The Emerald Spire Superdungeon Discussion Thread


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Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Class Deck, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

In case you guys weren't aware - the Emerald Spire got sanctioned for Pathfinder Society. The PFS people have a website for preparing scenarios called pfsprep.com, where people take the monsters/spells/items/other stuff and make documents so that other GMs don't have to hunt down all the different sources and pull them together. I did this for all 16 levels of the Emerald Spire, you can take a look here.

Even if you're going to be changing stuff up - it should be a good start.


I was not aware of that website, thanks for your hard work! :)

It'll definitely speed things up for me in the future.

Edit: I just took a look at level 4, and it seems to be missing a few stat blocks:

Spoiler:
The troglodyte animated statue, and Savisk the troglodyte adept.

I initially thought that you only do write-ups on stat blocks that are not in the module, but level 5 does include module-unique stat blocks.. Is there any chance you missed a few stat blocks on level 4?


This thread's really taken off. I love the enthusiasm everybody's had for this, and I'm glad I could be of some help.

Now, I've got an announcement: my group and I decided to move onto a different game.

I feel like I should explain this decision, as it might help others who are, or are considering, running the Emerald Spire.

1. The Emerald Spire is very combat heavy. If you're especially excited about running interest combat encounters, you'll find a lot in the Emerald Spire to whet your appetite. Unfortunately, I'm burned out on combat-oriented games. I had enough of that for a while after running 30 levels of D&D 4th Edition. ... Now, I'm not saying that I went into the Spire thinking there wouldn't be combat. Just that I hoped it would feel more like a dungeon crawl, or an adventure, instead of a series of combat encounters. I could have run a better game of it if I had dedicated more time to doing things like preparing battle mats and thrown myself into the combat encounters, but I lacked enthusiasm. On a related note, it's a general contention of the group that the combat encounters are too easy.

2. Players who are expecting a strong thematic connection will be disappointed. Yes, many of the dungeon levels are connected to each other in one way or another, but it usually feels like the connections were designed after the fact. My players didn't feel a great compulsion to keep going, in part because they felt like every level of the dungeon could be played out without reference to the others.

So, we've moved onto other things (Orpheus, of classic World of Darkness, if you're curious).

I might still chime in from time to time on this thread.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32

[tangent]I LOOOOOOOVE Orpheus! Have a fun with that, Sword Emperor![/tangent]

Order of the Amber Die

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Level 10: The Magma Vault
(Spoilers)

High off of their success on level nine, our group decided to do much in the way of bringing level ten to life. We would turn off the air-conditioning to make things hotter in our play area, adding a little sweat to help create the feel of The Magma Vault. We also used stained-glass bulbs from a party store to shed orange, red, and yellow light about the room. The beauty of this level's flip-mat shone under these effects, and they also helped to dispel the feeling that this was merely "the fire level" of the superdungeon, as it is anything but a typical elemental-level. Little did we know, level ten would do more to shape our future success in the Spire than any other level.

PCs will likely have access to higher level magic to help them resist the effects of the Magma Vault's many sources of fire damage. To thoroughly challenge your players, try not to reveal the name or identity of this level at any point in the campaign prior to this. I could not come across any references in the adventure that warranted release of information about level ten, but by this point your party is likely to have had some conversations about the lower levels with foes or allies within the superdungeon. At the same time, if they do find out what level ten is, Wesley Schneider has a few tricks up his sleeve for players who think they can prepare for the Spire better than the Spire is prepared for them.

Apparently, fate is an even crueler mistress than the Mistress of Thorns, and the same paladin that saved our campaign against the devil would perish in the very first encounter of level ten. After setting off the stone of alarm in J3, the party did not act quickly enough to prevent a caustic stalker coming from J5 to investigate. As it emerged unexpectedly from the steam vent, the party was surprised by the outsider, which acted to protect its home with vigor. Caustic stalkers, being both balanced and dangerous, proved to be the embodiment of the excellent creature-construction we have come to expect from Paizo. A mouthful of acid and a chain of missed saves had the party quickly mourning the death of Aurelius, their most important melee combatant. The situation became immediately tense: we would now have to play nearly all of level ten with three characters.

The party sat on top of the Hellknights' backpacks for a few minutes and collected themselves. They discussed their newly-altered strategy for combat in level ten, and flipped through the journal of Chaid DiViri for anything they could find that might help them on the level. DiViri's journal seems like an opportune moment for GMs. With the discovery of such an integral piece of Spire lore, the GM might be wise to turn the journal's contents into a handout for her players. Aside from mentioning that DiViri is curt, the author leaves her personality up to the GM, and much can be done to give the players a feel for who she was by the font and format of the journal pages you provide your players. After collecting themselves, the party decided to go ahead and cash in their lot with the strange kyton that continued to tempt them farther into the level.

Aoz led the party through the caustic crossing and into the fanatic's crypt in J6. This time the party was better prepared to face the stalkers they would meet in area J5, and as the stalkers do not attack unless somone takes to the air, they would have the initiative. The Rift Warden's planar channel ability helped dispatch the two outsiders with ease. Upon arrival in the crypt, a strange deliberation occurred with the floating ball, which had some nervous characters drawing steel as the kyton etched "H-E-L" above the bodies, and then a sigh of relief with the final letter: "P." The discovery of Chaid DiViri's journal had surely been sensational, but the revelation that this person soldered in time was the signifer herself, brought goose-bumps to our group that night. Here the Emerald Spire once again does much in the way of providing your players with a storied history and opportunities for role-playing that run counter to any criticism of the Spire being solely combat-oriented.

With but three voices to chime in, my players hotly debated the impact that Chaid DiViri could have if they should choose to resurrect her. As the party was entirely lawful neutral, most everyone trusted that she would fit, and probably prove an asset nonetheless. A vote resulted in the decision to take the signifer with them upon their return to Fort Inevitable. Once resurrected, if she should choose to join the party, they would welcome her in. Chaid would indeed join them after level ten, and she replaced Solaria, whose player could had to return to real life. Aoz, in turn, would become their mascot, companion, and scout as they plunged deeper into the Spire's bowels. Eventually, having both Chaid and Aoz with them would feel as if the adventure itself was now part of their party, and served as an additional invested presence to remind them of the immensity of their mission.

In area J7-8, the author provides GMs with all the trappings of a deadly encounter that supports Paizo's claims of the superdungeon's lethality. The players' frustration alone at the Gray Render lacking a fire-affinity was amusing to watch, but they did handle the shard slag with ease due to resist fire. In fact, the addition of our Dragon's Disciple's many claw attacks per day combined with the wizard's successful slow to shut down multiple attacks made such short work of what looked like an otherwise nasty ooze. The same strategy would be repeated when dealing with the shard slag on level twelve.

Area J8's potential does not stop with the battle however, as the discovery of yet another of Tiawask's arcane marks continued to impress my players with just how much effort was given to making sure that the continuity and connectedness of the superdungeon was sustained through quests. The kolyarut in area J11 is further proof of this, as the inevitable was strongly tied to level fifteen; after freeing him, the kolyarut was able to be of important use to the party on both ten and fifteen. The discovery of Spire lore and quest pieces in the deep levels go a long way to opposing the viewpoint that the Emerald Spire's levels are not congruent enough with one another, but this is perhaps only realized by parties that stick with the adventure for the long haul.

The Spire's Pool, area J9, is deserving of special mention, as here the author treats your players that have stuck to their goal with an encounter that all agreed was one of the most memorable in the Spire journey. With magma flows cascading down and around the Spire, this became our favorite vista in the entire superdungeon. My players stopped, and took an actual photograph of our miniatures staring at the scenic overlook as displayed on the flip-mat. On the occasion that the party had to pass through a second or third time, they always stopped for an appreciation of the breathtaking view.

The view, however, was not the only thing to be admired in this area. I was more than pleased to see that a dragon--two at that--had made it into the Spire. The fact that they were magma dragons added a taste of the exotic to remind my players that this level was anything but a predictable "fire level." Yet it was not the dragons, but the nature of the encounter the author provided with them, that stayed with us long after the fight.

The author makes clear the siblings' intent to confuse PCs into thinking there is only one dragon, and the GM might want to put extra preparation into this encounter to help Ghalodz and Vrainheis achieve their goal. If both of the dragons are watching the party (development section, p. 100) then it is likely the party will spot one of them, as separate Perceptions rolls would be granted to notice each. To try and prevent PCs from learning early on that there are two dragons, I utilized some options within the rules to keep players unaware of the second dragon. First, GMs should be keen to note whether line of sight to the dragons is available to all players, and after round one, either Ghalodz or Vrainheis should submerge to keep up the ruse that there is only one. Second, I had the dragons squeezing into the valuable square immediately in front of the exit to J13, so that they would have a view of the shoreline, but that spellcasters and ranged-specialty PCs likely farther back from the shoreline would not be granted Perception checks to note the dragons. Moreover, it did not seem unreasonable to assume that if the siblings liked to bask in the Spire's Pool for considerable amounts of time, they have would have gone through the extra effort of taking-twenty on their stealth checks to remain unnoticed by intruders. GMs should be keen to note the distance from which each PC stands in regard to the dragons, so that a -1 penalty per 10ft. can be applied to the Perception checks to notice the siblings.

When the dragons executed their routine, my players were indeed fooled and even had a stressed moment where they believed the magma of the Spire's Pool could heal a dragon to full hit points in a single immersion. As GM I did nothing to discount this fear, and pretended to be concerned as well. Through clever use of spells and tactics, the party handled the dragons and relied on their resist fire to keep them safe. Vrainheis retreated back to area J12 as noted by the author, and began to nurse her wounds. Finally, a sad report on the tender xorn known as Yoc: although Yoc provided us with much humor as we watched his make-out session with the Spire, he unfortunately occupied the only non-squeezing square adjacent to the Spire. Thus, the xorn was seen as a nuisance and obstacle to the kolyarut in its attempt to leave, and he hacked Yoc to pieces in short order. Never get in the way of an inevitable on a mission.

As if there was not already a menagerie of fresh and uncommon creatures to challenge players on level ten, the lava lurkers and their death throes ability offer another unique means of overcoming the physical and environmental challenges of the Magma Vault. Though my players did not need to utilize the islands of floating rock they offered, the kolyarut did. Instead, the party was flying and merely had to fight the lurkers, which they thought would be easy because the outsiders appeared to be quite affiliated with fire. However, resist fire offered no protection against the lurkers' large explosions of cold, nor did the spell stop the heavy beating that these brutes can dish out. As touched upon earlier, though the players did cast fire protection spells after feeling the heat effects and seeing the initial two rooms of the level, their protections did not give them dominance over the level. Even the creative use of the crystalline magma ooze had the potential to dish out high enough damage at 10d6 to overcome a resist fire, and fortunately the players tread cautiously when dealing with it.

A few final words are necessary regarding Schneider's diverse array of treasure on level ten. Authors vary significantly when it comes to assigning treasure, and here is one that is clearly not afraid to use interesting or even unique items to further pique your players' interest or further tie them into the superdungeon. The steel case etched with skulls kept my players guessing about what lay inside, and as they were unable to open it before the Hellknights claimed it as part of the tax, the box remains one of their favorite subjects of debate to this day. Arrows of Slaying have always been a personal favorite of mine, but it seemed like each one of my players also found something in particular that spoke specifically to each one of them on this level. This includes the cursed berserking sword, which indirectly caused a PC death during a random encounter on the next trip to the Spire.

[Since the release of our project, I have been asked numerous times which level was my favorite. Not to disappoint, but my response is still the same: each level is simply too unique, and the authorship so diverse that it would be unfair to try and compare them with equal criteria. That being said, it is level ten that comes back to me more often than any other in the days since our project's completion. This has much to do with our specific campaign though, as Chaid DiViri, Aoz, a PC death, and the kolyarut all had very lasting effects on our experience.]

Level 10 Errata/Technical Concerns:

♦ p.97 says that Aoz might gravitate toward a sorcerer or wizard and view that PC as a new master. It seemed that the author meant Aoz could become a wizard's familiar. As sorcerers without Arcane Bloodline do not have familiars, some tinkering might be necessary here. We were going to apply it to a sorcerer the same way a wizard's familiar would work, though when Chaid DiViri returned she took Aoz back as her own.

For the entire Emerald Spire Project, go here:

The Emerald Spire Project


I've been running the Emerald Spire, and the party just finished Splinterden.

We started with 5 players, and now have 6-7 depending on the week.

Party Composition:

Tiefling Paladin
Ratfolk Rogue
Aasimar Cleric
Human Alchemist
xx Human Gunslinger (deceased)
Half-Orc Barbarian (replaced gunslinger)
Elf Wizard
Halfling Sorcerer/Rogue/Bard with a tiger companion

I'm going to gloss over a lot of the role-play stuff, and stuff and give some highlights.

The party had zero interest in being based out of Fort Inevitable, and have made Thornkeep their base of operations. Goblin Bazaar shenanigans and connections were made.

Level One:
The first foray into the Spire cleared most of the goblins, but saw the escape of Grulk. The party spent a few days in town and returned to Grulk having strung up goblin corpses to look like sentries, and placing bear traps all over the upper levels, guerrilla sniping the players until they finally defeated him. The players took a large sturdy barrel from the barricade between A2 and A6 to set off traps they couldn't spot, and lovingly dubbed the barrel Woodard and added him to the party (at this point the Rogue dropped out and we had 4 players, and they barrel became the rogue until the Sorcerer hit level 2 and multi classed).

Level Two:

The first attempt at this level was spooky and nearly lethal. Great ambience, played the spiders up as extremely intelligent and coordinated. Made great usage of their obscuring mist and gaseous form abilities. The traps were effective. The party fled to the upper levels to heal and rest for a day. When they came back, the barrel, Woodard, apparently contained an elven wizard with amnesia (now called Woodard) captured by the goblins. Funny character intro. They skirmished through the spiders, and encountered Gorloth. Epic fight, where he had two spiders aid him, then led them to the trap room. Eventually Gorloth was defeated. Party rested, then descended to level 3.

Level Three:

The party arrives at Splinterden, and is confused by the set-up. Due to party size, all thieves are the level 2 stat blocks, and I added a few. Eventually sentries demand they state their business. Comedic interactions. Party gets frustrated and attacks. Skirmish ensues. Party is split when the rogues open the gate to allow some party members through, then seal it off. Chaos, fighting. Eventually the party makes it inside, and Tarrin Dars and her fanatic minions attack the party, while those thieves more loyal to Jaris Phenogian who has been looking for a chance to undermine Tarrin, flee to him and hunker down with him. Tarrin Dars is defeated, and an alliance is made with Phenogian and his lackeys. During all the combat, the gibbering mouther escapes into the latrine, unknown to anyone else. The party explores Tarrin Dars' rooms, and are nearly wiped out by her automaton that was guarding the secret room. The sorcerer's tiger companion dies. The party prevails. The party rests with the thieves, the paladin with aid of party and thieves leads an attack on the wight, which drains a number of PCs before being defeated. The history of that level of the dungeon, Tarrin Dars, the Splinters, etc. is revealed. Party rests and heals in downtime. Ratfolk rogue (now returned) makes plans to create smuggling/artifact trafficking business between the Echo Wood, the Spire, and Thornkeep (with aid of the Brambleclaw goblins). The gunslinger has never seen latrines in dungeons and is fascinated by their existence, insisting on spelunking. I decided they led to some darklands tunnels and fissures, and is where the gibbering mouther originally came from. He insisted on exploring as much of the filth-covered tunnels as he could, solo, with a rope tied to him, the alchemist spotting from above, when he's eaten by the mouther (the player was also looking for an excuse to bring in a new PC, so it wasn't a tragic loss). Anyway. Splinterden would have been an awkward cakewalk of a fight, and not memorable if not for the split faction and the party making allies (with a convenient backdoor and place to sell goods within reason from the dungeon itself).

Eventually, Hastenfar and his rogues that are out in the Echo Wood will return, and another power struggle will ensue. I also have plans to have some Hellknight bandit hunters track them to this lair weeks or more from now, causing direct interaction with Fort Inevitable, which they've avoided so far.

The party wants to encourage some of the Brambleclaw goblins to move into the upper levels of the Spire, where Grulk once ruled, and use them as scouts/sentries (which is asking for trouble).

Level Four:

Tonight, the party will enter the Godhome level. I foresee them pretty much diplomacy-ing past it and going straight to Level 5.

However, it's been at least 2 weeks since their first foray into the Spire, and about 5 or so days since they destroyed Gorloth. So....Klarkosh has been to level 2 to renew his hold over the bone priest only to find him destroyed...


Okay, so the party is holed up in Splinterden with the few stragglers they made allies of.

As such, it's been about a week since they destroyed Gorloth and all the spiders.

The module says Klarkosh renews his hold over Gorloth once per week...

Either Gorloth didn't show up, or Klarkosh came up to find a destroyed minion. Either way, he's not going to be too happy, and will be taking active steps to further impede interlopers.

Logical suggestions?


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W Canepa wrote:

(...)lovingly dubbed the barrel Woodard and added him to the party(...)

(..)When they came back, the barrel, Woodard, apparently contained an elven wizard with amnesia (now called Woodard) captured by the goblins. Funny character intro.

It's moments like these that make me play RPGs - that is hilarious! :D

I'm really glad to see some other party journals for this module, I'm having a great time reading them. :)

My party is headed into Godhome on Friday - I'd be very interested in how your players handled the level, if you don't mind sharing. :)


The party, as predicted, remained peaceful but skeptical with Slaagh and the troglodytes. The barbarian thought the pink slime was delicious, and The party insisted on meeting Kaargh and the southern tribe, too. Surprisingly, there were no hostilities when the party entered the room with the Godbox and lost a few items to the magnetism, though it was readily apparent half the party had shiny greed in their eyes, coveting all the expensive items stuck to the Godbox.

The party descended down to level 5, where Jorqual (Jerk-wad, as the PCs now refer to him), was studying the Spire, as written, and arrogantly told them to leave. The paladin drew his sword, initiative was rolled, and there were 2 rounds of combat.

Jorqual cast Haste and moved into the watery hallway for cover, the eidolon nearly dropped the alchemist (after evading her bomb), and the mephit summoned another mephit, which got off an acid arrow on the paladin. Then the barbarian barreled through (getting enlarged by the wizard) getting knocked with 3 AoOs, and smashed Jorqual with his greataxe. Jorqual, with around 3 HP and adjacent to a raging barbarian tried and failed to cast daze monster defensively in order to retreat the next round safely, and was murdered with an AoO (which banished the eidolon too). Then the paladin charged the mephit and crit'd.

The party, assuming this was a predominantly aquatic dungeon (despite the map being covered except the first room), decided it was a good time to head back to Splinterden, and then to Thornkeep to sell off their goods and divide up their spoils more evenly.

Next week: Shopping, Hastenfar, and likely avoiding being robbed in town (again).

Order of the Amber Die

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Level 11: The Tomb of Yarrix

As GM, I was intrigued by the short description given about level eleven during the general introduction to the Spire's levels. This place of "eldritch and alien horrors" offered high hopes for The Tomb of Yarrix, and I was eagerly awaiting the chance to make it come alive (p. 19). To better immerse the players, I used blue light bulbs to simulate the blue mist in the Seugathi room, the blue and yellow flame in the Combustion Chamber, and in areas where only dim light was afforded ("features of the level," p. 104). Certain factors, however, caused this level to become one of great opportunities--only some of which were realized. This has to do with several causes, some specific to our campaign, as will be discussed herein.

The party descended carefully down the long, winding, cavern that led to level eleven. The variety of ways in which the Spire's levels are connected continued to impress the players. These connective strategies add yet more creative glue that helps all sixteen levels feel as if the dungeon is contiguous, despite having its levels developed independently of one another. One of the players even created a map that illustrated the various connections between levels; upon completion, it was fun to compare his map to the one offered in the briefing on the Spire (p.19). GMs can also embellish the longer linking passageways between levels to rail against the feeling that the superdungeon is solely contained within the flip-mats.

After arrival, the players were once again hit with the option-anxiety that they had witnessed on level eight. In front of them was the stairway down to what was presumably level twelve, and yet a mysterious sealed door beckoned them. Unlike level eight, however, the players cannot be sucked into this level by a trap, but must consciously decide to breach the seal and enter. This should provide GMs with some good player-watching during the ensuing debate over whether or not to violate The Tomb of Yarrix. The runes on the door might as well have been taunts from Wolfgang Baur aimed at the completionists in gaming, made harder to resist by our ability to decipher them. Huddled on the stairway and bathed in the light of the Emerald Spire, the party quietly discussed their choices. The debate was made more interesting by the addition of Chaid DiViri and her kyton Aoz, who replaced the inquisitor Solaria in the party. After healthy debate, all members agreed on certain aspects presented in front of them. This place seemed ancient. This place seemed forbidden. This place they would explore.

The party failed to impress their newest companion as they labored intensely in opening Yarrix's Tomb. The signifer stood back and watched with condescending disgust at their many attempts to breach the door, until finally it was brought down by the Dragon Disciple Giixhosiptor and his solid shoulders. The automatons immediately beyond did little to quash the eagerness of the party to comb these venerable halls, and soon they were staring at the many choices offered in the way of direction. They chose south, and would soon regret it.

Baur's time-loop trap is testament to his experience and ingenuity, and due to the success in which it played out, remains one of our favorite traps of the Spire. One does not have to look far on the Paizo messageboards to find GMs complaining about complicated traps that do not have enough description. Not in this case, as Baur devoted much of his allotted 5,000 words to helping the GM understand how it works, which was extremely helpful considering the unique nature of the quagmire your party might find itself in. GMs can also utilize several options available to help usher their players into this buff-grinder. If a party is cautious and searching every single square of Yarrix's Tomb as they proceed, the GM can keep loud and poignant track of time, which should help players who are using buffs feel rushed. If players do insist on searching every square, some page-flipping and faux dice rolling by the GM after every few rounds might create urgency, as well as simulating the sense of nervousness characters would likely have while exploring this strange cyst in the Spire. Rushed players might only search the main hallway, and might also choose to "take ten" on Perception checks. A rogue with the Trap Spotter talent will be of good use here, but even then, this may not be enough. Thanks to the gift of a DC 30 Perception check to notice the trap, most characters of appropriate level will not be able to hit the DC without deft rolling.

Our party soon found itself walking endlessly in the author's playground, and frustration began to set in after they had walked for minutes without progress toward their destination. As these hallways were off of the central hall and likely dim, I turned off the lights and had my players sit in the dark under the blue lights. To further create the effect of looping endlessness, I set the song on our soundtrack to this level on repeat. As Yarrix had sworn herself to one of the Great Old Ones, it seemed appropriate to go with something from Nox Arcana's Necronomicon album (a tribute to Lovecraft's work). Even after nearly thirty minutes of real time, no help was offered whatsoever to my players, who then began to discuss the finality of their situation. They had tried nearly everything they could think of, and yet their precious buffs were being stripped away with their morale. As The Nameless City repeated itself determinedly, an hour passed. They were convinced it would be the first of a lifetime in this hallway. That was, until Chaid DiViri spoke up.

Chaid had a complement of spells that matched her expertise on extraplanar entities (Schneider, p. 95), and one of those was contact other plane. She was intentionally vague when explaining to the party that there was one final option available, and only offered that it would be very risky for her. She was also testing them, and if they responded with little care for her safety in whatever she was proposing, this level would be her only one with the party. To DiViri's surprise, she found that this lawful neutral team was concerned about all of its members, even unfamiliar ones, as the grueling Spire journey had a way of making friends among strangers. Our players seized on these opportunities to develop their characters, and this serves as yet another example of how role playing possibilities continued to build in the deep levels for dedicated groups that stick to their goal.

Chaid would cast contact other plane six times throughout the adventure--one for each level she participated in--and all six times she made her saving throw. If she had missed a single save our entire story would be different and likely about defeat, since the spell was used only in dire situations. As Chaid was an NPC for most of the way, to fairly adjudicate the spell I had her ask the party to lay out their primary questions that we sought solutions to. As her personality left much to be desired in the way of amiability, she often refused certain suggestions. While the party had some trouble sorting through the occasional lie offered by the deity she was contacting, the spell's broad usefulness was one of the keys to the party's overall success in the Spire.

Following the casting, it was clear to the party that they must wait out the trap. The players used their trapped-time wisely, and drew up a new strategy for combat without buffs. They later stated that these team meetings, as have been described in many levels of our Spire analysis, were crucial to their ability to adapt in the superdungeon. It is necessary to note that meetings were only held when in-game opportunities were afforded, such as being trapped in one place for an extended time. When the meeting and trap concluded, the party was armed with new information from the spell and proceeded into K4, the Combustion Chamber.

Completely avoiding the spell crucible and heading south into the Servitor's Hall, the party soon found themselves issuing silent respect for the dusty statues. The party was particularly intrigued by the story of Tormankai, the consort of Yarrix. Tormankai was one of the potential opportunities of level eleven (as noted in my introduction) that was not fully realized. When first reading about him, I found myself wanting Tormankai to play a larger role on the level. Despite finding references to him on p. 106, p. 109, and having the art of Tormankai provided, I could find little other than flavor and decided to let it be. This is speculation, but it felt like the limited word-count may have prevented Wolfgang Baur from developing Tormankai as he would have liked. Unfortunately, it turned out my players were just as attracted, but were left with more unanswered questions and unrealized hopes for what could have been. This is also the responsibility of the GM, in that I could have done more to help develop Tormankai; while it is hard to predict the interests of your players, GMs might want to prepare more in this case.

After dispatching the cephalophores through good saving throws, the party was drawn to the runes and mystic symbols on the eastern door. They set out to breach it once again with the half-orc Dragon Disciple, and even a high break DC was no match for a shoulder enhanced by a final casting of bull's strength. Yarrix waited inside, and unbeknownst to her, a mummy's worst nemesis was one of the four adventurers to oppose her. Protected by the all-important aura of courage, Aurelius the paladin made short work of the undead cleric. As it had so many times before in their expedition, smite evil displayed its dominance over their foes. The mummy's devil allies could do little to stop the paladin and others from directly engaging her, as unlike many other key encounters in the superdungeon, the terrain was not in favor of Yarrix in this room. Attacks of opportunity from the devils chipped at the party, but Yarrix's defeat was certain and swift.

At this point the level went quickly and easily save for one room. Little need be said about bypasssing the trap in K10 from the back side; the bebilith beyond was able to rend a suit of armor, but was promptly removed with a dismissal from DiViri. The paladin took on the entirety of K8 nearly by himself, putting on an exhibition of divine power against the mummies. Only the Combustion Chamber gave them some additional hardship, but most of that can be related to decisions made at 2am near the end of another twelve-hour session.

Again, certain factors made this level seem like there were missed opportunities specific to our party and their choices. The fight with Yarrix was anti-climatic because following the time-loop trap, they had walked directly to her and crushed her with ease, thereby ending the forbiddance effect and removing the pressure of being trapped on level eleven. Following Yarrix's defeat, the party was free to leave and felt like they had completed their goals on eleven, but still had half of the level left unexplored. Part of me felt as if they only explored the remaining areas just to try and give more credibility to a level they had such respect for after the first trap, but felt ended prematurely. This is where the GM can do more to make the level demand respect, and when it comes to the seugathi in K5, the author has thoughtfully given you the implements with which to do so.

GMs should make sure to give due diligence to the seugathi encounter beforehand, as there are many factors to consider when running it. Foremost, the abberations have an awesome array of spell-like and supernatural abilities that need be reviewed. Second, the position of the seugathi in the room is a factor that can make the encounter significantly more or less challenging. Having to "find" them in the fog could prove deadly while having to make saves vs. each mind fog they pass through. In further regard to the mind fog, GMs will want to consider ahead of time whether not to allow their players use of Spellcraft to identify a spell-effect in place, as the fog is already present. Continuing on, for parties that take the pragmatic approach and stay outside the chamber, the seugathi inside can use tremorsense to locate targets and their wands of magic missle to deliver adequate ranged attacks. If players completely retreat to lure the seugathi out, GMs will want to have given thought in advance to the abberations' response. I decided that the seugathi would have little interest in abandoning their tactical advantage, and would stay patiently inside. To tempt your players into challenging the seugathi on their terms, GMs should note that even with the fog-effect in place the wall carvings and encoded texts will be visible to any player adjacent to a wall section. It might prove a harder chamber to resist entering once players know what they are potentially leaving behind. Finally, liberal use of detect thoughts should give GMs ample reconnaissance when it comes to planning seugathi responses. The seugathi helped the players regain respect for The Tomb of Yarrix by claiming the life of our Riftwarden, but it would be their last PC death of the Spire voyage.

Level 11 Errata/Technical Concerns:
♦ Tormankai's staff of fire found in K11 does not list the number of charges it contains.
♦ GMs may want to allocate a Knowledge Arcana DC to understand what it is the walls contain in K5.

For the entire Emerald Spire Project, go here:

The Emerald Spire Project

Sovereign Court

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I've been running the Emerald Spire for my likely lot of gaming folk for roughly two months now - around 8 sessions, once a week, with nearly a week of in-game time passed. The party has just finished Splinterden, just reached level 4 (using the fast xp track) and we've been having a real blast playing through it.

9 and a 1/2 characters have died so far.

I felt I should chronicle their various humourous and tragic demises (presented in spoilered sections below for your enjoyment)

Level 1 - Tower Ruins (1st try):
(the party split up and the first three to die went off into Level 1 without waiting for the others. Their deaths were totally avoidable, although to give them kudos they roleplayed their respective Intelligence scores of 5 and 7 to the hilt)

Thrud (Half-Orc Thug Rogue 1): died under the mob of Goblins he alerted by shouting "Thrud here to fight Evil!" at the top of his lungs;
Ionnia (Human Cleric of Sarenrae 1): died trying to escape the same mob after foolishly attempting to help Thrud;
Sir Anselm the Just (Human Shield Fighter 1): died attempting to protect the above two from the Goblins, dragged down by weight of numbers.

Level 1 - Tower Ruins (2nd try):
(after the remaining members of the party picked up three new members and a few actual quests they hit upon a new feat of strategic brilliance and all went in together this time)

Ungar (Duergar Barbarian 1): died after being punched to negatives by Clanky, and then caught in its explosive malfunction.

Level 2 - The Cellars:
( as an apparently now evil-aligned GM, I love Moon Spiders. My love of them is inversely proportional to my players fear of them.)

Alarielle (Aasimar Verdant Sorcerer 2): died to a spiked pit trap after running ahead of the party trapfinder, body partially eaten by a Moon Spider but enough rescued to later Reincarnate her as a Halfling.

Level 1 - Tower Ruins (again!):
(the party retreated to rest after alerting the entire level - including Gorloth, whom for some reason I used the voice of Skeletor for when they actually fought him - and allowing some Moon Spiders to escape but burning their hatchery down)

Tarin (Human Lore Warden Fighter 2): fell half-asleep on watch and allowed incensed Moon Spiders to ambush him and the party, promptly eaten by Moon Spiders;
Ba'al (Orc Scarred Witch Doctor Witch 2): attempted to fight Moon Spider ambush instead of fleeing with rest of party. Webbed, poisoned and eaten by Moon Spiders;
Alsyair el Duende (Goblin Swashbuckler 2): attempted to parry a whole Moon Spider;
Tharfine (Dwarf Rogue 2): poisoned and brought to below negative Con by Moon Spiders after being attacked before she could awake, spent 2 Hero Points to stabilise on just enough HP to not die and be ignored by Moon Spiders after they left (i.e. not be eaten by them)

Level 3 - Splinterden:
(the party found the first secret door and then swept through Splinterden like a murderhobo whirlwind, setting off multiple encounters in a chain reaction catalysed by bad Stealth rolls and the Gibbering Mouther, which nearly caused the 10th death of the game by itself)

Tharfine (Dwarf Rogue 3): ambushed by Jaris Phenogian and his Iron Cobra after the party left her disabling a synthesia gas trap, knocked unconscious from Blue Whinnis poison and had her throat ripped out by aforementioned Iron Cobra. Our most recent death and perhaps our unluckiest player - although Thrud, Ungar and Alsyair were all played by the same person...

Prior to this module, I have never permanently killed a character in a game I've ran before. I feel like Anakin presumably felt after he

probably unnecessary spoiler:
killed Count Dooku

Sovereign Court

And then Zool (Dwarf Bolt Ace Gunslinger 3) was eaten by sharks. 10 deaths and counting...

Order of the Amber Die

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Level 12: The Automaton Forge
(Spoilers)

Before presenting our experience on twelve, I thought it important to mention some potential for expansion in the Spire delve. The descent from level eleven to level twelve offers yet another opportunity to take the Emerald Spire experience outside of the flip-mats, which should help players or address critics who feel that the dungeon is too constrained by its format. I pondered what might be in these dusty and forgotten workshops, and while I did choose to leave them empty as written, I gave them a few odd details that had the players' anxiety levels rising. If you really want to challenge your party or are feeling devious, have them enter initiative in one of the rooms or call for Perception checks; at the very least, it might be amusing to see what buffs they fire off. Looking back, had a random encounter have been generated at any point near this, I would have put it in one of these workshops/strongholds. The approach to the Automaton Forge can therefore be built up to further excite players, but it will be up to the GM to do so.

After several tense but unoccupied chambers, the party found itself facing a ladder as they had on level two, only this descent was much more worrisome, as it went out of sight. An expendable light source was dropped down the shaft, and the party watched as the globe of light fell some two-hundred feet to the bottom. Concerned glances toward each other silently asked the question of who would go first, though the looks at Chaid DiViri were met only with the signifer mask, devoid of eyeholes or emotion. Fearing the ladder would be trapped, our party's wizard was ready with feather fall as they began to descend, unaware of the trap Keith Baker had prepared for them at the bottom.

GMs should note that while it is fairly easy to spot the gelatinous cube for PCs of sufficient level, the author's DC 20 can be aided by including the -10 per 10ft. of distance up the ladder against PCs who try to use Perception early. Due to its transparency, light sources dropped into it (depending on their makeup) might continue to shine as normal, helping to lure your players into a false sense of safety. The party did not like the look of missing rungs on the ladder, and decided to jump together with feather fall to the bottom. As such, they were welcomed to the level by the cube that engulfed them all; only the paladin was not paralyzed, and managed to escape the pin after a couple of rounds. Once out, he hacked the cube to pieces while divine grace aided him on further attempts to engulf. This encounter was a very close call, and the party responded accordingly by entering into their "high alert" buff-stack.

Right from the outset with the Sanctum in L5-L8, Keith Baker sets out to make his level yet another example of the creative diversity we see all throughout the superdungeon. Steward, like Slaagh on level four, cannot be fully trusted, yet offers all the signals of being peaceful. The author devotes an entire page of his precious word-allotment, as well as one-third of the space on the level to helping GMs develop this unique role playing opportunity. I decided to hold my nose to create tone while speaking for Steward, which continually reminded players that they were--despite his excellent manners--still speaking with an automaton. A party vote was necessary to stop certain buff-laden players from wanting to blow right past Steward and assault the level immediately. The argument was at first evenly split between cautious veterans and young warhawks, but ultimately flipped to 3-1 in favor staying to speak with Steward. The veterans asserted that the potential gains in information from someone like Steward would outweigh the numerical benefits of buffs. Credit must be given here to my players, who in the end stuck to their characters and went with what made sense for them in-game.

Server Two, Massage One, and Beauty Two did not just break up, but smashed any sense of monotony that might have otherwise developed while delving sixteen levels of a superdungeon in such a short span. My players went so far as to rest their weary limbs in the recliner, and even took a nice dip in the steam bath. As the author notes in the description of L6 and on p. 112 under "Features of the Level," the Sanctum is a clean, relaxing place of comforting scents. Still, as GM you may need to do a little urging for cautious or pragmatic players to come out of their shells and enjoy the experience of the Sanctum. Since smell can be a very powerful tool in helping with immersion, I kept a can of Febreeze handy to remind players of just how wonderfully different this place was from the rest of the superdungeon.

The majority of credit for the success of how this encounter played out goes to my players, who decided to throw caution to the wind and wholeheartedly enjoy the Oasis. I have GMed plenty of overly-practical players through the years who would find a way in-character to refuse the tea service, recliners, or other delights offered by the automatons, simply because they were afraid (OOG) of the potential consequences. However, this party (with the exception of one player) averaged somewhere between thirty and fifty adventure modules a piece, and already knew the predictable outcome of refusing what the Sanctum offered. At best, maybe the automatons would be offended by their refusal and surprise them by attacking. Yet, what happens if they say yes? Throughout 126 adventure modules, I have seen just as many characters receive temporary or even permanent boons from accepting strange delicacies from strangers, as I have seen negative effects. It comes down to your players though, and mine--once the vote was decided to stay--dove right in. "Server Two, more tea please?"

It was time to face the Reclaimers. The party had listened carefully to Steward describe the situation on level twelve, and coordinated their thoughts while Beauty Two helped them with their clothes. Swarms were the party's nemesis, and the first Reclaimers through the door brought back unwanted memories of their embarrassing flight from the crab swarm on level five. Midway into the fight, however, the party realized that the swarm was size-Tiny. They switched to melee-beatdown tactics and were victorious but with injury. At this point the party was still unaware that the Reclaimers in swarm-form were actually a discorporated junk golem, and I planned on saving that unique surprise for later.

Beatdown tactics would work well across the remainder of the level, and once the party activated a second set of Reclaimers in the Rendering Hall, they decided to double-down on their strategy by enlarging Chaid DiViri, with her halberd now providing a 20ft. reach. Considering that two of the biggest challenges of the level--The Armory and Iron Crèche--could be handled with brute force, some rare luck went their way on twelve. Even the manipulator tentacles could be taken down one-by-one and with ease due to Chaid's 20ft. reach, which prevented them from striking back. Steward practically goaded them into demolishing the giant automatons in L13 with his warning that many soldiers were stored within. They were in a melee-zone, and it wouldn't backfire on them until the crèche.

Two other encounters on the level offered variety from the Reclaimers and automatons, but these were also handled with such effortlessness that level twelve ranks in as the party's second most successful level out of sixteen. The shard slag, a potentially tough foe, offered little resistance once the party's Dragon Disciple detected it with blindsense. They had already developed a slow/resist fire/claws combination that was extremely effective against the shard slag on level ten, and it worked again here. The fire elemental, on the other hand, first seen through the door with DiViri's vigiliance ability from her signifer mask, was hit with her dismissal on round one and sent packing. All that remained was the Iron Crèche itself.

As the party approached its destination, daylight had said its goodbye during yet another twelve-hour session of Pathfinder. The party was on a roll, and while the lightning wall trap slowed them for a moment, it did little to dampen their drive. They stared down the Iron Crèche, and in place of the daylight we had lost, I used green light bulbs to accentuate the extensive visual detail provided by the author in the room's description. As the crèche battle has more factors to consider than other fights on this level, GMs may want to spend extra time studying the encounter in L13. It might be useful here to prepare a way to track the number of automatons destroyed and the replication chambers each originally came from, as well as successful actions to reprogram the crèche. As the party approached the control altar and triggered the defenses, Juno Reactor's Magnetic began to crescendo. The final fight for the forge was on.

Upon first read, I loved the adaptive defense ability, but doubted that the party would destroy enough automatons to fully manifest it. I thought about some ways I could lure the PCs into killing a few automatons; what I didn't want them to do was start using total defense actions while the wizard simply reprogrammed the crèche, as that would lead to a predictable battle of waiting out the clock. I decided that a good way to prevent this from happening would be to pose a serious enough threat that the automatons must be dealt with through brute force, which would hopefully cause their destruction. On the party's side of things, if they started fighting defensively on round one vs. the weakest versions of the automatons, that would be their best chance to succeed. Essentially, I needed to frighten them into attacking with everything they had, and so it was time to release the GM-surprise I had been holding throughout the level.

Prior to this, the only art I had distributed to the PCs that showed the Reclaimers was the piece from p.111. However, when the party was preparing their routine anti-swarm tactics upon seeing the Reclaimers emerge, I had the junk golem form up for the first time. With my best "you're in serious trouble" look, I handed out the picture of the fully-formed golem from Bestiary IV. The PCs did exactly what I hoped they would do: all three melee combatants switched to two-hands on their weapons. Though DiViri was now normal size again, the party still intended to stick with their blitzkrieg-melee tactics that had worked so far. They tried to dispatch the automatons quickly while asking Chaid to hold off the golem with her Hellknight Plate; interestingly, a couple of brutal first-round critical hits had automatons dropping by round two. As each automaton fell and was replaced, I decided that in a chaotic fight like this, a character would not pick up on the adaptive abilities of the automatons until they were significant. The room's layout helped make this fight more challenging, as the number of foes present and the locations they emerged from had each player facing an enemy. A few rounds in, everyone was now pressured into stepping up and pulling weight, which made it obvious that a total team effort would be needed to win.

After the first couple of automatons were destroyed quickly, I chose to let them in on the adaptive defense ability, but only through my narration of the combat. For example, as the paladin missed while engaging his third automaton, I described him as making an attack that he had made plenty of times before against the mechanical foe, but this time the construct seemed to both anticipate and easily block his attack. Things became tense when DiViri had to break off from the golem, and the Dragon Disciple then had to face off against it to buy more time. Fortunately, a series of solid rolls with an extraordinary +20 Knowledge (arcana) modifier from the Riftwarden secured the victory by reprogramming crèche in time. Many thanks to Keith Baker for designing a final encounter in the Automaton Forge that succeeded in challenging each member of our party, and remains one of our favorites of the Spire run.

Level 12 Errata/Technical Concerns:

♦ Why the massive XP bump for crossing the Rendering Hall? Was the reward intentionally the same as the story award for this level? Some explanation from the author would help the GM, as the amount of XP was significant.
♦ There are very few places I might have changed a monster, but area L10 was one. Still, we played it as written and can offer these comments. Shard slags are petrified by water, so it is very important to clarify that the liquid in area L10 is not water. You may encounter other issues here with PCs looking down into an area that contains a huge (but amorphous) creature, yet is only 15ft. by 10ft., and listed as "shallow" but with no depth given. Some parties may react negatively to the presence of a creature as massive as a shard slag jammed into that area. Other parties may react adversely to the appearance of another shard slag after such a rare creature already made a thorough debut on level ten.
♦ The Emerald Guardians (large versions of Emerald Automatons) are listed as having a 15ft. reach with guisarme. Since they are using reach weapon, are large size, and their stat block on p. 116 lists them with a natural 10ft. reach, shouldn't this read 20ft. with guisarme? Reach weapons double a creature's natural reach, rather than simply add 10ft., as listed on p. 141 of the Core Rulebook.
♦ It was unclear how Steward, lacking arms and legs, gives the party a Spire transport token as mentioned on p. 117. This Spire token's location is also not revealed in an inventory or room description that I could find. GMs will need to improvise here; I had Steward continue to operate the Iron Crèche after the encounter, with a panel opening up after some time to reveal the transport token.

For the entire Emerald Spire Project, go here:

The Emerald Spire Project


I love the Emerald Spire. I really do. I'm both running it and playing it in another campaign right now.
So know that I love you guys when I say the following- I accidentally broke the module.

On the floor with the undines, As combat broke out, I cast "Charm Person" on the male undine and he failed his will save. We then convinced him that we were willing to help him with his research and to show us the entire floor as a result, introduce us to his sisters, and milked him for information.

My GM was furious (His exact words are that I was a PoS), but not so much at me- more that the module really doesn't account for peacefully going through this floor (we used the spire to skip it later on because we knew he was probably pissed at me for Jedi Mind tricking him.).

Any advice? Comments? We're coming up on this floor in my run soon and I'd like to know my options


My immediate advise is - great!

I don't think you even came close to breaking the module either. As a DM, you have a lot of options.

Options:
For starters, charm person isn't as broken as it used to be, and really just shift moods. Secondly, Jour'qual is not in charge, his eldest sister is. She has the spire token and information on the level 8 rune, as well as a very handy battleaxe and a few other magic items.

I always allow my PCs to do a non-combat option. I think an introduction by Jour'qual may just get a pass onto the next floor. This would be very acceptable.

Now, as for fall-out, if they retreat at all from the clockwork maze, Klarkosh should be completely pissed if the Undine siblings allowed trespassers down. His options include turning his shark automaton creation on the Undines, or setting a trap for the PCs next visit.

In my campaign, the three siblings effectively ruptured a portal to escape, making it one-way to the plane of water to ensure any surface dwellers who followed would surely drown. When Karlkosh realized this, he took the skull of the mucklord and sunk it beneath the crabswarm. An insane mucklord, furiously digging at the swarm's food source, combined the two into a nasty creature.

(Yea, I totally added the skull as the source of the mucklord's focus.)


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Undines are native outsiders, not humanoids, so charm person should not have worked in that case.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Yeah, My PCs are about to finish lv3, and I'm worried that they're gonna peacefully bypass lvs4 and 5 as mentioned above. They're almost all good a/o lawful, and the Trogs especially are not gonna pick a fight unless forced to. And after not fighting on lv4, they might just automatically try again to not fight on lv5.

I feel like the PCs are gonna have to think fast to avoid fighting Jorqual, though. He's supposed to attack pretty much right away, but he doesn't seem territorial, just annoyed. So not enough time for diplomacy, but he could certainly be bluffed or bribed. Maybe even intimidated. Brainiac, good catch on the Charm Person immunity.

Not that I'd be disappointed by good RP instead of combat, but that's a whole lotta treasure (and possibly xp) to lose out on right before fighting Klarkosh.

Order of the Amber Die

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Level 13: The Pleasure Gardens
(spoilers)

Level Thirteen was to be yet another demanding twelve-hour session until the early hours of the morning, but with the end of our summer journey almost within sight, players and GM set forth to explore The Pleasure Gardens. Unlike some other levels, the party had an idea of what lay in wait for them on thirteen, as they had found the battered journal page in Yarrix's crypt (p. 109) describing this level as "The Garden of Delight." Other than its title, I made sure to reveal little else, especially the author. As our group solely plays pre-written adventures and spends much time discussing RPG authorship, my group needed to be kept ignorant of each level's author until the adventure was complete. Specific to thirteen, my group was familiar with Logue and Hitchcock's work, especially on Carnival of Tears, and anyone with knowledge of that adventure would have (and should have) come into The Pleasure Gardens with a rightful sense of worry. I needed to prevent anything from tainting their experience here; thus, I alone held the delight of knowing the author's dark surprises that awaited them.

While we did use black light bulbs to enhance the experience of the dimly lit areas of the level, during this session we also adjusted our eyes back to normal light as noted in the "Features of the Level" sidebar on p. 120. One thing I wished I had the time to do was accent the foliage of the gardens. A quick trip to a craft store could have yielded a few plastic vines and leaves to scatter around our play area as we explored. As one can see from our session-history, level thirteen took place during an eight-day run that left barely enough time to prepare for each night's session; I didn't want to give away information about the level and therefore could not send a player to pick them up. Even so, the bizarre song used for this level refused to let the players escape the feeling of just how exotic The Pleasure Gardens were.

After riding their first elevator of the Spire--another fine example of the diversity of connections between levels--the party stood at the top of the stairs to M2. As they descended, smiles and a sense of relief washed over the party. They could see the crowned-skull symbol emblazoned on the double-doors ahead; after so much time wondering if they would ever complete the "Crowned Skull" quest, here was the first major breakthrough. This quest was given out in the first hour or two of play, but now at around hour 150 came the first true hopes of completing it. The double-doors prevented the adventurers from knowing much about what lay beyond on the level, and whether or not it would hold true to its name. A party-discussion began about when and how hard to enter the buff-stack, and ended with a 2-2 split. It was agreed that they would open the doors to gather some information, then likely cook up some buffs. Two tophets would make this a decision the characters would regret.

The Arch of the Keepers serves as an excellent opportunity to enrich and develop the history of the Spire for players who are interested, while rewarding those players who took the time to connect themselves to the Spire's story in some way. The description of tophets in Bestiary III notes them as often representing dishonored nobles or past kings. GMs can come up with any number of possibilities here. Setting a Knowledge (History) DC of 35, I allowed the players to try and identify each. One represented an Azlanti King that Nhur Athemon might have admired due to his willingness to challenge or seize power from the established order. The other was a caricature of a dishonored noble who supported Nhur Athemon's plot to overthrow the royal family and was forced into exile with the prince (p. 17).

The combat with the tophets can be deceiving, and GMs should be aware that this CR 12 is tied with area M5 for the hardest encounter of the level. It will also be helpful to decide ahead of time how you will play the chamber in M2, as it is shown with four red pillars that could be problematic. Without clarification listed, I went ahead and figured the author would want both of these beastly tophets to be able to engage the party without hindrance, so the red pillars were not played as difficult or blocked terrain. If you do decide to use them this way, only one tophet can engage the party in the center four squares, while the other must wait behind (unless you want one of them to squeeze at -4 attack & AC). Without buffs to protect the PCs, the tophets pounded them, quickly swallowing both Chaid DiViri and Variel the Riftwarden. The Dragon Disciple and paladin were left to hack their way out of the situation before the tophets could carry off their companions, and luckily they did. Resource expenditure was very high; much like Schneider had done to us in the opening room of level ten, Logue succeeded in dishing out a bloody nose as a hearty welcome to The Pleasure Gardens.

The flip-mat for level thirteen awed the players when they were given the magnificent view from the overlook in M3. It took me some time to figure out available line-of-sight and cover up the appropriate areas on the map, as they PCs do have a generous view, good lighting, and many options presented to them here. In fact, the plethora of pathways available in The Pleasure Gardens made this a level that all players agreed would be their favorite to experience a second time, as it would doubtfully play out the same way twice. This was truly an enjoyable experience as GM to watch them fret and (at the same time) amp up with excitement over which way to go first. Lawful minds that they were, the party chose to employ its "right wall" strategy that had been effective thus far, which brought them to the orchestra.

DiViri's vigilance ability from her signifer mask saved the party from another potentially devastating loss of resources, as she quickly ascertained through the doors that there was only an empty stage and chairs beyond. Odd looks went back and forth between the characters after hearing an eerie description of the room from Chaid, and more buffs were cast to ease their anxiety. They wisely decided to leave the orchestra alone for now, and continued toward the much-anticipated yellow musk creeper. Since the 1980s I have been a huge fan of the yellow death, and was happy to see that Logue was one too, as he gave us GMs the deadliest creeper I have yet seen in publication. GMs might want to count out its 30ft. range ahead of time just to get an idea of just how far that really is on a flip-mat; combined with a +12 ranged touch and nasty DC of 22, it should be fairly easy to rewrite at least one character's story so that it ends as a yellow musk zombie. This is not to say I was rooting for the Spire-warped specimen (maybe a little), but even a normal one of these had dished out a TPK to us a few years back, and they have held a special place in this GM's heart ever since.

The creeper opened with scary blasts of its pollen spray, and even the hardiest characters struggled to fight off the pollen by closely matching its DC a couple of times. The difficult terrain mentioned in the "Features of the Level" sidebar on p. 120 is useful in slowing your players down if they try to approach the creeper, and the entire time it can utilize its extended reach to grab players who fail their saves. The yellow musk zombies made movement difficult for the protagonists by blocking the pathway, but the terrain became even more of a hindrance with an ice storm from the Riftwarden in his attempt to clear out the thorny undead. The addition of the giant flytrap in M6 made this an unforgettable fight, and added another layer of icing to an already glistening encounter. The party never lost its cool though, and strong saves combined with heavy use of magic missile eventually won out.

GMs will want to familiarize themselves with the bathhouse in M9, as several factors are present to consider. Foremost, you must come up with a way to cover the inside from players while allowing them to view the other areas of the flip-mat. For this, I used various cardstock cut-outs as mentioned in the "Things to Consider for Your Spire Run" section of this project. In addition, GMs should note that there are two entrances to the bathhouse, and cautious players that scout the area might decide to enter from the back (mine did). You will also have to decide on whether the babau is present, and where it is located inside the bathhouse when the PCs enter, as it will be harder to convince a party to buy the demons' story and relax around the succubi while a menacing babau is staring at your players. I had the succubi instruct the babau to lie prone between the southernmost tubs, which gave him cover and allowed for a Stealth check with a "take 20," as there was plenty of time to prepare. Last, GMs might want to prepare additional dialogue and responses to possible PC questions, and the more you have time to practice these, the better you can select wording that helps the succubi achieve their goals.

My machinations did not help the demons though, for as deadly as this encounter may be for some parties, ours was perfectly tailored to defeat it. A Hellknight Signifer, Riftwarden, and paladin and are all I need say to explain why the diplomacy broke down almost immediately upon entering. While many characters may have been cautious here, I would go so far as to say ours were haughty, and backed up every word of it. The party had discovered its area of expertise in the deep levels-- extraplanar outsiders--and the Spire would continue to provide them with more. The Dragon Disciple's blindsense detected the babau while the other members set to work. Planar Scourge from the Riftwarden had the demons concerned, but smite evil followed up by DiViri's dismissal saw the demise of Katyala and the babau turned into an afterthought. I felt it important to have Nimthria teleport out and warn Nhur Athemon (as noted by the author), especially after watching her companions die so quickly; even that was prevented by Variel with his counterport ability.

The hellwasps beyond the bathhouse were a surprise and succeeded in scattering some of the party into the menagerie, but the Riftwarden-turned-beekeeper brought the encounter under control with planar scourge (+50% damage against swarms). While our party survived the basilisk and did not end up taking the western tunnel out of the menagerie in M9, the fact that such a tunnel existed and connected all the way back up to level eight was intriguing and worthy of note. While some parties might quickly find themselves in over their heads if traveling down from eight, others will appreciate the challenge and opportunity to break outside the confines of straightforward delving. The classic superdungeons of ages past offered players a variety of creative ways to access their levels; players can use this tunnel to do the same in regard to this adventure, and even move a great distance through the Spire without needing transport tokens. Not only does this tunnel dispel any criticism of the module being too linear, but this connecting passage remains another in a multitude of examples given throughout this project that prove the The Emerald Spire is deserved of a place in RPG-history next to the most sacred of superdungeons.

After recovering the cloak of resistance +3 (for the Hellknights), the party cautiously entered the Chamber of Curiosities with the mindset of "don't touch anything." I did my best as GM to give the intellect devourer a good showing, but it seemed like it was intended to be more of a nuisance to parties than a deadly encounter. The Cyclops Helm, however, was the real prize of the chamber. It became one of the only items the party managed to keep from this level due to the vicious tax exacted by the Hellknights. Though they paid dearly for it, it paid them back tenfold. The helm was worn by the Dragon Disciple Giixhosiptor, and though it would only be used once per level, its precious ability to succeed at any roll would be held in reserve for saving throws that might prevent TPK and assure the party's final success.

Only Murthok Huul now stood in opposition of the party's descent to fourteen. As GMs, we often have to look for new and interesting ways to portray the classic "guardian of the gate" encounter, but this sentinel presents himself just fine. Murthok's introductory lines on p.124 were concise and his appearance patient; combined with the undead's confident aggressiveness without any desire for diplomacy, this encounter seemed to strike a chord with even the veterans in our group. It just so happened that not a single player here had ever faced off against a devourer, and at first they thought it was the lich spoken of by the succubi. Thank you, Nicolas Logue, for the looks on their faces when Murthok delivered his first successful touch for a brutal seventy-two damage.

The party approached this final chamber from the southern stairway out of M5, and the resulting chokepoint provided an excellent way to hold them up while the devourer could fire off his confusion, get airborne, and eventually move into an advantageous position. The skeletons and devil (if present) can be used to keep the party bottlenecked into fighting the devourer one-on-one, as he can stay airborne and attack down with a 10ft. reach from the four squares NW of the pillar (this can be seen in greater detail in a photo on our Facebook page). If you don't want to give the PCs cover from the pillar, Murthok can simply back up one square toward the throne with his perfect fly maneuverability.

The party was nearly sent running by the fierce opening actions from the devourer, but they regrouped and things did turn in their favor. The Dragon Disciple used his breath to clear out the skeletons, while Chaid DiViri weathered the storm with help from greater infernal healing. The Riftwarden once again utilized planar scourge to great effect here, and though he intended it to clear out the devil, it ended up working on the devourer as well. A timely fly allowed the paladin to take to the air against Murthok, and smite evil did the rest. Breathless, bloodied, but victorious--it was now time to look toward fourteen.

Level 13 Errata/Technical Concerns:

♦ On p. 120, Logue says that High Mother Dremagne of Fort Inevitable divined the crowned-skull symbol as an emblem representing a dark power that "stirs in the Spire's depths." However, on p. 21 under "The Crowned Skull," it only says that Dremagne divined a single small clue about the undead threat: the crowned-skull symbol itself. It seems that there was some miscommunication here, as the author of chapter two seems to imply that it is becoming clear to all that the threat is within the Spire, but specifically states that Dremagne only discovered one small clue. My players did exactly what Audara asked, and without metagaming that the source was inside the Spire, spent a lot of time looking for the source of the threat in the areas where the undead could be found (Echo Wood). While the players may have suspected that the crowned-skull nemesis lay within the Spire, their characters were still at a loss until they found the symbol on thirteen. I enjoyed watching them explore Echo Wood, but some GMs might want to use Logue's description of what Dremagne divined instead of what is on p.21.

For the entire Emerald Spire Project, go here:

The Emerald Spire Project

Grand Lodge

Hi guys!

I've been preparing this superdungeon for PFS-play in my hometown. I'm running for two different parties consisting of four partymembers each. I'm really looking forward to get this show running.

I had one question though. At level 5, the drowned level, in area E2 it is stated that the water is two foot deep and the water provides concealement to anything in it. Who does this apply to? I can understand the crab swarm, but does this apply to Jorgual and his crab eidolon, since they both are medium creatures. Most PC:s are over 5 feet tall. They have more than half of their body over the water. Do they get concealement?

Thanks in advance!


I think they mention that since you can hypothetically have small characters in the dungeon.

Order of the Amber Die

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Level 14: The Throne of Azlant
(spoilers)

As the party rode the long journey down the narrow stone shaft from The Pleasure Gardens, their anticipation of what lay ahead grew with each passing minute of the descent. This strange ride on the elevator stone from level thirteen was unlike anything they had experienced in the Spire, despite having ridden the short elevator down from The Automaton Forge. This shaft was cramped, dark, and as Logue explains on p. 125, descends a half-mile at the slow rate of 200 feet per minute. Almost fifteen excruciating minutes later, the elevator disk came to a halt. It was day thirty-three of our summer in the superdungeon, and we were now 165 hours in. It was time to breach fourteen.

Concerned as they may have been, certain factors would come together for the players on this level which made it their most successful level of the entire sixteen-level Spire delve. These factors were a combination of character builds, enemy dice rolls, spell selection, and clutch-rolling by our heroes. As can be seen from our session history, this was also the shortest level at just six hours. What makes this session length worthy of note is that having higher character-levels often slows down the game, and so a six-hour session to complete one of the upper levels would be understandable, but we never expected such swift success on any of the deep levels. In a discussion with the author, Erik Mona told me that he has often run this level as a one-shot scenario many times, and even fit it into an impressive four-hour time slot as best he could.

Ironically, the players almost never made it into The Throne of Azlant at all. Since the PCs lacked Disable Device, they would need both types of ioun stones to enter the level. The brutal thirty-percent exacted by the Hellknights throughout their Spire run had once caused a party vote on whether or not to sell their two Western Star ioun stones. Thus far, they had never found a significant use for them, and yet often had to make tax decisions that would bring tears to the eyes of many a player by parting with such items as the staff of fire and +3 heavy steel shield from level eleven. The Azlanti scholar and Riftwarden had lobbied hard for keeping one of the stones, and in the end it was spared from being turned into a paperweight on the desk of Lady Commander Audara.

The discovery of Tiawask in the entryway deserves mention, as it went a long way in convincing my players of the superiority of this dungeon's design. Here was their elusive quarry, tracked through thirteen levels of the Spire, now dead in front of them. Until now, they were all but certain that they had missed discovering Tiawask elsewhere. Theories abounded: Had she holed herself up in a secret chamber that we failed to discover? Or, perhaps she was actually on level five, the only level they had failed to explore the great majority of? With clues such as a conversation with Jharun on level six, arcane marks found on levels eight and ten, and even the magic mouth during the descent to eleven, Erik Mona had teased us with pieces of Tiawask's story throughout numerous levels of the Spire. A sense of relief at solving the mystery of the missing wizard had the players at ease for a moment--but Mr. Mona had more ready for the players than just the conclusion of Tiawask's story.

Sometimes as GM, as I'm sure many can attest, we see an illustration in a module that calls out--begs--to be brought to life. The clockwork leviathan battle depicted on p. 127 was one such illustration for me; I had sole access to it for weeks, and the hardest part was waiting until level fourteen to see it in action. My hopes for an epic conflict would be dashed quickly though, as a single spell completely turned the tide of this would-be grinder into a cakewalk. As fans of full-immersion, the players had access to the newly released Pathfinder Player Companion: People of the River. This useful supplement not only helped to greatly enrich our Emerald Spire campaign, but also offered such valuable new spells as sabotage construct. Chaid DiViri had spent enough time in the Spire--dead and alive--to know that we would see more constructs. She kept the spell in her complement for each dungeon level we had her with us, but she was only able to use it successfully one time. In this case, however, once was enough. While the confusion created by this spell is not an end-all winner, a party that knows how to manipulate their actions with this spell in effect can easily secure a victory as ours did with minimal loss of resources.

The Heart of Nhur Athemon found inside the leviathan offered much potential that was never realized by our group. During the Emerald Spire All-Stars seminar, Erik Mona's retelling of some various and insidious ways in which the heart encounter could play out brought laughter to all in the room. Apparently, many parties have had to sacrifice one of their own to Abraxas in N7 when he requests that the heart be destroyed. The author mentioned how players have often been overjoyed to receive the sturdy heart in place of their own at first, only to be horrified at the realization later that the only way to destroy Nhur Athemon is to sacrifice it--and themselves. I was reminded of a few examples in first-edition D&D, where Gygax might have said that any player so foolish as to hold something like this heart up to their chest automatically receives it in place of their own. Yet, to the relief of many modern players and vexation of GMs, there is a saving throw allowed to prevent this in Pathfinder. At least the author does make it so any player who so much as touches the heart must succeed at a will save, and due to this we ended up having two players make saves against the heart's power. The first was the paladin, who attempted to discover the clockwork device's mysteries by slamming it to the ground again and again; the second was the Riftwarden, who tried to stop him. Both had excellent will saves (though DC 25 is no laughing matter), and thus the heart scenario never developed any further from there.

The party headed east, eventually winding up at the Abraxas Shrine. Here I would recommend that GMs familiarize themselves with the overrun features of the viking stat block used for the Knights of the Ioun Star. If you're looking to crush some PCs here, committing the knights to either an overrun-strategy or heavy melee-strategy might be the best approach. Possessing Improved Overrun and Greater Overrun means that these boys should easily lay PCs on their backs and deliver death swiftly. I say that now, and the numbers were in my favor, but my own knights did not deliver. Low initiative meant suffering a devastating dragon's breath spell from our Dragon Disciple--followed the next round by another. Still the knights were determined to knock the PCs prone, and I doubled-down on this strategy even after my initial rolls came up low. It seemed that the statistical-anomaly generated by Jorqual on level five had come back to steal my odds here.

Lady Estrekan did arrive on time, and her retinue succeeded in accomplishing the author's wishes by sealing off escape in area N3, which then meant the party was surrounded by raging enemies who would certainly be standing over them soon as well. One player's quoting of chapter eleven of Sun Tzu's The Art of War was enough to inspire everyone to better rolls: "In death ground, fight." Fight they did, with smite evil balancing the scales in the iconic good vs. evil struggle between Aurelius the paladin of Abadar and Lady Estrekan the Graveknight loyal to Nhur Athemon. Despite being capable of formidable damage and having this GM's blessing, Lady Estrekan lost out to the paladin after four rounds of intense swordplay.

Following this combat, the time lock in area N6 proved to be another great example of this superdungeon's opportunities for campaign development. Not only was this trap/scenario fresh to all players (including veterans), but it also allowed yet another chance to take the Emerald Spire campaign outside of the flip-mats and further into the history of Golarion. I thoroughly recommend that GMs acquire the Thornkeep supplement to help them develop this encounter, as it provides a wealth of information on Nhur Athemon's apprentices and the connection between this level and the abode found within the Thornkeep dungeon. Erik Mona clearly has a fondness for his creation in Nhur Athemon, and gives GMs everything they need to provide their own players with that same appreciation for the ancient lich.

In a moment of sheer coincidence that is the beauty of RPGs, our Riftwarden had written his own character background to include a time vortex that had trapped him as he was travelling through the ethereal plane thousands of years before. Thus, even this player's discovery of the serious consequences of missed saves on his already-middle-aged wizard, was not enough to stop him from proceeding farther into the time lock. Variel the Riftwarden was rewarded for his daring, and though he did not return the same man who had left to venture down the hall, his most fascinating conversation with Togarin proved to be one of the better role-playing moments in our Spire run. Once again, the Thornkeep supplement was useful here in providing an illustration of the apprentice Togarin for the players.

After an exchange with the demon lord Abraxas, it was back to the other side of the level in their search for Nhur Athemon. While the library offered treasures aplenty for any player invested in the history of the Spire, the Jyoti in the divinitorium beyond was a GM's prize. With the chance to play such a rare creature with an intricate lineup of abilities, I was nervous about giving it a good showing. Yet, one needs only to read some of our other levels in this project to understand why the Jyoti stood no chance: it was just another in a long list of extraplanar outsiders. I suppose becoming a victim to Chaid DiViri's dismissal was a better fate than being embarrassed by the Riftwarden's planar scourge, and the Jyoti said its forced-goodbye on round one.

Once they finished recovering the treasures of the divinitorium for the Hellknights' tax, the party then headed north past the clockwork lock. The characters possessed the skulls of the apprentices and were prepared to face what they thought would be a tough fight against these servants of the lich, but once again, area N12 offered little resistance. Sadly, before the players could figure out how to use the skulls here, the Dragon Disciple Giixhosiptor took matters into his own hands with his final two uses of the dragon's breath spell. With the workshop being cramped in comparison to a 30ft. cone of acid, there was little the apprentices could do without energy resistance. The party never did figure out what to do with the skulls.

The showdown with Nhur Athemon was something I had been anticipating from the moment I first opened the covers of The Emerald Spire. In some ways, the lich served as a silent guide and GM-motivator at the toughest moments in our journey. Even when there were days that I wasn't sure I could run another massive session, it was the thought that a grand and memorable encounter such as the one Erik Mona had prepared for us here that kept me going. I would love to see Mona's personal version of Nhur Athemon, as he told me at the seminar that due to the constricting word count, he was only able to offer the base stats for a lich. For us, any lich--even the one straight from the Bestiary--was reason enough to be excited. Players can usually count on one hand the number of times they have fought a lich, and here was an encounter with which to pad their dungeon-crawling resumes.

To heighten the tension, after my players identified Nhur Athemon with Knowledge Religion checks, I read them the opening line from p. 188 of the Pathfinder Bestiary description: "Few creatures are more feared than the lich." Their only fight thus far with a substantial wizard was Klarkosh on level six, and that did not end well. Here was an undead wizard, and combined with the Emerald Aristocrats, trick-mirrors, and a clockwork throne, this should have been everything a climatic final encounter is made of. It was indeed unforgettable, but not because of the antagonists' performances. For four-straight rounds, our party's wizard used his full complement of four dispel magics combined with the Spell Mastery feat, which enabled Variel to counter all but one of the lich's spells (a quickened magic missile from Nhur was successfully cast). After some relatively weak damage was exchanged with the lich and emerald aristocrats then swarming, Giixhosiptor used a fly on the paladin to put him in position for a strike against the levitating lich. It is reasonable to assume that few things could ever inspire worry or fear into someone like Nhur Athemon, except possibly a +2 holy bastard sword from divine bond, combined with smite evil, bull's strength, divine favor, and to top it off: a natural twenty. Being the first attack from smite evil, all that was needed to put the lich to rest was a confirmed critical. 102 damage later, this haymaker became the single highest damage output of our entire Spire run.

As noted already, four factors contributed to why this level was their most successful: character builds, spell selection, enemy dice rolls, and clutch-rolling by the PCs. Character builds came into play during the final fight with Nhur Athemon, as our wizard had an adeptly-built counterspell setup that was able to shut down the lich. To further clinch the win though, the Riftwarden came through with four consecutive counterspell attempts against none other than Nhur Athemon himself--something many players would likely consider the test of a career-wizard. Spell selection stopped the leviathan, wiped out the apprentices, eliminated the Jyoti without effort, and aided in the counterspell build. Enemy die-rolls resulted in key missed saves vs. sabotage construct, dismissal, and dragon's breath, but were worst in the fight with the Knights of the Ioun Star--even Lady Estrekan could not out-roll the paladin. One of the best clutch-rolls of the entire Spire run was the paladin's strike vs. Nhur Athemon, rivaled only by his TPK-saving critical hit on level nine. With a brilliant victory on fourteen, the pressure to succeed in our endeavor was now at fever pitch for the final two levels.

Level 14 Errata/Technical Concerns:

♦ The flip-mat for this level shows some rooms with quite a bit of furniture in them, but no mention of how to play them as terrain features. As prime examples, the pews in N5 and the clutter in N12 can definitely affect the battles there. GMs might want to decide ahead of time how they will rule the furniture in regard to cover, movement, and line of sight.

For the entire Emerald Spire Project, go here:

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Sovereign Court

Karl Morton wrote:

I love the Emerald Spire. I really do. I'm both running it and playing it in another campaign right now.

So know that I love you guys when I say the following- I accidentally broke the module.

On the floor with the undines, As combat broke out, I cast "Charm Person" on the male undine and he failed his will save. We then convinced him that we were willing to help him with his research and to show us the entire floor as a result, introduce us to his sisters, and milked him for information.

Yeah, as others have pointed out, Charm Person doesn't work on Undines.

That said:
My group used Diplomacy to negotiate the Azlanti sigil for Level 6 from the Undines, in exchange for leaving them alone and not trespassing on their level. A non-violent solution to Level 5, I think, makes sense; Jorqual and his sisters want to study the Spire and the Godbox's planar portals in peace, and aren't really loyal to Klarkosh anyway (given the whole "negotiating with the Serpentfolk that oppose him" thing they have going on) and the PCs have proven themselves to be powerful enough to threaten the Undine trio just by reaching Level 5...

Also:
it didn't matter anyway, since Klarkosh proceeded to nearly TPK the party by himself, killing three characters through a combination of the Hellknight attacking when the rest of the party were trying to parley (therefore no buffs) and his Necromancy spells (Fear and Blindness/Deafness) being surprisingly effective. In other news, we've now had 13 character deaths and they've gotten through half of Level 6.

Order of the Amber Die

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Level 15: Order and Chaos
(spoilers)

The conclusion of The Emerald Spire was now in sight, and it was day thirty-four with over 180 hours spent in the superdungeon. An August 8th deadline meant that to guarantee a finish before real life demands separated our group, we would have to make the "summit" of our journey in one final and trying session. Thus, when exhausted players and GM broke the previous session at 3:30am, we agreed to meet up that night by 6pm and try to finish both level fifteen and sixteen in one run. Looking back, only half of the group felt this was even possible, since it should be made clear that we had already played sixty-one hours in the previous seven days. I would now advise any GM attempting an endeavor like this to be prepared for a couple of moments where you will have to help your players over a mental ledge or crevasse, and push them to trek on without faltering. Here at the end we had fully realized our goal of total immersion: we were a party of adventurers in the living room that night, and we needed each other to reach the root.

Perhaps the best way to start describing level fifteen is with an anecdote from the Emerald Spire All-Stars seminar hosted by the authors at Gen Con 2014. One attendee asked the panel of authors which level (aside from their own level) was their favorite, and some interesting responses were given. There was some general consensus around Wesley Schneider's comment that his choice would be level fifteen, because he felt a war between law and chaos in a superdungeon was a very intriguing concept. It is then understandable why Schneider's and Sutter's levels might be linked by the shared storyline of the kolyarut found trapped in The Magma Vault, and the devil-key found on fifteen that opens the box on ten. To go further, just as levels seven and eight have many direct connections, levels ten and fifteen have many indirect connections.

Descending the many long flights of stairs down to level fifteen, the party had some idea of what they might face here. The kolyarut they had freed on level ten provided them with information about a war between proteans and inevitables that had been ongoing, but because of the kolyarut's undetermined amount of time spent locked in magma, the players were left with more questions than answers. Thus, for the players, the buildup to this level had been growing since first hearing of it. As GM, this was the only level of the sixteen that I felt I both understood and liked better after playing it, so it may be best to first address one of the main conceptual matters of the level.

The words "war" and "troops" had been used in descriptions of fifteen (p. 110 and 135), so what struck me right away was the relative lack of creatures. This is not in any way a criticism; in fact, I was pleasantly surprised after understanding just what James Sutter had chosen to do with his level. One must also remember that most of the creatures present are of significantly high CR, so there is definitely no shortage of danger here. While the reference to a war helped build excitement and tension for the players, GMs should be aware that words on the Law or Chaos quest card are more accurate (feud, conflict, and contested) to the current state of affairs on the level. To keep my players' enthusiasm from dipping when they found no grand war, I had the inevitables reiterate to them that they had essentially missed the war--this was the end of it--and it was a stalemate. Continuing with this analogy, it may be easiest to see this level as an active stalemate: neither side had its king trapped, but both sides only possessed two knights--not enough to force a win. Only the party could induce a winner, and even then, only if they wanted one side to be victorious at all.

The aforementioned kolyarut greeted our party in the first chamber, and to avoid making it too easy on them, I called for initiative and placed both zelekhuts into defensive stance. The kolyarut was deliberately kept out of view until negotiations began peacefully, as he would not risk his position for a group of warmongering adventurers, and it knew nothing of thanks (Schneider, p. 100). After successful identification of the inevitables, party weapons eased--though the mechanical centaurs did not back down until their companion emerged to calm things. He spoke of their efforts to aid him, and then proceeded to give the party a tour of the inevitables' holdings on the level.
Sutter chose not to railroad the characters, and so with the tour complete and more information gathered, it was now up to them how to proceed. Roleplaying and PC-watching were at their height here, and I think there may have even been a half-hour spent in the uneasy presence of the zelekhuts where I had the pleasure of seeing our party decide on its direction. Comparative to level four, this level has many possible outcomes that GMs need to be well prepared for, but that most players will have to work with in short order. Various aspects of lawful alignment now served as a conjoining thread amongst the group, so while it was obvious to them that they would side with the inevitables, they were very concerned about how to open the Spire doors without having to fight the inevitables. Despite the price, they had sided strongly with law from the beginning of the adventure, and would stay the course; ridding the level of proteans was something they knew had to be done, and so the plan was to start with that and let things unfold from there.

As the party was to discover upon their entry into the chamber of floating islands, the first conflict proved to be the most difficult part of the level, not to mention one of the more blockbuster combats of all fifteen levels so far. The portal-mechanics and lack of suitable fighting terrain, combined with the enemies' plethora of abilities and perfect fly speed, the author has packed this encounter with enough deadly tools to end a PC's journey in the Maelstrom instead of the root. The proteans opened with Sutter's flavor-quote from p.136, and seized on the party's relative shock at the way this "room" was arranged. Chaos hammers rained down on the lawful party to great effect, with both beasts hovering safely away in defensive positions toward O9 and O11 respectively. When the party recovered from its initial beating and identified the creatures as more extraplanar outsiders, there was plenty of hand-slapping to go around.

Chaid DiViri's immediate dismissal was doubled up by Variel the Riftwarden, though both were stuffed by the formidable spell resistance and saving throws of the proteans. Another dismissal failed a round later, while more chaos hammers pounded the all-lawful party. Cheers and smiles had now turned to looks of concern. Aurelius, paladin of Abadar, tried to take matters into his own hands as he had done so many times before in the Spire run. Slamming a potion of fly, he bravely moved to engage the nearest protean in aerial combat above the Maelstrom--and one dispel magic later--had an island all to himself. His only contribution to this battle would be the reflex save he made to drag himself back to reality. The combat was spiraling out of the party's control, and so the Riftwarden dug deep into his spell complement, producing a hostile juxtaposition that forced one imentesh into melee range with a slowed DiViri and Dragon Disciple, while placing the Riftwarden far away in the space the protean had occupied. For a moment, it looked like something had gone the party's way, but a dimension door proved why the proteans had the upper hand in this conflict.

Giixhosiptor the Dragon Disciple cast a fly spell, but did not go far before another dispel magic shut him down. The players' faces and the atmosphere in the room began to feel ever so slightly like that of a brush with TPK, and every round that went by had the players fidgeting more and more with their materials and frantically shuffling through inventories for something to save themselves. The Riftwarden still had offensive options available here though, and had only been limited by his number of actions thus far. Greater infernal healing helped keep DiViri healthy in this long fight, and the signifer then resorted to a couple of attempts at summon infernal host to compete with the flying proteans; however, these were little more than an annoyance when confronted with dispel law.

Variel the Riftwarden went to his trusty standby: planar scourge. The scourge competes only with smite evil for the MVA (most valuable ability) of our Spire run, and here once again it did not let them down. Coupled with a nasty supernatural breath weapon from Giixhosiptor to bypass spell resistance, the tide was changing as one imentesh was panicked while another was severely wounded. The hellknight followed the breath weapon up with a disintegrate, and though this was the only successful casting of the spell during the campaign, it was enough to finish one of the imentesh proteans. It took more resources, but the party managed to quickly corner and finish the last protean, who failed to concentrate on a dimension door. Not a single cheer went up from the group--there was only relief. Mr. Sutter, your proteans served gloriously.

Proceeding with all caution into the recursion chamber, the players were once again elated to see the superdungeon's connectedness reveal itself, as here were three of the creatures whose skull they had found in the tribute corridor on level nine. It is the cumulative effect of these subtle connections that make The Emerald Spire shine so brightly on the altar of authorship. Once again though, so many of these associations do not come to fruition unless the entire adventure is played through to the end. The bronzed naunet skull had been a favorite topic while setting up for a session or during food breaks, and each player had their own theory explaining its existence. I wish more could be said about the combat here other than an enlarged Chaid DiViri and three bull's strengths making short work of this more brutish class of proteans. The naunets tried to use the dimensional loop to their advantage, but lacking multiple chaos hammers each, they had to eventually scrap with the PCs (with one escaping to O13 via dimension door).

Safely passing the runes of change, the party now stood facing one of the most monumental discoveries in all of Golarion: the Spire doors. Here was every historian and linguistic scholar's dream made real, as the author puts it, a "Rosetta Stone-like resource" that both our players and GM marveled at. The flip-mat for this level had already dazzled players with its colorful dichotomy between spotless circuit-board floors and chaos-infused chambers, but here it presented the Spire doors in all their glory. We had at last reached the gateway to our destination; moreover, the Spire doors remain one of only two specific locations in the entire superdungeon to receive its own song on our soundtrack, so we had to turn it up.

The conflict over these doors could not have resolved itself more perfectly to avoid a confrontation with the inevitables, as the kolyarut ended up being caught in a breath weapon and then brought low by the imentesh that repeatedly overcame spell resistance to deliver ferocious chaos hammers against all present. After neatly wrapping up the wounded naunet and imentesh with planar scourge, the party tried to unlock the doors and swiftly enter before the regenerating kolyarut or other inevitables discovered the recent events. Feather fall was the perfect spell to have here, and they quickly floated a ways down the irregular chimney to a safe ledge. Each party member looked at the others--and knew what came next.

Level 15 Errata/Technical Concerns:
♦ In perhaps the worst accidental spoiler of the entire superdungeon, the quest card entitled Deepest Menace gives a clear image of a vault keeper, the final foe. The players have not come across any way to know what this ancient secret of Golarion looks like at all, so it seems like miscommunication regarding artistic license. GMs may want to consider withholding this card from their players; I read the text but did not give out this final quest card, and told my players that it was one of those module-mistakes they would understand when it was all over.

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The Emerald Spire Project

For an interview about the Emerald Spire Project, go here


Just a quick backtrack to the subject of Earth Glide. I believe it would be fine for, say, and Earth Elementalist wizard to use it as much as he wants since it only lasts 1 round per level. Also, you only move 5 feet per round.

Since most levels of the spire are hundreds of feet apart it can't be an issue. Also, if the wizard wants to go explore parts by himself then go ahead. A good way to get killed.

Or...has anyone had a party use Earth Glide to break the dungeon?

Order of the Amber Die

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Level 16: The Emerald Root
(spoilers)

I would be avoiding the truth if I did not say that recalling level sixteen brought back the very same goose bumps we all had that night. When we began this session it was well past midnight of hour 188, day 35, and we had until the morning to complete The Emerald Spire or fail in desperation. Hundreds of feet below level fifteen, the characters sat on a ledge in the uneven chimney, each one doing a final equipment check much the way I watched the players doing one last character sheet check. The inevitables above had warned of an incredibly powerful force on sixteen, but without the players having specific knowledge of what was beneath or even the depth of this chimney, their period of attempted repose was fraught with stress.

Every one of us present that night had played a varsity sport--and in the case of myself--even coached one. Like athletes, we had tested ourselves in this superdungeon over what was an entire season of challenging matches, level-after-level through The Emerald Spire, as closely as possible to the authors' intent and with full employment of the rules. We had lost some matches but won the essential ones, and despite all of the ups and downs a season can bring, there we were, at the culmination of our enormous effort. The demand to win was overwhelming. We could only equate the feeling of descending to level sixteen with a bus ride to a playoff game, or waiting with your players as the finals of the county tournament are about to begin. No one was seated.

James Jacobs provides everything one would expect from a titan of Paizo, and from a deeply ingrained Golarion storyline to artifact-level loot, the author dresses level sixteen with all the trappings of an epic finish that players deserve for making it this far. I set out to bring it to life, and so the glow from the lava surrounding Philosopher's Isle meant turning on the red lights for effect as the party descended into the Emerald Root. The eerie opening to Ego Likeness's Aurora accompanied their feather fall entrance, and the setting was complete. Sprawled out before them was one of the grandest open-spaces of the entire superdungeon, a vaulted cavern dominated by the base of the Spire itself. Hands went to weapons and items, as this space was itself threatening; large chambers often hold large creatures, and I did nothing to dissuade their fears. Interestingly, the most intimidating features of sixteen would not be hulking beasts, but the menagerie of unknown, alien, and bizarre creatures that inhabited it.

They were right to be cautious, as the first menace was indeed big but purely physical: a pair of gugs. These brutes offer the GM a chance to greet the party with stacks of damage from possibly the heaviest pound-for-pound hitters of the entire Spire. As the description for these creatures mentions in Bestiary 2 (p. 151), these foes often lie in wait for days to gain the upper-hand against prey; therefore, I felt it fair to apply the "take 20" rule to their Stealth check, giving them an impressive DC 35. Using what James Jacobs provided in the introduction to his level, I inferred that the tendrils of the Spire--especially at their nearest point--would be at least ten to fifteen feet high. This helped the gugs to gain surprise through their Stealth checks, spend the surprise round climbing to the top of the two tendrils flanking where the party landed (20ft. north of P3), and open round one by raining down vicious blows with their formidable reach. Despite advantages, the gugs were bested by Icedrake and a masterwork falchion carried (since Splinterden) by a very-buffed Dragon Disciple.

With solid rolling and a couple of Awesome Blows landed by the aberrations, significant damage was still done to the party's healing resources here, and they turned to greater infernal healing for support. It was immediately clear to the PCs that they could not afford every encounter to be this savage if they were expected to defeat a mighty foe at the end. After the battle, each member looked at the person next to them, carefully examining the items they carried with the hope that the other companions were better equipped than they were. The siphoning power of the Hellknights' thirty-percent fee was evident all around them: masterwork weapons abounded, and barring a few important additions, much of the party's initial armor and equipment was still with them. It was not a feeling of nostalgia--but concern--when the person who had your back was using the same masterwork bow that once felled Gorloth.

Soon thereafter, Oorivoon the inquisitive and conversational roper called out to them from Philosopher's Isle. Due to communication issues and the mental tick-tock of cooking buffs, a hasty exchange was all the party was willing to provide the creature before both sides launched to the attack. Fly enabled the party to jump ahead early, and the roper proved little challenge overall. Giixhosiptor's supernatural breath weapon was especially powerful in this scuffle, as the creature's poor reflex save and the breath's ability to bypass spell resistance made it a perfect offensive play. Naturally, the Dragon Disciple had to double up on it by using his last breath of the day despite being early in their exploration of the level.

The laboratory in P4 was where the PCs got their first big taste of the effort Jacobs went through in providing the right denizens for level sixteen. In fantastic fashion, here were the freaks that one's imagination had pondered about existing on the deepest level: creatures from other worlds, forgotten places, and unmapped abodes. The stat block for Jacobs's vivisectionists is a piece of Lovecraftian beauty, and enhances the pages of The Emerald Spire like the works of Renaissance artists grace the Grand Gallery of the Paizo Louvre. His palette consisting of Bestiary 4, the Advanced Player's Guide, and Ultimate Magic, this creation is a shining example of Jacobs's skill and experience as a designer. To say that a GM should study this stat block thoroughly is an injustice--the GM should take this stat block to bed with them for a week.

What made these vivisectionists especially deadly for our group was that they were an enigma even to the veteran players, so this fight consisted of more "What the..." and "Are you kidding me?" reactions than any other fight in the Spire. Perhaps even better is the opportunity that the author provides for continuity in the Spire run by including the bodies of vanquished enemies from the levels above. GMs can do much more with this, but I just took a quick scan of the module to recall some creatures that the party had likely forgotten or never expected to see again and placed pieces of them here. Regarding tactics, I would love to provide more than choosing to have the elder things use the pedestals for cover and spray darts, but the plethora of abilities possessed by these creatures means that this fight could be played many times and never go down the same way. Considering the fact that the GM has three of these aberrations to work with--along with surprise from area P3--means that an ambush could also be set up various ways, and is only hampered by the relatively tight quarters of the laboratory.

With a high initiative and sneak attack, it is possible to deliver staggering amounts of damage on the first person through the door, and that is exactly what happened for us. Aurelius the paladin and lead melee combatant had to quickly fall back, with even his trusty smite evil useless here. Were it not for a dragon's breath (acid) spell used repeatedly and with great efficacy by the Dragon Disciple, the party would not have survived. Part of the advantage the elder things have is that the PCs will likely have no idea what abilities these foes possess, nor have the players probably fought one before. Judicial application of the Knowledge (Dungeoneering) skill allows the referee to make this fight either harder or easier, depending on whether you allow players to determine either the class or class-abilities possessed.

As it was somewhat unclear whether or not the PCs are immediately aware of how to use the master shards found in the laboratory, I decided to let my players exhaust other options or appeal to trial-and-error. Lacking further direction, the party cautiously made its way over to the stone sphere in area P6. Jacobs leaves it up to the GM to determine how long it takes Eriniell the pech to muster the courage to contact them, and so I took this time to let some buffs burn off and questions build before she came out to greet them. Not enough can be said of the incredible potential for role-playing opportunities offered by Eriniell, her elaborate quirks, and the "unseen orphans." In hindsight, there was more that I could have done to prepare a list of questions for her whispering wind moments, but ad lib served well nonetheless. Being totally focused on their goal, the party was almost inclined to ignore the pech, but her uniqueness rammed its way into our roster for the remainder of the level.

With information from the pech, it was then time to breach the fortress of Iluchtewhar. Chaid DiViri tried to question Eriniell as to exactly what it was they would face, and things almost became hostile when the pech provided mostly ambiguous gibberish about this important adversary. A party vote was split down the middle over whether Eriniell could be trusted not to turn on the group at a crucial moment, or whether she was instead integral to success in the anticipated final struggle. In probably their most heated out-of-game discussion, agreement was eventually reached, though I was sure there would be at least one "I told you so" when the pech's motives were eventually confirmed. One of the provisions of the Compromise of Level Sixteen meant that in heading to Iluchtewhar, some would earth glide into P9 rather than trust the pech to deliver them safely.

Upon arriving on the stone escarpment outside of the second Watching Door, the party was alarmed at the presence of a freezing lake this deep in the Spire; but, as one player put it, nothing was truly out of the ordinary after so long in this superdungeon. What they weren't prepared for though, were the absolutely devastating effects of the six black bile breath weapons that were unleashed on the party by the hidden chardas. With their exceptional Stealth checks and cover provided by the water, these creatures used their surprise round to swarm the escarpment and set themselves up for what looked like a typical melee encounter. Instead, these monstrous humanoids offered the perfect niche creature to challenge this set of adventurers: they were not extraplanar, they were not outsiders, and they were not evil. The effects--and looks on the players' faces--of 48d6 cold damage on the party in the opening moments of the conflict were stunning. The deadly combination of surprise and decision-fatigue soon turned this expected speed bump into a dangerous fight.

As there was little protection from cold in the party, only strong reflex saves and the irregular size and shape of the stone ledge prevented an immediate character death. I can say with confidence that had many of the chardas not rolled so poorly on their breath weapon recharge, this would have been the end. With the chardas able to scramble quickly up onto the heights and surround the party, a fierce battle erupted, which saw Chaid DiViri stabbing down with her ominous halberd, and even Variel the wizard having to defend himself in melee. As the scrap unfolded, the Dragon Disciple used his claws ferociously to produce three critical hits in this battle, but also burning his only use of the cyclops helm to help confirm the death of a charda. Aurelius the paladin of Abadar, finding his precious smite evil useless, tapped out his healing powers to keep the campaign alive. Surviving another couple of blasts of black bile, party resources--with the exception of planar scourge and a few key spells--were depleting at a frightening rate. Yet being outside of the second Watching Door meant there was no respite for the exhausted party, and they knew that somewhere beyond was the end of The Emerald Spire.

The companions huddled and looked over their remaining abilities one final time. What was particularly impressive was that this was done in-character, and even after eight-straight nights of play, the team was held together by the magnitude of this summer project. It was hour 194 of what could be the longest recorded marathon-delve in RPG history. The sun had come up. One player would soon be late for work--this was more important. We pulled back the drapes, hoping the natural light would keep us focused in the final push, as even caffeine in the form of a second or third Monster energy drink that session was not enough for some.

When the door to the Spire Sanctum opened fate did not cross our path--it collided with us that morning. Of all the possible antagonists we could have faced at the end of The Emerald Spire, Iluchtewhar was an extraplanar outsider. Since the pech was in the rear of the party, at first the xiomorn engaged the party with the words on p. 148; players' eyes lit up at the thought being able to converse about the mysteries of Golarion with a Vault Keeper, but those hopes were soon dashed when Iluchtewhar and Eriniell spotted each other.

I am careful when applying epic trailer music to our soundtracks, so this was the only place in the Spire that received such a song. With the volume of Black Blade loud enough to shake the glass in the cabinets, we proceeded to roll initiative. No character hesitated to employ their most effective tactics first, and the muscle memory acquired from traversing sixteen levels of the Spire allowed the party to engage Iluchtewhar in mechanical fashion. The Vault Keeper went first, and followed the author's intent by starting to summon earth elementals. DiViri's dismissal went next--somehow bypassed spell resistance--and to plentiful hand-slapping, the xiomorn failed its save. However, party cheers were in turn dismissed by the return of Iluchtewhar via greater teleport in the very next round. Thus far, every single creature dismissed in the Spire run had never been able to come back. If dungeon crawling could produce adrenaline, Iluchtewhar's immediate return surely did.

The legendary dismissal had still cost the xiomorn its summon monster VII and bought the party time to spread out; upon the foe's reappearance, the characters set to work developing their play as they had in so many matches before. Variel the Riftwarden released his planar scourge, fueled by the nostalgia of knowing this might be the last time we would see it in our Spire run. The Vault Keeper's damage reduction was nothing new in the superdungeon, so Giixhosiptor and Aurelius (the strongest hitters) systematically switched their grips and delivered potent damage. Grabbing the assist, Chaid DiViri used her visions of hell, designed to upgrade the effects of planar scourge. Eriniell the pech did as expected, and wasted her prized scroll of disintegrate on the spell resistance of the Vault Keeper.

Incredibly, Iluchtewhar failed his saving throw vs. the planar scourge and was panicked for a short time. Variel acted quickly when seeing that visions of hell from DiViri could not escalate the creature from panicked to cowering as they had often done together on the levels above. Watching the panicked xiomorn struggle to retreat toward the western set of doors, the Riftwarden chose to seal them off with a wall of force, not realizing at the time how much this would affect the ending of the superdungeon. With the panic wearing off, the melee players tried to step up their pace, but everyone knew that soon the creature would be able to act. Even so, the party was out to a lead that could not be made up, and all they had to do was roll consistently to win. Iluchtewhar attempted a flesh to stone, crystalline bursts, and even tried shredding the paladin with his claws, but five rounds of actions were not enough to prevent his eventual demise at the hands of the party (pech included).

There were no cheers though, as the Vault Keeper did not so much die but instead turned to emerald dust that began to move on its own. Inadvertently, the Riftwarden's wall of force had foiled the author's intent of having the defeated Vault Keeper's dust slide under the doors to reform elsewhere. Instead, the dust piled up against the wall, attempting to force itself through. The party knew they had to act quickly in the rounds they were given, and to keep the challenge of the encounter at a high difficulty, I made it very tough to try and scoop the dust up. As such, players used the precious rounds before the wall came down to prepare themselves for whatever was in the room the dust was seeking. As evidenced here, the wall's effect was twofold in that it also managed to provide the party with an early lead against the shining child. Instead of frantically rushing into P14 from the sanctum, the party had time to regroup, rebuff, and revive.

When the wall of force came down, the party followed the dust under the door into the next fight. An advanced shining child should have been a concern, but three factors enabled this fight to be tilted severely in favor of the party: it was an outsider, extraplanar, and worst of all--evil. With steel saving throws and smite evil, a flying Aurelius delivered devastation to the creature as it desperately tried to slow the party's progression into P15. There was a good chance that it should have been able to blind someone, but the party's rolls were strong and their buffs thick. Arriving on round seven of Iluchtewhar's reconstruction, they had enough time to finish the xiomorn once and for all.

Alas, there in front of them lay the mouthwatering display of magical items that superdungeon-finales are made of, an unthinkable combined value--all taxable, of course. Without stopping to celebrate just yet, they hurried to identify and use some of the items found there against anything that might be waiting behind the remaining doors. Nothing needs to be said about taking a +3 construct bane adamantine heavy pick against the stone golem guarding the Orvgate, and with that the adventurers stopped to consider what had just happened.

It appeared as if Jacobs's design for this final encounter was to essentially fight Iluchtewhar twice, as the shining child in P14 increases the likelihood of delay, thereby allowing Iluchtewhar to reform in P15. The party had completely foiled this, and by avoiding the loss of even a single character, had managed to achieve not just a tactical or traditional victory, but a brilliant victory. Breathing in the victory was only part of their current state, as all around them were secrets and mysteries of Golarion to be gawked over by dreamy players. It was the end of a superdungeon, and a moment that might only occur once in an adventurer's life. We stopped for a final photo of players and GM at the end--but due to the state of our appearance--we kept that one for ourselves.

In conclusion, level sixteen was everything we hoped it would be as the ending of a superdungeon. It was unrestricted, and depending on the party's chosen course of exploration, could become significantly harder or easier. While we skipped two fights with basidironds and carnivorous crystals, either one of these might have drained enough resources to make the fight against Iluchtewhar unwinnable. Each new level of the superdungeon had also offered a creative way to incorporate or place the Spire itself, which meant that one question loomed large throughout our journey: How would it be used on the bottom level? Jacobs did it justice, and the root both surprised and awed us all. The means of exploring this level through earth glide is completely unique and unlike anything I have seen in any superdungeon or dungeon I could recall. By allowing the PCs to directly interact with the inside of the Spire, this not only enables the PCs to do something they have probably wanted to do throughout most of the Spire voyage, but also offers jaded or veteran players a chance to experience a dungeon through a new medium. Jacobs also added the final knots of continuity in the Spire Sanctum, roping together all the levels of the superdungeon by offering GMs a chance to display captured PCs or NPCs here, and it is an opportunity best planned out by the GM well in advance. Furthermore, the author provides all the necessary seeds for additional adventures through the Orvgate, which should be ample challenge for a party of thirteenth level characters looking to continue the campaign.

As this game has a way of doing, it bonds people together over rewards, hardship, and of course: glory. It was an incredible feeling to stand together in The Emerald Root and hear the shuddering of the Spire above us. It shook the massive superdungeon the way it had rattled our lives for thirty-five days. At 8:14am, hour 195, we were shell-shocked in such severity that around the table some were using an analogy of Lewis and Clark's return to St. Louis. Now months later, while stuck in copious morning traffic or grading stacks of papers, I can sometimes hear the far-off sounds of Raithskal's Orchestra on level thirteen, the whirl of a planar scourge as it tears at an imentesh protean, or the screams of a natural twenty against the Mistress of Thorns.

Level 16 Errata/Technical Concerns:

♦ Area P12 has an advanced Stone Golem that is listed as CR 12 (correct), but the title of the area lists the encounter as CR 11.
♦ The ledge outside of P9 appears to have different heights on the map, as there is definitely shading around the bright square to the southwest of the "P9" label on the map from p. 142. Nothing is mentioned about varying heights in the text, but on level nine there was also no text to confirm a similar issue with that map, so GMs may want to give thought to this in advance. I ruled that there was a 5ft. difference in height between the top three and one-half squares of the P9 ledge in comparison to the bottom six and one-quarter squares, and the resulting verticality surprised us by adding interesting complexity to the charda battle.
♦ The GM may have to prepare a ruling on the master shards found on this level. While they are italicized by Jacobs (suggesting that they are magic items) he might have run too low on word count to allow for a magic item stat block for them, or perhaps figured that his clear description of how they function was enough. Either way, players will likely be inquisitive about the properties or try to identify its attributes with Spellcraft, so it might be wise to choose how you will rule in advance.
♦ As a recommendation on how to conduct the earth glide within the Spire tendrils, I can offer that it worked very well for me by describing this in the same way I would walk a PC down a hallway, offering directional choices as they came upon them. For example, a left or right choice when headed toward P5 would allow GMs to definitively place a PC on the map upon arrival.
♦ It seemed like some GM-discretion was required with Eriniell in regard to how harshly she attacks PCs who touch the ground, and how strictly she will enforce this rule as they PCs move around the level. I thought it unlikely she would break off from attacking Iluchtewhar or another enemy to go after a PC because they touched the ground during a fight. I played this feature of her personality up as way to provide flavor and even laughter between combats, as PCs would sometimes forget they had to be off the ground--and Eriniell sharply reminded them with her pick. Not wanting to be tied to floating disks for the level, they eventually resorted to fly spells to appease her.

Addendum

After spending months in reflection and writing over 35,000 words to describe our journey through this superdungeon, I would be remiss not to offer closing thoughts that have either occurred during the writing process, or are still with me at the end. To begin with, I have given extensive treatment to the Hellknights' tax throughout the project, and this is because it is nigh impossible to overstate the effect of this levy on our Spire experience. Six expensive character deaths should have been enough to hamper any party, but handing over thirty-percent of all acquired treasure only compounded the issue. Some players in the group have since said that the tax is the first thing that comes to mind when remembering the Spire, while our treasure-driven players prefer to try and forget the pain altogether. At least we can say that we enforced the tax as-written and in the steepest way possible, yet still managed to succeed in our venture. This not only helps to support a number of theories regarding the power of items vs. abilities, but also caused some players to see beyond the importance of treasure as an ends in the game. Still, this is the GM-perspective, and a party vote would most assuredly be unanimous against ever experiencing a tax like this again. I prefer to think of the tax as an identifying characteristic of this superdungeon; if Dragon Mountain is remembered for its fearsome kobolds, Undermountain for its frustrating portals, and The Temple of Elemental Evil for innumerable foes, then let The Emerald Spire be remembered in part for its challenging tax.

With the Emerald Spire's authors developing its sixteen levels in relative isolation from one another, it would have been possible that what would normally have been a rare monster type and subtype combination could have been randomly selected by a few different authors, resulting in a high frequency of otherwise rare creatures (i.e., outsider and extraplanar). Since there is nothing inherently wrong with having many encounters of the same type/subtype, it is also safe to assume that even during editing it would have been hard to catch the fact that many monsters had this rare combination. At the same time though, given the history and attributes of the Emerald Spire itself, it makes plenty of sense to have so many creatures of that type/subtype, so this rate of recurrence may have been intentional. As the reader has likely noted throughout The Emerald Spire Project, our party became adept at facing this combination of outsider/extraplanar, and we faced it repeatedly throughout the Spire's deep levels. To their credit, the players reacted to what they continued to encounter by making choices such as memorizing multiple dismissals when preparing for each new level. I suppose in some ways this made up for the punishment (or even embarrassment) they received due to their performance on quite a few of the upper levels. We all enjoy a good laugh while remembering that with but a few hours before the launch of the campaign, two players switched their characters due to a disagreement over party roles.

Lastly, what may not be immediately obvious to the reader were the out-of-game consequences of failure in our Spire run. If the party TPKed at any point before dungeon level ten, this entire project would never have been written; perhaps a story about a few levels and then our demise might have been amusing, but we would not have taken the time to write it up. My players know that I never stop a TPK from occurring, and if that is the ending the dice gods prefer, so be it. Thank you to all members of the party known as Servants of the Spire: Aerick, Mike, Liza, and Erick, for being the skilled dungeon-crawlers that you are, and for enabling this project to succeed as it has.

For the entire Emerald Spire Project, go here:

The Emerald Spire Project

For an interview about the Emerald Spire Project, go here


Greetings!

I'm considering running this module, but I had some concerns about Fort Inevitable's factions and important NPCs. The text prior to Level 1 goes into some detail about the current state of affairs and which NPCs are in each faction, but after that the dungeon descriptions begin. Does the module go into any further detail regarding missions or events relating to the conflict between the Hellknights and the Seven Foxes? It seems very likely that the PCs will want to join with one side or the other and actively enter into conflict with the opposing faction, so I'd like to know how much independent scenario development I have ahead of me should I decide to run this module.

(Note that I've only read up through level 2 so far.)


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No, the fort (as a unit) is not mentioned again. Although several NPCs with connections to the fort are mentioned.

As for what to do about this, you did find the right thread!

There are quite a few posts on this topic in the thread starting with:
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2r5jz?The-Emerald-Spire-Superdungeon-Discussion -Thread#18

Also, someone tried to start their own thread on this question, with a few responses:
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2r6r9?Emerald-spire-Friends-in-the-fort-quest

Good luck and happy gaming!

PS -

Other GREAT Emerald Spire Posts:

Player's Guide if you will. I passed it out: http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2r5jz?The-Emerald-Spire-Superdungeon-Discussion -Thread#2
Spire Runes done by an artist: http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2rbjw?The-Emerald-Spire-Superdungeon-Extras#26
Time Line: http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2r5jz?The-Emerald-Spire-Superdungeon-Discussion -Thread#38
Designer Levels for Each Floor: http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2r5jz?The-Emerald-Spire-Superdungeon-Discussion -Thread#29
Great Summary of what NPCs in each floor know: http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2r5jz?The-Emerald-Spire-Superdungeon-Discussion -Thread#1
Ideas on troubleshooting - I directly use most of them, but they were awesome for pointing out things PCs will likely do (and mine have): http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2r5jz?The-Emerald-Spire-Superdungeon-Discussion -Thread#12

I've personally got my own thoughts on the spire. I've been posting (erratic) updates on the direction(s) I've gone, if you're interested. No where near as detailed as the Order of Amber Die.
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2rgtp?Scaling-Emerald-Spire-to-Seven-PCs#1


Wow, I've got some reading to do. Thanks!


So the Goldenfire Order has become pretty crucial in my campaign since my group alienated Royst. As my player's first noted, however, Ilara might as well have a gold "!" above her head (from World of Warcraft if you don't get the reference).

I've got a few links for anyone else who wants to breath life into these NPCs

Goldenfire Order Links:

https://journey-to-thornkeep.obsidianportal.com/wikis/goldenfire-tower
http://ragea.net/pathfinder/Pathfinder%20Online/PZOGWK0001%20Thornkeep.pdf

My way of giving the Goldenfires some personality:
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2rgtp?Scaling-Emerald-Spire-to-Seven-PCs#17

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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As the author of the Emerald Root, I can provide answers for these:

Order of the Amber Die wrote:

1) Area P12 has an advanced Stone Golem that is listed as CR 12 (correct), but the title of the area lists the encounter as CR 11.

2) The ledge outside of P9 appears to have different heights on the map, as there is definitely shading around the bright square to the southwest of the "P9" label on the map from p. 142. Nothing is mentioned about varying heights in the text, but on level nine there was also no text to confirm a similar issue with that map, so GMs may want to give thought to this in advance. I ruled that there was a 5ft. difference in height between the top three and one-half squares of the P9 ledge in comparison to the bottom six and one-quarter squares, and the resulting verticality surprised us by adding interesting complexity to the charda battle.
3) The GM may have to prepare a ruling on the master shards found on this level. While they are italicized by Jacobs (suggesting that they are magic items) he might have run too low on word count to allow for a magic item stat block for them, or perhaps figured that his clear description of how they function was enough. Either way, players will likely be inquisitive about the properties or try to identify its attributes with Spellcraft, so it might be wise to choose how you will rule in advance.
4) As a recommendation on how to conduct the earth glide within the Spire tendrils, I can offer that it worked very well for me by describing this in the same way I would walk a PC down a hallway, offering directional choices as they came upon them. For example, a left or right choice when headed toward P5 would allow GMs to definitively place a PC on the map upon arrival.
5) It seemed like some GM-discretion was required with Eriniell in regard to how harshly she attacks PCs who touch the ground, and how strictly she will enforce this rule as they PCs move around the level. I thought it unlikely she would break off from attacking Iluchtewhar or another enemy to go after a PC because they touched the ground during a fight. I played this feature of her personality up as way to provide flavor and even laughter between combats, as PCs would sometimes forget they had to be off the ground--and Eriniell sharply reminded them with her pick. Not wanting to be tied to floating disks for the level, they eventually resorted to fly spells to appease her.

1) Yup; the CR listed in the encounter area name is in error.

2) There is indeed a five-foot high ledge up on area P9.

3) Indeed, space constraints prevented me from doing up the master shards as full magic items. I did indeed figure that the description in the treasure of area P4 was enough to give GMs what they needed to go on. It absolutely should be possible for characters to determine a master shard's qualities by making a Spellcraft check as if they were studying a magic item—you can assume they're CL 7th, like a spire transport token, for those purposes. Especially since using these things is kind of a prerequisite to navigating the level anyway if the PCs don't have their own solutions.

4) I would describe it like swimming in a tunnel filled with green water, more or less.

5) Eriniell is crazy, and as such it's absolutely up to the GM to determine how she reacts in any given situation. An adventure author can't possibly anticipate every PC action, after all, so the best we can do is describe the NPC's personality and general goals and quirks so that the GM can make educated decisions on how they react to specific situations. She's very much intended to be a roleplaying enabler and not a combat encounter though, so the more you use her to break up the monotony of dungeon crawl fights, the better! :-)

I'm still kinda surprised no one's called me on the fact that she's cheating with that disk... normally you can't use the spell to sit on, but it's too cool an image to be bound by rules! :-)

Order of the Amber Die

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Mr. Jacobs,

Thank you for your response, I am humbled that you took the time to read about our journey through your level, and I hope you enjoyed my treatment of it. Hearing back from you is also exciting because so much time was spent writing up these levels and reflecting on our Emerald Spire experience.

It’s funny you mention the floating disk; I was enforcing it as-written according to your intent, and there was a player-discussion about it, with fly being the easy solution for all. I was thinking maybe Eriniell developed a modified version of the disk after so many years spent employing various ways to avoid touching the ground, though I should have definitely addressed it better under technical concerns. If I may ask then, how would you suggest GMs approach a ruling on her floating disks?

Thanks again!

Adam
GM: Order of the Amber Die

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Order of the Amber Die wrote:

Mr. Jacobs,

Thank you for your response, I am humbled that you took the time to read about our journey through your level, and I hope you enjoyed my treatment of it. Hearing back from you is also exciting because so much time was spent writing up these levels and reflecting on our Emerald Spire experience.

It’s funny you mention the floating disk; I was enforcing it as-written according to your intent, and there was a player-discussion about it, with fly being the easy solution for all. I was thinking maybe Eriniell developed a modified version of the disk after so many years spent employing various ways to avoid touching the ground, though I should have definitely addressed it better under technical concerns. If I may ask then, how would you suggest GMs approach a ruling on her floating disks?

Thanks again!

Adam
GM: Order of the Amber Die

My suggestion would be that it's special pech magic that lets her sit on her disk. Monsters can and should be able to do things PCs can't. Perhaps it's powered by the sheer magnitude of her madness?


James Jacobs wrote:
Order of the Amber Die wrote:

Mr. Jacobs,

Thank you for your response, I am humbled that you took the time to read about our journey through your level, and I hope you enjoyed my treatment of it. Hearing back from you is also exciting because so much time was spent writing up these levels and reflecting on our Emerald Spire experience.

It’s funny you mention the floating disk; I was enforcing it as-written according to your intent, and there was a player-discussion about it, with fly being the easy solution for all. I was thinking maybe Eriniell developed a modified version of the disk after so many years spent employing various ways to avoid touching the ground, though I should have definitely addressed it better under technical concerns. If I may ask then, how would you suggest GMs approach a ruling on her floating disks?

Thanks again!

Adam
GM: Order of the Amber Die

My suggestion would be that it's special pech magic that lets her sit on her disk. Monsters can and should be able to do things PCs can't. Perhaps it's powered by the sheer magnitude of her madness?

It's cartoon physics. As long as she doesn't realize she's sitting on a floating disc, she's just fine.

Order of the Amber Die

4 people marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:
Order of the Amber Die wrote:

Mr. Jacobs,

Thank you for your response, I am humbled that you took the time to read about our journey through your level, and I hope you enjoyed my treatment of it. Hearing back from you is also exciting because so much time was spent writing up these levels and reflecting on our Emerald Spire experience.

It’s funny you mention the floating disk; I was enforcing it as-written according to your intent, and there was a player-discussion about it, with fly being the easy solution for all. I was thinking maybe Eriniell developed a modified version of the disk after so many years spent employing various ways to avoid touching the ground, though I should have definitely addressed it better under technical concerns. If I may ask then, how would you suggest GMs approach a ruling on her floating disks?

Thanks again!

Adam
GM: Order of the Amber Die

My suggestion would be that it's special pech magic that lets her sit on her disk. Monsters can and should be able to do things PCs can't. Perhaps it's powered by the sheer magnitude of her madness?

Thanks for the suggestion, and a good point made about monsters doing what PCs can't. The owners of PhillyGamesCon have asked me to run some levels of the Spire as single-slot events in April, and level 16 will surely be one! With what you have provided, Eriniell will be happily riding her floating disk. Much appreciated, Mr. Jacobs!


Hi all,

My group is about to figure out what the transport tokens are for. The problem is, one of the characters speaks Azlanti. I guess this character will then also know what the runes for each level look like. Does this mean they can teleport to any level they wish, without having visited the levels?

If it works like this, I would like to devise some workaround, so that the players are not allow to 'skip ahead' in the dungeon.


You could really make it as simple as there being multiple words and ways of expressing the first sixteen numbers in Azlanti.


David Neilson wrote:
You could really make it as simple as there being multiple words and ways of expressing the first sixteen numbers in Azlanti.

Thanks, that's a good suggestion!


If you use one artists' suggestion, they aren't words at all, but symbols. I printed these out for my group one level at a time.

http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2rbjw?The-Emerald-Spire-Superdungeon-Extras#26

Grand Lodge

Arno Swart wrote:

Hi all,

My group is about to figure out what the transport tokens are for. The problem is, one of the characters speaks Azlanti. I guess this character will then also know what the runes for each level look like. Does this mean they can teleport to any level they wish, without having visited the levels?

If it works like this, I would like to devise some workaround, so that the players are not allow to 'skip ahead' in the dungeon.

I told them it was 'Northern' Azlanti and did not immediately recognize the symbol.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Xiomorn Spellcasting confuses me. Does it refer to the "Wizard Spells Prepared" section of the Mythic Xiomorn stat block? (Even though it appears to be missing one spell level's worth of Wizard Spells Prepared?)

And is it supposed to be some combination of Wizard and Sorcerer spellcasting, with a limited pool of spells known (CR x3 spell levels plus three specific spells) and even more limited in how many it can prepare each day (CR x2 spell levels) from that pool?

Can they ever change the spells known in their "pool"?


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Quote:
Xiomorn Spellcasting (Su) This ability functions as simple arcane spellcasting, except the xiomorn can change its spells each morning as though preparing spells, choosing a number of spells with a combined level of twice its CR. Each xiomorn knows a number of spells with combined levels equal to three times its CR--choosing from the spells listed above, as well as create demiplane, mythic move earth, and terraform.

Mythic Adventures has the rules for the simple arcane casting mythic ability:

Quote:
Simple Arcane Spellcasting: The creature gains the ability to cast spells from the sorcerer/wizard spell list. Select a number of spells with total spell levels equal to twice the creature's CR. No spell for this ability should have a level higher than 1 + 1/2 the creature's CR. A 0-level spell counts as 1/2 spell level toward this total. The creature can cast each of these spells once per day. Its caster level is equal to its Hit Dice. It uses the higher of its Intelligence or Charisma modifiers to determine its spell DCs.

Normally, this is a fixed list of spells that are actually cast, rather than spell-like abilities. However, mythic xiomorns can "prepare" from a limited selection each day; this selection seems to be set, but GMs can probably modify the selection for individual xiomorns (when thematically appropriate). As with any prepared caster, they may have "unfilled" slots (in this case, there is no 1st-level spell known for the xiomorn to "prepare").


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thank you! I didn't think to check Mythic Adventures (not my cup of tea as a player, and haven't needed to so far as a GM).

So that explains what is meant by Simple Arcane Spellcasting. It would have helped a lot if they had put the superscript "M" after Simple Arcane Spellcasting (and capitalised that, to show that it was a specific special ability and not just a description).


Something I've thought about doing for this module is, letting the pc's be demi-gods. They don't know who their parents are, and at a certain age they begin to become more than normal humans. (The race will be human for all pc's, until they reach their first milestone. At which point they will find out they are actually Azlanti, and will be able to add the racial bonuses that go with that.) In addition, they will get a mythic tier at lvls 3,6,9,12,15,18, and 20. I know that I will have to put in some work on bumping the cr's, but I think that this would be a great place to start out the demi-god aspect that I've been wanting to run for a long time. Any input that you guys could add to this, would be greatly appreciated!!


I think that was the premise of the iconic Baldur's Gate (PC-game series, released in '98). Personally, I avoid that whole epic mentality, but it sounds like you'll either have a cake-walk with the mythic levels or will need to pump up the difficulty if you want to stay true to the module's intended challenge.


I stumbled across a comment that said there was more information on the Knights of the Ioun Star in this module....

Is it "substantial" information ?
Or just a tid bit here and there ?

Grand Lodge

Greetings,
I want to know how effective an Eidolon with the
Shadow Blend and Shadow Form
evolutions (which grant a constant %50 concealment in non-bright light areas) would be against the levels in the Emerald Spire.

Can someone hazard a guess of what percentage of encounters have Darkvision+ or levels that exist in bright light (for whatever reason).

Thanks.


It really depends on whether or not your own party will be bringing light sources, but at a rough estimate I'd say that most of the spire is either dimly lit or completely dark by default.

Off the top of my head I can only remember two areas that had bright light, but there might be more.


Sorry if this is a silly question, but are we supposed to add treasure based upon the monsters that would normally have treasure, moon-spiders have normal treasure for example, or does the module list all the treasure the PCs are expected to find/have? I ask because my PC are getting trashed...

Dark Archive

I'm GMing the 9th level of the Spire tomorrow night, and our campaign is rocking right along. Having full battle maps for each dungeon level has been awesome.

Early on I had Signifier Hast talk the party into signing a Dark Pact where (1) they get a true up each level to get them to average treasure per level (the module as written is woefully inadequate treasure-wise), (2) he'll raise each of them from the dead once during the campaign, and (3) he'll obtain anything they can afford that costs over 7,500 GP (order it one night, get it the next; anything that costs less I make available In Ft. Inevitable), in exchange for their performance of a "significant favor" when asked.

That favor will come at the end of the campaign, when the party will be asked to represent the interests of Hast and certain benefactors back in Cheliax in the upcoming Damnation Epoch played out in the Rite Publishing module Coliseum Morpheuon, in which I will use the Sympathy for the Devil story line.

Dark Archive

Allar Westdorp wrote:
Arno Swart wrote:

Hi all,

My group is about to figure out what the transport tokens are for. The problem is, one of the characters speaks Azlanti. I guess this character will then also know what the runes for each level look like. Does this mean they can teleport to any level they wish, without having visited the levels?

If it works like this, I would like to devise some workaround, so that the players are not allow to 'skip ahead' in the dungeon.

I told them it was 'Northern' Azlanti and did not immediately recognize the symbol.

I ruled that the tokens could take them to any level they have already been. That way, they can elevator but not skip ahead.

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