Pathfinder Adventure Path #37: Souls for Smuggler's Shiv (Serpent's Skull 1 of 6) (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path #37: Souls for Smuggler's Shiv (Serpent's Skull 1 of 6) (PFRPG)
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Chapter 1: "Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv"
by James Jacobs

Only the Strong Survive

A deadly storm shipwrecks the passengers and crew of the Jenivere upon infamous Smuggler’s Shiv, an island off the coast of the jungle realm of Sargava. If they’re to have any hope of escaping the notorious pirates’ graveyard, the survivors will need to band together to outwit the isle’s strange beasts and legendary menaces. But can the PCs unite the swift-to-squabble castaways, especially when several seem to have mysterious goals of their own? And does Smuggler’s Shiv hide secrets even deadlier than its desperate denizens?

    This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path launches the Serpent’s Skull Adventure Path and includes:
  • “Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 1st-level characters, by James Jacobs.
  • A detailed look at the personalities marooned on Smuggler’s Shiv, by James Jacobs.
  • Revelations into the history, ways, and world-spanning schemes of the serpentfolk, by Clinton Boomer.
  • An introduction to the wisdom and dangers of the jungle in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Robin Laws.
  • Five new monsters, by James Jacobs and F. Wesley Schneider.

Pathfinder Adventure Path is Paizo Publishing's monthly 96-page, perfect-bound, full-color softcover book printed on high-quality paper. It contains an in-depth Adventure Path scenario, stats for about a half-dozen new monsters, and several support articles meant to give Game Masters additional material to expand their campaign. Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes use the Open Game License and work with both the Pathfinder RPG and the standard 3.5 fantasy RPG rules set.

ISBN–13: 978-1-60125-254-8

Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Sanctioned Content
Souls for Smuggler's Shiv is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild.

Download the rules for running this Adventure Path and Chronicle sheets — (495 kb zip/PDF)

Other Resources: This product is also available on the following platforms:

Archives of Nethys

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscription.

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Are there errors or omissions in this product information? Got corrections? Let us know at store@paizo.com.

PZO9037


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Serpents Skull

4/5

This was a pretty sweet module! I just finished running it and I loved the flavor of it. However, that said there are a few problems, some of the battles have combos that are nigh on impossible to escape unscathed. The darkness plus paralysis in the caves of the mother and the sheer numbers of the cannibals left my players party in shambles. I love how it sets up the rest of the campaign and the NPCs were very fun to play. My players even managed to keep two of them alive. So I'd say with a little tinkering to make some of the encounters less deadly, this is a great start to an AP.


Excellent adventure... Stand alone or as part of the path

5/5

This is an excellent adventure where the players felt like they had complete control over their own destiny. It does take a significant amount of work and role play skill from the GM. So if you're a lazy GM or your players don't care about story there are better options for you. But as far as a sandbox style adventure that is capable of standing on its own this was excellent.

spoiler:
as for the puzzle that everyone says was so difficult I simply drew a stick figure picture of the hieroglyphs that are described in the book. Made the puzzle very easy for my players because they could actually see the pictures instead of having me try to describe them to them.


Great Start

5/5

This is one of the best AP books of all time.

Pros:
- Great get the party together hook
- Amazing setting
- Sandbox style adventure leaves room to play

Cons
- There was a tricky puzzle that my players had a tough time figuring out

Overall its just doesn't get better than this. My players loved it for its sense of mystery, menace and suspense. I can't wait for this to become PFS legal to get a chance to play it and run it more.


This AP is HARD

5/5

Spoiler potential ahead, so be warned.

My players and I (the GM) loved this book. Having played through Kingmaker and experienced the sandbox style they presented there, I can safely say Souls for Smuggler's Shiv (SfSS) balances that sandbox exploration feel with what I think Kingmaker lacked - a good sense of progression. Certainly you can go around the island and kill off random encounters and animal lairs and explore shipwrecks, but you very quickly pick up on the hooks of a plot and an idea of how to progress it at the pace the players want. And trust me, they should pace themselves, because this AP is hard as hell.

The DCs are a bit too high here and there (Swim and Climb Checks of 20 at level 1? Knowledge DC 25s?? DC 30 Perception and Escape Artist checks???) but that's easily tweak-able. The Cannibal camp really ramps up the difficulty if they're not careful, and Mother Thrunefang was an almost TPK if you run her as it describes tactically. Also, 6 skeletons vs a level 1 party with minimal means of dealing bludgeoning damage is extremely deadly; proceed with caution. Endure Elements is a must have (luckily there's an NPC with the capability to cast it if the PCs can't), and I even threw in the rules about getting lost, which made for some desperate (and fun!) struggles in the island. All this, combined with the dangerous wildlife, gives a very visceral feel to the deadliness of the Shiv, and my players and I loved it.

The mystery as to how they got there and why is also a fun little game we had, and any GM worth his/her salt should take time to read up on each of the NPC castaways and play them according to their personalities. Gelik and Ishirou remain two of the more memorable NPCs they encountered, mostly because both of them gave them the most trouble. Jask was almost immediately helpful when the paladin convinced everyone that he was innocent, Aerys was also convinced to be more helpful especially after they got the berries, and Sasha got her animal companion but unfortunately contracted Red Ache early on and was mostly incapacitated for the adventure (I plan on detailing her further in the coming books).

The "Campmaker" rules were a little too gamey for my tastes, but it worked out after we assigned roles and started getting back into roleplaying. Trying to win over the favor of the NPCs was quite fun as well. Overall, a very fun AP, especially if they're looking for a challenge. I highly recommend it!


damn!

1/5

This AP has some cute ideas but falls very short of proveding any real entertanment. Dozens of high DC saves with horrible effects, and skill check DC's that are nearly impossible if not total min/max. Oh and several encounters that can only be described as blood baths. Darkness + paralysis= TPW. We played with experianced gamers (20+ yrs each) and suffered 2 TPW and a total of 10 PC deaths!


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Julian Neale wrote:
Mairkurion {tm} wrote:
** spoiler omitted **
Mairkurion ** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Julian, you should add yourself to the PathfinderWiki. Most contributors have brief bios and a photo on there. Feel free to ask me for assistance should you need help.
Sovereign Court

Julian Neale wrote:
Did anyone else besides me watch Mysterious Cities of Gold, a (Spanish) cartoon during the mid-'80s? The brief description of the AP reminds me a little of that! Anyway, that cartoon had a cool story, and this AP sounds intriguing as hell, too! :D

I adored that show when I was a wee nipper.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Asgetrion wrote:
Is that serpent or alligator skin on the background? Anyway, I really like the look and colors of this AP, and the cover illustration is great! :)

It would be serpent skin.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

James Jacobs wrote:
It would be serpent skin.

Oh, yes. Yes...it would. :->

Dark Archive

James Jacobs wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
Is that serpent or alligator skin on the background? Anyway, I really like the look and colors of this AP, and the cover illustration is great! :)
It would be serpent skin.

And in retrospect (considering the name of this module) it feels like a really dumb question. :) However, if you ask me, this is another hit for Sarah (she truly is the best AD in RPG business)! Great work! :)


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
GeraintElberion wrote:
Julian Neale wrote:
Did anyone else besides me watch Mysterious Cities of Gold, a (Spanish) cartoon during the mid-'80s? The brief description of the AP reminds me a little of that! Anyway, that cartoon had a cool story, and this AP sounds intriguing as hell, too! :D
I adored that show when I was a wee nipper.

We had a very popular french version in Quebec (Les mysterieuses citees d or) back then. It actually came back in the late 90s.

It was great but damn you the tune is back in my head!


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Asgetrion wrote:
However, if you ask me, this is another hit for Sarah (she truly is the best AD in RPG business)! Great work! :)

Just want to add that I agree with this wholeheartedly.

Paizo's art is a big reason that I decided to look into Pathfinder. One of those occasions where judging a book by it's cover turned out okay. :-)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Thing is, no matter how many times someone says not to, EVERYONE judges a book by its cover, unless you specifically avoid looking at the cover. The whole point of a cover is to let you judge a book, actually. And the art and maps inside the book are a close second. All reasons why we try our hardest to make the covers and art and maps worthy of anyone's attention.

Scarab Sages

James Jacobs wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
Is that serpent or alligator skin on the background? Anyway, I really like the look and colors of this AP, and the cover illustration is great! :)
It would be serpent skin.

Father would approve....

unless it's tanned hide or a close-up of someones belt or shoes, then it's a no-no.

Liberty's Edge

James Jacobs wrote:
The iconics for this AP are Merisiel, Ezren, Valeros, and Kyra.

The very four whom I was hoping for! Hey I made a ryhme!


Time for the stupid question of the day!

If I were to subscribe to the AP ongoing subscription...could I specify just this one? or would I get both this and Kingmaker products?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Me.

Dark Archive

Berwick wrote:

Time for the stupid question of the day!

If I were to subscribe to the AP ongoing subscription...could I specify just this one? or would I get both this and Kingmaker products?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Me.

If you wait to sign up till this one is a option then you could just get this series. Normally when you sign up you can choose the one that is currently out and the next one. So just wait until the last Kingmaker is out to sign up and it should be a option.

Liberty's Edge

Not sure if this is the place to ask. But anyone know when the players guide for this AP will be out?


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
CapeCodRPGer wrote:
Not sure if this is the place to ask. But anyone know when the players guide for this AP will be out?

Probably right when the PDF for Pathfinder #37 becomes available for subscribers. That is, late July/early August, I think.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

CapeCodRPGer wrote:
Not sure if this is the place to ask. But anyone know when the players guide for this AP will be out?

I believe the plan is to have the Player's Guide available on the first day of Gen Con.

Dark Archive

Which means subscribers assuming we get the PDF's like normal should have the PDF's near the end of July.


seriously, this cover artist is amazing. Please get him to do more. Lots more

Paizo Employee Creative Director

MerrikCale wrote:
seriously, this cover artist is amazing. Please get him to do more. Lots more

He'll be doing all of the Serpent's Skull covers, for one. And beyond that, I suspect he'll be doing more covers as well. He's quite good.


James Jacobs wrote:
MerrikCale wrote:
seriously, this cover artist is amazing. Please get him to do more. Lots more
He'll be doing all of the Serpent's Skull covers, for one. And beyond that, I suspect he'll be doing more covers as well. He's quite good.

Great.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

This thread is full of awesome announcements:

More variety in APs between linear and non-linear styles = awesome.

APG becoming core = awesome.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

I was lucky enough to play Smuggler's Shiv at PaizoCon and I've got to say that it dialed right into my sweet spot. Some spoilery stuff below:

Spoiler:
I favor less linear adventures, and from what I saw (and James told us), the adventure largely takes place on an island and the PCs have a lot of freedom to explore it. We wandered from our shipwreck, encountered a yellow-musk creeper zombie (which, I suspect is a side quest type thing), and then got lost in the jungle and ambushed by natives (cannibals in fact, who captured my poor rogue and presumably ate him when we went looking for their village). The whole time, we were haunted by some flying creature dropping dead things by our campsite at night. It was very cool.

BTW James, if you're reading this, was the flashback/dream stuff you did in that session built into the adventure? I thought it was very well done from a player perspective - providing a good deal of exposition without slowing down the game. It was a good use of that technique (as was the way you drew the map) and I was impressed.

Liberty's Edge

I have an idea for the perfect party for this. The castaways:

1. Skipper, the capt. of the boat.
2. The first mate
3. A professior from a school
4. A famous Chelix actress
5. A farmgirl
6. A rich noblemen
7. The noblemens wife.

Dark Archive

CapeCodRPGer wrote:

I have an idea for the perfect party for this. The castaways: 1. Skipper, the capt. of the boat.

2. The first mate
3. A professior from a school
4. A famous Chelix actress
5. A farmgirl
6. A rich noblemen
7. The noblemens wife.

Ooh, that's awesome!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Sebastian wrote:

I was lucky enough to play Smuggler's Shiv at PaizoCon and I've got to say that it dialed right into my sweet spot. Some spoilery stuff below:

** spoiler omitted **

The flashbacks and dreams are part of the adventure—I wanted to try out a new way to establish some background material in the form of some dream symbolism and stuff. I've run that twice so far, and both times it seems to work really well!


James Jacobs wrote:
The flashbacks and dreams are part of the adventure—I wanted to try out a new way to establish some background material in the form of some dream symbolism and stuff. I've run that twice so far, and both times it seems to work really well!

Are these flashbacks spread along all the scenaristic arc or just the first part?

I happen to run a persistent campaign built upon the concept of amnesia, forgotten past and false memories, with flashbacks and all, and I would be interested to see how such things are treated by other DMs or designers...

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Seldriss wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
The flashbacks and dreams are part of the adventure—I wanted to try out a new way to establish some background material in the form of some dream symbolism and stuff. I've run that twice so far, and both times it seems to work really well!

Are these flashbacks spread along all the scenaristic arc or just the first part?

I happen to run a persistent campaign built upon the concept of amnesia, forgotten past and false memories, with flashbacks and all, and I would be interested to see how such things are treated by other DMs or designers...

There's three dreams the GM can use to inflict on the PCs their memories; when those dreams occur is left up to the GM.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
CapeCodRPGer wrote:

I have an idea for the perfect party for this. The castaways:

1. Skipper, the capt. of the boat.
2. The first mate
3. A professior from a school
4. A famous Chelix actress
5. A farmgirl
6. A rich noblemen
7. The noblemens wife.

Just off the top of my head race/class combos:

1. Human Paladin - seriously. Despite all the hitting his first mate with his hat, he'd have to have a code of ethics to prevent him from just killing the idiot and make their rescue plans actually WORK for once.

2. Halfling Rogue with a max Wisdom of 8

3. Elf Alchemist (or maybe Wizard)

4. Half-Elf Bard

5. Gnome Ranger

6. Middle Aged Human Cleric (Abadar)

7. Middle Aged Human ??? (This is my only question. Sorcerer, maybe, so there's at least one arcane caster in the group.)

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
CapeCodRPGer wrote:

I have an idea for the perfect party for this. The castaways:

1. Skipper, the capt. of the boat.
2. The first mate
3. A professior from a school
4. A famous Chelix actress
5. A farmgirl
6. A rich noblemen
7. The noblemens wife.

I think the PCs are supposed to get off the island at some point though...


James Jacobs wrote:
MerrikCale wrote:
seriously, this cover artist is amazing. Please get him to do more. Lots more
He'll be doing all of the Serpent's Skull covers, for one. And beyond that, I suspect he'll be doing more covers as well. He's quite good.

Yeh love the cover...swashbuckling babes ftw(loved the pic on the sailors pages in the GMG for the same reason..is it the same artist?) but then I liked Geena Davis in Cuthroat Island so who am I to judge


Hi

I was wondering if this product is still going to be released in July. The reason I am asking is that the kingmaker series also has a product coming out in July.

Thanks for any info.


yipwyg wrote:

Hi

I was wondering if this product is still going to be released in July. The reason I am asking is that the kingmaker series also has a product coming out in July.

Thanks for any info.

It ships in 'late July' and is actually the August issue of the AP, but they want it out for GenCon (Aug 5-8). If you take a look at the next issue, Racing to Ruin, it isn't due out until September.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Yeah; PF 37 will indeed be shipping in late July, but it's actual release date is the first day of Gen Con.


When can we expect the Player's Guide?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Erevis Cale wrote:
When can we expect the Player's Guide?

Same day: First day of Gen Con.


Wrong thread, I know..... but...

What is the title for Chapter 6 of this AP? I can not find it anywhere.

thanks,

-- david
Papa.DRB

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Papa-DRB wrote:
What is the title for Chapter 6 of this AP? I can not find it anywhere.

I could tell you. But then I'd have to kill you. ;-)


Papa-DRB wrote:

What is the title for Chapter 6 of this AP? I can not find it anywhere.

It hasn't yet been announced. When the next round of solicitations goes up (probably in the next week or two) it will be the first one to appear.

Liberty's Edge

I agree with Sebastian it was a lot of fun. The dreams were intriguing and well done. I am eager to try the mapping technique you used monday in our game.

Scarab Sages

Paul Hedges wrote:
I agree with Sebastian....

Oh noes! People are starting to agree with him! The end of the world is nigh!

Edit: Oops, I hope it's Ok that I'm cracking a joke here....


Oh my..looks like Spicer's gone up in the world..writing the capstone episode..well done Neil.


WANT!!!!

That is all.

Also, any reason why my LGS store me the release date is Aug 25th when Jacobs is up there saying Aug 5th? Is there a reason for the three week difference?


Pirates and serpentfolk. Looks like Freeport. Which I do like a lot.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Susan Draconis wrote:

WANT!!!!

That is all.

Also, any reason why my LGS store me the release date is Aug 25th when Jacobs is up there saying Aug 5th? Is there a reason for the three week difference?

All I can say is that we plan on selling this one at Gen Con, and that that's the release day. There's a bazillion reasons why a LGS might not release it until August 25th that I'm not privy to, but my gut tells me that they either just placed their order for the book super late or they got something mixed up.

Note also: I don't work in the warehouse, and so I don't have visibility into the vagaries and ninja smoke that goes on in there anyway...


James Jacobs wrote:
Infos...

Thanks for the infos.


Looks like I'm going to need to read this over before I finalize the adventure I am going to take with me to Fur Fright.


How much of this adventure path would make for good tie-ins to the Savage Tide? I suspect that my PCs will be leaving the Isle of Dread in search of you-know-who right around the time that all six of these are out, so some piracy stuff, even if not level appropriate, would be fantastic.

Not that it is going to influence my purchase of these in any way. Because they are already as good as bought. I was just curious.

Dark Archive

I believe only the first volume actually has a high seas feel to it. Don't take my word for it, though.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Kain Darkwind wrote:

How much of this adventure path would make for good tie-ins to the Savage Tide? I suspect that my PCs will be leaving the Isle of Dread in search of you-know-who right around the time that all six of these are out, so some piracy stuff, even if not level appropriate, would be fantastic.

Not that it is going to influence my purchase of these in any way. Because they are already as good as bought. I was just curious.

None of this adventure path really has much in the way of nautical adventures; the first adventure starts with a shipwreck and has the PCs exploring a strange island, and after that it's all on the mainland.

The Exchange

Ravenmantle wrote:
I believe only the first volume actually has a high seas feel to it. Don't take my word for it, though.

Nah, it doesn't have a High Seas feel at all. As (Ninja) James said, the opening scene is PCs realizing they are stranded on an island. There is some prologue type stuff that happens before the shipwreck, but that's it.

Edit: And having finished my first read through... Wow. This is going to be a blast to run. But we have to finish Second Darkness and run through Kingmaker first. :-(


James Jacobs wrote:
Kain Darkwind wrote:

How much of this adventure path would make for good tie-ins to the Savage Tide? I suspect that my PCs will be leaving the Isle of Dread in search of you-know-who right around the time that all six of these are out, so some piracy stuff, even if not level appropriate, would be fantastic.

Not that it is going to influence my purchase of these in any way. Because they are already as good as bought. I was just curious.

None of this adventure path really has much in the way of nautical adventures; the first adventure starts with a shipwreck and has the PCs exploring a strange island, and after that it's all on the mainland.

Thanks James (and you too, Wolfuthu) for the response. Perhaps the serpentfolk will make good additions to the Seventh Coil. Maybe the art will include a horrifically scarred in the face snakeman I can use for the Leech. :-) Perhaps it will just rock without providing me with any additional material for my campaign, but having looked further at the adventure path...I'm pretty sure I might be able to use this for the actual Isle of Dread stuff. Gorilla king? Lost cities in the jungle? Scarlet Brotherhoo...er, I mean, Red Mantis assassins?

Six months for this to be out, and my players have not quite begun Lightless Depths....I think there's still enough time to fit chunks of it in. :-)

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