Cranky Dog: here's a very quick idea for spiritual support, you'll have to flesh it out yourself.
Party hears of a moutain temple where an honored, old --but obviously senile-- priest resides and where holy warriors train. Evil and curses have come across the land nearby and the villagers blame it all on the silent young acolyte the elder priest has recently taken under wing. People whisper the young acolyte has bewitched the old priest and befuddled his mind with dark magic, but the old priest will not believe wickedness about his young acolyte.
The old priest has long said he will give one wish to the person who travels into a swampy valley and purifies an abandonded shrine that has been corrupted. Many holy warriors have tried --so as to use the chance to demand the old priest banish the acolyte-- but all have failed.
In reality, the old priest is an oni using polymorph. He killed the real priest, took his shape and is faking senility. The acolyte is a terrifed innocent from a far-off village told by the oni to stay silent or else the acolyte's family will be brutially murdered.
The oni finds the whole situation great comedy, because he is sending legions of holy warriors to their doom, while having an innocent acolyte be shunned and hated by everyone.
If the party can free the acolyte,his/her resilence in the face of great evil is taken as evidence of their holiness and they become something of a heroic figure in the spiritual community... and can direct some of that veneration towards the party's use...
I'm glad your group have found some of the suggestions enjoyable. It does sound like you and them had a memorable session and played it to the hilt.
Although, you say no one did a Sense Motive check? Wow. Awesome in a good way. I'm afraid I would never be able to get that far with my group: too many ex-Shadowrun players.
DM: Your mother tucks you in and says, "Sleep well."
Player: I roll Sense Motive, does she really mean it?
But I think what Revan said makes sense. The consequence of unboxing it in your HQ is the attack at the end of the book. The consequence of unboxing it on the road is that they've sent one of their most deadly ninja after them. At this point, the oni know you're here, and they know where you are. Stealth isn't going to work for long any more anyways, and now strength, speed, and the support of the people are your best defences.
It's the scale of the response.
It's the difference between, "Hmm... I know they're out there somewhere, but I'm not sure where. Let's hire some more ninja to try and find them, although, being the independent and shadowy figures they are the ninja probably won't tell me anything until the job is done. And their previous attempts don't exactly fill me with confidence. Let's take a more personal interest in it this time and also send a few patrols of oni around: maybe they'll get lucky and find some clues to follow. Since I don't know where they are exactly, I can't use my overwhelming force unless I get some solid leads. Best to keep my forces close, ready to act if some kind of popular uprising happens."
"Oh, *there* they are. Inside *my* country. Geez, I'm really going to have to execute my Northern Border commander for letting them get past him. Let's see... what resources do they have? They just arrived, so they'll probably be busy recruiting allies for a level or two. What resources do I have?
"Oh yeah... an entire empire.
"Hey General! Send the 3rd, 4th, and 6th legions to the north. Park them here and have them detain, arrest, and murder anyone who looks like a PC. Yo! Chancellor! Hire a whole ninja clan --no, make that two-- and send them to these co-ordinates, same orders, but leave out the detain and arrest part. You! Court Wizards! Can you guys scry? Good. Can you teleport? Good. Your continued employment depends on your ability to 'scry and fry' this location.
"The one who brings me their heads --bodies most definitely not part of the deal-- gets to take the long weekend off. Okay, I'll throw in two free passes to Oni World, as well as a nice plaque to hang on your wall. Trust me, it's a very handsome plaque."
Reading through 'Tide of Honor', there are a few places where it's suggested that the players whip out the Amatatsu Seal to help support their otherwise outlandish claims. ("Yeah, this chick who is from a far-off land, neither of her parents ever set foot in Minkai, speaks your language with a strange accent, and hasn't suffered under the Jade Regent like you all have happens to be the last blood heir to your empire and deserves your fealty. Oh, and if she dies, me --a foreign, dark-skinned, round-eyed dwarf with a CHR of 8-- has a claim to the throne. What can I say? Destiny's a harsh mistress.")
In another, to get to the treasure requires the Seal to uncork the hidden room. I read this and it caused a bit of a problem for me because according to the previous books, popping out the Seal sent out a giant:
Dear Five Storms,
Here I am. Please send ninjas.
All the best,
And that could happen anywhere along the trek. The idea of waving the unblocked Seal around right in Minkai makes me think, "Suddenly, ninjas," and "Suddenly, armies," and "Suddenly, oni," and "Suddenly, armies of ninja oni." Basically, after being told to hide away the Seal for so long, there has to be a believable reason why uncorking it on the Five Storms doorstep doesn't lead to immediate 'scry and fry.'
What I suggest is that going back to 'Forest of Spirits,' and having Akumi (the bonzai kami) provide another service to the party. When the caravan meets the group of kami, they inform the party that the glade is a spot of tranquility in the world, and the Five Storms can not spy on what occurs there. If Akumi travels with the party, he is allowed to take a fragment of that tranquility with him, granting the same kind of cloak to the Seal, so long as it is unboxed within 10 feet of his tree. For my mind, this gives a believable reason why the party can now take the Seal out sometimes without having to deal with more ninjas than are typically hunting them.
William Bryan wrote:
Is anyone doing anything differently with Helgarval? I feel that there could be some foreshadowing that I'm missing out on that might be in a future installment.
Personal opinion follows:
I found "Night of Frozen Shadows" to be the weakest of the Adventure Path by far. Even as I accept that it must take place within a structured AP I have huge problems with the horribly railroaded plot, the most efficient way to minimize Notoriety Points gained in game is to conduct wholesale murder against everyone (except in that guild, there it's bad!), the totally linear final dungeon requires you to find 2 (TWO!) secret doors or else the whole thing grinds to a halt, and, when it looks like there are no hooks left to follow and we're at an impasse in our investigation... an angel-that-looks-like-a-viking-helm that we just HAPPENED to pick up in the prior scene decides to give us answers.
It is unfortunate because I like the AP and there are hints of a good episode underneath all this railroad plot and NPC stupidity. However, I will be rejigging this adventure for my game and Helgarval is definitely one of the things that will be jettisoned with extreme prejudice.
How will the PCs find out about the Rimerunners Guild without the Helmet-Angel-of-Plot-Dumping you ask?
By examining the treasure they found on the ship. Found engraved on a bejeweled drinking horn: "To big bad Viking. Thanks for putting in a good word for me with the Rimerunners Guild."
Asking around. "Oh, yeah, I heard he was really close to the Rimerunners Guild a few years back. I think they bought up all his stuff once he got all ill and such."
"*Hic!* Yeah... let me tell you about my bestest buddy... *hic* we just burned him, true Northman funeral... in a boat! I worked for him *hic* years ago. Did a lot of stuff for that Guild... Rhyme Rippers... no wait... that's not right... *hic*... Run Rimers? Time Tunners? Rimerunners! Yeah that was it! *hic* me and him and that Guild... we go wayyyyy back. Let me tell you about this time..."
In other words, my characters will have to interact with the adventure to find the clues. They will be there when they look, but they will not just drop out of the sky and land on their heads.
Also, as others have mentioned, named NPCs that can join the caravan are so peripheral to the actual adventure itself that ignoring them do not change the unfolding adventure one bit.
I have placed order # 1762952, and recieved an email saying that the order is being filled, but within the email was the line:
Will not ship before you contact Customer Service.
So do I need to reply to the information email? I don't remember this step the last time I ordered product (admittedly a while back) so I am confused as to the proper procedure.
NPC Specific Events
These events should happen to characters with connections to the specific NPC. These are written as if the character is friendly to the NPC in question, but most could be run (albeit somewhat differently) if there is enmity.
If the character goes along with the scam they get a lot of gold, but Koya finds out and berates the character for taking advantage of the elderly.
The Road Goes Ever On
From The Mouth of Babes
However, both Koya and the character catch a nasty flu from the sick child and spend the next week being physically miserable.
Old Flames Burn Bright
It’s a Guy Thing
Where the Wild Things Are
The event depresses the elf, and it is up to the character to bring her spirits back up.
Whose Your Daddy?
Figuring out that the man is terrified he will screw up his kid without his wife to keep an eye on him and getting him to go home to the kid will truly impress Shalelu.
Are All Humans Crazy, Or Merely The Ones I Know?
A character who joins her in talking about human foibles or tries and help her gain a better understanding of the race of man will improve their relationship.
I Am A Delicate Flower
Next morning, nursing her own hangover, she ruefully admits she might need to tone down such behaviour –a bit- and asks the character to help her keep her temper in check.
Someone Should Write A Play
“This isn’t Minkai.”
If the character can help (Stealth, Bluff, opening locks, distracting magic, writing poetry for the lovelorn young man, etc.), the PC and Ameiko can get closer as they work to make love spread.
Does This Kimono Make Me Look Fat?
She’s having a momentary attack of nerves. It’ll be over with the next Frozen Shadow attack, but for now, can the character be a comforting sounding board?
= = =
Those are my ideas. What are yours?
Man About Town – Events while in civilization
Run Away and Join the Caravan
The young woman is found clutching a bag and is desperate to flee the town. She begs, pleading for a life of something beyond marriage to a local boy. Sense Motive shows she is serious about leaving town. A search of her bag shows it contains all her worldly possessions: an extra set of clothes, two books, a doll, and 3 copper pieces.
If the party says no, they leave her to her fate. If they agree to let her come along, she shows she is an eager worker and a bright girl. +1 to all non-combat caravan checks.
A Taxing Time
If the party pays, the exchequer leaves. If the party chooses not to pay, they can use Diplomacy or Intimidate to force the meek exchequer to back off. Bribes are met with an incredulous look.
If the party paid, when they leave town they see the bridge they are leaving on being worked on.
If the caravan leaves without the tax being paid, there are no workers on the bridge. As the wagons roll over the bridge, part of it breaks, dumping 2 units of cargo into the river.
“Our infrastructure is failing because of people not paying their taxes,” the mayor will say, and will refuse to reimburse the caravan.
Such A Nice, Quiet Man
Use of Sense Motive, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Perception or charm magic will find evidence that yes, the driver was the only one with the girl when she died.
If the group gathers the information and presents it to the caravan, the people of the caravan are shocked, but grimly accept it. If they party does not find the correct information or do not present it, the caravan’s people feel one of theirs was wrongfully taken; -2 on all checks.
If the party forcefully ignores the townsmen and leave with the driver, the caravan is in a celebratory mood… how dare they try and take one of ours! At the next town, the driver kills another girl and is caught, taking his own life. -4 to all checks.
Times Are Tough All Over
1 cargo unit: -1 to the next trading check, +0 resolve
2 cargo units: -2 to the next trading check, +1 resolve
3 cargo units: -3 to the next trading check, +1 resolve and godly blessing prevents the caravan/party from being surprised (next time the party/caravan is surprised, their enemies do not get a surprise round).
Man In Motion
The young man is found clutching a bag and is desperate to flee the town. He begs, pleading for a life of something beyond grinding wheat at the mill. Sense Motive shows he is serious about leaving town. A search of his bag shows it contains all his worldly possessions: an extra set of clothes, two knives, a small coal sketch of his family, and ten severed fingers.
He killed a man last night, severed the fingers and now has to leave town. The body will be discovered in a few hours and the town will send the watch after the caravan. If the stowaway is still with the caravan when the law arrives, he will claim one of the party members is the killer, and is being held against his will. The caravan will acquire a reputation for harbouring criminals. -3 Resolve.
Two Men Enter, One Eunuch Leaves
Contested skill checks follow:
Horsemanship: 1 Intimidate (pre-ride trash talk), 2 Ride
Obstacle course: 1 Acrobatics, 2 Climb
Pig Catching: 2 Handle Animal, 1 Swim (in mud)
Winning two challenges cows the town toughs down. +1 to security as a song is on the caravan’s lips. -2 if the party embarrasses themselves.
It’s 11 PM, Do You Know Where Your Child Is?
Successfully freeing the child wipes away the unpleasant rumours, in fact, the locals share some of their harvest in gratitude, reduce consumption by 2. Not finding the child means the caravan leaves the town under a dark cloud of suspicion. -2 resolve.
Habitat for Demi-Humanity
Helping out means the town respects the caravan as good people and is freer with their coins. Increase the gold earned by 15%.
I’ve been unimpressed with the official support provided in the books, both for NPC/PC interactions as well as non-combat events to liven up the caravan’s trip. As such, I’ve written some incidents that I may use in my game and am willing to share in the hopes it sparks others’ imaginations as well.
I am not using the caravan rules as RAW, so my mechanical suggestions are just that: suggestions. If you can think up better results, use them.
On the Road Again – Events while the caravan is on the trail
Shelyn Has Left the Building
Pranks, But No Pranks
If the party finds the fey, a fortuneteller can engage the fey in a contest of wits, make a Profession (fortuneteller) check, if successful, the fey are made friendly and give 2 trade goods worth of fey-worked items. On a failure the fey leave, looking for people who are more fun to be around.
Baby On Board
3 successes: mother and baby are fine. The caravan is elated! +2 to all checks for a week.
2 successes: hard birth, the mother is weakened, but the baby is fine. +1 to all checks for 3 days.
1 success: mother dies in childbirth, baby is fine. Joy mixed with sadness, no modifiers.
0 successes: mother dies, taking her child with her. Gloom descends on the caravan, -2 to all checks.
Are We Really Like That?
All are orphans and have no living family members.
In Need of a Cattle Prod
I’m No Good Without My Daily Map
The caravan can either stop and wait for a traveler to come along (2 days) to tell them which route to take (west), or can send out scouts. A successful Survival check will tell the caravan that the west path is the longer, but safer. The northwestern one is shorter, but over rougher, swampier terrain.
Taking west route: no problems.
Taking northwest route: Make 2 morale, and 1 mobility checks against the caravan to see how well the caravan deals with the harder terrain and flaring tempers due to the extra work:
3 successes: the caravan is a well oiled machine! The surge of confidence gives the group a +2 to all economy rolls in the next town.
2 successes: the road is hard, but we’re harder. The toil toughens the caravan up. +1 AC to the next fight.
1 success: I should have stayed at home. The distance takes twice the time to cover. Demoralized, the caravan takes a -1 to all checks for a week.
0 successes: are we there yet? The rough path claims a victim! Randomly choose one of the caravan’s wagons. Remove that from play, as well as whatever cargo it was carrying. +2 to unrest until some kind of uplifting event occurs.
Gods On High
A character with Knowledge (religion) can, on a successful check, read the signs above and calm the caravan down. By linking the lights above to religious sagas, the character can weave a story that gives hints to upcoming events.
Someone with Perform (storytelling) can do something similar, but at a harder DC. Someone with Bluff can as well, but at a still higher DC.
Success: the caravan seems blessed. +20% on all gold gained in the next trading session.