The Emerald Spire Superdungeon Discussion Thread


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The Sword Emperor wrote:

Here's my concern for the second level of the Spire: more darkness effects. Granted, much of the floor is easy to see with a torch. However, there's one big problem.

The moon spiders.

I'm afraid the moon spiders are going to be an exercise in frustration for a Level 1 party. They have a lot of tactical advantages....

The character falls down a ten foot pit, onto spikes, and then gets trapped in there with a moon spider (whom, I remind you, can use obscuring mist and also block the only escape route; it'd also get cover from the trap door against anyone above it).

I ran the top two levels of the dungeon at a convention this past weekend.

I concur almost entirely with the Sword Emperor's critique of the tower ruins and the level underneath. The darkness effect in the castle itself was frustrating for the party. The same with the obscuring mist.

But, thinking back, I may have been playing the darkness effect in the tower ruins incorrectly. The party encountered the ruins during the day, and I'm not sure how much sunlight would normally get through the green glass ceilings. It's plausible that the ambient lighting of the place would be dim light. So, concealment for the goblins running around in the twilit rooms and corridors, but not total concealment.

Otherwise, the party of four PCs would have died a couple of times, but for my softballing some tough encounters. Much like the top level of Thornkeep.

The Concordance RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Chris Mortika wrote:
The Sword Emperor wrote:

Here's my concern for the second level of the Spire: more darkness effects. Granted, much of the floor is easy to see with a torch. However, there's one big problem.

/snip/

I ran the top two levels of the dungeon at a convention this past weekend.

I concur almost entirely with the Sword Emperor's critique of the tower ruins and the level underneath. The darkness effect in the castle itself was frustrating for the party. The same with the obscuring mist.

But, thinking back, I may have been playing the darkness effect in the tower ruins incorrectly. The party encountered the ruins during the day, and I'm not sure how much sunlight would normally get through the green glass ceilings. It's plausible that the ambient lighting of the place would be dim light. So, concealment for the goblins running around in the twilit rooms and corridors, but not total concealment.

/snip/

Unfortunately, IIRC, the darkness effects on the 1st level are always on. The goblins aren't affected since they have darkvision.

When I run this, I plan on modifying the light levels on level 1 so that it will never get brighter than dim light. That way even the non-darkvision and non-low-light PCs will still be effective.


Chris, how would you alter the Crypts?
I'm thinking of making the hallway traps obvious (no dust; or extra cobwebs around them), if not removing them entirely. Also, just completely removing the "obscuring mist" power of the moon spiders; maybe even the gaseous form. I know that leaves them as just big spiders that can poison you, but that seems like enough given the area. Alternatively, giving them a different power - something more reminiscent of the moon. Maybe a one-shot sleep spell (or targeted sleep), to make it easier to capture people; or a natural darkness effect that lowers the effect of all light near them by one rank (still, similar to the floor above).

The effect is a special kind of magical darkness; it doesn't matter what time of day it is - the interior of the tower is always dark. The flavor text shows that light stops abruptly at the tower's entrance.

Incidentally, the premise for the magical darkness effect is questionable. "The Azlanti builders created this magical effect to activate once night had fallen, but it is permanently stuck in its night setting." It raises questions.
Why did the Azlanti create a night effect on the top floor of the tower? What purpose does it serve? Wouldn't you want a "light" effect at night, so people can see? Why would you want to make it so dark that you literally cannot see (recalling that the Azlanti are humans)? If it has something to do with defense, then it should read "The Azlanti builders created this magical effect to activate in case of attack, but it is permanently stuck in its night setting."


DarkKnightCuron wrote:
Curious if there's a way to combine the Thornkeep book with the Emerald Spire book. I'm sure with some modifications to either (or both) you could have a really long-lasting Campaign (up to around level 21 perhaps?) Any thoughts on this?

I'll be sending my PC's to Thornkeep to spy out the town, with the explict hint to "pose" as treasure hunters.

Short term goal is to put down the banditry, with the long term goal to have the route via (bandit free) Thornkeep be cheaper than via (high taxing) Fort Inevetable.

That should have them crawling all over the map in the Thornkeep Book
and when the two books have been depleted of XP there is always Mosswater to take care of.


I'm quite keen to see the Goblin level in play - we use VTT with individual lighting effects, so the characters that don't have darkvision will literally only be able to see a 5-feet radius around themselves. I've had "darkness" fights using the VTT lighting mechanics before that were incredibly exciting, so I think this has a lot of potential. It could however be a tricky fight for level 1 characters if one runs the goblins as smarter or more tactical than they are portrayed - goblins relying heavily on ranged attacks or hit-and-run attacks inside the darkness effect would cause a lot of problems.

It's important to keep in mind that the moon spider is still affected by the obscuring mist - like blindsense, tremorsense only lets you locate the square creatures are in. they still suffer from miss chance when making attacks.

A fairly easy fix to make the pits less lethal is to make them normal pit traps instead of spiked ones.


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Kudaku wrote:

I'm quite keen to see the Goblin level in play - we use VTT with individual lighting effects, so the characters that don't have darkvision will literally only be able to see a 5-feet radius around themselves. I've had "darkness" fights using the VTT lighting mechanics before that were incredibly exciting, so I think this has a lot of potential. It could however be a tricky fight for level 1 characters if one runs the goblins as smarter or more tactical than they are portrayed - goblins relying heavily on ranged attacks or hit-and-run attacks inside the darkness effect would cause a lot of problems.

It's important to keep in mind that the moon spider is still affected by the obscuring mist - like blindsense, tremorsense only lets you locate the square creatures are in. they still suffer from miss chance when making attacks.

A fairly easy fix to make the pits less lethal is to make them normal pit traps instead of spiked ones.

I'm just making them filled with webs. If you fall (or jump) in you automatically gain the Entangled condition but no damage.

I'm running an all-Dwarven party through this. They're about to start the third level and it's been good times thus far. Lots of the Dwarven racial traits are proving seriously advantageous.


All dwarf party would be pretty nuts for a campaign set exclusively underground! I fully expect to see some Cave druids and Deep Walker rangers for this campaign as well.


Kudaku wrote:
All dwarf party would be pretty nuts for a campaign set exclusively underground! I fully expect to see some Cave druids and Deep Walker rangers for this campaign as well.

Well...

Spoiler:
The entire party having dark vision made life a lot easier on the first level, as did Hatred, and Stonecunning has made finding secret doors and traps a hell of a lot easier on the second level. They have really high hit points and Gorloth (due to some solid but not spectacular rolls) couldn't get a spell to affect them. The baby spider swarm was a nightmare for them though.

I'm setting up an ambush for them by the Splinters on their way back to town to resupply, catch them out of their element, so to speak, and give them a bit of foreshadowing for the next level.

The group actually has a pretty great backstory. They include a Cleric (Healing, Heroism), two Invulnerable Rager brothers and a Zen Archer who serves as their scout. Two levels down, eleven more to go.


Race you to the bottom ;-D


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Kudaku wrote:

I'm quite keen to see the Goblin level in play - we use VTT with individual lighting effects, so the characters that don't have darkvision will literally only be able to see a 5-feet radius around themselves. I've had "darkness" fights using the VTT lighting mechanics before that were incredibly exciting, so I think this has a lot of potential. It could however be a tricky fight for level 1 characters if one runs the goblins as smarter or more tactical than they are portrayed - goblins relying heavily on ranged attacks or hit-and-run attacks inside the darkness effect would cause a lot of problems.

It's important to keep in mind that the moon spider is still affected by the obscuring mist - like blindsense, tremorsense only lets you locate the square creatures are in. they still suffer from miss chance when making attacks.

A fairly easy fix to make the pits less lethal is to make them normal pit traps instead of spiked ones.

It is really fun on VTT. Two elves (lowlight) & two aasimar (darkvision). The Aasimar kept leading the elves around, but they basically ended up supporting the aasimars. The elf players were frustrated especially when the ceiling fell on them, but I think it sets the mood of the dungeon as no joke. The party is currently holed up resting inside the ruins level. Should be fun.


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FMS SirZac wrote:


It is really fun on VTT. Two elves (lowlight) & two aasimar (darkvision). The Aasimar kept leading the elves around, but they basically ended up supporting the aasimars. The elf players were frustrated especially when the ceiling fell on them, but I think it sets the mood of the dungeon as no joke. The party is currently holed up resting inside the ruins level. Should be fun.

In our campaign...

Spoiler:
...the Zen Archer spotted the trap before it was triggered and called the others in pursuit to a halt. The goblins whom had been luring them in got frustrated and charged them while the goblins waiting to pull the lever, true to form, got impatient and triggered the trap, burying their comrades.

I have GOT to learn about about this VTT thing. Might open up a new world of gaming for me.


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I've been using Roll20.net for about a year and a half now and while it can be a little fiddly at times, I'm a big fan. I'm also enjoying it more and more as I become better at organizing things and learning new functions - when I started off I'd spend a full afternoon trying to do what I can now do in about five minutes.
The basic subscription at roll20 is free, or you can subscribe at $5 a month to unlock some extra functions. Only the GM needs to subscribe, so one subscription is enough to cover multiple parties - I don't find the price an issue.

I quite enjoy some of the functions it adds (like individual lighting) - even players who actively try not to metagame rarely consider how their character moves around within a room to explore it when using a flip map - using lighting means that characters move around more naturally to explore things - step up to the hallway to peek ahead, for example.
Here is a gallery I threw together to illustrate the lighting functions.

The downside is that it can take a while to get everything ready. Maps, custom tokens and lighting levels etc all take a bit of time to prepare - time you'd normally save if you simply sketch the outline of rooms on a normal flip mat and use cardboard tokens. That said, lighting and custom graphics etc are all optional - you can use VTTs exactly like how you'd run a tabletop game (using drawing tools to quickly sketch up the dungeon instead of custom maps etc). It just seems like a bit of a waste to have all these great tools and not use them!

I'm leaving town for a few weeks on Tuesday, but when I'm back I'd be happy to give you a test run online sometime - just drop me a PM if that sounds interesting. :)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Kudaku wrote:

I quite enjoy some of the functions it adds (like individual lighting) - even players who actively try not to metagame rarely consider how their character moves around within a room to explore it when using a flip map - using lighting means that characters move around more naturally to explore things - step up to the hallway to peek ahead, for example.

Here is a gallery I threw together to illustrate the lighting functions.

That looks incredible. I've been contemplating setting up Roll20 for my own group. I'm curious about the maps. Did you create them from scratch or import something?

The Concordance RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

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I have thrown together a document with runes I have culled from elsewhere in the webs. This document has the graphic of the Emerald Spire's level runes, and a list of places it can be found within the Emerald Spire (hopefully I haven't missed a reference).

Comments and suggestions are welcome, even desired.

They can be found here, The Emerald Spire Runes

Franchisee - Game Kastle College Park

catdragon wrote:

I have thrown together a document with runes I have culled from elsewhere in the webs. This document has the graphic of the Emerald Spire's level runes, and a list of places it can be found within the Emerald Spire (hopefully I haven't missed a reference).

Comments and suggestions are welcome, even desired.

They can be found here, The Emerald Spire Runes

These are awesome! Thanks!


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Some Other Guy wrote:
Kudaku wrote:

I quite enjoy some of the functions it adds (like individual lighting) - even players who actively try not to metagame rarely consider how their character moves around within a room to explore it when using a flip map - using lighting means that characters move around more naturally to explore things - step up to the hallway to peek ahead, for example.

Here is a gallery I threw together to illustrate the lighting functions.
That looks incredible. I've been contemplating setting up Roll20 for my own group. I'm curious about the maps. Did you create them from scratch or import something?

I bought the Emerald Spire flip map PDF and used www.zamzar.com to extract the map images, then uploaded them to Roll20 and scaled the map to 24x30 squares - it makes aligning the map grid and roll20's grid very easy.

In the past I've both used maps created from scratch (I have a friend who's pretty awesome with photoshop) and maps extracted from adventure paths. The latter can be dicey, since the AP map resolution tends to be in the 1200x1600 range, which makes for grainy maps when you scale them up to flip map size - for comparison the emerald spire maps I showcased above are about 3600 x 4800 and look gorgeous even zoomed in close.

It takes me about one to two hours to get a level of Emerald Spire fully organized. That includes extracting and scaling the map, drawing up dynamic light lines, noting room descriptions and putting in GM notes on traps, creating custom tokens for monsters and writing macros so I have all their common attacks, saves and abilities ready to go.

I've GMed several APs on roll20 and I have to say the hardest part is usually finding good maps - APs usually only cover about 50% to 75% of the fights with maps, and those maps are frequently small, which means it's hard to fit them onto roll20 without making for ugly maps. I have had some success with community made maps, but that really depends on the AP you're running. The AP forums can be a treasure trove of great stuff! For example RotRL has quite a few user-made maps but Curse of the Crimson Throne has very little community support. I really wish I was a better artist so I could just draw my own maps when I come up short.

In hindsight I think it's a good idea to not set your bar too high - I spent way too much time hunting down community-made maps or trying to fix the resolution on a particularly grainy (Fort Rannick was painful AP map. It's perfectly OK to play with a blank background and sketch up lines on like you would on a regular blank flip mat.


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Kudaku wrote:
I've GMed several APs on roll20 and I have to say the hardest part is usually finding good maps - APs usually only cover about 50% to 75% of the fights with maps, and those maps are frequently small, which means it's hard to fit them onto roll20 without making for ugly maps. I have had some success with community made maps, but that really depends on the AP you're running. The AP forums can be a treasure trove of great stuff! For example RotRL has quite a few user-made maps but Curse of the Crimson Throne has very little community support. I really wish I was a better artist so I could just draw my own maps when I come up short.

You might try Dundjinni. I've heard the legal terms surrounding distributing what you create can be onerous, but that shouldn't be an issue if you're just using them for your VTT games.

Paizo Employee CEO

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The Sword Emperor wrote:
Here was the major frustration of the level: the darkness effect. It was useful tactically for the goblins, but it meant that over half the party just stood around not knowing what to do. If they had stood in the darkness while the rangers attacked, they would have lost their Dexterity bonus to AC, and been murdered quickly. This could easily have turned into a bloodbath if I'd played the goblins smarter; and in any case, trying to deal with the smothering darkness was frustrating for the players, instead of exciting.

I definitely put that darkness effect into the level to make it harder on the players. I wanted them to think tactically and find creative ways to overcome the darkness. For instance, lighting torches and throwing them into the dungeon ahead of them is a great way to create little pools of light away from them that each have a five foot radiance circle.

When I ran this at PaizoCon, the characters really had to think outside of the box. The person playing Valeros would have him step out of cover and then use the goblin arrows sticking out of him to pinpoint where the goblins were, or at least closely enough that a sunrod or torch could be cast in that direction, usually uncovering the goblin who fired the shot. Sure, lots of cures were used on poor Valeros, but it made the level more exciting by forcing the players to get creative.

-Lisa

Paizo Employee CEO

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catdragon wrote:

Unfortunately, IIRC, the darkness effects on the 1st level are always on. The goblins aren't affected since they have darkvision.

When I run this, I plan on modifying the light levels on level 1 so that it will never get brighter than dim light. That way even the non-darkvision and non-low-light PCs will still be effective.

Remember that light illuminates all squares 5 feet around it. It isn't total darkness around the party provided that they have light sources. It is perfectly bright around the light. It is just pitch blackness further out. Makes ranged combat much harder since you can't see what you are shooting at. But melee attacks are all normal and have no darkness effects (unless of course you are attacking with reach into a darkness square.

-Lisa

Paizo Employee CEO

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The Sword Emperor wrote:
Why did the Azlanti create a night effect on the top floor of the tower? What purpose does it serve? Wouldn't you want a "light" effect at night, so people can see? Why would you want to make it so dark that you literally cannot see (recalling that the Azlanti are humans)? If it has something to do with defense, then it should read "The Azlanti builders created this magical effect to activate in case of attack, but it is permanently stuck in its night setting."

Remember, the darkness effect is only past five feet around the light source. This is hugely important. An Azlanti walking around the tower with a light source would have perfect vision and light around himself. But his light wouldn't creep into other rooms, waking those folks.

If I am standing in a square with a torch, I light up the eight squares around me in addition to the square I am standing in. Just nothing further out than that.

-Lisa

Paizo Employee CEO

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Btw, my inspiration for the Upper Ruins was the classic module, Dragon Mountain. I loved the way the kobolds in that adventure had the upper hand on the adventurers and made the most of their surroundings to be deadly. I remember my players constantly saying things like, "I didn't think kobolds could be this deadly!" They were on their turf and the adventurers weren't. I like the fact that it gives the home team a leg up.

-Lisa


Thank you for writing one of my favorite levels, Lisa. :)

I really like the lighting effect in level 1 (and I really enjoy using light/darkness mechanics in encounters in general), but I wonder if it might have been a better fit for level 2 or 3 - it shuts down ranged characters really hard unless they have darkvision or start throwing around light sources, which can be a little discouraging for a level 1 archer just getting into the game.

When I get to run this I'll definitely encourage my players to experiment to find the limits and opportunities offered by the light effect - I think I'll give a few of the goblins flasks of alchemist's fire, then they can see the light shed by the flask's flames when the goblins (inevitably) miss whatever they're trying to hit.

Lisa Stevens wrote:
When I ran this at PaizoCon, the characters really had to think outside of the box. The person playing Valeros would have him step out of cover and then use the goblin arrows sticking out of him to pinpoint where the goblins were(...)

That is brilliant! Who said fighters never have any utility!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Kudaku wrote:
Some Other Guy wrote:
Kudaku wrote:

I quite enjoy some of the functions it adds (like individual lighting) - even players who actively try not to metagame rarely consider how their character moves around within a room to explore it when using a flip map - using lighting means that characters move around more naturally to explore things - step up to the hallway to peek ahead, for example.

Here is a gallery I threw together to illustrate the lighting functions.
That looks incredible. I've been contemplating setting up Roll20 for my own group. I'm curious about the maps. Did you create them from scratch or import something?

I bought the Emerald Spire flip map PDF and used www.zamzar.com to extract the map images, then uploaded them to Roll20 and scaled the map to 24x30 squares - it makes aligning the map grid and roll20's grid very easy.

So my next question is where did you get those tokens? The included ones don't seem to be the actual Pathfinder ones like you are using.


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Some Other Guy wrote:
So my next question is where did you get those tokens? The included ones don't seem to be the actual Pathfinder ones like you are using.

I extracted every image from the first 3 PDF bestiaries (don't have B4 yet) using the Nuance PDF reader (which has a handy tool for extracting ALL art from a PDF in one go) and keep them on hand in separate folders. Whenever I need a new monster token, I grab the monster's illustration from the bestiary and paste it into a token template with GIMP 2, then upload it to my personal storage on Roll20. It takes about 15 seconds per token. I also did this with the NPC codex, so I have a few hundred NPCs on hand when I need them. Handy when you suddenly need to plop down a few commoners, guards or noblemen. :)

For custom creature tokens such as Clanky, I do the same thing except I paste the image from the Emerald Spire PDF.

I can't share any of my tokens since that would definitely violate Paizo's copyright, but I can show you a generic token here to get you started. Good luck! :)

Paizo Employee CEO

Kudaku wrote:
When I get to run this I'll definitely encourage my players to experiment to find the limits and opportunities offered by the light effect - I think I'll give a few of the goblins flasks of alchemist's fire, then they can see the light shed by the flask's flames when the goblins (inevitably) miss whatever they're trying to hit.

As some folks have said above, one of the key ways to beat the level is to play on the nature of goblins and get them to give up their advantage. They aren't very wise or smart. They can be tricked pretty easily. I expect there are going to be some awesome stories coming out of my level, which is what I was shooting for. If you want to jump in and just hack and slash, then you might end up in a world of hurt. But if you use your brain and the goblin's lack thereof, you can turn the level into something memorable!

-Lisa

Liberty's Edge

Starfinder Superscriber
Lisa Stevens wrote:

The person playing Valeros would have him step out of cover and then use the goblin arrows sticking out of him to pinpoint where the goblins were, or at least closely enough that a sunrod or torch could be cast in that direction, usually uncovering the goblin who fired the shot. Sure, lots of cures were used on poor Valeros, but it made the level more exciting by forcing the players to get creative.

-Lisa

Excellent. Sounds like Valeros was serving his purpose perfectly. :)

The Concordance RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

I've been looking for the city stat blocks for the major cities around Echo Wood. Not having much luck beyond Carrion Crown. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Starfall
Nerosyn
Thronestep

All three have escaped by Google-fu....


"Caerlin knows of an unplundered wizard’s tower in Mosswater, and he would be willing to share that information with heroes likely to use it for good."

Does anyone know what this is about?


It shows up in one of the novels. Basically Mosswater was a town that was wiped out by ogres, but the local wizard's tower had wards that kept the Ogre's from being able to enter.


I ran the approach to Emerald Spire today, and it was a lot of fun.

Spoiler:
The group is more familiar with me running Call of Cthulhu, so alternated between being very cautious with the goblins and then being reckless once combat began. One of the players has played very little Pathfinder, so I tried to go easy on them when appropriate. When fighting the goblin dog riding commando (commando is a plural word, not sure if two counts as a commando-plural though) the three melee-capable moved forward to engage. The novice to PF playing the sorcerer stayed by the barricade, which is where goblin reinforcements were about to emerge from. She made her perception check, and cast burning hands on the barricade while four goblins were climbing through (the alternative to the barricade burning them to death was leaving the level 1 sorcerer in melee with four goblins). The best was the fight in the mess hall. The archaeologist bard went first, casting grease on the table and two goblins. The monk went on the same initiative number but next in order, and jumped on the table half a second after it was greased. The monk slid off the table and landed on her feet. The goblins failed reflex saves trying to stand and fell. The NPC cleric (we only had three players this week) had been around the corner and was unaware of the grease spell, so fell down while trying to get into melee position.

The first level (which still has one encounter left) was hugely entertaining. The Half-Orc archaeologist bard is more interested in finding anything of archaeological significance than looting the dead. The only character without darkvision is the Half-Elf monk, who will have to rely on the anime-inspired drow sorcerer to tell her what's happening when darkvision is required. Emerald Spire so far is more fun to run than it is to read, and it's a lot of fun to read.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

So, would I be right in guessing that using the maps from the PDF on a Roll20 setting would not be permitted under the Community Use Policy? Or is it permitted if I'm not charging for access to the game?

I can draw the maps out myself, but being able to use the included maps - which scale to Roll20's grid quite well - would save tons of time and be a lot more fun for the players.

Thanks!


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Jason Lillis wrote:

So, would I be right in guessing that using the maps from the PDF on a Roll20 setting would not be permitted under the Community Use Policy? Or is it permitted if I'm not charging for access to the game?

I can draw the maps out myself, but being able to use the included maps - which scale to Roll20's grid quite well - would save tons of time and be a lot more fun for the players.

Thanks!

Nevermind - checked the FAQ, and this seems to say, "Go ahead," to me, especially as others can't download the map from Roll20.

FAQ wrote:

My download came with an Interactive Map. What is it?

These maps are included as a tool for GMs to use in their games, either to hide secret information from players, or as a tool to help players map areas on their own. They may be very helpful to GMs who run games using virtual tabletop software.

Liberty's Edge

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Starfinder Superscriber

Roll20 is like a private tabletop. If you're publishing the maps where anybody can download them, that would be naughty. You should also not publish the maps within the Roll20 Market. But if it's private to your account, it should be OK; it's just the virtual equivalent of using your physical maps at your physical tabletop even if the players don't have their own copies of the physical maps.


That's unfortunate. I'm sure that you could find 16 people willing to volunteer an hour or two each to make an awesome Roll20 version of the flip-map set, but they wouldn't be able to share it.


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Advisement: Read the Thornkeep Supplement
People running the Emerald Spire Superdungeon would be well-advised to also purchase Thornkeep. If you want to know anything about the Echo Woods, more details about the Kingdom of Zog, other information about Nhur Athemon, or even just see what Iliara Starcloak looks like, then you need Thornkeep.

The Emerald Spire Superdungeon and Thornkeep are two products that need to be read together to get the full picture. Unfortunately, you wouldn't realize that just by reading The Emerald Spire Superdungeon; you might wonder whether there is more information on the local area, and look for a book called The Crusader Road, but that just pulls up the name of a novel. Discovering that Thornkeep contains the information you need requires a little more digging. You might realize you should go straight to Thornkeep, but only if you've read about the random encounter tables in the Emerald Spire superdungeon, which recommend using the encounter tables from Thornkeep for the Echo Woods.

Ironically, the random encounter tables from Thornkeep's book, re: the Echo Woods has a curious omission. No Moon Spiders, despite the fact that moon spiders are one of the creatures that populates the Echo Woods (and presumably with at least as great a frequency as young green dragons, which are on the table). If you want moon spiders, you have to fit them on the table; and then if you want to actually run them, you need to go to the bestiary of the Emerald Spire Superdungeon.

Then there's an issue with Fort Inevitable itself: it sits directly on the Crusader Road, but if you want an idea of what that looks like, you'll need to go to Thornkeep; the Emerald Spire Superdungeon does not have a map of the Crusader Road region. Incidentally, this means that when you read The Emerald Spire Superdungeon, you as the DM may be initially confused as to where exactly Fort Inevitable is, and where the Emerald Spire is in relation to it. Putting that together from the module itself takes a lot of cross-referencing; whereas if you have access to the Thornkeep supplement, you immediately know the location of the Emerald Spire.

This is a problem because DMs are likely to pick up the Emerald Spire module without context: there isn't anything on the cover - nor in the introduction - that suggests the reader should consider picking up Thornkeep too. This is especially problematic on the business end because the Emerald Spire superdungeon is meant to be a major product: a kind of archetypical dungeon.

A preferable way to have gone about this would be as follows: release a supplement called The Crusader Road, which describes the eponymous region: information on Fort Inevitable, Thornkeep, and Fort Riverwatch; the Echo Woods; a brief history lesson on the region, including what the Kingdom of Zog was like (because many of the ruins date back to that era); a discussion of local personalities throughout the region; and so forth.

Although both supplements have their own dungeons, you could definitely separate the Emerald Spire from Fort Inevitable. There's several quests from that town which take people to the Emerald Spire; but it feels tacked on: the module doesn't explain why Iliara Starcloak has gone to Fort Inevitable to recruit people to get back her apprentices, when she could probably find locals in Thornkeep. Also, I would think there would be several quest lines connecting the Emerald Spire to Thornkeep as well; if for no other reason than Thornkeep and Fort Inevitable are equidistant from the Emerald Spire.

The game might have been better served by putting the Emerald Spire and the Accursed Halls in the same supplement. There's already connections between the two, and having them in the same book means that DMs could easily switch between the two, and start planning out early whether or how they want to make connections. The book could have spent time balancing the two, and creating this unusual kind of dungeon, where the players are switching between these two locations as the core of solving the greater mystery of the Crusader Road. And that's actually a missed opportunity: the Crusader Road is a prime area for Azlanti Ruins, and you could conjecture that a lot of the later ruins are built upon technology and speculation about these ruins. You could build several smaller dungeons and event locations in the area, with everything tying itself back to the central mystery; for example, maybe the Kingdom of Zog got started when the barghests were summoned by the Emerald Spire's power - or maybe somebody found one of Nhur Athemon's artifacts. Eventually the players will have completed the Accursed Halls beneath Thornkeep, and gotten an impression of the kind of bad-ass terror that is Nhur Athemon; and then they'll continue down into the Emerald Spire, confront the terror himself; and learn that things go a little deeper than that (literally and figuratively). By the time the players have exhausted the Emerald Spire, they could have plumbed the various mysteries of the Crusader Road and gained a newfound appreciation for the richness of this locale.

I'm not sure how long the book would be if you included all of the above information: some parts would be smaller because you wouldn't need to explain twice certain points. Also, presumably such a book would not have included the Pathfinder Online appendix in Thornkeep (which dedicates about 20 pages of that supplement to the MMO). Even so, I realize that this would probably make the supplement over 250 pages (and I'm being conservative); which probably does not fit Paizo's publishing scheme; this conceptual Crusader Road book could be prohibitively expensive. You could get around that by separating it into two books: one regarding the local culture, and the other regarding adventure sites - but I don't think that would really fix the problem. I suspect most DMs would still want both; and then they'd be back to flipping between a couple books.


The Sword Emperor wrote:
Tons of useful stuff about Thorn keep and Emerald Spire

First: Wow. Second: Thanks for the info. :)

P.S. Are you the Tempe, AZ living, used-to-play 4E with Aaron Sword Emperor? :)


2 people marked this as a favorite.

First, a response to bugleyman; and then onto new comments!

bugleyman wrote:
The Sword Emperor wrote:
Tons of useful stuff about Thorn keep and Emerald Spire

First: Wow. Second: Thanks for the info. :)

P.S. Are you the Tempe, AZ living, used-to-play 4E with Aaron Sword Emperor? :)

Hey! :D There you go; that's me! How's it going, Aaron?

Are you running the Emerald Spire?

And now onto other news
A few words of caution for anybody who intends to run this game as a traditional dungeon delve, i.e. a game of resource management and logistics. That's how I run it; and that's the model to which I believe this conceptually aspires; but this module does not deliver that - for several reasons.

I've discovered that the Emerald Spire Superdungeon has certain features that I consider problematic for a megadungeon.
1) The Emerald Spire is only six miles away from civilization. In fact, it is equidistant between two towns.

2) The nearest settlements are small towns, which means they can easily provide the party with equipment.

3) Each floor of the Emerald Spire needs to fit on a flip mat, which means that the floors are not sprawling.

4) Although the distance between floors is occasionally significant (hundreds or thousands of feet), most floors are a quick jaunt between them of 100 feet or less.

5) The dungeon has an elevator on each floor, enabling the party to quickly return to any floor of the dungeon (including the top floor), thus bypassing random encounters, etc. They can use this elevator as often as they want once they find a key (which they should by level 2).

Here is why those features are problematic. In a well-made dungeon delve, players shoot themselves in the foot if they go nova (i.e. quickly expend their resources). After the PCs go nova, they still need to exit the dungeon, which means facing random encounters - and risking death. Furthermore: whenever the PCs leave the dungeon, that gives the local monsters a change to reset traps, bolster their forces, fortify their location, move their treasure, and plan new strategies for the PCs. The shorter the expedition, the less likely the PCs are to actually gain anything; the more likely they are overall to expend resources; and the more likely they are to make things actually more difficult for themselves when they return to the dungeon. Therefore, the players need to make a better accounting of their resources in order to get deeper into the dungeon: and this includes managing their hit points.

One of the problems with the Emerald Spire, then, is that the dungeon levels are easily completed; and it's quick and easy for the PCs to get back to town. In effect, there is little penalty for going nova.

Also, the PCs have access to a decent shopping list back in town. This isn't really a problem per se, but it does mean the party has a 75% chance of finding a Wand of Cure Light Wounds.

The problem with the Wand of Cure Light Wounds is discussed at length in this thread. But the short version is that it makes resource management too easy, in some ways.

The sum of all these issues is that the Emerald Spire isn't well put together to serve as a traditional dungeon delve. I mean no disrespect to the individual levels, or the concept of the adventure; just that you have your work cut out for you if you want to run it as a dungeon delve, which is what you might expect from looking at it.

Here's a few things you could do that might make it work better as a dungeon delve.

1) Limit the elevator in some fashion. I'm personally toying with the idea that the Spire Tokens are expendable; after a single use, they crack. The tokens are fairly rare, so you might want to expand the use of the tokens to say that they can affect more than three people at once. Or that certain levels have a more permanent connection to them. Or that certain tokens work better with certain floors. At the very least, you'd want to do something like that to explain how Gorloth stays in contact so easily with Klarkosh.

2) Put the towns further away, or make them smaller, or otherwise transplant the Emerald Spire to a different place. The problem, of course, is that there's a lot of flavor tied up in the settlements near the Emerald Spire. If you mess with that, you risk screwing up the story, and creating a lot more work for yourself.

3) Just as a general matter: prohibit any wand of "Conjuration (Healing)", or at the very least: Cure Light Wounds. You'll need to replace at least one bit of dungeon treasure - Skizzert carries a wand of Cure Light Wounds with 20 charges. I replaced it with the Horn of Zog, a goblin relic containing a peculiar variation of Clarion Call. Which I will detail in a later post.


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I started the emerald spire this past weekend and managed to introduce the players to the town and get through the Tower Ruins Level.

To help the players move around the town and keep track of memorable events i printed out Fort Inevitable & Emerald Spire Location cards

At this stage I've only noted major NPC the players have met but as events unfold they'll be recorded too as will the NPCs attitude towards the players (From Hostile to Friendly).

In the folder is an editable open office version and a ready to print pdf


The Sword Emperor wrote:


Here is why those features are problematic. In a well-made dungeon delve, players shoot themselves in the foot if they go nova (i.e. quickly expend their resources). After the PCs go nova, they still need to exit the dungeon, which means facing random encounters - and risking death. Furthermore: whenever the PCs leave the dungeon, that gives the local monsters a change to reset traps,...

I agree with your observations- great suggestions for making it a more traditional dungeon delve. It's pretty friendly to newer players, and probably to new GMs as well. I'm running it with a group that includes a player playing PF for the second time (the first was a two-three session adventure), so it works well for newer players.

An old school dungeon delve is fun, but takes experiences players and GMs to enjoy and have a chance of surviving. In Rappan Athuk, even if you turn back to resupply when half your resources are used up you might die from a random encounter. That said, brilliant observations and suggestions.


The Sword Emperor wrote:

Hey! :D There you go; that's me! How's it going, Aaron?

Are you running the Emerald Spire?

No sir, I am not. I took a look at my friend's copy, though, and it is a beautiful book.

I'm toying with the idea of running a 5E campaign and using war-game style measurements (tape measures instead of a grid). I'm just waiting to get my hands on the PHB before I decide anything for sure.

We need round up John and get together for a meal. :)


The Sword Emperor wrote:
5) The dungeon has an elevator on each floor, enabling the party to quickly return to any floor of the dungeon (including the top floor), thus bypassing random encounters, etc. They can use this elevator as often as they want once they find a key (which they should by level 2).

This is not entirely correct - you can only transport two characters with one transport token (so you need at least two tokens to move a normal party without a two-hour delay, or 3 tokens if you have 5+ characters), and you can only use the teleportation mechanic once an hour.

I'd be extremely reluctant to remove healing wands from the game, since lack of reasonably priced healing consumables means you're then forced to rely on having "the healer" in your party - a concept I feel 3.x has been moving away from for some time.


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As promised, here is my write-up for the Horn of Zog, which I created to replace Skizzert's Wand of Cure Light Wounds.

The Horn of Zog
This horn is shaped like a megaphone, except the mouth is sculpted to look like the fanged, shaggy face of a barghest, and it trails a "fur" pattern all the way back down it's "neck". Imagine what the guys in Metalocalypse would use for a megaphone, and there you have it. The Horn of Zog may be used once per day to cast Clarion Call simply by speaking through it. Doing so has a side-effect: an underscore to the message that every local goblinoid intuitively recognizes. This doesn't compel goblinoids to do anything about it, but curious ones may investigate; and the stupid and bloodthirsty ones may come running.

Here's a quick primer on the history of Zog. It's common local knowledge that, five hundred years ago, goblinoid armies - under the sway of three barghests - seized control over the Echo Woods, and its ruins. The half-elven hero, Tarwynna, led an army against the Kingdom of Zog; and became a local legend.

This next bit's a bit more obscure, but anybody with a bit of knowledge about the local goblinoid culture and Echo Woods history would know it: there have been countless attempts to recreate the Kingdom of Zog in one form or another. It's not uncommon for a goblinoid to arise now and then claiming to be the inheritor of its legacy; but no attempt has come even remotely close to recapturing the "grandeur" of the Kingdom of Zog.

Emerald Duck wrote:

I started the emerald spire this past weekend and managed to introduce the players to the town and get through the Tower Ruins Level.

To help the players move around the town and keep track of memorable events i printed out Fort Inevitable & Emerald Spire Location cards

At this stage I've only noted major NPC the players have met but as events unfold they'll be recorded too as will the NPCs attitude towards the players (From Hostile to Friendly).

In the folder is an editable open office version and a ready to print pdf

What is the meaning of all the abbreviations beneath each of the cards?

bugleyman wrote:


I'm toying with the idea of running a 5E campaign and using war-game style measurements (tape measures instead of a grid). I'm just waiting to get my hands on the PHB before I decide anything for sure.

Personally, I'm holding off on 5th Edition until they release their second tier material. That's where the game should get interesting.

bugleyman wrote:

We need round up John and get together for a meal. :)

Of course. Just send me an e-mail to let me know whenabouts you're free; we can set-up something.

Kudaku wrote:


I'd be extremely reluctant to remove healing wands from the game, since lack of reasonably priced healing consumables means you're then forced to rely on having "the healer" in your party - a concept I feel 3.x has been moving away from for some time.

I believe you will find that potions and scrolls are reasonably priced. In fact, the first two dungeon levels of the Emerald Spire contain several potions of cure moderate wounds.

If you're really hard up for character survivability, consider instituting Hero Points; it's a nifty optional system that gives the PCs some extra kick, and actually lets them cheat death.


bugleyman wrote:
The Sword Emperor wrote:
Tons of useful stuff about Thorn keep and Emerald Spire

First: Wow. Second: Thanks for the info. :)

P.S. Are you the Tempe, AZ living, used-to-play 4E with Aaron Sword Emperor? :)

Can someone point me towards this Thornkeep supplement?


Thornkeep


The Sword Emperor wrote:
Thornkeep

Thank you very much - I thought that might be it, but the 'online' tag through me off.

I'm very seriously considering building an epic campaign centering specifically around Thornkeep, Fort Inevitable and the Emerald Spire. Something in the 2nd - 13th level range with a slow progression that will allow them to spend a lot of time in each area and back and forth between.

In addition to the Thornkeep resource you just linked and the Emerald Spire super dungeon, is there anything else I should be looking at to make the experience come alive?

Scarab Sages Modules Overlord

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If you enjoy using fiction to get a feel for an area and as an aid to characterization, I'd recommend picking up The Crusader Road, which takes place nearby and I found to be well worth reading.


The Sword Emperor wrote:
I believe you will find that potions and scrolls are reasonably priced. In fact, the first two dungeon levels of the Emerald Spire contain several potions of cure moderate wounds.

50 Scrolls are priced about 70% higher than a wand with the same spell and are harder to justify buying in bulk. Potions have the same issues as scrolls, as well as being significantly more expensive. They can also cause encumbrance issues when the characters are running around with a literal beer case of CLW potions in their backpack.

The Sword Emperor wrote:
If you're really hard up for character survivability, consider instituting Hero Points; it's a nifty optional system that gives the PCs some extra kick, and actually lets them cheat death.

My players don't really use wands for in-combat survivability (which hero points boost) but rather as a way to keep going without having to use spell slots for healing when out of combat. If the party doesn't have access to wands they're forced to use potions and scrolls for downtime healing (dramatically increasing the expenses) or having a guy play "the healer".

Moreover, cutting healing wands doesn't really solve the problem you're describing with the party not stopping - it delays it until the players have the wealth to use scrolls instead of wands, but it doesn't eliminate it.

Generally speaking I try really hard to make sure that my players can play whatever they want, without anyone being forced to play a class because the party needs it. I had a few too many "somebody has to play the cleric" moments as a player back in the day. Dropping a wand or two of CLW solves that problem nicely.

I don't just do this with healing wands though - if the party is lacking a full-time arcane caster I'll sprinkle in utility items and scrolls to cover the things you normally need a caster to provide etc.

Silver Crusade

The Sword Emperor wrote:

Here's my concern for the second level of the Spire: more darkness effects. Granted, much of the floor is easy to see with a torch. However, there's one big problem.

The moon spiders.

I'm afraid the moon spiders are going to be an exercise in frustration for a Level 1 party. They have a lot of tactical advantages.
1. They have strength-draining poisonous bites
2. They have a climb speed, and a massive bonus to climb checks
3. There are seven of them, and it's not hard for at least three of them to gang up on the party
4. They cover at least one chamber with webs
5. They can use obscuring mist three times per day. This is really the worst of it, because the players leave one floor of inescapable darkness to find... another floor of inescapable darkness. That's effectively what this does, but it's worse because they're far more dangerous than goblins are. There's really no reason for the spiders to not flood the entire dungeon with obscuring mist (they have tremorsense), and there's not much the characters can do about it other than leave the floor and wait out the mist.
6. If they get badly injured, they can just use gaseous form to escape, floating over pit traps and through the cold gates.

Speaking of pit traps, there's four of them; and three of them are in the hallways. These are basically instant death traps. At least by the default description, there's literally nothing to indicate to the players that there's a trap in these hallways - which means they can't make an active Perception test to notice the traps. Which means falling into the traps half the time.

The character falls down a ten foot pit, onto spikes, and then gets trapped in there with a moon spider (whom, I remind you, can use obscuring mist and also block the only escape route; it'd also get cover from the trap door against anyone above it).

My gut tells me that all of this is bad dungeon design. The gimmick is too similar to the first level's, just cranked up a few notches; there's no way to counteract the spiders'...

My group is a well-balanced party of four, not particularly min-maxed, and while they were challenged by this level, they made it through. Two of the moon spiders ran away and joined the fight at the end with the skellies and the bone priest and they got through that as well (although they did make their saves against every single spell the bone priest cast). Something far worse happened the next session. They completely bypassed levels 3 and 4 (negotiated their way down the stairs, and fed the god box to move one), and then nearly got slaughtered by the crab swarm. Their cleric was two HP away from death and everyone was below half when they finally managed to retreat out of there. I could have easily killed them if I'd had Lorqual join the fight.


Notes from Level 2: The Crypts
Switching out the traps for cobwebbed floors, and hinting that it got a bit patchy in one area, proved prudent.

Once the party discovered that the spiders had these pit traps, they began setting fire to all the webs they found; and closing the doors on the spiders. Keep in mind, I'd replaced the spiders' gaseous form ability, so they couldn't just float through the doors.

Because I granted the spiders a hypnosis effect, the bard used countersong; to great effect.

The group did not discover the key beneath the bucket of blood, despite repeated hints that it had been moved recently (in fact, moved again in one instance, as they had left and returned).

Through a combination of Disable Device and Perception, the group found all of the secret doors and wandered back and forth between the walls.

The party didn't fall for any of the traps, although we came to a modestly inconclusive argument about whether the zombie in the armoire should count as a trap, technically (I thought it should).

They were fascinated by the hidey-hole that had been carved out by magic.

Gorloth heard tell from the spiders about the party entering his domain. They can't speak, but they could communicate the point well enough. When the party arrived, he entered dialogue with them, demanding that they present "the singing wizard" (the bard, because of his countersong). The party tricked Gorloth into believing that they were all spellcasters (the rogue was an "arcane trickster"). They conspired with him to kill Klarkosh (I didn't know that Command Undead meant that Gorloth would actually see Klarkosh in a favorable light).

Incidentally, its not explained whether Klarkosh visits Gorloth, or vice-versa. I assume it's vice-versa. Klarkosh can't be bothered to go visit the crypts. However, do this: after the players first enter the crypts, roll 1d6. In that number of days, Gorloth goes to visit Klarkosh (to get Command Undead renewed). If Gorloth is destroyed, then 1 day after that deadline, Klarkosh himself goes to visit. Klarkosh, in his arrogance, is dismissive of Gorloth's defeat. From Karkosh's perspective, so what if a band of adventurers manages to slay the bone priest? Hell, Klarkosh defeated Gorloth handily enough. He won't bother informing the other residents of the tower; except the undine - and only if he sees evidence that these adventurers are a real threat or of great interest.

Anyway, they tricked Gorloth; agreed to not bring the paladin with them (well, they deceived him on that point too). Then they came back with the paladin and engaged in a quick battle. Gorloth didn't stand a chance.

After that, they busted into the moon spider nursery and torched everything in there.

I had to come up with an explanation for why only six of the eight sarcophagi in the crypts had animated skeletons, and one of the remaining had a magic item that hadn't been taken. I decided that Klarkosh had done the honors, but he left two undisturbed - because they were done up in Numerian style, and he has some bizarre kind of respect for the dead from that era.

darrenan wrote:
My group is a well-balanced party of four, not particularly min-maxed, and while they were challenged by this level, they made it through. Two of the moon spiders ran away and joined the fight at the end with the skellies and the bone priest and they got through that as well (although they did make their saves against every single spell the bone priest cast).

Did they fall into any of the pit traps? How did they react once they found out there were pit traps in the hallway? Did they take out the ol' ten foot pole and begin tapping five feet in front of them?


I have a question regarding XP gains on Level 4: Godhome.

Obviously the party gains XP if they kill the troglodytes and deactivate the godbox.

However, if the party is totally friendly with the troglodytes, then it appears they do not gain any XP. Is this correct?

I do not know which assumption corresponds with the expected party level for moving onto the next floor.

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