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Laori and Sial are members of the church of Zon-Kuthon. Zon-Kuthon used to be the patron of Kazavon long, long ago and is both the reason Kazavon has all the myriad of devils and other horrors living in his castle, as well as why the castle itself is cursed. At some point in the past, the church of Zon-Kuthon declared Kazavon an unstable zealot who was better dead than alive, largely because his cruelty and tyranny made him a prime target of hatred and enmity from surrounding nations, which wasn't really a good thing for the church since they don't need that kind of attention and drama.

So while it is thousands of years in the past, long before Korvosa was even built, it still sort of makes sense that if Zon-Kuthon himself or his devoted followers cared about the relics of Kazavon, they'd have a clue where his castle was since it's a pretty important fixture in church history.


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I don't want to reply to each post individually, so I'll say this:

Stop using XP. Never use it. It's the worst thing a DM forces them to fight against. The only thing using an XP track does is limit the time you have to tell a story.

A story should take as much time as it needs to develop characters, relationships, and conflicts. If every fight is a resource you have to spend because it cuts your time to tell the story, it means the system is working to your detriment.

Stop using it.


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Ok, so some self-shilling here;

I was in Steel_Wind's camp about book 1: Its muddy, unfocused, and it makes the problem of hyping the hell out of Gaedren only to have him fall flat as a villain that dies in the first or second session, leaving the party with, essentially, no reason to continue to care about eachother.

This has some easy fixes:
1. Extend the time it takes to actually find Gaedren. Don't make his Fishery the first place they go to, don't have Zellara just say "He's at X address". Make them work for it, make them delve into the underworld, make deals for information, get into tricky situations. Remember, the players are being offered revenge that will complete a chapter of their lives, but it shouldn't come cheap. Make actually finding Gaedren take between 4 and 7 sessions on it's own. Build up the fight and the pay off.
---->1A. Don't feel required to make Gaedren in the Fishery. You can move him somewhere else, and have the Fishery be the last clue on his trail

2. Don't hype Gaedren up so much. When the book starts, players should NOT have "Must kill Gaedren, must get revenge" on their minds. The most important piece of information I told my players was that when building a PC, they should build one who was affected by Gaedren in the past, in a way that was major in shaping who they would become, but they have HAD TO MOVE PAST THAT SINCE THEN. When the game starts, they shouldn't have even thought about Gaedren in possibly years. It should be a surprise when it's offered to them, a chance to fulfill a debt that's been smoldering in the back of their mind, not a raging fire needing to be doused.

3. Connect Gaedren to something later in the campaign. NOT ROLTH (that plot is dumb and makes no sense). I chose the Arkonas, in a long, elaborate plan for them to cripple the city via drugs (basically, they were going to do what Illeosa did with the plague, only with heroin). Make it so his death foreshadows and links into things to come.

As for other things, the most important detail is to expand like crazy. Add content, create winding plots and paths, build Korvosa into a sprawling network of competing factions and plotlines. My game saw me spin the Freeport trilogy into a plot about Vampire Nobles creating a Lighthouse to hide a temple to Lissala and enact some crazy plan, a drug-trade spanning multiple crime bosses and fights, and all kinds of other stuff. Pillage other modules and books for things you can run, because the campaign absolutely works best when you DON'T RUSH THROUGH THE MAIN PLOT.

I've written up my early work on the campaign in a thread called Askren's Crimson Throne, but I also have my player-written notes on all 60+ of our sessions so far. Right now my players are in a "fake" Arkona Labyrinth where they're going to "rescue" Vencarlo, who is actually Vimanda in disguise, specifically because I want to draw out the reveal of their true nature for a while longer.


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If you read what I did, it involved playing the long game; Setting up Devargo as one piece of a larger puzzle. Arkonas wanted to use drugs to bring the city to it's knees (not knowing the Queen has a similar plan, albeit with plague instead), and Glorio played the hidden hand, the shadowy background figure watching the pieces move.

He directed the Cow Hammer Boys to rob shops for industrial quantities of raw materials, but when the players killed them and took Verik, nothing tied them directly to the shadow giving them orders.

He kept Gaedren sheltered, so he could invent the special drug in the background and then ship the formula before the players could arrive.

He funded Devargo, giving him instructions on tasks to set his underlings to (tasks Devargo would pass on to the players) which included securing one of the docks in Midlands for their private use to ship drugs into the city directly, retrieving an amulet Glorio lost years ago when he robbed the Acadamae in secret, and delivering the drug shipments past the guards.

All these things, on their own, seem like just crime. It's only when you put them together that the players see a hidden hand moving everything according to a plan. And then, when they discover it (after they've killed Devargo), Glorio can fade into the shadows and wait for Book 3 without the players really ever learning he was involved at all. Though, I had him send a taunting letter (his name not on it, obviously).


"Interactive" only refers to the fact that you can toggle grid, room numbers, and secret doors on/off.


I've been re-making some of my maps for Jade Regent to use on my livestream of the AP. Here's the first few I've got used:

Brinestump Marsh Witch's Map

Brinestump Marsh Cave

Licktoad Village

I've got more in the works, though the rest of the Brinestump re-makes will take time as I'm past that segment. Also these might change slightly in the future, but the links will always be the updated versions


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I agree with your point that it's pretty easy for players to make that connection early. in fact my players already figured out the vector for the plague. Our session went basically:

Spoiler:
First the players cured Brienne with a scroll that was a combination of Remove Disease & Diagnose Disease spells, which basically gave them all the basic information about the actual Blood Veil (it's symptoms, it's method of spreading, etc.) but not actually a name or anything for it, since the disease is pretty much custom-made and brand new. The next day, when the players met with Vencarlo to talk about Trinia, somehow the rumor of a ship being sunk in the river came up. They didn't put 2 and 2 together right away, but the players did choose to visit North Point and ask around about the sinking, where I used the rumors straight out of the book. One of the players, a Cleric of Gozreh with ranks in Prof. (Sailor) identified the quarantine signal in the rumors, and they basically instantly realized that the box of coins Brienne picked up could have come off a quarantine ship, and thus been one cause of the disease, when the players rushed to the Bank to tell them, and found the growing crowd of people seeking healing at the gates.

Now, at this point, the players know there's a plague, but they also know that honestly, the ship itself doesn't matter much. Not now, at least. The disease is here, and focusing on the sunken ship seems like a waste of time. They also know that the Churches are scrambling to put together a plan of action.

Now, theoretically, the players could do as you suggest, and rush right to church and have them "wash" the coins, but this is why I make sure to make a point of having all of the events (the sinking of the Direption, Brienne finding the coins, and the second batch going into circulation) happen always a few days prior to the players being able to solve them with quick action. Brienne is at least 3 days into her sickness when the players arrive, which means it's been at least 4 days since she found the coins (one day incubation period, per the disease stats), which means at least 5 days since the ship sank (though in reality, could be longer). If it's been 5 days since the ship went down and the coins hit the Bank, that means by now it's far too late for any sort of action by the players or the clerics to stop the spread. Because by now, enough people have been hit that infection isn't just transferred by coins, but by contact. That one day incubation is enough to make it spread way too fast to control.

Now here's my read of this: I don't really think the fact that the Direption was meant to be a distraction is all that important. What's important is time scales. If you feel like every event is moving too fast, and like players can put details together too quickly, that's a place where you need to insert something to stretch out the time. A simple side-quest or something to keep players busy for a day or two. Buy yourself the time to make events feel natural.

Quote:
The Wreck of the Direption: First off - this should be run after the manor. The manor gives motivation, the wreck gives direction. Best not to tell the PCs where to go then expect them not to go there.

Agreed, which is why I put it after the Manor in my last outline post. The Direption is, for all intents and purposes, the smoking gun of the book. It's the major link directly to Dr. Davalus and the cult of Urgathoa. The only way to keep players from going there, is to downplay it's importance, and make them focus on other things, so that they forget it's there until you can bring it back into frame.

Quote:
Also, unless your group cannot put the clues together on their own, I recommend against having the nebbish acolyte wearing the blatantly incriminating evidence. It's just... a bit too obvious, and too great a bungle on the part of the bad guys.

I think just straight having a dude with an Urgathoa symbol is a little on-the-nose, especially as there's a set of ledgers in the boat that straight say "R. Davalus" on them, which is proof enough for the players to seek out the Physicians at the Hospice.

The problem, at least in my head, is that I'm not a fan of details that just pop out of nowhere. And I feel like the players finding R. Davalus' name on the plague-ship, and then charging into the Physician's place and finding out it's a cult of Urgathoa might be a little too "Wait, what?" of a moment. So I feel like there should be some sort of clue that indicates that the Physicians are not only evil, but also the exact opposite of what they claim to be, but BEFORE the players take the elevator down and find themselves in the middle of a temple to the god of disease.

Still, good points, I appreciate you sharing them.


Quote:
After defeating the vampire spawn in Racker's Alley, the PCs were paid a midnight visit by Ramoska Arkminos. He threatened PCs not to go digging in things better left undisturbed, telling them that if they get in the way of his plans to find a cure for himself that they will be extremely sorry.

I'm not sure I can agree with this, because in my eyes, Arkminos is perfectly fine as he is, a just sort of out-of-nowhere encounter in the dungeon who doesn't intend to fight at all, because he's just to apathetic to bother. I think having him show up early and twirl his mustache at the PCs ruins any mystery he has, especially the concept of him trying to cure his Nosferatu status. That one doesn't make much sense to me.

Quote:
At one point save Erie Yelloweyes in human form (who I made into an attractive gypsy girl to gain sympathy from the Pcs) from a mob led by a crazy rat-catcher with a silver sword. This is why she later feels comfortable enough going to the PCs for assistance.

This is actually kind of a good idea, I may have to bring her in early in some way. Not as a gypsy, there's already enough Varisian accents I do in this game.

Oh, sorta update: I had my players visit Vencarlo and him pitch the idea about stashing Trinia in the Acadamae last session. They thought it sounded nuts, and spent the night investigating the Acadamae, and realized that they couldn't figure out a way to get inside at all. Really, I couldn't think of one either, and hoped they would come up with a plan, and then I'd just help make that work, but it would have been better if I had invented a way and had Vencarlo walk them through it so they could accomplish it.

In the end, they just took Trinia to a new safehouse, and I couldn't really stall them for much longer, so I had to just start up the next plot point, so when one player decided to hit up the Bank of Abadar, I just rolled right into the mob outside and the start of the plague. So yeah.


PFS has a lot of things you can easily slot in. I used Veteran's Vault (delving into the sewers to find the hidden stash of an old Pathfinder) & The Cultist's Kiss (The Dhampir son of a vampire cult leader family is interred at prison) at different points in my game, as well as many old AEG modules like Daggers At Midnight (A female cleric of Gozreh(ish) is attacking boats).

Also Mad God's Key is really cool, and you can run most of it without leaving the city. Since I'm not actually a fan of PCs leaving Korvosa during CoCT, so most modules will need some rewriting to keep them there.

There's plenty more, just read up on them and adapt any storyline you think works for you.


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I haven't updated this in a while, but with the renewed interest in CoCT due to the announcement of the hardcover, I figure I'll drop some more thoughts I've been having;

I pretty much settled on weaving the Vampire plotline into my game as a sort of side-plot that runs alongside the original Plague plot. I actually made a really complex flowchart of all the ideas I had for Seven Days, and it's...very convoluted, but it touches everything I want to include. Well, most everything.

So my current progression goes along the lines of

Intro
-(Sidetrack) Keep players busy for a few days in order for people to get sick. I gave them downtime, as well as a merchant who had been robbed at an inn he stayed at, and had his daughter kidnapped to be sold as a slave, with a connection to one of the criminals that had escaped from a prison transport earlier in the campaign.*
-The players are approached by Grau to help heal the girl.
-Harrow Reading (I wrote up my Harrow HERE)
-Players find a note from Blackjack on their door directing them to Vencarlo.
-Vencarlo tells party he wants to make Trinia safe by getting her within the walls of the Acadamae**
-(Sidetrack)Players spend a few days working out a plan to smuggle Trinia into the Acadamae, giving time for disease to spread.
-[I haven't actually figured how the players are going to get into the academy, but suffice to say it'll be weird. The idea is to set up now for replacing the Cinderlands chapter.]

So now, things start getting tangled. I'll use a - to indicate things associated with the Plague plotline and -- to indicate things associated with the Vampire plot.

Sickness
-Ishtari Dahtri approaches PCs, brings them to the Bank. Spreading disease becomes relevant.
-Dahtri tells the PCs to visit the Korvosan Guard to coordinate resources. Also confesses to party that a priest friend of his has gone missing, a personal issue he wants help with***
--Visiting the friend's home finds it abandoned, a diary there detailing the priest's detailed notes on his ideas about a new, rich noble immigrant from Ustalav who has been pushing plans for a new lighthouse through the bureaucracy using money and connections that he shouldn't have.
-By this point, disease has started spreading rapidly in the North Point district, so public attitude is breaking down and people are getting nervous and panicked. Players will encounter the line for the Perfume Shop event on their way through the North Point, or the Hill if you've got them there.
-The party is approached by Eris Yelloweyes about her worries regarding the Wererats in the sewers and impending violence both by and to them. She hires the party to go stop Girrigz, and promises that she may have information for them if they can help.
-Pathfinder contact players helped earlier**** returns, tells them he found the standing stone the prisoner spoke of, and followed the visitors into the city, where they've taken up residence beneath a building. This is Racker's Alley.
--After fighting the vampires in Racker's Alley, the players find the newly turned Vampire spawn have symbols on them, which match the logo of a local trade depot, which is a front for a nest of vampires. This is "Vampire Lair 1", a low-level Cult of Lissala occupied by Spawn who are mostly unorganized and free to roam the city. Inside the temple, they find plans for a lighthouse signed with a letter V, which detail an extensive network of sewer connections and structures under the lighthouse.
-Players get word from the Guard about something that's been smashing into buildings and killing people in the south near the Gold Market. They learn that a detachment of guards sent to kill the thing are dead. They must track the invisible beast and kill it, where they learn that it is actually an injured Leukodaemon that has been using the sewers to get around. When the demon is slain, Eris Yelloweyes returns to the party and provides them with the story about the sinking of the Direption, and where it went down.
-Before the party can investigate the wreck, they are given a task directly from Marshal Kroft to investigate the Carowyn Manor, where reports are coming in from noble families about people not returning from a party held there. Deyanira Mirukova petitions the party to find her brother, who was hired to play at the party.

Defeating the Plague
-By this point, the plague has been ravaging the city, and the players are fighting against it, but it's getting worse. They should have little faith, if any, left in the Plague Doctors, and the Grey Maidens will be getting increasingly cruel and militaristic. Their priority should be to investigate the wreck of the Direption. Once they've got reason to suspect the Physicians are involved, they will head directly to the warehouse they've claimed as their base.
-Hospice encounter, runs normally.
-Temple of Urgathoa under the hospice, runs normally.
(I have not actually decided whether any changes need to be made here. This may change.)

--------------------------------------------------------

So, now that that's all out of the way, let's get some citations cleared up;

* ) First, I stole a little bit of content from some modules here and there, The Lash of Malloc mostly, which is a story about a desert tavern who uses goblins to rob it's wealthy merchant patrons, and take young women as slaves. I removed the goblins, made it a dockside place, but kept the rest the same. When the players asked to buy slaves, the owner sent them to visit an abandoned manor (stolen from Hasken's Manor module), which was a trap where they were intended to die to Mange, a feral Skinwalker and recent escapee (who's escape they came across earlier in Book 1).

**) As I've mentioned, I plan on replacing the entire Cinderlands chapter with one that takes place inside the Acadamae. So, sending Trinia there is basically the exact same foreshadowing that normally happens when Vencarlo encourages sending her to Harse.

***) This part, with the missing friend that leads into a cult of vampires, is actually a stripped-down, repurposed version of the Death/Terror/Madness in Freeport trilogy. A lot of the details remain, such as a cult and a noble building a lighthouse, but I've cut a lot of the fat, since obviously I'm not running three modules worth of content, and replaced the cult with a coven/cult of Vampires. The major difference is that the leader is a new noble who arrived in Korvosa from Ustalav the same time as Arkminos, and decided to spend his time acquiring power here. So the lighthouse is designed to be his "big threat" to the city, a way for his vampires to have complete access to Korvosa via a central sewer connection.

**** ) I wanted to flesh out the Vampire stuff later, and foreshadow a cult, so I stole a bunch of stuff from the PFS S04-08 "The Cultist's Kiss" module. Basically, an old Pathfinder living in Palin's Cove outside Korvosa caught wind of a young Pathfinder girl arriving in town, asking questions, and then vanishing. He took the task of finding her, and it led him to Korvosa where he enlisted the party to help him visit Belodia Asylum, where they spoke with Tomasz Kosta, a patient/prisoner there who's stay was being funded by an unknown source. The crazy man is actually a dhampir, his parents being vampires recently arrived from Ustalav, and his mother has been visiting him via mist form at night, telling him he'll join them soon. The Pathfinder man went off to find a Standing Stone that Tomasz mentioned, and would return when he found it.


Interesting. I'm curious to see what kind of monster and class swaps we can look forwards to.

My big suggestions, which I would make purely for the sake of making sure players and DMs got the best possible experience out of the campaign, would be to downplay Gaedren in the Player's guide, and make sure there's a specific instruction to make players not think they need to come into the mindset of "Raaagh Gaedren must die right now!". Being overhyped in the Guide causes the very abrupt death of the NPC in the first session to leave a lot of players dangling, with no motivation.

I know you said it's too late for changes, so I don't expect this to happen, but if I could change one thing about the campaign without increasing the page count (all my changes would involve adding content), it would be that, because of the number of issues it would solve.

Outside of that: New interior art? Can we look forwards to new illustrations of NPCs and scenes? If not, I suggest doing the Runelords thing and having Eric Belisle illustrate everything.


Luckily, my group plays so slowly that 6 months, give or take, should put us pretty squarely at the end of Book 2 or the beginning of Book 3 meaning I'll have time to use the compiled edition.

So, spill it JJ: Did you use any of the campaign tweaks you found here? Any word on what changes we can expect in the book?


Gotta wonder what they'll be added. New interior art for scenes and NPCs would be cool. Not really sure what I'd like to see them add, per say. All my suggested changes would be a bit too big for a simple collected volume and involve re-writes.

I hope they do the same thing they did with Runelords and have Eric Belisle illustrate everything.


It absolutely did. I've been...incredibly busy, to say the least. I had a second campaign that's being livestreamed start up, and promoting it, finding guests for my weekly DM show, and writing plot for both games has killed my free time.

So, let's type up another session! I'm going to pair the next two sessions into one, because they were functionally the same, just a long series of fights spanning the two.

Session 18 & 19
Newly acquainted with someone who seems to know something of their future, and claiming it was his mission to keep them alive, the players took Aiden into their group and spent the first part of the morning preparing for what would obviously be their assault on Devargo's boat complex. Knowing his reputation as the King of Spiders, the group figured their best bet would be to browse local merchants in Old Korvosa and see if anyone knew any antidotes for poisons. Their searching didn't turn up much, other than that one local alchemist offered to sell them something called "mugwort", a dry root that he claimed they could chew to stave off the effects of poison sickness. Figuring that this would be their only cost-effective option outside of visiting the Church of Abadar to pay money they didn't have for healing spells and potions, the group took the mugwort.

During their shopping excursion, the group was pulled aside by Grau Soldado, their old friend who they had helped get sober and back into the City Guard during the riots. He was doing better, and took the opportunity to liason with the party and make sure they were on the road to accomplishing their task, as they had been out of contact for a while. They used their discussion with him as an opportunity to review their goals and focus, making the decision that they didn't care about using subterfuge to work their way into Devargo's good graces, he had one of their friends prisoner, likely being tortured, and they needed to get him out, and stop Devargo if possible. So with the group setting off towards Eel's End, they ready themselves for a fight, and a possible ambush.

When the group arrived at Eel's End, it was less crowded, owing to the early afternoon hour, and the party made a straight line for Devargo's ship. After exchanging a few lines of banter with with two thugs standing guard at the doors, and being informed that they wouldn't be let in to see the King of Spiders, Harrald decided not to play coy anymore and punched one thug in the face, immediately causing the other to cry out in alert to the other off-duty guards stationed around the boat. The fight on the deck of the Eel's End was rough, with some guards dying, some being injured and fleeing, and the party barging through the big, spider-painted doors into Devargo's chamber with one badly-injured thug in tow, who they "asked nicely" about where to find Devargo. After searching the throne room, and almost dropping Harrald and Aiden down a trap door via pressing the unknown trigger switch on Devargo's throne, the group busts down the locked door leading down below decks.

Itching for a fight, Harrald charges straight through the first door he sees, completely unprepared for coming face to face with Devargo himself in a small room, where the two square off, though it is a fight none in the group are particularly prepared for, as Devargo is apparently a much more skilled fighter than they expected him to be, commanding a variety of stances and maneuvers in combat that led to Harrald's being knocked unconscious. Shinji stepped in and backed Devargo into a corner next to his fireplace, where he was able to knock the crime lord unconscious and subdue him, though not without sustaining painful injuries himself. Aiden and Balthur decided not to venture into the cramped space, instead taking on the rest of the crew of thugs that were guarding their friend Swarthy. Eventually taking out all the thugs, the party took a minute to catch their breath as they were left seemingly at peace for a few seconds, with Devargo unconscious and the boat in their control. If you're wondering where Finn was...he stayed on the deck above with the prisoner.

However, that peace was not to last, as Harrald was brought back to consciousness, and when Shinji went off to investigate the rest of the boat, the barbarian took out his rage on Devargo's body, beheading it angrily. The party secured Swarthy from his prison, and though he was beaten up badly, and had sustained extensive injuries, he insisted that he never told them anything about where the drugs came from, that he never gave up the group. Insisting that they would discuss the situation once they're safe, the party made their back up to the upper deck with Swarthy in to, prepared to leave Eel's End. What they were not aware of is the face that one of them had dropped a torch down into the dark hole that was the trapdoor in the Throne Room Finn had stayed in, and though he had used Create Water to douse the torch once it fell, the smell of burning was filling the boat.

As the party made their retreat, Harrald emerged into the Throne Room first, catching a full view of a long, thin arm ending in a spindly three-claw'd hand reach up out of the trap-door hole and grasp Finn by the leg, before yanking him off his feet and down into the hole.

----------------

As soon as Harrald saw Finn be pulled down below, he shouted for his party and dove right into the dark hole after him, his fall actually slamming into whatever creature had grabbed Finn and sending them both crashing through layers of webs into the ground. Shinji, Aiden, and Balthur followed the smell of burning and smoke to the locked door in Devargo's antechamber below deck, and made their way into the Spider Lair on the ground, though their passage was slow and difficult, as they battled against the giant Ettercap, while Harrald attempted to rip through the webs and beat down the Ogre Spider on the other side of the room. Finn, unfortunately, spent a large portion of the fight trapped in Webs, but eventually cut himself free and managed to keep the party alive with heals.

Chittersnap fought aggressively, and his small spiders kept the party on their toes, but eventually they saw the spiders, large and small, defeated. Balthur took one of Chittersnap's mandibles as a trophy, and the group gathered themselves to breathe and search the ship before making their departure. Touring Devargo's personal chambers, the party discovered his chest of valuables, most of which were small art objects and cash, along with one interesting jasper-studded amulet. Aiden attempted to Object Read the amulet, and saw a vision of a brutal assault where a young boy was struck down by an unseen assailant.

As the party made their way out of Eel's End, licking their wounds and counting their spoils, they set their sights on Citadel Volsheynek to report to Marshal Kroft that the thorn in her side that was Devargo is no more.

Discussion:
There's not a lot to discuss here. I didn't really change anything about Eel's End, other than the fact that I rebuilt Devargo as a Path of War class, the Stalker (mixed with some Rogue for poison use). You'll see me going back to this a few times, because it's really a great way to turn a single enemy into a powerhouse fighting machine that strikes fear into players (unless they're using PoW too, which mine aren't).


I don't see anything in the Rakshasa's PFSRD entry that they do anything special when they die, but we need to take all of their special features into account:

Quote:

Rakshasa Subtype

Change Shape (Su) All rakshasas have the ability to change shape into any humanoid, as if using alter self.

So their appearance as human functions as the Alter Self spell. Ok, we know that in Pathfinder, death doesn't often end spell effects, especially those with a duration on them like Alter Self. Because the spell has been cast, and it's only target is the physical form of the person it's cast on, not their inherent state of life.

So assuming you're treating their inherent supernatural ability exactly as the spell, it would mean that the Alter Self will persist for at least a few (up to 14) minutes after Bahor dies.

As to the question what happens when they die? It doesn't quite seem like anything happens. The PFSRD entry says that their fates are "inexorably ted to the mortal world", and they are born on the mortal plane and die there. Nothing about them returning to the Hells upon death.

Now we get to Bahor's actual plan: He's been keeping Neolandus in his basement because as the adventure background says "only the seneschal can legally depose a corrupt monarch", meaning that Neolandus is an important pawn in Bahor's overall plan to have Illeosa removed from the throne and seize power himself. So when he sends the PCs into the Labyrinth, his intentions are that his sister kills them quickly so that nothing upsets his plan. He doesn't expect them to survive, and that's very important.

The point of a villain is that there is always a flaw in their plan, and the climax of the story comes when the players feel almost beaten, but exploit that flaw to overcome the odds and come out victorious. Bahor's flaw is that he thinks he's more powerful and has all the eventualities figured out. He fully expects the players to die, otherwise he wouldn't send then into the Labyrinth at all. Or, he would send them in, but Neolandus wouldn't be there and he wouldn't send Vimanda in after them (though, he might if he intended for them to kill her).

If you can come up with a place that you think Bahor hasn't thought things through, then add defenses to that place. Cover up holes in his plan. He IS very smart, so if you find his actions not so smart, change them. Just remember to leave that little tiny crack for players to exploit.


Session 17
As Krell stormed into the bar, the few patrons there during the day either fled out the door or upstairs, away from the clear danger. The Half-Orc gripped the haft of his heavy greatsword, he bellowed his challenge to the party "I won't be caught unprepared this time, I'll carry each of your heads back as my trophies." he laughed, a new scar clearly visible across his face and his green skin tight against rippling muscles, a thin film of sweat covering his bare arms. The tavern keeper begged the group to take their fight outside and not destroy his bar, so the party agreed to face Krell out on the street.

As the party gathered in the alleyway nearby, Krell and Harrald squared off, with Harrald's heavy pick clashing against Krell's armor. The party was ready to let Harrald handle the fight on his own, until a powerful sword swing left him with a nasty wound. Eventually the rest of the party jumped in, with Balthor flanking him from behind and Shinji making slicing and stabbing cuts from the outside. Krell was tough, and even significant wounds didn't seem to slow him down, even being disarmed by Balthor didn't stop his rage, as he kept swinging just as fiercely with his gauntleted fists. Even flanked and outnumbered, Krell focussed most of his attention on Harrald, who himself was quickly succumbing to his own raging fury, so much so that when Krell was disarmed and kept striking with his fists, Harrald threw down his own pick and met him blow for blow with his own, roaring in anger the whole time. However, even Krell's growing rage was not enough to sustain him as Balthor struck hard, burying his double-axe into the Half-Orc's back and felling him like a great tree, sending him crashing to the ground, while Harrald kept hammering the body with his fists until his own rage subsided.

Once the Half-Orc had been defeated, the party scoured his corpse for anything that might solve the question of why he hunted them so fervently, which was answered with the discovery of a note, seemingly scrawled in the Half-Orc's own writing, as it was too sloppy to be anything else.

The note read:
Boarded house, 14th Dockstreet. Get horn, if G + M run, she pays when i get the thieves back to her.
Followed by another line scrawled at the bottom later
M flipped, I get the horn from him, I get their money. Win-win.

After taking the note, as well as the greatsword off Krell, the party dragged his body back behind a nearby alley, and returned to the tavern. However, on their way into the tavern they noticed something that was not there before, a piece of parchment stuck to the wall next to the door, covered in strange symbols none of them had ever seen. Shinji tried to interpret them, but couldn't figure out their meaning, though he couldn't shake the feeling that he kept experiencing a sort of tugging on his mind, trying to direct his attention somewhere. He didn't notice at the time that he had at some point taken Zellara's Harrow Deck out of it's box and began shuffling the cards idly. The symbols, they concluded, didn't look like any language they were familiar with, and their designs seemed to be very old, not language per-say, maybe symbols for something?

On their way out of the tavern and back into Korvosa proper, the party noticed that quite a lot of commotion filled many streets they passed. Here and there they spotted small numbers of Hellknights on patrol, more than they've seen since the riots, and even more streets were occupied by groups of protestors, drunken rabble rousers, and citizen's unrest, most all of which seemed to be directed at the Queen, if the slurs and cries were anything to go by. The atmosphere did not bode well to the party.

Shinji decided that the paper and symbols were pressing too heavily on his mind. What were they and why were they put there? Clearly it was for them to find, but what did they mean? His answer was to seek out a fortune-teller shop he remembered passing by in the Gold Market, a place called Doom and Gloom. Inside, he met an old woman named Maya who he persuaded to inspect the piece of paper and see if she could shed any light n the subject. Seeming to posess some passing knowledge on the subject, the Varisian woman informed him that the symbols were, in fact, ancient cyphers still used in many "forgotten arts", those who speak to spirits, dabble in ancient alchemy, or some darker magics that exist outside the modern schools of the arcane. While she hadn't the skills to translate them exactly, she knew one symbol represented something about "water", and the three at the bottom of the page indicated "danger, doom, and tragedy". Her conclusion was that someone, whoever wrote this page, wished harm and doom upon the group, likely that the party will meet a terrible fate at sea.

Satisfied with the answer, Shinji indulged the old woman by asking her to perform a Harrow reading for him, which she did. ((I have a write-up of the reading itself, but I will not include it here, as it's a bit long)) After which, he returned to the tavern the group has designated as their current temporary base of operations, letting Balthur and Finn follow up on the lead to go speak with the woman who they now know as Cassatta, who's address they got from Krell's note.

Balthur and Finn made their way to the address, a mostly-abandoned apartment building buried in the cheaper, slums district of the Midlands, where they cautiously made their way through the dark corridors to find the room they were looking for; An abandoned apartment, furnished with collected junk and lit with a few candles, it's ceiling almost entirely covered by hanging mobiles of dead seagulls, bones, fish remains, driftwood carvings, shells, and other ocean-based symbols. However, far from finding the prepared, criminal mastermind they had expected, they instead found a young girl cowering in the closet with a small knife, a girl Finn recognized almost instantly as the one he chased into the alleyway. While the two got their bearings, Finn engaged Cassatta, encouraging her that they weren't there to kill her, and that he was incredibly interested in her worship, as he'd not met another faithful of Gozreh since he returned to Korvosa, and he was fascinated by how complex her rituals and decorations were. Questioning her, they learned that she was, in fact, the one who had damaged the ships in the port, the whole situation being a failed, and misguided attempt to reinstate Gozreh into the minds of the local sailors and traders, who's worship has spent decades falling off to nothing. She explains that she was simply hoping to cause some commotion with the intention of local sailors turning their attention to her visible shrine on their way in and out of the port, but when she ended up accidentally punching a hole in one boat, and causing another to veer off course and hit a pier. She concluded that if she were to acquire an artifact that increased her power over the waves, she could solve everything, so she hired Gregor and Madarius to steal the Horn of the Tides for her. But more talk would have to wait, as they insisted to Cassatta that Gregor had turned on her, and Krell was dead, and she was misguided, but also unsafe. But most importantly, she was the key to solving the problem they needed to solve for Devargo. So they took her from her house and brought her back to the tavern to explain the story to the rest of the party, assuage anyone's fears about her intentions and the situation, and then brainstorm a way to solve the problem that didn't involve turning her into the guards, as Finn had become quite insistant that she be protected.

The ultimate solution came in the form of Shinji making his way through the streets late at night, and posing an anonymous tip with a guardsman among the number guarding and searching the docks, that the culprit they're looking for had been spotted returning to his apartment, to which he provided the address where Gregor had been residing.

In the morning, the guards must have made an arrest, as they were almost completely absent from the docks, and things looked like they were potentially back to normal. So with problem seemingly solved, the party resolved to collect themselves and head straight for Devargo's ship, hopefully to press for the information he has been stringing them along for. However, they were interrupted on their way out the door by yet another paper covered in more strange, occult glyphs, this time on the inside of the door to the tavern on their way out. Terrified that someone is following them and threatening them, the party hurried towards Devargo's ship, but they were stopped on the road by a stranger; A thin, pale Half-Elf with stringy grey hair and a face shadowed by a large, floppy sun-hat, with relatively poorly cared-for clothing. The man urged the party to stop, questioning why they had ignored his warnings of danger, and were still on their way to their deaths. While the party was obviously confused, the stranger told them that while he had no idea who any of them were, he has been tormented by visions and dreams of their faces, and that in a recurring dream he sees them shrouded in shadow, entering "the mouth of the great eel", and then falling to their death, a death he has seen over and over for them. He insists that this vision is granted to him by his patron Pharasma, and that it can only mean wherever they are headed, it's certainly a trap, and they will most certainly die. He encourages them to turn back, and return when they are significantly more prepared, so that his visions can not come true, and he can stop seeing them in his dreams. This, he believes, Pharasma demands of him, to help save their lives.

And that is how Aiden Whispercil, the Occultist, joined the party.

Discussion:
Wow, I got long-winded with this one. I'm trying to type these up between writing stories for 3 different campaigns right now, as well as making maps for all of them, which takes way too much time. Anyway...

Yeah, tons of liberal expansion on Dagger's At Midnight here, hopefully I didn't lose anyone in the story. It's like, 4 small pages of plot (maybe 2 pages typed), stretched over a few sessions. I had intended Cassatta to be a big interest point for Finn, hoping he would get excited by and engaged with another worshipper of Gozreh in the city, which it seems he is. She even planted the idea in his head that they should form a real church, which he's considering. Yeah, I know, I'm pushing the true neutral nature of Gozreh a bit, but I think I sold it.

Last note: The very odd hints and ending were sort of a last-minute addition. The reason we started Curse of the Crimson Throne was because one of our players, a long-time friend and player of mine, had to excuse himself from our Rise of the Runelords game and we collectively decided that we didn't want to continue that campaign without him. So when he came to me mid-week while planning this game and told me he's back, his personal issues are sorted out, and he's eager to play, we created a character and I wrote him into the story in the most subtle and interesting way we could come up with. We played a bit of a prank on the other players, as he was actually in the Skype call with us for the entire session, but under a fake name, so the players had no idea he had returned and was going to play until right at the end when he turned on his mic spoke to them in-character. It was a pretty big surprise for the whole group, and I think everyone got a kick out of it.

Anyway, more long-winded rambling coming soon!


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APs are way, way too short.

My Rise of the Runelords game? 42 sessions, and we weren't even halfway through Book 2. My Crimson Throne game? 22 sessions and we're not done with Book 1 yet.

If anything, the adventures are far, far too stifled by the fact that the people writing them are shackled not only to a print-length, but also an experience track, that keeps them from being able to tell a well-paced story with fleshed out characters and motivations, since there's only so much room in the book and they need to make sure you have enough encounters to level up properly.

How many times have AP books thrown in ridiculous, nonsensical fights just because? How many times has a villain just shown up out of nowhere with no screentime to set up why the PCs should hate them? Way too often.

If you can't run a full campaign, that's not the AP's fault. Run a module. If it takes you a year to go through a campaign and you STILL feel like you're not playing fast enough, I think you may have a problem, and it isn't the book's fault.

As a DM, you NEED to be reading the full adventure, you NEED to know them front and back, and understand the moving of the characters and plots within them. I'd ask for a show of hands for how many people tried to run Rise of the Runelords, and when they started reading book 2 went "Holy s+%&, I roleplayed Aldern SO wrong", but I know it would be almost everyone. But as a DM, that's your job. Read the content, know the content, and if you feel it needs to be pruned, then prune it BEFORE YOU PLAY. Not during.


Have Andaisin and anyone of authority leave. There's no reason to have them stick around. Having her leave the demon behind, but the actual cultists should clear out and take any important information with them. Reanimating the clerics as some sort of plague zombie would make the players have something to fight through that isn't much of a challenge, but still gives the impression that they're not just kicking around a now-deserted dungeon for no reward. They should come to feel like they missed an opportunity by leaving.

If you really want the cult to just be straight up dead by the end of the book, you can have them relocate somewhere that the players can try and follow the clues to, but it's pretty important to remember that with the main temple destroyed and the bulk of the cult's resources trashed and inaccessible (especially Andaisain's specifically-designed chapel to Urgathoa) means that they're all but defeated in their goals for the city, and there's not much way for them to organize whatever's left into an position to keep working within the city. They basically just have to go underground and lick their wounds.

Perhaps you could hide them away in some extra-hidden hideout somewhere in the bowels of the city where Andaisin could do some desperate last-minute sacrifices and rituals to make herself strong enough to hopefully finish her mission. Have the players follow a trail of clues and hunt down the cult, and then give them that high-stakes final showdown where Andaisin is transformed by her god and you can carry out the same cinematic stuff, while letting the players twist the knife into the cult to put them down for good.

Or, just put them on a shelf for later.


Session 16
Immediately picking up in the middle of the action, the players are both embroiled in their own conflicts. At the docks, Shinji and Finn take off running after the woman who has fled into the city, bounding after her into the alleys and streets of Korvosa's Midland district. Shinji seeks the high ground by using his athletic ability to leap up onto a merchant's wagon and pull himself up onto a nearby rooftop, running across it an making leaps to adjacent buildings, with his vantage point allowing him to keep a visual on the fleeing woman as she turned down a side street. On the ground, Finn had an easier time running, but was unable to keep sight on the woman when she disappeared behind a group of traders and ran down a street. Shinji attempted to keep the tail going by making a running leap from the roof of the building right into the crossroads, landing hard, but managing to roll a bit and keep running, yelling for Finn to follow.

The chase continues on foot for a few more blocks, before the woman turns down an alleyway, seeming to have vanished by the time Finn arrives, noticing that the alley is a dead end splitting multiple ways. He takes the closest path, and Shinji arrives shortly after, taking up position at the intersection of the paths so no one can get out. Finn proceeds down the cramped alleyway, calling out to the woman his peaceful intentions, but his calls are stopped when he finds himself in a zone of silence. As he takes a second to realize what's going on, they alleyway suddenly fills up with thick, heavy fog, obscuring Finn's view of anything around him, and cutting off Shinji's ability to see anything going on. Reacting as quickly as he can, Finn tries charging forwards to tackle as soon as he sees any movement in the mist, knowing the woman will try and pass him, but he trips badly, and his efforts land him sprawled out on his back, helpless. Shinji is uncomfortable and draws his sword to block the alleyway, but a wall of gale winds whips up in front of him, filling the entrance and keeping him from helping Finn. As Finn tries to get up, the woman appears above him, looking down. He holds up his hands and pleads for peace, saying they don't want to hurt her, but she responds by conjuring a crackling trident made of energy and slamming it into the ground next to Finn's head saying "Stop following me. Stay away." before vanishing into the obscuring fog. As the wall of wind dies away, Shinji rushes in to help Finn, cursing themselves that they let the woman escape. However, despite Shinji scouring the area for clues, Finn finds himself stunned and greatly intrigued by this woman who bears the same holy power as him.

Across the district, it's obvious to Harrald that whoever requested the meeting is prepared to take him in violently, but instead Harrald demands an explanation, explaining that he's not Madarius and he has no idea what this meeting expects from him. The man seems to weigh Harrald's words carefully, instead offering to escort him to a meeting with Gregor, the man who's house the players raided earlier. The man and his hired muscle lead Harrald through some unfamiliar streets towards a rather unimpressive district of apartments where he apparently owned a room within one of the boarding houses. Once led in, Harrald is brought into a two-room apartment, the study of which is lined with books and dim candle lights. There is also a man in his early 30s, a little more than five feet tall, with thinning blonde hair, and a face covered with red blotches. His hands tremble as is continually wracked by a loud, hacking cough. He exclaims happily to the man Harrald met, who he refers to as Pharandale, though his glee turns to displeasure when he steps closer to Harrald and realizes he is not, in fact, Madarius, but someone who looks enough like him that it a mistaken identity caused Gregor to reach out.

Harrald pressed Gregor why he paid the half-Orc Krell to attack him and bring him in, if apparently the two were friends, though the attack seems to be news to Gregor, making him even more visibly worried. He explains that he and Madarius were partners, thieves that specialized in difficult-to-obtain items, and that they were hired by a woman named Cassatta to steal an artifact from some wizard outside of the city, and they broke in and retrieved it, but Madarius never returned with the artifact. Gregor had assumed he had simply kept it for himself and taken off, but was stunned to see him back in the city, though that turns out to have been Harrald instead. He mentioned that the artifact was some horn inlaid with metal, he didn't know what it was for. He also spent quite a bit of time elaborating on how much of a devil the woman Cassatta was, telling Harrald how his current condition was caused by her placing a curse on him when he didn't have the artifact. He claimed that this Orc named Krell was not in his employ, but if the Orc thought Harrald was Madarius, he had to have been hired by Cassatta.

With the mistaken identities cleared up for the time being, and the fleeing woman having escaped, the party reconvened at the Sticky Mermaid, where they exchange information and start plotting their next move. About to settle in for a night of drinking and collect themselves to take care of things tomorrow, the party is interrupted by the slamming of the tavern doors and the bellowing growl of the Half-Orc Krell as he grins and exclaims "Well well, I'm glad I've found you. Again."


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So just to get some more discussion going here:

I want to expand the Vampire plot line through the book, which is to say I want to create one in general, because it doesn't exist.

Initial thoughts suggest that perhaps the vampires in Korvosa:

A.) Operate under some central figure that maintains a position of authority?

B.) Have some kind of ongoing war with the Wererat population in the sewers?

Or maybe instead of getting super complex with it, we just take the Racker's Alley vampires, a total of 5 Vampire Spawn, and use them to lead down a rabbit hole that exposes the little, unexplored story of Ramoska Arkminos and what led him to Korvosa so that he's not just "nameless scary Nosferatu" they meet in a dungeon, but rather a fleshed-out NPC.

According to the entry for Racker's Alley, Arkminos is an underling of Conte Senir Tiriac over in Ustalav, who was requested by the Red Mantis. The Conte sent Arkminos over as a way of extending his reach into Varisia, and the Vampire Spawn in the alley are just slaves the Conte sent to watch Arkminos. This is all there currently is to the thread.

So if we extrapolate, we see Arkminos as someone who really doesn't care much for the Conte's interests at all. It might be interesting to write up some new, not-so-feral vampires that the Conte sent over along with Arkminos to establish an official presence in Korvosa, and they have been left to spread their roots secretly. To make it interesting, the initial fight at Racker's Alley could lead to locations where the players find murdered/consumed Sable Company Marines, or even Grey Maidens, delving into the warrens of the city to root out the real vampire threat. Of course, when they kill who they can, they get to learn about the Conte trying to establish a presence, and it gives room to drop clues about Arkminos so the players know there is still a powerful and ancient vampire somewhere in the city who they know by name.

Just some 5AM ideas.


Quote:
Oh, that was you?

Well, I'm one of many people who have probably attempted it. My current campaign thread is HERE, and there's a lot of session-by-session discussion of what I've done as a whole, though I'm sort of playing catch-up, typing up sessions as I can. The thread is nowhere near caught up.

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Out of curiosity, might I ask how many sessions (and how long each session) it took for you to finish book 1 with all your alterations?

We play every Friday from 11PM to 3AM, so about 4 hours a week. My players are, like I mentioned, probably 1 or 2 sessions away from heading into the Dead Warrens, which itself should take 2 sessions, I think. So, let's call it 4 sessions until Book 1 is "done".

Our last session was #22, so we'll probably have played 26 sessions by the end of Edge of Anarchy.

That's just the pace we operate at. My players enjoy lots of roleplaying, with time spent fleshing out characters and letting events breathe and play out naturally rather than rushing through things. So since this is how I tend to write things, it's the style that I'm leaning towards when I work on Seven Days.


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Thanks for the reply.

I have a thread where I (attempt to) ennumerate my running of my campaign, where you can see my major changes to Edge of Anarchy, where I did some fairly huge overhauls. Things like the hunt for Gaedren at the beginning of the book taking about 5 or 6 sessions of following leads and interrogating criminals, going from St. Casperian's flophouse to the Fishery to the docks to finally cornering Gaedren in an abandoned warehouse (the one that will be used as the Hospice in book 2), followed by a more lengthy chasing down of the Cow Hammer boys and Verik, followed by the players working undercover for Devargo for a while, which included both the complete versions of The Veteran's Vault PFS module and the short Daggers At Midnight 3.5 module. All with the thread of the Arkonas using Gaedren, Verik, and Devargo in an elaborate plot to create a debilitating version of Shiver to weaken the population for their incursion and attempt at the throne.

All of this ran fantastically smoothly, but I mention it so you understand my enjoyment of slower-paced campaigns with quite a lot of padding. So this is my general concept with re-writing Seven Days, it needs a LOT more padding.

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Inserting an entire module would, in my opinion, unnecessarily spread out this part. Part of the point of the plague and its horror is that it does *not* slowly take hold but instead befalls the city like a crashing wave.

Even at it's absolute fastest, a disease cannot possibly spread across an entire city in a day. It just can't happen. Especially a disease which, as per the title of the module, requires seven days to have lethal results in the average person. So no matter how you look at it, there needs to be time spent around the town so the actual atmosphere has an opportunity to develop, so players can actually see things slowly descending into plague levels, while they have to watch helplessly. If you turn around and say "Ok now everything is bad", it doesn't feel like a real event. I am absolutely against timeskips and fastforwards because I think they murder any sense of urgency or pacing, so just saying "A week goes by and you watch the city get worse and worse" is not my way. That week needs to pass, but the players need to be occupied by something during that time, and that's time I can use to do something that advances a plot or setting detail I want to get across. Right now I'm doing exactly that: My players could just be herded right into the Dead Warrens after being told "Shoanti are being attacked in the street" and that they need to solve tensions between the Shoanti and Korvosa, but instead I'm taking the time wrapping up another plotline while I gradually spell out the violence against Shoanti and other minorities around them, so that when they are actually called in to investigate a high-profile Shoanti murder, it has context within the city.

Also, on the topic of horror, I disagree. This module is overwhelmingly directed towards horror elements, in much the same way The Skinsaw Murders was. The major problem is, it breaks them up too far apart with off-theme events that it doesn't keep a consistent tone. I don't need the whole campaign to feel like a horror movie all the time, I just want to keep a constant tension in the air where everything that happens has that slight tinge of the psychotic or the unnatural or the creepy factor that keeps them on edge, so that the big horror moments hit much harder.

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If you decide to let one or more of your PCs hear the ballista blast in the night, be prepared for the group to try and find the wreck.

I have a custom of taking about a week worth of "off time" in between books that I usually fill with something else, usually something a bit unusual or that furthers the backstory of one or more characters. I intend to have the players engaged in this while the actual sinking of the Direption happens, so they're not really compelled to be involved in that, but can still hear about it after the fact.

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You are right, these quests seem very loosely connected and the way the PCs are tasked with them seems very heavy-handed. This definitely needs some personalization

Like I mentioned, all the "set pieces" in book 1 were shot through with the over-arching plot thread that was the Arkonas connecting each piece. The actual connection didn't make sense until they put all the pieces together at the end, but the idea was always there. That's what I'd like to accomplish for most of Seven Days, though obviously everything can't be caused by the Urgathoa cult, so some things will be false leads and unrelated events. But I want to make sure there's a structure to all of it that will lead clever viewers to the conclusion if they follow all the clues.


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So with Seven Days to the Grave fast approaching and the need to get all my prep-work started so that I can have things hopefully flowing well into the story, I think it's time to kick off the discussion of how to go about fixing what needs fixing in Book 2, and hopefully creating a much more solid experience for the players.

Now, my working premise is that on the whole, Seven Days isn't actually that bad. Certainly not as badly paced and fumbled as the introduction to Edge of Anarchy was, meaning that it may not actually need any major overhauls to the story.

The problem I have is that as it's written, Seven Days doesn't have a whole lot of what I really love, which is horror atmosphere. I mean, it certainly has some, and they're pretty great. But the problem is that they don't carry through to the rest of the book. So my working goal is, hopefully, to alter every section so that the feeling of uneasiness and "horror" persists throughout the entire chapter, eventually building at a climax with the Temple fight.

So let's dive right in:

Part One: Infection
The chapter starts with the sinking of the Plague Ship, the first symptoms springing up, and the players meeting and hopefully curing Brienna Soldado. There's really not much I want to add here, though I think there needs to be a decent chunk of time with the players engaged in activity

Part Two: Outbreak
Unfortunately, outside of the activity of pushing through a mob of angry/scared citizens, this chapter isn't actually all that interesting. It contains a lot of the players being monologued to, first by Vencarlo, then by the priest of Abadar, then by Marshall Kroft and Davalus. There's no real investigation here, no combat, nothing to really pass any time. So that's the first bit.

Ideas:
-Stretch the initial outbreak of the disease out, probably over the course of some investigation content so the players can actually see the descent into madness and disease.

-One early idea that hits me is the old Gamemastery module "Gallery of Evil" to fill this early time, heavily re-written for the purposes here. The concept I am playing with is one of setting up a villain directly opposite to Blackjack for the course of this chapter, a sort of Joker to Blackjack's Batman, in the form of Victor Saint-Demain (the humiliated Inquisitor who went insane after failing to recover the Queen's Brooch). However, due to the horror nature of the story, I am thinking of making him a vicious murderer. More details to be worked out, but I think giving him a "signature" murder style, something gruesome and dramatic would fit his twisted need to reclaim his old fame...

Part Three: Pestilence
This part is strange because a lot of the sub-sections of it really dispense with all of the horror atmosphere completely. But most importantly, there isn't really any central, unifying theme or plot thread that runs through all of the scenes. They exist to give the players a wide-reaching effect on the city as far as saving people from the plague, but none are actually connected. There's vampires...but they don't really do anything or tie to any large vampire plot in the city. There's wererats...but they don't really connect anywhere and just happen to be a colony of rats that exists to be killed. Carowyn Manor is a great set-piece...but it isn't a link in a chain that leads anywhere. These are the issues I want to fix.


  • The Hungry Dead (Vampires in Racker's Alley)
  • The Color of Death (Dismantling Lavender's scam)
  • Plague Rats (Colony of Wererats in the sewers)
  • The Direption (Diving with hags)
  • Carowyn Manor (Zombie nobles)

I want to find a unifying storyline that leads continuously from the initial outbreak of the disease right through to the Urgathoa temple at the end, ideally one that the players don't realize they're tangled in until the end. This is where I'll do a lot of tinkering.

Ideas:
-The disease was created by the cult of Urgathoa, meaning they're going to be the central pillar of the trail the players follow. This is majorly where I'm having trouble coming up with ideas.

-I know somewhere along the line I want to hint at Urgathoa's presence in the city. I want to do this by basically running a modified version of Carrion Hill, a horror-themed module where an invisible monster tears through buildings and leaves crushed and mangled bodies in it's wake. It's got lunatic asylums, murder, and plenty of horror. I plan on re-writing this so that the monster featured is one of the Leukodaemons, the pestilence demons the Urgathoa cult summoned and contained to create the disease, having escaped containment and gone on a rampage through a wealthy part of the city.

-One of my players has a sick mother resting in a small church of Sarenrae, with a younger brother lost somewhere in the city. I am still
unsure as to how I want to handle this, but anywhere I can make them rescue the brother is something I need to work on.

-I want to extend the Vampire storyline into something much longer and farther reaching. I'll have to comb through my materials for a module that includes vampires as a plot element to see if anything good comes to mind, but I have an idea for a plot thread about Vampire covens mind-slaving citizens to keep them safe from the disease to secure an un-infected food source.

That's all for now, this is just a spitballing post. I'd really love to stimulate some discussion on this topic and hopefully come up with some great ideas to flesh out Book 2.


Oh boy oh boy. I have obviously put off doing this for...a long time now. So I've got quite a bit of writing to do to re-cap where the group is now. So let's dive right in and get this all out of the way. I'm still going to spoiler-text some quick discussions on my thoughts on every session, especially if there's a part I want to elaborate or ask for feedback on.

Session 10
The session began with the party hearing out Cressida on what her intentions were with Devargo, detailing how he's been on her radar for a long time now as a vice-peddler who sticks to his own dark corner of the city and pays his taxes regularly, meaning he doesn't cause enough problems to justify uprooting him and spilling the criminal element he keeps contained back into the streets. However, recently he's been moving more and more of his Shiver, much more than he ever has before, and it seems his fingers are reaching farther into the city every day, moving drugs through various channels all the way down to the Midland District. Knowing he's always been content in his little hole, she wants to know why his production has ramped up so sharply, because there has to be something pushing him past the risk involved. She wants to know his motivations, and if someone is working with him, who that is and why. Her plan involves sending the party in covertly, though how they approach and gain the information is left to them, with no contact with the city guard until they're done.

Understanding their instructions, and clear on the details they need, the party departs from the Citadel, Vencarlo Orsini offering to escort them to Old Korvosa so he can get an opportunity to talk to them and learn more about who they are. The party finds Vencarlo instantly likable, with Shinji quite interested in his sword school, as well as the fact that he seems to support the old King Eodred, and disapprove of the Queen and her rule.

Eventually, after parting ways with Vencarlo, Harrald leads the party to Eel's End to see what they can find. The day seems to fly by quite quickly as the party is almost entirely taken with exploring the pier and it's various houses of vice and entertainment, and after losing some money gambling in the Twin Tiger, and losing some time pulling Harrald out of the Dragon's Breath Corridor, eventually the party spots a group of tough looking men making their way to the unlabeled boat at the end of the pier, with a silver spider painted on the cabin door. On the deck of the boat, they manage to bluff their way past the guard, convincing them that they too are hopeful candidates for Devargo's employ along with the men that just entered, and the party finds themselves being led inside. Once inside the chamber, filled with rowdy thug-types who were drinking and trying to show off with various tests of strength and gambling in front of their host. The odd scene was brought to a head when the party came face to face with Devargo Barvasi himself, the King of Spiders.

Confused at their entrance, considering only one among their number looked at all like he belonged there, Devargo spoke with the party, his intimidating presence putting all of them on edge, commenting on his amusement with their ruse to stand before him. The party told him that they're all outcasts, jobless and willing to do dirty work if it means stable coin, and they hear he's the biggest name in town. The ego-stroking seemed to amuse Devargo, as he demanded they show him just how interested they are, and forced Shinji to play a few rounds of Knivsies for his own amusement.

Thoroughly amused by the attitude of the party, and Shinji's amusing games, Devargo decided that he might actually have some work, the kind he can't just send guards or meat-headed thugs out to do. He informed them that there was a vault recently uncovered deep in the sewers, the path to it only recently opened when an Otyugh burst out of the tunnels and into the streets during the riots a few weeks back. No one has been in it yet, Devargo tells the party, and there's something he wants hidden down there. How the group gets there, and how they get the treasure out of it is entirely up to them, but they're to return what they find to him. With that, Devargo dismisses the party from his chamber, and as they're exiting Finn manages to notice the source of an odd noise he's been hearing in his ear, a small caged Pseudodragon that has been begging for help. Unable to assist at this time, Finn leaves the dragon in the chamber as the party exits.

Session 11
So with the party heading away from Eel's End and making their way almost all the way across the city to the very south of the Midland district, they managed to locate where the Otyugh had burst out of the sewers thanks mostly to the fact that large portions of the area are locked down by the Grand Lodge of the Pathfinders. More specifically, it seems like Devargo isn't the only one who heard of the secret vault, and the groups that are either staking out or making attempts at entering the sewers in order to find it. One of the captains informs them that apparently the vault belonged to a woman, a Pathfinder, who was run out of town years ago after being labeled a fugitive. The problem currently seems to be that the sewers are an ancient and winding in all directions, and no one has managed to find a clear path.

With the rest of their evening spend scouting the landscape and trying to find a nearby sewer entrance that hasn't been covered by a Pathfinder scout already, the party finds a man down one alleyway nearby who tells them he can help find what they're looking for, for a price. With a few platinum pieces changing hands, the stranger gives the party a story about an old service entrance hidden about a quarter mile north behind a shop that is far enough out of the way that it hasn't been scoped by any Pathfinders or, as they learn from the stranger, Cerulean Society expeditions hunting the vault. He hands them a short list of directions that he pulled from old contacts, a simple paper reading:

One turn north
Past the giant rat
Follow the bend
Straight ahead

When the party questions the man on how he knows all this, he simple responds "Let's just say I used to wear the color blue." After following his directions to the shop and doing their best to heed his advice to watch out for Black Oil Alligators and other strange creatures, the party descends into the dank, nasty sewers under Korvosa. Once down in the tunnels, they find a twisting maze of passages that confuse the senses, were it not for the man's guidance. On their way up the north corridor, they find a collapsed section of wall behind which a small grotto has been hollowed out, containing a rotting leather satchel full of crusty parchments, all leaflets or flyers it seems, describing some sort of pro-Taldor propaganda to do with tariffs and taxes. Past that, the party arrives at the end of a tunnel where they run into two men wearing Cerulean Society colors named Pelius and Varris, who seem amicable at first, but extremely nervous. More so when the giant rat statue at the end of the hallway begins to glow, causing the two men to agitate, believing the party has disturbed some sort of rat god. Quick thinking and sharp tongue dissolves the situation and the party talks the men down from attacking, which gets the men to tell the group that they were looking for a way around the Otyugh and got lost trying to escape, but there's a large drain pipe nearby that will take them in the direction they want to go.

After climbing through through the large drain pipe, they continued around "the bend", and found a hypnotic, glowing garden of fungus between them and the path they need to follow. Harrald unfortunately found out the hard way that fungus is often dangerous, and the party ran from the garden, down the tunnel towards their goal.

Discussion:
For anyone wondering, this is an adaption of the Pathfinder Society module The Veteran's Vault. It's pretty straight forwards, with the only obvious change being that the reason they're going in is not part of the module. I also left the Otyugh out here, but I did indicate that it seems there IS one around here, but it's moved away for the moment.

Session 12
The end of the pathway the party had been chasing turned out to be the most dangerous part, as they were exploring the tunnels, and came under fire from small, nearly invisible creatures that seemed to attack from the shadows and scurry off before they could be spotted. They hit one, and it fled into a crack in the wall, after which the party found the door to the sewer vault they had been searching for.

Inside of the vault, they walked through a corridor flanked on both sides by closed and, in some cases, locked doors to small prison-cell-like rooms that all appeared empty. The corridor let out into a much larger room that was decorated and furnished as quite an obvious torture chamber, complete with a rack, an iron maiden, and other devices. Here they found themselves engaged with another tiny creature, this one possessing magic abilities that made it more difficult to contend with. The fight was taxing, especially when the small creature called in it's pet Darkmantle to harass the party as well. Eventually, they smashed the small thing and had a minute to catch their breath.

Once they had time to look around, the party found a pile of notes on the large torture-table of the room, clearly having sat there for many years, as a good number of the pages were destroyed by dripping water. But there was enough to read that the players could glean some information that helped them put together the story they have been on the heels of this whole time. They learned that the letters were written by Fascha Antif-Arah, a renowned Pathfinder many years ago, and that the room that they stood in was the remnants of a cult of Zon-Kuthon that she had helped wipe out, and claimed their base as a place to store her treasures. She was approached by a friend years ago to investigate a break in at the Acadamae that had gone all but untouched by authorities, and in her investigation she came across one single clue, a gold amulet shaped like a three female faces looking in different directions (a Upasunda asura). When she took the amulet to investigate it's origins, she had only managed to learn that it was Vudrani in nature and powerfully magical, before she believes that the owner of the amulet had caught on to her and attempted to silence her. She was caught in between a fleeing criminal and a Hellknight, an event she believes was set up to frame her as a fugitive cleanly, and was forced to flee Korvosa, leaving her wealth and the amulet behind.

The notes conclude with a description of a loose set of floor tiles in one of the cells, behind which the party finds a stash of treasure left by the Pathfinder, which they take and start trekking their way back to the surface.

Discussion:
This is the conclusion of The Veteran's Vault. The major change here is the treasure, and a bit of the story behind the vault. The object they're retrieving is the Vudrani-styled amulet that contains a Third Eye Gem made by Bahor, which are covered in the text box for the item in the book Escape from Old Korvosa, as they feature a lot in the Arkona Manor. It's basically a scry amulet, Bahor can see whatever the gem can see. The text box describes him learning this spell after he traded secrets he stole from the Acadamae, so the break-in there is obviously that event, though it's never played out in CotCT. Bahor, being Devargo's "patron" is using Devargo to get it back, and Devargo is using the players to do it for him, though they have no idea what it is or what it does.

Session 13
After returning to the streets of Korvosa with a pile of riches in tow, the party spends most of their time bringing the items they recovered to various experts to examine, appraise, and sell what they can, before finally making their way to Eel's End to visit the Spider King with the recovered goods.

Once they secured an audience with him, Devargo was quick to take the amulet off the party's hands, informing them that they're welcome to play with whatever else they recover, guessing they had already pawned some of it. After bagging the amulet and having it taken away by one of his guards, Devargo begins outlining the business he needs them focusing on for the next few days.

Devargo informs the party that he has a shipment that needs to make it's way safely into Korvosa, across the bridge from Old Korvosa which is heavily guarded and traffic scrutinized, and they'll have two days to prepare. They return to their current "home base" at The Sticky Mermaid tavern, and spend the evening planning multiple ways to accomplish the job, including buying ale to hide the Shiver barrels among as they transport them by cart, floating the barrels downstream on a boat, or bribing the guards to let them cross unscrutinized.

Session 14
With the time ticking away until they have to pick up the Shiver they are contracted to move, the party buys a few mostly-full ale kegs from some friends and a tavern or two in the area. Once the day arrives, they meet Devargo's crew at one empty dockside alleyway, where they are given a large wagon with two horses, and a few barrels and boxes in the back, along with parchment directing them to a place called "14 Round Sink Rd, South Wall, Northpoint", which they assume is the address. Once the deliverers leave, the party starts loading the cart with their ale kegs, burying the illicit materials as far back as they can, and set off for the bridge.

When they finally arrive at the bridge, they cross about halfway before being stopped by a group of Marines blocking the road, who are trying to hold a perimeter as something is clearly happening at the other end. When the party catches a glimpse of a large fight, overturned wagons, and clouds of dust on the other side of the bridge, they pull the cart to the side and race across to help. What they emerge onto is the scene of a large battle taking place in the middle of major streets, with several overturned heavily-reinforced prison wagons and a host of goblins attacking the Marines, while two Hellknights grapple with a large Ettin, trying to subdue it with spears. The party dives into the fight helping cut down the raging Ettin and many of the Goblins.

However, when the battle is over, they are detained by the Marines who have had backup swoop in,and questioned extensively by the Captain, though they manage to talk themselves through having most of their cargo checked out. They learn from the Captain that the wagons were prisoner transports, on their way to the custody of the Hellknights for imprisonment, when the convoy was attacked by the Ettin and goblins, though the prisoners themselves all escaped in the confusion. They learn the descriptions of various criminals to watch out for; An Ivory-colored Gargoyle, a large Bugbear barbarian, a large male covered in fur who looks like an animal, a Rogue with one eye, and a Hobgoblin with metal studs in his head.

Once the party is released from the custody of their Marines, the players are able to cross into the city and drop their cargo at the listed address, where they are jeered at by some unsavory men who take their cargo delivery and move it somewhere else. The party ends by returning to the nearest inn, one Marshall Kroft has provided funds at, and rests.

Discussion:
I lifted this bit from a Dungeon magazine piece, but I can't remember the name of it right now. But basically I just gave myself some future enemies or villains to play with. The whole escape was organized by the now-insane Victor Saint-Demain, who will no doubt play the role of the Joker some time in Seven Days to the Grave. I like the idea of him being the Joker to Jolistina's Harley. We'll see. We already have Blackjack, so might as well, right?

Session 15
When the party returns to Old Korvosa the next morning, Harrald is given a message by his friend, the barmaid, that was left for him. The note reads:

"What are you doing Madarius? Whatever it is, it can't be good if you're back in the city. Not sure who these allies of yours are, but we should get together again. The usual place."

They are told the letter was left by a short man, with thinning blonde hair, pale skin, and who coughed into a handkerchief. Not sure what the message means, the party leaves and makes their way towards Eel's End, but along the way they encounter two large, thuggish-looking men who seem to be looking for them, and insist very strongly the party come with them. The two men escort the party off their route and towards an abandoned shop well away from where they're traveling, and tell them someone asked for them inside.

Inside the empty shop building, the party sees Devargo, who seems to be just finishing with the process of "interrogating" someone who two men of his held the victim. The person was small, Halfling-sized, and as Devargo began addressing the party, the person was being dragged out the back exit to "the boat", and Harrald immediately recognized the victim's clothing as belonging to his friend Sid "Swarthy" Swarthins.

The party tried to keep their cool, which was difficult for Harrald as he seethed with rage, but they didn't blow their cover as Devargo congratulated them on their success and informed them that he had an immediate job for them. According to him, the Korvosan Guard had recently taken to occupying large portions of the Midland Docks, as they seemed to investigating something there, and Devargo needs those guards gone so he can use the piers himself without being caught. The party was, therefore, to find a way of clearing out the guards, how they did it is up to them. Once his instructions were delivered, Devargo had the party escorted out.

So without wasting much time, the party traveled down to the Midlands where they need only ask locals for the situation to have it clarified that there have been two incidents in the last week of ships being damaged as they attempted to make berth, seemingly by a sudden up-swell of waves and some claims of a whirlpool, and the Guard is on the docks to find the culprit and arrest them, which they did by locking down the whole area.

As they investigate the area, they learn that the only relatively new thing is a shrine to Gozreh someone has collected donations for and constructed on the end of a pier. When they ask about the shrine, they learn no one knows really when it went up, it but it was a few weeks ago, with some reports of a small, cloaked woman who came at night to attach pieces to it, within the last two weeks.

During their investigation, the party is led by a man into an alleyway on pretense of being one of the captains of the damaged ships, but instead turns into an ambush, where they are attacked by thugs. Among the attackers is a Half-Orc who is called Krell, and seems to think one among them is someone named "Madarius". During the fight, Krell is injured and manages to flee, but the party holds one of the conscious thugs for questioning. From him, they learn that Madarius is somehow connected to someone named Gregor, who they had an address for across the district, and Krell was hired to capture Madarius. The party followed the address to the house, where they found an empty building with no furnishings save a desk, a chair, and a bed. On the chair was a note addressed to Madarius saying

"Blue Ox, back alley, sunset, leave friends behind"

With this information in hand, Harrald reluctantly decided to stay and go to the Blue Ox alone to meet with the person who left the note, who seems to think he is Madarius. The rest of the party decides to wait at the docks by the Shrine to Gozreh, and as they hoped, the cloaked woman has arrived to come tend to the shrine. However, the woman spots the party as she's making her way up the pier and instantly turns and runs, and the party scramble to give chase. At the same time, across town, four men who entered the bar and waited together very quietly make their way out the door after a younger, slender man, which Harrald took as a queue and followed the group out, turning down the first alleyway only to find himself surrounded by thugs as he faced the young man in simple robes waiting for him.

Discussion:
This is, of course, a fast-and-loose interpretation of the old 3.5 module "Daggers At Midnight", which follows the same basic plot of a player being confused for someone else and embroiled in their crime. The woman on the dock is connected to Madarius in a way you'll see, and so really the players are working on the same problem even though they split up. The only major change is that I always intended the actual "culprit" of that adventure to end up as a sympathetic character who I hope the party will turn around, as this will be the first other worshiper of Gozreh that Finn the Cleric has ever met in Korvosa.

There's more coming, of course. We've played up to session 22, so there's a lot more story to read through!


Here is how the Fishery works (using the room numbers for navigation):

The important thing is you need to pretend that the lower floor (A13 and 14) don't EXACTLY line up with the upper floor (A4, A5, A6, and A7), but rather you need to kind of pretend they're offset a bit due to the ground sloping down towards the water under the upper floor.

A8 10 feet below A4/5/6/7, and A13 is 5 feet or so below that, level-wise.

There are not two boats. There is one boat, and what you see in the first map (A9 and 10) is the deck of the boat, while A11 is below-deck, the floor of which is about level with the water, and level with the plank walkway (A12) is also level with the water, so 5 feet below the floor of A8.

The only entry point to the walkway is via the boat, which is entered by going all the way around the walkway outside (A3) and entering from the deck. There is no way to A12 and the doorway to Gaedren from inside, save by jumping through that square hole in the floor in A8, into the water 5 feet below, and then climbing up onto the walkway.


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I don't want to create a whole extended quest before and after the Old Fishery. The reason is that while I can probably write a plot, I'm just terrible at creating creatures, and calculating CRs and all those things, so that's the area where I'm most likely to make serious mistakes and ruining things.

All of the content I sourced for my introduction plotline comes from published sources, with the statblocks for every NPC and enemy already in place. d20PFSRD has a huge page of pre-made statblocks for every type of enemy you could ever possibly need in your game, from a level 1 thug to a high level Wizard Lord. But really, you don't even need any of that. What does an enemy's statblock really mean, especially when that's information that players will never see? Many, many DMs have found it's much more successful to run combats without ever referencing stats for enemies at all. Decide on what would be an adequate challenge level, and then have the enemies conform to that by taking as many hits as you think are required for the enemy to die at a point where it's not running too long, but not too easy either. No player is ever going to complain if the level 1 thug they're fighting takes an extra hit to go down because you want the fight to run a round or two longer.

Don't stress about it so much. If it's building combat encounters that's keeping you from running what you think would be a much better story for the players, then don't run the encounters. Make them roleplay events that allow the players to talk their way through.

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Gaedren manages to escape or is captured alive
Quote:
If the PCs manage to kill Gaedren despite my best efforts,

This is some advice that I have learned over a very long time DMing, and I feel like you're going to learn it when you run this game, so you might as well hear it now:

Never plan for an NPC's death/escape as a part of the story. It doesn't matter how much set-up you do, it doesn't matter how hard you try and push events to an outcome, when you make part of the plot reliant on an NPC being captured alive or escaping, you can almost certainly guarantee that he's gonna die in combat instead. Plans that require a very specific outcome are not a good way to DM.

Instead, don't even think about the outcome. Don't make ANY plans for Gaedren living or dying. They don't matter right now, because what matters right now is that he's alive in the universe and as far as he knows he's going to stay that way. Roll with what happens. If you think the NPC would try to escape in combat, that's fine, but let whatever the players decide the outcome to be, happen. Use that to shape what comes next.

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In any casy, when Zellara talks to the PCs at the beginning she is more interested in capturing him than in having him killed.

Do remember that Zellara is dead. She's a ghost, and it's Gaedren who killed her. She may be a nice woman, but what exactly is she going to do with him alive?

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As for the traits, I figured I only had to worry about the ones the players choose. Here's what I have so far.

I really am not sure I like what you're trying to do with the traits. They just don't make a lot of sense from a game perspective. I'll try and explain why;

First, I think you've oversold Gaedren to your players. He's a small cog in the wheel of the city, and even though his cruel acts have all touched the players in some way, and in a significant enough quantity that it shaped the rest of the PC's life since then, I am firmly in the camp of belief that PCs shouldn't come into the game with Gaedren on their mind. Hell, they shouldn't even come into the game expecting that they'll be dealing with Gaedren at all, or any time soon. Because the more you sell that to them, the more it rushes the intro segment and causes the rest of the plot to be massively disconnected.

When a character comes into CoCT, Gaedren should be the last thing on their mind. A thing that happened to them, and was horrible for what it is, but far enough in the past that they have had to move on and create an actual life for themselves in the city despite their past tragedy. If your players arrive session 1 with a PC who's thought process is "Man I hate Gaedren, I need to go find Gaedren", it creates a 1-dimensional character who's motivation for everything is going to vanish as soon as the guy dies.

Rather, have them make characters who exist as a part of the city and have their own lives and desires and thoughts, while the events with Gaedren bubble in the background, something they haven't thought about in a long time, so when you introduce Zellara, that's the first time they've even thought about Gaedren in a while, and their past trauma is rekindled.


Your questions are very good ones, because they are issues that most of us (myself very much included) had to learn about the adventure path simply by running it, rather than having a reference to other DMs who have tried to solve these problems.

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My biggest issue so far is with Gaedren Lamm and the background traits. The whole Old Fishery thing is over in a minute or two and never mentioned again, and no resolution is provided for the background traits.

You're right. My solution to this problem, as it tends to be with a lot of story problems in APs, was to write more. Pad out the beginning of the game so that what is written as one session of walking to the Fishery, beating up some thugs, and then taking out Gaedren, is instead played as an actual investigation, that requires the players to actually hit the streets and find out just where exactly Gaedren is and how they can get to him, all the while learning about the horrible things he's done in his life and they can really internalize their reasons for hating him and wanting him dead.

You hit the nail on the head about it being over too quickly, because what that does is it doesn't allow the players to get into the mindset of their character and find their motivation for hunting him. So stretch it out, give it time. You can read HERE and HERE about how some people on this board (myself included) worked to stretch out the intro, and what content we chose to add to make it into a coherent narrative. You may want to do things differently, though, that's up to you.

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Does a framed PC manage to clear their name, and if so, to go back to his college or temple? Does a PC with the Missing Child find said child? If I know my players, they are going to want closure for these things.

This is entirely up to you and the player, and is one of the reasons you need to get comfortable with writing your own content, even if you're running a pre-written module or AP. By default, the books don't cover this, as they make no assumptions that a player will take the trait at all, or that they will care to have it resolved. You should talk to your player about that and find out whether they want to resolve this plotline as a character arc, and if so, how. This is entirely in your hands, but it is their character and their story, so it's always good to get an idea of what the player has in mind for their story arc so you can try and play it out. If they want to have nothing to do with their family, and you shove a family reunion into the game, they might not enjoy it.

Ask them, find out what they want, and then write things into the campaign that let it play out. This is what the DM's job is.

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I know it's my job as a GM to introduce these things in the campaign, but I don't know how and when it's appropiate.

No one can really answer this but you. Try and think of your campaign as a novel or a movie, and think of what's going on at any given time. You have the option of unloading all the drama early on, and then having the rest of the time to focus on the campaign plot, or you can stretch the player arcs over a long time, and weave them in and out of the narrative of the campaign. There really is no "appropriate" time, it's whenever you think it is most impactful. You could have the "Missing Sibling" trait player find his sibling shortly after he kills Gaedren, sure. But maybe that means you're throwing away the opportunity to use that sibling at a later point in the story. Maybe they show up later allied with an enemy? Who knows, it's up to you. You need to do what you think will be the coolest plot for the players, but HOW and WHEN is completely in your hands.

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I can't think of any way of giving a PC closure if they pick any of these traits

This is why you ask the players. Remember, the PCs are not just faceless grey stones moving through a campaign world, they're as much a living part of the story as anything else. Always be thinking in terms of a character arc. The best analogy I can make is Luke Skywalker; At the beginning of the movie, he's a wimpy kid who whines about things. Soon after, he's orphaned when his aunt and uncle die, and this gives him a reason to leave with Obi Wan. Fast forward to the end of the movie, and he's a confident pilot flying a space ship to take down the Death Star. What caused the change in personality? A character arc. A set of events in the story that forced him to face new situations and affected his ideas and opinions about the world.

PCs go through this too. Your players are coming into the game knowing nothing other than that Gaedren did them wrong in the past. They don't know what will happen in the campaign. It's these unknown events that are going to challenge their outlook and affect their priorities. Maybe a Drug Addict uses his habit as a way of coping with the craziness unfolding around him. Maybe by late in the campaign, he's been given a job working for the Guard or the Marines and is saving the city, and doesn't need his drugs anymore because he found a new purpose in life. But remember, it's the players that should be involved in this, not just you. Try coming back to them every few sessions, and asking them how they feel about their character, and how they see the events unfolding affecting that character. It's very possible that the story arc they plan out at level 1, will have been so altered by the events they player has seen that their priorities and their desire for the character's story has changed significantly.


This is tough to answer, because "as written", I find a lot of APs have huge flaws.

I'd say the one that just grabbed me by the junk and kept me perpetually intrigued throughout the entire run had to be Crimson Throne. From the opening twist with Zellara which leaves any group saying "Wait, WHAT?!", to it's complex cast of political intrigue and opportunities for expansion, to the awesome horror scenes riddled throughout, it's just awesome.

Trailing shortly behind is Jade Regent, the best sequel to Burnt Offerings/Skinsaw Murders there is, and an awesome thematic exploration of player-favorite NPCs and settings.

Lowest on the list, I'd have to put Carrion Crown, for it's abysmal failure to be anything even remotely horror-esque.


As our next session looms, it's time once again to recount the events as they unfold.

Session 9
After attempting to bash down the gate and alerting the man on the other side, the players jumped into combat mode. Harrald climbed the fence to unlock the gate as the man rushed inside to alert the occupants. The party followed, Harrald running after him and catching a large wooden mallet to the gut from a big man hiding in the shadow near the door. The original man hid behind a water vat, firing crossbow bolts at the entering party, before retreating unseen down the hall. The big guard with the mallet fought hard, but a viscious stab from Shinji after parrying a blow sent him to the ground to bleed out. The party pursued the rest through the butchery, with Balthur catching a surprise sword attack as he tried to chase the fleeing crossbowman. The man with the sword got the opportunity to yell up the stairs that they were being "raided by guards" before Harrald pummeled him into unconsciousness. Balthur tripped the fleeing crossbowman, mercilessly bringing his axe down on the man as he tried to crawl away.

After the violent conflict was over, Harrald still pumping with adrenaline rounded up the bodies and hung them from meathooks while Shinji and Balthur went upstairs. There, they found a locked door behind which a lone man seemed to be, and Balthur kicked it in. The man was ready with a spear, but quick talking from Shinji helped defuse what could have ended badly. Shinji and the man talked at length, learning that the man was Verik Vancaskerkin and that the men they killed were his friends, guardsmen he had taken with him in hopes of leading a revolution to make the city a better place. He seemed to have no idea about the heists at all, going as far as claiming that he didn't believe his men could be involved, which the party accepted since there was no sign of the stolen goods at the butchery. He vaguely referred to someone who had fanned his desire into a fire and encouraged him to desert, but he would not give a name. Eventually, with the party assembled, they decided that his request for freedom was worth honoring, and let him go and disappear into the city. When he left, they turned over the room, finding a stack of papers that seemed to be vague journal entries from Verik, man referring to a woman, and musing on "her plan" and how it's not really a bad plan to give out free meat to the citizens, or how he wasn't sure why she was so interested in it, as well as how he was worried the guards might come for them.

With morning coming, the party ventured back to Citadel Volshenyek to meet with Cressida Kroft, who they shared their findings and recounted how they believe that the criminals were dealt with. Marshall Kroft thanked them and brought the party to her office where she introduced them to the famous Vencarlo Orsini, and began detailing what she needs them for.

Discussion:

So this session was really mostly by-the-book-ish. I obviously pared away the "human meat" thing, and I did a little foreshadowing of the Arkona influence, but that will bloom later. I'm quite pleased with the way some of the stuff was improv'd, I just sort of played Verik up as having no idea about the heists because I felt like it would be interesting to make him sympathetic rather than straight criminal. Rather, he was the initial person enflamed by the Arkonas, but it was the less-scrupulous and more manipulatable thugs under him that the Arkonas, via the Raktavarna, worked over to do the heisting, all under Verik's nose. Since they let Verik go, it sets up basically exactly the same situation we ran into with Orik back in Runelords, where they let him go and he came back later as an ally. So I hope to find a good place to have him show up in the future.

Outside of that, we're moving into Eel's End, which may be tricky. I've re-written Kroft's monologue so that her reason for sending the party to Devargo is because recently Shiver has hit the streets extra hard, especially making it's way across the bridge into Korvosa proper, and while this wouldn't normally be a top priority, Kroft has reason to suspect something is driving Devargo to ramp up production and distribution, and she wants to know what. So the party will be going in essentially "undercover", meeting with Devargo personally and hopefully earning his trust enough to learn information. I have not figured out what it is yet, but somehow the Arkonas are the major source of his new expansion, attempting to establish inroads so their new super-Shiver can take hold more easily.

This is where we're opening, so hopefully something interesting can play out here.


Didn't get to write up our last session due to work, so here it is before Friday rolls around again.

Session 8
We start this excursion with the party waking up and spending some time reflecting on what's happened to them (mostly to fill in Finn's player, who was absent), but also to put everything in contrast. They have been conscripted by the guard, and want to help make their city a better place in what ways they can, and the first task they've been asked to work on is a robbery in the North Point district. Setting off towards the address they were given, they found the broken-into warehouse on St. Alika's Way, cordoned off by a few city guards, with an officer standing by waiting for them to arrive. He informed them of the situation, specifically that the warehouse had bit hit two days prior during the riots, that the primary entry seems to have been a broken window, after which the bay doors were opened from the inside, and that the only thing the thieves seemed to be after was three large barrels of alchohest, a relatively useless and mostly inert substance which is used in the binding of chemicals during alchemy. According to the warehouse owner, this particular set of barrels had arrived two days prior to the theft, and was set to be delivered to the Acadamae, as the school has a regular order for alchohest to be delivered every month for their various needs. The shipment was stalled due to the riots causing the Acadamae to shut their doors. There were other crates broken into, but all signs point to them being opened at random, with only minor trinkets of no particular note taken from some, and others left once the contents were seen to be worthless, so it seems the thieves spent a few minutes trying to pillage a handful of whatever they could while grabbing the barrels they were after.

The party asked a few questions, namely about the area around the warehouse, learning the barrels appear to have been loaded onto a cart before vanishing, and inspected the scene on their own. Finding nothing of note, they were about to leave when Shinji noticed a what appeared to be an unusual footprint-like depression next to an iron gutter-drain pipe from the roof. On a hunch, he suggested Harrald climb the pipe, which appeared to be sturdy enough, and see what he could find. Once on the roof, Harrald noticed that there were two large air vents leading into the building, but didn't climb in to investigate. On his way back from them, he spotted what seemed to be a scrap of paper stuck on a brick. When he picked it up, he found that the parchment scrap had a note scrawled on it:

"52 SAW, Weal, 3 barrel
112 1st, Fire, 2 box
Meat house, wait"

Bringing the note down to the party, they collectively realized that the note is clearly referencing days of the week, and it was presently Fireday, two days prior being Wealday. When the realization that the second robbery was happening today dawned on them, the party took off quickly, making their way as fast as they could to 1st Street in the north of the district, where they hoped to catch the criminals in time.

Arriving at the location, they found what seems to be a storefront which has had it's front window smashed in, inside most of the shelves and merchandise has been torn through or toppled over. Splitting up so Finn went to check to see if their was a back door, Shinji, Harrald, and Balthur went in the front, creeping through the dilapidated shop and finding it dark and empty. Finn found a back door hanging ajar and entered it, at the same time Harrald walking through the door leading to the back room. Inside, the party found the storage room mostly untouched, with the only thing missing seeming to be a large gap on one of the storage shelves, which from the name on the shelf section they determined to be something called Hag's Blood.

Realizing they had arrived a little too late, the party left the scene. Finding a place to discuss their next move, they stopped at a small tavern, talking with the owner about what the atmosphere has been like. The conversation drifted to food, with the bartender remarking about how hard it has been for many families and businesses with no way to get basics like meat. Shinji seemed especially interested in purchasing some for himself, though in fact it was an effort on his part to solve the note's line about a "meat house" involved in the plans, being told that most of the slaughterhouses are either shut down or have starting gouging their prices to ridiculous levels. Still, pressing, Shinji got a list of the few butchers in the area; All the World's Meat, which has been closed for a while, Hearty Pig Farms, which has been cranking up it's prices as supply dwindled, and The Chopping Block, which was attempting to function but can't keep up with demand. It was the closed All The World's Meat that the players focused on, asking around the area a bit and finding out that it had in fact been open, taken over by a group called the Cow Hammer Boys, who had taken on the task of supplying the district with free meat.

Intrigued by this concept, the players went to visit the place, seeing the line of desperate citizens waiting for a handout, while some players took the time to scout the building. Eventually when nightfall had come and the crowd had dispersed, Harrald had attempted to venture around the back, climbing the wood log fence to see inside, but only able to see animal pens. He did jump over the fence, attempting to loosen the chains locking the gate from the inside, so he could get in later if necessary, but the noise alerted someone in the building, who spooked Harrald when he yelled to see if it was someone named "Parns". Harrald jumped back over the fence and left, reporting to the group, who decided that it was time to ingress, and all followed him down the alley. When they got their, the noise of them walking down (mostly Balthur's heavy armor) caused the man on the other side of the fence to tell them to "Piss off, if they want meat they need to come back tomorrow like the rest.", but Harrald was having none of it and decided it was time to rage and smash the door down. Unfortunately, his kick was a bit misplaced and the door didn't quite smash inwards as he expected, but the act did send the man within on guard, meaning a fight was about to happen. And that's where we left off.

Discussion:

So like I said, I think I may have fumbled the riots, I certainly can imagine them running more gracefully, and certainly the very short 'investigation' into the Cow Hammer Boys could have been dragged out, but working 7 days a week now I don't really have much time to plan these things out, and when I run them off the cuff they tend to be more abrupt than I'd like. Either way, I think I got one good moment out of it, which was the moment the players realized that another robbery was in progress not far from where they were.

Either way, it's one session fabricated out of basically nothing, so not all bad. A few notes here being first, I don't plan on using the "human meat" thing from the books, as I really don't see a point to it. I mean, I'm all for macabre, but this is just a weird tidbit that I don't think adds anything. I'll probably excise the mercenary bit too, I think it's enough to just have them be worked over by powers they don't comprehend. I figure it's enough to have the Raktavarna be influencing Verik and giving him his orders via the Suggestion spell, itself being driven psychically by one of the Arkonas. The second thing is, I kinda don't know what to do with Verik. Like, I managed to pull Orik back in after he vanished in Runelords, but I'd like to re-task Verik later if I can. We'll have to see how combat plays out. If he dies, it might be cool to revive him as an undead or something, but if he lives then I might have it be a running theme of evil Vancaskerkins turning and helping the party later.

Other than that...really looking to do some writing for Eel's End, I should have some great setups there. But what I'm really looking forwards to is giving the players some "down time", because I have a few little side things I want to do around the city to engage the group, one of them involving a female Cleric of Gozreh, probably the only one Finn will ever meet, and she happens to be an enemy who I'm hoping he takes a shine to and converts.

Really, if anyone has any ideas for or knows any little modules that work in an urban setting or might fit, I'd love to know about them so I can pillage ideas from them.

As always, thanks for reading.


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This actually presents a great opportunity to use what I'm gonna be doing with Devargo, which is pair him up with the Arkona family.

Basically, things work like this: Gaedren has been buying Shiver in bulk for the last few months, secretly working on a special, more addictive version of the drug to make him lots of money. The players killed him, but only after he'd finished a version of the recipe.

The Arkona family, in their plotting, desires to overthrow the government, and so they see the drugs circulating Old Korvosa as a tool to help this by making the populace compliant (ironically, a plan Ileosa will mirror in book 2), so they acquire the recipe in secret. In order to get the plan moving, they strike a deal with Devargo, the Spider King as he's known, who in my game is one of the larger Shiver producers in the city. It can be a deal for whatever you want, but the Arkonas have money and influence, and seeming immunity to the law or even control over it, and Devargo has the drug-distributing infrastructure.

So the Arkonas, through Vimanda, incited a few guardsmen to rebel and act as puppets, patsies the Arkonas used to steal the ingredients needed to manufacture the drug during the riots (You can still use Verik and the All the World's Meat as normal, just have the players get there by investigating the heists), which would put the Arkonas in position to execute their plan.

Now, in your case, all this stuff is in the past, and Devargo is already dealt with(ish), but the concept is the same. Have him join with the Arkonas, who should already be keeping tabs on the party, and use their combined resources to have him enact revenge on them.

He could convince the Arkonas to exert some influence to frame the PCs for a major crime. See the players try and fight their way out of an arrest and indictment for something they didn't do, especially when the justice system has been rigged by money.


I didn't get a chance with my work schedule to write up our last session before the most recent, so I'll get it done now. I kinda feel like I may have rushed the pace of the event here as a whole, but that may have been due to may lack of free time to do much planning thanks to work.

Session 7
The players awoke the next day to find criers in the street, bells ringing, and citizens and workers heading in the direction of Domina Square at the Castle. All taken by surprise, they asked around and discovered that the King had died sometime in the night. It was mid-morning by the time the group had collected themselves together, and looking around, they could see there was smoke rising from somewhere in the city and the military was out in force. At first, they decided to visit the Deserted Bagpipe Tavern, Shinji's only real home, and talked with the owner who had locked himself in, the party intending to wait out whatever coming storm had been unleashed. But very quickly, the group decided that they couldn't just sit around while the city raged around them, they needed information and they had friends out there that might be in trouble. So, they stepped out of the inn and onto the streets that, by this time, were in full riot mode.

Crowds of people were moving down main roads, clashing with troops of City Guard and even Hellknights here and there, beating down rowdy citizens who had broken a shop window or tried to force their way towards the Castle. On the way to the Castle, the party encountered a rowdy group of citizens in the process of assaulting a young man. Harrald had intended to do nothing, but seeing the young man about to be bludgeoned, Shinji quickly stepped in and with very clever wording and some luck, managed to convince the crowd of rough workmen that rather than smashing the skull of one young kid, they'd probably be better shoving the guards out of the way and taking their anger straight to the nobles in the Castle. Apparently, they saw sense in roughing up some more prominent figures and took off, the young man's life saved. Grateful, he left the party with a small coin pouch and then ran off to his home where it was considerably safer.

After that, the party emerged near Domina Square, where the scene was very much the Hellknights playing the roll of riot police, beating down and dispersing the waxing and waning crowd of citizens there in a full on brawl at the foot of the pyramid. Being that this was where the greatest damage and swell of citizens was, this appeared to be the epicenter of the riot. Briefly trying to wade in and crack some heads, Harrald had to be dragged away from the brawl before he got too carried away, as the group decided there was nothing there for them. They needed to stay away from the crowds if possible.

Still considering hunting for the disgraced Inquisitor, the group briefly ventured north into the more wealthy area, where further north the streets got more trashed, but also quieter as the crowds had moved on. Nothing found here except a crazy old man preaching about Groteus and the End Times.

By this time it was getting late in the day and the party wanted to make sure their friends were ok. Shinji had a friend he had not seen in some time, a gambler who tended to lose any money he had, so they visited a tavern near some of the card dens, a place he would sometimes end up after being kicked out of private games when he lost everything. No friend they found there except one haggard looking Grau Soldado drowning his depression in an otherwise empty tavern. They questioned the state he was in and how he got there, and one Restoration later Grau was awake, explaining to the players how he was just a normal guy who joined the guard to make a difference, but when talk of the queen taking the throne started circulating, some of the people in the ranks began speaking of sedition, revolutionary ideas and all that. They had even encouraged Grau to desert with them, how they could use him when the time comes to rise up and all that. Grau had apparently refused, but the offer had sent him into a spiraling depression that the riots outside only hammered home. With his mind cleared and feeling better, Grau told them he would return to the Citadel and try and make amends, hoping that he'd see the party again.

With that, it was late and the party decided the safest place to be would ironically be Harrald's crash in Old Korvosa. Even though by this time most of the streets were quiet, the military having violently stamped out most of the riots, it still wasn't safe. So the night was passed in Old Korvosa.

Come the next morning, the streets were mostly empty, with the fraction of the city's normal traffic and bustle moving somberly as an uneasy tension hung in the air. Deciding that this was as good a time as any, the players decided it was time to return the Brooch to the Castle.

After making their way there and being brought before the Watch Captain to explain their situation, the group was giving a heavily armed escort up the ramp to the Castle, where they were led inside and met Sabina Merrin, who brought them before Queen Ileosa. The queen went through her normal speech, about how thankful she was and the city needed heroes, "requesting" that they accept her escort to Citadel Volshyenek to assist the City Guard in these troubling times, and then she was gone. Sabina handed the players the silver chest full of gold ingots as their payment, and then arranged for an armed escort to the Citadel, where they would report to Field Marshal Kroft for their new jobs. Shinji was personally very interested in words with Sabina, but she did not have any interest in dignifying him with a response.

Surrounded by more nervous-looking guards, the party was brought to the Citadel, directly to the office of Marshal Kroft, who they found to be amicable and pleasant, despite her haggard state. She thanked them for agreeing to serve, discussed how the city needed strong people willing to help pull it back from the edge, and they could make that difference. The first, she told them, was with robberies that had taken place. She had been informed that some deserting Guardsmen had apparently banded together, and she had pieced together that they planned on using the riots as cover for something, but she did not know what, until now. There was a breaking at a small imports warehouse in the Northgate district, and the players were to report directly there the following day and help secure and investigate the crime scene.

The party left the Citadel with many questions buzzing around their heads, and went to their home inn hoping to wake up tomorrow with a new future in store for all of them.


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So I was going to post a long write-up of my notes and the bits of writing I did to explain the flow of the events happening next, but I feel it's better to just do the session recap instead.

Session 6
The party emerged from Gaedren's warehouse relieved of the burden of their past and ready to start fresh. The first thing the players decided to do was split up, with Harrald and Finn heading north to seek out Harrald's dealer contact Sid "Swarthy" to discuss selling the drugs stolen from Devargo. They discovered Sid was holed up in a tenement building in full paranoid-mode, telling Harrald that the activity at the Docks, the Fishery, and even the Warehouse had sent waves through the criminal community, and things were about to get very unsafe, very quickly. He dropped lines about this all coming right when the streets are getting ready to erupt over the Queen, and how it wasn't safe for them out there. Eventually, Harrald promised Sid a cut of the profit if he could help them move the drugs, taking a sample and promising to try and discreetly shop it around.

While they were off doing that, the other two, Shinji and Balthur made their rest at the local tavern where Shinji has worked as a bouncer for a few years, the Deserted Bagpipe. Not a lot happened here, other than the dwarven owner, Therdrous Bonebraid giving Balthur a bit of a test in the form of a mug of Wyrm's Breath Bitter, a green and fizzy, bitter ale that causes nausea and noxious belching that can sicken and deafen people exposed to it. Luckily, Balthur has a cast iron stomach, and was able to survive the ale, though he decided against a second mug. Eventually, they were rejoined by Harrald and Finn and the group exchanged the local information they had received and planned their next move.

Their next move, it turns out, was to try and unload some of their newly acquired treasure, and hopefully make nice with the shopkeepers who will inevitably be supplying them in the future. So naturally they made their way the next morning to the Gold Market. The flea market itself held little of interest for the party, themselves not much interested in the wide array of foods for sale. But behind the temporary stalls and shops of the market square, the Gold Market is ringed by a row of permanent structures, some of which fit the bill exactly. The first place they decided to visit was Gemshare Jewelers, a high-end jewelry shop that specializes in buying and selling gemstones. After haggling away a few pieces of treasure (the crown, the scrimshaw, the Succubi figurine), Shinji brought out the Royal Brooch, which Darin Jelenko the shopkeeper recognized very quickly. He informed Shinji that the brooch was, in fact, the one stolen from the Queen's jeweler, and he had no interest in purchasing stolen goods, much less risking his shop and reputation over a 1200 gold bounty. The bounty of course got Shinji's attention, and he pried about it, learning that the brooch was reported stolen about two months ago when the jeweler tasked with repairing it was robbed. By itself, not a noteworthy story, but the public took great interest in the drama of this tale because after a month of a public reward posted and no return of the brooch, an (in)famous Investigator announced he would succeed in the task. Well known for his huge ego and braggadocio, as well as his ability to apparently solve any unsolvable case he applies himself to, this turned out to be the one that got the best of him, and he failed in the task. Apparently the shame was too much for him, and he fled the public eye shortly. As Shinji left the shop, money for the other goods in hand, he nervously informed the party that they were in deeper danger than they knew, as they had now become embroiled in royal matters.

The party did visit a few other shops, Slicing Dicers, a weapon store, Hedge Wizardry, a magic shop where Harrald ignored the warning of the owner and stepped on a pile of invisible walking sticks, but nothing came of it other than unloading some more minor items. The rest of the session consisted of Shinji and the others asking various questions around the market, gathering information about what was going on in the city. Harrald did much the same, though his information came from an old and unfortunate friend, a Watch Captain in the guard who took pity on him due to a friendship with Harrald's father in the past. Both sides pretty much managed to put together that as the news of the King's failing health raced across the city, many people were finding the implications of that to be something they were not happy with, and many were doing more than just loudly protesting in taverns, workers were taking to the streets and even visiting Domina Square to demand answers. No one quite knows what's going to happen, but Sable Company marines are already taking to the sky in case someone inevitably does something stupid.

And with that information acquired and shared, the group ended the night, deciding that trying to get to the castle to claim a bounty on jewelery is not the safest idea right now. The headed off for the night, unsure of what will happen next.

Discussion Time:

So I was going to post my notes for this session before I ran it, but work has been kicking my ass and I didn't get a chance to write up everything I wanted to write. Nonetheless, the session did stay within the bounds of my notes, which means I'm keeping the group paced as I'd like them. Basically, this session was necessary to set the atmosphere in Korvosa, to give everything that tinge of edginess. Of course, my players are one of those rare groups who, given the chance, will spend an entire session talking to shopkeepers, so once they start that I know I can keep them stationary for the time I need.

There was a bit of narrative you might not recognize, and that was me introducing Victor Saint-Demain, the antagonist from the Dungeon Magazine adventure "Chimes at Midnight" set in Eberron. Obviously I won't be using much or any of that actual adventure, but as I was flipping through issues looking for interesting things, I couldn't resist the braggert-investigator-turned-crazed-villain, and I really wanted to do something with him later. So, I threw him into the Brooch storyline simply to up the stakes a bit and set him up for my players. As it stands, he'll return at some point in the story, a criminal mastermind using his incredible skills to seek vengeance on those who wronged him. Of course, the players won't know this until they stop his plans! A shame too, because Shinji's player seemed very keen on hunting him down and having HIM be the one to return the brooch, to restore his honor and, if things go wrong, be the one taking the fall and not the party.

Of course, it all comes crashing down next week when the King officially dies and riots begin. I actually wrote an interesting little bit where the players are going to encounter Grau early on in the riots, and he's going to give them some cryptic foreshadowing clues about how he was offered work by Verik, and though he turned it down, it was part of the reason he ended up in the booze.

That's all I've got for now, I'm still more than happy to workshop riot events, future happenings, or plot connections, as I'll need to get to all of it eventually.

As always, thanks for reading and I hope you guys are enjoying the read as much as I'm enjoying running it.


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I had actually considered exactly that while at work today, so I guess it must be a good idea, though my concern is turning Devargo into some huge criminal player that seems be the center of a whole lot. But I guess promoting him a bit up the criminal totem pole solves a few problems with the narrative.

The way I see it, there's three basic issues to work out with this course of events. First, is to determine what exactly his sway over Verik is, what he's offered the rogue Guards to keep them in line, and of course what it is that they're doing for him that would put them on the radar.

The thing is, there's a weird set-up where the major authorities (Ileosa and Kroft)send the party to stop the rogue Guards, but at the time don't make any indication that they know about or care about Devargo at that moment. So the question is, is the instigation here "Devargo is using deserting Guardsmen to do bad stuff", or is it "Deserting Guardsmen are doing bad stuff, investigate and find out who's behind it"? Personally, I think the latter is the more obvious choice, for the general investigation and all that good stuff.

So what exactly are the Rogue Guards doing? Like I said, I'd like to stay away from the drugs thing, at least for now, because I have plans for Shiver and all that in other places. I think I like the idea of a heist, the Guards using their uniforms and the fact that security is thin all over the city to steal from wealthy traders and stuff. I think this might work because it sort of fuels a little web of connections that is forming in my head; We've got the leader of the Guards, Vancaskerkin, being manipulated by the Arkona girl, and if we stack the totem-pole in the most logical way, it's most likely that Devargo too is being manipulated by more powerful Arkonas, who allow him to operate in Old Korvosa and probably help him out in exchange for...something, I haven't decided yet.

So since the Arkonas are at the top, they would have Devargo use his influence over the Rogue Guards to get them to knock over very specific locations, probably locations very particular to business rivals the Arkonas want to exploit the chaos to take out of the picture, because they're all about the business and acquiring commercial power. I figure if nothing else, this is setting the pieces up long-term for the Arkonas to hit Korvosa as a major force, taking over lots of stuff, but I haven't written that segment yet, nor know where I'd put it. This is actually detailed in the part about Verik, with the Arkonas desiring to topple the monarchy and install their own puppet government, so I'd love to do more with that.

Ok, so Rogue Guards running heists on businesses and trade warehouses, snatching valuable goods, works of art, and other things. How do we break that down into a way the players can engage with it? I think the most likely would be "Crime Scene > Investigate > Catch In The Act > Raid Home Base" in a basic structure that has the players running behind the group for a bit before finally catching up to them. And it allows me to use a smaller group of Guards, enough to have a chunk of them be captured/killed in combat before the players hit World's Meat to encounter Verik, and I don't really have to do anything special to that scene population-wise.

So the other thing to figure out is, what is Devargo's influence over them? What did he offer them as a method of keeping them in line? The book says that Vimanda contacted him and convinced him to take some followers, leave the Guard, and do the Meat thing. But since we're ratcheting up the stakes and moving them on to real, hardcore crime rather than just gouging prices on meat, they will probably need more hefty urging. I dunno, this is one issue I feel kind of stuck on.

Writing it out, I think I can place most of the major details, but I wouldn't mind hearing about anything I may have missed while spitballing all of this.


I don't really mind Ileosa being the one that insigates the investigation into Verik and his troupe of runaways, as I think that having her drop the lead and then point the group to Kroft to get them set up "officially" doesn't really change a whole lot, except maybe to sell the players on Ileosa being their ally, which I'm always a fan of.

Obviously I want them to experience the whole snooping detective stuff, but to write that I bump into the major problem of what it is exactly that Verik and his band are up to, such that they would be decentralized and able to be encountered in smaller groups around town.

Like, the book establishes that they're rebels and seditionists, which is fine and all, but I can't seem to discern a real goal they have. What exactly are they doing other than "spreading" the attitude that guards should leave their posts? That's what I need to fix.

Obviously, the Arkonas could be running them, that hook is already teed up, but nothing comes of it. Maybe the Arkona family has been priming this one guy Verik for a while, and with the riots decided to put him to use securing neighborhoods in the Midlands and North Point for...Arkona things? I don't really know what they Arkona family would actually want to do here. I guess they could be in the drug business, but I don't want the party to encounter drugs every single place they go, so I'd like to avoid that.

I don't know if I'd want to introduce Blackjack. I certainly may, but not this early. That's a reveal that I don't want to jump the gun on just because of the impact it could have. But I certainly may name-drop him, likely from some badguy deserter Guards, sort of like criminals talking about how they're worried Batman might show up, while another says "Yeah right, that can't happen."

As for the last question; The basic answer, I'd kinda like to do everything with it. I'd like it to be a nice little commentary on the state of affairs and mentalities in Korvosa, but also have it not just be a little one-shot in-and-out-and-forgotten deal for the players. I want to make every scene something that they could at least have a reason to remember, all building on to a larger narrative. It's a case of me seeing the written content and saying "Yeah, this is a cool scene, but it's too short, and it's length prevents it from actually developing any interesting moments" and choosing to fix it by padding it out and giving the intended vignette the framing it needs to really have the punch it should.


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That's pretty cool to hear, I always appreciate people liking my methods enough to steal them, as I've certainly acquired most of them via other DMs, so the more you can pick details up from all over the place and roll them together into a better whole, the more you can pass on to future DMs.

As for starting a new game, I heartily recommend getting every player a PDF copy of the Guide to Korvosa and having them read it. We know how heavily this game depends on investment in the setting, and having them talking the slang and knowing which parts of which districts mean what is the best thing you can have coming into CoCT. The more they buy Korvosa as not just a campaign setting, but a home for their PCs, the more they want to save it.

On another note, I've not actually had time to do much writing for the next sections of the book, so I'm sitting here puzzling about how I want to run All The World's Meat and what I want to do here, so I'm hoping to solicit some ideas.

The setup as-written is pretty straightforwards, Ileosa refers the players to Kroft, who enlists them while dealing with the riots, and sends them after Vancaskerkin who is instilling rebellion among some guards. Party goes in, fights three guys, comes out.

What I'm thinking off the bat is that I want to do more here, specifically with the rebellious guards. It's a problem that is never really addressed in the book and is assumed to be over once Verik is in custody. But I think that creeping tendrils of sedition and the threat of a guard coup in the middle of riots incited by lack of faith in the Queen is a tense and interesting set-piece to play with. One of my players already has a contact in the guard, who I was really just going to use to do the Grau Soldado thing, but if I tee up Grau and the PC's contact, I may be able to leverage them into a resource to help the players hunt down a troupe of more than 3 rogue guardsmen.

The only problem is I'm drawing a blank as to how I want to do it. Obviously Verik is at the head of things, but I'm not sure how to lead the players to him, while rounding up rebelling guards along the way. Expand on the "meat" business? That seems a bit harsh. I don't know, I need ideas here.


I may have missed something here, but how exactly do you manage four sessions in the span of 4 hours?


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And so we return for the final session of the "Gaedren Saga", with the players squaring off against the man they've been hunting for these past weeks, and the final realizations of bigger things that they've become a part a part of leaving them unsure what happens next.

Session 5
After spending the next day regrouping after going their separate ways following the altercation on the docks, the party sat down to discuss their situation. The most pressing concern for all of them was that they were now in possession of a sizable amount of Shiver belonging to someone calling himself the Spider King, who they could only assume was a significant player and one they certainly had to worry about. They reasoned that their best course of action to keep themselves safe was to, if possible, return the drugs and thus not invoke any more ire than they already had.

Outside of that, they had finally honed in on Gaedren, and this demanded their attention at present. Following their standard tactic of scouting out their target location and infiltrating at night, they proceeded to spend the rest of the day trying to locate the warehouse they had only seen from a distance. Eventually they found the location and staked it out for the rest of the evening. I'll save the details of this part, they are largely unimportant and just a lot of local flavor and describing the geography of the location. Once the sun had set and they were convinced that no one had gone in or out, the party maneuvered their way around the back of the warehouse, where they found three large wooden loading-bay doors. Some straining and strength checks later, they had lifted one of the doors on it's metal tracks and found their way inside.

After exploring what appeared to be a long-disused warehouse full of forgotten trade goods and mountains of crates was quickly disrupted as Gaedren began taunting the party from the shadows. With wheezing laughter and shouts of "Whoever sent you, you're already too late!" and other cryptic messages, Lamm led the party into the darkness where he taunted that he was not alone. This was immediately followed by Harald the Urban Barbarian being caught off-guard by a loud crashing sound as Gaedren's new "pet", a Young Basilisk (liberated from one of the Arkona's exotic creature cages) barreled into him and knocked him backwards, proceeding to tear into Harald with it's jaws.

The group had sort of split up in this warehouse before that point, so the crashing sound that got all their attention forced many PCs to run around in near-total darkenss to help. Sensing his advantage, Gaedren even used the opportunity to slip from the darkenss and land a sneak attack on Harrald, taunting him a bit before slipping back into the shadows. The fight raged for a bit, with Shinji the Ronin using his sword to inflict some wounds on the Basilisk and keep it at bay while Harrald fell to Gaedren's taunt and chased him into the darkness, where the two dueled. Eventually, Balthur the Fighter managed to join Harrald, and together helped Harrald grapple and eventually pin Gaedren to the ground, but not before taking a knife to the leg (critically). After that, Balthur turned his attention to the other two and the monster.

It was at this stage of the fight, with Shinji and Finn attempting to hold off the Basilisk that it glared with it's burning vision and turned Shinji to stone, while giving way to it's wounds and scrambling back up the mountain of crates it came from. Balthur gave chase. While that was going on, Harrald succumbed to the overpowering rage at Gaedren, and while pinning him, forced him to ingest a total of three full vials of Shiver taken from Devargo's shipment. Gaedren began convulsing and went unconscious.

Eventually, Balthur cornered the injured beast and with Harrald's help, they slew it. The party then spent the next while puzzling over what happened to Shinji, and whether he was dead or what they could do for him, none of them having any ideas or success in figuring out what to do. Unfortunately for Finn, who had encouraged the group to try and take Gaedren alive so he could question the crimelord about his lost brother, Gaedren had succumbed to the Shiver and was dead.

Balthur put his hand on Shinji's stone shoulder to say goodbye to him, and it was only through dumb luck that most of his body and clothing had been covered in the blood of the Baslisk he just slew, as Basilisk blood is the only cure for a petrified victim. Seeing the effect of the blood on Stone Shinji, they proceeded to use the monster's corpse to paint the Ronin in blood hastily to revive him, and Shinji was returned to life, albeit very confused.

After taking stock of their surroundings, the party decided to investigate the rest of the warehouse, well aware that part of it where they fought had been turned into a makeshift bedroom by Gaedren. The contents of the room were the same ones written for the Fishery, meaning that they found his trunk of "treasures", including the damaged Royal Brooch, and more importantly, they found a pile of junk among which sat the fly-covered hatbox containing the dessicated head of their former benefactor, Zellara.

Before they had a chance to finish puzzling over the sight, they were greeted by the apparition of Zellara, this time taking no precautions to hide her magical nature, and was more than happy to admit to being dead, as well as apologizing for her deceit, necessary though it was. She informed the PCs that while it was true that she had brought them together to bring down Gaedren, he was only the catalyst, for it was the Fates that guide the Harrow that had truly chosen them, and she believed that they were brought to answer the ill omens that she has seen in her readings. While she could not say what this impending Eclipse was, the Harrow seemed to indicate that it is a great evil, The Tyrant, and that whatever it is it has already been set in motion somehow.

The hatbox also contained a small bit of foreshadowing, a little note from Gaedren reading "Here, a gift. Make a pretty one. -Lamm". The room also contained two separate books a small one which seems to be a coded transaction ledger, and a larger one which seems to be some sort of journal, filled with everything from rants and scribblings, names and places, transaction details, and various other things, all kept in disarray as Gaedren tends to do. They have not had time to make sense of any of it yet.

And so that's where we ended our session, with the party leaving the Warehouse, Finn insisting on giving what little of Zellara's body they had a water burial, even though she didn't seem to mind not being buried much. Zellara's Harrow deck in hand, and urged on by her promise that as long as they hold on to her deck, she will always be there with them and will do everything she can to make sure they are made whole, the party strode into the city contemplating what was next for them.

Discussion:
So like I said, this brings the "Gaedren" chapter to a close, but obviously there's enough hooks in the group tugging them in different directions that they're not necessarily lacking things to do, though most of what they have in mind is what I had hoped, which is time spent identifying their loot and seeking information while trying to not make a stir as to draw Devargo's attention to them.

The important thing to note is that while there have been rumblings about the aging King and the unfit Queen, King Eodred is not dead yet. In fact, he won't actually be "officially" dead until about a day or so down the line, and it's only after that when the atmosphere in the city starts heating up and eventually comes to a boiling point.

What I'd really like to do is keep the party occupied with mundane things, forcing them to move around the city and see it turn into the powderkeg of civil unrest, until things eventually come to a head and finally explodes, which will either force the players into hiding or into the midst of things. I've got a "script" for all of this, but I'll be playing a lot of it by ear, using bits as I need them, and letting the group fill in the rest.

The next major "chapter" is going be All The World's Meat. I haven't decided how or if I need to change anything here, but I like the setpiece enough to keep it mostly in-tact. It fits the general "underworld" themes we have going on, and obviously I don't want to pass up an opportunity to foreshadow the Arkonas. Also, it may just be my devious side, but I can never resist the chance to put an object like the Raktavarna in the hands of the players. I know it's something they'll just forget about or ignore, and I love having the intelligent object use subterfuge to remain hidden while spying on them. Even if they players never know it's there, the little assurance in my mind that a BBEG somewhere knows exactly what the party is doing at any given minute gives me giggles of joy.

Again, if you're reading, thanks for sticking with me. I'm really enjoying the places this campaign is going, and I look forward to testing out some new ideas soon.


As a DM, personally tailored treasure is never something I want to do. It always feels hackneyed, and no player I know would do anything other than groan at finding the exact exotic weapon or perfectly-crafted magical item to cover their exact needs, hidden away in a vault that has nothing to do with them.

So when I write treasure, it's all about telling the story. Creating interesting pieces of loot that fit the narrative of the person who crafted and put them in the vault, and then handing them to the players to figure out how to incorporate those items into their adventure.

The minute a player finds a treasure crafted specifically for them, it tells them that the DM is there to pick things off their wishlist, and I don't think that ever ends well.


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So I neglected to make a post for our last sessions, so I'll dump them both here. My players are drawing closer to the end of their story with Gaedren, but things are a bit complicated (as they always are with me), and the plot is always thickening.

Before I recap, I should give a big shout-out to Inspectre, who's thread I've been reading and details of which I couldn't help but crib because they were pretty awesome.

Session 3
So here the party began in the midst of the Fishery, with Giggles the half-orc bled to death on the ground and the other thug beaten unconscious in a corner. They combed the building over, finding various documents and details about the fish business, realizing that on the surface, it seems to be somewhat legitimate, if not scummy. The obviously found themselves in the odd position of having to deal with the small herd of Little Lamms who were a combination of shocked, terrified, and confused at what happened. None of the PCs being particularly good at talking to children, this wasn't an easy task. However, some strange actions by the children and talking later, a few decided to leave with Finn, led by one of their number. However, when Finn turned his back, the leading child pulled a knife from his clothes and attempted to drop the Cleric from behind, only just saved by Balthur the Dwarf noticing in time and yelling a warning.

When faced directly, the players realized the child was not a child, but rather a disguised Gnome, Hookshanks, and Finn retaliated by using his domain power to knock Hookshanks backwards through the hole in the floor to the river below. The Gnome caught himself on the ledge, but Shinji immediately followed up with a strike right through his collar that killed the Gnome instantly, sending him tumbling into the water below, and unfortunately taking Shinji's sword with him.

One emotional reaction later, Shinji had dove straight in after his favorite sword, sinking to the bottom to attempt to retrieve it. Finn reacted too, diving in after Shinji to save him. Balthur, left a bit confused, could only attempt to grab one of the children's hammocks to help pull them out of the water, but in his distracted state, the Little Lamms all fled the building.

Sword in hand4, Shinji was pulled to the surface and the two were helped up, but not before noticing the under-structure of the Fishery, the secret walkway at water level. They decided they needed to get there, and the only way was through the boat. Some time later, Balthur in his extremely heavy armor had broken through the walkway on the side of the building, and decided it was best if he stay behind, while Shinji and Finn carefully went ahead, though it didn't save Shinji from falling through the rotted deck of the boat in his own turn. After swatting away some large spiders, the two investigated as best as they could, eventually finding the clues that led them to discover the secret door. Making their way along the under-pier, they barged into the room under the Fishery where Yargin was hiding.

Even though Yargin was across the room with a wand pointed at Shinji, the swashbuckler managed to keep his calm and engage the man without attacking, reasoning with him that all they wanted was Gaedren, and Yargin could walk away and hide, surviving to see another day. The peaceful engagement worked, and Yargin told them all he knew, that Gaedren is in hiding somewhere and sends special crates of shiver to the Fishery to be sold, and to do it he has to maintain a supply of raw shiver from somewhere. He told them that while he doesn't know where Gaedren is, he knows that his shipment is being picked up on the docks the following evening, and all they need to do is take a prisoner, intercept the shipment, or follow it to find out where it's going.

With the players holding their next clue, the session ended as they planned on how they were going to proceed.

Discussion:
There isn't actually much to go over here. This is where some of the new additions I thought were cool start to show up. The shiver that Gaedren buys comes from Devargo, who you'll see gets foreshadowed in the next session, and he's buying it to cook his own brand of shiver. I didn't go with a special magical domination variety, but as the party hasn't found any of Gaedren's shiver yet, they don't know what he's cooking. It's going to be a more powerful version, ab bit like crack was to cocaine, and they'll find his lab in the Warehouse with him as a clue in to how he's infused this new brand of shiver into the community, which I hope to spin into some sort of side-thing later. Not sure where I'm gonna go with it.

Outside of that, the players didn't really get any loot from the "boss room" of the Fishery, so I'm just moving everything from there to Gaedren's new digs in the Warehouse. Also, I planned on having Gobblegut be in the fight, Yargin taking care of him in place of Gaedren, but as that fight never happened, I got to keep the "bad guy's pet" aspect for Gaeden. I gave him a Young-template Basilisk, a companion he found caged in the abandoned Arkona warehouse.

Anyway, more to come in the next session post.

Session 4
So with the players locked in on their path to Gaedren, and a day to kill in town, they decided to spend the time gathering some local information. They scouted out the pier they were going to ambush the drop-off, and took in the surrounding area and some local flavor, learning that a lot of the warehouses and piers in the area go unused or abandoned. Some of this, the locals think, is due to major trade powers like the Arkonas pulling their money out and spending it elsewhere, but some of it also comes from the ailing king's weakening control over things. There were also floating rumors, local young women going missing, no news from Castle Hill in quite some time, and even people claiming Hellknights were flooding the streets, though that's not really true. But sorting out what is important and what is just rumor is something the players need to do for themselves.

Anyway, after they did some investigating of the pier, finding out that it doesn't seem to be operational at the moment, which is why the existance of a lower water-level deck area for mooring small rowboats, complete with recently-wet rope was a bit out of place, and led to the PCs concluding that they must be arriving by boat.

When nightfall came, the party hid themselves, watching two men wheel a small wagon onto the pier and start unloading crates as Finn spotted a lantern moving in from the river. Rather than waiting for the drop to happen, the players attempted to engage the two men, a failed bluff causing the situation to go bad. One of the men dropped the name of The Spider King to try and scare the players off, but the bait wasn't taken and combat ensued. One death later, the other man attempted to run, but was caught and questioned at swordpoint, also offered the opportunity to live if he gave them Gaedren. This man, working for Devargo, didn't know anything about Gaedren's location, only that the "Old Man" was buying shiver in large quantities and no one's seen him for months. However, he also didn't know Devargo, even by name, only ever refering to him as "The Spider King", as I wanted to save that puzzle piece for later.

The person in the boat never made it to the pier, the fight scaring them off, and the party proceeded to split, Balthur and Harald securing the shiver crates and bringing them to Balthur's blacksmith shop, and Shinji and Finn doing their best to follow the boat from the shore. They couldn't follow it completely, but they could see down the river where it appeared to dock at a pier jutting off from a boarded up warehouse...

Discussion:
Again, not a ton to go over here. I'm not generally the kind to turn my campaigns into a spiderweb of plot threads where every bit that crops up turns out to be someone or something the players meet later on, it always feel too coincidence-y to me. However, having Devargo foreshadowed without his name being given is an interesting bit, I think, because it seemed to give the players the idea that there are, in fact, more criminal players in Korvosa, and this one pays his taxes too, and that it may be someone they have to square off against later. Devargo will mark the second criminal the players have to choose to work with despite their distaste or outright animosity towards, which I like a lot.

Like I said, the Warehouse Gaedren is in is the Arkona warehouse, which turns into the Hospice in Seven Days. I like it because it shows a bit of evolution in the city, now it's a boarded-up, forgotten storage where a criminal can hide and work uninterrupted, with obvious doors and stairs that the players can't get to, and later it's a place seemingly given new purpose in the midst of a plague.

I've worked out the slow-burn style of progression into anarchy that's going to happen when Gaedren is dead, the foreshadowed connection to Rolth, and I'm currently working on how the players will deal with the Splithog Pauper and their deal.

Anyway, that's what's been going on the last 2 weeks. Thanks for keeping up if you are, I'm looking forwards to seeing what happens next.


My concerns mirror Latrecis. Putting Nualia on public trial in a game in general is iffy from a gameplay perspective, but having Ironbriar physically evil it up and try and spring her would be so incredibly dangerous for his cover that it's never something he would do.

Scrap the whole "Ameiko on trial" thing. It's just generally not a good idea, and I can only see it playing as a head-scratcher where NPCs are intentionally stupid for the sake of the plot, and I doubt your players will see it differently. No one likes to play the part of having to point out obvious truths and story inconsistencies to NPCs who have to be played as dense morons just so the scene can happen.

But let's move on, I could pick this little bit of oddity apart all day, but I don't want to do that.

Quote:
That being said, is there anywhere that talks about suggestions for modifying Skinsaw Murders?

Why yes, yes there is!

http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2rzhy?Skinsaw-Murders-extra-content-and-campaig n

This is my thread (which has now sunk low in the forums), and I don't want to toot my own horn by claiming anything in there is perfect, but it's my attempt to re-mix The Skinsaw Murders to fit the taste of myself and my party. There's a lot of content in there, and we discuss and workshop a lot of ideas, all of which you can peruse and see which work for you, but I'll discuss my basic philosophy for TSSM and what I've learned running it:

1. Re-arranging Aldern Foxglove's story and the Misgivings Manor to the end of the book.

Spoiler:
I maintain foremost that The Skinsaw Murders is not a story about Ironbriar and the Skinsaw Cult. I mean, it is about them, but that's just the plot, it's not the "story". The real story of TSSM happens within the framework of the Skinsaw Cult's/Xanesha's activities, and it is the story of the fall of Aldern Foxglove. Your mileage may vary depending on how strongly your players connected to him, but if they cared about him even the slightest bit, the real bang of the book comes from his story. To model this idea, we simply re-arrange things so Aldern's story comes at the end of the book rather than being resolved in the middle, allowing it to wrap everything up with a bow and end on the most emotional note, which can be a great thing after a book filled with horror.

2. Overhaul Ironbriar's role in the plot to make him more present, and thus the player's eventual conflict with him make some sense.

Spoiler:
This one has some difference of opinion I've found, and I'm happy to concede that I'm not necessarily the absolute authority here. But obviously Ironbriar's character as-written comes out of nowhere, twirls his mustache, and then just kind of dies with no real chance to develop as a character. So to fix this, we need to introduce him early and keep him around. Remember that he's a prominent authority figure in Magnimar, a very smart man, and working for a woman who has far-reaching plans. He should be able to string the PCs along for a while, convincing them he's a good guy. I had him employ the PCs, using them to help him in subtle ways that to them just seemed like normal bounty hunting and stuff. Over time, they learned the truth, but all the while he was working in the background to make the plot move. When the players eventually fight him, I want him to feel like a real villain, one that they feel played them for fools, and so it gives the encounter real personal stakes. The best resource I found for transitioning into that is to run Dawn of the Scarlet Sun adventure in between Book 1 and Book 2. It has some great characters and flavor that makes it easy to have players come to Magnimar in Book 2 with connections already in place.

3. (Optional) Sell Xanesha as a real villain.

Spoiler:
I chose to make Xanesha react to the PCs in town with impetus to move forward with her plans. Being that I was melding bits of the Shattered Star AP into my game, having her seek out the Shard of Greed to help fuel Karzoug gave me a way to send the players on a long quest that pitted them against the Skinsaw Cult and eventually Xanesha herself in a place much more interesting than the Shadow Clock. This isn't mandatory, but I am a sucker for adding padding to my games to make them take longer to finish, so it worked for me.

My Runelords game is currently on hold, so I don't have much more to add beyond my writing up through the end of the book, but you can see how I chose to approach things. This way may not necessarily work for you, but I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what any NPC intends to accomplish by any action you make them take, and if that action is logical, both in line with their character and the general logic of the setting, or if it's just something their doing because they need to do something good/evil because they're a good/bad guy.


Unfortunately, no, Paizo has not really done any publishing with respect to any of the Tian-Xia areas.

There is I think one PFS module somewhere in Tian-Xia, but there's not major content that has come out to flesh out the countries since the Gazetteer.

You may want to check out Heroes of the Jade Oath, though. It's got a lot of asian flavor stuff you may want to steal from.


40 sessions and in book 4? Slow down, man! Enjoy the scenery!

We hit session 33 before being forced to shelf the game until a player returns, and we're sill in Magnimar book 2.


Inchoroi wrote:
is it ever explained why they call themselves that, or is it a safe trope that there were originally seven members? Maybe five now, since Vorel died decades ago. That also seems to imply that these individuals are longer-lived than average, so humans might be out completely.

Nope, the origin of the name is never explained. Vorel Foxglove was a human.

Quote:
I can assume its never written up in any books dealing with Cheliax, is it?

I just checked the Cheliax, Empire of Devils companion book, and there does not seem to be any mention of Norgorber or Skinsaw in the book at all. In fact, as far as I can tell, Vyre (the city the cult is said to originate in) does not actually exist on the Cheliax map at all.

If you intend to construct a plot involving the Skinsaw cult that is the Brotherhood of the Seven, you may way to reference the Inner Sea Gods book, as well as mostly similar information in Faiths of Corruption. Since this is an area where information is scarce and will have to be written, you want to make sure you understand the specific details about Norgorber, who he is, his various incarnations and forms of worship, and how and why the Skinsaw aspect of him differs from normal worship, and then from there delve into how and why a coalition of powerful individuals might meet in secret to venerate this particular aspect of the god in the form of murder.


Inchoroi wrote:
Who are the Brothers of the Seven? I know that Justice Ironbriar is one, but who are the others?

Unknown, this is never covered in any sourcebooks. The only information we have is that Justice Ironbriar is the current leader, and that he took over for Vorel Foxglove when Vorel disappeared (he died in the process of attempting to become a Lich in Misgivings Manor's underground). The actual cult of the Brotherhood of the Seven as a branch that broke off from a larger group in Cheliax decades ago and has kind of turned into it's own thing.

Though as the Runelords books seem to indicate, the Brotherhood of the Seven is referred to as some larger entity, seemingly run by some council of important people living double-lives, but when actually engaged it seems to mostly be some random cultists run by Ironbriar, with no other leadership or heirarchy.

If you want to build it up into a much bigger entity, run by a council of actual, powerful people stationed around Magnimar in secret, much like Ironbriar, that is perfectly do-able, it just seems like it would be something that would take a long time to uncover and deal with, and not really just a thing to wrap up at the end of the book.


Inchoroi wrote:
Hm...maybe I misread it. Isn't the Skinsaw cult part of the Cult of Norgorber, more accurately, worshiping him in the guise of Father Skinsaw?

Norgorber has a few different guises, and thus different methods of worship. Most people who give reverence to him do not actually worship him as Father Skinsaw, in fact that's kind of an import from Cheliax. But no, the Skinsaw Cult (the Brotherhood of the Seven is their real name) is it's own entity, and not an implicit part of any other Norgorber worship or cults. Most all Norgorber worship doesn't involve murdering people.

Quote:
Also, I can't remember reading this, but is the Seven's Sawmill the only real Skinsaw cult in Magnimar, or are there other actual Skinsaws in Magnimar? I know killing Xanesha ends the threat...but that seems so trivial that only a dozen or so cultists in the entire city are members of the Skinsaw, and once they're gone, that's it.

Nope. Specifically referenced in the guide Magnimar, City of Monuments is the Brotherhood as "a tightly-knit secret society that worships Norgorber as Father Skinsaw", distinct from the Hidden Cult of Norgorber, a "Master guild of thieves that secretly funds several loosely affiliated gangs in the city above." They are not the same thing at all.

However the Brotherhood of the Seven is the only "Skinsaw cult" in Magnimar, I suppose you could use that wording. Meaning yes, they are the only group who worships Norgorber as Father Skinsaw and murders people for that cause.

Quote:
I should mention that the party has stated on multiple occasions that they want to destroy the Skinsaw cult...both in character and out of character, and while chit-chatting before and after sessions. That's what I'm trying to cater to, anyway.

It might be worthwhile to introduce them to the Hidden Cult of Norgorber specifically so they can learn that Norgorber worship is not like, inherently evil, and while they may be a little morally-ambiguous, not all people who venerate Norgorber are murdering fanatics.

Quote:
I guess what I'm saying is that the Seven's Sawmill as the end of the Skinsaw in Magnimar seems...anticlimactic? Is that the word I'm looking for?

The real ending of Skinsaw Murders was supposed to be the Misgivings Manor, but no one writing the book realized this so they accidentally put it in the middle.


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There are no other canon modules or stories that reference the Skinsaw Cult that I know of.

The Hidden Cult of Norgorber within Magnimar, dedicated to the worship of Norgorber as that "Reaper of Reputation" is led by Staunton Vhane, the Forever Man, who is given in the Magnimar: City of Monuments book as a level Taldan Human 15 Cleric. Not much else is written about him.

Be aware that James Jacobs accidentally used the name Staunton Vhane again in Wrath of the Righteous as a Dwarven NPC, they're not the same person.

As for bringing him down to a place where a level 6~ party can kill him? I wouldn't do it.

EDIT: I feel I should also point out, the Cult of Norgorber is NOT the Skinsaw Cult. They are two different things.


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Thanks for the interest. Gonna move right along with this past Fridays session, where things went about as well as could be expected.

Session 2
The party reviewed the information they had and decided that it would be best to give St. Caspeiran's flophouse at least a pass-by so they can see what they're dealing with, and either approach that night (it was midnight by the time they got there) or in the morning. Well, the place wasn't hard to find, and they discovered what was clearly an old church that had been left to rot for some time. Two stories tall with a bell tower on top, boarded-over windows, and graffiti covering the doors told them they were in the right place. They entered and saw much of what they expected, piles of drug-addicts and homeless people in various catatonic states, either passed out or twitching with Shiver-induced dreams. One or two cogent people caught their eye, but it wasn't long before they realized none had much to say. Soon after, they found themselves greeted face to face by a man calling himself Beltias Kreun, the Splithog Pauper, self-styled leader of the Splithog Alley Paupers, a gang of thieves and cutpurses who hide in plain sight.

Kreun made it clear that he had no intention of starting a fight, his house was one where all those broken by society were welcome, as long as they paid proper respect. He could tell right away that the party were not there for drugs or shelter, so they wanted something. He offered the party a bargain for the information they needed, he puts them on a path to Gaedren Lamm, and in exchange, when the group puts Lamm in the dirt, they return to him with the crime lord's ledger full of contacts, business details, and other information. He made no secret of the fact that killing Lamm would create a power vaccuum and he would like to be the one to snatch some of that. Uneasy, but desperate for the lead, the party accepted the deal.

Kreun pointed the group towards one of Gaedren's old business fronts, the Fishery he used to sell dock dumpling slop to merchants, used as a front for his other activities. Gaedren has gone into hiding, so he's not likely operating this business directly, but it's still operational, and drug pushers still make pick-ups there, so someone in the building must know more.

The party scouted out the Fishery early the next morning, the Cleric investigating around the dock area early while the Fighter knocked on the door later in the day. Together they didn't gather much information, but it was enough that the party decided it was obviously still a front. They waited until nightfall and then assaulted the building, busting in both doors and engaging in combat with a human thug and a half-orc brute. The orc died, but the thug was saved from death by the Cleric as a prisoner.

Our session came to a close as the group had made their way into the building and began looking around, putting together the pieces of what kind of business is done in this old warehouse. Specifically, a business using children.

Discussion:
Obviously, there's not much to explain here. Yargin took over the Fishery business from Gaedren and now runs it himself, employing the same collection of characters as given int the book. Currently, Hookshanks is hiding among the Little Lamms who are in the large workroom, his presence keeping them from fleeing or saying anything to the party for the time being.

Yargin is below where Gaedren was, as he runs the drug operation from there. People who buy and move drugs from him know to enter via the back dock and the ship, which keeps the drug business away from the legit fish business. I'm keeping the alligator too, because why not. The important part is that Zellara's head is NOT here. It's at the Warehouse with Gaedren.

When the players do raid the lower floor, they're going to find a decent sized shipment of Shiver, marked with Devargo's seal. It's not meant to be a direct link for them, but a foreshadowing to another drug-dealing criminal they'll meet shortly after the city falls to chaos.

Anyway, that's all for this week.


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I did it with Rise of the Runelords, so it stands to reason I'd do it with Curse of the Crimson Throne. That is to say, taken on the task of re-writing the campaign in my style, which means more padding, more content to explore character relationships and choices, and more exploring Korvosa and hopefully developing deep and meaningful connections to the people and places within.

Let me start by explaining my experience with CoCT. I've attempted to run this campaign like, 5 times now, all with mixed success. My farthest was level 8~ in book 3, my shortest didn't even make it to session 1. But through all of it, I've always loved CoCT, and I've spent every time polishing my knowledge of the city, and making the way I bring players into the game down to a science. So when my Rise of the Runelords group decided to go on hiatus as one of our original members had to excuse himself to deal with personal stuff, my group decided they were tired of the one-shot modules, and wanted to play something they could really explore characters in, rather than just throwing together a build for whatever level one-shot I can throw together. I, of course took the opportunity to pitch Curse of the Crimson Throne, knowing these guys are fantastic roleplayers, and if they buy into it, we could do great things with this campaign. They bit the hooks, and we went right into it.

Character creation went about as well as it could. All human save one Dwarf, all melee save the Cleric, things are looking good, and I'm excited to play.

So let's look at our dramatis personae:

Harald Frontsman

Spoiler:
Human Urban Invulnerable Rager Barbarian. An orphan born to the streets, blessed with large physique. Grew up taking any job that he could get, though attitude or addiction usually ended them quickly. Pesh addiction caused him to be in debt to Gaedren Lamm, who made him do some thug work, and then abandoned him as a fall guy, sending him to prison for 4 years. His limb saved from removal by an old family friend taking pity, he left prison bitter and angrier than before. He still has a Pesh addiction, and still takes odd jobs as they come, trying to make his way day to day in a city that doesn't much care what happens to him.

Finn Dawley

Spoiler:
Human Cleric of Gozreh. Born to a lower-class family, his father was a merchant who traveled to merchant ports far from Korvosa, and eventually he joined the crew as a young man. Educated by a ship's priest in the worship of Gozreh as an apprentice, he spent the next 4 years constantly traveling, learning the art of magic and healing.When he returned to Korvosa, he found his family gone. After much effort, he tracked down his mother, homeless on the streets, but his younger brother was nowhere to be found. Forced to take a job with the Church of Sarenrae to keep his mother in their hospital, he endeavored to find his brother with no success, other than vague rumors that he had been taken by drugs and folded into those under the sway of Gaedren Lamm. He has since been working his job and hoping for the best.

Balthur Stoutforge

Spoiler:
Dwarf Tower Shield Fighter. The son of a well-respected, but not particularly wealthy smith operating in a cheap shop near the docks. His father was an honest man, but his location caused him to be the constant victim of local crime gangs shaking him down for various protection payments. Eventually, his father couldn't pay the ever-increasing demands by Gaedren Lamm, and was beaten within inches of his life for his troubles. Balthur was forced to take over work in the shop just to survive in Korvosa, and has been trying to avoid the criminal element as much as possible.

Shinji

Spoiler:
Human Ronin Swashbuckler. One of a pair of unfortunate sons born to a female bar wench hopelessly addicted to drugs and in massive debt to local crime lord Gaedren Lamm, his mother gave up both boys in partial payment of her debt. Raised as part of the brigade of Little Lamms, he and his brother did not have an easy childhood. When reaching young adulthood, his brother had developed considerable skill at picking locks, and thus was taken into Gaedren's inner circle while Shinji escaped. Angry and without direction, he took up with a group of sellswords and learned to fight. After becoming convinced that he was too good for that life and deserved more fame, he struck off on his own as a mercenary, bodyguard, or currently a bouncer for a small bar, where he continues to work to keep himself alive in Korvosa.

So this sets the stage for our characters. Aside from these, for CoCT I have every player write me up to 3 NPCs, small characters of their creation whom they have a relationship of some sort with somewhere in the city. Not important people, but enough so that the players can have a minor resource and a familiar face in the sea of strangers Korvosa can be. I won't detail these unless they come up.

And so our party meets. We didn't have much time to play our first session, but we got enough done to set the proper scene.

Session 1
I always open this game by having every player describe what a standard day in the life of their character is, and walking us through the events of that day, because Curse of the Crimson Throne starts on what is otherwise an ordinary day in Korvosa. The only difference is, each character stumbles upon a Harrow card, hidden away in their personal belongings in a place they are sure to find. I've assigned the card, it's picture, and given the text on the back to each player so they can weave it into their narrative. Everyone finishes their description with their player waiting for sunset and then heading to Zellara's house.

When they meet there, there is some uneasiness, maybe even some hostility, but after someone mentions the name Gaedren Lamm, everyone relaxes a bit. They go inside, look around and talk for a bit before Zellara joins them and tells of her need of their help. Of course, everyone is skeptical for their own reasons, but she suggests that she read the group's fortune before they go. You can find my write-up of my Harrow Reading for the group HERE (ignore the bit at the top, it's old). Needless to say, some of the details in the reading resonated a bit personally and the party decided they needed time to plan.

So they left Zellara's and hunkered down at a nearby tavern, talking over what they knew, what resources they had, and where to go next. Knowing that Gaedren cleaned house a few years ago and has gone into hiding, his location unknown to most everyone, the group decides they need to follow the only lead they have, which is drug traffic. Luckily, Harald has a bit of a Pesh problem, and one of his few "friends" is a street-level pusher known as Sid "Swarthy" Swartham, a jumpy little man who is trying to get out of the game. Under a little bit of pressure, he tells Harald that he doesn't know where the product comes from, only where he picks it up, but that his best bet is to check out the old church-turned-flophouse known as St. Caspeiran's, a crash spot for junkies of all types. And so with that lead in hand, the group has a direction.
-----------

So that's where my campaign is kicking off. I'm going to use this section after every write-up to detail some of the major changes I have made, and am planning to make to the story as it goes. So, here;

Chapter One Changes:
So this is probably where I've done my heaviest modifying so far. My initial impression of CoCT when I first read and played it was that it had a fantastic hook in the Zellara-ghost thing that could grab any player, but it stood at odds with what the setting and the campaign were trying to do. Zellara/Gaedren are a completely self-contained story, despite the Player's Guide selling Gaedren as a miserable, despicable criminal who the party should hate, but he's designed to die in the first, maybe second session. Not to mention, as soon as he dies, the city is thrown into chaos. This means that the players will be engaged in what is essentially one dungeon from the beginning of the game until Gaedren's death, and then Korvosa is instantly changed, but they never actually get to SEE it before it goes to waste. This is my central gripe with how it's structured.

So, we fix it. First, we stretch out the intro segment. I give huge credit to Olondir and his thread HERE where ideas were workshopped that I ended up putting into play. My final writing of the chapter sends the group from Zellara's to St. Casperian's, where they engage with Belphais Splithog who offers a trade for information. He "sells" the party the location of the Fishery, which they can raid as they choose. Gaedren is not at the Fishery, but with the right pressure Yargin can betray his status. The actual transition to the Warehouse is a bit awkward currently, having intended to use the dock chase from Mad God's Key, but ending up using that scene for this same group in Runelords, I had to change it. Still haven't figured out how to smooth the path to the Warehouse.

Anyway, Gaedren makes his last stand at the Warehouse (the same one that turns into a Hospice in Seven Days), and Zellara reveals herself to the players. The Queen's Brooch is found, unknowingly, and the players leave unsure of what comes next.

The next bit is one I've been writing, but haven't road-tested yet. When the players emerge from killing Gaedren, I'm not having the city be in riot-mode at all. Rather, everything is still perfectly normal. I want the players to take time trying to appraise/sell their loot, talk about their Gaedren-free future, and contemplate what the Harrow told them, all while rumors of things being not right at the castle spread. Once the players learn that the Brooch belongs to the queen, news will hit the streets like wildfire about the King's death and controversy over the Queen being fit to rule.

I'm going to pepper in specific book-written events on the streets as the city's demeanor changes, while workers and citizens from all over are going to mass in Endarin Square to voice their displeasure, huge numbers of Hellknights called in to keep them down. I actually really want it to be ambiguous as to who hit first, so that no one has a clear story of what exactly started the riots. Someone did something stupid, and panic and chaos take over. The whole rioting thing is going to be a bit of a slow burn, because more than anything I want the players to FEEL like they're in the middle of a city sliding down into chaos.

I don't expect I'll change anything about the meeting with the Queen or Kroft, and I have not yet written anything for All the World's Meat or Eel's End. I'm getting to those now.

So that's my Curse of the Crimson Throne. I hope I can keep this thread going and maybe have some discussion on changes, additions, different use of characters, and ideas people want to see played out. I know my group will be up to the task.


Belegdel wrote:

A quick warning on rumours:

I have to avoid any about monsters, or ghosts, or dungeons, or anything that sounds remotely like an adventure hook, or my group will go straight after it.

This is sort of Checkov's Gun of TTRPGs. Checkov's Plothook, I suppose.

It's sort of a rule every DM learns where anything, no matter how mundane, the DM spends more than a second describing, players will assume is plot-crucial. Worse if it actually sounds important. Meaning yes, if you mention a sighting of the Sandpoint Devil, players WILL start hunting around town for every bit of information on the subject they can find, and when you're forced to tell them the rumors and stories, they WILL decide to slay it, and it WILL derail your plot.

Save yourself the hassle, don't do it.

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