Why Charau-Ka? [Minor spoilers]


Serpent's Skull


So, if you've seen my other thread here, I really dislike Race to Ruin in general, but I'm going to run my own version of it, taking the encounters I like, but otherwise opening it up quite a bit more and tying things together more.

I'm going to let the PCs make their own path, and play up the tribal tumult a lot more.

So, anyway, I still want to end the chapter with Tazion, but I kind of feel like the Charau-ka are, well, ridiculous.

Is there a reason they went with monkey men rather than, uh, actual men other than: "this is D&D, so everything has to be weird?" They don't even seem to have their "standard culture," (/sigh, why do monkey people have a standard culture?) since they randomly worship Ydersius for some reason.

Is there some important function they fill that I missed? Possibly in a later book?

Would I be ruining Tazion in some way if I just put Mwangi tribesman there? Possibly Mzali, since the tiny blips of information we get about them is pretty interesting? I just have a really hard time taking small monkey people serious, especially when they "throw anything" super well and have a "shrieking fury" or whatever nonsense.


The charau-ka are like orcs of the south: they are a rampaging ravaging savage horde, destroying everything in their path. Have you read the article about the charau-ka in one of the AP modules? I think it's in the third part (which is a little misplaced). They are simple in concept and no PC is likely to have any inner conflict to kill them on sight. Pure evil.

If you swap them out for human men, it might happen that the PCs have some sympathy for those poor mwangi that have fallen under the sway of a false religion. A lot of players and GMs have shared their experience of the fight in Eleder (the whaling company) completely derailing the plot, turning it into a "free the slaves" story. This is of course absolutely fine, but you should be prepared for that.

Also, monkeys are kind of a recurring theme as they show up in one of the districts of Saventh-Yhi in force and the most famous monkey-man also has a cameo.

TL;DR: If you don't like monkey-men, swap them out. But be prepared for possible derailment of the main plot.


I haven't read part three yet--we just had session 1 of Smuggler's Shiv last night. That is kind of odd that they'd put something about the Charau-ka an entire book later than they actually show up.

Anyway, considering part of my goal is to remove the rails entirely, risking a "derail" sounds like a good thing to me.

My party is unlikley to want to free the slaves or take pity on fallen tribesmen, however. One of them, for example, is an Inquisitor of Abadar, who believes civilizing a savage area is best done by just bringing civilized people there rather than bothering to "civilize" the locals, whom he looks down upon.


If I remember correctly, in those days they published an article about a god in every part 2 and 4 of the AP. So module two had the article about Gozreh and the Eleder gazeteer (IIRC) and the charau-ka stuff was moved to part 3. I'd recommend checking that article out before you put time and effort into removing the ape-men, maybe it'll put them into a different perspective.

But as I said, I see no harm in swapping them out.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

The story element that you need to preserve revolves around Issilar. He's born and raised in Saventh-Yhi, and left the city to recruit a force with the intention to return to the city and retake the serpentfolk tribe there from Akarundo. He settled on the charau-ka of Tazion because they're all he could find, but he knows they're not a strong enough force yet to take out Akarundo so he's trying to do better.

There's also a hint that the charau-ka of Tazion are the method by which the Gorilla King learns of Saventh-Yhi, which is why he shows up with an army of charau-ka in chapter four. If you're keeping that encounter, just make sure that there's some other way for him to learn about the ruined city.


tbug wrote:

The story element that you need to preserve revolves around Issilar. He's born and raised in Saventh-Yhi, and left the city to recruit a force with the intention to return to the city and retake the serpentfolk tribe there from Akarundo. He settled on the charau-ka of Tazion because they're all he could find, but he knows they're not a strong enough force yet to take out Akarundo so he's trying to do better.

There's also a hint that the charau-ka of Tazion are the method by which the Gorilla King learns of Saventh-Yhi, which is why he shows up with an army of charau-ka in chapter four. If you're keeping that encounter, just make sure that there's some other way for him to learn about the ruined city.

What the hell happens in later chapters of this AP?!

I mean, seriously, a Gorilla King? What the crap is that? And Issilar was born and raised in the city he's trying to use Tazion to find? Huh?

Actually, I am expecting Yarzoth to survive (I just don't see how she would let the PCs kill her), so I was intending to use her in place of Issilar. I mean, if they do manage to kill Yarzoth somehow, obviously, I need a back up plan and Issilar is it, but at base, she can fill the role. In fact, I find the "rival faction" thing (and the fact that there are factions at all) to be kind of weak, so I was thinking Yarzoth would be the rival they're "racing to the ruins."

Maybe I should just run the Shiv like I'm doing and read the rest of the AP in its entirety before deciding what to do with Book 2...


You will want to read the whole Adventure path before getting too far into it, it will help zoo much, also hope you like making your own maps of buildings in lost cities (book 3 has exactly two maps, one of the city and another of the entrance thats it)


captain yesterday wrote:
You will want to read the whole Adventure path before getting too far into it, it will help zoo much, also hope you like making your own maps of buildings in lost cities (book 3 has exactly two maps, one of the city and another of the entrance thats it)

I don't really use maps anyway :P


Or maybe you should consider to run something else entirely after module one. I don't intend to be snippy, but so far you have expressed distaste of almost every element of the rest of the path (charau-ka, gorilla king, serpentfolk uprising). Maybe this "weird africa" kind of theme is not what you're looking for as a whole?


Nullpunkt wrote:
Or maybe you should consider to run something else entirely after module one. I don't intend to be snippy, but so far you have expressed distaste of almost every element of the rest of the path (charau-ka, gorilla king, serpentfolk uprising). Maybe this "weird africa" kind of theme is not what you're looking for as a whole?

Right?, a lot of complaining but doesn't seem to want any solutions. my advice, try a different adventure path, maybe one that doesn't get him all worked up


As much as I don't like the AP after book 1 (great idead but so much potential lost :( ) I do feel the OP has not actualty read the whole ap or any background to the area at all. If he had he would have actaully known the Gorilla King has his court in the Mwangi expanse (inner sea guide and heart of the jungle both mention this). How he expects to run the AP properly if he's not read it i don't know...

As for the Charau-Ka, read the info in book 2. I see them as kind of monkey like Goblins, evil little things. I think they are pretty damn good to be honest. Im using them on a islands in the Shackles.

I think you need to read the whole thing especally book 3 and the relevent background books then decide. But judging by you're comments so far as Nullpunkt says I would run something else as you obvously don't seem to be enjoying it.

Maybe a better idea might be for you to us it as a framework and build you're own adventure from it? The city is REALLY underdeveloped so you may need to do extra work anyway


When I picked up Souls for Smuggler's Shiv, I was instantly grabbed. I like everything in it. I love the idea of an Indiana Jones adventure in fantasy Africa. I love the political situation in Sargava and the Mwangi people (especially the Mzali thing). I love the Serpentfolk in general and the lure of Yarzoth finding an ancient lost city.

I do not love railroads. I do not love false choices. I do not love silliness (monkey people with a racial bonus to throwing "anything" and shrieking frenzies, gorilla kings, etc.).

I have flat out stated I didn't read the entire AP. I thought each book was self-contained enough that I wouldn't need to be more than one book ahead. I've never run a module before, and after Smuggler's Shiv, everything is so far removed from the way I run things, it's been......quite an experience.

I want the story I thought I was getting. I want the PCs to be shipwrecked by a Serpentfolk trying to uncover ancient dark stuff. I want the PCs to pick up the trail to get revenge on her and stop the ancient dark stuff from being uncovered. I want them to travel through a savage land full of political unrest and actually interact with the situation rather than finding random monkey dudes for no reason instead. I want them to find the city, fight some serpentfolk, and put down the evil. If I can't get that with the AP, I really will just do my own thing.


You get all that but it the story doesn't really pick up speed before book 5. If you're looking for a dense storyline with the PCs unraveling part of it with each session, you should definitely look at another AP or get ready for some serious work. Again, this is not supposed to be rude or to sound offended, but this AP might just not be what you expect.

I would also recommend to read an entire AP once before you get in too deep. There are quite a few links between the book that you might miss or mess up if you don't know what's to come. This is true for APs in general, I think. You have probably noticed the Adventure Summary section in the beginning of the book. It's a good place to start if you don't have the time or patience to read everything in detail and will provide you with enough information to be able to allude to future or events or recognize plot elements.

The railroading of book 2 is an intermission and book 3 is a giant sandbox and heavily depends on how much time you invest in it. The fourth book is a series of dungeon crawls but some people have combined book 3 and 4 to a kind of mega-sandbox, you can read how that turned out around here.

As you said you like the general theme, I think that your best bet would be to read the entire AP, pick the elements you like and mix and match with stuff of your own creation.

Vanilla Serpent's Skull however really doesn't seem to be your thing.


mplindustries wrote:
I want them to find the city, fight some serpentfolk, and put down the evil. If I can't get that with the AP, I really will just do my own thing.

This is essentially what book 3-6 is all about. Book 2 could, mostly, be replaced with anything you want that details a journey into a jungle to discover a forgotten city.

I very strongly recommend reading the entire AP through as soon as you can. Personally, I would never start an AP without having read it through at least once, preferably more than once. That will give you not only a better sense of the story as a whole as well as the motivations of the major NPCs, but also make it easier for you to remove parts you don't like or "unrailing" the plot without it hurting the overall story.


My players: "So this continent is basically fantasy Africa?"

Me: "Yea, basically"

My players: "And the most powerful entity in all of fantasy Africa is a 'Gorilla King'?

Me: "Er, yeah."

My players: "Ahhh"


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Sloanzilla wrote:

My players: "So this continent is basically fantasy Africa?"

Me: "Yea, basically"

My players: "And the most powerful entity in all of fantasy Africa is a 'Gorilla King'?

Me: "Er, yeah."

My players: "Ahhh"

... do you mind explaining the awkwardness here? I'm afraid I'm missing the 800lb Gorilla in room, so to speak.


I'm not sure how it's not awkward. If you don't think a Gorilla King is silly, I'm not sure how to make you see it. Heck, depending, it could even been seen as alternatively cliche or even racist. But no, my problem is the silliness.

In these modules I've been reading of late (In 20 years, I've never run a module, only my own stuff), it feels like the rule is: "If something could be weird, it is."

I don't get it. Why can't the king be just a powerful dude? What is gained by it being a gorilla? This is the same reason I questioned the Charau-ka. Why make them monkey people when normal people would have sufficed? Normal people would even have actually made more sense in context since they foreshadowed problems with the Mzali throughout book 2 and these Charau-ka explicitly have a different culture than their standard (worshiping Ydersius instead of whatever demons they usually like).

I don't get why these modules seem so opposed to humans with class levels as opponents--that has been the vast majority of foes my players have faced for 20 years now, and it often makes the most sense and is the least silly.

If I presented my group with a culture of monkey people, they'd die laughing and be unable to take it seriously ever again, especially after the first shrieking frenzy where they started throwing "anything!" (Hint: monkeys throw poop so they're good at throwing anything!). When it turned out there was a Gorilla King, I think the game would end in a fit of laughter and head shaking.


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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
mplindustries wrote:
I don't get why these modules seem so opposed to humans with class levels as opponents--that has been the vast majority of foes my players have faced for 20 years now...

I think that's the answer. Some groups, such as yours, have a lot of fun facing the same kinds of foes over and over again, while others prefer variety. Almost every kind of Earth animal seems to get made into RPG monsters in D&D/PFRPG, and when it came time for gorillas/monkeys to get that make-over, they ended up in Garund rather than someplace with fewer apes. They're still not as silly as, say, owlbears.

The game we play is fully of pretty silly stuff, if you start looking at it hard enough. If your group can ignore some silliness but not this stuff, definitely switch it out.


The Gorilla King, by the way, actually is a human with class levels. Of course, he was reincarnated into a gorilla :)

As tbug says, definitely switch them out if they wouldn't work for your group. The modules shouldn't be considered a straitjacket. Every DM should change them up as he/she sees fit to match their playstyle and their group.


tbug wrote:
I think that's the answer. Some groups, such as yours, have a lot of fun facing the same kinds of foes over and over again, while others prefer variety. Almost every kind of Earth animal seems to get made into RPG monsters in D&D/PFRPG, and when it came time for gorillas/monkeys to get that make-over, they ended up in Garund rather than someplace with fewer apes. They're still not as silly as, say, owlbears.

I wouldn't say they're the same kind of enemies--they're all different classes and stuff, usually.

I'm also big on giving actual animals class levels, to represent important or legendary ones. In a Meso-American inspired game, they once faced off with Smoke Paws, a jaguar that haunted the local jungle and terrified the locals with its penchant for killing man--it had levels in Ranger with favored enemy Human, of course.

But yeah, the fantastic stuff tends to come in two flavors: awesome and silly. Owlbears are mostly silly (though I used one once, mostly as an allusion to classic D&D, in the lab of a crazed mad scientist type who literally stitched a giant owl and a bear together into an undead monstrosity).

So, I'll occasionally use something like a Dragon, Demon, or whatever, but the vast majority of my games involve just humanoids (including giants), animals, and undead versions of those two things.

Dark servitude wrote:
The game we play is fully of pretty silly stuff, if you start looking at it hard enough. If your group can ignore some silliness but not this stuff, definitely switch it out.

We really can't ignore any of the silliness, so we cut most of it out.


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

I think you should run the first episode of the AP and then do your own thing.

FWIW, the AP instalments should be viewed as parts of a whole. I'd never run one without having read all six and this is pretty common advice. I think you've read the first instalment and then extrapolated where you think it's going to go - the expectation gap is always going to be hard to bridge, I suspect.


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Alright, before you get worked up about the Gorilla King, you should actually know what he is. He's not just some gorilla with a crown.

Spoiler:

The Gorilla King, or Silverback King, is the title of the feral monarch of the city of Usaro in the Mwangi Expanse. It is believed that since the founding of the city many centuries ago the King has always been a gorilla, magically awakened into sentience to become the most honoured of Angazhan's servants in Golarion.

In fact, the truth is even more sinister.

Those who consider themselves worthy of the office must make their way to the top of the pyramid-shaped palace at the heart of dread Usaro. There they must touch Anghazhan’s totem, a granite representation of the head of a demonic ape. This feat is traditionally only achieved after stepping over the dead body of the current incumbent; it is not clear what would happen if a more worthy candidate presented himself to the totem while the current Gorilla King is still alive.

It appears that the qualities Anghazan favours are strength, charisma and ruthlessness. Unworthy applicants are ripped to pieces, some say by the hand of Angazhan himself. A worthy applicant is also slain – only to be immediately reincarnated into the body of a great ape, with the intelligence, skills and abilities he possessed in life now allied with immense physical strength and toughness.

The current holder of the title is a previously-human dire ape called Ruthazek.

Basically, Angazhan is the demon lord that represents the "dark heart of the jungle" in Mwangi. His servants have always been evil ape and ape like creatures. THAT's the reason Charau-Ka and the Gorilla King are involved. The Gorilla King is the embodiment of savagery so vile that the people that become it are willing to destroy themselves and prey on their former people for power. There is a strong theme of cannibalism and inhuman violence that I don't think they did justice in racing to ruin.


to answer your question, yes, a couple of my players felt having "Africa's" most powerful sentient creature be a gorilla (human turned into a gorilla or not) leaned a little bit racist.

Don't really feel like defending or explaining their opinion, but I can at least kind of see where they are coming from.


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How is something not more awesome if it's a gorilla? A 600 lb gorilla is way more intimidating than a 300 lb man. Especially if it's decked out in half-plate and is wielding a falchion.

And charau-ka make a lot more sense if you consider the backstory with Angazhan, which is the demon lord of savagery and brute strength and happens to look like a massive ape creature. Demon apes exist in African mythology, and as Pathfinder pulls heavily from myths and legends, this is just another example. The Mwangi Expanse is meant to be an inhospitable and alien environment. The charau-ka represent a peoples savage and dangerous, and are far more effective in this regard than orcs, goblins, kobolds, or ogres, which would be too familiar in a land that supposed to be shrouded in mystery.

A lot of things in Pathfinder are silly. But if you've not got a problem with the tengu, plant people, snake people, and a bloody chupacabra, I am confused why monkey-men are so silly, since monkeys aren't weird, and unlike bird men and snake men, they look pretty much like monkeys, except intelligent.

Have you seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Serious business.

Liberty's Edge

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Yeah...

Except the Gorilla king isn't the most powerful being in Garund. Not by a long shot.

Geb, Arazni, The Pactmasters, the rulers of Mzali, the rulers of Nantambu (or, rather the head of the Magaambya), not to mention most of the named NPCs in the last two modules. I'm sure there's also plenty of other things not even mentioned yet, especially since at least half of Garund is covered in a bare handful of paragraphs.

Ruthazek is only a 14th level fighter fer cripes' sake.


Responses:
mplindustries wrote:
I'm not sure how it's not awkward. If you don't think a Gorilla King is silly, I'm not sure how to make you see it. Heck, depending, it could even been seen as alternatively cliche or even racist. But no, my problem is the silliness.

First: I'm not trying to start anything. I'm just really curious about how this is a terrible thing. That said, I'll tackle a few points here, because, honestly, I want people to be able to enjoy stuff, and if this helps, well, that's great.

Cliche: I've never personally heard of a Gorilla ruling a massive semi-mobile country mandated by a demon lord managing to completely tear apart an invading army of exploration with better technology, stealing the better technology, and then sitting on it forever, while increasing his hold over the jungle. The only "cliche" thing I can find here is the vague allusion to simian rulers over simian races, which, really, is kind of an untapped resource as far as storytelling goes. We're not really tired of stories of human(oid) kings and rulers, but simian being cliche? Only in the broadest of senses.

Racist: Only if you accept that a Gold Dragon seeking to make a perfect/enlightened human (non-)ethnicity being the most powerful (known) active individual being in the fantasy-analogue of Europe racist as well. What Krensky and Glutton said apply even more-so than my own point, but I figured I'd point that out. Honestly, the fact that there are creatures that are substantially more powerful than most human rulers doesn't bother me, regardless of the racial/ethnic anything.

Silly: DUDE IT'S A FRIGGIN' SILVERBACK GORILLA IN PLATE ARMOR WITH A MASSIVE POLEARM: THIS IS AWESOME. Presuming that it's "silly" by dismissing it off-hand is looking at it only on the surface-level (and, in fact, can be applied to literally any character or archetype). This, however, is heavily modified by personal views, preference, and the like. I didn't find Ruthazek silly - I found him cool and interesting. We're not talking King Louie, we're talking about a cunning, ruthless, powerful creature with substantially greater natural strength and abilities than humans, and literally willing to sacrifice anything and everything - his soul and even physical self - for power and authority. This is a creepy, strange, nearly-alien mind, the perfect kind of sociopath. It depends entirely on how you spin it.

Sloanzilla wrote:

to answer your question, yes, a couple of my players felt having "Africa's" most powerful sentient creature be a gorilla (human turned into a gorilla or not) leaned a little bit racist.

Don't really feel like defending or explaining their opinion, but I can at least kind of see where they are coming from.

I've heard this before. It may be due to some racial slur I'm purposefully ignorant of (I attempt to avoid such language, if I can, because I'm uninterested in being insulted or insulting others), or something else, but I honestly don't see it. I mean absolutely no offense with this - I honestly don't see the connection between talking about Gorillas and talking about human ethnicity. Regardless of the racial elements, humans are consistently outclassed by powerful creatures (usually with animal-features) in every location on the planet.

Avistan: reptilian dragons, piscene aboleths, and other monstrous foes based on European cultures and myths. Also snake-people.

Garund: obviously Ruthazek, but also ants, and, other than that (and some extremely alien creatures and snake-people) I'm not really finding much in the animal-greater-than-man.

Tian-Xia: fox-folk, spider-folk, reptilian dragons (again) and a few nods at some of the Avistani animal-based monsters... and that's about it.

Vudra: rakshasa pretty much cover this trope in every way.

In any event, as others have said: if you don't like Charau-Ka, replace them. There's no real need for them, but after playing this thing myself (and getting stalled out within episode five) I'm going to say it's got a lot of great things, but it's a hard road after the first adventure to hook your people, and will require a lot of work. This would have been an amazing AP if it was decentralized a bit: if AP 2 had it's overland elements made more compelling, if AP 3 had more drive, and if AP 4 was blended with AP 3, I think it would have been much better, over-all. AP 1 was great, though.


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My players thought the Charau-ka were silly too, until they kept moving and pelting them with rocks, hiding and setting up ambushes. As for why them and not humans? I just let the pc's learn that the Charau-Ka flourished in the deeper parts of the jungle, where men had seldom gone, like the parts of the jungle that they were now exploring to find Saventh-Yhi.

The Charau-Ka are only going to be silly, if you portray them that way. If you portray them as ruthless, smart adversaries that start beating the crap out of your players with thrown weapons, they stop laughing.

They haven't met the Gorilla King yet, but I'm fully expecting that when they see him, the overwhelming feeling is going to be OH S**T! because of the way the Charau-Ka are being portrayed. Because anyone that can rule them is going to be a solid match for the players.

Anything can be made to be not silly if portrayed right. It's all in how you play them. Just ask any of my old players how they enjoyed the pixie/sprite/brownie adventures they played in... I played them as old school fae, and by the time the game was over, the PCs were scared of them.

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