How to cleverly convey Nualia's story?


Rise of the Runelords


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How did you convey to your players the backstory behind Nualia's revenge. The secret diary is an obvious ploy but it has already been used for Tetsuo.

I do not want to give the impression to my players that my big vilains spend their time writing down their feelings on paper rather than try to raze Sandpoint

Liberty's Edge

TabulaRasa wrote:

How did you convey to your players the backstory behind Nualia's revenge. The secret diary is an obvious ploy but it has already been used for Tetsuo.

I do not want to give the impression to my players that my big vilains spend their time writing down their feelings on paper rather than try to raze Sandpoint

I'd suggest you don't just give the story to them. If they're interested let them do their research and piece the story together for themselves. Let them get it wrong if they're not careful.

There's no school like old-school!

Sam

Lantern Lodge

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Warning: Spoilers - players read no further!!!

Spoiler:

One of my players is a Cleric of Desna. I passed the Desna article from Pathfinder#2 onto her to read. It says there that followers of Desna record their dreams in a dream diary, so they may learn from their dreams, and interpret how they relate to their lives.

During the Boar Hunt, Aldern Foxglove, obsessed with the Cleric, stole her dream diary. Further, I stated that from that night forward, her nights were utterly dreamless. The player was distraught! Her character back-tracked all her movements in search for her diary, but couldn't fathom where she'd lost it.

In despair, she went to the Curious Goblin, hoping someone had traded it in, or perhaps she could purchase a replacment diary. Chask Haladan said he thought he had a book that fit that description - dusted off an old forgotten book from a back-shelf, and handed it to the player. It wasn't her dream diary, but in fact Nualia's dream diary, from her days living with Father Tobyn.

Someone else on these boards crafted a story in Nualia's own words, which was a great starting point to re-write as dream diary entries. It didn't give away everything (the last few pages were torn from the diary), but filled in enough pieces that the players now know some of Nualia's back-story and have pretty good suspicions she's somehow involved with Sandpoint's late unpleasantness.

Incidentally, my player will re-discover her own dream diary in Aldern's creepy basement shrine to her at the conclusion of Pathfinder#2.

Dark Archive

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I pointed my PCs in the direction of Hannah, the elven midwife, for part of the backstory; the details of the birth, at least. She's been a midwife for decades, and this one still haunts her

"it was...it wasnt human. Or elf, or orc, or anything I'd ever seen. Thank the gods it was stillborn, for its sake and ours. But the worst part...you could still see it was a baby. I tried to sheild it from her view, but wasnt quick enough with the blanket. the sound the poor girl made when she saw it..."

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Also, when the discovery of the body theft is made, Father Zanthus could give the players some information about the late Father Tobyn, and mention some of the details about his family, especially his daughter, "The most beautiful girl you've ever seen".

Heck, maybe Zanthus had a childhood crush on her. I'm sure most of the boys she grew up around did. Maybe he studied under Tobyn to spend more time around her...


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Someone wrote:
Someone else on these boards crafted a story in Nualia's own words

Do you have a link to this post perhaps? I would be very interested in reading it!


Dalvyn wrote:
Someone wrote:
Someone else on these boards crafted a story in Nualia's own words
Do you have a link to this post perhaps? I would be very interested in reading it!

*Upping Nualia's Presence*

There you go! :D
A whole thread devoted to the subject.


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Thank you!

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
DarkWhite wrote:

Warning: Spoilers - players read no further!!!

** spoiler omitted **

Brilliant. (Wouldn't have worked for my party, since Aldern focused on the party Warlock, who was an upper-class chum from Magnimar, but bloody brilliant.)


A suggestion on the other thread looks like it will work for me as well. There's only 1 PC in the party who has been raised in Sandpoint and the suggestion I found was a perfect tie-in.


I got lucky with this one. I had a PC that was older (55) and a friend of her father. He knew a lot of her back story and thus I fed it through him. Later the player of this character had to leave the game, so I retired the PC for the assault on Thistletop. Then, when they met Nualia, facing off across the trap, she asked where he was, assuming he had died above, and gloating on his death. She revealed that this retired character had been much more involved than he had revealed (think birthing the child...), and was complicit in her turn to evil (albeit meaning well). Now the PCs have a dilema of whether to confront their old friend or not.

Still, it opened up a lot of her story in a natural manner, and I think it worked well.

Silver Crusade

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Charles Evans 25 wrote:


*Upping Nualia's Presence*

There you go! :D
A whole thread devoted to the subject.

Moonbeam's entry in that thread has still stuck with me.

Spoiler:
If you can bait a player into having had a crush on the pretty girl everyone had a crush on during his younger years, you can really cash in on that later on. Cruel, but nobody says you have to stick to the script for her ultimate fate. ;)
Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

One of my players was also a stepchild of Ezakien Tobyn, and grow up with Nualia and the villagers pressing her. I told him he had nights long talks with her!
I also told him she died in the fire, 5 years ago...
Wonder what he says when he hold Tsutos notebook in hands...


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I wrote this out for my party and it really made them feel sympathy for Nualia. They are about to face Mokmurian, but Nualia (and perhaps Foxglove) is the villain they like to talk about most.

(This is also on the Upping Nualia's Presence Post)

Spoiler:

Run this as written after you describe Nualia's Observation Chamber and its contents.

Nualia’s Flashbacks

The woman smiles at you sadly and unclenches her clawed hand. A small clear sphere with red swirls drops into the fountain with a “plop.” All of a sudden, the room is covered in a dazzling flash of light and you instinctively close your eyes…

When you open your eyes again, you find yourselves standing suspended weightless in the air overlooking Sandpoint and what appears to be the old church that got burnt down in place of the new cathedral.

The door to the church furtively opens as a beautiful little girl with silver hair and violet eyes pokes her head furtively outside before timidly walking outside. As she daintily walks down the steps, a stone flies out of nowhere and hits her head. Boyish giggling can be heard in the distance as someone yells: “Freak! Go back inside!” Clutching the bloody welt on her forehead, she runs back inside crying.

You are transported to what looks to be a quaint, old-fashioned schoolhouse. The same sad, quiet girl sits alone in the corner, reading a book. Cruel whispering and giggling can be heard all around her, before she gets up and excuses herself to go use the restroom. Three other giggling girls follow behind her and wait for her to walk into the outhouse before piling tables and chairs outside her door. Several hours later, a little girl’s frightened screams of anguish pierce the dusk.

A teenage girl walks back home to the church from the school house. Immediately, the air is filled with lewd catcalls and hooting from the adolescent boys in the area. Extremely uncomfortable with the inappropriate attention placed upon her, she quickly runs back to the church, with her head hung low.

A young woman holding a basket is browsing through vegetables at the market, when suddenly, she feels someone yank at her hair followed closely by a loud “snip” sound. Whirling around, she sees an old woman gleefully hobble off with a handful of hair the color of the stars.

A mob of petitioners approach her. Many of them have rashes and boils, others have warts. Some others claim to hear spirits in their head. They ask her to bless them. They ask her if she could cure their maladies with her touch. One of them calls her “the Blessed of Desna.” Another asks her to drive the evil spirits out of his head by singing to him. Too much for her, she runs back to the church. They give chase.

A stern voice of an older man can be heard: “On your seventeenth birthday, I am taking you to the highly prestigious Windsong Abbey to become a nun. The Abbess expects all young applicants to be perfectly versed in their catechisms. You may not leave this room until you have memorized all of your scriptures.” Hours later, a young woman looks out the window gloomily as the sun sets and another warm summer day spent cloistered in her chambers.

A handsome Varisian boy, who recently arrived at Sandpoint from Magnimar, takes her on a picnic for a date. It is her first picninc. They sit on a grassy knoll and watch the sun set. She falls in love.

Weeks pass. The boy throws a stone at the church window. The window opens and the girl looks outside. She smiles happily at him before clambering over and climbing down on a cloth rope. He takes her hand and takes her to the moonlit beach. They walk for awhile in the sand until they come upon a strange cave nestled within the cliffs underneath the newly built Glassworks. Giggling softly, they both go inside.

Months pass. The two young lovers sit shoulder to shoulder at the mouth of the cave overlooking the waves at night. The girl turns to the boy and says that she has something important to tell him. “What’s the matter?” the boy asks tenderly.
“I’m pregnant.” The girl says.
“You’re lying!”
“No, I swear it’s true.”
“How could this happen! I thought your kind was infertile.”
“But…what are we going to do now?”
“What do you mean we? I will be going to Magnimar with my caravan next week.”
“I thought you said you were going to stay here with me.”
“I lied. I knew I should never have gone out with a sad little fool like you.” With that, he turns on his heel and walks away with barely a glance backwards. Mouth agape, too stunned to speak, and hurt beyond measure, the girl quietly watches her so-called “lover” disappear into the darkness.

Kneeling before the altar, she prays for repentance that she does not feel. Her foster father yelled at her harshly and had called her a “harlot” when he found out about her condition. He forbids her from leaving the church in fear public ridicule. Bitterness and rage clouds her heart like a thick poison and festers…

Eight months later, she undergoes a painful miscarriage. Through the haze of pain suffusing her entire body, she catches a glimpse of her baby – a horrific and deformed monstrosity, which the blanching midwife immediately swaddles up and takes away. In one awful moment of clarity, she realized that she had been carrying a fiend in her belly all this time. She falls into a deep coma.

Her coma-induced sleep is filled with fevered dreams. In them, a pregnant woman with three jackal heads and a serpentine tail beckons to her. She approaches slowly and falls into the demon goddess’ embrace. In her other dreams, she dreams of burning the old Desnan church – her home and prison – down, with her foster father in it. She dreams of masked men who revel in the act of hunting and killing other men. She dreams of hunting down and butchering the boy who brought her so much pain. She dreams of a hidden shrine underground shrine, where she meets her tiny new mentor. She dreams of a monstrous goblin wolf – a chosen of Lamashtu – that paces restlessly in ravenous hunger in a small chamber. She dreams of Sandpoint being overwhelmed and razed by a ravening horde of monsters, and she vividly sees herself standing amidst the ruins, reveling in the act of offering the souls of the dying to higher, more terrible beings beyond the understanding of mere mortals.

The collective vision ends here and you find that you are once again inside the heart of Thistletop.
“Through that memory sphere, you have seen the entirety of my cursed and wretched life. All, but the final two dreams have come to pass exactly as I dreamt it. Soon, I shall be a true demon and no one will be able to stop me! I have come too far to be stopped by the likes of you. Prepare to die!”

All of a sudden, her fanged sword bursts into angry orange flames. Wings outspread and sword trailing fire, she lunges at you with fury in her eyes.

Roll initiative!

Dark Archive

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Spoilers beware. You'd be an idiot to be a Burnt Offerings player reading this thread. Given the scarcity of idiots on this bord, I rest assured this won't happen.

TabulaRasa wrote:
How did you convey to your players the backstory behind Nualia's revenge.

I didn't. James Jacobs wrote it for the sole enjoyment of the DM. Burnt Offerings is a splendid read, don't you think? Unfortunately it's often not very much geared to the experience at the game table.

Now seriously. You target a key problem. The best solution in these cases (and there are loads of them in Runelords - new game: name a key NPC who's story DOES surface for the players) is to think: who could have known about Nualia's story? Well, who brought it about? Her father. Unfortunately he's dead (well done, James). So, who else? Her lover. Unfortunately he's run off and/or dead (well done, James). So I opted for Father Zantus, and made him a local of Sandpoint who was trained by Ezakien (Nualia's father) as a priest of Desna and lived along with him and Nualia in the house. This meant
1. Nualia befriended Zantus at a reasonably early age. Years later Nualia meets Delek. When she realizes she's pregnant she confides in Zantus, not least because she doesn't know how to break the news to Ezakien. That makes things hard for Zantus. Being Ezakien's apprentice, he now got split loyalties, since he's always felt protective about Nualia.
2. After she disclosed herself to her father, her father confides in Zantus as well. So Zantus now knows both sides, and in fact is less than happy about Ezakien's way of dealing with it.
3. When Nualia goes nuts, Zantus is not around (in fact, Nualia made sure he wasn't - which is hugely important later). So he survives. He presumes both Nualia and Ezakien dead. Also, he's less than relaxed with his sudden duties as Sandpoint's new chief cleric.
4. After the goblins raid Sandpoint and the PC discover that Ezakien's tomb has been defiled, all those feelings about their shared past flare up in Zantus. He's hugely upset but can't make sense of it. Enter the PCs. By talking to Zantus they can get his version about Nualia's story, which after all is Ezakien's, and like Zantus presume her dead. But they now know the aasimar background story. Which is key for the final tragic encounter. Make one of the PC play a cleric of Desna from outside Sandpoint (he can be an official envoy for the Swallowtail Festival). It's perhaps one of the harshest moments for him to be confronted with the failings of his kin (Ezakien) and means he'll experience Zantus' point of view first hand. Plus, when the PC return from Thistletop, having killed Nualia, and talk to Zantus you're up for an interesting confrontation. Depending on how respectfully they've dealt with Nualia's remains & the way they talk to Zantus about it, this will either bond the PC to Zantus for life or he'll hate them forever. Zantus learns that Nualia spared his life that one fatal night when she burned Ezakien.

Either way you've by now
A) brought Nualia's tragedy to the adventure's centre, which it rightfully deserves,
B) and spiced up the campaign for future modules. Strong feelings between PC and NPC are always better than complete lack thereof. They tie the PC into the campaign and its locations.

TabulaRasa wrote:
The secret diary is an obvious ploy but it has already been used for Tsuto.

I know, it's really lame. Again, go for NPC in Sandpoint who know about the family conflict. You MUST make sure it surfaces way before the PC are approached about the glassworks. Speaking of which - avoid the woman carrying (in effect) the next piece of paper (well done James, thrice now that a piece of paper reveals the adventure's actual background). Let the PC do some detective work instead. The wagon on the town square from which the goblins lept carries isolated pieces of stained glass. Your PC will head to the glass work in next to no time. If that's too soon for you, place the shards elsewhere.

TabulaRasa wrote:
I do not want to give the impression to my players that my big villains spend their time writing down their feelings on paper rather than try to raid Sandpoint

Uh-oh, all of the Runelord Campaign's villains keep diaries (watch out for Aldern in part II). How else would their backstory surface to the players? And, hurray, another tragic story and all the PC get to do is kill its protagonist and read his story afterwards. Very, very engaging, and very, very subtle.

Edit. I just realized I simply spelled out Reckless' idea. Which I hadn't read on composing this. There you go.


Windjammer wrote:
good stuff

Thanks for the advice, Windjammer, will use.

Go easy on Jason though, it's a damn good adventure, all things considered. I'm happy to have villains with such human back-stories at all, if the diary is the most contrived device in the module, that still puts it one up on many modules I've seen.

Sandpoint is so insanely well documented that it's a simple matter to try and reveal the plot via NPCs. It's a good thing that the diaries are there, just in case you have a party that blunders past all the clues. There is pragmatic value to the diary device, since it can outlive the NPC who wrote it, but it does lack style. I don't mind it as my "plot safety" in case I fail as a GM to reveal things more creatively.

Dark Archive

Toyrobots, I absolutely love Burnt Offerings and think highly of James. But the amount of prep-time I had to spend on his gem was just insane :)


I was lucky to have a character who decided that she was also an orphan/ward of Father Tobyn. so she turned out to be Nualia's foster sister.

Liberty's Edge

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A bard gets kicked out of a tavern for singing a song about her. The PCs witness it. If they talk to the bard, well they get the info and perhaps a free buff it's time right and her resings the song to them. ;)


I had Tsuto reveal some of Naulia's story when the PC's had cast charm person on him. I figured it was too good to waste and Naulia would have revealed some of it to him and perhaps he could have worked other parts out himself. It has given the PC's a better feel for Naulia as they head for Thistletop next week.

Liberty's Edge

Ladies, Gentlemen, Others...

I would just like to thank you all.

I'm just starting Burnt Offerings, and one of the PCs decided to be a Desnan priestess who was a Sandpoint native, orphaned, fostered to Father Tobyn, and who ran away a few years before Nuala's little breakdown. I almost feel sorry for her.

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