Skinsaw Murders Off-Rails [Spoilers]


Rise of the Runelords


First off, I know should not have staged the ambush in the Foxglove Townhouse, but I did. Here's what happened. tl;dr at the end.

Before anything even got started, during the "between Burnt Offerings and Skinsaw Murders" downtime, one of the PCs decided to travel to Magnimar to purchase a casting of Fabricate to have mithril armor made rather than paying full price for it. I didn't tell him not to try, that there was a chance of failure, and that local guilds would be skeptical of doing such a thing. He couldn't convince anyone save one character to go with him, so it split the party, 2/2.

After they made it to Magnimar, and "successfully" paid a spellcaster to Fabricate mithril armor, the same PC remembered that Foxglove asked them to look him up while he was in Magnimar. They found his townhouse and visited him. This is where I messed up.

I went ahead and put the Faceless Stalkers there to open the door, not realizing the house was meant to be boarded up and abandoned. They let the players in like they were strangers. When the PCs brought up knowing Foxglove, the Faceless Stalkers attacked and were defeated, one escaped into the streets.

The same instigator PC immediately went to local authorities to report impostor monsters, where I made my second mistake. The local authorities were Ironbriar, aware of who the PCs were based on Foxglove already having selected his target. He placed the instigator PC under arrest while the other fled. Now I'm stuck.

I would "intend" for Ironbriar to have the PC executed for the "deaths" of the Foxgloves, as well as for the murder of the greedy spellcaster that Fabricated the armor for him, the last person the PC was seen dealing with. I can't come up with a semi-reasonable way for the PC to get out of his situation (he has access to a rage power natural attack worst case), especially considering half of the party doesn't know he's been arrested and the PC that accompanied him is not interested in helping the party ever.

tl;dr: I broke script and maybe ruined the adventure in order to punish a PC for powergaming


I'm a bit confused about the PC that wasn't arrested being "not interested in helping the party ever." Does that mean the character wants to leave or the player?

I'll assume that both players want to keep their characters and you're looking for a way to make that happen.

Spoiler:
Luckily for you, your mithral cheapskate is demonstrating Greed. Once Xanesha hears about it, she orders Ironbriar to let the PC go and send him back to Sandpoint so Foxglove can sacrifice him. Of course, that's not what he tells the PC. The PC is told that a faceless stalker was found fleeing the city and it appeared to corroborate his story. Ironobriar suggests the PC leave town for a while "just until things settle down." If you want to be punitive, Ironbriar can confiscate the mithril armor "as evidence." Seemingly erratic or odd reversals of thinking on Ironbriar's part set the stage for his later appearances and are additional clues for the PC's to discover he's been charmed.

Keep in mind, Ironbriar would just as soon no one visited the Foxglove manor, ever. He and "the Seven" don't want anyone asking or talking about the Foxgloves. Or their property. Or what happened to them. He'd be happy to have the PC's killed (or do it himself) but now that they have entered "official" custody, too much chance for someone to start asking questions. He needs to nip this in the bud now, an official execution leaves a paper trail, formal burial, all kinds of messy details that can be tracked right back to Ironbriar.


Latrecis wrote:

I'm a bit confused about the PC that wasn't arrested being "not interested in helping the party ever." Does that mean the character wants to leave or the player?

I'll assume that both players want to keep their characters and you're looking for a way to make that happen.

Its more that the character is actively antagonistic toward being helpful. Selfish mad bomber style alchemist. Typically does more splash damage to the party than being able to harm the enemies in combat. Party as a rule hates the character, Sandpoint hates the character, generally unliked by everybody.

The player is fine, just sits at the table and crochets and if a bomb can't solve the problem, she isn't interested.

Latrecis wrote:
Ideas

I really like this plan, and it should be able to implement itself cleanly. The armor thing was just me punishing myself for agreeing to let him buy mithril at a third the price.

Scarab Sages

I am pondering this whole fabricate thing.

What armor did he create? How much did it cost him? Why fabricate instead of having it crafted? Did you decided that a medium armor that weigh's 5 lbs would only cost 2.5k gp with fabricate vs the 4k gp normally for medium armor? Because if that's true, he'd need to find a wizard with some decent ranks in craft armor, since the DC for crafting MW is 20. Most wizard's won't put too many ranks in Craft (armor).

I also feel that the DC should be 20 + the AC bonus, as it is to craft regular armor. Otherwise, MW fullplate is as easy or hard to make as MW padded, which makes NO sense.

Math time!

Mithral Chain Mail
Crafted by an armorer who specializes in armor - cost would be 4,150 gp, and since it is purchasable as a standard item, no rolls need be made. Success and purchased. Time? 2 minutes.

Mithral Chain Mail
Fabricated by a wizard - 450 gp to cast it. 40 lbs (20 since it's mithral). so... 10,000 gp. So we'll be nice and assume the player is paying the initial 4,000 gp as per medium armor. Already, it costs more than the 4,150 gp that the smith would charge. But, let's go ahead with the fabricate. So the wizard casts, the spell, expends the goods, and now has to make a Craft (armor) roll. Let's assume the wizard has the standard INT for a level 5 spell (15). Craft is intelligence based. Assuming max skill points in Craft (armor), which virtually NO wizard will have, the wizard would have to roll a 15 on a d20 to successfully craft the armor. If he fails by more than 5, your player is out some serious cash. So, I again have to ask, how exactly did you player save money by having a wizard fabricate his armor?

Even if he had a chain shirt fabricated, it wouldn't be cheaper. You are still talking more for the spell casting than you are for the smith to make the item, and that's BEFORE throwing in the cost of mithral. The heavier the armor gets, the more it costs. Fabricate is more of a time saver spell than anything else. It's almost always cheaper to physically build the item, or pay someone to do it. Since the player wasn't the actual crafter, IMHO no merchant or wizard would EVER charge 1/2 price for materials. Its a business transaction, which would mean full price charge PLUS spell casting charge.


OK. I was going to stay quiet on this one, but since William piped up and did the math, I'll happily correct him (because I'm a jerk that way, and because he stole my icon! :-P ):

Fabricate you need the raw materials. The most generous GM in the universe would allow that to be a pile of mithral at 1/3 price, or (1/3)(4000) = 1333.33 g.p. Technically, it's 1/3 of the entire item price, or 1/3(4000 + 150 (chainmail)) = 1383.33 g.p. (In other words, I'm disagreeing with William when he prices Mithral per pound. If finished armor adds 4000 to the price, then according to the Skill rules the raw materials are 1/3 of that.)

Casting = 10 * Caster Level * Spell Level = 10*5*9 = 450, as indicated by William.

So supposing you manage to find a 9th-level wizard who has devoted enough skill ranks to Craft [Armor] to be able to cast the spell, and is willing to provide materials at cost, the best possible case is 1783.33 gold pieces, and more realistically 1833.33 gp.

However, at this point you're talking about a wizard who, out of the goodness of his heart, is charging you for materials at cost (seriously?), who has taken enough ranks in Craft [Armor] to create the masterwork armor and isn't charging you for the masterwork enhancement (seriously?), and who is willing to do all of this for the character at cost.

That would take one darned generous wizard.

I'd be far more inclined to put a markup on materials (to 2766.67 gp) and sell the whole thing for 3216.67, a discount from the 4150 price list, but hardly 1/3 price. On the other hand, if a wizard were doing this, the general fighter population would be beating down his door, leaving him little time to 'take care of' the PCs unless they ponied up a bit extra to get the armor early. Say, enough extra to bring it to list price...

Scarab Sages

Mithral chain mail would weigh 20 lbs, and mithral costs 500 gp a lb if you don't follow armor crafting cost of 4k gp.

If I straight up by a suit of mithral chain mail, I pay 4k gp extra. If I were to craft said chain mail, I would need 20 lbs of material (raw material, not the 4k gp cost bump on the table on page 155 on the Core Rulebook). So 20 lb of mithral would cost 10k gp, or 3,333.33 gp at 1/3 cost. Thus the 4k for medium. So, at most, the player saved 666.67 gp by having the wizard do it. If you put in the casting vs smithing difference of 300 gp, the player SHOULD have saved a whopping 366.67 gp.

This is where the crafting rules fail, and I would REALLY love to see them fixed some day. A smith would see very little profit in the Pathfinder/3.5 world.

And I'm not offended. I learn all sorts of stuff on these boards.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

As an aside, my ruling on crafting is that when making magic items and the like, you can sell something to a merchant for 75% of its value as it is brand new. In short, when selling used equipment you get 50% of its value. New equipment is worth 75% of it unless you sell it from your own store.


William Sinclair wrote:

Mithral chain mail would weigh 20 lbs, and mithral costs 500 gp a lb if you don't follow armor crafting cost of 4k gp.

This is where the crafting rules fail, and I would REALLY love to see them fixed some day. A smith would see very little profit in the Pathfinder/3.5 world.
And I'm not offended. I learn all sorts of stuff on these boards.

Ditto to all.

If you go by armor cost, there's significant savings. If you go by raw material cost, there isn't. So which is it? Who knows!

Scarab Sages

YAY for confusing as hell crafting rules and the spells that mimic them.... sigh....

As to the original line of this thread, Latrecis seems to have the right of the fix. Let us know how it goes.

As to your non-participating player, that does suck, and can be very irritating. But, as long as they seem happy, and don't interrupt the game otherwise, go with it. I used to bring a book to my games, so when it wasn't my turn, or I "wasn't there", I buried my nose in the book to avoid being an interruption or learning OoC knowledge. GM okay'd it, so it wasn't an issue.

Silver Crusade

The Seldon Plan wrote:
Latrecis wrote:


Its more that the character is actively antagonistic toward being helpful.

The player is fine, just sits at the table and crochets and if a bomb can't solve the problem, she isn't interested.

/QUOTE]

A player actually hurting the party instead of ever helping is a big problem in an AP. Players usually have to work together to survive such a long journey. I'd have a pric=vate talk with the player and tell her to change her act.


n o 417 wrote:


A player actually hurting the party instead of ever helping is a big problem in an AP. Players usually have to work together to survive such a long journey. I'd have a pric=vate talk with the player and tell her to change her act.

The only thing I'd add to that is to try to sell the player that you're not going to try to take the character concept she has away. You don't want to force someone who's enjoying playing a character who's a bit of a jerk into a lovable scamp. Rather, you're trying to find reasons for the character to work in congress with the party. Every evil campaign I've ever run, the players always began wondering why the heck their character would ever work alongside the other players. I feel that as DMs, we have to help them get there while still being true to their character, and as players, they have to put the overall fun of the group ahead of their individual enjoyment.


Hey OP here, wasn't getting notifications about responses.

It was Mithril Breastplate specifically. I can't remember what the total cost was but it was the same in raw materials as normally crafting (1/3) + 450 for spellcasting services. He made a point to buy the raw materials from a different vendor so the Wizard wasn't going to immediately object.

I randomly determined the amount of skill ranks he would have in craft based on the minimum level required to cast the spell, and from that determined his minimum bonuses based on having that many ranks and the required intellegence bonus to cast the spell in the first place.

I think the total bonus was either +5 or +6, and required two craft checks, one for the breastplate part (DC 20) and one for the masterwork part (also DC 20). He passed both checks as I rolled them in front of him. I went ahead and gave him the armor because it make sense to allow that greed to flow.

The rest of the solution hasn't really happened yet. Ironbriar basically threatened him with the option of surrendering himself to "justice" for the deaths of the Foxgloves and the WizardVender (a bluff by Ironbriar to put the armor on the table), to surrender the armor to Ironbriar (who as a cleric would extremely benefit by that armor specifically and would use it in combat against the PCs later) and be banished from Magnimar, or to become one of his agents and do his bidding "cleaning up Magnimar in ways he can't in an official capacity". The player was extremely offended by the idea of me immediately attempting to force him out of his armor, so he chose to work for Ironbriar as well as the Skinsaw Cult in general without realizing it. They brought him blindfolded to the sawmill and locked him in a room overnight. At this point I had to start making stuff up to get back on track, but it didn't work so well.

Ironbriar gave the PC instructions to end the life of a wealthy and influential banker in Magnimar, under the impression he had been ruthless in collecting debts and using it as an excuse to torture and enslave people. PC went back and met up with the "no help" alchemist, immediately recruited her for the murder scheme, and followed the son or their mark back to his house, end session. I have no idea what I'm doing making stuff up like this in what's already such a well crafted module.

The other two party members are desperately trying to piece together the clues in Sandpoint but are afraid to look into any of them until the party is whole again.


slayer_of_gellcor wrote:
n o 417 wrote:


A player actually hurting the party instead of ever helping is a big problem in an AP. Players usually have to work together to survive such a long journey. I'd have a pric=vate talk with the player and tell her to change her act.
The only thing I'd add to that is to try to sell the player that you're not going to try to take the character concept she has away. You don't want to force someone who's enjoying playing a character who's a bit of a jerk into a lovable scamp. Rather, you're trying to find reasons for the character to work in congress with the party. Every evil campaign I've ever run, the players always began wondering why the heck their character would ever work alongside the other players. I feel that as DMs, we have to help them get there while still being true to their character, and as players, they have to put the overall fun of the group ahead of their individual enjoyment.

She's not really actively antagonistic, just actively detached. She genuinely, as a player, wants the group to do well and she never intentionally does things to harm the progress of the party. But whenever there is an opportunity to throw a bomb and miss and do extensively more damage to the party, it always without fail works out that way. Her social reactions in-character have caused a lot of conflicts but that's role playing I guess. She doesn't offer help without compensation and enjoys the suffering of others, party typically excluded. She gained the ire of Ameiko by during the rescue, laughing in her face during the news her brother and father had been killed. Sheriff Hemlock doesn't like the group already since when he came back from Magnimar with more men to fortify defenses, the group was actually in Magnimar putzing around for Raise Dead, when the party encountered the Yeth Hounds. They didn't tell him that's why they were there, only that they do what they want.


As far as adding new stuff and making stuff up like this on the fly goes, it sounds like you're doing well. There's nothing wrong with adding your own plots and twists to the AP, and I especially like the idea that you had Ironbriar use the PC to do the bidding of the Skinsaw Cult without realizing it. It sounds like you've actually done quite a good job of winging it. I tend to end up contradicting myself when I try to ad lib, and my players ALWAYS call me out on it. Then I end up having to explain, OOC, that I, as the GM, am doing a poor job portraying a scene or character and make sure my players don't get the wrong impression.

Anyway, I think if you want to solve the problem, you'll need to modify the AP and reunite your PCs. This AP is not permanently derailed, you just need to get them back to a common point. Here's an idea: shift the murder investigation to Magnimar; you'll need to figure out a justification and a way to get the other PCs to Magnimar. Ironbriar knows about the party at this point, so maybe he wants to meet the rest of them to size them up. He asks Belor to send them to help Magnimar, seeing how they've been so helpful in Sandpoint, and you can run the initial murder scene investigation in Magnimar instead of Sandpoint. You'll have to change the NPCs involved and come up with a little back story and some new possible suspects to interrogate. Play up Ironbriar to be clueless about the possible suspect (though he obviously knows), then maybe after that investigation, Ironbriar tells the PCs Belor has more information on a related murder -- cue travel back to Sandpoint, PCs learn about the first murders, then go to Habe's. Bam, AP back on track. Then you'll have some nice ties to Magnimar, and once the PCs discover Aldern's journal with details about the Skinsaw Cult, the PCs already have a place to begin looking.

Or, use some good old fashioned deus ex machina: Shalelu, on one of her rare trips to Magnimar, or maybe Ameiko, dealing with some legal matters regarding ownership of the Glassworks, bumps into the PC and says there have been some murders in Sandpoint and Sheriff Hemlock could really use the PCs help.

These are just a few ideas -- I've realized after reading and posting on the forums here that sometimes when we get stuck as GMs, it is difficult for us to see a way out of the problems we create for ourselves. Fortunately, there are places like this where we can write about our problems and get new perspective that maybe we couldn't see before.

Point is, you're the GM and your players don't know what is up ahead. You can use literally ANY plot device to get the party back together and back on track; just make sure you don't end up contradicting yourself like me.

Scarab Sages

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What alignment is the alchemist? I'm guessing N or CN.

I only allow Good or LN alignments in my game for this very reason. I hate to constrict players like that, but if they play their alignment, then there is really very little motivation for the PCs to help Sandpoint at that point.

As to your issue with the other player over the breastplate, I really like it! It sounds like you are doing a good job of making at an engaging adventure for your group (minus the alchemist, of course), and are doing a good job of tying in the pertinent NPCs.

I came to the realization a LOOOOONG time ago that these AP's are nothing more than general scripts. Players need to feel in control of their PCs' lives, and if they get railroaded all of the time, then it sucks. I just make sure that the rest of the world moves on around them, regardless of what they do or don't do. For instance, my PCs were not in town when Sandpoint got sacked. The sacking still occurred, and it was very bad. It's up to the PCs to fix the problem. They complained about the fact that they had no warning, but the fact was, they made assumptions based on the warnings and clues given, and were wrong. From what I am reading, you are doing an excellent job. Keep going!


The Seldon Plan wrote:

Hey OP here, wasn't getting notifications about responses.

It was Mithril Breastplate specifically. I can't remember what the total cost was but it was the same in raw materials as normally crafting (1/3) + 450 for spellcasting services. He made a point to buy the raw materials from a different vendor so the Wizard wasn't going to immediately object.

I randomly determined the amount of skill ranks he would have in craft based on the minimum level required to cast the spell, and from that determined his minimum bonuses based on having that many ranks and the required intellegence bonus to cast the spell in the first place.

I think the total bonus was either +5 or +6, and required two craft checks, one for the breastplate part (DC 20) and one for the masterwork part (also DC 20). He passed both checks as I rolled them in front of him. I went ahead and gave him the armor because it make sense to allow that greed to flow.

The rest of the solution hasn't really happened yet. Ironbriar basically threatened him with the option of surrendering himself to "justice" for the deaths of the Foxgloves and the WizardVender (a bluff by Ironbriar to put the armor on the table), to surrender the armor to Ironbriar (who as a cleric would extremely benefit by that armor specifically and would use it in combat against the PCs later) and be banished from Magnimar, or to become one of his agents and do his bidding "cleaning up Magnimar in ways he can't in an official capacity". The player was extremely offended by the idea of me immediately attempting to force him out of his armor, so he chose to work for Ironbriar as well as the Skinsaw Cult in general without realizing it. They brought him blindfolded to the sawmill and locked him in a room overnight. At this point I had to start making stuff up to get back on track, but it didn't work so well.

Ironbriar gave the PC instructions to end the life of a wealthy and influential banker in Magnimar, under the impression he had been ruthless in collecting debts and using it as an excuse to torture and enslave people. PC went back and met up with the "no help" alchemist, immediately recruited her for the murder scheme, and followed the son or their mark back to his house, end session. I have no idea what I'm doing making stuff up like this in what's already such a well crafted module.

The other two party members are desperately trying to piece together the clues in Sandpoint but are afraid to look into any of them until the party is whole again.

Boy, you've got yourself tangled up good. But nothing that can't be worked through. One high point - you've done a good job painting Ironbriar as suspicious or at least somewhat underhanded. If I followed the blindfolded part - the pc didn't see much of anything at the Mill but will be well positioned to make mental connections when the players have to go there later.

Tip 1: Let go of the breastplate. Just let it go, man. Doesn't matter if you shouldn't have let him get it or if it's not possible according to RAW or any of that. The player has his teeth sunk into it now and any more yanking on it will make you look like a jerk. If the players think you're a jerk, you're not losing, you're failing.

Tip 2: Your number 1 priority is to get the party reunited. Don't split the party isn't just great advice for players, it's great advice for DM's. When a player declares - "I'm sticking my knife in the electric socket!" - the more other players there are in the vicinity the greater chance one of them will say, "Umm, that's not a good idea." Other example: I'm going to serve as the hired assassin for an obviously corrupt Justice in Magnimar.

To get them re-united you could bring your Sandpoint contingent to Magnimar and rewrite the AP to have the Skinsaw murders happen in Magnimar. But that's not a trivial exercise. I suggest you get your Magnimar contingent back to Sandpoint so they can get on with the AP as written. But you need to be careful how you get them out - it's okay if they leave thinking "we won't ever go back there" but it's not okay if they leave thinking "we can't ever go back there." That'll only create stress and conflict when the AP carries them back to Magnimar later.

I suggest the following - have some of the Skinsaw cultists, impersonating guards, catch up to your would-be assassins - "Glad we caught you. Justice Ironbriar needs this man captured alive. Looks like he's part of a conspiracy. We think he might be a faceless stalker and he or his minions killed the Foxgloves. Ironbriar says you're supposed to help us capture him and then hightail it out of town for a while before anyone figures out you're working for us." If you think it necessary provide a written note from Ironbriar confirming his orders. Have the PC's help capture the banker and then have the "guards" encourage them to leave town immediately. If you want to get crazy, have the cultists stage a real faceless stalker as the banker to convince the PC's there is a "doppleganger conspiracy" and that Ironbriar is working to shut it down. Whether you do that or not, make sure the players consider the possibility the Aldern they met in Sandpoint was a fake. No reason not to take the opportunity to mess with their heads going into Skinsaw Murders proper.

If you're looking for backstory on the change in orders (and you could even put it in Ironbriar's notes if desired) - Xanesha found out about the orders to kill the banker and quickly reversed them - "What are you doing wasting my carefully cultivated sacrifice?! Go get that banker and rune sacrifice him as I originally ordered!"

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