Starting RotRL


Rise of the Runelords


Hello,

I am about to start Rise of the Runelords. I do plan to modify the adventure quite extensively and I have therefore a few questions to ask:

* Do we know what really happened to Cheliax?

If not I plan to use them as a looming threat. It's an extremely powerful kingdom (the new aristocracy killed a god!!!), they are probably evil and we haven't heard anything for the past 100 years (no one has ever returned). I plan some NPCs to be agent of Cheliax sent scouting the land because Cheliax has decided to take back its rightful colonies after a 100 year interlude...

Some powers in Varisia (Magimar?) are aware of the threat that Cheliax poses hence they have sponsored many expeditions in the Varisian ruins, looking for magical means strong enough to oppose the second Cheliaxian invasion. Such an adventurer was Mokmurian (which I intend to transform into a half giant), except that in his case he got more than he bargained for as he inadvertently awoke Karzoug. Now, the authority in Magimar who ordered Mokmurian's fateful mission also has a vested interest in the truth never getting out as it would be politically unhelpful if he or she were to be accused of having started what could be the apocalypse.

* Is there a reason why the runewell in sandpoint could not be a runewell of greed?

Why does it have to be a runewell of wrath. I do find it a bit confusing and would like my PCs to focus on only one runelord and sin magic

Sovereign Court

TabulaRasa wrote:

Hello,

I am about to start Rise of the Runelords. I do plan to modify the adventure quite extensively and I have therefore a few questions to ask:

* Do we know what really happened to Cheliax?

If not I plan to use them as a looming threat. It's an extremely powerful kingdom (the new aristocracy killed a god!!!), they are probably evil and we haven't heard anything for the past 100 years (no one has ever returned). I plan some NPCs to be agent of Cheliax sent scouting the land because Cheliax has decided to take back its rightful colonies after a 100 year interlude...

Cheliax is fairly well documented (with the gazetteer and mentions in the Guide to Korvosa).

Nobody in Cheliax expected Aroden to die (ie. they didn't kill him). After the kingdom started to fall apart some noble houses made demonic pacts to get the power to take control of the nation. It's power is waning at the moment (giving places like Magnimar more freedom). But they're still in touch, trading, sending ambassadors and whatnot, they're not cut off.

TabulaRasa wrote:
Some powers in Varisia (Magimar?) are aware of the threat that Cheliax poses hence they have sponsored many expeditions in the Varisian ruins, looking for magical means strong enough to oppose the second Cheliaxian invasion. Such an adventurer was Mokmurian (which I intend to transform into a half giant), except that in his case he got more than he bargained for as he inadvertently awoke Karzoug. Now, the authority in Magimar who ordered Mokmurian's fateful mission also has a vested interest in the truth never getting out as it would be politically unhelpful if he or she were to be accused of having started what could be the apocalypse.

Sounds like that could line up a homebrew adventure after PF6 - nice idea.

TabulaRasa wrote:

* Is there a reason why the runewell in sandpoint could not be a runewell of greed?

Why does it have to be a runewell of wrath. I do find it a bit confusing and would like my PCs to focus on only one runelord and sin magic

Sandpoint is on a border - The Old Light is a Wrath monument, in contrast to Thistletop (greed).

I guess the main problem would be that the traumas caused by the runewell flaring were acts of Wrath, not Greed. During the first AP the players aren't really going to have any understanding of the background anyway, so I'm not sure that they'll have a chance to be confused.


Regarding your last point. I would argue that dying while pillaging a town is indeed an act of greed. So is there another reason I cannot convert the runewell to a runewell of greed?

Also, I am thinking about making the people from Turtleback ferry more greedy.

Could it be that they just happen to have found a gold mine in the vicinity of the hook mountain that they would rather keep for themselves? How unfortunate that the only people who would actually tell Magimar are those rangers from the Black Arrow Order who found the mine in the first place. How fortunate it is for the town elder that a bunch of mercenaries just happen to have the solution to the Black Arrow problem, especially if the town elders agree to distract the Black Arrow captain for a while.

That said, if only they knew that those mercenaries also happen to have spiked the gold deposit in the first place. Now, the people of Turttleback ferry do not know this which makes their decision not to evacuate the town despite the water rising all the more tragic if you ask me.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

TabulaRasa wrote:
Regarding your last point. I would argue that dying while pillaging a town is indeed an act of greed. So is there another reason I cannot convert the runewell to a runewell of greed?

Well, primarily, Sandpoint was not within the borders of Shalast. In fact, it was at war with Bakrakhan until the fall of Thassilon, so I don't think there;s any historical reason for a runewell of greed to be there. Also, if you introduce this specific sin as the first one in the campaign it gives away the BBEG very early. Wrath is a nice red herring. And wrath justifies the actions of the Late Unpleasantness, in that each of the perpetrators of the crimes was overpowered with a sense of vengeance.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Out of curiosity, any particular reason why you are doing your significant changes to the plot line?

Sovereign Court

TabulaRasa wrote:
Regarding your last point. I would argue that dying while pillaging a town is indeed an act of greed. So is there another reason I cannot convert the runewell to a runewell of greed?

That's not directly related to the flaring Runewell.

The flare led to.
Lonjiku killing his wife for cuckolding him
One lovely Aasimar burning down a church with her dad inside
a birdwatcher flipping and going on a killing spree


Mistwalker wrote:
Out of curiosity, any particular reason why you are doing your significant changes to the plot line?

To better suit what my players want. They love politics & intrigues so I will try to give them one.

Another question:

What do we know about the gods? Do we know who created the world? How did the gods came into being? Where do they live? What significant action did they do? Did they create the races?


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Well, you can play it as written, and to follow your intrigue desires, have Mokmurian be a Chelixian agent, rather than an outcast (or perhaps both, agent because he is a giant outcast). Have allies in Korvosa, perhaps ones with a lot of Devil contacts.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

TabulaRasa wrote:
Mistwalker wrote:
Out of curiosity, any particular reason why you are doing your significant changes to the plot line?

To better suit what my players want. They love politics & intrigues so I will try to give them one.

Another question:

What do we know about the gods? Do we know who created the world? How did the gods came into being? Where do they live? What significant action did they do? Did they create the races?

I don't see a connection between political intrigue and changing which sin has a runewell in Sandpoint. As written, things fall together very well for a long-term story arc. I think that introducing the "big bad" sin to soon eliminates much of the sense of discovery later on. There's already a lot of political intrigue, especially in Magnimar, and with Mokmurian's conspiracy to bring back Karzoug.

As for the gods, none of this has really been outlined yet. Probably in Gods & Magic in October. But while you're making so many changes from canon, why not just make something else up for them?


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

My player commented in our post-ROTRL discussion that he was frustrated and distracted by the Wrath elements in #1, since they set up, for him, a strong expectation about the plot that was never fulfilled. He is very focused on figuring things out, and had figured out what was going on quite early; but this led him to expect that Wrath would play a much greater role than it did. At the end of the series, it would have been appropriate for us to play a scenario about hunting down Alaznist in drowned Bakhrakhan, but I don't have the skills to write something that high level.

He also commented that he thought the series should have focused more tightly on the theme of Greed, rather than hopping around sampling all sorts of sins.

So, I think that for some players it would make excellent sense to change the Wrath elements in the early scenarios to Greed elements. As Sandpoint was right on the border anyway, it wouldn't be all that hard to rationalize. You could keep Xaliasa working for both Runelords and just reverse the order of which one he worked for first.

If the players aren't going to figure out that a Runewell of Wrath means Alaznist, they aren't going to figure out that a Runewell of Greed means Karzoug, and there is no spoiler. If they *are* going to figure it out--and mine did almost instantly--it's awfully distracting, since there is zero support for the PCs to investigate or pursue these clues.

Mary


I completely agree with Mary here.

I think having two sins is too much of a distraction for my players as making the link between the flare up of the well of greed with the well of wrath is I think a little bit hard to do.

I also want to avoid my PCs wandering aimlessly from scenarios to scenarios. I want them to realise from the start that there is something evil going on there.


I think that Rise of the Runelords pretend to be an introduccion of the "rise of the runelords" not the rise of a runelord. This is the reason because all sins are represented in the path.

Please excuse my poor english.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

TabulaRasa wrote:

I completely agree with Mary here.

I think having two sins is too much of a distraction for my players as making the link between the flare up of the well of greed with the well of wrath is I think a little bit hard to do.

I also want to avoid my PCs wandering aimlessly from scenarios to scenarios. I want them to realise from the start that there is something evil going on there.

If you as the DM make it clear that all the runewells have been reactivated, and lay hints into the ongoing war between the Karzoug and Azlanist it fits very well in the campaign. It also leaves things open for further investigation after the completion of the path for discovering more about the other runelords, and whether they are being risen by mad giants as well. Having a red herring is nothing new, and has been a staple of literature and narrative as long as the arts have existed. Perhaps your players aren't good with that sort of thing, though.

I also think that turning Mokmurian into a half-giant takes away a lot of his motivation. The stone giants are inseparably connected with Thassilon historically, and to lessen that by making him an agent of a nation that has its own problems internally, and has basically sworn off all its external holdings (like Varisia) you pull the adventure in the complete wrong direction.

What it really comes down to is whether you as the DM have enough faith in your abilities to stick to the canon as presented in the AP and make it work both for consistency and for your players' egos. If not, and you think tearing major plotlines out and trying to replace them with something new, then I wish you good luck, especially if your perceptive players pick up on loopholes in your backstory and overall plan.


More questions:

  • How did you convey to your players the events of the late unpleasantness and more specifically that Lonjiku killed his wife, Nuala killed her father at the time the runewell did flare up? I have not read RotRL#2 yet
  • How did your players get to learn about the conflict between Wrath and Greed?
  • More specifically, how did your players get to learn who are Karzoug and Alanist?
  • Which NPCs can teach something to your players about the Runelords?
  • How did you foreshadow Mokmurian? When and how did your PCs learnt that he was the bad guy?

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

I just wrote a huge post about this and it got eaten. I don't have the time or motivation to rewrite it so here's a summary.

If the PCs were in Sandpoint 5 years ago as the adventure hook suggests, they would have some awareness of the Late Unpleasantness, even if they don't know who was to blame for certain things and their motivations.

A lot of knowledge of Thassilon is lost over the 10,000+ years since it fell, so giving too much out too soon, or by people who wouldn't know might seem like too obvious of exposition. A lot of the fun of playing the game is putting the pieces together. Everything is revealed eventually, and the path does a great job of keeping the discoveries coming throughout.

Foreshadow Mokmurian by saying that there are rumors of giants amassing an army. Intersperse this with further red herrings, like dragons on the rampage in the Land of the Linnorm Kings moving south, or the Chelaxian armies preparing to invade and reclaim Varisia. There's always a paranoid false rumor going around in fantasy towns. Have fun with it. Then, when one of them turns out to be true, your PCs will remember.

My main advice is, however, to read the full AP. I think you're trying to rush information into the first adventure because you can't see the big picture. All the pieces really do fall into place, youjust have to have faith and patience. It's a virtue of rule.


Also, how do you get a shoanti character involved in defending Sandpoint? What's the motivation (beyond gold) for him to defend an outpost of the hated Chelaxians?

Saving Sandpoint is one one the major motivating factor behind the whole campaign but wouldn't a Shoanti actually be happy to seee it destroyed?


it was stated that 5% or Sandpoint happens to be of Shoanti origins so I just made it were a beloved relative lived in Sandpoint. This also could lead to the relative opening up the eyes of the younger, prejudiced Shoanti PC by showing that race and nationality aside, Sandpoint is a very wonderful place

Sovereign Court

TabulaRasa wrote:
How did you convey to your players the events of the late unpleasantness and more specifically that Lonjiku killed his wife, Nuala killed her father at the time the runewell did flare up? I have not read RotRL#2 yet

Connecting the timing will come during AP4. Although whether or not they ever learn the truth about Lonjiku's wife is up to you.

TabulaRasa wrote:
How did your players get to learn about the conflict between Wrath and Greed?

AP4

TabulaRasa wrote:
More specifically, how did your players get to learn who are Karzoug and Alanist?

AP4

TabulaRasa wrote:
Which NPCs can teach something to your players about the Runelords?

AP4

  • TabulaRasa wrote:
    How did you foreshadow Mokmurian? When and how did your PCs learnt that he was the bad guy?

    AP3

  • Sovereign Court

    TabulaRasa wrote:

    Also, how do you get a shoanti character involved in defending Sandpoint? What's the motivation (beyond gold) for him to defend an outpost of the hated Chelaxians?

    Saving Sandpoint is one one the major motivating factor behind the whole campaign but wouldn't a Shoanti actually be happy to seee it destroyed?

    Holding on to ancient tribal hatreds is for the hardcore, not the kind of open-minded Shoanti that becomes an adventurer.

    More than that, Cheliax lost proper control of the region 100 years ago (before Sandpoint was founded) it's not a Chelaxian colony, it's a Magnimarian colony. A Shoanti can appreciate that Sandpoint's natives aren't responsible for something that people of a vaguely similar ethnicity did several hundered years ago.

    Remember too, this was Varisian land before the settlers arrived, not Shoanti.


    Some things I want to point out about the official version of Golarion (which you can, of course, ignore at your leasure)

    Sandpoint isn't really a Chelish outpost, since it was founded about 40 years ago by four families from Magnimar. Magnimar in turn was founded from Korvosans who grew dissatisfied with the city (and its Chelish influences). So although they might be Chelaxians by heritage, they're definetly no Chelaxians in outlook. Magnimar (and, by extension, Sandpoint) are generally nice, tolerant people.

    Cheliax isn't really posing a big thread, as the empire is in decline. Colonies are splitting off left and right, and they already abandoned their Varisian holdings. While Korvosa would like to become a Chelish Colony again (and still abides Chelish laws), it's more or less a city state, as are Magnimar and Riddleport. Varisia is probably on the bottom of the list of things Cheliax wants to get back.

    The reasons for exploring thassalonian ruins are many, though. There's old magic there. Even if they don't want to take back Varisia wholesale, Cheliax will gladly send agents to those ruins to look for power. Opposed to them would be the Pathfinders, who do it more out of a lust for exploring, and the same would be said for followers of Desna, who are all about new experiences. There would probably be competition between the Chelaxians and other groups, and occasionally, strife.

    I think the AP as it is can offer plenty of politics and intrigue - add the Chelaxian agents and you're golden. Cheliax would have no open interest in reclaiming Varisia, but covert operations would be normal. And, of course, there's a Runelord and his many minions to oppose, many of which are no stranger to intrigue: Magnimar is ripe with it, what with Ironbriar and Xanesha working behind the scenes.

    Later, in the 4th module, there will be a chance to win the day via political manoeuvering, too. And #5 also has several chances to do it.

    About the gods: We don't know too much of them yet - there have been 3 write-ups in Pathfinder 2,5 and 7 (Desna, Lamashtu, Abadar), and short entries for the 20 major deities (plus another for Aroden) in the Gazetteer. More will be in the Campaign Setting and the book about Gods and Magic.

    As far as I know, We don't know how the world was made, how the races came into being, and how most gods were created. We do know how Aroden, Iomedae, Norgorber and Cayden Cailean came into being: They ascended:

    5000 years after the Earthfall (which was 10,000 years ago - about the same time as the fall of Thassalion, though it's unclear whether Thassalion fell because of the Earthfall, or because of something else), Aroden - an immortal hero and the last Azlant - raised the Starstone (the very stone that caused Azlants downfall) from the detphs of the Inner Sea and installed it in Absalom. With that act, he became a living god.

    The starstone was set upon a pillar of stone, in a vast cathedral, beyond deadly traps and challenges. Those who succeeded in the Test of the Starstone would ascent just as Aroden did. Though there are countless who perished in the attempt, not all failed - at least three mortals became gods through the Test: Iomeday (Aroden's herald), Norgorber, and Cayden Cailean (this one quite drunk at the time). Though it isn't written down yet, it's quite possible that there are more minor gods (and demigods) around who owe their divinity to the Starstone.

    Desna apparently hasn't been around since the beginning, as she had a Mentor: Curchanus, god of beasts, travel, and endurance, now mostly forgotten and long dead, as Lamashtu set a trap for him.

    Lamashtu is a demon queen, so it's quite possible that she has been around since forever, but only later (which can also be Aeons ago) became a true goddess as she rose in the demonic ranks. She indeed is attributed with the creation of countless monsters, and even some monstrous races such as Gnolls or minotaurs.

    Abadar probably came into being around the time the first tribes of humanoids started to settle. He sensed their need for permanent places to keep valuables and created the First Vault in his divine realm, where perfect copies of anything ever made - even abstract ideas - are kept. He is basically the god of cities and civilisation.

    The major deities aren't specific to any race, though some of them might have favourites.


    The bottom line here is the adventure was written to have the player characters begin by solving problems within their grasp. The problems become more complex as the characters advance. The motivation is there is a much bigger event taking place here that the players do not fully understand until book 4 or 5. Start messing with the plot and you will be struggling to explain motivations later.

    Spoiler:
    Book 1 protect Sandpoint, learn about Thassilonian existence
    Book 2 protect surrounding countryside, learn about the runes power
    Book 3 defend more distant communities, learn about giants
    Book 4 fight giants attacking communities, cement the knowledge acquired
    Book 5 Acquire tools to defeat Villain
    Book 6 Confront and be crus... defeat Villain


    Thank you very much for all the feedback. It is incredibly useful. I have another question:

    How do you deal with Father Zanthus and the fact that he basically manages a multi-faith cathedral? My understanding is that he worships Desna but what authority does he have on the other cults present in the cathedral? Could he for instance perform some of those other cults' ceremonies?

    Sovereign Court

    The way I see it, Father Zantus is the head priest of the cathedral and in charge of the Desna-related ceremonies, but there is at least 1 other priest of each of the other faiths. They handle the ceremonies related to their own faiths.

    I imagine Father Zantus as Chaotic Good (same as Desna), so I imagine him as a pretty laid back guy who gives the other priests a lot of freedom to act as they wish in "his" temple.

    -----

    Also, I love your idea about the people of Turtleback Ferry being greedy, and involved with a secret gold mine. I think that's brilliant. It's true that as described in the module, TBF is not very well fleshed out (surely because poor Nicolas Logue ran out of space), and I did a pretty crappy job of fleshing it out in my campaign, alas. I wish I'd thought of something like your idea. It gives more flavor to the town, it brings out the greed of the villagers (who as it stands now, don't seem more greedy than average - so they like to gamble, who doesn't? :) ), and it helps justify the fact that most of the town is foolishly staying within a few miles of the horde of ogres who just destroyed the town's defenders. :)

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