Pathfinder Adventure Path #68: The Shackled Hut (Reign of Winter 2 of 6) (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path #68: The Shackled Hut (Reign of Winter 2 of 6) (PFRPG)
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Chapter 2: "The Shackled Hut"
by Jim Groves

The winter portal has closed, but the heroes now find themselves trapped in the frozen land of Irrisen with an urgent quest—to find Baba Yaga! In order to track down the missing Queen of Witches, the heroes must brave the monster-infested capital city of Whitethrone, where Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut has been captured and put on display. Will possession of the miraculous artifact lead them to the Witch Queen, or will they die a cold death at the hands of Irrisen’s White Witches?

This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path continues the Reign of Winter Adventure Path and includes:

  • “The Shackled Hut,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 4th-level characters, by Jim Groves.
  • An exploration of the ecology and the origins of the cunning and dangerous winter wolf, by Russ Taylor.
  • A look into the cult of rebels and revolutionaries who revere Milani the Everbloom, by Sean K Reynolds.
  • A dangerous introduction to Whitethrone’s aristocracy in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Kevin Andrew Murphy.
  • Four new monsters, by Jim Groves, Dale C. McCoy, Jr., and Sean K Reynolds.

Each monthly full-color softcover Pathfinder Adventure Path volume contains an in-depth adventure scenario, stats for several new monsters, and 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 world’s oldest fantasy RPG.

ISBN–13: 978-1-60125-493-1

The Shackled Hut is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. The rules for running this Adventure Path and Chronicle sheet are available as a free download (639 KB zip/PDF).

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

Fantasy Grounds Virtual Tabletop
Archives of Nethys

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

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3/5

Player review.

I'll be honest that after playing this chapter I was not all that impressed. The story was good but it was the usual AP elements that disappointed me. For a mostly urban adventure we found that the setting stopped us being able to buy and sell so we felt woefully unprepared. APs don't seem to want you being up to party wealth levels. But the story was good and we all enjoyed that element a lot.


Heckled Shut ... Hucked Shelt ... Sheltered Hulk ...

5/5

An adventure by Jim Groves ... groovy.

Ahem! Having ran my group of five through this adventure, here's some quick pros and cons.

WE LOVED:
- the feel of a nasty fairy tale
- the tower, everything, the encounters, the theme, the NPCs, big freaking <REDACTED> fight!
- the journey events until Whitethrone. Well, everybody knew it's the Mandatory D&D Road Movie With Random Encounters, but everybody enjoyed it
- GRETA!
- The Hut, <REDACTED>, <REDACTED>, big cool payoff that topped the <REDACTED> fight in epicness
- GRETA!
- The act like a <REDACTED> part with <REDACTED>
- magic items, especially the ones introduced in the adventure.

WE DIDN'T LOVE

- the <REDACTED>. Apart from <REDACTED>, the team found it a bit jarring to have a more-or-less railroady string of feels-like-random encounters IN a city. Cities are about going wherever you want however you want, they said.

- the <REDACTED> part with the <REDACTED> - that was a bit of "do X, Y and Z to open the red door" videogamey.

Overall, the level of fun and enjoyment at the table was great and we're looking forward to more of your adventures. I'd rate this 4,5 stars, but since you should be nice if you can be nice, this one gets 5 stars from me. I'm sure I'll enjoy further adventures from Jim!


Extremely good encounters, but structure could be improved

4/5

I divide my AP experience into 3 sections: Adventure, Supplements, and Layout/Art

The maps and art for this volume were terrific. The painting of Merisiel with the Mirror Men is a favourite of mine. I especially like the inside cover material, and use it in my campaign. 9/10

The majority of the supplemental material was outstanding. The articles on Milani and Winter Wolves were useful and interesting.
Most of the monsters in the bestiary were interesting. However, the Mirror Man was one of the most creative and creepy offerings I have seen in an AP in a long time. Kudos to the designer and artist.
Unfortunately, the fiction in this AP did not keep my interest.
8/10

I understand that the authors of this adventure and the prior one communicated and collaborated a great deal, and I think it is evident in the smooth transition between chapters, and the uniform handling of NPC's.
The adventure is filled with many fascinating encounters and adversaries: including the woodsman's wife, the gate guard, the goblin alchemist, the entirety of the Clocktower, and the pipers.
However, there were some things about the "storyboarding" of the adventure which seemed weak when my group played it. There is an extended journey at the beginning, and while some of the encounters are excellent, there are perhaps too many. Similarly, there is a huge number of encounters just inside the city gate. On the other hand, there is very little general information on the city as a whole. And as a specific example, the overgrown Merchant's Quarter lies directly between the gate and the safehouse, but there is no GM advice on how to handle the passage. While I know that there are many details on the city available in other products, I feel one or two encounters could have been cut to provide more information, or perhaps some encounters not tied to the gate, clocktower, or forest.
My players complained that Whitethrone provides the first opportunity in the AP for them to seriously upgrade their equipment, and the first encounter they have after that opportunity is with a foe that destroys weapons.
Overall, it was an engaging read and a fun group of sessions to run. 7/10


Lots of useful pages

4/5

Recession review located here


Are the reviewers actually playing this or just reading ?

5/5

So, I wanted to write this review because I've read some well worded and, well frankly nitpicky reviews about this adventure path. It really started to strike out at me that many people are reviewing this adventure without using the kind of language that would lead me to believe they actually played it.

I have GM'd the first 2 parts of RoW and this adventure was amazing. It was probably up there with some of the best games I've played. I had a lot of resources for this game, including the white dragon evolution set, all the paths of prestige materials, irrisen land of winter, all the maps, land of the linnorm kings, people of the north, the cards, all of it. And it paid off in spades.

I actually found this quite a flexible game to GM. I'm a ruthless GM, and I have 20 years of experience being ruthless. And my players are pretty damn good at getting by that as well, as the best players are.

Instead of being a letdown, I found that by the time the clocktower part of the game had been reached, just for narrative flow it was time to start playing fast and loose with the source material. It's more important that the story you are telling with the PCs is heroic, fluid and balanced. I just let it naturally evolve, and if the PCs want to cut to the chase and get the hut after Logrivich, no problem. It's about making a great experience, not necessarily being "railroaded by the book" as some have complained. If something is anticlimactic, don't do it ! You have to be completely familiar with the source in order to be comfortable doing this. No reading with the players as you play! You, the DM, should be using this story to great effect, and if it needs a little nip and tuck here and there, then so be it.

For example, Greta almost immediately became part of the group. My group is small, and I allow the players to play up to 2 characters at a time, which is great because, not only does it solve balance problems with the power of the party, but as a bonus if somebody dies, the player is not sulking in the corner of the room all the rest of the game. They have at least a second chance. And it also gives the players a chance to play some of these great NPCs in this adventure. So, Greta was snatched up and became a memorable PC right away. Even I let them play Nadya Petska at points during the game.

The story we created thanks to this amazing source material was really memorable. I've read all the books in the series and I think 3 and 4 I might need to take a heavier hand to... but I don't know until I play with the party. I'm sure as hell going to let them roll fluidly through it, and if stuff isn't working or if the party is tired of combat, I make tactical decisions. It really makes for a better game.

Anyway I wanted to put this out there since I was reading so many very technical reviews that didn't seem to reflect how the adventure actually plays. They might be technically right if you're at game con arguing with Monte Cook on the merits of game design, but it's not about that for me, it's more about the fun everyone has, and how the "movie in the mind" is playing out.

Bottom Line - Highly recommended.


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Carrion was just a word that has come up a couple of times in AP titles. Since Skull & Shackles and Shackled City (a while back for sure) Shackles is a particular word choice that might not be best to use in titles for a while.

That said, super excited to see this adventure :-)

I'm still holding out for "The Shackled Tons" ;)


The possibility of romancing

Spoiler:
a female winter wolf makes this AP module already hilarious. Especially with the description winter wolves in the ecology section making said romance a really, really bad idea. ^^

Pretty grim stuff in the tower with the children, however.


This is the first adventure where I noticed the NPC Codex as a required resource. I haven't gone back and checked, but because I don't normally read an adventure thoroughly until I'm prepping to run it I may not have noticed before now. So, if I'm wrong, when did this start, and either way is this the plan going forward?


ghettowedge wrote:
This is the first adventure where I noticed the NPC Codex as a required resource. I haven't gone back and checked, but because I don't normally read an adventure thoroughly until I'm prepping to run it I may not have noticed before now. So, if I'm wrong, when did this start, and either way is this the plan going forward?

It is not required, but is used for two random encounter entries, should you want to use those specific ones. (They are available on the PRD though).

Silver Crusade

Odraude wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Yeah, this could wind up being known as "the child endangerment AP" for some folks. It works with the theme, and anyone that read the Irrisen book could probably see it coming, but it is something GMs should keep in mind when selling their players on the AP.

GMs are going to want to be sure their players are okay with those themes before starting this one.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

It might be the first, just simply because of the development cycle and when the NPC Codex was first published. There is generally six months between the date of turnover and the date it ships.

I am not one of the Big Bosses, but my impression is that it is to be used as little as possible.

If this helps mitigate any frustration, the contents of the NPC Codex are now available for free in the PRD right now. You could copy and paste the stat block to a document file and print it out.. giving you an alternate that doesn't require the purchase of another book.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Leonal wrote:
It is not required, but is used for two random encounter entries, should you want to use those specific ones. (They are available on the PRD though).

Thank you for that clarification. I could not recall using the Codex.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

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Mikaze wrote:

Yeah, this could wind up being known as "the child endangerment AP" for some folks. It works with the theme, and anyone that read the Irrisen book could probably see it coming, but it is something GMs should keep in mind when selling their players on the AP.

GMs are going to want to be sure their players are okay with those themes before starting this one.

Sensible advice.

It was a fine line. We walked it this time, I believe, just simply because it would be unauthentic to the actual source material not to.

Liberty's Edge

I'm planning to give my PC a daughter of his own, actually, for that very reason. (Eventually, he'll probably try to get her moved into the Hut with the PCs... which, given the general plot of the last book in the AP, is probably a really bad idea...)


Children:
I'm happy that some children are going to die in this AP, I dislike it when there are children in horror movies cuz mostly you know they will survive anyway and I dislike child actors as they are nothing but annoying survivors in movies/tvseries, same story in most books/adventures and games (where you can kill the entire towns except for children, (i'm looking at you skyrimm), mostly because it would be too sadistic to kill a child? And killing adults isn't right?)

So good move!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Hmmmmmmmm

I think I better mitigate expectations, and/or give assurances:

Children:

Spoiler:
Sincubus, that might be putting it a tad strongly. Honestly, yes there are scenes where children are in danger.

And, the background of some encounters and situations is such that children have been eaten by ice trolls and wicked old witches.

However, whenever a living child is depicted in the The Shackled Hut, the PCs have the ability to help them, rescue them, and put positive change in place. No player and no PC is expected to see violence to a young person that they can't put a stop to. For the tragedies that have already taken place, they can bring those responsible to justice.

Let me be the first to say, this should not be a regular feature of every adventure and every adventure path. I, personally, think it should be the exception to the rule. It's not something I plan to continue to do in other projects, unless the Developer or the outline really demand it.

The reason I included elements of it in The Shackled Hut, is that it is authentic to source material. It's part of the Baba Yaga legend, and it's part of Irrisen. It is part of the fables. The witch with the Gingerbread House did not set Hansel and Gretel to assembling iPhones—she tried to cook them.

But as a story element, this is a potent spice and it should be used with care and consideration, or not added to the recipe at all.


Children:
Personally, I think that the violence to children was handled well in the adventure. It is very grim, but none of it happens during the adventure and everything it "off screen". Unless the GM changes things, and that's completely their prerogative.

The characters are in the perfect place to stop it. And if that's not what heroes are for, I don't know what is!


So, I've taken a few days to read through the book and really absorb it. Almost everything within really tickles me, but I felt there was one point where the story seems to Zig when it should have Zagged and winds up in a really weird railroad of trees.

Part Four: Endless Forest Spoilers/Criticism:

The entire setup of an indestructible maze/forest that the PCs are forced to go through in one direction and can use none of their abilities to circumvent it seems really forced. That every single section of the encounter as written says "if you have this ability it doesn't work" is frustrating to me both as a GM and playing Devil's Advocate from a player's perspective. A player should be rewarded for having the ability to bypass brambles, for instance, not penalized.

The contrivances of the hut deciding to create a gate to the first world as "a means of defense" while it is trapped by dimensional shackles seems unusual too. Would it even go anywhere if the market square was yanked into the first world while bound like that? How is it capable of doing this, and if threatened does it have other similar defenses? Artifacts do all sorts of crazy things, but usually they don't feel like so much of an excuse to create a single-line approach to a location.

Then there's the reality siphon blocking off the entrance to the hut. It serves as an obvious stop-gap to prevent the PCs from simply making a mad dash into the hut to circumvent the challenges presented prior, but it seems again, very heavy-handed. Further, Nazhena is inexplicably trapped on the other side of the reality siphon, just waiting for the PCs to come along and manhandle her.

After all of the buildup to Nazhena through Snows of Summer and most of the Shackled Hut, to find her cornered (without really any background given to the GM as to how she became in this predicament or for how long) by a magic blot again seems heavy-handed and uninspired.

I'm not sure if I'm going to choose to run it as presented when I finally get around to this chapter, but at least I have time to consider how to reorganize the encounters.

Has anyone else experienced some frustration with this particular chapter and deciphering how someone like Nazhena got trapped where she has? I have a feeling that this section might have been very different in the original turnover, as it just feels awkwardly out of place with the rest of the book.

That aside, I love the Shackled Hut and I think it's a great chapter of the AP, I just wish I felt differently about the closing act.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

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Lucent wrote:
So, I've taken a few days to read through the book and really absorb it. Almost everything within really tickles me, but I felt there was one point where the story seems to Zig when it should have Zagged and winds up in a really weird railroad of trees.

Let's discuss

Spoiler:
First of all, Lucent, I am going to disagree with you on many points and offer different perspectives on some of the issues you have raised. That said, I absolutely appreciate the feedback. I think all of your feedback is worthwhile, and I agree with it much it to one degree or another. But I don't agree in total. I do thank you nonetheless and look forward to kindly and civil discussion! :)

Lucent wrote:
The entire setup of an indestructible maze/forest that the PCs are forced to go through in one direction and can use none of their abilities to circumvent it seems really forced. That every single section of the encounter as written says "if you have this ability it doesn't work" is frustrating to me both as a GM and playing Devil's Advocate from a player's perspective. A player should be rewarded for having the ability to bypass brambles, for instance, not penalized.

I think this frustration stems from the fact that by all appearances this is a set of outdoor encounters rather than an in-door set of encounters. I suspect if this was depicted in a dungeon, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Any author who has written a number of adventures will tell you, we have to use the architecture to control the pacing and flow of the adventure. This prevents the PCs from walking down the first flight of steps, taking the door to the right, and having the BBEG and the story finale be the very first thing the PCs deal with. Leaving the rest of the dungeon to be a series of fights to collect loot. We place doors, hallways, and rooms to guide the flow of the story. We also do our best to make the architecture look and feel as real as possible. Sometimes it is a balancing act.

Let's talk specifically about this AP now. I do agree with you, when a character has a class ability like woodland stride, it is questionable whether that ability should be rendered less usable. Nevertheless, in instances in the past where characters could use them to great effect have been limited to one or two encounters. I'll back this up with specifics. There are brambles around Thistletop (Runelords #1) which a druid can bypass and gain a specific advantage. Yet, that is just a couple encounters. There are places on Smuggler's Shiv where it can be used to great effect in Serpent's Skull #1, but not every single encounter.

As a parallel example, there are haunts, which 3rd level paladin becomes immune to.. I am all for cheering those PCs on and saying, "Sometimes it is good to be the paladin!" But not every encounter is a haunt, and other PCs can still be challenged by them.

To be able to bypass the thorn walls, go straight for the Hut or to scout every encounter ahead of time, would be like unlimited passwall or ethereal jaunt which are very high level spell effects.

Surely you won't begrudge us some tools in order to present a series of challenges and obstacles for the PCs to overcome? Are the author and developer to be penalized because we didn't situate all the encounters underground?

Incidentally, I don't see the Market Square / Forest being that different from the Howlings. At one point while we were discussing the Howlings there was a thought that we could do something like a 'sewer run' underneath it, rather than a true set of urban encounters that required Stealth, roleplaying, and social skills. I said to myself, "Hell no". It's supposed to be borough or a neighborhood with winter wolves, and I wasn't going to turn in a sewer—with lame-o underground winter sewer wolves. As Clark Peterson would say, "That just wouldn't be Superstar." Neverthless, the path through the Howlings has an approximation of maze-like walls, which are solid houses with people living in them. Otherwise you could skip all the encounters and just walk through it. Like we're trying to stop with players walking right to the final encounter with the Dancing Hut.

Would either be a satisfying experience?

Lucent wrote:
The contrivances of the hut deciding to create a gate to the first world as "a means of defense" while it is trapped by dimensional shackles seems unusual too.

Just a clarification here: The Hut creates no gate to the First World. It draws elements of the First World to it. Possibly in an effort to depart, which it cannot. Or maybe it is just to defend itself. Once those elements of the First World surround it, specifically the Dawn Pipers—they try to go home taking the Hut with them.

Lucent wrote:
Would it even go anywhere if the market square was yanked into the first world while bound like that?

A fair question. If you had a wheel boot or a tire immobilizer on your car, I would certainly agree that your car was not driving off anywhere until it was removed. And yet, if a starship were to hover over your house and beam your house, garage, and front driveway into it's cargo hold, I could see an argument for your car—tire boot and all, being transported on board too. Silly argument I know

We're trying to present to three way contest for control of this artifact, and this was a storytelling convention to allow for a third party to try to steal the Hut out from under both the PCs and the White Witches. We felt this made for a more interesting story.

Lucent wrote:
How is it capable of doing this, and if threatened does it have other similar defenses? Artifacts do all sorts of crazy things, but usually they don't feel like so much of an excuse to create a single-line approach to a location.

I think this is part and parcel of what an artifact really is—a storytelling device. Magic items are game mechanical functions which should be built to scale to a certain power level, and therefore be balanced to the game. (Yeah, that's the theory and some items are better than others for meeting that criteria). But an artifact is not constrained by the need to be balanced, even though sometimes we attach stat blocks to them.

Lucent wrote:
Then there's the reality siphon blocking off the entrance to the hut. It serves as an obvious stop-gap to prevent the PCs from simply making a mad dash into the hut to circumvent the challenges presented prior, but it seems again, very heavy-handed.

I suppose it depends on whether you see me, Jim Groves (or Rob), as trying to stop your PCs from getting to the Hut to early, or whether you consider the dawn pipers would like to stop them in order to capture the Hut for themselves.

In my original turnover there was something of a sub-plot that dealt with this. The dawn pipers had been swept into Golarion, but once here were acting on behest of a powerful Cold Rider Lord (I never wrote up his stats, but class levels were suggested) who had commanded the Dawn Pipers to open a gate for him to cross over. There he planned on slaying the PCs and Nazhena and seizing the Hut. The impenetrable field was his nascent gate which required time to fully manifest. Obviously there were changes made in development (and I assume for the best of reasons).

But whether it's a reality siphon or a nascent gate, isn't it a good thing we prevented a "mad dash" to Hut? I'm not sure why pacing the story is suddenly such poor design. Respectfully.

Lucent wrote:
After all of the buildup to Nazhena through Snows of Summer and most of the Shackled Hut, to find her cornered (without really any background given to the GM as to how she became in this predicament or for how long) by a magic blot again seems heavy-handed and uninspired.

She is defending the Hut from a fey incursion, and from adventurers she already has cause to suspect are on their way (what with the fall of the Pale Tower, the death of Radosek, and either Norgrimm's report or his disappearance). She's defending it personally because most of the Winter Guard has been drawn off to suppress with Iron Guard, which was the point of assassinating Logrivich. Personally, I did not prevented flight in and out of the area around the Hut. That wasn't my decision, because I didn't foresee the PCs be willing to fly in because they'd likely lack the resources to all fly in at once, and therefore refrain from splitting the party. Nevertheless, the 'no-fly zone' keeps one or two flying characters who are "scouting" from getting killed while separated from the rest of the party. Just because I didn't think of it doesn't mean it wasn't the right call to make.

Nazhena is not defenseless in a corner. Her construct is the same CR as any one of the dawn pipers (CR 5) and she's primed to summon a CR 3 ice mephit. A witch's flight hex is a (Su) supernatural ability so it's not exactly easy to knock her to the ground. Economy of action is all zipped up. I don't send my BBEG's into battle undefended!

From a logistics/plot point of view, Nazhena is just there to prevent any one from getting to the Hut until order has been re-established. Then I am sure Princess Cassisoche (acting ruler of Whitethrone while Elvanna is indisposed) would be sending relief for Nazhena. She may be "trapped" but she's more dangerous than anything on the map.. and she's just waiting for back-up. I don't see this as a "predicament", I see it as a choice. And a "smart choice" if you want to be advance up the ranks in a New World-Order-To-Be. I imagine Elvanna and Cassisoche approving of her decision, "Because if you want something done right, you do it yourself." We tried our best to foreshadow Nazhena throughout the adventure in response to fan feedback, but all I can take away from this is that one of the final bosses should somehow not be one of the final bosses. Do I have that wrong?

Lucent wrote:
I'm not sure if I'm going to choose to run it as presented when I finally get around to this chapter, but at least I have time to consider how to reorganize the encounters.

:)

That is well within your purview, and I can't fault you for wanting the best possible experience for yourself and your players. I may disagree on some points, but I respect you for doing what you feel is best.

Lucent wrote:
Has anyone else experienced some frustration with this particular chapter and deciphering how someone like Nazhena got trapped where she has? I have a feeling that this section might have been very different in the original turnover, as it just feels awkwardly out of place with the rest of the book.

Actually, much of it is is exactly the way I wrote it. That the Market was changed into the Forest as magical response from the Hut was part of the original outline as ways always part of the plot. It was my job to implement it. The most significant difference between the final version and the turnover was: the dawn pipers opening a gate to the First World and allowing something powerful through VS subsuming the physical area back to the First World.

I respect and admire Mr. McCreary. Its his responsibility to make the best adventure he can out of my work, and stand by all his decisions. That's how this process works. We're a team, with Adam, James, and the rest of the editorial department.

Again, I see Nazhena not as "trapped" but "guarding and waiting".

I am delighted you liked the rest of the adventure, and even if you don't agree with me—I hope this insight helped.


Jim! Thanks for getting back to me on this!

Responses:

Jim Groves wrote:


I think this frustration stems from the fact that by all appearances this is a set of outdoor encounters rather than an in-door set of encounters. I suspect if this was depicted in a dungeon, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

I think that is exactly true, definitely.

Jim Groves wrote:


There are brambles around Thistletop (Runelords #1) which a druid can bypass and gain a specific advantage. Yet, that is just a couple encounters. There are places on Smuggler's Shiv where it can be used to great effect in Serpent's Skull #1, but not every single encounter.

Also examples I certainly was thinking of, specifically Thistletop. I think that's why this seemed so out of place for me.

Jim Groves wrote:


In my original turnover there was something of a sub-plot that dealt with this. The dawn pipers had been swept into Golarion, but once here were acting on behest of a powerful Cold Rider Lord (I never wrote up his stats, but class levels were suggested) who had commanded the Dawn Pipers to open a gate for him to cross over. There he planned on slaying the PCs and Nazhena and seizing the Hut. The impenetrable field was his nascent gate which required time to fully manifest. Obviously there were changes made in development (and I assume for the best of reasons).

See, that right there I think makes this entire situation seem all the more logical. Obviously with the word-count limit for an AP there's only so many things that can be put into print, but I think the motivations of the dawn pipers seeming thin was part of my frustration as well. The entire cold rider subplot I think would have made the encounter with the dawn pipers more interesting, especially if their existence (and perhaps their plan) was foreshadowed some once arriving in the Howlings.

There's a high likelihood I'll adapt that subplot into my own campaign!

Jim Groves wrote:


But whether it's a reality siphon or a nascent gate, isn't it a good thing we prevented a "mad dash" to Hut? I'm not sure why pacing the story is suddenly such poor design. Respectfully.

It's definitely not the pacing that's the issue, to me. I think it's more that it's a single-circumvention block. The dawn pipers need to be killed in order to progress and there's no Route B.

Obviously this has a lot of precedent in gaming of all varieties, but for the penultimate encounter of the module it would've been interesting for there to have been one or two other workarounds to bypass the reality siphon without making it feel like "you must clear the room of monsters before proceeding."

Sometimes that works out really well, other times it doesn't. I think this is one of the instances where, for a number of reasons, it just doesn't feel right to me. I think you were right in that it's really an indoor encounter disguised as an outdoor encounter. I may do some expectation management with my players on this too, play up the "fortress" like nature of the trees, make it seem more cathedralesque rather than just indestructible timber walls.

Jim Groves wrote:


She is defending the Hut from a fey incursion

It's good to hear that directly, because it was hard to infer that from the text of the area. I was really looking to see where the final confrontation with Nazhena would be when I first read through the module, and found it odd that she was compartmentalized in such a way. It gave the impression on my first read-through that she was just caught there by surprise and has been stuck for an indeterminate period of time.

How many days has she been trapped in a small area near a hut that wanted to chicken-dance her apart? I can see that in your original turnover, having there be room for her to fly out makes total sense because she could depart for her home, rest properly, then return to the hut in the morning while leaving her golem there to keep an eye on the dawn pipers while she was getting a more dignified nap than sleeping at the feet of the hut (which doesn't sound all that safe to me regardless).

Jim Groves wrote:


From a logistics/plot point of view, Nazhena is just there to prevent any one from getting to the Hut until order has been re-established.

Again, that makes a lot more sense and given everything else you've explain I can see why certain decisions were made, even if the final product obfuscated that somewhat.

[quote=Then I am sure Princess Cassisoche (acting ruler of Whitethrone while Elvanna is indisposed) would be sending relief for Nazhena. She may be "trapped" but she's more dangerous than anything on the map.. and she's just waiting for back-up.

Outside the construct of my original review, I would have liked to see a "development" section on this part of the adventure, should the PCs delay unnecessarily in reclaiming the hut. There's some discussion as to what happens if they don't act while the uprising is being put down, but I would've liked to have a list of some possible outcomes if the dawn pipers managed to succeed in pulling this section of the city into the first world. What would happen to the hut, to the courtyard, etc.

I know some of my players may feel compelled to side (even temporarily) with the dawn pipers and let them yank that section of the city into the first world, if it makes accessing the hut easier. Now, I know I'm free to make up whatever scenario in that regard I can imagine, but an outline of maybe what they were trying to accomplish/how it would play out/how it would affect the hut's dimensional shackling would've been cool.

Ultimately, I realize not everything can be included due to space. But a man can dream!

Jim Groves wrote:


I don't see this as a "predicament", I see it as a choice. And a "smart choice" if you want to be advance up the ranks in a New World-Order-To-Be. I imagine Elvanna and Cassisoche approving of her decision, "Because if you want something done right, you do it yourself." We tried our best to foreshadow Nazhena throughout the adventure in response to fan feedback, but all I can take away from this is that one of the final bosses should somehow not be one of the final bosses. Do I have that wrong?
Quote:

No, no no. I most certainly wanted Nazhena to be the final confrontation in this, mostly because of how well she was foreshadowed and how dangerous, cruel and magnificently evil her presence had been. Perhaps if she had somehow been able to get inside the hut, or was somehow in a position where it didn't feel like she had her back to the wall and was cornered I'd feel differently.

I know this was a preconceived expectation, but I'd hoped that the confrontation with Nazhena would have been more monumental. Nazhena arriving as the PCs presume their victory, retinue of guards with her. Make them feel like the ones pinned behind the reality siphon. They're trapped with her and not the other way around.

However, I can see there being some catharsis in this. After all of the terrible things she's done, Nazhena now has her power and an ice golem standing between herself and a grisly death by either the PCs hands or the hut's if they manage to bull-rush/reposition her into kicking reach.

I think now, having hashed out the why and how of a lot of these situations it seems better. I just don't want to have my players feel cheated or too railroaded at this section. But I think by adding some spice in the flavors you mentioned will probably help that a lot.

I think the biggest takeaway from this is: The difference of Nazhena being there to confront the cold rider when he emerges to try and defend the hut from an impending threat as opposed to her waiting where the hut is about to be hijacked into the first world and being largely unable (or unwilling?) to stop it and getting trapped there herself.

I really appreciate you coming in and discussing the issues with me that I had, Jim. It's a fantastic opportunity to be able to have this rapport with the Paizo staff and its writers and I hope you don't see my criticisms with this singular portion of the book to be too harsh. I greatly admire your work and especially the opportunity you have doing what you do. I am ever graetful for all your hard work!

...and in closing, I'll also add that you did really surprise me in a great way, throwing an 11th-hour encounter with a bone golem into the hut after what the players will likely see as the "final confrontation" with Nazhena. I think that's going to surprise everyone when it hits them.

Again, thanks so much Jim for going back and forth with me on this. I think it really helped add to my appreciation of the book and will enhance my players' experience once they reach this portion of the story.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Lucent,

If you want some notes on what I originally turned over (not because I think the changes are wrong, but because you just might like an alternative), shoot me a PM with your email and I'll send it to you.

Or if there is a strong interest, I can post it behind spoiler tags.


...and this is why we love you, Jim!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Jim Groves wrote:
Or if there is a strong interest, I can post it behind spoiler tags.

There's a VERY strong interest. From me at least. :D

Grand Lodge

Jim Groves wrote:

Lucent,

If you want some notes on what I originally turned over (not because I think the changes are wrong, but because you just might like an alternative), shoot me a PM with your email and I'll send it to you.

Or if there is a strong interest, I can post it behind spoiler tags.

I would like that information if you do not mind??

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Deanoth wrote:
Jim Groves wrote:

Lucent,

If you want some notes on what I originally turned over (not because I think the changes are wrong, but because you just might like an alternative), shoot me a PM with your email and I'll send it to you.

Or if there is a strong interest, I can post it behind spoiler tags.

I would like that information if you do not mind??

Gosh..

scratches non-existent hair

I'm leery of posting it, because the content belongs to Paizo. I'm also not sure if I'm super-comfortable usurping my Developer. I stand with him, I think his version is best. Finally, I'm not sure the product description thread is the best place for this.

After all, I'd love people to buy this book and enjoy it. That way Paizo generates the revenue they need to pay their employees, to grow as a company, and continue their good work.

So tell you what.. Rather than discuss it further, please just shoot me a private message from here on out. I notice them! Send me an email, and I will send back some notes.

Please understand, if Paizo asks that I refrain, I will immediately comply. However, I'm not the first author to ever do this, and if people continue to buy and enjoy the book—I don't see why they would object.

REVIEW: If you feel comfortable, please review the book! Give it whatever rating you feel is fair. If the notes help mitigate how you look at the book in a positive light, I think my ethics can tolerate that! I chalk it up to "author gave added value". :D But no strings attached, review it however you like. And if you don't review it at all, that's okay too.

Beyond that, I will shoot Deanoth a PM. Pretty please make this request via PM from here on.

Liberty's Edge

I love that we get not one, but two two homosexual characters. Yay!

Also the Winter Fey Template IS the spiritual successor to the Dark Ice Fey template in Carnival of Tears.

Grand Lodge

Jim.
I am not looking at this as usurping the developer and the encounter in the book itself. I am looking at this as an enhancement and something I can use as a tool in my AP if I so choose to do. I like all options and being able to have fun and maximize the same for my players :)


I've posted my review, Jim!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Lucent wrote:
I've posted my review, Jim!

Thank you! Four Stars is wonderful.

I have a few questions for you, but I am not going to challenge or litigate your review. :) As the Editor-in-Chief says, "All feedback is good feedback!"

Spoiler:
Again, thank you for the kind words and the favorable review even though you had issues with a section. I mean that sincerely. :)

I don't know about the other Designers, but I'm always eager to learn and I'm not afraid to engage folks. So after mulling it over last night and this morning I just wanted to get your perspective on a few things.

It seems that treating the forest as if it was a structure was a mistake. Incidentally, that was 100% my idea. It doesn't seem to matter what spell effects or special attributes we may apply to the terrain, there is a suspension of disbelief speed-bump when the terrain acts as a wall, ceiling, or a door. Somehow that doesn't come across as magic, just dues ex machina. Am I summing that up correctly, from your point-of-view?

Secondly, thinking about how this might have been written differently, tell me if this would have worked. We remove the barriers of the forest, and allow the PCs to explore more freely—with the caveat that the Hut cannot be accessed until certain goals have been accomplished. Those goals require the PCs to go all over the map. Would that have worked better?
Bear in mind, certain things *need* to take place.
A.) Entering the Hut should be a final event.
B.) There have to be encounters on the map so PCs can acquire XP.
C.) There should be reason to explore most of the map. (Maps are a precious Designer resource, they should never be wasted)

So removing the barriers to exploration, even though you might encounter Nahzena early, would be better? (not a trick question, no sarcasm, I mean it at face value)

Is there any special qualities that we could have added to the Forest which would have passed the "sniff test"? You see, with an open architecture you run the risk of monsters overhearing a fight happening 50 feet away and "glomming" on to another encounter, spiking the CR and overwhelming the party. That can't really happen at Thistletop, Smuggler's Shiv, or Rivers Run Red, because those outdoor encounters are separated by miles. Separating the encounters is an element of pacing. (OOPS! I'm litigating the review, sorry, but it leads me to this next important question) Could I have added an illusory quality that didn't prohibit exploration but limited sight and sound? To avoid the dogpile phenomenon. Like a hallucinatory terrain effect?

I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. I want to earn that fifth star next time!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Prepare for an alphabetical Zerg rush behind the spoiler. I got wordy.

Review Feedback:

Jim Groves talking about groves of trees wrote:


It seems that treating the forest as if it was a structure was a mistake. Incidentally, that was 100% my idea. It doesn't seem to matter what spell effects or special attributes we may apply to the terrain, there is a suspension of disbelief speed-bump when the terrain acts as a wall, ceiling, or a door. Somehow that doesn't come across as magic, just dues ex machina. Am I summing that up correctly, from your point-of-view?

I think that's definitely the case, in terms of impression. I think there are instances where it could be done (never say never!) but I don't think this wound up being one of them. I come from a design mindset where player capabilities as they rise in level should be accounted for and expected to be used (even encouraged), rather than finding ways to shut those abilities down. If you're writing an adventure for 15th-level characters, expect them to use things like teleportation and high-level divination magic that could shut down or instantly solve certain plot elements. Don't stonewall them for using the powers they worked hard to get, work with them. That remains true all the way down to 1st-level.

Jim Groves wrote:

Secondly, thinking about how this might have been written differently, tell me if this would have worked. We remove the barriers of the forest, and allow the PCs to explore more freely—with the caveat that the Hut cannot be accessed until certain goals have been accomplished. Those goals require the PCs to go all over the map. Would that have worked better?

Bear in mind, certain things *need* to take place.
A.) Entering the Hut should be a final event.
B.) There have to be encounters on the map so PCs can acquire XP.
C.) There should be reason to explore most of the map. (Maps are a precious Designer resource, they should never be wasted)

In this instance I think that may have worked better. If I had to redesign this particular encounter, I would have placed Nazhena inside the hut, busy working on a way for either herself (if it fit her ambitions to try and overhadow her mother), her mother, or even Elvanna to be able to use the hut to its fullest extent (perhaps with the intention of uncovering some great secret Baba Yaga locked inside the hut, like the one hinted at in the preview of the last module of the AP).

Depending on the number of encounters needed (we'll say 8), I would've broken down the area as follows:

6 encounters that are integral to opening the hut. Nazhena had either the door sealed or the hut pacified in order to keep the Black Rider from getting inside. Nazhena may not be aware that the Black Rider died and passed on his mantle, after all. If she is, then that lock works just as good to keep the PCs out. After completing these six encounters the seal on the hut is broken.

2 of the other encounters are optional, and part of a final encounter strategy. The last 2 encounters are ritual magic/minor artifacts/what have you that are empowering Nazhena to allow her to do her work in the hut. Perhaps one artifact/site grants her the ability to teleport between available rooms in the hut as a move action, and another artifact/site allows her to control the hut's interior to a limited degree (making difficult terrain, locking doors, creating animated objects, etc).

The PCs can elect to handle these encounters and strip Nazhena of some additional abilities that make the fight with her harder, or they can save their resources and battle a stronger (maybe +1 CR bump to accomodate) Nazhena inside the hut itself.

Obviously the number of encounters/nature of encounters would need to be balanced against the XP budget needed to get the PCs to the desired level.

This presents Nazhena as being active[i] in attempting to accomplish a goal that the PCs can disrupt rather than appearing [i]passively engaged with the fey incursion. If you wanted to keep the fey angle, you could have Nazhena have enslaved fey to her will to serve as portions of this ritual/plot device.

Heck, you could even keep the reality siphon as the means by which the hut has been pacified, but instead of being a plug in a doorway, it encompasses the entire hut like a globe, separating it from the material plane to isolate Nazhena and give her more time to work/utilize first world energies in her/her mothers/her grandmother's plan.

Jim Groves wrote:


So removing the barriers to exploration, even though you might encounter Nahzena early, would be better? (not a trick question, no sarcasm, I mean it at face value)

Unless there was a mandate that Nazhena had to be encountered outside of the hut (and I would've argued against that, honestly), I would say putting her inside is the superior choice. I mean, there's already an encounter in the hut after Nazhena anyway.

Jim Groves wrote:


Is there any special qualities that we could have added to the Forest which would have passed the "sniff test"? You see, with an open architecture you run the risk of monsters overhearing a fight happening 50 feet away and "glomming" on to another encounter, spiking the CR and overwhelming the party. That can't really happen at Thistletop, Smuggler's Shiv, or Rivers Run Red, because those outdoor encounters are separated by miles. Separating the encounters is an element of pacing. (OOPS! I'm litigating the review, sorry, but it leads me to this next important question) Could I have added an illusory quality that didn't prohibit exploration but limited sight and sound? To avoid the dogpile phenomenon. Like a hallucinatory terrain effect?

Have each "encounter" site overlay with the First World. Sound cannot travel outside of the planar boundaries, the barriers have become thinner there so they are technically extraplanar regions. Once you cross a certain threshhold you are no longer in the material and can't hear out. Sort of like a faerie ring, toadstools and the like. In fact, that's even the trope you could use. 20-foot diameter faerie rings that lead into larger "partitions" of the first world. All you have to do is walk through the boundaries and you hopscotch across planes. It's like rooms, but not quite the same.

Jim Groves wrote:
I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. I want to earn that fifth star next time!

I don't think that'll be a hard goal to reach, Jim. If I could've given you 4.5 stars I would have.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

So noted! Thank you!


Hope all of that makes sense. I don't know what kind of constraints youw ere operating under in regards to what NPC could be in what location, so some of my ideas might not have panned out.

Sovereign Court

Haven't picked up my copy yet, but getting ready to kick off the campaign with the first volume.

For the sake of a certain PC's background hook, can anyone confirm that ...

spoiler:
the Heralds of Summer's Return are worshipers of Milani?

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

rob vaughn wrote:

Haven't picked up my copy yet, but getting ready to kick off the campaign with the first volume.

For the sake of a certain PC's background hook, can anyone confirm that ... ** spoiler omitted **

Rob,

Spoiler:
The leader of the Heralds in Whitethrone is a cleric of Milani, and there is a very close connection between the worship of Milani and the Heralds.

I have to qualify how I say that, because being a worshiper of Milani is not a prerequisite to be a Herald (many druids are Heralds for example). The Heralds don't just operate out of Whitethrone either. However the two go together like peas and carrots.

If you're looking for a strong connection between the two in the AP, for the purposes of a PC's background—the PC is on very safe ground. The Heralds that the PCs actually encounter in the AP are led by a Milani cleric and their secret headquarters is also Milani shrine. Can't get close than that!

Hope this helps!

Contributor

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I love what you've done with this adventure Jim, bravo chap - huzzah!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Richard Pett wrote:
I love what you've done with this adventure Jim, bravo chap - huzzah!

Thank you Richard! That means a lot!

:D

Contributor

Huzzah, and now alas I must kill you...

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

8(

Oh noes!

Crouches behind Wolfgang, not realizing what a terrible plan that is.


Two man enter. One man leave.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Be careful, Jim. Richard's huzzah's are just his prelude to a kill. I'm sorry we didn't warn you any sooner, but try to avoid strange Brits muttering "M'naaaaaaar!" to themselves.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Thanks for the review Steelhead!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Is anyone else seeing the pattern I am? "Everything by Jim Groves is fantastic"

Liberty's Edge

TarionsCousin wrote:
Is anyone else seeing the pattern I am? "Everything by Jim Groves is fantastic"

That's been my experience. It helps that he interacts well on the boards.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Laschoni wrote:
That's been my experience. It helps that he interacts well on the boards.

Too well sometimes!

I am a work in progress! I like to think I get better with practice.

Sovereign Court

Hey there, running this adventure and my PCs are flirting with the idea of playing politics in Irrisen; one of them may have some Jadwiga blood.

Can anyone tell me if the rules for succession are clarified anywhere, like in the Irrisen book? The modules all say that Baba Yaga chooses one of her "daughters" to succeed her every 100 years ... are these literally her daughters, as in she takes a lover and produces an heir? If so, it should be pretty clear who the next queen will be, right? Or are we talking figurative, here, meaning that she just picks someone of her bloodline from among the Jadwiga and chooses her as the queen?


She brings a daughter with her from wherever she stays in the meantime (see #72 - The Witch Queen's Revenge for more information on that) and installs that daughter as queen, with the new queen's children taking up various positions of authority throughout Irrisen and the old queen's children usually being knocked down a peg on the Irrisen power-steps.

The old queen then leaves Golarion together with Baba Yaga.


Specifically, The previous Queen & all her children leave with Baba Yaga when she departs. The final adventure reveals the results of what happens to Baba Yaga's daughters, but never really explains what she needs her grandchildren for. It does however explicitly state that all of the Queens of Irresen so far have in fact been Baba Yaga's actual biological daughters.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Irnk, Dead-Eye's Prodigal wrote:
The final adventure reveals the results of what happens to Baba Yaga's daughters, but never really explains what she needs her grandchildren for.

It actually does, sort of. I can't cite an exact page reference right now, but I know the answer with some confidence. If you're willing to take my word for it, I'll explain.

Spoiler:
Baba Yaga doesn't technically *need* them, and you're partially correct in that she doesn't have a specific purpose for them.

However, she can't just not take them. Much like you have to take an orange rind or a banana peel if you want the tasty fruit that comes with them.

You see, the process by which Baba Yaga 'devours' the life force of her daughter would send that daughter's power to that daughter's immediate children. The only way to circumvent and ensure that Baba Yaga gets the life force for herself is to take not only the daughter but all the grandchildren as well.

So the power flows from the daughter to the grandchildren. Baba Yaga needs to take the grandchildren in order to short-circuit that.

Again, I'm not sure where this is explained, but this is how it was explained to the authors in the master outline.

That is my good faith understanding. If I'm wrong I'm sure Rob or Adam can correct any misunderstanding.

Sovereign Court

Kajehase: I see in #72 that this is what she may do depending on how the adventure path goes, but it's not explicit that this is what she's done every time up to now. Is there another section in the adv path that makes you sure of that? I just don't see "Old Grandmother" wanting to go through the trouble of taking a lover and actually being pregnant and all that ... she's in the Crone stage of her life, would she willingly go back and relive the other stages?

I'm thinking I might make it a metaphorical daughterness involving possession and wacky rituals and the like. Unless there's clearer direction in the Irrisen book. Thanks all!


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I'd not put money on 1000+ years old woman having to do her pregnancies the normal way.

Sovereign Court Developer

The fate of Baba Yaga's grandchildren is explained on page 48 of Pathfinder #72, in the description of the Hall of Thrones. But basically, Jim has the right of it.


So, if Tashana wasn't "enthroned" as it were, were her children and grandchildren spared as well?


So let me get this straight: snow goblins are just ordinary goblins, no special stats, no cold resistance, no nothing?

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yep. Just like snow humans from Alaska or desert humans from Sudan.


Then why bother calling them snow goblins? It's not like they call the Mwangi JUNGLE HUMANS or something.

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