The Ceaseless Storm Unmasked: my changes to Jade Regent (many spoilers)

Jade Regent

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I’ve enjoyed reading about changes other GMs have made to Adventure Paths, so I thought I’d post descriptions of some changes I’ve been making to Jade Regent.

These changes shouldn’t be interpreted as any sort of criticism of the AP - I’d be happy to run it as written. There are two main reasons for my changes: suiting the preferences of our group and avoiding anything that’s too similar to other games we’ve played recently. I’ve also been inspired by reviews and comments on these forums. And some of my additions are tied to a theme of how power and ideals of honour can be used and abused. (And quite a few of my changes are just due to personal preferences and pure whim.)

Thanks to the writers of the AP and everyone who has contributed to the Jade Regent forum!

I’m planning to describe most of my changes in the order that the PCs encounter them, but I’ll begin with a brief description of the two most significant changes:

New oni:
I’ve replaced the Five Storms with an alliance of oni who call themselves “The Ceaseless Storm”. They see themselves as incarnations of the destruction caused by war. They are organised, strategic and strongly lawful evil - they are willing to wait and plan if that will allow them to create greater destruction in the future. Although they’ve kept their influence largely secret, they already have strong control over Minkai.

A trick of the Seal:
I gave the Amatatsu Seal some new abilities - in particular, it can create certain powerful illusions and place protections against divination magic on members of the Amatatsu family. At the end of the second book, it used these abilities to give the Ceaseless Storm very good reasons to believe that all the members of the Amatatsu family are now dead.

Implications of these changes:
The second half of the AP will become a “sandbox” style of adventure, with the PCs infiltrating Minkai (their cover identities will probably be ordinary caravan guards, guides and cooks) and choosing what approaches they will take to oppose the oni. There will be much less need for the PCs to hurry, because the Ceaseless Storm won’t be sending agents to kill them. On the other hand, the Ceaseless Storm are formidable opponents, and the PCs will need to act carefully to exploit their weaknesses.

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Campaign journal

Our group is currently at the beginning of the 4th book. If anyone’s interested in sneak previews or more details, I’ve been writing a campaign journal:

Coffee and the Ceaseless Storm

(Warning: this journal contains many words. I’m trying to keep a fairly comprehensive record to make it easier for players who miss sessions to follow what’s going on. That’s my excuse, anyway!)

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Behind the scenes...

Character creation:
Ability scores were assigned using the point buy method, with 25 points.

I asked anyone playing a Tian character to discuss their background with me - I wanted to link their backgrounds to Ameiko’s if possible (so that Sandpoint wasn’t completely coincidentally full of Tian people). I imposed some restrictions on Tian characters: none of the PCs were born in Minkai (although they could be of Minkaian descent), and they have not lived in Tian Xia recently. Two of the PCs are grandchildren of Soto Tsutamu (who arrived with Ameiko’s grandfather from Minkai), and one was brought up by the Soto family in Sandpoint.

I recommended neutral good or chaotic good as the alignments that would fit best into the campaign, but I allowed any non-evil alignment. I also asked the players of any strongly lawful PCs to talk to me about their code of conduct - I wanted to avoid having PCs in the group with very strict codes against any form of deception.

There’s a list of the PCs in the campaign journal: Principal Cast. (Note that we have a large group with seven players, but it’s rare that everyone can make it to a session. Currently we have five regular players, and we often have sessions with fewer than five.)


I changed the stats for some of the major NPCs. Ameiko became a 3rd level rogue and Shalelu became a 4th level ranger. Sandru gained the ability to cast prestidigitation as a rogue talent.

Koya’s fortune-telling abilities allow her to deal out cards, meditate on them and then receive dreams related to her question. I’ve used this to provide warnings and foreshadowing, and PCs can ask her questions if they’re looking for advice from Desna.

House rules:
  • Everyone in the universe gets the Eschew Material feat for free.
  • There’s no cut-off below 5 hit dice for Detect Evil and similar spells. So, for example, a typical goblin or an evil 2nd level fighter would have a ‘very faint’ aura of evil unless they have some way of concealing it.
  • Creatures with the shapechanger subtype or the Change Shape supernatural ability won’t have an aura of transmutation magic just because they’ve changed shape. This means that detect magic can’t be used to help determine whether someone who looks human is likely to be an oni or a kitsune in disguise.
  • Spells with a range of ‘personal’ can be made into potions. (I decided this one during the campaign. The alchemist PC was interested in brewing potions of expeditious retreat. I was already leaning towards allowing this, and then I noticed that some of the NPCs in the AP were equipped with potions of disguise self.)

XP and levelling:
I’m not using XP for this campaign - instead, the PCs level up when I decide it’s appropriate for the story. I have a preference for levelling quickly at the early levels (particularly to get from 1st to 2nd). However, the PCs are a fairly powerful group, and they are now levelling more slowly than the AP suggests.

Caravan rules:
I decided to ignore the caravan rules. Sandru is running all the administration and accounting for the caravan off camera. I adapted caravan encounters so that the PCs take on some of the combat and the NPCs deal with the rest (some handwaving may be involved).

Relationship rules:
I offered the players a choice of whether to use the relationship rules or just roleplay the relationships with the NPCs. Everyone went for the roleplaying-without-additional-rules option. The PCs can still gain mechanical benefits from building relationships, however.

I haven’t played Rise of the Runelords or any other adventures set in Sandpoint - some of my changes may contradict information from those sources. More generally, my knowledge of Golarian isn’t particularly extensive. And I do my best to follow the rules, but I’m sure I’m making many mistakes about them too...

In my campaign, coffee is common in Garund and other parts of southern Avistan. It’s not well known in regional Varisia, and it’s not available at all in Tian Xia... until now. Sandru has a scheme to make his fortune by introducing coffee to the Minkaians.

I’ll add more soon - feel free to ask questions!

Four “adventurers” meet in a tavern...
(Changes to Part One of Book One)

I decided to rewrite the opening of the AP to get to the main plot a bit more quickly. (I’d like to reiterate that this isn’t a criticism of the AP. This choice was a personal preference - I was hoping to provide a contrast to the pacing of other games our group has played recently.)

Here’s the condensed version of my changes to the opening:

  • A swarm of unusual jade-coloured butterflies appears in the main square of Sandpoint. These attract some attention.
  • The crowd of onlookers (including the PCs) then face a chaotic raid on the town by gleeful goblins armed with Minkaian fireworks.
  • After the goblins are defeated or driven off, it becomes apparent that the butterflies were an illusion and the goblins were incited by someone attempting to create a distraction.
  • The person who paid for the distraction has gone missing, and the PCs are asked to track him down. This leads them to a set of caves where they find Minkaian treasures and a letter mentioning Brinewall Castle (and some skeletons).

A less summarised description follows...

I moved the skeletons and the treasure from the Brinestump Caverns to a cave system in cliffs to the east of Sandpoint (and north of the Ravenroost hills). This cave system was a prearranged meeting point - Rokuro and Tsutamu had discovered it years ago and decided it would make a good hiding-place if they ever needed one. When Lonjiku opened the warding box, Rokuro sent Lonjiku away at once on the Kaijitsu Star and gave a hastily drawn map of the location of the caves to the captain of that ship. Tsutamu followed soon afterwards on board the Kaijitsu’s Blossom - the plan was that the ships would anchor somewhere along the coast and the passengers would meet at the caves. The map was in a waterproof chest along with Minkaian fireworks, fine jewellery and books when the Kaijitsu Star sank in a sudden storm.

About Tsutamu:
Tsutamu’s real name was Soto Ansai. The Soto family are minor nobles who have traditionally served members of the five royal families of Minkai as samurai bodyguards. When they arrived in Avistan, Rokuro and Tsutamu told everyone that they were merchants who worked together. Tsutamu was married and had several children - while he was alive, he discouraged his family from using the Soto name but never explained why.

Tsutamu had persuaded Rokuro to delay telling Lonjiku the truth about the two families. This added to Tsutamu’s feelings of guilt after the attack on Brinewall and the sinking of Lonjiku’s ship, when he believed that all the Amatatsu family had been killed.

It was well-known in Sandpoint that ships belonging to Rokuro and Tsutamu had sunk in storms, and it was believed that Rokuro and Tsutamu had both drowned (Lonjiku never told anyone in Sandpoint that he had been on one of the ships, so it was generally assumed he had been in Magnimar when his father had died). However, until recently no one had thought to investigate the wrecks. Kelsiran Valdemar (who is the younger brother of Ethram Valdemar and rather envious of his elder sibling’s wealth) wondered if there was a chance of retrieving valuable cargo. He kept his plans secret, because he didn’t want to be forced to share anything with the descendants of Rokuro and Tsutamu. And he was well aware of the ‘rumourmongering’ tendencies of Sandpoint’s citizens. So he decided to hire some help from Magnimar quietly.

First, he paid some undine divers to locate and explore the wrecks. They brought back the waterproof chest and the nameplates of the two ships. The divers reported that the Kaijitsu’s Blossom had run aground before sinking and contained no sign of cargo. Kelsiran believed that survivors may have taken cargo to the caves marked on the map from the first ship. He decided to investigate the caves to find out if any valuables had been left behind there.

Kelsiran hired some warriors from Magnimar to accompany him on an expedition to the caves. But if he did find treasure, he didn’t want to be spotted returning with it. So he also hired a team of four people to create a distraction in the main square of Sandpoint at the time when he expected to return from the caves (he planned to arrive back at the other side of Sandpoint). He didn’t specify what the distraction should be, except that it needed to be large. He had shown the team the fireworks from the first ship, and they asked if they could take some for their distraction.

The team advertised themselves as ‘trouble shooters for hire’ (they mostly worked as confidence tricksters and thieves).

The team:

Esvailar (male half-elf cleric of Calistria 1/bard 1)
Korrevetesque Rindletrax (male gnome illusionist wizard 2)
Tanrien (male human bard 1/rogue 1)
Viyen (female human fighter 2)

They arrived separately at the Rusty Dragon tavern late on the evening before the beginning of the campaign, and they pretended to be adventurers meeting for the first time. They appeared to drink more than they were actually drinking, and they loudly made plans to set out together the next morning and investigate Foxglove Manor. In fact, they had already made other plans. The next morning, the bard/rogue stealthily left Sandpoint (with a goblinoid disguise and charm spells ready) to find local goblins, give them fireworks and persuade them to launch a raid on Sandpoint.

(Of the team, only the cleric had a high enough wisdom to realise just how much damage this over-the-top distraction could end up doing. He was starting to slip from chaotic neutral to chaotic evil.)

The goblins didn’t show up exactly when expected (they managed to delay gratification just long enough to fetch other members of their tribe), so the team’s wizard created an illusion of a strange butterfly swarm (based on an illustration in a Minkaian book from Kelsiran’s find) in the main square as a stopgap distraction to draw attention until the goblins arrived.

This is where the campaign starts.

Well, not quite:
There was a brief scene at the beginning where one of the PCs was returning with Sandru to Sandpoint from a shopping trip in Magnimar. They saw two humanoid figures on the road leaving Sandpoint - the figures covered their faces with hoods and stepped aside to let Sandru’s cart pass. (The figures were the two undine divers hired by Kelsiran, who had asked them to hide their appearances - he didn’t want rumours of undines in Sandpoint.)

The PCs were among the townspeople of Sandpoint whose attention was attracted by the butterfly swarm. The PCs’ tasks during the first session were:

  • Defend the town from the reckless, dizzy-with-explosions goblins (and keep fireworks away from the bakery in particular).
  • Put together the clues suggesting that the goblins had been provoked by someone else.
  • Track down, capture and question at least one of the team of ‘trouble-shooters’, who will eventually admit they were hired by Kelsiran.
  • Seek authorisation from the mayor to search Kelsiran’s house.

In Kelsiran’s house, the PCs discovered the ships’ nameplates and various valuables of Minkaian origin. There was evidence that Kelsiran had left the previous evening. But although Kelsiran clearly planned to return to Sandpoint at the time scheduled for the distraction, there was no sign that he or any of his hired warriors had made it back.

Concerned about his missing brother, Ethram asked the PCs to try to track Kelsiran’s expedition...

When Kelsiran and his hired warriors arrived at the caves (and managed to get past some giant spiders), they found the treasury surrounded by skeletons that looked like ordinary human remains. The skeletons didn’t move until Kelsiran opened one of the chests. Then the skeletons rose and attacked all at once. Kelsiran managed to climb through an opening overhead and take refuge in a small space where Tsutamu couldn’t reach him, but this was a dead end, and so he was trapped there. His hired warriors were all killed by the other skeletons, who then stopped moving again. Only Tsutamu remained animated, making tireless repeated attempts to reach Kelsiran through the opening in the cavern roof. This was the scene that the PCs found when they made their own way past the giant spiders.

None of the skeletons detected as evil. I played Tsutamu as having a very dim, distant memory of his past existence - his goal was to fulfil the only duty left to him and protect the Amatatsu treasures from thieves. (Perhaps he was actually some sort of ghost animating all the skeletons...) Tsutamu would not attack the PCs unless they touched the treasure, but he was also refusing to let Kelsiran go past him. So the encounter became a roleplaying challenge - the PCs needed to work out Tsutamu’s motivations and find a way to persuade him that they could be trusted to deliver the treasure to its rightful owner. (In our game, this negotiation was influenced by the fact that two of the PCs were grandchildren of Tsutamu.) Once he had passed on his duty, Tsutamu collapsed into a motionless skeleton.

By then, Kelsiran had spent a day and a half trapped in the caves - when he was rescued, he was in no mood to make any claim on the treasure. The hilt of Tsutamu’s sword contained two letters, and they suggested that answers to some mysteries could be found in a place called Brinewall.

Half of a conversation with a Seal

When the PCs and some of their friends were camping on the way to Brinewall Castle, they noticed that Ameiko was starting to talk in her sleep. It sounded as if she was having a conversation with someone who was trying to persuade her of something. But when she woke up, Ameiko had only very vague memories of a dream about an imperial dragon with jade-coloured scales.

(Ameiko didn’t fall into a coma. In my campaign, the Amatatsu Seal is an intelligent artifact that can communicate telepathically with members of the Amatatsu family across a distance of 30 miles. However, when its warding box is closed, it can only communicate at a subconscious level, through dreams.)

A Spiveyless campaign

Before the start of the campaign, the player of the wizard PC mentioned that the character would be interested in taking the Improved Familiar feat and acquiring a faerie dragon familiar. I wanted to introduce this familiar as an NPC beforehand, so I replaced Spivey with a faerie dragon named Azu-Bemphi.

Azu-Bemphi had arrived at Brinewall Castle two years earlier, accompanying a small group of adventurers who wanted to find out what had happened there. The adventurers tried to find a way over the walls, leaving Azu-Bemphi outside on watch so he could send a warning if enemy reinforcements arrived. When the PCs turned up, he was still waiting - he had occupied himself by tending the cemetery and playing tricks on dire corbies. The earlier group of adventurers had presumably been killed by the forces inside Brinewall. (Apparently, faerie dragons lose track of time easily.)

Azu-Bemphi is an enthusiastic, valiant, patient, theatrically self-confident and occasionally self-doubting dragon, and he’s been great fun to play. He is travelling with the PCs and helping them, mostly by scouting (but he has also breathed euphoria on raiders and carried equipment when his master-to-be was hit by strength-draining poison).

I ran out of time to keep this thread updated while I was also working on the campaign journal. But we finished our Jade Regent game last year, and so I’m trying to post some more notes before I start forgetting details.

Brinewall Castle: planned changes

My changes for this section were inspired by two overall objectives:

  • Because there was a paladin of Sarenrae among the PCs, I wanted to provide an opportunity early on for an evil antagonist to be redeemed.

  • I wanted to allow a few different possible approaches (including combat, diplomacy, stealth and deception) for acquiring the Seal.

    A few other GMs had already posted on the Paizo forums about making Zaiobe redeemable, and I decided to let this be a possibility in my campaign too: Zaiobe had been happily evil until she was bullied by Kikonu, and that experience provoked her to start asking herself many silent questions about her path in life.

    Meanwhile, Kikonu is rational and loyal to the Ceaseless Storm (but perhaps not quite as smart as he thinks he is). One of the discs needed to unlock the vault is already in his possession, and he knows where the other one is - but it's much too close to the decapus for him to want to risk using his dimension door ability to retrieve it. (I also altered the geometry of the vault so it was impossible for Kikonu to dimension door into the space that contained shelves holding treasures.) Kikonu has no particular reason to suspect that the Amatatsu Seal is in the vault - the Ceaseless Storm believes that it's at the bottom of the ocean and has turned to dust in its box - but he's been wondering if it's a possibility... and surely something of value must be kept there.

    I also removed Kelda (Kikonu has no reason to keep prisoners), the former castle commander (the Ceaseless Storm in my campaign would have no reason to create undead they can't control) and Ameiko's grandfather (this seemed repetitive after two PCs had already met their undead grandfather).

  • “Minions of evil for a day!” (Brinewall Castle: what happened in the game)

    The short version: The PCs accidentally managed to get themselves employed by the bad guys.

    The longer version: After Azu-Bemphi told the PCs that he had seen the castle's commander on the battlements a few times and he appeared to be quite vain, the PCs decided to try to use flattery - they were hoping this would be enough to get them past the castle walls, but they weren't expecting the deception to last much longer. Instead, Kikonu also improvised and decided to try to exploit the strangers who claimed to admire his reputation as a strong leader; he hired them to retrieve the disc from the decapus's lair.

    Kikonu ordered Zaiobe to show the new employees around the castle, and I used the map and room descriptions to help run a fast-paced tour.

    With the PCs and Kikonu both improvising, the situation was unstable and unpredictable. There was an improbably convincing fake disc made out of wax and cosmetics, a desperate escape back out over the castle walls, and a parley (with Buttersnips acting as herald). Finally, a deal was struck to divide any treasure found in the vault equally between the two factions, and a confrontation ensued when Kikonu attempted to grab the Seal and flee. Zaiobe joined the PCs’ side in the battle, and in the aftermath she agreed to leave Brinewall Castle with them.

    Their idiosyncratic approach meant that the PCs only needed to fight two beings (Nindinzego and Kikonu) to obtain the Seal. On the other hand, their plan did oblige them to sit politely all the way through one of Kikonu’s plays and most of another. Something about swings and roundabouts…?

    Trivia (foreshadowing):
    This would not be the last time the PCs were employed by their enemies. Later on, some of them even got paid…

    Brinewall Castle: reflections

    Kikonu wanted something and thought the PCs might be able to get it for him - this change definitely succeeded in creating some different possible approaches for the PCs. (This section was one of the most fun for me to GM out of the entire adventure path because of all the unplanned unpredictability.)

    Night of Frozen Shadows: planned changes

    I made lots of minor changes to this book, but the overall structure and content remained similar, apart from one big difference at the end.

  • The Amatatsu Seal worked a bit differently: the visions it gave Ameiko and the PCs were only of events that members of her family witnessed directly, so there were scenes of attacks by oni wearing symbols of authority, but no indication of what had happened to the Emperor and no hint of what the situation in Minkai was like now. Also, becoming an heir wasn’t automatic - instead, Ameiko needed to adopt people into her family formally in front of the Seal. To become eligible to inherit, each new member had to swear an oath to defend the people of Minkai.

  • I didn’t use Notoriety Points. Instead, Kimandatsu made proactive plans for ways to determine whether the Amatatsu heir was travelling with this particular caravan.

  • Only one group of attackers was under the effects of the tetsubo that would cause them to die if they revealed any information about their employers (with hindsight, I would have removed this item from the campaign altogether).

  • For no particular reason, Asvig and Helva become Lady Asviga Longthews and her husband, the handsome witch Helvyan.

  • Someone on these messageboards suggested that Lute Haggersly (one of the prisoners in Ravenscraeg) could be an NPC who had travelled with Sandru’s caravan. I borrowed this idea, and placed a likely target for kidnapping among the caravan passengers. (This NPC happened to be an agent and assassin working for Jubrayl Vhiski, who was connected to one of the PCs. This assassin had no quarrel with any of the other PCs. Being strongly lawful in his evilness, he had a natural instinct to be loyal by default to people he knew and had travelled with.)

  • For the funeral ship encounter, I cut down the number of ninjas but increased their level, to make the first ninjas to appear in the adventure seem more formidable.

  • I rearranged the layout of Ravenscraeg because I’m rarely convinced by floor plans where the person in charge lives really close to the prisoners.

  • I made a few assorted changes just to avoid similarities with a different Adventure Path our group had played relatively recently. In particular, Goti Runecaster was replaced by a nogitsune agent.

  • The most significant change was to Kimandatsu, who is an ogre mage only temporarily. She has performed a complex ritual to allow her to take on the form of a less powerful oni, so that she will be less noticeable and more patient. If her ogre mage body is slain, she will revert to her true form: a wind yai oni. (Since players can sometimes feel frustrated by enemies who return after being defeated, I made sure that elements of Kimandatsu’s transformation were foreshadowed - Koya’s harrow readings on the journey to Kalsgard gave warnings of a “double disguise” and a threat that cannot be defeated, only survived.)

  • “What have you done to our sort-of-friend-maybe?” (Night of Frozen Shadows: what happened in the game)

  • The PCs ignored Uksahkka’s suggestion about canoes, and came up with their own plan for getting on board the funeral ship: after establishing that Snorri Stone-Eye had not been popular in Kalsgard, they recruited a number of drunken tavern-goers (most of them named Olaf) to play a ‘prank’ on Stone-Eye’s allies by cutting the funeral ship loose ahead of schedule while some of their new companions started a brawl with Asviga’s followers. The PCs took advantage of the confusion to chop a way to the lower deck of the funeral ship. This approach meant that the fire on the upper desk got a head start, and the PCs eventually needed to jump into the river to escape from ninjas. (As it turned out, the PCs never confronted Asviga and Helvyan - the closest they got was a brief glimpse of the couple on the riverside.)

  • For some reason, the PCs assumed that the ordinary-looking but detecting-as-evil passenger who kept a garrotte and a dagger apparently designed to be poisoned would eventually turn on them. The events of the game did indeed lead to Jubrayl’s agent being kidnapped by Kimandatsu’s forces, and the PCs were rather surprised to discover, when they found him in Ravenscraeg, that he had withstood torture while refusing to reveal any information about them.

  • The paladin PC made friends with Skygni, and eventually the winter wolf was redeemed by the connection. At the player’s request, Skygni become bonded to the paladin - mechanically, we treated Skygni as the paladin’s mount, although she never actually rode him, just fought alongside him. (When the party arrived in Minkai, Skygni needed to have his fur clipped and dyed brown as a disguise.)

  • The presence of a nogitsune among the NPCs led to a bit of foreshadowing - there was discussion of what a nogitsune actually was, and the way that one of the PCs (who was apparently human) reacted may have given a hint about her true nature.

  • Once Kimandatsu’s oni mage form had been slain, she would soon return in her true shape and try to kill all the Amatatsu heirs. At that point, Ameiko had adopted five people into her family: three of the PCs and two NPCs. In a minor instance of the coincidences that occur every so often when I’m GMing (see my avatar name), only three of the players were going to be available for this session, and they just happened to be the three players whose PCs had agreed to join the Amatatsu family. (One of our group asked me if I was sure I wanted to run the session that evening with only three players. I attempted to maintain my best poker face when I replied that this would be fine, although it might be a shorter session than usual. With just those three players present, I didn’t have to invent extra caravan-related plot to give the PCs who had not joined the Amatatsu family something to do that session.)

  • The Amatatsu Seal used the trick that I described at the start of this thread - Kimandatsu pursued the six Amatatsu heirs across the wilderness near Kalsgard, and when she caught up with them, the Seal used powerful illusions to convince her that she had killed the entire family and destroyed their Seal.

  • Night of Frozen Shadows: reflections (players and patterns)

    If I had the opportunity to run this entire campaign again but I was only allowed to make one more change, I’d remove the cursed tetsubo altogether. Even though it didn’t have a negative effect on our play-through as far as I could tell, in retrospect it seems more risky than I’d prefer.

    In my experience, players notice patterns in games very quickly, particularly if there’s a sequence of negative outcomes for their characters. The danger of the tetsubo is that it could discourage the players from ever capturing enemies and trying to talk to them again, and this isn’t an outcome I want for games that I’m running.

    (Not paying attention to the patterns they’re establishing is the most common mistake I’ve seen experienced GMs and adventure writers make. Some other examples I’ve encountered are GMs who say they want players to be creative but never allow the PCs’ creative plans to work, and an organised play campaign (not Pathfinder Society) with several scenarios where the PCs were betrayed by their employers - because the campaign relied on the PCs accepting the hook for each separate adventure, the subsequent games were greatly slowed down at the start as our PCs tried to establish why they should trust the next potential employer.)

    Night of Frozen Shadows: reflections (themes and variations)

    A full Adventure Path is long enough that there’s enough space to introduce variations on thematic elements without being too obviously (I hope, anyway) repetitive. I feel this can enrich a campaign, especially if done subtly. The three main themes I aimed to weave through our group’s Jade Regent campaign were:

  • temptation, redemption and reconciliation
  • the different ways that people can be evil
  • the significance of relationships (and not necessarily just romantic ones).

    I included Jubrayl’s agent partly to fit in with the second theme: just because he and Kimandatsu were both Lawful Evil, that didn’t mean they would end up on the same side or even share any viewpoints.

  • The Hungry Storm: planned changes

  • I adjusted the timing of the beginning of the entire Jade Regent campaign so that the crossing over the Crown of the World would take place in summer - I felt that the amount of magic needed to allow a large caravan to survive a winter journey would be awkwardly high. Plus, I personally find that days without sunsets seem more strange and atmospheric than nights without sunrises.

  • The backstory for Tunuak changed a lot - he become a young man suddenly forced to take over the role of shaman after his master and her master died in one of the morozkos. He’s well-meaning, but he’s been afflicted with nightmarish visions of the future and malign voices in his mind that are becoming harder to distinguish from the spirits he’s been trained to listen to. Stress and sleep deprivation are making his behaviour erratic and he’s doubting his own judgement. He did smash the white dragon’s eggs after seeing visions of six young dragons terrorising his people, and he followed the guidance of the voices that instructed him how to avert this, but immediately afterwards he questioned the morality of what he’d done. He’s kept the act secret out of guilt and shame. The enchantment on him has given him knowledge of the approaching caravan and has told him that it’s a grave threat. His initial confrontation with the PCs became a test of Sense Motive and Diplomacy - he planned to provoke them into a hostile response that would make them no longer welcome in the area.

  • Katiyana became "Atiyan", with a much simplified backstory and a connection to the Ceaseless Storm. And because (with Kimandatsu) I’d already included an enemy who returned after being killed, Atiyan was a ghost when he first appeared. (The Ceaseless Storm has reasons for wanting to control who can make the crossing over the Crown of the World, and they’ve allied with Atiyan to help achieve this.)

  • I was inspired by this description of the Under Frozen Stars adventure (I didn't have a copy of the adventure itself) to alter the tower to a largely uninhabited place containing remnants of ancient magic so advanced that it’s nearly indistinguishable from technology, and a few trapped ghosts who keep the magic running. There were also entrances to some very long tunnels that helped the original inhabitants with transport.

  • “Are you getting married to the dragon?” (The Hungry Storm: what happened in the game)

  • The lack of sunsets led to a few conversations like this: Player: “We should set up watches overnight. Who has darkvision?” GM: “There’s no dark.” The summertime crossing also created a dramatic contrast when the morozkos approached and the sky turned black.

  • I thought that the PCs’ interactions with Tunuak were interesting - their initial impression was of a hostile, unreasonable and unpleasant person, but some of them started to shift their opinion when they learned that his community had a lot of respect for his past service and were worried about his increasingly odd behaviour. I’d noticed a connection between Zaiobe and Tunuak - they were both wind oracles - so I included a scene where they met and instinctively recognised something familiar in each other. (I hinted that they both have a potential destined role in opposing the Ceaseless Storm.) I think this build-up made the scene in the tower where the PCs were able to break the enchantment on Tunuak quite satisfying.

  • The Hungry Storm: reflections

  • When I’m GMing, I find it easier to play NPCs if I just work out one or two key motivations, personality traits or events in their pasts, in contrast to using a lengthy backstory (especially if that backstory doesn’t have a strong connection with events relevant to the PCs).

  • I find I enjoy playing the occasional non-evil antagonist a lot.

  • In my experience, it’s hard to maintain a strong atmosphere in a gaming session that has lots of combat. I felt that the exploration scenes inside the largely empty tower seemed strange and creepy, which I don’t think I would have been able to achieve if there had been fighting or other immediate threats.

  • Forest of Spirits: planned changes

  • Prince Batsaikhar became Princess Batsaikhar, with some different motivations - she’s setting up tests for the visitors, to find out whether they can behave courteously but not abjectly. For example, an incident when a servant ‘accidentally’ spilled food on one of the PCs was planned, with the servant’s agreement, and the punishment was fake - the servant was later seen wearing cosmetics to conceal bruises that had also been created with cosmetics. The test here was whether the PCs would try to intervene and how they would go about it.

  • There’s another guest present, who’s already been exposed to Batsaikhar’s tests and did not appreciate them much - this is a young Minkaian man calling himself Jiro. His real name is Sugimatu Jirosu, and he believes that he’s the only living heir to any of the five ruling houses of Minkai. He’s hoping to arrange an alliance, and he’s inadvertently put the agents of the Ceaseless Storm on his trail by using his family’s Seal to prove his identity to Batsaikhar.

  • The House of Withered Blossoms does not exist. (I asked myself: do I think my players will find this section interesting and/or fun? And my guess was that they wouldn’t. Also, the backstory didn’t feel consistent with how I’d reimagined the Ceaseless Storm.)

  • To replace the ‘House of Withered Blossoms’ section, I added more opportunities for adventures within the Forest of Spirits itself. The Forest of Spirits was so well protected by kami that oni could not enter it, but they could send allies.

  • “No, they’re real food. Very popular in Varisia.” (Forest of Spirits: what happened in the game)

  • The PCs rolled well enough on Sense Motive to see through some of Batsaikhar’s deceptions (in particular, they quickly worked out that the spilled food incident was a set-up), but not well enough to work out her goals, so they found her behaviour very confusing.

  • I improvised almost an entire gaming session after the kitsune PC expressed an interest in tracking down others of her kind.

  • Overall, my changes to the campaign included cuts to the first four books and additions to the last two, so there would be more focus on Minkai. In practice, this meant that the PCs crossed the Minkaian border almost exactly halfway through our gaming sessions.

  • Forest of Spirits: reflections

  • I think it can be effective to have an NPC shift to a different role in the story, in reaction to events during the game. This happened with Batsaikhar, when she changed from being eccentric and challenging to earnest when one of her guests was attacked. (In some games, NPCs can seem static and unaffected even by major events, and I think this can make those games feel less realistic.)

  • Tide of Honor and The Empty Throne: planned changes (campaign structure)

    I’m not intending to list all my changes to the final two books unless someone responds to ask for more detail - from this point, it might be quicker to describe the things that didn’t change. But my overall aims for this section of the campaign were:

  • to make the structure of the Minkaian sections less linear, allowing the PCs to choose where they go and how they tackle the various problems they face.
  • to remove the time constraints on the PCs - the ‘trick’ of the Seal described at the start of this thread enabled the PCs to travel through Minkai without being hunted by the authorities, as long as they kept up their disguises. (In previous Pathfinder games, our group had already played through two scenarios of acting on a deadline against relatively incompetent regimes, and I wanted to avoid repeating this.)

    I expanded the possibility of disrupting alliances among the Jade Regent’s followers to create a loose structure for the Minkaian sections of the campaign:

  • The PCs learn that the throne room in the Imperial Palace is a major artifact, essentially a large-scale bracelet of friends that will summon up to eight allies of the Regent into the alcoves if any combat or hostile spellcasting occurs in the room.

  • The best source of information about the Regent’s allies is a remarkably talented musician who has been employed to perform at the Palace on several past occasions. However, this musician is currently missing - he’s been kidnapped by Yugureda Shosaito, who wants to use the musician’s vague insights into possible futures to help with a plan to gain power.

  • The Regent’s allies are diverse, and some may be relatively easy to redeem or at least make bargains with, if the players choose (other approaches, including combat or trickery, are also available).

  • The decisions that the PCs make will affect later parts of the campaign. For example, attempting to redeem some of the Regent’s allies might be inherently more risky than killing them, because this could require revealing more information, but it also might be more advantageous if successful, because the redeemed allies would be able to provide useful new intelligence about the current regime.

  • Tide of Honor and The Empty Throne: planned changes (Minkai)

  • Minkai became a somewhat more multicultural place, with a community of people of Ulfen descent living in Sakakabe (mirroring the Jade Quarter in Kalsgard), and a few people of non-Minkaian ancestry in positions of authority (a Vudran magistrate was a sympathetic NPC, and a cleric of Ulfen descent was one of the Regent’s allies).

  • There were numerous proactive NPCs attempting rebellion against the regime (or who had rebelled in the past - the PCs had an opportunity to rescue the former lord of Enganoka from the petrification he’d been punished with after leading a failed revolt).

  • The government of Minkai was strongly lawful evil, with access to magic that supported its goals. The authorities punished ‘sedition’ (which included any suggestion that the Emperor was dead) harshly, and used spells such as zone of truth and detect thoughts to confirm that people who had been accused were in fact guilty. But one objective of the regime was that people who obeyed the laws without complaint would be protected and have a chance to prosper.

  • Minkai was somewhat more technologically advanced than Varisia or any of the countries the PCs travelled through on the journey. For example, the Regent’s regime has been developing and demonstrating reliable field artillery, and the missing musician has commissioned new versions of traditional instruments from local workshops.

  • Some social ideas, particularly about the role of nobility and the meaning of ‘honour’, have been shifting in recent generations, so that the cultural knowledge possessed by Ameiko and the PCs of Minkaian descent has become a bit out of date.

  • Tide of Honor and The Empty Throne: planned changes (the Imperial Shrine)

    Instead of bargaining, someone seeking the blessing of the past rulers will need to answer questions about moral challenges associated with making decisions in a position of power. And there is also likely to be a practical test of leadership inspired by recent events. So I was paying attention to the PCs’ actions during their adventures in Minkai, to look out for a choice that could lead to a suitable test…

    “I think we both knew it wasn’t going to be a long-term thing.” (Tide of Honor and The Empty Throne: what happened in the game)

    To summarise greatly: the PCs succeeded in overthrowing the Regent’s regime and bringing about the coronation of a new ruler, all without the need to incite rebellion and risk the deaths of innocent people (only one not-entirely-innocent-but-still-sympathetic NPC was lost along the way). Enough coffee plants survived the journey to ensure that the next generation could be securely established in its new home.

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