1. Well, money and power are pretty good motivations for an assassin league. The PCs broadly kill people for money - certainly few DnD adventurers have problems with killing people and then looting the dead. The red mantis just make sure they get their payment upfront.
2. Like most cults, the Red Mantis recruit people who are poor, powerless, and in need. The Red Mantis offers them a family, opportunities to Excel, and to never have to go back to what they were in the gutter.
3. Killing is an art form to them - remember, taking cash to kill makes you morally warped - and the plague offers Dr Renier a new chance to practice his art in a new and interesting way.
4. In Korvosa specifically, the Queen offers them a large pile of cash, the sort they can't get elsewhere. And power, and opportunity. The tyranny Illeosa wants to set up lets the Red Mantis operate more freely. It would be easy to say that she's offered them a spot in the pantheon of the many, legitimising their religion. If they are an open organisation protected by the ruler, how many more new customers will be able to approach them?
I used this, and found it worked very well, and was clearer than the as written version. Thanks for that!
Jade Reagent also features several characters from Sandpoint who are initially introduced in Rise of the Runelords, although this can be fixed easily enough by just using alternate NPCs if necessary.
To clarify this, if you run Rise of the Runelords second, you'll need to replace these NPCs (a minor job only) since they'll have left to go drive to Minkai in the Jade Regent path. You can run Jade Regent first without needing RotR to introduce these NPCs, since Jade Regent covers who they are perfectly adequately.
Broadly, the APs are assumed to "happened" and been successfully resolved in the order that they were published - it just often doesn't matter. But I think you've hit most of the major examples already.
I agree Neolandus' ghost is the best way to impart this information. You'll need to account for the Shoanti obstructionism, though - one of the common criticisms of Book 4 is that the Shoanti make you run around on a huge poorly-motivated fetch quest to get the information you need. It's worse if you don't even know what information you need or why, so you might risk PCs just disconnecting ("OK, the Shoanti are too needy, let's try Magnimar for a Reincarnation spell").
I'd suggest giving the most divinely linked or psychic PC a dream sequence / divine vision of Neolandus' spirit frantically trying (and failing) to tell them something, selling the impression that his information is vital, and only Shoanti Ritual X can get them in contact with him. You could even have the Shoanti be ignorant of the truth - the stories have changed in an oral tradition over the years - and only Neolandus can see and reveal Scarwall's nature from beyond the veil. When I ran it we changed it from "The Shoanti refuse to tell you unless you jump into Cindermaw's mouth, fight this monster, go here, lift this, etc" to "The Shoanti can't tell you, but to contact their spirit ancestors who know the truth, you'll need to conduct the SHoanti ritual which involves jumping into Cindermaw's mouth, fight this monster, go here, lift this, etc".
You'll also need to level the PCs up more, or the Cinderlands will mash them.
Looking ahead to the fallout further into the future when they return to Korvosa later:
Well, you've presumably at this point read Book 1: Burnt Offerings. That Book already tells you several things that spoil both itself and the upcoming adventure.
Burnt Offerings Spoilers:
- That Karzoug and Mokurian are the bad guys, a wizard and a stone giant.
All this in a Book that expressly calls out that it has little to do with the overarching metaplot, so this should be considered a relatively low level of spoilers for each book. That's assuming you deliberately don't read the Adventure Outlines and Upcomings, because those tell you who the bad guy is, what he's doing, why, and how he'll do it, where the PCs go, and what they'll need to do to foil him.
So it's not 'some event you have no context for', it's often (fake, made-up non spoilers) "Phileus spent his life secretly worshipping Norgobor as a cleric, but is now in the thrall of Karzoug, and will do everything in his power to stop the PCs reaching the Cap of Eternity hidden beneath Magnimar in Book 4". So I know who the bad guy is, why he's acting, what he'll do, and a bit about his class levels. The second my PC meets Phileus in Book 2, he already knows all these things.
I mean, if you don't care and that works for your group, it'll probably work fine. If you just skip through any mystery, discovery or investigations phases it'll work fine, although I think Shattered Star would work better as unrelated dungeon crawls.
(There are no actual RotR spoilers in this post, it's just broad generalisations and made-up examples.)
Spoilers for whoever is GMing any part are going to inevitable.
The AP books tend to start with an overview in each book that says "In this book, PCs will discover that Lord Phileus is murdering children to offer their blood to the Sacred Circle (see Book 3). After finding a series of clues at the old lumbermill, the PCs will confront Lord Phileus in the haunted tower of Doom. Phileus is taking orders from Archmage Clarke, the main antagonist of the campaign."
And that's on a good one. If you're unlucky, it might read "Phileus is taking orders from Archmage Clarke, who seeks to use the children's blood to open a portal to the plane of Dis to retrieve his lost love's soul, which the PCs will discover in Book 5 when they enter Dis themselves".
If you had to do it, I'd do it book by book. You GM book 1, they GM book 2, player 3 GMs book 3, etc, etc. Even within each individual book, you'll find in Part 1 notes that read "The PCs find a note covered in blood. While they can't discover it now, they'll learn in Part 3 that it was written by Lord Phileus when they compare his handwriting", or "Lord Phileus casts Glitterdust. If reduced to half his hit points, he'll attempt to flee via Teleport to the secret Circle room, hidden in Room D14 of Part 7". The APs are just not designed to be read and run by multiple people. These sorts of spoilers are pretty routine.
I'd also change APs and use something where each part is very self-contained. Shattered Star's whole presume is "Get the six magical MacGuffins, which are in 6 largely unrelated dungeons", making each one a much more self contained module with links between them.
Well, for starters, Zellara should absolutely tell them, if they don't already know, that the future is always in motion, that chance and fate and the gods will can change in an instant. There's no way to truly predict the adventure, you can merely guess. Low CR encounters can destroy a party who roll fourteen 1s in a row, high CR encounters can be trivilized by having the right spell or an NPC failing a save at the wrong time. A player might leave the campaign for external life reasons, cutting off their character's story.
Look at fortune telling - particularly the very stereotypical 'old gypsy woman' ones - in movies and TV shows.
You don't say "I see that you will fail an Acrobatics check, fall from the roof during the Shingles Chase and die". (Because even if you can reasonably safely guess the encounter will happen, you don't know where a particular PC is going to be standing or what the rolls will be). You can, however, say "I see a slippery rooftop, and death's grim hand reaching for those who are not agile of foot".
You don't say "You will end up joining the city guard under Cressida Kroft after you're done with Gaedran, because the king will be dead by then and there are riots". You say "I see a city in chaos, angry crowds and burning flames. Order must be restored if Korvosa is to survive, and your hands will make that difference".
I ran a separate reading for each PC, then picked one card from each row (so three cards read per PC). I ran it at random, drawing the cards blind, then selecting the best true match/partial match/misaligned I could find from each column.
It was a GMing challenge, but it wasn't too hard. Some nebulous muttering about their backstory or characteristics, vague threats about encounters to come, some foreshadowing of what might happen in the next book. And then the PCs get Harrow Points to help them survive, which is the retroactive "Ah, because Zellara warned me about slippery rooftops in the Shingles Chase, I spend the Harrow Point and make the reroll." We had a lot of fun with it.
Book 1 is the hardest, because you probably don't have a handle of the PCs yet. By the time you get to Book 2, you'll have a better idea of how they'll react, so you can "predict" that the Paladin will risk himself to save the innocent, and that the Con-dumped Bard will 'face death from an enemy within his own body" (he'll very likely fail a Fort save and contract the Blood Veil).
I didn't keep text transcriptions of them all, but here's a few examples from Book 3. GM commentary in italics.
Book 3 vague spoilers:
Received: The Wanderer, a card that sees the worth others do not. This card is about her relationship with Sabrina, and how what Lucy sees in her may one day change what Sabrina sees in herself.
Past: The Desert, misaligned. Zellara sees the negative past, a harsh environment. It is not snow or heat or jungle, but an emotionally bleak landscape in Lucy’s heart that the desert sits. Alone, she would not have survived the desert, without the aid of Quoth and Zee. She sees the link of hearts to Sabrina, who also carries the desert in her past. Sabrina has been abandoned by those who should have cared for her. Her father has made a mistake, one he wishes he had not made, in abandoning her. But this is the past, and neither of them are alone anymore.
Present: The Inquisitor. Lucy will face secrets and lies, plots and plans long-laid in the city that are nearing their fruition. Someone she will face soon does not see the truth of what Lucy is. He sees only the beauty of a woman - a weakness. Lucy must use the truth against him and reveal her strength to him.
Future: The Joke. Zellara sees the same foe Garrin saw. His physical prowess will be strained to overcome it, while Lucy’s magic may be more effective – but only if she can pour sufficient power into her magic. The foe is much more resistant to it than they might first appear. Rakshasa have good Spell Resistance - but you'll notice while this provides a vague warning, it doesn't actually help the PCs or flatout tell them about the nature of the Rakshasa.
I've done this many times before! What you want is a narrative that lends itself well to why this particular character should be in charge of all the decisions - a reason everyone should follow their lead - as well as making them the clear centre of the story.
We've done this with Jade Regent, putting the solo PC as the invented-position Vizier to would-be Empress Ameiko. In retrospect, I'd have replaced Ameiko -with- the PC, making the PC the would-be Empress/Emperor and the centre of the arc. This one works well.
We've done it with Kingmaker, and it works perfectly. The arc here is very easy - most councillors and NPCs will directly owe their lives to the King PC, and that puts them in sole charge of the decisions. It's also got an entire subsystem of kingdom building if that appeals to your player, which moves smoother without having to debate between players about the best course of action. If you like actual play podcasts, we have our duet one-on-one game recorded at RPGMP3.
Future ones I've looked at are Skull and Shackles (PC is the Pirate Captain and liberator of NPCs), and Wrath of the Righteous (PC is the divinely chosen one).
My only advice for tournaments is to give the other players scripts to play the other competitors. Otherwise, it's boring to watch someone do the entire archery part with the DM rolling 5 other competitors.
Alternatively, pre-rolling minimises the amount of time spent watching the GM roll. I rolled out the Competitors in advance, and wrote down that Competitor Y hits with his first arrow, misses his second, the third doesn't do enough damage to penetrate despite hitting, and nets a total of 6 points. Competitor Z Rapid Shots two arrows in one his first turn, on his second cheats unless a PC makes a DC25 Perception check to stop it, etc, for a total of 11 points (or a DQ if he's caught cheating). An actual PC rolling through shouldn't take more than a few minutes.
I concur with the pro wrestling intros and build-up though, that's a lot of the joy of the Rushlight Tournament.
Picking up the treasure and moving it to a non-skippable encounter is a very easy, low-work solution for APs
Instead of the orcs they snuck past having a +1 Longsword and the fey they negotiated with having 2000gp and the boss troll you'll inevitably need to fight at the end of the adventure having 3 Diamonds and a +2 Bow, the boss troll now has 3 Diamonds, a +2 Bow, AND 2000gp AND a +1 Longsword.
Paizo APs assume you won't find all the treasure - that a certain amount of encounters will be bypassed, secret doors won't be found, traps won't be disarmed etc. However, they also all have many places where negotiating successfully with an NPC provides the same XP as defeating them in combat.
It depends on the style of game you want to encourage. If you want combat and killing to be the first response, tell the players they're missing loot, "doing it wrong" and making it harder for themselves. If you want to encourage players to sneak, negotiate, bypass and come up with clever tricks, then move the rewards so they're been equally rewarded. (If your players don't care about treasure period, use Automatic Bonus Progression and call it a day).
Using Milestone levelling means you don't have to worry about whether flying and thus never encountering the Mire Worms on the ground counts for as much XP, or part XP, or no XP (bypassing an encounter they were unaware of) - what matters is that they got to the Troll Cave!
You don't need to do this with every part of treasure - but it's pretty easy to throw the extra items into a dragon horde. Paizo themselves do it in the writing and set up. The wolves that attack you in the forest don't have any treasure (why would they?) but the later dragon has a bigger horde to make up for it.
What appeals to the character to spend gold on is fundamentally different from what appeals to the player, which is where the economy mostly falls down.
If the character makes enough money to buy back their families lost farm and retire to it - a fairly easy goal for adventurer money - the character gets what they want. But the player actively gets punished - they're out of the game until they have another character to play (and so most players won't design characters with goals like this, or those goals will get subsumed by play goals "Someone has to stop the Devil Lord from rising! If I retire to my farm, he'll burn all the land sooner or later!")
Things that would be fun for the players to have aren't all that fun in the game. Most people here would far rather lie around on a tropical island eating fancy meals with their beautiful harem of expensive girlfriends and boyfriends than spend their money on tools that make them better at their job then risk their life crawling through a sewer with that tool.
For the player in real life, you'd get to experience the joy of what that food tastes like, how good the sex with your harem feels, how warm the sun is, how relaxed you feel.
In a game, the GM tells you that the sun beats down pleasantly upon you, your loins quiver, and a very pleasant day passes. It's 20 seconds of entertainment for the player, and actively boring when the GM describes similar circumstances over and over again.
Fantasy economies of tabletops will never make sense when player goals don't align with PC goals for spending.
A commercial transaction PtP is a very different thing from a game with friends around a table. (And even games around a table with friends often fall apart before completing an AP).
People are paying you for a service, and when they don't want to, they stop. Maybe there's a weak session or some content they don't like. Maybe somebody else is running a game cheaper, or better. Maybe their own finances are an issue. Maybe their life gets busy. Maybe their family needs them.
But if you stopped going to a bakery you liked, you probably wouldn't lose any sleep over doing so. I doubt you'd go in to explain why. If you stopped watching a TV show because it didn't interest you enough to make the time any more, you wouldn't write to the creators to tell them why. If your hairdresser gave you a cut you didn't like, you might just walk off without telling them, particularly if the relationship is a short one.
If you're operating successfully enough to GET eleven players for multiple sessions, it's unlikely there's something fundamentally wrong with your GMing. More likely people are just walking away from a transactional relationship when they're done with their half of it.
Really, the only fix you've got is to either run shorter adventures if the important part for you is completing them from start to finish, or become such a famous rockstar GM there's hot competition for play spots and nobody wants to drop out.
Oh, so many things.
What you want to think about is what happens if the PCs break the deal - what's the punishment? - and how leery they're likely to be of open ended deals. I think open ended 'riddling' deals are better, giving the GM a lot more to play with. But if the players are sufficiently paranoid, they simply won't deal because they know the narrative consequence is that the price is always higher than you think it'll be.
1) The 'Fey Bride' scenario. The King needs to marry a fey woman (either Nyrissa openly, or more likely Nyrissa in a guise), who gets a full vote on the council and her opinion heard to make the Stolen Lands a better place for the fey. The 'undeal' is to have her divorce ("Banish her, and the fruit of her union") in exchange for taking the first-born child... whom she promptly infuses with First World energy to make them grow up mighty fast so 'The Lost Prince' can begin causing trouble for the kingdom.
2) "Just One Spell" - one spell, openly cast at a time of her choosing, at a target of her choosing. There's several different ways you could use this. The first that springs to my mind is forcing a PC to cast Dominate Person on Irrovetti or the like at the Rushlight Tournament - such a massive diplomatic foe par that war is inevitable as a result. Softer versions of this are "one punch" (in another ruler's groin, at their wedding), or a spell that won't harm the target (like Dominate Person, which doesn't in itself harm them).
3) "My Choice of Treasure" - any single piece of treasure taken from a foe of her choice. This is pretty open ended one. The Eye of Abaddon and Briar in particular are loot they'll be coming across that will raise havoc.
4) "Your Shadows" - the PCs lose their shadows, a bizarre oddity that provides a -1 to Charisma based skills. Of course, those shadows still are the PCs and are now Nyrissas... effectively, add a late game encounter that's a Mirror of Opposition style Bloom where the party have to face themselves.
My experience has been that curse doesn't require a particularly specific party combination and they should be fine. (Currently running book six).
It's heavily urban focused but for a single book, so there's limited use for wilderness focused abilites. Druids and Rangers won't find much to do. There's no particular point where Arcanists are needed, although always useful, and the city provides convenient access to scrolls for the most part. A use magic device character could work for any arcana specific problems.
Book 5 -requires- a cleric, or somebody who can handle heavy stat drain, fight a lot of undead, cast certain cleric spells, etc. However recognising this the module does provide a helpful NPC cleric at the time, so this is pretty taken care of if the party doesn't screw up and get them killed (or kill them or refuse to work with them)
A trapbreaker is helpful, particularly for Book 3.
Broadly speaking, fights happen in enclosed small environments - little to mid sized urban rooms - which limits area effects, flight, and ranged combat in effectiveness.(all still usable, but we've had a few fights with people stuck in doorways).
Moreover you have 5 PCs to the modules expected 4, so encounters will generally be easier across the board unless you tune them up.
A lot of it depends on the sort of evil your PCs are. Lawful Evil PCs who care about their kingdom and the people in it could run through the whole adventure with no change, because it's built on the assumption of you wanting to protect your people.
If you want good guy Drelev, you could make him a Paladin of Erastil, possibly Akiros' former boss. (This works a lot better if Akiros lives through Book 1 and becomes a part of the kingdom, obviously). Since Drelev's war as written is unprovoked, you'll need a provocation which will probably come from the evil PCs instead. Perhaps Drelev requests - and later demands - Akiros be turned over to him. Perhaps Kisandra Numesti flees to HIM to report on some fell evil the PCs are up to (like keeping the Eye of Abaddon and opening the way for the Horsemen) to provoke the war (they're bound to be up to something evil that can offend him). I'd lean the opposite way of your PCs on the Law/Chaos axis for Drelev. If they're Lawful tyrants with an emphasis on rules, Fort Drelev is a relaxed low-tax do-as-you-please chaotic community. If they're Chaotic Evil who act at a whim, then Drelev is a rules-and-honour focused Lawful ruler.
I'd leave Armag and the Gyronnan cult as they are. You'll have to mess with the plot quite a lot to get a version that works with Erastil in their shoes, and an angry barbarian champion reborn is everyone's problem including the PCs. If Drelev is Good, then he rebuffs Armag's assault rather than caving under it but can't press against the Tiger Lords while engaging the PCs kingdom.
That puts Vordekai as pure evil, Drelev as some variant of Good, Clockwork Irrovetti as a force of neutrality resolving a threat to his power, and perhaps Nyrissa as a good force of peace who wants to liberate the kingdom from the evil PCs and put it into a bottle where it's citizens can live in peace. It's a good mix.
One thing I'd look at is what to do with Grigori, the bard in Book 2 who taunts the PCs. This is a pretty popular encounter designed to be solved with brains instead of brawn, predicated on the assumption that it's wrong to simply bloodily murder the guy and raise him as an undead servitor simply because he's talking smack about you. Evil PCs are much more likely to move straight to the killing and bypass any interest in the encounter. I'd make Grigori a Paladin/Bard here, talking (rightfully) about the evil the PCs are doing and rallying the citizens to not lose hope. I'd sponsor him from Drelev instead of Pitax, and then I'd lean on the PCs to not bloodily murder him by having them fear the citizens retribution (it depends how evil and tyrannical their kingdom is) or back him with the church of Erastil, or emphasis the 'Say What You Will, I Live Free' aspects of the River Kingdom and that butchering him for his words alone is a big deal.
I have, in fact, run a solo Jade Regent for one player from start to finish, and have several thoughts.
Yes, quite definitely make the PC the lost heir to the throne, replacing Ameiko entirely. (We didn't, and regretted it).
Caravan and relationship rules: Actually, we quite enjoyed these. The Caravan 'character' gave the solo player something else to play around with, and they enjoyed the feeling of being a merchant trader making their way across the world (keep in mind you spend a lot of time in this AP NOT in Minkai but merely travelling, so it's good to have something do that's fun and plot-driving for the PC during that time). We did change the caravan rules a bit and add some trading rules, however. Keep in mind that if you don't have the Caravan and don't have Sandru who wants the Caravan, there's no real reason not to teleport, particularly across the Crown of the World. (I can't remember if the Amatatsu Seal can't be teleported by default, or if that was something I added in).
Other characters: Sandru, Shaelelu, and Koya (and Ameiko herself) make excellent PCs, with good motivations to join the adventure themselves rather than hang around in the caravan. If you want to lower your workload as a GM you could just use them, or rebuilt versions of them, or replace them with other support companions entirely (they are written in, though, and the relationship bonuses give them personal minor hooks in each adventure book).
Story and villains: At it's core, I think Jade Regent is a tale of loyalty and tradition vs betrayal and chaos, and the end shows this off and plays it up well.
We went with the Jade Throne as a major artifact that allows the Imperial Seals to be redistributed to other families (the Gods, after all, have anticipated the possibility of -a- family line dying out, betraying Minkai, or similar). Such a thing requires the consent of all the remaining family heads, and the reigning ruler of Minkai. It's intended so four of the families can replace the 5th if needed. In this case, only the lifeforce of the lost heir prevents it from happening.
The Five Storms intend to name themselves as the new families once the Amatatsu line is dead, setting up a dynasty of chaos and oni betrayal. Amamuramon plans to screw them over and only name himself.
The Jade Regent intends revenge against Amamuramon for murdering his mother. Gaining power over the Throne will enable it to use it's other ability, to banish all extraplanar beings like the oni who oppose the Emperor's will.
Renshii Meida, only able to advance so far without a noble lineage, wants to see her child with the Regent gain power in Minkai and become the ruler, but would settle for being the power behind the throne with any of them, even Anamuramon. Alternatively, she's the brains behind the Geisha in Book 5, with strings on all the powerful nobles.
The Raven Prince could seek several things. One might be the Shinobi Fuhonsen Artifact coin from Book 5, a goal could be to become Minkai's most infamous ninja by murdering the heir, regent, concubine and advisor Anamuramon all in the same day, or the Prince could be a servant of a chaotic deity like Gyronna or Rovagug.
This turns bits of Book 5 and 6 into a complex set of political machinations to see what deals and betrayals the PC might make to set up their reign, or allows them to simply stand tall with their loyal friends as Team Evil dissolves into an orgy of backstabbing as all their plans fall apart.
Well, there are people living by the lake. Citizens, presumably, of the PCs own kingdom, which has a Spymaster and a Loyalty roll, and is perfectly capable of garnering information.
Even somebody well set up to use magic to find it is still going to make something of a visible disturbance. Presuming your Magical Thief uses some relatively low rent but effective stuff like Water Breathing and Locate Object, Farmer Bob still saw a man in a dark robe magically appear in the middle of the night from nowhere, enter the lake for 3 hours, then came back out cackling "The fools, it's mine now!".
Depending on how you want to do it, you can have low-level rumours ("You hear people are asking about the Eye, and what your PCs might have done with it"), have a theft reported in progress, have a theft simply take place as above, or have negative side effects of the eye. If one assumes that the ring/eye -wants- to be found, then a fisherman nets it up, thinks it's valuable, cracks the iron, then inserts it into his own eye.
There's an endless array of options. The question would be what do you want to accomplish with it as the GM? Merely remind the PCs it's too dangerous to be left like that? Create a new villain? Overturn the campaign entirely?
In broad strokes, no more than a few sentences worth.
"When last we left our heroes, you were continuing to trawl through the Castle of Doom. Having discovered that the Lich-King could only be slain by Grunthar's magical hammer, you are seeking in out here. Last week, you fought a Pain Slug and Tarren killed it with plenty of fireballs. You have convinced the jailer of the castle dungeon to aid you by helping him romance his troll girlfriend. We cut in on you standing in front of her door, flowers in hand..."
When last we left our heroes... has become sufficiently iconic in the group that it's the GM signal for "Ok, end conversations, game is starting..."
Oh, so, so, so much before an AP begins. (since an AP is about 3 years of running for my group, it's a big commitment!)
First, I'll read all six books (obviously waiting till all 6 come out). At this stage I'm looking for interesting villains, cool setpiece encounters, memorable NPCs, interesting ideas, and things that hook me. This is at least a year in advance of running it. I'll be thinking about loose plot outlines and where the links between books are.
Second, at least six months in advance of proposing running it, I'll read through again. I'm looking to see if the initial hooks still appeal to me, but now I'm looking for the gaps. There's always some given how Paizo writes them, with different writers all writing at the same time. Are there plot holes? NPCs that disappear from prominence? Parts of the module that just don't link up? At about this point I start thinking about what sort of PC motivations would go into it that would keep characters invested through all six books. Often an AP falls down here, with one or two good books, then a radical change in style, so I might run just those books, or borrow them for elsewhere.
Third, a few months in advance, I'll run through what I like and what I don't as a GM. Change an NPC's motivation. Alter some stats. Tweak a plot. Write up a shortened 1 page player guide. I know who the group will be, so does it have enough roleplaying? Enough combat for them? Things that will appeal? At this stage I read through the Paizo forums - ALL the threads, all the posts - for that particular AP. If multiple groups think encounter X is overtuned, they're probably right. If many people think Book 4 in a weak narrative and needs changing, that's something I need to look at. In many cases, the forums are full of cool ideas I'll steal outright, alter, or file away for the future.
Fourth, a few months in advance, I'd elevator-pitch it to the players, giving minor spoilers. "This is a campaign where you're in an urban city for most of it, dealing with the internal politics and the Queen's rise to power, defending the city against various threats. Characters will need to live with the consequences of their actions, since many powerbrokers you influence will stick around for a lot of the campaign. Characters should be people invested in Korvosa's future, with NPC connections through the city" (Curse of the Crimson Throne). "This is a desert campaign set in the Arabian-Nights-esqe Katapesh, where anything can be bought and sold. You'll be starting with clearing and settling a small village, but later adventures will take you into extraplanar realms and dealing with genies extensively" (Legacy of Fire).
Fifth, a month in advance, if the players are interested, write up my own player's guide adapted from the original one. Put in traits, describe what sort of characters should fit, let the players talk about what sort of characters and party they want. Talk about upcoming issues, get everyone on the same page on why the party would start working together and stay together. As a GM, here I'm looking ahead in the books, working out where to foreshadow NPCs that will appear in future books, set up clear links between adventures, work out what themes are important in the adventure and how to highlight them.
Then when we get into running, I'll sit down and do a few hours of prep at the start of each book. Work out what's happening, put it all together in my head, look for any unexplained gaps (doors that don't connect anywhere, etc). Session to session, I do very little prep other than writing up some props and the like.
By the time we get to Book 6, things seem to have jumped the rails a good bit. Little changes to NPC motivations, PC interactions, somebody saved when they're meant to be dead, all richochet through and small changes become big by this stage. Book 6 often gets altered heavily.
I'd estimate 100+ hours of prep for each AP, easily, most of it WELL in advance of the game hitting the table. The one AP where I didn't do this and I ran straight out of the book, sort of just reading ahead before each session, fell apart and never made it to the end.
In Reverse's Kingmaker Podcast, Grigorij was hired on by Drelev in an official capacity, ended up his Grand Diplomat, I believe. Continued to be an annoyance to the PC(s), but they couldn't really touch him without provoking an incident.
You could also easily send him to Pitax, or even Varnhold (although that might discourage people from a rescue!)
Alive, obvious, but out of sword range seems the thing to do. He doubtlessly doesn't want to physically tangle with the PCs again, and he's not the work-in-shadows type.
Should he make it all the way to the Rushlight Tournament, having him make a heroic Boast in the Boasting Contest about his heroic efforts to outwit tyrants attempting to execute him and his cunning (and Boast-appropriately-over-the-top) tale of holding his breath for several hours and stopping his own heart should make a good story. The PCs won't be able to touch him there, either, unless they want a serious diplomatic incident for murdering a competitor in front of neighbouring kingdoms!
So, the Varnholders made agreements/treaties with the Nomen when they first arrived in their territory, and then did things they thought were legitimate without any re-negotiation, which the Centaurs considered to be breaking the spirit of the agreement. Since the two sides weren’t in constant daily contact, the usual re-hashing didn’t occur, and so the Nomen came to view the two-legs as untrustworthy oath-breakers, while the Varnholders came to believe the Nomen to be belligerent fantasists who kept claiming they'd agreed on things that were never mentioned.
This is a lovely conceit, with the centaurs having signed off on a meaningless piece of paper from their point of view, and the Varnholders being able to easily point to the broken treaty that was made. It's a nice fit for the Centaur oral histories, and and nice culture clash.
Diego Hopkins wrote:
It sounds like you need a narrative system. I would recommend either FATE or OpenLegend RPG. You can build any of the characters you've described in either of those systems without worrying about breaking the game.
I concur, but even then you need the players and the GM to all be on the same page to tell the kinds of stories you're aiming for.
At their basic core, most RPGs are about a small group of 3-6 heroes having adventures.
Pathfinder is a sub-category - heroes having adventures in a high fantasy world, fighting monsters, and getting treasure. You can play grand international politics with it, but the system itself lends little support to it.
There are systems where you can create a time wizard whose goal is to ensure Old Hanna learns her famous pie recipe, and a character made of lightning who wants to kill people with lightning. (Fate is a very rules-light option, Mutants and Masterminds is a very rules heavy option). Even then, what does the PC group do with each other? What do Lightning Man and Time Wizard have in common that keeps them in the same story? You need a very clear understanding with the GM on what the characters want to achieve and the kind of game it's going to be before you start if you want broad options like this.
Pathfinder assumes some basic structures to it's game - the adventurers want to save the world or become famous and are prepared to kill monsters to do it. There's plenty of PCs you can make who fit into that group. But fitting a reality shaper, a lightning elemental, and a time wizard obsessed with pies together is going to need a very specific kind of story.
As others have said, there's a great deal of fascinating possibility in further efforts of diplomacy, foreshadowing of the other kingdoms, and working with the Stag Lord, Hagrulka, and others running off their own version of kingdom rules to expand their territory in response to the PCs. All the opposing kingdoms seem to end up too small - Varnhold is barely a village compared to what the PCs will have when they interact with it (for seemingly no reason, since Maegar Varn doesn't seem to be particularly weak or a fool); Fort Drelev is a single city; and Pitax is also a single city.
But these may be beyond the scope of the rewrite, since many of them involve heavily reworking the campaign itself.
On the just encounters score:
- The Dancing Lady is in the hard/frustrating category. She doesn't pose much of a threat, slowly clawing PCs to death, but she has multiple options that just remove PCs from combat immediately, leading to long, slow fights of whoever isn't dancing slowly beating her down while the rest of the players twiddle their thumbs for 12 rounds.
- Cephal Lorentus, Vordekai's undead wizard is a pretty consistent weak link. The terrain is interesting, but Cephal himself has almost no capacity to threaten the PCs, no defences, no minions, and no great tactics. He's easily mulched to the point of wondering why there's even a fight here.
- Vordekai is about perfect, a deadly threat if treated lightly, quite crushable by those who have done their research and come prepared.
- Hannis Drelev, to me, seems to be an overpowered encounter. Not compared to what CR the PCs can handle, but in terms of what Drelev appears to be. He's a whimpering coward who loses every fight he's in, backstabs the PCs, is hated by his own kingdom, and is barely maintaining control. But somehow in all this he's 12th level. Even the text itself mocks him, with Drelev "fancying himself a skilled swordsman". Even his wife, a diva who has never personally gotten her hands dirty, somehow stands as a CR6 encounter. I think Drelev should be around the same as her - a speedbump for the PCs to mow through, leaving Armag as the 'true' boss on Book 4.
Episodes 55 through 57 are now uploaded.
In which we meet the weird inhabitants of old Korvosa, and a million bad BDSM jokes are had.
In which our heroes see what’s become of Eel’s End, and meet the Emperor of Old Korvosa himself.
In which our heroes hurl innocent pigs into the maws of wolverines, abuse prisoners, and jiggle their breasts for the amusement of a manic. It’s time for a rousing game of Blood Pig in Old Korvosa!
GM RelicBlackOUT wrote:
Any chance this is on iTunes/Apple podcast app?
Not Kingmaker only as an individual podcast, but RPGMP3's podcast stream, which includes Kingmaker, can be found here. (If you look at the bottom of the RPGMP3 main page, it has links for Apple, Android, Google, and RSS feeds.
Episodes 51 through 54 are now uploaded.
In which we need a training montage, and Marcus Endrin takes his Officially Mandated Holiday.
In which it’s tournament time. Let the Blade of Korvosa tournament begin! (and end).
In which Zellara sees the future to come of Old Korvosa, and what our heroes will face next. Jac receives a mysterious letter.
In which our heroes get out of the frying pan of politics and into the fire of the Red Mantis Assassins.
I don't think there's a big public perception problem, as long as the Arkonas are suitably horrified (as, actually, they should be) at learning of the murder-for-hire business running insides All the World's Meat. The Arkonas don't even need to lie to the PCs.
Book 3 has a solid descriptor of Palace Arkona, along with the receiving room in which Glorio meets guests - and a spiel that should be reasonably suitable. He implies that the Queen is not doing a good job, that the guards will be used to oppress the people, and that Vimanda encouraged Verrik - the man she's "in love" with - to follow his conscience with some Arkona financial backing to help the poor. Done right, it should make the Arkona's look quite sympathic, and no Book 1 PC has any chance of overcoming their ludicrous social skills.
Episodes 49 and 50 are now uploaded.
In which our heroes finally catch a breath after dealing with the plague, and get out what’s on their minds. Naturally, relationship drama ensues.
In which we duck in and out of inventory hell, and will Silvyr and Lucy be able to stop all the fussin’ and the feudin’?
I have a Paladin. I explained at character creation on that hundreds of people within the city would be evil, including guards of the various organisations and members of the nobility (and that various members of the nobility might have the means and inclination to hide it with magical items or spells), that "he was evil" was not a legal defense, and that he'd have to work with and occasionally for evil people as a part of living in the city. It's never been a problem. A Lawful Evil Gray Maiden force carries out their orders, and are above being casually attacked by a Paladin.
Is your fear that the Paladin will smite-on-sight, or that it will give away the mystery if every Maiden they detect is evil?
Slow progress, as life intervenes.
Episodes 87 through 91 are now uploaded.
In which Kaylen has the ride of his life.
In which Kaylen plans the taking of Fort Drelev, and runs afoul of the Clockwork King over an issue of morals again.
In which we prove that twelve heads aren’t better than one.
In which Kaylen invades Castle Drelev, and the climactic sword duel between him and King Hannis Drelev begins.
In which Kaylen decides the future of Fort Drelev, and the final fate of Grigori.
Back after a break for Christmas and New Years.
Episodes 39 through 44 are now uploaded.
In which the guests may be dead, but the party sure isn’t. It’s fun and games time at Carowyn Manor.
In which the fate of Lucy’s mother is revealed, and a midnight visitor pays call again.
In which getting out of hospital proves far harder than getting in.
In which our heroes investigate the wreck at the bottom of the Jeggare River and realise how deep the plot goes..
In which our heroes suffer up to four different attributes worth of damage at a time.
In which a grand melee occurs in the secret Urgathoan temple.
Persistent damage is pretty vile (acid or otherwise). Theoretically, you get lots of saves at it (since every time you take an action to address it, you get a free flat check). Of course, you only have a 25% max chance of passing the check, so it's very possible to just die, even when you aren't in combat anymore and can spare the actions.
John DeVita wrote:
3. Create one more stat called "Fighting Proficiency" which is simple to calculate as follow... While this system does add an additional stat, it is easy to calculate and use and only needs to be recalculated when switching targets.
Except that in a normal fight, you could easily be switching targets every round, making it another piece of math you need to do. The Goblin Bombardier changes your attack, then you take your Fighter Attack of Opportunity on the Goblin Wizard that runs past you, then you decide you'll make your second attack at the simpler-to-hit Ooze... each time, a recalculation. The math isn't hard, but it is tedious.Base Attack Bonus allowed Fighters to be much better at hitting than Wizards without all the calculation involved.
Are there particular segments you're thinking of? The PCs start as relative nobodies, but are heroes of the city by the end of book 2 and deeply involved in what's going on.
The one 'cut-scene' that can only be observed I can think of is
Book 3 Spoiler:
Endrin's attempt to kill Illeosa
which explicitly takes place as a cut scene precisely to prevent PCs intervening and inadvertently derailing the plot.
This is particularly important because they're also considering having an NPC Ruler.
I'd make a strong effort at convincing them otherwise. With a PC ruler, the game flows smoothly. With an NPC, the story has to warp a bit - either the PCs are continually following the orders of an NPC, and all the hard decisions rest with that NPC; or the PCs ignore their king and do as they please, which can lead to conflict elsewhere.
If it's simply about the fact that their Charisma modifier is less high than an NPCs, the stats make relatively little difference. You can get your kingdom stats up with buildings fairly easy, and the difference between a +3 Charisma ruler and a +1 Charisma ruler can be only a single building away.
Your odds of crit failing are high enough to be an issue. Particularly since you want to help your buddy hit something that has high enough AC that he's having trouble. If you crit fail, you waste both your action and possibly his. Moreover, doing it at -5 or -10 drastically increases the chances of crit failing.
The odds roll out such that the best thing to do to aid your team is to use your third action to "assist" the enemy at hitting one of your own party members, since the likeliest outcome is that you'll crit fail and end up helping your own team by debuffing the very enemy you're assisting.
We found attacks at -10 to be utterly pointless - you're only crit fishing for a natural 20 at that point, the only way you can possibly hit them. If you have nothing else to do, you might as well, but any other action - like raising a Shield or Parrying is better.
All of these options have been tried, mostly to see how they work. Take Cover, High Jump, Long Jump, and Point Out have all been used, and all work as intended. You don't Jump a lot - because why would you? - but it's used to get around disadvantageous terrain.
Shove, Trip, and Disarm won't be used again past the first time. The critical failure effects are nasty, critical failure is often a likely outcome, and the benefits aren't great. Additionally, the kinds of foes you'd use such tricks on because you can't hit their AC also have great defences against such tricks. Disarm is particularly bad, as a non-critical success only allows a +2 to Disarm until the monster's next turn... meaning you have to try and Disarm them again immediately, at the -5 second attack penalty, netting you a grand sum of -3 for your success.
Assist is actively dangerous. The odds that you'll make your buddies attacks worse are far more than the odds you'll help him, and for the same action you could just attack (since you need to hit the enemies AC anyway).
Demoralise, as a non-attack, is useful for a 3rd action because you don't take the attack penalty to it.
The Sugar Fuelled Gamers are also over at RPGMP3.com with Kingmaker as a solo game and Curse of the Crimson Throne as a group game, as well as Book 1 of Serpent's Skull adapted to a mini-campaign.
As for "best"... that's a pretty subjective quality measure. Is there anything in particular you're looking for?
A particular Adventure Path? A completed Adventure Path? Quick games, long games, games with heavy tactics, games with heavy roleplaying? Best quality audio? Group dynamics? Diverse group makeup? Regular updates? Lots of episodes posted?
More information might get better suggestions, where as it is you'll probably just get a group of groups to listen to and see what you like (which is, admittedly, a pretty good way of finding AP podcasts!)
Dire Ursus wrote:
What I think is the difference in playstyles is that Collette is running her monsters as if they are a full on hive mind. Meaning they will completely suicide and sacrifice themselves just to kill a single PC if they can so that the PCs will have more trouble in the next encounter. Regardless of their goals or motivations. That IMO is not a fair way to run the game and is providing disingenuous feedback for the average group. But if that's really how she wishes to run her game (not just in playtest) then I suppose it's good feedback for herself on if the game is right for her. But I'm just saying, if you run the game like that in 1e, I think you'll see similar TPK rates. In fact I'm willing to bet for sure you would.
Yeah, I would expect very few systems wouldn't generate TPKs under that style of play. But that's PF2 working as it should be, because the alternative is that monsters go all out, suicide themselves, and throw everything they have in a concentrated effort to kill the PCs by the end of the dungeon... and fail, meaning anything less than that is a completely foregone conclusion.