Way of the Wicked—Book #3: Tears of the Blessed (PFRPG) PDF

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Lead an Army of Darkness into Battle!

Inside the Vale of Valtaerna is found the most sacred site to the benevolent god Mitra in all of Talingarde. From this holy site, your enemies draw power and comfort. This is the story of how you raised an army of wickedness and stormed that stronghold of light slaughtering all who stood in your way!

No longer are you a petty servant of darkness. Here is your chance to become a master of evil. But beware! This will not be easy. There are more than just priests in the vale. This is the lair of countless good celestials who will do all in their power to stop your rise. Can you defeat them? Will you be destroyed or will you emerge triumphant amidst the tears of the blessed?

Welcome to the third chapter of the “Way of the Wicked”—the only evil adventure path for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!

Inside you’ll find:

  • “Tears of the Blessed,” an adventure compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game for 10th-level villains by Gary McBride
  • Full color art and maps by Michael Clarke
  • A gazetteer of the city of Ghastenhall
  • Detailed information about the Church of Mitra, your most determined foes.
  • All you need to run a vicious narrative battle with your PCs in command.
  • 102 pages of full color!
  • And More!

Raise your army, dark lord, and march to war. There will be no one to stop you this time!

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****½ (based on 7 ratings)

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Clerics, Angels and Phoenix, oh my

*****

Your horrid villains are tasked with sacking a wintered-in valley of nauseatingly Lawful Good types. Recruit foot soldiers, bust the gate open and sack the place!

This chapter continues to demonstrate the villainous virtues of infiltration, sabotage, skulduggery and raw Evil firepower. The big nasties are all challenging icons of Things that are Good. Some groups will mop the floor with their foes, others will have a more difficult time.

As is the established pattern in earlier chapters, the villains can nova some encounters while carefully husbanding resources in other parts.

Plan carefully Ladies and Lords for failure to pay attention may send your damned souls to Hell far earlier than you wish...


Tears of the Blessed Review

****( )

Warning: Potential spoilers. Written from a GM's perspective. I ran this for 6 PCs.

In the third installment of the Way of the Wicked, the players are given the task of recruiting and army to sack the holy city of Valtaerna. Having played through this book, I must continue to give my compliments to creators. The world and the story is still holding the players attention and offering them creative ways to play their dark lords.

A particularly excellent part of this book was the appropriately epic Battle for Valtaerna. While this long fight spanned at least two full sessions and used almost every resource the party had, it never became tedious or felt like the players were just going through the motions.

However, if I had a criticism of this chapter of Way of the Wicked, it would be that the excitement is a little bit frontloaded. The Big Battle, while excellent, happens fairly early in the book. There is also the matter of a the Phoenix, who is fought relatively early in the book, but is actually a far more dangerous and memorable than the final boss.

Two words of caution to GM planning to run Tears of the Blessed:
1. Be careful with the Phoenix. My players were not well prepared heading in to that fight. Thankfully they had Protection From Energy or we may have had a TPK. However, our party mage had too few non-fire spells and the martial characters didn't have a way of getting through the Phoenix's DR 15/Evil. With the Phoenix's healing capabilities, the fight ended up being a slog where they could barely do more damage than the Phoenix could heal in a round.
2. Be careful with Holy Word. While, most encounters in the latter half of the book have access to this devastating spell, I highly suggest limiting your usage of it. This is a really powerful spell, that does a great job incapacitating players and making the encounter feel dangerous. Unfortunately, when you are a player, being incapacitated isn't very fun. Not only will your players hate it, but they will actively prepare ways to counter it. Considering that Holy Word is probably the best tactic of an otherwise rather weak final boss, you really don't want to wear it out.

However, minor complaints and warnings aside, I would still highly recommend this book. It runs far quicker and easier than Call Forth Darkness and maintains the series excellent quality in story and characters.


*****

I've reviewed this on RPGGeek.com.

You can read it here.


***( )( )

Tears of the Blessed is a very cool concept module with a lot of neat flavor. The book itself is written with style and the general outline of the adventure itself is very promising. Here's my review:

1. Mechanics
While the fluff and circumstance in the module is fantastic at times (and drudging at others) it suffers from a lot of fidgety mechanics issues that belie a fair bit of annoyance.
A lot of the stat blocks in Way of the Wicked are streamlined. These are made for best use, which is, in thought, very kind, but in practice for the experienced DM very agitating. Baking power attack into most enemies attack rolls seems smart until they're also baking abilities in as well, making unraveling bonuses difficult. Some creatures have deflection against evil opponents in their stat blocks, making their CMD and AC jump up from what's written down. If you have a neutral character in the party, they're very powerful in this module.
Many opponents are not as dangerous as their CR entails. This leads to a kind of boredom syndrome-- a lot of battles are versus foes who, in writing, are CR 10, but in longevity are not-- AC tends to teeter around 20, and attack rolls around +13. Many battles are the opposite-- the creatures aren't very dangerous, but are extremely long-lived. Later on in the Vale itself, DR 5-15/evil is on every single monster you encounter until you begin to encounter incorporeal foes. From the middle of the Battle of Saintsbridge, almost every single foe you face has spell resistance. That is immensely painful. Many encounters are able to cast holy word, which is very punishing to melee. Many encounters are layered in personal or group protection from evil effects, making almost all mind-affecting abilities wasted. Protective aura is unbelievably irritating. Many encounters are slogs that the NPCs can never be victorious in, making the entire conflict unnecessary. A lot of encounters are just soldiers, or later, angelic soldiers, throwing themselves at you to die with little fanfare. Not a lot of encounters enhance the mood-- they just serve as filler.
The humdrum is broken up by several lynchpin encounters that are both exciting, interesting and incredibly iconic. Suchandra the Phoenix is an extremely worthy foe, as is The-Flame-That-Sings. Ara Mathra and She-Forever-Silent are intimidating, as are Taranea and the ghostly paladins (though three encounters of three is far too much in my opinion). These encounters are not only interesting, but some of the only encounters that are plot-worthy (see below).
As a warning, The-Flame-That-Sings is a full-on TPK encounter if your group does not have protection from energy and resist energy. By the time the group killed The-Flame and Suchandra got busy, everyone but the wizard was out of their 120 fire absorption and almost all of them but the monk and bard were on fire. In an adventure that is all-but guaranteed to have an evil-aligned cleric, this can be very devastating.

2. Impetus
In this book, the PCs finish their quest from the last adventure and then are thrust into the next. This has the same kind of problem as the first two books: Cardinal Thorn says jump, so you jump, get tortured and jump minus a stat point, or the book permanently kills you. Not a lot of illusion of choice. You must meet with Sakkarot, that scenario is successful if the PCs try at all, you must go into the Vale, you must douse the three flames, you must kill everyone there, you must slay Ara Mathra. The PCs wants or character motivations don't come into it. There aren't any compelling characters to want to work for, like in other modules (unless you're still riding on the fumes of Thorn from book 1) or people who need saving. It's the opposite-- your character sees there are people who need killing and goes to kill them for the sake of killing. There's no characters to really hate or want to kill, either. Unlike the other books, evil doesn't turn on evil, nor is good annoying, self-righteous or antagonistic. It makes the module extremely bleak. You go around killing great people who don't deserve it and who can't fight back... for fun.

3. Plot
The plot is that the PCs go to a place that is good and nice, kill everyone there and then kill the angels there because their boss said so. There's really nothing beyond that besides plot seeds for the next books. An interesting character is introduced-- Dessiter-- and then disappears. None of the antagonists are really fleshed out beyond the room they're in, and thusly feel very flat. Many, despite there being a huge amount of reasons for them to, do not leave their encounter rooms. My favorite is Taranea-- a CG azata-- who follows orders to not intervene in the Battle of Saintsbridge until the PCs are (presumably) high enough level to fight her. An elementally chaotic creature and elementally good creature not only follows orders but lets people die because of them.
You spend almost the entire module knowing about Ara Mathra but he never interacts with the party-- not even a word from the sky, a showing, an angry prophecy. Strangely, the party is on a timer-- the leader of the Vale is summoning an army of ghostly paladins to fight the PCs-- but the PCs don't know it, so they kind of lackidaisically take their time through the module without much urgency.

Still not liking some of the organization, and definitely disliking many parts-- To enter 2-9, you must go through 2-9a, which is detailed after the contents of 2-9-- a half-page of exposition. Stat blocks still break the page. Maps are square with almost no exception, making drawing them uninspiring.

3 stars simply for the concept alone, though the execution was lacking. This module is, despite everything I just said, still worth a read. Really don't miss it-- it has some of the coolest ideas, scenarios, areas, monsters and concepts in it, surrounded by a lot of hit-or-miss basic D&D setpieces (mass combat) that the module could have abandoned without losing anything.


And the Heavens will weep

*****

This one will have to be short. Suffice to say that in this one, after your villains got the Tears of Achlys at the climax of the last adventure, they first get some downtime (and plenty of side quests to get into trouble and grab some loot), and then they get their next assignment. Simply stated, destroy the most sacred and well-protected temple in the kingdom and defile it past any use. Oh, and no survivors.

You get all the easy jobs.

Anyway, there's considerable role-playing in here as you recruit allies, some of them characters you met before. You'll also meet a devil who's taken a close interest in your careers, which can lead to even further trouble. Not to mention enough battle and mayhem to satisfy the most bloody-minded player as you smash your way into the Vale of Valtaerna, going through everything from warriors to fanatic good clerics to celestials until you (hopefully) achieve victory. And after that you'll find yourself dealing with some very powerful good beings in the Vale -- you'll need sharp wits as well as ready blades to deal with them unless you want to be overwhelmed.

And then the REAL difficulty begins when you enter the Temple of Saint Macarius, deal with the opposition you find there, maybe find some very useful treasures, and finally confront the true master of the temple and leader of your foes. And you WILL need to be both fortunate AND tough to beat Ara Mathra!

It's rounded out with a Gazetteer of the city of Ghastenhall as well as a guide to the religion of Mitra, the Triune God, that should be very helpful for DMs (and maybe players in a more conventional campaign).

There are a few typos here and there, but this is every bit as amazing as the prior adventures in the series. Five stars!


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gustavo iglesias wrote:


*Angry class list*

Okay, yeah. I would say rebuilding some of the more important fights would be a good idea.

Personally, what I changed was:

Spoiler:
Minor alterations to spell lists of any clerics during the Battle of Saintsbridge. I didn't feel that much needed to be changed with these fights, as sheer numbers did the job for depleting the parties resources.
Made sure the shield archons already had Divine Power cast before the start of their fight. (By the way, Gary. My players absolutely loved the artwork for the shield archons. They look so much more badass than in the bestiary.)
Added a second Peri to the fight in the phoenix temple.
Completely rebuilt the monk and oracle. Made the monk a style master (or whatever that archetype is called). Panther, Crane, and Snake style for the win. Gave the oracle plenty of buff spells, and what few damaging spells I could. Made sure some of the longer duration buffs were already cast.

I plan on rebuilding the ghost martyrs as well. As is, they can't really hurt my party, aside from the NPCs with them.
The cleric leader will also be getting a complete overhaul.


To Malignant Mind:

Spoiler:
I change spell selection in most casters. I find the wizards are too over offensive, with ten+ blast that they really can't cast, and little defense. Several of them ban ilusion as a school. I give them ilusion,with mirror image, invisibility, and other stuff. The clerics are, imho, too defensive. Too much cure spells (which are a waste of an action). I ussually give them more buffs, and combat spells, specially spells that produce crowd control, and less healing. Normally wasting an action, and going to touch the wounded mate, mean both the mate and the cleric die in full round right there.


gustavo iglesias wrote:

To Malignant Mind:

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Aye. Plus, there's no good reason why a good aligned cleric would EVER prepare a single cure spell, unless they somehow gave up the ability to burn spells for cures. If you have access to 1001 Spells, I advise using it to alter spell lists. Especially for any divine casters, as there's more combat oriented spells in there at lower levels. Not many, because divine casting still gets gimped on offense at lower levels, but there's more options than core. (Plus, it makes illusionists angry. The phantasmal line of spells are disgusting)

Gameplay update:

Spoiler:
So this week, the plague came to us, taking out two of my players, the irony being that they made a deal with Vetra-Kali for disease immunity (as a player put it in his email to me, "Not going to make game today. Got sick. That demon lord is a lying bastard."). After running all the pit fights, we went back and filled in the weeks. They took a tour of the Vale, or at least what they could check out, all cloaked in Undetectable Alignment spells. They had the witch's imp familiar do a very quick fly-over on the Watchtower, which let me give them very limited information, i.e. that they know there is magic present in the Watchtower, and their is the presence of good auras, which actually doesn't tell them much at all. Currently they plan to teleport and dimension door to the top of the tower, silence the gong and work their way down. Should be interesting. They met with Fire-Axe and got their troops, as well as recruiting the Exile. They then tracked down the duergar, did a bit of research to find out what things might make good gifts and brought 10 kidnapped dwarves as part of a bribe. Of course, they were forced to eat said dwarves after they were cooked. The dwarf monk in the party (who has been troublesome from the start), was offered the chance to "be a duergar." Thinking this meant simply switching clans, he said "Sure!". An arcane ritual later and after imbibing some fresh dwarf blood and he's now a duergar (with some alternate options). Really, the best part is that I got to drop his Charisma by another two points, bringing him to a 4. One of my players then spent the next half-hour telling the dwarf how many creatures out of Beastiary I had lower Chr scores, and which ones just beat him. Best line: "You have less charisma than skum." Next week, Battle of Saintsbridge.


The Battle of Saintsbridge has begun! (sorry, long and detailed)

Spoiler:
With their rudimentary scouting of the Watchtower, the PC's launched their nighttime assault. Leaving Grumblejack and Trik to watch over their forces, the PC's quite literally dropped in. The fire oracle, Izevel, Raiju and the half-orc fighter landed atop the rooftop, silencing the gong on their approach with a Silence spell cast from a 100 feet out. Izevel immediately descended down the stairs. At the same time, the anti-paladin and magus landed on the western wall, the anti-paladin swiftly dropping one of the the guards atop it. Meanwhile, the witch, Artephius and the monk teleported to the Vale side of the Watchtower, just outside and to the west of the main gate. Artephius was given orders to kill any who left. Then the witch flew the monk to the top of the eastern wall, where the monk swiftly kicked a guard off the wall. The imp familiar of the witch remained invisible and watched from about 100 feet above the Watchtower.

Izevel proved to be MVP of the taking of the Watchtower. Flying down the stairs, the first guard to see her immediately failed his save, not even giving warning to the other guard standing watch with him. In the following rounds, the Captain would appear with a group of six holy warriors, and he would give a cry to rally his soldiers. It proved to be a poor choice. Within two rounds, the holy warriors had all failed their saves, and by round three, so had the captain. At the same time, positioned as she was on the fourth floor, Izevel inadvertantly also blocked the doorway out of the barracks for the regular soldiers, who became bottlenecked there. It was only a matter of time before all fell before her.

Meanwhile, back on the rooftop, Raiju was dropped within two rounds without even taking an action (Technically, he was quite dead, -44, but I took pity on my PC's and allowed his regeneration to continue to function, since none of the damage had been of a type to prevent it and most had been bludgeoning. Also, it was their first chance to use him, his death would have been too quick) by one of the Watchers. For a number of rounds, the half-orc and oracle held off the Watchers (good AC's, even flatfooted). Eventually the witch joined the fray, unleashing an ice storm upon the rooftop while the oracle used his rod to cast acid balls. In the end, it was Izevel who again saved the party a lot of trouble, turning one of the Watchers to stone, while the half-orc finally connected solidly with a few hits, ending the second Watcher.

On the western wall, the magus dispatched the remaining guard, while the anti-paladin waded into the interior. It was a bloodbath, as the anti-paladin's minimum damage was enough to drop a soldier in one hit (holy warriors needed two!). Eventually the monk joined them in the interior as well (he was having a very bad night for rolling, taking several rounds to dispatch a basic soldier).

On the ground floor, it was Arephius versus the two clay golems. It was a fight that on paper, Artephius should have lost. But luck was with the plucky murder golem, and amazingly, Artephius walked away from his two smashed opponents.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Woah, that was one memorable start to the Battle of Saintsbridge there! And

Spoiler:
using Silence to neutralize the warning gong? I'm embarrassed to admit that I never even thought of something that simple.

I also rather enjoy reading about what happened to poor Raiju. I get the idea that he was regenerating from a thin red paste on the ground. I can just see the battle going on literally over his pulped remains, with heroes and villains stepping on his shattered bones and organs every single time they begin to reform.

"Baka-na gaijin! Get off of my liver!"


Yeah, it was a pretty inspired idea. That PC loves to use Silence any chance he gets. Given how effective Izevel has been, it'll be interesting to see Raiju back in the fight. Definitely looking forward to the next few encounters.


Starting book 3 after a disasterous end to book 2

Spoiler:
My PC died the day before the final ritual. And since he was the leader he didn't tell the request to the Daemon.

1st request bring ossus back to life

2nd request I got the tears

3rd was a hard one do I ask for no harm and let a powerful Daemon loose on the world and subvert my lord's will or be suspetable to the plague but banish a possible enemy forever

I went with my lord's interest in mind and banished the Daemon to his plan never to return to the material plane

We're all gonna get very sick in book 3 I have a feeling.


Continuing the Battle of Saintsbridge:

Spoiler:
I figured it would take roughly 10 minutes to maneuver the PC's forces through the Watchtower, as well as coordinate them. As they moved en masse towards the Saintsbridge, they first heard and felt the thunder of the approaching Knights of the Alerion, at the head, Sir Dallidan. I informed the PC's that these knights formed the tip of a mighty 50 man spear, and gave them only about 60 feet of visible distance (due to various conditions, but they had heard them coming from further away), with the Knights already charging. Swiftly, they readied their plan. As the Knights charged, Artephius bombed Sir Dallidan, nearly taking him out in one critical hit. This was the cue for the fire oracle to let loose with a large wall of fire, which spring up a few feet before the oncoming riders. At that same time, the three Nessian war hounds used their cone attacks to blast through the wall of fire at the incoming riders. I rolled poorly for the riders. Their was a small explosion at the tip of the spear and then a massive conflaguration focused there, through which nothing came but ash. The tip of the spear melted.

As they pressed onward, the archers began their assault, only to draw the ire of Grumblejack, who was missed by everything (or deflected them with rude gestures, it is Grumblejack), who then led a group of bugbears and with the assistance of Raiju, to victory over the archers. Pushing on, they ran in to the dwarves of the Vale. Immediately, they sent the duergar in to assault; however, the monk (now a duergar) chose to join in, and the PC's committed a few other forces, namely the vampire spawn, led by Trik, to tear into other parts of the dwarven center while the 1/2 orc fighter, Grumblejack, and the anti-paladin went along with the monk to assault the command group. Grumblejack and the anti-paladin slaughtered many dwarves that night, although not before Durhan One-Stroke nearly killed the anti-paladin.

To close out the evenings gaming, they ran up against the Serene Order. It was sadly a short and relatively non-memorable fight which was over very quickly, with most of the work done by the vampire spawn.

Next week: the conclusion.


TheChozyn wrote:

Starting book 3 after a disasterous end to book 2

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Amusing that he didn't just kill you all since you didn't ask him not to harm you. That sounds dangerous.

Ice Titan wrote:
TheChozyn wrote:

Starting book 3 after a disasterous end to book 2

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
I was thinking the same thing. It's pretty clear that if you don't use that first request to keep your party safe, he'll just try to kill you all in order to get his eyes back. I think the DM was going really easy on you guys.
Grand Lodge

MalignantMind wrote:
Ice Titan wrote:
TheChozyn wrote:

Starting book 3 after a disasterous end to book 2

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
That, or they're going to be immediately infected next game with the tears. They may not have been asked to not get hurt, but at the same time they didn't ask to be immune to the disease either.
Grand Lodge

I don't recall seeing it, but did Gary ever mention what the VP bonus was for sending Raiji the Exile, on page 38? Not the "Send Raiju again", but the first one.


There was no VP award for the first time you send him because as it says, it doesn't solve anything, it just gives the PCs a little more insight on the situation.


Okay, so they've almost completed the Battle of Saintsbridge (bad weather here meant most of my PC's arrived late):

Spoiler:
Continuing on from a large rock missed the magus, the PC's pressed on towards the Saintsbridge. No dimensions were given for the bridge, so I estimated it to be about 30 feet wide (so the shield archons could adequately defend it) and about 300 hundred feet long (allowed me to pen the PC's in nicely). The shield archons put up a fairly significant fight. At first it appeared the PC's might just steamroll through them, as the Nessian war hounds torched them with their flame breath. Critical hits with Artephius' bomb attack didn't help much either (rolled every energy type but electricity). All in all, it was a heck of a fight for the cohorts, who did most of the damage. Best moment of the fight occurred when the duergar monk grappled one of the archons (who had also been declared the target of the anti-paladin's smite good), then transposed with his ally, so the monk was left holding nothing for a brief second (breaking the grapple) and meaning the anti-paladin's smite target was now 1 to 2 rounds of movement away, through threatened squares (I had a snowstorm going on, reducing movement to half, visibility was down to about 30 feet. They now assume there is someone controlling the weather.)

The following battle with the paladins started off interesting enough, with the paladins swooping in and striking all three war hounds (who had spotted them and unleashed with their breath weapons again). The other three picked targets at random and did similar, except this time I remembered smite evil. Grumblejack took a pretty bad lance hit, which worried everyone, as did the monk (whom no one really cares about. Charisma 4). The anti-paladin got it the worst, however. This is the same player who lost both his original rogue and back-up cohort rogue to the Ashen Nightmare in the Horn, while they were sleeping. Charging smite with a natural 20, confirmed. Figured out all the damage (he'd already been put below 0 in a previous battle, and had taken hits here and there and was planning on healing himself during the first round), it was a lot (100+ points range, and he had rolled poorly for hit points and didn't have too much Con). Other PC's pointed out that he could spend his one remaining villainous action point to make me reroll the hit. So he did. Natural 20 again, then a natural 20 to confirm, which with our house rules makes it worse, as that means the critical hit now does maximum damage. He was most assuredly dead (and also was taken off the bridge by the impact, along with the lance, which stuck point first into the water, keeping his corpse suspended in the air.) The rest of the battle continued with much more drama, and once the rest of the party jumped in, it was over pretty quickly.

Just one more fight to go. I am curious if my PC's are even thinking that they have access to raise dead. Currently, the PC who lost his character is planning on playing Izevel as a PC, taking the sorcerer class (and the anti-paladin's iron circlet).


We start book three officially today at 4 EST... I'm excited!


Kevin that's my fear...


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Events in Sanctuary???

I've started a thread here , as I'll be DMing this once the PCs are out of the Horn. Please share any thoughts/ideas regarding events in Sanctuary for the three month period.

(Either this thread or the one linked would be fine.)


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I answered in your thread, but will copy it here for convenience:

"I think it is impossible for the PC to really succeed in the task of doing it secretly. There are clerics there, some of them survive for a while (in the Cathedral), and specifically one of them have enough level to cast "sending".

That said, there's a lot they can do.

One of the groups might go into the sewers. Think of Catacombs in Rome, and the legionaires hunting down christians. Except here the catacombs can have much more interesting things. "The Dwarves dug too deep. They awoke in the darkness… shadow and flame."

Several priests/clerical guys can be hidden by the peasants. Think on Schindler's list and similar films (or Ana Frank's Journal). There are few things that scream "lawful evil" more than a group of fanatical racists that patrol the streets with uniforms and iron boots. Think of "nazis" or "Stalin's political commissairs". The "good guys" can be either combatives (partisans, french resistance) or just trying to survive and flee (several groups hiding and saving jews in the whole Europe)

There's the question about how the PC will handle it. They can try to make the city a hell prison for three months, but they could just slaughter everybody in the first day. If so, you could free some ghosts in the town, avenging the dead.

Some group of rangers could hide in the mountains. That will lead to a wilderness hunting, where the PC might face some monsters (basilisks, chimaeras, etc)

The weather itself might be a challenge. Make it a very cold winter. Make the bugbears and human auxiliaries to grumble, and bugbears ask for "meat back in the menu". The tension between humans and non-humans in the army could grow, so the PC will need to do something about it. A (smmall) group could rebel, so the PC will need to make an examplary of them. A small group of brave resistance might try an "scorched earth" approach, burning the grain siloes (in a "we're already doomed. Let's make them pay for it" tactic)."


Those are all great ideas Gustavio_Iglesias, but with this one:

they could just slaughter everybody in the first day. If so, you could free some ghosts in the town, avenging the dead.

That sounds like one of the better bets, given that the 'canon' solution given in the book is to have

Spoiler:
one of the bugbear commanders torture every one of the survivors to death over a week to discover what they know.


My two cents:

Spoiler:
Those are some great ideas, and I do agree with Gustavio, keeping the assault on the Vale secret will be nearly impossible. It is, however, worth pointing out that even with the use of sending for help, most help will be unable to arrive. In module 4 the army (with warning)is able to arrive only by means of a magical banner under which it marches. Otherwise the pass up to the Vale is snowed in, making rescue unlikely. Really, I think it becomes a DM's call if they want the secret to get out or not. The Vale defenders do have ways of sending out cries for help, and there may even be some outside who could send small amounts of help (via teleport, and which could be great sources for encounters). For myself, although the PC's took the Vale by surprise, the king's army will be at the gates by the end of the module. Their initial surprise gave them the upper hand in their initial assault, but that is about it. Plus, I like the idea that they will have to make a choice about abandoning their troops and minions.

On a side note, with one of the members of the evil orginization dead, I was wondering the best way to handle those minions attached to the character. I'm leaning towards the idea of a splintering of the PC's organization, with those loyal to the ideals of the deceased PC starting their own sect within. Haven't quite fleshed it out, just an idea at this point.


Oh yes

Spoiler:
I agree that most (army) help is unable to get there (although a group of elite adventurers with access to teleport could...).

I mean that the effort to kill every single peasant, so no one can tell what happened there, is a bit doomed. Sure, the king and Mitran clergy won't have a highly detailed description of what is inside (25 words per sending isn't that much), but they'll know it is an Asmodean army.

Not that it matters. The king already knows that -thanks to Sir Richard's advice-. And once the king knows, he makes it popular knowledge (the rumors in book IV seem to show that the people saw the speech of Sir Richard to Markadian V). While some people might not believe it's the Father Below who is the hand behind the curtain, the king itself will belief so (and therefore it's high council, including High Inquisitor Solomon Tyreth and the high clergy of Mitra).

I also agree that the scene with the arriving army is waaaaay to cool to ignore. Being forced to leave behind their minions rocks too. I'll check the mood of my players (they might feel a bit "robbed" if they lose the horn and then their minions twice in a row), but I think I'll make the army appear in the gates right at the end of the winter. It will also increase the tension between the PC and Sir Richard (which I think I'll try to find a way to make him survive until Book VI, can't say yet. Need to read Book VI first, but Imho he deserves to be the real antagonist)


Finally we start with Book 3. Because of really dumb playing while perfoming the ritual (the players just let the eyes of Vetra Kali in the statue and gave him his first eye before he made any agreements with them), I decided that Vetra Kali simply takes his missing 2 eyes and beats them up a little bit. After they recovered from their first shock they found the courage to ask for the Tears. The daemon gave them to them and threw them out of his Horn.

So what shall I do with Sir Richard? His body still lies in the Horn (in the Sanctuary). How will Thorn rescue him? And what will Vetra Kali do with the knowledge that Thorn took the body of this dead Paladin? Will he maybe inform the Ninth? Would be a nice dispute maybe. The players can´t be sure if the daemon is simply lying to them and if he isn´t lying, they will wonder WHY Thorn did take the body of Sir Richard. I don´t think it will spoil to much if they assume that Thorn did rescue Richard (they will find that out not until the end of book 3)

I play with the tought on a encounter of an servant of Vetra Kali who informs the PC with the following (or something this way):

"Greetings mortals. My master sends you his regards. He hopes you spread his gift generous. He sends me to you to inform you of a little detail. Not long after you left the Horn your cardinal appeared before my master and he was hell bent on taking the corpse of this pitiful servant of Mitra with him. I just ask you, what does he want with that corpse? Seems your master has a lot of schemes going on. And I wonder why he don´t let you take this corpse? Maybe he has plans he don´t want to inform you?"


The Finale of Saintsbridge:

Spoiler:
Father Aeroius had a terrible vision in the month before the battle of Saintsbridge. He dreamt of a night much like this one, heavy with snow and wind. He and three of his brethren stood upon the Saintsbridge, a wall of the finest warriors arrayed before them, waiting for something terrible to come out of the darkness. They did not have to wait long. A rolling horde of bugbears spilled towards them, snarling and roaring in rage. At the head, a motley band of villians: a gnome wreathed in flames, an implaccable armored knight weilding a mighty greatsword, another armored figure, barely visible behind a massive tower shield, a human soaring on the winds followed by a clockwork being, a massive fiendish ogre, dancing amongst them an elven nobleman with a twitching black rapier, and a frothing, snarling, twitching gray-skinned dwarf of unusual size; all flanked by three massive hell hounds.

Telling others of his vision got Father Aeroius merely skeptical glances. Mitra would alert them to such an attack, they said. And indeed, prayers to Mitra for divination did not reveal an impending attack. Still, however, the Father felt his vision to be true. So he prepared, for that final moment, to stem the tide of evil. If he could but break the tip of that bugbear spear and hold the Saintsbridge, the day might yet be won.

On that grim day the bugbears invaded, the Father gathered his most trusted friends and staunchest holy warriors. With scrolls in hand and spells prepared, they would prevent the villians passage or die trying. They died.

It was a hell of a fight. Using wall of stone, the clerics cut off the hell hounds from the rest of the group. The clerics exhausted nearly every spell in their arsenal trying to destroy the villians, and indeed, they were nearly successful. Izevel went down, Grumblejack nearly went down, the duergar monk fell. A silence spell cut off commands to Artephuis for a few rounds. Raiju was placed in a state of traquility such that he could not take action. The clerics and holy warriors held out for a long time, but eventually all the buffs wore off and the hellhounds joined the fight. It was over rather swiftly after that. It was a pretty epic battle and very fun to run.


One question:

Would you allow spellcasters in the arena?
Would you allow spellcasters to buff the groups fighter before the fights?

What Level is Brother Lao? I consider to make him high enough to cast dispel magic on the combatants. Or maybe they must wait 10 min. in pit before they are announced (so must buff spells already weared off).


I wouldn't allow spellcasters or spell buffs in the arena. Spell buffs are "outside help", which is forbiden by the arena rules.
The spellcaster follow a different reasoning: Customers. People pay to see others fighting in the arena. They want blood, attacks, wounds, and people fighting each other. They don't want to see how a guy with a pointy hat moves a stick and transform a beast in a frog. There's no emotion in that- It would be a poor espectacle and bad for the business.


John,

I just caught up with all your updates! Your campaign continues to be an amazing implementation of "Way of the Wicked".

Very cool.

Gary McBride
Fire Mountain Games


@Patrick - I agree with Gustavo on the arena rules. That's how I ran it for mine, made things mighty interesting. Particularly for the anti-paladin who was contemplating violating the rules to use his touch of corruption against the

Spoiler:
allosaurus (he eventually did anyway, when it was eating him, but that was after the beast had escaped the pit and was rampaging through the crowd)
.

@Gary - Thank you, it's been delightful both to run "Way of the Wicked" and to watch my players really enjoy it as well. Loving book six, very much looking forward to "Throne of Night."


Any suggestions how to force this rule? With spells I have no problems. The combatants have to use arena weapons!
But the witch already plans to use her hexes (supernatural) and especially the bad luck hex is really annoying. And with evil eye the battles becomes a farce.:(
How can I discourage the use? Brother Lao casting constantly detect magic? Arena deep enough that the figthers are out of the hex range? Antimagic field?


Patrick Kropp wrote:

Any suggestions how to force this rule? With spells I have no problems. The combatants have to use arena weapons!

But the witch already plans to use her hexes (supernatural) and especially the bad luck hex is really annoying. And with evil eye the battles becomes a farce.:(
How can I discourage the use? Brother Lao casting constantly detect magic? Arena deep enough that the figthers are out of the hex range? Antimagic field?

Please pardon my asking, but does it matter all that much? The whole point of the pit fights in-game seems to be for the PCs to pick up some easy cash and XP while amusing themselves by rending hapless monsters limb from limb. It's not a 'major' encounter like, say, the Battle of Valtaerna is.

Though, if I ever get to play this, I can see an alchemist or transmuter scavenging the caracasses for spell components for beast shape spells.

Grand Lodge

Patrick Kropp wrote:

Any suggestions how to force this rule? With spells I have no problems. The combatants have to use arena weapons!

But the witch already plans to use her hexes (supernatural) and especially the bad luck hex is really annoying. And with evil eye the battles becomes a farce.:(
How can I discourage the use? Brother Lao casting constantly detect magic? Arena deep enough that the figthers are out of the hex range? Antimagic field?

Unfortunately, an Antimagic field's not going to mean anything against something that's supernatural. Have Lao pay spies to keep an eye on the crowd to make sure no one's interfering. If anyone does, they take a sleep spell or knockout dart. Maybe a gem of true seeing? Crystal ball?

Having the pit 40 feet down and away shouldn't be that much of a stretch.


Eric Hinkle wrote:
Patrick Kropp wrote:

Any suggestions how to force this rule? With spells I have no problems. The combatants have to use arena weapons!

But the witch already plans to use her hexes (supernatural) and especially the bad luck hex is really annoying. And with evil eye the battles becomes a farce.:(
How can I discourage the use? Brother Lao casting constantly detect magic? Arena deep enough that the figthers are out of the hex range? Antimagic field?

Please pardon my asking, but does it matter all that much? The whole point of the pit fights in-game seems to be for the PCs to pick up some easy cash and XP while amusing themselves by rending hapless monsters limb from limb. It's not a 'major' encounter like, say, the Battle of Valtaerna is.

Though, if I ever get to play this, I can see an alchemist or transmuter scavenging the caracasses for spell components for beast shape spells.

I'm going to reduce the fights to only 1 monster per week (grizzly bear, Owlbear, Girallon), but the PC fights unarmed,, preferible grapple. It's much more interesting that way, the man wrestling the beast. :P


Eric Hinkle wrote:
Patrick Kropp wrote:

Any suggestions how to force this rule? With spells I have no problems. The combatants have to use arena weapons!

But the witch already plans to use her hexes (supernatural) and especially the bad luck hex is really annoying. And with evil eye the battles becomes a farce.:(
How can I discourage the use? Brother Lao casting constantly detect magic? Arena deep enough that the figthers are out of the hex range? Antimagic field?

Please pardon my asking, but does it matter all that much? The whole point of the pit fights in-game seems to be for the PCs to pick up some easy cash and XP while amusing themselves by rending hapless monsters limb from limb. It's not a 'major' encounter like, say, the Battle of Valtaerna is.

Though, if I ever get to play this, I can see an alchemist or transmuter scavenging the caracasses for spell components for beast shape spells.

If the players earn XP and gold I, as the DM make damn sure the fights are not a waste of time. And maybe I want simply a exciting fight. Not an auto win. Yes - I want some fun too.

And with this approach to the arena fights rolling any dice is nearly useless.

Antimagic field helps btw @ kevin. I looked this already up. But it seems a little exaggerated (and costy). Bad thing is, its really hard to detect the use of a supernatural ability.

I just make the pit 20 ft. deep. If she don´t get a place in the front row and on the right side she can´t use the hexes.
Additionally own armor and weapons are prohibited. They use gladiatoral items. Lao examines every combatant with detect magic.

Quote:
Supernatural abilities are magical but not spell-like. Supernatural abilities are not subject to spell resistance and do not function in areas where magic is suppressed or negated (such as an antimagic field). A supernatural ability's effect cannot be dispelled and is not subject to counterspells


The fights in the arena are indeed useless as a threat.
Most monsters are CR 4 or so. The PC are CR 10. No point really to roll the dice.

I'd go with gladiatorials items too. Probably wooden swords. The arena owner has surely paid a lot of gold for those monsters, and he doesn't want to lose it.

In my own game, I'd go with players using Cestus, wooden short sword + buckler, or wooden trident + net. The PC get extra gold if they use Cestus or bare hands. I'd also make it much less monsters (because I find pointless combats pointless, I'd not like to spend one hour going through a bunch of easy combats with one player while the rest wait).

so I'd go with:
First week:
Black Bear.

Second week:
Grizzly Bear

Third week:
Siege Owl Bear

Fourth Week:
A Two Headed Troll, with real steel weapons (the PC get steel weapons too).


Patrick Kropp wrote:

Antimagic field helps btw @ kevin. I looked this already up. But it seems a little exaggerated (and costy). Bad thing is, its really hard to detect the use of a supernatural ability.

I just make the pit 20 ft. deep. If she don´t get a place in the front row and on the right side she can´t use the hexes.
Additionally own armor and weapons are prohibited. They use gladiatoral items. Lao examines every combatant with detect magic.

Make the crowd watch the fight behind a glass, to "protect them". A glass is phisical, and thus blocks line of effect (even if it doesn't block line of sight).


A question about Dessiter offer:

Spoiler:
When a Contract Devil signs a contract, the signer gets either wishes, or a loyal devil follower (in this case, Nessian Warhounds). He also gets the ability to greater scry, without any saving throw allowed.

BUT... it also means the character can't be raised with any means short of a wish, or miracle...

I don't know, but I feel it's a bit *harsh* price for a dog. Even a firbreathing dog. How does the GM use this?


Maybe the party could send in Grumblejack (or other cohort) to the Arena. It'd be more in line for them as Evil Overlords to watch a strong but not irreplacable minion risk his life for their own profit/pleasure, and it may even be a challenge for the lower level minion.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
gustavo iglesias wrote:

A question about Dessiter offer:

** spoiler omitted **

I've been wondering this same thing. Part of me will want the PCs to have the hounds, so the cost seems prohibitive. Of course, Dessiter would be THRILLED to have the PCs sign such a contract... and, if the PCs are smart, they'll do a Knowledge (planes) check to see if there's a downside to such a bargain. Dessiter certainly isn't forcing them.

Nonetheless... yeah... it seems a bit much to me. Someone (maybe it was Kevin) suggested a feat that was sort of like a "three lives" thing, where despite the contract you can be rezzed three times.

Alternatively, you could say circumvention of the contract can be achieved through a wish or miracle, but Dessiter won't deal with that PC anymore... and probably neither will any devil. They'll be tainted for having broken their word... I might even tick their alignment one notch towards chaotic. Just thinking about this stuff off the top of my head (might be a terrible idea).

Grand Lodge

I'm actually revising how the contract devil's signing goes. Mostly in part due to the feats that were given to us in Book 5. When my PCs sign, they'll be getting Devil's Pact for free. This allows them to be brought back with a wish or miracle, but with 3 permanent negative levels. I'm having that supersede the devil's write-up. Mostly because Asmodeus wouldn't want them to stay dead for very long if they're being successful. They deserve rewards, and a chance to prove themselves fully.

The feat I've already given my players is called "Extra Lives". You literally have three extra lives.

As well, I highly recommended that my players take a hard look at the Diabolist. Take a good look at the level 5 ability, Hellish Soul. If Asmodeus wasn't the one who dictated your death, you can be resurrected as normal.


Some interesting ideas. The diabolist one sound intriguing, but if I give that for free, I water down the PrC itself for those who take it :/

I think I read somewhere, maybe Book of the Damned, that you can free yourself from a pact if somebody else willingly sacrifice his soul for yours.
What if you can make a ritual sacrifice as part of the casting of raise dead? Either a willing evil soul, or an unwilling mitra follower of at least same level as the PC? It makes resurrection a much better fit in tge game :)


Isn't the deal for the Nessian War Hounds that they have to kill Ara Mathra within the Vale itself? Dessiter sets a different price than their souls (I am also assuming that after Ara Mathra is killed, the hounds go away. It's a temporary contract, as most devil contracts are for temporary services.). Wouldn't that then still enable the PC's to be raised/resurrected? Granted, if they make a seperate deal for their own individual soul, that is their choice.

In my game I used Dessiter as a means of getting the witch several of the spells he needed for making several types of golems (he's been wanting to be a golem crafter ever since he found Artephius). All he had to do was switch allegiance from his original patron to a different patron (Barbatos, lord of the First Circle of Hell.), mostly so the witch would be under Asmodeus' thumb as well.


A temporal contract should have a temporal reward too.

Also:

Spoiler:
there is a problem with a temporal contract. The intention of Dessiter is being able to scry the pc. If the contract ends, he is no longer able to do so

As I understand, though, the devil isnt interested in the PC souls. Neither is Asmodeus. There is a long term plan that involves them as important pawns. Dead, they can't play any role in the upcoming events.

I think the idea of sacrificing another soul is good. It preserves the "flavor" of an evil campaign, it makes death a meaningful issue, and still allow the PC to have a reasonable "plot protection" against a bad luck roll (I'm thinking in the banshee encountr right now... we have no cleric...)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Actually, gustavo, I might disagree with you *slightly*. You're right that, in a sense, Asmodeus probably doesn't care too much about these souls. But, I would suggest, he really doesn't particularly care to send them back to a mortal existence, either. As I recall, Asmodeus has contempt for mortals. More than anything, he cares about order and law. If the PC's sign a contract, he's going to be more interested in having his devil's enforce the letter of the contract; not granting exceptions because these happen to be useful mortals.

And the AP's troubleshooting states...

Spoiler:
there are plenty of other knots, Thorn has been recruiting from all over (even the mainland via the Sixth Knot) and it's quite easy to introduce a new PC.

So, just to think outside the box, why should a GM be particularly concerned about a PC's soul and ability to be rezzed? Why not leave it as is, and leave the choice up to the player (or his PC)?

(I realize this is the opposite of what I said previously; I'm just playing devil's advocate, pardon the pun.)

Grand Lodge

gustavo iglesias wrote:
Some interesting ideas. The diabolist one sound intriguing, but if I give that for free, I water down the PrC itself for those who take it :/

Oh no, I'm not giving that one away for free. They'll have to earn that on their own. The cleric, oracle, and wizard are highly considering it, but the anti-paladin, and two rogues don't want it because of the poor BAB.

I too like the idea of sacrificing someone else to bring back a party member. However, it'd have to be as per the Fullmetal Alchemist line of thinking: "equivalent exchange." The number of people you sacrifice (ie. their HD) will be determined by how many the character had at the time. However, if you wanted to add a side quest to get them to find the Philosopher's Stone... may not need to sacrifice that many people. The Knight of Alerion might notice 20-30 people missing at a time.


SnowHeart wrote:

As I recall, Asmodeus has contempt for mortals. More than anything, he cares about order and law. If the PC's sign a contract, he's going to be more interested in having his devil's enforce the letter of the contract; not granting exceptions because these happen to be useful mortals.

That's Golarion specific take on Asmodeus (and even more, that's the Hellknights view of Asmodeus). Asmodeus in other worlds might not place one single of his domains above the others. He is also a god of evil, and trickery, and fire, as much as he is a god of law.

And "exceptions" are exactly the kind of things a god of law AND trickery is about, in my own view of it. Sure, there is a Tax law that everybody has to fulfill. But there is, you know, a few exceptions. The politicians which happen to work for the goverment (like me), are excluded from such tax duty. How convenient, isn't it?

Asmodeus will be interested in enforcing the letter of the contract. That's why he puts a lot of interest making a contract that includes the subclauses that enforce exactly what he wants to be enforced. And the souls of the PC might not be so interesting... yet. After Talingarde's fall, sure.


One question:

How do the army recruited by the pc´s reach Valtaerna? Especially the Bugbears? In the adventure there is only ONE sentence about this:

"The bugbears will meet them at the vale at the beginning of the winter three monts from today"

So how do they get there from Castle Westkirk? I know the players shouldn´t have to care about the logistics of 300 bugbears - but my players will ask. And how long they will need? In the timetable at the end of Book Six it seems to me that it will take 3 months (Event: Attack on the watchtower is set in december).

Do they just cross the mountains?

Grand Lodge

Patrick Kropp wrote:
Do they just cross the mountains?

It's not winter, so I guess the answer is yes.


I think a likely route would have been for the bugbears to cross the mountains, maybe hook up with the duergar and settle in at the Temple of Beauty, then stage the assault on the Vale from there (looking at the map from Book IV).

Also, gameplay update:

Spoiler:
It only took an hour of convincing by several NPC cohorts, plus rolls from several other PC's, to convince them that it might be a good idea to actually remain in Sanctum for a bit, rather than trying to assault the Mountain of the Phoenix immediately (which would have been a complete party wipe. Most of the spellcasters were down to two or three spells remaining, they had no idea what awaited them atop the mountain except there might a phoenix). When I pointed out that most of the characters were tapped for spells, they reconsidered a bit, but only wished to delay a single day and still pursue the mountain with no intel, which I nearly let them do. Repeatedly I pointed out that they sacked an entire town and had seen little to no retribution. But they are high on paranoia. They managed to console themselves with waiting a week for the Night-Mane's results. They still have no idea on how to disable the flames. Not able to wait any longer, they moved on the Mountain of the Phoenix, and didn't roll real well for their knowledge checks, so they know enough to go "Yes, it's a Phoenix. Big fiery bird." On the ascension, several of the characters possess the means to fly naturally (or supernaturally, in the case of the fire oracle), however a couple of the PC's used magical flight, mainly Raiju, who get nailed with the ward around the temple, and feel 600 feet into the lake below, taking the duergar monk with him. Raiju was invisible, so no one really noticed and has decided to play dead for a while while he regenerates and comtemplates his life since joining these villians. Next week we start the actual fight, and I'm thinking of having the place also set up with a forbiddence spell, since the witch loves to dimension door or teleport in.

Grand Lodge

John Malueg wrote:

I think a likely route would have been for the bugbears to cross the mountains, maybe hook up with the duergar and settle in at the Temple of Beauty, then stage the assault on the Vale from there (looking at the map from Book IV).

Also, gameplay update:

** spoiler omitted **...

I like those assumptions, and what you want to do to make it harder for the witch. It's something I'd consider as well.

I know for my group I'm going to add one more encounter during the maze. A Soulfire black dragon from Pathways 21. The magazines are free so you should totally have a look at it if you haven't already. I'm making him the sanctified younger brother to the dragon in Book 4.


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@John: Instead of Forbidance, you could use Hallow, which fits better thematically IMHO. Use "dimensional anchor" as the tied spell and you are there to go.

Plus make everybody to have protection from evil, which is cool :)

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