Complacent Players

Age of Worms Adventure Path

I'm currently running The Champion's Belt. The party has been through Day One of combat and are into Day Two, resting. we're three sessions in (3-4 hrs per session)and they don't seem to be thinking of possibilities of what to do/where to go. They almost were to the point of, "Why not just let the Scrolls be activated and wait to take on whatever comes about." I looked at them dumbfounded and said that they'd be risking the lives of thousands of people if they didn't try to prevent the Ulgurstasta from appearing. I even gave a replacement PC a hook that he was an adventuring companion of Ekaym Smallcask and friend of his sister and he was the one who approached the party about finding Lahaka. They spent forever trying to come up with a plan to leave the Coenoby. They explored the underwater tunnels in the pond in the Titan's House, and the Druid/Master of Many Forms went sneaking about in chameleon form. The changeling artificer finally decided (with much reluctance) to seduce a guard for a favor. They timed their sneakery with a distraction provided by the guard involving one of the other teams, this was only for the "harlot" who came in and wanted to "look around." He didn't know that she was a changeling and took a whole group with her. This took 2 hours...

So, now I come to the point where I ask you other DMs for advice. How do I get them on the right track without railroading or having the DMPC always asking questions of them to get them to rethink a problem that has them stumped? I was told by one of the players that its easy for me to think that they're missing the obvious or making it harder than it has to be because I already know the solutions that will work. My point is that they're not trying hard enough. They're a great group, but just don't do much more than wait for me to present something to react to. Suggestions? Comments?

You can let them fail...maybe next time they'll remember the time they were bystanders and thousands of innocents died and actually do something.

They should learn what are the consequences of inaction with the coming of the Age of Worms.

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I guess I'm confused about where they are right now. I assume they reached the scrolls and figured out about the Urgulstasta, but just don't see any way to stop it?

I think that's okay. My group got that far, killed Bazol, and had to retreat and rest up, so the Urgulstasta came out during the final fight (released by Raknian, who was then Dimension-Doored to the arena to make his pronouncement of doom, courtesy of an NPC bard I added). Raknian makde his announcement, gestured at the field of battle, and everyone with levels of fighter was limned in light to let the Urgulstasta know who to attack - brighter light for more levels, so Auric shined the brightest of all. They managed to keep the Urgulstasta from swallowing any Fighters, but they felt very challenged...

For future adventures, make sure you're not penalizing the players/PCs for the actions you intend to encourage. My group almost funked out on exploring the areas around the Ceonoby at all because my description of everything made them think they'd get caught and expelled from the competition. I had to really work at it to convince them that it was okay to explore. Basically, if you want the players to take time to think about things, or to consider their options, it's bad to throw an encounter at them whenever things get slow. On the other hand, it's perfectly okay to ask them (as a group) what they think is going on, what do they think they might be able to do to gather more information, etc. - this way, if they've learned a clue but then forgotten it, you know to remind them.

They need feel consequences for the actions (either positive or negative). The best way to do this is to ensure they have things they care about at risk. Encourage friendships with some of the gladiators. If they have henchman, maybe the follower elects to strike out on his/her own to prevent this catastrophe from occurring (thus shaming them in the process). I'd even have the follower ask their boss for some money to help hire and outfit a new group to come to the rescue.

That is a couple options to kick them in the butt a bit. Not knowing your particular players its hard to gage what would motivate them best.

Hmmm... We just did this on Tuesday kicking off our session right as they were getting done with the first arena event. My group felt that while being in the games was cool and it would be great to win, they would be willing to loose or be disqualified to get their grim work done. They were here as a cover. Their main purpose there was to establish firm evidence that Loris Raknian was associated with an evil cult and stop whatever diabolical plans he was up to... then with the added bonus quest of looking for Ekaym's sister they were all about exploring. They waited for things to quite down and went... They didn't even rest before heading out. oops :^O

When they were in the understructure and found that dome they ended up casting detect magic on it and got a strong Abjuration and Necromantic auras coming from it. They went on and fought all the way through to the Apostle of Kyuss and that is where we left off.

My recommendation would be to try hard to get them into the whole "figure out the mystery" mode. This is not just important for this module, but many of the upcoming ones. Without that desire to solve the mystery then they will have trouble getting on track in many upcoming modules without some serious railroading on your part. A more specific way to intervene might be to have someone’s dreams or thoughts be clouded with the orgiastic death and destruction that the ulgurstasta is thinking about. Describe the scenes that could come to pass... hundreds of women and children being consumed to only be spit back out as spawn of Kyuss, show them the possibility of being overwhelmed by large numbers of the spawn. If this does not get a group of adventurers riled up to take down this threat to society... I am not sure what will.

These dreams might make the most sense for a psionic character or maybe a cleric of a good faith.

You could also offer the dreams to all of them and whatever character takes this and responds as a good or even neutral character likely would, you could reward them with the <a href="">wil d talent feat</a> as a bonus for their role playing. While it is a pretty big bonus, it will show them that there are benefits to (role) playing the game well beyond loot and XP. I often give out bonus XP (as much as an 1/10th of a level) for outstanding role playing. Also during the 1st arena battle, the daughter in Arcane Augurie was taken down by a critical and our cleric stabilized the poor elf. The leader surrendered and later gifted her own frost bow to the cleric as a sign of thanks. The player that gets these types of rewards often become quite pleased with themselves and the other players look for ways to play their character better so they can get some great reward like this.

Just some thoughts. Good luck.

love the part about the frost bow gift. i hope i can inspire my players to play in character like this. as for the whole non-commital to searching for the guys sister how would you treat this if it was the plot hook to a stand alone adventure? if they know of the underground tunnels but cant be bothered to go look then i say let em have it. if they are playin in the games then let the urgy pop up and start chewing and if the threat of a few thousand wights running around doesnt get em motivated id allow that to happen to as an apocalypse event but allow the pc to fight free and hopefully upping he stakes for later AOW adventures and get em back on track. of course this mean a city of undead but im sure the free city will have a few high levels to clean up the mess.

I feel for you. My party exhibited the same lack of interest in exploring past the ceonoby. The Champion's Games took precedence for them, but hey...that was their decision. Each session I introduced ways to prompt them to pursue their TRUE task of investigating Loris, the AoW, & the arena such as:

1. A letter from Eligos delivered by Ekaym on his daily visit, providing a tidbit regarding what to look for. Served as a reminder.

2. Upon visiting, Ekaym would ask about any progress towards finding his sister. When faced with disinterest from the party he became moody and 'forgot' to bring healing potions the next time (without a cleric in the party, this got their attention).

3. A subtle reminder to good-aligned PCs they might consider saving the world a priority over betting on the outcome of the next match.

In the end they found Bozal & the scrolls on the 3rd day. The Ulgurstasta, while found, was ignored. The Scrolls went unexamined. In the end the Ulgurstasta rose up. The 1/2 orc fighter in the party ignored it and continued fighting Auric, which made him an easy meal for the Ulgurstasta. Boom, dead folk abound. Wights rise. A large side campaign later, Greyhawk's population is lessened by a full third but the horde is contained (with wight-y aftershocks on the country). It's now a dirty little secret that the party knew about the Ulgurstasta but did nothing to stop it before it's release.

As a DM, I was disappointed with the disinterest in the overall plot. Ultimately it was up to them so now they deal with the repercussions. Selling items garners only 1/2 price due to Greyhawk still recuperating. Healing services in Greyhawk will be tougher to secure. And finally, the truth is about to come out in their next visit to Greyhawk...enough time has passed for sages, divinings & the inquisitive to discover that in truth the Band of Bucklers was responsible for not stopping the catastrophe.

My advice would be to not sweat it. Provide the gentle reminders via gameplay & NPCs, but this can be an opportunity for the campaign to become decidedly more intense. Let them choose their path and roll with it. I hope the above gives a few ideas of how to deal with their failure.


I think they were over-thinking what they had to do. They didn't want to get kicked out of the Games, so they were very cautious as to what they did. I had to basically spell out that the guards were very lax since only 6 teams remained and that they weren't paying all that much attention. They only took notice when the Warforged blatantly walked into the pond in the Titan's House looking for another way out. Good idea, but not timed right. Since one of the guards had taken notice, they had to resort to a "bribe." My basic problem is that I'm getting alot of blank looks and no interaction. I guess I'll just have to beat them over the head with "Hey, I just dropped a clue. PICK IT UP!!" Good advice from everyone. I'll keep in mind the "ominous dream vision" for later use. One of the PCs has already had a vision that spurred him to join the group. I guess I'll have to make more use of my DMPC, but I don't want him to be the face or run the show, just give useful hints.

I'm in the middle of this adventure and having a similar problem. The PCs are simply too caught up in the gladiatorial matches to care about the bigger objective. They have only explored the arena understructure and they are already on the 3rd night.

One thing I did wrong, I think, was that I didn't exlain the "ulgurstasta dome" correctly. I couldn't tell if it looked like a hemisphere or a cylinder from the arena understructure level. Maybe someone can clear this up. The PCs can't actually see the ulgurstasta through the dome right?

dungeonblaster wrote:

One thing I did wrong, I think, was that I didn't exlain the "ulgurstasta dome" correctly. I couldn't tell if it looked like a hemisphere or a cylinder from the arena understructure level. Maybe someone can clear this up. The PCs can't actually see the ulgurstasta through the dome right?

Since there was no description of the top of the dome, I just said it was an inscribed stonework dome. They didn't bother to try to figure out the inscriptions. I think I'll say that it has liturgies to Katashka-Kyuss engraved on it...that is if they try to check it out.

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I had the exact same problems. The way the adventure is laid out, there's no real reason for the PC's to explore because of the risk of getting expelled from the competition. Plus finding the path through the Ceonoby is rediculously silly to find.

For anyone who hasn't made it that far I suggest a few changes:

Make a comment that gladiators are traditionally known for sneaking out to drink and womanize. Make the penalty something like only bread and water for the next day.

Make the secret way in through the sewers much more clear. Hiding it under dark water in a cave is stupid.

Have Ekim offer a REAL reward for exploring. Getting to keep all your winnings when you think your going to get expelled for exploring is no real offer at all.

Make sure you point the PC's into the dungeon. As written it makes them want to explore Raknian's palace and the arena levels, not where they actually need to go. Since the palace has 0 details thats a bad thing. Mention a rumor that Raknian has a secret "pleasure palace" or something below the arena and rumors of what goes on in there are dark indeed.

I made use of the mention in the module about how the guards become slack after the first day. One evening, I let the group see that the guards were between shifts and one of the main corridors into the Ceonerby (sp) was unguarded, so they took the bait and sent exploring. They didn't get very far though, and coming back in the guards saw them and gave them a warning after the PC's bluffed their way out of it (saying they simply wandered down the way a little by mistake, there was no-one to tell them they were not allowed that way).

I also showed the group a map the next day, with the various exits etc including the one that's not guarded (to the Titan's thing). So that helped them realise there was another exit they could take. There, they caught Auric shagging one of the other gladiators, but also a couple of them decided to go wandering in the underground rivers (they didn't want to pull out the plug in the lake, fearing the consequences). This way, they found their way all the way to the cleric and apostle of kyuss. They killed the cleric, but didn't ever really try to work out how to release / kill the apostle - they figured it was in stasis and best to just leave it be, at least now they knew what it looked like and could be more prepared for it should it ever come out of stasis.

I used Ekiam to prompt them every day ("found my sister yet?") - no great promise of rewards, but then by group isn't terribly mercenary, they are all good aligned and like to do the right thing where they can.

Don't worry about it if they don't explore the whole under structure, and leave the apostle etc alive still - having it released during the games was fun for my group, and provided one of the sterner challenges for them (but only just - we were joking about it last night in fact, saying it lasted three rounds whereas everything else they fought there lasted about two - Auric was taken out in only one round by dominate person!)

Scarab Sages

I haven't gotten to the Champion's Belt yet, but I do have some ideas.

As they explore the Coenby, maybe have some small green worms work their way up throught the cracks in the floor.

Maybe there could be some distant speaking that sounds evil or ominous.

Skittering is always another good way to get the "kill the evil" juices flowing.

If none of this seems to be working, perhaps, and I stress that word, have a few people, or even gladiators, disappear with no real trace of what happened. What happened was they were captured by Kyuss spawn and transformed. This would a) give insentive to investigate what is going on and b) make the kyuss spawn battle harder.

These are just some things that I can think of that might make events move just a little faster.

You know, I actually didn't nudge them at all and just sort of let the final event happen. Due to earlier fights with the Spawn of Kyuss, the party (Players and Characters both) were terrified of even looking at the foul undead, and when they reached the entrance to the temple underneath, they RAN AWAY and decided to never go back down there again. I let them do as they wish, and the ulgurstasta burst from the ground during the final fight. Can't believe I never swallowed a fighter, but the PCs were exceptionally clever (scrolls of heal seem to chew up the apostle faster than it can swallow whole) provided you can overcome SR). Have faith in your PCs to do the right thing, and if they don't, they'll learn from the experience.

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