Session 5 Summary
The Ravenous Sleepers
After establishing an alliance with Argos, the party (with Argos's help) found the crypt where his knights "slept". Since I knew the party would make short work of these guys, I improvised some dialogue to give the encounter more context. The rogue opened the secret door and proceeded into the chamber followed by Argos. Torchlight filtered into the dusty crypt from their companions behind them, while the rank stench of rot welcomed them hither. Slumped in the far corner, nested in shadows but not hidden from view, is a gaunt human figure that slowly stirs upon being disturbed. Pure white pinholes pierce the gloom from his sunken eye sockets and with a sepulchural voice he addresses his guests.
"Why does the living despoil my tomb with its foul taint?"
(Surprisingly, both Argos and the rogue failed on their Perception checks to notice the rest of the hidden ghasts.)
"We have come to liberate you from your slumber" the rogue replied wearily, "we have brought your leader..Sir Argos. What is your name?"
"I was Bartholomew the Bold and your arrival is too little too late, Argos. You and your god have foresaken us, we are commanded by another now."
Argos speaks: "We were all foresaken by chance. You are not beyond redemption, Bartholomew. Repent now and Mitra shall forgive you."
"Mitra be damned!" Bartholomew spits, "Do you know what true damnation is, Argos? It is not eternal suffering. It is the endless yearning for the master, hearing his call but powerless to heed it. We need him as the living needs air to breathe, yet he is always just beyond our reach. But no longer, for you have indeed liberated us so we can go forth and do the master's bidding....by feasting on your flesh!"
A pall of sickly yellow erupts in the chamber as the ghasts emerge from the shadows to attack. Several party members are beset by the stench of corruption as the pack mobs Argos and the rogue, but their advantage of surprise is short-lived. Between the paladin's smite and the cleric's channel energy the ghasts are soon destroyed.
After consecrating the bodies, the party moved on to the brood pit. Skeribar and her partner have agreed to guide the party there but strongly suggest finding refuge at the "Garden of Respite" afterwards. The party agrees, although most of them know something is up from Sense Motive checks. There are a few encounters along the way: another group of vargouilles which are quickly dispatched and a lone wandering ghoul that the party laughed at and ignored.
The Brood Mother's Pit
I love spider bosses and never pass an opportunity to throw one at my players, but I had issues with this encounter. Ashborne arachne are pretty cool I guess, but the brood mother's abilities are uninteresting. Combat-wise, she is just a big spider with a lot of hit points and extremely good senses, but with the same old attack routine (poison bite, forelegs, or web). Given her high AC, I anticipate this would become a slogfest. We've been there, done that. So I switched her for a bebelith with a few extra abilities: an acid web attack that functions like acid arrow and the eye rays of a retriever (sans flesh to stone.) I added some additional dwarf lore to foreshadow Kroma and the end result was a lot more interesting and fun fight for my group, which they managed to defeat without any casualties (but some very close calls.)
It took a day of travel to reach the Reclaimers grove (I'm using one mile per square, half speed off the road). Because they were with Skeribar, the party was greeted cordially by the aloof druids. They set up camp and enjoyed the rest, although still very aware this could be a trap. At one point the barbarian PC expressed curiosity of Niva's animal companion, so she invited the barbarian to her hut later to meet Deathmane personally. When he went to visit, he walked into a carefully laid snare spell and the trap was sprung. We ended the session here, with the party being alerted by the barbarian shouting for help.
Our next session is this Wednesday and I have a few concerns. This is going to be a pretty deadly encounter, which I'm fine with, but I want to make sure its fair and square. Here are my dilemmas:
1 - Can the druids use their woodland stride ability to move through the hedge row? It says the hedge row is semi sentient and functions like an entangle spell, but doesn't clarify if it is magically altered terrain.
2 - Given the quickwoods remote sense ability and their 60 ft. reach with roots, I can see no reason why some of them wont attack the PCs. Is there something I'm missing here? It may be a bit overkill, but as I said this is a dangerous encounter so I will use everything at the Reclaimers' disposal.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
Yeah I agree, he has paladin written all over him. I'll take a closer look at the warpriest, but the player who will run him is big on trying a samurai. Not my first choice for Argos but since I probably won't use him as a NPC I may as well give the player what he wants. Besides, the cleric of Gorum is very much a battle build so they have covered that base.
@chaos effect - Nice recap, I also took petrification pity on my group when the paladin was stoned by Kolscillisk. I figured with the basilisk and Old Death coming up there will be plenty more chances for PCs to be turned to stone, so this was the warning shot.
I also enjoyed your description of the allip encounter. It made a fairly ho-hum monster (IMO) much more interesting.
Session 4 Summary
The Cast: human paladin, human alchemist/master chymist, human cleric of Gorum, human zen archer monk, half elf ranger/rogue
The Tomb of the Sleeping Knight
Sepulcher of Argos
This encounter went pretty much as written, with the party befriending Argos. The paladin took an especial interest as their faiths are similar. As I had not yet provided any of the Tsar backstory to the players, I found this a good opportunity for them to learn some Tsar's history up to the part where the disciples of Orcus abandoned the city. Argos wants to learn the fate of the army of Light and has joined the party for now. The player who runs the paladin also wants to play a samurai, so I may rebuild Argos as a samurai and give him to the player to use. I'm still undecided at this point.
End of session. No casualties, one petrified PC.
@CWheezy - that's an awesome build of Belishan that I will probably steal when my group gets there. Good stuff!
@James - I recommend you really work the dominate ability. If you go with CWheezy's rebuild then Belishan is fine, but if you decide to stick with script as written, then seriously consider ways to ramp his dominate DC via Ability Focus and Charisma boosters. Low-willed fighters are excellent targets that can cause a ton of havoc for the party. Since its likely there will be protection from evil spells, a greater dispel magic trap or two is pretty necessary here, which isn't a stretch considering Belishan's knowledge of the party and his penchant for traps. If you're feeling particularly evil, give a pinch of dust of sneezing and choking to Belishan. Since it doesn't affect him, it makes a devious escape plan.
Regarding your living tower idea, there was a similar environment detailed in the 3.5 hardcover Elder Evils in the Ragnorra chapter. You may want to check it out for ideas. Also, there is an excellent article here. It details dragon lairs for D&D Next, but can be used for any boss monster and has some very good suggestions.
James B. Cline wrote:
Great recap, those Bonestorms are brutal. Tiny Hut trivializes so many of the dangerous weather conditions, but the problem comes up when the character that they depend on for it dies or can't cast it. I'm surprised no one had any last minute gimmicks to negate the storm. I've assumed that Skeribar's people carry a trench shovel and if they see a storm coming they dig a quick hole to hide, and they probably know well enough to douse a rag and cover their faces.
The bonestorms are really lethal, but I'm glad they are. Many spells besides tiny hut negate or mitigate extreme weather, so I like that the Desolation is dangerous regardless of many of those spells. It sets it apart from other hostile environments where a simple endure elements will suffice.
@James and Geo Fix - Regarding rogues, the player who has been running them was getting a little down on the class. I recommended either a ranger/rogue with good acrobatics, or better yet a rogue partnered with a ranger that the player would control. Since rangers are also very good at stealth, the rogue would have his back covered in most situations and have a flanking partner to boot. Not to open a seperate discussion on rogues, but they just don't have the toughness to stay alive, especially when they're expected to stealth ahead and scout for the party. I've seen more of them die that way over the years and they have by far the highest rate of fatalities in my games. Heck, I even give rogues Hide In Plain Sight for free at 7th level. It has helped them stay alive quite a bit, but still does nothing once they reveal themselves to enemies (either by sneak attacking or the enemy detects them).
Session 3 Summary
Cast: human paladin, human alchemist/master chymist, elf cleric, dwarf monk, elf rogue
Storm Clouds Gather
Since we only have about five hours, I started the game immediately with combat. No last-game recaps or dickin' around with character updates, I just threw them into a random encounter with a pair of ashborne arachne. The party made fairly short work of them, but not before the rogue took some furious Strength damage from poison bites (12 total, I believe he had a Strength score of 1 by the time it was over). Nothing the wand of lesser restoration couldn't fix tho.
A bit later their ranger guide, one of Skeribar's men, failed his Survival check to notice the approaching bone storm. Now the party has heard about these from the campies and did take precautions for severe weather (traveller's kits, cloth covered mouths, endure elements spells, etc.) so I gave them the +5 bonus to their Fortitude saves, but it didn't matter. They were about to discover the hard way just how unrelenting the Desolation can be. They got caught in the storm and it pounded them to near tpk. Only the paladin persevered (making every Fortitude save) and the alchemist used beast form to change into a wolverine and burrow into the ground for shelter. Everyone else, including the guide, was killed. The survivors hobbled back to the Camp (with another encounter with the Midnight Peddler along the way) to regroup and recover. Fortunately for them, they made it back with no further random encounters.
The next day was spent recruiting new PCs - a zen archer monk, a gnome rogue, and a human battle cleric of Gorum would eventually join the party. They also went to the Usurer to buy several scrolls of tiny hut. Meanwhile, Skeribar (I've made him a female in my game, kinda fashioned after the red haired wildling from GoT) demands the party return the possessions of their former guide to her and some tempers flare up between her and the surviving members (they were in a crappy mood at this point.) The paladin does some serious backpeddling and diplomacy to get them back in her good books, hoping to hire her as their guide back out into the wastes. She agrees for double the normal fee, with the understanding that she is heading for the Grove of Respite (the Reclaimers) and the party is welcome to join her. Of course, she hopes to lure them there eventually. The following day they are back on the road headed for the Tomb of the Sleeping Knight - again, unbelievably, no random encounters but three bone storms hit, which Skeribar detects beforehand and three scrolls of tiny hut are consumed. The party reaches the tomb and after thorough inspection decide to bash in the secret door. The rogue moves in deep and well ahead of the party, so she is trapped when the azer guards appear. A fight ensues and the rasts are summoned into the battle, where the rogue falls victim to their paralyzing gaze and is promptly coup de gras'd by an azer. Another dead rogue. The other new recruits fared much better, however, with the zen archer and battle cleric contributing significantly to help the party defeat this difficult encounter.
End of session. Total of five casualties: elf rogue, elf cleric, half orc barbarian, gnome rogue, and npc ranger guide. This brings the death toll to six PCs so far, so I have recommended to the players (there are four) to each play two PCs, with at least one full arcane caster. A party of four or five just isn't going to cut it here.
@huntersblades - for outdoor random encounters we're just using minis and the desert mat from Paizo or theater of the mind. For dungeon locations like the Tomb of the Sleeping Knight, I use the DungeonRise terraclip sets from WorldWorksGames. They are amazing.
I think you're encounter distances should work just fine. I never really gave it too much thought; some encounters occur at a good distance while others may catch the party unaware depending on circumstances. But as a rule of thumb 6d6 x 10 sounds right.
As for frequency, I don't mind checks every 3 hours. Originally I thought it was too often, but random encounters help maintain the sandbox feel and also depletes party resources to keep the adventure tough. And you'd be surprised how often "No encounter" is rolled anyway. This will probably change at higher levels, of course. Either I will reduce the frequency or switch up the monsters, because after 11th level the party will probably have encountered most of them several times over and will provide next to no challenge.
Your party make up looks good, clerics and paladins will really help a party here. My only suggestion is ask your players to bring a few more along. I recommend a minimum of six characters. With fatalities so frequent in ST its very easy for a party to lose a couple members in an encounter and find themselves completely overmatched.
@chaoseffect - your segue to bring Bradley Weatherbee (love the name!) into the game is excellent. It really keeps with the sandbox feel of the campaign, I will probably steal this idea when I need to bring in another replacement PC - which will be before long...
Just out of curiosity, does Sammar know of Rupert Smitty? In other words, did Smitty actually join up with the Bard's Gate caravan? Could make for some interesting side plot developments.
Session 2 Summary
Cast: Elf alchemist/master chymist; dwarf monk; elf cleric; human paladin; elf rogue; half orc barbarian
An Eventful Evening
After dealing with the Bender brothers and the death of their cleric, the party secured the inn to rest and recoup. But their first night at The Camp was not quite over as the Midnight Peddler paid them a visit. Having heard a rumor about the peddler earlier in the day, the party was eager to see who or what he was. Their first encounter with him (it) went well, they paid for the codfish and received his first warning. The rogue did some stealthing while the group haggled with the peddler and entertained the idea of stealing from his cart, but the eeriness and mystery of the peddler's nature made him think twice and let it be.
The following day was spent around town interacting with some of the locals, hiring a caretaker for the inn, and equipping for the trip to the Desolation. During this time a caravan briefly stopped at the Camp where the deceased cleric's partner (and lover) arrived looking for his mate. He was a fellow cleric of Desna who joined the party after discovering his lover's fate, taking an instant dislike to Griswald when the undertaker came to collect the bodies and refused him the cleric's corpse. Griswald departed without incident, but claimed the Benders' corpses. (The remaining members of the caravan left for the Desolation, carrying members of the party that the PCs may eventually discover at area A1 of the Ashen Waste). Later, the grisly remains of Gurg was discovered on the outskirts of the Camp (in the previous session the party had made an uneasy truce with the hill giant after defeating him in combat), murdered by Clantock and his crew. I dropped the rumor of Clantock and Gurg's rivalry, but the players didn't seem overly interested in solving the murder of a chaotic evil hill giant and wanted to begin their trek into the Desolation. They enlisted one of Skeribar's rangers as a guide, who has dropped a few subtle suggestions that they can find refuge at A5, but the group's Sense Motive checks were enough to be suspicious of it (ugh...I hate dice rolls that replace role play).
A Feast of Fumbles
Two hours into their journey, the party comes across a small plateau that has broken old weapons, armor, helmets, etc. scattered across it, as though the remains of some long ago battle but no signs whatsoever of any fallen soldiers. Upon investigation, the scattered weapons are swooped up in a whirling, deadly vortex - the party has stumbled upon a searing wind random encounter. I was glad I rolled this because I've never run one before and wanted to try it out. Initially, the creature's AC was extremely difficult for the party to deal with and it spent the first few rounds wailing on everyone while taking very little damage. About three rounds in, I rolled a series of terrible rolls including three fumbles during its full attack. We use the fumble and crit decks, and I pulled one card that caused it to be flat-footed for a few rounds and another that blinded itself for a few rounds (the third card was fatigue and didn't apply). All of a sudden it was a lot easier to hit and the party went to town on it. Still, they didn't kill it during its blind/flat-footed rounds and it managed to put up a hell of a fight, including a critical hit to the barbarian while blinded. With the help of some summoned lantern archons (with range touch attacks that chew through any damage reduction) the party finally killed the thing. Fortunately for them, the extended battle did not attract more wandering monsters, as they were pretty beat up. Later on in the day, the party encountered a small pack of wandering ghoul wolves which they dealt with easily. By nightfall, they were halfway to A4 The Tomb of the Sleeping Knight (their destination) and set up camp. A single babau demon harassed the paladin / barbarian night watch, stealthing in for a sneak attack, but quickly teleported away after a couple of smite evil attacks and pounding from the barbarian. I will probably use the babau to stalk the party and use guerilla hit-and-run strikes while the party is engaged with other enemies. By early morning, an acid rain storm hit but the group's canvas tents held up and kept them sheltered. They should reach the tomb by nightfall tomorrow....
End of session.
As far as I read grapple you can move someone at half speed when grappling and need not pin them. That is just my read though. Even with all the clarifications, grapple is still a mess!
Yes, that is my understanding as well, but can only move after the grappler has maintained the grapple (i.e. used a standard action to maintain once a grapple has been established). There is no need to pin, although (just to make this more confusing) it says in the dark custodian entry: "Once the dark custodian has an opponent pinned, it attempts to drag him away to devour him in peace." Ugh.
I agree with Thedmstrikes. I think the rule of maintaining the grapple in order to move a grappled opponent would trump Spring Attack, and the Grab ability only establishes a grapple. Its definitely a DM call at this point, but a group of Dark Custodians are going to inflict a ferocious amount of energy drain regardless. They can make numerous guerilla strikes in and out of walls with Spring Attack, tracking the party with lifesense, and be just as dangerous. These things will hound a party every step, attacking when its most advantageous throughout the dungeon. I know my players will be scared sh%$#less when they run into them.
Geo Fix wrote:
Yeah, I'm really tempted to let the party have some fun with Gurg, but he's still a chaotic evil, bloodthirsty hill giant. And I think if I have Clantock and his men murder him now, it should create more intrigue and opportunities for the players to interact with more locals. At least that's the plan, you never know what PCs will do.
As an aside, I sent you a PM regarding the Storm Crow tavern.
@James - honestly, I'm amazed your players survived the encounter with the Dark Custodians. I haven't used them yet but from what I've read they are horrible opponents, especially in groups.
Yeah, and to pour salt on the wound he only missed by one. Honestly tho, I was expecting more deaths with the Bender Bros. so I think the party managed pretty well with only one.
James B. Cline wrote:
I'd think Clantock would take the opportunity to try and provoke him and kill him if possible, especially knowing he has a magic water decanter plus right now he's weak. He might even send in one or two of his guys to hit him while he's down. That's his direct competition after all.
@James - I thought about the Gurg/Clantock situation some more and I think you're right about this. I think I'll have Clantock and his crew murder Gurg in the middle of the first night while he is still very weak, taking his head so a to avoid any potential speak with dead spellcasters. Clantock will then approach the party within a few days to offer up his services and thus lead them into dangerous areas. Enter your Donnie Perish NPC (admittedly...I will probably change his name), who not only was the only witness (he being a nocturnal guy n' all), but was sold Gurg's gear (sans decanter) by Clantock the following morning. He may try to work that angle with the PCs by selling them this info to pit them against Clantock, then using that as a springboard to sell them more rumors/info.
James B. Cline wrote:
@Luz - Depending on how hard you enforce the encounter rules and how powerful your players are the dead characters stack might be quite high. My players love the challenge and banter quite a bit about who's going to die next.
Yeah, that pretty well sums up our mindset with this. We've done some Paizo APs in the past where PC death means a lot more and has more impact, I pushed to play ST to get away from all that.
James B. Cline wrote:
I seem to remember a play by post game somewhere where Gurg was saved. Although the PCs in that game were very kind to him he was still highly aggressive and independent, I think he ended up going back out into the Desolation for some revenge and told the PC's they could come or "shove it". I'd think Clantock would take the opportunity to try and provoke him and kill him if possible, especially knowing he has a magic water decanter plus right now he's weak. He might even send in one or two of his guys to hit him while he's down. That's his direct competition after all. I'd definitely treat any Diplomacy rolls with Gurg as temporary at best, he's not exactly a scholar, but he's definitely one of the more reliable mercenaries in the Camp. I'd also make it harder (+5 to 10) to convince Gurg that "good" was a winning team to be on, obviously in the Desolation "evil won".
Thanks, that's an excellent suggestion. I wanted to give the players some sort of reward for roleplaying with Gurg (otherwise it gives them no incentive to do anything but kill everything in their path); a temporary and unpredictable ally should fit the bill. Clantock and his men should serve to complicate things further. And I'd be interested in that post if you can track it down.
James B. Cline wrote:
Where you are at I'd be quick to introduce Griswald, creepy and menacing looking as he is, he's benign. I thought the camp needed some extra npcs, a few pages back I posted some, let me know how it turns out if you use them. Just make sure that if you players take the bait from Sammar that they drift into the Boiling Lands just enough to at least glimpse the Last Outpost, otherwise they won't have much reason to go into the Boiling Lands (IMO).
Good point. I had planned on using your idea of the PCs seeing the dragon bones in the distance once they head out into the Desolation, I'll do the same in the Boiling Lands. Also, the party actually did see Griswald but decided to avoid him. He creeped them out without saying a word.
This is an awesome thread with some wonderful comments and suggestions. My group just started Slumbering Tsar and it was a blast. We use core and APG rules only (with a few exceptions for archtypes and weapons from the other books). Raise dead and resurrection spells are unavailable to PCs, as are item creation feats besides potions, scrolls, and wands (the same goes for buying magical gear - there are no magic marts). I've forewarned everyone about the high death count of ST, so they have all brought back-ups. The starting lineup is a half orc alchemist, a human paladin, a half elf rogue, an elven cleric, and a dwarven monk.
The game started with the party arriving in The Camp, where they were promptly attacked by a crazed Gurg. He roared at the party upon seeing them (intimidating everyone but the paladin) before closing into melee, using Cleave to good effect. He dropped two PCs below zero before they took him down, but instead of killing him they bound him with heavy ropes and chains then healed him up to 1 or 2 hp. With some RP and excellent Diplomacy checks they changed his attitude to indifferent and hired him as a guide / mercenary. Now the paladin is actively trying to convert Gurg to the cause of Saranrae, I'll give this some time to see how this develops but I like the interesting turn of events here. Until then, Gurg will do the job he's been paid for but, since he's chaotic evil, I might make him unpredictable when he rages and attack anyone near him. I'm also trying to figure out how this will affect the situation in The Camp with Clantock. Thoughts or suggestions?
After that the party explored some of The Camp. They met Bjorc, Father Death and the Usurer as well as picked up numerous rumors (I'm very liberal with them), before moving on to the Bender Brothers. This played out pretty much as written. There was some RP with the gnomes at dinner (the alchemist checked his meal for poison to no avail) before going to bed. Three PCs got sick and I rolled randomly to determine who woke up first, which ended up being the cleric. He banged on his companions' doors as he raced to the privy, where he failed his Perception check to notice Jebli lurking behind the illusory wall, then failed his Fortitude save against Jebli's assassination attempt three rounds later. One dead cleric, first casualty of the campaign.
Meanwhile, the other brothers sprung their trap. Because the party had been roused by the cleric, none were caught sleeping but were unarmored and unbuffed. The ensuing battle was difficult, especially with Joshiah's blur/mirror image combo, but the party defeated them with no further deaths. This is where we ended the first session.
Inserting Haranshire into Varisia should be fairly easy, there's many places to choose. I would go with Nybor and Wartle to replace Milborne and Thurmaster respectively, or maybe Baslwief and Harse. If you used the former, you could even bring Shaleleu into NB to bridge the two campaigns, possibly serving as an acquaintance or replacement of the NPC Kuiper.
Night Below Spoilers:
For many of the races and monsters involved, it depends on your flexibility. If you're using strictly PF material then you'll need to select a few different races, like the illithids, for instance. Personally, I love the illithid race and would use a homebrew conversion of them for this campaign, but they could be replaced with caulborn (I'm under the impression that this was Paizo's Golarian answer to the mind flayer). There is also a great opportunity to go with a Cthuluesque flavor for NB (particularly in the last half of the campaign) and could use other races like the mi-go or if you're feeling really evil instead of the illithids.
The kuo-toa and ixzan are a little trickier. I don't have the Bestiary 4 but as far as I can tell there aren't a lot of subterranean evil fishmen races to choose from. Maybe an underdark gridylow or evil vodyanoi? Skum are a must, but probably more as beasts of burden in Shaboath.
I hope that helps. I converted this campaign for 3.5 about ten years ago and it was a lot of work then but we had a blast.
Luz: Some great suggestions. I'll try to work them in, although I'm not even sure if the players will go to the demon side first. The side of the devils is just as easily reachable.
Which, IMO, is all the more reason to push the offensive. The occupants of G5 and G6 are aware of the party and that they are somewhat spent on resources, it makes sense for them to be opportunistic at this point. I have no doubt your group will take care of these opponents - probably in short order - but their opponents don't and would probably strike with the upper hand.
With Luz and me discussing about how to improve my Jade Regent campaigns last weeks, the thread kind is off-kilter,
Speaking of which...
Jade Regent spoilers - Round 2:
Kudos to your players for handling the encounter so effectively. It would have been nice to see them a little more threatened, but it sounds like it went fairly well. And the encounter served its purpose in alerting the hezrous and nalfeshnee. I assume the session ended at the end of the battle with the omox demons and the party is still in the pool cavern. Here are a few suggestions:
1 - Attack: have the nalfeshnee and hezrou summon more allies (I'd pick more hezrou or the vrocks for the nalfeshnee) and send them into the pool cavern (maybe after a buff or two). The cool thing about the hezrous is they can use their spell-like abilities while in gaseous form. They can hide in small crevices and spam blasphemy from a good distance at the party en masse while keeping mobile with greater teleport. Have the nalfeshnee arrive a round or two into the battle with his unholy nimbus ready to go. To make this more dangerous, exchange his Cleave feat for Ability Focus (Unholy Nimbus). With his advanced template that would increase the DC to 26.
2 - Ambush: have the demons wait for the party inside the caverns. For this approach, I would give the caverns abyssal planar traits (strongly evil-aligned, enhanced and impeded magic, etc.). Additionally, give the caverns a sentient trait. I'm thinking the caves are drawn to mortal souls like a magnet and slowly feed off their essence. Effectively, all PCs (at least mortal ones) make a DC15-20 save each round in the caverns between G4 and G5 or become fatigued, or exhausted on two failed saves. An alternative would be to design a fiendish haunt that is harmed by holy damage instead of positive energy. Just some thoughts.
When it comes to the encounter with Shojinawa Ito, have you considered using wind wall (or cloak of winds) with deflection? Might be fun to give the archer a taste of his own medicine. Just once!
A few more suggestions:
If the party successfully negotiates with Emperor Shigure without combat, award each of them a hero point. Allow a hero point to buy each PC a full round of mobility underwater a la freedom of movement without the grapple immunity.
Alternatively, perhaps Amatatsu Onoko grants each PC a blessing to breathe underwater while in the Well of Demons, instead of offering to raise dead.
Use one or both as you see fit. Just some ideas.
Jade Regent Spoilers:
As far as I know, fly and air walk have no effect underwater, aside from the increased speed from fly. Some of them should have freedom of movement by now, if none have this then perhaps slip them a few scrolls or ring before they reach the pool area? The ninja's 120-ft. darkvision shouldn't have any impact on the omoxes' stealth/hide abilities, but will be useful for matching the omoxes darkvision so that he can monitor their movement in combat just as well as they can. I'd rule that his hide in plain sight should work normally underwater tho. Remember too that the limited vision from the murky water should apply to the omox demons as well. I'm pretty sure they don't have blindsight while submerged.
Its a slippery slope. One of the most effective ways to challenge a high level party is to limit visibility and/or mobility. The trick is doing it in a way that doesn't cripple them. Do what you can to ensure they are somewhat equipped to handle this encounter, if they are having difficulty then maybe house rule fly/air walk give full mobility underwater on the fly. If they are in serious trouble, always provide them with an escape route. At least this way you have done everything possible to give the party a chance to survive this without pulling a deux ex machina.
By the way, I am kinda fretting the whole upcoming Omox demon encounter to the point that it is preventing me from falling asleep. :-/ As far as I can see, the party really has no good solution when the Omox' raise the water to the ceiling. If I read it correctly, Fly/Air Walking doesn't help at all underwater, so this will put the party at a disadvantage where I can see the same thing happening to them as with what happened to the people Luz TPK'ed in his campaign.
Okay, if the party does not have the resources to handle the encounter then just dial it back a bit. Removing the tick swarms will reduce the deadliness considerably; as I mentioned earlier, their Con drain depletes a PC's ability to hold his or her breath very rapidly. Or maybe keep the dimensions of the cavern as is written in the module so the omoxes cannot flood the entire chamber, which would also significantly take some of the teeth out of this encounter. Is there a PC spellcaster that can summon water elementals or something else that can assist them underwater? If so, then I think the rest of the encounter should be fine. If not, allow them a decent chance of escape (either through teleport or just old-fashioned high-tailing it outta there). There is nothing wrong with living to fight another day. The encounter itself is fairly well balanced, its only a deathtrap if there is no chance to escape and regroup. Even still, the initial encounter may catch them off guard and could result in a few deaths, so be it. You and your group sound accomplished enough that this will not destroy the campaign.
As an aside, when I TPK'd my group with this encounter it was mostly there own doing. They arrogantly thought they could hold their breath long enough to deal with any threats, did not summon any water elementals to deal with the swarms (which was the sorcerer's usual m.o.), did not coordinate their actions, and did not flee when it was clear they were well over their heads (pun intended). It was surprising, I was having the very same problem you have with challenging my group - they had become a fine-tuned machine tactically until this encounter. Then all hell broke loose and it was every man for himself.
Luz, we're not there yet. We play only once per week and last week the group made it just across the bridge to the Shrine itself. They might make it this week into the pools if they hurry it up, but depending on how long it takes to fight the Furnace Golem, talk with the Emperor and Amatatsu Onoko, they might not get there. Although I think they probably will.
Okay cool. If you don't mind, please post an update when they reach it. I'm curious to know how this turns out.
Full agree, especially at high levels. I used this tactic with Lashonna in my Age of Worms campaign to great effect, targeting the optimized archer.
Magnuskn, how did the Fiendish Pool encounter turn out?
EDIT: Hence why I'm staying as far away from Mythic rules as possible. Like the math needs anymore options to get more out of whack.
Precisely. While I enjoy the intricacies and challenge of designing high level encounters, I have no interest in stacking more stuff on top of the classes. Too much brain drain. As blasphemous as it might sound, D&D 5e simplifies the math in the game quite well (so far).
A few thoughts regarding Kyomi:
Jade Regent Spoilers:
Well, I implemented your suggestions for Kiyomi and it worked almost perfectly. <evil grin> She led them into every danger before the bridge and her bluff checks were off the chart, additional to having charmed one of the Ninja's and the Fighter. The Cleric had to spend five channel energy already to combat the haunt and kill off the Greater Shadows (the latter having gotten the jump on the party and drained two characters to Strength 3). Quite pleasing, quite pleasing. :)
That is awesome! You must have a damn straight poker face to pull that one past your players for that long. I tip my hat.
But at the bridge the players got a bit too crafty and managed to discover the Greater Glyph of Warding, dispelling it afterwards. Kiyomi, who had been waiting for them to get zapped, decided that caution was the better part of valor and simply departed. I'm not sure if I even should bring her back, her treasure is irrelevant and she should not be delusional enough to think that she could take on the party, after seeing the archer destroy single-handedly the Gravebound Warden in one round.
Fair enough, but you are in a wonderful position here. You have the luxury of bringing her back into the game at any time while the PCs are on the island, if the opportunity presents itself. Better yet, now that she has established a rapport with the party (and charmed a couple of them), she has a lot of options to choose:
1. Stalk: Kyomi's stealth is quite good and she could very well follow the party (with her polymorphed pugwampi to mess with their opposed Perceptions), striking when the moment is more in her favour. Or perhaps, to really mess with the PCs, she shows up to help them out of a bad situation in order to solidify their trust, only to betray them later.
2. Sire offspring: Her charm lasts for 12 hours. Assuming it has not expired, she could persuade one (or both) of her charmed captives to mate with her. Its a little trickier to pull off, but your players will never forget it.
3. Torment: This one requires a little backtracking on your part. When she was with the party, she discreetly requested a single hair from her charmed captives. You know..."something to remember you by" or other sweet talk. Now she has some ammo to soften them up with her nightmare spells. If she knows where the party is when they sleep, she could send her pugwampi minions to the area to make their saves more difficult. If the pugwampi are near the party, I'd have her cast a nightmare spell on each member (she can cast it up to 6/day).
4. Sow dissension: You say she charmed the fighter and one of the ninjas? That would be the killer archer fighter? Have her use bluff on them to plant seeds of betrayal. Are there any schisms or small party disputes she can exploit here?
You could have a lot of fun with this and I highly recommend it. Your players have trampled everything you've thrown at them, time to throw them a curve ball. I noticed only two members of the party have darkvision. If she ambushed them under the right circumstances (as they are emerging from the Well of Demons, perhaps?), her nightfall aura will blind everyone but the tiefling and the aasimar. The rest of the party wont know what hit them and she can focus her attacks on the other two. And remember that the aura will shut down all spells with verbal components. She'd probably target the Dawnflower priest first, maybe hit him with a 20-ft. reach touch of idiocy and go from there.
Keep the charm and dominate tactic in your back pocket at this level, it is one of the best weapons in a GM's arsenal, especially against weak-willed fighters and rogues.
I'll take your sage advice on not overdoing it with the Omox Demons to heart. :)
Especially if you decide to have Kyomi waiting outside the Well when they retreat with tick swarms attached to them! ;)
Some very nice tactics, Luz. I'll probably keep the disease effect, because I wouldn't know where that had been done before, but the rest sounds excellent.
Its a tough encounter. I ran one very similar to that against six 14th level characters and TPK'd them. Granted, the party made some bad decisions in combat and responded poorly to the aquatic environment so that was a big factor. Still, the monsters here are tenacious and will feast on the ill-prepared, you might want to hold off on that second template I mentioned. You know the PCs better than I do. Good luck with it, I hope it provides more challenge for your group.
Yeah, some problems with your ideas, which are endemic to my group of players. I have one player who maximises his Sense Motive and asks to roll it very often.
Ah, the paranoid player....yes, I have one of those as well. Like I said, I don't expect much from that encounter. Just trying to spruce it up a little.
Let's move forward, shall we?
Jade Regent Spoilers:
The Well of Demons, area G2. Fiendish Pool. I'd scrap the demon fever hazard, been there done that. I'd actually make the pool perfectly safe (aside from its occupants and being somewhat murky.) However, the convergence of the Eternal Spring and the lower planes has made the air in this chamber highly caustic, an invisible gas which burns the eyes and throat. Treat this as smoke effects (CR, pg.444); PCs must make a Fortitude save each round spent in the chamber (DC15, +1 per previous check)or spend the round coughing and choking. Burning eyes obscures vision, giving concealment to creatures within it. Since this is a result of a goddess's power and abyssal energy, I'd rule its a supernatural hazard and endure elements wont cut it here. Acid immunity, resist energy (acid) or protection from energy (acid) should suffice tho, your call. I'd also consider bumping up the DC to 18 or 20.
The omox demons lurk in the pool, taking 10 on their Stealth. Anyone using Perception checks should suffer penalties from the burning eyes unless they're protected from its effects. Maybe put one in G3 (I would definitely lower G3 to be close to water level, with a muddy, wet floor). Anyway, if they detect intrusion one uses control water to raise the water level 24 feet deep to submerge any nearby PCs. The others telepathically alert each other and their master in G6. To make this area a little more conducive to their tactics you could have the water already filling most of the chamber, say 20 feet from the ceiling. The other omoxes try to grab/grapple/smother/drown any opponents they can get a hold of.
To make things tougher, add two or three aquatic variant tick swarms (I call them "mud ticks"). Maybe add the fiendish template for flavor (meh...), but I might be tempted to use one or two tick swarms with the apocalypse swarm template if the party is having an easy time. These little critters synchronize very well with drowning as they suck Constitution.
Anyways, just some more thoughts.
Jade Regent Spoilers:
The Imperial Shrine is a good place to start. Shizuru's Temple doesn't have much in the way to challenge the party (especially a party of six) and I expect they will steam roll Kiyomi. But she is a pretty cool monster and if she escapes could be a decent thorn in the party's side throughout this part of the adventure. The first thing I would do to is give her a few helpers, maybe bestowed to her by the Jade Regent to assist her with guarding the island. Something small and non-threatening - a couple of pugwampi gremlins, charmed by Kyomi and re-skinned (or polymorphed, if you prefer) into something with a more eastern flair like a housefly or small bird. These critters serve only to make the party's life miserable with their unluck auras and nothing else. Kyomi has charmed them to always remain 20' distance from her, but never leave the shrine without her.
Second, in order to make her a bit more of a threat, I'd change a few things. Give her the advanced template, this will give her a pretty impressive AC and hp. Also, I'd make her nightfall aura a 20' radius and create deeper darkness effect instead of darkness. Some of her spells could also use swapping.
B1. On the artistic tapestries, plant one or two symbols of persuasion, triggered by anything looking at them (attuned to Kyomi's pugwampi so they do not trigger them). The symbols should have magic aura cast on them as well to foil any detect spells. Have one of the pugwampi/houseflies in the room, placed (or hidden) in a strategic location so as to affect as many as possible in its aura. This area is a precaution Kyomi has taken in preparation of any intruders, not specifically the PCs. She is here as a guardian against any remaining imperial scions, after all. Remember too that unless the party identifies the symbols, they should have no knowledge that some of them may have been charmed. Maybe roll their Will saves secretly?
B3. If combat occurs here, the party will take her out. Action economy demands it. Kyomi needs to bide her time with some (hopefully) charmed PCs and maybe a dimension door spell (swapped for one of her other 4th level spells) to escape with one or two of them, thus separating the party. She's smart enough to realize she can't win a fight with a large group in this room. If she can manage this, the encounter suddenly takes on an entirely different look. There are countless things she can do with one or more charmed PCs, maybe lead them to C2. Yua's Last Act or C3. Shadowy Crossing. She also has very good disguise and bluff skills and could potentially infiltrate the party later as one of the PCs she abducted. It would take some work but its possible.
This is just to make the encounter a little more interesting. I doubt Kyomi will give the party a run for their money but she can make their lives a little more difficult. The bigger threats lie ahead on the isle and I'll throw some ideas your way when I have some more time.
If the party does end up fighting Emperor Shigure's ghost, one thing you can do to make him a lot more dangerous is swap one of his feats for Vital Strike on his corrupting touch attack (28d6 damage). I saw this done in Tomb of the Iron Medusa and it makes a ghost very deadly.
That sounds like an interesting approach. I'll have to look into that, although it sounds like something for the next campaign mostly. Storming an imperial palace doesn't give that much space for toxic vapors and airborne diseases. ^^ Although the party will be traveling through areas held by different evil outsiders before that, hmmm. ^^
magnuskn, you mentioned your group is in book 6 of the Jade Regent AP, correct? At what part have they reached? There is a lot you can do with some of those high level encounters (I'm sure you already have). With your okay, I can offer a few suggestions - either on this thread or PM.
After three years and about a dozen deaths, my players and I packed it in midway through book 5. The party was TPK'd in The Festering Maze chapter, and after that we were all kinda fed up with this AP. Its a tough grind, so we decided to start fresh with something else. But to be honest I welcomed the change. I was never feeling it with Runelords. I've run Age of Worms, Legacy of Fire and currently have another group in Crimson Throne and love all of them, but Runelords never took off.
As I said: Verisimilitude matters to me. I'm happy to do all the things you've mentioned and have done them. But it has to make sense in the context of the AP. And I seriously don't feel like re-writing the last two or three modules every time completely so that all those factions which should not have an advance warning suddenly have one.
I think the limited buff slots rule is a good starting point here. I will definitely implement it in my game. IMO, this eliminates half the problem.
Regarding a six-member party: while this does require the GM to adjust encounters, I try to avoid boosting the number of opponents to throw at the party. Occasionally, this is a sound tactic. More frequently it turns encounters into overly long, drawn out slug-fests. Sure, the GM has succeeded in making it more challenging, but in doing so has sacrificed progress for a two or three encounter game session. And probably bored the crap out of everyone including himself (or herself).
Like magnuskn, verisimilitude matters to me. In order to maintain it, monsters/enemies should act or react according to their nature and not tailor-fitted to respond to invading PCs (unless, as mentioned, they are already aware of the PCs). The only way to handle this is to play monsters to their strengths. I prefer to exploit a bad guy's immunities: if it is immune to fire then there will typically be a fire hazard/trap in its vicinity. Undead are great opponents for this tactic. Toxic gases and airborne diseases all make good, debilitating defenses. My personal favorite is to give an undead boss a pinch of dust of sneezing and choking to use against the party. Terrain altering abilities like control water or control weather also do wonders to make encounters more challenging without necessarily increasing the number of enemies. Swarms are also a good alternative, against any character class.
Its trial and error, not all carefully prepared monster lairs work out at high level and hours of prep work gets crushed in two rounds by the seemingly unstoppable party. In contrast, however, some have worked too well and sent the party fleeing for their lives or TPK'd. Regardless, the encounters are more natural (and enjoyable) when run this way, rather than sending wave after wave of enemies at the party.
Hm, yeah. As I said, until the level 10 things work out pretty well with minor adjustments, even if your group exceeds the AP's limits of four players, 15 point buy. But after that, the different factors (action economy advantage, more loot money in play, the really good class features gained around that level, high level spells and so on) really make the PC's so much better than their opponents that it isn't a real contest anymore.
Unless your a rogue. It is the only class in the game that doesn't scale well with the other classes. This isn't an issue for me personally; I like the rogue and I don't necessarily believe in class balance, but IMO the rogue gets left in the dust after 10th level. Alas, this is another topic that has been beaten well on other threads.
Monsters simply scale badly against PC's after that level range is reached. Adding some low-level casters may help with getting up some buffs, but I think it may be equally as important to debuff the party. Depending on party composition, of course. And for debuffing you need high-level casters to get their Greater Dispel Magics through the players caster level.
Yeah, buffs at high level have become a real problem in my games. Some of my players have literally buried themselves with over twenty buffs at once. Its this type of plot immunity that forces the GM to manipulate encounters around the party's vulnerabilities to make them challenging / interesting, never mind the time management required to monitor buffs. With my current campaign I have either banned or nerfed some of the "can't lose" buffs; freedom of movement and true seeing being at the top of that list.
I totally forgot about Awesome Blow. Nice catch! That would work better than Throw Anything because he could move and smack someone into the pit in the same round, plus he'd be doing damage from the combat maneuver check. I think with Throw Anything he would need to successfully perform a grapple first, then throw on the following round.
Eakratz, that looks better. A nice bump in his AC and hp will go a long way to making this a tougher fight. Still, watch out for ray of enfeeblement or especially ray of exhaustion, which will cancel his rage even on a successful save.
The big problem with this encounter is it is in a huge chamber and Ghartok needs to get close. Having the gnoll guards and carrion initiates is a must in order to keep the party busy so the Carrion King can close the gap. As a suggestion, maybe max out his Intimidate and Acrobatics skills. This way he can make the long jump across the pit if he wants, and using his intimidate at a distance may soften up some of the party for his Roaring Fury attack. After that, just get him within striking distance of the nearest group of opponents and let him go to work. Now that I think of it, using Throw Anything to toss foes into the Carrion Pit would be awesome. You may even want to keep Thkot Tal on standby if the party is having too easy of a time.
Lastly, because there is a good chance the party will spread themselves out here, you might consider swapping Cleave and Great Cleave for some Vital Strike feats. He may have to keep moving from one opponent to another and not get an opportunity to use Cleave or have a full round of attacks. That may sound a bit metagamey but the way I see it, your job is to make the encounter tough and memorable. By any means possible, but within the rules.
Nice work with the build and good luck!
I love this finale. My group is still a long way off (we're midway through book 2) but knowing how this part will go gives me lots of time to prep and foreshadow events for the rest of the campaign. Tels, please post this encounter after your group has played it. I'd really like to hear how it turns out.
Hi Kingman, most of what I'd say has been said by incredilee but I'll add a few things. Please accept this as constructive criticism, I absolutely mean no offence.
1. Subjects - Use a variety of different subjects for models. That is, don't draw only dwarves. I realize you're grouping your portfolio by race, but in order to get better feedback you need to show different types of people. Also, females (even dwarf females) are not males with a big rack. It is difficult to distinguish your male drawings from your female ones.
2. Faces - Not bad, but many of them share the same features with different dressing. The fighter and monk, for instance, look like the same dude with different hair styles. Also, your noses are too long, which makes your mouths and chins too small. A dwarf typically has a big nose, yes, but not a long one. And they usually have a strong, prominent jawline. Your dwarf wizard is by far your best face in terms of proportion, character, and features.
3. Proportions - As incredilee said, practice on your figure drawing. Build from the inside out, starting with the gesture (or scribbly stick man). The gesture is the hardest thing to nail down but once you get it your drawing will look a thousand times better. Construct the rest of the figure using basic shapes, leave the details for last. There are two other resources I highly reccommend: any book written by Andrew Loomis (there are many, but he is one of the best how-to-draw teachers ever) and "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" by Stan Lee and John Buscema. Either of these will take your drawings to the next level. Finally, if your not sure about your proportions, look at your drawing upside down or in a mirror. Easiest way to spot problems.
3. Anatomy - Clearly you like to show muscles which is fine in itself, try not to let it dominate the illustration. Muscles can be just as impressive when suggested underneath clothes, scales, armor or what have you. Also, some of your arms and legs suffer from the "sausage-links" look. Keep in mind which are the bigger muscle groups and which are smaller, and give them a little more balance.
4. Poses - To me, this is your weak area. Your poses are very stiff and lack life. They are cool poses, but need more movement in them. By that, I don't mean they need to be running and jumping around. I mean they need to look like they are living, breathing creatures and not just frozen statues. Your best poses are the stonelord and trophy hunter, very natural and they look like they are doing whatever it is they are supposed to be doing. I hope that makes sense. The best way to achieve this is to REALLY loosen up in the sketching phase. When you are roughing out a drawing, be extremely loose with your pencil and scribble a lot. I can't stress this enough, let your arm and wrist go. You'll find the lines you need and build off them. You can agonize over the fine details later, but be as loose and as messy as you can when nailing that pose. When you've got it, see if you can push the pose even further. A good teacher once told me a strong pose is when the character REALLY looks like he's doing whatever he's doing, whether he's swinging a sword high over his head or just sitting in a chair.
A final word about an advanced topic: foreshortening. Its probably the toughest thing for most artists to learn but necessary. Look closely at your rogue and forgemaster. See how the axe and anvil sort of meld right into the figure? There is nothing to define them as seperate elements that are in front of the subject, thus making the entire drawing appear flat. A slightly better effort was made with the monk's fists thrusting forward, but his fists are lost in his arms and are hard to clearly see.
I hope that helps, you've got some great stuff that can be even greater with a little work. Try not to get too comfortable with one set way. I say this because I did the very same things in my drawings when I was younger and its easy to spot now. There's an old saying for artists: "Your only as good as your worst drawing." So true. Find your weak spots, hunt them down and kill them!
You know, I've been giving it some serious thought, and while I love how deadly the Dragon Disciple Ileosa is, the Caster version has a lot on her side. Between her spells and minions, she can cover a lot of basis. Damage, status effects, control, etc, while the DD Ileosa focuses a lot more on just straight damage. I'm definitely going to have to keep the Bard/DD combo in mind for a PC or Villain in the future though, that combo is fantastic.
Yeah, the more we discuss it I think the caster Ileosa is a better opponent to throw at the party. While the DD is extremely cool, there's just more versatility to the caster.
That's an excellent idea and I'm totally stealing that for my group. To take it a bit further, you could even run the battle like, as you put it, a video game boss in stages. The first stage is dealing with Ileosa in the Everdawn pool: this is mostly sending her minions at the party and Ileosa's face in the pool tossing a few buffs or battlefield control spells/bardic performance. The second stage she emerges as the caster Ileosa to confront the party. The third and final stage has her retreat into the Everdawn Pool to recover, where she undergoes a transformation and the Kazavon part of her becomes much more prominent. She then emerges from the pool as the DD Ileosa for her last stand. That might be a little too radical for what you had in mind and the DD would probably need to be bumped down a notch in power, but it does let you have the best of both worlds.
I'm glad you brought the party makeup to my attention, I didn't realize there were eight (and possibly nine?) characters in the group. Even if they're primarily a melee group, they should be around 15th-16th level by the time they reach Ileosa and will probably make short work of either build. Action economy demands it. Most of her mooks will be taken out in a round or two with a party that size and, if they've had the heads up display of her power prior to this encounter, then chances are good they will have some silence spells and earplugs handy.
To mitigate this, rather than throwing in more monsters, some battlefield control is needed to slow them down. One suggestion is have her summon a shadow demon (or three with the DD) to spam deeper darkness each round and give Ileosa and her simulacri echolocation as a 4th level spell. This should even the playing field without reaching beyond her limits. Not trying to engineer a TPK here, just a challenging fight. A 15th or 16th-level party of eight will win this battle unless they have a horrible run of bad luck with dice rolls, so make them work for it. Back when I ran Age of Worms, the group had a mystic theurge and once he hit 15th level he really hit his stride and became a dominant power on the battlefield.
As for touch attacks, my only concern was touch of idiocy on the caster Ileosa and ray of enfeeblement on the DD.
Hope that helps.
Not sure if you've already run this encounter, eakratz, but I'll throw in my two cents. I think a 9th level party will stomp on a CR10 Ghartok. He will probably get a full round of attacks in once (seriously maiming if not dropping a PC) but after that the party will overwhelm him. A sorcerer will have a field day with 3rd level spells on him and a ray of enfeeblement will ruin his day. His AC is low enough that martial classes will reduce his high hp in short order. I'd give him the advanced template.
I like that you've given him some grappling abilities with the monk levels, it adds some versatility to his offensive repertoire. Another level or two would make him much more of a contender, have you considered the tetori monk instead of the martial artist? Also, I think I'd lose the Throw Anything feat and take something to improve his stunning fist DC (ability focus or mantis style).
Are you using 3.5 rules or PF? If the latter then I would definately look to give him another boost. 2 + APL is not a good measuring stick for boss fights as the classes had major upgrades in PF.
Hope that helps!
As far as a more exciting opponent goes, I agree with Lord Snow that the Dragon Disciple is the better way to go. It also seems more thematic to me, given she wears the crown and is effectively inhabited by Kazavon. The greater bladed dash/metamagic quicken rod is a great combo, sure to drop a few characters (and jaws to the table). The down side, of course, is she is primarily a physical opponent and her offensive spells are sub par. She is painfully susceptible to touch attacks, might I suggest trading her ring of spell storing in for a ring of spell turning or counterspell (loaded with greater dispel magic)? I'd then swap her cure critical wounds (contigency) for stoneskin instead (triggered when physically attacked), and maybe carry a scroll of heal on hand.
IMO, however, the devilbound bard build is the more dangerous of the two. Her spell DCs are through the roof and will give the party a lot of trouble, especially song of discord and overwhelming presence. I think waves of ecstasy is a more effective (and more suitable) spell than dirge of the victorious knights for Ileosa - just seems to go with the whole seductress idea for her better. With her AC, saves and hp being considerably better than the DD, I'd say she is overall a much bigger threat.
Which brings me to the minions. The simulacrums with weird words are her physical offence, she just needs to focus on keeping a safe distance and crippling the party with spells and bardic performance. If you think she might need a few more bodyguards, have you considered a few ashmede devils? Multiple chain lightnings or horrid wiltings...ouch!
Fantastic job with the two builds, Tels, I will definately borrow one of them for my own group when they get there.
General consensus probably puts Runelords as the best AP, but its not one I'd reccommend. It contains all the elements you mentioned (except for gods) and there is fun to be had with this AP, but its also extremely difficult. If a high death toll doesn't deter your group, then go nuts. For mine (an experienced bunch), we packed it in halfway through book 5 because it became such a slog. After book 2 there isn't a lot of down time for the players either as they are bounced all over Varisia. And personally, I found the overall plot was overly convoluted (but to be fair, most of the APs suffer from this at least a little).
You might want to check out Kingmaker. I've never read it through entirely but from what I know it contains most of the ingredients you're looking for. For what its worth, my two personal favorites are Curse of the Crimson Throne and Legacy of Fire, although they do not contain all the classic fantasy tropes you seek.
Good luck with whichever one you choose!
Don't be afraid to change things up if they are not to your liking. For instance:
I was not a fan of the Blackjack subplot at all, so I scrapped it entirely and went ahead with the execution. This had way more dramatic impact on my group than the contrived cutscene.
On the other hand, I really liked the turf war potential between the Arkonas and the Emperor of Old Korvosa. This wasn't really fleshed out enough for me so I modified some city encounters to build up some tension between the two. So far it has worked out really well.
Just some examples of what worked in my campaign. Its an excellent AP and flexible enough to accommodate changes without interfering with the overall plot.
I'm wondering if Paizo or a 3rd party publisher has ever produced a monster that is similar to the creature from the film "Mimic". That is, a medium-sized, disease-carrier with the physical characteristics of a cockroach that has the ability to infiltrate human(oid) societies by mimicking their general appearances. It doesn't have to be exactly like the creature from the film, but similar.
Thanks in advance for any help.
It certainly has, Endzeitgeist, thanks for the input! I was sort of leaning towards ST anyways, simply because I'm more familiar with Greg Vaughn's work and I really like his stuff. I'm not sure my players will feel the same after this is all said and done, but only one way to find out.
Hi all, I am considering buying one of these products and need help deciding. I've read a lot of rave reviews of both products and I'm pretty familiar with what each has to offer, and I'm a very big fan of these old school style dungeons. From what I gather both are killer adventures (figuratively and literally) that span a wide range of levels, although starting at level 1 is not necessarily a requisite for me. I will be GM, not player, for this.
One other question: Does either of these have an encounter with Orcus? In other words, must the party defeat him in combat if they make it that far?