Dance of the Damned (GM Reference)


Hell's Rebels

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My table needs to have a different encounter with the aboleth: it needs to have minions to even the action economy disparity. They absolutely clown single-enemies, because they impose so many save-or-suck saving throws that one gets through and then it just spirals from there. (Nerenn the dominated sea elf ended up prone, pinned, stunned, sickened, shaken, and euphoric.) I simply can't let them face the aboleth in a 6-1 battle at the end.

What other creatures would you give Menotheguro the Aboleth? Would he have traps or environmental conditions in his lair?


A few options occur to me: more draugr, skum (the skum from Book 2 were its minions, no reason it couldn't have more) or more dominated aquatic elves. The elves might pose a moral quandary for the pc's since the elves are not fighting of their own free will.

The other option would be to have the aboleth join the fights earlier, joining in with the shark or the Draugr Captain, or both rather than waiting for the pc's to get to its lair and dying all alone.


I'm pondering replacing the Fake!Barzillai bone devil with a lesser simulacrum, probably made by Zella. What do you think?


roguerouge wrote:
I'm pondering replacing the Fake!Barzillai bone devil with a lesser simulacrum, probably made by Zella. What do you think?

I think that sounds like a good idea - not sure on the combat capabilities of the simulacrum but the bone devil undergoing polymorph any object to be permanently changed into Barzillai's form always struck me as weird. And no one in Kintargo can cast that spell so Barzillai has to go back to some place like Egorian to get it. Which might prompt all kinds of question Barzillai would rather not answer. He should want to be as far from Abrogail's attention as possible.


Latrecis wrote:
roguerouge wrote:
I'm pondering replacing the Fake!Barzillai bone devil with a lesser simulacrum, probably made by Zella. What do you think?
I think that sounds like a good idea - not sure on the combat capabilities of the simulacrum but the bone devil undergoing polymorph any object to be permanently changed into Barzillai's form always struck me as weird. And no one in Kintargo can cast that spell so Barzillai has to go back to some place like Egorian to get it. Which might prompt all kinds of question Barzillai would rather not answer. He should want to be as far from Abrogail's attention as possible.

I'm working in 5e which has some interesting problems regarding some of the plans, which will make this reveal amazing when it happens in my game. I'm running it as there's an expensive and complicated ritual to make True Polymorph permanent (True Polymorph does work for this situation, Cizmekris just becomes weaker and loses a lot of his defences in human form). I'm going to be putting information of the ritual in the Records Hall alongside the other rituals the PCs find there to explain why a bone devil was polymorphed for more than an hour at a time instead of having a small army of wizards who can cast True Polymorph. The reveal I am ecstatic to have happen is when they think they've finally killed Thrune only for him to polymorph back into a bone devil and have phase 2 of the fight begin.


Lesser Simulacrum version of Fake!Barzillai is kind of boring, but possibly effective. He basically can only swing his mace and make saves. With bane, power attack, and 2 judgments (+2 profane to attacks and saves): heavy mace +15/+10 (1d8+13+2d6) and saves at 15/11/18. But he can't heal, can't teleport to the vampire surprise, and can't counter spell casting. The ice devil will be more tactically important for battlefield control.


How have people run the Aristocrat Alliance section?
James admits I think on the first page of this thread that it suffered from a lack of space

Is the intention that each check is made by one person or a full party aid other? (With 5 people I will need to potentially increase the DCs if the latter is true)

The "discovery" check of Knowledge Nobility seems far too low a DC for level 7+ if anyone has Knowledge Nobility (I think adding background skills is probably my issue here but any party with a bard, wizard or investigator in the normal system can probably get these easily)

Unlimited tries with little negative consequences and no obvious time limit just make this seem more like something flavorful (and free experience) as long as the PCs want to pursue this...

Am I misinterpreting? How did this go for others?

*

This section is screaming out for a fleshing out using the intrigue rules - so multiple successes required. Discovery checks to find out what checks are required to gain influence , etc

However these events are usually restricted into "social" rounds limiting the attempts. There isn't an obvious conceit for this here apart from adding some way of restricting Greens access and making the social rounds be connected to days / weeks and limited (probably arbitrarily) by the coming masquerade

*

On that note how what kind of time period gap has passed for most people's groups between the Start of Book 3 and the Ruby Masquerade?

Thanks


Let us know if you do something with the aristocrats and the intrigue system! I've not seen anything on that thus far...


I didn't use them as the players had worked on a couple of the alliances earlier, because I wasn't using the rebellion mechanic, and because there's a similar enough thing in book 5.
The discovery check should be low as it's not difficult to figure out where alliances lie.
Sure, the book doesn't list a negative impact of failing, but you would figure that if the PCs failed to impress a time or two the noble would consider them kind of useless and wouldn't want to back them.

Book 3 spanned 2 months and 5 days for my group.


It is my intention but i need to come up with a way of adding limiting factors

Every influence encounter I have seen has a way of limiting the checks that can be made.
They also usually have non intrigue encounters mixed in

My best guess at the moment is researching court of the coin and doing something with that

The logistics are certainly tricky with the Kintargo nobles. Especially 1 book after a dinner and in the same as a ball as I can’t realistocally create another version of either of those events

Another option could be a theatre of the real at the Sarinis but I don’t think the other families would be into that ...


So the book 1 appendix mentions the court of the coin meets but not when, where and how

I suppose the most likely is dinners and hunts?

It may take some contrivance to get PCs invites to such events. I do have on PC as an illegitimate Sarini (struggling with that as he wanted his father to be the Sarini and the head is a woman ) and another a run away Tanessen . These could be leveraging points

That would also force some way of having them try and bluff or distract the family connections. Or maybe they will try and seek an alliance with a pro Thrune faction through a reconciliation (when that isn’t possible)

I still want to try and have it play out over weeks which makes having the PCs there even more challenging. The “court” is now only 8 people so that plus 5 PCs would be weird unless there are a bunch of hangers on (which I assume there must be)

A few further considerations:

- exactly how much authority do they have? I am kind of assuming they can propose decrees and legislation to Barzillai.

Ignoring how he actually runs things i assume the mayor isn’t an absolute ruler on paper. As in I assume the previous one wasn’t ? I won’t claim to have any idea how mayors actually work in real life so that is something to investigate

- officially Rexus would be a vote on the court (and maybe even a deciding one). But he is not supposed to be alive. That is an interesting wrinkle to work with

I will continue to think on this but if anyone has any nuggets of info that can help then i would appreciate it


Regarding the boat trips - are they supposed to trigger the Coastal random encounters ? Or just overland?

I suppose I could just show the beasties rather than make them all fights

Some of the things could also work in with the Alliance stuff I want to try and write

What have other people done? I seem to recall when I previously asked about random encounters they were generally ditched after book 2. I just don’t think some of the long travel should be completely uninterrupted


Lanathar wrote:

So the book 1 appendix mentions the court of the coin meets but not when, where and how.

I suppose the most likely is dinners and hunts?

The Lord-Mayor doesn't let them meet, which is why. They have no authority under the current regime. The prior mayor, as an elected person, had to court the Court. But this one? One of his first acts was to murder and disband the 9th noble house, the Victocoras. Just before that, they canceled the contract for the Vashnarstills to import from their own barony, which has to have a severe impact on their finances (DoD, inside cover). That's as clear a warning to know their place as you can get. There's now a 4/4 split in allegiance, so even if they weren't intimidated by House Thrune, they would be doubtfully able to propose anything anyway.

The lodge is in The Greens G4. The Counting House: This squat stone building, originally the site of Kintargo’s first moneylender, has served as a meeting lodge for the Court of Coin for many generations.

Note that the Dead in the Deep sequence takes place in Aulamaxa's territory. (I also made her a Shelynite worshipper, given the Archbaroness' interest in opera.)

Note that Baroness Jarvis is a secret Cayden Cailean worshipper who has a rep for fighting goblins and trolls in her youth.


So how does he stop them meeting ? So they don’t have social function etc?

That hampers my idea somewhat . I guess I can have them in smaller groups. Then it would make more sense for the PCs to be there

It currently doesn’t suggest how the PCs are able to pitch up to the nobles and have an audience in the first place. If they accept the award ceremony at the end of book 2 then it is an easier sell. But when they get the choice to accept or reject the idea of winning allies hasn’t been floated (but an NPC can suggest it I suppose )


Yeah, it's a player problem though. I think this is one of those cases where you let the players brainstorm and you make some on the spot adjustments as to what makes sense.


Did the Aboleth successfully dominate anyone’s party members? I can't help but wonder what would happen if it was then forced to flee. Would it want its servant with it?


They powered up with protection vs evil, as advised by the elven shaman. Did nab a familiar though.


In that case I have some real issues with the CR/challenge of this entire section

The elf ranger seems to be one CR too high as the permanent sickened condition accounts for -1 CR

The zombie shark seems to be a waste of time as a solo staggered villain with one attack

The draugr seem unlikely to hit against even moderately well built parties

And then a solo main villain whose most powerful ability is removed from it - and it doesn’t know so it wastes rounds as written.

I can obviously look to make adjustments. But I was just interested in how this was for others. It seems like the disadvantages of water is overplayed at this stage given access to water breathing and the spells that give a swim speed


Lanathar wrote:
In that case I have some real issues with the CR/challenge of this entire section

I did make a lot of adjustments here.

Lanathar wrote:
The elf ranger seems to be one CR too high as the permanent sickened condition accounts for -1 CR

I boosted that ranger to level 10 and he got absolutely clowned by my table. Action economy starts getting very important at this level. In particular, his saves were all suboptimal and he ended up paying for that dearly. My table specializes in attacking saves, but it sounds like yours specializes in direct damage.

Lanathar wrote:
The zombie shark seems to be a waste of time as a solo staggered villain with one attack

Absolutely. Put him in the room with the aboleth. It was veiled by the aboleth as just another dead body floating in the final cave. And, as a zombie, it doesn't have the shark's requirement to swim at all times. It can be commanded to stay perfectly still.

Also: he's got DR/slashing, which is amazing underwater.

Lanathar wrote:
The draugr seem unlikely to hit against even moderately well built parties

Yeah, I doubled their numbers, slapped an advanced template on them, lumped them together in one group. They didn't do much damage, not even the captain, but they did absorb resources and give the aboleth time to watch what the party could do. That's really all I want out of mooks.

Lanathar wrote:
And then a solo main villain whose most powerful ability is removed from it - and it doesn’t know so it wastes rounds as written.

See my notes elsewhere on the board for my changes to its tactics. I added a lot of illusions and changed the back room by adding layers of illusionary walls and ceilings and floors.

I also added one of these things to the Aboleth room. Its role was to crawl towards the choke point hallway connecting the two main rooms, where the party inevitably bunches up after they activate the disguised zombie shark. Behind layers of illusions, it gets above the party, vomits its skeletons, and they do the damage.

Because I changed the skeletons to be exploding skeletons. And that led to the chain reaction of damage--one skeleton set off the next, and the next and the next...

It was a good combat.


My party is a good mix. Some great direct damage dealers, notably he Kineticist (especially underwater) but also a witch with slumber, evil eye, protective luck and fortune (and very good defences due to a paranoid player) and a cavalier/Mesmerist (for devoted muse) so there is the stare and feinting debuffs

So will saves get clowned upon and their saves are all great and further boosted (and then even moreso by the Milani channel feat that gives short term heroism)

Are your aboleth tactics in this thread or another. I was tempted to buy a dominated elf Kineticist for some taste of own medicine and a moral quandary

Action economy is more of a problem that usual due an extra player at times

The ranger might be better off if they end up in the water and I give boon companion for his companion

The draugr I was tempted to make all “captains” because the nausea will be a waste of time at that DC at this level but negative levels are no joke (and there doesn’t appear to be a save unless I have misread)

It would seem like a properly played illusion focused aboleth and some allies will make my players rage. And that would be a win for me. Their damage output and debuffing is so high that it is tough to balance certain combats (especially slumber and to a lesser extent other hexes if the witch has enough blockers to keep layering them up)


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I am also desperately trying to add to the unconventional nature of this book and its challenges to stop my group just swaggering through combats which they would do as written

Thankfully there is already :

- banquet skill challenge
- aristocrat skill challenge
- masquerade ball skill challenge
- dominated elf opponent for morale quandary
- illusion magic
- trying to save citizens during the unmasking

Adding in:

- maybe more dominated elves
- expanding the aristocrat stuff to more influence based rules
- in line with the above adding some unique social events with some wrinkles e.g

> a boar hunt with a chase and restrictions on how the board should be fought
> a jolly boat ride where they are attacked and the boat capsized by sea drakes (another rescue based scenario if I can figure a simple way of doing the mechanics for the guests)

*

A couple of asides :

1. should they be triggering random encounters when traveling by boat to vyre or the elves? Is the idea that burning a favour eliminates this?

2. How do they raise jillia? My understanding is only the philosopher stone oil of life will work. But that is DC35 as an artifice (so no identify) and my group can’t hit that

Or does raise dead work once staked ?


Lanathar wrote:
Are your aboleth tactics in this thread or another. I was tempted to buy a dominated elf Kineticist for some taste of own medicine and a moral quandary

Before Combat Menotheguro casts false life on itself before entering combat.

Veil: mix of tightly bound sea elves to “rescue” and a few corpses
Programmed image: have “summoned” sharks, have programmed image of skum waiting with aimed crossbows from below the floor illusion
Programmed image: Have the ghosts of the corpses attack when the first corpse is touched, gurgling their recriminations and pain which is speech permitted
Project image: first placed within reach of tentacles, then placed behind illusory wall, then placed in front of ooze
Cast attack spells with project image:
• Casters: dispel magic and pain strike
• Melee: dominate monster, ghoul hunger, and ray of enfeeblement
• Area effect: hypnotic pattern (no verbal component), wracking pain 30’ each other, lighting bolt vs. lines,
Buffs: shield AC, protection vs. good saves,

Illusionary walls, floors, and ceiling. Multiple layers.
• Outer real wall has writhing undead tentacles via mirage arcana
Have shark veiled as sea elf with mouth stitched shut swim to them and attack then programmed image of summoned “real” sharks


Thanks for this. I will need to do my research on illusion magic

Luckily I will be likely to have a few sessions as I am assuming random encounters on the way to acisazi and then there are the pre-aboleth encounters

My players are grumbling a little about underwater combat but I can't help but think it is because it makes things difficult . Perhaps also they effectively haven't had a chance to fully operate their level 6 powers due to the water restrictions

I feel sure they are going to get very frustrated with illusion magic but, again, I think it is because they don't seem to actually be fond of a proper challenge at times (perhaps I am being harsh)

*

How did the trip from acisazi out to the drowned eye go for people. Without the use of a favour it is written to be a difficult trip. I would assume they couldn't use their portable boat if no one has profession sailor due to the challenges of the water and reef

Does it say anywhere what strength the water is both on the way to the drowned eye and once in it? If it has I have missed it

Also what rules am I supposed to be looking to for the long distance swim should they do that?

Swim fins give 10 feet speed which is 20 feet per round unless hustling? Are there extra exertion penalties supposed to be applied for water. The overland travel part doesn't say as I don't think swimming for miles is usually expected

I suppose it is only important if fatigue comes into it. But since it is based on non lethal damage and gone once that is healed (and they have a cure light wounds wand) I am leaning towards just deducting some charges from that wand...

Pressure damage could present an intriguing challenge as there will be several saves for that given the time it takes to descend and it is every minute. It will be kind of a very slow bleed effect...


Make them use their favor. After this book the Captain's favor don't really matter anyhow.


Lanathar wrote:


My players are grumbling a little about underwater combat but I can't help but think it is because it makes things difficult . Perhaps also they effectively haven't had a chance to fully operate their level 6 powers due to the water restrictions

Yep, back to back does mean they go a while before a real test of their new combat capabilities, especially since there's a lot of skill-based challenges in this book.


GM PDK wrote:
Make them use their favor. After this book the Captain's favor don't really matter anyhow.

I can’t compel them to do this but hopefully they will choose this


Captain gave them how many favors? if it's just one or two, I could get their hesitation. If it's multiple favors, I would go out of my way as a GM to point out to them that this 'obstacle would be easily overcome if one would say, happen to have any favors owing from someone who owns a ship'.

:P


Lanathar wrote:
I can’t compel them to do this but hopefully they will choose this

That's your choice, but if you DO have them navigate this channel on their own, I would start by asking them to roll 'Profession: sailor' to know how to prepare for the journey. If they don't have that skill, they will probably go for the favor.

If they don't, have them roll 'Knowledge: geography' to plot the course. Then have them roll 'Profession: merchant / Gather Info Diplomacy' to figure out if some boats at the docks are for rent. Then 'Profession: sailor' to know how many people needed to man that boat. Etc.

Try to imagine, in real-life, a group of idiots who never went at sea renting a boat... hint: it's not a pretty picture.


Figuring out minor semantics of a side-quest seemed really boring to me and not worth the effort.
To get from Kintargo to Acisazi my players used the folding boat, stayed within view of the shore, and had a single rank in Profession Sailor so I let them do it.
Oh, and one of the characters was using the Cloak of the Manta Ray for most of it so they were able to avoid any reefs.
To get from Acisazi to the Drowned Eye they used the Cloak again, and I think one of the players Altered Self into an aquatic elf and therefore had a swim speed to help guide the boat just in case.


Does the adventure assume the players arrive in the village are advised about protection spells and then rest to prepare?

I ask because I am a little irked that my group is prepping a rest (I did give them two random encounters on the boat trip) when they seem to have used 4/10 channels and the Kineticist internal buffer of burn (so the “free” burn that doesn’t hurt him)

I think I am just overreacting to the extreme caution and that if the book had meant for a raid over night they would have at least mentioned it

And they haven’t prepared the protection from evil and I can’t imagine many groups would have . Although there are enough Aboleth clues (but they failed knowledge to even know what one was until the absent PC showed up !)

I still am arching my eyebrow about them negating the most powerful ability of the Aboleth pre combat. Even my players think it is weird that a level one spell blocks it. Obviously that is core game rules so it is what it is

Boils down to this section almost being gimme XP (at least as written) in the form of some colourful encounters

Perhaps I am underestimating Aboleths and illusion magic...
We might be playing NYE so if the crew have some drinks along the way they could get very annoyed and confused by the illusions (especially if I used some of the suggestions above)

Does anyone know any comprehensive posts or details on how illusion magic actually works e.g. interactions etc

- Say for example the example mentioned of the shark being an elf with a stitched mouth. When it bites does the defender immediately knownwhat it is? Only if it fails a save ? What about the others nearby?

- And if an illusion makes “summoned“ sharks appear - is there a check that confirms it is or isn’t a conjuration spell?

- what does detect magic do?

I am sure I can cobble these answers together but I am hoping someone has done a guide...


Who would advise them about protection spells? No one in the village realizes that Nerrenn is being controlled. If the PCs figure out what's going on and cast Protection from Evil on him or dispel the magic he can explain what happened but the PCs would have to have a way to dispel or suppress the mind control. If they figure out he's being controlled and can't get rid of it but think to use Protection from Evil, good for them.
Does it make the fight easier? Yes. Being aware and prepared for an enemy usually makes things easier.

Let's look at reasons why they wouldn't rest for the night... Two random encounters on the boat trip, unless they were both on the final day, they should likely be rested from at least one of them. (I'm assuming you had it take more than, like, half a day to get to the village from Kintargo.)
Depending on what time of day they arrive at the village and how many of their resources they used will make a difference. My group rested close to the village. I think in the cove that the book says Captain Sargaeta stops in. This had them arrive at the village fully rested, well before noon, so they headed out almost right away without preparing new spells. If your group is mostly/fully rested and it's early enough in the day there should be some pressure put on the PCs to go out and solve the problem quickly (most likely from the PCs wanting to end the mind-control of Nerrenn or because the Speaker, Athannah, is begging them to solve this problem as quickly as possible). If the group decides to rest anyways because "we're almost fully rested but we need Protection from Evil" have some draugr attack the village (have them start somewhere that the PCs are at least a few rounds away from so that they can hear the screams but won't get there in time to save everyone... have the draugr kill some of the Acisazi before the PCs can get there) to show the players that things happen if they wait. If they continue to wait, have the draugr come back in the middle of the night and either attack the PCs while they're sleeping or have them kill/capture more villagers.
HOWEVER! If they get to the village in the late afternoon it's fully understandable for them to rest for the night and I don't think any of the NPCs in town would blame them. The Drowned Eye is a cursed place that is treacherous to get to. Sending people out as night is approaching is foolhardy and near-suicidal so Athannah would likely suggest to them to rest for the night first.

As for Protection from Evil and illusions... it depends on the spell. Illusory Wall has the school of "illusion (figment)" and nothing (that I can see) says that figments are mind-effecting so the PCs would still see the fake wall as real. Mirage Arcana doesn't appear to be mind-affecting either. Neither is Persistent Image, Programmed Image, Project Image, Veil... it looks like Protection from Evil will only stop the Aboleth from controlling a PC and Hypnotic Pattern. (But maybe I'm missing something so don't quote me as scripture.)
The changes that you're making are things that you'll have to look into yourself as I don't know what spells you'll be using. But remember, Protection from Evil only prevents mind-effecting effects from an evil creature. If the Aboleth is controlling one of the Acisazi and that aquatic elf isn't evil the effects aren't automagically blocked.


The pc's should make decisions based on what they know. If the elves fear an attack is imminent and if Nerrenn has fled (and the pc's know/suspect he is being controlled) then the pc's should seriously consider heading out immediately, pending their overall "condition." If however, the pc's have "defeated"/overcome Nerrenn and the elves have been attacked in the past but have no idea when the next one will happen, the pc's should consider resting. Especially if they have cause to fear mental control and want protection from evil and don't have it available. I've never been a fan of having pc's attacked while resting unless they are being reckless (resting in obviously dangerous territory) or blatantly ignoring urgent danger (to themselves or others.) If the motivation is to keep them from resting to get better prepared for the next encounter (or punish them for doing that) that's going a bit too far and strains player trust the GM is running things fairly.

Keep in mind, we (GMs) know that the aboleth lair is only 2-3 encounters but the pc's/players don't know that. As far as they know, there could be some kind of multiple encounter "dungeon" involved where resting will be impossible, so getting to maximum capacity might be a great idea.

A few notes on protection from evil:
1. It only lasts 1 min/level (ditto on communal version) so the pc's can't cast it when they leave Acisazi and have it last until they encounter the Aboleth. They'll have to time it somewhat correctly. And unless they're using the communal version, that's a lot of spells to cover each pc. And the communal version doesn't last nearly as long.
2. It does nothing for illusions. Illusions do not possess or mentally control you - they change your perception of reality. The protection from evil spell description specifically calls out enchantment (charm) and enchantment (compulsion) as the type of effects blocked. An illusion might change why you make a decision, mental control takes your power to make decisions away. You would still get the +2 resistance bonus to any disbelieve check against an illusion from an evil caster.
3. There might be a gray area but I'd probably let PoE protect you from Hypnotic Pattern (as Warped Savant suggests) - being fascinated takes away your ability to act. But I think RAW might argue otherwise. Even so, the +2 resistance bonus applies to any save. I'd also observe its not a great tactic for the Aboleth even without PoE - it takes a standard action, it will only affect 2 pc's at most (12-18 HD) and requires concentration to keep it up more than 2 rounds - affecting its ability to concentrate on other illusions, etc.

On illusions:
1. Yes detect magic reveals illusions. Sort of. Remember it takes 3 rounds of concentration to find the school with a successful Knowledge Arcana Check. A lot to invest during combat. If someone is invisible - detect magic can tell there is magic in that square but it could be anything. If you concentrate for 3 rounds and they stay in place, you eventually might discover its illusion magic.
2. If an illusionary "thing" bites a pc, I would call that "interacting with the illusion" and give them a chance to disbelieve. IF the illusion was of something that can bite - shark made to look like an eel. If the shark was made to appear like a rock, then the illusion fails automatically. Rocks don't have teeth.
3. Remember, pc's do not get to disbelieve in an illusion unless they have reason to do so. So a cavern opening made to look like the surrounding rock doesn't get noticed unless the pc's search it for secret doors or otherwise touch it. If they are searching everything with Detect Magic, well good for them. But that takes time. Make sure all their other buffs run out much faster if they are scrutinizing everything at maximum thoroughness.
3. For more on illusions


Warped Savant wrote:

Who would advise them about protection spells? No one in the village realizes that Nerrenn is being controlled. If the PCs figure out what's going on and cast Protection from Evil on him or dispel the magic he can explain what happened but the PCs would have to have a way to dispel or suppress the mind control. If they figure out he's being controlled and can't get rid of it but think to use Protection from Evil, good for them.

Does it make the fight easier? Yes. Being aware and prepared for an enemy usually makes things easier.

Let's look at reasons why they wouldn't rest for the night... Two random encounters on the boat trip, unless they were both on the final day, they should likely be rested from at least one of them. (I'm assuming you had it take more than, like, half a day to get to the village from Kintargo.)
Depending on what time of day they arrive at the village and how many of their resources they used will make a difference. My group rested close to the village. I think in the cove that the book says Captain Sargaeta stops in. This had them arrive at the village fully rested, well before noon, so they headed out almost right away without preparing new spells. If your group is mostly/fully rested and it's early enough in the day there should be some pressure put on the PCs to go out and solve the problem quickly (most likely from the PCs wanting to end the mind-control of Nerrenn or because the Speaker, Athannah, is begging them to solve this problem as quickly as possible). If the group decides to rest anyways because "we're almost fully rested but we need Protection from Evil" have some draugr attack the village (have them start somewhere that the PCs are at least a few rounds away from so that they can hear the screams but won't get there in time to save everyone... have the draugr kill some of the Acisazi before the PCs can get there) to show the players that things happen if they wait. If they continue to wait, have the draugr come back in the middle of the night and either attack the PCs...

Doesn't book say that the speaker advises them on protection from evil. They get a really easy Sense Motive to work out the domination, tell her and then she tells them about the spells?

Have I got something wrong?

My group arrived at about mid day. I did put both fights on the same day but Elia and Cassius helped them significantly. And one PC showed up at the end so didn't use any resources on it

I find book 2 and book 3 inconsistent about how much the PCs should know. As written it is pretty much revealed as an Aboleth and he is named in Book 2. So the illusion of the elf with the Menutha name (or whatever it was) seems very transparent

It is useful to know about the protection for evil impact. I don't think my doubt was on that element - more how illusions work when interacting with them in general as I have limited exposure. As in how many people get to save after seeing someone react etc. I will go back to the main rulebook before the game for sure


Hunh.
I've been allowing my players to use Protection from Evil wrong... I thought it stopped all mind-affecting spells.
Well that's good to know!

As for punishing if the players think they should rest: Latrecis is right. (Maybe I expressed myself poorly, I don't know.)
Don't punish them for thinking there's time to rest. That's why I was suggesting that going there should come across as relatively urgent. (Especially if the group is relatively well rested.)


Warped Savant wrote:

Hunh.

I've been allowing my players to use Protection from Evil wrong... I thought it stopped all mind-affecting spells.
Well that's good to know!

As for punishing if the players think they should rest: Latrecis is right. (Maybe I expressed myself poorly, I don't know.)
Don't punish them for thinking there's time to rest. That's why I was suggesting that going there should come across as relatively urgent. (Especially if the group is relatively well rested.)

The spell description encourages some confusion because it doesn't explain the evil part until the last sentence in the paragraph about the mind-controlling effect. The sentence also suggests you might have been doing it right all along :) "This second effect only functions against spells and effects created by evil creatures or objects, subject to GM discretion."

On the punishment angle - I don't think either you or Lanathar meant it that way. If you read the posts wrong, you might come to that conclusion.


I quite like the idea of an attack in the night mainly against the village. After all the ranger has got away so I feel there should be some impact - but perhaps that impact is already built in by the fact the Aboleth knows there are a group of busy bodies and the ranger will be in the fight...

I am trying very hard to not present encounters here where just blowing through things is the answer . Both because it is another way of challenging my group (which seems too well built for the AP as written) beyond just making combats harder

It also foreshadows the final combat of the book where the wrinkle of citizens being killed around them is added

Beyond what is already written I am hope to expand the influence including adding a boar chase. Also a boat ride with some nobles with sea drakes capsizing the boat.

TryIng to make people think differently - notably because book 4 seems so of the climax for charging around and fighting things


Lanathar wrote:
I find book 2 and book 3 inconsistent about how much the PCs should know. As written it is pretty much revealed as an Aboleth and he is named in Book 2. So the illusion of the elf with the Menutha name (or whatever it was) seems very transparent

I read through both again and you're right it is confusing.

In Book 2: "The elves explain that Acisazi has come under an insidious assault by a what they believe to be an aboleth wizard. Their capture by the skum has confirmed these fears, for they now know their captors serve the same creature that has set its sights on their home—an aboleth necromancer named Menotheguro." (TotT, p.55) Yet, in D12 "The name “Menotheguro” is mentioned several times in cadences of awe and respect, but the messages do not make clear what this creature is." (TotT, p. 57.) And in D13, "Written in Infernal,the contract promises to draw upon the “resources of Master Menotheguro of the Drowning Eye” in order to achieve the devil’s freedom once the Master’s “mission to observe the air-breathers of Kintargo” has concluded." (TotT, p.59.)

In Book 3: "As for what the PCs may face in the Drowned Eye, Athannah is unsure. She knows of the contingent of draugr, of course, and she fears that the creature that has seized control of the undead is some sort of powerful necromancer. She confirms that an aboleth makes sense, but doesn't offer this as a theory on her own. If the PCs do suggest this possibility, she strongly recommends they utilize protection from evil at the very least to avoid being controlled by the monster’s domination attacks." (DotD, p. 15)

Weird for the Acisazi scouts to be clear about the name, class and race of the trouble from the Drowned Eye, but their leader doesn't know and doesn't speculate without prompting from the pc's. My view would be that the described information level for Athannah is appropriate for prior to dispatching the scouts for help. Once they return, the behavior of the skum, etc. should make it pretty clear an aboleth is involved. And it seems reasonable for her to know about and warn of the need for protection from evil (given the long standing enmity between aboleths and aquatic elves.)

As for the illusion of the elvish druid, it might fail or might not pending on what the pc's do to evaluate the projected image. Doesn't really cost the aboleth anything to try since it gets both project image and veil at will. It should definitely use the projected image to attack overly suspicious or hostile pcs' in an effort to keep them from entering its own chamber.


Warped Savant wrote:
Who would advise them about protection spells?
If the PCs don't already know, the elven druid Speaker should tell them.
Dance of the Damned Page 15 wrote:
As for what the PCs may face in the Drowned Eye, Athannah is unsure. She knows of the contingent of draugr, of course, and she fears that the creature that has seized control of the undead is some sort of powerful necromancer. She confirms that an aboleth makes sense, but doesn't offer this as a theory on her own. If the PCs do suggest this possibility, she strongly recommends they utilize protection from evil at the very least to avoid being controlled by the monster’s domination attacks.
The PCs should suspect this, given the presence of skum and the use of Aboleth writing in D12 by the skum leader in the basement of the Lucky Bones. Aava also suspects:
Aava, Page 55, ToT wrote:
The elves explain that Acisazi has come under an insidious assault by a what they believe to be an aboleth wizard. Their capture by the skum has confirmed these fears, for they now know their captors serve the same creature that has set its sights on their home—an aboleth necromancer named Menotheguro.

Knowledge planes or arcana should give clues about the aboleth's uses of mind control as well.

Dominate isn't even its best ability. That would be is scary mental stats combined with spells and access to illusions to prepare traps within traps within traps. Then, if all else fails, there's the fact that it's a good melee combatant.


Right! I forgot about all of the mentions of the thing in book 2 and the specifics of what is said in book 3... I ran those back in July or something and we're about to finish book 6 this week so a lot has happened between then and now.

Latrecis wrote:
The spell description encourages some confusion because it doesn't explain the evil part until the last sentence in the paragraph about the mind-controlling effect. The sentence also suggests you might have been doing it right all along :) "This second effect only functions against spells and effects created by evil creatures or objects, subject to GM discretion."

Oh, no.... I mean that I thought PfE stopped anything from an evil source that was [mind-affecting] from affecting a character, not the [charm] and [compulsion] listed in the spell. (And even with those two it's only spells that would control the character).

If I had been doing it correctly I think I would've killed characters a little more frequently in books 4-6 with Phantasmal Killer-types of things...


Latrecis wrote:
Lanathar wrote:
I find book 2 and book 3 inconsistent about how much the PCs should know. As written it is pretty much revealed as an Aboleth and he is named in Book 2. So the illusion of the elf with the Menutha name (or whatever it was) seems very transparent

I read through both again and you're right it is confusing.

In Book 2: "The elves explain that Acisazi has come under an insidious assault by a what they believe to be an aboleth wizard. Their capture by the skum has confirmed these fears, for they now know their captors serve the same creature that has set its sights on their home—an aboleth necromancer named Menotheguro." (TotT, p.55) Yet, in D12 "The name “Menotheguro” is mentioned several times in cadences of awe and respect, but the messages do not make clear what this creature is." (TotT, p. 57.) And in D13, "Written in Infernal,the contract promises to draw upon the “resources of Master Menotheguro of the Drowning Eye” in order to achieve the devil’s freedom once the Master’s “mission to observe the air-breathers of Kintargo” has concluded." (TotT, p.59.)

In Book 3: "As for what the PCs may face in the Drowned Eye, Athannah is unsure. She knows of the contingent of draugr, of course, and she fears that the creature that has seized control of the undead is some sort of powerful necromancer. She confirms that an aboleth makes sense, but doesn't offer this as a theory on her own. If the PCs do suggest this possibility, she strongly recommends they utilize protection from evil at the very least to avoid being controlled by the monster’s domination attacks." (DotD, p. 15)

Weird for the Acisazi scouts to be clear about the name, class and race of the trouble from the Drowned Eye, but their leader doesn't know and doesn't speculate without prompting from the pc's. My view would be that the described information level for Athannah is appropriate for prior to dispatching the scouts for help. Once they return, the behavior of the skum, etc. should make it pretty...

I am trying to work out when they would get a save against a projected image. So when it is casting spells - the spells are not illusions so I assume they believe it is real

What if I gave it shocking grasp? Would a save be allowed to know they were not touched by something real

And again if the “Druid” takes damage from say a ranged affect - I assume a save only for the person doing the damage as the thing might not react to the damage as expected? Or is close physical interaction needed?


As soon as they attack it by spell, missile weapon, or melee weapon they will get a save for interacting with the projected image. There's no need to gimp the use of the spell by doing shocking grasp or giving a save against the illusion for interaction with a real spell originating from the illusion, especially given your concerns about the encounter not being challenging enough as it is.


I'm not sure about RAW - and I think illusions can be controversial to define from RAW - but I try to keep it simple. Illusions spoof senses. Some are visual, some include sound, some include olfactory, some include touch - not sure whether any include taste, but lets assume some do.

If there is a good reason for a character to be aware of a sense the illusion doesn't cover the character discovers it's an illusion without a save.. Example: a visual only illusion of a squad of orcs marching down the road. If you're observing from a half-mile away, the lack of sound may not give anything away. If you're hiding in the ditch along side the road five feet away, the silent orcs are clearly false. If you're a ranger with Orc as a favored enemy and make a perception check to try to determine what tribe they are from (or something along those lines) you get a chance to disbelieve. This would be "interacting" with it.

A project image has visual, sound and olfactory manifestations but no touch (it's intangible.) So, characters that see it cast a spell with verbal and somatic components and have to make a save against lightning bolt have no reason to suspect anything is amiss - no chance to disbelieve. A character that shoots it or whacks it with a weapon (and hits) notices it is intangible - the illusion is clear to that character. If someone casts detect thoughts - no thoughts can be detected and no saving throw made by the target - the illusion is clear. I suspect there is no clear ruling on delivering touch spells but it's a touch delivery and the image can't touch anything so that seems to call for a save, if not automatic discovery.

I put considerable weight on this text from the Core Rulebook on illusions: "a character faced with proof that an illusion isn’t real needs no saving throw." So if you stick your hand through an illusionary wall without tactile components, you know immediately it is an illusion. If on the other hand there is physical substance to the illusion (typically from the shadow subschool) then touching the wall would be interacting and a save to disbelieve is called for.


The tactics in the book call for the image to cast spells and give the Aboleth magic missile. I assume it is fine to do that without setting of sensors otherwise it wouldn’t be mentioned

As a shadow does that mean a missile shot st it doesn’t simply go straight through and therefore a will disbelief is allowed? That seems to be what is being said

I tried suggesting a spin off using the menador PFS scenario and potential back up charscters as I didn’t want to deal with illusions on NYE :-P. After a few beers the group might get annoyed! Ha it will be fine I am sure

Did everyone play up the rules for pressure doing content damage? I note that pre aquatic adventures there is little to cancel this out. I am not keen on allowing AA purely due to the fact that the book as written after this instalment and the intention seems to be that it is an addition to the challenge. Now if they are forced to use up spells to counter it then I think I can live with it as it is resource sapping . As long as they don’t dig out obscure gear (although that won’t be available in acisazi)

What I do like is that even though there are only s few encounters they pretty much can’t turn back and they should be well aware as soon as the first combat starts that they may not be at full resources against the Aboleth


Lanathar wrote:

The tactics in the book call for the image to cast spells and give the Aboleth magic missile. I assume it is fine to do that without setting of sensors otherwise it wouldn’t be mentioned

As a shadow does that mean a missile shot st it doesn’t simply go straight through and therefore a will disbelief is allowed? That seems to be what is being said

I tried suggesting a spin off using the menador PFS scenario and potential back up charscters as I didn’t want to deal with illusions on NYE :-P. After a few beers the group might get annoyed! Ha it will be fine I am sure

Did everyone play up the rules for pressure doing content damage? I note that pre aquatic adventures there is little to cancel this out. I am not keen on allowing AA purely due to the fact that the book as written after this instalment and the intention seems to be that it is an addition to the challenge. Now if they are forced to use up spells to counter it then I think I can live with it as it is resource sapping . As long as they don’t dig out obscure gear (although that won’t be available in acisazi)

What I do like is that even though there are only s few encounters they pretty much can’t turn back and they should be well aware as soon as the first combat starts that they may not be at full resources against the Aboleth

I see my attempt to be clear only created confusion. And I mis-used the shadow subschool reference. My intention with that was to suggest some illusions have real, tangible manifestations and those are sometimes in the shadow subschool - example: shadow evocation. But I didn't pay attention to the fact that Project Image was also from the shadow subschool. But as regards my interpretation (which again may not be RAW) the spell description trumps - it specifically says the image is intangible, therefore some interaction that reveals that fact will show it is an illusion or image. So in your example, if someone magic missiles the projected image, the missiles target it and hit nothing, revealing it to be false, just like a melee attack against the image. This doesn't stop the image from functioning, the aboleth can keep using it. It might however make his story about being a ghost more implausible - knowledgeable players may know that magic missile is a force effect and should damage incorporeal creatures. (Stickler GM's could ask for a Knowledge - Religion check for the pc's to know that.)


Happy new year. So after all of my questions we didn’t quite get to the Aboleth

I did use an illusion to hide the zombie shark until it attacked which they actually liked. There wasn’t suddenly 6 PCs that session. I used this as a chance to mirror the Kineticist back at the group by placing and elf firing cold blasts with the shark. This terrified the group as they know the potential of hyrdokinesis. Probably a bit too far ...

At least they kind of appreciate how things shake down for me half the time!

Anyway they have got all the way to B3 and cleared it. The “ghost” has appeared and bluffed them . I changed the name used as I don’t believe the aboleth is stupid enough to use a shortened version of its own name against people actively looking for it

Here is my thing. Now I am thinking that far from seeming too easy even if I scale this down to how it is written in the book the party has a big problem on their hands.

For the record my changes included levelling up the ranger, giving him boon companion and favoured enemy human , adding two wizard levels to the Aboleth and factoring in ABP (but when hero lab puts that on the Aboleth it keys of HD and is very unpleasant and not really the intent I don’t think so I need to edit that)

As discussed there was a duration issue with protection from evil.

So:

- they are at the bottom
- kinetcist is on 26 HP with 2 negative levels
- the Aboleth is behind an illusionary wall that they have no reason to investigate
- no protection from evil has been cast yet
- the ranger is with the Aboleth

If i use half the potential of the Aboleth this gets ugly - fast. And I am not sure my group want me to send a soft ball there way

But combat has just ended . If I try and dominate one of them (and it would be the beginning of the next session) that could take someone out of the combat. And even if i don’t I could let them cast protection from evil and swim around until it wears off . Unless they instantly check all the walls it will fade away and we are back on dominate zone.

Have I missed something about the wall? Or have other people’s parties looked at and felt the walls?

And of course I could project an actual image of the Aboleth and try to eat some of their most powerful abilities - get the Kineticist to use its free point of burn from the buffer to unleash some kind of empowered composite blast fod 8d6+24 or so at absolutely nothing (i actually think it would do that and that i will too)

Maybe it’s tactics don’t include that because then it could be almost impossible to beat (amazing how quickly my opinion has changed)

I see them fleeing

*

What actually happens with the elves . I don’t recall seeing the plan for the sea bronze. Is that just as much a disruption to the chellish navy? What does he want it for

*

Long story short I now feel I can easily TPK my group with this Aboleth to the extent that not doing so seems like a massive soft ball...


Does the Aboleth somehow know that the group has Protection from Evil cast on them?

Also, as a warning about changing the name of the illusion... I ran the encounter with the fake elf as written and the players started to discuss how to get the village elder out to the drowning eye. I had to remind them of the name of the aboleth.
(And, while we're at it, why wouldn't he use a shortened version of its name? It's not as if the aboleth knows that the PCs have heard of it.)


Mine might have mentioned it to Nerenn ( I can’t remember)

My players are not going to fetch the Druid as she is so old so there isn’t a fear there

On Protection from Evil - my point is they do not have it cast yet as they were concerned with duration. They have just beaten the draugr and the Aboleth has been watching as per the AP

That is my concern - one dominate + Nerenn + Aboleth = TPK
It already looks rough anyway


I'm a bit confused. You boosted the Aboleth and Nerrenn because you thought the encounter would be a pushover for more than 4 pc's (and that seems logical.) But now that you have fewer pc's, you think the encounter might be too hard? First step - unboost the Aboleth and Nerrenn back to their original stats?

The Aboleth tried the druid illusion and it sounds like your pc's fell for it to some extent but they aren't going to get the old druid? What is their plan? If they aren't getting the druid, it sounds like maybe they didn't fall for it?

What was the pc's plan for protection from evil? One per pc? A communal version? Do the pc's know/suspect Nerrenn was dominated? If they hit him with a protection from evil, <boom> instant ally.

Your original analysis seems to hold - if the pc's get protection from evil up and thereby negate the Aboleth's dominate power, it's not that dangerous of a spell caster. Melee is another thing, of course. But while it's illusion powers are potent, they are not all that dangerous in a we've-rolled-initiative-now-do-something-deadly sense.

How much did your pc's learn about the Drowned Eye from the elves? Because B3 doesn't match the description of a font of necromantic magic nor have they yet seen the Aboleth. That should encourage the pc's to look around (thereby giving them the chance to spot the illusionary wall.


Lanathar wrote:

Mine might have mentioned it to Nerenn ( I can’t remember)

My players are not going to fetch the Druid as she is so old so there isn’t a fear there

On Protection from Evil - my point is they do not have it cast yet as they were concerned with duration. They have just beaten the draugr and the Aboleth has been watching as per the AP

That is my concern - one dominate + Nerenn + Aboleth = TPK
It already looks rough anyway

I didn't think my group would fall for it either.

And yeah, as Latrecis said, I'm confused too. You thought as written it was too easy, now you think it's too hard even though it doesn't sound like you've changed the last fight (but maybe you did change the fight, I don't know... I've lost track). But you think it will be too easy if they have Protection from Evil up so you don't want that to happen?

My suggestion is what it normally is... run it as written and if it's easy for the players (especially if it's made easier because they gathered information and came prepared) good for them! Reward them for using tactics.
If something looks like it's going to be too hard, run it as written and if the fight actually is too hard (or the dice turn on the players) either start fudging numbers, change things on the fly, or have the enemies use sub-optimal tactics if you want the fight to be a little easier.
If there's a situation written in the books that you don't know how the players will get out of, present it as written and let them figure out a solution. The GM is there to present the problem, it's up to the players to find the solution.


Ok so I have caused confusion by flip flopping

My original assessment is that things would be too easy before:

- properly reading the illusion rules
- understanding the situation as at the end of B3 what with timings etc

Nerenn I boosted because he is garbage as written and would not hit anyone as he is sickened. And his shark is worse. I noted that at the very least sickened is -1 CR that has not been accounted for.

Aboleth I wanted to make up for his most powerful ability being negated (in theory)

But my point is they have beaten the draugr in B3 and spoken to the Druid .
They believed her bluff about being a dead Druid but do not intend to do what she has asked

But they are now at the bottom of the drowned eye with an Aboleth staring at them through an illusionary wall and do not know where the thing is. No one has protection from evil on at this stage as they don’t know about duration

I probably need to grant them some kind of check to realise this cannot possibly being the source of the energy

So as written the projected Druid would just try to dominate one of them and make them sit out the fight (which given we kick off with this combat would suck for a player unless a PC doesn’t turn up)

And if the elf does that they panic and still don’t know where the enemy is. (Unless they don’t know someone has been dominated)
Can I dominate someone and have them not know and allowed to act normally until they find the Aboleth?

It comes down to whether I give them time to cast buffs after beating B3. I am not convinced an intelligent Aboleth would but it is not clear

As and aside: if the cleric casts protection from evil on Nerenn or a dominated ally does it auto surpress it? Or do they get a will save?

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