So, I'm kicking off a game at the moment that will be taking my players to the Mwangi Expanse, and I'm throwing together some custom monsters and encounters for them to face. The Expanse is often presented as a primordial wilderness where dinosaurs and other megafauna roam, and following that theme, what I've come up with here is a 'primordial megafauna' cousin to the cockatrice, which I'm tentatively calling the megatrice. If the cockatrice is a petrifying chicken, the megatrice is meant to evoke flightless 'running birds' like the emu, ostrich, or cassowary - I'll leave it to you all to decide how well it fits the bill there. Stat block and notes are below, and feeback is sought and welcome!
Megatrice, advanced HD cockatrice (N Large magical beast) CR 8; 4,800 XP
Some notes on the changes I've made and where I'm particularly looking for feedback...
Thanks in advance for any eyeballs that people want to put on this, and I look forward to any feedback you wish to give or suggestions you wish to make.
EDIT: I'm sure I got the code for bullet points right, but just in case, I've added numbers to the list too.
Yeah, this definitely isn't something I'd be doing for run-of-the-mill NPCs; off the top of my head I can think of maybe three NPCs over the course of the whole campaign I'd want to outfit so extravagantly, and of the three, one (and the one I'm most firm on wanting to do this for) is the projected "final boss" of the game and the sort of character or encounter where the PCs might reasonably expect to face an NPC with vast resources at her command.
Related question: is there an intended consistent approach to whether templates that increase an NPC's CR also increase that NPC's gear budget, and if so, how is this handled? Looking at the Bestiary, the example provided for the lich (p. 188) appears to have gear roughly appropriate for an NPC of level equal to its modified CR (an 11th level NPC modified by the template from a CR 10 NPC to a CR 12 NPC has 22,050 gp worth of gear, which isn't much beyond the 21,000 gp suggested for a 12th level NPC) but the example provided for the vampire (p. 270) has a full 33,000 gp worth of gear, which looks like a PC wealth calculation to me. I feel as though the former example is probably the intended approach (like monsters-with-class-levels, it uses final/total CR as effective level when determining wealth/gear budget, so there's a bit of consistency there) but if there's an official line on this anywhere I'd love to know.
Here's something that I'd like to figure out before I commit to building a complicated high-level NPC.
When it comes to equipped monsters with PC class levels, the Bestiary (p. 297) states:
A monster with class levels always possesses treasure equal to an NPC of a level equal to the monster’s final CR. To determine the value of this gear, use the value listed for a heroic NPC of that level, as listed on page 454 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.
Separately, when discussing encounter design, the Core Rulebook (p. 399) states:
a classed NPC that instead has gear equivalent to that of a PC (as listed on Table 12–4) has a CR of 1 higher than his actual CR.
My question is, are these two design elements intended to be compatible, and does anyone foresee anything game-destabilising taking place if both are applied?
For Example: Consider a nymph with 6 levels in druid. Given the rules for monsters with class levels and the nymph's abilities and role, these druid levels increase the nymph's CR on a 1-for-1 basis; with 6 levels of druid, the CR 7 nymph becomes a CR 13 monster-with-class-levels. As such, consulting table 14-9, we find that the CR 13 nymph druid 6 should have gear equivalent to a 13th-level heroic NPC, or 27,000 gp.
If the nymph were not a nymph and simply, say, a 13th-level human druid, the rules state that her gear can be increased from that of a 13th-level heroic NPC to that of a 13th-level PC by increasing her CR by 1; in this situation, her gear budget increases from a heroic NPC's 27,000 gp to a PC's 140,000 gp.
Is it permissible or intended that the gear and CR of a monster-with-class-levels can be adjusted in the same way? Can a CR 13 nymph druid 6 be outfitted as a 13th level PC rather than a 13th level heroic NPC, increasing her actual CR to 14 in the process?
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.
Speaking of entries to Jorgenfist... I'm just wrapping up The Hook Mountain Massacre now and thinking about how my group is likely to handle Mokmurian and Jorgenfist. They've got a scryer subschool wizard and setting aside the question of whether he'll want to pre-empt Teraktinus' assult on Sandpoint by scrying on the giant and launching a teleport-enabled surprise attack on the raiding party before it's in position, I'm thinking ahead to what other scry-and-teleport tactics he might employ.
Following the raid on Sandpoint, the PCs can interrogate one of the stone giants and should have a good idea that Mokmurian is, if not the "boss monster" of Fortress of the Stone Giants, at the very least a major mover-and-shaked at Jorgenfist and the architect of the raid on Sandpoint. For scrying purposes they have certainly heard of him (save DC +5, modified to 0 by the Scrying Adept supernatural ability of the divination arcane school) and have one of his possessions (the missive he wrote to Barl Breakbones, found at the end of THMM) which imposes a further -4 penalty on his saving throws, reducing his Will save of +15 to an effective +11 vs. a save DC that will be at least 20 at that stage in the campaign and may well be a point or two higher. It's quite possible that the PCs' very first attempt at scrying will succeed, and even if it doesn't, Mokmurian can't reliably make his saves.
Yes, he's a level 11 wizard and a CR 15 creature, but if the PCs use scrying and then teleport, they'll catch him without his buff spells active and based on past experience will take him apart on action economy alone.
So: what defences does (or might) Mokmurian have against scrying and/or teleport, and failing that, what are the implications of the PCs, armed with knowledge of the villain's name at the very start of the module, using those spells to confront him immediately and essentially skip past the entire module?
I'm preparing a game in which undead and necromancers will play a fairly prominent role, and I'm curious what rules and resources might exist for co-operative undead creation? Spells like animate dead and create undead, and creatures like Bestiary 4's necrocraft, tend to refer to a single caster as the creator and controller of the undead in question; that's a good baseline, and it's the most directly useful approach when considering what a PC or solitary NPC might be able to achieve, but what I'm looking for here are ways in which multiple casters can pool their resources to create stronger creatures.
Part of this is that I feel "simple" animated dead (skeletons, zombies, necrocrafts) lag in effectiveness behind the difficulty or requirements of creating them as you get into the higher levels of the game (e.g. a Colossal necrocraft might be big and horrifying, but at CR 11, I don't know how significantly it can contribute to an encounter with the 18th-level CR 17 necromancer that created it) but another part is simply that providing ways for necromancers to work co-operatively to create stronger undead helps to explain why organisations of necromancers exist by giving them another reason to work together and a clear advantage to pooling their resources rather than working individually.
Can anyone point me to a good set of relevant rules or resources in published Pathfinder material on this topic?
I believe NPC classes are indeed eligible for favoured class bonuses; it's noted in the rules text that prestige classes can't be favoured classes, but I don't think there's a similar exception for NPC classes.
Both the goblin commando and the goblin warchanter have spent their favoured class bonus on an additional skill rank instead of an extra hit point; each has six skills listed and each has one level in a class that grants six skill ranks, minus their intelligence modifier of -1.
Java Man and DungeonmasterCal, thank you both for your kind words.
You're right that this item isn't really one that's made more useful by being slotless, compared to one that takes up a body slot; indeed, while you could probably make a sending item that meaningfully takes up a body slot, I don't think the extra abilities of this one really work as a worn/slotted item. In that respect marking it down by one-half seems pretty justifiable.
In general when I'm designing magic items that I expect primarily to be used by (or looted from) NPCs I tend to err on the high side when estimating their value. In this case my point of reference is the shell of sending which has a base price of 12,200 gp; I'm quite happy to say that, with a base price of 19,250 gp if we don't double it for being a slotless item, the extra 50% or so for the subtle page compared to the shell is a suitable price to pay for its covert nature.
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
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
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
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!
I'm building a custom ogre to throw at my players and I'm looking for some clarification as to how unarmed strike damage ought to be calculated.
An unarmed strike is "always considered a light weapon," and so my baseline understanding of how this works is as follows:
So far, so good?
Assuming an Ogre with a Strength of 25 (prerequisite for Ogre Crush) this means, barring any other modifiers, his unarmed strikes will deal 1d4+7 damage.
I'm asking for clarification because the Ogre Glutton from the Monster Codex (one of the example monsters I'm referring to when building my ogre) seems somehow to be getting 1.5 times his Strength modifier to his unarmed strikes, and I'm not entirely sure how that's being achieved:
I had a look through the Possible Monster Codex Errata thread and couldn't find reference to this being an error there, and I'm generally used to other denizens of the Paizo forums being sharper-eyed than I in these matters.
Lastly, the Ogre Crush feat increases the ogre's unarmed strike damage by one step when grappling smaller creatures (such as your typical Medium- or Small-sized PC), in this case from 1d4 to 1d6; and grants a Constrict attack dealing damage equal to either the ogre's unarmed strike damage or a Large creature's slam attack. The ogre doesn't have a slam attack, but if it did, it would be its only natural attack; should the damage dealt by Constrict to a Medum or smaller creature thus be:
I suppose it's the "whichever is greater," part of the wording of the feat that's tripping my brain up; the die types are identical and the question of how much of a Strength bonus is applied is quite a situational one.
So, my PCs have just finished dealing with events at the Graul farm and have rescued the surviving Black Arrows, but at the cost of two of their own: the cleric died to Mammy Graul's spells (I'd rebuilt her as a gravewalker witch and tweaked her spell selection; black tentacles provided a murderously effective blockade in the one-square-wide hallway leading to her bedroom) and the magus mixed it up in melee with Hucker and ended up on the receiving end of a Power Attack critical hit from his ogre hook. I figure the Black Arrows aren't going to be immediately ready for an attempt to retake Fort Rannick; they'll need some time ro recover from their ordeal at the hands and hooks of the Grauls and to help the PCs make plans for taking the fort back from the Kreegs. This gives the PCs themselves time to figure out what to do about their fallen companions.
Turtleback Ferry is a small settlement with 3rd-level spellcasting available, and the most notable local spellcaster is a 5th-level cleric of Erastil; no-one in town has the means to cast reincarnate, raise dead, or similar. I'd rather not require that the PCs trek all the way back to Magnimar or a similarly large settlement to get their fallen companions raised; they've only just arrived in the Hook Mountain region, after all. If I were to err on the side of PC convenience, I might contrive that there just happens to be a 7th-plus level druid passing through town who can cast reincarnate before heading on his merry way.
My other thought is that, asking around town, the PCs might be told vague stories about a 'fey princess' living in the heart of the Shimmerglens who might be able to help them out... sending them to Myriana and discovering that part of the story "ahead of schedule." Myriana is certainly capable of casting reincarnate and might be persuaded to do so, though of course she'd expect the beneficiaries to do her bidding (retrieving Lamatar's remains from the Kreegs) in exchange for her aid. I don't know if there's any RAW recourse to declare the spell's effects 'fleeting,' lasting only so long as Myriana wills them (and able to be dismissed in moments, should she feel that the beneficiaries are not doing as directed), but this feels like it might be in keeping with her nature both as a capricious nymph and as a tragic undead creature, bound only in a fragile way to the mortal coil, and helps avoid the feeling that the presence of someone willing to cast reincarnate is a contrived convenience.
Thoughts on this? I'm planning on giving Shalelu and Vale to the players whose characters are dead until the latter can be brought back, just so they have a 'playing piece' for this part of the game. Are there any consequences of the PCs finding out about Myriana and Lamatar before taking back Fort Rannick rather than afterwards that I'm failing to anticipate?
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.
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.
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.
Fabius Maximus wrote:
Galt would be another good place, I think.
When I pitched a Southern River Kingdoms game above, I had kind of imagined a return to Galt as the logical endgame for a group of Galt-derived characters, expatriates returning to reclaim their homeland (or carve out some slice of it) having built a powerbase for themselves across the border. But it's certainly possible to imagine a kingdom-building game entirely within Galt too, with the Red Revolution spiralling further out of control and regions far from the turmoil of the capital and the attentions of the Grey Gardeners plunging into anarchy and slipping the tenuous yoke of Galt's leadership entirely.
Steve Geddes wrote:
I drew up a kingmaker campaign (though sadly never got to play it) set in the Land of the Linnorm Kings. Specifically, the eastern part of Southmoor. That region seems tailor made for it, to me.
I would love to hear anything about this that you're content to share! I feel as though the region you describe here overlaps with the Nolands some, but extends quite far beyond it, too, bringing prospective kingdom-building PCs into conflict with established powers and famous adventure sites. I imagine a natural part of such a campaign would be the ritual single combat with a linnorm necessary to establish a prospective ruler not merely as a chieftain or warlord but as an actual Linnorm King - whether that represents the climax of the campaign, or the transition into its endgame.
Am I right in thinking that Rien's dream journal will be found in the tomb or in the general vicinity of where the PCs fight the Maidens Three?
You know your PCs better than I, but I feel as though, whether or not they pick up on the significance of the dream journal, the "scatter the ashes from Grasswall's highest tower" part of the requirements of prevening Rien's rejuvenation seems specific enough that it might not occur to most groups. Likewise, the 200 gp of incense required for the ritual to suppress Maelee's rejuvenation seems like a pretty specific component that PCs are unlikely to be carrying around without a particular purpose. Do you have a preferred method of guiding your PCs toward these particular details?
Other than that, I really like the trio - there's a wonderfully tragic angle to Sarsa especially, in the fact that, compared to the other two who require somewhat convoluted methods to suppress their rejuvenation, all she wants and needs is for her sisters to be laid to rest.
That seems like a cool idea! It hadn't occurred to me, because I figured if any party were to try and rebuild Sarkoris, or establish a new kingdom within the former borders of Sarkoris after the closing of the Worldwound, it would be the mythic PCs of the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path in charge of such an effort, rather than a relatively green band of heroes. But there's certainly some potential there yes!
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?
Yes, I'm going to steal this. :p
I'm glad you like it, and I hope you get an opportunity to throw a suitably grabby or be-tentacled monster at your players soon - I hope it turns out entertainingly!
This is why creature with multiple grab attacks such as kraken don't seem to work right in Pathfinder--they can't actually do the whole "grab ALL the characters!" thing expected of the archetype, or at least they can't maintain the configuration long enough to matter.
This is exactly the problem I'm trying to solve here and I'm hoping that my proposed house rule represents a reasonably balanced way of doing so - I should probably include "when a creature begins its turn..." wording in the rule for clarity's sake.
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.
By "grabby monsters," I'm referring to those with multiple Grab attacks, particularly those that also have the Constrict special attack, and which are thematically all about grabbing at things: giant squids, krakens, shoggoths, there's a tendency for these creatures to be tentacular horrors but I'm sure there are other examples out there too, including a particular Adventure Path-specific monster/encounter that my players aren't so many weeks away from.
Premise: The visual of something like a kraken sweeping up half-a-dozen squirming sailors in its tentacles is a powerful one, but as-written, the rules for grappling make this difficult to achieve; feats like Greater Grapple and Rapid Grappler only address this to a limited extent and are designed first and foremost as options for humanoid PCs.
I believe there's been disagreement in the past over whether a greater with multiple Grab attacks can attempt to start a grapple against a creature already grappled via an earlier attack with Grab, if it's beneficial for the creature to do so (e.g. if it has Constrict); I believe it has been agreed that because the Grab ability specifies that because the Grab ability specifically allows a creature to attempt to start a grapple, additional attacks with Grab don't functionary as 'ordinary' subsequent successful grab attacks (i.e. additional successful Grabs can't be used to damage, move, or pin an opponent).
Grab also offers the Grabbing creature to "hold" an opponent with the Grabbing body part, taking a -20 penalty to its CMB to make and maintain the grapple in exchange for not becoming grappled itself, but I feel as though there's a bit of a blank spot in the rules as far as the further benefits of "grappling a creature without being grappled yourself," go. For example, Tom Flock's grapple flowcharts are about the clearest (linked at d20PFSRD here for the curious) illustration of how to proceed through a grapple I've found, but they don't cover the situation in which a creatures used Grab and chooses to "hold" its opponent rather than grapple it conventionally; there is no guidance as to how "Round 3: Attacker's turn, attacker controlling, defender grappled but attacker not grappled," ought to proceed.
Barring Greater Grapple and/or Rapid Grappler, no matter how many Grab attacks were used to make successful grapple attempts on multiple targets in the previous round, the attacking Grabbing/grappling creature doesn't have much of a choice except to let all but one of its grappled creatures go in order to use a standard action to maintain the grapple on the single remaining grappled opponent.
I feel there ought to be a way for a creature with multiple Grab attacks, using those attacks to "hold" multiple creatures rathern than engage in an ordinary grapple with any of them, ought to be able to use a full-attack or full-round action to maintain those holds, but there doesn't appear to be one. Greater Grapple and Rapid Grappler potentially extend that to three concurrent grapples, but that's still far short of the number of creatures a kraken can potentially grapple, and the fact that the shoggoth has an extraordinary ability specifically designed to let it do horrible things if it starts a turn grappling multiple creatures suggests that this is something of a blank spot in the rules otherwise, and it's one I'd like to close.
As an aside: It's already a house rule at my table that creatures with Grab can't use attacks with Grab to start a grapple against a creature they've already Grappled. A further house rule I apply is that if a creature with Grab chooses to release the grapple as a free action, its sequence of attacks (if making a full-attack action) ends and it can make no subsequent attacks, Grab or otherwise; this is a result of a horrible encounter involving a Mi-Go which has the ability to inflict on an average round of successful attacks 50 points of damage and 10 points of ability damage, which had me reeling and thinking "this can't possibly be the rules working as intended." In other situations where a creature has multiple Grab attacks with damaging "riders" on them, the effectiveness of the Attack > Grab > Rider > Release sequence creates a situation where the optimal way of conducting attacks seems to run counter to what the fiction and themes suggest a creature's behaviour ought to be.
Proposal: As a house rule, a creature which is holding multiple opponents through the use of multiple natural weapons with the Grab ability, having chosen to hold those opponents rather than engage in a standard grapple, can, as part of a full-attack action, make grapple attempts against each of the creatures it is holding. The natural weapons originally used to Grab and hold those creatures are engaged in maintaining the holds and cannot be used to perform other attacks as part of the full-attack action. These attempts to maintain the grapples against held creatures are made at a -20 penalty to the attacker's CMB, and if successful, each deals the damage indicated for the attack that established the hold, as described under the Grab universal monster rule. Natural weapons not engaged in maintaing the holds can be used to attack held creatures or other opponents as the attacker wishes. A creature that possesses the ability to grapple opponents without gaining the grappled condition itself, such as a kraken's Tenacious Grapple extraordinary ability, does not take the -20 penalty to maintain a hold on creatures provided the limitations of its ability are otherwise adhered to.
Thoughts, opinions, unexpected consequences, anyone?
Either way, frankly I'd never let Karzoug fail that will save. My players greatly enjoyed the reveal of Karzoug upon Mokmurian's defeat and I wouldn't let anything spoil that. But yes, I'd say that the barriers to scrying extend to the Eye.
This is about what I was leaning toward too. :)
I can't imagine any reason why Karzoug would make it easier to scry on him through those objects. In my game, they provided protection from the physical effects only. I didn't see anything in the AP to suggest otherwise.
The description of the occluding field on page 342 of the Anniversary Edition notes that "the occluding field renders the entire area shown on the Spires of Xin-Shalast map on page 343 impenetrable to divination or scrying of any sort (though use of the Eye of Avarice to scry upon the outside world is not similarly barred)," and goes on to state that "a character who wears a Sihedron medallion or Sihedron ring can ignore the effects of the occluding field," and what I'm trying to determine here is how those two statements interact - whether the scrying/divination barrier is included in the effects that the Sihedron items allow the wearer to ignore, or if it's only the dangerous effects of the field (teleportation block, vertigo, damage, wisdom drain, blindess) that are ignored.
Khalib (p. 357-358) has arcane eye prepared, and has made several divination spells permanent upon himself, so either it's his Sihedron ring that allows those permanent spells to function (and makes his choice to prepare arcane eye a meaningful one), or those effects are suppressed until he leaves the occluding field, or "impenetrable to divination or scrying of any sort" applies only to spells and effects that pass into or out of the occluding field, rather than those that take place entirely within it - that last part is something I don't need to think about for many months though!
Xin-Shalast can be a bit of a slog. The occluding field wasn't a particularly fun thing, and there really isn't any reason to make it a major plot point. The main thing it does is it potentially forces some of them to wear the Sihedron medallions, which provides some entertainment when Karzoug speaks through their voice.
Apologies if I wasn't clear about what I was considering here - if it's intended (or if I decide, for my group/table) that the scrying/divination barrier is among the effects that wearing a Sihedron item allows a character to ignore, then I was thinking about having that property apply only to Sihedron rings, not to the less-powerful Sihedron medallions - both types of item would allow their wearers to ignore the dangerous effects of the occluding field.
My players are a long way from Xin-Shalast and I don't know enough to anticipate what their reactions will be - could be that they want to press on immediately toward the Spires only to find themselves turned back by the occluding field until they've accumulated a sufficient number of Sihedron items, could be that they're happy to explore the sprawling lost city until events propel them onward.
Thank you for your thoughts on this!
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.)
First up, many thanks for all of the responses and interest here! I'll try to address some of the highlights here, but please accept my gratitude for every bit of input that's been offered.
Askar Avari wrote:
2) Depending on exactly how long the PCs wait, Xanesha's trap may expire if she's relying entirely on charmed subjects. Her charm monster lasts 12 days, and if she left after a few days, that clock is ticking.
This part at least isn't a worry for me; my PCs have already committed to investigating the Shadow Clock, so if Xanesha has used her charm monster ability at any point between their attack on the Seven's Sawmill and the present game-time, it still ought to be in effect.
Captain Morgan wrote:
This is definitely something I could have considered! I was underprepared for the span of time between Ironbriar's death and the assault on the Shadow Clock; consequently, the point at which the last session concluded (and at which I was able to take stock of the situation) was immediately after the defeat of the Scarecrow at the base of the tower; I'm not able to retcon interference with the (relatively) uninterrupted preparations my PCs were able to make, so my ability to make changes here is limited to "What has Xanesha been doing, during those twelve days?" (or what might she have been doing) rather than a more active "What can Xanesha do to react to this setback?" But her motivations and personality are worth keeping in mind even so and I'll definitely do that.
I am curious, what did your party do for twelve days? My party entered the Shadowclock yesterday, and it took me great effort to stall them a litte. As my players try to do each possible sidequest (even if there is none), I had to deode the ledger faster (they found 3 people, who knew one language each and the barbarian has Linguistics). Two words - "Xanesha" and "Shadowclock" - were enough for party to try to rush as soon as possible. The only reason they decided to spend a day was to enchant some weapons, as ruomors about the tower mentioned ghosts and other "immune to normal attack" monsters.
It took them twelve days to decipher Ironbriar's encrypted journal (2d4 days per attempt at the DC 25 Linguistics check; I'd need to check my notes, but I think they failed two attempts and succeeded on the third). During this time, they were also finding a druid to reincarnate the wizard who'd met his end on Ironbriar's sword, who then spent a bunch of time enchanting weapons and armour. They had sufficient clues to lead them to the Shadow Clock after casting speak with dead on Ironbriar's corpse, but I think they were wary of what might be waiting there and wanted to find out more from the journal; if not for their back luck with Linguistics checks and determination to decipher the journal before making their move, they probably could have hit the Shadow Clock maybe a week earlier.
The Shifty Mongoose wrote:
Another thing to consider: how will the PCs get the plot hook about Fort Rannick? If they never go to the office of the Lord-Mayor, and don't read Lucrecia's letter, what will nudge them in that direction?
My feeling here is the hook doesn't depend on Xanesha's personal presence, just the letter from Lucrecia, which tells the PCs everything they need to know. One option is to bump the DC on the Perception check needed to find it - perhaps it's buried unseen somewhere in Xanesha's "nest" - and assume that Xanesha simply cleared out in too much of a hurry to remember that she still had this discarded scrap kicking around somewhere. The other option is to not bump the DC - depending on just how deep the rivalry/bad blood between Xanesha and Lucrecia goes, Xanesha might have left this clue to her sister's whereabouts sitting out in the open on purpose, hoping to divert those investigating her onto her sister's trail instead and mess with the smooth running of Lucrecia's plans, as well as getting them off her own back. Either way, it's possible for the PCs to pick up the hook to the next module without Xanesha herself being present.
Askar Avari wrote:
Oh, probably one last note from me: 12 days of party delay means more than 12 days for Xanesha to learn the party's tactics. Not only could she conceivably have picked up scrolls or other small advantages to counter the party's tactics, [...] Even if it's easy enough to continue the story as normal without killing Xanesha, at least having a major confrontation with her gives some closure to Book 2. You have plenty of excuses to make her stick around, and I think it's worth using them instead of having her make a strategic decision.
I figure Xanesha's got plenty of time to prepare, but the trick is going to be how she might have learned the party's tactics during that window of opportunity; there aren't many reasons for the PCs to do "high profile" things that might attract her attention or demonstrate their abilities between the fight at the Seven's Sawmill and the visit to the Shadow Clock, and with the Skinsaw cult decimated I feel like Xanesha's primary information-gathering network has also been shut down. I certainly take your point about Xanesha being a much more suitable dramatic climax to the module than any substitute she might have arranged or trap she might have laid, though.
Thanks again everyone!
So, here's the situation as it currently stands: my players are coming up to the end of The Skinsaw Murders, having hustled their way to and through the Misgivings in considerable haste, dealt with the ghouls at the Hambley farm, neutralised the Faceless Stalker at the Foxglove townhouse and wrecked the Skinsaw cult at the Seven's Sawmill.
There's a definite implication throughout the module that the various villainous NPCs have "an ear to the ground," picking up on events transpiring elsewhere. For example, aside from Aldern, the Skinsaw cult has no contact or operative in Sandpoint, but events at the Foxglove townhouse, as described, definitely assume that Ironbriar is aware of Aldern's defeat and has enough notice of this to lay a trap for whoever destroyed him and might be following up on evidence that he's left behind.
Similarly, Xanesha is noted to "often spend her nights in other parts of the city," and I think it's reasonable to assume that she'll be keeping an ear open to rumours, news, and other information - if nothing else, she's going to be consistently investigating "greedy" individuals as possible targets for abduction and sacrifice. She's not isolated or insulated from events going on in the city, and she's not foolish.
Here's the thing: my PCs have waited twelve days between wiping out the Skinsaw cult and assaulting the Shadow Clock, and when they attacked the Seven's Sawmill they turned loose one of the messenger ravens, which made its way (without a message) to the Shadow Clock and Xanesha. Between the message-less raven and the spreading rumours of a massacre at the Seven's Sawmill, workers at other Kyver's Islet premises swapping stories of the city watch carting a dozen bodies out of the sawmill under sheets, and whatever rumours are circulating about Ironbriar who has at best disappeared, at worst been exposed, and certainly is out of contact with Xanesha, I think Xanesha has all the information she needs to conclude that her plans in Magnimar are pretty well sunk.
Xanesha is noted as gathering greedy souls "in the wild;" unlike her sister she's not tied to any one location, if her plans in Magnimar have been foiled then she has the option of starting over elsewhere. And I'm hard-pressed to find a reason for her to still be waiting at the Shadow Clock when my PCs climb to its spire, instead of having packed her things, left a trap or an ambush for interlopers, and departed for greener pastures.
My questions are:
1) Does it seem unreasonable for Xanesha to not be there, for the PCs to arrive only to discover that she's cut her losses and run?
2) What sort of trap or ambush might she leave for intruding PCs? I've left the Scarecrow and the Faceless Stalker as-is (maybe with a level of something added to the ugothols to make them a beefier obstacle), but I'd like to have something nasty waiting for them when they get to the top of the tower. My first thought was to set up a bunch of gargoyles (including one with enough racial hit dice to achieve Large size, hiding in plain sight as 'The Angel' atop the tower), since they're urban predators that fit the location and are well within Xanesha's power to impress into service with her charm monster spell-like ability, but I'm open to other ideas if anyone has a suggestion here.
3) Where might Xanesha go if she's cutting her losses? My first thought was to send her north to Sandpoint to make trouble there, since that keeps things "in bounds" of the adventure path and doesn't add any new locations, red herrings, or distractions to the proceedings; but she has no allies there, no real reason to pick that as her destination other than the fact that she sent Aldern there and presumably can "pick up where he left off" in terms of greed-related murders. (She doesn't know yet who has been fouling up her plans, only that someone has.) My next thought was for her to head to Korvosa (a mercantile port city where greed will no doubt be flourishing) and beg assistance from the Red Mantis there, since she's established as being at least aware of the connection of Aldern, the Skinsaw cult, Vorel's legacy/phage, and the Red Mantis, if not the architect of that particular deal. That adds a new and unrelated location to the campaign, though, and may become a red herring dragging things even farther off the rails. A third option is for her to simply disappear to some unknown corner of Varisia and not play any further part in the story, but I don't expect my players to let her go that readily. As above, any thoughts and ideas that anyone might have here are very much appreciated!
Thassilonian specialist wizards are further explained in Appendix 7, p. 417-418; unlike non-Thassilonian specialist wizards, there's no "from 1st level on up" caveat to the extra spells they get. So what I think is happening in Barl's case is that he's getting two extra cantrip slots from his Thassilonian specialization, and is using both to prepare the same necromancy spell, touch of fatigue, as the specialization compels him to do; since cantrips never run out, there's no advantage to having the spell prepared twice and no reason to record it as being prepared twice.
This appears to be an interpretation that extends to the Thassilonian specialist wizards encountered in modules 5 and 6 too, since a random sampling of them (Athroxis, Khalib, Karzoug) finds that they've all got five cantrips prepared too.
I'm coming back to the thread with a couple of questions about adding class levels to monsters; from the likes of Bruthazmus in the very first module, through Xanesha and Lucrecia, to the giants and lamia-kin in the later modules, there are plenty of monsters with class levels. Some of them, I'm looking to adjust, reinforce, rebuild, or replace, according to what I think my group will find more fun. In doing so I'm finding myself left with questions that might be errata or may just be indications of my own lack of knowledge.
Feats: So, just when do monsters with both racial hit dice and class levels gain (non-bonus, non-class feature) feats?
The first and simplest example that brings this question to mind is Bruthazmus (p. 52-53) who has a single level of ranger and two feats. A regular bugbear (Bestiary p. 38) also has two feats, which it gets from its racial hit dice; Bruthazmus has a different two feats, but they're coming from the same source, his racial hit dice. On the subject of adding abilities gained from class levls, including feats, Betiary p. 297 has this to say: "This functions just like adding class levels to a creature without racial hit dice." However, a 1st-level ranger would normally receive a feat - not because he's a ranger, but simply because he's a 1st-level character of any class (CRB p. 30, Table 3-1: Character Advancement and Level-Dependent Bonuses). Is it correct that Bruthazmus doesn't gain a feat for being a 1st-level character, where a character without racial hit dice would receive this feat?
It may be that the rate/timing of feats gained by a creature with both racial hit dice and class levels is based on total hit dice rather than gained class levels alone, but this isn't what's stated in the Bestiary and I've been unable to find a citation stating this. That said, a search turns up numerous discussions about adding class levels to monsters and it's quite possible that I've missed the relevant citation.
Challenge Rating: I'm aware that calculating challenge rating for monsters with class levels isn't an exact science, however I do want to question the challenge rating of Dorella Kreeg (p. 155-156) and figure out just how this was arrived at.
Dorella is an ogre sorcerer 8 with a listed challenge rating of 10. Ogres are combat role creatures, and sorcerer is not a key class for combat roles creatures (ogres make terrible sorcerers!). Bestiary p. 297 states that non-key classes: "...increase a creature’s CR by 1 for every 2 class levels added until the number of levels added are equal to (or exceed) the creature’s original CR, at which point they are treated as “key” levels (adding 1 to the creature’s CR for each level added)."[/i]
I'd always taken the "equal to (or exceed)" part to refer to creatures with odd-numbered CRs; there are no fractional CRs above 1, so a creature with an odd-numbered CR either gets the odd-numbered level that equals its original CR "for free," (i.e. rounding down the fractional CR, not increasing its challenge rating) or it gets one level that exceeds its original CR at the 2-levels-to-1-CR ratio before any subsequent levels are considered "key." Taking the CR 3 ogre as an example, I had taken this to mean that an ogre with levels in a non-key class (such as the sorcerer here) can gain up to four levels at the 2-levels-to-1-CR ratio; this would suggest that Dorella's first four levels of sorcerer increase her CR from 3 to 5, and her subquent four levels of sorcerer increase her CR from 5 to 9, not 10.
It may be the case that I've been calculating the point at which the non-key class levels become key class levels, and the ratio changes from 2-to-1 to 1-to-1, incorrectly; that I've been reading "until" and "at" to mean after or beyond that point, whereas the intent may be that the class level which equals the CR of a creature with an odd-numbered CR is the first one which counts as key and is gained at the 1-to-1 ratio. By this method, Dorella only gains two levels of sorcerer at the 2-to-1 ratio, increasing her CR from 3 to 4, and that her subsequent six levels of sorcerer increase her CR from 4 to 10, providing the listed result.
(Argument against this latter method: the Ogre Stalker, an ogre rogue 3 presented in the Monster Codex, is a CR 4 monster, having gained only 1 CR from its 3 levels of rogue, i.e. that third level of rogue gets "rounded down" and it would take a fourth level, one that exceeds its original CR, to increase its CR to 5).)
Even if this is the case, I'm not sure I would agree that Dorella, with her listed CR of 10, is a more challenging opponent than Xanesha (p. 124-125) with her listed CR of 9. Xanesha has a higher AC, more hit points, generally better saves, deals more damage, and has higher save DCs for her abilities; even by the "eyeball it" method, comparing Dorella's statistics to Bestiary p. 291, Table 1-1: Monster Statistics by CR, she looks more like a CR 9 monster than a CR 10 one to me.
As written, I think your best bet for someone interfering with the resurrection and redemption of Nualia is probably a survivor from her crew, though I don't know how well that fits the events of your campaign. Tsuto is obsessed with her for selfish reasons and might want to see her resurrected on his own terms rather than seeing her as either Lamashtu's pawn or an associate of good-aligned PCs. Erylium would probably want to see her resurrected so that her service to Lamashtu might continue.
It's mentioned in The Hook Mountain Massacre that the Kreeg ogres used to make sacrifices to Lamashtu before Barl Breakbones arrived and took charge, and I get the impression that the annis hag coven found there were probably the leaders of this worship; it may be that Lamashtu uses them as her paws, or the lamia priestesses at Jorgenfist in Fortress of the Stone Giants, but both of those options depend on Lamashtu having a sincere and powerful interest in keeping Nualia as a minion, and the "it's a sick joke by Lamashtu," twist on her story that you've previously mentioned may make that unlikely.
UMD does seem like the best way to "sink" those points, investing them in a skill which is consistent with her class skills and racial skill bonuses but which isn't going to affect how the fight plays out since by my reading she's not carrying anything that requires UMD for her to use it.
On the other hand it seems like she'd get more bang for her buck by putting them in Perception and Stealth (since her described tactics involve noticing the PCs' approach and laying invisibly in wait for them) and maybe Knowledge (planes) if she wants her "illusory flying demon" to appear at all convincing.
A bit of background, I've been running this for my tabletop group and we're just coming up to the last few parts of Book 2. I was looking at Xanesha with an eye to giving her an extra rogue level (which I may or may not do; arguably it's her abundance of gear that pushes her to CR 9, not her solitary rogue level, since rogue is a class she ought to get at a ratio of 2 levels = 1 CR based on her monster role) and as a part of this I was looking at her skill ranks, unfortunately I can't quite get them to add up and I was wondering if someone could point me to where I'm going wrong?
By my reckoning, Xanesha has used her favoured class bonus from her level of rogue to pick up an extra hit point rather than an extra skill rank, so her skill points with her Int modifier of +4 ought to be:
Acrobatics +23 (+7 Dex mod, +3 class skill, +4 racial modifier, +9 ranks)
My best guess is that when Xanesha's stat block was compiled, the +4 racial bonuses, bolded above, to her Acrobatics and Bluff skills that she gets as a lamia matriach were missed - the bonus to Bluff is mentioned on Bestiary 2 p. 175, the bonus to Acrobatics is noted on p. 5 of the 16/07/12 errata document to Bestiary 2.
With the skill ranks invested as they are above, I reckon Xanesha has 8 skill ranks "unspent" which she could invest in other skills - alternatively, if the intention is that she has invested as many ranks as possible in Acrobatics and Bluff, these both should be +27.
Alternatively I've missed something in how Xanesha's skills were calculated, and if I'm doing something wrong I'd very much like to know, so thanks in advance for any corrections that are offered. :)