(Not sure if too many people still read this forum, but I'll add to it!) My previous DM notes were here .
There is no Honor
Largely unchanged from my prior notes.
Started with a Session 0 to tie into the campaign and let players fill in the blanks of how they got some fame. In addition to saving Vanthus, picked an old Dungeon Magazine short adventure and we roleplayed how the party got noticed for awhile in town as minor heroes, which triggered Lavinia to remember the good old days with some of them.
These good old days came from customized campaign backgrounds that the players could use to fill in blanks and tie to the NPCs. As DM Vermilleo on these forums and others comment: if the PCs don't care about Lavinia and Vanthus, this AP won't work.
Handed out backgrounds for players to pick: player has obsession with Isle of Dread lore and got hands on fragments of Captain Barbarrosa's ledgers / player briefly went to school with Lavinia and may have had a brief liaison, met Vanthus who was an arse / player paid to train with Jade Ravens, while on site at Vanderboren mansion briefly interacted with Vanthus and Lavinia / player has visions, tied to Vermilleo's campaign.
Added a random scene at the market where Avner's horse bumps a merchant (an entrepreneur who has invented the corn dog) and wants the ingrate to apologize to Thunderstrike. When he doesn't, Avner uses his steed to knock over the cart and keeps going. Found some fantastic "douchebag" art, but as in my prior notes, I want Avner to be a bit more complex. Assuming he lives to the Isle of Dread, in our last campaign he became a voice for the scared-witless common folk. Not saying it was the voice of reason, but enough that it kept him alive.
I need a cheat sheet for common foul phrases used by smugglers and pirates. There's some unsavory characters, and it would've helped for my adult table when they're spying on the Blue Nixie.
Skipped Factions this time. They didn't have much play last go around (you're away so long, and the rules don't convert to 5E well).
Pretty much finished at the exact same point as first time I ran this (Vanderboren vault). I let slip to the Rogue player that he might've been able to decipher the complex machinery of the vault and open it without knowing the combination, but unlikely without either years of training with a master or magical help (the adventure tosses in "DM only" stuff like explaining how Vanthus bypassed the lock, so I try to find ways to let this slip to players. Doesn't do me much good and makes more sense to the storyline!)
Several years ago, I posted my observations of what worked and didn't work to make Savage Tide amazing in my DM Notes. Those notes ended when we had a party wipe during the Lightless Depths, a beloved player had to leave for a new job, and it didn't feel right bringing a new player in at high levels.
Anyhow, years later, I moved to a new community, found a great gaming community, and we're venturing into this one again! So a few things:
1) If anyone is still active here, I'll post my notes and hope if we can to share notes. This is a classically fun campaign path, wish I could've finished it. My other posts give credit to the DM who inspired me quite a bit. I aim to follow his intent and expand Vanthus's role (his group never finished as well, alas!)
2) If you've run it into the City of Broken Idols and beyond, I want to know what worked and didn't work! I don't have DM notes generated yet, and given we're just getting started, plenty of time.
3) If you've got notes for 5E, great! If you have little things that worked, lemme know! (e.g. art for Lavinia, Vanthus, Avner, tips on running them). I've scoured this directory but might have missed something. I remember my first group absolutely hating (and thereby fondly remembering our campaign) Vanthus and Avner...
@ Touc: Will the campaign continue with different characters (and the same players)?
Alas, we lost one player due to real life and added two new ones, mutually decided to put the campaign on indefinite hold so the new guys could get invested in a campaign from 1st level. Interestingly enough, our new campaign tops out at 15th level and involves Mr. Two-Head, so not saying we couldn't creatively come back to this one....
Our Sessions #19-20, to Golismorga
- The trip to Golismorga is not the most impressive piece of literature, but the encounters were fairly unique. Be ready if the party doesn't gain any troglodyte help, including Irgzid.
- Spells aside (e.g. speak with dead), if they don't use Irgzid, maybe the troglodtyes mark their path with special symbols, and the party can notice those to find the path.
- Golismorga is pretty awesome. One of the more impressive places I've run, with alien buildings (having a building throw itself atop a purple worm to trap it and slowly digest it is just crazy). There isn't really a safe spot to rest, but I let them make some checks to find a wheezing building with a bad lung. Using blankets on the floor to avoid mild digestion, they rested safely.
- Read ahead to consider what the city does if it finds the bodies of slain patrol, or if a fireball/flamestrike might stand out in a city only 1/2 mile around.
- Our party wiped but in epic fashion and saving the day (in the obituary section). You might consider an option where destroying the Tear is just as good an alternative as combat.
- The Bilewretch can be a terror with hit and run tactics and reach. If played right, this thing is a pain. But it's not too bright, so don't overdo it.
- No need to change much. There's plenty of interesting pre-fabricated side encounters, and not all need to be combat. This city is a wild trip, make the most of it. Oh, and as for the ziggurat
My players could not help but feel that upon entry, they were crawling into the "butt" of the living building. Minds in the gutter... But by this time, I had played up the living nature. One building even crawled over to smother and consume the bodies of the behemoths they'd lured to the street and killed.
- As for encounters with the kopru patrol, I played the trogs as complete servants. They wouldn't fight if it meant abandoning their litter-bearer posts. Even upon death, one tried to gently lower its end of the litter so it wouldn't disturb its master.
PC: All of them (Thorin, Eiva, Thunk)
A botched plan to use an Earthquake scroll in the Ziggurat after tiring of the bilewretch's hit and run tactics. The party used Dimension Door (5th ed, one passenger) to move everyone but the cleric out, figuring he would start the spell (they didn't want to bring the whole cavern down). However, the bilewretch beat the tar out of him and dragged his body below the oily surface. When the sorceress returned to retrieve him next round, she instead met his fate. Our fighter returned, quaffed a potion of invulnerability, and narrowly slew it.
Without a cleric for create food and water, and without the sorceress to fly him up the ledge and out, he realized this was a one-way mission. He aimed to find the Tear of Tlaloc while he still had strength. Props to the player for fighting on. Finding the crater and listening carefully to flavor text, he opted to smash the Tear.
Mounting a Goat of Terror (figuring of wondrous power), he let the surefooted beast avoid the various molds and diseased surfaces and charged down. I played the guardian as cautious (not everyday a mad half orc riding a Goat of Terror charges you), and after it spent some invisible rounds boosting itself, it realized the mad half orc was trying to destroy its life work. It tried Hold Monster twice, failing, then tried to damage him with Cones of Cold. Epic saves at the right time. The fighter spent every attack, every edge he could muster, into smashing the statue with an enchanted maul. At 225 damage, I ruled it was cracked enough and ran the finale (wherein the collector fled).
When the ocean began pouring into the cavern, he thought he was done but remembered a Cloak of the Manta Ray that the sorceress once owned. He donned it and tried to recall his way to the surface, but here the epic story would end as he became lost in the dark twists and turns...
A true testament to never giving up, and how against the odds he completed the mission. Even more telling was the roleplay as his half-orc was a former solider. He never believed in giving up, and as a DM, was pretty good to be a part of a heckuva story.
Our Session #18, Emraag +
- In retrospect, I would have subtly worked in more tactical discussion about handling Emraag, played up his legendary status. That way, the party would be less likely to botch things by suggesting Emraag needed "charity" or a "bribe."
- Also chop Lavinia's speech up. It's got all the info you need, but don't read it in one big glob. Work it into supper, a discussion over the party's adventures, the funeral of Vanthus, whatever you can naturally work in.
- I glossed over the sea travel. At 3rd level, sea terrors can be an issue. But at 10 or 11th? I threw in some exotic text (e.g. a roc flyover), but I glossed over any hardship and said the party has come a long way. Plus, sea travel is really boring. An event a day is unrealistic.
- My players, not intentionally, pissed off Emraag immediately by saying all the wrong stuff for his ego. I ruled his demeanor (e.g. hostile) would determine how long the party had to say something to sooth his rage. In this instance, they could tell he was going to submerge and had 6 seconds to blurt something out. Had they been more tactful, maybe they'd have longer, he'd be more inclined to listen. Hence the above planning.
- For 5E, our battle came down to one magic item, obtained very early on around 1st or 2nd level, a ring of swimming. After the battle, it become VERY clear absent this item, it would have been a party wipe. In 5E, it allowed uninhibited battle movement in the water, a crucial requirement for our party which has 3 melee based characters. Anyways, very classic D&D for a battle to turn on something that many would have tried to trade as trinket trash.
- So they killed Emraag and I had to make up a hoard. In 5E, there's random tables, and of course you can't have a legendary battle with a centuries old creature result in random crap loot like a few potions of healing. Totally randomly rolled, my players ended up with a Wish scroll. Yeah, I may lose control of things as a DM, but it was worth it seeing their faces light up after winning a really stacked battle. Very old school, AD&D, where a lucky roll could drop something really nice in your lap.
- It took my players aback to see how pathetically weak the troglodyte guards were. That's good. Not everything should be an epic battle, evenly matched in levels. So they just charmed them. This has led me to an interesting dilemma, how far a charm will take you when religious belief comes into play. Good thing is a charmed being will probably tell you what's bothering them and maybe a way to work around it.
Our Session #17, Farshore battle
We had a short session due to real life, which allowed us to finish up the Farshore battles.
- this plays a lot like the intro adventure. There's hot spots all over town. I recommend a very specific timeline (like the intro). For example, at round 2 a band of pirates attacks the infirmary, at round 4 another hits the chapel where the children are, at round 6 another group scales the walls and goes after the archers, and at round 8 another catches a Jade Raven or other important NPC. Depending on any pre-battle prep, you can work out a system (e.g. every round a 20% chance the pirates make it into the infirmary, at which point they kill 1d4 people, and play up the screams and horror). You get the point, and I'd have at least 1 of the pirate attacks, if not more, have the potential to reduce VPs (e.g. killing a Jade Raven).
- At round 10, you might have the flesh golems emerge from the water and begin tearing down a fortification (e.g. watchtower). Assume in 5 rounds they've rendered it useless and reduce the overall VPs. You know your group best, so adjust accordingly.
- In 5E, casters can get a "counterspell," which is nastiness for players. I had the yuan-ti caster use 4 fireball scrolls and save his true casting till those ran out (fireball wands hold far less charges and are very powerful to have in 5th). He used counterspell to stymie our swimmer's hit and run tactics (she could have thrown 1st level spells at him to make him waste his spells, but her allies needed help). She had the last laugh as (with water breathing), she ducked below the waves and cast dimension door, leaving them searching for her. It's a "who knows what will happen" scenario.
- I saved the vrocks until the golems were destroyed. (In 5E they don't get teleport, so I gave it to them as a once per day boon from a demon lord for a job well done some time in the past...I also gave them the dance of ruin because that's classic). They sat atop the chapel and began their dance, then flew to another building to start anew, caring little whether they hit friend or foe. Since all 3 failed to summon another - bad dice - that battle didn't last long.
- Vanthus as a budding hybrid death knight wasn't bad. I played him as foolishly arrogant, confident in his new form's power, showing up 1d4 rounds after the vrocks were dead. By the time he shows up, your players are likely low on spells and daily powers. Despite flight, he isn't a ranged attacker, and a few taunts later he was on the ground mouthing off about his sister being a whore and his "scrying" on her. (In the module, he's pretty weak, and that's purposeful as the party has exhausted a lot of resources likely to this point). He revealed her feelings for a PC "mongrel dog half orc." Your bad guys should always do some dialog in battle. And your PCs should mouth back. If you're not good on the fly, I'd have some dialog made up, maybe 4-5 sayings. After all, he's the end guy here, make it memorable even if the party stomps all over him. Finally, I had him use his mass suggestion to go fight elsewhere (but in 5th, it's a concentration spell, and you can only have one of those at once. He dropped it later for a different concentration spell since only 1 PC failed the save). In retrospect, I would have suggested a "fight me like a man, fists up" so at least no one was "out of the fight" and bored.
- Finally, he did try dropping the Shadow Pearl on my players. We had one player mounted on his Goat of Terror and another on the ground who both made a flying leap for it. Both had to make a (5th edition Acrobatics, aka Dex) check. I liked this. Sometimes a D&D game comes down to the results of a single roll. We've had it before. We've had those memorable epic moments where it's the last PC versus the last bad guy, and both are on fumes. Whoever hits next wins, and the DM is rolling in full view... As a "whew" moment, one of them caught it. If they'd failed, we joked visualizing one PC leaping from the giant goat and another at the pearl and both bonking heads together.
- Finally, I'd also script some background descriptions based on the party's preparations. If they greased the walls, describe a surprise band of overland pirates who try to scale them. And so on. Just a short line will do as filler between battles.
- This was a really climactic moment in the path. I'm worried the next adventures will be a letdown in drama, but we'll see. They might just want a good old fashioned dungeon crawl for a change of pace.
Our Session #16 - Farshore battle prep
- The players wondered why they're having to supervise defense projects and so on. Well, they can build watchtowers, but they weren't expecting siege or major battle. And, they need someone those 2 hrs/day to handle complaints, disputes, and coordinate labor.
- My players got the tasks done much quicker than I thought
- In retrospect, I'd measure out distance and days (e.g. travel time between the Fangs and Tar pits, etc.)
- I also backtracked from my earlier rec of showing the VPs in advance. I'll show them after the adventure is over if they ask. I think it detracts from the roleplay too much to quantify battle prep.
- For the coautl, it insisted on Detect Thoughts (ESP, etc.) up front (because it fears the party are skinwalkers). A great chance at roleplay here if you want to flesh out his role. My players tried to talk him into fighting with them, but his need for atonement outweighed their words. Still, because they asked and with good cause, he gave up the feathers, useful later when the party gets high enough to cast Planar Ally.
- As posted by many others, the Crimson Fleet could, in theory, be blasted from a distance by player spell casters. Here's a few reasons why that won't work well: (1) ships aren't made of tinderwood, they don't light up from an instantaneous fireball, (2) as such, they'll run out of fireballs, absent a wand, before any ship takes serious damage; or (3) you've got the ships coming in a magical mist/storm, which I did. Once they were in position, the mist rolled ahead and dissipated. The reason they're prepared is because I've had Vanthus Scrying on Lavinia, so he has a pretty good idea of their plans; or (4) you can have a spellcaster on the enemy fleet whose sole job is counterspelling.
- Troubleshooting during the final attack: my players split up. I've explained in mass battle, there will be "hot spots" where they could make a difference. Depending on their preparations, the town will resist or fall, even if the party puts up an amazing fight. (in 5th, large groups of low level pirates can be fatal even to high level parties since armor class is capped).
- So, we have one player swimming near the enemy ships, one on each new watch tower, and one at the docks.
- My solution: just let it be. When one player tries to take on 4 golems, s/he will probably have to flee.
- I converted Vanthus into a hybrid fiend/death knight (with reduced powers). It's bound to be a fun reunion....they HATE him. I've borrowed from V's campaign website the Vanthus journal he and his sister kept and chopped it down a few pages. For those who haven't seen it, it details a variant background in which Vanthus came to the isle with his parents, got left (to broaden his horizons), and made plans to kill his uncle to take his book of magic. It also hints he's got an obsession with Lavinia, a really weird one. Good stuff.
We stopped just before the action, so we'll see how things play out.
Had some real life breaks, which afforded me the chance to read ahead into the "Lightless Depths." I like the city, like the backstory, like the horrific thought of the ocean racing through tunnels, and like the alien nature created by the writers, but execution stinks. It's just a straight line, face five encounters, visit the village to rest, and face the finale.
Anyone with thoughts about improvement, substitutions? Can I merge this with something else?
Our Session #15, Farshore and The Isle
- Tides of Dread is immensely sandbox. There's a TON to do, and not a lot of time to do it.
- Maybe I missed it, but did the attackers on Farshore leave their ship or scuttle it? Borrowing from other campaigns, I had Lefty describe the demon man (who is Vanthus) coming on their ship at Scuttlecove, saying he knew what they'd done (they mutinied and keelhauled their captain to get more loot), and mind controlled several to nail 3 of their fellows to each of the masts. He then told them redemption awaited if they could leave now (with inadequate supplies) and scout Farshore. Slipknot Pete speaks to the air and Lefty laments he is the only one who wasn't crazy, and he did what he needed to survive.
- When the party took prisoners, I had the other pirates nod into the air and launch suicide attacks against their captors. I had Vanthus (or his agent) scrying on Lavinia or Slipknot, etc., and sending a compulsion because, well, it amused him.
- You'll want the charts to back Lefty up, assume some pirate carried them if the ship was scuttled. If the ship isn't scuttled, be prepared to answer how it fits into the defense of the town.
- I revealed the Victory Points scheme early on after the party visited a few areas. Morale is just as important as walls, and the VP is a relative way of explaining what will help. I am not telling them how many VPs matter but rather say if Farshore gets attacked, the more VPs the more suited it is to defend itself.
- I didn't at first (but still may) make a visual for the major players in Farshore, but recommend. Like SWW, use a word table with thumbnail pic (using either art from the online supplements or something off the net). There's too many NPCs to otherwise deal with and remember.
- I used 4 minis to reflect the work crew. My players protested the notion they'd need to be around to supervise digging a moat, etc., but I explained the 2 hours per day reflected the inevitable gripes, concerns, screw ups, and so on. Without a trusted military mind, everyone would be reduced to squabbling.
- If you followed my SWW (detailed crew), then some of the NPCs on the SWW might have survived other than the ones per the AP. If so, they might automatically assist in an area (e.g. a dwarf expected to maximize the mines or an herbalist). In retrospect, I would have made about 1/4 of the SWW crew useful to an area that can improve Farshore. If that person makes it, they can assign him/her to the task. If they didn't, it makes their death that much more meaningful.
Do the above and you've beautifully linked together 3 adventures and made the NPCs survival (both shipwreck and isle) substantially meaningful.
- I'd consider buffing up the legendary creatures of this isle. They're legends for a reason and a fight with them should be epic. For example, I made the T-Rex a two-headed mutant and gave it (in 5th) legendary abilities (2 auto saves per day, but really anything you like) as well as a ton of hit points. I also had the phanatons contribute to the battle at the rate of 1hp damage per survivor (I assumed 7 would fight, so 7 hp per round). If the party doesn't immediately help, the phanatons get wiped fairly quickly.
- Our party doesn't speak Olman, so they couldn't communicate with the Phanaton. Doh. Guess Tongues and other things are useful. They've contemplated hiring an Olman native.
- Distances on the Isle aren't really that well detailed. I'd make sure in advance you set the # of days between areas by foot, etc. (e.g. village of Tanaroa to the Fangs). In this module, time is of the essence.
- Don't forget to hype up the Jade Ravens and be ready to address what happens if they get sent to handle something beyond their abilities. I'm thinking the Sea Wyvern wreck. I'm not sure they could handle it. There is no assigned formula, so you might want to mark (on any side adventure) with a symbol of whether the Ravens can handle it, whether they handle it but suffer a casualty, or whether they are wiped. Remember, every Jade Raven lost is a loss of VPs in the end. Don't tip the party off, but let them know the price can be high sometimes.
- In conclusion, this part of the path is amazing. Open ended, a ticking clock, lots to do to improve the town and so little time...
Agreed the Bat Idol can be a problem. It's assumed some form of greed will keep players from parting with it early (combined with no available buyers), so I had it radiate minor artifact magic with unknown properties, which isn't far fetched.
- In 5E, teleport has no range limitations, so a party with a wizard could teleport back and forth to Sasserine. If under that edition, be very aware they could teleport back, sell the Idol or even hire mercenaries, teleporting a small group back each day. In two months, you've got a large group, so I'd treat it like advanced militia reinforcements, maybe 50VP a group, max 4.
Our Session #14 - Demogorgon Temple to Farshore
- We had the fiendish baboons left. I run a pretty adult campaign, so my gruesome factor on these things is pretty high. Same on the methods used by Olangru to build up as much fear in a creature before it is sacrificed.
- During the Olangru fight, I had him telepathically bombard those who dared to confront him with a variety of personal imagery. Again, I run an adult campaign, so fit to your needs. I took the worst inventions of medieval tortures (an internet search will suffice) and enhanced them, and personalized them. Even the worst of human actions is supposed to pale against the pure evil of the prince of demons and its followers. I want my party inspired when the time comes, many episodes later, to take out the Prince. I also want them a little freaked out.
- The winch probably needs more exacting description, so be ready. My party was pretty avid on finding a way to stop it.
- Don't forget the fire pit has a lot of ambient heat, so anyone near it should be taking fire damage. You should consider whether the fuel source is natural, demonic, or otherwise, if the party comes up with a way to put the big fire out. I went with natural fire, unnatural fuel, so as to make it burn bigger and hotter. If they'd had something like a cone of cold, might have put it out.
- Be ready to answer if the native Olmans knew about Fogmire. I assumed they did and avoided the evil mist.
- Consider the effects of demon torture, if you run an adult campaign, on the NPCs who were captured. My PCs are very sympathetic (one was a child) and it has become a side plot to be there for them.
- For the attack on Farshore, in retrospect I would have had a bigger town map. I used the 1/2 page online enhancement player map, but it's really small, and circled the hot spots described in the flavor text with red ink. I used a round-by-round timeline based off the events described; my party split up to help as much as they could. Without a map, there's no way they're absorbing all 6 major events at once.
- We stopped with a joyful reunion of Lavinia and the Jade Ravens, who were mopping up on the far side of town.
I haven't given enough credit to Vermilleo's postings and his campaign website, so here's a big THANKS once again.I've used several ideas off the forums and his campaign site to enhance our game immensely.
Our Session #13, Fogmire to Demogorgon Temple
- Horror is difficult to build when you've got a character sheet in front of you, a soda at your side, and a bag of snacks. But when you have NPCs that the party cares about...worrying about them adds to the terror.
Fogmire Early. The flora and fauna aren't right, and this unnatural fog isn't right. When someone tries to fly and the fog continues... I made Fogmire into a gradually shrinking realm, a "mini world" that could be traversed in 12 hours of jungle travel. Each captured NPC reduced that # of hours by 1-2, so that the world became smaller and smaller, as if ending. Combine that with a repetitive dream and we get some creepiness.
- For the dreams, on day 1 it's a dream about being unable to escape a terror in the jungle, fleeing to a shore where the ocean is a black pudding.
Each day, the dreams get worse. Eventually, the jungle itself is chasing them, crumbling behind them, leaving the option of an eternal fall into a never-ending Abyss or slow consumption by the black pudding ocean.
With a large group, each night, an NPC gets taken. Rather than bother with the Olangru mechanic, I made the fog itself the enemy. Since the "river of evil" and so forth from divination seemed important, Olangru uses the fog to kidnap NPCs. Evil currents run through and he collects those filled with the most terror. For my group, with around 9 NPCs left, this meant a random die roll. Even the most perceptive PC saw only a whiff of fog pass through. My party on Day #1 decided to try and move south to escape the fog. Didn't work. That night, a horde of fiendish baboons ran through the camp, making noise but touching nothing. When they passed, an NPC had vanished.
Fogmire Next. Day 2 led them back to the ruins. Because I was having them roll Survival checks, the party surmised it was possible they turned in a circle. However, when they returned by night to the same spot, they concluded dark forces were at play. This night, the fog currents took someone (random, our PC's significant other) as she was holding his hand. She felt a much larger hand squeeze hers, and her hand came away sticky with blood.
- The NPCs are freaking out. Not only are they scared, they are losing Wisdom each night from the nightmares. While PCs may make their saves, the NPCs are ill equipped. This leads them to say things they don't mean, to mutter incessantly. I played up their gradually loosening with reality. Even Avner's annoying commentary was sympathetic, as he was losing it. He tried bargaining with our cleric ("your gods, they protect. So they will get you out of here. You just need to pray harder, that's it. Pray them to grant you a spell"), and after the first abductions everyone began seeing inevitable doom. Captain Amella told her love interest to make sure he put something nice on her tombstone, if he got away and she didn't. Details.
- Finding a way out of Fogmire can be frustrating. Our party cast Detect Evil but failed to see the currents of evil. Eventually, our pregnant NPC, who was in pain as her child (8 months along) was suffering from the nightmares, succumbed to the drain. She decided to cut her child out with a dull rock and carry the body to the Demogorgon temple as an offering. Others saw her, subdued her. The party cast "calm emotions" to settle her, and she calmly explained her plan. They convinced her to wait until they arrived at "the altar" (you can't sacrifice someone without an altar, her dream told her that...the closer to 0 Wisdom one got, the more descriptive the dreams).
- After the session, I revealed (as I sometimes do) DM-only notes. I advised Fogmire had several ways out, and one possibility was that no one got out and the fog began claiming PCs. I don't like the feeling that the story is scripted and the players are simply along for the ride. Fogmire may have felt that way, but it could have ended any number of ways.
Fogmire Exit. Not much to adjust in the Temple. The candle/mirror room can be a frustrating nightmare. There is no clue how to solve it other than trial and error. After the session, I discussed the verisimilitude of such a puzzle (if the bad guys don't want people coming in who aren't in the know, why would they leave clues...) Everyone was cool with it. The only real clue is the duality of Demogorgon, that one side is always warring with the other, forced to be one, seeing the other side always. A long shot clue.
I was glad someone got the Religion check about the Demogorgon symbols. Otherwise, the constant "duality" encounters won't make sense. By the way, this section felt a lot like the Dark Passage, and having to retrieve "keys" (again) to open doors is a lot like a video game. Not everyone is a big fan, so if you know your group, do something to adjust.
We paused after finding one key. If your party is having an easy time of the battles (so far, they've been pushovers), consider a timeline if they dawdle to rest wherein an NPC (if you have several) gets flayed and left for the party to see. Olangru wants fear. On the other hand, he needs to wait for a cosmic aligning, so maybe that hasn't happened yet if your party is suffering.
Our Session #12 - Dark Passage to Fogmire
- If you have a lot of NPCs like our group, water becomes a major concern. No one washed up to shore with a waterskin. While the module says frequent rainfall suffices, spending hours walking in subtropical settings along a mountainous coastal path works up a sweat. My NPCs constantly complain, and the spell "Create Food and Water" needs a container to be carried. Also, Thunderstrike can't lift his head into the rain to drink that way.
- Used forum suggestions to make Olangru's acts more creepy. He wants the party to FEAR. This is key. I have the party roll a lot of the dice. 1d4 for whose night shift something happens, a Perception check (which means they spot something or nothing, difficult if your enemy is invisible or teleporting).
Night #1: Olangru teleports in and steals Thunderstrike. Our PC makes a check with enough time to hear a "snort." A mystery as his tether is still tied in a loop to his saddle. Avner wakes up and accuses the PC (a sorceress) of finally doing what she always wanted and killing off the horse. Now because of her petty revenge, they have no ride for our pregnant Penelope. (this worked great because our PC has REALLY been spiteful to him).
Night #2: Party's food supplies manipulated. Our PC notices just in time to see some vanilla wafers (from Create Food and Water) go marching cartoon style to the cliff and throw themselves off. Avner wakes up to Thunderstrike's leg (freshly ripped off at the socket) curled up against his back, spooning him. Creepy.
Speaking of food, the NPC kids are making it very well known they HATE the vanilla wafers. They play a game ("eating this is worse than....(insert a gross item, like Pete's socks"). If you're doing this and the last adventure right, your PCs will love your NPCs.
Suicidal Olman: modified it to be a native in loincloth who turns his face to the party. His eyes are gouged out. He takes a ceremonial knife, smiles at them, punches it in his gut, and topples over the cliff edge. Creepy.
Gargoyles: could have had them attack NPCs, but they are smart. They'll kill the shepherds first, then the sheep. I modified the chief into a barbed devil to shake things up.
Vine lift: Great spot for NPC concerns. I've been having Tavey try to impress his hero with dangerous cartwheels near the cliff edge, etc., and having him roll a check (20% for something bad). On the vine lift (it fell but party was testing its weight with a summoned horse anyways, no harm), the group used an immovable rod, grappling hook, and rope harness to haul people up. At the top, Tavey decided to impress his hero by playing "jungle boy" ("lookit PC NAME, I'm jungle boy, woohoo!") and leaping to a vine to finish the last bit. Player rolls and Tavey's stunt might fail, I had his save at a 50/50 chance.
One of my players later remarked her heart was pounding at the roll. They really liked the little guy. The save was made, and I probably would have allowed a heroic leap to try and save him if Tavey's grip failed.
Fogmire: Man, what's to adjust? This place is creepy. The zombie if you do the right voice is creepy. My players think they're in a dream. I simply had Urol vanish, his bedroll slashed, and under it written in blood was the word "mine." By this time, Olangru has had enough fear building. It can't get much higher. Throw in some freaky dreams (consider using an exact script for your dreams rather than summarizing, I had them fleeing the jungle from creatures that would rip them to pieces, eat them, and the ocean is a black pudding that will dissolve them).
- Finally, I mentioned making sure Avner isn't one dimensional. If so, the party might shove him off a cliff. He's an ass, he's scared, and he hides it behind bravado. I've been having his veneer crack at times, then back to his old ways (describing how the peasants need people to lead them, people with education and proper training). However, Avner has attracted a following from the impressionable passengers. It's not mutiny, it's just people who nod along to his complaining.
Our Session #11, shipwreck to dark passage
- If the T-rex (or birds) go after NPCs, makes encounters that much more challenging. We lost two more crew (one to the T-Rex) and another when terror birds went after the children (the kids were saved).
- It's been a crusade for them to keep our pregnant passenger alive. She's slowing them down, can't climb well, but they're moving heaven and earth to make it happen.
- As a druid novice, I'd question why Urol isn't more accepting of the circle of life when terror birds go after a weak creature. He's supposed to whine about it later. Our party accepted it as the laws of nature and didn't interfere. Doesn't seem like a druid would get upset.
- Urol's attempt to show how edible the local fauna is turned out to be a pretty good icebreaker to a serious setback.
- Water became a major concern. With so many NPCs, there may be nothing to carry water in (our salvage found a lot of horse feed). A thirsty Avner complained why the Players are hoarding all the water in their skins. In the Dark Passage, getting some fresh water become a side quest.
- I find it a lot more interesting with a larger group, having to set perimeters at night, salvage for supplies, and so on. Make sure your NPCs are vibrant. For example, in a terror bird fight, I had Tavey leave the big group and run for his idol hero (he felt safer by him). Now the battle gets more complex, not just keeping the attention of the birds but making sure Tavey doesn't die.
- I've toned Avner down from 100% gripes (you've led us into a fine mess now, how many more of us are you going to get killed) into a buckle-down and get things done guy with griping on the side. He can be a bit more complex than an arse 100% of the time. But he's still 99% irritation. If played right, he's the most memorable NPC you'll have in the path (thus far anyways).
- Left the Dark Passage as is, except the water issues.
- As a final thought, DMs should be prepared if the party wants to "hexplore" the island (detailed more fully in the next module). The presence of a lot of passengers might dissuade them, and I had Urol mention once they've made it to Farshore, the party should check out the sights.
Our Session #10, Renkrue to Shipwreck
- Recommend finding some nautical descriptions of the eeriness of leaving land and having the open sea for your passenger reactions
- Sargasso should be creepy. I envisioned vine horrors as corpses filled with the plants animating them, like loose shells, and the ground and other plants as mildly sentient, seeking to absorb them.
- I also used the Sargasso to invade the Wyvern, to explain a weakened hull (not detected at the time) that further complicates the later storm
- The trip to the "forest" section may take into the night, leaving the Wyvern open to attack. For every hour away (unless major precautions taken), I had that 1 passenger/crew would randomly get killed, excluding the 4 major NPCs from the next adventure. They're not immune; if the party is foolish they could all perish.
- When the Mother emitted her beacon call, I had it apply to all sentient creatures, including the party, so that they could tell where it came from but weren't affected. Rather, they were bombarded with hunger and hate. This has the purpose of (1) giving them an idea of where to go and (2) if at night a major time constraint as hundreds of the brood are heading back to the Mother.
- If on a timeline, consider having the treasure in the hold easily accessible/transported, such as already in a bag of holding, or in a single small chest, etc. The party has a big incentive to get out quickly later.
- The Mother could really be fought anywhere, adventure leaves it open, but I had her wait in the pit bottom, which I treated more like a living maw with her creepy brood. The Mother fight took place in knee deep water with a cacophony of voices from both her and the maw above.
- Shipwreck. This is a major railroad, didn't like that it seems the party's actions are largely meaningless. So here's my fix:
(1) The ship is going down in this storm thanks to the Sargasso damage, and even if not, the hurricane winds, but having spent several sessions with the NPCs (see earlier posts, created an entire crew and passengers, each with a little story), the party really cares about them.
(2) Using this forum, came up with nice descriptions of what it's like in a storm, and how a captain might try to weather it. The captain has a plan that might save them (drop anchor, try to turn bow into the wind), but when they hear the crash of water on the reef, it's near-certain death.
(3) If no one has sailing skills, I had a player who was sleeping with the captain make her rolls (a +6 vs. a DC 20, or whatever you see fit). She had 2 checks to steer the ship right. If a check failed, a random passenger (excluding the 4 NPCs from the next adventure) was lost in some way; failure by 10 lost 2. No matter how the checks turned, we move to the reef:
(4) 2 successes are required to use the wind and sails to get off the reef. For each failure, someone perishes as above. If the party has plausible ways to keep the mashers away (which in our case they did with a spell), anyone who went over might be saved. Below decks could be a hole in the ship, or battered so badly they died.
Once 2 successes are had (or the entire crew dies except the next module's NPCs), the ship goes off the reef. I had 3 more people perish as the ship begins to founder and everyone is on their own.
(5) If the PCs have a plausible way to save someone, they could focus on a particular person (one player had a Cloak of the Manta Ray). If that NPCs number came up, it could be rerolled, showing her attempts to save that person. One of our players was having a relationship with the ship's cook and was willing to risk much to save him.
By the end, we had about a dozen NPCs who survived, including 2 kids, 1 teenager, the major NPCs, and a handful of others. I used a printout of thumbnail faces (see earlier posts for ideas), and used red ink every time one perished. The party had gotten REALLY attached to the crew and had lost some earlier to monster attacks. Knowing they saved some, including a pregnant woman (who lost her husband to the hydra attack), the NPCs have become a cause.
SWW is one of the best chances for NPC interaction. I don't like the idea of just having them all killed off without a shot at saving them. If they can get the survivors to Farshore, it's all the more accomplishment. We'll see.
Our Session #9, Tamoachan to Renkrue
- It's a good idea to script out your passengers in a player handout, use some stock art from the net. One of my gamers thought the ship's cook was attractive and sought him out based on the pic; later Rowyn pulled her tricks and it made it all the more despicable. This adventure becomes one of the best with the NPCs. If you don't flesh them out, it gets boring (oh gee, another coastal fort...or oh gee, more dolphins swimming). I worked up a passenger sheet as well with a paragraph on major NPCs (e.g. a list of Captain Amella curses), and a line or two for everyone else. The adventure leaves it wide open and you should take advantage.
- Rowyn's shenanigans for the most part aren't lethal to characters of levels 5-6 except when she impersonates people. These have potential to be deadly. However, remember how crowded and tight a real ship is. There's little privacy.
- As written, the plot device of the storm stands to kill off many of the passengers, but consider how many are caught by earlier events. Hence the player handout. I've been marking a red "X" through those who died during encounters, such as swimming when the hydra attacked. It's hitting the party pretty hard when they see faces crossed off, and they learn the dwarf who was snatched by the ooze was going to open a quarry, a huge loss to the colony.
- I've worked up the backstories of the NPCs, using forum suggestions and other people's campaigns. For example, one family has a son who saved his younger sister from a fire in Sasserine. He's permanently scarred on one side but a hero. When the hydra attacked, that family was swimming, and the girl was killed (I random roll). Another passenger, Mr. Jask was swimming while his pregnant wife watched from the ship (the hydra got him too). 1-2 lines is all it takes.
- The point isn't to kill off passengers so much as to make the party care about these single random events. Killing the hydra was so much sweeter realizing not only did they save more of the crew, they saved future ships (after diving down).
- The Scarlet Brotherhood pirate attack is pretty pathetic. Ship to ship combat seems pretty "bleh" when your caster has a fireball.
- If you play this adventure right, your players are going to know the ship's NPCs, their quirks, who's pregnant, who's sleeping with whom, Captain Amella's favorite phrase and the weird look she gets in her eye when talking about her dead husband, and of course the cad Avner. I've slowed the hack n slash heavily because of this. Still, if your players need more of it, consider expanding the hydra into a cave system behind the waterfall, and so on.
- We stopped in Renkrue. Expanding the Avner "purchase" is golden. Details matter. Our party HATES him. Whether it's because he has his manservants get on all fours to make a human chair when the argument drags on, or because he is never wrong and has a retort (and a reminder this all falls through without him financially), you should have him fleshed out. But, keep him a tad human. Avner got somber when the hydra killed the kid. He's not a good guy, but he's not a monster either. This conflicts the party even worse because you hate the guy, but not enough to make him walk the plank. It's a good medium if you can achieve it.
- I borrowed some Avner retorts by reading other people's campaigns. When I need, I glance down at my "Avner" sheet for some one-liners, put downs, logic arguments, and so on. The guy's ego has no bounds, and he's never truly wrong. Lavinia is in a bind because her future is tied to his, for now.
Like the idea of the ship already being damaged before the storm. None of my players are sailors, so they're really at the mercy of the DM on this one, but still planning on playing it by ear to allow them a chance to save more than the core NPCs suggested by the next adventure.
Session 8, a short one and a player absent, to Tamoachan
- Avner makes the dull moments on the ship come alive. Although NPCs are fun, after awhile my players want to hack and slash something and explore a dungeon.
- My players loved a part where I had Tavey swear he spotted a ghost ship. This got the superstitious sailors riled up, and Avner attempted to put it all down by saying the boy is lying for attention and needed to be switched. He volunteered his body servant to do the switching.
- Later, during a calm (they happen, it's real sailing when you're dead in the water for a day or so), he blamed the lack of a switching as a sign of the god's displeasure, then got bored with the whole affair.
- Like other threads, if you've been playing Avner as the pompous cad he is, they should be entertaining ways of an untimely end. On the other hand, it should be stressed he's the financial backer and so on, a key cog in Lavinia's hope for a better future not just for herself but for every other colonist. Avner turning up dead would likely derail all the Meravanchi funding.
- I ran Tamoachan as written. In retrospect, I'd flesh out the dungeon a bit more. The inner chamber, sealed off (but now accessible due to an old earthquake, is something my players loved as a detail. Makes sense to have a "false" chamber and then an inner one where the good stuff is).
- As converted (5th), the finale battle followed by the will o wisp can be a really lethal combo if the party has had a hard time. We lost a party member (admittedly were a player short this week). Consider Urol calling upon his one favor in life to seek out the Druid for this area and the possibility of a reincarnation (I played the druid as more of a spirit of nature that appeared, took what it wanted in value for the spell, and created a ring of trees, urging a humanoid body to come forth from a tree).
- Alternately, the party could use one of Urol's salves to bring a petrified adventurer back if you need to replace someone.
- Since players are at sea so long, consider pulling a side dungeon that fits the theme to trek through. Add some ancient traps, some puzzles. Tamoachan seemed a little too short, and the solving of the only real trap too easy. Pilfering any small dungeon from an old adventure would work. Just keep the ruined city chamber and the access to the inner chamber.
- Finally, there's great flavor text about the Olman but the DC checks are really high. I'd generate a way to introduce this into the game. Maybe someone on the ship could explain later or Urol knows.
After a holiday hiatus, we resumed with Session 7, sailing to the Isle of Dread.
- Getting the Sea Wyvern is a pretty forced plot device. I told my players afterwards the story was wide open about how they got a ship: deception, theft, calling in favors, taking a loan, etc. But when you have a handout of the Sea Wyvern... in retrospect I'd skip the part where the party has to get a boat and a crew and just tell them Lavinia has lined things up.
- We had a roleplay about gaining the salvage rights, players used their respective factions to get some ideas of who to talk to.
- Avner rocks. By now he's been foreshadowed since Module 1 as an ass. Now he's got Lavinia in a bind. Not only is his family funding the lion's share of the journey, but I had him gain "courting" rights to her (though he mentioned at the 1st dinner if her fortunes didn't work out, she'd be below his station of the most eligible bachelor in town).
- The party didn't want to deal with Avner, and Lavinia had booked the ship tight on colonists. So I had him pay off everyone in the bunk room to sleep in the galley. Problem was there wasn't enough space. Per the law of the sea, "a deal is a deal." Creative solutions needed.
- Per some other posts here, created a visual table of the crew for the party with pics for the major NPCs (there's a Baldur's Gate II site of character portraits which are great for this). Because there's open space, you should create some interesting NPCs to fill up the crew. Not everyone needs to have an amazing story, but all colonists should have a one-liner about why they're headed to Farshore.
- Same with the Blue Nixie, in case the party interacts (which they might to investigate mystery sabotage).
- Created singing songs (just went to a medieval sailor website and modified for the fantasy setting). Made handouts for the group and after some prodding got them to sing along. The more ribald the better. In the old days, singing was essential to keep everyone in rhythm and it helped pass the time.
- Shipwrecks are a cliché. One player asked beforehand if he should bother buying plate mail. I'm thinking of working a method where the party's actions during the big storm affects how many are saved. A work in progress.
- You should find some sites about medieval sailing, superstitions, and incorporate these in. Find some nautical lore (e.g. the log to measure speed), then toss this in as background flavor.
- Create a timeline. Don't hold up the game by randomly rolling or flipping through events. It's a 90-day journey, so many days will be nothing unless the PCs want to interact with the passengers or crew. This way you can track major stopping points, events, etc.
- I didn't bother with getting lost. If the party isn't sailing the ship, seems pointless to tell them the captain got them lost. What are they going to do?
- Shore leave is great. Work up some planned NPC interactions.
- The day to day of ship travel is boring. The players will feel like they're sitting waiting for the next encounter to happen. Can't be avoided. A trip on a ship is supposed to be dull. So mix in singing, Avner shenanigans, and so forth to liven up the spots in between major encounters.
- The author suggests changing Father Conrad's religion if a party member shares the same. I say make it the same (by coincidence ours was), and have the guy memorize a few lines of dogma. Makes him a bit more interesting as a fraud.
- We stopped at the floating ooze battle. A nasty one by 5E standards. Players wondered if any of the crew would be helping out. Only one was skilled in ranged weapons (Skald), so made sense he'd stay back and help. You may want to play up that many in the crew are skilled in small arms to repel boarders but things like sea monsters and giant oozes are beyond their skill set.
- Did I mention Avner? You should be ready with many, many smart-ass comments on his part. For example, at the first dinner had him give Lavinia a locket (both sides of himself) so she can be close to his heart, and he warned her to keep it safe as peasants tend to have sticky hands and loose morals.
- Be ready if the party goes to the Captain of their ship or Admiral Lavinia to resolve issues. As a rule, a Captain's word at sea is law, and it'd be almost sacrilege to violate this. There needs to be some reason the party would be forced to make calls. For example, when Avner bought out the passengers so he could have more space, she told the party to figure it out and the above "a deal is a deal."
- Played up Lavinia's desire to weapon train and Tavey's hero worship. Unexpectedly, one of our characters has struck up a relationship with the handsome cook. The voyage is all about these NPCs. Because experienced players smell a cliché a mile away, it's a decent move to give more of them a chance to survive the storm. It'll make the trek through the Isle of Dread even that more interesting.
Luna eladrin wrote:
Oh man, nice. Keeping that one in the back pocket. At the very least, he'll probably feel entitled to her virtue.
After a prolonged break due to real life, we're back in action.
Session #6 (Bullywugs in Sasserine)
- If it weren't for the urgency, the first two flavor encounters would be fun.
- My players didn't take a stilt-walker alive, so no conspiracy was unveiled. Loss of a political aspect to the campaign, but if you want to preserve, possible the guard or some other entity draws a connection between the Kellani family. Or, if you're angling this route, you can plant a clue on one of them (though a good assassin doesn't carry clues).
- This session was primarily a hack n slash fest, letting the party flex some muscle against lowly bullywugs. After the life and death struggle in Kraken's Cove, a nice change of pace for players, especially the melee ones.
- There's a strong temptation to loot Lavinia's house. The party rescued her first and she stated how to find her family's hidden armory. While she's probably not keen on them looting what little she has, this can be some reward besides bullywug spears. (3rd/Pathfinder balances this part with loot from the bad guys, but if you're in 5th, you'll want to consider something different as it's quite a bit different loot system. I put in some magical boots along with a silvered weapon and healing potions in the armory).
- Had the bullywugs break Liamae's fingers so she couldn't cast cantrips. If your party is pretty beat up by this point, consider whether she can aid them with a spell. Mine had a pack of 3 mastiffs tailing along (they were heartbroken when two died, and just as miffed the poor dogs were kenneled instead of running around the manor).
- Reading ahead is key. Looking back, I would have had the 3 dogs greeting the party at the door, and would have taken a bigger tour of the home when the party visited in the 1st adventure.
- They took the loss of Kora pretty hard. No more blueberry scones, or altering dresses. Next session I'm holding her funeral and likely Lavinia will ask the party if they have anything to say about her loyal seneschal.
- Our party didn't react quickly enough to save Lavinia from being sliced, but I had her go "down and dying," twisting aside at the last second. With the party there, the bad guy didn't have time to check his handiwork. As a major NPC, she's the crux of the campaign path. Not sure what Savage Tide would look like without her. Having been a DM for a long time, don't like "essential" NPCs. They seem death proof. In this case, just make it all plausible.
- Consider some alternative angle to her presence and adventure hooks if for some reason she can't be saved.
PC: Grym, level 1/2 sorcerer/warlock
It was a bold move, but the party was really beat up and not full strength, out of spells and low on hit points. They didn't stand a chance. Harliss gutted Grym (the instigator of the attack) and left the others when one player, who refused to attack, explained their connection and concern with Lavinia.
Our Session #5 (Kraken's Cove):
- Not sure if it was my conversion of savage creatures, but they're really tough and nasty. As a result, a party might need to rest often.
- If they need to rest, you should have a timeline of what happens inside the caves with any survivors. What happens if the party takes 2 days or never goes to the back?
- One impetus is the knowledge that if even one of these creatures makes it to civilization, you're looking at epidemic. Refer to the movies 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later.
- Harliss' speech refers to "a day ago" but my party took 2 in reaching her due to having to rest after some nasty fights.
- In 5th, magic weapons don't come so easily. The damage resistance is very frustrating on savage creatures if no one has a magic weapon. However, they found a way, and there are going to be times when one character class shines and others don't as much. It might suck to be a fighter-type at this stage.
- Also be ready if the party attacks Harliss. It's not a fair fight - she's really strong. My party attacked her when she said she was wiping out the Vanderboren family (one player refused the fight, so some dissent in the ranks). If the party had been full strength, they might have taken her. But they weren't, and she took down 3, leaving the one who refused. She told her to pick one or all 3 died (she picked the instigator).
- Since they dissolve in acid sprays, consider what effect this has on equipment. If you really like the idea of finding Brissa and the locket, then maybe it fell off in the cave instead of still being worn, or having Brissa wander around with it, calling for her love.
PC: Thorin, lvl 2 dwarven cleric of Torm
A crocodile took a bite out of the cleric and dragged his body out to deep water. Although the party's fighter managed to swim out and slay the beast, Thorin expired before anyone could aid him.
Fortunately for Thorin, his recent donations to the orphanage in the Sunrise District had gotten the attention of the Lightbringer's priests, who agreed to perform a raise dead (5th edition rules, they're cheaper, and as an RP factor it's a major undertaking to convince any religion to perform it).
After a long break, we are back in action near the end of Module #1 and beginning of Bullywug's Gambit.
- Lotus Guild is really awkward to run if you're not thinking ahead of what the guild might do if the party takes a rest. My group entered around 10pm (prime activity aboveground) and rested till around 7am (time to rest for many). Stood to reason only a handful of folk would dare to disturb Rowyn. As above, be flexible.
- The crocodile trap is great but lethal, killed our cleric. I initially had the room flooding in 2 rounds. But that's nasty, so I ran it gaining 2' per round until 8' deep. A crocodile + snipers for anyone treading water? Consider removing snipers if the party kills enough of the guild. But if they jump in from the well, that's asking for trouble.
- The torturer is an interesting RP encounter. I ran the guy as somewhat deranged and a racist. He is used to playing psychological games with his victims and gambled by playing one with the party (getting an alert when they killed Cruncher). But, rather than play the role out, he couldn't help his anti-demihuman ways and tried to off the party's dwarf prematurely.
- Be ready if the group wants to involve the city guard in cleaning out the guild and exposing the areas that may be bribed. Either immerse in it or gloss over. I glossed over at the epilogue party (wherein Avner brought Lavinia a dress to wear, citing she's noble, he's noble, why not...her refusal...and then our female player wearing the gown with Kora's skilled adjustments...wherein a drunk Avner grabbed her arse thinking she was Lavinia...wherein Avner is a great NPC. Have fun early with him, don't wait for the 3rd module).
- I play with my imaginary moustache when RPing Avner. If I'd been very creative, I would have bought a fake moustache.
- Had the player who looked at Vanthus's letters to Rowyn read them aloud to the group. Much more interesting that way.
- It's going to feel like a railroad, but the campaign provides that there's time to go on a side quest and so on if you want. However, it's meant to be linked. You're going to Kraken's Cove if you want to see how this plays out. My players were ready to roll.
- Introduced Captain Amella (and her foul mouth earlier) as a captain Lavinia's family used in the past for business. She doesn't own her own ship but is competent enough. Keep reinforcing that Lavinia isn't rich and connected like her parents. She's got a name and what's left of her family wealth. She can't afford the best.
- Had Amella give a "landlubber" speech before anyone sets sail. Even on a little cog, she'll give the speech. Recommend scripting one, complete with lots of cursing or whatever gives her personality.
- Amella won't try her luck at coral reefs. Ask anyone, that's suicide without knowing the exact lay of the water, which no one has. That's why she sets them on a beach a mile north.
- The Savage creatures have the party freaked. Converted to 5th edition, they're really nasty. Play up how relentless they are, the true savage nature. Monkeys attacking armored men?
- As noted in another post, you need to change some of the flavor text. Savage Creatures don't leave corpses. An "oops" moment if you don't.
3 sessions in and Vanthus may be one of the most hated villains in any of my campaigns. It's not because he's a high level, impossible villain who taunts them before escaping until they're strong enough to face him. So much better. He's the complete arse, totally despicable yet still somehow loved by his sister.
Per Potsticker, as much as I've wanted to build up Sasserine, have resisted (e.g. haven't tossed in side quests). Finding a focused story line is what the players are interested in currently. They don't want distractions to run an errand to recover elder centaur blood. They want to kick Vanthus from the Azure to Sunrise district. They want Lavinia back on her feet. After Rowyn called them "Lavinia's flunkies," well, it didn't endear her to the party...
Session 3, Lotus Guild mostly.
So how do you break it to a young woman who has just lost her parents and inherited an estate with a single Halfling crone as her greatest ally that her only sibling is a murderer and thief? Great RP opportunities.
- The Lotus Guild ambush wasn't needed. My players immediately went to the Taxidermist Hall and broke in at night. There's a ton of opportunities here. One player remembered Penkus's note of being under the guild and checked out the well. If it hadn't been daytime, he might have jumped in. Know your map if players take an inventive way in.
- You may wish for notes to distinguish the guild's level of activity at day or night, make it live and breathe a bit more. I figured late evening was a period when many of the guild are above ground. Same with Rowyn. Does she always happen to be in her room waiting for PCs to break in? Figured the late night was a chance to read a book, then a bath. The party caught her in the middle of reading a tawdry erotica novel, though she was alerted to their presence.
- Enlarging Rowyn's lounge, a much appreciated idea. Doubled the dimensions, left the bedroom the same.
- The game system may make this difference, but adding 2 rogues in secret chambers (complete with peepholes, chair) helped make the battle last a bit. Made it a lot tougher.
- Made the secret door to the treasure room radiate a slightly different temperature. Like the 5E idea of a bit more inventive search for secret things than simply a die roll.
- Treasure room traps, at least as I converted them, can be very dangerous, especially if the group goes straight for the loot rather than take a breather. No rogue in the group nor anyone proficient in thieves' tools, so disabling traps a bit problematic as was getting the door open. Fortunately, Rowyn's bed had a massive headboard. Made a serviceable ram.
- Decisions decisions on whether Rowyn would circle back and rally her guild behind her. Be prepared. As scripted, she likely won't given the carnage it takes to reach her.
- I hijacked a hand-drawn map of the guild someone prepared from a thread here from one of the rogues if they surrendered. GREAT IDEA! Incomplete and a great prop.
- If you've modified your campaign for a more Sasserine-heavy game, consider creating a Sasserine map with pins to demonstrate Rowyn's strategy room. Party was intrigued but I'm not modified too heavily.
- Same with the chalkboard with ships. Consider a handout. Maybe the party can affect some of the Lotus Guild's activities.
- Players got a great kick out of having their names on the board. True to player fashion, they erased much of it and wrote "Vanthus sucks!" They really don't like this guy ever since he tried to trap them in with ravenous zombies...
- If they trash Rowyn's area, they may not have incentive to search the rest of the area except to find Vanthus. Important you've made them hate him by now.
Betting on the Jade Ravens playing a much more prominent role in the Sea Wyvern, lots of RP opportunities, especially if a romance begins and Tolin makes a move on Lavinia. Also chances to talk about Vanthus with her.
Borrowed V's attack on the Fort. While it doesn't fit with the overall plan, maybe it was an experiment or a test, isolated, for when the big event happens.
Will check out the Darkwind page, thanks!
The DM in me wants to sketch up a paragraph for every inn and brothel in the city and flesh out NPCs, political landscape. Not what Savage Tide was designed for, but great workup.
- Searching the city, great chance for some role play. Where does a guy like Vanthus go.... could have easily left out Lavinia's clue other than reducing it to some "gutter trash artist girlfriend" or the like.
- DM needs a backup in case the party doesn't take Shefton (modified to nickname "Chef," took away his right hand, he claims lost in a shark attack while serving on a ship that later sank, also a junkie) up on his offer. My party did, but if they don't....
- They hate Vanthus. Shopowner who revealed his purchase of a boat referred to him as the "little prick" with the "smuggler jerk." Business is business, however, and coin talks. I've been using "V's Campaign Log" for inspiration. He learned poison in my campaign when his parents forced him to Farshore, and now he's using it. Pricked Chef and tossed his body down the shaft, then a taunt and some coins for the ferryman. Party wants revenge. He uses silver pins topped with opals. Guess what was used to kill the harbormaster... (one in each eye, body bloated by poison).
- This is a problem. Revenge on Vanthus has to wait several levels. It'll likely be job #1 come module #3 (sea voyage), but no leads will exist. Hard to let a bad guy go, not usual D&D fare. Not sure what they'll do.
- 5E zombies are nasty for low-level parties. They just won't die. This was a great intro to undead and has given a healthy respect to undead. The oversized maws and fanged teeth of the rotted corpses, just a great addition of flavor text. Monsters have to be more than just stats.
- Penkus's note. Had a player read it aloud. Masterful, full of bile. Provided a printout of the dragon lotus tattoo. Visuals have a use. Every time we speak with Lavinia, her graphic comes out. Others have suggested a "theme song," might add if I get my mobile speaker purchased to sync with my phone.
- 5E has no wealth by level. As a result, my Tormite cleric sought out an orphanage and donated half his wealth (he could have bought better gear, healing potions, so on). The headmistress didn't even know what the faith of Torm was about. Interesting dynamic...
- Again little modification needed from the original. Party reached 2nd level. Using milestones, the escape from Parrot Island is the spot. On the side, Vanthus is cruel. Just in case the party escaped, he punched holes in their rowboat. More jerk behavior. A "mending" spell did the trick, but no one was amused. After all, they had rented the boat and wanted their deposit back.
Drawing from what others have done and my own touch, laying out what seems to be working and not working as far as style and personal touches for future DMs. As we're just getting started (using 5E rules if it matters), a work in progress.
A Matter of Honor
- Largely running as-is, with a prologue that I call Session 0 to allow players to create a story to unify them without any dice rolling. Ours dealt with surviving the events of Kyuss that gave rise to the Wormfall festival. During that event, they saved Vanthus, who was a jerk making inappropriate comments about paying them with his sister since he thought they were "mercs."
- Lavinia, using the princess from Braveheart, thick French accent. Having her cover up her loss of wealth, a fancy dinner to start but then when the party visits next, Kora is making stew. It's so important to get the party to like her, to play her not as a damsel in distress but a person whose life has imploded as her parents have recently died, her brother struck her, and now she's head of a declining household. Played up her memories of Vanthus (a laugh describing the good old days of the elixir of love and then a somber description of him hitting her).
- Playing Kora as the matron (she knows one PC already), concerned about their weight and health. The sole servant / messenger / seneschal, she's also a great cook who likes to have some blueberry scones handy for her favorite visitors.
- Changed Soller Vark to being in the act of getting it on (we're all adults and things like this are a lot more interesting than monsters just waiting in a room to be killed) as the party navigated a boat rented from a jilted noble whose girlfriend never showed up. Since it was his stepdaddy's boat, he didn't care. Later, the party lamented they didn't keep his fishing poles on board to make it look more authentic as they snuck up on the Blue Nixie.
- Burning monkeys curling up into little balls as they died really, really got the party fired up and angry at the smugglers on the Blue Nixie.
- The vault below Teraknian Castle has a unique puzzle lock; DMs should carefully read it to understand the sequence. If your PCs are really having a difficult time, maybe allow them to hear a "click" if they've gotten a tumbler in sequence.
- Sasserine is such a troublesome setting. Love making it come alive, but 90% of the path takes place somewhere else. Wouldn't overplay the city.
- Factions (affiliations) didn't grab everyone's attention as I thought they might. Different strokes for different folks.
We will pick up after clearing the vault. The party talked Lavinia into taking her last chest of coin in case Vanthus (whom they suspect) comes back to clean her out. Party is invested in her cause, and since she's a big part of the story line, this is important.
I'm trying to find ways to make them loath Vanthus using pre-campaign roleplay. Perhaps they won't loath him until his actions become more apparent, but the setup is important. We begin this next Sunday.
As my group comes into shape, the 5th edition "backgrounds" become more useful. One player chose a background where he sees visions of a terrible calamity befalling the world. So appropriate...
In two weeks we're beginning our foray into the Savage Tide adventure path, using 5E rules (though I'm more concerned about the story than the rule set). I'm big on prologues and feel the setup (you've done something to gain fame in town, so Lavinia seeks you out) is too generic for my purposes. I like to use pure roleplay for each campaign start (e.g. in Kingmaker, it was "you received a charter to scout the Stolen Lands, so how did it happen?" We started at a wedding 6 months prior and everyone invented why they were there until we had intervened in an politically motivated assassination attempt).
Has anyone worked something like this for ST?
Having read the whole thing and scoured the forums, I'm very aware having the party like Lavinia is probably key. Tips or special encounters to make this happen?
I've read, but obviously not played, that after the battle of Farshore, the quality of the adventures (routine dungeon crawls) wanes. True? If so, fixes? The story seems strong.
I'm always on the lookout for home-brewed handouts, enhancements, etc., if you have a recommended resource. I've taken a lot of inspiration from Vermilleo's campaign journal and google site, though unfortunately his group fell apart.
Pathfinder is great, but system fatigue begins weighing me down after a certain point. The wheels still seem to fall off at or just after 12th level, things are too overly codified for my tastes, I feel like there's too much emphasis on min/maxing to "play it the right way", etc.
This is why I'll be giving D&D another chance. I hoping, having taken a lesson from Paizo, that they'll listen to their gamers, and I'm intrigued by the fixes, which I hope to explore more of at GenCon. Rules bloat, the Christmas tree effect, and the insane amount of modifiers deter me in PF, and now that we're at high-level play, there isn't a session that goes by where someone gets lost in the numbers or an obscure rule gets quoted. It's taking away from a greater focus on Role-Play.
It appears the two systems won't be so incompatible that I can't continue to use the APs, which is where I feel PF shines.
Can't argue, some of my picks mirror the rest. The first 3 will take you from levels 1-3, and all can stand alone if you want to keep going without playing more of the same.
* Sunless Citadel (minor conversions, Meepo is memorable, great dynamics for a dungeon with multiple factions in play)
The last is a 1 shot adventure, 1st level.
* Mad God's Key (Dungeon Magazine #114, 3rd edition, minor conversion, great chase scene and storyline, detective work to find out who stole a key that can open any lock)
1. How to make magic interesting. House rule (see suggestions forum) to incorporate "plus" items into leveling. The current Pathfinder system does not bode well for giving "plus" items a story. No matter how interesting you make that +2 sword's background, it's gone the minute a +3 weapon comes along. That +2 Belt of Strength was worn by the famous General Armageddon when he slew the Pit Fiend Malicious, thus saving the world from a demon war? That's great, but I'm pawning it off so I can buy a +4 Belt. Don't bother with a story, I'm moving to +6 as soon as I can.
2. The Magic Shoppe? An eternal question on these forums. Since the game is pretty much fashioned mechanically on the idea players will get "plus" items and be more likely to die if they don't, you can't restrict too much on those. Just have the players role-play their search for items, whether by barter, trade, or other ways. If you don't approve of what they want, don't let it into the campaign.
I converted only the tomb itself in conjunction with the 3rd edition free conversion.
What I did:
* Kept it as close to 1st edition as possible
* Allowed players to use a "backup" character instead of their primary when entering with the understanding the "final loot" would go to the player regardless of whether a backup survived it or not
* Used 3.5 update for the pit traps and some other mechanical traps. For an optimized character, the pits pose no threat other than to prime them to overlook a certain pit...
* Used 3.5 for the gargoyle. It's supposed to punish a party that loads up on rogues; in retrospect I would've made it a construct.
* Changed the "dart" rooms to one that fired magic missiles instead, based on sight. Clever parties found a way around it.
* Kept many of the lethal traps that were discoverable by trial and error only. The big draw to this dungeon was players had to cleverly think their way through many things and not "roll" their way through. And sometimes, a wrong decision gets one killed.
* Provided an early hint from prior adventurers that they had found the means to destroy the ultimate evil and at great sacrifice had gotten the weapons there. Presumably, they failed. This is a hint as to the nature of the teleporters and gives a big hint to the finale battle.
* Added swords in the dungeon because not every party carries them for a certain lock.
* Kept the finale as a "trap" rather than a creature. Players expect a monster that fits the traditional mold, and the finale is more like a trap that requires some extremely special figuring out. I gave it a death attack with a DC 26 Fort save rather than no save but otherwise kept it the same. I modified that if it failed an attempt, it would try again next round. If it succeeded, it would rest as per the original. At 40+ damage (out of 50), I had it attempt every round.
* Added a 1-wish ring at the end for parties to have a chance at restoring lost characters. If this is a 1-shot, there's not much point in counting up the loot at the end.
What worked/didn't work:
- Still lethal, so the backups definitely worked
- With a skill monkey in the group, any trap that converted per 3.5 is a pushover, automatic find and disarm. This isn't a bad thing but the party enjoyed more the dynamic traps that they had to figure out.
- I know players sometimes read ahead or have heard about certain adventures. They were expecting a demi-lich, CR 14 creature. I gave them the original trap. I trust player creativity.
- Didn't use much of the 3.5 monsters/loot added from Libris Mortis. Seemed more like an advertisement for the supplement and detracted from the dungeon by adding needless multiple combats. Unless you've added a plot device, combat is largely pointless because players can rest as long as they need. The gargoyle served a purpose because it nicely sets up apprehension at the 2nd gargoyle.
- There's no way players figure out (legitimately) to use certain items to fight the finale unless you foreshadow it somewhere. If you're going demi-lich or something of the like, not a big deal.
Anyhow, my conclusion is you can run the original tomb much like the original with very little conversion needed, and I would discourage allowing everything to be solved with a die roll alone. But if you're staying close to the original, accept that whatever characters go in, several will die.
As noted by Ryric, per the rules on energy drain and level loss, only "permanent negative levels remain after a dead creature is restored to life." If it were intended that temporary negative levels also remain, it would have been stated. The inclusion of the word "permanent" would be rendered meaningless if it meant all types of negative levels. (Plus it would be silly if a character would be killed off automatically with a raise dead).
The next question raised here is whether dying by level drain is considered a "death effect" so as to require a Resurrection instead. The Pathfinder FAQ states "Energy drain is not a death effect."
With a 9th level cleric, you'd best be ready to explain why they don't use Commune to figure out whodunnit. I'd drop the cleric to 8th. Beyond that, augury and divination really aren't useful in a murder mystery to identify a wrongdoer. Plus, if the murder were uniquely arranged (a newly built holy statute of CG deity falls on LG victim, killing him), there may not be an obvious suspect other than examination reveals the statute was tampered with so that someone could easily push it. Other questions might be why the LG priest was in front of the statue in the first place.
Players could be commissioned as an independent investigative group, especially if they've achieved some degree of fame locally. In medieval settings the community usually decides who's guilty right away; you may want a suspect picked out as the "obvious choice." As a twist, players are used to this device (the first guy is always innocent), and you may shake things up by having him be guilty, just not how everything thinks. (e.g. He had an alibi but summoned something to do the dirty work for him using the cult's book that lies belowground in a set of tunnels that run below the town's river).
Consider also a short side adventure built in where a lead takes them to something unrelated to the murder, such as the strange tree that gives the town its namesake and a dryad that needs a favor, repayable with a spell or small gift, or a secret cache left over by the famed bandit king a century ago that was rumored buried in these parts. This keeps things realistic (not every action they take someone connects back to the murder).
Need help on a ruling. Would the Talisman of Ultimate Evil work on a Paladin who took the archetype "warrior of the holy light" which sacrifices spellcasting for enhanced uses of lay on hands? For reference the Talisman instantly kills a "good divine spellcaster." The user saw his holy symbol and made an educated guess.
I've made a preliminary ruling of "yes" because the Paladin still has other divine spellcasting abilities such as detect evil and divine bond. However, the archetype notes the paladin has no caster levels, gains no spellcasting abilities, and cannot use spell-trigger items. Note that I've already checked and Paladin is listed as a "spellcasting" class.
Thoughts? Given there's a PC on the line, insight appreciated.