The Slumbering Tsar - Starting, DM Set up, Questions, and Advice

Advice and Rules Questions

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@chaoseffect -

As far as my timeline the one of the major flaws is the timeline for Sir Martimus, which is my point of reference for when Tsar fell, but it should be within about 50 years correct, its rough, but usable.

Background section - I might add into the region description a History, Local, Arcana, Geography, Nature check DC 15 (or so) to hear rumors that not only is there bad weather but it's supernaturally bad. Depends if you are ramping up the weather rules, but the Acid Rain, Flash Floods (in the Rift), and Bonestorms are nasty. I'd be surprised to see a group make it through without the Tiny Hut spell.

Background Section - Sounds like this is being presented to the players I'd also mention something about the search for historical artifacts to uncover the mysterious events of the war. Some people just like uncovering history and its a great way to move plot.

History - The war only lasted one year, but whatever works for you! I seem to remember finding a note about 140,000 soldiers in the army of light, but that may be too much info. The Great Retreat is portrayed as an Odyssey type epic, something bards should know and want to know much more about, "General Zelkor's army of light".

Side Mission -

Merciless Justice - Remember paladin's can't torture or be cruel, it might derail some things if a paladin starts seeing people suffering. Justice is swift not agonizing. Generally good characters might have trouble working for cruel people, but you can use whatever shades of grey work for you. I'm pretty lenient with most of all that.

Hook - As bad as the Camp is, I'd try not to pit the players against it. The Usurer will definitely wipe a party if they give him any lip and if they happen to win the first time, he'll come back over and over since there's no way to kill him really. I've run him more Lawful Neutral than Evil. Mama Grim and Father Death are nothing to balk at either. I'd just be cautious about having them attack the Camp early.

If you want the Camp to be more alive, I'd supplement it with some city encounters, I think there's a good one in the Gamemastery Guide. Wandering bands of adventurers passing through has been great for my group, it gives a reason for replacement characters to always be on hand. Occasionally they see dead adventurers or rescue some extra ones who were too low level for the area.

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New NPC's for the Camp

Donnie Perish - LE Vampire Spawn Pawnbroker 4

He travels by day in a casket inside a carriage driven by his dominated thralls. He is accompanied by a pair of dominated Orc Barbarians who he uses as both food and protection.

Personality: Donnie is a conniver and willing to appeal to others pride, greed, or honor to get what he wants. He's more than willing to push parties to go to the gates of Tsar far too early and a sense motive DC23 can uncover that he "is exaggerating your chances of success". He is very flighty and flees at the first sign of trouble, though he maintains a sense of false nobility. He dresses in tattered noble robes.

History: Donnie is well over 400 years old and from a seaside city near Rappan Athuk. When he was alive he was a pickpocket on the streets, but unfortunately after his brother was drafted into the Army of Light a vampire later came from Rappan Athuk and devoured his family turning him in the process. His master was later killed by adventurers and he became intent on doing whatever harm he could to the cause of Orcus, without getting in direct confrontation, whom his vampire master had served. He travels between the ruins of the seaside city and the Camp collecting and selling TSAR RUMORS (page 187) seeking out adventurers. He approaches adventurers by leaving a letter wherever they are staying stating, "I have information about your enemies for a price it can be yours. -DP" His prices begin at 30 steel and can go up or down by 10 depending on whether characters barter, his initial attitude is unfriendly (DC23) as he fears adventurers, threats increase this DC by 5 or more.

Goals: Donnie is bent on revenge and willing to use others as pawns to do whatever damage he can to Orcus' minions. He uses the money he collects to advertise with posters and bards about the riches to be found in Tsar. He has a paranoid feeling that something in the city is stirring and will do what he needs to do. He understands his dominate doesn't last long enough to get his minions into Tsar so he only uses it as a defense and feeding tool. Due to his need for money he is willing to trade for up to 500 gp worth of gear at normal merchant rates. He normally carries jewels and diamonds.

Additional Treasure: Donnie carries 4d6x100 mixed jewels, gold, and a tenth of which is iron bits. He also carries a locket with pictures of his deceased family as well as a few notes about the regiment his brother, Tommy Perish, was enlisted in.

Walter "Walt" - CN half-elf Desert Ranger 8

Personality: Walt is an arrogant hateful insulting bigot, he hates non-elves, which includes some self loathing. While he pushes the envelope of what is neutral, he's not a murderer. Quick to violent anger and jealous of the success of the PC's he's got a hidden purpose and he speaks in hushed tones with locals. Currently he is bidding his time until he is ready to go after his bounty. If the pc's aren't discrete they might end up with another enemy on the road angered by their trying to "steal" his bounty.

History: Being a forlorn half-elf Walt is only interested in the power of coin, he used to travel with an adventuring party, but they left him for dead when they were hunting down a bounty on some demon worshipping gnolls, Yesh (pg. 208). He knows the gnolls are in the city, but is traumatized from his last encounter.

Goals: He's currently hunting down a bounty on Bartileus, but he doesn't know he's in way over his head. Players following him can pay off locals to hear about a "bandit with a bounty on his head in the Rift". He is also trying to drown his nightmares in hard liquor and whatever drugs and other vices are available at the Camp. He is often found in the Sip of Blood Tavern.

Additional Treasure: Orcus idol taken from gnolls, bounty notice for Bartileus.

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Jabberbrain - CE dwarf Ex-cleric 4 of Dwarfater/Alchemist 2

Personality: He should be played as something scary, not comedy relief. Jabberbrain has lost his left arm (to cannibalism) and is utterly insane and sees everyone as an undead or a demon. He has permanent schizophrenia which causes him to view everyone as persecutory hallucinations of everyone with elongated fangs screaming he's a demon, to which he replys, "BITEY! You the demon!" He is considered unfriendly DC19 to calm him down temporarily, he is quick to attack but not very dangerous. He carries a small steel hammer and anvil holy symbol of Dwarfater given to him by Old Gorrack. He scampers around the camp greedily stealing plants and bugs for his functional and dangerous concoctions. Most of the Camp avoids him because he smells aweful. If questioned he might just rant out the name "Gorrack!! Gorrack!! Gorrack!!" for twenty or so minutes.

History: A few years ago a dwarven caravan came down from the Stoneheart Mountains, but passed to close to Tsar and the Pall consumed most of them. It had an odd effect on a few of them and they became cannibals, while he doesn't worship orcus his alignment has been permanently changed to CE and his insanity is real. The caravans purpose was the retrieval and proper burial of dwarven remains that had been found by some benevolent adventurers. While not part of Thane Fenris' band this hints to the purpose of other dwarves in the region. Old Gorrack tried to put Jabberbrain at ease and was going to take him home on his return trip. Up until recently the Ogres in the Camp had been a constant torment, now he occasionally cackles and hangs out in their old encampment.

Goals: Darkness eats you! MY BUGS! GORRACK GORRACK GORRACK!! Miracle or wish could restore his mind, care could make him less evil, though still insane.

Additional Treasure: Jabberbrain carries a half destroyed holy book of Dwarfater and lots of junk.

Nalin the Tormented - N Human Tortured Artist

Personality: Ever conflicted this young penniless man is afflicted with a compulsion to paint horrors. He draws whenever and whatever he sees, which causes him problems with the locals, mostly Lucky. He's at his wit's end, but has a remarkable painting talent. He shudders and sobs, but isn't interested in money. PC's are likely to see him drawing in the dust, scribbling on walls, or making a mess in the Sip of Blood Tavern.

History: From Bard's Gate originally he grew up as a merchant's son. He craved success and when an imp offered to make him an even better painter he quickly accepted. The imp itself auto succeeds at its suggestions on him to force him to paint the most horrific scenes from the war, mostly nonsensical and unimportant to others. The imp is actually trying to find specific pieces of history for its dark masters. As a side effect Nalin paints one scene (or more) that might help the party.
"A white stone fortress falling into a chasm in a field of fighting demons, men, and angels." - C8. The Tomb of the Last Justicar. This hints that there is a lost tomb at the base of a chasm somewhere in the Rift.

Goals: He's being driven by the Imp, he wants to make the horrors go away, but his deal is struck. Killing the imp will rid him of his horrors, but it will also relieve him of his supernatural talent. It is a DC24 (Indifferent, but dangerous) diplomacy check to reveal the existence of the imp.

They are definitely interesting NPCs although stat blocks would be nice:)

History. As the party has not been active at researching any history I have been trying to insert it a little at a time. It kind of depends of what type of players you have.

Camp. The party has not been real interested in attacking the camp at all. The only ones they have a real grudge against are the rangers as they betrayed the party several times. Once leaving them in the pit and the second time taking them to the druid sanctuary. They don't like the Usurer much, but have not made any threatening moves against him, at least not as of yet. They have not even met Mama Grim yet. Some will deal with Father Death, others won't. Definitely not the paladin. One of the former characters runs the inn now so they have a place to stay there.

Statblocks are under their class hyperlinks. I tried to make most of them non-adversarial, more vague plot hooks. If you are going to print them out you will probably have to copy paste off the srd links.

Thanks James for the heads up on the stats!

chaoseffect wrote:

So I tweaked the background stuff a bit to give my players and others a reason to go to the Desolation; plus I wanted the Camp to be an adventurer's Deadwood with some more intrigue. Here's what I have in rough draft format, minus details because I didn't feel like confirming exact time lines in the Tsar book and I'm horrible at coming up with names.

** spoiler omitted **...


I'd add some Inquisitors of Thyr who harass the party and extort alms from them when they first arrive at camp. Play them as serious bullies who try to intimidate the players into whiping out the camp but only after the players have gained enough levels to whip the inquisitors.

I think your idea for Thyr is excellent and I'm going to modifiy it to fit my campaign.


Yeah, well I would have a problem with that as one of the players is playing an Inquisitor of Thyr in my game! He holds the writ and keeps the party on the straight and narrow on the path to Tsar already!

Thanks for the input guys. It definitely needs some work on my part!

Background: Good point, I should make more mention of the specifics of the horrible unnatural weather at low DCs.

History: I'll change how long the war lasted to keep it in line with the default assumption because there's really no reason to change it. That was more an oversight on my part.

As for breathing more life into the Camp, GM guide city encounters? I didn't know that was a thing but I'm gonna look it up now, thanks!

Side Mission: I'm really a fan of morally ambiguous and I tend to do away with strict alignment. I didn't actually mean the "camp purge" to be an option for the PCs. I should have mentioned it, but I'm considering having solo-ish side quests for each character, but characters aren't made yet.

I wrote it with one player in mind who I know likes being a CN merc for hire; I figured after he got enough street cred and if he stayed on the Usurer's good side, the Usurer would be the one offering him the contract against the the church of Thyr. Something like "Here's a Seeming, here's a Teleport and scroll back, lead these men in this assassination and it will be worth your interest."

With the extra attention given to the Camp from civilization I'm planning on making the Usurer a little bit more of an active character. The Camp may be a s@$!hole, but its his s+*!hole and no one is taking it away from him.

Along the same lines I'm going to have rumors of a previous crusader band who refused to deal with the Camp due to the iron bits, so they made their own fortified encampment a few miles away. Let's just say that those creatures from the Desolation can be deadly, especially if you're on the Usurer's bad side.

@Chaoseffect - page 219 of the GameMastery Guide, I'd try and sneak the Slum table in on the Camp. I'd actually roll the Camp encounter chart and maybe that one or switch every other encounter. As the players progress you might want to occasionally use the Tavern table for the Sip of Blood. There's all sorts of prebuilt npc's in there, just like the NPC Codex, good stuff.

Side Mission: As long as Gurg, the Hanged Man, and the Bender Brothers are out of the way the PC's are generally safe in the Camp.

The Usurer - My players have called him Filch, from Harry Potter. That's pretty much the way I run him.

About the "side" encampment, remember there are no good water sources for quite some distance, but as long as they have a cleric they are good to go.

I'd also recommend banning rings of sustenance, they take all the fun out of it.

Give those NPC's I listed out a try and let me know how it goes if you get a chance. I made each one to patch small gaps in the plot hooks without turning the Camp into a nice place. I'd add them to my game, but my players are past most of those quests at this point.

I like the extortion idea, I once had a band of mercenaries camped out near a town collecting the "Road Toll" from anyone they could boss around. Since the Camp doesn't have a townguard, who says there can't be someone conning people.

Last thing I guess I would say is at least keep track of wind conditions, because otherwise players will overuse things like fly and shapeshift. I also roll separate encounter rolls when my party has split up as well.

Thanks for pointing me at some specifics for Camp encounters. I'll need to look into them sometime soon as I'm going to be starting next week or the week after.

I agree with you about Rings of Sustenance; I planned on them existing but being incredibly rare and expensive. Along the same lines the food/water cantrips were going to be boosted to 1st level spells.

Some other alt rules I was going to use included gestalt and an innate system to replace the must have gear; I saw it somewhere on these boards and copied it down. You get a number of points based on level and spend them to get inherent versions of things like sword/armor base enhancement, skill competence bonuses, resistance to saves, etc. so items that give those bonuses have gone the same way as the Ring of Sustenance; they exist but are rare and expensive enough not to be for general sale.

All sounds like good ideas! The party just picked up a ring of sustenance from the Bonewright, but it is the only one they have.

The party decided to attack the main gate from the rear going through the northern of the two gates. The 12 meatmen didn't last long, but the Marrow Knights did some damage to them with their spirited charges. The sandman and meatmen on the walls were only an annoyance that were not worth dealing with. They were not at first able to figure out the Dokkelfoer and were going to go into the main fortress. However when they spied out all of the awaiting skeletonal archers they chickened out. From there they ran back to the tower and d-doored up and took out the construct.

Dokkelfoer seems really interesting, I'd be interested to hear what your players thought about it. Were they surprised? The skeletal archers in the hallway with the animated gates? That's pretty disgusting, especially the surprise at the end.

Unfortunately with Coast Con this upcoming weekend my gaming group won't be playing next week and we didn't have a game this Friday either due to prep work. I'll try and throw something together or make some extra content.

About Tsar, I made my players a map by snapshotting the pdf, pasted it over into Bitmap and used the white spray-painter to obfuscate their surroundings, but it leaves enough that they can see there is plenty more to explore. It worked really well without giving them the whole player map, which its a bit early for that. If anyone wants a copy or is interested message me your email and I'll send it to you.

The Pall Over Tsar - I've got to write up some really vivid nightmares for the two players affected by it.

I had one player remark that he doesn't see how it is possible for the players to deal with that much evil, talking about the city. I told him that the Army of Light drove out most of it, but something is still there and needs to be dealt with, not too spoilerish. Plus I can understand that the city is very imposing, especially the way I've been running it. Once they get a few victories under their belt they should be fine.

After awhile they got the general idea that there was an illusion involved especially when I had them tract the wounds separately and the fact that they would not heal so it wasn't too big a surprise by the time they finally made it into the tower. It was about six hours real time into the combat so they had quite a bit of time to figure things out.

Most of my party are not very scared about charging into the breach so to speak after many forays into Rappan Athuk. One was complaining it was wimpy in comparison!

Last Friday our group made a quick raid onto the roof of Kirash Dirgaut in hopes of finding a sword (+1 holy two-handed thing)that was dropped when the fear symbol went off. No luck finding it but they did run into the Flailing Dreadnought.

It was an insteresting lesson in Challenge Ratings. King Thraestos is CR 17 and the Dreadnought is CR 12. With some good roles from me and a couple of bad roles from them the Dreadnought ended up causing significantly more damage than the King. A significant part of the issue is the party could not figure out what the dreadnought was and waisted positive channels, smites, improved invisibilities and other resources while holding back with attacks that would have been more effective. The 30' radius attack also caught them off guard and resulted in the death of one of the paladins who had thought he was at a safe distance.

One thing to note is area 50 lists the stats for the Dreadnought as being in area 12 whereas they are in area 37.

The party then moved on to investigate the hobgoblin caves. These are left to the GM and I've set them up with what I'd thought were some obvious traps but the party seems to have hobgoblins stuck in their minds as 1st level creatures so they've gone in with very little care and succeeded in generating a comedy of errors. If they continue as they have been I expect the result will be a badly bloodied party.

Note that the hobgoblin leader's stat block is not correct. 11th level ranger with 61 hitpoints and some other issues. You'll want to make your own stat block if your party heads in that direction.

Often times CRs are a misnomer. The King didn't give my party much trouble either but I figure the Dreadnought may. I will check the Hobgoblin ranger and redo him if needed.

I took a look at it and yeah he is at least 40 hit points low, his skill points are all messed up, etc. Also why would he have a short sword and punching dagger at his level and be the leader? I made it long and short. I don't mind running them when they are a little off, but I would have to reduce his CR by about 2 to run him as is.

I took the ability stats and used it to build a sword & shield ranger. I'm just curious to see how the style does. I've also pulled the two barbarian hobgoblins and replaced them with one 10th level shaman. That was more a matter of cutting down on the different varieties I'm going to have to deal with in the upcoming fight.

On a side note I'm also replacing the Triceratops with an advanced mimic or a lurker above. That's just for nostalgia's sake. Can anyone suggest some other places where some 2e monsters might fit well?

I made him two-weapon. Rather than take out Hobgoblins I added the 2 alchemist bombers. While some 2E monsters sound nice I don't get to use dinosaurs very often either. I might put a lurker above somewhere also.

Hopefully we can throw together a game tonight, the convention is throwing things off. In the meantime I've been reading The Mouth of Doom , a well done play by post campaign for Rappan Athuk.

Also there's just been a new release of Vampire the Masquerade with revised rules and I'm studying up to LARP again. Might be interesting to make a character like Belishan...

Haven't been to our local con in years. We went for a few years and most of our people ended up coming back to our house to game. It was pretty lame. Now all the pathfinder games are all PFS only. Not my cup of tea. I picked up Vampire the Masquerade in '99 at GenCon and never played. Never been into LARP. The whole concept seems creepy to me, but hey. I am pretty much a beer and pretzels gamer w/o the beer!

We managed to get a game in last Friday - 9 PC's vs the hobgolins. They had decided to make a concerted effort to wipe them out after using Treasure Map on one of the wandering hobgolins they'd defeated. It was an all night slug fest that went through quite a lot of the party's resources and culminated with the hobgoblins singing their Noble Death
Dirge (to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight for those who care) as the last few of them were taken down.

I'd thinned out the hobgoblins because of previous random encounters but at the end of the night there was still over 130,000 gp worth of loot weighing 1,150 lbs. This does not include mundane items.

The party's next challenge will be dragging all of thier loot back to camp.

To add to the possible difficulties one of the players is suspicious of the Midnight Peddler's clues and is advocating to spend a night in Tsar to see what happes. Could be interesting.

Nice! I'm having gaming withdrawl, getting my group together has been like herding cats lately.

My players have only removed a few encounters from the Desolation encounter table such as the Margoyles. That's a determined group of players you have there and I don't blame them. What was the final kill count? I believe there were tons of caves. My players have pretty much decided the Peddler is on their side at this point, they've attacked him, dismissalled him, and refused him in the past. Luckily we should be getting back to game this Saturday. I was going through withdrawls so I ran a short Rappan Athuk game at the local gaming store, which mostly consisted of character creation and people getting creeped out in Zelkor's Ferry. I was heavily borrowing content from the Mouth of Doom play by post.

@brvheart - Larp has been pretty fun for me, there's a level of intense roleplaying that you don't see sometimes in tabletop, plus I think games like masquerade were meant for crowds not groups.

Its all your fault, Geofix! I was up half the night watching YouTube videos from the sixties and seventies starting with The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Could not sleep, grrrr...

That's a lotta loot! But then this module does tend to group it quite a bit.

I am not sure why my group seems to trust the Midnight Peddler especially since some of the players have played the Bonegarden. I am considering bringing him back in that form! I have a hearse pulled by two skeletonal horses that I used for him back then.

@James I know the feeling about groups. Mine has a tendency to go up and down throughout the year. Sometimes we have enough we have to split into two games, other times we are fighting to get four players. Right now we are rebuilding again with a couple of new players so we have six or seven regulars now.

@brvheart - be sure to read the events section of the Citadel before you do too much tweaking of the Midnight Peddler.

YouTube videos from the sixties and seventies? Sounds like there is some alternate universe stuff happening. :)

@ James

32 infantry
12 rangers
2 shamans
2 rogues
1 sargeant
1 boss guy (who had been re-jigged)

The party had a number of players come close to going down but some good team play and some wise running away meant that they avoided any deaths.

Lol! Nah, but ya never know. Might just have Paul Revere and the Raiders show up in my Razor Coast game:)

Thanks for the heads up on the events section. Will check it out.

Hey guys I was reading through some threads on Tsar and saw there used to be a pdf of some maps that Frog God Games had but all the links are broken now. Was just curious if anyone knew where I might be able to find them now.

We had our games last night and today. The party first cleared the south wall of meatman archers by following the trap door down from the central tower. Since the archers are unable to fight melee, it was pretty much a rout. They next decided to fly over to the roof of the fortress in 2 waves. The first wave landing behind the stables. This did attract attention of the Marrow Knights and they were able to do some damage to the three of them until the rest of the party arrived. At this point one of them went and got 2 of the Cloud Giant Skellies. They fared little better even though they could hit hard. The ranger and inquisitor were peppering them with arrows badly. The sorceress cast wall of fire and finished off most of them and the sandmen that came out of the building in round 5. Again, these proved only as a nuisance. Breaking for the night I had time to prepare a little better.

The next day in real time, but only about a minute in game time the Dreadnaught made its way from the other side with a couple of zombies, not ordinary ones by any means. One was a Cursed Exploding Fire Giant and the second was a 9th level fighter human juju zombie. And at this point the last of the Cloud Giant Skeletons came out. The four of these did provide more of a challenge. Katrina went after the Fire Giant but was waylaid by the dreadnaught on a critical for 57 hit points which put her down negative con. She did make her fort save. Cost her a point of wisdom as a permanent loss. The ranger was brought down unconscious also. He complained a lot that I would not let him use a spell that was not on his sheet. I think it is gamey in any case, Instant Enemy. On top of that he was recasting spells he had cast from the previous session from earlier in the day.

The party was pretty exhausted on spells and resources so they picked up Katrina's animals from the other wall and headed out the way they came. They were almost out when they ran into six Yesh rangers. Three were killed and the rest got away. They did learn that they are associated with Demogorgon. The party kept trying to get the gnolls to surrender without success.

Tonight I worked on a couple of new undead for next session. I animated Malerix as a juju zombie and the King as a Skeletonal Champion. I am thinking of sending the pair out against the parties base camp as wanderers are getting rather thin. They have now got the attention of the General, The White Walker, the Wrack Dragon and now the Gnoll leader so it won't be so easy just walking around the city. As Greg noted, the city is not static.

Game 28 3/15/14

Roster: Half-Elf (fallen Paladin), Suli Sorcerer, Dwarf Cleric, Gnome Magus, Halfling Druid, Tiefling Paladin

(Note I broke up the walls of text for easy reading.)

The Night of Tortured Dreams
After the fight at the “blood bowl” as they called it, the party fled a short distance in darkness and found a few small ruined hovels, the best of them had 4 walls but no roof, doors, or shuttered windows. They spent some time collecting themselves since they had pushed on past dark in Tsar (current location that one house slightly northwest of the G3. The Blood Pit, The Grunge). The party made some normal preparations noting that the whole place stinks of evil. (I reread the Pall description to be fair, no one had cast Detect Magic or Detect Evil at this point.) The magus cast Tiny Hut and Alarm for what good it would do, the extent of both effects were slightly larger than the hovel they had found. Watches were (with encounter rolls) set as 1st Sorcerer/Magus (14%), 2nd Druid/Cleric (72%), and 3rd Paladin/Paladin(63%). The adventurers took for granted the fact that they had horrible and twisted nightmares while sleeping. Watches were avoiding the windows even though Tiny Hut has see-through walls with opaque outer sides.

Night Watches
First watch was oblivious as 14 Yesh Gnolls cautiously snuck up to the building following the party’s tracks. (Normally I use perception/stealth to randomly determine the terms of the combat, but the players failed it badly.) The Yesh had already started jumping into the windows and plowing through the doors by the time the alarm went off, though it stopped the yesh from catching them to off guard. Notably the Tiefling was out of his armor and the fight was won mostly by the Magus activating Detonate, which nearly killed the half-elf (58 damage!). (Short and bloody combat.) Second watch had no encounters. (Although I had them roll perception checks and gave them a short period of RP.) During the watch change everyone was still up from the previous combat, the Tiefling cast detect evil. He discussed his findings with the party, they tried to confirm his suspicions by having the half-elf do the same, but he couldn’t (he had fallen to the Pall, turned LN). They all became very suspicious of him and the cleric cast Zone of Truth on him and made him confirm his loyalty to the cause with a sword at his neck. The tiefling doubly suspicious briefly discussed him taking an extra watch “just in case”, which he ended up doing. Third watch both paladins heard a loud noises as a pair of tribal looking trolls went snorting and sniffing throughout the darkness, the party had about 5 rounds of preparation, which they used to rouse everyone. The magus fireballed them, but one of them managed to crash through a wall and lightly claw the half-elf.

The Hunters Hunted
Breaking camp about 7 am the party decided by vote to make a hasty retreat from the city, having had enough of constant monster attacks and evil dreams. The druid saw a building just north that had a lit window and wispy smoke coming from a chimney (G2. The Cobbler’s Shop), but her concerns were voted down. The Tiefling decided that a path along the Walls of Death were the best route to the Broken Gate (B4). As they exited their structure they discovered someone overnight had built tens of bear trap like devices (Survival vs. Perception) around their building. They found them when both the sorcerer and tiefling set them off, trapping them in place temporarily. The sorcerer used Dimension Door to get out quickly, while the Tiefling got aid from the cleric with his might (Strength Domain). Unfortunately while the cleric (randomly determined) was helping two arrows hit him in the back, a third narrowly missed (The Stalker Event, triggered by throwing fireballs out in the open last night, IMO). The party went to ground, but found nothing else, besides some well-crafted and distinct arrows. Several times the party made out enemy troops marching along the wall, though with Hide from Undead up they chose not to engage. A group of Dread Ravens (46%) were seen flying low over nearby streets and the druid hit them with her Lightning Lord ability, though one survived to fire magic missiles as it retreated. During the two rounds of combat the cleric was hit with another arrow (critical hit!), this one with some constitution damage poison, which the dwarf cleric actually failed (a dwarf fail a fortitude save?). The magus saw roughly where the arrow came from (natural 20), a nearby cliff, but the party did not want to investigate. At the Broken Gate (B4.) they decided to be cautious and recast Hide from Undead, and several of the casters decided to fly rather than make the simple climb over the vibrating ruins. They saw a group of 7 Bonemen all wired together, but they decided to leave them alone.

Swamps suck and sometimes Grapple
Not having any way to speed their journey nor skip the tar pits they decided to slog through them in a direct line to the hillfort (D4. Firebase of the Damned). They discussed turning it into a nearby bas e of operations, while they discussed this the Tiefling cast Detect Evil again over the party. He noticed the Sorcerer was evil (NE, due to the Pall) and he took the other party members to the side to discuss it with them. The tiefling told the party about all of the strange undead, siege weapons, and golem until he remembered that was his Rogue that knew all of that. (Jokingly called him a metagamer channeling his rogue!) They still decided to make a forward base and fall back to the hill, while trudging through gunk. The Tiefling stepped on something strange and in turn it grabbed him and drug him under. He ended up in a grapple with a Morgh (random encounter) and was able to smite it off of him with some help from the party. Quickly done, the party spent an hour or so getting to the hill and with it in the distance they made their plans of attack.

Charge of the Light Brigade
The party decided to attack (D4. Firebase of the Damned) by having the casters fly overhead and bombard with fireballs (or lightning ball in the case of the elemental sorcerer) and call lightning. The plan was to have the melee characters rush up the hill after the casters cleared a hole. (It didn’t help that I was reciting parts of the charge of the light brigade.) They counted off rounds and the casters flew overhead and found that the Juju Zombies were highly resistant to fire, taking cover in the defenses, and immune to lightning. (I gave the defenders +4 cover bonuses for being in good cover.) (I split the intelligent defenders into groups of 5, but the hilltop fireballs triggered both encounters. Given these are intelligent undead left over from the war I figured they would have some tactics.) Even after repeated “bombing” the defenders kept rotating into the position of the charging charaters, the injured undead retreating out of the way into the center to do battle with the druids summons. Over the course of the encounter the druid summoned roughly 11 dire wolves onto the hilltop. The cleric had pre-buffed and both paladins charged up with him. As they climbed up the spiked defenses the longspears of the undead kept stinging them and driving them down. (The tiefling couldn’t pass a climb check to save his life, he had no points in climb and even with a +8 strength was failing badly.) The half-elf was being overcautious and decided instead to fire a bow from slightly out of melee range into the defenders at the top. The cleric (with some enlarge spell) decided to run over to a gap and climb up where there were no defenders. Nearly out of spells the all of the casters were being conservative, but the Magus flew down and picked up the Tiefling and dropped him off on the hill next to the cleric, and the paladin was soon able to climb up. The undead soon broke their formation and charged the attackers who had made it up. Channels by the cleric were decimating the undead. The undead were ganging up on the summons and butchering them quickly. The cleric got surrounded but his armor was to good and only a single spear bit him (He had 40+ AC with his buffs). The fallen paladin was slashing away nearby the cleric and the Tiefling charged out into a mess of undead unafraid of death. By the end, nearly all the spells had been depleted and the healing wands were taxed. (38 Juju zombies, the combat took almost 2 hours I believe.)

Cleaning Up
(I forgot about the Ogres.) As the party is still recovering from the waves of Juju zombies (which they never properly identified with Religion or History) three Ogre Zombies come lumbering up to them. The tiefling calls out for the party to reserve whatever spells they have left and the Magus, Fallen Paladin, and Paladin clean them up with no problems. Having seen the golem from above, the party flanks his building and rushes in without much research. They took him down over a few rounds, but expended even more charges trying to heal the cursed wounds he caused. They were taking stock of their loot and we decided to call game at 1 AM. Game Ends.

Notes: We had a long game, but the D4 fight took a good chunk of the time. We got in a good deal of RP as well, my game notes were very short.

Pall stuff - The party is trying to get the fallen paladin an atone spell, but they need the incense. I know its not going to work because of the Pall’s specific effects. Hopefully they will figure it out. I’m sure next game a portion of the time will be spent on that. Though I think they had some draconian ideas about what to do with characters who “fell to evil”. I think it might get bloody, more on that next game.

15 Minute Workday – A big part of this adventure is the challenge of attrition and for the most part I’ve tried to keep that available. I’m not trying to write my own rules, but with the various casters in the party some of them have different rules for getting their spells back. I’ve tried to make it easy on myself and go with the “You can’t cast spells you’ve cast in the last 8 hours and you can’t cast your spells twice a day even if you rest.” I need to look it up, probably on the forums. Any help?

Tsar the Big Evil City – The player of the cleric has remarked several times at the enormity of the task of clearing the evil city. It’s a big task and I told them all it was going to take a long time and a lot of effort, probably a small stack of characters as well. I think they are up to the challenge, they generally haven’t been doing anything too goofy. Taking the city is going to require them to know when they’ve had enough and hopefully doing some research on their opponents.

XP Awards:
CR10, 7, 5, 8, 11, 11, 5, 10 = Roster: +9325 XP

Liz 194,230/220,000 Level 11
Jody 181,775/220,000 Level 11
Ryan 170,275/220,000 Level 11
Hinkel 150,675/155,000 Level 10
Brittney 147,675/155,000 Level 10
James 147,675/155,000 Level 10
Daisy 114,730/155,000 Level 10
George 106,470/155,000 Level 10
Fatality Count:

Edit: Tsar reminds me of the 3.5 adventure City of the Spider Queen. Had a lot of fun running that back in the day, Tsar seems a bit more deadly, although that was pretty insane as well.

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Just wanted to say between you James, Brvheart and Geofix, you guys have made a sale for the Frog God. I am definitely hyped about getting this. Not sure when I'll run it for my guys, but I totally dig the high stakes, knuckle dragging fights.

I do think I will put a lot into hooking my PC's into a storyline that gets them emotionally invested in Tsar. Church missions/crusades, wealthy patrons, blood debts, druids wishing to reclaim the Desolation, etc, etc, all can give the players a since of real purpose to stick this out. (I feel like I almost have to push that with how long this campaign would take.) Also, the more my players enjoy a campaign, the more I can fight off DM burnout.

Anyways, cheers and please, all of you keep contributing to this thread. It is immensely enjoyable.

@KaiserDM - hey glad you are enjoying it, this thread has been a great resource for my game. Getting a preview of the content is what sold me on the book, its been consistently high quality, and hasn't seemed repetitive to me even the random encounters. Slugfest yes, repetitive no. I will say I'd let the players know this is a high body count game, otherwise it might be a big shock. Its possible to have some good rp investment in a character, but keep the blank character sheets handy. As far as burnout goes, luckily I have a few other games I get to play like Skull and Shackles and Vampire. I'd suggest throwing a few more NPC's (some above) into the Camp and handing out the rumors like candy. Drop some posts on here when you get started.

@Brvheart - Malerix as a JuJu zombie, that's vicious! I'm still saving Kroma for some dramatic moment. As far as the city not being static, my players just dipped their toes in. They took one look at Kirash Durgaut and went the other way. I tried to tempt them with stories of the Unbreakable Fortress and General Myrac, but they weren't having any of it.

Layout and Design, Frog God Games

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KaiserDM wrote:

Just wanted to say between you James, Brvheart and Geofix, you guys have made a sale for the Frog God. I am definitely hyped about getting this. Not sure when I'll run it for my guys, but I totally dig the high stakes, knuckle dragging fights.

I do think I will put a lot into hooking my PC's into a storyline that gets them emotionally invested in Tsar. Church missions/crusades, wealthy patrons, blood debts, druids wishing to reclaim the Desolation, etc, etc, all can give the players a since of real purpose to stick this out. (I feel like I almost have to push that with how long this campaign would take.) Also, the more my players enjoy a campaign, the more I can fight off DM burnout.

Anyways, cheers and please, all of you keep contributing to this thread. It is immensely enjoyable.

We have the best fans. *sniff* oh damn *snuffle* I've got some sand in my eyes again!

@James I got up yesterday and my wife decided that a skeletal champion wasn't good enough for King Thraestos so she added fiendish and later had me add Undead Lord. She also added a +1 unholy sword so with power attack he is doing up to 6d6+40 per attack with three attacks! He can control Malerix and summon 30 HD more of undead. Told her if they get a TPK don't blame me! Chain Lightning should soften things up a bit, then I think I will sunder three of their weapons as soon as he is within range.

My group has been using the Outpost of the Damned as their near camp also. They have fortified it a bit with walls of stone, but I don't see them lasting long against this pair at night.

@Chuck We do try!

The amount you get through in a session still amazes me.

Our group also decided to stay in Tsar over night after dividing up the loot from the hobgoblins. Some skeletons and Yesh for random encounters but the skeletons just wandered on past while the Yesh hovered out of site and then left before dawn.

Its a big group with nine players and everyone suffered the dreams (including familiars) with 2/3 of the party failing their saving throws. We were running this portion via email to increase the amount of action during the actual game so I emailed dreams to the players based on their saves:

Those who failed their save:
You drift off into a fitful sleep tossing and turning, dozing and waking, dozing and waking and finding yourself walking through the Abyss. Demons lear and dance around you. You see Jah Way roasting on a spit and think 'ouch'.

Further on you encounter an crowd of demons and damned souls, their voices raised in exultation of Orcus and you see him: powerful, terrible and awful. The worship goes on and on and you start to understand the power that Orcus represents and how intoxicating it can be.

You wake with a start and a better understanding of his alure.

Those who made their save:
You drift off into a fitful sleep tossing and turning, dozing and waking, dozing and waking and finding yourself walking through the Abyss. Demons lear and dance around you. You see Jah Way roasting on a spit and think 'ouch'.

Further on you encounter an crowd of demons and damned souls, their voices raised in exultation of Orcus and you see him: powerful, terrible and awful. The worship goes on and on and you feel compelled to stay and watch but through force of will you turn away and wake up in a cold sweat.

(Jah Way is a druid PC who was plane shifted to the abyss by King Korma)

For those that failed I let them know of their alignment change and explained that they consider their old world view the result of sloppy thinking and a lack of will. The biggest loser so far has been the paladin who failed. He'd focused on charisma, wisdom, extra channel etc and is now a rather lame fighter.

The party was convinced to stay over night in Tsar by a character who was suspicious of the Midnight Peddler. They are very suprised by result. While they recognize the possibilty of total party doom they are also intrigued by the roleplay opportunities and the difficult problem to solve. No one has complained or suggested that the result is in any way unfair.

Because so many of the party fell to the dreams and because they had not found the tomb with 'Tranquilty's face' in the Ashen Wastes the paladin and cleric who made their saves were given dreams where they were shown the tomb and its surroundings but not told where it was. The paladin hasn't figured it out but the cleric went back over the Midnight Peddler's hints and figured it out. Now he is puzzling out how to get the rest of the party there.

The actual game involved a second assault on Kirash Dirgaut with things going fairly well until someone forgot about the symbol of fear from the first assault and made for the double doors thinking that they would get in and get away from the flailing dreadnought. Two familiars, a ranger, a paladin and a fallen paladin failed thier saves and sprinted away. Fortunately for the party the flailing dreadnought failed versus a retrubution hex (after 3 previous attempts - why can a witch cast this hex on something multiple times?) while in spinning death mode. The summoner summoned a number of rhinos into the zone of death and the retributive damage took it out.

Once all the runners returned the party assaulted the entrance and made their way past the doors with a chime of opening. They were impressed with the defenses and one of them mentioned that they will have trouble finding a nastier defence than this one. I told them not to bet on that. They're now heading up the stairs (area 69) and that's were we'll start up next game.

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I think one of the reasons my players are sticking with it is that it is more difficult and it doesn't apologize for killing you. They've also started to suspect that Orcus has a purpose for Tsar and it won't be easy to sort out but I think, at this point, it's still more a matter of the deadly nature of the place.

@ Chuck

How about some "My friends went to Tsar and all that survived is this t-shirt." t-shirts?

Yeah, really I need to run two sessions to get in as much as James gets in one session.

Seems only my group has heeded the warning of the Peddler about not sleeping in the city.

That is why I don't like summoners as a class. Between an overpowered Eidelon and the fact that they can summon almost continuously it is really overpowered. I have an inquisitor that is a bit overpowered himself. My issues are that if I compensate for a few characters the rest are going to die quickly. Otherwise they will run over almost everything they face.

Layout and Design, Frog God Games

@Geo Fix - Mostly because the t-shirts won't survive either. ;)

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We had a funny little thing happen in my Tsar game last week.

One of the players was hit with a prismatic spray sending the PC to another plane. The PC happened to be an Oracle.

The Oracle, upon being on this new plane, cast "dismissal" on herself, sending her back to her home plane. :)

I'm not sure the spell is supposed to work that way, but I awarded the player for being creative and let it happen.

@Geo Fix and Brvheart - I've seen a lot of games bog down in combat, I tend to run them as fast as I can and my players know if they aren't ready I'll move to the next player. I do try to discourage the Pokémon casters, but occasionally someone wants to play a minion master. Even if they do I typically tell them to assign their minions equally among the other players to keep things rolling. The dwarf cleric player, Hinkel, wants to build a necromancer cleric minion master with hundreds of skeletons, not really my cup of tea, but I'll let him try it. Last game we had 8 combats during a 9 hour game, which is pretty good I think. Also I always give treasure and xp out after the session, unless its something immediately usable. Keeps people from trying to level up in the middle of conversations and combats.

My big gripe about pc classes is armor stacking, but luckily the monsters that really matter in this mega-adventure can pretty much tag who they want to, plus there's always combat maneuvers.

As far as the Peddler, I tried to make him as creepy as possible, but my players started liking the voice. C'mon he's wandering in an evil land with a bone on his face, with clawed hands... stop liking him! They did accuse him and the Dweller of being Orcus at one point.

@Chuck Wright/Geo fix- about "I survived Tsar T-shirts", if you build them, we will buy.... lol. I think that's a great idea, if my players manage to get through the whole adventure. Probably needs to have a death count on it as well, but yeah I'll probably get my players some shirts if they live!

The T Shirts are a great idea. I'd say have some Rappan Athuk ones on hand too, but no one could legitimately wear one... ;)

@DaveMage Yeah, I think it is a good idea to reward players for good ideas. I also on Fridays even reward players with funny ones! The first player that can make the DM laugh gets and XP reward.

@James The biggest difference is it takes us 2 games to play nine hours. Usually we can get four combats a night, but this weekend it got really bogged down especially on Saturday when four of the players started telling the other players what to do every action. After repeatedly asking them to not I finally had to threaten an XP penalty. I mean I don't mind helping out a new player, but when it starts being a team combat on every action it is getting really bad and the game really bogged down. We got one combat done, albeit it was a long one and took all of their remaining resources.

T-shirts I think it is a neat idea, but I think it would have to be done on Cafe Press or similar. I mean how many are actually going to survive Tsar?

There is still an Official Undead Minion Mug available at Cafe Press, and boxers too, strangely enough... Not sure if there are T-shirts, a search didn't turn up any.

Layout and Design, Frog God Games

There is 3

If they have the decal, they'll put it on anything they have.

Layout and Design, Frog God Games

The "store"

Good start, now it just needs updated to say "I survived Slumbering Tsar" or "My friends went to Tsar and all that survived is this t-shirt." Besides, you are Frog God Games now although I have a Frog God t-shirt from the RA kickstarter.

Does anyone have a working link to the Player Map of the Desolation?

Edit: I found my digital copy of the map, but it would be nice to have a working online link. Can't remember where I found mine. I'd be happy to email it to anyone that needs it.

I hunted for it, but it seems to have been removed from Frog God's Website, not sure why that is.

Well I found it on page 752, its in the Player Handout section rather than the map section. I thought I was going crazy.

While I was looking though I found some beautiful Tsar art, but you have to dig for it a little bit. Tsar Art

TsarBlackGate, SlumberingTsarPillarsDay/Night, SlumberingTsarCampSketch - are all really good resources IMO. There are several more, but those are great.

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