Thesselar Needs Some Help.


Age of Worms Adventure Path


First let me say that I’m not writing this just to complain. I really like liches (for some strange reason) and I obsess about their deadliness. This is more of a suggestion for “fixing” Thesselar.

Thesselar is a transmuter with enchmantment and illusion as his banned schools. This is incongruent with the recommended tactics that he uses a Project Image spell (i.e. it’s an illusion); especially since the spell isn’t on his list of prepared spells.

Next, for a character with no enchanment spells he sure has a lot of item creation feats. Presumably this is to account for his creature creation obsession? He doesn’t even really have a lot of magic items to use. I would presume a character with that many item creation feats would have a few more tools at his disposal (just seemed a little short). Personally, I’d ditch a few item creation feats for some skill focus feats in his areas of expertise.

Lastly, his spell selection doesn’t include a lot of defensive options. If he succeeds in casting fly and energy resistance as suggested (presumably vs. fire) he can remove himself from melee and get one additional layer of protection from energy; however, he’s up against a 19th level party! He really would benefit from some other defensive strategy if he’s going to last long (seeing as project image isn’t going to work). Personally, I could even leave the spell selection alone if Thesselar had a few strategies for his wish spells (Unholy Aura, Mass Inflict Critical Wounds, etc…).

Anyway, just wanted to make a cool NPC a little cooler. Take it for what its worth.

Cheers,
C.


Just keep in mind that modules are guides, not a set of strict directions. It's also not surprising that Dungeon has errors. Any piece of writing that is enforced by a deadline (especially a monthly magazine) is bound to have errors. Expect them and fix them as you see fit.


Suboptimal spell strategies and inconsistencies between stat blocs and strategies seem to have occurred fairly regularly in these modules. My impression is that most of the stat blocs of the higher level modules got rebuilt, and some of the tactics that were based on the original stat blocs escaped the editor's eye. I posted a similar complaint about TFOE some time ago, but included some specific fixes once I started working on how I was going to run the module in detail.

When you flesh out the general suggestions you make above, your fellow DMs will appreciate it if you can post them, so we can be lazy!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Some notes about Thessilar.

1: The bit about him using project image in his tactics is an error. Just ignore it. Or if you like it, he could still use a wish to pull this stunt off.

2: Enchantment has little to do with making magic items. Enchantment spells are focused on charm and compulsion effects, so Thessilar wouldn't be able to make magic items that do this (or that do illusions). He's perfectly capable of creating magic items from other schools though, and has done so (hence his gear, which If I Recall Correctly is of higher value than a creature his level would otherwise have).

3: As for spell selection, liches don't really need as many defensive options. They've already got a LOT of immunities and good damage reduction, plus if he gets "killed" he goes back to his phylactery and just makes a new body. There's plenty of tactics one can build with his spell selection; we unfortunately didn't have enough room in the adventure to go into great detail. Of course, if I'd remembered he doesn't have project image, that would have freed up some room... bleh.


Thanks folks. As I said, the error and the comments aren't the kind of thing I'm going to lose sleep over. All replies have been fair.

It's an image thing for me. Liches are just so.... creepy cool! They are the only undead that consciously and wilfully achieve immortality through undeath in order to expand their knowledge and power. These undead Wizards have vast intellects. I use them rarely because I believe they should represent a major challenge for PCs (and not always something they should fight). Even if outmatched by the PCs in sheer power a lich should be able to outwit them (the kind of thing that the Joker always did to challenge Batman if you will).

So, in the end, it’s just a personal thing. I think Thessilar should be more memorable (I think all liches should be memorable). I'd like it if Thesselar generated the kind of feedback that Filge received instead of being just kind of an obstacle on the PC's way to collecting Balakarde's soul fragments. I know that the focus of this adventure is Dragotha and all; none the less, I'm cheering for the lich (the human one that is - @#!!# dracoliches).

That’s my two coppers.

Cheers,
C.


OK--looking through Thessalar's spell list this morning, it seems to me there's plenty to work with. And keep in mind, his spellbooks stashed in the portable hole have every spell in the PH that's not in his prohibited schools, so you can always swap some things out if you think there are better choices. I might add an extra resist energy or protection from energy or two to cut down on both fire and acid damage (and maybe even sonic), and maybe a globe of invulnerability or something like that. With time stop and his quickened spells, Thessalar has extra time to buff, and wall of force and prismatic wall give him some battlefield shaping defensive spells. Fly would be a good precautionary measure, but could be easily negated if the party has a good archer, lots of ranged spells, and a fly to cast on their melee fighter. I'd tend to use T's castle and the wall spells to provide barriers instead, and use quickened dimension door to relocate if someone gets through those barriers. One other thing I might do is to swap in a high-level summoning spell or two, to bring in some help to wear down the party before they can go toe to toe with Thessalar. This is another good use of the time gained from time stop.

On the whole, if you want Thessalar to fight more defensively, I'd just swap out some of the killer offensive spells he has for whatever defensive measures you think he should take. And I think, with such a high-level spellcaster, you definitely should read through all his spells in advance and form a good plan for handling intruders--certainly such an intelligent and powerful being would know how to avoid being caught with his robes down and would have a backup plan in case that happens anyhow.

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Cernunos wrote:

So, in the end, it’s just a personal thing. I think Thessilar should be more memorable (I think all liches should be memorable). I'd like it if Thesselar generated the kind of feedback that Filge received instead of being just kind of an obstacle on the PC's way to collecting Balakarde's soul fragments. I know that the focus of this adventure is Dragotha and all; none the less, I'm cheering for the lich (the human one that is - @#!!# dracoliches).

You didn't think Thessalar was that memorable? I love him! I can just see him going off on wild tangents about his past work, even in the middle of battle. "You've heard of owlbears, haven't you? Those were mine. Mimics, trappers, lurkers above? All of those mine. Chuuls. That bastard Ashranezr stole my notes! I got the last laugh on that one, let me tell you. And I was the first to import rust monsters from Acheron. And I gave them tails."

It might be a year or so before my party gets to Thessalar, but I'm already looking forward to it.


Demiurge 1138 wrote:
You didn't think Thessalar was that memorable? I love him! I can just see him going off on wild tangents about his past work, even in the middle of battle. "You've heard of owlbears, haven't you? Those were mine. Mimics, trappers, lurkers above? All of those mine. Chuuls. That bastard Ashranezr stole my notes! I got the last laugh on that one, let me tell you. And I was the first to import rust monsters from Acheron. And I gave them tails."

Alright, I just read that 3 times and was still laughing. Thanks Demiurge 1138, I can't help but borrow that!

J-


Demiurge 1138 wrote:

I can just see him going off on wild tangents about his past work, even in the middle of battle. "You've heard of owlbears, haven't you? Those were mine. Mimics, trappers, lurkers above? All of those mine. Chuuls. That bastard Ashranezr stole my notes! I got the last laugh on that one, let me tell you. And I was the first to import rust monsters from Acheron. And I gave them tails."

That's all great. Brilliant stuff. I'm just worried the PC’s will respond with a “ya, ya, take this you old wind bag” and follow up with a Bigby’s Crushing Hand, Mass Heal, Smite Evil & Warhammer Power Attack to the head. That doesn’t make him so memorable. ;-)

Cheers,
C.


Cernunos wrote:

...So, in the end, it’s just a personal thing. I think Thessilar should be more memorable (I think all liches should be memorable). I'd like it if Thesselar generated the kind of feedback that Filge received instead of being just kind of an obstacle on the PC's way to collecting Balakarde's soul fragments. I know that the focus of this adventure is Dragotha and all; none the less, I'm cheering for the lich (the human one that is - @#!!# dracoliches).

...

Maybe Dragotha is a big part of the problem? At least in regards to the perception of Thesselar? Obviously, Dragotha is definitely a problem for the PCs :-)

When you talk about Filge generating feedback and being memorable, well, he was the coolest bad guy in the WC, IMHO. And he basically was the BBEG for that adventure, the toughest guy the party had to defeat, and his defeat came very close to the end of the adventure.

The PCs can encounter Thesselar really early on in the adventure (although it varies) and in the end, he gets overshadowed by Dragotha (well, everyone except Kyuss gets overshadowed by Dragotha...) He isn't the BBEG, and he doesn't come right at the end of the adventure during the climax. And it doesn't help that he is a lich and the BBEG is a DRACOlich.

---
If you want the PCs to remember Thessalar as more than "that lich we killed in order to kill the far cooler DRACOlich!", how about a little forshadowing?

Have the PCs encounter Thessalar in one of the earlier adventures (or during a sidequest). Perhaps he is looking for something (or someone) to add to his experiments, or maybe he is searching for the perfect gift for his "love", maybe a piece of artwork one of the PCs owns.

The PCs will be threatened by Thessalar, perhaps very much so depending on their levels at the time. And if the PCs kill him? Eh, just make sure that there was enough time in between for Thessalar to reform at his castle.


Talion09 wrote:

Maybe Dragotha is a big part of the problem? ... If you want the PCs to remember Thessalar as more than "that lich we killed in order to kill the far cooler DRACOlich!", how about a little forshadowing?

Some good advice, thanks!


so, was this the reason Erik was asking whether or not hydras lay eggs? :)

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BOZ wrote:
so, was this the reason Erik was asking whether or not hydras lay eggs? :)

It's possible. But the latest piece of fiction in Dragon Magazine used as a plot point the nesting habits of hydras. So it could have been that, too.


ah, good point. ;)


I've actually considered slipping Thessalar in earlier in very subtle ways—The Whispering Cairn was his former lair, before he, too, went off to the Wormcrawl Fissure.

The acid beetles? Thessalar's first great failure. The acid beetles are the most memorable encounter in The Whispering Cairn, so I think bringing them back in some way is a fun touch.

Maybe he's even responsible for one of the dead in the tomb, like Alastor (which tidies up a plothole where Alastor shouldn't have set off the traps) or the unlucky kid from the first chamber. You don't build him up too much, but you can put a little nest in—maybe in the final big chamber—and maybe even some notes with hints about the weaknesses of the thessalhydras for later.

You can also use this as an excuse to have the final murals vandalized so the PCs don't get distracted by a giant weird backstory device that barely matters to the rest of the AP, but I digress. :P

Also, I very much enjoy that not even James Jacobs can keep track of how his name is spelled. Thessilar, Thesselar—I had to Google it!

EDIT: Aha! Idea—the broken portal in The Whispering Cairn connects to a crypt near the Wormcrawl Fissure, which was, after all, once inhabited by descendants of the Wind Dukes that became the Order of the Storm. Thessalar destroyed the portal when he left.


Unholy necromancy! But, since we're here...

Most of the Big Bad Guys and NPCs in the second half of the campaign merit some extra foreshadowing for greater impact. This is a side effect of the disjointed way in which they were written. Tacking Thessalar's name onto any number of weird creatures early in the campaign is a great way to foreshadow the character.

That said, Thessalar's role in the adventure is to be a speedbump for retrieving Balakarde's spirit. He's a one-off mini-dungeon with some big monsters and a spellcasting boss. I opted to replace the lich with a less momentous mini-dungeon adventure.

Side note: parts 11 and 12 make use of liches wherever an undead spellcaster is needed. This rankled me a bit, since I think of liches as Very Rare and Always a Boss. (Especially in Dawn of a New Age, where gangs of liches are used as henchmen. I know the party is level 20+ at this point, but come on.) I think this is because there aren't really any other core options for undead spellcasting bad guys.


I'm just starting AoW. I'm going to drop lore about Thesselar as we go:
(1) Know. (Dungeoneering/Nature): Those are thesselabeetles, they spit acid!
(2) Kn. (Nature [or arcana, but with a higher DC]): This cute wittle-bittle? It's an owlbear, created by the wizard Thesselar. Nobody knows why.
(3) Know. (Nature/Arcana): That thing in the cage? It's a thesselahydra (I'll change it from a chimera and tweak the stats).

"Oh, me? I'm Thesselar. Perhaps you've heard of me? Oh, goody, that'll make this much easier. See, kill me you could, maybe even destroy my phylactery. However, I do have the two-headed demo-dragon soul gemmed into my phylactery. Destroy it and you'll release him. Oh, and a very powerful contingency, protected by some rather carefully worded wishes, guarantees that two minutes after I die, my phylactery is teleported to a safe location. So, do I still need to die?"

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