End of an Era—Sands of the Scorpion God Campaign Wraps Up

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The invite went out on November 25, 2008, three months after we released the Beta rules of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. James Jacobs, our beloved Creative Director (then Editor-in-Chief), sent the following email to a few select members of the Paizo staff:

"SO! It is time for us editors and developers and publishers to really start learning this new game we're building. One way to do that, the MOST FUN way, of course, is to play the game.

I've been mentioning this before, but I'd love to start up a campaign here at the office. I'm looking at running the game twice a month after work on every other Thursday, starting with the first Thursday after New Year's: January 8th of 2009. I was thinking of starting it in December, but after the holidays seems smartest so that we'll get a regular schedule going AND by then we should be more caught up AND by then the game itself should be closer to being finalized. This is not so much a playtest campaign as much as it is a "Learn the new rules" campaign, as a result. The first game will be on January 8th of 2009. It'll take place in the main conference room, and we'll start at 6:30 PM and play until 10:00 PM."

The first game started a wee bit later than James originally intended, as we were all too busy finalizing the Core Rulebook and getting it to the printer in time for its August 2009 release. The very first session actually took place on Thursday, March 19. You can read a recap of the first session (and several more) in the Campaign Journal on our forums.

The campaign was called "The Shadow Under Sandpoint," and was set in James's "home base" Varisian town of Sandpoint, which is heavily based on Point Arena, CA, where he grew up. That first session was mostly focused on character creation. Nine posts into the Campaign Journal, I piped up with the following comment:

"I finally settled on a name that reflects my first-level feat choices of Endurance and Die Hard: OSTOG THE UNSLAIN!

Let's see how long I can keep that title..."

The answer turned out to be six years and a couple of weeks. Last Thursday, April 9, we finally wrapped up the campaign!

The original players in Paizo's longest-running staff game were: Erik Mona, Sean K Reynolds, James Sutter, Wes Schneider, Chris Carey, and Jason Bulmahn. We were very shortly thereafter joined by honorary Paizonian and PaizoCon founder Tim Nightengale.

As the years went on, Sean, James Sutter, and Chris left the group, and Rob McCreary joined.

Our adventures in Sandpoint brought us up against key villains like the Red Bishop, the ghost of the serial killer Chopper, and of course the Sandpoint Devil.

In late 2011, James shifted the focus of the campaign from Sandpoint to the southern deserts of Osirion. He was eager for a change of scenery, but more importantly, he wanted to put us up against a huge challenge in the form of Gary Gygax's Necropolis, an enormous dungeon Gygax designed for the old Dangerous Journeys game. Our friend Clark Peterson had adapted Necropolis to the d20 rules system in a hardcover mega-adventure from Necromancer Games, and it was this version that James updated to Pathfinder, made his own, and sent us into like an ancient Egyptian meatgrinder.

Three and a half years later, we emerged into the burial chamber of the great lich lord Rahotep, eager to put him to final death. I was also eager to solidify Ostog the Unslain's title and reputation forever. Would we manage to survive?

From left to right: Thalestris (aasimar gunslinger played by Rob McCreary), Styrian Kindler (human bard played by F. Wesley Schneider),
Velmarius Elazarin (human sorcerer played by Jason Bulmahn), Howell Talbot III (human paladin played by Tim Nightengale), and Ostog the Unslain (played by yours truly).

I brought the Veuve, of course.

Even looking at these miniatures as I write this blog, it's weird for me to think that they won't ever appear on a gaming table together again. Nearly every other week for 6 years is a long time. I'm starting to get a bit wistful...

No matter. After throwing back some celebratory champagne, it was time to take the fight to the insidious Rahotep! By the time this session rolled around, we were 17th level with 2 mythic tiers. But all of us were worried that it might not be enough!

Our first battle was against a massive umbral dragon being ridden by "the Mother of All Boar Demons." You might not recognize boar demons. They're unique to Gary Gygax's Necropolis. Gary was kind enough to give them absolutely killer gaze attacks, which are always fun. Notice how the party is standing in a perfect group for a dragon's breath weapon attack...

We were still pretty confident, thanks in no small part to the huge number of precast spells Styrian the bard had pumped us up with. It got so out of hand we had to use the conference room whiteboard. Here's a peek:

To head off a few rules lawyers posting about how not all of these spells stack with each other... you're right. Some of the spells were only cast on a couple of us, and some of them were ladled on top of other bonuses to squeak out a little bonus even if most of the spell was not tremendously useful. We did it right, I assure you.

A quick note on the list to the right. Over the course of the campaign, each of us had gained a small statue of an Ancient Osiriani god, who acted as a sort of protective spirit at various points in the dungeon. Each of these acted as a "get out of one death free" card for the final session, where we ended up getting hit with multiple death effects per round. We'll check back later to see how that turned out for us.

With all of that buffing, we were able to dispatch the Mother of All Boar Demons and the umbral dragon without too much trouble. That led us to Rahotep's actual tomb, which looked like this:

Each of the Large miniatures represented a statue of one of the Spawn of Rovagug (did I mention Rahotep worshiped Rovagug?). And we all know nothing bad ever happens with statues in a dungeon, right?

The gentleman seated opposite us is James Jacobs himself, looking self-satisfied at the awesome spread he set out for us, and the fate he had in store for us. He also is about 100 pounds lighter than he was when the campaign started, so holy hell, let's raise some champagne to that!

The statues turned out to be horrific traps that _didn't_ spring to terrible life (much to our surprise), and in relatively short order we'd managed to destroy them and funnel their inherent energy into the room's central sarcophagus, opening the very tomb of Rahotep himself.

Very shortly, the room looked like this:

When the GM drops a Todd McFarlane action figure on the table to represent the campaign's Big Bad, you know you're in deep. The two tentacles, by the way, were the god Rovagug's ACTUAL TENTACLES, reaching through a planar prison to defend one of his most powerful earthly servants. If the tentacle touched you, you died. Period. It's at this point that the names of some of those Ancient Osiriani gods started coming off the whiteboard. If a name was erased, that god was forever banned from the world of Golarion.

With a great deal of effort, we managed to kill Rahotep. And that's when his mask came off and his skull immediately turned into a demilich.

The most shocking event of the night occurred when the demilich disintegrated our borderline-evil sorcerer Velmarius. That patch of dust in the below picture is Jason Bulmahn, lead designer of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. ZZzzzt!

Remarkably (for a character who had acted like a self-interested bastard for literally the entire campaign) Jason decided NOT to cash in his "get out of death free" Osiriani god token, reasoning that his life was not worth striking Osiris himself forever from the ranks of Golarion's deities. What a guy! Knowing Velmarius (and Jason), the sorcerer must have had something up his sleeve, but Jason played it cool and quiet. It was almost good enough to think that he was a little mad about his character dying...

We swiftly avenged our fallen ally and defeated Rahotep once and for all. Here's a look at the whiteboard at the end. Pay particular attention to the fact that Ostog never cashed in his get out of death free card!

OSTOG REMAINS UNSLAIN!
And here he is, being placed on the shelf for what I assume is the very last time.

James did a great job winding up the session with a brief story about each of the characters after the campaign. Ostog, apparently, has a linnorm with his name on it in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. Will Ostog one day be a Linnorm King? It would take a pretty powerful member of the Paizo staff to make THAT happen, I reckon!

And what of the deceased Velmarius, the only character to truly die that night? Well, Jason had a plan for that all along...

I cannot summarize in a simple blog post what a treat and honor it was for all of us to play in James Jacobs's campaign. James is a masterful storyteller, and he always put in a ton of work to make sure that everyone was engaged and having fun. I'll miss the campaign terribly (though we're all getting together to start a Call of Cthulhu campaign on Thursday, so we'll still be playing together regularly). To James I say: Thank you, my friend. It was an absolutely fantastic campaign, and you are truly a legendary GM.

And since we're moving to Call of Cthulhu, I have no intention of naming my character "Unslain" or expecting to survive even the first session.

What a refreshing change death will be!

Erik Mona
Publisher

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Tags: Paizo Shadow Under Sandpoint
Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

That sounds pretty awesome. Ostag the Unslain most be in an adventure path as a linnorm king. I would hope all of those characters make it into the books so we can see there stats and gear.

Editor-in-Chief

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Easily the best campaign I've ever been a part of. Thanks for the thousandth time to James for being the world's best GM.

In the end, though, I'm just glad we didn't have to fight Velmarius. Styrian got quite attached to his little collection of enchantment undoing tchotchkes.

Paizo Employee Lead Designer

14 people marked this as a favorite.

I should note, I survived via clone, a secret I kept from everyone throughout the final game.

Great times and a truly fun campaign.

Sovereign Court PaizoCon Founder, Wayfinder Editor-in-Chief

4 people marked this as a favorite.
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

Easily the best campaign I've ever been a part of. Thanks for the thousandth time to James for being the world's best GM.

In the end, though, I'm just glad we didn't have to fight Velmarius. Styrian got quite attached to his little collection of enchantment undoing tchotchkes.

What Wes said.

Thank you sooooo much for inviting me into the campaign in September 2009. I still have all the emails of our exchanges as I joined, too. James is a phenomenal GM, and I learned a tremendous amount just SITTING at the table with all these guys. Truly an opportunity of a lifetime....one that I will always be grateful for (and will continue to tell stories about for years to come).

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Aw man, we lost Ra? Curse you Timitius!

Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Ra is a decent enough fellow, but we can't let the Beast gain his first priest back with full power and resources! Ra saw that, and took one for Team Abadar!

Silver Crusade

Ah hells, these things happen in battle. Can't blame ya too much, brother.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Timitius wrote:
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

Easily the best campaign I've ever been a part of. Thanks for the thousandth time to James for being the world's best GM.

In the end, though, I'm just glad we didn't have to fight Velmarius. Styrian got quite attached to his little collection of enchantment undoing tchotchkes.

What Wes said.

Thank you sooooo much for inviting me into the campaign in September 2009. I still have all the emails of our exchanges as I joined, too. James is a phenomenal GM, and I learned a tremendous amount just SITTING at the table with all these guys. Truly an opportunity of a lifetime....one that I will always be grateful for (and will continue to tell stories about for years to come).

Feel that? The ill-concealed jealousy of nerds all over the world...


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

What figure is the leftmost statue (with the yellow-y/green-y base)?

I don't remember seeing that anywhere.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Having never yet played a really really high level game can you explain the logistics of how to use Clone?

(Do you use it as a slow, arcane resurrection spell? Or is it something you can prepare ahead of time in some manner and have ready in case of your death?)

Grand Lodge

Clone Spell ... looks like he would have had to cast clone 2-4 months ago ... OR, someone will have to grow the clone material until it's ready to receive the soul ... "When the clone is completed, the original's soul enters it immediately, if that creature is already dead."

I think I saw Jason Bulmahn post on twitter that he had cast clone "that morning". So, someone will have to nurture that chunk of meat for 2-4 months, at which time Velmarius' soul will enter the clone.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Gotcha. So hopefully his party brings his belongings for his clone.... Nifty spell to use ahead of a major battle (ideally a few days ahead so you still have all your 8th level spells....

Paizo Employee Developer

3 people marked this as a favorite.
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Aw man, we lost Ra? Curse you Timitius!

Well, you read the blog...I guess Additional Resources will have to be updated soon to remove certain Osirian deities from the list of legal options...

Spoiler:
Okay, probably not true


So the tentacles were just mortal death, nothing soul-destroying? Or does Clone have priority over any special effects the tentacles have?


Can I just say, it's gratifying that I'm not the only one whose campaigns seem to take forever to finish?

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

Sounds like a great campaign, guys. Having played in Baria and Savage Tide with James as GM, I can attest that as a GM he's definitely one of those Top Men.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Congratulations to this experience, I envy every single one of you. It truly sounds like an epic campaign!

And also, kudos to James Jacobs for looking so very healthy now! That must have been almost as much work as writing the campaign!


*Sigh* I miss the updates already. Sounds like it was a heck of a good time! Can't wait to hear about CoC.

Liberty's Edge

13 people marked this as a favorite.
Starfinder Superscriber

If you're playing Call of Cthulhu next, you can name your character "Osgtog the Unsane"


So cool. Congrats, guys.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

3 people marked this as a favorite.

HA. Ostog the Unsane.

Thanks for the kind words all! It was a delight running the game for you!

Silver Crusade

RyanH wrote:

Clone Spell ... looks like he would have had to cast clone 2-4 months ago ... OR, someone will have to grow the clone material until it's ready to receive the soul ... "When the clone is completed, the original's soul enters it immediately, if that creature is already dead."

I think I saw Jason Bulmahn post on twitter that he had cast clone "that morning". So, someone will have to nurture that chunk of meat for 2-4 months, at which time Velmarius' soul will enter the clone.

If your eyes are able to make it out (I was only barely able to read it), the piece of paper that says "Velmarius Lives!" has some extra text. It reads:

"Velmarius purchases a scroll of clone and casts it in Absalom after hring a pair of local alchemists to ensure that it grows properly. He prepays for their services (as per skilled hirelings) at twice the normal rate with a sizable bonus to be delivered upon completion. The clone will finish growing in 2-4 months."

Also, that is a hell of a final fight. Thanks for sharing it with us!


Sounds awesome. I find it interesting that you guys only had two mythic levels.


oh i wish i could have sit in on that game, it sounded freaking epic

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Brother Fen wrote:
Sounds awesome. I find it interesting that you guys only had two mythic levels.

Two was more than enough, trust me! (They only got the 2nd tier at the end of the penultimate session too, so they were only able to play with tier 2 stuff for the last session.)


Thanks for the response, James. I'm letting my current campaign play with mythic tiers and have been going back and forth on how high I should let them go. I was leaning toward two tiers at max to avoid have to over adjust the CR for every single module that I run.


So what is the white and gold mini behind Ostog?

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

1 person marked this as a favorite.

It's some sort of angel-like character I bought as a capsule toy at an Asian market a long time ago. Probably something from an anime or video game, but I don't know which one.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Sadly, my figma knowledge is not enough to ID it off the lower half.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32

Stupid Question: What race and class is Ostog?


Ostog is statted in the NPC Guide as a human barbarian.

Scarab Sages

I am envious of all who got to participate in this amazing campaign.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

that's not james jacobs. that's, like, half of james jacobs.

erik wrote:
He also is about 100 pounds lighter than he was when the campaign started...

wow.

that might be my favorite part of this post.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

6 people marked this as a favorite.
messy wrote:

that's not james jacobs. that's, like, half of james jacobs.

erik wrote:
He also is about 100 pounds lighter than he was when the campaign started...

wow.

that might be my favorite part of this post.

Heh, thanks! And in fact, I'm about 150 pounds lighter than when the campaign started. Woo!!!

Community Manager

3 people marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:
messy wrote:

that's not james jacobs. that's, like, half of james jacobs.

erik wrote:
He also is about 100 pounds lighter than he was when the campaign started...

wow.

that might be my favorite part of this post.

Heh, thanks! And in fact, I'm about 150 pounds lighter than when the campaign started. Woo!!!

You're an inspiration in a lot of ways, James, and not just for your GMing and storytelling skills! :D


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
messy wrote:

that's not james jacobs. that's, like, half of james jacobs.

erik wrote:
He also is about 100 pounds lighter than he was when the campaign started...

wow.

that might be my favorite part of this post.

Heh, thanks! And in fact, I'm about 150 pounds lighter than when the campaign started. Woo!!!

amazing.

not only are you one of my favorite game industry people, you're also a fellow weight-loss success story.

i lost 73 pounds, so you more than doubled me! you big, darn neo-otyugh!

*curses the ground on which mr. jacobs walks, then buys his latest publication*

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

messy wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
messy wrote:

that's not james jacobs. that's, like, half of james jacobs.

erik wrote:
He also is about 100 pounds lighter than he was when the campaign started...

wow.

that might be my favorite part of this post.

Heh, thanks! And in fact, I'm about 150 pounds lighter than when the campaign started. Woo!!!

amazing.

not only are you one of my favorite game industry people, you're also a fellow weight-loss success story.

i lost 73 pounds, so you more than doubled me! you big, darn neo-otyugh!

*curses the ground on which mr. jacobs walks, then buys his latest publication*

Thumbs up to you too, messy. In that kind of contest, EVERYBODY wins!

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Best. Campaign. Ever. :) So good to read. Great work, James - it sounds like the details made all the difference.

One day, I will offer to run the office campaign. I may need a few good rules lawyers on hand, though. After Occult Adventures is soon released, I will be returning with a vengeance to putting more meat and bones into Return of the Annunaki. Perhaps another uber-campaign at that time?


Okay...WE NOW NEED THIS AS AN ADVENTURE PATH (or as a Megadungeon module)! Either way, WE NEED THIS! :D

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Berselius wrote:
Okay...WE NOW NEED THIS AS AN ADVENTURE PATH (or as a Megadungeon module)! Either way, WE NEED THIS! :D

Not possible.

The first half of the campaign, Shadows Under Sandpoint, goes from 1st to 10th level. It's not enough to be an AP... but it COULD be a giant mega adventure. If I ever find the muse and time and energy to do something like that... at this point, I don't have any of those handy.

The second half of the campaign, Sands of the Scorpion God, was just Gygax's "Necropolis" adventure with a VERY heavy reworking by me to change all the encounters to be more in line with my play style and to fit into Golarion. It's not something we could or would publish.


Well, maybe one day you fine folks at Paizo will get the muse and time needed to consider making a full-fledged mega dungeon out of this perhaps? I'd imagine it could be for four or six 11th level PC's who are tasked with venturing into Rahotep's recently uncovered, monster / trap-filled, monolithic pyramid to stop him from unleashing a new Spawn of Rovagug upon the Inner Sea ^_~)? I'm sure it would be a smash hit. ^_^

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I love the white board idea, I am going to be incorporating that into my game.

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