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I admit, I find Shalelu the most challenging NPC to develop. She seems rather...colorless, and I might end up swapping her out for another character altogether.

Assuming I keep Shalelu though, I would probably make her subplot a romantic one. In the early adventures I would look for ways to reveal that her stoicism and aloofness masks her essential loneliness (perhaps she might look on wistfully as another romance develops between two of her friends). Of course, if one of the players decides to romance Shalelu, I can have a lot of fun portraying her initial alarm at being courted, and the flashes of fire that lurk beneath her stoic exterior.

However, in my particular group, it's most likely that nobody will choose to romance Shalelu, because I play with a group of my gay friends (all guys) and they generally like to play characters of the same orientation. So, I'm considering having Shalelu fall for Habesuta Hatsue. It doesn't have to be Hatsue, of course -- it could almost as easily be Jiro -- but I like Hatsue as a character. And I feel like she doesn't get much "screen time" in the adventure as written, so it's likely that PCs won't get to know her well unless given an extra hook. Also, her sense of honor combined with practicality seems like it would strike a chord with Shalelu.

I think it could be fun to show Shalelu developing a sudden interest in the game of shogi following the initial meeting with Hatsue (perhaps asking one of the PCs to help her practice the game) and becoming uncharacteristically flustered when she learns of Hatsue's appearance in the Maze of Shadows. She may betray an anxious desire to return immediately to Jiro's fortress if she hears a siege is developing. During the battle, she may focus her fire on oni threatening Hatsue. (Again, all this could easily reworked to make Jiro the love interest instead, for groups that default to hetero romances.)

If the PCs notice Shalelu's "crush" and ask her about it, she will initially deny having any romantic feelings for the ronin's lieutenant (or the ronin, as the case may be), but her protests are unconvincing as she cannot help blushing while discussing her love interest. She refuses, however, to speak to them directly. After so many years alone she does not really believe in the possibility for love, especially not with someone whose race and culture are so different from her own.

There are lots of ways that a romantic subplot with Shalelu could be resolved, but I think it would be especially cute to get the geisha involved. O-Sayumi, after her rescue, might be more than willing to conspire with the PCs to throw Shalelu and the object of her affection (whether a PC or NPC) into a series of romantic vignettes (e.g. a slow boat ride on a placid lake, while cherry blossoms spin in the air and a geisha strums love songs on a samisen...) Part of the humor of such a scenario, of course, would be Shalelu's discomfort with it!

Eventually, of course, I do see Shalelu accepting a happy ending with the object of her affection. The PCs might even be asked to help arrange a wedding...

I don't know, I freely admit that I don't have as good a grasp on Shalelu's character as the others, and my plan for her isn't anywhere near as detailed. I'd be interested in hearing what other DMs did to tie Shalelu into the adventure path!

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Koya's journey is a spiritual one. I plan to have her character arc advance the philosophy that all things have a sacred nature, and that every place, creature, and object in the world should be honored for the part it plays in the larger whole. Koya displays the ability to find beauty in the harshest environments and to take joy in life to the very end.

Koya's subplot will mostly advance through conversation and role-playing.

"The Brinewall Legacy": I plan to add a beautiful illustrated copy of the Tayagama to the treasure of the Kaijitsu's Blossom. Koya will take an immediate interest in the manuscript, and giving it to her will improve her relationship score by +1. However, damage to the book makes translation difficult, and Koya will find that even using her comprehend languages spell, she is left with the nagging feeling that she is missing some nuances of meaning. She will ask the PCs for their perspective, sharing the plot of the book with any PC willing to listen (or encouraging them to read it themselves if they have the ability).

After describing the book, Koya will share that she is troubled by the nature of the oni. The Tayagama seems to indicate that it is their materialistic passions and desires that corrupt them to evil. However, the material world is sacred to Desna, and Koya does not believe that passion is sinful. She asks the PCs for their opinions on the subject, listens thoughtfully to their answers, and then offers a Harrow card reading to any PC who considered the subject respectfully (regardless of their conclusions).

In general, for PCs who express mistrust of material things, Koya says the cards indicate they are guided by higher purpose, but she warns that they must remain compassionate towards those who follow different paths. The next time they fail a Will save, these PCs will gain the opportunity to immediately re-roll the save.

For PCs who embrace the material world (or reject the notion of spirit/matter dualism), Koya says the cards mark them as favored of Desna, but also warn of danger and temptation. The next time they fail a Fortitude save, these PCs will gain the opportunity to immediately re-roll the save.

"Night of Frozen Shadows": If the PCs recover and ally with Helgarval, Koya will take an immediate and abiding interest in the angel. If the PCs allow her regular access to the helm, she will develop a habit of settling in for lengthy discussions and debates with Helgarval over a cup of tea. (The angel does not drink, but despite its lack of apparent sensory organs, it claims to enjoy the scent of the tea and the sight of steam curling from the cup.)

Over the course of these conversations, Koya's initial sense of awe quickly evolves into an irreverent affection for the angel, which in turn seems to mimic her patterns of speech. Soon the two are going back and forth like old friends: "Now see here, you old tin can, that might true in Elysium but here in the real world things are mighty different!" To which Helgarval snaps back "Old, yes, and where's your respect for your elders, whippersnapper?"--prompting a delighted chortle from Koya.

At some point during a lull in the action, Koya will invite the PCs to take tea with herself and Helgarval, and "settle a dispute." It comes out that the two have been debating the nature of free will. Koya believes in freedom rather than destiny, and holds that until the moment of death all creatures retain the possibility of change. "You can never know which lowly worm will transform to Desna's butterfly," she says. But Helgarval responds that all things have no choice but to be what they are--Desna's freedom is the freedom of self-expression, but destiny cannot be denied. "Time is an illusion," the angel says, "and the caterpillar and the butterfly were always one."

Again, Koya asks the PCs for their perspective, and once more listens thoughtfully regardless of how they respond. PCs who participate in the debate gain a +2 to their relationship score with Koya no matter which side they endorse. When they have shared their views, she drains her cup of tea and invites them to do the same, offering to read the leaves that remain at the bottom of their cups.

For PCs who express a belief in free will, Koya says the tea leaves speak of allies in unexpected places. The next time they are asked to make a Diplomacy check, these PCs may proceed as if they had rolled a natural 20.

For PCs who express a belief in destiny, Koya says the auguries tell of hidden enemies brought to light. The next time they are asked to make a Perception check, these PCs may proceed as if they had rolled a natural 20.

"The Hungry Storm": Earlier in this thread others suggested giving more foreshadowing of Katiyana's return. I plan to do that through Koya--after Katiyana is defeated at the Storm Tower, Koya will grow withdrawn, scanning the skies with a worried expression and repeatedly shuffling and laying out her Harrow cards as the caravan continues. Sometime before the undead show up at Dead Man's Dome, Koya will take the PCs aside to tell them her auguries tell of a coming storm and an enemy "more powerful in death than she was in life."

After Katiyana is destroyed, Koya will ask the PCs to participate with her in a ritual to reconsecrate the Uqtaal Necropolis, which gives a bonus to her Relationship Score as detailed in the module. At the conclusion of the ritual, Koya will again become pensive. Finally she will admit to the PCs that while she is revulsed by the destruction Katiyana caused, she could not help but admire the power and beauty of the storm. She confides to the PCs that she has taken a great deal of joy in their trek across the Crown of the World--tasting new foods, speaking to new people, seeing amazing sights with her own eyes. But she has also witnessed suffering and evil, and she wonders if it is selfish of her to take pleasure in the world while others remain in so much pain.

So long as the PCs respond respectfully, they will earn an additional +3 to their Relationship Scores with Koya no matter how they answer. (PCs pursuing an enmity relationship with Koya may earn points by mocking her instead.) However, some weeks later, Koya will return to the subject. To PCs who generally endorsed finding joy and beauty in the world despite the presence of pain and evil, she will tell them that she has decided they are right. To PCs who endorse any other view--such as the notion that pleasure is fleeting and virtue lies in self-denial--she will tell them that their way may be right for them, but she has decided it is not right for her. To thank them for helping her along the journey, she has crafted a magic item for each PC tailored to their class and abilities and incorporating materials harvested from the significant enemies they have defeated so far (such as dragon's claws or yeti pelts). (I plan to give Koya additional crafting feats as she levels up, but she can make the PCs a gift of potions at the very least.)

"Forest of Spirits": Koya is delighted and fascinated by the kami, who to her embody the link between the material and spiritual worlds. She does her best to befriend Miyaro, and is pleased with the PCs if they recruit the kitsune and are generally friendly to the kami. She is very interested in exploring the House of Withered Blossoms. I intend to use her interest as a way of guiding the PCs to discover the various pieces of information they need to gather there (using her fortune-telling as a guide if necessary). If the PCs give her time to peruse the oni library, not only will her Relationship Score improve as detailed in the module, but I will probably allow her to discover the important secret that not all of Anamurumon's descendents were destroyed: one grandson was deemed promising enough to live, although Anamurumon did kill the boy's mother in order to ensure that his loyalties were not divided.

In general, I plan to portray "Forest of Spirits" as a sort of culmination of Koya's spiritual journey. Meeting the kami brings her an enormous sense of personal fulfillment. She feels the journey was tremendously worthwhile and that it has brought her a far deeper understanding of the world and her own place in it. After the events in the House of Withered Blossoms, Koya remains an enthusiastic ally, but she is no longer driven by a sense of restlessness and missed opportunities. Instead she simply looks forward to each day and each new opportunity as it comes.

"Tide of Honor": In this module, I'm concerned that the riddle of O-Sayumi's inro will mean nothing to my players. Koya and her divination magic can serve to guide the PCs as they attempt to decipher the various clues that O-Sayumi has left them.

In addition, provided the PCs introduce Koya to Numataro-Sama, she will obtain permission from the kappa to spend a few days working beneath his sacred magnolia tree. During this time she will "upgrade" the items she made for each PC, infusing them with new powers appropriate to the PCs' advanced level.

"The Empty Throne": Koya may be helpful to the PCs in discovering the various secrets that they can use to destroy the Teamwork Scores of the Jade Regent and his allies.

At the conclusion of the campaign, assuming that Ameiko has been installed as Empress, Koya will announce her intention to return to the Forest of Lost Spirits. She would like to spend more time with the kami, ensuring that the House of Withered Blossoms remains a locus of good rather than evil, and helping the spirits of the forest find rest.

If she has grown particularly close to any PCs, Koya will invite them to accompany her, perhaps even suggesting that the House of Withered Blossoms could become a site of pilgrimage or learning for those who wish to study under the PCs. In time the site could be transformed into a famous monastery, temple, or academy, spreading wisdom throughout the land.

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I've just finished reading through the AP in preparation for running it with my group. My main concern is one that people have posted about in other threads: a big deal is made at the beginning about these four NPCs and the player's relationships with them, and then three out of the four are barely even mentioned again for the entire AP. This seems like a huge missed opportunity for roleplaying and character development. Plus, I think players who choose backstories and traits that tie them to NPCs other than Ameiko might rightfully end up feeling resentful that the campaign doesn't "pay off" those ties at all, especially compared to the payoff for an Ameiko-tied PC.

So, I plan to add ongoing subplots for the other three NPCs to the AP. Here is what I have worked up:


By the end of the campaign, Sandru represents a path "back home" for characters who don't want to remain in Minkai. His story arc involves developing a network of suppliers and trading opportunities along the caravan's path -- essentially, he is blazing a kind of Silk Road, and if the PCs help him achieve this goal then he (and they) will have the opportunity to amass great wealth by the end of the AP.

Here are the steps involved in completing his subplot:

"The Brinewall Legacy": Sandru asks for the PC's help in assembling some special cargo for the caravan. I'm not sure I'm using the caravan rules (most people don't seem to like them) but if I do I will count these as four "special" units of trade goods. One is an assembly of expert glassworks (magnifying glasses, eyeglasses, advanced alchemical glassware, and glass artworks such as mobiles and statuettes); one is a collection of woven rugs and wall hangings featuring characteristic Sandpoint patterns; one is a shipment of smoked and salted fish (preserved this way, it will last a long time, especially in colder climates); and the last is a crate of bog nuts, a local spice that adds a characteristic nutmeg-like flavor to Sandpoint cuisine.

Sandru can assemble the glass, textiles, and fish on his own, but he has been stymied in his attempts to procure a suitably large supply of bog nuts -- the local spice merchant refuses to divulge his source for the nuts. Bog nuts are known to grow in the marsh, so Sandru wants the PCs to help him locate and harvest some during their explorations of the swamp. If Walthus is rescued, he will be able to direct the PCs to a bog nut grove; alternately, the PCs can locate a grove on their own with a DC 15 Survival or Knowledge (nature) check. Helping Sandru harvest a suitable amount of bog nuts gives +1 to his relationship score.

During the caravan's travels, I plan to stress Sandru's concern over the shipment of glass. Although it's well packed and no more subject to destruction than any other unit of trade goods, Sandru will fret about the glass every time the caravan faces a disruptive threat. Depending on what sort of random encounters come up, it may also be necessary for the PCs to intervene in order to protect the wagon that carries the glass. After one or two of these incidents, Sandru will remark that he's looking forward to unloading that shipment at Kalsgard.

"Night of Frozen Shadows": Sandru takes the first possible opportunity to search for a buyer for the caravan's goods, *especially* the glass. However, the next time the PCs see him, he's dejected: he's only been able to make a meager profit selling his caravan goods, and none of his special shipments seem to interest the merchants of Kalsgard at all. Local fish is plentiful; the hearty Northmen warriors scoff at fragile glass "baubles and trinkets"; the people of Kalsgard prefer the work of their own weavers to the fabrics brought from Sandpoint; and Sandru can't get anyone to even try a taste of the bog nuts. ("Maybe it's the name," he muses.)

When the PCs go to visit Fynn Snaevald, Sandru becomes hopeful that a man with his reputation -- a merchant and collector, someone with both wealth and cosmopolitan tastes -- might be more open to foreign tastes. He asks to accompany the PCs to the meeting, and prepares a small batch of spice cookies using the bog nuts.

While the PCs talk with Fynn about the sword Suishen, Sandru unwraps his package of cookies and offers them around, waiting hopefully and expectantly as Fynn takes his first bite. Unfortunately, the merchant finds the spice disgusting and is barely able to conceal his revulsion: his mouth puckers and he sets the cookie down after only a bite. Sandru nurses his disappointment for the rest of the conversation.

However, as the PCs prepare to leave and Sandru wraps up the remainder of his cookies, Fynn's eyes fall on the cloth bundle in which the cookies were carried. The cloth bears a pattern common to Sandpoint designs, which Fynn recognizes as an ancient motif that goes back to Thassilonian times. He rather excitedly asks Sandru about the weaving, and within a few minutes a surprised and pleased Sandru has found a buyer for his entire shipment of textiles.

Fynn pays a premium for the "rare and historic" weavings, and a happy Sandru will share the profits with the PCs: 600gp for each PC, and +2 to his relationship score.

"The Hungry Storm": Sandru continues to fret over the fragile glass as the caravan ventures into harsh arctic territory. He will do his best to unload the glass shipment at the village of Iqaliat: but the villagers only examine the glass pieces with polite confusion. The irrepressible Sandru will then try his luck with the bog nuts, going so far as to grate one over the cups of hot fermented goat's milk that the characters are offered during their meeting with the hearthmistress Sonavut. Unfortunately, it turns out that the two flavors do not blend well, as even Sandru will be forced to admit. At this point, dejected, he will sit back and let the conversation with Sonavut play out normally.

It will be up to the PCs to remember that the caravan carries one additional special shipment: the preserved fish. If one of the PCs mentions the fish, both Sandru and the villagers perk up. Iqualiat is after all under siege from the dragon, and their food stores have grown low as the hunters are unable to venture far from the village. They have little in the way of coin, but are willing to trade valuable furs and exquisitely carved pieces of ivory in exchange for the smoked and salted fish. When the caravan reaches Ordu-Aganhei, Sandru will be able to sell the furs and ivory for a substantial profit, which he again shares with the PCs: this time 6,000gp each (and +3 to his relationship score).

"Forest of Spirits": Sandru also hopes to unload the troublesome glass shipment at Ordu-Aganhei. However, it is not to be: Ordu-Aganhei has its own glass artisans, and a protectionist dictate from the prince forbids the local merchants from importing any goods of this type.

However, Sandru does have an opportunity to shine in Ordu-Aganhei. At the Feast of the Honored Visitors, if the PCs consult Sandru, he will suggest offering the bog nuts (which he now despairs of ever being able to sell) to the prince's chefs for use in the meal they are to prepare. If the PCs take his advice, they are able to automatically succeed at the cooking aspect of the challenge, and win +4 to Sandru's relationship score.

"Tide of Honor": While meeting the geishas at the Kiniro Kyomai teahouse, the PCs are advised by Jiro to bring a gift. If consulted, Sandru offers one of the delicate glass mobiles brought from Sandpoint. If the PCs take his advice, O-Kohaku is very pleased by this gift. Later, after O-Sayumi has been rescued, the module instructs that "the mistress of the teahouses arranges meetings for the PCs with several nobles and merchants opposed to the Jade Regent." If she has seen Sandru's glasswares, O-Kohaku ensures that the mobile is hung in the meeting room as decoration while the PCs and the merchants converse. The mobile is sure to catch the eye of one of the visiting merchants, at which point O-Kohaku will smile demurely and incline her head to the PCs, saying they "have brought many treasures from foreign lands." If the PCs follow up on this opening (either by bringing Sandru into the negotiations or by arranging a sale directly) they will be able to finally unload the troublesome glass cargo for a profit of 15,000gp per character and a final +5 boost to Sandru's relationship score.

"The Empty Throne": Sandru's subplot is essentially complete in "Tide of Honor," but of course he will continue to aid the PCs as they secure the Jade Throne for Ameiko. After her ascension as Empress, however, Sandru announces his intention to retrace the trade route between Avistan and Minkai, this time carrying a load of silks, exotic weapons, and another valuable goods from Minkai. With the contacts gained along the journey and his now-excellent understanding of the markets along the way, Sandru and any PCs who care to join him have the opportunity to set themselves up as merchant princes. He looks forward to many more years of travel and profit, with the opportunity to visit his friends regularly and to cement the trade links between Avistan and Minkai.

This got long so I will do Koya and Shalelu separately!

I just wanted to throw in my two cents: I love the fiction and always look forward it. I think it conveys the flavor and atmosphere of the AP in a way that module text doesn't necessarily. Also, I just like the variety of stuff that the AP modules come with -- bestiary entries, setting/deity lore, "ecology of" articles, new treasure/equipment, and fiction -- it's a little bit like what my beloved Dragon magazine used to be. Maybe you guys should add a comic :)

I thought the Serpent's Skull story was particularly good.

Awesome, thank you cwslyclgh and GM Solspiral!

Oh, I'm pretty sure I know what was wrong with it, assuming it actually got in the judging.

(It was too boring, in a nutshell. This was my first year submitting and I set myself design goals that actually ran *counter* to what it turns out the judges are looking for! I wanted to do a simple, low-level item that would run no risk of unbalancing a campaign but that players would be likely to actually use--in short, the kind of thing you might find in a published module. After reading more of the forums I understand that Superstar items are supposed to be flashy and have a lot of wow factor, not the kind of safe-but-solid item I was shooting for.)

I *would* like to know if I got myself DQ'd though, because that would mean I made a different mistake than the one I already know about!

I'd really like to know if my Fellhound Collar made it to judging, or if I got myself auto-disqualified through some beginner's mistake...

Here's two concepts I didn't go with. I didn't even get as far as costing them out, because I realized there are fundamental flaws with the ideas in both cases.

Stirgewarden's Taper

This tall, waxen candle is infused with a mixture of bitter grass and
citrus oils and etched with protective runes. When lit, the taper
emits a sharp-smelling odor repellent to stirges and other
bloodsuckers. Creatures within ten feet of a burning stirgewarden's
must make a DC 14 Will save in order to use the Attach special
ability, and an additional save each round in order to remain
attached. The taper sheds light as a normal candle and burns for one
hour once lit.

[I ditched this because a) it's really an alchemical item rather than a wondrous one, and b) it's a real-world item (citronella candle) and there's a strong joke element involved. That said, I think it would actually be quite a useful piece of adventuring gear for low-level characters, and I might throw it into my own games as part of a gnomish peddler's stock or something.]

Sovereign's Seal

Usually made of heavyweight gold and molded with an official emblem, a sovereign's seal guarantees the authenticity of official correspondence and edicts. When used in conjunction with specially prepared sealing wax (see below [um, there isn't actually a "below," but the wax was going to have a per-use cost]), the sovereign's seal renders any single sheet of paper, papyrus, or vellum bearing the wax and emblem immune to tampering. The mark left by a sovereign's seal radiates faint abjuration magic and can be dispelled (DC 15). So long as a page bears the seal, ink and similar materials will not mark it, and any existing writing on the page cannot be erased or altered through non-magical means. The page may be damaged normally, but text protected by a sovereign's seal will not be rendered illegible unless the page is wholly destroyed. Spells that add or affect inscriptions (such as erase, explosive runes, sepia snake sigil, arcane mark, symbol, or glyph of warding) will fail unless the caster succeeds in a caster level check against DC 20, and success will remove the mark of the seal. More indirect forms of illusion or concealment, however, may succeed in disguising the page.

Existing text, magical or mundane, is not affected by the use of a sovereign's seal, and spells such as those mentioned above or illusory script will function normally after the application of the seal. Scrolls marked with a sovereign's seal also behave as expected (magical text will still vanish after activation) except that the scroll is somewhat more durable, tending to survive exposure to water, etc. For this reason cautious wizards have been known to stamp each spellbook page with a sovereign’s seal.

[This concept was born of my interest in cryptography and secure communications, and I think something like this *would* exist in a medieval world where magic was available, but it's basically just too fiddly an item for the minimal adventuring benefit it provides. It's more a worldbuilding/social-flavor kind of thing than something adventurers would actually care about.]

Both the above concepts suffer from the additional flaw that they're essentially defensive items, preventing a bad thing from happening rather than giving the characters any cool new options. They close off gameplay avenues rather than opening new ones up. So even though there's things about each idea that I like, I didn't end up developing them any further.

dr_emperor wrote:
The animal companion advancing at half ranger level always seemed to fall behind in what it could do. Has anyone looked into changing it to something with a straight minus to druid level for determining animal companion abilities, like the hexblades familiar.

Totally agreed! The ranger's animal companion actually gets WORSE (relative to the rest of the party) as the ranger goes up in level. That's boneheaded. No class ability should *deteriorate* as you progress in levels. By 20th level, the ranger's companion is just going to die all the time.

Our house rules involve keeping the ranger's companion at a druid level -2. I was honestly surprised to find this change hadn't been made in the new Paizo ruleset.

Matthew Vincent wrote:
red scare wrote:
Treat the war claw as spiked gauntlets.
Yup. This is officially stated somewhere in Dungeon #143.

Oh! Okay, I was just confused. Thank you!

Khartan wrote:
However, over the course of time, it became very clear that the Rogue’s player was role-playing the romance much better than the Paladin.

What a great story! Sounds like you have a pretty cool group.

Like other commenters above, I think role-playing should always be rewarded over "roll-playing." And I would have given the paladin's player some warning that this is how things were going to go: if he stepped up in the role-playing department he would win, but otherwise the rogue was going to carry Lavinia's heart. After all, she has a good Sense Motive score, and an *awesome* Diplomacy -- so I think she'll know when somebody's just going through the motions with her.

In Dungeon #143, the loot the characters can get from the Temple of the Jaguar includes a "+1 wounding war claw." Where can I find the stats for a war claw -- it isn't listed in the Player's Handbook?

Girl gamer here. Things like the cover to Curse of the Crimson Throne Ch. 1 make my heart happy. It's a little thing to most of you, but it's a big deal to me. A little cheesecake here and there is okay but please don't go back to the bad old days. It really does make a big difference in making the hobby welcoming for girls.