Shocker Lizard

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Our group is currently in the caverns at level 17. They have bypassed a large portion of the Citadel after finding the Bell by accident. One character is a paladin (replacement for a character eaten bye the bell) who has a good chance of bringing doom down on them all.

Chronology of level advancement and deaths below:

Reached level 7 (started campaign): Aug 14 2013
One Death

Reached level 8: Oct 4 2013 (+7 weeks)
Zero Deaths

Level 9: Nov 29 (+8 weeks)
Three Deaths

Level 10: Jan 10 2014 (+6 weeks, including the Christmas break...we killed the Tar Dragon in level 9)
Three Deaths

Level 11: March 7 (+8 weeks)
Four Deaths

Level 12: April 18 (+6 weeks)
Four Deaths

Level 13: June 20 (+9 weeks)
Five Deaths - all Aran

Level 14: Aug 8 (+7 weeks)
Three Deaths - all from the Moaning Busts in the now torched temple of Orcus

Level 15: Nov 14 (+ 14 weeks)

No Deaths

Level 16: January 9 2015 (+9 weeks)

4 Deaths and a number of retreats plus one avoidance of a TPK by 1

Level 17 Feb 6th (+4 weeks)

No Deaths . . . yet

We're still chugging along with group well into exploring the Citadel. They lost one of their Paladins last game.

He'd been taken out by a disintegrate in a roving battle that ran through the entertainment district. When the group made it back to where his remains were they found them being defiled by a dretch mega-swarm. The Inquisitor had had enough of mega-swarms so he hit them with a banishment and poof! The Mega-swarm was gone with all the Paladin's gear.

There was more than enough dust to resurrect him but with the loss of everything the player has decided to move to his backup character.

The night ended with them moving in on the Bell. They still think it is a bell in the proper sense of the word. They are, appropriately, in for a rude awakening.

As far as character deaths go we are now just a couple of entries away from filling the first page.


That sounds like it would work. It's doable but just beyond the reach of their current abilities.


My group is exploring the Citadel at this point and has made a number of forays into the entertainment district. They've done some damage but keep getting chased away. Since there is a portal to the abyss(which they don't know about) the area keeps getting repopulated.

I'm assuming that they are eventually going to find the portal and they are going to want to close it. Does anyone know which rules govern this or does anyone have a suggestion for how a portal would be closed?

Thanks in advance.

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@ MichaelSandar,

One of the PC's was given a back-story where her formerly noble family had been brought low a couple of hundred years previously by a vampire (the Blood Mage although that wasn't revealed to the character, they had to figure it out as things progressed) and she'd tracked his servants (in this case the hobgoblins from G5) to the Camp. The party later encountered some in the desolation and learned that they lived in Tsar.

Mama Grimm was also quite friendly toward the party, explaining about her sisters and her desire for their heads. She also suggested that it was a place with a fair bit of magic around and I kept the amount of magic very low to increase its lure.

One other character - an Inquisitor - was given a backstory that involved the search for a lost goddess and Saint Harul's Hold. He's spent some time searching through documents in old monasteries finding that Tsar was built over Saint Harul's Hold.

The group's paladin was naturally keen on entering, defeating and disinfecting.

Encounters with Dread Ravens (as long as your group isn't trigger-happy) offers a chance to interact. I played the Dread Ravens like the Great Raven Crone from the Malazan series so they were tricksters that the party could get some info and hints from but still wily enough that the party never felt they could trust them.

Demons encountered in The Desolation are from Tsar and they've been gated onto the Prime Material Plane. The first time they killed a demon I made a point of mentioning that it's corpse doesn't vanish like a summoned creature's corpse would.

One other thing I'd suggest is to concentrate on finding the full story of Tsar that Gregg has interspersed throughout the book when you are reading ahead. (i.e. skip over the encounters but learn the history.) This is especially worth while for the Midnight Peddler and his hints. You'll find plenty of information that is worth bringing forward a little bit to pique the character's curiosity and increase the foreshadowing.

I like your military build-up idea. That gives you plenty of 'red shirts' to have disappear in the night or be found dead in the desolation, having suffocated in a bone storm.

If you have the PDF consider setting up a shared document where you list all of the hint's & stories your party has collected. The campaign takes quite a while to get through and it's helps the players make sense of things as well as giving them the hint that they should be paying attention.

There is a lot of greatness to Slumbering Tsar and my players are really enjoying the open-ended nature of things. When we were packing up last Friday one of the guys casually asked: "how much more is there?" and before I could even draw breath everyone else shouted "Don't answer that!"

Tsar is big, evil, unfair and unpredictable and that is what has my group hooked.

I've also found it very easy to tune it to my group. Either by pulling encounters out or by modifying the behaviors of their opponents.

@ Captain Marsh

You will need mini's / counters when you get indoors. Places like the Crooked Tower are positively claustrophobic result in maneuvering being much more critical.

The rogue rolls two pairs of 20 sided dice.

Takes the lower result of each pair and then the higher of those two.


I've added notes to the elevation view of the Citadel indicating the location of access points at various levels. It's bare bones but the information is summarized in one place.

If anyone would like a personal use copy just email me.

If there are any Frog God's who want to see if it's worth posting on their website that would be groovy too.

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@ Chaoseffect

In order to prevent the party performing all sorts of hit & run raids I've messed with all teleporting into Tsar:

Standard Teleport:
Familiarity ]On Target / Off Target/ Similar Area / Mishap
Very familiar] 01–97 / 98–99 / 100 —
Studied carefully] 01–94 / 95–97 / 98–99 / 100
Seen casually] 01–88 / 89–94 / 95–98 / 99–100
Viewed once] 01–76 / 77–88 / 89–96 / 97–100
False destination] — / — / 81–92 / 93–100

Teleporting into or within Tsar

Familiarity] On Target ' Elsewhere* ' Mishap
Very familiar] 01–75 ' 76-90 ' 91-100
Studied carefully] 01–50 ' 51-80 ' 81–100
Seen casually] 01–25 ' 26-70 ' 71–100
Viewed once] 01–10 ' 11–60 ' 61–100
False destination] — ' 01-50 ' 51-100

* 50% random location in Tsar 50% dangerous, unexplored encounter in The Desolation (GM's choice).
(sorry - can't do anything with the formatting)

I consider it to be part of the Pall (denizens of Tsar are unaffected) and it's worked quite well so far.

And if you want to increase the nastiness outside I'd suggest using a increasing the count of Flailing Dreadnoughts. Since they are CN and an aberration they slide around a lot of the buffing characters usually do. (Although your group may be an exception.)

@ DaveMage,

My group needs only find 3 more statues to bring the last one home. Perhaps we'll catch up to you.


I am very interested to hear how it goes.


Unfortunately they've already done him in. Thraestos was the first significant baddie they faced in Tsar. He gave them a good scare with his initial lightning fun but the paladins finished him off quickly with smiting and an undead bane spear.


We had a player who is intrigued by puzzles join the group a few months back. That kicked the searching and questioning into high gear. It's helped make Tsar even more interesting.

My group has found 4 of the Disciple statues so I was reviewing the location of the others and to my horror found:

Lost ‘neath memories of Surter’s child, before the Master’s eyes
unseeing, rests the sleeper in robes of stone unseen.” (Chapter 7, Area 57;

Which is in the Blood Mage's Tower. Which they already searched and I missed.

I'm thinking that this clue (which they have) could also point to the cannon foundry since there is plenty of fire and Master builders where involved with the barrel. Kirash Dirgaut is another possibility but it has been thoroughly searched too.

Can anyone think of another solution to this clue?

I fall in the not punishing them alignment wise school. I think it would be much more educational for them to have to deal with the vengeful Usurer.

If they have their alignment changed they're suffering from something that was done to them. If they have to deal with the Usurer returned and angry Campies it is something that they have done to themselves which gives the experience much more impact.

@ Abrusio

You can also consider having the Midnight Peddler give some warning about harming the Usurer: Patient watcher's heart beats not. Stay righteous hands for the vile cork stops barrels of blood.

It could be a reference to him keeping the relative peace in camp or the way he stops the Blood Mage from advancing into camp.

Player's eye view:

[Based on the legend that Larach Umbriol wanted to create a weapon to kill the sun and the statue on the top if the dome they've realized that the building at the bottom of the stairs is the forge of Larach Umbriol. The group decided to look for an anvil and complete the quest given by the last Justicar.

Now that the group can teleport farther afield I've been giving out additional legend info when they travel to larger temples and consult the archives.

The group has also been making excellent use of wind walk]

The crew headed back to Tsar and materialised just outside Larach Umbriol’s forge. The two golems were still doing their level best to appear as mere statues, as was the toad that held the anvil. Monstrous, yes. Great actors? Absolutely not. Nobody was convinced of the projected harmlessness. A few pigeons roosting might have added something but since nothing really lived around here and the ravens were far too smart to come within swallowing range of those statues, the illusion failed.

The group had acquired another member in the shadow of their previous companion’s death. Aeric’s oversoul had reincarnated another body. This new vessel was named Ryder. One suspects that some sense of the character’s prior fatal mistakes survives the transition and Ryder popped into being as a fighter. The party had no idea where he came from—he literally appeared like a pugilistic fairy godmother, without the tailoring or carriage-crafting skills.

He and N’Tonna stepped into the circular area and in response, the toad creature animated and apparently having a severe iron deficiency, it swallowed the anvil. Mona anticipated the two golems coming alive together and, seeking to balance the engagement, she stone-shaped a parking boot around its feet and shins. Known more for her kinks than her depth of thinking Mona then cast a blade wall. This landed squarely across both golems and the heavy-bellied toad-thing. Everyone thought that there would be three piles of shavings in short order but it failed to have quite the effect anticipated. The golems received a spa treatment that they had been longing for for centuries. Ages of accumulated crud were exfoliated, rendering them bright, shiny and new. Had they known who she was, they would have emulated that bard, arms akimbo and singing that the troll-filled mountains were alive. N’Tonna thought she saw a glimmer of a smile.

The toad did not fair quite as well. Unlike the golems, it was wrapped in skin and the blades removed some of the toads favourite warts. They did their work like those of the finest butchers of Florence. Lazarus wondered what evil toad-thing proscuitto would taste like…probably like most fowl, though with half the ‘uu’. With that flavour lingering on his mind’s tongue, Lazarus beat on the closest golem and destroyed it. Sadly, that failed to get rid of the foul taste.

The other golem had the blade barrier chipping away at its stone restraint like some demonic podiatrist and soon was free and heading towards Namere and Mona. The latter created an illusory pit to contain the golem and flew up into the air. Namere cast Pillar of Life to provide respite to those battling the to and and golem.

The toad had had enough of the dermabrasion and jumped out and flame-breathed on N’Tonna and Bog. “Bang Bang” Ryder laid the hammer down hard and killed the toad. The anvil tumbled out onto the ground. While everyone was watching the toad die (and saying, “Ewwww!” at the slime-covered anvil) Lazarus damaged the golem with his something…the crew missed it completely.

The other golem leapt out of the imaginary pit—without the stumble that usually accompanies the negotiation of a step that isn’t actually there. It then headed straight for Bog and clipped him hard. Bog fired an arrow, whack made a pathetic “tink” sound and fell to the ground. Ryder attacked with his hammer, Lazarus dimension-hopped to a flanking position and did something hostile and N’Tonna smacked it twice with her axe. Lazarus pointed out that he was far more effective than future chronicles may reveal but, “Oh woe”, that was his lot in life. The golem thought, “There’s one who’ll grow old at the end of a bar!” and burped an evil miasma into Lazarus’, Bog’s and N’Tonna’s faces.

“Bang Bang” then shattered the golem with three strikes of his hammer. The betting had been fast and furious up in the Godbar, particularly around Ryder’s anticipated lifespan. Some old fans were finally in the money again. The Great God Gorgo just chuckled.

The party took the time to explore the forge area. Not surprisingly, they found a lot of ingots. Also a couple of dragon skins—a red one and a black one. Namere wondered if dragons kin panties would contain Mona. Probably not. He shuddered.

Remembering that the anvil was an artifact that the last Justicar wanted and that they had promised to retrieve, Namere talked N’Tonna out of destroying it. The crew wind walked back to the cave in the Wastes and encountered the angel standing guard. She cured Bog and let the group in on hearing of the success of our mission. Namere put the anvil between the spear and the hammer. The now-diaphanous Justicar was thrilled to be free of the curse and offered the group the gift of his weapons. He also told us his name—Gerund— and that the calling of it three times would cause him to appear and help us for 10 minutes. Back at the Godbar, the god of knowledge laughed out loud and snorted beer out of his nose on hearing the name and the wording (he laughed again at his cleverness) of the offer. Obscure language-humour was one of the things that earned him pitying glances and got him off guestlists.

Namere took some time to ask the Justicar and the angel questions about some of the things that they had encountered. The siege engine, for example and the maraca…rakashaka…err…shakakhan…shapeshifter who hated Bog. Turned out it was a Rakasha—a demigod-like being. Utterly vain and self-obsessed, they adore worshippers and take great exception to those who use the prefix, ‘demi’ in front of their status as ‘-gods’. They have the same social skills a the god of knowledge and frequently find themselves shunned in even impolite company. Hence they live in solitude and revel in taking offence. Bog may have been the high point on that one’s social calendar.

After spending the night, the party wind walked back to the forge where Namere cast Treasure stitch on the remaining ingots and both dragon skins thereby turning them into a nice, though curiously modified, doily. Following this bit of clean-up, the group wind walked back to the tunnel and wafted through the portcullis. Namere paused to look for the mechanism and looking through one set of arrow slits discovered two baboo demons. Single-mindedly, N’Tonna headed deeper into the tunnel. Namere waited outside the portcullis puffing in what he hoped was a portentous and indicative fashion. When Namere didn’t follow, Bog suspected something was up and wafted back through the bars and extruded a smoky pseudopod through the arrow slit. Namere had passed through the arrow slit on the opposite side and had found the mechanism. Bog felt a failed attempt to dispel the wind walk and, never wanting to make anyone feel inadequate, he obligingly solidified. Immediately one of the demons appeared behind him. Ryder came back and vital struck the demon; Lazarus came running back, nimbly jumping over the death-roller track and stabbed the baboo and Bog shot it five times. In keeping with her philosophy of ,“Nothing succeeds like excess”, Mona dropped a Holy Smite right on top of Bog. Through the coruscating aura and choral music a beautiful hand appeared in front of the demons and slowly, with immense gravity and heavenly calm, extended its middle finger. The demons, recognizing their cue, dropped dead.

Solidifying, Namere activated the mechanism and cranked the portcullis open. He wind walked back up the tunnel and solidified. After the smite, the tunnel had taken on a decidedly gloomy atmosphere. Of course it wasn’t its fault—it was a dark underground tube in the middle of the most evil place on the planet. Gloomy was in its very nature. Ever the optimist, Namere cast light on an arrow and shot it up the tunnel in the hope of giving the party a brighter future…

Venturing upward, they passed a crack in the tunnel wall from which flowed a cool breeze. Further along, a tunnel ran off to a side chamber and two tunnels extended from that room. A faint glow emanated from the eastern-most tunnel. Glory comes from Death, Destruction and Despair, not light! The group headed up the darker tunnel to the end, a further 500 feet. And stop at a pair of vast stone doors. Doors for very big things. Doors that are barred from the inside and therefore designed to keep those Very Big Things® outside.

[I've added a parchment note here from Sir Martimus the Lost (page 42) to foreshadow the Citadel and add a bit of nervousness about what happens inside it]

I'm thinking ahead to T7 (The Maze) and trying to sort out how to deal with it's navigation and encounter probabilities. As written:

If the party wanders the streets at ground level, they have other difficulties to overcome.

First, movement in the Maze is on a steep slope (see the“Hills Terrain” section in Chapter 13 of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game)and costs double the movement to navigate.

Second, the bewildering and haphazard layout of the streets requires whoever is determining the party’s course to make a DC 20 Will save or Survival check to be able to proceed into the next intended square. Otherwise they either end up retracing their steps within the same square or entering an unintended adjacent square (GM’s choice).

Third, instead of rolling on the normal encounter table for
the High Terrace, roll on the one below once for every 50 feet traveled
while in the Maze. As with the normal encounter tables, 3 consecutive
rounds of combat always result in a second roll on the table.

The first two seem good to me and for navigation I'm going to roll a d4 to have them wander randomly without a survival check until one of the PC's indicates that they are paying specific attention to navigation through the maze.

I'm also thinking of changing the distance cost for moving through the maze, in addition to the slope penalty, to account for its maze nature. Probably using the standard 1 step forward, 2 steps back to mean each square requires 750 feet of movement to get across the full 250 feet that it represents.

I'm concerned that the encounter level is too high even without my two steps backwards it's 5 random encounter rolls per square and 7 squares to T8 so 35 random encounter rolls to get to T8. Has anyone else played through this section?

In my opinion the biggest problem with the low vs high discussion is that neither defined based on something that you can measure. My low may be someone else's medium so we're all imagining what the opposing point of view means when they say low or high. I'm a proponent of 'low' magic campaigns but it certainly isn't low based on what some others in this thread are describing as low magic.

As others have pointed out a good GM will taylor encounters to their players abilities and not just match encounter CR to character levels.

One of the players in our campaign is a much better writer than I am. Here, with his permission, is the player's eye view of our last session. He's left out most of the role playing that took place in Bagdan which is our version of Bard's Gate. The Medicinnes are a wealthy banking family that bankrolled the initial adventure and have been acting as the party's brokers. My comments bracketed. Let me know if you'd like to see more of these in the future.

(They'd left the large crystal, and other items, in room 46 because of weight issues.)

The party made it back to Bagdan in one piece. Rest, crafting, consulting with the Medicinnes and various temples took place. The maid let drop that some other adventurers had brought back the big crystal sphere. Apparently it used to belong to a wizard. These new adventurers seem to be the talk of the town…or at least, the town's servant class. Hmmm…I wonder if Kendal had anything to do with that. It seems that we’re going to have to “take care of” the people that we rescue in the future. Yay morality!

(N'Tonna=half orc barbarian, the stalkers are new PC's. The player writing this is Namere Quired - elven cleric)

As we go hither and thither…less “we” and more N’Tonna going thither as she headed up to the Medicinne’s to work out some private deal…the grapevine informs us that we are are being stalked. One of them, a scrawny elf, is pretty well invisible as he can vanish behind a stick; the other, also well-nigh invisible because most normal people’s field of vision doesn’t go that low, was a dwarf. Where he might have been invisible, his presence was presaged by a powerful odour and he wasn’t installable. While Namere’s attention was occupied elsewhere, they convinced the others to let them join our party and he suddenly became aware of their presence post-teleport one mile outside Tsar. There was nothing unbidden about the thought that came to his mind— “Who the hell are you guys?” But, being cool and being a cleric meant that he had to maintain a beatific demeanour— hooded eyelids, sacred hand gestures and all.

(purse-dragon = pseudo dragon familiar)

Aeric seemed to have one of those annoying little purse-dragons, the ones that are all the rage with daughters of the extremely wealthy. He expected that it would let out high-pitched “yif’s” and little puffs of flame when faced with something very large and dangerous. Then deciding that its work was done, it would zip back at high speed and hide behind its owner who was now rapidly trying to formulate a strategy to deal with the charging mountain on the verge of crushing them both. But they're so cu-uuuute!

(Verdan is the fourth member of the Hauppes family to venture to Tsar - three others are dead)

Still in his diplomatic reverie, Namere thought that he needn’t worry. Verdan Hauppes, the barbarian dwarf, had it covered. Surely, nothing can approach within striking distance of that eye-watering smell. Nice enough guy but one had to roll a saving throw just to be in the same room as him. Mentally fluttering through his orisons, he sought Make Soap but wondered if Flame Strike wouldn't be better.

Shaking his head and addressing the real world, the name “Hauppes” wandered through his mind wearing a loud outfit and begging for attention. “Are you…?” “Yes…sort of.” “You don’t, errr…look like…” ”I know, it’s a long story. Dad couldn’t keep it in his pants.” “Ah…” Then silently, “Explains the smell” but out loud (with a sharp nasal exhale)—“Welcome!”.

(This takes place after teleporting to about a mile outside of Tsar)

The group took a few steps towards Tsar and up ahead were four lumps in the bone dust. Just the sort of thing that looks like a trap. Namere elbowed N’tonna asking if she still had the spears. Sure enough. “Give ‘em a poke!” Jabbity jab, four times indicated that these were dead lumps and a quick kick at each revealed that these dead lumps were dead trolls who appeared to have suffocated. The party breathed a sigh of relief that the train that goes through the stations Rampaging, Living, Unconscious, Dead and Undead, had let these four off at the penultimate (and vastly more convenient) stop. There was, unfortunately, a siding that the train should have gone down that led to Raging Conflagration, so I suspect that these trolls had a full return ticket.

Carrying on, and crossing through the breached wall as we had done so many times, that gap with its incessant buzzing, Verdan decided to break with tradition and investigate the noise. What it wasn’t was what appeared. Four extremely rare and extremely large dunnowhat trolls. Nobody had a clue. Nobody knew that they were trolls until they had joined the other ones on that train (and also missed the f%%#ing. siding.)

(Bog = human paladin = Jarinov's target)

They immediately attacked Bog and hit him four times. They were of the “sticks and stone will break your bones and bugger the name-calling because we really want to hurt you” variety of creature. Bog hit back at one and connected three times. Darth flame-struck two quite nicely. Namere guiltily began to contemplate that the smell of singed troll was a little better than that of the dwarf. N’Tonna had a fugue moment, staring off into space. Verdan was suddenly gone and in his place was a sparrow who flew up high over the trolls. N’Tonna became giant-sized. Namere, shocked out of his olfactory woolgathering, hit one with two arrows. N’tonna hits, Primor, the other barbarian, seemingly controlled by another, hits as well. The trolls hit back. This was a battle that required enthusiastic reportage by commentators with bad, over-varnished hairstyles and a peculiar skin colour, no matter their race. Finally, Bog bonded with his bow and killed one, Darth got another with a fireball and Primor charged the last one who at this point looked like he wanted to be anywhere but here and killed him. The fourth one had died earlier but it’s a secret as to who did it in. There have to be some mysteries in life.

(Buzzing comes from below rubble of the broken gate)

The subject of mysteries and actively embracing the good of them in a healthy, long life was about to be broached in spectacular fashion. The crew had crossed over the buzzing breach numerous times, alway thinking, “I wonder what that buzzing is? It’s a mystery. I guess we’ll never know” and moving on to the far less mysterious Tsar that was filled with things that wanted to kill us. But this time, the desire to grasp the unknown overwhelmed Verdan. To be fair, it was with the group’s blessing that the work of the trolls was completed and the buzzer revealed. A magical siege engine of the Army of Light.

Looking like an ankylosaur with stone rollers instead of feet, a fringe of adamantium spikes and a morningstar tail of the same material, this construct trundled out of its long-occupied tomb. Lazarus dimension-doored on top of it N’Tonna got out of its way. Verdan did aerial recon, looking for cracks or obvious openings. Bog pulled out a flask and drank the potion of fly contained within and Darth flew on top with his familiar, Wishka. That morningstar tail whipped around and hit Lazarus and the now re-dwarfed Verdan. For a brief instant, they had no need for potions of fly and clearly demonstrated the truth of the expression “meteoric rise” as they both ploughed furrows into the ground some 30 feet away. The tank then turned on Namere and Aeric and bashes them… Seemingly as annoyed at the “yif! yif!” noises coming from Aeric’s direction, the tank then killed Aeric’s familiar. (Trampled it and Aeric) N’Tonna, humphing,”Do I have to do everything myself?” ran as far way from the tank as she could get. Lazarus dimension-hopped back on top and Darth stone-shaped the side only to be stymied by a layer of metal. This construct is mean! Even though it’s a relic of the Army of Light, this benighted machine cannot seem to fathom that we as a group average out to Good. Pretty darned Good, in fact . (The parts that aren’t are fairly easily taken care of in a collateral sort of way…but that’s pretty hush hush.) Even the dulcet tones of the Celestial tongue failed to impress it with our goodness and this mechanical sauroid seemed hell-bent on crushing our party. But, we had to be sure. Flaming camels weren’t an option but Verdan obliged by producing a goat with range of the tank. It’s bleat started encouragingly at a normal pitch which rose rapidly to an almost ultrasonic squeak and ended with a rather wet ‘pop’. The tank was an equal-opportunity crusher and went after the evil and the good with equal zeal and extreme prejudice. (The Battle Hulk had been moving slowly so it took a while to get up to speed and squish the goat - party was well hidden and out of site by then.)

Taking stock, healing was done and Namere used one of his two precious scrolls of resurrection on Aeric’s familiar. With the party out of sensing range, the tank took off like a bat into hell. A machine on a mission, it disappeared into the pall seeking its target chosen so long ago. Seeing an opportunity, the crew decided to follow the talcum-like trail and use the tank as a door-knocker. Let’s see those baboo demons mess with this! Unfortunately, either the tank was too swift or some monsters have more intelligence than they are normally credited with. Six trolls chose to stand in our path, hidden until the stone and metal juggernaught rumbled past.

(Next game starts with them doing in some standard trolls)

The party met Jarinov twice.

During the first meeting he and had words with one of the paladins and then challenged that paladin to a duel. The paladin avoided the challenge and threatened to kill Jarinov 'later'.

During the second meeting Jarinov was about to be killed by the barbarian but bought his life by showing the party where Belishan's treasure was and promising not to bother them again.

That was about 50 game days ago (lot's of crafting and travel to sell the palace from Belishan's treasure) and Jarinov has use that time to invite the gnolls into the crooked tower (they are now well established)and to move himself to Bard's Gate. At some point he will frame the paladin for a murder and try to instigate a trial by combat in the public street. I'm hoping to keep the paladin completely off balance and then hit him with a "remember me punk?" from Jarinov.

@ KaiserDM

Belishan has been destroyed - they staked him in his crypt coffin. Jarinov made off with the spell books after that. There isn't currently a wizard in the party so no one thought too deeply about where Belishan was getting his spells from. (oops)


As I recall the upshot of King Thraestos being free and active is that he naturally draws the ghouls and ghasts of Tsar and The Desolation to him. One of those ghasts could be a cleric who casts harm spells until The King is back to full hit points. (One could also be a tailor who makes him sequined jumpsuits.)

After that my preference would be for The King to collect his followers and head in the direction of the camp. His sense of time is probably warped and with limited food in Tsar (or anger at not being rescued) he could head out looking for the Army of Light (i.e. dinner).

After that you can wait for an opportune time for him and his menagerie to chase a caravan into camp or attack the forward base your characters have set up.

(Just reading back some posts....short form of above: what KaiserDM said)


No - they didn't find all of his coffins. They did finish him off down in the crypts but they missed the upper coffin with his spell books.

So my group finally 'finished' the Crooked Tower. Because of poor mapping and being distracted by ambushes, traps and other badnesses they did miss a fair bit.

Most of the third floor was missed. Sections of the basement. The Larder (room 22) and thereby the Exsanguinator.

They also managed to miss Belishan's main spell books - I've given them to Janirov.

@ James
I'm anxious to hear about the King. My group took him down without much trouble.

Our biggest problem with going from 3.5 to Pathfinder has been our brains. We remember that X works a certain way and then discover that we've been remembering the 3.5 version of X.

A good example is the Elves not automatically searching for a secret door as they pass it was something we just realized 2 months ago.

(Which makes room 46 of the Crooked Tower and all of it's goodies much more difficult to find.)

I started my group @ 7th. In the past we've always started at 1st level and it was refreshing for them to start out with characters that had some heft from the beginning. Also, with the lethality of Tsar it's good not to start with a character you are heavily invested in.

Don't forget: Hell Moths & Arrowhawks & Nightwing & Spitting Gargoyles & Margoyles, & Wyverns & Vargouilles & Manticores....


now I'm afraid to fly

@KaiserDM - Tsar & the desolation contains so much that, in my experience, some things will get missed.

My group has just about finished the tower - it's been 5 sessions but one of those was mostly in the camp and our equivalent of Bard's Gate.

The tower is a dungeon in itself and it's good to make plenty of notes on the maps including to & from on each stairwell, ladder, trap door or shaft. Mapping can be a challenge but it adds to the evilness of the place. (My group moved around in random manner and there are still large sections of the third floor that they've missed.)

I'd missed the mirror of opposition painting and ended up being caught flat-footed when a new character was pulled into it.

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@ Zach

Have a procession of the more evil opponents from Tsar appear in spectral form creating a line of foes well spaced and stretching into the darkness. The first announces it's name and steps forward becoming solid and attacking the cleric. If the cleric wins then the second will step forward.

If anyone else in the party joins in the fight an additional foe steps forward and attacks.

I'd suggest starting with 1 of each type of the siege undead including the centaur like ones then the Seneschal from Kirash Durgaut, then General Myac (around page 181) then a flailing dreadnaught (page 166)then Malerix and so on. Describe the figures down to Malerix and let them see or sense that there are more besides those.

Keep going until the cleric is killed and then have all the apparitions vanish.

I agree with chaos effect about the opponents represented not having an idea about the party - this is entirely a Dweller at the Crossroads thing - but I don't think you need to explain it with simulacrums. In fact I'd say you shouldn't explain it at all so as to keep things weird and creepy and WTF-like.

I'm with CWheezy on Janirov as long as he battles the party intelligently or worse: leads them up to Belishan.

@ Chaoseffet - The Crooked Tower may give your group a worthwhile challenge. It's a collection of small rooms connected by 5' wide hallways and littered with traps so having an undead menagerie becomes much less usefull - especially if they're larger than medium sized.

@ brvheart - agreed.


Sorry to hear that your text is messed up.

I've modified J's feats, pulling the Cleave and Great Cleave to give him the option of nastier critical focus feats.

@ CWheezy

Shhhhhhh!!! (Wait until we're finished the campaign)

@ James

I know what you mean about the role playing. It can spice up a night and the group I'm GM'ing for has managed to use it to their advantage a couple of times.

Last session they had an involved conversation with Grampion. It gave me the opportunity to warn them that one of the vampires is out to avenge their elimination of Belishan (As Grampion explained "She love him in vampire way") and to use Grampion to suggest that Belishan had carved a secret into the frieze of purgatory. (Has anyone else's group encountered this yet?)

Unfortunately for them they also missed the secret door to area 46.

Now that Belishan is gone I've had to revise Jarinov's spells in preparation for combat when the party returns. Reading the game play above makes me think he should be sneakier and sell out the remaining vampire - on condition the party leaves the tower to him.


Congratulations on getting married.


You're going to have to start writing them down on paper and using snail mail.

Quite epic chaoseffect.

It's neat to see the different styles of play with the different groups.

My group made it out of the Crooked Tower on Friday. We'd finished play with them in the lowest level crypt and looking down the hallway at the various colours of lights the only thing they expected was traps and death. (No one in the party can disable traps.)

They had debated their options thoughout the week via email and decided that they were going to try and dimension door out. There were fears that it would not work because they didn't know where they were and where concerned that they may actually be deep underground.

The dimension door worked but the random encounter roll on their way out of Tsar resulted in Harpies. The only failed save was the wizard's fairy dragon familiar who made it all the way to a harpy's arms where it was grabbed and flown off with. (Harpy trying to decide on frying versus roasting at this point.) Some very good rolls managed to bring the Harpy down and there was great rejoicing.

After a night out in The Desolation with a secure shelter keeping off the storms and acid rain they teleported to the campaign equivalent of Bard's Gate.

While they were there the cleric and ranger characters announced that they had been too traumatized by the time in the crooked tower for them to return to Tsar. They were replaced by a rogue and an inquisitor. (same players) The wizard, who had died from a death effect, suggested that the party not use their True Resurrection scroll and brought out an oracle to replace himself. The unintended consequence of this is that the party no longer has enough teleport slots to travel the desolation. They're going to have to leave space in the two bags of holding that they have.

While this was going on one of Belishan's vampire cohorts has travelled to the camp and is preparing revenge having recruited the undertaker. (Her description lists her as having travelled to the camp at least twice in the past.) The back story for the character that killed Belishan included Belishan having ruined the family's fortunes some 400 years earlier. My hope is to start the quest for revenge all over again. (This player's backup character is the brother of the character who slew Belishan.)

The party has returned to Tsar and is continuing the exploration of the Crooked Tower. They didn't bite on the portable hole trap and after much back and forth just closed the door and walked away.

The rogue is playing in a weaselly self centred fashion - I think this will greatly improve his chance of surviving but only time will tell - two characters where grappled by the yellow musk creeper and his response was 'I can't stealth them out of that so I defer'. In the end the inquisitor had do run into the basement grab them (luckily the where side by side) and dimension door out with his cape of the montebank.

I agree with brvheart. Except for the last sentence - there is always explaining.

A rogue's ability to fight is their greatest liablity because they become so focused on doing damage that they forget that they are no good at taking damage. Sadly, the reminders are often fatal.


(Rogue In Pieces)

@ James

One way to improve Belishan's chances would be to enhance his shield guardian so that it can absorb more of the damage he takes.

If he is warned of the group's approach by his familiar he can use the programmed illusion to have them attack a false Belishan in the entryway. Giving him the spell project image also gives him a chance to interact without being in immediate danger.

His universalist abilities means he could be ready with a quickened mirror image. That will make it much more difficult to drop him in the first round.

@ James,

Your group must be fairly low on resources for healing, channelling and spells after what they have encountered so far. I think locking them in the tower would be over the top and would probably result in a TPK.

With Belishan, his two cronies and Kroma plus all of the various traps and additional dangers I doubt that they would make it out alive.

I think the darkness or the malice surrounding the tower or as a programmed illusion could be good. You could take it one further and make it appear that the tower had been transported to the Abyss and have the party hear "return what was taken" any time they look out a window or open a door to the outside.

Thanks Gents,

I'm going to have them become free willed but leave them with spawn hit dice and abilities - not have them morph into regular vampires. Their creator nerfed them and nerfed they shall remain.

The two cohorts of the Blood Mage are my next concern. One was in vampire love with him and will be out for revenge. The other is totally self centered and needs to decide if he is going to claim the tower or loot the treasure vault and head out.

So the Blood Mage is now dead (partly my fault I forgot about the staff of power) and the surviving PC's are in his basement crypt (courtesy of a wish from the efreet who is now gone) but they don't know the way out yet and the only trap that they have activated is the wail from the door.

What happens with the vampire spawn when he 'dies'? I thought they would become free willed vampires but looking through the rules I'm wondering if I'm remembering something from 3.5 or earlier.

Kudos to Greg Vaughan and FGG as this has been the most fun we have had with the game in ages.

If you do have a single class rogue it's important to be able to get away fast. A high acrobatics score and rogue feats such as pearless maneuver or fast stealth help. Two other helpful rogue talents are major magic with Vanish and minor magic with Message (to call for help).

The Acrobat rogue is a good choice and can be useful in Tsar too.

I was going to suggest a cape of the Mountebank until I read that it's bright red and gold.

brvheart wrote:

I use Pathfinder Pawns sometimes, but usually we just use tokens for monsters in Tsar. Too many of the monsters I don't have minis for anyway.

My group has not gone to the Crooked Tower yet, but have descended the stair and are about to enter the forge.

How did the combat with the Devourer go?

@ Huntersblades

We use a wipe mat and the Pathfinder Pawns plus some 'pawns' that I've made myself. I also found it useful to have some counters numbered from 1-50 in a couple of different colour for the mass encounters (like siege undead).

For my group the lethality of Tsar meains it is more important to use the pawns and grid to make the relative positions and dangers more clear.

KaiserDM wrote:
Geo Fix wrote:
Oy - I've been misreading wraiths for years.....2d6 HP not 2d6 levels.....oops
If your party every catches that, tell them they've been fighting SUPER Dread Wraiths!

Or blame it on the Pall of Tsar?

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Oy - I've been misreading wraiths for years.....2d6 HP not 2d6 levels.....oops

CWheezy wrote:
Geo Fix wrote:
The Paladin is a Warrior of the Holy Light type and knows he can take this thing with his nymbus of light ability and it's sunlight powerlessness. Unfortunately the initiative rolls mean it goes first and it takes him from 12th to 7th which is too low to be able to use his nymbus of light. The next round it hits the Paladin for 8 more levels and that's it.
Can I ask how you rule here? I thought wraiths only did con drain if you fail your fort save

Hey CWheezy - That's how I thought it worked until I reviewed the universal monster rules.

The level drain is automatic with a successful hit. The DC occurs 24 hours later to determine whether or not it becomes permanent.

The Con damage only occurs if you fail your saving throw when hit.

(Dread Wraiths are shockingly nasty: automatic 2d6 level drain and 1d8 Con if you fail a DC 23 Fort save.)

It was the level drain that killed the Paladin

This week's game picked up where last week's game left off. I'm not going to go into all of the details because with traps & things there were over 10 different encounters.

The Dire Worgs started things off well with their reasonable damage ability and a high rate of success on trip attacks. The were waiting when the doors where kicked down and took attacks of opportunity as the Barbarian jumped through, tripping her and disrupting the group's momentum. I kept the second pair up on the balcony and they also managed a good ambush where the grappled wizard escaped because of being greased.

The cramped warren like feel of the tower came through very well and the various ability drain attacks hit hard. One of the surviving paladins (We had 3 of them until the dread wraith) ended up with a charisma score of 2 from the archers while the Wizard was taken down to 2 strength by the undead elemental (He'd gone over to the fireplace to get away from the craziness that was going on elsewhere.)

They'd explored most of the 1st level and all the upper balcony before checking out the Major Domo's quarters. They tried to deal with the flames in the bell jar by sliding it off the table and into a chamber pot filled with water. POOF: steam & Efreet. Everyone except the Barbarian (who swung & missed) held back and tried diplomacy. It demanded that they sheath their weapons and they did so I figured they've freed it and been respectful so it's time for a wish. The Efreet explains that it will grant them one wish. It is leaving in 5 minutes - what do you want? There is a lot of fast talking and some good ideas and in the end they say "We wish you to join us in fighting the Blood Mage". This annoys the Efreet because they've include him being compelled to serve in their wish so I SNAP my fingers and tell them that they are all in a different room. This gets an "oh-Yeaahhh!" type of reaction and the game ends for the night.

My read of the group is that they are expecting the Blood Mage and only the Blood Mage. I'm curious to see if any of them have started having second thoughts.

My group has also been exploring The Crooked Tower with radically different results from James' group.

Last week they encountered a group of 20 gnolls while moving through the Grunge and the Witch started to talk at them with some existentialist babble. I was having trouble figuring out what he was getting at so the Gnoll's response was a confused 'Come again?' He responded with more talk about what do you do with your dead and should you be set on fire before you're dead stuff which the Gnolls interepreted as him casting a very complex spell so they let 20 arrows fly - I roll poorly and he's just nicked. (In his defence the Witch, in real life, works on projects with budgets in the many hundreds of millions so I think he was using his work appropriate intimidation methods.)

The Witch then metagames and asks me how many HD gnolls have. I tell him that gnolls have 2 HD and make no mention of the Gnolls 5 levels of ranger. Fireballs and things fly but not a single Gnoll drops. They respond with massed arrows on the Witch and drop him to 3 hp. A wall of wind goes up, illusionary flaming pits appear and the battle degenerates into a swirling melee in which multiple fireballs are loosed, both the casters are almost grappled, and everyone gains new found respect for those 2 HD gnoll critters.

They then manage to intimidate one of the surviving gnolls into telling them a fair bit about the lay of the land on the first plateau and decide that The Crooked Tower should be their next stop.

They dimension door up to The Crooked Tower and make it too the door witout too much difficulty. Ropes & pitons and good saves help.

Since doors are there to be gone through they go through the door - or rather try to. The Paladins and their auras prevent everyone except the Ranger (who as failed his save on every symbol of fear so far) and the group ends up having to grapple and bind him.

The Barbarian tries to open the door and is hit for Con damage so the new Paladin (formerly the Summoner) decides to use a holy weapon and bash it down. Two rounds later and the door is shattered and there is a newley freed dread wraith in front of them. The Paladin is a Warrior of the Holy Light type and knows he can take this thing with his nymbus of light ability and it's sunlight powerlessness. Unfortunately the initiative rolls mean it goes first and it takes him from 12th to 7th which is too low to be able to use his nymbus of light. The next round it hits the Paladin for 8 more levels and that's it.

The Witch, who has an amulet of protection and a wand of restoration goes toe to toe with the dread wraith while everyone else uses ranged weapons & spells or unties the bound Ranger. After 4 more rounds the dread wraith and the wraith that the Paladin turned into (after 2 rounds) are destroyed and the game ends.

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We just need someone to set up an autodialler to call the number on his phone once every 15 seconds


Did you leave out the doors' Con drain from the Dread Wraith on purpose? It sounds like they were in pretty deep with the multilple opponents.

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