Shag Solomon

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My party finally went to Iris Hill, after I sent them a literal invitation - Melisenn asked them to come over for lunch. They were pretty certain that she was the main villain of the book, but mostly because they're pretty genre-savvy players, not because of anything concrete that had turned up in the game, so they immediately expected a trap. This led to two of my favorite bits of player dialogue I've had recently:

Player 1: This is obviously a trap.
Player 2: Yes. We should bring snacks.
Player 1: What?
Player 2: If it's a trap, there's not going to be any lunch, is there?


Player A: I think we should go, not through the front door. Let's sneak in through the back!
Player B: And then what? Fight our way to lunch?

Anyway, lunch went off without a hitch, and now the players are convinced Melisenn is innocent and a potential ally.


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quibblemuch wrote:
Is it revealed anywhere where Count Lowls got his copy of The Chain of Nights?

I don't think it's explicitly described as the same copy, but its mentioned that the event that drove Zandalous mad occurred when he was on an expedition with Dr. Henri Meirtmane to recover a copy of The Chain of Nights and was kidnapped by the cultists who owned it. I think it's mentioned in Thrushmoor Terror that Lowls' second published book was a take-down of Meirtmane's scholarship, so there's a bunch of history there you could tap to elaborate on the backstory.

Maybe Calistria? She's CN herself, but can have CE worshippers, and her mixture of pleasure and vengeance portfolios works for the gnome's backstory. Not quite the shocking, "I used to worship who?!" reveal you're probably going for, though.

Hastur's also a solid suggestion.

My group has just gotten through Hailcourse - like many others, they decided to scale the walls, and inadvertently pulled nearly the entire fort. They won, and now know that somehow the fort was overrun by Deep Ones. (I replaced the Skum, because why not?) I had some half-formed ideas about how to do the rest of the book, and they all just sort of snapped together in my head when the party finished the fort, and I wanna talk about it.

I stole an idea someone else put forward in this thread, about there being multiple factions of cultists. There's Melisenn and the Hastur cultists, Daridela, Ariadne, and Queveandra (from book 2) are all hags, and part of a coven dedicated to Xhamen-Dor. And the Deep Ones are, naturally, Dagon worshipers.

Melisenn cut a deal with Lysie Brilt (from the smokehouse) to help finance her plots (the Lowls estate being basically bankrupt) with treasure dredged from the lake bottom, in exchange for basically giving over the town to them. She's been systematically removing the leadership of Thrushmoor, and helped open the gates to the Deep One take over of the fort. He deal with the lake-dwellers is for the town, which the Deep Ones are planning on invading, plundering for breeding slaves, and slaughtering everyone else. It's a double-cross, though: Melisenn wants to use the invasion as an excuse to get as many citizens sheltering in Iris Hill as possible, so she and her cultists can sacrifice them in mass, triggering an incursion by Carcosa. Anyone in the town when this happen is twisted into servants of Hastur - byakhees, and the like - and that includes the Deep Ones who will be swarming the town.

The hag coven has been helping the Hastur cultists, but mostly out of a sort of professional courtesy. They've been playing a longer game, subtly grooming Haserton Lowls to convince him to become the vessel of Xhamen-Dor. They don't care if the plot to take Thrushmoor works or not - they plan to hand over all of Golarion to Hastur by having it become infected by Xhamen-Dor.

The party hasn't tried to go to Iris Hill yet. When they do, Melisenn's going to let them in, and be as helpful as she can in uncovering whatever dastardly thing Lowls might be up to. She presents herself as an old college friend of Lowls who stepped in to help him out when he got into financial trouble, and is terribly, terribly concerned that he might have gotten into something dangerous. I'm hoping this throws them off for a bit, and encourage them to do more snooping around town to follow up on some of the side-quests I've planted. Eventually, this will lead them to Daridela, whom they haven't encountered yet. (I skipped over her as the first set piece in the book, because I knew from the outset that I wanted to do something different with her.)

Daridela will spill Melisenn's whole scheme to them, because the night they find her is also the night Melisenn's scheme comes to fruition, and Daridela doens't really care if they can stop it or not. They race back to Thrushmoor, and have the choice of either helping to stave off the Deep One invasion, or heading directly to Iris Hill to prevent the ritual from being completed. I'm trying to work in an angle where they can go to the Deep Ones and somehow demonstrate that Melisenn's stabbing them in the back, which leads to the fish people attacking Iris Hill themselves, resulting (I hope) in a three-way brawl between the Deep Ones, the Hastur cultists, and the party.

The only thing I haven't figured out is how to get the party introduced to Lysie Brilt - they don't have much reason to go to the smokehouse on their own - and then get them to try to dialogue with her when she and her fish cousins invade the town, instead of just making with the stabby-stabby.

I've made a few other changes I like: the revenant isn't some guy that one of the PCs accidentally beat to death - instead, he's the guy one of the other PCs framed for the murder of some guy a PC accidentally beat to death. He's now the owner of the bookstore that Lowls drove out of business. Lowls had the PCs frame him so he wouldn't have to pay his debts. The party learns about this from a combination of recovered memory fragments and documents they found at Hailcourse.

Also, I felt that between the ghost in the basement of Hailcourse, and Nemira Lowls' "ghost" walking the streets of Thrushmoor, putting another spirit in Wailing House was a bit too much. So, there's nothing in there. There's still an unearthly screaming coming from the house every sunset, but if the PCs investigate, instead of a wraith, they find a series of tunnels connected to the lake that the previous owner had used for smuggling. A quirk of the shape of the tunnels creates a vacuum when the tide goes out, and the "screaming" is the air rushing in to fill the vacuum. Normally, a trapdoor sealed the tunnels off and prevents this effect, but the last owner of the house was killed by his smuggler associates, and they left the trapdoor open.

Ran my second session of Fires of Creation last weekend, and had to share this.

The first session ended with the players encountering the Jenkins gremlins for the first time. The gremlins got some lucky rolls, and dropped a PC. The whole party was stretched on resources at this point, so they retreated back to town and we ended for the day.

Second session comes around, and the players are convinced that they're completely outclassed... by gremlins. They're certain that if they just go back at them, they'll get slaughtered. So they decide to hire some muscle to help them win the fight. Where can you hire muscle in Torch? Well, there's this gang, called the Ropefists...

They go to Silverdisk hall and meet a guy who says he can hook them up, and they should show up at a certain spot in the warehouse district in a few hours. I'm already considering if I should have it be a doublecross and have the Ropefists just try to rob the PCs... and then they spend the three hours until the meeting going all over town asking about this pink haired woman who showed up recently.

So, Garmen hears about this, and the meet-up/maybe robbery turns into a full on assassination attempt, with about twenty Ropefists ambushing them in a tight ally. The party wins, killing about half the thugs and sending the others running. They then spend an hour debating how much of Torch they feel justified in burning down as part of their revenge against the Ropefists.

Luckily, there's one player who's not a murder hobo (and also took the background trait that made them local to Torch) who talked them down, and they went back to the caves and fought the gremlins by themselves. And completely rolled over them, 'cause they're effin' GREMLINS!

RIP, Ilo Attergott, halfling oracle of the Dark Tapestry. Throttled to death by a revenant. The party heard that a mysterious figure was wandering the moors, calling out Ilo's name. So, they went out to meet him and ask him questions.

It didn't go great.

My party's just started book 2, but I'm looking ahead to book 3, and noticed something that I like, but not sure what to do with yet. You know that bit from book 2 about Lowls having a phobia about cats? So, the quest to get the the hag's heart is in the Dreamlands city Dylath-Leen. I did some research of Dylath-Leen.

Dylath-Leen is about a week upriver from the village of Ulthar.

The village of Ulthar was first introduced in a short story called...

The Cats of Ulthar.

That's too good a coincidence to pass up. So far, I have a player handout where Lowls describes some early attempts to travel to the Dreamlands, and he mentions Ulthar as a place too terrible to describe, but I'd like to do more with it. Any suggestions?

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Here's a pdf of the cards I made for Serpent Skull, with the art blanked out. It's about 80mb.

There's three basic card types: artifacts, installations, and creatures. Artifacts are anything that can be picked up and carried away. Installations are buildings and statues and things that are generally not portable. I didn't introduce the creature cards until they got to Ilmurea, where the products of Serpentfolk fleshwarping laboratories had escaped their cages when the city fell, and then spent 10,000 years inbreeding while being exposed to weird science radiation. There was a LOT of weird stuff scurrying around down there!

The pdf was formatted for ease of printing, not ease of reading. Sorry for all the upside down cards!

Initially, I was using Ultimate Campaign rules for the player's camp, but ended up dropping it because only one of my players was into it, and everyone sitting around while one player did all the camp stuff was no good. Some of the earlier cards reference those rules, but they stop showing up after a while.

My friends will confirm that I have a long history of screwing up Google Docs links, so let me know if there's a problem with viewing the pdf!

I'm running this for some players that don't have a ton of experience with RPGs, and none at all with Pathfinder (One guy's played a fair bit of 4th, one guy played just a little 3rd, one hasn't played D&D since 2nd edition was the new thing, and the fourth had never played any RPG at all before). We met through improv classes, so I knew they're comfortable with someone throwing a situation at them and rolling with it.

So I made up four PCs myself and wrote up backstories for each, including sealed envelopes containing specific memories that would unlock at pre-determined points in the campaign. First session, I gave each player a blank character sheet with just the ability scores filled in, and didn't explain any game rules to them before we started. When they tried something, I told them how it worked mechanically, and had them roll, then told them what bonuses they could add based on the full character sheets I kept behind the GM screen.

They loved it, but its not something I would have tried with my regular group of grognards who have all been playing D&D for 20+ years. They would have hated not having the agency to create their own characters.

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I'm not there in the campaign yet, but my plan is that making the Knowledge check to recognize the painting allows the PC to recognize that it represents a being known as the Inmost Blot, but not its actual name - because there's almost no book anywhere on Golarion where that's recorded. Later, in Lowls journal, they'll find an entry where he talks about learning about Xhamen-Dor, except in the entry, the name has been scribbled out. In a subsequent entry a few weeks later, he explains that his research has uncovered the infection side-effect of the beings name, and he went back and covered it up in his journal so it won't affect him. He muses that his "intense mental training as a scholar" gave him the mental fortitude to protect himself from exposure. The next two pages are stuck together, and when the PC pries them apart, it's just "Xhamen-Dor" written over and over again.

I just finished book one last month, and did something similar with the dream, only I made cards instead of comics. I made about 30 dream cards* in Photoshop. They were either campaign backstory, hints about the haunts in the asylum, and a few "nightmare" cards that were visions of the Great Old Ones. Players who accumulated nightmare cards started getting bonuses on Knowledge checks related to Mythos subjects, but a penalty on sanity rolls.

I arranged them in a deck, and had the player draw them when they slept outside the chapel. In hindsight, that was a bit of a mistake, as there were some cards I wanted them to draw that they didn't get to by the time they'd finished the book. If I were doing it over again, I'd stack the deck before they drew.

*I have a thing about making decks of cards as gaming props. So far I've got four different deck concepts for Strange Aeons and we haven't even started book two yet. Really excited about the Necronomicon deck I made, and at the rate my group gets together for gaming, I'm not going to get to use it for about two years.

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Bardic Dave wrote:
That's incredible! Are you able to share your discovery cards? I would love to see them!

The art is just stuff I grabbed using Google searches, so I'm a little concerned about sharing them because of copyright issues. I might put up a few of them with the art blurred out, though.

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Alcibyades wrote:

Consider adding fabled treasures to the city. I put one in each district and tried to make them things that tied into the ancient history of the city. I just made it so that Urschlar hid many of them, in addition to the argental font. I generally just put them in a five room dungeon, that could be done in a session. Some examples were a drum that disrupted serpent folk telepathy and mental attacks; part of the regalia of the ancient kings and queens that helped protect against aberrations.


Depending on your players you can use the discovery point system as well. As presented it is pretty abstract, but I made little partial clues for each discovery point that could slowly be pieced together in order to get a picture of what had happened to the city. I also included clues about the fabled treasures here and and clues that could help bypass some of the traps and puzzles in the fabled treasure dungeons.

I did something pretty similar. I didn't really like the way Book 4 was integrated into the AP, so I changed a few things. First, the vaults were available to be explored from day 1. Second, the stones needed to get into Ilmurea were not hidden 1-to-1 in each vault. I scattered them about the city more. I didn't want them to be obvious, "This is a key, go find a door," objects, so I made them into Ioun stones, tied them to the seven Azlanti virtues, and wrote a short bit of doggerel that described the Azlanti view of the hierarchy of virtues. Essentially, telling them the order the stones needed to be placed in order to open the portal.

And here's the part where it was fortunate that I was working on this part of the AP during a period where I was unemployed for about two years: I made a deck of "discovery cards." Basically, I used Photoshop to make a card for every bit of loot in Saventh-Yhe that had any description to, and a card for every building in the city that was remotely important. And then I invented a bunch more. By the end of the AP, I had a deck of almost 300 cards. Mixed in were the seven Ioun stones they needed to unlock the door, and fragments of the poem scattered across various murals, carvings over door lintels, and engraved on various other random objects they found. They spent easily half a year, real time, exploring the city and gathering these cards before they figured out (from other clues I hid in the cards) that there was a second city underground they had to find, and a portal to get into it.

The session where they spent almost two hours, going through this massive stack of home-made cards, looking for clues and arguing over the order, without me having to give a single hint or nudge to get them in the right direction, was the single best experience I've ever had as a GM.