Glass Dragonfly

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Organized Play Member. 207 posts (208 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 4 Organized Play characters. 1 alias.

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The first and best place to make cuts is Munasukaru's Penance. You can seriously remove 3/4ths of the encounters without affecting anything important.

Here are some more specific cuts I'd suggest:

Book One:
Since you can skip almost all of Brinestump Marsh with Clark's prologue, you probably don't need to cut too much of Castle Brinewall. That's good, because Brinewall is the most tightly-written dungeon in the AP. The giant toe-biter and phycomid are just random closet monsters and can be removed easily. The troglodytes and their monitor lizard aren't very memorable either.

Book Two:
Don't bother tracking Notoriety Points--just decide on your favourite NP events and make them happen. In another thread, someone suggested having the NPCs investigate one lead (Suishen, or a guide) while the PCs investigate the other, and that can help reduce investigation time. You can skip the shark-eating crab, but otherwise I'd keep the rest of the investigation intact; personally, I think it's already a little bare-bones.

There's a lot you could cut from Ravenscraeg, but choosing is hard. You can reduce the number of ninja in the fortress, but you need to keep enough to establish that it is indeed a fortress full of ninja. The ochre jelly, the spider eater, the hellwasp swarm, the executioner's hoods, the giant crawling hand, the samurai guardian statues, the trolls, the blindheims, and even Jorgan are basically just bonus XP fights, but they provide much-needed variety from killing ninja. So maybe try burying the ninja in an avalanche.

Book Three:
Book Three's random encounter chart is very important to build atmosphere; it'll take a long time to run them all as regular encounters, but if you try to run them with the caravan combat rules, you will make me cry. Even if you fix the math, rock-em-sock-em robots is not a good system for roleplaying. So besides skipping a few boring ones, there's not a lot you can do here.

You could conceivably drop the entire Katiyana sidequest, since it's just a one-time obstacle in the story arc, but that leaves the current adventure with zero plot. So I'd do an abridged version: skip either the dragon or Tunuak, turn the Storm Tower into one or two big fights, and remove a few encounters from the Spirit Road, starting with the yetis.

Book Four:
The Penance is so long that if you emptied 3/4ths of it, as I suggested, you're already done here. As long as Munasukaru is still at the end, what you choose to cut is not even that important.

Book Five:
I'm tempted to suggest removing Seinaru Heikiko entirely, because it's basically Ravenscraeg made boring and higher level for no good reason. But alternatively, you could make everything in the dungeon five levels lower, and let the PCs feel like superheroes by demolishing everything at once. To make things more interesting, keep your favourite of the named NPCs at the same level, and have them show up near the end of the party's romp.

Caution: Shinju no Ie's dungeon is a maze! If you don't drop it, tell the party the solution right away. Overall, this is a much better dungeon than the last one, with lots of cool encounters, and so I suggest keeping it mostly intact; however, the only encounters you should absolutely keep are the shogi board fight and the illusionist.

The onsen is at most three or four encounters long, and the siege is just one humongous fight, so you're probably fine there.

Book Six:
The Imperial Shrine doesn't really need any encounters besides Shigure and Onoko, and maybe the Rokurokubi, and the Well of Demons is just as good if you remove all unnamed monsters and play it as a boss rush.

Actually removing encounters from the Jade Palace is probably a bad idea--this is the BBEG's lair, of course it's jammed with monsters! Instead, have the entire party's roster of allied NPCs help assault the Palace in an epic battle royale. During a thunderstorm, of course. While they handle the small fry, the PCs have enough freedom to beeline for the Jade Throne and fight the endboss party.

Oh, and find some excuse for the Jade Palace to crumble around the PCs while they're fighting said endbosses. (Actually, at level 15, who needs an excuse?) Besides that a disintegrating throne room in a thunderstorm is a totally rad location for a final encounter, this lets the PCs watch their allies continue to fight outside while they deal with the Jade Regent.

The Exchange

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You'd almost certainly want to downplay how evil goblins are. No baby-eating and only a minimum of fires--goblins may be a little crazy, but they're not necessarily nonfunctional in regular humanoid society. They're distrusted, but they are accepted on the fringe of human society. Then the PCs can be a group of heroic, progressive goblins prophesied to lead Minkai to greatness. That's a perfectly serviceable campaign right there.

On the other hand, if the players really want to play the psychotic goblins of Golarion canon, this campaign is gonna get silly immediately. But that's fine too.

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Have the PCs start in the Licktoad Village instead of Sandpoint, and change Ameiko to a goblin bard of Tian descent. The PCs soon undertake a quest to depose the Jade Regent and install the first goblin empress of Minkai!

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Converting Ameiko to Asmodeus is extremely unlikely, but I'm going to go against the grain and tell you to let it happen. The players think it would be fun, and you, yourself, seem to think it would be fun, so don't make it harder than it needs to be. If the players put in fifteen levels of effort towards this outcome, they deserve it.

Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:
@ Tommy GM: You are asking about ways the Asmodean PC's can improve thier chances. Well, the first thing they really need to do is study thier history. Why/How House Thrune was able to seize control of/convert Cheliax, which means you need to decide why/how House Thrune was successful. In all likelyhood, unfortunately for you & the brothers BAD, it didn't happen in one generation. Which means their greatest chance at success is the long haul & by long haul I mean setting things up for future generations. Get an Asmodean presence set up, things like a Monastery, cede the Asmodeon Church responsibility for reclaiming the northernmost territory from the Barbarians, things like that. Remember, it took Housr Thrune at least two or three generations of almost total anarchy to claim Cheliax. Minkai hasn't seen anything like that bad yet.

Minkai isn't in anarchy, though--it's brutally oppressed by an illegitimate ruler. While an Asmodean dynasty might not be less oppressive, it would be entirely legitimate, and since much of Minkai is obsessed with duty, that gives it a major advantage.

Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:
Another thing for you to consider, the Amatatsu Seal is a literal gift from the gods of Minkai & I strongly doubt they/she will allow an encroachment by Asmodeus without repercussions. Have the Bad Boys even encountered the Seal yet? If not, their first encounter may come as an unfortunate surprise to them.

The gods are ok with letting the bad guys hold onto the other four seals, and have let the Five Storms take over Minkai with no repercussions. In fact, Minkai has had plenty of evil rulers in its past--not only would an Asmodean dynasty fit right in, it would probably be supported at first, being more legitimate.

magnuskn wrote:
Suishen also is something to take into account.

It's pretty easy to get around. It's Suishen's duty to serve the PCs regardless of their alignment, as long as they don't betray the family or prove unworthy as an heir. There's no reason that Asmodeus-worshippers would be unworthy unless you say so.

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Michael Radagast wrote:
While we're on the subject - what does Suishen mean? Is it related to the Japanese element Sui - Water?

I think it's just a made-up name, and any meaning is coincidental. Maybe it's the personal name of the spirit bound within the sword.

My players are just about to finish the first book--now that I'm thinking about it, I might change the sword's name to Suika (水火), meaning fire and water, since it's a flaming weapon. Oh, and when the PCs first hear the name, I'll have the ones who speak Tien roll Linguistics. Whoever rolls the lowest will interpret the name as Suika (西瓜), meaning... watermelon. Slash slash!

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Gluttony wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Oooh, I actually like that better than the truth...

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Brainiac wrote:
LeadPal wrote:
Brainiac wrote:
Our party's caravan is pretty well-rounded, consisting of an armored wagon, two supply wagons, two horse trains, a fortune-teller's wagon, and a royal carriage. With all the wagons, a party of 6 PCs, and a dozen NPCS (Ameiko, Koya, Sandru, Shalelu, Ulf, Kelda, 5 extra drivers, and a cook), our consumption is in the low 30s, so all of the scouts are set on hunting duty just to make sure we have enough food to get from settlement to settlement, which are few and far between in the Crown of the World.
How much of that was free, and how much was the party's own investment? It looks like you've spent at least double what you can automatically get in the first two modules.
The party has invested about 4,000-5,000 gp of its own money in the caravan. I know the party cleric bought the royal carriage straight up out of her own personal funds.

A little more than double, then.

It would help if we gave the caravan a much larger and more regular supply of freebies, and established a WBL of sorts. Real encounters aren't any easier, so just forcing the party to spend tens of thousands of their own money to make the caravan not die isn't a very good idea--it would literally be easier to walk the entire way.

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Tormas wrote:
Any ideas? And if Mr. Vaughan could give me his two cents on this, I'd really appreciate it.

I've been planning to have the fortress oddly empty when the PCs arrive, with only a token resistance and minimal leadership. Everyone is out--but not far. Kimandatsu only shows up once the PCs are exiting the building with Ameiko in tow, at which points she rages enough to order everything to chase them.

After fending off the first wave of ninjas, Kimandatsu panics, and gives a rash order to fire skyrockets at the mountainside. She would rather bury her own men under an avalanche than admit defeat. This explains why the remaining ninjas are too disorganized to come at the PCs all at once, and also makes the climax of the adventure ten times cooler, because OH MY GOD WE'RE BEING CHASED BY AN AVALANCHE

I haven't figured out how I'll justify the ninjas riding snowmobiles, but that seems integral. Maybe I'll just give them skis?

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Yup. "The target creature suffers all the hindrances and none of the benefits of your oracle's curse class feature." Dual-cursed changes the description of the class feature to include two curses, but it's still all the same class feature.

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Chris Mortika wrote:
we don't re-skin creatures in Pathfinder Society play.

Didn't know that. Citation?

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I glanced at their Pathfinder Wiki pages, but didn't find anything particularly interesting in their citations. Except for Riddleport, of course.

For what it's worth:

Wolf's Ear
Roderic's Cove
Velashu Uplands
Velashu River
Stony Mountains

The Exchange

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There's some grumbling over in the conundrum thread that you can't actually make any money with traders. Quite rightly, too. The trader entry is worded so that you can sell 5 units of trade goods on arriving in a settlement, and then have to move on to the next one. You need a lot of modifiers just to break even, and that means diverting resources from other options, like combat prowess--but why give up combat prowess, knowing that you can get money by killing bandits, so that you can make less money and increase the odds of being killed by bandits in turn?

Trading is a trap as written, but there's an obvious fix. Trading is a perfectly viable option if you allow traders to sell cargo from another settlement every day the caravan remains in a settlement, with a limit of five traders working each day. So if you have 10 cargo units of trade goods, you could stay for two days, giving your five traders time to sell all of them.

I've been playing with the numbers for a while, and this actually works so well that I strongly suspect this is how it was intended to work in the first place. Take a look at some of these example caravans:

Frugal Starting Caravan:
Let's say we have five PCs. They're greedy ones, convincing Ameiko to let them pocket her start-up cash, and refusing to hire anyone beyond the default caravan. They choose to max out morale at 4 and take Merchant Mastery.

Sandru and the brothers drive as usual, while Ameiko cooks, Shalelu and two more PCs scout for food, and Koya fortune-tells. The other two PCs can do whatever, as it's not important for our purposes. (Ridiculously cheap PCs with Handle Animal could even fire the brothers).

Their consumption is effectively 4, since the scouts bring in two free provisions a day without consuming any. It's debatable how long it takes to go from town to town in Varisia, but I figure it averages four days; they'll play it safe in case they run into trouble, and take 3 stores, good for 7.5 days. Let's say they eat it all by the time they get to town (maybe to keep unrest down?), because it's a lot of trouble to estimate actual usage.

Instead of hiring traders, three of the PCs will switch to trading in town, along with Ameiko and Sandru, while two more PCs entertain for another +2 resolve. Shalelu keeps hunting and Koya keeps fortune-telling. Their consumption shoots up to an effective 12 on trading day, costing 6 gp in provisions every day they're trading.

They average 15.5 gp for each unit of goods, or 71.5 gp for a day's work. ([10.5 rolled, +4 ability, +4 hero, +2 circumstance, +5 feat, -10 COGS] x5 traders, -6 food).

The towns on the way to Brinewall are Galduria, Wolf's Ear, Roderic's Cove, and (potentially) Riddleport. If a caravan can only sell on arriving in a new settlement, they'll earn 71.5 gp per town. After spending 20 gp for the drivers and 60 gp in eaten/wasted stores on the road, they've earned 206 gp--less than a single battle with bandits. If it's not an bad investment, it's only because the party didn't invest anything.

But if they can sell 15 units of trade goods to sell over the course of three days, they'll earn 214.5 gp per town, and it won't affect their expenses very much. That's 798 gp in trade. They'll probably end up spending more in repairs due to the sacrifice in combat ability, but still, they're making coin for their effort.

With some actual investment, the PCs could try to sell in volume instead.

Huge Starting Caravan:
If they take Mobility 3 and Morale 2 instead of Morale 4, they can take Extra Wagons, and spend 1200 gp of Ameiko's starting cash on four supply wagons, adding 40 capacity. They'll all need drivers, and they'll take on three traders as well, so that all of the extra PCs can entertain in town (unlikely unless they're all spellcasters, but possible).

Effective consumption is thus 15 on the road and 23 while trading, so they'll take 13 stores (good for 8.7 days) and pay 11.5 gp a day to eat while in town. That leaves a whopping 45 capacity for trade goods. They're selling for 11.5 gp each, or 46 gp a day ([10.5 rolled, +2 ability, +4 hero, +5 circumstance, -10 COGS] x5 traders, -11.5 food).

Obviously you it's dumb to try to make money selling cheap goods when there's a cap on how much you can sell. If this caravan can only sell on arriving in a new settlement, they'll earn 46 gp per town. Just the cost of eating on the road is 260 gp, so they're losing money. They'd be better off without the supply wagons; cargo capacity is irrelevant beyond what you need for food and treasure.

But dumping 45 units of trade goods into a town over nine days will earn 414 gp a town. It'd take two months to reach and sell in all four towns, so paying the six drivers and five traders will cost 220 gp, and eating on the road is still 260 gp, since eating in town is included above.

That means the volume approach will produce 1176 gp. That sounds like a lot, but split five ways, it's really not. The PCs have invested a fair bit into a caravan that's still relatively vulnerable. They'll have to flee from everything (they can't even pick up treasure anyways), which is especially bad because this caravan has very little tolerance for unrest. A run of bad luck could forcing them to give away a lot of trade goods and eat into their margins significantly. In all, the reward matches the risk.

Besides, this caravan is driving down a road of diminishing returns.

High Level Caravan:
We don't know what the future APs hold, so it's hard to say for sure how things scale. Free NPCs are great for keeping costs down, for one thing. Extradimensional storage becomes available. And we don't know the number of settlements or the distances between them, except that they surely become scarce around the Crown of the World. But we can at least guess how much we earn per town.

Level the volume caravan to 10 (the presumed start of book four), giving it Merchant Mastery three times, Enhanced Caravan four times for a Morale of 6 and other scores of whatever, and Extra Caravan three times. We've added a Royal Carriage (+4 resolve), another three Supply Wagons, and four drivers.

Effective consumption is 24 on the road and 32 while trading. We'll take 35 stores (over two weeks of food) and pay 16 gp a day to eat while in town. That leaves 55 capacity for trade goods. They're selling for 34.5 gp each, or 156.5 gp a day ([10.5 rolled, +6 ability, +4 hero, +5 circumstance, +4 Carriage, +15 Mastery, -10 COGS] x5 traders, -16 food).

You get 156.5 gp for arrival. Monthly wages are 150 gp, and daily consumption costs 12 gp, so they need to hit about three towns a month to break even. At level 10, this is a TOTAL waste of effort. They'll probably never even pay off the extra wagons!

But if they can sell every last unit? After 11 days in town, they'll earn 1721.5 gp, minus some very nebulous expenses. If the towns are reasonably close to each other in Tian Xia you could make okayish amounts of money for their level, especially if we add allied NPCs and bags of holding. However, while your caravan could have guards and points in defense and such, it's still going to be underpowered against random encounters, which are no doubt both far scarier, and far more profitable. Also, you're wasting lots of time in or near the Jade Regent's territory, which might be bad in itself. And there's still no spare room for treasure. I doubt that the high level merchant caravan is still worth it, overall. We've nearly tapped all options to increase profits and there's still a few adventures left to go!

In Summary...

Does this interpretation of caravan trading feel right? Some will sputter "butbutbut market saturation!", but I'm convinced the system is better this way. It rewards the PCs for careful caravan design. It allows the PCs to run a very long supply caravan viably. It lets the PCs make money in a way other than killing monsters and taking their stuff. It prevents the PCs from resenting the caravan as as a drain on resources. It encourages the PCs to stick around in the towns they visit, creating roleplaying opportunities.

And even if you think the strategy starts off a bit too strong, it still gets weaker over time, encouraging the party to eventually even out their stats and balance short-term gains with long-term effectiveness. Really, the biggest problem I see with running it this way is that it's potentially a ton of rolls--in practice I'd just let the party take the average for every trader, as I've assumed in all my math.

Hopefully my math is correct. Or at least not monstrously wrong. I did a ridiculous amount after all. Let me know if you find any mistakes--or ways to significantly improve profits.

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Could we get this thread locked? I find it personally annoying.

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In terms of game balance, what's the problem? Spiked armour is nowhere near as effective as threatening both 5' and 10' with the same weapon. 1d6 damage and x2 crit is worse than every two-handed reach weapon but the mancatcher, and feats like Weapon Focus or Improved Critical won't apply to both your reach weapon and your spikes at once. Plus, later on you'll need to spend extra money enchanting the spikes separately from your main weapon.

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As a visual for the players, I mocked up an image of the Devil Hunt target.