Developing an attachment to the city?


Curse of the Crimson Throne


One of the things I worry about with the AP is that at some point some of the players may decide that it is simply better to up and leave instead of dealing with what is going on. I am working on a few different ways to really develop a genuine sense of attachment to the city, both to avoid this happening and to really get the players invested in the story as it plays out.

While designing a few things here and there, I thought I might ask some of you folks if you've ever done anything like this and if so, did it work?


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This is only really a problem if the group is mostly non-Good in alignment. Good characters should be more than willing to help the city in its time of need. Most of the jobs given out by Kroft and others do have rewards attached to them, for those characters that are not into helping others just for the sake of it.

Of course, you will still want them to feel involved. The best way to tie characters down to any setting is to tell them to come up with connections (home, business, family, friends, etc.) in their backstories. This way when bad things start happening in Korvosa, it is personal. Having them go through the Player's Guide, and possibly giving them more information from sources such as the Guide to Korvosa really help in bringing the city to life.

My current group, for example, has the wizard studying in Theumanexus, the oracle and the paladin come from the Temple of Sarenrae, the ranger is a drop-out from the Endrin Military Academy, and the inquisitor of Gozreh is from the ranks of the crazed druids that pester sailors and fishermen along the docks. The paladin and the ranger are brothers, and come from a local noble family, the Bromathans. The oracle's father was a local businessman, and her mother was an elf from the Elven Enclave in South Shore, and so on. All of them have connections in the form on NPCs, be they family members, colleagues, or just friends. I try my best to incorporate these NPCs into the story whenever it seems appropriate.

Using the downtime rules has helped a lot too. Many of the players have really put a lot of effort into building their own organisations, from the ranger renovating Lamm's old fishery to the inquisitor gathering his own cult from beneath the docks of Old Korvosa. The wizard gives lectures in Theumanexus to earn capital, and the oracle goes to heal people in the temple to earn her living. Many of them have taken the opportunity to visit the Orisini Academy to benefit from the retraining rules. All of these have lead to some great roleplaying, and the players seem really invested. Main problem is trying to give them enough downtime, especially as things are starting to get more heated. So far it has worked marvelously, though.


Pretty well what Neirikr said, you may also suggest some connections that come up in later adventures; Varisians, Shoanti, ties to the Cerulean Society or Old Korvosa, and for upper class characters the local nobility. My players included a Varisian bard with ties to the community in Korvosa, a town watch copper, a Shoanti and relative of Thousand Bones, and a noble character whose house ended up hosting the zombie party in book 2. These players had a blast throughout the campaign whereas one of the players who played an elf with no connections to the city (despite ongoing suggestions) while I think he had fun he was obviously not as invested as he could be. I had a great group for this campaign and was able to really weave the character's background and goals into the fabric of the AP. This I think is also one of the reasons this AP continues to be held up as Paizo's best. Good luck with the campaign!


Some good answers by Neirikr and Wyrd.

I invited my players to choose in what way Gaedren Lamm wronged them, giving them a history with the crime organizations of Korvosa.

I have a player who has a home and family.

I have a player who had a valuable heirloom book stolen from him by Gaedren, that was later purchased by Rolth. (sort of a macguffin to keep him searching for it).

I remind the players frequently that there are immediate resources available to them (like healing and restoration) that is not readily available outside the city.

And I also remind the players that just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no nihilism in fantasy roleplay. You have to care about something in order to get on in the world, even if it's your own selfish pride.

Liberty's Edge

You could try playing up personal relationships with the NPCs in the game. Maybe a player can enroll in Vencarlo's sword classes. Someone can hit it off with Trinia or the guard captain. Book two introduces you to a family in need of help that might warm some people's hearts.


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Particularly in an adventure path character motivation is largely up to the players.

I told my players from the start that the Curse of the Crimson Throne is an adventure path about the city of Korvosa and a group of heroes that care about the city's welfare. My players made characters with deep connections to the city as a result. Some own businesses and houses, some have familial connections, but they all care about the city of Korvosa.

I had one player make an evil character and I really concerned he would have trouble with motivation. I warned him that motivating the character was largely up to him, and if he decide his character was no longer interested in the city's welfare then he could roll up a new character at that point and we may or may not elucidate upon the further adventures of the original character at a later date.


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To reiterate and reinforce what's been said, the campaign works best if you're 100% clear right from the get-go that the characters all are required to have some reason to love and want to save the city. Same as in Reign of Winter you need characters who want to go to the North, or in Mummy's Mask characters that like treasure hunting. APs are meant to tell a story, so the more the players go along with what the authors are intending the more fun everyone is going to have, I've found.

Shadow Lodge

Lakesidefantasy wrote:

Particularly in an adventure path character motivation is largely up to the players.

I told my players from the start that the Curse of the Crimson Throne is an adventure path about the city of Korvosa and a group of heroes that care about the city's welfare. My players made characters with deep connections to the city as a result. Some own businesses and houses, some have familial connections, but they all care about the city of Korvosa.

This is my plan as well, when I get to this campaign. I will be telling my players up-front to include a connection to the city in their background and to plan on never wandering far.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pawns Subscriber

Well, I agree with the other posters here, but I also disagree to an extent. I will always agree that a player has to bring their own motivation, and that a player is responsible for assisting the development of any story, I also strongly believe that a GM has to make those tasks easy (and entertaining) for them. A good group will helpfully latch on to your hooks because they know it is in everyone's best interest, but as the GM you owe them good hooks.

This does not obviate the great advice given by others this post, and I highly recommend that you take it. I believe, however, that putting it all on the players is a little unfair--especially if you don't get the results you are hoping for and cast blame upon them. Basically, don't stop there.

My best advice for this AP has been, and always will be, to expand the intro. Take a little time adventuring in King Eodred's Korvosa. Establish as many NPC relationships as you can, and then exploit them like crazy to give the party news and rumors--but, most importantly, to convey the plight of the common Korvosan. It may be obvious to you that Korvosa needs heroes, but sometimes the heroes need to be reminded.

As an example, I expanded Lamm's organization and had the PCs taking it down piece by piece, focusing a lot on the shiver dealing the book suggests he's involved in. This gave the party almost two weeks of game time to "meet" Korvosa and allowed me to casually introduce lots of NPCs. The Old Fishery was a bit anti-climactic after a fight against alchemists in a shiver lab with only thin glass separating everyone from hundreds of dream spiders, but Gaedren is out of his prime anyway.

All of those NPCs (neighbors, shopkeepers, etc.) were a multitude of storytelling outlets. A few sentences can say a lot:

--A barmaid proudly telling the party it's her last night before she joins the Grey Maidens (late book one or early book 2)

--The keeper of a shop the party frequents bemoaning the loss of his wife to plague (book 2).

--A baker showering thanks and muffins on the characters for saving his children from the plague. (early book 3)

--A child, scared and alone, because his parents were taken away for resisting the Blooding (book 6).

--A mother, heartbroken since her daughter was "conscripted" for the Grey Maidens (book 6).

Of course, an NPC can do more than talk! Once you have a bunch of NPC acquaintances, the storytelling opportunities are endless:

--Have a few die in the plague.

--Have a few survive the plague because of the PCs.

--Have a few lose loved ones that the PCs have never met in the plague. It still counts because they will share their favorite bartender's pain.

--Have some be injured/killed/lose property during the riots.

--Have some be saved by the PCs during the riots.

--Have the super-grateful, unluckiest one that had to be saved in the riots, and then had to be saved from the plague, and then had to be saved from the Emperor of Old Korvosa turn out to have been killed by Grey Maidens while the group was romping around the Cinderlands and too far away to bail their friend out one last time.

You get the idea. These incidents can still help drive home the evil of Ileosa in a vacuum, but if they come from NPCs that the characters are familiar with, it will build attachment and motivation (beyond XP and loot). A city is a place where lots of people live. Make Korvosa a place where a lot of people the PCs know live, and heroes will rise to save them.

Hope that inspires!


kbowen0188 wrote:

One of the things I worry about with the AP is that at some point some of the players may decide that it is simply better to up and leave instead of dealing with what is going on. I am working on a few different ways to really develop a genuine sense of attachment to the city, both to avoid this happening and to really get the players invested in the story as it plays out.

While designing a few things here and there, I thought I might ask some of you folks if you've ever done anything like this and if so, did it work?

Hopefully, like others have said in their responses to your posts, your players understand their role in the story intuitively. Even if they do however, we as DM's should give them something to really sink their teeth into. All the previous posters have given great advice on this and the only two things I can add are:

a) I did an in-game newsletter "The Korvosa Chronicle" which my players enjoyed and if you search the boards there are details available. This gives you an outlet not only to connect with the PC's but to unload a lot of the background info.

b) Once they connect with an NPC or two kill them off (7-days is a great way to knock off NPC or PC family members / friends) or injure them in someway. This serves two purposes. First, it endears them to the city and her citizens and second furthers their dislike for the villain. My PC's really connected with Kressida. As the villain rose to prominence Kressida and the Korvosa guard's responsibilities and prominence fell. My group disliked that a lot and really rallied behind her.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pawns Subscriber
walter mcwilliams wrote:
b) Once they connect with an NPC or two kill them off (7-days is a great way to knock off NPC or PC family members / friends) or injure them in someway. This serves two purposes. First, it endears them to the city and her citizens and second furthers their dislike for the villain.

I am just going to remind you to be cautious with this tactic, as the end result of every NPC the party gets attached to being killed is a party that doesn't attach themselves to NPCs.

You really don't need the party to LOVE any of the NPCs, so much as you need them to be acquainted with them. Random dude getting caught up in the riots and killed is one thing. When it's the nice lady that lives two doors down from you? Maybe you only talk to that person once in awhile, but the event hits closer to home, as it were. You can also pull on the usual heartstrings and make the elderly or children suffer--it usually doesn't matter if the characters know them in this case. Murdered dogs can also provoke a pretty strong response, and I used that in book 3 as a cheap trick to help the party hate the Emperor of Old Korvosa... and Laori.

Most of the examples listed in my previous post were delivered by NPCs that the party was aware of, but had not built strong relationships with. The baker showering them with muffins had never even met them, but the PCs had a huge impact on his life and he needed to thank them. That two sentence encounter not only celebrated the party's accomplishment, it also reminded them that their actions in Korvosa affect many, many people. This is just one way that quick and dirty NPC acquaintances can be used to create the backdrop of your story.

I should have mentioned before that you can get the same storytelling advantages by killing off NPCs that the party doesn't particularly like. That weaponsmith that overcharged the group because of the Shaonti PC getting killed by the plague still hammers the point home that people the characters know are dying around them. It also conveys the "state of the city" just as well as killing off NPCs that the party really likes. It also shows the players that no NPC is safe, and that you as the GM aren't "picking on" the ones they like.

Anyway, if a group is really attached to a NPC, think carefully before you kill them off. You only get to play that poker chip once, so make it worth it. I'm not advocating that you should never kill off an NPC that the party really likes, of course. I just believe that you should have a strong story reason to do so before you pull the trigger. Your players care about that NPC--don't waste that story element.

Hope that inspires!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Instead of killing a well-liked NPC off, you should offer the PCs the chance to save him, e.g. he gets sick with the plague but the characters make sure he gets cured.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Like most here I attached the group to the city through background. I also greatly expanded chapter 1 and 2 to help them really experience Korvosa. We are not in chapter 6 and the PCs are completely bound to Korvosa and its people.

I expanded the section In Chapter 1 with Cressida sending the group on a bunch of "guard missions". Each mission was attached to one of about several Guard Sergeants that was in charge and the group was helping them. They varied from:
1. Grau
2. Stalwart and honest
3. Angry show off, hates the adventurers were in his business
4. Aging veteran, super slow and forgetful
5. Tough as nails woman not willing to put up with any level of crap or cowardice (oh yeah you know where she ends up later)
6. Honest rookie who was bullied and ignored by his thugish men.
7. Fat lazy guy and corrupt commander

Then they were given the list of current issues and asked to lend a hand
1. People murdered in the alleys by some sort of ripper
2. Dangerous creature escaped into south shore
3. Posh and Turtle being harassed by Druids
4. Undead in the Grey
5. Dusters in Old Korvosa
6. Suspicious disappearances at Exemplary Execrables
7. Magistrate Perenne needs help with an issue of faulty scales
8. Ironsoots
9. Investigate Ambassadors from Maginimar
10. Fighting in the Pantheon of Many

PM for copies of this adventure line.

I also included a variant on the Dungeon Module "Thirds of Purloined Vellum" involving Cerulean Society vs Magnimar guild.

Also expanded Rolth's influence in C1 and 2. Going so far as to zombie a bullette to attack the PCs during a event roast at the place where they have rare meats (forget the name). And having a second lab up north where Osquips were attacking kids in an orphanage (Used Zenderholm as a link to this)

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