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I gotta say, I'm not thrilled with how this AP starts. A big long investigation doesn't seem like the best way to pull the party together. How are other people approaching beginning this AP?
Very excited about the concept behind this AP. Underwhelmed thus far with its opening chapter as well.
Yeah I'm definitely going to run something as a preamble to get the players to Trunau. I want something that'll work more or less as an establishing shot, to use a cinema term, of Belkzen and the reality of the threat that it represents to a small human community. I think the lore around the hopeknives implies some of this but I want the PCs to get a bit more. I think I'm going to adapt the PFS scenario Goblinblood War and tool it for the fallen Hordeline as a way to get a sense of the potential carnage the Orcs can bring while also letting a few whispers of a gathering orc tribe filter through. After that then I'll get into the investigation. I like the rest of book 1 esp part 2. But starting it all off with an investigation of a guy only loosely related to the PCs (only if they've taken a trait) is just kind of meh.
I was going to skip the investigation, frankly. Then again, my players don't want to start at level 1 so I'm going to allow them to start at level 2 or 3 depending on their backgrounds (we're still many months from starting this). We are just wrapping up Carrion Crown and that started with an investigation, so this seems too similar to me. Plus, I have started past campaigns with investigations so I'm looking for something...different.
After the ceremony I was going to have orc emissaries show up demanding the town be vacated or else the town will be "cursed" and its inhabitants will die (due to the concealed assassins within its borders, not any curse). Several will die during the night, including the named NPC. Assuming the PCs make some effort to investigate the deaths, they will come across one of the assassinations taking place. That will lead them to certain areas already in the story just as the orcs begin their attack.
At least that's how I see it so far.
One of the rumors that the PCs would overhear during the course of the first day comes from a scout arriving in town saying that the local orcs are mobilizing. Then, the scout they overhear saying that turns out to be the one they rescue (hopefully) from the assassination attempt (with gruff words from his would-be assassins to the effect of "now you won't go blabbing your mouth any more, scout!").
The PCs could possibly get involved with the discussion among the Council (or at least be witness to it, but I would seek to work them into the discussion) about what to do with the orcs' edict to evacuate. I'm still playing around with the scenario in my head.
I’m running Shadowed Keep on the Borderland before opening with the AP, Setting the scene with more half orc’s than usual in Trunau; one of the characters was a weapon smith and has Sara Morninghawk complaining that her new half orc replacement for him is not as good and keeps asking him to come back.
Two of the characters are half Orc’s being the children of Halgra and she sent them off to investigate the bandits at the keep. (Barbarian and Ranger) Playing her as a curt no nonsense woman while little tolerance for foolishness. The Barbarian is her favourite son and the Ranger is definitely not … The Barbarian was sent by her to save her disappointing son from the bandits after he was captured in a disastrous attempt to take the tower.
A Gathlain Sorcerer who is friends with Silvermane and introduced to the party by the aging Druid as the arcane support.
The blacksmiths apprentice is a Halfling unarmed fighter with a slingstaff and we have an NPC cleric of Abadar along for the ride and to provide healing, also played by the most experienced player.
They have already met several of the important players, they grew up here apart from the Gathlain and they all have the hopeknife trait for free.
So far it is going well, they should finish this at high 2nd or low 3rd level then they should be invested in Trunau enough to care about it’s fate and react appropriately.
I am introducing important NPC’s as we go along.
I was thinking of opening "on the road." the PC's are en route to Trunau, and are ambushed by a tribe of goblins - anyone who succeeds their knowledge check knows that this tribe isn't "local" and seems to have migrated for some reason - In specific, pushed south by orc movements. if they don't realize that, someone at Trunau will mention it when the ambush is brought up.
This at least gives the PC's a bit of action and a sort of prelude to what's to come, before settling in to the investigation stuff. Some of which could definitely be trimmed down to keep the XP pace roughly the same
Yeah I too am having issues with that long drawn out investigation. I'm currently running my new party through a few reskinned PFS scenarios to give them an idea of the environs of Belkzen but dreading running this part of book 1.
I think what I'm going to do is run some side things like a clearly arson based fire in a warehouse and perhaps a theft in process from some of the orcs, maybe at or across from Sara's to keep things moving.
OK, I must be the odd duck or have odd players. I don't think the investigation is all that long, boring, or drawn out.
The core of it is an intro and four scenes. The interludes following 1 and 2 have a small attack, one of which is a contender for nastiest battle of the book. 3's interlude should have the players looking for the attack that isn't coming and 4 points toward a small dungeon crawl that concludes the section.
Barring my players getting interested in just exploring town it's two sessions with a chance for /all/ the skills to shine. And if my players are having fun exploring town, well, the purpose of all this is to have fun.
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Actually I just ran this with my players, at the end of it, I apologized to them for the slow build-up and they turned around and told me that they loved it, as it gave them a chance to feel each other, and their characters out a bit.
Here it should be said that this is an entirely new group, who've never played with each other before. Some are new to Pathfinder, others have played it before, though all have experience with 3.5.
Based on what I saw, I'd actually recommend playing it as written, at least with a new group (The only change was that Rodrick had approached the players the night before, to hear about the possibility of hiring them for a mission "details to be divulged tomorrow morning, as he didn't want to be rude to Rudy at the Hopeknife ceremony. That was more than enough to get them hooked on looking into the "suicide" in the first place, and get their attention).
Game to be resumed in 14 days time, they've just killed the Assassins and were talking about heading into the Plague House. They do seem to think it's haunted however, as I might have overplayed the background story a bit when they asked about the name of it. :P
(snip)The only change was that Rodrick had approached the players the night before, to hear about the possibility of hiring them for a mission "details to be divulged tomorrow morning, as he didn't want to be rude to Rudy at the Hopeknife ceremony.(snip)
Ah, brilliant. I've been seeking the 'hook' that let's me get past hoping someone 'just likes Rodrick because he used to work for the man'. The one I was chasing - using Ruby in some way - kept running into "why isn't Ruby's mother involved?"
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The fact that it opens with an investigation is probably my favorite thing about it. The overarching plot of the AP is a bit too traditionally dungeon-crawly/hack'n'slash for my tastes, so having a major part of the first module be so focused on character and plot over setpiece battles seems pretty brilliant to me.