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I'm currently GMing Legacy of Fire for the second time. My players are about to enter Kakishon and begin Part 4.
When the first group and I finished Legacy of Fire, I asked them what they thought of the adventure path and how it could have been improved. Their biggest thing they thought could be improved was more time to see the sights in Kakishon. As they put it, Kakishon was built up like it was Disneyland, but as soon as the PCs get to Kakishon, Jhavhul escapes and gets back to his evil plan, and the PCs are like, "We have to get the hell out of Disneyland!" to stop him. They wanted more time to explore the fantastic vistas of Kakishon, without being under the time pressure of needing to escape as soon as possible. For instance, one of the player characters had lived in the hot climate of Katapesh his whole life and had never seen snow before, so he was looking forward to visiting Aliskiren, but he never got the chance, because once they found out what Jhavhul was planning to do from Dilix Mahad, they spent all their time and effort finding a way out of Kakishon.
The second area of potential improvement regarded the heroes relationship with Jhavhul. The PCs had explored the House of the Beast--Jhavhul's headquarters for his scheme, Kakishon--Jhavhul's prison, and Bayt al Bazan--Jhavhul's home, and had spoken with Dilix Mahad, Obherak, Shazathared, and Nefeshti, so the PCs knew a great deal about Jhavhul even though they had only seen him once, literally in passing as they were falling into Kakishon and he was flying out. Jhavhul, on the other hand, has little to no idea who the PCs are. If there had been any significant conversation before the final encounter in The Final Wish, Jhavhul's part in it would have gone something like this (in more elevated language): "So you're the heroes these pathetic mortals keep whimpering will save them. Wait, you're the fools who let me out of Kakishon. How did you get out of Kakishon? You know what? I don't care, because I'm about to become the Firebleeder and get busy with Ymeri. Almah, speak the final wish or I will torment and kill you." Because of this, the epic finale of the entire Legacy of Fire adventure path ended up being kind of impersonal.
I'd like to try rectifying these issues for my second group of players by altering Part 4, The End of Eternity, allowing my new PCs to explore the wonders of Kakishon without apparent time pressure, and providing an establishing encounter with Jhavhul. I have some ideas on how to pull this off, but would appreciate suggestions on how to avoid potential pitfalls.
My ideas so far: Jhavhul needs something from the PCs to escape Kakishon, namely the ruby tuning fork they got from the Captain of the Sunset Ship. I'm making it the planar key to Kakishon, essentially. However, I need a reason to avoid having what I think would be a very unsatisfying encounter in which Jhavhul and his army just jump the PCs at their earliest convenience, take the key by force, and then kthnxbai, Jhavhul out. So I'm thinking the key just magically can't be taken by force, that seems like a worthwhile security feature for Nex to have installed. To get the key, Jhavhul and his forces must trick the PCs into freely giving to them or placing it in a particular location so the efreet can grab it unattended.
There is a trope that appears several times in The 1001 Nights in which a fortunate traveler finds a fantastic place where they can receive everything they want: fine food to eat and wine to drink, the companionship of one or more beautiful ladies, wealth beyond measure, etc.; as long as they abide by some minor restriction like "for 27 days out of 30 I am yours, but during the three days when the efreeti comes you must not come near" or "these keys will open any door in the palace and everything within is yours, but you must not open the 40th door." Inevitably, the subject of the tale transgresses this restriction and loses it all. Player curiosity being what it is, I think I can get them to fall for or play along with this trope. The Pleasure Palace of Nex on the central island of Kakishon seems like a good place to try to have this go down. Dilix Mahad can play the welcoming host who warns the PCs not to enter the 40th chamber (or whatever the restriction ends up being). Inside the chamber will apparently be the PCs only way out of Kakishon, but when they insert the ruby tuning fork into the pedestal or portal or whatever, Jhavhul will swoop in, take the key, summon his army, betray Dilix, deliver some gloating, and escape Kakishon, stranding the PCs inside. Then The End of Eternity proceeds more or less as written, with the PCs seeking out the shaitans, the proteans, or both to find a way out of Kakishon before Jhavhul can complete his wishing scheme to transform himself into the Firebleeder.
There are some obvious potential pitfalls. There are several factions and individuals in Kakishon that know Jhavhul is trapped inside Kakishon, that know what he's up to, and that won't be in on the con, so to speak. If the PCs speak to the shaitans on Khandelwal, the xorn on Ismaizade, Venema Shodair on the Isle of the Dead, Artel Norrin in the Fireforge, or possibly even the proteans before being duped into freeing Jhavhul, the jig will be up.
This may be too tall an order. There are a few things the PCs must do, and several things they must not do, to make this change work. The sandbox nature of The End of Eternity is one of its great strengths, but to pull this off I'm going to have to lay some significant railroad track through the sandbox. I may be better off just running it as written despite the suggestions of my first set of players.
What do you all think? Do you have any advice or suggestions on how I might be able to allow the PCs to explore Kakishon without time pressure, but still ensure that they accidentally free Jhavhul and his army, without being too heavy-handed with the railroading? Or should I just run it as written?