Land of The Linnorm Kings- The Scrimshaw Chronicles. Players are viking raiders at low levels, rising to become Linorm Kings and eventually slay Fafhneir. Honor system tracking, gaining renown and prestige, adventure based off of Beowulf required.
Taldor- Glory of Taldor. The players come from different levels of Taldor society, banding together to depose the Prince, put his daughter on the throne, prevent a civil war and strike back at a Qadiran invasion. Make Taldor a major Inner Sea power again.
Molthune/Nirmathas- March of War. Players take on the role of mercenaries who get to choose sides in the conflict and change the course of the war. Multiple paths, play sides against each other and determine who wins.
Jalmeray- The House of the Hidden Eye. Player become martial arts students, join the Houses of Perfection and participate in a Mortal Kombat style martial arts tournament. Establish custom fighting styles and schools complete with outrageous attack calls and style titles.
Realm of the Mammoth Lords- Blood and Bone. Player are leaders of a small tribe dealing with hunting, warfare, environment and other hazards to keep their tribe alive. Low-magic, low-wealth, gritty themes.
I want to congratulate Mr. Schneider on an amazing adventure and probably one of the best I've read in a long time.
Wesley Schneider comes up with enough reasons to get an evil party to work together, but I'm really satisfied by his use of the NPC village folk, reusing them in multiple scenarios, giving them enough personality and making it so that being a mega-douche to them isn't as easy as you think it will be. While you do feel a little sorry reading about what happens to these unfortunate people, you are outright encouraged and rewarded for doing so. Still, the adventure gives you a lot of leeway in conflict resolution, a ton more than normal APs do.
In a normal AP, the players are expected to kick in the door and murder everyone because they're Evil, but in Hellfire Compact, you can play around a lot. You could murder every person you lay eyes on, but that would not just upset your boss and turn the town against you faster, but it would probably draw the ire of other players who were hoping to take advantage of the town for fun and profit rather than blind murder.
The adventure goes out of it's way so you can choose to have multiple solutions. You can kill people easy or, as agents of the Baron, throw them in the stocks/jail for some public humiliation and make them regret crossing you. You can shake them down and force them to pay you to let them off with a warning or just beat them senseless to teach them a lesson but leave them breathing. It doesn't make assumptions on how you play and gives you a lot of freedom. Langacre could be a pristine gem of your tyrannical rule with it's spirit crushed or a flaming wreckage by the time you get done with it, your choice.
The most important thing about this adventure though is that it doesn't try and make you feel guilty with heavy handed maudlin tactics. While a DM is free to play up the tragedy you cause in people's lives, that is not assumed in the book. The violent falling out between Rhona and Cimri, the struggle of Dr. Gerya to keep her doors open, the possibility of a horrific situation for Tileavia after a failed Ressurection and the tragedy of Lencia The Angel Knight all tugged at my heart strings, but never came off as shallow preaching in the vein of Spec Ops: The Line 'DO YOU FEEL LIKE A HERO YET' with a morality play being crammed down my throat. You can appreciate the tragedy without a lampshade. I think I'm more attached to these NPCs than any in an AP before and the quality of your interaction with them is much higher than I've come to expect from AP storytelling. Schneider managed to avoid every pitfall I had imagined in this adventure and made something to be thoroughly enjoyed and worthy of reflection.
Cimri is an interesting character, and I find her likable despite her ruthlessness and flaws. I was worried with her role of showing players how to be Evil that she would steal the spotlight, but with the exception of a conversation with the sheriff, she spends most of the time as a contact and helper rather than a glory hound. She's good in that she can be played up as a trusted, if brutal, ally, or dispensed with at the soonest convenience.
The adventure also reminds me of Burnt Offerings, with events set into motion by a 'villain' in the background with a sympathetic story. Lencia is probably the best written end boss in a first issue AP since Nualia.
Still, there's so much opportunity and freedom to play with, you can go through the game feeling totally justified for your dick-ass behavior.
I'm looking forward to reading the rest. I was concerned that Hell's Vengeance would be hemmed in by the shortcomings of Hell's Rebels, but if this is the quality that Mr. Schneider and Mr. McCreary have in store for the rest of the AP, I'll count it as one of the best written adventures Paizo has put out.
4. THE FINAL ARMY OF EXPLORATIONIn a desperate bid to grasp old glory and gain much needed popularity, Prince Stavian has ordered the creation of a Final Grand Army of Exploration and is pointing it right straight into the heart of Iobaria (alternatively, north to reclaim Galt and claim the Stolen Lands). The players and a cabal of desperate nobles, sensing Taldor's final gasps for breath, set about to sabotage the effort and prevent the military from undertaking such a foolish and suicidal endeavor. The attempts are stymied though by a strange cult of Nyarlathotep who seems oddly fervent that the Army is successful.
I would LOVE to have a game like that, but when I had imagined it, it would be a really big undertaking that wouldn't likely turn out. It would have to be two seperate paths like Hell's Rebels/Vengeance, otherwise if they were generic mission, the route could suffer from being to generic to fit into both sides. It could be done, but it would be difficult. I really wasn't willing to beg for two APs either since we just got a duel-sided adventure path, even though Vengeance and Rebels have little to do directly with each other. Having an AP or module where the players take two different sides has been done before, in The Frozen Stars, so it's a possibility.
Taldor totally is a meritocracy.... from the perspective of the players, that is. They're perfectly positioned to the be ones who can get elevated in social status and that would be a major part of any AP set there. Again, just because Taldor doesn't have a Good alignment doesn't mean that the players can't take their side in a fight.
In Legacy of Fire, the players go to Katapesh and not one single word is mentioned that Katapesh is a horrible place because it's the center of the slave trade. The players even indirectly help the city out in stopping the big bad guy of the AP, but again no one is made to feel bad for propping up a bunch of slavers.
Again, it seems people are hung up so much on what Taldor has become rather than what it could be. We're talking about a dramatic restructuring while still keeping a national identity. Taldor is not an Evil nation nor does it have an Evil leadership. Refusing to have an AP there because of that is no different than complaining about having an AP in Cheliax, an obviously Evil country. We play in Westcrown where they kill people on stage for entertainment, I don't think anything Taldor does really deserves that much more criticism.
The point, again, isn't to justify what Taldor is, it's to make it what it could be again. This was the seat of Aroden, the shining star of humanity and it could be that once more.
Cole Deschain wrote:
The goal of the AP would be to justify those thoughts, to recapture the old glory and strengthen it. Turning around the decay of Taldor would be a more impressive accomplishment than just replacing one temporal power with another.
I see Taldor as a sleeping giant that's been passed over and ignored by the rest of the Inner Sea as time goes on. It would give the chance to have a large, powerful nation (in it's own way) be portrayed as something other than the villain in an AP and let the players be the vanguard of that change. Those accomplishments would be even more profound in the face of that grimly-painted face and demonstrate those feelings of superiority Taldor clings to are more than just paper tigers.
This is partly why I prefer Faerun/Ebberon over Golarion for my megaworlds.
Imagine if your GM kept changing the details of his homebrew setting but never told anyone until it came up in-game? That would be really frustrating to deal with.
Cole Deschain wrote:
Paucity of information may also be due to that Taldor exists and influenced most of Avistan but hasn't gotten any spotlight since so much time has been spent on Varisia and Cheliax, clearly the two darlings of AP focus. Also, a lot of what we knew about Taldor has been getting thrown out piece by piece over time or ignored. When the main source book of the place is considered to be full of holes by the developers, it's their job to give us a more accurate view or replace it with something new.
Again, I don't think people who want to play in Taldor want to make it something else or overthrow it, the appeal and glamour of the place is seizing the glory of past days and bringing it into the future. Instead of An Ancient Evil Awaken or Plucky CG Rebels, a Taldor game would be shades of gray, political intrigue that goes beyond the point of a sword and a chance to be a part of Golarion's history rather than define it. Taldor ascendant would drastically alter the face of Avistani politics and would be a good foil to stop Thrunes ambitions, while avoiding any clear cut Good Guy/Bad Guy dichotomy such as between Andoran/Cheliax, a murkier line in the sand with more room for exploration.
Getting around that would be as easy as waiting for Paladins to get their spells at 4th level and then take Extra Traits as a feat at 5th, choosing Pact Servant as one of your bonus traits. That would be kind of a jerk-ass move, though.
Perfect for Asmodeus, as well.
The argument to that is either Asmo WON'T grant Paladin abilities, or CAN'T do so, though I think Old Scratch would be delighted to have Paladins running around and doing his bidding either in their misguided zeal or ignorance.
Ahh, Pathfinder Society. I always forget that 99% of the hypothetical situations that are presented here take into account that you're playing in an 'official' game.
Let's not forget Skull and Shackles where they were the main antagonist (sort of) as well.
I love Devils, they are the best, but there are plenty of playgrounds to try out in Golarion and I want to ride different attractions in this amusement park.
As for Taldor, absolutely. It could go as far back as you want. Is Taldor's slow demise the work of Veiled Masters playing Taldor and Qadira against each other to wipe out the last vestige of Azlant? Maybe shed some more light on the time that Aroden walked among mankind and reveal clues as to his death? Is Taldor's demise due to the work of the subversive Dawnflower or does it have to do with Nyarlathotep's spurring of the Armies of Exploration that presaged Taldor's fall?
Is a new Army being gathered and the players have to prevent the Grand Prince's foolish decision to save Taldor?
The PCs are ripe for social advancement and their deeds would be easily reflected in more and more privileges and titles granted to them by the nobility. Maybe it could culminate in the granting of a true noble title where the players find their own noble house.
It would also be a great chance to make use of the Reputation, Honor and Contacts systems from Ultimate Campaign as well as Downtime as the players build their resources and their vast wealth of gold and political power.
I feel like anything that could be done in Cheliax could be cranked up to 11 in Taldor if given the opportunity. It would be nice for once for the players to be a part of the nation they live in and encourage stability, rather than outside elements for change.
I thought the same thing. Having a LG deity with such an obvious character flaw made both him and his faith feel a lot more real to me. One of those things like the chicken or the egg; is Erastil's faith male centrist because the Erestil is that way or is Erestil a little narrow minded because that's the traditions of his faith? It would give a lot of opportunity for RP, say if you played a female Cleric and the struggles to be acknowledged by local clergy or the story of a town who recently suffered the loss of their high priest and must turn to his wife, another Cleric, for guidance and learn to be more open.
Nothing wrong with the Gods having little foibles and failings to make them unique. Even just as a quirk of the faith, at least it makes them different from the other LG deities beyond domain choices. Just because a faith is LG doesn't mean they can't have failings or imperfections.
Also, they're less 'corrections', and more like 'sanitation'.
I think the call for a Glory of Taldor game has a lot more to do with allowing players to feel like Big Damn Heroes as they lead a once mighty empire back to their roots. Just as many people want to throw down a tyranny, some people want to be the ones to lead a nation into a new glory age. It's not a bad thing that it gets done on the backs of your enemies.
Coanan said it best.
Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.
Let's also keep in mind, both Taldor and Qadira are True Neutral, so it's not like anyone can claim they're the Good guys in the fight. Taldor may be a stodgy aristocrat filled quagmire but Qadira is an expansionist nation that supports a heavy slave trade and props up puppet governments. No one would be innocent in that war. And siding with Taldor is natural since they are the nation in decline and everyone loves to support the underdog. I think it would be refreshing to support the nation you live in as a PC rather than try to tear it down or replace those in power with someone of your own choosing.
I am a huge fan of the Hellknights and would love to see a more clearly defined difference between them as a LN organization than a LE one. I understand that they support Cheliax, but if the government started acting outside of the law or against the interest of continued stability, I would like to see the Hellknights painted as protectors against Chaos.
What the APs really need is more occurrences of the Hellknights as allies of the PCs against Chaos and less as mooks the players are meant to fight. I hope we get a more 'gentler' Order or at least see from a Golarion perspective why they are the 'good guys' without being Good.
My ideal Taldor AP;
A small civil war has broken out in Taldor incited by hardline Dawnflower Cult followers who have infiltrated Taldor's nobility and are pouring gold into their allies to destabilize Taldor.
First book, the players start out as young nobles, Lions, students of the Shadow School or former Ulfen Guard who, after helping stop an assassination attempt on the Emperor, catch his eye and become his new favorite past time, sending them on mostly pointless missions to regale and entertain him with their exploits.
Second book, the players begin to peel back the layers of Taldor's corruption and realize just how bad things are because of the Emperors inaction and the nobility's corruption. The Emperor already tires of the players and passes them on to his daughter as her personnel guard. Princess Eutropia enlists their aid to gather allies who would support her in a bid for the throne.
Third book, the players continue to support Eutropia when open war breaks out. Oppara is seized by violent riots, with the Dawnflower behind them and their catspaws among the nobility calling for the Emperors removal. Throw in some Gray Gardeners stirring things up from Galt, the players protect Eutropia from a Dawnflower assassin and they have one of two choices; save the Emperor again or let his assassination take place to conveniently remove him from power. Either way, Stavian is either gone or removed by his daughter and her allies from the throne and the new Empress takes control of Taldor.
Fourth book, now the Empresses' personal guard and troubleshooters, the players clean up the mess left by the riots, remove those nobles who assisted in the attacks and uncover the Dawnflower's involvement, all the while Qadira launches an attack on Taldor's eastern border, spurred on by the Dawnflower. The players quickly rally to defend Taldor and prevent an invasion.
Fifth book would be mostly missions for the Empress to build up military power and prevent Dawnflower sabotage from stalling a response to Qadira's invasion. Lots of mass combat, sieges and traditional warfare. Ends with a decisive military victory wherein Taldor reclaims most of the land taken by Qadira and humiliate the Padishah who immediately declares the Dawnflowers traitors.
Final book, the players strike at Qadira itself, convincing the church of Sarenrae to label the Dawnflower as heretics. Final battle has the players leading a Taldan army, the Empress at it's head, to lay siege to the Dawnflower fortress and the players taking out the cult's hierarchy and leaders.
Continuing the campaign could involve continuing conflict with Qadira, rebuilding Taldor as an Inner Sea power, gaining more allies such as Absolam and Osirion and discovering where the Dawnflower Heresy first began, possibly with extra-planar influence and the sudden and politically devastating arrival of a previously unknown son of Emperor Stavian intent on claiming the throne for his own.
And if you think 20D6 Sonic is bad, maybe you don't have what it takes to face the raw forces of the Abyss.
Honestly, if you have a group of PCs that mouth off to a goddess or attack her, they deserve exactly what happens to them. I'm from an old school group and all of them agree, you sit down and you shut up when a God talks. Any PC not showing proper deference, followed by an expectation of courageous or self assured actions, is gonna get it.
Any group not willing to show proper respect to a Goddess has a serious case of their own prideful self worth, a weakness the Abyss will quickly use to destroy them. Consider the PCs got their Mythic from the Wardstones which were placed by Iomedae. They owe her all of their strength and their actions should reflect it.
As for the penalty for the questions, maybe if they don't answer to Iomedae's expectations, the trumpets are a more visceral test? If they can survive the wrath of heaven's chorus, perhaps they have what it takes to suffer through the torments of the Abyss?
Honestly, I think this whole debate comes from New School players unable to play through an Old School scenario. People who are whining about a Goddess not treating them the way they think they should be treated are just the entitled types of adventurers she would not rely on and would pass for better bringers of her will and might.