Fast Track to Minkai: What's Important?


Jade Regent

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Okay so I'm running Jade Regent in about a month. I'm going to run We Be Goblins as a Prequel, and use Clark Peterson's excellent introductory prologue.

But this game is going to be running in 6 hour sessions only once or maybe twice a month, so that means I'm going to need to put together a more focused experience than the AP assumes.

If I changed JR to the Fast XP track, what encounters/story elements would you cut to keep things going?

Dark Archive

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Okay so I'm running Jade Regent in about a month. I'm going to run We Be Goblins as a Prequel, and use Clark Peterson's excellent introductory prologue.

But this game is going to be running in 6 hour sessions only once or maybe twice a month, so that means I'm going to need to put together a more focused experience than the AP assumes.

If I changed JR to the Fast XP track, what encounters/story elements would you cut to keep things going?

Just finished JR yesterday... So here's what I would say is best to cut for the sake of time.

Dungeons. Some Dungeons are quite long and just there for filler. Brinewall castle, Ravenscaeg, Spirit Road, and Murasaki Penance, can all be gutted a litle bit.

You may want to cut caravan travel altogether, but this can change how books 3 is played. Book 3 is one of the most memorable and iconic parts of the AP because it is the actual crossing of the ice cap, so I'd be careful with it.

You may want to forgo XP altogether, and just level up when the AP recommends you level the players up.

also: Munasakaru's Penance is sooooo long. But my players just invisibility sphered half the dungeon anyways.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'll probably take the suggestion about cutting down the dungeons... although I think Brinewall Castle had just the right length.

As for caravan stuff... we'll RP it. Caravan encounters will be normal encounters, hazards will be RP'ed... I think that should work well.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thanks folks. I actually would like to use the caravan combat rules a little, but my understanding is they're broken. What's the easiest way to fix them? Adjust the encounters or adjust the caravans?

If I were to cut say Ravenscraeg to 8 encounters what would you say are the key encounters there?

What's the most iconic moment from each adventure?


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Thanks folks. I actually would like to use the caravan combat rules a little, but my understanding is they're broken. What's the easiest way to fix them? Adjust the encounters or adjust the caravans?

Easiest way to fix them would be to give every player their own caravan - the problem is that the encounters are based strictly on the CR system, which assumes an average party of four opponents. You may need to beef up encounters a little bit, but unless a player really optimizes the hell out of their wagons, the end result should be satisfactory. The biggest problem with this is that caravans, by design, are a money sink, so you'll need to give a bit more treasure to compensate.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

If we go by what Jason Nelson said, the best idea is to boost caravan damage.

I still think it's a broken mess, though, and highly recommend doing encounters the normal way. The way it is now, it is both sides doing one roll each round and that is not very engaging.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I like the encounter at the start of book 2, where the PCs deal with some personal combat and use the caravan combat to narrate how the background fight is faring.

The Exchange

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The first and best place to make cuts is Munasukaru's Penance. You can seriously remove 3/4ths of the encounters without affecting anything important.

Here are some more specific cuts I'd suggest:

Book One:
Since you can skip almost all of Brinestump Marsh with Clark's prologue, you probably don't need to cut too much of Castle Brinewall. That's good, because Brinewall is the most tightly-written dungeon in the AP. The giant toe-biter and phycomid are just random closet monsters and can be removed easily. The troglodytes and their monitor lizard aren't very memorable either.

Book Two:
Don't bother tracking Notoriety Points--just decide on your favourite NP events and make them happen. In another thread, someone suggested having the NPCs investigate one lead (Suishen, or a guide) while the PCs investigate the other, and that can help reduce investigation time. You can skip the shark-eating crab, but otherwise I'd keep the rest of the investigation intact; personally, I think it's already a little bare-bones.

There's a lot you could cut from Ravenscraeg, but choosing is hard. You can reduce the number of ninja in the fortress, but you need to keep enough to establish that it is indeed a fortress full of ninja. The ochre jelly, the spider eater, the hellwasp swarm, the executioner's hoods, the giant crawling hand, the samurai guardian statues, the trolls, the blindheims, and even Jorgan are basically just bonus XP fights, but they provide much-needed variety from killing ninja. So maybe try burying the ninja in an avalanche.

Book Three:
Book Three's random encounter chart is very important to build atmosphere; it'll take a long time to run them all as regular encounters, but if you try to run them with the caravan combat rules, you will make me cry. Even if you fix the math, rock-em-sock-em robots is not a good system for roleplaying. So besides skipping a few boring ones, there's not a lot you can do here.

You could conceivably drop the entire Katiyana sidequest, since it's just a one-time obstacle in the story arc, but that leaves the current adventure with zero plot. So I'd do an abridged version: skip either the dragon or Tunuak, turn the Storm Tower into one or two big fights, and remove a few encounters from the Spirit Road, starting with the yetis.

Book Four:
The Penance is so long that if you emptied 3/4ths of it, as I suggested, you're already done here. As long as Munasukaru is still at the end, what you choose to cut is not even that important.

Book Five:
I'm tempted to suggest removing Seinaru Heikiko entirely, because it's basically Ravenscraeg made boring and higher level for no good reason. But alternatively, you could make everything in the dungeon five levels lower, and let the PCs feel like superheroes by demolishing everything at once. To make things more interesting, keep your favourite of the named NPCs at the same level, and have them show up near the end of the party's romp.

Caution: Shinju no Ie's dungeon is a maze! If you don't drop it, tell the party the solution right away. Overall, this is a much better dungeon than the last one, with lots of cool encounters, and so I suggest keeping it mostly intact; however, the only encounters you should absolutely keep are the shogi board fight and the illusionist.

The onsen is at most three or four encounters long, and the siege is just one humongous fight, so you're probably fine there.

Book Six:
The Imperial Shrine doesn't really need any encounters besides Shigure and Onoko, and maybe the Rokurokubi, and the Well of Demons is just as good if you remove all unnamed monsters and play it as a boss rush.

Actually removing encounters from the Jade Palace is probably a bad idea--this is the BBEG's lair, of course it's jammed with monsters! Instead, have the entire party's roster of allied NPCs help assault the Palace in an epic battle royale. During a thunderstorm, of course. While they handle the small fry, the PCs have enough freedom to beeline for the Jade Throne and fight the endboss party.

Oh, and find some excuse for the Jade Palace to crumble around the PCs while they're fighting said endbosses. (Actually, at level 15, who needs an excuse?) Besides that a disintegrating throne room in a thunderstorm is a totally rad location for a final encounter, this lets the PCs watch their allies continue to fight outside while they deal with the Jade Regent.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Wow Leadpal that's wonderful, and I would hate to make you cry. I think I'm going to make Caravan Encounters background rolls at the end of each round to help me describe stuff that's happening in the background.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I actually like the caravan combat rules, once they are upgraded to reflect CR and engaging all of the PCs.

I posted these in one of the caravan combat threads.

Every level, a caravan not only receives a feat, but an attribute point as well.

Masterwork Wagons are available from the start of the adventure (stats are in the last AP)

Caravan damage increases at the same rate as that of a rogue’s sneak attack extra damage dice.

The feat “Extra Wagons” is a free feat.

The caravan rule for the spell “Create Food and Water” is removed and the spell works normally.

Masterwork Wagon
Cost: 1200 GP Hit Points: 40
Traveller Capacity: 6 Cargo Capacity: 6
Limit: None Consumption: 1
Special Benefit: +1 bonus to AC

Hero combat actions:

Attack: The Hero can make an additional attack, using the caravan statistics (basically providing another attack for the caravan), up to three heros may take this action.

Defend: The Hero can aid the caravan in repulsing the next attack, providing a +2 bonus to AC.

Rally: The Hero may use Diplomacy, Intimidate or Magic to rally the caravan, granting a +1 bonus to the resolve check, with an additional +1 for every 5 points by which the Hero exceeds the check DC (10 + the encounter level).

Battlefield Repair: The Hero can cast a spell that repairs objects (such as make whole or fabricate) to provide the caravan with 1d6 hp per spell level (minimum 1d6). A Hero with the appropriate skill can make a skill check to provide the caravan with temporary hp equal to the check result.


Yeah, LeadPal's advice is pretty solid. I agree with everything he said for Books One and Two.

For Book Three I agree with most of his advice. I would say that you may be better served by simply picking a few of the random encounters that capture your attention and just running them as regular combats for the party and then just skip the rest as needed.

Book Four: I have a real soft spot for the Penance and, personally, I'd be hard-pressed to cut most of it. But in your case, for the sake of brevity, I am again forced to agree with the consensus on this (but for anyone else who has the time this place has wonderful potential).

Book Five: I'd go with LeadPal's second option for Seinaru Heikiko. Removing it entirely would require a bit more in the re-write department and letting the players feel like bad-asses as they enter Minkai is definitely an upside.

Book Six: This one's a long time away since you're just starting (I can't believe some people have actually finished the AP already) so you definitively have time to think about it. This is the only spot where I disagree with LeadPal (actually I only sort of disagree). His advice for the Jade Palace is quite epic and really awesome but with one major caveat - you need to be really experienced with running high-level cluster-f***s. There's already a lot of high-level NPCs running around in the palace for the final fight. A lot of GMs are going to have trouble just running it as written. Throwing in more NPCs and a crumbling building will add to that stress. Even if you don't use rules for, or keep track of, the actual combats with the allies and background fights (just run it using story-based fiat) you'll need to at least keep track of all their locations while dealing with the main party fight. While an amazing visual, the level of prep it would take is somewhat staggering. Granted, like I said, this is still a long time away so if you start preparing for this now you could have the finale of a lifetime. Combat Manager could also help.

Dark Archive

Yea final fight is kind of rough. If the group hadn't taken the npcs it would have been a tpw. A looking ways off, but food for thought.


Ah, so as the first person I've talked to that's actually finished JR you actually recommend taking as many NPCs as possible? Good to know.

You were the GM right? How tough was it to run from a logistical perspective?

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

More food for thought. Mistwalker's caravan combat improvements look great!

Here's a little something I'm cooking up:

Ally cards:

At the beginning of each section the players may choose 1 NPC to accompany them. At first their options will be Ameiko, Sandru, Koya or Shalelu. These options will increase as they recruit new NPCs.

At the start of each session PCs will have a number of Ally Cards equal to their Relationship Score divided by 10 (minimum 1) These cards will allow PCs to do the following:


  • Make an attack. This attack is automatically successful and deals damage as appropriate for the NPC.
  • Cast a Spell: The NPC chooses which spell to cast but the PC spending the card may make suggestions. This spell allows no save except against certain boss level characters.
  • Activate a Class Feature: Bardic Music, turn undead etc. If the class feature allows a save it instead offers no save except against certain boss level monsters.
  • Make a Skill Check: The NPC may make a skill check. Treat the roll as a 20. This includes Knowledge Checks.
  • Draw Aggro: The NPC insults the foe or draws their attention, one for targets the NPC with their next attack.
  • Rescue from certain Doom: The NPC will push the PC out of the way of any spell or attack that would reduce them to negative Hit Points or the dead condition. Taking the attack themselves. Note: This option is not available to characters with a Rivalry with the NPC.
  • Goad: The NPC will goad your PC into further action. Your PC gains an extra half action (standard or move) this turn. Note: This option is unavailable to PCs with a Romance/Friendship with the NPC.

NPC cards can only be spent once per encounter. They refresh once per week. If an NPC card is not spent the NPC can be used to flank or Aid Another.

Design Note:
These cards are used instead of Hero Points it's to encourage the PCs to bring the NPCs along on their adventures and get to know them better. I've used this system in my Kingmaker game to great success. It's a great method of making the NPCs useful members of the team without overshadowing the PCs. Essentially the player feels successful because they spent the resource (the ally card) and they appreciate the help of the NPC (due to the auto-success nature against non-boss monsters).

The Exchange

The Block Knight wrote:
Book Four: I have a real soft spot for the Penance and, personally, I'd be hard-pressed to cut most of it. But in your case, for the sake of brevity, I am again forced to agree with the consensus on this (but for anyone else who has the time this place has wonderful potential).

For what it's worth, I don't think it's worth cutting any actual rooms or descriptions, just fights. I think it would really creepy for the party to explore through the first level, on guard for anything to pop out, only to find that it's empty but for the disturbing murals and mutilated slaves. The current dungeon has some highlights, they just need room to breathe.

The Block Knight wrote:
Book Six: This one's a long time away since you're just starting (I can't believe some people have actually finished the AP already) so you definitively have time to think about it. This is the only spot where I disagree with LeadPal (actually I only sort of disagree). His advice for the Jade Palace is quite epic and really awesome but with one major caveat - you need to be really experienced with running high-level cluster-f***s. There's already a lot of high-level NPCs running around in the palace for the final fight. A lot of GMs are going to have trouble just running it as written. Throwing in more NPCs and a crumbling building will add to that stress. Even if you don't use rules for, or keep track of, the actual combats with the allies and background fights (just run it using story-based fiat) you'll need to at least keep track of all their locations while dealing with the main party fight. While an amazing visual, the level of prep it would take is somewhat staggering. Granted, like I said, this is still a long time away so if you start preparing for this now you could have the finale of a lifetime. Combat Manager could also help.

That's entirely fair. My group is barely into Book Two and I'm already mulling over how to run a finale like this--trying to prep it a week or two before the session is unrealistic to the point of being crazy, and in that case you should really try something less ambitious.


DM-aka_Dudemeister: I like the thought of the Ally Cards. Coupled with Mistwalker's work above you may be able to make the caravan sections workable. However, while it all looks great on paper it's definitely the sort of thing you'd want to test before implementing. I'm sure someone more savvy than me when it comes to rules will chime in to help, but from my eyeballing of it, I really like it.

LeadPal: My soft spot for the Penance can live with that decision. I agree good sir.

Dark Archive

The Block Knight wrote:

Ah, so as the first person I've talked to that's actually finished JR you actually recommend taking as many NPCs as possible? Good to know.

You were the GM right? How tough was it to run from a logistical perspective?

Logistically my players are efficient :p:

They teleported outside of the castle , went through the wall on a blind side, and encounter monk guy. He didn't call for help (based off his tactics).

They beat them, go downstairs(I made that trap a bit harder, it grabs the players and pulls them into the spikes. My players have airwalk/fly/etc always on, so bit traps are just a joke), fight dragon.

Then they figure out the most efficient way up, the sorc using disintegrate to make a tunnel around major rooms and ends up in the throne room. They would have teleported if they didn't have all the seals.

fight opens up with the battle-mind-linked sorcerer and wizard casting wall of force (seperating Jr, and the oracle from the ninja and Anny), wizard casts haste. Magus force hook charges anny, but didn't realize anny had combat reflexes so he takes 2 hits. Magus does 130ish damage, and anny returns the favor with 4 hits, all of which hit and drop him to dead dead.

Oracle and JR ethereal jaunt, JR runs into the middle of the party. Party finishes off anny (zen archers are BS, banned from now on), Oracle dismisses ethereal jaunt, jr's turn he challenges and full attacks teh zen archer, hitting him 3 times, with 1 crit, dropping the zen archer to dead dead.

Party works on JR (barbarian does minimum 30 dmg at this point, so a full attack hurts bad), oracles turn comes up and tries to maze the sorcerer, but the sorcerer had spell deflection up. JR moves to attack an npc, only gets a single attack off (a miss). NPCs finish off JR and wait for the oracle to get out. She surrenders.

another plan:
another plan was to just teleport the group in so that Ameiko just "fell" into the jade throne. as a player said "I think that means we win..."

So yea.. npcs are more friendly actions, Shalelu was very effective with the bow, and koya's heals were essential. The party was lucky the ninja was worn down by the teamwork score, he didn't next to nothing the whole fight (positioning was bad).


Wow, that fight actually sounds fairly smooth. Tricky, but smooth and certainly efficient. Quite the powerhouse party you had there and a lot of casters. In a case like that you definitely need players who can hold up their end of the unspoken agreement of gaming (know your character's abilities). Glad it worked out for you.

As for Plan B. . . I'm not sure if I'd allow teleport to be that accurate. :)

Anything you would have done differently? And to keep this on topic, with special consideration to efficiency?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah, I'm looking at the Penance and the first thing I think to myself is "What can I cut?". I haaaaaate overly long dungeons. Especially ones where encounters seem just like time-eating devices with no challenge to the party.

Eh, maybe I am overestimating the new party. Its composition is much less overwhelming than the one for Carrion Crown. By the point we reach module four, I'll know for sure. ^^


If you're not actually strapped for time and have the luxury to wait then that's what I'd recommend. Wait to see how they deal with the challenges in Parts Two and Three first.

You may still want to cut encounters from the Penance to tighten it up a little so it doesn't drag but many of the encounters are worthy challenges for a party of the appropriate level.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I got six players at a 20 point buy, so I'll have to rebalance anyway. But I'll look how things go. :)


Ah, fair enough. I usually run five players (current campaign is 25 point buy) so I know the feeling.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah, the new sixth character isn't helping me keep stuff balanced, so I let my players have a 20 point buy. If I have to rebalance everything, I might as well give them a little goodie on the way, so that they feel like their characters are a bit more bad-ass ( not that they had any problems being OP at 15 points in Carrion Crown ^^ ).

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Caravan of Courage: Jade Regent Journal

Every session will begin with a monologue from Anamurumon, as he tells the PCs tale.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The Conclusion of the Brinstump Marsh!

This one was a close one, and I could easily have killed off some PCs if I was a little more bloodthirsty, the dice were really in my favor and out to kill the PCs (lots of fumbles drawn). It all worked out okay in the end :)

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Fun Fact. It's 2017, we are still crossing the Crown of the World. My players have explored the Nameless Spires, a character cloned himself and a memory chip of a martial arts sensei that he sometimes asks for advice.

Zaiobe became an integral part of the Caravan, but sadly died rescuing the party from Katiyana by saying Pazuzu's name for a third time (The only word she's allowed to say due to her curse). She died because the PC Paladin prayed to Sarenrae and kissed her and it was a beautiful moment dammit.

A player was revealed to be the child of Shalelu, met her father (a snowcaster elf), visited the hidden nation of the Snowcasters who are still at war with the Drow.

A player has learned that his father's soul is being tortured in the Abyss in Pazuzu's realm. A possible post AP quest.

Two players left the group due to time constraints, they were quietly retconned out.

Another player joined just before fighting the White Dragon and she has become an integral part of the caravan.

My caravan has TOO MANY NPCS YOU GUYS!

I love this campaign a lot, I added some mythic elements to it, and they are a lot of fun.

Two of my players got married, and have since had two children.
A third player has also gotten married, and also had a child.

So in conclusion, we're on the slow road to Minkai. But we're enjoying the road trip.


Are you still using the caravan system?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:
Are you still using the caravan system?

I am using a version of it!

The Caravan system is at it's best when it's a secondary resource management system. It added very real elements of difficulty and danger while travelling over the Crown of the World with what I can only describe as too damn many NPCs (33 to be more precise).

I added a "Wealth" score to the Caravan which is which is used to determine a Resource score with Wagons and Travellers adding to a consumption score. Once per week our heroes have to make a Resource check vs Consumption, failure increases unrest. Each check uses up 1 unit of stores, but each unit beyond the first provides a +4 bonus on the check. If they do not have one unit of stores to make the check unrest increases by a dramatic amount.

I also added a system which is a deck of cards representing skill challenges that provide minor boons to the PCs for succeeding at them, but also provide Roleplay fodder for the long journey.

I also use Caravan combat, essentially when the PCs go on "away missions", the Caravan combat is used to determine how the caravan fares against random encounters.

Or if a large group of foes attack I'll have a featured group of foes for the players to fight, and at initiative 0 the Caravan combat plays out.

Also I did a more detailed caravan combat, where players assign a leader, a striker, a defender and a driver to a wagon each wagon gets its own stats so that I could have the party defend Dead Man's Dome from a veritable army of white walkers, I mean Sithhud's undead.


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
My caravan has TOO MANY NPCS YOU GUYS!

I feel your pain! My players have about 21 NPCs in their caravan (and a few named animals). I love them all, but the players don't care about most of them -- I just had Akinosa kidnap a few, and the players were making jokes about forgetting their names and leaving them behind. (They didn't actually leave them behind, because they're not that mean.)

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
I also added a system which is a deck of cards representing skill challenges that provide minor boons to the PCs for succeeding at them, but also provide Roleplay fodder for the long journey.

That sounds neat! Could you tell us more?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Sure!

So this is something I wish I thought of in book 1 instead of part way through book 3.

But the system goes like this.

Each NPC in the Caravan gets a card with two sides what I call a "Day Side" and a "Night Side". Each side has a Story Title, The Character it relates to, a choice of two or three skill checks and a minor boon and a minor penalty.

I also have "Travel Cards", which represents 7 days worth of travel, the travel cards read as follows:

"No Event" (x3)
"Random Encounter" (x1)
"Ally Events" (x2)
"Caravan Checks" (x1)

And then cards for each keyed encounter on the road (which are fixed points). Using my Event calendar I put 7 squares on the battlemat, representing each day, putting down keyed encounters. I then shuffle the Travel Cards together and draw for each empty space in the week. As players travel through the week they flip cards. On "No Event" days it's just uneventful travelogue. On Random Encounter days, I roll a random encounter based on the module. On Caravan Check days, the players need to roll for Resource, and any weekly environmental effects.

On Ally Event days I draw one card + 1 card per player.
Players then choose which ally to interact with (players can split between multiple characters or all focus on one character, using Aid Another if they like). Characters not interacted with get shuffled back in the deck. If players attempt a check they automatically gain the boon, they only take the penalty if the skill check fails. Once a character is interacted with the card flips to "Night Side", further continuing that NPCs story and operating in the same way as Day Side. Once complete that NPC is taken out of the deck until it refreshes (usually after a significant bit of plot).

During the second leg of the trek over the Crown the checks got a little more difficult and required at least one success to proceed to "Night Side" or to move the NPC from the deck. The penalty would occur on each attempt that didn't flip or remove the card. The boon could only be obtained once.

Example

Day: Hunting With Shalelu/Night: Cooking with Shalelu:

Day Skill: Survival DC 20
Day Prompt: You help Shalelu hunt some arctic rabbits to supplement the caravan's supplies.
Day Boon: Add +1 to Caravan's next resource check.
Day Penalty: Shalelu is injured in a hunting accident. She provides no bonus to the caravan for 1d12 days, -1 for each healer in the caravan.

Night Skill: Profession Cook DC 15
Night Prompt: You help Shalelu cook some arctic rabbits.
Night Boon: Add +1 to Caravan's next resolve check.
Night Penalty: You fail to prepare the meal properly, the caravan gains 1 point of unrest.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Sure!

So this is something I wish I thought of in book 1 instead of part way through book 3.

But the system goes like this.

Cool! Thanks for posting that. I wish I'd thought of something like that myself for the Crown.

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