Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Session # 68 Recap:
[30 Abadius 4708 continued]
Inside Sandpoint’s Town Hall, a hearing is about to start on Nagol Scarnetti’s lawsuit against Ava stemming from an encounter where he called her names and she responded by conjuring a burst of water to drench him. Ava whispers to her friends that she doesn’t want them to do anything violent, as she’s confident she’ll get a fair trial. Kang says that with himself as her attorney, she’ll surely be acquitted. However, he sneaks off to the latrines to chug an elixir to increase his personal attractiveness and charm. Meanwhile, Jinkatsyu and Nerissa talk about the latter’s own legal troubles with Nagol Scarnetti. Truly, the adventurers have made an enemy!
When doors to the large meeting room are opened, the adventurers are ushered inside. They see the town council (representatives of the four “founding families”) sitting behind a semi-circular table, ready to hand out judgement at the end of trial. Present are Mayor Kendra Deverin, Ameiko Kaijitsu, Titus Scarnetti, and Belvan Valdemar (standing in his for his elderly father). Ava and her friends can tell that Ameiko is favourably predisposed to them and that Titus is downright hostile, but that the other two are remaining steadfastly neutral out of either principle (Deverin) or disinterest (Belvan). Mayor Deverin explains that the charges against Ava range from assault (for using magic against Nagol) to destruction of personal property (for allegedly ruining Nagol’s fine silk clothing) to seditious libel (for impugning the character of a noble).
The proceedings begin with Edgeworth, Nagol’s high-powered Magnimarian barrister, making an opening argument that seems to go over well with the judges. When Edgeworth begins his well-rehearsed examination of Nagol, Kang jumps to his feet to interject for proof that the noble’s clothes were actually ruined. Unfortunately, Edgeworth was well-prepared for this eventuality and has a set of ruined clothing introduced into evidence! Edgeworth elicits testimony that makes it sound like Ava, an “adventurer and spellcaster of tremendous power,” lost her temper and assaulted a defenceless, well-respected resident of Sandpoint. Edgeworth’s oratory is quite effective, and Kang has an uphill battle to win the judges back over.
Kang, who (despite his bluster) has no particular knowledge of the legal system or trial advocacy, begins the defence case by calling his companions as witnesses. Jinkatsyu’s testimony does little to change the basic outline of events as presented by Edgeworth, but Nerissa’s passionate defence of Ava’s character and contribution to Sandpoint is quite effective. Salma’s point-by-point, fact-based breakdown of what happened also goes over quite well. Edgeworth decides there’s little to be gained from cross-examining the trio, and waives his right to do so. But then, in a move that surprises many in the room, Kang calls Ava to the stand! On the verge of tears, she explains how hurtful it was to be accosted and called insulting names over and over again by Nagol, and how she was afraid of the much larger man and his friends. Sympathy wells up in the hearts of the judges (apart from Titus Scarnetti), until Edgeworth begins his cross-examination. He adroitly brings out just how many battles Ava has participated in, how she has fought terrifying foes, and how she could not conceivably been afraid of an unarmed young nobleman standing on the streets of Sandpoint across from the Garrison. “Ladies and gentlemen, I posit to you thus: if the defendant can stand toe-to-toe with massive bears and stone giants, how could she truly be afraid of my client? Was she afraid for her safety, as she claims, or merely suffering from hurt feelings?” All of the progress the defence witnesses made are shattered by the devastating remark, and Kang’s closing argument fails to further sway the judges.
During a recess for the judges to consider their verdict, Edgeworth approaches Kang and smugly offers a settlement: if Ava compensates his client to the tune of 2000 gold pieces and publicly apologises for her misbehaviour, he’ll withdraw his earlier request that she be stripped of all property and exiled from Sandpoint. Kang quickly rejects the offer, and whispers to his friends that if things go really bad, they can just teleport away. Some of the others argue that then they all might get in trouble and be permanently barred from the town.
When the judges return, it’s clear that only Ameiko is still on the adventurers’ side in the dispute. The verdict isn’t as severe as it could be, but it’s still harsh: Ava owes Nagol 500 gold pieces as compensation for the damaged clothing, and is exiled from Sandpoint for the assault and seditious libel. The grippli breaks into tears, but while the others console her, Jinkatsyu catches up to Mayor Deverin and asks for a quiet word. The kitsune prevails upon Deverin to reconsider the decision, saying that the adventurers have saved Sandpoint in the past and are currently on a mission to stop stone giants from invading again! However, Mayor Deverin says that the law does not allow past or future deeds of virtue to absolve one from wrongdoing: no one is above the law, she says, and (regrettably) even the “Heroes of Sandpoint” have to respect town law. She does whisper to Jinkatsyu, however, that Kang was a terrible trial lawyer and the group should seek an appeal of the verdict in Magnimar!
Sheriff Hemlock clearly feels sorry for Ava, and says he can give her an hour to gather her things and say goodbye before he has to escort her to the edge of town. The adventurers discuss what to do next. Jinkatsyu raises the idea of hiring a barrister in Magnimar and appealing the outcome, Nerissa says that it’s best just to take it on the chin and get on with things, and Salma suggests using magic to disguise Ava as someone else. In fact, Salma and Kang are so outraged by the verdict that they suggest just letting the town be levelled by the stone giants! Jinkatsyu is aghast at the idea of letting so many die just because of one lawsuit. Ava remains quiet and subdued during the conversation, her eyes downcast. Eventually, the group decide that they’ll make Magnimar their new base of operations, but that Ava should pay the fine and comply with the exile order to avoid further antagonizing the town leaders. Ava hurries to the Cathedral to say goodbye to Father Zantus, and he’s clearly saddened by what happened—he explains that many people in Sandpoint despise the Scarnettis. The two agree that in an emergency, Father Zantus will contact Ava through magical means. Afterwards, the adventurers are escorted through the North Gate by Sheriff Hemlock. Nagol Scarnetti is there, smirking, but Ava classily turns her back and ignores him.
Salma’s attempt to teleport everyone to Magnimar fails—twice! The party ends up on top of a rocky escarpment somewhere in the Sandpoint hinterlands and decides to set camp for the rest of the day and try again in the morning. Nerissa bakes some fantastic muffins, and says that if Nagol pursues a lawsuit against her, she’ll win. She ruminates about just sneaking into Sandpoint and assassinating the man (saying there’s no way she’d get caught, and no jail that could hold her), a remark that Jinkatsyu condemns. Later, Kang announces a breakthrough in his attempts to decipher Nerissa’s coded journal: he says it’s a log of imports from Aldoran to Cheliax. The others seem sceptical. Apart from rats swarming through the camp in the middle of the night (easily dispatched by one of Kang’s bombs), the hours until morning pass uneventfully.
[31 Abadius 4708]
In the morning, a snowy day greets the adventurers as they reconsider their plans. A consensus starts to develop for teleporting back to the Iron Peaks and the path towards Jorgenfist immediately, as the timeframe for the stone giant invasion is not known apart from scattered intelligence that it would take place in just a matter of weeks from the initial raid on Sandpoint. The heavy snowfall, however, convinces the group that travelling through the mountains is too risky and that they should head to Magnimar instead. Salma’s initial attempt to teleport the group utterly fails, and angry, he has to be talked out of trying for the Iron Peaks instead. On the second try, the group appears in Alabaster Park in Magnimar. The adventurers trudge through the slushy streets into the center of the city and head for the Arvensoar, hoping to gain some sort of reward or sponsorship for their quest to defeat the stone giants. Soon they reach the massive fortress that towers over the city, and Jinkatsyu persuades the sentinels to allow them in by mentioning their encounter with the scout, Veridian. After being escorted through the labyrinthine corridors of the massive fortress, the adventurers are eventually taken to meet with Captain Gibble Fank. Fank listens to their tale and Nerissa’s persuasive request for assistance on their expedition to Jorgenfist; Fank says he’ll consult with his superior and let them know in the morning. In the meantime, given the weather outside, he suggests they stay at a nearby inn, the Black Shield.
The Black Shield seems to be a tavern and inn that caters to soldiers, mercenaries, and caravan guards. Battle-scarred shields line the walls, and the half-orc behind the bar grunts as he takes the newcomers’ coin. Nerissa, Jinkatsyu, and Kang decide to brave the snowstorm to find a library so that Nerissa can research the origin of the strange red insect mask found in the boat belonging to her would-be assassin, and to see if she can learn more about the code she must have used when writing her own journal. A few hours later, however, when the adventurers finally find Magnimar’s best library, the Founder’s Archive, they have only moments to speak with the matron, Irba Demerios, before it closes. She confirms that the library should have the resources to assist them, and that patrons can hire private researchers if their own skills are inadequate. The trio agree to come back in the morning.
[1 Calistril 4708]
While the others are away at the library, Ava and Salma stand outside and endure the harsh weather so they can memorize the façade of the Black Shield to aid in future teleportation attempts. Just before lunch, a messenger arrives bearing two scrolls. The first, signed by High-Captain Acacia Uriana, says “Take all means at your dispersal to destroy the stone giant threat.” The second is a magical scroll that Salma deciphers as holding a spell that should allow them to teleport directly to Jorgenfist!
The trial was pretty fun. I set it up as a skill's challenge, with different DCs to persuade different judges. Kang is pretty much the world's worst attorney, with a very low Diplomacy score that is an essential part of his character. Edgeworth (a character from a video game that I uncharacteristically implemented into the campaign at a player's suggestion) rolled much higher. I actually though the verdict was reasonably fair, but I soon realized it was perceived quite differently, with talk of abandoning Sandpoint altogether! It's hard to add some intrigue without the risk of it backfiring.
I set a *very* high Diplomacy DC for the PCs' attempt to get some direct help from the authorities in Magnimar, and they made it! Hence, the scroll of greater teleportation.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Session # 67 Recap:
[28 Abadius 4708 continued]
As the adventurers continue pushing through the rugged landscape despite the blizzard that obscures their vision, they hear what can only be described as a loud trumpeting ahead of them. Seconds later, a tremendous rumbling noise seems to come towards them from the north. With no idea what they’re about to face, the adventurers brace themselves for attack only to find massive boulders rolling over them from out of the swirling snow! Kang and Ava are badly bruised, while Jinkatsyu somehow darts on top of one of the boulders and escapes unharmed. But Neriss and Salma are neither so lucky nor so strong, and each is crushed to a veritable pulp by the cascade of rocks. Ava reacts quickly and is able to magically pull Salma back from the blackness of death, and the weakened wizard’s only thought is escape. She magically teleports everyone back to the day’s previous campsite a few miles further south. Ava rushes over to Nerissa and tries to repeat her feat, but it’s too late—Nerissa has slipped away.
Salma conjures a magical dome to keep out the wind and snow. The others talk about how what happened wasn’t an avalanche, as they weren’t buried under a cascade of snow and jagged rock—just smooth boulders. Obviously, a trap of some type, but they can’t figure out how the defenders knew they were coming. Ava prays to her lord Sinashakti, the Walker of Worlds, for the power to bring Nerissa back to life and, fuelled by the sacrifice of a flawless diamond, the supplication works. Nerissa slowly regains consciousness, looking wan and pale from the ordeal. Ava’s joy at the miracle is short-lived, however, as she realizes she has no more diamonds to fuel further magicks of the same sort, and not enough money to buy more even if she were back in Magnimar. Salma suggests simply stealing some, as they’re now far more powerful than any jeweler’s bodyguards, but Nerissa and Ava are strongly against the notion.
The adventurers’ much needed rest that night is interrupted when Salma realizes that some of the rocky outcroppings near them have moved slightly over the night—gargoyles! As has proven the case so often in recent battles, the foes cannot withstand the pure destructive conflagration of Salma’s fire magicks and Kang’s explosive bombs. Searching a crevice in the rock, Salma finds some old trinkets and battered gear that the gargoyles must have collected from past travellers over the years.
[29 Abadius 4708]
In the morning, despite the urgency of their quest, the adventurers settle on going back to Magnimar immediately and then on to Sandpoint the next day so that Ava will be present for the legal proceedings brought against her by Nagol Scarnetti. Kang again offers to act in her defence, confident that his self-proclaimed status as a “genius” will make up for any lack of legal training.
Salma’s teleportation spell is successful, and the adventurers instantly find themselves at a beautiful public park (lightly dusted with snow) in the city’ exclusive Alabaster District. Nerissa’s interest in finding a tavern, despite the early hour, leads her to ask a wealthy couple for directions. Alarmed at her vagrant-like appearance, the couple motion for a nearby member of the City Watch to escort the adventurers away and down from the Summit. The group decide to find someplace to sell some of the spoils of war they’ve accumulated in their recent adventures and eventually make their way to the Bazarre of Sails in Dockway. Here, despite the cold, hundreds of stalls have been set up to form the largest free market in Varisia. Nerissa is enchanted by the array of exotic foods and spices from all over the continent and even further afield, while Kang makes fast friends with a dwarf named Bartol Ehdrick who has been experimenting with mechanical wings, spring-loaded boots, and ink quill finger gloves to write ten messages at once! Meanwhile, Salma, Jinkatsyu, and Ava learn that the best place to purchase flawless diamonds of the type they’re seeking is at the Bronze House—the regional headquarters of the Aspis Consortium. There, they speak to a gaunt Taldan named Maiveer Sloan, who is willing to sell them “blood diamonds” from the Mwangi Expanse.
The rest of the afternoon passes quickly, with only Ava’s sobbing (caused by Kang referring to her and the others as “acquaintances” rather than “friends”) marring the day. At sunset, the adventurers walk to Defiant’s Garden, where Kang intends to see Lord-Mayor Grobaras and collect some sort of reward for having discovered the fate of Fort Rannick. Unfortunately, he can’t talk his way past the guards outside and is turned away.
The adventurers decide to spend the night in Sandpoint, and teleport into the room at the Rusty Dragon that Salma carefully memorized in past stays. However, they’re not prepared for the fact that other guests might stay there after their departure, and they find themselves suddenly standing next to a half-dressed, terrified couple screaming for help. Seconds later, Ameiko Kaijitsu bursts through the door, rapier in hand, and has harsh words for the adventurers’ foolishness. Jinkatsyu’s attempt to charm her is shut down hard, as he can’t escape the indignity of his embarrassing practice duel in the common room from days earlier.
The adventurers are lodged in different rooms, and spend the evening in the common room. Nerissa’s alcoholism becomes more alarming as she challenges the crowd to a drinking contest and finds no takers. When she offers to pay for the wine herself, she’s invited over to a table in the corner with a trio of well-dressed young men sit. Soon, she realizes that she’s sitting with Nagol Scarnetti and his friends and they’re mocking her for her association with “freaks.” Nerissa places one of the spicy peppers she obtained earlier from the markets in Magnimar into a flask of wine, and challenges Nagol to drink it after she takes a sip with no visible effects. He drinks the concoction down and then gasps in agony from the pain before rushing outside to dunk his head in a snowbank—leaving Nerissa chuffed at how well her prank on Ava’s tormentor worked. Meanwhile, Jinkatsyu, who is down to his last coppers, hears how Ameiko gives a discount to anyone who entertains the crowd with a story or performance. He takes the stage and tells the moving story of his family’s death at the hands of a coven of hags—there’s barely a dry eye in the room when he finishes. Ava braves the stage to tell a joke that is surprisingly well-received, but Kang’s follow-up leads to boos and minor outrage in the listeners.
[30 Abadius 4708]
In the morning, the adventurers visit local cartographer Veznutt Parooh in order to sell him a copy of the map of Jorgenfist they obtained from Veridian. Veznutt wistfully expresses his desire to accompany the adventurers, mentioning how the only true death is living the same day over and over again! He says he’s come across a few mentions of the Black Tower in his work—apparently it has stood since the days of ancient Thassilon, and no explorer who has entered has ever been known to come out alive. Legend has it that a great storehouse of knowledge exists under the Black Tower, but this has never been confirmed.
After their visit to Parooh, the adventurers hurry over to the Town Hall for Ava’s court proceeding. They see Nagol Scarnetti in the hallway, accompanied by a well-dressed and imposing barrister from Magnimar named Edgeworth. Edgeworth makes his way toward the group but instead of speaking with Ava or her “legal advocate” Kang, he instead hands Nerissa scroll. “You’ve been served my dear—poisoning a Scarnetti has consequences!”
The adventurers’ initial push towards Jorgenfist has been repelled, and now they’ve become wrapped up in local matters. Will they get on track in time to stop Mokmurian from launching his planned invasion of Varisia?
The adventurers had alerted enough patrols in previous sessions, so I thought this time the stone giants would have a sense of their route and prepared some defences. I didn't expect to kill anyone outright with boulders though, and dropping two of the PCs certainly derailed things for a bit. It led to the group teleporting to Magnimar for more diamonds and other supplies. I think I did a pretty good job depicting Magnimar this session, but one of the things that surprised me this campaign was how much time the PCs spent there--I had very good prep for Sandpoint, but not as good of prep for Magnimar. In retrospect, I would have set aside more time to really bring the city to life. In other respects, this session was a solid "downtime" sort of session, with a lot of good role-playing, some development of subplots, and a few hijinks with plenty of laughs.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Why do people buy complete series DVDs when the individual seasons have been out for years? Why are graphic novels (trade paperback collections) of comics sold in pretty much every bookstore everywhere when people could easily just have bought the individual issues months or years before? Why do people buy the Collected Works of Shakespeare instead of one play or sonnet at a time? It's because people like the convenience and elegance of having everything in one package. For something like the Kingmaker AP, they like it even better if it has new artwork and an improved story. That's why there's a vocal request for it to be updated for 1E.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
I would strongly support making this available for 1E. I bought both the RotRL Anniversary Edition and the Curse of the Crimson Throne hardcover despite owning the original AP volumes because: a) They are beautiful books; b) James Jacobs gave everything a second pass, having taken into account countless discussions on the forums, and the end product is much improved; c) Having everything in one place is very convenient. Having NPCs updated to Pathfinder from 3.5 was a nice bonus, but was not the sole reason for purchase.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Here's the Haunts Cheat Sheet I prepared for Chapter 2 . . .
1. Before a haunt begins to manifest, the only way to detect it is with Detect undead or Detect alignment at a -4 penalty vs. the Notice DC.
2. Once a haunt is triggered, a surprise round instantly begins. PCs who succeed on the Notice DC can act during this surprise round.
3. The haunt acts on Initiative rank 10; prior to this point, positive energy applied to the haunt (via channelled energy, cure spells, etc.) can damage the haunt’s hit points, and it doesn’t receive a Will save to lessen this damage; attacks that require a successful attack roll must hit AC 10. Unless the haunt has a special weakness, this is the only way to reduce its hit points.
4. If the haunt’s hit points are reduced to zero, it is neutralized (if this happens before Initiative rank 10 in the surprise round, it does not manifest).
5. A neutralized haunt is not destroyed, and can reset after a set amount of time with a DC 10 caster level check (if failed, it must wait that amount of time before trying again).
6. Some haunts are persistent, and continue into regular rounds, triggering once per round on Initiative rank 10.
7. All primary effects created by a haunt are mind-affecting fear effects, even those that produce physical effects.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
As a GM, the challenge I've found in this area is that there's a tension between a desire to encourage creativity and problem-solving for players of every class, while at the same time preserving the special role as "animal whisperers" given to rangers and druids through Wild Empathy.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Session # 66 Recap:
[24 Abadius 4708 continued]
The surprise attack by the stone giant watch post has been repulsed quickly, and now the intrepid travellers have a prisoner to deal with. The giant, Syvariak, collapses to his knees muttering that he knew Mokmurian’s foolish crusade would lead to the downfall of the Plateau People. With his life in their hands, Syvariak doesn’t hesitate to tell his captors what he knows about Mokmurian and Jorgenfist. He says that Mokmurian was an exiled runt of the Kavarvatti tribe, the same one that Syvariak himself belongs to. One day, Mokmurian returned to the tribe brimming with arcane power somehow discovered by his blasphemous venture into the Black Tower—a structure dating to the time of the magelords of legend! Mokmurian slew the tribe’s male elder, Vandarrec, forcing the tribe’s female elder, Conna, to submit the tribe to his new leadership. Mokmurian then had the Kavarvatti begin construction of a massive walled fortress around the Black Tower while he began rallying other tribes to his banner; though most refused, six other tribes of stone giants and giant-kin settled around Jorgenfist. When asked, Syvariak says there is no way the adventurers (whom he assumes are advanced scouts of a Magnimarian army) will ever reach Jorgenfist through the treacherous wintery mountainscape and patrols, and that even if they somehow did, the hundreds of Plateau People camped around the fortress (not to mention the rocs and harpies!) would make short work of intruders. Nonetheless, the adventurers seem determined to continue their quest, and ask Syvariak about whether Conna might be able to aid them. Syvariak explains that Conna is usually found in the caverns underneath the fortress, and confirms she has a burning hatred of Mokmurian but is powerless to do anything about it.
The adventurers discuss what to do with Syvariak. Given his candor and obvious sense of honour, they decide to let him go. He accepts their decision stoically, and explains that he must do his duty by maintaining his watch post after the adventurers leave. He wistfully remarks that he hopes as many of the Plateau People as possible survive the war to come.
[25 Abadius 4708]
In the morning, the adventurers discuss plans to contact Conna magically. Ava prepares a sending spell before realizing it won’t work because she doesn’t know Conna. Salma tries scrying, but the attempt fails. Preparing themselves for another day’s marching through the harsh terrain, the adventurers continue north. Their progress continues to be slow, impeded this day by the necessity of making their way carefully down one side of a steep valley wall and up the other side. That night, as they camp, Kang uncharacteristically gives Jinkatsyu some food when the latter expresses concern he’s running low on rations.
[26 Abadius 4708]
In the morning, Salma again tries to scry on Conna, but with no result. The adventurers begin moving, and even continue to press on when a blizzard starts a few hours into their journey! The zealous travellers push forward, barely able to see around them, slowly trudging on and covering about half a mile an hour until finally they decide to set up camp in the magical shelter provided by Salma’s spellcraft.
[27 Abadius 4708]
Just before dawn, Kang is already awake when he hears the sound of stone giant voices nearby, carried on the strong winds that continue to swirl snow all around them. The tiefling alerts the others, and the adventurers who can speak Giant realize that the patrol’s dire bears have caught the adventurers’ scent and is slowly approaching the obscured campsite! Salma lets loose with a massive fireball once one of the bears pokes its nose into the magical dome, alerting the giants that powerful foes are nearby. They shout to each other and leave the bears to fight while running away to alert further watch posts. The battle against the bears is over quickly as the adventurers have gained, sometimes the hard way, knowledge of how to withstand their might. The adventurers quickly discuss whether to chase after the fleeing giants but, given the heavy snowfall that makes seeing and tracking impossible, they decide it would be futile.
The adventurers rest for a few more hours until the blizzard finally loses strength. Another day’s slow travel through deep snowdrifts and jagged terrain is uneventful and the adventurers set camp, frustrated at their rate of progress through the forbidding terrain. Late that night, resting comfortably again in Salma’s conjured dome, some of the slumbering warriors hear a low moaning sound carried on the wind. Nerissa, relishing her new role as the party scout, stealthily approaches the source of the sound. She spies a human male half-frozen in the snow, clearly suffering from severe hypothermia and frostbite. She drags the man back into the magical hut, where Ava is able to revive him.
The man is cagey at first, especially when he catches Kang lying about themselves being “simple travellers.” After a lot of back and forth, the party manage to persuade him that they really have Varisia’s best interests at heart and he opens up. He says his name is Veridian, and that he’s a scout for Magnimar’s military. He says he had been sent to the Iron Peaks when rumors started to come of a new stone giant leader trying to unify the tribes. Veridian explains that he managed to find a vantage point to spy on Jorgenfist and that, once he realized preparations were seriously under way for an imminent invasion of southwest Varisia, he started to make his way back to civilization to warn his superiors. However, he got caught in the recent blizzard and couldn’t get to shelter in time. Salma picks up on Veridian’s mention of having sketched a map of Jorgenfist, and barters with him: in exchange for a look at the map, she’ll teleport the man back to Magnimar and save him weeks of arduous travel! It’s an offer even the distrustful scout can’t resist, and he shares the map—it details a handful of structures within the walls of Jorgenfist, as well as the location of the different tribal campsites and a pair of caves in the cliffside below the fortress.
While Veridian rests, the adventurers discuss strategies for what they should do once they reach the fortress. Ideas include trying to sneak into the caves in the hope that they lead somewhere under the fortress or trying to provoke a fight between the tribes. At last a consensus is reached to start with the caves and establish a staging area for further expeditions into the fortress.
[28 Abadius 4708]
In the morning, the adventurers ask Veridian if he can ask specifically for the army to prepare a defense of Sandpoint. The grizzled scout is sceptical, saying the town is of little ultimate strategic value and that Magnimar’s army is small, having rarely had to deal with a threat of this magnitude before. Salma is as good as her word and teleports the man back to Magnimar, and then returns to where the others are. They continue their journey north, and when the wind and swirling snow brings promise of another blizzard, they decide to press on.
A pair of fortunate events—the capture of a stone giant dissatisfied with Mokmurian’s ascension to power, and the rescue of a scout able to provide a map of Jorgenfist—have provided the adventurers with a major advantage in their quest to stop the stone giants from invading Varisia and bringing untold havoc and death. But their journey through the Iron Peaks is slow, and time is running out. Will they make it there in time?
This session showed how useful random encounters can be. The interrogation of the stone giant prisoner gave the party extensive information on the situation in Jorgenfist, including the presence of a potential ally (Conna the Wise). The encounter with Varidian (which I think officially on the table was "mountain man" or "scout" or something) was cleverly used by the PCs to obtain a rough map of the area. For my part, I liked it because it helped show that Magnimar was doing something about all this threat of giant invasions of Varisia (it can come across as far-fetched when only the PCs seem to notice something that everyone should care about).
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Resurrecting an old thread to double-check. I'm in a similar position to the OP: started GMing Rise of the Runelords as a home game back in 2016, and we're into Book 6 now. Neither myself nor any of the players did PFS at the beginning, but now most of us are into it. Is it legit to retroactively hand out Chronicles for the parts that a player went through?
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Session # 65 Recap:
[22 Abadius 4708 continued]
In a recovery room at the Sandpoint Cathedral, Nerissa starts to stir and eventually comes out of her catatonic state. Ava is at her side, and explains how she seemed to remember her mysterious past before collapsing. But whatever trauma led to her collapse has also again suppressed the secrets of her past—except for a haunting echo, “Forlorn, Not Forlorn.” Nerissa remains in surprisingly good spirits, however, but is alarmed to hear that Kang, Salma, and Jinkatsyu have already set out for Jorgenfist.
[23 Abadius 4708]
In the morning, Ava telepathically contacts Kang and says that Nerissa has awaken and that the two of them are ready to rejoin the group. Seconds later, Salma teleports to Sandpoint and finds Ava and Nerissa at the Cathedral. The trio decide to take advantage of their time in the town by purchasing some additional gear for the difficult trek through the mountains. While exiting a local shop, Ava sees that the town’s new clerk, Bimmy Beems, is waiting for her. He hands her a scroll and says several confusing statements about her being a servant, being of service, etc., before finally landing on the right words: “You’ve been served.” Ava unravels the scroll and can’t make heads or tails of the densely-written and archaic language within. Salma manages to understand part of the scroll, and explains to Ava that she’s been sued by Nagol Scarnetti for damages over the incident a few days earlier outside the Garrison, alleging everything from assault to the wanton destruction of personal property to seditious libel! Ava is on the verge of tears as Salma discerns that she’s expected to attend a hearing on the matter in just a week’s time. However, Salma promises her that he can have her back in Sandpoint in time to avoid being held in default.
While they’re away, Kang and Jinkatsyu rest in the magical hemisphere conjured earlier by Salma’s magic to keep them warm. The magic of the hemisphere allows them to easily see out, but others are blocked from seeing what’s inside. The two adventurers spy a stone giant hunting party coming down a rocky hillside in their general direction. The two prepare for a fight as best they can, hoping their campsite will be overlooked. But shifting winds carries their scent to the trio of dire bears that accompany the stone giants, and the bears roar their discovery! It doesn’t take long for the giants to spot the strange opaque dome on the otherwise mundane landscape, and they move up to investigate it cautiously. Kang and Jinkatsyu decide to strike first with their usual weapons of bomb and rapier, respectively. The battle is a difficult one, but at first the two heroes more than hold their own. When one of the massive giants is badly hurt, the other decides that warning Jorgenfist that intruders are on the way must take priority, and he runs. Kang unfolds his dragonfly wings and gives chase, but the maneuver leads Jinkatsyu alone in the dome against the surviving giant and the bears! The kitsune fights bravely and skilfully, killing all but one of the attackers, until a series of missteps gives the last survivor an opening. With a terrifying roar, the bear catches Jinkatsyu’s torso in its massive teeth and shakes its head back and forth several times before hurling the swordsman several feet into the air, dead before he even hits the ground. A massive crater marks the spot where Kang’s bomb incinerated the fleeing stone giant, but the master alchemist is too late to do anything for Jinkatsyu except to destroy his killer.
Seconds later, Salma, Ava, and Nerissa appear back at the campsite and see Kang holding Jinkatsyu’s lifeless body. Ava immediately drops to her knees and prays fervently to her god, Sinashakti, for the power to restore her friend to life . . . and it works! Jinkatsyu awakens as if from a deep sleep with no memory of what happened since the battle against the bear. Nerissa chastises the group for going off on their own on such a dangerous task, and both she and Ava express surprise at hearing the full story of what had happened over the past couple of days. Kang is unapologetic, and says that death is simply part of what they’ve all signed up for, noting that every single one of his previous companions on this epic quest have died in battle. Ava asks the members of the group to make a pact that they’ll stay together in the future so that what happened to Jinkatsyu doesn’t happen again.
The group continues on north. When Ava explains her legal problems back in Sandpoint, Kang assures her that his “extensive knowledge of the legal system” (no doubt from encounters on the wrong side of the law) will be sufficient to have her acquitted of any charges. Still, Ava is concerned that the Scarnettis will win the suit and she’ll lose access to the expensive spell components she needs to perform her most miraculous spells—including bringing the dead back to life! Once it starts to get dark, the adventurers camp in another magical sphere conjured by Salma.
[24 Abadius 4708]
The party’s reliance on magic for almost every facet of their journey continues with the application of spellcraft to help them endure the freezing temperatures of the Iron Peaks. After about four hours’ of walking, the adventurers realize there’s a problem with their plan to simply follow the Muschkal River right to Jorgenfist: the river disappears into underground tunnels for part of its length! Magic again comes to the fore with a spell to prevent the party from getting lost in the endless rock-strewn terrain. After the spell expires, however, the adventurers try to push on before realizing that they’re lost. They decide to set up camp and continue on in the morning.
Little do they know that their camp, partially sheltered from the wind by being placed next to a cliff wall, is below the campsite for a stone giant patrol! When massive boulders begin to roll through the adventurers’ camp, the danger becomes apparent. None of the adventurers are hurt, however, and they charge the giants’ camp. Salma’s fireball makes short work of the threat, despite the backblast harming some of his allies. One of the stone giants, badly burned, throws down his club and announces his surrender.
The adventurers’ progress from Hook Mountain to Jorgenfist has been steady, but extremely slow. Will they make it before Mokmurian launches his invasion of Varisia? And how does the potential of having a prisoner change the calculation?
This session had the start of a new subplot: a surprise lawsuit against Ava! It was fun since she's such a likable character, and helped flesh out some of the loathsome Scarnetti kin. There are some fun scenes coming up in future scenarios, but I later realised I had to be careful to not make Sandpoint into too much of a chore to be in--the PCs are supposed to want to save it, after all.
Jinks gets killed again! I had forgotten about this one. With the ready availability of raise dead, death becomes a temporary and somewhat expensive annoyance rather than a campaign-changer. I actually prefer the old rule from previous editions that death permanently lowers your Constitution score by 1 so that there's a hard cap on the number of times a character can die and be raised.
It was interesting having the PCs come at Jorgenfist from a direction the AP wasn't expecting, and trying to adopt some of the outer patrols to a different terrain type.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
I assume all the statistics and qualities of a weapon carry over (examples: critical effects, range increments, capacity and usage, and special qualities like archaic, unwieldy, analog, etc.) even when used by an NPC (whether a playable race or not).
My understanding is that the default is every race has two "hands" (whether actual hands, tentacles, claws, or something else) with which to manipulate objects unless stated otherwise.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
I often remind my players that this is a role-playing game, not a boardgame, and that if we spend time crowd-sourcing each PC's action, any excitement and pacing will be lost. So if they want to give each other advice, shout it in-character and quickly, as if there's a real battle going on around them. I make allowances for new players, of course, who might need more out-of-character guidance.
The biggest problem I've had with quarterbacking lately is at spell preparation time. Everyone wants to tell the party's cleric what spells to prep, leading to much research and debate and upwards of thirty minutes or more (real-time) spent on it. I've had to institute a house rule to set a maximum time limit (10 minutes real time), which I don't like to do, but it was getting a bit crazy. Classes with massive spell-lists can create that "analysis paralysis" problem.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
I don't know where it stands in terms of ranking, but I've always thought the Siege Mage archetype for Wizards was rubbish. Partially because siege weapons themselves aren't particularly impressive in Pathfinder, partially because wizards are veritable siege engines of their own (lobbing fireballs and disintegrating castle walls and teleporting defenders behind it, etc.!), and partially because taking *three* opposition schools of magic is a pretty high price for what you get.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
As an aside, I made up a PFS character last year with the "Pack Mule" Fighter archetype. The concept is that he's a PFS "Field Supply Officer" who carries everything a team should need for a variety of different missions. I haven't actually had the chance to play him yet, but his time will come and we'll see how it turns out . . .
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
The thing with Thornkeep (and a lot of modules, really) is that they're not written for PFS. So while no encounters can be changed, a GM does have some discretion in describing what the PCs' mission is, how various NPCs in the town are role-played (sometimes there are personality descriptions and even pics, but not always), and even what the general "feel" of the area is (a lawless place where the locals buy protection from mercenaries to protect themselves against thieves and bandits!), etc. Playing up the town and its NPCs (and the various plot threads between them) are what can keep Thornkeep, even in PFS, from being a straight-up dungeon crawl. That's what I've been trying to do, at least.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
To me, it's no different than saying "undead don't have to be evil." Yes, I guess I could find somewhere someplace in the vast lore of Golarion for an example of non-evil undead (example: Ordellia's ghost in Magnimar).
That wouldn't mean it wouldn't be a ret-con to suddenly introduce wraiths or ghouls or shadows as a common ("core") race in the setting (and I would then feel sad for the last decade of Lawful Good clerics and paladins who destroyed undead on sight!).
Ret-cons happen--it's part of any fictional continuity that goes on long enough (as fans of soap operas and comics can testify!). I think it's better to just own it rather than pretend Golarion has had 100% consistency all the way along :)
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
I've read and reviewed Goblins of Golarion. As far as I can tell, the homicidal, pyromaniac goblins we got from Burnt Offerings are pretty widespread across the world. So while I can accept people defending the ret-con, saying it's not a ret-con at all seems dubious, along the lines of saying "Greedo always shot first--you were all just too dim to realize that!" In other words, there's a reason, well-grounded in ten years of setting, for many Pathfinder gamers to view this as a ret-con. We're not crazy :)
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
I think it’s best to let any reviews speak for themselves.
I will say the common complaint on this thread about the wight as an encounter for the Level 1 dungeon is worth paying attention to. Last week it killed two PCs with one hit each, and then they rose as additional wights a few rounds later. The players at the table were understandably of the view that the encounter went well beyond the bounds of fairness.
Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Session # 64 Recap:
[20 Abadius 4708]
In the catacombs under Sandpoint, the adventurers have stopped for a short break. Nerissa opens her pack to pull out some rations, sees the strange mask she was found with when she washed up on the beach, and gasps—“I remember . . . everything!” Suddenly, her eyes roll back in her head and she falls to the ground convulsing. Ava, realizing the seriousness of what’s happening, instantly grabs Nerissa and teleports her to the surface so that help can be sought at the Cathedral.
The remaining three members of the party decide they may as well continue with their explorations. In one ancient chamber, a jagged block of marble forms an altar of some kind. A shallow concavity in the block holds what appears to simply be filthy water, but Salma’s divinations prove it to be so-called “Waters of Lamashtu” capable of creating mutations and deformities in those who drink it. The adventurers move on and soon come to what must be an immense underground cathedral. Bodies of monsters slain just months ago lay here and there. As the trio of explorers approach a sort of dais that holds a bubbling cauldron of water, the ghostly form of a young man wearing robes and holding a thick grimoire appears above the cauldron.
At first, the adventurers are concerned that they’ve triggered a hostile wraith or spectre, but then the ghostly figure starts to speak! In a sombre tone, he explains that he was once Xeveg Kishalq, the first Hero of Sandpoint slain since the monumental events that started with the Swallowtail Festival. He says he has been sent “by those who watch” to deliver a message to those who currently quest in defence of the town: the path lays elsewhere, and although in time they must return here, a nigh-unstoppable force will soon sweep down on Sandpoint if they tarry too long. The spirit of Xeveg then states he has been authorized to answer three questions. The trio consult amongst themselves and then start by asking why the giants came to Sandpoint. The spirit says that the giants were looking for a stone they could speak to in order to ascertain if Sandpoint hid a place of great importance. When the second question is whether that place is the catacombs, the spirit says that it lays below the catacombs, but that its time has not yet come. “What’s so important about this place” is the third question, and the spirit says that, in time, words will be scribbled on the walls that lead to the keys to the true conqueror’s undoing. The spirit starts to fade, but not before its final words echo through the chamber: “I was the first to fall, but I shall not be the last. May you fare better than I.”
The adventurers discuss what they’ve heard. Although wary that they may have fallen for trickery and misdirection, the looming threat of an invasion of Varisia by Mokmurian’s army seems too dangerous to ignore. With Salma casting a spell to help them find a way out of the catacombs, the adventurers make their way back into Sandpoint by passing through a secret door and out a cave that obviously once served as the means by which the goblins snuck into Sandpoint to attack the town.
After checking at the Cathedral and learning that Nerissa has entered a deep catatonic trance and will require Ava’s constant monitoring, the three return to their suite at the Rusty Dragon to plan their journey to Jorgenfist. One idea is to accept the offer of Tuvarok, the captured giant, to lead them to the fortress. Kang, however, expresses worry that Tuvarok will surely lead them into a trap, and that by the time they reach the Iron Peaks on foot, Mokmurian’s army could already be on its way. Jinkatsyu says the key is Mokmurian himself: if the adventurers can cut the head off the proverbial snake, the army may fall apart. Extensive discussion is held on the best route to take to get to Jorgenfist, with leading contenders including a quick teleportation to Galduria and then travelling the rest of the way on foot, teleporting to Hook Mountain and then west to Ravenmoor and then northeast to the Storval Stairs, or trying to discover enough information about Jorgenfist (perhaps through scrying) to allow a direct teleport there. No consensus is reached, but the trio agree to conduct some inquiries on their own and then meet back at the Rusty Dragon in the evening to make a decision.
Salma visits with Ilsoari Gandethus and gets permission to look through the man’s journals on travels through Varisia. The half-elf finds notes about a prominent inn in Ravenmoor called “The Bobbing Cork” that might serve as the basis for magical spells that could help keep the adventurers from getting lost if they start at Hook Mountain and travel to the town. Kang, for his part, tries to address the problem with altitude sickness he and his now-deceased former companions encountered on their ascent to the Kreeg Clanhold. However, the secrets behind “Nisk Tander’s Elixir of the Peaks” continue to evade him, a fact that is particularly galling for the self-described “Master of Alchemy.” Meanwhile, Jinkatsyu decides to consult with an expert, and visits his old friend Veznutt Parooh. Parooh explains the natural path from Sandpoint would be to take the Lost Coast Road over to Ember Lake and then pass through Galduria, Wolf’s Ear, and Ravenmoor before travelling cross-country up the Storval Stairs and then directly east into the Iron Peaks and the Valley of the Black Tower. When Jinkatsyu asks about what might be possible if the adventurers started at Hook Mountain, Parooh gives a surprising answer: what if the adventurers used rafts or canoes to sail across the Storval Deep and follow the Muschkal River straight to Jorgenfist? Jinkatsyu is intrigued by the possibility.
That evening, however, when the group meet up again, Salma says that a water route would be too dangerous: there are known to be giant creatures in the lakes in central Varisia, and carrying even a small canoe could be exhausting in the mountains. Kang suggests a minor alteration: following the river, but on foot, so to avoid getting lost. Salma, however, is concerned that uneven terrain and rocky cliffs could make following the river much harder than it sounds. With a route still unsettled, the adventurers decide to sleep on it.
[21 Abadius 4708]
Longnight, the shortest day of the year, is an extremely cold one. At breakfast in the inn’s common room, the adventurers reach a decision: they’ll teleport to Hook Mountain, descend to its base, journey directly west until they reach the Muschkal River, and then follow it on foot north until Jorgenfist. Kang notices that the common room is busier than usual, and that several ethnic Varisians seem to be streaming in. A barmaid explains that they’ve come for the celebration of Madame M’vashti’s life.
The trio make final preparations for departure. Ava is told about the plan and instructed to contact them through magic once Nerissa recovers from her current predicament. Potions to endure extreme cold are purchased, and Kang and Salma discuss the best spells to use on what they expect will be a difficult journey through a rugged and foreboding landscape. When the three are as ready as they can be, Salma teleports them directly to the entrance to the Kreeg Clanhold near the peak of Hook Mountain—and right next to the cave’s new inhabitants! Hundreds of venomous snakes are slithering all over the cave floor, obviously having found it a warm, dry place to survive the winter. Kang, however, labours under the misapprehension that the snakes are common, harmless garden snakes! But Salma knows better, and immediately evokes a magical inferno to kill dozens of them. But the survivors slither and swarm all over the newcomers, and Jinks and Salma can’t help but be bit and poisoned before another magical fireball can destroy the rest. Fortunately, the adventurers are hardy enough to shake off the worst of the poison and they’re able to continue.
The journey down the mountain is marked by a near tragedy, as Jinkatsyu’s handhold gives way and he falls nearly two hundred feet before landing on a ledge below! Somehow, the kitsune survives, but only with the aid of several magical healing elixirs will he be able to continue on the next morning. For now, the adventurers sleep in the temperature-controlled comfort of a magical dome conjured by Salma.
[22 Abadius 4708]
The adventurers reach the base of Hook Mountain safely and turn west. It doesn’t take long to reach the point where the Muschkal River flows into Lake Coal. The trio turn north, but soon further progress is blocked by a series of jagged cliffs. Salma and Jinkatsyu are able to ascend, but it takes Kang hours of work to finally reach the top. Finally, near midnight, the exhausted adventurers set up camp and rest.
Having set off on a dangerous journey through the mountains towards Jorgenfist, three adventurers have temporarily left their companions behind in Sandpoint. Will they come to regret their diminished strength in the time ahead?
Neither Nerissa's nor Ava's players could be present at this session, hence the Nerissa's mysterious fainting and Ava's need to watch over her. I'm 99% against meta-gaming, but I do approve of it in circumstances like this when, if the same in-game circumstances happened with everyone at the table, half the party would never leave the other half behind. (Another occasion when I don't mind a bit of meta-gaming is when a new PC is introduced to the party, and the existing PCs are more willing than normal to let a perfect stranger accompany them. Sometimes personalities and motivations and in-character paranoia have to be stretched a bit to accommodate a new PC--though there are limits!)
In retrospect, I'm of two minds about having Xeveg's ghost appear. On the positive side, I felt justified with might otherwise have been heavy-handed GM intervention because my one Plot Twist Card for the chapter was something like "help comes from an unexpected direction." In addition, I was still prepping the rest of Chapter Four and hadn't even touched Chapter Five yet, and had no idea what to do if the PCs jumped a chapter ahead! On the negative side, it might have come across a bit forced and cheesy (though I did my best to make it an interesting role-playing encounter and provide a nice call-back to a memorable event earlier in the campaign).
It might sound odd, but I really enjoyed the part where the PCs learn about and discuss the pros and cons of different routes to Jorgenfist (some of which I never envisioned!). When players are doing good role-playing about something important, I can just sit back and relax and enjoy the show. I made careful to stay neutral on things, but I was somewhat glad they didn't choose a route that involved Galduria or Ravenmoor, because I hadn't managed to obtain much information on either city and I always want destinations to be portrayed "authentically".
This session contains the end of the very, very, low-on-the-radar Madame Mvashti subplot. It never achieved what I had originally intended, but GMs can only influence the overall story, they aren't writing a solo novel where they have total control.