Hello SS folks =)
After nearly four years of hiatus, I've decided I want to run Savage Tide again. However, save two of my players I have a completely new group these days, and the chances of gathering up the remains of my old one - even after the coming year or so it will take to finish the Kingmaker game I'm in the middle of - are slim to none, so I've decided with the approval of the two players who remain to restart STAP from the beginning.
Unfortunately, my last group was halfway through The Lightless Depths - at level 10, and halfway through the plot - when the game I ran back in 2008 finally died out. So that's six chapters of STAP that, while some things might be different, would still be pretty repetitive to the two returning players. To keep it interesting for the people who have run through this bit before, I decided I'd use another adventure to insert new plot threads, new dungeons, new NPCs allied and enemy alike, and possibly shore up some parts of the plot. As the title suggests, I obviously decided to go with Serpent's Skull. (Skulls and Shackles was actually my first choice, given the shared pirate theme, but one of my players has expressed repeated eagerness to run that one, so I decided I wouldn't steal it from him.)
So I'd like this thread to be collective advice for merging the two. Fleshing out weak encounters in both plots, fitting things together, interweaving the various details. There's a good bit of fortune in that there's already some bit of a decent-sized snake theme in STAP - a few Yuan-Ti are encountered in early chapters, building up toward Serpents of Scuttlecove - and it doesn't take much reflavoring to paint Demogorgon as a major patron of the snake people, now even superior to Ydersius since the latter's decline. It also allows me to move STAP's plot out of Greyhawk, where I ran it previously, and into my own homebrew setting, something I'm really enjoying converting over for my current Kingmaker game.
Here's the basic ideas I have so far for plotting things out:
1. Run There Is No Honor as normal. Maybe replace some of the Lotus Dragons with Yuan-Ti.
2. Run The Bullywug Gambit as normal, up to Kraken's Cove. Have a few Yuan-Ti in the ruined Cove, to note their resistance to the Savage Tide (as blessed of Demogorgon, one of their gods, I'll be allowing them to add their Poison resistance save bonus to their saves versus Savage Fever), but at least one to show they aren't immune. Possibly change the Bullywugs/Boggards to something else. (Not Yuan-Ti though - have Harliss despise them.)
3. Mingle The Sea Wyvern's Wake with Souls for Smuggler's Shiv and possibly Racing to Ruin. As the Factions won't be a thing, RtR may need some further adjustment, but I recall SWW being the chapter that bored my players most; the only part they really enjoyed was the Sargasso. Perhaps have them get caught in Journey's End, and have Smuggler's Shiv's islands be inhabited floats within the mass? Then discovering the cannibals, instead of worshiping a Ydersian ghoul, they revere the Mother-of-All? (And yes I know the levels won't line up, but I'll be running the thing Gestalt again so I'll be adjusting everything anyway ;) )
4. Run Here There Be Monsters as written, or with the adjustments I made prior. Other than utterly grossing out everyone (including myself) with Olangru's temple, the players LOVED this chapter. I had them actually make it to Farshore, but they had gained a third ship, the Nightshark, from one of the pirate encounters and let the NPCs sail off with the Sea Wyvern, so I turned it from an escort-the-squishy-low-level-NPCs mission to a rescue-the-squishies one, which I think they enjoyed better.
5. Mingle bits of City of Seven Spears and Vaults of Madness into Tides of Dread. Replace most of the Olman ruins on the island with old Yuan-Ti stuff, or have the Yuan-Ti predate the Olmans. Tie the strange, demonic worship into the serpent theme. (Yes, my setting uses Yuan-Ti rather than Serpentfolk, so all SS's guys will become Yuan-Ti.)
6. The Lightless Depths? This is where my last group left off. They enjoyed the first parts - dealing with Emraag, the descent (even the Black Pudding, which scared the daylights out of the Barbarian and Cavalier), the Mongrelfolk village. But once they got to Golismorga, despite having tons of fun with the Lovecraftian flavor (which I am VERY loathe to lose, otherwise I'd simply just replace the whole chapter with The Thousand Fangs Below), they seemed really frustrated about the railroady nature of it, especially when we got to Tlaloc's Tear, which was the very last thing that happened in my prior play-through: they were already wary of the aboleth-disguised-as-trog-ghost's advice, and thus unanimously decided not to smash the Tear and flood the undercity. Advice would be very welcome.
7. Really play up the snake themes in Serpents of Scuttlecove, possibly integrating parts of The Thousand Fangs Below not used in Chapter 6. This chapter is probably one of the stronger ones for the purpose of tying these two together, but I never got to run it myself so I can't say how well the adventure itself holds up. I also want to tie the Lemorian Half-Fiends to the Yuan-Ti somehow: in my setting, Yuan-Ti have a process they call Petitioning where, after performing rituals for some time (involving consuming certain meats, being subjected to venom via injection and ingestion, wearing the shed skin of a Yuan-Ti, various ritual activities, etc.) they can transform another humanoid into a new Yuan-Ti, usually a pureblood but on rarer occasions a Halfblood, Abomnination, or even Anathema. I'd like the Lemorians to be a specialized variant of this ritual, used by the Demogorgon-worshiping portion of the serpentfolk.
8+. Beyond...? No real concrete ideas for the later points in the story. Adding Sanctum of the Serpent God to Wells of Darkness somehow is really the only solid idea I had thus far: WoD was frequently viewed as the weakest STAP adventure, so it seemed like the best place to stick Ydersius (or whatever I convert him to) so that he'd be able to have his moment without upstaging Demogorgon.
Any advice would be appreciated! I also posted this over in the STAP forum, so hoping to get input from both sets of players and GMs in the long meantime between now and when I actually begin running this again. Greatly looking forward to it, and would like to use all that time to make these two plots work together as well as possible. =)
|Ross Byers Assistant Software Developer|
Do not forget there is tons of things you could do with monsters like Burbalarg and Xiureksor - they could be cult leaders as well and perhaps linked to the yuan-ti in some way.
From Into the maw onwards you could probably run Savage Tide as written. Though it is a nice option to let defeated opponents recur as petitioners (or something else) in the abyss to keep the connection with the previous adventures.
And what about making Burbalarg, Xiureksor, etc. fiendish creatures or half-fiends?
As for the lightless depths: they do not have to destroy the tear, it is only one option. If you want to make it less railroady, just introduce another high-level creature with a totally different agenda, who manipulates the group in another direction altogether, so that they have to choose.
I think the Morlocks and those fiendish things with no eyes and huge mouths whose name I cannot remember right now, in Thousand Fangs Below, might be two such factions. A long-time stalemate between the two of them and the aboleth, thrown into new activity with the return of the Yuan-Ti to the island ruins?
I do like making the Infamous Seven creatures of worship and tying them to the Yuan-Ti somehow. Totem spirits for ancient serpentine shamanry, things like that, maybe?
So, I'm looking at City of Seven Spears, and the reviews are pretty universally poor. Ditto for the vast majority of comments on it in the SS forum. Is there anything in this chapter that makes it worth picking up and integrating, or would it be better to simply not spend my money on that chapter and just get the other two I haven't yet purchased? I have Chapters 1, 2, and 5, and will be picking up 4 and 6, but the lackluster commentary make spending extra cash on Chapter 3 questionable.