There are Brinewall Castle spoilers in this post, in case anyone is a player and hasn't gotten that far yet. Just letting you know.
A session of Jade Regent I ran today went decently enough, and I think overall the players had fun, but I feel I made a mistake that turned a victory into a disappointment, and could have so easily gone better.
That mistake, was Zaiobe. I played her pretty much exactly how the AP said she's portrayed, betrayal included, and I feel like the players were disappointed.
She was a pretty cool NPC, they seemed happy to have finally met someone fairly friendly who wasn't one of the main 4 from the Caravan, and to ally with her, and to be honest the AP's excuse for her betrayal (that she wanted their delightful-looking gear) didn't even really stand up since my players are still wearing and wielding what they started 1st level with. And with the way.
So I believe my mistake here was sticking too rigidly to what was laid out in the adventure path. "She's Chaotic Evil" shouldn't have been a reason to stop me from considering that they might befriend Zaiobe, or that she might fit in in the caravan. After all, we've got a Lawful Good and a Neutral Evil PC who get along fine, and Zaiobe was getting along extremely well with the PCs. "The AP says she betrays the PCs" shouldn't have been guaranteed to make me make her do it. Because in this case, "The AP says so" was the only real reason I had for handling it that way. And that was a mistake. Hopefully it'll be a mistake that I won't repeat in the future now that I've seen it happen.
This is a good thing to look out for, especially if my PCs turn out to be NPC collectors. There is a lot of story potential there, especially if Pazuzu and Sitthud have any connection. I would give the caravan -2 Morale, though, as if the winter wolf had joined. It would be nice to have an NPC who asn't best friends with all the others.
Zaiobe did end up joining the Caravan in my game, and there has been much adventure and romance as a result.
If you want to look forward to the future, another NPC I changed considerably from "what the book said" was Uksahkka. The version of her I ended up playing was a lot more willing to come along and do stuff, and she ended up being hired on as a driver.
I agree Brinewall gives me more of a feeling that its a group of misfits and outcasts who banded together for mutal comfort and protection then got taken advantage of by a charismatic madman than anything else. The ogrekin paid rent for a place to live after they were chased out of their old one for instance. Personally I'd be more than happy to give the party XP for finding non-violent ways of dealing with most of the people in there. Although I do feel Zaiobe would be more likely to follow her visions to her next teacher than stay in Brinewall or travel with the PC's.
|Mort the Cleverly Named|
Absolutely, one should not feel overly constrained by the AP. Sometimes things go differently, and being able to change on the fly is the whole point of having a GM.
Although at the same time, for myself, I'd say that the error here is not in having Zaiobe betray the party, but rather in not waiting until a more appropriate time. I mean, I'm sure she got along well with the party, but she is still a chaotic evil demon worshipper. Her response to her lover mocking her is to murder him! Her god's standard devotion is stringing a creature up by its entrails and letting the buzzards have at it, and he is directly opposed by Spivey and any NPC with a knowledge of Sandpoint's history. He also has two other servants in Brinewall (one who absolutely must be taken down), which makes an eventual conflict with Zaiobe extremely likely even if she does not betray the party.
Obviously, this is just my opinion. To each their own, and all that. Redeeming monsters is always a good story, and it is a nice change from the genocidal nature of most adventuring parties.
I agree Brinewall gives me more of a feeling that its a group of misfits and outcasts who banded together for mutal comfort and protection then got taken advantage of by a charismatic madman than anything else.
I was wondering when this would come up, given that my first read over on Zaiobe didn't seem to give her a lot of self-preservation. Mythical Monsters confirms that harpies are experts at reading people; hence, a harpy that just saw four heavily-armed adventurers take down her ex-lover would not then attempt to take on these people 4(+) v. 1.
Given that my game has an inquisitor of Sarenrae and that goddess's love of redemption, Zaiobe's curse in my game will be from Shelyn (not Pazuzu) after Zaiobe and her kin defaced a wilderness shrine to Shelyn. She might join up with the caravan just have a proverbial gravy train of people looking out for her well-being, and might eventually shift towards CN depending on her interactions. She'll still be prone to torturing goblins and eating people and have a disdain for bathing.
That's my clever GM plan, anyway. It's up to the players to see how well it survives, if at all.
Overall, redeeming every monster gets tedious, but playing monsters intelligently is a pleasant change from hordes of nameless mooks-for-XP.
I'd say that the error here is not in having Zaiobe betray the party, but rather in not waiting until a more appropriate time.
I did at least play her as smart enough to wait until the party witch fully healed her before she took to the air and shot down the one who'd just undid the damage from her lover's scorching rays. The idea being that that way she couldn't heal the others.
Yeah, I agree. I have a player who plays a Paladin who's main thing is to do diplomacy before coming to arms. Granted, he knows very well that may not be the case for most monsters and whatnot, but on this occasion, I will make sure that Ziobe doesn't betray them. This will not only be a good RP section, but it will make the paladin feel good for doing the right thing and thus avoiding needless conflict. But most importantly, I don't want him to feel like he can't RP his character in that manner only to betrayed, especially this early in the AP.
I'm also thinking about the Dragon in Hungry Storm. If the PCs can convince her with irrefutable proof that this was the action of one man, she might be persuaded to spare the rest of the village. She will obviously not be happy and may still pose a threat to the village at a later date. However, if the PCs do convince the dragon and they later find out who was really behind the slaughtering of her eggs, the PCs can get a powerful ally against Katiyana.
|Liz Courts Contributor|
|Lord Fyre RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32|
She might not have even joined the Caravan. One of the PCs essentially called dibs on Brinewall, and having an ally to stay and watch his new castle for him probably would have worked well.
That also might have been a better time for her to "betray the party" - when they are not there.
Yes, the PCs could & would defeat her - but she could instead have murdered the NPC follower watching the castle. By time the PCs find out about it they may be too far away to turn back. Even if they did, she would have had plenty of time to fortify and recruit troops.
Then again, she is CE and does not have exceptionally good scores in Int or Wis, so she could be short sighted. (Also, remember that she believes -wrongly- that Pazuzu will protect her.)