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So I'm running Shattered Star for a couple of players in my home game, and I have been planning since I knew about the AP for my Skull & Shackles PC to stop by. When I found out about Curse of the Lady's Light, I knew that my want had become a need.
For me, it's a chance to insert one of my favorite PCs into the campaign. For you, it's a chance for your PCs to rub elbows with Varisian movers and shakers and feel like part of something big (which they should). The party takes place aboard Augusta's airship, the Compliance, and involves a magical banquet of assorted Thassilonian delicacies, as well as a surprisingly vast assortment of booze (and, for more mature games, drugs and "companionship"). It's a rare moment of celebration for an AP full of dangers and a surprisingly devastating finale.
Anyhoo, I'll be throwing out details as I write 'em. So far, I've got the menu (with drink pairings!) and the effects of enjoying the enchanted meal, which I'll post up shortly. Soon, I'll have info on Augusta and invited guests, their reactions and interactions, and all the other stuff that makes a social encounter enjoyable.
I hope you enjoy it, and feel free to post feedback! I like feedback.
Behind the Banquet: a GM's Guide to Wining and Dining
A major part of this social encounter is what's on the menu. Each food and drink item listed has certain benefits and penalties associated with it, which interact with each other to provide boons or hindrances to characters indulging in the banquet. The food is served on a round table emblazoned with the Sihedron, and each menu item is divided up by Thassilonian region/specialty school.
Characters well-versed in Thassilonian history can make a DC 20 Knowledge (history) check to deduce what boon each food item might impart; the drinks are modern concoctions, however, and their penalties can only be implied by association (DC 30 to get a hint about what they cause). Discerning that pairing conflicting items might cause ill effects can be discovered with a DC 25 Knowledge (history) check, while bonuses from complimentary pairings can be uncovered with a DC 35 check.
Thassilonian Food Bonuses
Eurythnia: You become more open and receptive, complimenting fellow guests as you seek their approval and interest. You gain a +2 morale bonus to Diplomacy checks.
Cyrusian: You become more boastful of your talents and abilities, and are willing to display your prowess to those around you. You gain a +2 morale bonus to Bluff checks.
Bakrakhan: You become more on edge and ready to spout threats and demands at a moment's notice. You gain a +2 morale bonus to Intimidate checks.
Gastash: You become more receptive to offerings of food and drink, and are inured to over-indulgence. You gain a +2 morale bonus to Fortitude saves.
Shalast: You become more aware of the glitz and glamor around you, and see every glint and flash of precious minerals. You gain a +2 morale bonus to Perception checks.
Haruka: You become more aware of the standing of those around you, and what they may be able to do for you. You gain a +2 morale bonus to Knowledge (nobility) checks.
Edasseril: You become jealous and suspicious of your fellows, and seek out their true feelings. You gain a +2 morale bonus to Sense Motive checks.
Thassilonian Drink Penalties
Eurythnia: You become unable to tell truth from fiction, and your desire to please leaves you ignoring obvious cues. You gain a -2 penalty to Sense Motive checks.
Cyrusian: You become increasingly oblivious to others and their activities. You gain a -2 penalty to Perception checks.
Bakrakhan: You become less aware of impending violence, focusing on your own opportunity to break heads. You gain a -2 penalty to Initiative checks.
Gastash: You become more interested in indulgence, ignoring common decency and decorum. You gain a -2 penalty to Knowledge (nobility) checks.
Shalast: You are distracted by every obvious show of wealth, and fawn over the wealth of those around you. You gain a -2 penalty to Bluff checks.
Haruka: You become more interested in reclining than standing, and generally unwilling to move. Your movement speed is halved (to a minimum of 5 ft. per round).
Edasseril: You become quiet and reclusive, and suspicious of others' true motives. You gain a -2 penalty to Diplomacy checks.
There's a lot of other drink floating around. If they prefer, PCs can consume a non-alcoholic beverage not listed above (no bonuses or penalties), another alcoholic beverage (using whatever rules you use in-game to simulate drinking), or some other beverage (following the rules set forth in Ultimate Equipment) or drug (see the Game Mastery Guide).
Characters who abstain completely from the banquet receive no bonuses or penalties, obviously, but intrigue Augusta enough that they are granted a +2 bonus on Diplomacy checks with her. This bonus is eliminated by consuming any of the food, beverages, or other entertainments at the party.
Complimentary/Conflicting Food and Beverage Pairings
In addition to the listed effects of food and drink, players can mix and match their selections. In keeping with her theme, Augusta has additionally enchanted the food and drink to compliment certain pairings and conflict with others, based off their schools of focus and opposition.
Any direct pairing of food and drink from the same Thassilonian nation doubles the bonuses and penalties, while pairing food and drink from adjacent Thassilonian schools of magic doubles the food bonus, but not the drink penalty (Augusta's attempt to stymie individuals who realize the food's magical effects and attempt to maximize benefits while reducing penalties by pairing only like with like). Non-adjacent, non-conflicting food and beverage attributes work as their respective entries list. Combining food and beverages from conflicting schools negates any bonus from the food, doubles the drink's penalty, and bestows the sickened condition on the imbiber for one course of the meal.
For the sake of convenience, the complimentary and conflicting schools of magic for each nation are listed below:
Complimentary: Cyrusian and Edasseril
Conflicting: Gastash and Shalast
Complimentary: Bakrakhan and Eurythnia
Conflicting: Shalast and Haruka
Complimentary: Gastash and Cyrusian
Conflicting: Haruka and Edasseril
Complimentary: Shalast and Bakrakhan
Conflicting: Edasseril and Eurythnia
Complimentary: Haruka and Gastash
Conflicting: Eurythnia and Cyrusian
Complimentary: Edasseril and Shalast
Conflicting: Cyrusian and Bakrakhan
Complimentary: Eurythnia and Haruka
Conflicting: Bakrakhan and Gastash
The concept of the banquet is that every food and drink item is available to the PCs for their indulgence. However, for ease of gameplay, I'll be dividing the meal into seven "courses": each course is an opportunity for a PC to interact with a guest, engage in an entertainment, or otherwise schmooze, interact, and have a good time. For each course, a PC can pick a food and drink and select a named NPC to interact with; the rules for these interactions will follow in due time.
The Marquessa Augusta Chastity Petrovia Jeggare III (CN female human (Taldan) Thassilonian specialist wizard (Lust) 17) is one of Varisia's preeminent scholars on history and the arcane, specializing in the lore of ancient Thassilon, Ghol-Gan, and Azlant. Born in Taldor, her family emigrated to Varisia to assist family business interests in Korvosa. A child prodigy, Augusta was the youngest person to ever be accepted into Korvosa's famed Academae, and would have been the youngest graduate the college ever had, but she fled the school for unknown reasons.
She resurfaced several years later as a member of a Shackles pirate crew, thwarting a Chelaxian invasion of that infamously lawless region. Since her time as a pirate, Augusta has returned to what she considers her "true homeland" of Varisia to further explore the nation's lost history. The PC's discovery of lost segments of the artifact known as the Sihedron has fascinated Augusta, and she promptly headed to Heidmarch Manor to meet these exciting heroes.
Augusta has offered special magical rewards for groups of explorers who uncover newfound lore from Thassilon's glory days, and she offers the same to the PCs as they depart for the Lady's Light. Augusta's specialty is in enchantment magic, which is tied very strongly to the nation of Eurythnia and the Runelord Sorshen, so sponsoring a party of explorers to delve into the Lady's Light is right up her alley; she hopes to relocate to the ancient ruin, further plumb its secrets, and bask in the glory of her ancient predecessor, and the PCs allow her to do just that.
Augusta is a potent arcanist, but does not serve as a foe in this encounter. Rather, she hopes to win the PC's favor with the gifts she dotes upon them and the new-found opportunities her party represents. Augusta enjoys intelligence, historical knowledge, civilized manners, and fellow females, and individuals expressing these qualities find her open and inviting. Augusta attempts to meet and return the social interactions of the PCs tit for tat, so characters who fawn over her receive compliments in kind, those who engage her in in-depth dialogue of ancient history find themselves discussing in ancient tongues the lost secrets of forgotten empires, and those whose manner is insulting or threatening are mocked, ridiculed, and potentially magically humiliated.
Augusta is a human, originally of Taldan ethnicity, though her travels in the Shackles have allowed her to reclaim some measure of latent Azlanti heritage in her blood. Her normally dark-brown hair is short-cropped and dyed a brilliant cherry red, and her lavender eyes glow blue-green when she observes magic, thanks to her permanent arcane sight. There is a slight tanning to her pale skin, and a smattering of freckles grace her cheeks, nose, shoulders, and chest. Her outfit for this occasion is a rather conservative (but still opulent) black dress with mithral trim and a collection of jewelry made from assorted rare metals, and an ornate darkwood and white gold cane sits crooked on her right arm.
During the party, Augusta is polite, gracious, and a little flirty, and can be found usually reclining on a divan with her three escorts for the evening, or occasionally mingling with assorted guests. Her libation of choice is louched absinthe, and she nibbles daintily on some of the assorted provender, but seems more keen on watching the events of the festivities unfold.
This guest list is only a series of suggestions. If the PCs in your game would expect (or not expect!) certain folks to be present at the party, surprise them with some extra appearances! Some suggested alternate appearances would certainly include PCs from RotR, CoCT, and SD, as applicable to your campaign and your gaming group's previous adventures.
In addition, if your group has shown some particular like or dislike of (and with) any of the cities or organizations in attendance, feel free to adjust their starting attitudes, or even replace them with lower flunkies or omit them entirely. The Korvosan emmissary is an easy one for most to write off given Magnimar and Korvosa's bitter rivalry, but I include them since Korvosa is still reeling from the events of the last few years and might be reconsidering a bitter economic cold war with what is almost certainly now Varisia's biggest population center.
Lord-Mayor Haldmeer Grobaras (N male human (Chelaxian) aristocrat 9): normally not one to rub shoulders with the hoi-polloi, the Lord-Mayor nonetheless deigns to grace this "little party" with his magnanimous presence and prodigious girth. Magnimar's city government has suffered a couple black eyes recently, and Grobaras hopes to show his support of the "little people" and their new heroes, congratulate them on their recent successes, remind them of how important Magnimar has been in their meteoric rise to fame, then gobble and guzzle enough free food and drink to make his trip worthwhile.
Grobaras likely seeks out the PCs during the first course, spouting polite compliments and grandiose talk, spends the second and third course indulging (consider Grobaras to have the sickened and fascinated conditions), then begs off further courses, citing "important work" back at Defiant's Garden (involving a very enticing encounter with a very expensive courtesan, though he'd sooner die than admit that).
Grobaras' starting attitude is Indifferent. If brought to Helpful, Grobaras imparts bits of wit and wisdom regarding Varisia's political climate and a few points of etiquette, granting the PC who made the check a +2 bonus on Diplomacy, Knowledge (local), and Knowledge (nobility) for the rest of the meal. Openly discussing even politely with the Korvosan emissary while Grobaras is present imposes a -5 penalty on Diplomacy checks with Grobaras.
Venture-Captain Sheila Heidmarch (LN female (Chelaxian) human fighter (tactician) 3/monk (weapon adept) 4): Of the guests in attendance, Sheila is most certainly the most familiar and most friendly. Sheila, despite her place as a member of Magnimaran nobility, finds most fetes of this nature to be a social requirement to be endured, but seeing as her new favorite agents are the guests of honor, Sheila is genuinely happy to be here. Sheila also takes this opportunity to discuss with Varisia's movers and shakers business important to the Pathfinder Society, such as rights to travel through their lands and exclusive access to sites of interest. She certainly makes time for PCs who wish to speak with her, though she suggests speaking of specifics regarding their ongoing quest in a more private setting.
Sheila stays for the whole banquet, wanting to show her support for the PCs until the end. She eats a little here and there, though not enough to gain bonuses or penalties from food and drink served.
Sheila's starting attitude is Helpful. If asked beforehand, Sheila is willing to attempt to aid a PC on a Diplomacy check (Diplomacy +7) with a guest during the meal or identify party-goers (Knowledge (nobility) +9) and give hints on how best to interact with them. It should be mentioned to the PCs that Sheila is already very friendly toward them, so they should certainly engage with her in small talk, but not use up a course attempting to improve her attitude.
More coming; I just don't want to lose all my typing work in one big pile.
Korvosan Emissary (varies): This one's a toughie, since depending on how things went down in CoCT in your game, this could be anybody. For a generic representative (let's call him Dresiedan Nalmoska), a noble scion from the Game Mastery Guide should suffice, though a relatively low-level flunky such as he won't be able to provide much aside from his boon and a promise of friendly relations between Korvosa and the PCs. Such a character should start as Unfriendly, due to the still-extant tensions between Korvosa and Magnimar, and a certain amount of envy at their rival city being the home of Varisia's new favored sons and daughters.
For a more exciting representative, a GM whose group has run through CoCT can provide Seneshal Neolandus Kalepopolis or even one of the PCs from that campaign as the representative. Their initial attitude and such I leave to you to decide upon.
Overlord Gaston Cromarcky (NE male human (Varisian) fighter 7/expert 5): The Overlord of Riddleport decided to attend at the last minute, if only to size up the competition (in his mind, anyone who's not Gaston Cromarcky is competition). Sour and terse, Gaston's continued drunkenness throughout the banquet only makes him more difficult to deal with, and unless the PCs diffuse the cruel despot, he can be expected to make a scene sometime during the event. Gaston eats little (the meal's lack of seafood offends him and his self-styled piratical ways) but drinks his weight in free liquor, giving him the sickened condition from the end of the first course until his departure. He makes snide comments about the party-goers and overly-hostile sexual advances to most of the female attendees.
Gaston Cromarcky begins the party as Unfriendly, automatically moving to Hostile if the PCs don't decide to talk with him by the third course. If they continue to snub him, during the fifth course, he challenges a PC to "man up" (regardless of gender) and fight him in an "honest duel." He promises a battle to first blood, but if he loses that fight, he presses on until brought to half his hit points, at which time Augusta (up until this point amused at the diversion, but now becoming bored) casts a dominate person spell on him and forces him to admit defeat and "politely" leave the party.
Bringing Gaston to Indifferent or Helpful keeps him at the party, and prevents him from challenging a PC or otherwise making a scene until the sixth course when he mistakes an honest collision with a server as a bumbled pickpocket attempt and decks her. The strike knocks the unwitting server unconscious, and the commotion greatly upsets most of the guests, forcing Augusta to cast a suggestion spell to send him away. PCs who come to the poor server's aid or make Cromarcky leave before Augusta casts her spell gain a +5 bonus on Diplomacy checks for the rest of the evening (as soon as a PC steps up, Augusta holds off on her spellcasting until the situation is diffused or the PC and Cromarcky escalate into a duel, in which case the duel plays out as above).
If the PCs can bring Gaston to Friendly, he no longer sees the PCs as threats or beneath his notice, but as potential powerful allies, and promises them Riddleport's aid should they ever require it (for now, simply behind-the-scenes assistance to the Pathfinder Society, but potential other assistance later at the campaign subject to GM fiat). In addition, aside from being a drunken lout, Cromarcky causes no major upsets and stays until the end of the party, perhaps even aiding PCs in some of the other entertainments and diversions.
I might stat up Gaston given some time, but anyone who wants to take that task off my hands should feel free to do so.
Prolly a couple more coming.
Actually, let's jump to...
ENTERTAINMENTS AND DIVERSIONS
Parties such as this aren't only about food, drink, and small talk. There should be plenty of fun diversions for the PCs to engage in. Here's a few suggestions:
During the second course, Augusta suggests a contest of marksmanship. Using summon monster spells, she summons a Large air elemental for each contestant, casts faerie fire upon each to aid in visibility, and sends them out into the sky. Each elemental travels to the second range increment of that PC's preferred ranged weapon ("to keep things fair between practitioners of differing ranged weapons," Augusta says). The PC is then allowed one ranged attack, using whatever feats they possess to apply bonuses (or penalties, for showoffs) to attack rolls. Extra attacks (such as iterative attacks from BAB or feats like Rapid Shot) are prohibited and are grounds for instant disqualification.
After each successful attack that bypasses their DR, the air elementals move back an additional range increment until a PC fails an attack roll or the next retreat would take them beyond five range increments, in which case they are dismissed. The air elementals are commanded to visibly react upon each successful attack, displaying to all attendees whether the shot was successful or not. In the event that a PC's attacks deal enough damage to dismiss the elemental early, that PC is given another summoned elemental to target, starting at the next range increment.
PCs are awarded a cash reward for each range increment they successfully strike the elemental at, and the overall winner will probably be given a minor magical item of appropriate value. I'll be factoring total cash rewards for this soon, but I'm still running math here.
NOTE: If you feel an AC of 21 plus range penalties would be too easy for your group to make, or if you want to toughen up the contest, feel free to have the elementals take the total defense action. The elementals have more than 3 ranks in Acrobatics, though, so that's a net +6 bonus on their AC, meaning that a PC attempting to shoot one down at the full five range increments (not including Far Shot, distance weapons, etc.) would be aiming for an AC of 27 with a -8 penalty, if I'm doing my math right (AC 21 +6 total defense; -8 to attack roll from five range increments). Without the total defense, the numbers can still get pretty insane, but a very devoted 8th-level marksman should be able pull it off without needing to roll a natural 20. Perhaps they move out to 10 range increments, but do not use total defense (though this will screw over thrown weapon users). Feel free to play with the numbers as you see fit, aiming to make winning the whole event difficult, but not impossible.
I'll be posting up more on the weekend, methinks. Art and social duties call.
Stuff to come includes (but is not limited to) at least two more diversions, rules for yakking with Augusta, spending time with some "private entertainment", and the big finale: it's Christmas in Golarion!
Trying to clean up some of the rules I'd laid down while DRONK (read: all of them). Starting off with Gaston Cromarcky.
Gaston's interactions should read as:
Hostile- Challenges a PC to a duel, as above
Unfriendly- See above, including decking the help and/or challening a PC to a duel
Indifferent to Friendly- Stays at party, as above, including decking the help
Helpful- Offers aid, as above
During the fourth course, Augusta calls for a mock battle, asking the PCs to display their prowess, specifically re-enacting their conquests in the Lady's Light. Before this bit of entertainment, Augusta explains that the battle will be against illusory foes, allowing them to realize that what they will fight can do them no harm. Because of this, consider each PC to have automatically made their Will save vs. the illusion (unless a particular PC has in some way upset Augusta, in which case their illusory combatant is particularly real and requires a Will save to overcome; I'll break down DCs and reasons for the upset later).
As the GM, you should discuss with the PCs what they want to re-enact. Augusta prefers more "epic" fights, focusing on encounters in their notes where the battle went poorly but was overcome in some clever or heroic way. PCs might prefer encounters they handily dealt with, trying to show how powerful and impressive they are. Allow such PCs to make a Diplomacy check, based off of Augusta's current disposition; a successful check with a -5 due to Augusta's desire to "put on a good show" allows the PC to re-enact the encounter they prefer. If Augusta's disposition is currently Unfriendly or Hostile and a PC makes the check, she'll go through with the fight, but summon foes using more dangerous illusions (as described below).
Regardless of the actual threat, the PCs' bonuses and penalties will apply to the fight, so a PC with a speed penalty will move slowly, a PC with a Fortitude bonus will more easily "shrug off" poisonous attacks, etc. See below for more specifics.
Running the Fight (Simple Rules)
Each PC partaking in the mock battle can make a Bluff (to overplay their skill), Diplomacy (to honestly portray their role), Intimidate (to show off their combat prowess), or a relevant Perform check to determine how well they do in the mock combat. DCs to influence party-goers will be listed below.
PCs who have upset Augusta find themselves facing not simple illusions, but effects created via the shadow conjuration or greater shadow conjuration spell. If a PC has reduced Augusta's starting attitude to Unfriendly, they must make a DC 27 Will save to overcome the potent illusory magics Augusta throws at them; failure indicates they automatically fail their check (any damage they suffer is healed by potions in the guise of regular libations). PCs who have reduced Augusta's starting attitude to Hostile find their opponents to be created by greater shadow conjuration, requiring a DC 30 Will save to overcome; failure results in that PC being rendered unconscious during the mock battle and relocated to a guest bunk to recover (Augusta may despise this PC, but she doesn't want any deaths at her party, so such a PC is considered unconscious but stable at -1 hp).
Running the Fight (Complex Rules)
An easy way to run more complex fights is to use the Performance Combat rules in Ultimate Combat. Since the foes are illusory, PCs cannot take damage, and are immune to special abilities and other effects from their combatants (unless they're facing foes summoned by shadow conjuration; see below).
I'll jump more on to this in a bit; I've got family obligations to get to.
K, looks like more won't be forthcoming 'til after Christmas. But I DO plan on coming back for this; I think the next part will be about schmoozing with Augusta, who can provide helpful hints and information on the guests, the adventures, Thassilon, and all sorts of other goodies.