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WatersLethe wrote:
Narxiso wrote:
I don't see what the problem with current shields are.

Flavor it however you want, what it comes down to in actual play at actual tables is:

GM: "Okay, the troll hits you for 20 damage."
Player: "If I block now I could stay standing, but my brand new awesome shield I just bought will be gone forever."
Party: "Don't bother, we'll just heal you back up.".

Yes, once healing and resurrection become cheap resources, while magic gear remains a harder resource to replace, this is the result. Always and not just for shields. It’s so much ingrained in D&D that Knights of the Dinner Table had a name and a slogan for it:

"The revolving door of death: death is transitory but treasure is forever“

As for this not simulating fiction: depends. Fictional characters are willing to break their one valuable shield in the BBEG fight (Eowyn, shield maiden of Rohan), and are willing to break cheaper shields when they are dispensable as in this battle:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=lM5FTQjMYpg

By the way, if you look at the art for Eric Mona‘s Viking barbarian in the last AP volume to 1E, you see that it’s modeled on that fighter in that very scene. Having your shield broken at the right time seems a lot more nuanced than the binary discussion you sometimes see in roleplaying context (where KodDT sums up the prevailing mentality).

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No offense to anyone involved, but this product contains some of the laziest work I've seen in a long time in RPG products.

Remember when Pegasus Spiele's Call of Cthulhu books lifted entire texts on certain real-world locales or historic personalities from Wikipedia? One "Find and Replace" later, and those texts could be paraded as RPG-specific content in pricy hardcovers.

Well, say hello, because we've reached that rock-bottom in Pathfinder 2. Case in point, see page 11. The author copy-pasted an existing services agreements template, word by word, from here: https://www.lexisnexis.com/terms/offline/professional-services-agreement.as px And then simply inserted "infernal party" and "mortal party". See e.g. the severance clause.

Look, if that's how you generate content, you may as well write a 3-line sentence in a book, direct us to the template, and instruct us to do "Find+Replace" in Word. Any GM can do that. Takes me 3 minutes.

But don't fill entire pages in your books with content that I can self-generate in a sec., and then charge premium hardcover dollars on things that didn't take any effort to write-up. I mean geez, at least you'd think diabolic contracts on Golarion have at least SOME differences to real-world professional services contracts of the variety that Paizo gives its freelancers.

Sorry, I'm a long time fan but I find this is not the conduct of a company I've long admired for its creative content.

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Jon Yamato 705 wrote:
We've done "PCs as circus troupe" twice before, so the idea wasn't novel; but it's a good, flavorful idea. However, we felt that the AP sets it up and then mostly abandons it after episode 3. It's hard to avoid this in a 1-20 advancement scenario, but I felt that the AP would run a big risk of the player going "I know I have to deal with the xulgath plot but I don't want to; doing so will force me to abandon the circus plot which I'm more invested in." (Like the problem many people had with Second Darkness: running the inn is more fun than going on with the main plot.)

Like you, I saw Second Darkness written all over this. What you describe is the AP's central structural weakness.

In AP 1, the line editor says they want to have two strands running in parallel so that groups could focus on either circus or xulgaths and have a good time either way. Then they write the entire second half of the AP in a way that writes the circus so much out of the equation that you're not only strapped to the xulgath strand, but have zero incentive to concomitantly follow the circus strand.

Not only was this perfectly foreseeable, it's also easy to mitigate. Just intertwine the incentives for the two strands such that achievements the PCs unlock in one strand unlock achievement caps in the other--and vice versa.

That's what I tried with the hedonism/theoria write-up (see GM thread for #5). As written, however, the AP seems to fall apart for groups who're not hell bent on the xulgath track.

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I think there's 2 ways to read OP, and they may cause different reactions.

One is empowering: "You can do at your game table what you want and stream it, but understand that this has consequences. As long as you are willing to take those consequences, you're fine to move on."

The other take is censorious: "If you elect to live-stream a certain kind of campaign (namely, AoEW+comedy) expect a well-earned backlash from people who're rightly outraged at your lack of taste and tact--don't do it."

There's now a separate debate in this thread as to whether the AoEW+comedy take would garner the results OP predicts. I have no idea why this should turn on % of beliefs in the real world at large.

The negative backlash OP predicts turns on what's true of an extremely small, non-sampled demographic: people following live-streams of Paizo podcasts and willing to comment on them publicly. Because we lack reliable info on how this niche demographics maps onto polled ones, all discussion of where public opinion stands is largely irrelevant. By engaging that discussion, you tacitly adhere to the verifiably false baseline assumption that the RPG community fairly represents all members of the larger demographics at equal proportion, allowing an isomorphic mapping between the two demographics. It's been a pet peeve on this forum for years that the RPG community doesn't adequately and fairly represent that larger demographic, so it's probably unwise to drag this back in via a backdoor premise.

OP's question is much simpler. Is it foreseeable that some actors among the stated niche demographic could voice backlash? Absolutely. The question is what you do with that information. That's where the empowering vs. censorious readings come in. I think it's a good question to raise, but I also hope Paizo's forums aren't moving towards censoring how other groups play, regardless of groups' choices to live-stream and thus publicize their home play.

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IcedMik wrote:

So, this is probably better to be put into the Book 1 thread, but since it refers a lot more to Windjammer's statements above, I figure it's easier to reference here.

In about 15 hours, I'm running the second half of Erran Tower, with the party just about to meet Balenni. I'm very inspired by the concept of theoria vs sadism as a core theme to this game, and I'd like to introduce it as early as possible.

My plan is to have Balenni - as a captured researcher - divulge her insights on humanity vs xulgaths as part of her ploy to get closer to the players and use her abilities. I'll try and force the G14 fight before they get to G13; once finished, she'll cry out to get the PCs to investigate asap. After they release her, she'll explain she was studying xulgath culture and got captured; if the PCs will help her escape, she'll tell them what she knows (this is a flimsy story, but as long as they let her talk a bit, I'm fine with them figuring her out. In fact, the end of it has her make a slip up before she tries to kiss someone).

I'd like to present my readaloud text that I'm going to paraphrase from, in the hopes that smarter people than I can check to make sure I'm using all the terminology correct. This is cobbled wholesale from Windjammer above and the Xulgath chapter of book 2.

Quote:
"Well, to understand the xulgaths, it might be best to compare them to humans. Humanity finds joy in observing spectacle and performance, they are drawn to festivals and theaters, not for gain or glory but simply the mutual delight of shared observation and entertainment. It might be the core of human ethos, something some philosophers call theoria. Of course, other ancestries like yourselves enjoy theoria as much as humans, but humanity is characterized by mortality and their short lives. Death is a constant companion, and the only way to counter death is to smile back. At its strongest, theoria could even be considered a force, a sort of shared energy permeating human civilization, one that Aroden used to
...

Thank you and sorry for my late reply, I just saw this. This is a great way to introduce the theme, and I'll totally use your introduction for my own campaign. Than you!

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Terevalis Unctio of House Mysti wrote:
It looks their tardiness in correspondance and fixing issues is going to impact their bottom line.

With the greatest of respect, but I think you may be mistaking cause for effect here. To me it looks like the kind of conduct I've seen before - esp. on Kickstarter - when a company is beginning to be strapped for cash flow.

To illustrate, let me share my direct experience with Paizo's customer service in late May. I placed several orders with adjustments within a couple of days and asked CS to make adjustments to shipping. They did, within a short time, sometimes answering my emails within a day, sometimes within hours, in one incident within the hour. That was on May 22 or thereabout - way beyond the official cut-off date for CS responsiveness even now (early July). The consolidated shipment went out. One June 5, I sent them a follow-up to thank them and inquire about damaged product. Radio silence since.

The thing I didn't like about the experience is that, when I offered to give more money (for more product, of course), they were responsive in the extreme - 40 minutes even. But when I ask them to resolve an issue that didn't net them extra $, they ghost me for 5 weeks and going.

I'm sure a lot more is going on than is visible to the customer. From the outside it's hard to fight off the impression that this conduct matches that of a company strapped for cashflow. Now, I hope to be wrong on this one, because for one, I want to see this company thrive and go forward, and I want it to regain customer confidence. In the meantime, however, not responding to 1000+ customer inquiries is not only a bad look but dis-incentivizes follow-up purchases, thus directly contributing to shortages in cashflow to staff customer service. Hope Paizo manages to solve this situation soon, and only wish them the best in doing so.

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Erik Mona wrote:

Incidentally, one other thing I wanted to come back to is the "Sherlock Holmes" issue. It's probably more accurate to say that the city watch aspect of the campaign theme was primarily inspired by two other sources:

The old TSR novel "Nightwatch," by Robin Wayne Bailey

and

The graphic novel "From Hell," by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell.

The former is such a niche reference there seemed little point in referencing it in the original blog post, and the latter was simplified into "Sherlock Holmeses," which was probably one simplification too many.

Thank you, that's awesome! While I haven't read Moore's book I've seen its (loose) movie-adaptation with Johnny Deep, the late Ian Holm, and Hagrid-actor Robbie Coltrane many, many times. Such a great movie, and what a great reference. This alters the degree to which I thought this AP would even involve standard police work, given how infrequent to non-existent Depp's use of the badge is in that film.

The cover art to your AP's inaugural issue seemed to be a great homage to the Bow Street Runners- another British 19th century reference, albeit not exactly co-temporaneous to Moore's London.

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Jester David wrote:

"Race" is the debunked 17th century idea that humans belong to five distinct "racial groups" (aka subspecies) and was BS science used to justify why certain people were inferior and could be used as slaves.

Race is imaginary and does not exist. It is a societal construct and there is no significant biological difference between different types of humans.

Ancestry and DNA testing tracks ethnicity. Which is different as it's tracing the origin of your ancestors through very, very minor differences in DNA. Countries and regions of origin.
Kinda.
Because there's a lot of bunk in those tests and they're not entirely reliable as people have been travelling and trading and intermarrying for most of human history.

Indeed, race is an incredibly fluid concept because, as a political and legal category, it's unfailingly defined by the dominant group in a given society.

A person who's 20% black qualifies as black in the US for employment etc. purposes, but is white in post-apartheid South Africa for the same reasons. Trevor Noah's granny had to protect him from the black kids in Soweto township. Why? Because to them he was a white person. Now that he's in the US, if he ever wanted to obtain another graduate degree, there's no doubt what box he'd tick on his application form--it certainly ain't "Caucasian."

My perhaps favorite historical example is the Pocahontas Exception. What sounds like a Disney joke was actually enshrined under that very moniker in American law at one point - to establish that Pocahontas and her heirs are white. Why? So that the "first family of Virginia" would be pure white too, and all those incredibly proud Virginians could go around for centuries claiming how superior they were on account of their whiteness.

It's really incredible the lengths to which people go to define inclusion in this or that race. And yet it all makes perfect sense if you answer two questions: who's in power, and what do they stand to gain from this fabrication?

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thejeff wrote:

]I think there's a difference between the "been-to's" you describe and what Raven Black was thinking. Going to study abroad and returning to fight for your home is one thing. Living abroad for extended times - even a generation or more as implied in my original post on Jade Regent, may be a different matter.

Seen more as people from abroad than returning locals

Fair enough! It's certainly not easy to make the distinction. Some people who go abroad to take a degree stay behind considerably longer than others (e.g., in the US, obtaining a work visa, then marrying etc.). But your point is well taken. Thank you.

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Trying to restore a secret heir to the throne in Ameiko, but Ameiko is more culturally Varisian than Minkaian. She’s three generations removed from Minkai, and culture is more than blood.

Another excellent point, though again I'd be careful to jump to conclusions based on the number of generations removed. I've met Jewish merchants in Amsterdam whose ancestors moved there centuries ago, and let me tell you, they cultivate their belongings more deeply than a great number of secular citizens of Israel. That's no knock on either of them, but a cautionary example of how 'number of generations removed' is no indicator here.

The in-game example you picked is a particularly poignant example. In Burnt Offerings, Paizo gave us two families who were split on that exact issue--that is, how members within the same nuclear family disagree on whether culture does, let alone should, run "deeper than blood" (to use your words). One is Ameiko's own family, as per the falling-out between father and son, and the other is Sheriff Hemlock's falling out with his brother. Hemlock adopted a Varisian name and left behind his native culture. A propos the former, the module says how the father and his "family are newcomers to Varisia, the survivors of an exiled family from Minkai sent over the crown of the world a half century ago for unknown crimes. Lonjiku was born in Magnimar and has never visited his motherland, but he carries memories of its wonders in the form of stories told to him by his now deceased parents." This is a powerful reminder that when people leave their country behind, their bond to their home culture occasionally actually deepens. The correlation of territory to culture is then inaccurate at the level of lived human experience.

Paizo's own modules display an inspiring diversity in how people respond to an inherited as well as an adopted culture; how such a choice is not binary (an either/or); how it's often not even principled but responsive to life's vagaries and vicissitudes; and how that decision can change many times over a person's lifetime.
In doing so, they set a wonderful inspiration for players to emulate. I agree with you that such emulation is often fraught with difficulty. But I'd rather see it attempted than not done at all, and hope Paizo's adventures remain inspiring source material along those lines.

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The Raven Black wrote:
I can assure you that locals do not relish being saved by expatriates coming back either. It still tells the tale of not being able to save themselves on their own.

Are you making this assertion based on history or personal principle?

The history of Africa's liberation is steeped in the history of Africans who went abroad, got a law degree, came back and kicked a$$. Chinua Achebe even had a term for them, the "been-to's" (as in, been to Oxford, been to Cambridge, etc.). There's nothing more satisfying than learning the oppressor's system from the inside and then dismantle its ugly configuration back home. Gandhi is another famous example. Called to the bar in London, then went to South Africa etc. You know the rest, you watched the movie or read the book.

So while I'm sure the oppressed locals would have preferred to rise up to the challenge without the been-to's, your allegation of how these people feel doesn't resonate with the people I spoke to who lived through this experience. (Was in South Africa in the 1990s.)

Without singling out your post, but in discussions like these, I'm always amazed by the claims that are asserted on behalf of an oppressed people. For one, oppressed people are not a homogenous mass, they are highly diverse in their experience, desires, and reactions to situations like the one you describe. For another, precisely because such people were oppressed for so long, we should strongly prefer to hear those people talk to their own experience, be it in our personal exchanges with them--especially if they lived through it last century--or from histories written by them. I'm not saying you do neither, but I would advise to steer free of categorical assertion.

YawarFiesta wrote:
Jester David wrote:
It's standard cultural appropriation rules. Other cultures are not the costumes of people from colonialist countries. (Read: majority cultures.)
Which cultures are majority? Which countries were colonial? Spain was colonized by the Moors and the Ottoman empire was pretty big in colonizing, the Quechuas and Aztecs were colonizers and let's not forget the Zulu empire. The whole world was playing Risk, or do you mean the ones who look similar to the ones who were winning when the industrial revolution card was draw[n]?

An excellent point and one that I'm sure will go unnoticed in this thread. It's a striking feature of humanity that the urge and ability to colonize others is hardly unique to the Indo-German tribes who ended up in Europe (incidentally, colonizing Europe).

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Now that the final volume has become available to non- and subscribers alike, what are your overall impressions of the AP?

Super curious to hear what you liked, what worked for you, what inspired you as a GM, and which parts you want(ed) to alter most!

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ThreeEyedSloth wrote:

I understand why the blog post was locked, but I'm extremely disappointed that it was before Erik could reply to the question that I and several others raised.

If staff had raised concerns about potentially problematic material, but it was not taken seriously or ignored, then what steps are Paizo leadership doing to keep it from happening again in the future?

This is an eminently reasonable ask, and I do agree that it comes from a position of concern rather than entitlement. While it's fair to ask for additional clarification, I'd also hope we can extend good faith to the company based on what's already in the blog post. Concretely, Eric Mona's blog post helped to put two things in perspective.

1. Staff objections to the AP were not over the material as such--presumably because little, if any, had been written yet. Rather, objections seemed to have been over the "theme" of the AP as such. Those objections could have been very broad and principled, and it's entirely reasonable for a publisher to say "We hear you and we'll work with those reservations in mind--we just don't see fit to the kill the AP out of the gate." I'd be more worried if it turns out the reservations were pinpointed, articulate, and the execution of the actual AP runs entirely counter to them. But we actually don't know, so we don't know how much was ignored at the time. Personally, I'd give Paizo the benefit of doubt on this one.

2. The blog post mentions several steps that Paizo have already implemented, such as working with "sensitivity readers." Last I checked, it was a complaint on this board that this doesn't happen, or not happen nearly enough. He also indicated that changes were made to the directions given at, and actions taken by, AP line editors. Thirdly, the whole notion of a revised Player's Guide and potential other additional material speaks clearly to changes that are being made.

Where you're right is to say: what changes are made to help such issues proactively, as opposed to fix them under an umbrella of damage control? That's a fair question. Given the huge resonance the AP's theme had this month even before, and certainly after, the blog post went live, I'm quite confident that Paizo will do all they can to never have to go through this again. Staff had just come out of PaizoCon being online--a huge endeavor that likely consumed tons of staff hours--, customer service is behind several hundreds of emails, and the company is totally under weather from multiple pressure points (not to mention the larger economic situation with Covid). Because it takes so much more effort to repair a situation retroactively--eating further into unscheduled staff time etc.--,, I'm 100% confident Paizo will implement a huge range of measures going forward. Given all the factors I've just mentioned, I'd support them to do this slowly and carefully, and not pressurize them into announcing ad-hoc measures asap. We're better off in the long run if they do this carefully.

My larger worry is to hear that Lisa Stevens is phasing out as CEO. I obviously trust her appointment of a successor, but I regret that her personal degree of involvement, oversight, and moral leadership is waning at a time when the company has faced an unexpected turning point.

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"Let me introduce you to your new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher .... me."

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I applaud the statement and am glad Paizo made it.

I'm also glad that there's re-thinking at the level of design to stop penalizing players who want to use subdued damage. When I voiced my desire to have this promoted in Extinction Curse, I got laughed at for forgetting that players incur a -2 penalty on to-hit rolls and how this factors into TPK risk etc. This certainly seems a good moment to reflect how game mechanics incentivize player behavior and how the game can be improved.

On the other hand, I must confess that the story-specific asides in Erik Mona's announcement left me confused. A poster on Enworld put the matter quite aptly...

Quote:

I guess that the problem with police forces is that they are deemed [inherently] violent... and that Paizo failed its intended goal (we conceived of the adventures as a pseudo-Victorian crime drama in which a party of Sherlock Holmeses would bring a cult of sinister murderers to justice). I am in no way a Sherlock Holmes expert, but I don't think they involved killing culprits.

If they feel they made a good adventure for LEO, there should be very few fight to the death, and the crux of the conflict would be to arrest and subdue violent criminals to allow the judicial process to run its course, with NO harm to innocent (not minimal collateral damage... it's the fun of urban adventure fight, where you have to neutralize the bad guy trying to create an undead tyrannosaurus without harming the group of schoolchildren visiting the museum).
The preemptive apology makes me think that the violent option was either the intended path or at least a path they think the player will take often enough for this to be a problem.

I too am confused by the notion that Sherlock Holmes would be an inspiration for this AP. Neither Holmes nor Watson ever bore badges, as far as I recall. Both abhor physical violence and exercise considerable self-restraint towards killing others (way too crude for Holmes). More critically, their exploits are happening against the backdrop of hapless detectives who DO wear badges, sc. LeStrad and company. If the point was to model Edgewatch on Holmes, I fail to see where the badges came in in the first place.

And I fully share the worry, voiced in this quote, that the AP as written assumes a great deal of violent PC behavior that now needs to be walked back on. In fairness, we have to see the printed product but I honestly feel a bit lukewarm to buy a printed product that I need to rewrite by a separate set of 'director's cut' PDFs.

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Ron Lundeen wrote:
I wanted to wind in a minor story of "who's in the right, here?" by playing up Aroden's theft of the aeon orbs from Vask. That's some morally gray area, for sure. But, no matter how that calculus comes down, the xulgaths in this AP definitely aren't in the right. And that's why the heroes fight them.

Thanks for chiming in to help us understand the motivations for how things got written up.

Yes, the idea that Aroden's taking of the orbs from Vask was wrongful ("theft") is highly intriguing.

Can you elaborate what you hoped the idea would contribute to the AP at the gaming table?
Concretely: Is it something the PCs should learn about - and if they learn about, do something about? Should it make it harder, easier, for the PCs to go about their actions? Should it help them understand what's happening and direct their next steps accordingly?
I'm asking because I find the idea intriguing but am a bit lost on how to best implement it in actual game-play.

(My own idea, so far, was to largely write the idea out of the AP... such that the orbs don't have a "rightful" owner to begin with (being older i.e. antedating both human and xulgath civilization) such that a "taking" wouldn't be wrongful or rightful either.)

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Riobux wrote:
Unfortunately, run as written, all xulgaths are demon worshippers and evil after Aroden ruined their home, which makes their revenge motivation kind of awkward in a Mitchell & Webb "...Are we the baddies?" sort of way.

Love the reference. Sorry, couldn't resist. One of my all-time favorite clips.

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Fascinating discussion. Thanks to all, and on both sides.

For those GMs who see their PCs miss AC too often, have you adjusted monster ACs behind the screen? If so, by how much? And does that penalty differ at different level bands?

Thank you.

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Zapp wrote:
we define ourselves as civilized and beautiful, and we consider them to be barbaric and ugly; our actions are therefore justified. This lets us define ourselves as Lawful and Good, while we consider them to be Chaotic and Evil.

I'm not sure what the intent of this post was - let alone, what, if anything, it was written in response to.

Even when posts tend towards the aggressive or unsympathetic on this forum, it's usually not difficult to see there they are coming from. This one here, on the other hand, is just straight-up bizarre.

What I firmly can say is that this post tells us a great deal more about their author's take on fantasy, than about fantasy as a genre.

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Three points by way of PS.

1. Once you reinterpret the orbs' power along the spectrum of theoria vs. sadism, the contrast of Miss Dusklight's circus to that of the PCs helps set up the AP's core themes early on.

2. Of course non-human civilizations experience and enjoy theoria as much as humans (elves, gnomes, etc). So what's distinctive? Humans are characterized by mortality and short lives. Death is a constant companion, and the only way to counter death is to smile back. Theoria is thus laden with wimsy, escapism, the short-lived joy, the light hearted prank, the diversion and distraction from life's seriousness. As idealized in the circus. Humans enjoy other forms of art like music and drama, but other ancestries on Golarions have a likely better claim (like Tolkien's elves) to have perfected those art forms - they are wise, have more experience of life, and look farther into the future.

3. The contrast of humans to xulgaths, as described above, is owed to a British comedian's write-up characterizing two different kinds of political leaders. I've rewritten their text here since that original context doesn't matter, but may help relate the underlying themes I try to bring out in my rewrite (again, sadism vs.delight):

"Xulgaths lacks certain qualities which humans would traditionally esteem. For instance, xulgaths have no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honor and no grace – all qualities that Aroden helped instil in humans, and which throw the xulgaths’ limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.
Humans like a laugh. And while xulgaths may be laughable, they have never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever. This is not meant rhetorically but quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the human sensibility – to lack humour is almost inhuman.
But with the xulgaths, it’s a fact. They don’t even seem to understand what a joke is – their idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
Xulgaths are never funny and never laugh; they only crow or jeer. And scarily, they don’t just talk in crude, witless insults – they actually think in them. There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some might see this as refreshingly upfront. Humans don’t: they see it as having no inner world, no soul."

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Jon Yamato 705 wrote:
I've been troubled by the vast injustice of Aroden's actions all through, and if I were to run it I'd have to find the PCs some way to make things right. ... an LG human might well feel that Aroden was the god of humankind, he did a terrible thing here and people are still suffering for it, this *has* to be put right if it possibly can.

I noticed the same thing and have thought of ways to rewrite it.

As written, the orbs provide a source of energy in both worlds - the one below, the one above.
They are a scarce resource, and lifting them from one world causes environmental degradation (and subsequent deprivation) in the other.
As written, the module authors sometimes waver between (a) 'Aroden did not realize, when he took the orbs, what damage he would be causing to the xulgaths ecologically' (meaning, he was negligent, and then did not repair the harm once he realized it), or (b) Aroden was horrified at the rituals and depravities that the xulgaths used the orbs for and wanted to remove the orbs from their reach (a bit like one removes a holy artifact that's being abused in an evil ritual).
Variant (b) gets you away from the Elgin Marbles narrative, so I'm leaning towards that. Note that if you want to play this AP with lots of room for difficult moral decisions and gray areas, (a) is actually the superior story line.

Once we're in area (b), you are also free to expand/rethink what the orbs do. As written, they strike me initially like duracel batteries - they sorta provide the electricity to human settlements, and help them cultivate nature and thrive on the land. Like a power source.

I'd like to amplify that a bit. Aroden is the god of human civilization, and human civilization thrives on - what Sarah Broadie in her commentary on Aristotle's ethics - calls "theoria," a unique joy that's brought about by audiences wrapped up in glorious spectacles and performances. (The way contemporary sports fans are drawn in when looking at a football game, she adds.)

The orbs represent this positive kind of energy and spirit, but they do need humans to draw forth their power and kindle a flame of civilization, kindness, and joy that's found in shared entertainment. Aroden did not simply found a civilization, he founded a shared nation, an ethos, that of the res publica (the shared, public space where we jointly celebrate, engage in culture, and so forth). Without the orbs, and human entertainers and engineers bringing out their warm glow, human civilization on Kortos Island would not thrive - it would degenerate into a sort of sullen gloom, a darkness of heart, spirit, and ambition. This is why the orbs are so important.

The PCs form a circus and across the AP they experience the orbs as enhancing their power - and they experience their own feats in the circus, as they entertain audiences and display spectacles, to bring out the power of the orbs, and cause joy based in shared, communal life of beneficence.

The xulgaths, on the other hand, never experienced theoria, have no inkling of it, and only understand an emotional range that is based on joy grounded in the suffering of others. That's why their rituals are so sadistic and thrive on the infliction of pain in others. While the orbs help escalate those rituals, the orbs' true spirit suffers under it. Aroden saw not only the wanton infliction on suffering in the underdark, he also saw the xulgaths corrupt the orbs' massively benign power for good. In fact, Aroden's vision when first experiencing the orbs gave him his founding vision of what mankind could be - a community founded in mutual, shared joy, the kind of joy one shares and participates in in culture and entertainment.

I haven't gotten my head around the circus mini-game in the AP, but I'm thinking that its key parameters like Anticipation and associated rewards will be intertwined with the orbs' powers. The PCs' abilities and talents as entertainers are needed to locate the orbs and bring them into the light of humanity. And their abilities and talents will grow with every new orb discovered. The circus itself is the ideal vehicle for discovering the orbs' hidden power, and an ideal vessel to bring that power and energy to others.

The main thing you lose in this rewrite is the ecological angle. Theoria as glossed here is an inherently social energy, that need not - as such - rely on natural energies, forces, or ecological harmony. That means that parts of the AP, like the suffering lands in AP 4, would need to be rewritten. Instead of the village in AP 4 suffering from ecological disaster - barren earth, inadequate agriculture - I'm intending to make their gloomness the direct result of the orbs' dwindling power. The depression, lack of joy, and sheer starvation for solid entertainment, in AP 4 is owed to the orbs' absence. It's a bit like Frodo's vision of hobbit oppression when he looks into the Mirror of Galadriel. Experiencing the orbs' marked absence in human society should help the PCs understand what they are fighting for - and why it's good to preserve the orbs in the sphere of humanity.

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Shisumo wrote:
The sheriff also explictly says "bring them in alive" and is not happy with PCs who don't do so.

Did the sheriff solicit pre-meditated killing as an option? Yes or no?

What exactly does the module say PCs have to do and say before the sheriff NPC believes the killing happened because PCs acted in self-defense?
Actual quotes from the module will be just fine. We can do without the name-calling.

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I see. The new consensus is that a person about to be arrested screaming "Help me! These people are trying to kill me!" - without even exercising physical means of self-defense or trying to flee her home -is unlawfully resisting arrest and deserves to get killed.

With that kind of readership response, Edgewatch's plot lines should not pose any problems whatsoever.

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The question isn't the premise of Agents of Edgewatch but its execution.

I trust Paizo as a company to set many things right in the Player's Guide. I also think that, after this AP, we'll see a lot of things going into the product line that will improve things in 2021 and onward. I'm extremely hopeful, in fact, because Lisa Stevens is heading this company and she's displayed exemplary leadership across the industry, not just at the helm of Paizo, for several decades.

I am however very wary of buying and playing Agents of Edgewatch. And that's because recent product gave me a barometer of where things are currently at.

Extinction Curse is a fine AP if you ignore the tone-deaf way it handles legal jargon clearly and unabashedly owed to contemporary law enforcement. In volume 2, the sheriff in town deputizes the PCs to go out and kill a non-resisting, albeit LE, citizen. The cop even tells her newly deputized citizen-cops to not worry, 'we'll chalk it up to self-defense'. Take note: the cop licenses a premeditated killing of a citizen (who, it turns out, will not physically resist the PCs) based on a complete lie.

That, right there, is how at last some of Paizo editors and their cadre of writers think law enforcement should handle things from an in-world perspective. It's grotesque because it crosses the line from PCs meting out vigilante justice (itself a difficult issue) to PCs executing a fellow citizen while acting in the name of law enforcement.

Note that there are *only two* ways to fix this issue.

1. Don't use contemporary, real-world jargon owed to the American criminal justice system. Don't talk about "warrant" "arrest" "deputizing" or thresholds of evidence and culpability - all of which Extinction Curse did, and then some. Use, if you must, archaic jargon that lacks painful resonances to the real world right now.
2. If you must use contemporary jargon, enlist the services of people with actual knowledge of the criminal justice system to help you avoid plot-lines that script PC actions which are, frankly, inexcusable, tone-deaf, and traumatizing. Yes, my PCs can raise above the challenge that evil NPCs pose them in-world. But no, I'm not willing to offer my PCs plotlines that your module author thinks are eminently lawful when they grossly are not. Your module authors aren't bad people, but they may not always be fully equipped to handle specialized jargon carefully unless supervised or guided.

The problem with Agents of Edgewatch is that it will likely *have* to use contemporary jargon to some degree. You can't create substitute legal language, explain it to GMs, and still write a 50-page module. So we're down to #2. So let me ask Paizo, simply and straightforwardly:

Did your line editors consult with outside experts knowledgable in criminal law?

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Fumarole wrote:
Three APs in a row on/around the Isle of Kortos. That's... interesting.

It's definitely not encouraging for GMs insufficiently enticed to run Kortos as an adventure site, portability of mega-dungeons aside.

On the other hand, between Extinction Curse, Beginner's Box, the Vault mini-AP, and Erik Mona's mega-dungeon, you have a TON of site-based adventure material, all focused on a 50-200 mile perimeter that could take up a campaign for 2-5 years.

My goal is to collect and index it all and put it all on one huge.... hex-map for Kortos.

Something similar happened last decade with Rappan Athuk, which began with a mega-dungeon. Then other books came out, adding nearby overland adventures above the dungeon, and Matt Finch added 2 books of underdark advenures below the mega-dungeon. You had several books of adventuring material, all working extremely well with each other. Most significantly, the sheer volume gave players a level of freedom (of movement, picking patrons, missions, factions, alignments) that they don't usually enjoy if you run a single module, let alone an adventure path. Heck, I think this is more freedom than Kingmaker offers, because it's only horizontal freedom across a static plane. This, on the other hand, is freedom of travel in three dimensions.

Personally, I think it's brilliant.

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Gorbacz wrote:
What you are missing is all the people who don't care for the monster lore, they just want stats.

And that's fine. I said out of the gate that this book is self-contained IF all you expect from it is to help you run mechanically interesting encounters. I was just wondering if that's the target audience for the book, or if there's more going on and I'm missing some obvious lore references.

Gorbacz wrote:
many people use Pathfinder to run their homebrew setting

And those GMs don't want or need any monster lore? If so, that's a questionable assumption. When I run homebrew, I don't need to learn that goblins venerate Lamashtu. I'd still want to learn that goblins love explosives and riding wargs. Those things help me build interesting encounters and funny adventure scenes.

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CorvusMask wrote:
I'm more surprised by notion that you HAVE to recognize the monsters from somewhere. Because by that logic, you aren't allowed to create new monsters.

You're missing a premise here. It's totally fine to introduce new creatures with little traction in monster manuals. The issue is not if you do it, but how.

One way is 2nd edition AD&D. Monstrous Compendiums have fewer creatures per book, but a fuller write-up for each creature. Smaller font, smaller stat block, and often smaller art.

Another way is 2nd edition Pathfinder. Large stat block, large art, little lore. Like D&D 4th, this makes for a great table reference. Also like D&D 4th, this follows the business model of asking customers to buy multiple books to get all the related content on one creature. A bit like splitting Inner World Guide, previously a 320-page book, into three books of 128 pages each.

Both approaches have strengths, and I'm ok with both when I know which one it is. Hence my question.

I'll also say that I'm a LOT more ok with the second approach when I already own the books that contain the related lore. I'm less enthusiastic buying a book that asks me to go and buy another one.

I saw that happen with The Dark Eye RPG (in Germany published by the exact same company as Pathfinder) and it sank that product line really fast. There too, a publisher took a traditional RPG and split content of formerly self-contained 300-page books into multiple 128-page hardcover purchases. The deeper you get into an edition of such a RPG, the more you split the customer base into those who want their 13th purchase to amplify and justify the prior 12 purchases (aka buyer's remorse) and entry-level or casual buyers who are bewildered by intra-product dependency (the classic case being ASL).

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Gorbacz, thanks for the explanations of tatzelwyrm and sandpoint devil (two I recognized). Tatzelwyrm hails from my region's folklore. Sandpoint devil's lore was new to me, that's great.
Again, I'm fine with those, I recognize these as Paizo creatures from back in the day. Just not sure about the overwhelming rest...

Sporkedup wrote:

It is a shift, though. The first Bestiary is loaded with so many staples and "expected" monsters, while Bestiary 2 really has a grand amount of bizarre names and faces that folks just getting into Pathfinder here (or old school D&D I assume) have no frame of reference for.

I love it but boy, do I recognize about one in eight while paging through...

Yes, that's my impression too, to be honest. It's chock full with inside references that people who skipped PF 1e won't recognize. I'm pretty shaky with 1e, not having played it extensively and skipping nearly all of its adventure paths. Sure, I think Ydersius was a villain from Serpent Skull, and swamp giants appeared somewhere in Giant Slayer (right?), and then Age of Worms had worm that walks. But unless you played those very specific Paizo modules, you wouldn't know. If you did, and wanted to convert the modules to 2e, this bestiary is for you. If not, maybe not so much?

There's still a good chunk of monsters in the book that trade off an established frame of reference, like the myhos monsters (spiders of leng, hounds of tindalos). I guess these too were utilized in 1e adventure paths?

None of the dragon, elementals, or giant variants struck a chord. Don't get me wrong, they look interesting mechanically, and definitely engage me as GM wanting to play interesting combat encounters. I just wish the book would also compel me to write adventures and stories around the creatures, which would require a more established lore frame of reference.

I'm reminded here a bit of 4th edition D&D monster manuals, where the monster lore to less familiar creatures was written up in separate books (like the books on planes). Guess it's the same here, and that the books are not for learning lore but running monsters you already know?

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Gorbacz wrote:
Could you be a wee bit more specific, because nobody is going to go through 350 monsters?

I wish I could. I'm just drawing blanks on 95% of the monster names in the book. No need to make a complete inventory, just a general impressions from folks who recognize where these monsters came from would be helpful. Or maybe they're original to 2e? That'd be helpful to.

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Can someone kindly help me understand the significance/origin of monsters in this book?

I only spotted a handful I recognize from old D&D lore (gray ooze, bodak, blindheim). Then, there's an equally small handful I recognize from Paizo's 3.5 era - e.g., tatzelwyrm from Falcon's Hollow, sandpoint devil, akata from Erik Mona's Second Darkness module. Love those.

But where does the rest come from? 1e adventure paths? 1e bestiaries?

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This is a highly interesting and rewarding set of responses to read. Thank you all.

I’ve tried to understand how we’ve arrived at such different conclusions, and have come up with something. Obviously I’d be grateful if you think there’s better ways to map out the underlying disagreements in this thread—I believe that bringing those differences out is productive, for my GM’ing style and hopefully others’ too. That’s certainly how I’ve read your responses—as respectful and productive, and you have my thanks for that.

Why do GMs read a module like this so differently? I believe it’s because urban modules give GMs a wider range of gaming styles than wilderness or dungeon adventures.

Any urban module can be written to be GM’d in three ways:

Unadulterated Hack'n'Slash.The module makes no distinction between monsters and NPCs. That’s why DCC modules e.g. say on their covers: remember the good old days when NPCs where just there to be killed? Yep, you can kill anyone, monster or NPC, on sight and the game moves on.

2. Tempered Hack’n’Slash. The game world draws a distinction between monsters in the wild and NPCs. Killing monsters has no real in-world ramifications, whereas killing random NPCs in the street might. But it’s no biggie if it happens, that’s just noir escapism.
3. Urban Intrigue.The module goes out of its way to describe how the town’s law enforcement operates, and emphasizes that PCs can engage that environment either by circumventing the law or by involving the law—a real choice with real consequences. Not only does the module hammer that distinction home, but it iterates over and over the requirements for PCs to operate lawfully—the licenses and warrants they must acquire before they can act without impunity for their actions. Obviously, PCs still don’t need law enforcement license to kill monsters in the wild or the moustache-twirling evil magician who lives on Firetop Mountain. Monsters and comic-book villains in the wild are not akin to tax-paying (though potentially criminal) citizen NPCs. Urban intrigue comes with a legal perimeter, but it’s a perimeter the PCs have to be mindful of.

I do believe that mode #2 is a legit way to run this module if that’s your cup of tea. I run plenty of modules in that way myself, and am not critiquing fellow GMs for doing so. But it’s one thing to say ‘My default or preferred mode of GMing a module like this is (insert mode)’ and another to say ‘This module was plainly written to be exclusively run in GM mode (#).’ And I think it helps to be mindful of that difference.

For instance, if you run this module in Mode #2, your table defaults to PCs operating outside the law anyhow. Because there’s no inside or outside of the law as far as your PCs’ actions are concerned, huge swaths of this module become irrelevant window-dressing. That’s why some of you above wrote, in all sincerity, that the legalese in this module is “irrelevant.” It really is, if you run it in modus #2.

And I totally understand that absolutely nothing in Andera’s write-up is in the slightest problematic, morally or legally, if you engage the module in Modus #2. Her being up for re-election might drive her decisions to throw herself into combat or not—which is a purely mechanical choice that alters the XP budget and difficulty mode for that encounter, but says nothing whatsoever about Golarion at an in-world or verisimilitude perspective. It’s all just veneer and window-dressing, best ignored by the players and the GM. Move along to the next combat, and don’t impose a -2 modifier on their rolls.

In Modus #3, on the other hand, you do face a choice. You either take Andera’s actions in Part 4 as written, and bring the rest of the module in line. That’s the LA Confidential narrative. Or you alter her actions in Part 4 to bring them in line with her purist NPC write up and the earlier parts of the module. That’s the public show-trial narrative.

There’s likely many more ways to rewrite the module along either line. What’s confusing is that the module seems to want to engage GMs like myself who run Paizo—contrast DCC—modules in modus #3. This has always worked for us in the past, esp. if you think of Shackled City or Sheriff Hemlock in Sandpoint. Well, it’s not working here without rewriting the module. That could be for all sorts of reasons, but reading the responses in this thread, it appears that Paizo's modules may have stopped to cater to modus #3 to the extent they did 10-15 years ago, and which at the time set them apart from other publishers like Goodman Games (DCC) and WotC (who, recalll, at the time didn't put things out like Curse of Strahd but rather silly escapism trips like Keep on the Shadowfell or Pyramid of Shadows--both of which I enjoyed tremendously).

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Zapp wrote:

I *have* considered tweaking the approach of Chapter 4:

Against the Celestial Menagerie.

But that has nothing to do with vigilantism or misguided real world comparisons - my Golarion is a violent place, and adventure paths are little more than glorified stretches of hack and slash anyway: getting distraught over legal and moral implications is simply not applicable to a pretend game with heroes slaughtering hundreds of creatures on their path from zero to hero.

It has to do with avoiding the cliche of ungrateful/unhelpful NPCs.

It simply bugs me to feature Constable Paldreen as someone who asks the heroes to risk their lives while she herself puts zero skin in the game.

And yes, it makes no sense to me that she would not find the time to oversee the operation herself. Not because she's concerned the vigilante heroes might kill people getting in the way (that part is assumed), but because the module details her political ambitions - she even mentions she's up for reelection.

Killing off most of the city's very popular circus is one thing; but off-handedly allowing a bunch of nobodies to do it on their own?!?

Mistress Dusklight is level 11 for crissakes! To me that means she's not some bit player in the city's vice district. She's likely one of the most powerful (influential, rich, etc) kingpins of the Escadarian underworld!

Nailing her would likely be a major accomplishment with political reverberations in Escadaran society (not that we get any details).

I've had some time to reflect on this and I love it. I agree that your take on Andera Paldreen as a cold-blooded careerist opens up fascinating vistas that this module otherwise plays down.

You see, when I first read the module, I was put off by how it portrayed a powerful NPC as this ultimate 'holier than though, avenge corruption at all costs to self' person on pages 86-87, treating her as a shining beacon of law and order whose only worry is that she's ousted in the next elections by someone who's more ready to placate the criminal elements in town. Combine that with her attitude to treat the PCs as her lackeys from start to finish (bad flashbacks to Second Darkness), being at her beck and all, having to culture her grace and approval to get a circus license - from level 5 heroes no less. All this made me dislike this module quite a lot even before we get to her whole 'go and kill them' thing in Part 4 that licensed an entirely needless killing for reasons put forward as legally and morally kosher. Atrocious.

Your write up, on the other hand, changes the tune and we're a lot closer to L.A. Confidential. So much that I'm considering making her lawful evil, prioritizing her career over all else. Or, as you so aptly put it, ready to walk over corpses if it elevates her political career. LE in short.

To push that story, I'd change a couple of things. In Part 1, page 7, Paldreen knows that Darricus is getting paid by Mistress Dusklight. She also knows that Dusklight's ultimate plan is to have Darricus oust her, Paldreen, at the next elections. She's all too keenly aware that there's a fair chance that Darricus might win those elections, unless something drastic happens and intervenes. But Darricus winning is terrible: it would catapult Dusklight's hold on the police force even more, advance Darricus's political career (who's, if anything, just as career-driven as herself), and end her own. Note that so far, we're firmly within the write-up of pp. 86-87.

Now comes the Lawful Evil part along LA Confidential. Paldreen's goal is to eliminate Darricus from the next election, and to eliminate Dusklight as a presence. When the PCs arrive in town, she sees her chance: here are powerful individuals replete with sword, might, and magic, who might be manipulated into killing both folks at once - if only they can be manipulated into thinking they are just executing a just, lawful killing. Again, entirely within the write-up of pp. 44-45. It certainly helps that the PCs seem like the usual troupe of murder hobos who roam Golarion for coin and fame.

To go about her scheme, Paldreen puts in place a couple of things.

First, she sets up a series of tasks engineered to test the PC's supplication, their willingness to be treated as lackeys. The opening tasks - 'go, clear out this ditch' and 'go, kill those creatures' - test the limits of that, and will be repeated in Part 2 and 3 where Paldreen keeps asking the PCs to kill things on her behalf ("go down into the temple: kill all you see"). She's already offering to justify their killings ex ante, only to probe if the PCs are corruptible.

Second, across all tasks, Paldreen makes sure to ingratiate herself with the PCs, by giving them the feeling that all their actions are in the service of the law, help the betterment of town ('let's cleanse this den of thieves'), and that the PCs deserve to be showered with accolades, citizens' honor, and police badges. On that note, Paldreen takes the PCs on a drink, and tells them about the Juniper Winzel affair (p. 86) and how much it meant to her. So, when the PCs find Winzel's diary (p. 11), and bring it back to Paldreen, you have that ingratiating scene that the module scripts on page 21 (it had me throw up a little, it's done so well). At this point, Paldreen will start handing out favors and quasi-official privileges to the PCs that render them quasi-sheriffs. "I’m going to give your names to my staff; you’ll be able to reach me without an appointment any time you’d like.” (p.21)

By the time we hit Chapter 4, Paldreen's manipulations should be in full swing. She's the one who actually asks Darricus to be present at the Circus when the PCs go on their killing spree. And she's the one who actively incentivizes the PCs to go on that killing spree, giving them carte blanche to do so as the town's newly deputized sheriffs carrying out citizens arrests and killings.

Instead of being a morally and legally repugnant tale where a champion of law (if Lawful Neutral) tries to keep a town together, the module now climaxes in a moral challenge. Will the PCs be willing to just carry out an execution order on Paldreen's behalf? Will they be happy to be unwitting alleys and pawns as the town's political masterminds have their ultimate show-down in the Circus?

You wrote that you don't like the idea of an NPC having the PCs do all the dirty work without any 'skin in the game' to herself. I can hardly concur more. I think that's exactly how the module scripts things, from start ('obtain this circus license') to finish ('go kill those people for me'). This kind of manipulation should ring alarm bells among PCs who are either morally concerned or simply don't like being pushed around to do someone else's dirty work over, and over, and over. Yet that's how the module is scripted. Pretty appalling.

So, the module needs a couple of clues to give the PCs a chance to wisen up that Paldreen is not the "shining beacon of law" she proclaims to be, and that Darricus is caught in the middle of two very powerful individuals fighting for control over Escadar. If the PCs are thoroughly corrupted by Paldreen, there should be a chance for them to learn about this in due course. And there should be a chance to get a reckoning for being manipulated so heavily from start to finish.

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Edit. I appreciate your re-scripting of Part 4. End edit. I just don't buy your rationale why Part 1 to Part 4 can't happen.

Zapp wrote:
Two level 8 bouncers is an extremely difficult combat for four level 5 heroes.

And? The module says the PCS will be level 6 by the time they finish part 1, not level 5.

A single level 8 creature is simply a moderate encounter at level 6. Two such creatures is harder, but by no means a TPK.

In fact, the only way to risk a TPK against two melee brutes is to engage them both at once and exclusively in melee. Which is spectacularly stupid, I give you that. But why would any players with five full levels of gameplay experience commit such a rookie mistake?

They are level 6 characters. They have recourse to a healthy amount of third-level spells. They have a modicum of strategic planning. They got a vast range of options, none of which require a full-on frontal assault. Enter the circus grounds by subterfuge (cast invisibility). Charm the giants from a safe distance (notice that weak will save?). Fireball them to death from a safe distance, if you must; in fact, the bouncers have no means to counter-attack, and this would work at the very least to draw them out while the rest of the PCs go through the front-gate. Any combination thereof.

Or simpler yet - infiltrate the vast circus grounds from any point other than the front gate, and bypass that scripted encounter altogether. Yes, there's shrubs and a high, well-lit iron fence surrounding the area. But it's not even magically defended. How's that an insurmountable obstacle for a party of level 6 heroes?

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Thanks, I appreciate that greatly, and all the civility throughout.

I also believe that, disagreements on the module text aside, you and I will likely run this module pretty much alike. It's become pretty obvious that neither of us thinks the module's iterated emphasis on trespass is all that useful, and is best ignored.

In light of our exchanges, I'll rewrite Part 3 so that the PCs have hard evidence of multiple murders by MD, not just second-hand, and not just abductions (for subsequent killings by other parties outside MD's direct control or agency).

I think obtaining a writ to expressly detain a murderer is a spectacular device for the PCs to have on hand as they head to MD's circus. Instead of going into the circus to kill everyone in plain view, the PCs can now go into the circus tent and heckle MD's circus show mid-stream. This is their big payback for Part 1 (all the more satisfying since they suffered similar disruptions to their own show in the previous adventure as well - they know the drill, and can pull out a couple of tricks). "Everybody cool, we have an arrest for the murders of [name abducted citizens]." Can you imagine the gasp of the crowd? Followed by a very public arrest? If there's a show-down now between the PCs and MD's crew, it's a spectacle, under the public limelight of resistance to an arrest.

So that's one thing I'd change. Also, and this is key: Andera insists on PCs using non-lethal force, and she insists that MD must be detained to get her to a trial at all cost. The arrest warrant/writ is not a license to kill. Big rewrite from the module, and gets rid of my biggest gripe 100%. (Also, and just pure aside to your post: an arrest warrant for murder does not amount to kill order. The crime for which you arrest does not license you to reciprocate that crime.)

Following the public arrest, the PCs get to participate as core witnesses in MD's high-publicity trial in town. The PCs get to present all their hard-won evidence, a quasit eye witness, and more - and can bring their circus performance skills to bear full weight at a showtime trial. If the players have little taste for that, this can be skipped or reduced to a quick narrative scene. But the sheer fact of having a trial gives the PCs a sense that their investigative work is paying off, big time, and makes them feel that they really brought a villain to justice under the law.

How are the town's villagers gonna react, before and after the interrupted circus show? The PCs are gonna get a lot of limelight in town, which helps drive up Anticipation for their own show. The PCs might recruit MD's past performers to help them with a couple of new circus acts, such as re-enacting "The Arrest of Mistress Murderess," or "A liberation from abuse," where two hill giant clowns transform before the audience's eyes from subdued victims into jocular jugglers. All thanks to the PCs.

Now that's a storyline I'd be happy to see unfold at my gaming table. Not that pre-meditated killing incident to (a dubiously) lawful arrest, on grounds that self-defense rendered lethal force necessary.

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Rysky wrote:
Writing “because of trespassing” is just irreverent legelase at this point, they couldn’t write out “wanted for the death of whoever the f&%* that is that you sent to be sacrificed”.

The module author could easily have written "Andrea will issue a warrant for arrest based on evidence of MD's trespass or other crimes, if the PCs bring evidence to support it." But it didn't. Why not? Because trespass functions as a plot device.

This module has a bad structure. As others already noticed in this thread, most groups will short-circuit Parts 2 and 3 and go straight from Part 1 to Part 4. There's been an assault on their circus, the PCs have reason to suspect MD, so they'll go and confront her. The end. See above:

BlueMagnusStormCrow wrote:
Chapters 2, 3 and 4 seem to be in a weird order to me. Given that the Celestial Menagerie has just tried to ruin one of there shows I'm pretty sure every group i've DM'd for would jump straight to trying to getting revenge on the Celestial Menagerie rather than going on a dungeon crawl beneath the city for nebulous reasons. There doesn't seem to be much reason for the players to prioritize that over revenge on the group who just attacked them.

To circumvent this structural problem, the author/editor came up with a plot device: have Andera request the PCs to go into the dungeon that's Parts 2-3 to investigate trespass. Page 20:

"If the heroes ask about Moonstone Hall, Andera explains that it’s an abandoned and buried temple to Aroden that the city wants to keep clear of smugglers or other criminals. She’s therefore posted guards at its only entrance in the Woodworkers District. Because the heroes showed some initiative in clearing the plot of land for their circus, Andera concludes that they could prove useful in making a full exploration of the site and clearing out any criminals or troublesome monsters that occupy the site."

See this? She's not requesting the PCs to go after MD or other criminals in town for any other crimes. No. Trespass. And that's why the module says, at the beginning of Part 4, that the PCs still "owe Andera a report." What report is that? Of the trespass on the temple site. All evidence of which requires the PCs to complete Parts 2 and 3. So no, invocation of "trespass" over and over in Part 4 is not irrelevant. Note further:

"Although the heroes might want to move against Mistress Dusklight directly without involving the law, they still owe a report to Andera."

Emphasis added. The bolded part is the straight-up vigilantism that all of us are ok with in a Paizo module - though that can't prevent player groups moving from Part 1 straight to Part 4.

But if the PCs want to "involve the law," then they have to go via Andera. And if they want to go via Andera, she insists that they have evidence of trespass - not the kind of evidence of other wrongdoings available to them early on in the module.

At this point, all of us have agreed that bottle-necking Part 4 by having it depend on the trespass investigation in Parts 2-3 is a poor plot device. It is problematic for all sorts of reasons. Not only is it structurally poor, the entire "PCs involving law enforcement" narrative is executed in bad taste. And it's not defensible as routine vigilantism when the module itself goes out of its way to distinguish a pre-meditated killing that "involves law enforcement" from one that doesn't.

But changing Andera's initial request, and both report scenes in the modules, requires rewriting the module, its structure, and the key actions of its central NPC in Parts 2 and 4. Some of these rewrites have already been suggested by several GMs in this thread.

I'm not clear why that wouldn't deserve to be in this thread, much less this sub-forum.

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Rysky: sorry, but you keep obfuscating two issues: evidence of the villain's wrongdoings in general, and evidence that Andera on pp.44-45 regards as sufficient to issue a warrant for her arrest and killing.

spoiler:

P.44 "By the time the heroes complete their exploration of Moonstone Hall, they likely have several pieces of evidence implicating Mistress Dusklight in illegal trespassing on the site.."
See that? Not: evidence of her abuses, killings, abductings, manipulations. No, just straight up trespassing.

P. 45 even has a shortlist of the "hard evidence" that Andera will accept for that trespassing. Most of the things you just cited don't make it on that shortlist. Why? Because they are not germane to trespassing.

Sporkedup wrote:
Happens all the time in superhero and other shows. The person acting outside the law gets caught by law enforcement.

Do they get caught here? That's just not what happens in this module. Instead, we have this:

1. The vigilantes approach law enforcement ahead of a killing.
2. Instead of offering to look the other way, law enforcement hands out an official license. She hastily deputizes armed citizens to execute on an arrest with the likely result of a killing. None of that happens outside the scope of law, but explicitly within it.
3. The vigilantes don't come up with self-defense as a desperate excuse after the fact. Law enforcement advises them of that strategy ahead of the killing. Both before and after the fact, the killing is licensed and planned, not a desperate act on the fringes of the law.

This paints a picture of law enforcement not just complacent with but actively soliciting killings in the course of citizens' arrests.

If this trope has become so familiar in contemporary fantasy and superhero fiction, I'd like to see concrete examples.

I find it very disturbing, and still can't understand how it ended up in a Paizo adventure path.

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Sporkedup wrote:

Shouldn't be too hard.

First, increase the amount of awareness Andera has towards Dusklight's horrors. Instead of just trespass, have her sign off on deadly intent based on what she knows about the tortures and abuses and darker collaborations.

Agreed, that's a solid take. I'll add that to my own re-write, thank you.

Sporkedup wrote:
The truth is the players are engaging in vigilantism, like happens all the time in these games.

Vigilantism happens all the time in Paizo's AP, agreed. And I rarely have an issue with it - because it's scripted in a very pure, escapist mode, very remote from contemporary legal jargon.

Take Burnt Offerings. As far as I recall, the plot is wonderfully straightforward. An Aragorn-esque NPC who doesn' t serve any law-enforcement capacity but helps keep a village safe - Shalelu - tracks down the goblin lair. Off the PCs go to avenge Sandpoint's victims, and find out more along the way about the mysterious attack. That's it! There's no whiff of writs, warrants, trespass, licenses, plausible self-defense, evidentiary requirements, or what have you.

Here, on the other hand, you got a module writer who drags in contemporary legal jargon (esp. evidence and criminal law) in a manner that sounds tone-deaf. And, predictably enough, that opens up the module's text to all sorts of unwelcome echoes to the real world, intended and unintended.

In the future, I'd hope that module writers who want to bring in real world legal jargon have good grounds for doing so, and handle it with proper sensitivity. This here, on the other hand, is neither escapist fiction nor sensitive handling of a delicate set of issues.

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Rysky wrote:
I'm sorry but I would not in any way compare going after and killing a villain who is Evil and who has done plenty of horrendous things (like grooming and manipulating said innocent bystander) who is also in league with other villains in the AP to the real world horrific lynching of an innocent black man.

At issue is not whether the arrestee is evil or not, but whether the persons executing the arrest know enough first-hand to license a pre-emptive killing of said arrestee.

The comparison further does not rest on the arrestee's skin color - that's a straw man - but on the equally shallow defense of pre-emptive self-defense.

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Spoiler alert as well as trigger warning (real-world police brutality / current events).

It sometimes happens that module writers are overtaken by real-world events without meaning to, not in a good way. And that happened here.

spoiler:
With the PCs (in Part3) Having procured circumstantial evidence of their nemesis' (Mistress Dusklight) illegal trespass of closed-off city property, the PCs in Part 4 approach law enforcement Andera) with said evidence, to seek and obtain this result:

"Along with providing them the warrant, Andera temporarily deputizes the heroes to arrest Mistress Dusklight and return her to Conclave Square. Andera prefers that the heroes bring Mistress Dusklight back alive, but she understands that the heroes have the right to defend themselves. She can’t spare any constables to assist the heroes, but by now Andera realizes the heroes are certainly capable of handling things themselves."

I'm sorry but this reads like a blue-print for the police report in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. There too, a citizen's arrest was executed on pretty slim evidence, and a killing ensued on grounds that the armed arresters acted in self-defense.

What's problematic with our module is not only that it calls this modus operandi a "Time for Justice," or that it thinks evidence below probable cause should suffice for the heroes to arrest a citizen whose wrongdoings they have not observed in person.

No, the cherry on top is law-enforcement's thinly veiled cynicism that the PCs will go out to lynch a fellow citizen in the name of self-defense. Again: "she understands that the heroes have the right to defend themselves." And of course no one in this scene - not the PCs, not law enforcement - believe that is even remotely plausible.

This gets much worse by the time the PCs encounter the arrestee, who does not pose as first aggressor at all. Instead of jumping on the PCs, she asks them (and I quote) "Do you think that killing me will make you better performers?" thus posing the central moral dilemma of the AP.

And instead of defending herself even, she invokes the aid of an innocent bystander, an angelic, who believes a troup of murderers have arrived in his mistress's bed room - this is her private home, you understand - to lynch her in broad daylight.

To emphasize, nothing in the module stresses that Miss D ever antagonizes the PCs directly, warranting their killing her in cold blood.

To top it off, the police cynicism that issued the warrant in the first place ("go out, act in self defense, kill this lady even though you never witnessed her alleged wrongdoing directly") makes a full return in the module's closing pages. The PCs having killed off the innocent bystander and a citizen who didn't even much defend herself, report their doings back to law-enfrocement. And now they get the following response:

"If the heroes killed Mistress Dusklight in battle, Andera furrows her brow and demands an explanation. After the heroes recount their version of events, she sighs and says, “I won’t gain anything by reprimanding you. I believe you acted in self‑defense.”

In short, we all know that self-defense was a convenient fiction, but we'll pretend otherwise and just go ahead with a lie to cover up a killing.

So our Part 4 plotline closes exactly where we started - with the polite fiction that a bunch of characters going off to commit a citizen's arrest can engage in lawful killing on the pretense, foreseen and all, that they will kill in self-defense.

I'm sorry, but that's not a storyline my group will want to play in 2020. Not with recent news, and not now that citizen's arrest - hastily 'deputized' or no - ever licenses a killing premised on a lie, here the lie of self-defense.

If your group may have followed certain news in spring 2020, and you'd rather not enact those news at your gaming table, here's what you can do:

1. Remove the citizen's arrest plot line entirely. The Isle of Kortos is not in the business of licensing its citizens to arrest and kill someone else. Not today, not ever.
2. Add the level of evidence the PCs can gain in Part 3 against their nemesis to direct evidence that can't be dismissed in a court on hearsay grounds etc. IF the PCs want to pursue a course of justice, lay the proper evidentiary trail in Part 3.
3. Rewrite Part 4 so that Miss Dusklight both participates, unmasked in the initial assault on your PCs' circus during their absence. Remove p. 44 when it says "They wore masks, but plenty of us recognized them anyway" - that way lies lynch mob justice.
4. Rewrite Part 4 so that Miss D, if approached on her circus grounds, attacks the PCs first. Make her the first aggressor so the 'we only acted in self-defense' defense gains a level of moral and legal plausibility.

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My key musical piece for this AP:


You're a chicken!
Well, you're a dead chicken!
Oh yeah!?! Well, you're a dead chicken with a pulley in the middle!
What?
Just get in the cannon!

Edit. Here's the scene from the game.

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@IcedMik: love your ideas. Especially giving Mr Tickles a more active role is great. I'm now toying with restyling his personality into a Kaa/Baloo mix. Bardolph being clumsy and hungry works well too.

As for Tuoro and Ukti, making them former nobility is a great idea too. This would would explain their entitlement (in your write-up). Not so sure this works well at the game-table though. In my experience, PCs encountering entitled NPCs that a) play no heavy campaign role and b) have no compensating/mitigating factors for misplaced demands (such as monetary rewards) usually ignore such NPCs..
I'm thus thinking of means by which the PCs can find out that the siblings are former nobility (royalty even, perhaps), and means to capitalize on that - along the lines of
a) The Godfather ("My name is Michael Corleone. Many would pay a handsome price for that information. But then you'd lose a daughter instead of gaining a son-in-law.")
b) have a figure from their past show up like a faithful palace guard, along the lines of Kammamuri in Secret of the Black Jungle
Both lines would elevate minor characters to major character plots, so I guess something way more contained would work better. Any ideas welcome.

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Staffan Johansson wrote:
Midnightoker wrote:
Staffan Johansson wrote:
This is a fairly even-handed comparison of D&D 5e and Pathfinder 2e, even if I don't 100% agree with the reviewer.
Just saw this the other day and was about to link it. I think it’s a really well done video and even though I don’t agree everywhere he does make a lot of solid points.
Right. Even if I don't agree with him, I see where he's coming from. I just value some things differently. And that's the best kind of review – where the reviewer doesn't just say "This is good" or "This is bad", but explains why they think something is good or bad. And if the reviewer says "I liked X because it works like Y", and you go "But I don't like Y", then you can judge for yourself that you probably won't like X.

Thirded. I especially appreciate that the reviewer's assessment is based on how a mechanic works in play. E.g., he says PF2 rules on death and dying are a bloated mess in the rulebook but work wonderfully at the table. That's the kind of feedback/insight I was hoping to get in the OP and it's a great example.

Thank you also to the other person who linked the podcasts. That's another great review format, by all means.

One reason I'm slightly reluctant to pull the purchase trigger yet is that the PF1 core rulebook went through... six? seven? more? iterations of errata. I'd love to get my hands on the PF2 deluxe version but anticipate that it (like its PF1 counterpart) will be out of date before long. Did the deluxe print run even integrate the first round of errata from 2019? Thanks!

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Wow, thank you Hugolinus, that's amazing. I'm especially taken by the Oct '19 and Feb '20 reviews.

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Thanks for the additional responses, those have been tremendously helpful.

Point taken re: day 1 reviews. Do we know how long in advance of release day sites like Enworld receive their review copies?

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coriolis wrote:

The obvious place would be EN World. With a little bit of digging I found 2 reviews: One from Morrus himself, and one from dedicated Paizo reporter LongGoneWriter.

I would also recommend checking out the official SRD at Archives of Nethys. Nearly everything that's been published up to now is available there, including a lot of information on the official setting. If you want to read the Core Rulebook in the order it is printed, look at the "Rules" section on that site.

Thank you! Those are great links to begin with.

Note that both reviews were posted on August 1, 2019. Neither review gives the impression of having been written after an extensive playtest of the published rules. The things Morrus complains of are typical for someone who reads the book but hasn't played it much.

The Archive of Nethys is pure gold, thanks so much for alerting me of that.

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Hi everyone,

Long-time fan of Paizo here - since the days of Dungeon Magazine (Shackled City). Never moved from 3.5 onto Pathfinder 1 but super curious about 2nd edition. Was hoping the community could point me to some high-quality reviews of the game. In my experience, it's pretty hard to find reviews of new editions that don't fall into pre-release hype or non-adopter negativity. Would love to read reviews by folks with extensive experience of the game (not just beta playtest).

Any links/pointers welcome. Thank you!

W.

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The playtest serves at least two goals:

1. Stresstest the rules.
2. Create online community cohesion and enthusiasm around the game.

The 2008/09 playtest created a lot of dissatisfaction in some corners that (a) didn't realize that 2. was a value or (b) realized 2. was a thing but had zero social value to them ("pure marketing ploy").

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ziltmilt wrote:

The linear nature of APs gives a feeling of sameness to the books. The veneer certainly changes ... gothic horror, jungle/pulp adventure, Asian folklore. And Paizo does do a very good job of grounding these APs in specific cultural atmospheres that wonderfully evoke their inspirations. For example, I'm a big Halloween geek, and I just went nuts over Carrion Crown.

However, it feels like every single map has a BBG at the end that has to be defeated in order to progress to the next step in the story. With 6 volumes in an AP, it seems to me like we could be getting a lot more variety in structure.

Interesting OP. I started a rather similar discussion on these boards more than two years ago. Certainly interesting to compare the two discussions, now that Kingmaker has come to pass. You will note that even there Paizo couldn't resist the BBEG ending, even if the structure leading up to that was a refreshing departure in many ways.

I think Paizo has since experimented a little with the Adventure Paths veering occasionally into sandbox style (as witness the opening of Serpent Skull), and certainly Carrion Crown is an interesting experiment in its own right to adjust the overarching structure towards making it a bit more episodic like Rise of the Runelords was. So the experiments continue, and it's a very interesting ride.

On the whole, though, my impression is that Paizo is at the same time trying to play it safe and not alienate too much or too many of its customers who have come to appreciate adventure paths for what they are. It's after all a subscription model, and so you want customers to have some reliability going in as regards their product expectations. I say that because every time Paizo tries to deviate from the main model ever so slightly, we get threads saying how people didn't really like that.

In that light, looking at a posting by James Jacobs in this discussion upthread, it seems to me that Paizo has hit on a rather good solution to pacify some of those wishing for more structural deviation in the adventure paths - introduce a different product line to cater to such wishes, such as the Campaign Setting line.

All said, I'm curious to see how this works out. So here's to another interesting thread in 2 years time!

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Thanks for the quick answers, Vic! Will now definitely check this out when it rolls into town. :)

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Sebastian wrote:
Frogboy wrote:


If the captain knows that [for a fact] that the queen doesn't have a half brother then he gets a +100 on his sense motive skill check modifier. I'll fill out the other values for you. These are off the top of my head.

If the captain Knows, via some semi-divine ability to perceive absolute truths such that he has read the queen's mind, determined that she was not hidden the story of her long lost half brother from him, he has a list of every single person her father boinked and the knowledge of genetics to identify all such children of said father as not really being his, and exactly how many children the Queen's mother bore, then yes, he should absolutely get a +100 on his sense motive skill check. He's a god (or more powerful still - the DM!).

But, if the captain has been told the queen doesn't have a half brother, and knew her family while she was growing up and didn't witness any half-blooded children, then sure, give the guy a +20 bonus on the Sense Motive check. Also, buy yourself a trophy for being the biggest ball-busting DM on the block.

Now, if we're talking about a fact that's extremely difficult to hide and easy to verify (e.g., trying to convince a vampire that it's not really sunny outside, despite the nearby open window), that's a different story. But whether the Queen does or does not have a half brother is not even in the same zip code of obvious lies.

There's a great book by Jason Stanley called "Knowledge and Practical Interests". His key claim is that knowledge ascriptions are evaluated relative to how much is at stake in terms of practical interests. Suppose you roughly know that it's 3pm. You meet two people, the first one wants to blow some time and thinks he MIGHT want to see a movie; recalling loosely that one starts at 3.15 he asks whether you know the time, and if so, whether you can tell him. You answer him that he's in time for the movie and yes, that you know that it's just around 3pm.

The second person you meet is running down the street, he's trying to catch a train at the station which leaves at 5 past 3. He asks you whether you know the time (because, if it's past 3 he might as well give up running), and you answer "I think it's around 3, but I honestly don't know".

And the same applies to the guard example above. The junior guard says that it might not be wise to ask the queen whether she has actually a brother - the sort of indecent question that's not quite within the guard's pregorative to ask, given matters of etiquette. HOWEVER. The queen's very own security is at stake. It's perfectly ok for both guards to conclude that since they don't KNOW if the man before them IS the queen's brother, it makes MUCH more sense to compromise etiquette and discretion. A disgruntled queen is preferable to one whose security you have compromised.

In other words, the +100 skill bonus on the guard's opposed Sense Motive check is perfectly called for.

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Interesting. I own the original 6 volumes as well as the map folio for this - speaking of, I'd heavily recommend that this hardcover be shipped with the fold out maps of Varisia and Sandpoint. I found these to be two invaluable campaign resources, and these could be printed on opposed sides.

Couple of questions...

1. How much of the added content is material you have already published elsewhere? E.g. the write up of Xin-Shalast in Lost Cities of Golarion, the Sandpoint NPC gallery in Jade Regent #1, the web freebie on Thassilonian magic, and so on? I'm asking because I'm wondering whether - above and beyond this being a golden opportunity for people who missed getting the path the first time round - there's enough added value for older customers who own these materials already.

2. What's the estimated overall page count? Roughly in the vicinity of Shackled City hardcover?

Thanks.

Edit. Two afterthoughts. First, print copies of the Runelords Player's Guide are still available cheaply at many places online. Second, might be worth pointing out that possession of Bestiary 2 is a prerequisite to using the Runelords hardcover (or at least, that's what I assume, otherwise you couldn't have cut down on the bestiary entries).

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