I have skimmed all 6 books of this adventure path and read most of book 1 in greater detail (I haven't read through all the exact encounters in the dungeons as I tend to read those last.)
I am at current really confused by the concept of my players wanting to risk life and limb traveling across continents to help this noble chick from their home town become an empress. It very much to me as I read it feels like: PC's do all the work, NPC's get the best reward at the end. Even with the traits to try to force backgrounds to match up with the NPC's it feels like it's going to be very flat.
As a result I'm torn as to if I want to involve Ameiko at all beyond when she falls into the coma in book 1. I'm considering using her death as a trigger that makes the PC's Scions of the distant kingdom when they find the Amatatatsu Seal. Then simply using the other NPC's as support with the caravan.
Though even the other NPC's I'm not as certain about. I really like the elven ranger even if her reason for being there would need to be altered slightly. The elder cleric and the rogue fall flat for me as a storyteller. I'm considering just making some of my own NPC's that have more investment and reason to go along than some of the ones that are premade and should my players want to use the relationship system just building their own boons that could compliment my group as a whole better.
As for the caravan and any possible encounters, at current I'm planning to let my players decide if they want to run it. If they don't then I'll build generally what the caravan has and convert any caravan encounters to just encounter's for the players to deal with as it makes it more of a living world. (I plan to roll all encounter tables ahead of any sessions so I know what will be happening on what travel days. Any variation I can adjust for on the fly but then I'm not sitting for minutes rolling percentage dice while the players are waiting on me.)
I'm curious if anyone else has tried to run this path without Ameiko or the other NPC's and how it went for them if they did.
In my home game, Ameiko is a PC. If you don't have any players who want to play a bard, you can re-skin her as a rogue, ninja, sorcerer, etc.
And we have Sandru as a PC as well. So, no longer are they helping *those people* fulfill their destiny. The PCs are the destined ones themselves, even before finding the Amatatsu Seal.
I'll convert any caravan encounters to just encounters for the players to deal with as it makes it more of a living world.
That's basically what I did.
|Earl of the Malebolge|
I ran the adventure with a couple buddies (I was not the GM, but I helped modify the storyline), where my character was Ameiko's lost relative (I think it was cousins or something similar). Ameiko died towards the end of the adventure, revealing my family line before slipping into a comatose. We then carried on the story, with the npc's joining my character either in remembrance of Ameiko, being hired on, or in it for the adventure.
We didn't get to finish the campaign, but the storyline was fun, and the character's people came up with really added to the story.
I say feel free to modify the story so that you as the GM enjoy telling it, and giving your characters a chance to shine.
I don't think there's any real harm in making the PCs be the claimants to the throne. (Though there can only be one emperor, so the whole 'cross half the world to make someone else an emperor' problem still applies to most of the group.)
If your players are competent they shouldn't need NPCs to help them in battle. (Though having Koya or a substitute might be useful if they're low on clerical magic.)
Feel free to replace the NPCs with your own - there's not much material in the books that relates to them specifically. Be flexible about which NPCs you focus on - it's hard to predict who your players will respond to.
I don't recommend using the caravan system (which is low on interaction and needs modifying if the PCs are to have any chance of winning) or the relationship system (which is largely based around buying affection with ridiculous numbers of presents and Diplomacy checks in place of role-playing).
I don't recommend the relationship system (which is largely based around buying affection with ridiculous numbers of presents and Diplomacy checks in place of role-playing).
You could always replace the AP's system with Legendary Games's Ultimate Relationships. If you do end up using Ameiko, Shalelu and the gang, maybe also Imperial Relationships. I wish they'd been around when I first started Jade Regent.
My plan is to not use the caravan like a lot of others have proposed. The players will play the first book as if it is a normal AP and when they find the Amateratsu Seal, it will select the Chosen One. The player who, up to that point, has been the most honourable and the best roleplayer, will be selected by the Seal as the future Emperor of Minkai.
The making one character the overall emperor thing is still a bit difficult for me. I've thought about altering it to a several character council system of rule. Something along the lines of 5 councilors to mirror the five storms.
I'm also considering making the main villain from book 3 related to the oni somehow instead of having it be a completely side plot. It feels like it makes them more of a presence for me. I haven't read any of the books after one in detail.
I did finishing reading over one and prepping small changes but I want to try to get all six books read over at least once in detail before I start the game. I have a few months so I think I'll have time just bouncing ideas off of others that have played.
I wanna make sure none of my plans could overbalance or throw off the overall sense of the campaign. Thanks for all the help : )
One option is to put more control in the hands of the players. The seal might allow the PCs to create the emperor of their choice - or end the imperial system forever.
This is good, as long as the players are able to handle it maturely and not murder one another in a struggle for the throne (unless they enjoy that sort of thing).
Note that in book 6 the PCs should be able to get their hands on the seals of the other noble families from the palace vault - which might help with the 'council of five' theme.
Well, I think my group would do pretty well with sharing responsibility as they generally even if they're playing someone with an E in their alignment always remain loyal to the group dynamic. People in my group thankfully seem to understand it's a co-op styled game when I run. : )
I do like the idea of the seals helping to further match up the players as councilors. I didn't realize until I read your post (and then re-read the first seal) that there were 5 in total.
I'm certainly leaning more toward that as a way to resolve the issue. In a four person group they can still decide who the 5th seat will be so they have the control which is nice. I can certainly make it more political with the caravan in this way.
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Never, ever, EVER run Jade Regent without running the Burnt Offerings book of Rise of the Runelords. Seriously, just don't do it.
It seems like a bad idea to you, because your players have not invested themselves in Sandpoint and created that bond with the NPCs, and that factor is CRUCIAL for Jade Regent. Much like how Curse of the Crimson Throne does not work if the players are not built specifically as denizens of Korvosa with this backstory detail that ties them together, Jade Regent doesn't work if your players are not coming to the table already knowing who these NPCs are and liking them enough to run a campaign alongside them.
I've found a need to totally rewrite the plotlines of chapters 3 and 4, but that won't be a concern for awhile for you, if ever. Very much along the lines of MyraMistweave's comments that the plot to fight the five storms gets totally lost in book 3. And the book 4 motivations are a mess.
But the first two adventures I found to be rock solid. And the mini adventure We Be Goblins is a fun little intro to the plot without being a prequel. As was also suggested above, Burnt Offerings is a great way to establish Ameiko in both Sandpoint and the PC's lives. Makes the decision to leave Sandpoint feel more momentous. One of the PCs is a Kaijitsu cousin, which left me the freedom to axe Ameiko tragically and preserve the plot (and I may still do that :) That's another reason to keep good NPCs in this AP - whether they're Ameiko or any other you choose to create. If they stick around and help long enough, their deaths can be awesome motivation tools for the savvy DM.
But do yourself a favor and pick ones that are easy to DM PC, because that's what these NPCs end up being. Ameiko is not ideal for that. When you're running a big combat and you get to Ameiko in the initiative order, a bard-rogue-aristo who's hard from a plot standpoint to lose is a real tough character to make effective use of. "Ameiko sings a song," gets old as hell after awhile.
The caravan-thing was an amusing logistics exercise, but we dropped it quickly. But I will say we had some awesome nontraditional combat-from-wagons-and-horses random encounters to keep the road interesting. And some ad-hoc encounters both on the road and in Karlsgard that came down to defending the wagons. And I think having gone through the caravan rules to get the PCs to think through some of the details of the caravan composition helped seed those combats with NPCs and fun motivations. We definitely had some "S@$*, that wagon has all our food!" moments.
We're 1/4 into Book 5, I highly recommend this campaign, it has a lot to offer and should please just about every playstyle.
From my experience it was best to drop the caravan, relationship stuff as it can be more easily resolved (I pretty well just fudged in some additional treasure to represent their share of the profits when the caravan reached a city).
The caravan works essentially as a mobile town for the party to come back to and engage with. I did have the NPCs on a revolving door to help with away missions for the first three books. I removed the elven ranger as she was too much of an adventurer role rather than a support role.
Re Ameiko, we had a somewhat regular player take her role which worked well. That player hasn't been able to make it for a bit now so it's less ideal. A GM does really need to underline that the party are all Amatatsu now (divine right etc.) so that Ameiko is not untouchable. I think your idea of removing her entirely by the end of book 1 works.
As far as needing to run Burnt Offerings I feel that is completely unnecessary but to each their own.
Just finished this as a player, and my thoughts here.
The background traits give you the reason they're willing to travel across the globe to help. The AP starts with the presupposition that your PCs are friends with at least one of the major NPCs and that they're willing to buy into roleplaying that background.
Second, once the PCs are invested by the seal, they're now targets of the Five Storms, whether or not they go to Minkai. If it becomes clear they're going to be hunted down eventually whether they go or not, then they might be more motivated to go get preemptive with the oni.
I am at current really confused by the concept of my players wanting to risk life and limb traveling across continents to help this noble chick from their home town become an empress. It very much to me as I read it feels like: PC's do all the work, NPC's get the best reward at the end.
Becoming empress is not the best reward. Being the best friends of the new empress, gaining power without the responsibilities, is a better reward.
I finished my Jade Regent campaign three weeks ago. I really should write it up for this forum, but the essence is that I made Ameiko and her half-sister Amaya support characters. Ameiko is a bard/rogue, so she is already suited for skill-based support. I made Amaya an oracle, providing divination and healing. The caravan run by the other NPCs did not cross the ice cap; instead, Ulf the Guide organized a new caravan run by the PCs to cross the Crown of the World. Thus, Koya, Sandru, and Shalelu were left behind.
With the future empress and the future Amatatsu clan leader delegated to support, too valuable to risk in the front line, the PCs could take the limelight.
I would really suggest you take a look at the write ups people have done here on the forums. They all give great advice at how those GMs tweaked the game.
A couple of points.
1 - Yea the caravan system does not work that well. My players loved the economic and mini/max side of it but not the combat.
2 - The NPCs will become NPCs party members. I avoided the DM PC issue by having each of my players take one of the NPCs to handle in combat. I handled their overall motivations and rp, but in combat I let them control them
3 - We ditched the relationship system as my players enjoyed RP more than the mechanics. The NPCs are really nice for rolplay and three of my players really enjoyed the RP of forming a romantic relationships with three of the NPCs.
Above all though I would suggest you remember this.
The whole AP should feel like a epic journey. You are travelling a long distance to a place the characters don't know. With each step in the journey it should feel like the characters stepped into something new and different. New people, new places, new traditions. Jade regent at it's core is a travel adventure. As long as you keep that feeling of travel and exploration you are good.