Battle of Bloodmarch Hill (GM Reference)


Giantslayer

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I'm having a hard time figuring out what to do with a sober Omast Frum at the seige of the gate it says "assuming he's sobered up, Omast is a brave combatant who looks out for the PCs," so since my party cured him in the investigation part of the story, shouldn't he be more ready?
I was thinking that he had sent his patrol to the towers to drop the portcullis and having 4 soldiers help out in the last wave picking off any none engaged raiders with arrows. or a second barrel of javilions/ short spears for throwing.

Scarab Sages

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Having finally managed to get 'round to reading the rest of the book I, too, have some problems with the battle. Now it's not the usual "how did an orcish hoarde sneak up on the town unobserved". That's been discussed to death by now. Now. It's another set of problems altogether. What makes this more irksome is that the rest of the book is rather well written. Unfortunately the middle of the adventure seems to go into some kind of rule of cool computer game cutscene mode with things being forced down a very linear path.

Basically the entireity of part 2 is problematic for all the wrong reasons. Good reasons would be encounter difficulty, balance, things like that. The impression I'm getting is that the best way to run this section is to do it too quickly for players to question why things just don't make sense. And why should they make sense? It's a battle. It's chaotic. There's orcs running around trying to destroy things. That's all fine but these problems are pretty dire at times.

Problem 1: The heroes probably rest at the Rumblehouse. When the town is attacked the civilians gather at the Longhouse. The pc's are assumed to rush to the Longhouse. What if they don't want to go there? What if they want to rush to the walls or something? So imagine this situation. Kurst Grath meets the pcs at the Rumblehouse and tells them to start lighting this series of ebacons which will essentially lead them back towards the Longhouse. The adventure assumes they somehow get to the Longhouse (I'm going to assume the rush of the crowd seeps them along and they end up there otherwsie the entireity of the second chapter simply doesn't make sense). The series of beacons are written in such an order that they are clearly intended to be played from the Longhouse towards the Rumblehouse.

2: The pcs get to the Inner Gates Beacon (K). Kurst and a group of guards turns up and tells them "we're going to fight the giant outside town". Then they rush off to do just that. The problem here is that Kurst and his guards have to go through the Inner Quarter and then the Outer Quarter to get through the town gates. It's not as if they're going to be lowered down the walls in a basket on the end of a rope or anything. This problem ties in to quite a few of the following ones.

3: The pcs arrive at the Inner Quarter to find it in chaos. Orcs have flodded into the area and are now devastating the place. But Kurst Grath and his soldiers just came through here. The pcs are probably quite capable of moving at the same speed so where did Grath and his soldiers go? Let's assume that the soldiers were on horseback and raced through without stopping to fight any of the orcs but then how did the orcs just let them go through? Obviously a lot of mounted soldiers is more hassle than most small bands of orcish looters want to deal with so they just got out of the way but then ......

4: The portcullis is down. So the portcullis is down and the orcs got in. Maybe some swarmed over the walls? Logically the most obvious solution is as follows: The orcs forced their way in before the guards could react to lower the portcullis in time. Then Kurst and his guards had to ride through before the portcullis came down otherwise they would not have made it beyond the city walls. After this the orcs stormed the towers and slew the guards who lowered the portcullis because those guards aren't around to help out with the fighting. This flow of logic is not a problem unless any of the pcs are capable of travelling at the same speed. If that were the case then they'd have to witness this series of events without having any opportunity to affect them. Scene setting can always be good anyway.

5: The orcs are trying to break down the portcullis to get into the inner quarter. But they've already done this. This has to be a dissorganised second wave or something. But didn't Kurst and his soldiers run slap bang into the middle of this group of orcs on their way out to harass the giant? Somehow they completely avoided each other. Best put some dead orcs and soldiers outside the gates. Maybe even have one or two of this new wave of orcs brandishing trophies to make the players suspect maybe Kurst and his men didn't make it out the main gates after all?

6: After defeating the orcs at the gate the pcs must leave town to attack the orcish trebuchet. Why do they have to do this? Why? Why can't any of the other defenders of the town take on this task? Who tells them to do this? The only reason this encounter seems to exist is to get the pcs out of the way while the giant is moved into position. It feels very artificial. Clunky. "You must do this to unlock the next cutscene". This is all fine with players who are willing to be corralled but some players obstinately want to be in control of where their characters go and what they do. The nerve of some people!

Personally I think it's a real shame that I've run into all these hurdles because many other parts of the book (especially that paragraph in Kurst's entry about letting events shape his development - something I encourage in players anyway but it's nice to see an author including this possibility and pointing it out) are really well written. I like each of the individual elements of the battle but when you take a step back and put it all together suddenly it seems to be full of holes and inconsistencies.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

So the shadow rat swarm seems to exist specifically to screw over a party without a positive-energy channeler. No one in my group wants to play a cleric/life oracle (we have a warpriest, but he won't have channeling until he hits 4th level at the end of the book), and I can't figure out any way for them to defeat the encounter.

The normal anti-swarm arsenal doesn't work because incorporeal creatures are immune to alchemist's fire/acid/etc., and the normal anti-incorporeal arsenal of spells like magic missile can't target it because it's a swarm. Vermin repellent won't work because it's Tiny undead, not Fine vermin, and swarmbane clasp is unaffordable on 3rd-level wealth. The only magic weapon in play is Brinya's Love, and doing half-a-d4 damage per round is going to wear through 39 hit points a lot slower than 2d6 + 1d4 Str damage per round without having to roll to attack.

Does anyone have any ideas how a 3rd-level party can beat this thing without channeling?

EDIT: Holy water was just suggested on Mark Seifter's Ask thread. That's actually a really good resource, as it's niche-y enough for the party not to have used it all up in the fight against the orcs, like they may have with channeling and spell slots. Now I just have to figure out a way subtly to suggest the party load up on holy water during the battle. ;)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The magic weapon spell? AoE spells will still hurt it too, although not as much as normal swarms. Also Brinya's love will do full damage, doesn't it have ghost touch?

I plan on not including the swarm though due to its challenge and not adding much to the flavor.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Ghost touch lets it do normal damage for its weapon type, but the swarm takes half damage from slashing/piercing weapons. A ghost touch bludgeoning weapon would do full damage, but without the ghost touch quality, I think Brinya's Love would only do one-quarter damage (50% for being from a corporeal source plus 50% due to swarm subtype).

Without the daylight ability thrown in, there'd be a 50% miss chance due to total concealment as well. :P


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Heh, true... I was only considering the insub.

Also, the rats aren't always like that. Odds are they start off as solid and at some point take a standard action to change. And when incorporeal they only deal str damage.

Still, very tough and shouldn't really be included. Kind of like the mosquito swarms in Skull & Shackles for 2nd level characters to fight, or die from.

Liberty's Edge

My players just ran away from the swarm and then lured it into another chamber to take out the spiders there.

I had it following them making them rush through encounters; it's nice to see true fear on a players face when they are fighting something and they know that very soon they will have to break off the attack and run for it.

Made for an exciting series of combats; watching them trying to quickly get through the spiderwebs was hilarious; especially when the mage got caught up in the webs and they had to go back to rescue him.

Regards

Sic


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Some points - not definitive, just my thoughts.

Problem 1 seems to me to not exist if the assault begins as everyone is gathered at Rodrik's funeral. Which is how I interpreted the intent.

Problem 2, yeah. My solution is that this one doesn't happen because Kurst already gave them marching orders and took off for combat. If I /really/ need someone to say "hey, rescue people while you run through the quarter," I'll 'name that NPC'.

This, by the way, removes the ugliest points of 3 and 4, that "Kurst just came through here, right?"

Problem 5, interpretation. The portcullis got dropped late. Remember that Skreed led a group of saboteurs, and jamming these gates would sit fairly high on the 'remove obstacles to the attack' list. It does beg the question why Kurst and his team didn't stop to help fix or guard, but I can wave that (tunnel vision, thought there were plenty, didn't even stop to ask, etc.)

Problem 6, sorta agree. On the other hand I've got a bunch of players who are now rolling on combat, and the flaming boulder comes crashing near them - possibly killing some of the arriving militia. Barring player cussedness (which happens) there's probably not much more motivation required. Why are rocks dropping there? Because the crew is hitting the white crosses in town in the hopes of breaking something open. But yeah, it's interpretation and a fix.


For problem 6, it shouldn't be that hard to get them to want to take out the trebuche... just have them make a general CMD or Perc to figure out the targets, and find a hook that works for a party member: the church is right below the cliff, the waterfall will be ruined (will work for the druid in our game), the watch tower has a friend on it, etc. Or you could have them spot a group of militia (perhaps w/ a known friend) get taken down on their way to the trebuche, and make it a rescue mission.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook Subscriber

So I am about 2/3 of the way through part two of this book, and the party has already TPK'd once (technically everyone stabilized below 0 not including one animal companion, so I had the orcs steal all their valuables and potions, and leave them for dead, after which they were recovered by a patrol of guards and wanded to consciousness.) The waves of orcs was a close call, and used a lot of resources up. So I am left with two more encounters in part 2, and all of part three, and the players are absolutely drained. I think there is a couple wand charges, a couple potions, and maybe one channel energy remaining. The sorcerer is down to cantrips, and the cleric and war priest are near the same point as well.

I really have to wonder what kind of party can stand up to 13+ at or above APL encounters in a row just in part 2, and still have any wind left for part 3.

I'm left with either the Dr Jones approach mentioned above, or another 5 serious encounters.

My players are some where between elated they are still standing, and aghast, with email scheduling threads from the players going like "So next week will bring our current characters, them at their next level, their replacements if they die, and a character for the next AP we will need to start after that."


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Our party just got done w/ the looting houses, and the druid is already drained of spells. The Pearl of Power they got from the dwarf helps, so that is a decent option... Also, I'm planning on adding in a 40ish charge Wand of CLW at either the Tower with the Orc Drum, or the Ranger in the burning trees (whichever they do first).

But it sounds like this battle is doing exactly what you'd want... making it very hopeless for the PCs, and keeping them on the cusp of barely making it. I always think back to the Battle of Helm's Deep as inspiration, and try to impress that the town is teetering on the edge, and that every victory leads them to another challenge.

The other idea I'm toying with is, since they already have their backup characters established, if their main characters are drained and almost dead, allow for them to retreat to the back lines (play up a serious wound) and be replaced once by their backup. This could keep the momentum moving, and is more realistic to a large scale battle. Or option B, once it gets time to take out the trebuche, have them pause their main characters and switch completely to their backups waiting at the gate, with Kurst giving them the mission to take it out. Obviously this could be abused (re: pile of bards), but if it keeps the battle fun for the players, it's worth it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Basically I ignored the resting rules for my PCs. I thought it was pointless or impossible to put 2nd level PCs through 13+ encounters in one day, especially versus orcs which are a pretty powerful CR 1/3.

I had my PCs level up during that night and had that fully recharge their abilities. I also gave them a short rest aided by Silvermane's mysterious magic before they entered the tomb so they recovered then as well.


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As mentioned earlier the level suggestions at the front of the module (start at first, 2nd by plague house, 3rd by the time the PC's should pull out their Hope Knives and commit seppuku when the hit Part 3) isn't even close to correct.

Just dump XP, because that's never going to work in the frame work of the first book. It won't even come close. Even if you dumped the medium track, went with a fast track they won't make 2nd level by the plague house unless the suck up every single XP in the book, and even then a GM probably has to give them a small bonus (+ or - a few points as I might have missed something).

If you as a gm roll straight, or take the screen down and roll in front of your players you might as well save them all the time, and mercy kill them all before you even bother running the scenario as it would have you run part 3.

That whole wave of orcs, a custom giant, and a dungeon crawl with a bad arse alchemist at the end isn't realistic for any 3rd level group to handle.

That said, my group took a bunch of those alchemist fire vials, used the glue from early on, attached them to arrows, and made super short work of Crusher. The group had accumulated the max resolve points so Crusher was weakened to begin with, and then their range specialist took a long box with those alchemist arrows (I didn't look up the rule for penalties for the vials on the arrows so a straight -4 to their to hit rolls seemed fair enough on the quick). Three rounds and crusher was dead.

1st round surprise.
2nd round Crusher throws a rock.
3rd round Crusher is dead.

So the one fight that I think everyone was probably looking forward to, a giant fight, was by far the most anticlimatic. However, the party had a great plan, it made sense, it had a great over the to action movie feel to it, and it worked.

Then a swarm of shadow rats damn near TPKd them.

If you're getting ready to run this make sure you make some changes.

They have to rest after Crusher.

Don't let the PC's go into that dungeon crawl without getting back some of their mojo.

I would advise having Omast gift one of the PC's with his +1 right of protection, and somewhere along the line let them pick up a +1 weapon of some sort. Something that will help against incorporeal rats.


Joana wrote:

So the shadow rat swarm seems to exist specifically to screw over a party without a positive-energy channeler. No one in my group wants to play a cleric/life oracle (we have a warpriest, but he won't have channeling until he hits 4th level at the end of the book), and I can't figure out any way for them to defeat the encounter.

The normal anti-swarm arsenal doesn't work because incorporeal creatures are immune to alchemist's fire/acid/etc., and the normal anti-incorporeal arsenal of spells like magic missile can't target it because it's a swarm. Vermin repellent won't work because it's Tiny undead, not Fine vermin, and swarmbane clasp is unaffordable on 3rd-level wealth. The only magic weapon in play is Brinya's Love, and doing half-a-d4 damage per round is going to wear through 39 hit points a lot slower than 2d6 + 1d4 Str damage per round without having to roll to attack.

Does anyone have any ideas how a 3rd-level party can beat this thing without channeling?

EDIT: Holy water was just suggested on Mark Seifter's Ask thread. That's actually a really good resource, as it's niche-y enough for the party not to have used it all up in the fight against the orcs, like they may have with channeling and spell slots. Now I just have to figure out a way subtly to suggest the party load up on holy water during the battle. ;)

I threw out the shadow rats. They were a meaningless encounter with no purpose in the narrative. No idea why they were even included other than an unnecessary annoyance that hurt the party's ability to take on the important parts of the encounter area.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Just ran across this:

Plague House H7: Annex wrote:
Daktani and the other half-orcs weren't able to open the chest, which must either be broken open (hardness 10, hp 30, break DC 33), unlocked with a successful DC 20 Disable Device check, or bypassed with a dispel magic or knock spell.
Daktani's stat block wrote:
Disable Device +10

Also, Skreed Gorewillow, who spent a week in the Plague House when he first came to Trunau, has a +14 Disable Device. So why were they unable to open the chest? ;)

Paizo Employee Senior Developer

Joana wrote:

Just ran across this:

Plague House H7: Annex wrote:
Daktani and the other half-orcs weren't able to open the chest, which must either be broken open (hardness 10, hp 30, break DC 33), unlocked with a successful DC 20 Disable Device check, or bypassed with a dispel magic or knock spell.
Daktani's stat block wrote:
Disable Device +10
Also, Skreed Gorewillow, who spent a week in the Plague House when he first came to Trunau, has a +14 Disable Device. So why were they unable to open the chest? ;)

Because they didn't roll high enough on their Disable Device checks?


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Couldn't they just take 10, like the PCs do?

EDIT: Frankly, I wouldn't have even thought about why the half-orcs hadn't already plundered the chest if the text hadn't specifically said they'd failed to. The module didn't feel it had to say that the treasure in the Ruined Hall is still there because Daktani and the other half-orcs were unable to make the DC 16 Perception check to find it. I would have just assumed they didn't use the stairs in the annex and/or didn't pay any attention to the ground floor since their focus was on finding a passage to an underground tomb. Calling a named NPC out as unable to succeed at a particular task only made me go look at his statblock to see why.


Funny, my PCs didn't even notice that issue w/ the chest. You could always have it hidden in an alcove, if you're worried about the logical connection.

Glad to get the feedback about resting, Shawn. I actually came here specifically to see how the caves went with parties that didn't rest. So far my party has done well, and I was worried that if I give them a full reset before the cave the alchemist battle will be too easy for them (they crushed the plague house with barely a scratch). I'd love to hear how anyone else's games went in regards to the cave and/or rest.

My original plan was to have the cave happen the day after the siege... the hole opened up, the party vanquished the Cave Giant, and the city posts guards at the opening. Then the next day they are awoken by Kurst, saying that his guards were killed (mauled by wolves), and he thinks someone went in the cave before he could explore it. Behind the curtain, I was going to say that Skreed was (invisibly) watching their battle w/ the cave giant, and when he saw his giant taken down, he slunk back into the city to hole up overnight in his hiding place. The next day, he stealthed through town and surprised the guards at the cave.

Now, I'm wondering if the more appropriate time to re-charge might be after the waves. Maybe the High Priest Varvatos comes through with a relic they had stashed in the temple, which offers a one-time refresh on abilities (and then heals each of them up to full). This way, they have the beacon, the catapult, the cave giant, and the cave encounters in one day.

What are others' thoughts on this? Did anyone who had a group rest before the caves find it too easy? Would it be better to recharge before Part 3, or after Event 5?

Liberty's Edge

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In terms of resting, I have the following change to the plot cooked up in case it is needed:

Nearing the entrance to P1, the party will see Silvermane step OUT of the standing Stone obelisk that stands in the Hopespring pool. I use the largish rock already present on the map as the new Trunau standing stone. Its presence in the Hopespring also explains Silvermane's interest and devotion to Trunau.

Silvermane is able to speak to the party and make himself understood through using the voice of his special Raven animal companion.

When the PCs see Silvermane step out of the gateway, he is holding the Ghostlight Lantern and it is lit.

The reason that Silvermane has stepped out of the Standing Stone is because Silvermane has just traveled there. Time in the pocket dimension known as the "Vault of Thorns" moves VERY FAST compared to our own. Silvermane was able to travel there using the Ghostlight, rest off the path in the vegetation near the Obelisk at J1 in the Vault using the spell Campfire Wall to do so secretly. Silvermane regained his spells, healed himself and looked about the Vault briefly and did not like what he saw. Deciding against further investigation in the Vault for the time being, he then stepped BACK through the Standing Stone, nearly healed and with freshly prepared spells. All the while, only a few minutes at most had passed in Trunau and the battle still rages...and he sees the PCs. [Hopefully the PCs saved him earlier and he now returns the favor; perhaps not.]

Silvermane knows that the Vault of Thorns is not safe. Alone and injured, he had to heal first. After he recovered most of his strength, his priority was to return to Trunau and aid the people in the battle. Silvermane planned to return to the Vault after the battle and see what the mischief was.

But seeing the PCs in their weakened state, and hearing the devastating siege engine throwing flaming death down upon the city, Silvermane makes up his mind quickly. Silvermane will pass the Ghostlight to the PCs with a quick word on how to use it -- advising them to rest off the path in secrecy in the area still protected by his Campfire Wall spell -- and quickly return to Trunau. The party must return before the light from the lantern fades or they will be lost there. [This provides the GM with some more narrative control re: light flickering out on the Ghostlight Lantern in case the PCs go poking about the Vault anyway] There is not much left at all. Silvermane is an 8th level druid and his Campfire Wall spell still has at least 8 hours left on it; He tells them about the time differential relative to the "real world" that passes in the Vault, exactly where the campfire is and how to find it, advises them to rest in secret and to return as quickly as they can to save Trunau. "Go - go now". Time is moving quickly there and the campfire wall spell is burning off FAST relative to Trunau time.

[Time in the Vault moves not as a constant fast river relative to Golarion's, but more like an unpredictable storm, with winds, strong wind gusts, luffs and eddies. This provides "Fudge Factor" so that resort to resting in the Vault as the AP progresses as a quick "spell refuel point" can be narrated around and avoided later in the AP if you need to. Rope Trick is bad enough on its own; Don't let the Vault of Thorns become your Rope Trick nightmare later on in the AP!]

They must hurry. But just as importantly, Silvermane warns the PCs they must NOT go into the Vault or near its doorway. Silvermane will explain the place later to them when they return, but the Vault is >>NOT<< empty and powerful foes lie within it and near its door that are beyond their strength to meet. Should they perish in any attempt to give battle in the Vault, Trunau will not have their aid and could be lost.

With that, Silvermane transforms into a bird and flies into the night to deal with the [other] siege engine raining rocks and casks of burning oil down on to the town, leaving the lit Ghostlight on the ground where he stood. Silvermane will deal with the other siege engine. The party needs to rest.

In this manner, the PCs get to leave the battle -- rest in a pocket dimension where time passes differently -- regain their power and return to the battle >>IN PROGRESS<<. It also strengthens the hook into the next installment of the AP and the reason why they must travel there.

Of course, on their return to Trunau, the Ghostlight gutters out and fades. Without the light from a Will 'o Wisp to open the doorway, the PCs must travel to the marsh and gain a new Wisp corpse. Silvermane does not have another and there are simply none nearby that might be recovered.

Which will lead the PCs into Vol 2 of the AP -- after the end of Skreed and the conclusion of Part 3 of Vol 1.

I think this makes for a better adventure in Vol 1 and ties Vol II far more organically and naturally to the overall AP's progression.


Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

@ Seannoss

According the spreadsheet I put together with this one, there is about 41,500 XP available in this module without random encounters in Trunau or to/from the Plague House. That means a bit over 10,000 each for a 4-character party. Only 9400 of it is in the Hopespring, btw.

The problem I have with this is that "they should be 3rd level by the time they face the waves of orcs." That means they level up some time DURING the inner quarter. How do you do that? They can't suddenly get new spells.

Anyway, my party consists of my son (12, an archery-style Ranger), 2 of his friends (both 13, a Barbarian and a Druid), my wife (a Witch I gave her, the irony was not lost), and an NPC Investigator that I put in to help out and balance them. Since they are all new, they do not notice the plot holes, and they are getting ALL of the experience, even if I have to force them into it (I'm treating the 5th character as if he got the same as in a 4-character party).

I have a friend that is going through Giantslayer at the same time (different GM) with a 4-character party, 3 of which are very experienced. His GM is heavy on the role-playing, so they tend to be combat light. I'm curious how they will do it.

Liberty's Edge

taks wrote:


The problem I have with this is that "they should be 3rd level by the time they face the waves of orcs." That means they level up some time DURING the inner quarter. How do you do that? They can't suddenly get new spells.

All the more reason to use the Vault of Thorns pocket dimension change to the plot as I posted above. As a plot device, it eases and forgives a multitude of sins... It allows for bulking up of encounters where needed, too - both before and after it is triggered, as the GM can eyeball at the time.


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Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Actually, I'm sitting here thinking about something similar...

Rather than at the obelisk, but when the PCs first find Silvermane and waken him, he explains they need to rest for the coming battle... foreshadowning "hoardes of things" that I keep mentioning.

Of course, the noobs are not having a problem with combat (in general), so hitting the waves of Orcs as level 2 characters might not be difficult (the Barbarian criticalled Daktani for 51 points of damage on the first die roll, and Ghaer started crying immediately). I could do the pocket plane right after the waves... They've walked through nearly every fight so far, though rescuing Sara and Agridt was difficult.

Liberty's Edge

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taks wrote:

Actually, I'm sitting here thinking about something similar...

Rather than at the obelisk, but when the PCs first find Silvermane and waken him, he explains they need to rest for the coming battle... foreshadowning "hoardes of things" that I keep mentioning.

I would suggest that the easier default source of all foreshadowing in this Volume and, indeed, to introduce the Storm Tyrant earlier into the AP is not so much through RP discussions with Silvermane, but through the Oracle Katrezra.

Katrezra is the blind LG Orc prophet, who one or more gods have decided to make use of as their hotline to the world and provide Katrezra with glimpses of the future that are as obscure, prophetic and clear/unclear as you need them to be. It's a built in trope. Use it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

My players all know its a game. I told them ahead of time that they would level up at some point during the orc waves and that I would treat it like a day's rest. Its a bit video game-ish, but we're all playing a game to start with.

I gave them a short rest before the caves and had it count as a night's rest. I also used Silvermane for this and had my PCs wake from mossy cocoons to speed up their rest.

My current PCs are not playing the strongest characters so dealing with the undead giant and incorporeal rat used enough of their resources that the final boss wasn't a push over. Like a few others, I ignored the shadow rat swarm.


Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I don't really have that option since we just got done with L9. Katrezra is not around. I almost TPK'd them with Urnsul once the party of 5 Orcs showed up. I "recommended" that they focus on the clearly more difficult Urnsul and Volrom because they had been killing Orcs like it was a game. The barb missed twice, got criticalled and dropoed, the ranger got criticalled and dropped, the druid dropped, Urnsul beat the witch's slumber... it got ugly.


Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

So I levelled them immediately and I will play the Silvermane gambit next. They would actually be at level 3 now anyway (only XP they missed was first attemlt to sober Omast).


Joana wrote:

So the shadow rat swarm seems to exist specifically to screw over a party without a positive-energy channeler. No one in my group wants to play a cleric/life oracle (we have a warpriest, but he won't have channeling until he hits 4th level at the end of the book), and I can't figure out any way for them to defeat the encounter.

The normal anti-swarm arsenal doesn't work because incorporeal creatures are immune to alchemist's fire/acid/etc., and the normal anti-incorporeal arsenal of spells like magic missile can't target it because it's a swarm. Vermin repellent won't work because it's Tiny undead, not Fine vermin, and swarmbane clasp is unaffordable on 3rd-level wealth. The only magic weapon in play is Brinya's Love, and doing half-a-d4 damage per round is going to wear through 39 hit points a lot slower than 2d6 + 1d4 Str damage per round without having to roll to attack.

Does anyone have any ideas how a 3rd-level party can beat this thing without channeling?

EDIT: Holy water was just suggested on Mark Seifter's Ask thread. That's actually a really good resource, as it's niche-y enough for the party not to have used it all up in the fight against the orcs, like they may have with channeling and spell slots. Now I just have to figure out a way subtly to suggest the party load up on holy water during the battle. ;)

The 3 bombers at the catapult also have an Unerring Grenade each. So the pcs can get their hands on magical 3d6 aoe explosives before hand.


Leveling up doesn't require sleep, but happens as soon as the PC earns enough XP to do so. The start of the Class section mentions that it usually happens at the end of a session, but doesn't need to.

My group used to think that was a rule that it happens after resting, but recently we looked it up and couldn't find that anywhere. Unless we missed it, it was a holdover from older systems or just a house rule with which we had all been playing.

I had my PCs level up right before the waves (happened to be at a session break). This also gave them an extra HD to help them through. They did really well; fabulous timing with the boulder and logs did most of the work for them. Since they still are doing well, I'm going to have them face crusher before giving them the rest. They've been racking up the resolve points, so even if they ignore the catapult, Crusher is at min status.

@Steel - I love the scenario. I think I will do this as soon as they defeat Crusher... but first I need to read more about the Vault!


Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

True that leveling is immediate, but they still need to rest to recuperate any used spells, as well as prepare new spells, plus recover abilities that require rest. My guys are facing the giant this Sunday (hopefully) since they got through everything else. They have all the requisite resolve points, too, so it should be a quick fight then into the tunnel.


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I've picked up the AP and so far run my players through their first session; they just finished talking to Brinya and are on their way to see Sara. Although the adventure has some good ideas and thrilling action sequences, as is evident after reading through this thread, it needs some significant work to fix its various plot holes, oversights and potentially deadly miscalculations. To that effect, I figured I'd post some of my early observations and proposed fixes as I go to add my own 2¢ to all the great work that's been done so far in this thread.

As I see it, a big failing of the adventure is that a vaguely described group of saboteurs is actively moving around town doing all manner of things through undefined means with little chance of the PCs (or anyone else) catching sight of them before it's too late. It's frustrating for players intent on tracking down and catching bad guys and problematic for a GM who can't explain to inquisitive PCs how these events are coming about. So who are the known saboteurs exactly? We've got:

• Skreed Gorewillow (CE male half-orc alchemist 4)
• Daktani (LE male middle-aged half-orc rogue 3)
• Urnsul (CE Female half-orc fighter 1/rogue (spy) 2)
• Rishka (CE female half-orc rogue 2)
• Vorom (NE male half-orc fighter 3)

They also started out with a half-orc cleric named Akrish whom Skreed killed in the Burnt Church. How many more, if any, are there? That's unknown since they're only ever referred to as a "group". To the above list, I'd add the following who's presence is either implied or can be inferred from what's presented:

• 2 Freedom Town thugs (NE human warrior 1)
• 4 Freedom Town assassins (LE Human rogue 1)
• Melira (NE female human ranger (trapper) 6/sorcerer (wildblooded) karmic 1)

The thugs start off the raid alongside Rishka in the Inner Quarter, so it can be deduced that all three were together in town beforehand. Skreed had the assassins at the ready to attack the PCs shortly after they begin their investigation. Even if they don't know it, they're in town uniquely to help the saboteurs so can be counted in their ranks. Melira's presence in or near town is inferred by how quickly she'll manage to single out the PCs for revenge, learn of their plans to ride a boat and then beat them to the boat in the second adventure. It doesn't make any sense that she manages to do all that if she starts the second adventure in Freedom Town 150 miles away. Her presence also lends the saboteurs something they are sorely lacking: spell casting.

So what are the saboteur's implied goals while in town?

• search for entrances to Uskroth's tomb
• mark any possible entrances with big white crosses
• ready to sabotage the town's defenses for an eventual attack
• coordinate activities with the distant attackers-in-waiting through intermediaries
• remain undetected while doing all of the above

The sticking point for me is how the saboteurs are meant to be doing the first at all. It seems the existence of the tomb is unknown to everyone in town, so there's no way to learn it via gather information or by researching town records. The saboteurs have no divinatory abilities (except for perhaps the deceased cleric), and none of the detailed saboteurs has ranks in such skills as Knowledge (Dungeoneering), Knowledge (Nature), Knowledge (Geography), Profession (Miner) or Profession (Prospector); the skills I'd associate with attempting to discern the likely location of cave formations. Whatever means it is that the NPCs are using to find the tomb I think it should likewise be available to any PCs who have similar skills if they seek to try. Either way, the saboteurs have to be given some means to gauge where tunnels may be located. Suggestion: Either create a new saboteur with appropriate abilities or swap one of Melira's feats for the Psychic Sensitivity feat and equip her with dowsing rods to use her Survival skill to search for the largest grave beneath Trunau. While all other saboteurs have been busy fruitlessly wasting their time gathering information, checking out basements beneath buildings or otherwise poking around, this saboteur has been responsible for searching and marking likely spots to dig.

Next up are the white crosses. What exactly are they for? They're big, obvious, hard to apply in such hard-to-reach areas and a liability to the saboteurs' clandestine activities. So they must be really important to the attackers somehow, but in what way? Are they really intended to mark possible entrances to the tomb? Is Crusher or some other giant intended to go from cross to cross to excavate each area in turn until the tomb is found? It isn't specified in the adventure. If so, wouldn't Crusher have started the battle at the Barterstones, tearing them up before heading in through the main gate to tear up the next closest cross behind the sanctuary followed by the one at the Hopespring? Suggestion: It would be good to describe the above activity in the background of the battle to make it clear to the PCs the purpose of the crosses. If the PCs feel inclined to go challenge the giant early, have the cleric and paladin defenders of the Sanctuary slay the initial giant in a pitched battle first; before later having a second giant, Crusher, move in to follow up the effort at the Hopespring.

If Crusher is seen to go straight to the Hopespring then it implies that the attackers already knew full well the correct location of the tomb entrance before the start of the battle; rendering the need for the crosses largely moot; which is itself a good point. Is there any reason to have the crosses in the adventure? The adventure itself describes the crosses and a red herring of sorts. Suggestion: The saboteurs could have checked each location discreetly and communicated their findings to the waiting attackers via their flood troll go-betweens. Removing the white crosses entirely from the adventure makes the saboteurs more canny and changes absolutely nothing else except what Omast Frum is found doing while drunk. When the PCs go looking for him, have Frum be at the Killing Ground raising hell because Rabus is trying to cut off his alcohol supply.

If the white crosses are kept however then some thought needs to given as to how they got there. Take the giant cross on of the side of a guard tower for instance; the adventure gives the difficulty for climbing a town wall as DC 25. Amongst all of the detailed saboteurs, Daktani has the best combination of climb (+7) and stealth (+9). To make it up there, he'd need to roll 18 or better. Doing so with watchful guards above and while holding a paint brush & can and while remaining undetected sounds ridiculous. Suggestion: Have Melira be the secret painter; with her Stealth bonus of +12 (+14 at the Hopespring) she's the ideal candidate. Simply swap one of her cantrips for Mage Hand. She moves into position using stealth and uses Mage Hand to telekinetically apply the paint to large vertical surfaces quickly. Later, fearing that she'd be attacked by overzealous orcs for being human, Skreed insists that she vacate the town before the fighting starts. Only after the fighting ends does she renter town discreetly to discover what's occurred and to plan her revenge on the PCs.

Another fuzzy area is how the saboteurs have remained undetected so successfully. According to the adventure they started off in the basement of the burnt church, using mining equipment bought in town to excavate a sizable tunnel. That's a problem right there. Room H12 is open to sky above and, looking at the town map and taking note of the elevations involved, some simple math shows that this sizable group of half-orcs were performing heavy labor no more than 140-ft straight away from the top of the town's southernmost guard-tower as well as the southwest-facing wall of the Ivory Hall and no more than 70-ft from the closest building. If mining can be equated with the sound of battle, then the DC of a guard atop the tower to have heard them working was merely DC 4, maybe DC 2 if it's a still night with no wind. Even sleeping folk behind closed windows in the Ivory Hall had a decent chance of hearing the work going on not far below. Maybe the saboteurs only worked during thunderstorms at night, but that seems impractical. Suggestion: Forget the mining equipment. Skreed excavated the tunnel in only a few nights by placing some alchemical explosives in the wall at H12 and masked the detonation sound with silence spells cast by the now deceased cleric Akrish. Maybe the ceiling above was actually blown out by the explosion. Why use explosives instead of digging? Because Akrish's Silence spells were simply too brief to make it a viable prospect. Describe in detail the destruction brought about by the explosions and how Akrish was accidentally killed in one rather than by being murdered pointlessly by Skreed. The saboteurs vacated H12 due to the emergence of giant spiders, centipedes and rats as well as fears of structural instability, leaving Akrish where he lay.

After the Burnt Church, the saboteurs moved into Trunau proper; a big group of thuggish half-orcs renting most of the rooms at the Ramblehouse according to the adventure. Much later Skreed would return to the Ramblehouse to murder Rodrik. Cham didn't recognize his human guise the second time around, so he was likely in his half-orc guise the first time he checked in; just one more half-orc in the crowd. An issue arises due to Cham's ledger and Skreed's insistence on not providing a name when he checked in to kill Rodrik. Why draw attention to himself and waste a handful of gold to bribe Cham when he could simply have offered her a false name? For that matter, why did Cham require either a name or a bribe in the first place? Skreed had no reason to resort to subterfuge at all unless Cham's ledger carried the risk of leading authorities to him somehow. Suggestion: All strangers entering town through the main gate are asked for a name and are given a small wooden chit or token which, by law, they must carry with them at all times and present when asked. The token has a number which must be recorded by anyone selling the bearer wares or offering a service. The tokens are changed periodically to avoid forgery or fraud. That way, town officials have some (limited) means of tracking unfamiliar foreigners inside the walls. It's crude, but the town is isolated and doesn't get so many visitors, so it's an easy system to manage over all. Skreed presented the token he'd been given the first time he checked into the Ramblehouse as a half-orc and is still carrying it in case he's stopped and asked to present one. That's why he didn't want to present it to Cham when he rented a room to kill Rodrik; anyone looking into it the token's number would have made the connection between his human and half-orc guises. All of the saboteurs originally recorded their tokens and (false) names into Cham's ledger, so inquisitive PCs can at least get a list and confirm at the main gate that, according to their records, all of the half-orcs (and humans) from the group are still in town somewhere.

But the saboteurs nevertheless spent a significant amount of time together in the Ramblehouse trashing their rooms and marking the walls with graffiti. Shouldn't that somehow play a bigger role in the PCs' investigation? They're certainly going to look into it if Cham tells them about it or if they check further back in her ledger, especially if they find hidden clues in other rooms. The PCs are collecting Story Awards to gain much needed XP; as others have pointed out, there simply isn't enough XP available for them to meet up with the challenges ahead. Suggestion: In addition to crude or offensive markings, have some of the graffiti be discernible as a very rough map of Trunau with a Perception skill check DC 18 or a Knowledge (local) DC 15, indicating that the room's vandals appear to have been searching the town systematically for something, even if it's unclear what. Award 600 XP for this discovery. When the halflings started making a fuss about the noise and damage being done to the premises, Skreed grew nervous and quickly pulled his crew out of the Ramblehouse leaving the suspicious graffiti behind in his haste. After they left, Cham lodged a complaint against the now missing half-orcs and it was Rodrik who came to check out the damage they'd caused. He recognized the map for what it was, made a copy in his journal and started secretly investigating it as a possible case of espionage. This is what initially put him on the saboteurs' trail. Cham is able to convey what Rodrik did, if not his private suspicions (which he kept to himself) if she's made to be cooperative. All of this helps tie disparate elements of the plot together in the PCs' minds without tipping them off too much.

Other clues lie hidden in the Ramblehouse for the PCs to find; Skreed's note to Melira as well as Rodrik's receipt. While a helpful clue, their exact locations are somewhat problematic and potentially misleading. According to the background description, Skreed checked in sometime during Ruby's hopeknife ceremony, went to his room and then ducked into Rodrik's room to hide under the bed until he appeared. Since he didn't know when exactly Rodrik would show up, he couldn't dawdle in his own room overlong. The idea that he sat down, penned a letter, then hid it in a secret compartment in the room before quickly ducking out and then subsequently forgetting about it seems odd. Why put it in the compartment instead of his own pocket to finish later? Having it be found in a secret compartment further gives the incorrect impression that it was left there on purpose for someone else to collect later. This could lead the PCs to waste time staking out the Ramblehouse for the letter's intended recipient, who will never show up. Suggestion: Locate Skreed's letter under the bed in Rodrik's room, where it unknowingly slipped out of his pocket when he crawled out to kill Rodrik. Finding it requires a DC 17 Perception check and provides 400 XP as normal. To avoid having both the letter and receipt be found in the same location, move the receipt to the secret compartment in Rodrik's desk; where he placed it to avoid being reminded of his having foolishly lost his lover's hopeknife. Finding it in the compartment requires a DC 19 check and provides 600 XP as normal. Consequently, there are no clues to be found in the room Skreed rented. Why should there be? He was only in there for a few minutes before ducking out.

There's one last clue and opportunity for much-needed XP missing from Rodrik's room; the means by which Skreed fed Rodrik the oil of taggit to knock him unconscious. Suggestion: Include a washstand with a porcelain bowl, water jug and empty drinking glass in the room's description. Skreed laced the water in the jug with the oil before hiding under the bed in hopes Rodrik would drink some; which he did. A successful DC 20 Craft (alchemy) or Profession (Herbalist) skill check upon the water reveals that it was dosed, as does casting a detect poison spell or simply consuming the water. Award 600 XP for the poison's discovery by any means.

Personally, I find the initial meeting with Kurst following the murder rather odd. Even though he's justifiably upset about his brother's death, some of what he conveys to the party doesn't make much sense. He suspects the death wasn't a suicide and has the bloody hopeknife in hand, knows that his brother and Brinya were engaged and yet doesn't make the connection that the knife he's holding is hers. He was close to his brother, had been around him since they both came of age and received their hopeknives and yet doesn't know what Rodrik's knife looks like? He himself supposedly has a hopeknife which is likely pretty similar to his late brother's and yet he doesn't seem to recognize that the fanciful blade with the leaf-shaped cross-guard and rosebud pommel is obviously not his brother's? Suggestion: Have the PCs either be already in the Ramblehouse when the body is initially discovered or drawn there by the commotion before Kurst or his father arrives on the scene. Allow the PCs to initially study the scene and body to reach their own conclusions. Role-play Jargrin's and Kurst's subsequent arrival. Have Jagrin break down at the sight of his eldest son lying dead as he's drawn back to the moment he lost his wife. Role-play Kurst as bewildered and lost as he tries to fathom life without his best friend. Play though Jagrin's abrupt departure as he storms out leaving an equally distraught Kurst in charge. Let the PCs lead a dazed Kurst through the questioning, If they ask Kurst whether the knife was his brother's, have him pull his own hopeknife out of his shirt to show how different the two blades are from each other. Award them the normal 400 XP reward for asking the right questions and making the connection that the knife wasn't Rodrik's. Then have Kurst confess about his brother's engagement to a half-orc and his now absent father's outrage upon learning of it. This is a great role-playing opportunity and helps to illustrate the family's dynamic.

Liberty's Edge

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Ambrus wrote:

I figured I'd post some of my early observations and proposed fixes as I go to add my own 2¢ to all the great work that's been done so far in this thread...

I made a lot more changes than this, but I liked some of the things you did. I had not considered the explosives and silence spell and the blowback. I really like that one.

I placed the note in the fireplace in Skreed's room, destroying part of it and created a charred handout for it. It still conveys about 2/3rds of the contents in its original form. I found that was more than enough (and it was).

I completely deleted the idea of the receipt. I though the idea of a receipt in a medieval town of 600 was just *silly*. I refused to do it.

I had already changed the race of Sara (indeed, her identity and her current status - she became the PCs dead dwarven Aunt and tying up her affairs was the reason the PCs are in Trunau in the first place). There is no receipt at all. The PCs, all dwarves, could tell that the hopeknife was not dwarven forged. Given the timing of the death of their Aunt and how long she had served as the smith in Trunau, the PCs figured out that the hopeknife used to kill Rodrik had to have been forged in the past 4 weeks. That was all that was necessary to set them off bird-dogging down that road of inquiry without the awkwardness of the receipt. I hate "Elephant in the room" clues like that in any adventure, especially using a means as modern and out of place as a "receipt".

I had Brinya and Rodrik not engaged, but actually wed in secret. I also changed Trunau to be overtly racist and Jim Crow in their treatment of half-orcs (the "Tainted") so that was outrageous and downright scandalous. It also created a subplot and Red Herring over whether Rodrik was killed by his Father; even after that was ruled out, whether Brinya could claim Rodrik's Harp as her inheritance became a matter the PCs aided Brinya with. Jargrin sold the harp before the real hopeknife was retrieved from the Plague House in exchange for wine and brandy used to solemnize Rodrik's funeral pyre. That sort of mean and pettiness was just the sort of thing that I knew my players would react to through roleplay as Brinya was left preggers and destitute by Jargrin's actions. (Rodrik's harp is in the possession of the merchant from Lastwall that may be rescued in Part 2 (the one with the platinum scales) and that created a further subplot about its recovery and potential return to Brinya.) Jargrin is not sympathetic at all. He's not evil - he's just a patriarchal bigoted ass.

I made significant changes and introduced an intro encounter in media res against orc raiders attacking a farmouse far beyond the Town walls. That attack was later tied in to the secret assault on the town and explains how the orcs were able to reach Trunau in secret. I also fixed up the signal fires and why it was so important that they be lit in a way that made good sense in the context of Trunau.

I changed many more things -- HUGE changes, really, -- concerning Daktani and Katrezra and their relation to Droja in Vol 2 and how all of that fits within the Orcs of Belkzen. I'll go through all of this on the podcast when we review this in detail (and we will!). Suffice to say it was a change that was designed to solidify the role of the Orcs of Belkzen throughout this AP as having importance and not only in the first 2 volumes. It's a bait and switch I was unhappy with. I'm bringing them all back throughout the tale and especially in vol 6.

Every AP has its hidden gems for NPCs, those who might not be intended to be central figures in accordance with the outline -- but the module author makes their own and it just "clicks" anyway. After reading through Giantslayer several times now, I have decided that the Giantslayer AP's Diamond In the Rough NPC (for me) is clearly Droja. She is a perfect foil for a GM and she is GREAT to roleplay; I have her accent and motivations all figured out (Droja's orcish patois accent channels the Witch in Pirates of the Caribbean). She sticks with the heroes as long as they will have her -- and she has her own agenda. I have elevated her role in the AP considerably. Many of the major changes I made to Vol 1, 2 and later all relate or tie in to Droja.

I'll explain later in some detail on the podcast. I expect we will get to it in February, 2016.

Thanks for your post especially the idea about the explosives. I think that one is rather brilliant. I would have definitely used it had I had the chance to.


Steel_Wind wrote:
I made a lot more changes than this, but I liked some of the things you did.

I myself made more changes than just what I listed. When I initially read the AP, the first thing that came to mind was that this could have been Paizo's quintessential dwarf campaign; dwarves are the traditional PC enemy of giants, they have great bonuses for fighting them and the campaign is set largely in a mountainous area that was a major dwarven homeland in ages past. I pitched the notion to my players and they all got onboard and made dwarf characters.

My players keep out!

Spoiler:
I was rather disappointed by how few dwarven elements were incorporated into the AP's set pieces though; seemed like a real missed opportunity. The third book for instance has the PCs questing with a god's smithing hammer to relight an ancient forge up in the mountains and it was built by... giants? Uhm... What?! The whole hidden valley in the 'Forge of the Giant God' screams DWARVES! So I'm changing the entire valley into an ancient hidden dwarven mountain religious site akin Machu Picchu.

I've also changed the demographics of Trunau; having it be a modest dwarven settlement initially established sometime after the defeat of the Whispering Tyrant which graciously granted sanctuary to the area's human settlers once Lastwall pulled out following the fall of the Hordeline. Nowadays the dwarves are actually a minority in their own settlement with only 230 dwarves to the humans' 420. I've created a dozen dwarven clans from ancient Koldukar whose proud descendants yet remain in or around Trunau from which the PCs could originate. Shinnerman's Fortune is a purely dwarven minning community. I've modified the Trunau map with all manner of additions including a half dozen dwarven halls and a temple-forge of Torag. I've also changed a few key NPCs including Rodrik his brother and father who are all dwarves now along with the druid at the Hopespring Silverbeard.

I've also changed the identify and background of the tomb's occupant beneath Trunau; pushing its origin back to the fall of Koldukar 9,000 years ago. At the moment, I'm thinking that he'll be the brother of the last king of Koldukar who hatched a scheme to use Torag's sacred hammer to subjugate the highland giants and turn them into a tool of the dwarven people to crush Belkzen's orcs. His brother the king rejected this idea so the brother set out for the ancient forge-temple up in the Mindspin Mountains on his own to pitch his plan directly to the high-priest who guarded the hammer. But the priest in turn rejected the brother's plan, as enslaving another race was against Torag's ideals. In rage the brother took the hammer and slew the high-priest with it before fleeing the temple. Outcast for what he'd done, he used the hammer's magic to enlarge himself; making him look like an giant-sized dwarf (albeit a small one). A bit of additional disguise effectively gave him the appearance of a small fire giant. In this guise he set out to find and unite the giants of the mountains under his command. He was making good progress until the dwarves of Koldukar took notice and started to mobilize against this new threat. So the accursed betrayer found himself inadvertently leading an army of giants against the dwarves he'd been seeking to save; thinking that he could claim the kingship if he only slew his brother. He and his giants were eventually defeated in a great battle at Bloodmarch Hill, where his giant soldiers entombed him with the hammer. Unfortunately, the cursed brother's betrayal sufficiently weakened and split the dwarven forces sufficiently for Belkzen to take advantage of the opening to breach and overrun Koldukar. All of this is largely unrecorded in dwarven history since neither side knew the true identity of the small fire giant chieftain at the time. The PCs will be able to piece this together themselves once they find the tomb.

I'm further thinking of changing the Order of Thorns' vault into a dwarven earth-cult's sanctuary instead. I also have a notion of modifying the background of Ironcloud Keep to have it be of dwarven construction; the idea being that it was once the royal palace and the highest tier of ancient Koldukar. The dwarves had been in the last stages of engineering it when Koldukar fell; it being the final culmination of the dwarves' incomplete 'Quest for Sky'. It's launch was meant to herald the dwarven peoples' first step into the heavens proper, but it was launched prematurely in the fog of war as Koldukar fell during the battle of Nine Stones. It had been lost in the clouds ever since, until some cloud giants stumbled across it awhile back and took it over. Just an idea.

I'm curious to hear more about your own plans to "dwarf up" the AP. :)


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Update from an earlier topic... because the PCs did so well against Crusher (and I gave them a rest per the scenario that Steel_Wind outlined), I opted to keep in the Shadow Rat Swarm. I softened them up a bit, figuring that Skreed had hit them w/ one of his bombs on his way through (avg dmg). I then had the swarm surprise the PCs in Incorporeal form and move in from the wall. This did some STR damage to 2 PCs in the surprise round, and then in the first full round I had them switch to corporeal.

I gave the PCs a hint by having the ghost of Roderick speak to the PC holding Brinya's Love, and he quickly activated the dagger. Then, between the alchemist fire, unerring grenades, holy water, and bludgeoning weapons, they took out the Rat Swarm in 2 rounds. It was not as catastrophic as people seemed to indicate, and softened them up just a bit.

Oddly enough, my players had a REALLY hard time w/ the next room (spiders and birds). They were rolling terribly, and one fell down into the webs/water below. I had the flood troll come and investigate 1d3 rounds after the splash (which happened to be the same round they killed the last spider), and we paused the session just as she was charging in. More to come next week...

Lastly, I had a brief conversation w/ the group about their thoughts with the plot, story setup, and overall experience. To a one, they said it's been great, and haven't really picked up on many of the "problems" people have been mentioning here. The only issue one player had is that he expected security in the town to be much tighter (don't let in any half-orcs, merchants and visitors must stay out of the city, etc), but he also had misunderstood the relative danger of the town. The main holdings of the Orc Tribes are way to the north, and only small raids have come down this far.

The way I phrased it was in Game of Throne terms: this was less like The Wall and more like Winterfell. Sure, Wildlings are known to come down from time to time, and you don't spend much time outside the city unless you are in a patrol of 10-20 armed people, but the risk of raids is small, and usually it's more dangerous for the Farmers (who would high-tail it to the keep for protection in the event of a raid). The idea of a siege hasn't really happened (until now), and even this siege is limited in scope: one giant, one catapult, maybe a few hundred orcs in total. Not nearly enough to breech/sack the city.

Liberty's Edge

I ran a somewhat progressed Skreed against my group, expecting fully that Skreed would survive and withdraw form the Tomb ti fight another day.

I had planned for this contingency since the very start of the campaign. An all Dwarven party with poo ranged weapon power meant that the PCs were slow and unable to do much damage from range. I knew that Skreed would get away if he wanted to.

The problem was where the AP would go if that happened. I planned for it throughout and left myself with plenty of options. I think it is a more organic feel and should present no problems at all. Indeed, I'm happier with this result as it give me more opportunities to tinker and have Skreed evolve as a true nemesis. He'll be back - and maybe more than once.

This will, of course, impact on the river journey but that presents no long term difficulties either. I have a replacement for all of that planned and will draw upon Daughters of Fury and intrigue in Lastwall and Urgir to replace much of Melira. I'm very pleased with this direction, actually.


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Just ran the first game, and next one is coming up on New Years. I didn't like the start of the game with Ruby randomly picking the PC's out of the crowd, so I wrote a short "prequel" where Halgra had ordered Ruby's hopeknife from Clamor, and it wasn't ready in time for the ceremony, so on the morning of the ceremony she sends the party to farmhouse a few hours out of town that belonged to her ailing father, where he had mistakenly left Halgra's mother's hopeknife. I stocked the farmhouse with Zombies and a soulbound doll that had possession of the knife, due to the proximity of the farmhouse to a ruined evil temple.

After successfully recovering what would become Ruby's hopeknife, she logically chose the PC's for her Tug O' War team.

The unintended consequence was they party got some of the rumors and clues before the Hopeknife Ceremony, and ended up going to the Plague House to find the missing Othdan. There they found Daktani talking with Ghaer and defeated him using stealth! (There is a Ninja in the party!)

Upon returning him to town and handing him over to Jagrin at the Longhouse, they retired to the Ramblehouse, to awake to Rodrick's death the next morning.

That was where we stopped. I think in Kurst and Jagrin's grief and the preocupation of the militia with Roderick's death I'll have Daktani escape and lay low during the investigation, ready to lay a trap for the party next time they return to the Plague house.

Having lots of fun with this one.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

We just finished playing this module. My player is a stickler for logic--he likes to analyze situations and try to understand what is happening--so I had to change a lot of things.

I could not see how the orc raiders got into the Inner Quarter in the amount of time available, and through a closed gate: so I looked at each encounter in this section and either moved it to the lower city or replaced the orc raiders with half-orc saboteurs. That worked pretty well. It also cured another problem, which is that several encounters are so close together it's unreasonable that they wouldn't interact--in particular it seems almost impossible to reach certain orc raiders without interacting with Omast and setting off his timer.

Something I didn't fix, and regretted, is this: where did the barricades at the lower gate to the Inner Quarter, manned by Omast and no one else, come from? It strains plausibility that one drunk soldier set up over 100 feet of barricades, including salvaging fences from nearby homes and *sharpening* them, in the amount of time it took hustling PCs to get down there from the pyre. Frankly that sounds like a dozen people over ten minutes or so, minimum. Who? When? Why? My player commented on this and then just rolled his eyes and played it as a video game scene.

I already knew that I was not going to ask the PCs to do the tomb on the same day as the town defense. So when I saw that the Omast fight was going to be very easy for them, I gave the beastmaster some dogs, and added another three-orc wave close on the heels of the last one. It was still very easy for them, and the player said that another full wave would have been good.

In retrospect I also wish I had reversed the order of Crusher and the catapult. Having the PCs run back and forth emphasized the absence of the town militia too much. I see why Crusher was put last, as a grand finale, but I don't care about that as much as I do giving a feeling of real events. So the PCs should have met Crusher and his handlers when they came down to light the Hopespring Beacon. (Fight was a total anticlimax anyway due to _hold giant_.)

I really like the bodies-create-obstacles rule! We marked bodies in pen on the battlemap, so it was easy, and it had great flavor. I'm tempted to just institute this as a general house rule, but my player fears it would favor casters and archers over melee types, and that's not a direction we'd want to go.

It should be noted that the bit of the module that says "Grinseldek becomes impatient and--" is false, as Grinseldek is not present and not, as far as I can tell, able to communicate with the raiders in any way.... If your players care about this sort of thing, watch out for persistent "How did the bad guys move so fast? How did they find out so quickly?" issues throughout this module. Also watch out if the PCs manage to capture Daktini and/or the flood troll, because *they know there's an orc army out there* and it's not clear how subsequent events survive the PCs telling everyone about this.

We had fun with the scenario but it was really frustrating to GM because nothing could be relied on--every single detail had to be logic-checked and fixed if necessary. I had particular trouble with the orc raiders on the wrong side of the Inner Quarter gates: you can make a story about how that happened, but it feels really contrived. Why aren't those orcs in the lower city where they belong?


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The Numerator wrote:
Lastly, I had a brief conversation w/ the group about their thoughts with the plot, story setup, and overall experience. To a one, they said it's been great, and haven't really picked up on many of the "problems" people have been mentioning here.

I'm not surprised that, for the right groups, the adventure is perfectly fine as written. If the GM keeps a steady forward pace and the players take the scripted clues at face value and generally follow the flow of the adventure without pause, they may very well not perceive any issues or simply ignore them as trivial. If they're able to do that, more power to them; in many ways the points we're going on about are fairly trivial.

Mary Yamato wrote:
My player is a stickler for logic--he likes to analyze situations and try to understand what is happening--so I had to change a lot of things.

These are the kinds of players for whom this adventure can be problematic. I'm the same way when I play and I find it rather off-putting when a mysterious development I'm trying to make sense of turns out to simply be a design flaw for which the GM has no explanation. It collapses the game's illusion and leaves me wondering not how my PC would deal with the situation in character but rather how I as a player must deal with his scenario if I want to progress. It's a rude awakening that sucks the fun out of it for me; like a glitch in a video game.

As a GM I've learnt that PCs have all manner of creative ways to dig up background information one might assume they'd have no way of uncovering; unusually lucky skill checks, carefully directed divination spells, special insight gained from their backgrounds, canny deductions or just dumb luck. Using those resources to the group's benefit is fun for them. The best way to preserve that fun is to provide them with accurate results to their inquiries. But an adventure that provides few explanations of how, when or why things are happening behind the scenes leads to the GM being unprepared to answer such inquiries; and that sucks for everyone. A GM can try and make something up on the spot at the table, but it risks being lame or, if ill considered, leading the PCs astray. That's why I prefer thinking things through and filling in the plot holes beforehand if at all possible.

Mary Yamato wrote:
where did the barricades at the lower gate to the Inner Quarter, manned by Omast and no one else, come from? It strains plausibility that one drunk soldier set up over 100 feet of barricades, including salvaging fences from nearby homes and *sharpening* them, in the amount of time it took hustling PCs to get down there from the pyre.

I'd noticed this issue myself. I was thinking of adding some ready-made barricade segment near the town's three gates, perhaps out of the way and leaning up against nearby buildings when not in use. That way defenders could simply grab them and drag them into position in a matter of a few rounds if a gate looks to be near to being lost.

Mary Yamato wrote:
I could not see how the orc raiders got into the Inner Quarter in the amount of time available, and through a closed gate:

I'd been pondering that myself. I was thinking that it's likely due to the saboteurs' efforts before the battle began, and it centers around area L7, the Eastern Lookout. It's clearly a key location for the attackers because their leader, Kagak of the Rolling Thunder along with his six guards are already in position there when the battle begins. Why is it important? Because unlike every other tower in the Inner Quarter, it's well isolated, abuts the cliff face and commands a good view of both the Lower and Inner Quarters. Seizing it and using it as a command center from which to direct and launch attacks is strategically sound. Kagak and the saboteurs would have chosen it as their initial objective because of this.

I imagine each of the city's towers has a rope ladder stored inside which defenders can anchor and lower down to the cliff's base to allow townsfolk to climb up to safety if caught outside the walls during a siege or for defenders to climb down to launch counterattacks. All that was needed was for one or two saboteurs to infiltrate L7 (perhaps by joining the militia and volunteering to take a night-shift there), subduing any other guards, lowering the rope ladder and then signaling the raiders to approach and ascend. Because of its positioning, the same rope ladder could allow attackers to climb over the wooden palisade and enter the Lower Quarter as well just behind the Sanctuary.

By flooding into the Inner Quarter, the orcs effectively split the town's defenders between the vulnerable Lower Quarter and the fortified Upper Quarter; allowing the orcs who infiltrated the Lower Quarter to focus on breaching the Main Gate from the inside and so allow reinforcements to flood in. Since the defenders were taken by surprise, that happens rather quickly and the orcs then move on to assault the Inner Quarter's western gate with Kagak directing the action from up high. That's pretty much how things stand once the PCs join the fray.

It's important to note that the orcs' goal isn't really to conquer the whole town; they only need to seize control of the Lower Quarter and to block the Inner Quarter long enough for Crusher to enter and excavate a handful of marked sites; all of which are in those locations except for the one outside of town at the Barterstones (which he likely took care of first) and the one in the Commons (which Kagak must only concern himself with if all others fail to pan out first).

Mary Yamato wrote:
In retrospect I also wish I had reversed the order of Crusher and the catapult. Having the PCs run back and forth emphasized the absence of the town militia too much.

Good point.


So tonight I anticipate the party will face Kagak of the Rolling Thunder.

I plan on using his MESSAGE ability to have him whisper in common to the party as they approach the tower, without making it obvious that he is the one doing it.

I've been trying to think of something good to have him say. Currently I plan to have him tell the party "WAIT! The orc on top is Kagak of the Rolling Thunder. He is alone, but has trapped the tower. The traps are sprung manually by him. You must sneak up on him slowly and quietly so he doesn't trigger the traps."

Then I'll have him whisper to the orcs below in orc "they're coming, get ready".

Then if they try to slowly open the door the orcs inside will have a surprise round to ready an action.

Not sure if that's the best way to work it out, but it's the best I could come up with. Anybody else have any good ideas on what to have Kagak whisper to the party?


Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I just started another GS campaign with my Mummy's Mask group (one of the MM guys is out for a few months). The party consists of 5 dwarves (barb, fighter, warpriest, alchemist, druid) and a gnome (sorc). I only expect a regular crew of 5 to be there, however, and I'm substituting my own charisma-based NPC for the sorc since she hasn't been able to play yet (charisma is somewhat important early in the game).

I actually played the assassin part per the book this time and it was almost a disaster. My crew did not expect to have any issues, so the only "guard" was the drunken fighter down in the bar (I'm using the Sleeping Dragon Inn, ala the Order of the Amber Die folks, for the Ramblehouse). Everyone else was upstairs, mostly in their own rooms. Even with a successful perception check (25 is all but impossible, anyway), the PCs were at a huge disadvantage: no armor, no weapon, prone. On a failed perception check, they are essentially helpless, and a coup de grace would otherwise be possible.

To keep from a TPK on only the 2nd fight of the campaign, I gave them a "5' step and grab your weapon as you slide out of bed" option. I also assumed the assassins did not find a coup de grace sporting enough to attempt. Fortunately, none of them got poisoned (hardy, plus high con), but the warpriest was down to 1 HP.

Phew. The Plague House is where they are currently stopped. We'll probably get through the whole thing on our next session since there isn't much more to investigate. At least they'll be prepared for what it has to offer.

Given their melee focus, I may not institute the extra-dimensional plane idea during the siege. These guys can probably survive it without worrying about adding new spells from leveling and getting rest.


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Starting point:
The tug-of-war: strength and initiative checks with one paladin, one rogue, one wizard, and one caster cleric is not a combination for success. So I had to start with throwing the module right there. With a good party mix, I don't see how you could do dex checks, or a book reading contest, or anything without it being contrived. Further, Ruby selecting the PC's out of a crowd when they don't look "beefy" at all is silly.

The assassins at the inn is a TPK waiting to happen:
I played this with some new players, and had the inn laid out with individual rooms. Sleeping characters at level 1 trying to make a DC 20 perception check is an abject failure. For a 4 person party this is terrible. At least 2 assassins would kill 2 PC's quick (I can't imagine that at least 2 PC's don't fail that check), and then get into a pair of 2-v-1 situations.

I had a couple of level 1 fighters as town guard show up to avoid a TPK.

I really should have just arranged the Inn so it could sleep 4 in the room, and if anyone got a 20, they would wake the whole party. And if not, at least they could try to cast a sleep spell on all the opponents at once, set up some flanking, etc.

For the Plague House, I did level the party after they cleared a level. I didn't total up the XP of the group, but without that extra dose of hit points, they have zero chance against the rats and the gelatinous cube.

That's as far as we have gotten so far. And I already know I am going to have to do a video game-style leveling in the midst of the orc rush. The party won't survive 100 orcs with no magic spells left and no chance to overnight rest to get them back without destroying reality.


Wow, this looks like a module that may require some serious tweaking, based on what I've read so far.

I'm about to launch a Giantslayer campaign, and this is the party mix I have to work with:

A Cleric aasimar that thinks he's a warrior. The player is obsessed with greatswords so he took Gorum as his deity. It's his first spellcaster.

A 1st level Fighter (tiefling variant grim spawn) who will be multiclassing to Wizard and eventually becoming a Eldritch Knight and learning how to craft magic items.

A Hobgoblin Ranger who will grab the character trait Vagabond Child: Disable Device as class and use bows as his main weapon. He's going to be our token Rogue/scout of the group.

I am hoping one of the last two party members will take a warrior(Fighter, Barbarian, etc), as we need someone to wield the artifact warhammer that's in the campaign. I honestly don't care what the last party member takes.

What I want from you guys is this: How should I adjust the first adventure, if at all? They all have high stats, because I allow them to roll up their PC's and even reroll the sets if they aren't happy with the set of 6 attributes as a whole.

Also, I have impressed upon the players that stealth is very important in Giantslayer based on my reading of the campaign. To that end, I have told them that they will need Stealth Synergy before "The Hill Giant's Pledge", which means at 3rd or possibly 5th level they need to take that feat or they will be hosed when trying to eventually sneak in when trying to take some of the other giant fortifications.


Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I guess that really depends upon your party's balance and experience. It sounds like you'll have 5 players with high stats, so you'll have to do what I'm doing to actually make it more difficult (the assassins notwithstanding) for a party of 5 or 6 with 25-point builds.

In general, I'm nearly doubling every encounter if all 6 show, 50-75% if only 5 show, maxing a few HPs if just 4 show. Sometimes that's adding advanced templates, sometimes extra HD, sometimes extra minions. I try not to increase caster levels, however, since that can introduce abilities they cannot counter.

As noted, the first consideration is the assassins. Hint that danger level is high enough to justify always being prepared at a minimum. As JoeElf noted, putting them in one room may be wise, too. I did this one on the streets for the first group since they would not have survived.

The siege is quite a pain, too. They level to 3rd in the middle of an all out assault. That means no new spells, nor recovery of any spent spells/abilities. I'm not sure how I will do it this time, but I used a variant of the demi-plane idea discussed earlier in this thread for my Sunday group of noobs. Doing that actually made the battle at the gates pretty easy, so a different tact is needed for my experienced group, I think.

My first group did not sweat the Plague House at all, except the cube. They struggled, but survived, and wiped Daktani in one blow (critical from the fighter). You do have to find a way to keep them from going to the basement too soon, however.


Well, the PC mix has changed somewhat:
A Cleric aasimar that thinks he's a warrior. The player is obsessed with greatswords so he took Gorum as his deity. It's his first spellcaster.

A 1st level Fighter (tiefling variant grim spawn) who will be multiclassing to Wizard and eventually becoming a Eldritch Knight and learning how to craft magic items. He's an experienced Wizard player.

A Hobgoblin Ranger who has the character trait Vagabond Child: Disable Device as class and uses a bastard sword as his main weapon. He's going to be our token Rogue/scout of the group, and is a veteran player.

A Fighter who's concentrating on bows. Dunno what race yet. Newbie player.

And finally, hopefully a melee warrior of some sort to wield the artifact warhammer in the the future campaign. Newbie player.

In general, I think I will increase the encounter's CR by 50%, OR maxing out the hp of all the baddies. It's going to take some tinkering. In the last campaign, the only PC I killed normally was critical hitting the Wizard, and Circle of Death the Fighter and Cleric.

I dunno about the assassins, as coup de grace combined with sneak attack is a lethal combo.

As for the siege, I don't plan on offering a rest, so that they are running on fumes throughout the event. Even so, the increase to level 3 in the midst of the action should help. Otherwise I don't plan on altering the siege any.


The Numerator wrote:

For anyone that ran the battle already, did anyone succeed at saving Sara?

I was just thinking through this... smoke inhalation (w/ a fairly high Fort DC for low level PCs) causes PCs to do nothing but choke for a round, but the rescue requires 2 PCs and Agrit to use full round actions for 2 consecutive rounds... if any fail that check, then wouldn't that require you to start again w/ the 2 consecutive rounds? The attacking Orcs make it likely that a party of 4 would have 2 hold off the Orcs, while 2 lift the wreckage... so you need 6 fairly lucky rolls, and one fail out of 4 would mean starting over.

Since the house collapses in 8 rounds, then basically they'd get 4 chances to hit 6 consecutive good rolls... seems a fairly unlikely situation, no?

I'm not trying to be a nay-sayer, I'm mostly just thinking through how I should handle the choking (like if they all pass one round, but then one passes and the others fail, can they "maintain" what they've done and only have to hit one more round?)

So did anyone have a different experience than this? My group grew quite frustrated about this encounter. Someone even did the math based on the groups saving throws and said it's below 2% that they can make it.

Am I eventually reading it wrong? I always interpreted the choking rules that "spend that round choking and coughing" requires a full-round action, meaning they can't even move out of the house. Reaching round 8 the Fortitude DC is a 22, which proved to be not manageable for 3 out of 4 characters. I found the book to be quite vague on what happens if characters are still within the house. I decided to go with simply setting them on fire taking 1d6 damage in the house and another 1d6 outside if they can't extinguish the flames that round. I decided to ditch the smoke inhalation once they were burning mainly to not burn them to crisps. With the beam striking poor Sara I also though about bringing down the whole house on them, but again the book was vague and taking at a Cave-In (CR8) with 8d6 damage as reference you're looking at a TPK for a level 2 group (even when cutting the damage in half) - which kind of makes sense when you're getting buried by a burning building but causes quite a bit of frustration among the players.

Any other experiences with this encounter? The only way I see to solve it, is having someone outside the building casting Create Water every round to create an infinity loop that would allow for 6 successful, consecutive Fortitude saves. Any thoughts on that?

/K


Karankwan wrote:
So did anyone have a different experience than this?

I guess my group simply got lucky though, being mostly beefy dwarven warrior types, they had no trouble making the Fortitude saves. Half the party had stayed outside the house (out of the smoke) and so were perfectly positioned to intercept the orcs before they could meddle with the rescue effort inside. Two full rounds later, the two rescuers exited with the the couple.

Thinking about it now though, wouldn't it be feasible for the PCs to simply hold their breath while carrying out the rescue to avoid the saving throws? Even with only a 10 Con, a PC can hold his breath for up to 2 minutes before needing to make any checks for suffocation; plenty of time to enter the house, find the couple and execute the rescue. It'd certainly seem far easier than contending with the chocking smoke.


Last session, my players defeated Crusher. Now I'm trying to award XP for the fight but am not sure about the proper amount based on the encounter's variable CR. Crusher's XP award is listed as 2,400, though should it be reduced if the PCs' Resolve Points reduced his CR to 5 or 4? Does the Story Award for this encounter (3,200 XP) add to Crusher's XP or does it represent the total XP earned?

Paizo Employee Senior Developer

The story award is the total that you should award for the complete encounter, i.e., 3200 XP, regardless of any adjustments for Crusher.

It breaks down like this:
If the PCs get no resolve points, Crusher is at full strength with 2 orc beast-tamers, a CR 7 encounter, worth 3,200 XP.

The CR of the encounter goes down if the PCs get more Resolve Points, making the encounter easier, but they shouldn't get less XP for doing the right thing. So the more Resolve Points they earn, the easier the encounter is, but they still get full XP (3,200). This is their reward for going above and beyond and being successful in more than just straight-up combat.


Ah. Thanks for the clarification Rob. It's confusing as written since Story Awards are normally an addition to the the XP listed for each creature.


Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Karankwan wrote:
So did anyone have a different experience than this? My group grew quite frustrated about this encounter. Someone even did the math based on the groups saving throws and said it's below 2% that they can make it.

It took my Sunday group of noobs about 11 rounds, with the druid continually casting create water to add an additional round. They are a mixture of races (human, half-orc, elf), and not really high-con.

It took my Saturday group of more experienced players 4 rounds total to escape...

Wall of text:
round 1: 3 dwarves make fort save and move next to the beam, 1 of which (warpriest) healed Sara for 7 points of damage. The gnome sorc stayed at the door (and freaked when the orcs showed up) and the other dwarf (alchemist) stayed back at the barricade (he was behind already, and stayed with the cover once the orcs appeared).
round 2: everyone inside made their saves.
round 3: everyone inside made their saves.
round 4: Sara is freed and barbarian/brawler pulls her out from under the beam.
round 5 till somewhere around 9 or 10: jockey positions at the door to deal with orcs outside. There was literally a clog and the sorc was pinned.

In fact, dealing with the orcs was harder for them. The warpriest went down at least once, IIRC, and the gnome had a very hard time getting out of melee (all squares adjacent to the building were on fire) for several rounds and ultimately went for an acrobatics move that worked.


Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I should note that our builds are 25 points, but their builds lean toward more balance than min-maxing. Also, their fort rolls were good enough even without the extra from an additional +2 con. They couldn't hit the orcs to save their lives, however.

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