Pathfinder Adventure Path #133: Secrets of Roderic's Cove (Return of the Runelords 1 of 6)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path #133: Secrets of Roderic's Cove (Return of the Runelords 1 of 6)

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Wrath Shall Reign!

When one runelord rose from his slumber, the frontier nation of Varisia shook with his power, and it took a band of heroes to save the world. Yet there remained six other runelords, and now the most wrathful of them all has woken! As the runelords waken one after another, the dangers and perils faced by past heroes pale in comparison. When a mysterious and fearful ghost manifests on the streets of Roderic's Cove at the same time the town's gangs use the runes and legacies of ancient Thassilonian tyrants for their own ends, a new band of heroes must rise to save Varisia, and perhaps the world, from the return of the runelords!

This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path begins the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path and includes:

  • "Secrets of Roderic's Cove," a Pathfinder adventure for 1st-level characters, by Adam Daigle.
  • An exploration and gazetteer of the town of Roderic's Cove and its inhabitants, by Adam Daigle.
  • An extensive timeline of the history of Thassilon, revelations about the methods used by each runelord to avoid destruction during the apocalypse of Earthfall, and notes for Game Masters on the roles each runelord plays in this Adventure Path, by James Jacobs.
  • A bestiary of monsters lurking around Varisia, including the child-stealing nochlean and the innocuous-looking warpglass ooze, by Mikko Kallio, Luis Loza, Jacob W. Michaels, and Conor J. Owens.

ISBN-13: 978-1-64078-062-0

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

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Underwhelming.

1/5

The underlying structure of this story is not great, and the writing doesn't help. For the first book in an Adventure Path, this one leaves me underwhelmed and slightly nervous to see what follows. It seems like a rough first draft, and it gives me the same impression of Ultimate Wilderness, where not enough time was taken to craft a publication that is worth distributing. I hope it was just a one-time thing, and that the next books will be back up to the usual standard of quality for APs.

I find that the AP books are increasingly filled with great ideas, and the quality has been top-notch for quite a while. When I read this book, I was constantly thinking about how I'd have to re-work things to make the story coherent, or thinking of details I'd have to add where none are provided in the book.

The text (room descriptions, faction descriptions, NPC description) gives very little fuel for the imagination. They largely focus on back-story that is irrelevant to what the PCs might encounter.

SPOILERS:

For example, one room takes an entire paragraph to describe where the long-dead family sat in this room when they ate their meals. That does nothing for me as a DM. Instead, why not say that the following can be found in the room: "A child's toy; a carved drawing on the table. An old bracket on the window where a telescope used to be. A hand-crafted high chair for the youngest child that's now rotting." Something that the characters could actually discover. I find myself continually frustrated by the unusable text in the book that makes it a chore to read.

Some room descriptions simply repeat what's obvious on the map (and also given in the read aloud text): "This hallway stretches from the front door and curves at a right angle before ending. A set of rickety stairs ascends to the house's second story." This is obvious from the map, and to make it worse, the read-aloud also says: "A set of stairs rises to the next floor, and the hallway turns sharply to the north past the staircase." None of this adds anything I couldn't just tell the players from looking at the map.

There are four different groups involved in this book, and the relationships between them are over-complicated and unnecessary. Several of the groups are hard to realistically imagine living in the town. The groups (and all areas) also feel static, like they're waiting for the PCs to arrive to interact with them. The descriptions of the groups are insufficient to determine more dynamic interactions and motivations, and these brief descriptions sometime contradict the way they're encountered.

For example, there is a group of "frustrated workers and struggling individuals from the lower classes who hope to make a better place for themselves in Roderic's Cove - a sort of informal and rough-around-the edges labourer's guild." This sounds very realistic and compelling to me. However, the group is named the "Horned Fangs", and their members seem to be hanging out in a dungeon, waiting to attack. All the verisimilitude is lost, as is the potential complexity of dealing with co-opted members of the town.

Another group is led by an old witch-like oracle who seems completely out of place with the rest of her members, and there is literally zero description about her motivations, or why she leads the group.

The macguffin in the book could provide a great lead-in to the dangers of the following books, but everything is strangely capped off at the end of the book. The only motivation the PCs have at the end is to follow an NPC's advice to research the macguffin they found. I can think of a number of ways this could have been done better. (The macguffin also uses a power at the start of the story that is not usable by PCs. There is some description of why this happens, but it will never be obvious to the PCs, and is potentially confusing).

TL:DR - This book doesn't match up to the usual quality of PF AP's. I'm writing this to express my concern, and my hope that the next books in this AP match what we expect in terms of cohesive and compelling writing, and as a tool for GM's to create great stories from.


Sins of the Past

4/5

I have written this twice now, and I keep getting timed out so, quick version. I like this adventure; good story, and set up. challenging encounters, and investigations. Consequences to the PC's actions, and the written structure of the adventure is set up to greatly assist a GM. Downsides though, there are several difficult, if not impossible for their level, skill checks that give the PC's important information, that they may not get. Could leave some PC's un-invested in the developments. There are NPC's to balance this, but can feel like hand-holding for some. Despite the flaws, I enjoyed the first volume, and can't wait for the next.


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Dark Archive

4 people marked this as a favorite.
quibblemuch wrote:
Set wrote:
So, technically, there could be *two* Runelords of Envy available to face...
Wait--the ancient Thassilonians had TWO Runelords of Envy? I'm so jealous...

See, this is how you get Runelords of Envy!

And Envy leads to Greed, which leads to, no wait, that's not it...

Hmm. And Dwarves have both Greed and Hatred as racial traits. I wonder if we are ever going to have a race with Pride as a racial trait? (Other than the Azlanti, obviously...)


DOT DOT DOT DOT DOT DOT DOT DOT DOT DOT DOT DOT DOT DOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


James Jacobs wrote:


There are nearly 50 runelords who existed over the course of Thassilon's run, of which the majority we've said nothing about. More than the seven last ones will have roles to play in Return of the Runelords, I suspect. Alderpash included in perhaps a small way. We'll see!

Oh goodie. Also, sorry to have misread/misrepresented/misremembered what you said in your ask thread a while ago about Alderpash.

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

6 people marked this as a favorite.
captain yesterday wrote:

I can't wait to see what Adam Daigle does as an adventure writer!

In fact, is this his maiden voyage writing adventures...

I can't wait for y'all to see it!

And while this isn't the first adventure I've written, it's certainly the longest.


Just remember, only Pride and Lust had one Runelord each. And there's a reason for that. :P

But yeah, considering there's time travel, I'm hoping this means we'll actually get to see all seven of the original Runelords (Even if JJ has said that the original set weren't the most powerful, barring Xanderghul and Sorshen.)


Wow, 50 Runelords.

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Dragon78 wrote:
Wow, 50 Runelords.

We will need more pikes in the trophy room :-p

Paizo Employee Creative Director

15 people marked this as a favorite.
Thomas Seitz wrote:
Wait 50?!! Holy crap on a stick! I mean I knew there were more than the original seven but...50?!!

50's a rough guess. I've worked out the exact number and all their names but I'm out sick today and can't check the file... but yeah. Turns out that if a nation's around for several centuries there's lots of time for even long-lived powerful wizards to cycle through a few leaders...

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
Wait 50?!! Holy crap on a stick! I mean I knew there were more than the original seven but...50?!!
50's a rough guess. I've worked out the exact number and all their names but I'm out sick today and can't check the file... but yeah. Turns out that if a nation's around for several centuries there's lots of time for even long-lived powerful wizards to cycle through a few leaders...

*offers tummy wubs*

Liberty's Edge

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I don't know why people are so surprised. 50 is only seven runelords per sin. If a runelord is in power for say, 20 years (a pretty long time considering they're evil and thus assassinate each other), that would imply that Thassilon was around only for 7*20 = 140 years. I would've expected a much higher number for a 1200 year old realm, more on the order of 200-1000. Only 50 means almost 200 year tenures on the average, which is insanely long in a hostile environment.


I am so looking forward to this AP. I hope you get better soon, James!

Silver Crusade

9 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Samy wrote:
I don't know why people are so surprised. 50 is only seven runelords per sin. If a runelord is in power for say, 20 years (a pretty long time considering they're evil and thus assassinate each other), that would imply that Thassilon was around only for 7*20 = 140 years. I would've expected a much higher number for a 1200 year old realm, more on the order of 200-1000. Only 50 means almost 200 year tenures on the average, which is insanely long in a hostile environment.

Ever tried to kill a moderately competent lvl 20 Wizard?

It's not easy.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Duh, but the implied 200 years per runelord is a VERY long time, and I would assume some even more moderately competent challengers might come around every few years.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Samy wrote:
Duh, but the implied 200 years per runelord is a VERY long time, and I would assume some even more moderately competent challengers might come around every few years.

Depends on how much effort the Runelords were putting into controlling or suppressing the sort of things that might plausibly challenge level 20 wizards.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Samy wrote:
I don't know why people are so surprised. 50 is only seven runelords per sin. If a runelord is in power for say, 20 years (a pretty long time considering they're evil and thus assassinate each other), that would imply that Thassilon was around only for 7*20 = 140 years. I would've expected a much higher number for a 1200 year old realm, more on the order of 200-1000. Only 50 means almost 200 year tenures on the average, which is insanely long in a hostile environment.

The numbers are a bit skewed - IIRC, Sorshen and Xanderghul are the original Runelords of Lust and Pride respectively, and they survived to Earthfall. That would be ~48 Runelords amongst the remaining five sins, with some of them having greater turnover than others - Wrath, as noted above, probably had quite a few, and I'd guess Envy did as well. Gluttony not so much - Zutha's a scary powerful guy, and having dominion over death itself suggests that turnover is a slow process.

Silver Crusade

Here's what I'd love to see. The battle with Sorshen is going against her, when she casts timestop, and wishes a few Runelords back into existence. Perfect way to bring back those fallen Runelords.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
PAZ42 wrote:
Here's what I'd love to see. The battle with Sorshen is going against her, when she casts timestop, and wishes a few Runelords back into existence. Perfect way to bring back those fallen Runelords.

How is she casting a 9th level Transmutation spell?


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

No.

What would be better is if some unknowing team of adventurers (say, around Book Two or Three) accidentally undid a 'time lock' that Thassilon had been 'sealed away' under and suddenly there was 'New Thassilon'... which was attempting to be conterminous with the Varisian region and dramatically bad results...

And added bonus, some of the Runelords don't like the way the world turned out and want it to *stop*.

The Exchange

so this statement is somewhat off--from--Words of the Ancients
Scores of fortress-like towers line the
edges of a deep ravine, each similar to the next but at
the same time unique—the result of their construction
by dozens of runelords of sloth over the course of
centuries.


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

I am SO looking forward to this AP!!

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
What would be better is if some unknowing team of adventurers (say, around Book Two or Three) accidentally undid a 'time lock' that Thassilon had been 'sealed away' under and suddenly there was 'New Thassilon'

I'd love to see an AP where the PCs screw up early on (bad information, deliberately misled, insurmountable challenge) and have to spend the rest of the AP fixing whatever they unleashed.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

8 people marked this as a favorite.
Samy wrote:
I don't know why people are so surprised. 50 is only seven runelords per sin. If a runelord is in power for say, 20 years (a pretty long time considering they're evil and thus assassinate each other), that would imply that Thassilon was around only for 7*20 = 140 years. I would've expected a much higher number for a 1200 year old realm, more on the order of 200-1000. Only 50 means almost 200 year tenures on the average, which is insanely long in a hostile environment.

Remember two that of the 7, two (Sorshen and Xanderghul) were never replaced; they started and ended Thassilon. So the remaining 48 or so are what's spread out over the years, really. It's true though that for most of them they ruled for centuries. Most of them. Some did not.

And it wasn't a "hostile environment" really either. No more so than, say, Cheliax or the like. Thassilon wasn't the wild west or a post apocalyptic warzone. It was a stable and healthy and vibrant nation.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

11 people marked this as a favorite.
Mosaic wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
What would be better is if some unknowing team of adventurers (say, around Book Two or Three) accidentally undid a 'time lock' that Thassilon had been 'sealed away' under and suddenly there was 'New Thassilon'
I'd love to see an AP where the PCs screw up early on (bad information, deliberately misled, insurmountable challenge) and have to spend the rest of the AP fixing whatever they unleashed.

Like the "You are all captured and put in prison and have to escape" plot, this is a plot line that works best when it rises organically in play and can be tailored by the GM as it unfolds.

Deliberately planning this, or setting up an adventure whose whole point is to make the PCs expend time and resources playing only to screw something up and then expect them to want to KEEP playing after they realized the GM has stacked the deck against them the first time is a good way to get a campaign an early grave after the players lose interest in my opinion.

But if it happens organically, and the players DON'T learn or believe that they were supposed to fail or do something foolish all along, the storyline can be really compelling and interesting.

It's just basically impossible to do in a published adventure.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
Wait 50?!! Holy crap on a stick! I mean I knew there were more than the original seven but...50?!!
50's a rough guess. I've worked out the exact number and all their names but I'm out sick today and can't check the file... but yeah. Turns out that if a nation's around for several centuries there's lots of time for even long-lived powerful wizards to cycle through a few leaders...

You’re out sick and you’re still on the boards answering questions?!

You, sir, are a mensch.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

11 people marked this as a favorite.
Porridge wrote:

You’re out sick and you’re still on the boards answering questions?!

Turns out it's not a big deal to type a few lines of text when you're bundled in a big blanket with the heater on sitting in the comfort of your own home.


Nathan Monson wrote:
PAZ42 wrote:
Here's what I'd love to see. The battle with Sorshen is going against her, when she casts timestop, and wishes a few Runelords back into existence. Perfect way to bring back those fallen Runelords.
How is she casting a 9th level Transmutation spell?

Erm, Wish is universal, not transmutation. Also considering all the ridiculous contingencies the Runelords have, you'd need at least a Mythic Wish to get the job done.


Dark Midian wrote:
Nathan Monson wrote:
PAZ42 wrote:
Here's what I'd love to see. The battle with Sorshen is going against her, when she casts timestop, and wishes a few Runelords back into existence. Perfect way to bring back those fallen Runelords.
How is she casting a 9th level Transmutation spell?
Erm, Wish is universal, not transmutation. Also considering all the ridiculous contingencies the Runelords have, you'd need at least a Mythic Wish to get the job done.

Time Stop is Transmutation, and one of Sorshen's forbidden schools.

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

10 people marked this as a favorite.

I hope I'm not giving too much away, but no runelords appear in this adventure*. :)

* Unless James is a monster during development.

There might be an artifact, though.


Xenocrat wrote:
Dark Midian wrote:
Nathan Monson wrote:
PAZ42 wrote:
Here's what I'd love to see. The battle with Sorshen is going against her, when she casts timestop, and wishes a few Runelords back into existence. Perfect way to bring back those fallen Runelords.
How is she casting a 9th level Transmutation spell?
Erm, Wish is universal, not transmutation. Also considering all the ridiculous contingencies the Runelords have, you'd need at least a Mythic Wish to get the job done.
Time Stop is Transmutation, and one of Sorshen's forbidden schools.

Being the Runelord of Lust, I'd hope she'd have crazy high Charisma (Or Pragmatic Activator) and ranks in UMD. :v


1 person marked this as a favorite.

dot for dot sake. looking forward to train under the sorshen for those sweet ancient secrets of magic.

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

Gorbacz wrote:
Samy wrote:
I don't know why people are so surprised. 50 is only seven runelords per sin. If a runelord is in power for say, 20 years (a pretty long time considering they're evil and thus assassinate each other), that would imply that Thassilon was around only for 7*20 = 140 years. I would've expected a much higher number for a 1200 year old realm, more on the order of 200-1000. Only 50 means almost 200 year tenures on the average, which is insanely long in a hostile environment.

Ever tried to kill a moderately competent lvl 20 Wizard?

It's not easy.

Many times.

Personally I've had the best luck with advanced Balors with quickened greater teleport and Improved Critical. Seven attacks with a vorpal weapon with a 17-20 crit range does wonders - the odds of not getting a critical hit are about 20%. And of course they travel in pairs ...

It's much harder when th PCs have mythic tiers, gotta tell ya. Freakin' mirror dodge, though I can always add Dual Initiative if I'm feeling especially vindictive.

It's a shame Paizo's largely given up on the Mythic stuff. After having done both epic and mythic, I still slightly prefer epic (ironically mythic makes gameplay even more complicated than epic did) but we're having a blast and the characters are doing some crazy-ass stuff.

Sorry for the tangent ... we now return to our regularly scheduled AP discussion :)

Though as always I'm looking forward to part 6 of this for material for my campaign!


Technically the vorpal weapon ability only functions on a natural 20(with successful crit confirmation).


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Even at only 48 and even if more than half of those are from Wrath...that's STILL a great deal more turn over than you'd expect...

Also I appreciate Adam Daigle both curbing my expectations along with improving them with artifacts.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

No Runelords were harmed in the making of this AP volume;)


Dragon78 wrote:
No Runelords were harmed in the making of this AP volume;)

Of course not. That's the job of the PCs, if they do what they're supposed to do and are smart enough and lucky enough...something I wouldn't necessarily bet on if they run into Sorshen or Xanderghul or....

Contributor

6 people marked this as a favorite.

I desperately want to play through this AP if at all possible, especially because I played through RotRL with a PC who was, in a word, obsessed with Runelord Alaznist and actually abandoned the other PCs to try and wake her up. Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Also there was pesh involved. A lot of pesh.

So yeah, with the potential for cameos from RotRL PCs, with mine from my playthrough having that crush on Alaznist, if Alaznist herself shows up, things will get interesting. XD


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

The announcement of this AP has renewed my determination to play through ROTRL and Shattered Star. I NEED THIS.

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Dark Midian wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:
Dark Midian wrote:
Nathan Monson wrote:
PAZ42 wrote:
Here's what I'd love to see. The battle with Sorshen is going against her, when she casts timestop, and wishes a few Runelords back into existence. Perfect way to bring back those fallen Runelords.
How is she casting a 9th level Transmutation spell?
Erm, Wish is universal, not transmutation. Also considering all the ridiculous contingencies the Runelords have, you'd need at least a Mythic Wish to get the job done.
Time Stop is Transmutation, and one of Sorshen's forbidden schools.
Being the Runelord of Lust, I'd hope she'd have crazy high Charisma (Or Pragmatic Activator) and ranks in UMD. :v

Furthermore, remember that Pathfinder changed the way Prohibited Schools work from 3.5. Sorshen can still cast Transmutation spells; she just has to spend two slots per spell to do it. And she can use scrolls, etc. just fine.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Orthos wrote:
Dark Midian wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:
Dark Midian wrote:
Nathan Monson wrote:
PAZ42 wrote:
Here's what I'd love to see. The battle with Sorshen is going against her, when she casts timestop, and wishes a few Runelords back into existence. Perfect way to bring back those fallen Runelords.
How is she casting a 9th level Transmutation spell?
Erm, Wish is universal, not transmutation. Also considering all the ridiculous contingencies the Runelords have, you'd need at least a Mythic Wish to get the job done.
Time Stop is Transmutation, and one of Sorshen's forbidden schools.
Being the Runelord of Lust, I'd hope she'd have crazy high Charisma (Or Pragmatic Activator) and ranks in UMD. :v
Furthermore, remember that Pathfinder changed the way Prohibited Schools work from 3.5. Sorshen can still cast Transmutation spells; she just has to spend two slots per spell to do it. And she can use scrolls, etc. just fine.

The archetype for Thassilonian Magic (I don't remember the name) turns it back into truly forbidden territory. They get 2 slots per spell level for their chosen school, though.

Shadow Lodge

Did they use that archetype for Karzoug in the Anniversary Edition? If not I'm not sure I'd expect that they'd do so for the others.


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

To the book!

Edit: They did!


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I think it would be interesting if one or more Runelords weren't wizards.

Maybe throw a Sorcerer, Psychic, or Arcanist (especially an Arcanist) into the mix.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yeah it would be nice seeing something other then a wizard especially necromancers.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Necromancers only annoy me when someone wants to play one.


6 people marked this as a favorite.
captain yesterday wrote:
I think it would be interesting if one or more Runelords weren't wizards.

Maybe even some commoners--their country relatives, like beer-swilling good old boy Billy Karzoug. You know...

...the Rubelords.

I'll show myself out.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
quibblemuch wrote:
captain yesterday wrote:
I think it would be interesting if one or more Runelords weren't wizards.

Maybe even some commoners--their country relatives, like beer-swilling good old boy Billy Karzoug. You know...

...the Rubelords.

I'll show myself out.

Yes, I'm sure they'll have a Vancaskerkin or twelve.


captain yesterday wrote:

I think it would be interesting if one or more Runelords weren't wizards.

Maybe throw a Sorcerer, Psychic, or Arcanist (especially an Arcanist) into the mix.

Silksworn Occultist :P

Shadow Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I believe it has been stated that canonically all Runelords were always wizards. Hasn't stopped me from changing them in my own version, obviously, but by the book I doubt that's going to be altered.


Orthos wrote:
Did they use that archetype for Karzoug in the Anniversary Edition? If not I'm not sure I'd expect that they'd do so for the others.

Karzoug technically didn't have it spelled out in his statblock, but a detailed perusal shows that as a transmuter, he didn't have any enchantment or illusion spells in his prepared list. I want to say that Krune actually did specifically say he was a Thassilonian conjurer and therefore had no illusion or evocation spells prepared. It's basically canon that all Runelords are Thassilonian specialist wizards, because they're obviously the ones that came up with it.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thassilonian Specialist isn't actually an archetype, its just alternate casting system <_< So technically its more similar to Word Casting than archetypes.

All of RotR's Thassilonian wizards use it actually, including Mokmurian, Barl and that one necromancer in basement iirc

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