Slumbering Tsar - How Far and How Deadly


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How far has your group managed to get into Slumbering Tsar and how much player death are you experiencing?

Just curious to see how folks are making out.

Cheers,
Geo


My group just went into the city for the first time. So far there has only been one permanent death (although entering Tsar nearly wiped out the party thanks to the tar pits ;) ).

As a GM, I'm having a blast running it.


We are nearing the end of the desolation so they haven't made it too far. Up til now 2 player deaths and 2 turned to stone. Luckily the 2nd was by a basilisk so they were able to use the blood to stone to flesh both victims. A lot more close calls. Not quite as deadly as RA so far.


We never made it into the city but explored most of the desolation with only one permanent death. 20 pt buy, party of 5. No fudged DM rolls but some merciful DM'ing in the form of extra hero points and a loose interpretation of the chase and pursuit rules that makes running away viable.


Whut's a hero point (lol)? If they defeat the minions of Orcus and survive then they will be heroes. But they do have badges<G>!


So out of curiosity, how did you keep your players in the Desolation? Most of mine would just want to go straight to Tsar.


I only gave them the map for the desolation to work from most of the time. They have the full map somewhere but seem to have lost it! Besides, I killed most of their horses so they are not on foot and a bone storm here, an encounter there keeps them from straying too far. Besides, barely escaping a TPK twice, I think they are reluctant to get too brave! They certainly have no love for rangers at this point though<G>!


I kept mine in the Desolation by hinting that there might be artifacts left over from the Army of Light that could help their quest.

The base premise we used for our campaign was that a wealthy merchant in Bard's Gate hired the party to eliminate the dangers of the area so that merchant caravans could once again get through the area safely.


brvheart wrote:
Whut's a hero point (lol)? If they defeat the minions of Orcus and survive then they will be heroes. But they do have badges<G>!

I'm not 100% sure but I think hero points were a concept from 4e (but they called them action points) and they are called hero points in pathfinder, I Think. In the APG. When I run stuff like Slumbering Tsar and Rappan Athuk I give out 1/level. They let you take an extra action or add + 4 to a roll you missed, or a couple other things.


I know what they are Grimmy:) I just don't use them and prescribe to the concept that characters are not heroes until they do something to deserve such. I use the RA Libram of Fortunate and Unfortunate Circumstance Cards instead and allow the players the option to take one on an occasional basis like when they accomplish something substantial as a group. As 1/3 are Unfortunate I allow the players the option NOT to take one. So far no one has got one of the "Un" cards, oh well. However I use an array of stats that comes out to a much higher point buy so they are well rounded characters and have a better chance at survival as their lowest stat is a 10 unadjusted (16-16-14-14-12-10). I figure this more than makes up for the lack of "hero" points. For S&S and RC I am doing a 25 point buy.

As for the premise, the party was hired by the Temple of Muir in Bard's Gate to clear out the area north of the camp and were given Letters of Marque to do so. They ran into the ambassador in the camp and he assigned them to find the whereabouts of the missing caravan also. Most of the group went through RA from levels 1-6 and then started ST as it was a larger party than normal. They are now almost 8th. The player that had his character stoned got to play Argos and got him stoned also! Now he plays him as an NPC also. This gives us a character for new people that don't have one. He really likes Argos which is a little strange as he has been one of the more chaotic members of our group prior to playing his Inquisitor.


It sounds like everyone is having a good time with ST. My group is large and I use a system similar to brvheart's so the ability scores are pretty high. I also stay away from hero points but I might build on brvheart's "you are not heros yet" idea and provide them as a boon from their patron deities for their displays of faith and resolve. (I've been trying to think of ways to make Gods be more than 'that guy the Cleric knows'.)

It's difficult to imagine horses surviving very long in the Desolation with all the storms & hungry critters.

My intent is to run ST as a school of hard knocks. Nothing malicious but no punches pulled either. I am expecting that it will be quite the change from AP's where the encounters are tailored to the expected party level. It is good to hear that ST isn't completely fatal.


The party definitely has had a hard time keeping horses alive in the desolation. At last count they were down to 1 horse and a mule to pull their light wagon!

In 1E I always had the deities actively involved in the parties activities so I like your ideas there Geo Fix.

We have a new player starting next week that is going to take over Argos. He has been playing in the RA campaign already.


I do use hero points, but the party just burned through theirs at the tar pits. They may have 1 hero point left among the entire party. :)

I did not pull any punches in the desolation.

One character was killed and another was (essentially) kidnapped. The party does not know of the kidnapped one's fate.


Oh, ok. Derp. Totally missed the sarcasm brvheart! Anyway heropoints works good for me. My players seem to appreciate them and I think I get more attached to their characters then they do anyway! I like the whole "zero to hero" aspect of DnD a lot more then new amazing kitted out superheroes showing up all the time out of nowhere.
So in that way I am not a killer DM. But I never fudge the dice, even though I seem to crit often.


YMMV on them I guess. I have never seen the need in my campaign. If the character dies, it dies. I have had players get two characters killed in a short period of time because they were not careful and quit the game. Other times there are no deaths for many months. I find most character deaths as self inflicted with a few exceptions for bad die rolls. What was worse, the time of the highest death rate 11 in 3 months, we had 3 clerics in the party so it was not like there wasn't plenty of healing available. They just got fool hardy. The players causing the deaths left and it has settled down to where walking across the street is more dangerous than the dungeons for fatalities! In the last 4 months I think I have had 2 deaths in 4 campaigns. Some times my dice get hot, some times they get cold. It usually balances out over the long run.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I ran Tsar for a group of 6 characters just after I got my hard copy last year. I had as many as 12 deaths in the Desolation and 6 or 7 deaths in the lower level of Tsar before we had a TPK on the middle level. The party only managed to locate 2 statues but had mainly cleared the desolation and most of the Grunge. It was a blast and all the players want to try again later, when its my turn to DM again, but I think we will take a break and try again after something else in between as it is still fresh in their minds. They all want to know what else was lurking in the city, as well as the lost citadel.


That's a lot of mortality Superlurker.

What (in your opinion) was it that resulted in so many deaths?


I think a big party works well too. 5 is better then 4.


I have been running 6 and have had only 2 deaths.


Hey Brvheart? What level are your players now? How long does each combat round take with that many players?

I played in a group of 6 one time in a mid-level game, and in one round one of the players had time to go beer and come back before he was up again. (That was an extreme case and not the norm for the group (10-15 mins a round was the norm), but that game didn't last much longer....)


They are currently turning level 8. I don't time them, but they could take as long as 10-15 minutes. I know we had 3 combats in 3 hours on Saturday and some time in between. 6-8 players generally is a norm for our games and they are not too slow unless my wife is dming, then I can run out for lunch in between! Have tried to have smaller groups, but then people complain and we have to rebuild the party. We have a core group of 4-6 players and a turn over of others that come in for a game or two.


I was able to participate in the original playtest and can say that in completing Slumbering Tsar, two players were able to keep their original characters alive the entire campaign. The rest of us? Easily 2-3 deaths each. One guy had 4 or 5 characters die if I remember correctly.


Yesterday was our ST game and with a lot of exploration of the Chaos Rift they still got into 3 combats in around 4 hours with 4 players (light turnout). I can easily see how this could get very deadly especially if the party is not very diligent. They are about to go up against the gargoyle lair and it they don't handle it right it could be a TPK.


I've been running Tsar weekly (5-6 hour sessions) for the last year. My PCs are in the 15-16th level range. We've only got one death and that's recent. Currently I'm running a side-quest to get the PCs access to miracle to try to bring the dead guy back.

Basically if you know the spell system and use things like rope trick and wind walk the desolation becomes pretty tame. It doesn't take very long with the insanely frequent random encounters to level up to 9th and then things like teleport come into play.

The party has cleaned out about two thirds of the main city, which puts us almost to the halfway mark, page-count-wise. Another year, maybe year and a half and we'll be done.


I guess that depends on how often one is actually rolling for random encounters. While I know it states every three hours or whenever combat lasts more than 3 rounds I generally have only rolled it 3-5 times a day. Travelling even by foot doesn't take THAT long with each square being 2000 ft. At 16 miles a day that means they can traverse 42 a day which is over the length of each 1/4 map. I was never fond of rope trick and wind walk with all the flying demons is rather dangerous. Image if you will you are your average Nabasu Demon and you run across a rope dangling in the middle of the desolation. Now either you are going to camp out underneath it or summon a few Basaus and have them climb the rope and deal with what is at the other end of the rope!


I think karma comes into it too. One of my players showed me the character he was planning on starting with: 7th level ranger, 34 hp.

I don't what he did in that past life but it must have been bad.


brvheart wrote:
Yesterday was our ST game and with a lot of exploration of the Chaos Rift they still got into 3 combats in around 4 hours with 4 players (light turnout). I can easily see how this could get very deadly especially if the party is not very diligent. They are about to go up against the gargoyle lair and it they don't handle it right it could be a TPK.

Hello brvheart,

My group is just about to go up against the gargoyle lair - how did your group make out?

Cheers,
Geo Fix


They went up against the Margoyles first and since they are set to go into combat piecemeal they party easily defeated them. It was more of a challenge against the spitting gargoyles but they were dying too quickly to not call for parley.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Geo Fix wrote:

That's a lot of mortality Superlurker.

What (in your opinion) was it that resulted in so many deaths?

Sorry it took so long for me to respond Geo, I have had computer issues most of the summer. I think the mortality rate is pretty normal from what I've come to expect from Frog God Games modules over the years. As a DM I like to play my intelligent monsters to their strengths and the encounters in Tsar were challenging for my PC's. I will list some of the deaths that I remember for you.

***************************Spoilers***********************************

Spoiler:
The first death came in the encounter with the spider guy in the tomb, as he used his spells like cloudkill and his beads of force to blind and separate the cleric from the others and then liberal use of fire ball to kill 2 pc's separated from their primary healer. Another occurred at the black dragon corpse from that nasty bug swarm, as the paladin was unable to run away from it, and the rest of the party fled in all different directions. The mother spider in the pit ate a scout and dropped another with her poison bite and some good damage rolls. The shadow bear in the burial mound got off a critical hit on a full attack and strength drained a ninja to 0 and he rose up in 1 round to attack the party. The druid ran away further down the tunnel and was ripped in 2 by the worms in the walls. The ranger was petrified multiple times in the desolation by the many basilisks, and was smashed to pieces by Old Death. The sorcerer was killed by sneak damage from the strange apparition at the waterfall in the chaos rift as he flew up to investigate the source by himself. 2 other party members climbed the black pillars at night and were crushed by the Glabrezu they met at the top. The druid was sacrificed to the evil tree in the grove while the rest of the party was set upon by the dire tigers and the sentient trees. The hydra ambushed the ninja as she was peeking over the edge of the bridge. The tar dragon ate the paladin while his sacrifice gave the rest of the party time to escape and regroup. In the city deaths occurred in the theatre of blood, the swamp ooze with the mummies, the storm giant ghast, the forge beast in the dark forge, the black skeletons in the guard house, the wrack dragon in the rubble, the hags in the red house with the fire giants and the gnoll village, and the hezrou in the tunnel with the spinning trap . The crushing block trap killed 2 as I recall and the Iron devil and the general killed 2 also while they were trying to collect statues. The party wipe occurred in combat with the tentacled horror under the missing river as more than half the party rolled terrible will saves vs confusion and ended up slaying half of their own party members while the horror and the leach thing finished of the rest.

I guess the majority of the deaths occurred due to party separation and good monster tactics with a healthy dose of poor saving throws thrown in. The awesome part is that they are game to try it again at a later date after some time off to forget. I love the challenging encounters Greg dreams up and I do my best to do them justice, making the encounters as challenging and lethal as they were intended.


Thanks for the update Superlurker. Most of the mortality you are listing comes from encounters that my group hasn't run into yet.

The closest the party I'm came to deaths was with the Hill Giant, the Hydra and their first Bone Storm. They have had party members go negative in each of those cases but the party has done a very good job of sticking together and they have 3 characters with some healing ability.

brvheart,

I'm curious to see how my group makes out - I think this is goign to be an encounter where the luck of the roll can make a big difference.

Cheers,
Geo Fix


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

How did your group fare against the Battlehulk?

DR15/adamantine
Immune to almost everything
SR20 in case he's not immune
Pretty much guaranteed to hit you with a +38 for a minimum of 24 damage, average of 40 per hit...

And he chases the players unless they fly away, go invisible or climb the mountains

I was reading that section last night and my face went... o_0.


My players are still in the Rifts so they have yet to encounter them. They had Argos with them, but he just died last session so that option is now gone for him to deal with them. I threw an adult blue into the section with Old Death as they had defeated Death and wanted something more to challenge them there besides just the derro. They knocked her down to less than half hp so it back off and will flee if they return.


So what are the thoughts on incorporating Mythic into ST to help survivability of the group? (Still haven't figured out if I like Mythic or not)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

I had a PC carry a bag of holding into a portable hole trap...it didnt end so well. Actually, it didn't end badly either, the character was a paladin so I used the opportunity to go through some astral plane things I had needed to do with that character and then his god resurrected him. So he died, but his 2 hero points and DM fiat saved him.


Mythic, hero points. We playing D&D or Candyland here?


brvheart wrote:
Mythic, hero points. We playing D&D or Candyland here?

Hey! Don't be talking bad about Candyland now.....I make a lot of money playing that game after a night of libations....


As a GM running 6 PCs through ST now, I will NOT be including mythic rules. The PCs are doing just fine without mythic (they are 12th level now and just started exploring Tsar itself), so incorporating it would be a mistake, IMO.

However, if you have a smaller party (4 or less), then using mythic may be an option as opposed to adding PCs.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

brvheart wrote:
Mythic, hero points. We playing D&D or Candyland here?

Well, 25 pt buy sounds pretty Candyland to me, but I think we can agree that you play your way and I'll play mine and we'll have fun doing it. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Curmudgeonly wrote:

How did your group fare against the Battlehulk?

DR15/adamantine
Immune to almost everything
SR20 in case he's not immune
Pretty much guaranteed to hit you with a +38 for a minimum of 24 damage, average of 40 per hit...

And he chases the players unless they fly away, go invisible or climb the mountains

I was reading that section last night and my face went... o_0.

I do remember that they defeated him but I can't remember the specifics. I think his poor maneuverability did him in as I recall but he scared the pants of the party when they saw him crest a swell in the waste and charged down the hill towards them. I was smiling when 2 guys suggested digging in the rubble outside Tsar, but the others outvoted them.


I'm looking forward to the battlehulk - the party will have to be creative to defeat it because they can't out fight it.

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