Count Lucinean Galdana

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I'm actually planning to use Academy of Secrets as part of my replacement for History of Ashes (the whole cowboys & Indians theme just doesn't do it for me). In my alternate plot, the party first has to rescue Thousand Bones from Deathhead Vault, where he's been imprisoned as an "enemy of the people". They're hoping he can tell them what was kept hidden by the Shoanti in the ancient mastaba. Unfortunately, he can't, but he knows a Shoanti shaman who possibly can. The bad news is, he's been captured by the Knights of the Nail, and is being held prisoner in Citadel Vraid.

The party journeys to the Citadel and negotiates with Lictor DeVries for the Shoanti's release (I hope to convince them that assaulting the Hellknights' stronghold is a Bad Idea). He agrees on the condition that they retrieve an item for him - something kept in the Hall of Warding in the Acadamae.

This takes us into Academy of Secrets. I'm going to dispense with the whole Breaching Festival thing. Instead they have to steal the key from the headmaster's quarters (yikes!) then use it to get into Belzeragna. The item DeVries wants is his contract with his hellish master, kept by the Contract Devil.

Once they've freed the shaman, he'll lead them into the Cinderlands to commune with the ancestor spirits (no Respect Points shtuff) to get the skinny on Kazavon and Serithial.

Olmac wrote:
Gauldin wrote:

Then go to the Reading tab. Click Shuffle to clear out anything that was leftover from the last reading, then click Draw to randomly draw a new reading. It shows the flavor and interpretative text for each card, as well as the CotCT hints listed in the AP. It also highlights if a card is misaligned, and if it was chosen by one of the characters during the choosing. Each PC's total Harrow Points is updated on the Choosing tab.

Here's the LINK to the file. Hope you find it helpful!

I don't see the shuffle or draw buttons. Am I missing something?

I love the choosing part.

There should be square gray buttons at the top of the Reading tab, right above the cards. Make sure you've switched to the right tab (tabs are listed along the bottom - "Reading" is the first one, "Choosing" is the second).

Harrow deck readings are a big part of this AP, and our group is distributed around the country, so we can't physically "draw" cards. So I created an automated Harrow Deck spreadsheet to handle this. It's an Excel spreadsheet, but hopefully you can get it to work without MS Office (I haven't tested with Google Docs, and don't plan to - sorry).

First go to the Choosing tab, and have each of your players roll a d10 (discarding 10's) to Choose their card. Fill in the number for each PC, and it will populate the card they've drawn and the special bonuses for that book (make sure you update the book number at the top of the sheet).

Then go to the Reading tab. Click Shuffle to clear out anything that was leftover from the last reading, then click Draw to randomly draw a new reading. It shows the flavor and interpretative text for each card, as well as the CotCT hints listed in the AP. It also highlights if a card is misaligned, and if it was chosen by one of the characters during the choosing. Each PC's total Harrow Points is updated on the Choosing tab.

Here's the LINK to the file. Hope you find it helpful!

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Great ideas, everyone. Here's the direction I'm currently leaning:


Neolandus tells the group that Ileosa stole something from the castle's secret vault, but he has no idea what it was. Tales passed down through generations of seneschals tell of some evil the Chelish found when they drove out the Shoanti. Only the Shoanti might know what was there, and what it means for the Queen's new powers. He points them to Thousand Bones, the Shoanti ambassador.

When the party tries to track down Thousand Bones, Cressida Kroft tells them he's been imprisoned as a "foreign undesirable" in Deathhead Vault. She and Bishop D'Bear point them to the secret entrance. Inside, they'll find the Grey Maiden's HQ, but I'm going to remove all the Red Mantis stuff (for later). They rescue Thousand Bones, but he's not that keen on being helpful - he'd be happy just to let all the white men kill each other off. And he really doesn't know what the Shoanti were guarding before the white men came. But he does owe the party a debt, and the person who might know is a Shoanti shaman who's being held prisoner - by the Hellknights at Citadel Vraid.

Hopefully, I can convince the party that a frontal assault on Citadel Vraid is a Very Bad Idea. If they try to negotiate for the shaman's release, Lictor DiViri will meet with them personally. The paranoia of the Citadel's foundations (see "Castles of the Inner Sea") is working on him, and he doesn't trust his own people. He needs the party to obtain a document - a contract, to be precise - that's hidden in the Hall of Wards inside the Acadamae. This will lead into part of Academy of Secrets (no Breaching Festival, but just the demiplane of Belzaragna).

Assuming the party obtains the document in question (held by the Contract Devil), DiViri will release the shaman to the party. He'll also be so pleased, he'll throw in a little extra - the location of the Red Mantis HQ in Korvosa. (The Red Mantis will have been conducting a number of high-profile assassinations in Korvosa, as well as harassing the party.) The party will have a choice between immediately returning the shaman and Thousand Bones to their homeland for the ceremony to commune with their ancestors (to learn what the party needs to know) or first taking care of the Red Mantis. I may still have the Cinderlander attack during the ceremony, depending on how they're doing on the XP track.

Let me know what you think.

Inspectre wrote:

You could instead use the Academy of Secrets modules, as while that module is listed as starting at level 13 most of the challenges are more around 11 or 12, which could be doable by level 9s/10s if you went easy on them/downgraded the opposition some (most of the challenge is from multiple opponents - just subtract some of the devils in a given fight to lower the challenge). Problem with that one is then they're still in Korvosa and what can they get from the Academy that will lead them to Scarwall?


You can also make use of the city of Kaer Maga, which is tragically underutilized in the AP as written. If you go by what's in the Kaer Maga source book "City of Strangers", Kaer Maga is a WEIRD place that will leave your players begging to go back to Korvosa.

If they've gotten along good with Laori in Book 3, they don't even need the Shaoti at all - just get them to meet up with her, have her introduce Shadowcount Sial, and then since they already know about Scarwall they just play tour guide for them once they're ready to go.

I like the suggestion of using Kaer Maga - I've already been thinking they're going to be looking for someplace to unload loot and upgrade equipment, given that Korvosa (a) is still reeling from the plague and (b) has a price on their heads. It's a natural.

I'll have to look at Academy of Secrets. I've always thought it was more than odd that the Acadamae just locks its doors in Book 1 and isn't heard from for the rest of the AP - maybe this will give me a way to explain that.

I know that Laori & Friends pretty much eliminate the need for most of History of Ashes, but I need to replace the XP to get them ready for Scarwall, and do it in a way that feels coherent with the story (which, frankly, HoA doesn't).

I'm prepping to run CotCT, and I really like most of the AP - except for History of Ashes. Its cowboys & Indians theme feels really out of place, and the structure of the chapter is a railroad that I think I'm going to have trouble keeping my party riding.

So I'm looking for alternatives. I've seen other people mention Heroes' Blood; I haven't read the module, but the short synopsis sounds an awful lot like Scarwall Castle, and I don't want the group to get "haunted castle fatigue".

I've also started looking at House on Hook Street and Bloodsworn Vale. HoHS is an especially good fit for the setting of CotCT, but I see a couple of problems. One, yet another mysterious plague right on the heels of Blood Veil sounds like same old, same old. And bumping the module from 6th level to 11/12th would be a LOT of work. I haven't looked much at Bloodsworn Vale yet, but it would have the same leveling issues.

So ... has anyone else done anything like this that just worked brilliantly? Or failed miserably? Or should I just suck it up and play the AP as-written?

It would've taken a LOT of RP XP to make up the difference. Fast Track puts them roughly back where they need to be.

I guess what bugs me is that the AP as written talks about the plague "burning itself out" with only 5000 casualties. But the disease sounds more like a Walking Dead scenario - few survivors and LOTS of dead.

Also, I know that if my party is having to cast Remove Disease on a couple of themselves every day or so, they're going to also wonder how anyone could survive this.

I realized later that CotCT is supposed to use the Fast XP Track, which solves the XP problems in Edge of Anarchy without inserting Portent's Peril (but I'm going to keep it anyway, because I think it helps build the characters' feeling of "belonging" in Korvosa). Now I'm actually worried about them advancing TOO fast for the later books.

Ignore my comment about changing Zeena Foxglove's name. In my head, I got Carowyn Manor from CotCT mixed up with Foxglove Manor from RotRL. In the immortal words of Emily Litella: "Never mind."

I'm confused about how to play Blood Veil in 7DttG. With the Anniversary Edition, there's no Cure line on the disease stats. So it would seem like once you've contracted the disease, it's inevitably fatal unless you get magical healing. You can make your daily Fortitude saves to delay the loss of CON and CHA (although they get progressively harder with each failure), but ultimately you're screwed.

Is this the intent? If so, it would seem like the death toll would be far higher. Assuming that the vast majority of citizens have a Constitution that gives them (at best) a +0 Fort, then every person who is exposed has a 75% chance of contracting the disease, and a 100% chance of dying from it, unless they have the money to buy a cure. Even then, recovery from the disease doesn't confer immunity, so they're just as likely to be exposed and infected again (and again).

It would seem like at the end of the day, they only people left standing would be the 15% of Varisians who have natural immunity.

What am I missing?

I haven't had any issues pulling the maps from the Anniversary Edition PDF. In addition, check out the Community Created Stuff thread - there are some killer maps in there that pretty much take you up to Skeletons of Scarwall.

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I'm struggling with XP in Edge of Anarchy. Unless the party fights their way through Eel's End (which they'd be stupid to do), there's no way they'll have enough XP to be at 4th level by the Dead Warrens, even with some additional riot encounters.

So to add XP, I've decided to do as some others have, and insert the Portent’s Peril module after All the World’s Meat, but with some modifications to make it fit better into CotCT’s scenario:
• Make the instigator of the assassination plot the Arkonas
• Change the target to the Chelish diplomat, Darvayne Gios Amprei, who’s going to show up again shortly
• Change the ethnicity of the apparent assassin to Shoanti
• Change the name of the owner of the Green Market from Foxglove to something else (she seems too nice to be one of the people trying to party through the plague in Foxglove Manor)

Given those changes, the rest of the module should play out pretty much as written. Here's the new introductory backstory:


Vencarlo Orsini is not the only one who has learned that the Chelish diplomant Amprei is preparing to press his government to cut off trade with Korvosa; the Arkonas are also aware of his position. Such a move would hurt their business dealings, and Amprei’s plan to profit from Korvosa’s pain would create a new powerful player in the city’s politics that they’d prefer not to deal with.

The Arkonas don’t see any need to pussyfoot around (no pun intended) with blackmail when straightforward assassination will suffice. However, there’s no reason that Amprei’s assassination should serve only one end. If they can also use his death to provoke a Chelish war against the Shoanti, they believe they would stand to profit handsomely, as Korvosa would be the natural terminus for Chelish supply lines for a war in the Cinderlands.

And so Vimanda Arkona, in her guise of Meliya, approached a Sczarni swindler, Jaelli Goldtooth, who was living in Old Korvosa, and offered her a handsome sum to murder the Chelish diplomat while making it appear that the crime was a political assassination committed by the Shoanti.

In the meantime, as the riots in Korvosa have subsided, a local philanthropist, Sheena Wulfbüt, has begun dispensing food to the city’s starving masses. Her Green Market escaped the unrest almost unscathed, and she feels it’s her duty to give back to her city. When she was handing out vegetables in Old Korvosa, Goldtooth thanked her with a Harrow reading, with the surprise results described in the module.

Sheena is a staunch believer in the Harrow, and has come to Zellara Esmeranda many times in the past to perform readings for her. Disturbed by the appearance of the Yellow Prophet and confused by the meanings of the subsequent cards, she hurries to Zellara’s house, hoping the psychic can tell her what they mean. When she arrives, she finds the party there instead.

FadetoBlack wrote:

That's awesome! Thanks!

I've actually done a bunch of this so far for mine even though we're still in book 1. Is there a good place to share all that?

There's a thread called "Community Created Stuff". It has a lot of great stuff, including some killer maps.

I created a graphic for the Danse Macabre that you can use for virtual tabletop situations. It's here.

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I'm prepping to run CotCT, and I've got a couple of questions about the Shingles chase. The first is logistical: do you think you should lay out all the cards for the chase at the beginning, so the players see them all, or reveal them only as characters encounter them? The latter seems more "realistic", but the former allows players to get more tactical about when to try to move three cards at once.

The second is a question about the DCs. I'm using the new hardcover edition of CotCT, and it seems like some of the cards are just going to be killers for 3rd level characters. Hell, I even tried to run a 10th level character I already had rolled up through it, and he couldn't get past some of them without half a dozen tries. At 3rd level, a DC of 30 is going to be all but impossible, even if you've put ranks in that skill at every level, and even a DC of 25 is going to be really tough. For people who have run this already, what's been your experience?

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Our group is distributed all over the country, and we use a home-brew online tabletop that one of our group created, along with Skype. As a result, I need to have computer images for all the encounters. I couldn't find anything for the Danse Macabre in Scarwall that seemed to fit the bill, so I created one. Here it is, in case anyone else needs one, too:

Danse Macabre

Just starting to prep for CotCT, and I have a question on Scarwall and the spirit anchors. The text suggests that Belshallam in particular would be anxious to flee Scarwall without a fight (or at least a fight to the death) if he could be freed from his spirit anchor. But I don't see anything about how a spirit anchor can be removed other than by killing its subject. Surely something as mundane as a Dispel Magic or Dispel Evil won't work against such a powerful effect? Am I missing something obvious? How have other GMs handled this? Thanks!

I've just finished running Jade Regent with a 7-player party, and am starting to prep for CotCT with the same group. At lower levels, adding a few more bad guys to the mix can help keep it even, but it's more work for the DM, and slows down combat with all the extra rolling. I've found that creative use of templates to bump the monsters up in toughness can both make the encounters more even and add more variety/flavor to the adventure (avoid the "oh crud, yet another pack of bugbears" phenomenon).

At higher levels, I've had success with adding Mythic ranks to the BBEGs. Overall, I think Mythic rules are too overpowered to let the players loose with them, but when the BBEGs suddenly start doing things that the players think aren't possible, it really makes them take notice, and it makes for the kind of challenging final encounters that I think authors of the APs had in mind.

I've also found that the official Paizo CR/APL math doesn't really work as the CRs go up. Generally, above level 3 or 4, the party is more powerful than their APL would suggest, and they'll often tend to breeze through even CR+2 encounters. It's important to keep the XP payout balanced, though, or the problem just gets worse (give them higher-CR encounters, they get more XP, they go up in level sooner than the AP expects, and the delta for future encounters gets worse).

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I'm prepping to run CotCT. Since the Harrow Deck and Harrow readings are a key part of each chapter, I wanted a way to easily use the Harrow deck without buying one (I'm cheap). So I created an Excel spreadsheet that automatically draws a Harrow Reading. Just click the "Draw" button to select nine cards and lay them on the table, then click "Shuffle" to clear everything out for a new reading. Hope others find this useful.


angelroble wrote:

Uploaded my own version of the Abadar Temple, and Artist's Lair


I'm starting to prep to run CotCT, and I'm LOVING the maps you created for this! I'm hoping you finished the rest of Scarwall Castle, and can point me to a link. I got section A from here, and also found your section C on, but I can't find any of the rest of it.

Thanks in advance!

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Our group just completed the Jade Regent. This was our first Pathfinder adventure (after 30+ years of gaming together), and we had a great time. As the DM, I really appreciated the strong storyline from Paizo - I hate hack-n-slash dungeon crawls, and like for the players to have a chance to really develop characters. I kept a blog of our weekly sessions if anyone wants the blow-by-blow. I'll go through a quick summary of what we did with each book, but first some background.

We have a large group - 7 players. So I had to do a lot of modifications to keep the encounters challenging and to make sure everyone had enough XP to level up on schedule. I quickly found that just adding more bad guys made combat really drag out. I ended up making good use of the myriad of templates you can apply to buff monsters - it made the encounters harder but also added some additional flavor. As the party got higher level, I started adding Mythic ranks to the BBEGs - when it's 7 against 1, the economy of action can overwhelm you quickly, but throw in things like Dual Initiative, Sudden Strike, Block Attacks, etc., and it suddenly gets more interesting. In general, I think Mythic is way overpowered for players, but it's perfect for those end-of-level encounters.

We skipped caravan rules (broken) and relationship rules (too mechanical). I also dropped Shalelu from the story. This AP has a ton of NPCs as it is, and I didn't see that she added anything.

Brinewall Legacy
Since this was our first foray into Pathfinder, we started out with We Be Goblins to introduce everyone to the rules. It was perfect as the group approached the Licktoad village - everyone was worried about killing off their former goblin character. The Licktoad attack immediately devolved into a Blackhawk Down scenario, with multiple running street battles between the split-up party and the 2 dozen or so goblins hiding in the buildings. It was one of my fondest memories from the whole AP.

Heading from Sandpoint to Brinewall, we needed more XP. Rather than throw in random encounters, I added a side story based on Ameiko/Sandru's backstory. The party came to a town where the inn was on fire. After putting out the fire, the innkeeper asked the party to go after his daughter, who he claimed had been "kidnapped" by a local boy (neighbors said they'd probably run off together). Turns out the girl had been kidnapped by a necromancer allied with the cannibal clan that had killed Sandru's brother and Ameiko's teenaged love years ago, and the boy had chased after them to try to rescue her. They tracked them to their cavern, rescued the girl (it was too late for her boyfriend), and it was an emotional way for the party to get to know Ameiko and Sandru better.

Brinewall Castle was fun - well designed. Kikonu managed to steal our bard's voice then D-Door away, which made for some fun role playing. The highlight was when our monk tried to do a heroic leap off the cliff to try to grapple the flying Nidenzigo - and missed completely. This was the first of many "deaths" for our poor monk.

Night of Frozen Shadows
Ninjas and vikings - what more could you want? I really liked this module. The detective work part of the module kept the group engaged, and they were really guessing about who was really after them and why (they'd "claimed" the raiders' boat after the attack on the road and sailed it into Kalsgard expecting a reward - ha!). The battle at Asvig's farm was appropriately epic. At Ravenscraeg, our sorcerer (Chaotic Chaotic) ended up facing 5 Tengu ninja on the stairs by himself after the giant wasp paralyzed the figher (and the rest of the party was still arguing among themselves a mile away), but survived.

Frozen Storm
As DM, this was my least favorite module, although the group seemed to like it. As I said, I scrapped the caravan rules, and turned the caravan encounters into real encounters. I mapped the whole trip out ahead of time, deciding when and where they'd have "random" encounters. It took them a full 6 months of travel time to complete the crossing. As others have mentioned, they kept trying to figure out how Katiyana's plot was tied into the Five Storms - which it wasn't. That was a bit of a letdown. I staged an epic battle with a Zombie Horde at Deadman's Dome - I described it in detail in another post on that topic, so I won't repeat it here, but for the first time, the party really thought they had no chance of survival (which is just what you want when they're facing the zombie apocalypse!)

In the Necropolis, Koya died. I had her recognize the dead tree as having formerly been one of the holiest relics in the worship of Desna. She believed that it could be brought back to life if the three clerics of Desna (herself, Spivey, and our party cleric) joined together to channel positive energy around it (literally tree-hugging). When the spectres started emerging, they all focused on Koya, and she sacrificed herself to return the tree to life. Her death really resonated with the players and their characters, and even though the module as a whole was just 'meh' for me, this was one of the high points of the AP.

Forest of Spirits
As others have done, I inserted the Ruby Phoenix Tournament here. I had the Prince kidnap Ameiko and Sandru, and coerce the party into competing in the tournament as Hongal's representatives to win their release. To add pressure to the party, Suishen informed them that the Ruby Phoenix had held an artifact in her vault that would allow Ameiko to control an army of terra cotta warriors when she reached Minkai - but the Prince was insisting that when (not if) the party won, they turn over their prize to him. So they not only had to win the tournament, they had to figure out how to trick the Prince into accepting something other than the prize they claimed from the vault. Our bard and wizard teamed up to con the Prince admirably (they made him think they were giving him a Ring of Resurrection that had kept the Ruby Phoenix alive so long), and the party skipped town before he learned their ruse.

With the XP from the tournament under their belts, I had them skip the upper levels of the House of Withered Blossoms altogether. I can't tell you how sick I was of hobgoblins by the time they finished the lower levels. As everyone else has said, that part of the module is a real slog (I just went back and counted - 15 sessions to get through it!), and it would definitely benefit from a greater variety of enemies. And Munusakaru, despite Mythic ranks, was anti-climatic.

Tide of Honor
Minaki at last! Now things start to roll again. The party enjoyed working the various factions, and as DM I liked the sandbox effect of letting them off the rails to make their own decisions. I gave Kaibuninsho some Mythic Tricskter ranks, and he truly terrified the party. His hit and run attacks had them jumping at every shadow before they finally took him out. They sold his coin to one of the ninja clans for their support, and conned another that they still had the coin, but that its disposition was a decision best made by an empress, not a princess. The Shadow Maze nearly took out several of the party (they were down quite a bit from their encounter with the Dragon Turtles when they started into it) before they figured out the (very) inscrutable clues from O-Sayumi's inro.

The Empty Throne
The module describes having to sneak past the "gates" of Kasai, but the map of Kasai shows no city wall and a wide-open waterfront, so I just had them smuggled into town on a ship, but then they had a free-for-all with the Typhoon Guards inspecting incoming ships. They rescued Hatsue handily, but left Ameiko safely hidden away. The granary proved to be a story problem (see the separate thread about how to steal the MANY tons of rice required to feed a city the size of Kasai) but they solved it by diverting incoming wagons of rice from the countryside to a rebel warehouse after they were already inside the city.

In the Well of Demons, I gave Maemi a different request for the party. Our infernal-bloodline sorcerer's backstory was that he was a minor Chelish noble whose father was secretly a devil (identity unknown). Maemi was in telepathic contact with the sorcerer from the moment he entered the Well, telling him to play along with her plan. Her offer was that she would gladly give Ameiko her blessing - as long as Ameiko would agree to marry the sorcerer! (The devil's plan was to put his offspring on the throne of Minkai, and also be in line for the throne of Cheliax). Ameiko actually reluctantly agreed (I had the whole party roll bluff, diplomacy, or intimidate against the sorcerer's sky-high charisma diplomacy to convince Ameiko one way or the other), but our cleric took exception and launched a pre-emptive strike on Maemi before she could sign the marriage contract. The sorcerer actually sided with Maemi and fought against the party briefly - he later claimed she'd Dominated him, and the others bought it.

At the Palace, the party used D-Door and Gaseous Form to enter the castle towers through the arrow slits, thus bypassing the gauntlet of fights leading up to the gate. (Good thing, too - I don't know if they'd have survived if the spellcasters had depleted their reserves before ever getting inside.) For the final confrontation, I'd given Anamurumon 5 ranks of Mythic Champion, and bumped the others up to max HP. During the fight downstairs in the Kabuki stage, our sorcerer had Dominated one of the Typhoon Guards. Since he was a kuwa oni, the sorcerer had him shapechange to look like Ameiko, and gave Ameiko a Potion of Disguise to look like a Typhoon Guard. The decoy Ameiko came in very handy in the throne room battle. The Jade Regent and his inner circle had heard the noisy battle downstairs, and were waiting for the party. Our cleric strolled in front of the open doorway and immediately was sucked into Renshii Meida's kimono Maze. The Raven Prince was lurking in the hallway with Greater Invisibility, and backstabbed the faux Ameiko. "She" ran away into the throne room, where Anamurumon made her the focus of his Chain Lightning, and then the Jade Regent used a flourish from his blade to finally drop "her". With no healer to help them, the party was hurting as Anamurumon and the Jade Regent started dealing big damage. Luckily our bard had cast Song of Discord and Renshii failed her save, so instead of casting battlefield control or healing spells, she was casting against the fighter battling the Jade Regent. Our sorcerer dropped her, and the cleric reappeared. Our rogue had min/maxed into an obscenely overpowered archer, and had the Daikyu of Commanding Presence, so she was able to dish out huge damage against Anamurumon. She dropped him and the fighter beheaded the Jade Regent (double 20 roll with Suishen) in the same round, and the Raven Prince decided they weren't paying him enough and vanished. Ameiko ascended the Throne, and the future of Minkai was assured.

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This is another area where I don't think the authors really thought this all through. My group hit the granary challenge last week, and took a different approach. I was already prepped with all the stats above (thanks, everyone!), so they knew in advance the volume of rice they'd be dealing with. I also told them that the granary had a double set of Typhoon Guards posted outside (the AP doesn't say anything about external guards, but there's no way the granary wouldn't be guarded against a city full of starving people).

After some noodling on how much they could move with the portable hole, how many D-Doors etc. they could muster, etc., one player asked "With all that rice, and the Jade Regent's troops consuming it, there must be people bringing rice in to replenish it, right?" A quick check on Google showed that rice has a 190 day growing cycle, so there could be two rice crops a year. That meant during the harvest season, there'd be a lot of rice flowing into the city. I rolled a d6 to see what month of the cycle they were currently in: month 6 - harvest!

Assuming the rice comes in at a constant rate through a 30-day harvest, that's ~100,000 kg per day. "How many wagons is that?" they ask. Back to Google, where I learn that a civil war wagon could carry ~3000 lbs. Close enough. That works out to roughly 65 wagons per day carrying rice to the granary. Since it would take ~16,850 kg of rice to feed everyone in Kasai for one day, that would mean ~11 wagon loads of rice. (At this point, our adventure was starting to feel like a series of story problems.)

So ... rather than storming the granary and trying to sneak many tons of rice out before the army arrived, they simply worked with Isao to "divert" 10-12 wagons to an "overflow" granary after they'd already passed the guards at the city gates. They paid the farmers for their rice (Paizo says wheat as a trade good is 1 cp/lb, so assuming the same price for rice, a full wagon would only cost 30 gp), and the farmers went on their way, suspecting nothing. In all likelihood, the people at the Imperial Granary won't even notice the shortfall for several days, giving the players plenty of time to move on to the Imperial Shrine and then storming the Palace.

MANY years ago, I was in an AD&D dungeon that was set in Middle Earth after the War of the Ring. The party was exploring Dol Guldur on some mission or other. About halfway down, we found ourselves at a big pair of double doors made of mithril. Being engineers, we got out our calculators, computed the volume of mithril in said doors, and realized that these doors alone could buy a kingdom! At that point, whatever noble mission we'd been on went out the window, and our sole focus became dragging these doors back to the surface. And a very interesting thing happened: the party that had always been about sharing out loot equally and giving magic items to whoever could make best use of them, suddenly became consumed with greed. If someone got cornered by a pack of orcs, the others' attitude was "one less person to divide the money with". The DM was incredibly frustrated, but the rest of us had a blast. And needless to say, we didn't survive to enjoy that kingdom we planned on buying.

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I ran Dead Man's Dome this past weekend. I've got a 7-player party and threw out caravan combat before we even started, converting all caravan encounters to regular encounters. What with all the NPCs, they've really been a slog to play. The group has had several black monolith encounters already, and didn't find any of the regular undead very challenging (even with buffed up numbers, advanced templates, etc.). So for Dead Man's Dome, I hit them with a Zombie Horde.

The story set-up was per the AP. When the scouts report they're being trailed by undead, the party's reaction was a sigh, eye-roll, and "here we go again". Then they found out it was an ARMY of undead - hundreds at least. That made them start to worry. Ulf pointed everyone to Dead Man's Dome as the only defensible ground for 50 leagues around, and the race was on, driving exhausted yaks for hours on end to try to get there in time. The scouts reported the army was gaining on them, until the scouts stopped coming back (no one thought to send one of the flying PCs back to scout). Meanwhile a blizzard was growing around them, cutting visibility to a few dozen yards, while the sound of maniacal feminine laughter could be heard in the clouds far above.

They reached Dead Man's Dome, and I used the map from the AP. Arranged the wagons in a circle at the top, put Ameiko and Koya in the middle, and waited. The moaning of the wind morphed into the moaning of countless mindless voices, and then the horde appeared out of the snow.

I counted the horde as one creature for XP purposes, but split it into four separate sections (N, S, E, W) with 50 HP each. I'm remote from the rest of the group, so we play on a home-brew virtual tabletop, and I created a really cool graphic for the horde that was something right out of Walking Dead. When the party saw all those undead approaching from all directions, they really did mentally shift into Custer's-Last-Stand mode. The party got one free round of actions as the Horde climbed up the hill, but most of them fired arrows, which ended up having no affect (Horde is half-damage from Piercing weapons, and DR 10/slashing). However, the sorcerer's Empowered Fireball and the cleric's Flame Strike did major damage to two of the four segments.

When the Horde made contact, I played it as follows: The horde advances from all sides at full speed until they engage the perimeter of the party in melee combat. At that point, each side of the horde tries to overwhelm the defense against them. If that side deals more damage in a round than it receives, it moves forward 10'; otherwise it is checked. This gave the party a chance to keep the Horde away from the vulnerable NPCs in the center while fighting them off (although Ameiko charged out to engage as soon as the Horde made contact).

Despite the fact that a Zombie Horde is a CR14 encounter, and that I nearly doubled its total HP, it wasn't much of a fight. The horde did do some significant damage as it overran the party's position, but between Fireballs, Flame Strikes, and Channeling from flying clerics, all four segments of the Horde went down pretty quick. As each segment of the Horde dispersed, I replaced it with a pair of Advanced Frostfallen Zombies as the final remnanats to be mopped up.

However, from a game perspective, I'd call it a success. The caravan encounters have gotten wearying for all of us, but this was the first time the players really thought they were in trouble (the monk even wasted one round trying to disbelieve the Horde, because his player couldn't believe I'd put them in such a hopeless situation).

At the beginning of book 6, it makes a big deal about making the party have to "infiltrate" Kasai, about how all the gates are guarded, the difficulties of trying to fly over the walls, etc. However, when I look at the map of Kasai in the gazetteer, I don't see any signs of walls or gates. What's more the city has a very long waterfront, and it seems like it would be easy-peasy for anyone to get into the city, let alone high-level magic-capable PCs. (Also, having the palace complex at the very edge of town seems like bad design, from a defense point of view. I wouldn't be surprised if my party just decided to blast into the palace first thing, bypassing all the rest of the city.)

I know there are ways to work around this, but I'm just curious how other DMs handled this part of the adventure. I know if I tell my party they have to "sneak" into town, they're going to want all kinds of details about the city's layout, defenses, etc. and then will come up with some improbable strategy I'd never have dreamed of.

I'm looking for a way to make a non-magical item appear to be magical, or a magical item to appear to be something it's not. I know Magic Aura will do this, but only until some low-level MU does an Identify on it, at which point it comes down to a Will save. What I'd like is something a higher-level MU could use that could have a reasonable chance of fooling experienced spellcasters. Any ideas?

My group's spellcasters have gotten very quick to throw Fireballs and other area of effect spells, counting on their ability to precisely aim them such that they fry the bad guy, but have no effect on their buddy a couple of feet away who's banging on it with his sword. I know that based on RAW, this is perfectly legal, but I still have a problem with the idea that, in the heat of battle, with everyone lunging around, possibly impaired visibility, etc., you can position a magical blast a long ways off with pinpoint accuracy. Meanwhile, an archer shooting at the same target suffers a -4 penalty.

So here's what I'm considering for a House Rule: When a spellcaster wants to precisely aim an AOE spell (i.e. when he needs to avoid hitting something adjacent to one or more targets), he needs to make a Reflex save (DC 15?). If he fails, the spell origin gets offset by 5' in a random direction. If friendly fire isn't an issue (enemies off by themselves), we'd forgo the checks. Feats like Precise Shot would also add bonuses to precision casting rolls.


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I'm also running a 7-player JR. Our group has been together forever (longer than most of you have been alive, I'm guessing!), so splitting the group isn't an option. We're currently in Hungry Storm. Here are some of the things I've been doing:

- As mentioned by others, I dropped Shalelu altogether, and try to keep the other NPCs out of the action. Hard to avoid during most of Hungry Storm, but not too bad otherwise. Where the NPCs have to get involved, I have each assigned to one of the players, so they play two characters. You can get the HL .por files for them on line, although we're reaching the point where I'm going to have to level them up some. Oh, and I dropped the whole Relationship mechanic.

- I've made liberal use of alternate templates to bump up enemies: see [url] ent[/url]. The simple Advanced template works well, but other things like Entropic, Runescarred, Dire, etc. can be a good fit for specific parts of the adventure (e.g. I made the Lonely Maiden in HS a "Broken Soul" (CR +2)). Sometimes I just throw 75% more critters at the party, although that makes for a lot of dice rolling. However, part of the balance comes from not letting the party gang up on a small number of opponents - even an awesomely powerful spellcaster can get overwhelmed if 7 people are focusing on her alone. Be aware that, in my experience, the CR/APL equivalency doesn't always work that well. More often than not, I find I have to make an encounter tougher than the math would suggest to keep it challenging for the party.

- As almost everyone on the forums suggests, throw out the caravan rules. I converted all the caravan encounters into party encounters. However, I'm finding that many of the suggested enemies, like Frostfallen Skeletons, Zombies, and the like, are too wimpy to be able to threaten 7th or 8th level characters, so they need real upgrading. (For Dead Man's Dome, I'm going to hit them with a Zombie Horde!)

- One thing I do to prepare for each session is to take the stat block description for each enemy and copy it into a spreadsheet. That makes it easier to apply new templates. I also go through each of the spells, spell-like abilities, unusual feats, etc. and add appropriate description for them to the sheet, so when I print it out I've got everything I need without wasting lots of time looking things up each turn (although I still seem to do that a lot!).

Are Omoyani's Earthfire Shuriken a single-use weapon, or can they be reused with their full fire damage by the party? According to the rules, I think shuriken are supposed to be treated as ammunition, and not be reusable (although that never made sense to me even for normal shuriken).