re the weapon, while the RAW allows, I disagree about the "no good role-playing reason." It's covered with iconography for a chaotic neutral god, and its bonus ability is triggered only for worshipers of that god. Admittedly this skirts the ancient arguments over whether a paladin can exist for gods who aren't one step from lawful good. Nonetheless I lean toward doubting the paladin would be comfortable with the implied association.
Of course, I'm looking forward to seeing how the paladin deals with not just iconography but an actual altar of an evil god that just happens to be oh so useful.
While there is a lack of a central city, the intro to the Forge mentions that the path the players take on this adventure brings them near the Sky Citadel of Janderhoff, Korvosa, Skelt, Glimmerhold, Braganza, Pangolais, and others. These make the necessity of returning to the forge for extended periods not so necessary. Useful, mind, but not necessary.
In the end, though, I don't think it matters. For my group of players, I think my relatively small changes will be met with enjoyment.
Steelwind, I am rather bemused by your vehemence on what I admit are changes due to my opinion and taste, not recommendations for all. That noted, as you yourself said Silvermane has archery because elf, not because druid. I would expect Silvermane to have kept personal weaponry with him, not in general storage.
Re the thorn, I think the main fighter is using a hammer. In my particular group - which is, as I said, a major driver - the fighter is using the hammer and the paladin wont use it because Gorum. So I am left with a clogue, a spellslinger, and a druid.
As to the forge, the scythe, and a host of other items, make plenty of templates. Personally I think its greatest use is resizing the various magic treasure found throughout, but again that is my personal opinion.
Note the following is 'scratching an itch', not preaching the one true way. A description, then the 'why'.
I'm changing the treasure in the armory of the Vault of Thorns as follows:
Replace ten +1 Orc Bane arrows with ten +1 Orc Bane (sling) bullets.
Replace one Orc Slaying arrow with one Orc Slaying bullet.
Modifying Gorum's Thorn as follows: Name is Mossy Thorn. Scythe instead of Greatsword. No user restriction (religion, race, class, alignment, etc.) Minor fluff changes.
So it reads as:
Mossy Thorn. The druids made a version of Gorum's Thorn that, while not the threat to orcs they desired, still served in defense of the marsh. Slot: none, CL 10th, Weight 10 lbs, Aura moderate transmutation.
This well-worn +1 keen scythe appears totally covered in moss except for the sharpened edge of the blade and the equally clean inscription on the blade. The inscription is in Druidic script, and translated reads, "A thorn in the foot shall cause even the mighty to stumble." When the wielder confirms a critical hit against any creature with the giant subtype, he can attempt to trip that target as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity and ignoring any size restrictions related to the target. If the trip attempt fails by 10 or more, the wielder is not knocked prone.
So why? It scratches some peeves, mainly, and I don't think any of it is an overwhelming gain or loss in ability for my players.
First peeve is conceptual. I am frequently annoyed when some area that is dedicated to a pure race or class contains weapons or items that are unusable or antithetical to that class or race. Druids cannot use bows (normally). And while they might work with classes that can, I am not persuaded that in the heart of their citadel, meant for druids alone, they hold weapons to be used by others, but not them - not unless they had a significant surplus of weapons for themselves. The arrows become sling bullets.
Gorum's Thorn, a greatsword they cannot use, is explained by the base text. I could leave it, but then we run into a second peeve of mine, one found in many if not most adventure packs. It's a lottery device. It's potent and powerful but not game breaking, and only usable if one of your players happens to win the lottery - choosing the right religion (in this case), or profession or background or whatever. Some of it's acceptable or makes complete sense - holy symbols being one example. But this, which is the only Named Weapon of the module, and one of the only two such magic items of the module, feels a lot like bait and switch. In fact I believe this restriction is a good part of why the whole treasure of the druid council feels underwhelming -- look at this great toy, too bad you [probably] can't have it.
The biggest down check in my opinion was that it made the value of the weapon greater - it's worth about 17,700 GP without the restriction, or about 42% more valuable.
In exchange I get a weapon that's better flavored for its location when found. Its broader use makes it feel like a major award that balances the artifacts and major magic items earned in the other modules. Since the weapon won't be available outside the adventure and the original 'worked' in it, I don't have to worry about unbalancing effects.
Druids often work in concert with arrows, perhaps that was the why of it being arrows.
I'd be inclined to ensure that the content of the vault match the ranged weapon of the character in the party most likely to actually fire them. The point of the treasure is to be rewarding, not a lunch box let down.
I'd buy the second argument, not so much the first, but it's still just a game and so long as it's fun in the end, it's no big deal.
One thing I've noticed in games I've run is that if I have alternate really good (magic) ammo, the alternate ammo gets used. I don't think I'm going to ruin players' fun by making the change.
We are about to start this part of the adventure. (There are two strong GMs in our group, and the two of us have agreed to alternate the role, an adventure at a time.)
Melira not only knowing but getting onto the boat made no sense to me in the game as written. However, I made it work for me with a minor side-trip.
See, the party has all that loot, particularly giant-sized armor. And Trunau just does not have funds to buy that stuff from them. The merchants in Vigil, however, do.
Vigil is about 30 more miles each way - a day downstream, and about 3 coming back up. And when they hit town the fact someone is selling giant gear - and that there may be some people pointing them out as the subjects of the recent news from Trunau - mean that Melira sees them. She's there because it's a good stop on the way from Freetown to Trunau.
A little coin, a little work with some questions and other checks, and she finds out enough to know the party plans to board the keelboat again for a trip upriver.
I decided to play it straight. The assassins prefer to gang up and ran it that way. It went badly for the assassins.
They chose to take on the paladin and fighter first. The paladin on first watch saw the attempt to slip the lock. And the second try. And the third, by which time he'd awakened the fighter and they'd positioned themselves. The fighter yanked open the door. Four assassins were surprised. (The gm now changes dice.) The paladin shield bashes the assassin in the door and drops her in place. He takes a five foot step back and holds action. The fighter steps up, shrugs off the only successful attack of opportunity, and repositions the assassin in front of him into the attack range of the paladin. The assassin whimpers.
The rogue/cleric in the room three doors down successfully hears the ruckus of the surprise round awakens the spellslinger, and moves to the hall. The spellslinger gets up.
And three assassins take a swing at the fighter. One hits, and the fighter shrugs off the poison.
In order: The rogue moves down the hall behind one of the assassins, swings, and misses. The spellslinger moves into the hall, uses an ability to add damage, then rolls a natural 20 followed by a natural 20. (gm says if he rolls another 20 in a row the player will be required to chance dice. Player smiles at gm, and rolls a 19.) the damage done is phenomenal, leaving the rogue next to a near headless corpse. The paladin strikes at the assassin in the room using nonlethal damage, leaving her barely standing. The fighter finishes dropping her.
The last assassin blinks at suddenly being the last man standing, draws and burns a smokestick (attack of opportunity misses) and with an acrobatic leap avoids the attack of the rogue. The spellslinger calmly aims, pulls the trigger, and has his pistol jam. Pursuit is aborted when the fighter says to let him go so his sort know what a bad deal it is to attack the party.
Note that I made a couple of rules errors in there, but did not retrofit as the story worked and nobody was majorly broken by it.
I kept the liquid blades, but they're unused loot. Well, unless it's necessary to get to where one of my players is hiding, but that's just the way play goes.
At the very beginning I greased the skid a bit by having Rodrik tell the group he had something he wanted them to do, but to meet him at breakfast the next morning to discuss it so it wouldn't ruin the party.
Minor tone issue changes at the party. First, the party itself is not just about Ruby. It's a town-wide name-day celebration for all who had or get their 'name' that month. Small towns are boring, they use community events to break that problem. This month there just happens to be a single candidate for the 'welcome to adulthood' part of the program.
Second on tone, I modified the speech and reason for the hopeknife. It's a 'weapon of last resort, with death the true last resort.' The focus is on fighting to the end, and death before surrender.
When the time comes, Kurst will meet and direct the players once. They won't get another meeting with him at the inner beacon.
If/when all beacons are lit, all allied with Trunau will get a +1 morale bonus to attacks and saving throws.
I'm sorry, I edited out some key details for the group in rewrites. Let me expand so you can see some of my frustration here. And temptation.
Five party group. As I said, all level 2 due to GM (me) idiosyncrasies.
Remember, they think/know they're bait. So they're setting watch and setting up caltrops/marbles at doors and a few minor things like that. But
Fighter 2 and Pal1/Sorc1 are in a room at Ramblehouse. About three doors down are the gunslinger2 (yes, I did) and Rogue/Cleric.
And up in the longhouse, providing close personal sympathy and secret bodyguard duty for Kurst, is the Druid 2 and her pet Roc. (sorry, never get tired of saying it that way.) Done after loudly flouncing away from the group, too, in the hopes of diverting attention.
They think it's just one killer, with maybe a henchman or two. They haven't figured out the rest.
One thing I've done is 'run the math'. It's nominally four level ones vs four level ones who have a (probable) night attack advantage. Four level ones vs two level twos who are ready is ACL+1, for however long it takes the other two to get there - or for the whole fight if it's the longhouse.
So anyway, following your idea for what amounts to a three-way split is NINE assassins. Four is bad enough for a contingency team, six gets hard to swallow, but nine... sigh.
My players don't know there's one coming, but being properly paranoid little buggers they decided the bad guys were out to get them after the
diseased wolf pack wandering the street situation
But even though they're paranoid they're (maybe) not paranoid enough. They think it's a single murderer they're pursuing. They decided it was important to trap the murderer and not scare him away, so they've kept the party split.
So anyway, I've got a set of choices that boil down to: I can put all four assassins in one room against one part, or I can spread them out and try to hit all the players at (notionally) the same time.
Now before you predict a total bloodbath I need to tell you that I decided to start everyone at level 2. GM idiosyncrasy thank you very much.
So it's potentially survivable either way. What I'm looking at is deciding which way the assassins go, and if they need a tweak.
Problem 1 seems to me to not exist if the assault begins as everyone is gathered at Rodrik's funeral. Which is how I interpreted the intent.
Problem 2, yeah. My solution is that this one doesn't happen because Kurst already gave them marching orders and took off for combat. If I /really/ need someone to say "hey, rescue people while you run through the quarter," I'll 'name that NPC'.
This, by the way, removes the ugliest points of 3 and 4, that "Kurst just came through here, right?"
Problem 5, interpretation. The portcullis got dropped late. Remember that Skreed led a group of saboteurs, and jamming these gates would sit fairly high on the 'remove obstacles to the attack' list. It does beg the question why Kurst and his team didn't stop to help fix or guard, but I can wave that (tunnel vision, thought there were plenty, didn't even stop to ask, etc.)
Problem 6, sorta agree. On the other hand I've got a bunch of players who are now rolling on combat, and the flaming boulder comes crashing near them - possibly killing some of the arriving militia. Barring player cussedness (which happens) there's probably not much more motivation required. Why are rocks dropping there? Because the crew is hitting the white crosses in town in the hopes of breaking something open. But yeah, it's interpretation and a fix.
I'm looking to fix one of my major annoyances with the first adventure before my players start the giantslayer in a couple of weeks. That's the fact that regardless how they do in the first section the consequences are the same.
Solve who dunnit, solve why, get the bonus knowledge of infiltrating saboteurs -- or not -- everything goes the same.
Now in part that is because the mystery is railroaded to an automatic success. Even though the spy-messenger only comes at night, it's assumed the players will catch him. And he spills a lot of what it takes to solve it all.
But I'm thinking my players may go in the day. And leave clues they are there. Making the villains idiots or slaves to the plot to stay and get caught.
So, I'm thinking of making changes. The players can fail. Levels of failure or success have consequences.
Ability to fail first. I'm setting a clock. Rodrick's funeral and the resulting attack will be sunset of the night after his murder. If I have to extend a night to get the second event in, I will - but it will count against them in the 'success' score. If they haven't entered plague house by the third day
Levels of success. At the extreme and unlikely is:
'Kurst, your brother was murdered by the leader of an infiltrating team of saboteurs using a hopeknife made by one of his team. He was murdered because he was closing in on the plot to sabotage the town's defenses. They were also searching for some ancient treasure. We have captured/killed most of the saboteurs at [purchased house], but Skreed is still at large.'
Note that this is only one touch more than what is found via the railroad. It assumes the players by inspiration and perhaps divination locate the house and they capture and question one or more of the infiltrators.
Failure comes by not having some or all that with usable proof. (For example, Rodrick's knife.)
Overall I am breaking it into five levels of success/fail.
That takes me to consequences. The first is that at max success I'm giving the players a couple of bonus resolve points and xp. At total failure I'm giving them a resolve deficit. +2 to -2 possible.
The real payoff will come for the second adventure. The more successful they were the better prepared everyone was for the attack. Better preparation means less loss and repair in the raid which means more money and such available when the party sets out for their little pleasure cruise.
Or you can try a different path. Build a 'defender of the weak' but after a level of fighter (possibly unbreakable) go to a ranger and take two weapon or sword and shield style, either way concentrating on making anyone who tries to bypass your armored lump pay dearly.
Assuming, that is, you don't just run it up the fighter chain.
So if I get you, you're wanting something that keeps you and the bad guy(s) close so the dainty and ranged don't get their tootsies damp from the blood they spill -- but at the same time you want to spill some blood yourself?
That's a fair point, hadn't thought of that one, unless Skreed either ran into serious trouble (placing a large number of corpses around would sort that, but then surely someone would know already) or he retreated after taking a beating in the initial run-in and is doing the "Dr. Jones" approach, waiting for the PCs to clear the remainder and then coming along to take it from them.
I've seen that a place or two as well and it may be the way I take it.
Right now, though, I'm leaning toward just making it a slog. The march down the hill, the toss-bucket, the giant - after that this last bit is a walk in the garden, right? (sarcasm, please note).
The thing is, I'm leaning toward thinking it locks into the mind that this is, well, it's an attempt to stop a war. Not a small cult or a nasty demon but orc hordes braced by giant masses. And while it's been a bit since I ran Giants, it seems like the enemies were almost endless then, too.
That said, I'm leaning toward a serendipitous scroll or two. I'll see how it looks when we get to that point.
You missed my point, I think, though I wasn't all that clear.
Third level hasn't that many spells, but it still requires eight hours of sleep and a period of study/prayer/meditation/etc. to regain them. It appears to me that most of our casters will be out of spells before the run is through, which will in turn make the Tomb Raid something less than fun.
If I'm reading the pacing right, casters are almost certainly out of spells by the time they face Crusher, much less the final battle.
Am I reading it right; if so are other GMs just planning to let this run its course; if so and if not how do you plan to deal with it?
personally, it feels like the scenario becomes unfun for casters when they spend the last half trying to contribute without casting spells or getting into close melee. I could be wrong, though, and so the question.
The only change was that Rodrick had approached the players the night before, to hear about the possibility of hiring them for a mission "details to be divulged tomorrow morning, as he didn't want to be rude to Rudy at the Hopeknife ceremony.(snip)
Ah, brilliant. I've been seeking the 'hook' that let's me get past hoping someone 'just likes Rodrick because he used to work for the man'. The one I was chasing - using Ruby in some way - kept running into "why isn't Ruby's mother involved?"
OK, I must be the odd duck or have odd players. I don't think the investigation is all that long, boring, or drawn out.
The core of it is an intro and four scenes. The interludes following 1 and 2 have a small attack, one of which is a contender for nastiest battle of the book. 3's interlude should have the players looking for the attack that isn't coming and 4 points toward a small dungeon crawl that concludes the section.
Barring my players getting interested in just exploring town it's two sessions with a chance for /all/ the skills to shine. And if my players are having fun exploring town, well, the purpose of all this is to have fun.
Actually I thought fog (and rain) was quite common in mountains, since it's a matter of condensation leaving the air, as it passes from warmer climates and then past the mountains where the air can contain less moisture?
Living in a land that's as flat as a pancake doesn't give me much experience to work on though. :P
heh - been there about living in flatland.
As I read the map, Trunau is at best in foothills if not rolling plains. It's also on the hill, not in the valley. Mountain fog rules do not apply.
The big thing that would be 'odd' would be a fog that lasts through the day - whether sitting on Trunau all day or creeping in over half a day starting about noon. Either in a world of magic screams "Magic Here" to me, making it hard to believe surprise was achieved. If it works for you, go for it. For me, the rolling storm foreshadows without triggering warnings from its blatancy.
I /like/ your idea of weather foreshadowing. At the same time I have players who are adept at spotting such so have to avoid too heavy a hand. Since the book actually mentions the weather, I'll just use that.
.. besides, if things are going too well in Act 2 I'll just muse at how hard it is to light fires in a pouring rainstorm.
Since I'm going to be running this soon I've been doing a lot of detail checking.
The bit about weather effects - of fog or something hiding the orcs - is in the book though not obvious. Specifically, as the PCs enter the Inner Quarter storm clouds move in over the town.
And that storm will have been approaching all afternoon - easily providing concealment for a band of orc raiders.
So not a fog (which is weird for the terrain) but a more 'natural' storm marching out of the Mindspin Mountains. Add in guards in disarray and wanting to pay last respects and that particular issue goes away (at least in my mind).
I hope to be running this in the next few weeks, but it seems that there's some issues with the siege parts, from what I gather here.
I was wondering if a simple solution to the "surprise attack" wouldn't work and simply have it be a day of extremely foggy weather? The weather manipulation should be within the abilities of a Storm Giant (main bad guy), shouldn't it? And while it's too early for him to make an appearance, it would provide a bit of foreshadowing.
That might work.
Me, I'm leaning toward the attack starting 2 or 3 am. Start 12-15 miles away which makes an experienced Orc raid unlikely to be seen from Trunau. Start marching just after sundown.
I'll be running this in a couple of months (I'm going to wait till the third module is out just for timing and anticipations), but I'm gleaning ideas.
The visit of the assassins is one of the small pieces I'll need to tweak and while I have a solution I'm interested in alternatives. See, I already know at least one of my players plans to be a native of Trunau which means his own place in town. It's unlikely that all four or five players will be in the same room, and in fact it's likely they'll be in different buildings. The assassination is set up assuming our party is rooming/camping together.
Because of the gang-up feat, what I'm working on right now is "one more clue" to pick up some of the missing XP, and set up an ambush in connection.