiel appears in this book. Unless Hetamon – who isn’t angsting about his heritage – has told the PCs about his mother, they will have zero knowledge about her. Even then, Hetamon doesn’t actually know that much, and when she last appears it was ages ago, giving no reason to expect her to return. Having her step in and kidnap her son, only to try and use him as a bargaining chip to gain an alliance with Barzillai is… utterly mindboggling.

She is CE, suggesting she isn’t exactly trusting, and Barzillai is an inquisitor of the Church of Asmodeus that has outlawed (on pain of death) the worship of the demon lord she serves. She is a being that Barzillai is compelled by the edicts of his faith to squish like a bug, and she has to know that.

And I’m not going into the fact that she’s in Shensen’s basement.

The short version is, I suppose, that I didn’t like this mission very much. So it is then unsurprising that I replaced it with a mission pitching the PCs against Barzillai’s forces.


Tiarise is a pretty cool antagonist to have as Barzillai’s right hand. The only thing that confuses me is why she’s in the Record’s Hall and hasn’t invaded / taken over the Alabaster Academy.

Because a haunted university in Book 6 would be sweet.

There are but two quibbles I have. The first is that the slumber hex can be a bit brutal when used on PCs when she has minions. The second is that… unfortunately the Dimensional Occultist archetype doesn’t actually let her do what she is supposed to do. Yes, it gives her dimensional anchor, and the various planar binding spells… but it doesn’t give any of the magic circle spells, which aren’t on the witch spell list, and without which none of the planar binding spells work. It sucks, but that is how the planar binding spells are written.

Honestly, she should be better as either a wizard or arcanist with a bunch of levels in the Diabolist prestige class.


This was the other mission I took issue with, namely that Hei-Fen has very weak motivations for revenge against the PCs, and the concept of a Norgorber/Asmodeus alliance is… odd. Mostly it just seemed a massive distraction from the point of the game: To rebel against Thrune. Honestly, I think the Norgorber influence should have gone the same way as the Nidal influence, and been left on the cutting room floor.

If you’re including the Norgorber cult in your game, this more or less works well enough. I didn’t, and thus replaced this with another mission that pitches the PCs against Barzillai’s forces.


While the rising tolls on Bleakbridge are strange, it is easy to accept as a symptom of Barzillai’s madness. Blockading the bridge altogether makes sense in Book 4, in order to control movement across the river, and breaking that blockade is wonderfully dramatic.

All told, it’s a good setup. It’s only flaw is that this is the first time we meet Vannases Trex, so fighting her has little impact or ‘payoff’ for the players – it’s just another combat encounter.


Whoa. Hooooooold up there. Let me see if I have this straight: By this stage our PCs are at least 10th (if not 11th) level and in the process of taking control of the city from Barzillai Thrune, but rather than capturing the castle – the heart of Kintargo’s defences – or otherwise taking the fight to Thrune’s enforcers… they sneak around to a small tower to rescue someone who’s been locked in solitary for eighty years?

And it just so happens that without knowing about their prisoner or warden (who are just down one set of stairs), the hellknight leader is also hanging around here with a half-dozen hellknights (but no armigers)… and some phantom hellknight armor downstairs. And this gives us control over the Castle District? And that’s putting aside the extreme weirdness that is the background for the castle.

Okay that is… an odd choice. But let’s move on.

Next is the bit that actually manages to confuse me more. Kyrre Ekodyrre suggested (in Book 2) that Barzillai outlaw the Order of the Torrent and grant their properties to the Order of the Rack. It was literally her idea. And so she has left the contract between her and Barzillai in the records hall, and in the extremely unlikely scenario the PCs will find it before being confronted by Kyrre - noting the hellknights guard the door in – brandishing the contract, which somehow violates some “Hellknight Traditions” (not laws, just traditions) will cause her to break her contract with Barzillai and withdraw from Kintargo out of fear of the PCs going public.

Let me reiterate. Out of fear of news getting out that the contract between Barzillai and the Order of the Rack contradicts a couple of hellknight traditions (somehow), she will violate her legally binding contract with an agent of Thrune and the Church of Asmodeus? This is suicide in preference to scandal.

I think it best to pretend that clause isn’t there and just let the PCs dust it up with the Order of the Rack and be done with it.

So we save Jackdaw, and she has the lyrics to the song of silver, allowing us to perform it and… mildly hinder devils.

First off… I’m not personally too enamoured with bringing back one of the older Silver Ravens. You leave the mentor’s behind on the hero’s journey for a reason. But that’s just my quibble.

Secondly, the song of silver is a magical creation of a bard lower level than the PCs, which a PC cannot (without GM fiat) replicate – only learn the song and repeat it. Maybe it was the product of years of work, but having “Awesome thing created by an NPC less experienced and powerful than you, that you cannot replicate because of Reasons” is something that grates on many players I know. Like funky items (e.g. magic pumps) that they’re not allowed to create or buy, but NPCs will simply have them with a wave of a pen.

Lastly, I read what the song of silver did and went, “Wait…. That’s it?!”. It’s a 1 minute performance that can be performed once per month, and grants a ward for a week. This ward does two things:

    [#]It allows all weapons to count as silver for overcoming damage reduction. By this stage any PC for whom damage reduction is an issue will already have means to overcome it, and for the common folk of the city, fighting devils is suicide. So it’s not an especially huge deal.
    [#]It forces evil outsiders (only) to attempt a DC25 caster level check to use their greater teleport or plane shift etc. Or be staggered for one round. Noting that most such creatures that have greater teleport, have it at-will (and thus can simply try again next round), and even a CR5 bearded devil has a CL of 12. The primary benefit is not to prevent devils from teleporting in to attack the PCs, but to stop devils from teleporting away to avoid being slain/defeated.

Given the emphasis placed on gaining the macguffin that is the song of silver, it really doesn’t do all that much. It doesn’t stop a sending from Corinstian (acting on his own initiative) resulting in other temples calling in devils and having them teleport in to aid the defense of the city and church. It doesn’t stop devils from teleporting around within the city – only delays them sometimes. And it does absolutely nothing to hinder the overwhelming majority of actual foes: soldiers of Thrune and the church of Asmodeus. It doesn’t even provide any protection against the diabolical defenses of the temple of Asmodeus. It doesn’t even last long enough to offer some protection from reprisals while the PCs go about Book 5 to enact the Kintargo Contract.

It’s ultimately a macguffin that is more work to get than it is worth. Sadly.

I made it an entirely vocal performance (more of a cappella), and split it into three pieces, which were optained one at a time over the first three books. It took longer (and more people) to perform, and could use the Opera House once per year to grant a powerful ward for a month. The ward primarily acted as a forbiddance against evil outsiders, aberrations, fey, magical beasts and monstrous humanoids, but didn’t affect any other creatures. This worked to both be useful in taking down Barzillai, and buy Kintargo enough time to run around in Book 5 and enact the Kintargo Contract.



Though getting in the killing blow on a dragon when outdoors is always problematic… but hey, dragon fight!



I must confess to being a little alarmed.

Not by the oddity of having no external guards or defences, other than a couple of glyph spells, though that is odd. No, it’s more the fact that the doors open basically straight into the nave, whose occupants are studiously ignoring the two entrances into the temple. The expectation is, strangely, that the PCs will walk in, see the ritual, and then decide to go through the side doors (after being studiously ignored) and kill all the other occupants room-by-room before going and dealing with Corinstian and the ritual. Otherwise things get really nasty, really fast.

They could get more nasty, but apparently only a short list of the occupants will actually respond to the alarm – the others will remain calmly in their room and quietly wait to be ganged up on and murdered by the PCs. Similarly, those performing the ritual – who can fight without interrupting it – will ignore everything up to and including their colleagures and even lovers being murdered right before their eyes without responding. It’s an odd way of trying to throttle the stream of enemies to a manageable level.

As it stands, the party of 12th level PCs is basically expected to go up against:
Round 0 (CR16): Corinstian (CR11), Aluceda (CR12), 5 x Asmodean Priests (CR6), 5 x Advanced Host Devils (CR7) and Rizovair (CR14) if it still lives. That’s midway between an APL+4 and APL+5 encounter already.
Round 1 (CR17): 3 x Bone Devil (CR9) teleport in, raising the encounter to APL+5
Round 2 (CR17): The Gardener (CR12) joins in, raising it to midway between APL+5 and APL+6
Round 3 (CR18 or CR19): Zella Zidlii (CR10) and four priests (CR6) join in, raising it to be solidly APL+6. Barzillai (CR16) starts observing the fight, and can join in if he likes. Let’s assume our PCs are made of pure awesome and actually holding their own: He joins in, raising the encounter to APL+7. Cool.
Round 4 (CR19): 5 x Priests (CR6) join in, and if there’s an inhabited body, so does the advanced hellwasp swarm (CR9), raising it to midway between APL+7 and APL+8
Round 5 (A little below CR20): But wait, there’s more! The Skinsaw cultists (who are in here for some reason) join in, consisting of a Jorogumo (CR12) and 6 x Cultists (CR5), sadly leaving us just a little shy of CR20, which would be APL+8.

Now, the PCs will have killed some of their enemies over those 5 rounds, but that doesn’t really offset the extreme challenge that they’re facing. Which is crazy beyond belief.

Ultimately, it’s all just a little… weird. Why not commandeer some siege engines and flush out the asmodeans by bombarding their cathedral into rubble? Why not try and smoke them out? Why fight the battle on their terms. And as for the Asmodeans… if the city is lost and Barzillai’s forces defeated… why in Hell’s name aren’t the doors guarded and the temple on high alert?

Verdict: There are a lot of gorgeous ideas and encounters in this temple, but the layout and scenario just doesn’t seem to support them as well as it could. I would up redesigning the temple and simply transcribing most of the published encounters across, both to make my players scoff at their enemy’s lack of intelligence less, and to avoid the complete cluster%&$ that is the Infernal Nave.


The Devil’s Bells are a nifty complication to the adventure within the temple…. And frankly they didn’t need to be anything more.

The climax of Song of Silver should… no… must be Barzillai Thrune. He is the primary antagonist, the big bad evil guy, the villain whom the PCs are arrayed against. He is the ultimately adversary in this book, and his demise gives the greatest emotional payoff.

He should never be usurped by a hereto unknown monstrosity the PCs don’t care about, and are unlikely to know anything of. But that is exactly what the profane belfry does: usurp Barzillai’s position as the finale of the book. And not only that, it replaces the dramatic action sequence with a laborious sequence of events to go through – and one that must be repeated from scratch if anything goes wrong. Which is frustrating, and that is not something a game should be.

I recommend ditching everything in the Profane Belfry, and simply have the bell’s be rendered inactive when the infernal engines are shut down, like the other wards in the temple, and leaving it at that. The PCs defeat Barzillai and his asmodean henchmen – they are heroes and have won.


While raining on the PCs parade (almost literally) is not the kind of thing I’d normally want to do… if some of the villains have escaped (especially Barzillai) it is a good way to bring them back in for a last hurrah and chance for the PCs to correct the error of letting them live.

Ultimately a good contingency, though I’d prefer to avoid having Barzillai flee in the first place.


I’m going to be honest. I was hoping the NPC Gallery would have a writeup for Corinstian, Trex, Tiarise or even Kyrre Ekodyre – something to help me bring these villains to life. Barzillai was a must, and thus I heartily applaud his inclusion… but Shensen? Who there is a good chance is still a statue in the Opera House? Who already has a writeup in other publications?

While I could make similar comments regarding characters like Molly Mayapple, given that Book 4 was where all of these villains finally were confronted, I was hoping for a little more background to them.


To summarise:
    1. Revise the “Defending the Hideout” to suit your PCs and how they have gone through the campaign. If players have taken pains to keep their hideout secret, avoid bypassing their efforts just for the sake of this encounter.
    2. Consider rebuilding Tiarise (as the dimensional occultist witch doesn’t actually do what it is meant to do) and moving her to the Alabaster Academy instead of the records hall. Probably worth trying to actually use her on camera prior to Book 4 as well, so her demise is more satisfying for players.
    3. Consider discarding the Norgorber cultists, or moving their involvement to Book 5.
    4. Consider discarding Natsiel and the ruins of the Silver Star, and running a homebrew encounter instead.
    5. Consider scrapping the whole “dubious deal” angle with the Hellknights and just have your PCs fight them and be done with it.
    6. Consider scrapping the shenanigans at the Belfry
    7. Consider removing Barzillai’s ring of spell storing and thus his magical escape route.

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The Kintargo Contract as a whole has the fundamental problem of being busy-work, and that isn’t entirely surprising, given that the PCs have already fought (almost) all the established enemies already in Book 4. This isn’t really the author’s fault, as for the most part it’s what he had to work with.

I will call out House Sarini as a missed opportunity here. They were flagged in Book 1 as being an antagonist in later books, which unfortunately never eventuated, and Book 5 would have been a good spot for them.

It is also important to note that the game changes quite dramatically at this point: The Lucky Bones and other hideouts become redundant, as the PCs can not only operate in the open, but can take advantage of some of the available strongholds in the city, not the least including Castle Kintargo. Similarly, the rebellion mechanics – if any were used – are now retired. The PCs are no longer rebels overthrowing a hated tyrant, but need to make the transition to be leaders in this new era.


As I’ve mentioned previously, the fact that the PCs don’t learn about the Kintargo Contract loophole until after disposing of Barzillai is a serious flaw in the overall plot. If a rebellion was doomed to fail without the Kintargo Contract, why did anyone of consequence support it? And if it wasn’t doomed to fail before… why is the Kintargo Contract necessary now?

Also somewhat odd is giving the PCs a copy of the contract prior to their going to visit Odexidie, especially since the Kintargo Contract was of no value to Barzillai – he was appointed by the Queen, and not ratified by the Board of Governors. And if the Queen can simply appoint a Lord-Mayor and have them wield authority over the contract, then it offers no protection to the PCs. Additionally, the somewhat dangerous trek into Hell to see Odexidie is largely there to reduce the DC by 10, and give some fun exposition.

I’d suggest having the PCs get the contract from Odexidie, rather than from Barzillai’s chest, and have them do so… in Book 2, by preference (toning encounters back as required).

This hideously frustrating monstrosity appeared in Council of Thieves, and my comments here are the same as my comments there: Just roll the dice.

The puzzle itself is unsolvable except by sheer fluke. I say this because the odds of solving it before it resets are roughly 1 in sixty million. No, I am not kidding.

Roll some dice. Take some damage. Repeat until it opens, or the table gets sick of it and it can open by GM fiat.

Politics! Huzzah!

While I appreciate that the author didn’t want to make it too easy to form the board and get a majority vote, having not a single sympathetic noble among them is a little over the top. There are eight great houses currently, five of which were potentially allies of the Silver Ravens in Book 3, and one of the other three were Sarini and thus not suited to ever be allies. So the only great house members of the Board are… the other two. The other three members are either “find the mysterious and dubious lineage” or completely new characters.

I can’t help but feel that expanding the board out to six or seven families and including, say, the Jarvis and/or Jhaltero families would have given the PCs a feeling of achievement for their previous efforts, without trivializing the effort to assemble the board and instate a new Lord-Mayor. Also, as Ravounel is likely to be stuck with the board of governors for some time… they aren’t exactly the ideal choice of leaders for the CG community.

I am going to resist the temptation to rant about the general misrepresentation of the nobility in 90-95% of fantasy. I’ll just make two points:

    1. The nobility are the military commanders and generals. They’re a ruling military caste.
    2. When creating a noble family (without the “para” prefix, anyway), one should always decide what land they own – because they usually own a bunch of it, and it is almost always occupied and productive.


Including Melodia as the problem child of the board of governors is awesome. The suggested methods of dealing with her, however, are painfully inappropriate.

First off, she’s a noble, and a powerful one at that. She will have an extensive family, as well as connections to many other noble families both within Ravounel and elsewhere in Cheliax. She also owns land and commands a hefty revenue stream. So she’s rich, powerful and has rich and powerful friends, and a family with a bunch of military might.

Changing her political opinion for a trivial bribe? No. She’s already rich, and isn’t going to risk the wrath of Thrune over a bauble – that is insane.

Using magical compulsion to force her to take part in the board? Ludicrously bad idea. Firstly she has charm person on her own spell list, and will almost certainly realize she has been forced to comply – which when exposed to the other nobles will likely destroy any credibility the PCs have, as would any of them noticing her odd behaviour in meetings. Secondly, the Delronge family can’t simply be removed: they’re needed for the board for future appointments, lest a single payment to the Red Mantis end any impediment to Thrune entering Kintargo, so alienating her is a terrible idea. Third, she is more than capable of starting a civil war, especially if she gets support from some of the other nobles.

What would get her to change her stance is to demonstrate it is in the best interests of her and her family. Guarantees of her family’s title, estates and position on the board. Restoration of any assets lost to Thrune during the civil war or thereafter. Exclusivity on certain trade deals. Offers of greater land for her family to expand their estates into – potentially including elevation to full Counts. In other words, actual diplomacy and negotiation.



So we have a washed up pennyless guy who is the last surviving member of the Mayhart family in Ravounel… and he just spent the entire campaign in prison for murder, but they never got around to hanging him (but did feed him).

The faked death and murder charge is excellent. The fact that this guy comes out of the blue is… not. I’d strongly recommend he not have spent all this time in jail, but you try to get him into the campaign earlier, either in his role as a guard at the newt market, or maybe even as part of the rebellion. Have his duel with the Aeldervenk be something that happened recently, rather than 2-6 months ago. I’d also suggest he be somewhat more likeable and useful, so that when he gets instated as a mandatory part of the new government, he’s not a embarrassment to the PCs.

Remember: The Board of Governors is actually there to stay. The PCs might need it urgently, but that doesn’t mean it goes away once a mayor is ratified.


Who? Does she have a title? Does she own any lands? Who are these grandkids who died for the PCs?

Honestly, having a couple of young nobles retractively killed off camera in the PC’s rebellion is… not something I like doing, as it strikes me as somewhat unfair and underhanded.

Personally I reskinned the village of Acisazi to be a small fishing village that is part of Ravounel and the center of her lands, so the whole village was in a malaise and she refused to take part in the board, and defeating the aboleth (which I moved to book 5) is what wins them over.

As for dealing with Raenna as-published? Ideally having the two grandkids have been at least on camera a couple of times would be best, to blindside the players a little less. Otherwise running it with tact, diplomacy and the potential offer to resurrect them (if capable) will do the trick.


The Kintargo Contract pretty much hits dead on target with Count Tanessan. He’s a powerful and intelligent man, and one who is fundamentally voting with his head. The scenario of providing him with the grounds to convince his family as a whole to support a vote for a PC-preferred Lord-Mayor is solid.

Now, I moved the Vyre Accord from Book 3 to Book 5, which made it easier to lead into it by having him provide a nudge in that direction, if the PCs weren’t already planning to go. But much as the published module suggests, any significant boon the PCs can do for the Tanessan family would likely count.


Selling someone into slavery, especially if done within the law (even if via a “loophole”), normally strips them of any lands, titles and property. In other words, when Peletera Talltallow was sold, she was disinherited from the Urvis fortunes. We can handwave that inconvenience away and pretend that somehow Cheliax law works differently… but it is something of a blemish on the logic.

Otherwise the idea that an ally of the PCs (or even a PC themselves) can be uncovered to be the heir of the Urvis line and thus sit on the board is kind of awesome.

I didn’t use Laria, mainly because she didn’t gel with my players at all, and felt rather unconvincing as a rebel leader. Zea is tricky to use, as the descendant of a servant angle is even weaker with her. A better option for Zea (and one I used) was that her father was born a tiefling by an unmarried Urvis daughter, and promptly handed away to be raised by a servant and all records of his unholy birth concealed. When the Urvis family died out, the servants discarded Zea’s father when he was a young boy and left him to fend for himself, without any knowledge of his birthright.

Also: If Carliss would not be able to be a member of the board while a fugitive accused of the murder of Lerish Aeldervenk… why is Laria able to sit on the board when she murdered her former master and escaped as a slave? For her Talltallow lineage to be uncovered, her past must be uncovered, including beating a noble to death with a chamber pot – yes, he had it coming, but it is still a crime.

And now, the busy-work begins, sadly. Most of it is framed in the sense of being important to enacting the Kintargo Contract… but in all honesty you could simply skip ahead to Book 6 right now without actually missing anything particularly important to the story. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of it is quite fun, but very little is actually pertinent to the story of Ravounel’s rebellion and secession from Cheliax, primarily because the missions mostly focus on creatures and communities that aren’t part of the Ravounel community.


I discarded this mission altogether, for a few reasons.

Firstly, I found the slavers to be very out of left field and their setup to be questionable at best. There are eight slavers in total, who by some undisclosed and handwaved means arrive in Kintargo, concealing the fact that one of their members is a devil (who has neither Disguise nor invisibility), set up shop in a warehouse in Villegre, and then begin to silently kidnap and hold people in the warehouse, and then transport them out of Kintargo and back to Cheliax. Kintargo is not somewhere one travels to quickly, especially not with the only land route closed. Furthermore, with the rebellion only just concluded and the threat of Thrune reprisals looming, there is no security/inspection of incoming or outgoing ships? Slaves average around 100gp a piece, so they’re not going to do anything insane like use scrolls of teleport, because it is financial suicide.

Secondly, and even more importantly to me, it makes a complete and total mockery of the protection the Kintargo Contract offers. The Greenbriar fetters are mercenaries, yes, but not only do they have strong ties to Thrune, but financial backing from the church of Asmodeus, and a devil in their party. Said devil might not be an official agent of the church, but it is absolutely a servant of Asmodeus. The fact that they can occur even if the PCs have managed to get someone ratified as Lord-Mayor (in theory they can get a majority vote on the first day), demonstrates just how little protection the contract offers.

If one is running this, I strongly recommend as a minimum ditching the entire link to the church of Asmodeus, including the presence of the devil.


This mission is sort of a catchall for “Get everyone on board”, which some of the subsequent missions are about… noting that many of the missions actually aren’t actually required to get the region to sign on (and state such in their writeup).

What isn’t completely fleshed out is getting the Ravounel Isles signed on board, as the intent is that Vyre has the capacity to sign on all of the islands, including Deepmar… which is itself a Chelish penal colony.

I moved the Vyre Accord from Book 3 to here, causing this to be the point the PCs engaged in the delightful diplomacy with Manticce Kaleekii.

I also disagree with the author on the matter of Deepmar: Vyre is an autonomous city-state with no influence over an imperial penal colony. If one is to get Deepmar to be part of Ravounel for the Kintargo Contract and not have it turn into a Thrune naval fort right on the border, I think the PCs should go there and deal with it personally. At this point if you want to run a scaled up No Response from Deepmar, it would work – I just homebrewed my own scenario.


The logic behind this mission is tenuous at best. The Aulamaxa family basically own Cypress Point and the lands around it, but don’t live there… because apparently each noble family is only a handful of individuals (somehow) rather than the sprawling network of siblings, cousins and second cousins that usually occurs. The wording of the contract then demands a “resident representative”, which is spectacularly abigious, since if the legal owner doesn’t count, how does one know who the legal representative is? The Kintargo Contract is a legal document written by devils, it shouldn’t be so fluffy.

Next, the person that apparently meets the magical and poorly defined (how do the PCs know this?) requirements to sign on the entirety of the North Plains is a woman who settled in the region 20 years ago, and who is a priestess of an outlawed deity. I’ll repeat. The closest thing to a representative and local leader for what is the only other settlement of note in Ravounel is a priestess of an outlawed deity – outlawed by the church of Asmodeus no less – and yet the infernal contract will recognize her as the legal authority for the region.

Running with it as-is, I’d suggest that Xerelilah be the local governor and representative of the Aulamaxa family, rather than a priestess of Desna. It makes it a little less… dodgy.

In my version I scrapped the Aulamaxa family altogether (too many nobles and not enough territory, even with me adding a bunch of extra towns), and placed Cypress Point under the command of the Aulorian family. I then had the mission to deal with the Terapasillion be part of the PCs discrediting Auxis (who had been neglecting investing in border security) and instating Marquel as the new Count of Cypress Point – who then signed on.

The Terapasillion itself works pretty well. Ithanothaur is pretty cool – though on a whim I decided he spoke with a lisp, which nearly broke my players.


“Grisly warnings have begun to appear in the harbors of the major Ravounel cities and towns” is an odd statement, given that there are two cities (Vyre and Kintargo) and one town (Cypress Point) on the maps. And given that the PCs live in Kintargo, I suspect they’d here more than “rumors” when the bodies start being pulled out of the harbour. Just saying.

That being said, the fiendish Charybdis is awesome.

The skum rangers are an odd addition… and mechanically borked. First off, 8th level rangers do not get Improved Evasion. Secondly they are aquatic and not taking prisoners, so why have wands of water breathing? Next the rangers list their speed as 15ft; swim 40ft – Skum have 20ft land speed (15ft in armor) and 40ft swim speed which would be reduced to 30ft in armor. They include the effects of their spells in their statline, but the statblock doesn’t state this. The description of Power Attack granting a -3 penalty to hit and +6 bonus to damage is misleading, as that only applies on the trident, and their natural attacks only get a +3 damage boost as they are secondary attacks. Lastly, their Str and Con have arbitrarily been boosted by a few points, which is reasonable for Con to get the hp needed for the CR, but the boost in Strength means they punch noticeably harder than one would expect – especially against humans and half-humans: With power attack their attack line is trident +16/+11 (2d6+14), bite +15 (1d8+9), claw +15 (1d6+9)… or mid-range CR10 attack bonus and 68 damage a round, which is appropriate for a CR15 creature.

With regard to the drowning devil (yes, another one), I’m always a little perplexed as to the philosophy behind assigning CR to a creature with class levels. A drowning devil is CR8. A drowning devil with 10 Sorcerer levels is CR14. How this turns out is a creature that has manages to land on the high end of the expected CR14 stat line, while also packing an arsenal of spells and spell-like abilities, including mirror image and invisibility to bolster its already impressive defense and dimension door to retreat and regroup as needed. All told, I’d suggest seeing how the PCs fare with this guy – if they struggle with him a lot more than the Charybdis, I’d suggest awarding XP as if he were CR15.


As some of my earlier comments might have suggested, I’m not a huge fan of the inclusion of the strix in Hell’s Rebels for a number of reasons, though the primary one is that they have no actual ties to the plot or theme. Hell’s Rebels is telling the story of the PCs and Ravounel’s rebellion and winning their freedom from Cheliax and Thrune, and the strix have no bearing on that – they are outsiders to the conflict, and the millennia-long hostility is between them and humanity. The fact that the humans in the region have once again changed leadership should matter little to the strix.

The scenario of the strix and the hags is fairly iconic, and for the most part reasonably implemented as a standalone adventure. But as part of Hell’s Rebels, and particularly when it comes to implementing the Kintargo Contract, it is both off-target in terms of theme and also quite flawed. Firstly, the concept that the fate of the entire western portion of Ravounel lies in the assent of a handful of inbred (look at the population numbers) we-can’t-decide-if-they’re-winged-elves-or-not monstrous humanoids is absurd: If that small a number is needed, all one needs to do is hire some peasants to build a logging village just inside the contractual border and get them to sign on – problem solved. On a similar vein, the fact that the hags could satisfy the contract suggests that a single hunting lodge would be enough.

On the topic of the hags, especially if they maintain the guise of the ‘winged dryad’, why wouldn’t they sign on with the Kintargo Contract? If the PCs explain the purpose, it basically ensures their entire forest is protected from Thrune reprisals and occupation, allowing them freedom to spread their influence throughout Ravounel without opposition by the great infernal empire. And given the PCs just slaughtered an enemy they could not, it strongly suggests that the PCs are likely more than a match for the hags themselves – they have an Int of 22, they should be able to figure things out.

As you might guess, my version was significantly different. I scrapped the strix altogether and instead placed a small logging town nestled in an inlet which is blockaded by Thrune warships, drawing heavily from Pezzak. The PCs then had to break the blockade, and then delve into the woods to save those who went missing trying to escape through the forest, and got captured by the hags. It was a fair bit of work making the changes, but we found it worthwhile.


Mangvhune’s primary (or only) use to the narrative is to foreshadow the soul anchor and Barzillai’s eventual return as a nemesis. Unfortunately, how he is used doesn’t actually achieve that very well.

He simply “arrives” in Kintargo, along with some allies – one of whom is almost as dangerous as he is. Despite a decided lack of long-duration invisibility or effective disguises, he is able to ascertain not only that the PCs are the most celebrated heroes of the times, but who they know and like. He begins murdering said people in grotesque ways to taunt the PCs to come prepared and on mass into a hidden lair, rather than simply murder the PCs in their sleep. In life he had built a ridiculous hidden lair in apparent total secret despite the near-impossibility of the deed. He and his disciples don’t exactly do a lot of talking, and Mangvhune’s connection to the soul anchor doesn’t seem to ever come up. He just happens to be a murder-demon that likes murdering people (go figure) in a style similar to that of the old serial killer.

I’d also point out that on page 56 he is listed as CR17 and possessing the Advanced template, whereas on page 54 he is listed as CR16, which is in accordance with his original published stat block (where he lacked the Advanced template).

This might come across as nitpicking, but given that the primary purpose of Mangvhune is to foreshadow devil-Barzillai, I would recommend adjusting things somewhat:

    1. Have him be in Kintargo because Tiarise called and bound him in order to interrogate him about the soul anchor. When she was killed, he then was able to push against his bindings and eventually break free… and chose to stick around.
    2. Have him be interested in the Silver Ravens as both those who freed him, and ‘kindred spirits’ – in his mind the PCs have achieved great things, but their greatness will be stripped from them in the river of souls when they eventually die.
    3. His agenda with the PCs is not to lure them into a combat so they can kill him, but instead to try and convince them of his own beliefs regarding the injustice of death and the folly of mortals. He will murder people, but leave eloquent messages (he was a genius in life) with each, explaining how this moment was the greatest achievement of their lives, and how little it matters as they will remember nothing after being judged.
    4. Ultimately, he is trying to convince the PCs to seek the soul anchor, though he won’t simply hand out the location (finding it is part of his test), until he eventually loses patience with their stubbornness and attempts to murder them all.
    5. Unless he has a scroll of gate or such, I wouldn’t bother with the cambions. Instead I’d have him use his summon ability to bring in babau assistants and patsies.

By the end the PCs should be aware of the existence of something called the soul anchor, what it looks like (roughly) and that it allowed Mangvhune to retain his mortal knowledge after death, but not where it is or that Barzillai used it. So when the hauntings begin and the PCs begin having visions of Barzillai removing his own heart while bathing in the soul anchor… the penny will drop that there is likely a devil with all of Barzillai’s memories somewhere in Hell.


Given I cut back the Mangvhune section dramatically, I added a replacement finale to Book 5 in the form of House Sarini.

In my game, the Sarini family own Cape Dis and the lands to the west of the Ravounel Forest, and it was they who called in the fiendish Charybdis earlier. As a family of fools, jesters and devoted servants of Thrune, they avoided joining Barzillai in the open combat during Book 4 (they’re not suicidal) and instead are attempting to undermine the PCs efforts to secure Ravounel against Thrune by striking from within.

One of their first moves in this section is to capture the Opera House and perform the song of shadows – the a distorted and dark version of the song of silver – to drown the city in darkness for a week (or until the chief performer is slain) and hamper divine magic.

This was followed by several diabolic attacks on the PCs and members of the government – including the Lord-Mayor and the board of governors. After these attacks were repelled and the Sarini agents defeated, the surviving Sarini agents fled back to the town of Mirstone on Cape Dis to regroup and await the PCs.

For Mirstone I used the Carnival of Tears module as inspiration, with the Sarini family making heavy using of mirage arcane to shroud the town in illusions and present it as a dark and twisted carnival – in essence using their subjects as human shields against reprisal, while striking at the PCs from the shadows.

Once Sarini are defeated, and a new lord of Mirstone appointed by the government (board of governors + Lord Mayor), the region joins the rest of Ravounel under the protection of the Kintargo Contract.


I must admit to some surprise that Solmestria got her own writeup in the back of the book.

I must also admit some surprise at the Ravounel Forest Encounters table in the bestiary section. CR11 to CR17 with an disturbing number of devils and undead out for the PCs blood, and a 30% encounter chance means the PCs will likely hit the 3 encounters/day limit, and after a few days in the forest (given the overland movement penalties) will probably have levelled up at least once on random encounters alone.

I appreciate that the desire is to present encounters that are an ‘appropriate challenge’ to the PCs… but it makes the forest almost as dangerous as Hell, and the strix and hags aren’t even the deadliest thing in there.


To summarise:
    1. Simplify the chelish crux. Seriously.
    2. Consider removing the Kintargo Contract from the crux, and instead require the PCs to get a copy from Odexidie. Consider moving the trip to see Odexidie to Book 2.
    3. Revise the interactions with Melodia Delronge to be less trite.
    4. Consider revising the story with Carliss Mayhart and introducing him earlier in the adventure path.
    5. Consider using the Solstine grandkids on camera, or otherwise revising Raena’s disagreements with the PCs.
    6. Figure out who holds the Urvis voting rights, and make sure they make sense. I recommend against the suggestion of it being Laria. This might actually be a cool thing for a PC.
    7. Remove the Greenbriar Fetters. Consider using Natsiel or Hei-Fen here instead, if so desired.
    8. Consider using Dead in the Deep and The Vyre Accord here in Book 5 to be part of Uniting Ravounel.
    9. Note that Threat from the Arcadian Deeps includes a lot of errors in the stat blocks.
    10. Consider revising or replacing Storms Over Ravounel Forest. It’s not a bad adventure, but it is largely busy work.
    11. Consider either revising They Have Not Gone Gently so to actually have some exposition on the existence and function of the soul anchor, or scrap Mangvhune altogether.
    12. Consider writing in House Sarini as an antagonist as the finale of Book 5 instead. I suggest Carnival of Tears as inspiration for the thematic.

I have to say it: this book is one Hell of a finale!

Okay, pun intended, but the sentiment still holds true. In this final volume we face down Thrune across the negotiating table (awesome), purge a city that is being haunted by fragments of Barzillai’s soul (awesome!), delve down to the soul anchor to collect his heart (pretty cool), and then venture into hell itself to put an end to the tyrant once and for all (AWESOME!).

While I still think the decision to depose Barzillai before Book 6 was a touch odd, I think the payoff that is Breaking the Bones of Hell is worth the hiccups along the way.


I have but one complaint… and if you’ve read the previous pages, you can likely guess what it is: the skinsaw cultists.

I still feel that the Norgorber cultists motivations for attacking the PCs are extremely weak, and doubly so at the treaty talks, as riling up Thrune is not actually in their interests when Vyre is actually in the firing line as well for being part of the independent Ravounel. My other objection is that I honestly don’t think the complication is necessary, and if anything I feel it detracts from what would otherwise be a pivotal social scene. I recommend ignoring Bejakra’s involvement completely and just running it as a social scene unless your group really don’t like such things and are itching for combat.

The streamlined skill checks aren’t a bad way of having a simplified system of dealing with it for groups that don’t want to try to roleplay out every last thing. I was a little disappointed that the topics and haunts were limited to only 5, rather than 8, which is the number of districts in Kintargo…. So I added a few for my game. The topics then went:
Issue 1 – Trade Agreements (Yolubilis Harbor)
Issue 2 – Repairing Menador Keep (Old Kintargo)
[b]Issue 3 – Artistic and Scholastic Rights (Villegre)
[b]Issue 4 – Military Alliance (Castle District)
[b]Issue 5 – Nonaggression Pact (The Greens)

[b]Issue 6 –Unity of Faith (Temple Hill): [DC25] The Church of Asmodeus have requested that Nereza obtain the agreement of Ravounel to maintain the church of Asmodeus as the state religion and the prohibition on the same churches as Cheliax, and seek reparations for the damage to the church of Asmodeus in Kintargo.

  • 1NP: Nereza agrees that Ravounel is free to nominate its own laws on religion, though the church of Asmodeus will remain an accepted religion in Ravounel.
  • 2NP: Nereza agrees that no reparations for the destruction of Kintargo’s church of Asmodeus. (Success: Barzillai’s presence in Temple Hill is weak)
  • 3NP: Nereza agrees that Ravounel may choose to prohibit or restrict the worship of Asmodeus within their territory, as they see fit.

Issue 7 – Sea Passage and Free Ports (Jarvis End): [DC28] Nereza makes the case that Chelish vessels gain free passage through Ravounel waters and the right to dock at Ravounel ports unhindered. Additionally, she requests that docking fees and tariffs traditionally levied against foreign craft be waived for Chelish vessels. She does not offer a reciprocal agreement for Ravounel vessels.

  • 1NP: Nereza concedes that only merchant vessels should be permitted free passage and docking permission at Ravounel ports, and that both military and fishing vessels require permission to enter Ravounel waters.
  • 2NP: Nereza concedes that Chelish vessels may have traditional tariffs and docking fees levied against them.
  • 3NP: Nereza concedes that Ravounel merchant vessels shall have free passage through Chelish waters and docking rights at Chelish ports. (Success: Barzillai’s presence in Jarvis End is weak)

Issue 8 – Extradition Rights and Legal Jurisdiction (Redroof): [DC30] Nereza proposes that Cheliax have the right to extradite any Cheliax native guilty of breaking Chelish law that crosses into Ravounel, with full cooperation from the Ravounel government. She also proposes that all Hellknight Orders have the right to pursue criminals across borders without impediment, and retain their jurisdictional rights within Ravounel.

  • 1NP: Nereza concedes that Hellknight orders must comply with Ravounel laws within Ravounel, and must acquire permission from the Ravounel government before taking any prisoners into or out of Ravounel territory.
  • 2NP: Nereza concedes that Ravounel can deny extradition requests if the acts of the individual in question would not be considered a crime within Ravounel, such as the worship of chaotic deities. (Success: Barzillai’s presence in Redroof is weak).
  • 3NP: Nereza concedes that Ravounel natives whose religions are outlawed within Cheliax are permitted passage and trade within Cheliax, with the proviso that they avoid public diplays of worship, including the display of religious symbols or discussing their faith with citizens of Cheliax.

Note: By removing the Norgorber influence (about 198,400xp), but adding three additional topics (another 153,600xp if succeeding at all three), the XP is slightly lower overall, but not enough to cause problems.


The Haunting of Kintargo and Abandon All Hope are among my favourite sections of this adventure path (along with the Ruby Masquerade, of course), as they’re beautifully horrible, and the author deserves enormous credit for such delightfully diabolical creations.

I will make the comment that I found it a little strange that so many of the “Haunts” were actually roaming monsters. The popobala in particular felt a little out of place – not its behaviour (which is perfectly suited), but the fact that Barzillai’s influence causes it to manifest. Also odd was the lack of any suggestions for alternate ‘hauntings’ that might occur should they resume, as opposed to repeating the original encounters.

I also found the attempt to link everything to specific aspects of Barzillai’s personality to be a bit of a stretch at times… but I think the effort was well-intentioned.

That aside, as mentioned previously I broke up the city into its eight districts for the haunting, and so I needed to add three more haunts to the list. I went with the following:
Old Kintargo: Hounds of Old Kintargo
Yolubilis Harbor: Whispers on the Silver Span
Villegre: The Wailing Woman (in the Academy, rather than Record’s Hall)
Temple Hill: A Hunter Prowls the Street
Castle District: The Hell-Prison

Barzillai’s pride is unquenchable, and in the Greens takes the form of his former draconic minion, Rizovaire (Apply the Ectoplasmic Creature and Advanced simple temple to Rizovaire from Book 4)

A persistent haunt using the circus version of maze of madness and suffering. Persistent, DC30 to notice, 1 hour reset; CL 17th; HP 76; DC 23 (Will), 22 (Int check to escape)

A persistent haunt using shades to emulate various summoning spells – typically summon monster VIII to call 1d4+1 erinyes, shadow mastiffs or invisibile stalkers that are 80% real. Persistent, DC30 to notice, 1 hour reset; CL 17th; HP 76; DC 23


If Breaking the Bones of Hell has a weak link, it probably this section, though that is more a comment on how well written the rest of it is. Seeking the Soul Anchor has a few unfortunate flaws (or “quirks” if you wish to be kinder) that in my opinion bring it down somewhat compared to the rest of the book.

First, there is the wyrmwraith. A giant incorporeal CR17 undead dragon who can ignore terrain and go pretty much where it pleases – including up to Kintargo to lay waste to the city if it escapes the PCs. Next, the dungeon alternates between agents of Mahathallah and agents of Barzillai – who kindly sit in their respective rooms and don’t interact for the weeks or months between Barzillai’s ritual and the PCs coming down here. And then, there is the fact that Barzillai didn’t bother actually looting the place or even allowing his priests to pick up the bodies of the fallen (or their expensive gear), even though all enemies were dead and there was no actual rush – sure, he had a ritual to perform, but his mooks didn’t.

I appreciate the desire to have varied encounters and lots of treasure, but the Soulbound Fane just came across as a bit forced.


Oh. Hell. Yes.

(Yes, I really did have to)

This section of the book is remarkably inspired, and beautiful to behold. If I had to extend a criticism, it would be that it tries too hard to link Barzillai’s proclamations to his varied personality flaws, and flubs a few. The particular example being trying to link his restriction on embroidered clothing to his fear of women, which is wildly off the mark – His proclamation regarding embroidery primarily affects the nobility and wealthy, and equally between the genders.

A second criticism would be the erosion of player agency that is Mephistopheles. Don’t get me wrong, the Archdevil is beautifully Machiavellian, but having the PCs here and killing Barzillai as part of his diabolical machinations lessens the PCs’ triumph and for many players, lessens their satisfaction on completing the campaign. In a campaign about defiance, one should not discover that actually they were merely dancing to an evil mastermind’s plan all along.

Each chamber of the Tower of Bone is delightfully themed, and caters to the unique and twisted aspects of Barzillai’s personality. My only disappointment was that Corrinstian Grivener was merely a dread wraith. Barzillai himself makes for pretty awesome finale, and Amber deserves a standing ovation for bringing the adventure path to an epic conclusion.


Exactly how the campaign ends is largely up to the GM and the players – but the hope is that an independent and thriving Ravounel stands apart from Cheliax and Hell and forging its own future. The “All is as I planned it to be” from Mephistopheles is a bit of a downer, but with some luck (and good decisions by your players), it should both be a victory, and feel like it.

In my humble opinion, expanding the options of PC involvement in the late game would only add to the player enjoyment of the game and satisfaction at the conclusion. There are a myriad of options within Ravounel: Heading one of the religions, or founding a church to a previously banned deity; A position on the Board of Governors; Becoming the Lord-Mayor; Taking the reigns of one of the noble families; Founding a new noble title from the lands and assets liberated from Thrune. The list goes on.


To summarise:
    1. Consider toning back with Mephistopheles a bit. Perhaps the rules of Barzillai’s contract forbid the intervention of the Archdevil and his most powerful minions in the fate of Barzillai, and thus the PCs are scoring a victory against him, as well as Barzillai.
    2. Consider throwing some extra options on the negotiating table, and/or extra haunts in Kintargo.
    3. Consider removing the assassin from the treaty talks (unless your players are bored by all this talking stuff and just want to fight things).
    4. Consider scrapping the wyrmwraith and applying a different template to the red dragon. Dread zombie, maybe? Incorporeal things are annoying and very inconvenient to have underneath your home city (and I know a couple of GMs who would gladly use its incorporeal nature to escape the PCs and then enact vengeance by killing their entire city while they’re in Hell to ensure a completely pyrrhic victory).
    5. Consider making Corrinstian a little more interesting. He’d make an amazingly stylish barbezu-cleric :D
    6. I recommend giving the PCs a lot of leeway in what their characters do in free Ravounel. They’ve earned it.

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As always, I appreciate these detailed reports, even whenI have different experiences from your table at my table. Here's some of my responses

Raynulf wrote:
Indeed, the focus of the adventure appears to meander away from those elements that are integral to the theme of rebellion at every opportunity to instead feature monsters, criminals and cultists who have little (if anything) to do with the pitched story, but instead simply keep the PCs entertained while they level up enough to take on Barzillai. This is likely the issue that most players will take note of, as it is the most obvious.

I agree with this, to a degree. One important factor is that some of these are interesting tactical combats in an AP that needs more of those. But you can cut a lot of the ones that don't have an interesting tactical component for narrative focus and simply level up the PCs at the suggested points. I think that's the best solution.

Raynulf wrote:
Glorious Reclamation,

I can't agree here. You need the Glorious Reclamation to make a rebellion in Kintargo plausible for common folk to join. Without an existential threat to the nation elsewhere, it breaks immersion to have people join up at all and to not have the capitol crush the rebellion in the final books.

Raynulf wrote:
Silver Ravens history

This actually woke my players up to the idea that not all Kintargo allies may stay that way. They realized that a lot of revolutions get co-opted.

Raynulf wrote:
Focus on the Rebellion

Absolutely. But rebellions aren't won by heroes. They're won by organizing combined with agitation and this mechanic helps simulate that, albeit imperfectly. My table has a section of each game devoted to the rebellion mechanic, RPing 1-2 special non-combat obstacles (writing propaganda, practicing their pitch to citizens, member services, etc.), then something scripted from the modules.

I do agree with you in wishing that the encounter tables and scripted encounters provided more support for the work of organizing and agitation, or simply used those as encounter hooks.

Shadow Lodge

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Damnit! I had a whole response to this typed out, and then managed to mis-click "Cancel" instead of "Submit Post." Have this abbreviated response instead. *Grumble grumble*

roguerouge wrote:
Raynulf wrote:
Indeed, the focus of the adventure appears to meander away from those elements that are integral to the theme of rebellion at every opportunity to instead feature monsters, criminals and cultists who have little (if anything) to do with the pitched story, but instead simply keep the PCs entertained while they level up enough to take on Barzillai. This is likely the issue that most players will take note of, as it is the most obvious.
I agree with this, to a degree. One important factor is that some of these are interesting tactical combats in an AP that needs more of those. But you can cut a lot of the ones that don't have an interesting tactical component for narrative focus and simply level up the PCs at the suggested points. I think that's the best solution.

These encounters also make the point that the history of Ravnounel does not end with the deposition of Barzillai or even the throwing off of the Thrune yoke. Ravounel is going to be continually riven by class conflict, factional friction, and sectarian strife. The Norgorberites are highlighted basically because the AP goes to a lot of trouble to play down these things in Kintargo itself, showing the whole of civil society from the top to the bottom uniting behind the Silver Ravens. But the Norgorberites are a "foreign" element, being from Vyre, and so can be "safely" antagonistic.

Personally, I'd keep the Norgorberites and rework the story behind gaining noble allies. I agree with Raynulf that appealing to their foibles of all things is utterly stupid. Book 3 has the SRs traveling long distances cross-country. They can either lay the groundwork for or spark peasant revolts and/or labor strikes (Whiterock seems like fertile ground for this, having an absentee landlord and being on the way to Menador Keep), and then use those as leverage.

Raynulf wrote:
Glorious Reclamation,
I can't agree here. You need the Glorious Reclamation to make a rebellion in Kintargo plausible for common folk to join. Without an existential threat to the nation elsewhere, it breaks immersion to have people join up at all and to not have the capitol crush the rebellion in the final books.

Agreed. There's a whole thread about this where the pros and cons of the Glorious Reclamation as background and even as a story element in Hell's Rebels have been more or less hashed out.

Raynulf wrote:
Focus on the Rebellion

Absolutely. But rebellions aren't won by heroes. They're won by organizing combined with agitation and this mechanic helps simulate that, albeit imperfectly. My table has a section of each game devoted to the rebellion mechanic, RPing 1-2 special non-combat obstacles (writing propaganda, practicing their pitch to citizens, member services, etc.), then something scripted from the modules.

I do agree with you in wishing that the encounter tables and scripted encounters provided more support for the work of organizing and agitation, or simply used those as encounter hooks.

Agitation's present if you know where to look. For example, you can use Guarantee Event or Manipulate Events to hold a demonstration at a specific time and place, Reduce Danger requires street presence, and both Urban Influence and Spread Disinformation are forms of agitprop. These actions are highly abstracted, but fortunately your thread for particularizing them exists.

What you're really complaining about and misnaming agitation is a mechanic for the political education* of supporters and members, and the ideological discipline of members. There arguably shouldn't be a mechanic for this, and it should be resolved wholly through RP, but the impression I get is that the writers expected it not to take place at all, that the SRs would simply appeal to the lowest common denominator of "f*ck Barzillai Thrune."

Also, though I can only give you one, you deserve a thousand "likes" for the bold.

*The three prongs of revolutionary or indeed reformist praxis are traditionally "educate, agitate, organize."

Raynulf wrote:
Thrune's Right Hands

I very much agree with this. It's why I had Trex at the riot along with Nox. There needs to be one action highlighting the role each of them play in the oppression before PCs give them their comeuppance. For one of them, we do get that, very early on, but the connection to her is too diffuse for players to get their hate on. I feel like having Right Hands order a wave of foreclosures, "loss" of records of holdings for a particularly partisan noble family, a purge of Jilia's dottari, and a high-profile redaction of the campus libraries and dorms.

Raynulf wrote:
Too many bases

I think that one's there so that if multiple players like playing the Sims and decorating a hideout, each will get a chance.

Raynulf wrote:

Good point. I've had success with Trex having brought in a bunch of goons from the farms in the Duchy, and possibly further afield, due to another poster making this same point and suggesting this solution. As for who they were before the current administration, I think finding the best of Jilia's hires and recruiting them to the Revolution is probably a good mini-mission.

Crap. I knew I was forgetting something. Yes, the education component needs to be in there as an action or RP opportunity. You're completely right.

Yeah, the fact that the previous SR had to fight off nearly as many attempts to take over by nobles as by Civil War factions raised my players' eyebrows and perhaps will lead them to not go to the nobles for future rulers or much material aid during the rebellion. That's one of the few hints of an ongoing class conflict, rather than a religious or democratic ones (devil worship, banned religions, oppressive unelected mayor, etc.).

Shadow Lodge

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roguerouge wrote:
I feel like having Right Hands order a wave of foreclosures, "loss" of records of holdings for a particularly partisan noble family, a purge of Jilia's dottari, and a high-profile redaction of the campus libraries and dorms.

We do see a foreclosure in the AP - of the Sallix Salt Works, before the AP starts and thus "offscreen." Now, I don't have enough of a group to run games, but I am playing with writing Hell's Rebels up as a Pathfinder Tales-style fanfic. For that project I've recast Forvian and co. not as random mercenaries Laria happens to know, but as now-bonded former laborers at the Works. They tried to occupy the place in protest of the night tea proclamation (because they could see that the proclamation's real target was political meetings). The foreclosure was a pretext to send in the dottari, kill a bunch, and indenture the rest.

As for the other ideas here, I am going to shamelessly steal them :P

Especially the academy redaction, which I will site in Lady Docur's rather than the perhaps more obvious Alabaster Academy. This for two reasons: one of my viewpoint characters (read: PCs) has a past there, and Docur herself deserves to be written back into the plot.

I'd had the idea that Tiarese was occupying the Records Hall to put the squeeze on the Court of Coin, but not that she'd actually done any redacting. Reading your comment, and re-reading A Song of Silver, this idea was incorrect; she has in fact been redacting fairly extensively.

Raynulf wrote:
Too many bases
I think that one's there so that if multiple players like playing the Sims and decorating a hideout, each will get a chance.

I think it was because entirely too much of the writers' conception of revolutionary groups was shaped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. See also the number of jailbreaks in the AP.

With Laria, yeah, I've found that reaction to be true at my table as well. They've shown zero interest in her, despite all her slapping of the monk's butt. I also moved the Fushi sisters plot line to be a hook before the gang encounter, with their sibling being mentored by the Strix. That made more sense to me.

And yeah, the Rexus revelation needs a rewrite.

Can you tell us a bit about the homebrewed missions against the CCG you did in book 2?

Shadow Lodge

roguerouge wrote:
And yeah, the Rexus revelation needs a rewrite.

More opportunity to use Docur . . .

If anyone still alive and free should know anything about the Many-Steps Monastery, it should be her, who used to run messages in and out of the place.

First, I'd like to give a big Thank You to Raynulf for the effort and quality of the write-up. A large amount of both thought-provoking questions/analysis and answers to same.

Second, just to cut Paizo some slack (Raynulf did not appear to be criticizing harshly) - there are 6 books with 6 authors to weave into one continuous whole. Don't know their production process but I assume there isn't much time to review all as one whole and make comprehensive changes before the 1st book is off to the press. GM's need to do what Raynulf has done to make each AP their own (though Raynulf's work appears to be particularly thorough and ambitious.)

Third, I've been prepping to run the AP for a few months now (which sounds more impressive than it actually it is) and I had many of the same thoughts as Raynulf but I was struck by what was missing. To me one of the largest narrative challenges is the Ruby Masquerade itself. To quote Joshua on thermonuclear war - the only winning move is not to play. It's obviously a trap. The very people the Silver Ravens are supposed to protect are likely to be collateral damage if not outright targets in and of themselves and the Masque point mechanic (which the pc's/players have no way of intuiting) provides precious little advantage for participation. They merely spare some of the casualties among the civilians and provide a minuscule reduction in Thrune's authority points in Song of Silver which the pc's have numerous other avenues to address. Even more problematic is the chronology - at least as presented in the AP, in which the dance follows the strike at Menador. Attacking the Keep is an open act of War given it is a purely military target and the only occupants are imperial forces. And the first for the Silver Ravens. Other conflicts with Thrune forces occur out of sight (such as at Hokum's or the Holding House) where the outcomes might easily be concealed by Thrune or otherwise not a publicly obvious illegal act of violent rebellion. The dance might be assumed to have been planned prior to the strike at Menador and it might be possible for the Masquerade to proceed prior to word of the attack reaching Kintargo. But it seems unlikely. And continuing with the dance in the face of open rebellion seems odd especially given Barzillai's pretense of reconciliation - hard to see the populace (dance attendees) not seeing a higher level of danger attending the event. I would expect pc's (especially those who have already hit hard at Thrune at Menador) to preemptively strike the Opera House ahead of the dance (as suggested in the AP.)

I'm typing on my phone, which is murdering my ability to use quotes coherently, so I'll ask forgiveness for a less direct response (and a lot more typos).

Glorious Reclamation: this has been discussed extensively in other threads, and differing opinions given, but I wouldn't suggest any form of consensus was reached. Personally, I will default to using the empirical evidence of how people have reacted to similar scenarios at tables I have been at, and that is "poorly".

I have played alongside people for whom the "biggest threats are being fought by bigger characters - you stick to doing your less important thing over here" scenario sucked the fun out of the game and saw them gnawing the bit to get out of the game. I've seen players game with a group for years, then at the transition to a new adventure categorically refuse to play when it was proposed that the PCs would be playing second fiddle. The words being along the lines of "No. If you asking the PCs to walk in the shadow of bigger heroes, you are running the wrong game. Thanks for the great times to date, but I will seek gaming opportunities elsewhere". And the anecdotes could continue.

In short, many or my players - and mostly the ones with the greatest initiative, immersion and creativity - outright rebel at such scenarios, seeing them as every bit as bad as the "GMPC that is cooler than you" atrocity. So in my experience, the Glorious Reclamation is something that will ultimately detract from the enjoyment of the game.

And that is what it is about: Enjoyment. If we wanted an accurate recreation/model of a rebellion.... Then we really shouldn't be using Pathfinder or anything D&D based, as there is nothing remotely resembling realism in its mechanics. I believe JJ has commented such on populations in the past, when people are comparing Golarion to medieval Europe: It's comparing apples to oranges as Golarion isn't Earth and does not have Earth ecology or physics.

"It's fantasy"

Now, a certain degree of verisimilitude is required to get players to buy in to the story and characters, but in this I see Hell's Rebels as being on the Star Wars end of the spectrum - it's fun, inspiring and... Has the realism of a ten ton dragon that flies and breathes ice.

From a purely strategic perspective, some from of unrest/rebellion among the population of Cheliax is required to distract Thrune and inspire them to send Barzillai in the first place. Does it need to be in the form of a LG knightly order fighting alongside angels and archons to liberate Cheliax from Hell's grasp? No. Because arguing that "oh, they're all lawful and that doesn't suit the free spirit of Kintargo" is an appalling strategic decision made for the most petty of reasons. It's not even like the GR is at terrible risk of going Stalin on people (noting we allied with him against a greater evil), because angels and archons, who walk alongside the leaders aren't subject to corruption like mortals. Indeed, my group doesn't even have any chaotic aligned characters, yet Hell's Rebels is insistent that the GR not be involved (because the GR are supposed to lose in Hell's Vengeance).

It boils down to agency, or lack thereof.

(and I need to stop here)

Also: There is a reason I started with an applause for Paizo's work - the fact that they can get six people to write six books partly in parallel and have them hang together in a coherent whole is amazing. To do so consistently, month after month, year after year is nothing short of legendary.

Because that kind of thing is hard.

If I am critical at times, it is not because I don't appreciate the difficulty of what they do, but because I want my players - and others - to have the best experience possible. While Paizo can't adjust their published work, the GM can.

Shadow Lodge

If that's the argument, then how is every AP not diminished by the fact that Wrath of the Righteous exists? If the PCs lose there, then Kingmaker's kingdom is wiped out, as is Numeria, as is Kyonin. Those lands' fates are not determines by their PCs, but by faraway events over which they have no control.

The answer, of course, is that it's not, and that the appropriate tool is the focusing lens rather than the shears.

(Also on a phone)

zimmerwald1915 wrote:

If that's the argument, then how is every AP not diminished by the fact that Wrath of the Righteous exists? If the PCs lose there, then Kingmaker's kingdom is wiped out, as is Numeria, as is Kyonin. Those lands' fates are not determines by their PCs, but by faraway events over which they have no control.

The answer, of course, is that it's not, and that the appropriate tool is the focusing lens rather than the shears.

Kingmaker doesn't open with a briefing that heroes are fighting demons in the north, and that the future of your kingdom depends on their efforts, and for good reason. It undermines and distracts from the adventure at hand - you tell one story at a time.

My issue with the Glorious Reclamation is that Hell's Rebels specifically calls it out and places it within the framing shots of the adventure. It places the Glorious Reclamation and events of Hell's Vengeance on camera.

And as you say, the answer is the focus of the camera: Don't focus on the Glorious Reclamation.


Do focus on the Glorious Reclamation and work it into the campaign as a meaningful part that the PCs can have some agency with. But the half-measure of "it's over there, and more important than you, but please don't interact with it" is something that I (and many of my players) find unsatisfying.

Raynulf wrote:
Do focus on the Glorious Reclamation and work it into the campaign as a meaningful part that the PCs can have some agency with.

Noting this is something I had considered, but ran into two issues that made me abandoned such plans. The first was that is is an immense amount of work if I let the PCs take the reigns and lead the camera out of Ravounel and into the larger fight - to the point where I'm wasn't sure how much use I'd get out of the many many dollars worth of published adventure I bought.

The second was if I pushed the adventure back onto the published rails - say by having the Glorious Reclamation suffer catastrophic losses in Westcrown around the time the PCs are distracted returning to Kintargo to cast down Barzillai - then having them scramble to enact the Kintargo Contract and secure an independent Ravounel... It just isn't very satisfying. Like 5/10 player satisfaction instead of 9/10.

Thus I took the easier route and simply edited out the GR from the Raynulf edition of the Hell's Rebels show. Other GMs are free to do as they see fit - I just felt it worth pitching it as a something to think on and make a decision.

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roguerouge wrote:
As always, I appreciate these detailed reports, even whenI have different experiences from your table at my table.

You're more than welcome :)

roguerouge wrote:
Can you tell us a bit about the homebrewed missions against the CCG you did in book 2?

In addition to the missions in Book 1 and trying to 'show' their presence in the city more, the main additions were a mission to hijack a weapon's shipment being brought in, and Tombus' attempt to bait the Silver Ravens into a trap.

Warehouse: In order to better arm their thugs to deal with the rise in 'rebel activity' in Kintargo, the Chelish Citizen's Group members and supporters arranged for a shipment of arms and armor from Corentyn to be transported to Kintargo. The CCG attempt to keep the shipment secret, and plan to have their cargo unloaded late in the afternoon into a secure warehouse, to be moved and distributed in the night after curfew clears the streets.

Learning of the shipment, my players opted not to go through the warehouse guards and capture the crates, and instead intercepted and replaced the CCG members and bluffed their butts off. So rather than having the crew move the cargo into the CCG warehouse in the late afternoon, they instead load it into a nearby and player-commandeered warehouse nearby in the early afternoon. By nightfall the CCG were combing the streets in force, but the PCs, their allies and the dozens of crates of weapons and armor were long gone.

Tombus' Gambit: At the end of Book 2, after word of the Silver Ravens having brought an end to the Slasher (Varl Wex) and start being talked about as heroes, Tombus cooks up a plan to "put an end to the upstarts and criminals". He has his thugs kidnap anyone and everyone they suspect of being rebel sympathisers and imprisoning them in the Chelish Citizen's Group society hall. He then spread rumours that they were getting an Asmodean inquisitor to "extract truth" and "enact judgement" upon the imprisoned traitors the following night.

The claim of an inquisitor coming is a lie - but the thugs he has spreading the rumors don't know that. In truth, Tombus is operating on his own initiative, and instead plans to use his prisoners as bait to draw in the Silver Ravens into his trap.

The setup is to have the society house (remodelled small manor), with most windows and entrances boarded up, and the prisoners chained up with thugs (not in the know) guarding them and one of Tombus' officers disguised as an Asmodean priest, busily shouting condemnations at the prisoners and roughing them up a bit. Tombus and his best (and least stupid) warriors are hidden in ambush points around the manor and keeping watch for the PCs. Unlike the warehouse, there was no talking their way through this one.

Tombus was aiming to offer up the PCs to Barzillai in return for favour and greater legitimacy (while quietly hushing up his tactics), but when his plans are thoroughly destroyed, instead knowledge of the CCG's illegal kidnappings and impersonation of an Asmodean priest get out, causing the remaining CCG members to scatter and lie low for the remainder of the adventure path.

At least, that's what I threw together

zimmerwald1915 wrote:
Damnit! I had a whole response to this typed out, and then managed to mis-click "Cancel" instead of "Submit Post." Have this abbreviated response instead. *Grumble grumble*

I recommend mashing the "Back" button, as it can sometimes rescue a post from the misclick of doom (as I've done myself a few times).

Grand Lodge

Oh wow, I've gearing up to run Hell's Rebels in a few weeks and in my readings through the books I too have noticed a lot of what you've pointed out. Thank you so much for writing up this awesome collection of posts and content, it's just what I've been looking for. I probably wont use some of it but I'm certainly going to roll with most of it.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the weirdness with Laria being a council member, though I had a slightly different plan I am totally taking your's.

Raynulf wrote:

If I pushed the adventure back onto the published rails - say by having the Glorious Reclamation suffer catastrophic losses in Westcrown around the time the PCs are distracted returning to Kintargo to cast down Barzillai - then having them scramble to enact the Kintargo Contract and secure an independent Ravounel... It just isn't very satisfying. Like 5/10 player satisfaction instead of 9/10.

Do you think this alternate plan might work?

My current plan is to scrap the sojourn in Hell and to replace the final arc with the choice to provide support in Westcrown or simply start a country and recruit allies from foreign governments, whichever the players prefer.

Like you, I find the Mephistopheles plan very disheartening for players. Unlike you, I can't really fix it. I find the Hell dungeon crawl too linear despite the character revealing flavor, which I'll use elsewhere.

Thrune will be the final boss of the Soul Anchor crawl, as a non-epic Genus Loci with some gimping of the enslave ability to represent that he's nowhere near fully groomed yet. The visions from the Hell Dungeon crawl will happen round by round here. Whichever Right Hand minion the players hate the most will be Thrune's bodyguard. (I'll have cut the witchfire dragon and the Mahathallah faction.)

roguerouge wrote:

Do you think this alternate plan might work?

** spoiler omitted **

Absolutely. It's going to be a lot of work, but it gives players the agency and opportunity for victory that makes for great and satisfying stories.

I personally didn't (and don't) want to touch Hell's Vengeance with a 10-ft pole, in part because I have run Council of Thieves with some of the same players as I am currently gaming with, and have no desire to "GM Fiat" away their successes - in my games in Golarian (including Hell's Rebels) Westcrown and the region around it is an autonomous city-state and vassal to Thrune, but largely self-governing.

Similarly, while some of my players have old characters running Westcrown, not all of my players do, which makes the prospect of reusing said characters less fun. Not to mention that said old characters would not actually support the concept of Ravounel seceding from Cheliax, as they are patriots and feel their job is fixing their nation, not abandoning it or throwing it right back into endless civil war.

Though the larger reason is that I looked at it and went "That could be an amazing story... but it's not the one I have in my hands, and I don't know if I can spare the time to do it justice, handle my job, and be a decent dad and husband at the same time".

That being said... if you're willing to put the effort in to make it work, more power to you and your players (literally!) :D

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

A good read. We just started the first book, getting through the FFL in our first session (6+ hours). I'm not experienced enough to really push through many of the changes I've read here and elsewhere, but that doesn't mean I can't do a little to improve the cohesion. Fortunately my players are half brand new, and half loose plot/fight of the week types. I get some leeway on story.

Rexus' seemingly bizarre reluctance to hand the key over at the first meeting got a rewrite, but that's minor.

The GR went into the background simply because I didn't get the impression this was something the players needed a lot of detail on. From their perspective, unrest is stirring across the country, and none is any larger than that which they face - they're saving their town, first.

I'm still on the fence regarding the rebellion mechanic, and there does not seem to be a universal consensus one way or another. If it turns into too much meta-gaming, to the background for sure.

Btw, I too found the masquerade an odd conundrum. They'll know, and they'll understand it's lose-lose. I've got a few months to work that out, I suppose.

Reading this thread saddened me somewhat.

Not because I disagree with any of it's contents or disdain the original poster, but rather, reading this made me realize just how many oversights, contrivances, and missed opportunities there are in Hell's Rebels. It was one of my favorite APs, and seeing Ranulf deconstruct and criticize it in such depth makes me feel that it's a completely non-sensical, mediocre mess.

I guess he's right, it needs to be *heavily* modified to make it work.

Axial wrote:

Reading this thread saddened me somewhat.

Not because I disagree with any of it's contents or disdain the original poster, but rather, reading this made me realize just how many oversights, contrivances, and missed opportunities there are in Hell's Rebels. It was one of my favorite APs, and seeing Ranulf deconstruct and criticize it in such depth makes me feel that it's a completely non-sensical, mediocre mess.

I guess he's right, it needs to be *heavily* modified to make it work.

I was also a little dismayed with the number of bugs... but I wouldn't write off Hell's Rebels as mediocre by any stretch. What it is is a pulp-action rebellion styled heavily after the original Star Wars trilogy... albeit with the PCs nominally in charge of the rebellion, rather than simply colourful characters getting caught up in events.

Most of the books are individually excellent, especially Books 1, 3 and 6. The issue is less on the individual talent involved, and more on the overarching plot and clashing styles (e.g. Book 2 felt very much like a beautifully crafted old-school dungeon crawl adventure, but very out of place between Books 1 and 3).

If a group is willing to simply gloss over the flaws and roll with it, it can be an immense amount of fun. As it can also if the GM is willing to cobble together some solutions to some of the larger bugs.

I wouldn't write 40+ pages of comments and suggestions if I didn't think it was worth it ;)

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

That last line is an excellent point.

Frankly, I'm amazed they do as well as they do in terms on continuity. Granted, I've only read through a handful (I have MM through the first To a, minus IG), but I am certain it's not a simple task, particularly with multiple authors.

Shadow Lodge

Axial wrote:

Reading this thread saddened me somewhat.

Not because I disagree with any of it's contents or disdain the original poster, but rather, reading this made me realize just how many oversights, contrivances, and missed opportunities there are in Hell's Rebels. It was one of my favorite APs, and seeing Ranulf deconstruct and criticize it in such depth makes me feel that it's a completely non-sensical, mediocre mess.

I guess he's right, it needs to be *heavily* modified to make it work.

This will be true of any piece of media you've ever liked, as well as any political group, historical figure, or loved one. Very little exists in the world that is not fundamentally a disappointment.

I just want to thank you Raynulf for this amount of work and all these good ideas you are sharing with us. My group will start tomorrow and i will use a lot of your suggestions, i think my players will love it.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
taks wrote:
(I have MM through the first To a, minus IG)

Uh, I have MM through the first Ruins of Azlant, minus IG. Phone autocorrect.

zimmerwald1915 wrote:
Axial wrote:

Reading this thread saddened me somewhat.

Not because I disagree with any of it's contents or disdain the original poster, but rather, reading this made me realize just how many oversights, contrivances, and missed opportunities there are in Hell's Rebels. It was one of my favorite APs, and seeing Ranulf deconstruct and criticize it in such depth makes me feel that it's a completely non-sensical, mediocre mess.

I guess he's right, it needs to be *heavily* modified to make it work.

This will be true of any piece of media you've ever liked, as well as any political group, historical figure, or loved one. Very little exists in the world that is not fundamentally a disappointment.

That seems a bit... dark. It might be more appropriate to observe that we all have different perceptions of the same object or work of art or political group, yet they are the same. We each perceive them through our own lens of values.

More on topic - the AP is good. If you are looking for a perfectly integrated sequence of ideas, encounters and adventures that precisely matches your vision for how a rebellion should be run in Kintargo, then maybe you need to perform alterations as suggested by Raynulf. If you have more flexibility or can accept the AP with some cosmetic or thematic imperfections, then it needs less work.

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Great write-up Raynulf. You raise some very good points IMO, and several that I hadn’t thought about previously but that I now see will need some TLC.

We’re in part 3 now, and I have already changed up a lot to better suit my group.

Here’s my random musings about your ideas and some ways we solved some of the quirks of Hell’s Rebels:

Wall of Text:

1. I agree there’s a need for more “low/mid level rebelling”, and less “fight monsters to raise in levels to do some high level rebelling”. Since the AP is very sandboxy this is very easy to do. Adding some attacks, assassinations, kidnappings, street fighting, redistributon of resources (a.k.a. theft), spreading of rebel propaganda, protests etc is not very hard in a city so well defined and described. (Jailbreaks there’s already plenty of, so no need to add to that…). I added a large:ish plot line with two other rebel groups, one being a honey trap led by two Thrune agents. My players had lots of fun planting red herrings for these agents after they found out they were really working for the man.

2. The rebellion subsystem needs some attention to incorporate it into the campaign better, so it doesn’t become a separate “game in the game”. Make it possible to use the teams “in play” rather than just during the sub-system phases, give names and personalities to the team leaders, have them interact with the PCs, etc. We are enjoying it, although I make sure it doesn’t take up too much play time. I have delegated the creation of the team leader NPCs to my players, which they think is fun, and saves me work. I like your replacement through expanding the book 4 system. However, my players have enjoyed building and managing teams, taking on officer roles, picking activities, etc, especially the tactician in the group, and judging their success based on supporters contra notoriety. I connected the prices of everything to the danger rating (the same percentage as a mark-up) so that gave them some extra incentive to manage the rebellion well…

3. I like the backdrop of the Glorious Reclamation. It solves a potential plot hole (why doesn’t Abrogail just send the army to Kintargo like she did to Pezzack) and gives a sense of the bigger picture. However, I think it is important to make the GR tragic - they are doomed to fail, and I had an Iomedean worshipper explain as much to the PCs quite early on (Largon Fexor, the disposed Duxotar, who now is a pensioner in his townhouse in Villeger and has taken up gardening). If the GM paints the GR as heroes bound for the great adventure of actually beating Abby & Co, your players might very well wonder why you aren’t playing that campaign instead. But if you make clear that the GR are a problem that requires the attention of the Chelish army - but one they can handle - your players should see it as an opportunity to do their own thing - a diversion, rather than like they are missing out on the real action. Paizo never misses an opportunity to market their other products in their books, and this is no different. If the GR were made out to have scant to no chance it might lower the interest to play Hell’s Vengeance. So unless you plan on playing HV as well, it’s easy to present the GR as just a momentary diversion.

I also liked the Lawfulness of the GR as a contrast to the Chaotic essence of Kintargo. We’re having fun juxtapositioning Law versus Chaos instead of the trite Good vs. Evil in this AP. While Thrune is LE, the GR is another side of that coin to explore for our Chaotic party. I will have a covert squad from the GR approach the PCs in book 4, and cause them all kind of fun problems. “This curfew is not a bad idea actually - what need does honest folk have of running around after dark? They should be home and pray. I think we’ll keep it after our inevitable victory.“

4. I also agree the AP needs a little more focus in its opponents. But you also need variety. Instead of removing Norgorber I’ve removed Mahathallah (tallahallatallahaha). In my version the protectors of the Heart are a coven of hags, and the Soul Anchor’s just a mystical First World artifact that they regard as holy, giving them “life after death”. There’s a notable presence of fey:ish creatures in the early parts (tooth fairies, faery dragon, changelings) so that made some sense, and also helped focus the villains a little. My group likes Norgorber from playing another AP, and are looking forward to visiting Vyre and muck about there.

5. Great idea moving the Vyre part to book five, this I’ll do for sure since it just fits better there. Also great idea using the Sarinis as the finale villains in that book. They have already figured quite much in our HR, but are still much too powerful for my PCs to confront directly. So this one I’ll nick as well.

6. I also had the problem with the dottari as LE enemies, especially since one of my PCs is an ex-dottari. I solved this in two ways - by having more Hellknight armigers take parts of dottari in many scenes, and having Trex summon all dottari from the villages and countryside, sending them on a boot camp outside the city where they got heavily indoctrinated about all the “dangerous Reclamation paladins” hiding in the city. These country dottari weren’t welcomed by the city folks, nor their new colleagues, and are quite sour, paranoid and grumpy. (This has lead to chaos in Ravounel’s rural areas, and a small but fun “heroes of the people” mission fighting bandits waylaying the grain traffic.)

7. There is a need to present Barzillai’s henchmen before they are fought in book four. I understand why this wasn’t done in the AP though, since baddies seldom survive the first encounter in Pathfinder, and Pathfinder players generally lack the word “retreat” in their vocabulary… These introductions have to be done carefully by each GM, knowing their group, since many parties would charge any Thrunie on sight, thinking it was just another fight that they’ll surely win. And Barzillai’s henchmen would of course make short order of most low-level parties. I presented many of the movers and shakers by having the PCs infiltrate a grand party hosted by the Sarinis in book two. I drew inspiration from the description of the Westcrown party in the entertaining book Hellknight (which, I suspect, is in it’s turn inspired by part two of Council of Thieves), Their mission was to get hired as extra guards, and during the height of the festivities explore the now abandoned secret Asmodean temple housed under the Sarini estate, from before the civil war. They had a tip from a Sarini guard that Barzillai had gone down there with his cronies to search for a “contract”. That contract was of course now gone, but the PC found some information and loot from the temple were Thrune had captured and tortured the original Silver Ravens. And, of course, they got to see most of Barzillai’s henchmen and overhear them chatting during the party.

8. I made Marquel Aulorian become an ally of the Ravens instead of Cassius. I had a side adventure were he wrote a satirical play mocking Thrune and the church, and the PCs had to “produce it” by finding actors, a venue, keeping it under the Inquisition’s radar etc. Lots of fun.

9. This AP cries out for a newsletter or a periodical pamphlet of some sort that the GM prepares between sessions. Both as a way to add exposition and also as an avenue to show the growing influence of the Silver Ravens in the eyes of the population. I made a template for a pamphlet called the Silver Leaf, made by an investigator called Corrine Aulamaxa. She interviews different dignitaries about different going-ons in the city, and it’s been a great way to present NPCs before the PCs meet them. Her blue blood makes her somewhat safe practicing her “hobby”, but in the end she will be attacked by the powers that be, and the PC can help her go underground. Here's a template I made: Silver Leaf.

10. Presenting information about the contract early, maybe not in full detail, but as a McGuffin possible of helping them get out of Thrune’s jaws, is a great suggestion. I have already given my PCs a hint of it’s existence, but I’ll use Mialari Docur as a source of more information about the contract’s potential. She won’t know it’s whereabouts, but know it’s use in general terms. My players have already began to fret about what will happen if/when the GR are crushed, and this will give them some hope to cling on to.

11. I actually like bitter-sweet endings, so I have no problems with Mephistopheles being in on it. It will be a balancing act not having him gloat about it too much though “It was me all along! Muhahahahaha…” and instead have the PCs find it out themselves somehow. For the Aira park protest, I had all PCs (and also Rexus) receive notes beforehand telling them to wear a black glove on the right hand, signed by “a friend”. They never found out who sent the notes. Also Hetamon got a similar mystical note, telling him to keep an eye open for the PCs. It would be fun having Mephistopheles mentioning something like “I see you’re not wearing your gloves only on one hand. What a shame, I was hoping I would start a rebel fashion of sorts…”

12. And many other changes… maybe I’ll make a “Razcar’s Hell’s Rebels” post akin to yours when we are finished.

Anyway, thanks for the great write-up and many fine ideas! Great posts like these is why I read these forums - posts that make everyone’s games better.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thanks for the write-up, Raynulf. Hell's Rebels is definitely a contender for the next AP I will lead. If I do, your analysis will be of great help.

Changing Yilliv to a called creature by the Sacred Archivists led to a lot of good roleplay at the table, especially as a vigilante made a crucial slip by giving away banal information only her alter ego would know. It was a small price to pay for the party knowing the abilities and general location of their enemies. I had leveled the monks to 2nd level to compensate and they still won handily. It helps that Nox is just not built to survive a party with access to Grease and Color Spray. By the end of the combat she'd lost rounds being glued, stunned, and trying to stand. She'd also lost her glaive to the stun effect, as the party stole it when she dropped it.

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