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Many thanks to everyone who's answered my concerns here; a big part of the reason I'm asking is that I'm relatively unfamiliar with these mid-to-high levels of Pathfinder in general and with running wizards at these levels in particular, so I don't have a good sense of the toolkit available to the class. Your insights here are invaluable to me.

Franke, thank you for your point re: mage's private sanctum. I think Mokmurian lacks the caster level to use permanency to make the sanctum permanent (he can cast permanency, just not for that particular spell effect) but it's definitely the sort of thing I can imagine him casting daily.

Askar Avari, thank you for your detailed set of points which I'll do my best to answer here.

1) I can definitely see Mokmurian making use of detect scrying in the way you've described and will add this to his tactics and defences.

2) I've interpreted possessions fairly broadly in the campaign thus far and under the expectations that I've established for my players, Mokmurian's missive to Barl ought to count as Mokmurian's possession for scrying purposes - my own fault, but I'd rather not move that particular goalpost at this stage.

3) I'm never quite sure just how much information Karzoug is supposed to have about the PCs at different stages in the campaign, how he gets it, or how much of it he shares with his underlings, though at this stage I think you're right that he'll share whatever he knows with Mokmurian once the raid on Sandpoint is foiled. I know that Karzoug himself can see through the senses of anyone wearing a known Sihedron medallion, which at this stage means Xanesha's medallion; my PCs haven't yet killed Lucrecia, nor decided what they're going to do with Barl's medallion. Lucrecia can use dream to pass a message directly "up the chain" to Mokmurian, Khalib, Ceoptra, or Karzoug himself, and the forces at Jorgenfist have access to sending to do the same.

The campaign book explains the capabilities that the villains have but seems to largely leave it up to individual GMs to decide to what extent and in what fashion they're using those. If nothing else, the module writers can't assume that Karzoug uses the Sihedron medallions to keep tabs on the PCs since it's entirely possible that the PCs will decide to sell them rather than keep them.

I've generally been playing Karzoug as hands-off with his more remote minions and occupied largely with events at Xin-Shalast; those remote minions in turn have taken something of a "don't bother the boss" approach to interacting with Karzoug, getting on with their assigned tasks and doing their best to handle problems by themselves rather than inviting the Runelord's displeasure by reporting on any trouble they've been having. I suppose the raid on Sandpoint might be precisely the point at which Karzoug decides to satisfy his curiosity as to just why the influx of greedy souls from Magnimar has ended...

Mokmurian has some unexpected help in the form of Erylium, who (in my campaign) survived the PCs' wrath and was witness to their slaying of Nualia, fled to Jorgenfist (I figure her commune ability and the proper set of questions are sufficient to direct her to the active temple of Lamashtu in the Jorgenfist caves as a place to rally) and will be accompanying Teraktinus to Sandpoint. She can certainly fill Mokmurian in on what she knows, even if the two have some philosophical disagreements re: greed vs. wrath.

4) I think this is going to depend on when the wizard PC casts scrying - assuming Mokmurian keeps to something resembling a regular sleep schedule, a daytime scrying will find him up and about in his laboratory, while at night he'll be asleep and in his mage's private sanctum.

5) The PCs don't need to kill Mokmurian outright in the round on which they teleport; dimensional anchor, hold person, or even a readied action to make a ranged attack, triggered when Mokmurian starts spellcasting, are all sufficient to foul up his ability to escape.

As far as not having all the information they need is concerned, my worry about the whole "jump to the end of the module, scry and fry the boss," tactic is, oddly enough, that they may not even know enough to realise that they're lacking crucial information about what to do next and the threats that are developing in areas they've yet to explore. Instead I worry that the defeat of Mokmurian may be a "job's done" sort of moment, leaving them satisfied in their victory and waiting for a plot prompt that doesn't arrive.

Roonfizzle Garnackle, I'm definitely going to be sitting down with the player in question and the rest of the group when the opportunity presents itself, since this is the first time the situation has arisen in such a stark way. Nualia Tobyn, Xanesha, and Barl Breakbones are all potential surprises for PCs as the villains of their respective modules, whereas the party knows right from the stone giant raid on Sandpoint (or even before, depending on what questions they ask of Barl Breakbones) that there's a villain by the name of Mokmurian waiting for them at Jorgenfist.

You're quite right that this is the last opportunity they'll have to do this (Sins of the Saviours doesn't really have a 'main' villain to deal with in this way, and Karzoug himself is beyond the reach of teleport at the end of Spires of Xin-Shalast) and given that this is both their first and last opportunity to "scry and fry" in such a dramatic fashion I'd like to accommodate the wishes of the player who's keen on this tactic to at leat some extent, depending on course on just what the other players at my table have to say.

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I've been tinkering around with an idea for an item that's intended for a non-caster who needs to (somewhat sneakily) keep in touch with someone over an arbitrary distance, and I'd like to turn to the minds of the Paizo forums to see what I might have overlooked.

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Subtle Page of Sending
Aura: none (moderate varied, see below); CL: 7th
Slot: none; Price: ?; Weight: none or varied

Subtle pages of sending always come in pairs, with each page attuned to the other. If pairs are mixed up or lost, or an attuned page is destroyed, a subtle page of sending can be attuned to a new subtle page of sending in a process that takes 24 hours and requires both pages to be in contact or close proximity. To make use of a subtle page of sending, a character must first have successfully identified it or been informed of its nature as a magic item, and must then attune themselves to it by carrying it for 24 hours. A subtle page of sending can be attuned to only one user, and one other page, at a time. The listed price is for a single subtle page of sending.

A subtle page of sending is usually created using a single page of an otherwise non-magical book, but it is possible to create a subtle page of sending in the form of a scroll, chalkboard, clay tablet, or any other writing surface or material. A subtle page of sending made from a scroll has no appreciable weight, and the page otherwise does not alter the weight of the item into which it is incorporated.

Once per day, the bearer of a subtle page of sending can inscribe a special word or symbol on the page, equivalent to a command word, and may then write a message of up to 25 words on the page. The words then appear on the attuned page, as long as it is on the same plane of existence as the sender. If the recipient wishes, she can send a return message of up to 25 words within 24 hours. The recipient receives no special notification of the message's appearance. Words sent and received erase themselves from the user's page when they are crossed out. If there is insufficient space on the recipient's page for a message that is being sent, the oldest message currently on the page is erased to make space for it; the page of a typical book can hold between 250 and 300 words.

Writing on the subtle page of sending appears to any reader except the attuned user as alternate text of the user's choice. The bearer of the subtle page of sending may alter this text once per day by first inscribing a second, separate command word or symbol, and anyone may write on this page, adding to or modifying the existing alternate text, as though it were a normal writing surface. Certain spells and effects can bypass this protection to reveal any messages currently on the page, as the spell secret page, though dispel magic suppresses the alternate text for only 1d4 rounds; assume that one message or response of 25 or fewer words may be read per round.

A subtle page of sending is protected by a permanent magic aura and does not appear magical to detect magic or similar effects, although the identify spell or close examination may reveal its true nature if the examiner succeeds on a DC (11 or 13) Will save.

Construction Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, magic aura, secret page, sending; Cost: ?

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First up I'd be interested in knowing any thoughts people might have regarding this item, its usefulness, and its shortcomings. My intention here was to come up with something that a spy or agent without their own spellcasting abilities could use to briefly report back to a superior or co-ordinator, and to receive similarly brief answers and instructions. It's hard to detect through casual inspection and my thought is that writing in a journal or ledger may, depending on the circumstances, be less easily detected, and less likely to be thought suspicious, than "talking to yourself" as would be the case with a sending spell or the use of a shell of sending.

I think I can figure out "by the book" price for this item, but I'm left with couple of questions that I'm hoping the community here can supply me with guidance on.

1) Can the different spells used in a magic item with multiple abilities be "bought" at different caster levels?

In this case I had originally calculated the price of the subtle page of sending using the minimum caster level necessary for each constituent spell or ability, noting that the item is one that does not occupt a space on the character's body and has three abilities that I consider to be similar, as they're all part and parcel of the function of providing covert communication...

sending: 4 (spell level) * 7 (caster level) * 1,800 (command word) / 5 (one charge per day) = 10,080 gp
secret page: 3 (SL) * 5 (CL) * 1,800 (command word) / 5 (one charge per day) * 0.75 (second-highest level similar ability) = 4,050 gp
magic aura: 1 (SL) * 1 (CL) * 2,000 (continuous) / 2 (spell duration 1 day or longer) * 0.5 (additional ability) = 500 gp
(10,080 + 4,050 + 500) * 2 (no body space) = 29,260 gp

However it then occurred to me that perhaps all of the item's different abilities should be acquired (and priced) at the same caster level...

sending: 4 (spell level) * 7 (caster level) * 1,800 (command word) / 5 (one charge per day) = 10,080 gp
secret page: 3 (SL) * 7 (CL) * 1,800 (command word) / 5 (one charge per day) * 0.75 (second-highest level similar ability) = 5,670 gp
magic aura: 1 (SL) * 7 (CL) * 2,000 (continuous) / 2 (spell duration 1 day or longer) * 0.5 (additional ability) = 3,500 gp
(10,080 + 5,670 + 3,500) * 2 (no body space) = 38,500 gp

I've quite possibly worked from an incorrect assumption or otherwise messed up here - please let me know if you spot something I've done wrong in the calculations above!

Note that the DC listed for the Will save necessary to see through the magic aura when the item is closely examined is varied (DC 11 or 13) depending on which of these interpretations is correct; I know the rule for magic item save DCs is often "use the spell level and the ability score modifier of the minimum ability score necessary to cast that spell," but I feel as though even this lower-level spell incorporated into the item should use the ability score modifier of the ability score necessary to cast the highest-level spell in the item, otherwise in this case the high-caster level magic aura costs seven times as much for literally no benefit.

2) With magic item crafting and prices being more art than science, and the gold piece values arrived at via Table 15-29 being estimates, would you consider the prices calculated above to be significantly higher than this item warrants?

I feel as though the limitations on sending and secret page baked into the item curtail somewhat the usefulness of those spells; you can't use sending to contact any creature that you name, only the recipient of the page attuned to your own, nor can you use secret page to disguise the contact of any page that you wish, only the one on which you've been sending and receiving messages. I feel this limitation is significant enough to warrant reducing the price of the item by one-half, to 14,630 gp or 19,250 gp depending on the calculation used, but I'd be interested in knowing if the community here agrees or disagrees with this.

Many thanks to all those who cast their eyes over this!

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Norgorber. To me he's the least interesting of the three ascended divinities, with a name that I struggle to take seriously and a broad portfolio of 'aspects' that are individually interesting but which draw away from and diminish Norgorber himself. There are interesting cosmological implications to the setting not having a dedicated god of secrets and thievery until Norgorber's apotheosis, and those implications don't seem to be addressed and instead he ends up feeling like a patch slapped hastily over a hole in the pantheon to address the glaring lack of portfolio aspects x, y, and z.

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Given the characterisation of Brevoy and Iobaria as the setting's equivalent of Russia, and the Castrovin Sea standing in for the real-world Caspian Sea, I figure the real-world analogues for the region you're describing would be equivalent to present-day Kazakhstan and Siberia. Those are both regions whose history is heavily influenced by the Mongol conquests, and given that Golarion's equivalent (Hongal) is on the other side of the Embaral Ocean and thus not really in a position to do the same thing here, you've got a fair bit of freedom to extrapolate how those regions might develop sans Mongol influence, but not a lot of guidance as to how that might turn out.

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YlothofMerab wrote:
I would be very wary about trying to make a kingdom in the Mwangi Expanse or the Storval Plateau. The temptation to write these areas off as savage lands ripe for conquest is...really not great. If the kingdom model of government worked for these areas and these cultures, they would have done it themselves.

YlothofMerab, thank you for articulating this, it's a concern that I shared about these particular suggestions. Looking at my copy of Heart of the Jungle, there's a strong suggestion that the major cities of the Expanse - Mzali, Nantambu, Osibu, and Senghor, perhaps also Usaro - claim and administer the territory that's necessary for their survival, or perhaps as much as they can, and quite aside from the colonialist overtones of any attempt to kingdom-build in the Expanse, there are also questions that arise like "What enables the PCs to quickly and successfully establish a kingdom in an area that has counfounded and restricted indigenous settlement-building for millennia?" and "What advantage do the PCs have that enables them to succeed where the likes of Taldor's large, well-equipped, and well-supported Sixth Army of Exploration failed?" Likewise I take your point that attempting to kingdom-build atop the Storval Plateau runs into the problem that the Shoanti quahs already maintain a coalition of seven nations in the area; it's unclaimed and unadministered only in the eyes of outside parties like Cheliax or Korvosa who are very much using their own standards and sense of cultural superiority to pass that judgment.

I think you absolutely could run a game about building a coalition out of the Mwangi city-states in response to some outside threat or rising ancient evil, or about closely uniting the Shoanti quahs to resist colonialist expansion from Korvosa/Magnimar/Riddleport or the threat of invasion from Belkzen, Irrisen, or the Land of the Linnorm Kings, but that's not a 'kingdom-building' game in the sense that Kingmaker presumes.

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So, Kingmaker has established a well-deserved reputation as one of the most beloved Adventure paths, to the point that it's received a CPRG adaptation and is in line for a 10th anniversary hardback and updated edition for Pathfinder's second edition. A lot of that has to do with encounters and local setting details that are unique to Kingmaker and the Stolen Lands; however, if you were to run a game focused on kingdom-building elsewhere on Golarion, what sort of places might you set your game?

Note that I'm particularly looking for opportunities for potential PCs to build their kingdom "from the ground up" here; while there are certainly opportunities for kingdom vs. kingdom conflict among the established nations of the Inner Sea, I'm more interested in the frontier-taming and homestead-building sort of play that characterises Kingmaker, but involving a different corner of the setting and a different cast of characters. I do like the idea that, just as the kingdom of the Kingmaker PCs received charters from the swordlords of Rostland and founded their kingdom with Rostland's tacit approval and initial support, so too should there be a link from prospective PCs in another part of the world to a nation or organisation that provides intial support for their efforts in order to get the ball rolling and provide an initial premise or structure for the expedition.

Note also that I'm interested in locations within or close to Avistan first, Garundi locations second, places elsewhere on Golarion third - my last significant campaign took place in a homebrew setting styled along Chinese and Korean lines and so I'm looking for somewhere a bit "closer to home" in terms of traditional D&D and Pathfinder settings and expectations.

Southern River Kingdoms: On the other side of the River Kingdoms from the Stolen Lands, there's a fairly significant area of territory that doesn't seem to be strongly claimed by any existing River Kingdom - this is an area that borders Galt and curls around Cordelon and Hymbria before stretching up through the Embeth Forest. The natural suggestion is that any group of would-be kingdom-buildiders in this area consits of refugees, exiles, and hopefuls from Galt, and there are a few similarly-themed settlements in the River Kingdoms already (Gralton and Liberthane). Kyonin is nearby (with Hymbria essentially being its exclave) which adds a welcome non-human angle to the situation. On the down side, this would be "just another River Kingdoms kingdom-building exercise," that's possibly too close the the Stolen Lands of Kingmaker to really develop its own identity.

Belkzen: Didn't I just say that I wasn't interested in kingdom vs. kingdom conflict? I think a kingdom-building game in Belkzen isn't going to involve an outright invasion from one of the neighbouring realms, so much as a push by determined opportunists with their own ambitions or a personal stake in the matter - an Ustalavic noble or general with a hatred of orcs and/or a desire to replicate Kazavon's feats of conquest across the region, or a shrewd crusader-captain from Lastwall keen to see the Conquered Lands reclaimed and made a buffer against Belkzen to allow Lastwall to devote its attention to Gallowspire more fully, or the rise of an ambitious Mammoth Lord determined to carve out a realm of his own and seeing the orcs as easier (or more deserving) targets of conquest than his own people. Both of the southern routes into Belkzen leave me with the feeling that the sandbox in which the PCs might be playing would be very close to Urgir, and the idea of a kingdom growing and prospering so close at hand to Chief Grask Uldeth might strain the suspension of disbelief; at the other end of the Hold, an expedition from the Realm of the Mammoth Lords seems like it might be more focused on a particular, barbaric theme, and accommodate a less broad range of potential PCs, than one from Belkzen's southern neighbours.

Isger: Andoran, Cheliax, and Druma all have some interests here; I think the Menador Mountains form an effective natural boundary with Molthune (which besides has its attentions focused on Nirmathas more than southward expansion) and I don't really imagine the dwarves of the Five Kings Mountains seeking to expand beyond the mountains proper. Nor do I see Druma as particularly expansionist in this direction, and Cheliax... honestly, if Cheliax wants more direct control over Isger, it's going to replace its current Steward with one with shorter strings, rather than carving off chunks of the back country piecemeal. I think a kingdom-building game in Isger represents an Andoren endeavour; the Isgeri army is consolidated around Elidir and the Conerica River, surrendering the hinterlands to banditry, and so certain Andoren factions take an "enough is enough" approach and dispatch agents to tame the wilderness which Isger's own government seems uninterested in, or incapable of, bringing back under some semblance of control.

The Nolands: This wilderness area between Varisia and the Linnorm Kingdoms is described as a haven for exiles and bandits who are growing more co-ordinated of late - precisely the sort of situation that might prompt either Varisian or Linnorm King interest in bringing the region to heel. That creates a natural opportunity for a rival kingdom to develop (a Varisian-backed kingdom to oppose the PCs Linnorm King-backed expedition, or vice-versa) and the region was once part of the Thassilonian kingdom of Cyrusian, providing an opportunity to tap into that part of the Golarion's lore too. On the other hand, it's a smaller area than the Stolen Lands that's depicted on existing map as less varied in its terrain, in particular a lack of forests; maybe that would make it a less interesting setting for a kingdom-building game.

Iobaria: This is a huge region, dotted with ruins but generally sparsely settled thanks to persistent plagues, internal turmoil, and the repercussions of external calamities. It's ripe for the conquest, but as a pseudo-Russian corner of the setting it's perhaps a bit too similar in its overall themes to Brevoy and the Stolen Lands just over the border, indeed the Nomen Heights region that Kingmaker PCs explore seems to represent the western foothills of the Hills of Nomen that mark Iobaria's western border. I think Iobaria's various plagues would make for a unique obstacle for the PCs' kingdom to content with, and might perhaps represent the work of a disease-themed villain (in the same way that fey themes are present throughout Kingmaker).

Thoughts and further suggestions, anyone? If you were to run a kingdom-building game elsewhere on Golarion, where would you set it?

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This sounds extremely cool, and I love the double-layered surprise of first siding with one traditionally "monstrous" race against another, and then optionally joining forces with a faction of that second group against an even-worse/degenerate splinter faction - the latter especially is a lovely "choose the lesser of two evils, if you want" moment.

I'm not familiar with the ahool-blooded template you describe as being applied to Makani - do you know where I can find this, and can you tell me what its implications for his abilities/appearance are?

As far as the Avatar of Shub-Niggurath goes, it might be thematically consistent to with the idea of Shub-Niggurath as a fertility deity, and the presence of creatures you've dubbed the 'Stillborn of Shub-Niggurath,' to cast the avatar as a 'Newborn of Shub-Niggurath' - initially a Dark Young with mythic tiers applies and abilities focused on survivability, or perhaps the Invincible mythic simple template, that will mature at an advanced rate (days or weeks, however long it takes for the PCs to rally to confront it) into something with additional hit dice and mythic tiers. Focusing its abilities on survivability can make it a little less deadly than its overwhelming CR might suggest; the sort of fight the PCs can't win, it's too tough for that, but they can survive if they realise they're dealing with some blasphemously-empowered outer horror and run away (it's got Grab, so the retreat need not be one without a cost - being forced to abandon a party member, an animal companion, or a cohort in its tentacles will add some sting to the retreat, though you know better than I how this will go over with your players). The disadvantage here is that it turns a "clean" failure that ends the campaign with a TPK into one where the Avatar of Shub-Niggurath is still stomping around and casting a shadow over subsequent events.

In terms of treasure, the tables on CRB p. 399 suggest that over the course of a level the PCs will find treasure equal to roughly 1.33 times the increase in their permanent wealth - for the span of levels you've described and a party of four PCs, going from level 4 to level 7, depending on how far they are into level 4 at the start and how far they should be into level 7 at the end, I'd suggest a total amount of treasure awarded over the adventure between 93,000 and 108,000 gp value. Aim that roughly three-quarters of this total should represent an increase to their wealth, while one-quarter is lost in non-ideal items, consumables, or consumed wealth. If you've enthusiastic crafters in the party then that's probably going to skew these calculations.

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My players are just wrapping up The Skinsaw Murders and so are finding themselves with a little bit of breathing room to consider problems other than those immediately in front of them. The party's divination-focused wizard will be picking up scrying when he's brought back from the dead, and with two Sihedron medallions now in their possesion, I think now is about the time that I have to start considering the status of Karzoug and his layers of magical protection and obfuscation. Re: the occluding field...

1) Its effects are noted to cover the whole of the Spires of Xin-Shalast, but I don't know if it's specifically mentioned anywhere that this extends into the extraplanar Eye of Avarice. In particular I'm considering its function as an absolute barrier to scrying and divination - is it assumed that any attempt to cast scrying on a creature within the Eye of Avarice must go 'through' the anima focus and thus the Spires of Xin-Shalast and be blocked by the occluding field? Are there other magical barriers to scrying upon the occupants of the Eye of Avarice that I haven't found in looking through that section of the book? Or is it intended that PCs who find out Karzoug's identity early in the adventure path should be able to peek into the Eye of Avarice with no more than normal difficulty for scrying on a powerful NPC in an extraplanar space?

2) Does possession of a Sihedron medallion or Sihedron ring allow a character to bypass the occluding field's otherwise absolute barrier to divination effects, or does it 'merely' protection the character from the field's other effects (teleportation block, vertigo, damage, wisdom drain, blindess)?

I'm toying with the idea that a Sihedron ring protects the wearer from all of the occluding field's effects, while the less-powerful Sihedron medallion does not - from an in-setting perspective, I feel as though Karzoug wouldn't carelessly hand out items that, if captured, would allow strangers or enemies to bypass his magical barriers, and when it comes to running the game, I think keeping the Spires of Xin-Shalast/Pinnacle of Avarice/Eye of Avarice and Karzoug himself "off the table" or "behind the curtain" at this stage in the campaign might help to keep gameplay focused on the unfolding events in front of the PCs rather than on other places and characters they don't need to be considering just yet.

(I also feel as though Mokmurian, encountered in Fortress of the Stone Giants, ought to have some way to bypass the occluding field's effects - a Sihedron ring or Sihedron medallion, or perhaps his robe of runes is considered "a magic item with a powerful link to Thassilon," per the note on p. 342.)