Black Stars Beckon (GM Reference)


Strange Aeons

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I'm using that angle (with Winter as the one tgat points it out) to express the alien nature of outer gods. Those slain by XD disease, or,sacrificed to Star Stelae, rtc, are melded with Carcosa, bypassing the regular natural cycle


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So my group finished this on Friday!

I made some changes to the final section. For one, I moved the Shrike Worms into the mist around the asylum. Which is good that I planned that, because as the party was moving through the mist TO the asylum, one of the party asked "Wait, weren't there horrible things in this mist?" Yes, yes there were.

The party actually really enjoyed moving through the asylum as it existed before they altered it. When they realized the state it was in they commented "We can fix all our past mistakes! Don't help the doppelgangers! Don't heal the enemy. DON'T TRUST THE DOG!" They also joked that the weird eye, which they found as loot in the first book and the party witch STILL had, would transform into the final boss.

Next I reskinned the Bythos Archon to being The Tatterman. Renamed its abilities to something Tatterman appropriate, but didn't actually change them at all. The group seemed to like facing it down. After he was defeated, he collapsed into a mist that started to enter their sleeping alternate selves. The party slayer immediately went to wake himself up, and then the party got to witness themselves starting their adventure.

At the tower I had moved the Brairstone Witch down to the second level, and moved the level 14 cleric to the top with Lowls. Then I changed the cleric into Weiralei, the Denizen of Leng that has been plaguing the party, though kept her a level 14 cleric. I figured it would be more thematic for the last fight to include someone they knew rather than a witch they'd never really interacted with.

I though they'd fight the witch-lich and the cultist rogues as they went up the tower. They did not.

As soon as I finished the initial box text for the tower, the group decided to just fly up to the roof ><. Just in case this happened, I prepared two hand outs. One that showed the entire map that the party would see as they flew. The other was that map superimposed over a complete Yellow Sign. I was thrilled that as I showed the group the first handout followed by the second the group witch said "Hey, that kinda looks like a... DAMMIT!" The witch and the bard then proceeded to miserably fail their saves.

So the group lands of the roof, I read the description, show them the enemies, start playing "The Final Countdown" on the Roll20 music player, and the fight starts. The party witch blasts her own party with Storm Bolts, and the Bard starts buffing the bad guys. The Cleric gets the dominate off the Witch, and the Slayer shoots the bard down. Then Lowls finished the bard off (and I send the bard a handout with the Seeded Creature template and tell her she gets up in 6 rounds.) A few rounds later, the cultist rogues and the Briarstone Witch join the party.

It was really touch and go, and a few more party members almost died, their cleric barely keeping everyone up. But at the end the party prevailed! And the bard stood up just as the fight ended. She used her insanely high bard bluff to convince the party that it was totally her Vampire Corruption that was the reason she wasn't dead.

Then they summoned some angels to hand over the Necronomicon, which surprised me, since the party witch had already fallen to Chaotic Evil through her Accused Corruption and I thought there was no way she'd give that book up. But it was actually her idea, she didn't trust herself with it.

So the party Interplanetary Teleported back to Golarion and went their separate ways. The cleric sold off all his gear and built a temple to Shelyn in Thrushmoor where he stayed for the rest of his life. The Fighter went home to his 3 wives and 9 kids in Absolam. The changeling witch went to hunt down and kill her mother, then fell to her corruption and became a hag herself. The bard eventually became the new host for Xhamen-Dor. And the Slayer, possessed by the ghost of Upianshe, dedicated the rest of his life to hunting down and slaying the bard.

It was a wild ride and a great adventure! Much appreciating to the writers and to other people on this board for great ideas in running it! Everyone had a blast! Though as exhausting as running campaigns can be leaves me glad its over, I'm also sad that it's over.


After a GREAT roleplaying interaction with the Pallid Mask, I altered the order of tge adventure, sending them instantly to Thrushmoor and erasing them from existence after they refused to «bend the knee».

Btw, this is one of the best scenes I've ever played in an RPG, the shock value was incredible, my players were in awe.

So... after they started FEARING the Pallid Mask and his Reality Altering powers, I have decided that the Pallid Mask deserves to be the final fight, and thus, need extra oomph and shock effect, because the CR17 won't work as a final boss of an AP, specially vs a well rounded team of 6 lvl 16 characters.

I'm thinking about giving him a mythical level (to get two actions), but not sure which else could he have.

Things like Maze, Greater Mindscape, Vision of hell, or Weird, are good powers to represent his alien nature and reality warping ability. Not sure what else I can give him. Adding Weirelai might work, as henchmen always help «solo» type bosses. Using Hastur as a template, I could give him a few extra SLA, such as Quickened Feeblemind.

Anyone has any good suggestions?


Play up the reality warping by jacking 5Es lair actions that boss monsters have. Basically a free action at Initiative 10 from a small list that's premade and changes the board and terrain state.

Let him shift the board, warp them to corrupt versions of places they've been, illusions and mirage arcana, make the players guess what is real and what isn't. Have the ritual call in Byakees each round and have him call up simulacrae of your NPC allies over the adventure (Winter, the Sages from your boat ride, The Yellow King, the Nethyians, Mother Grimmoon, Erich, etc).

I already have the plan that the final encounter has a yellow mist about up to ankle height and his (in my case Ariadnahs) first action if to majestically sweep it away, revealing a Yellow Sign on the entire floor.


I have been thinking about this. I think the Stranger needs to get at least +3 to CR as a boss to become a threat vs a decently (but not extreme) optimized group of 6 lvl 16 characters. I'm going to give him the Agile Simple Mythic template, and Advanced Template, at the very least. Probably will need to raise his AC, and touch AC, or otherwise he'll go down in one full round action. I have an an alchemist in my group that do a lot of damage vs touch AC, and the magus and inquisitor can also attack vs touch AC in a given round, with the magus being able to dimension door-full attack. 270 hp with touch AC 16 won't cut it. Also, he lacks any way to avoid improved invisibility, which makes him mostly a sitting duck at this levels. I thought about adding Worm that Walks template (or a modified version, based on those stats) to reflect the fact that, under the robes, he's of alien nature. However, Worm that Walks takes x1.5 damage from alchemist bombs, and that's not good for a BBEG in my campaign. Maybe I could just swap his stats with Cassilda's, to make him last longer, as a final boss should do.

I think I'm going to give him Greater Create Mindscape, which will work well as the Reality Warped lair. He'll trap them in some kind of "mirror dimension" or similar weird dimension, like endless stairs, or a cube cell with gravity toward each wall or such. Maybe making it change between mindscapes whenever you reach certain milestone, such as a number of rounds. He can make the dreamscape harmless, so no physical damage can be transferred back to reality (this helps him, since he can do charisma drain and other mental damage), while making the PC to spend resources trying to beat him, not knowing (probably) that it's a mindscape. As a bonus track, if I make him change the mindscape 2-3 times, at least one of those mindscapes could have Dead Magic, which WILL be something my players will fear. Normally Dead Magic zones aren't a great idea in my opinion because it frustrates wizards and other full casters without anything they can do about it. But here, with a turn limit, in a certain "stage" of a bigger fight, within a mindscape, might work. It will certainly crush my wizard's hope, making him (briefly) realize that the Pallid Mask is right, and there's nothing he can do to avoid defeat, because the Herald of Hastur works on a higher level, warping reality. This works well with the nihilism of Hastur, the inevitability of lovecraftian horror, and the feeling of "this is not how the Universe is supposed to work" that this genre should inspire.

I still have a few weeks to prepare for this, probably won't end until after christmas. But I want to make this an epic, memorable fight that honors the great roleplaying encounter we had with The Phantom of Truth.


Thoughts on if Ariadnah (plus her Ratling), The Pallid Mask, and Lowls all together would be too much for an at least average optimized party and possibly more optimized?


Thinking about it, maybe giving the Pallid Mask some of the traits that Hooded Harbinger have (making him, basically, the quintaessential Hooded Harbinger) could work well, better than Worm that Walks or other templates.

There are already lots of similar things, as Hooded Harbingers have:
Prophetic Utterance (which thematically works similar to Horrific Revelance, even if the in-game effect is different)
Manifest Yellow Sign (the Pallid Mask can actually cast Yellow Sign as SLA)
Thematically, Terrible Visage (although the Pallid Mask doesn't have this, in the original story, knowing that his face wasn't a mask produced a similar insanity effect)

Things that Hooded Harbinger have, and can help The Phantom of Truth, are:
Constant See Invisibility
Profane Reek (CHA to AC as deflection bonus, plus mind fog aura)
Freedom of movement.

This, plus Advanced Template and Agile Mythic template, plus 2 or 3 spells like abilities such as Greater Create Mindscape, Frightful Aspect, and Prediction of Failure, might give him enough to give them a difficult evening, without becoming Rocket Tag. He can mess with them without being overpowering.


Hubaris wrote:
Thoughts on if Ariadnah (plus her Ratling), The Pallid Mask, and Lowls all together would be too much for an at least average optimized party and possibly more optimized?

Probably not, if they are played as they come in the adventure. However, I think Hastur (or "this is just like Hastur but we can't use Hastur or we'll kill everybody") is the quintaessential "Solo boss" fight. I know this kind of fights are hard to pull off in PF because of action economy, but I want to try.

I'm going to put Ariadnah, the Star Seed and Weirelai again all together, I think.

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8

IIRC, I gave the Pallid mask full spellcasting as a wizard based on his hit dice, and piled a couple mythic tiers on to give him the archmage “swift action cast whatever spell you want” power.

Of course, I also kept Xhamen-Lowls in the fight to take some of the heat off him. If I were building him as a solo monster, I like Hubaris’ suggestion of using something like Lair actions.


How does XD's Fungal Snare ability work?
It's a ranged attack (with 3 shots), that makes the target subject to Dread Decay and Grab.

Grab produces the grappled condition. Is XD also grappled? does he has to spend standard actions to keep the target/s grappled? If not... do the grappled target get free? Or is he forced to make a grapple check to get free? If so, vs what? XD CMD?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

There's a thread in the main Strange Aeons thread called "What if the PCs dies?" I have a question I'd love the community's input on...

Spoiler:

How have people dealt with the time loop end to the AP where some or all (TPK) the original PCs from the asylum have died?

Seems like a really cool scene and would hate to have to ditch it.

For info, I've not had a TPK yet, but have lost one PC and definitely see the potential for more given how deadly the first few books can be and the nature of the AP in general.


I only had a permanent casualty, a player died right in the Assylum. Was replaced by the guy being tortured by the doppleganger doctor, so we simply assumed this new character was also part of the story, his mind drowned in Mad Poet's Oasis and all of that.

Beyond that, est way to deal with ot is to use Raise Dead. Winter is a good source for it if no PC has the spell.

The Dream Journal of The Pallid Seer is a very good and thematic magic item too.


Shadowfane wrote:

There's a thread in the main Strange Aeons thread called "What if the PCs dies?" I have a question I'd love the community's input on...

** spoiler omitted **

The first thing that came to my mind: What if you picture the original party in the cells and while the fight is moving on slowly let fade away the characters who are not among the suvivors of this AP switching them with the new ones. The more the perished ones fade away, their successors come into existence.


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We finished this wonderful AP last week.

Last book was pretty good. I made a few changes to fit my group better, but I liked it, specially the vampire ball.

One change I did was moving the time travel to the begining of the book. That made The Phantom of Truth a recurring villain, and a fearful one. Players didn't know what else could he do (time travel without a Save is pretty scary). The Phantom also made an appearence in Avaric's Manor, and I made him dissapear one hour (so the midnight was closer)

After Thrushmoor Nexus (where Weirelai replaced the random Cleric because recurring villains are cool) I made them fight the Phantom of truth, beefed up with a Mythical level and making him advanced abd making the truth whispering ability work like prediction of failure.

After an epic fight, with everybody insane except the Magus (who had Talons of Leng), the last standing PC managed to kill the Harbinger of Hastur, with only a couple of Cha points remaining.

However, in an unexpected turn of events, Hastur himself appeared into the scene, and told them everything that happened was just a test to find a new Harbinger. He told them that their souls where already his property, because all of them weared the yellow sign (back in the Assylum, to decieve cultists), and all of them took his money, wore his robes (specially the players who used the Unspeakable's Vestment and Weirelai's armor), and dinned at his table (im Avaric's manor). More importantly, they _wanted_ to be his Herald. This was a bluff from my part, as I wasn't sure if any player would accept. However, Hastur told each of them a reason to be part of Carcosa in exchange of saving thrushmoor snd the life of everyone else in the group, based on character's flaws and campaign traits. The power hungry wizard, the faith shakened inquisitor, the avid of knowledge magus, even the paladin of Torag, always looking to sacrifice himself for the grater hood of others. All of them could have reasobs to stay. Abd in fact, several decided to (Winter was my backup plan). The magus was shocked when, after he said «we don't want your gifts» Hastur replied «ah...but you di» and the Inquisitor said «he is right».

Later, in Thrushmoor, a year after the adventure, the group is cheering for the bictory abd mourning the fallen, when they overhear a conversation. Two studebts of Lepdist University are talkibg about sonething they found in a book. A name. Xhamen Dor.

And thus the heroes understand the undeniavle truth that mete mortals cannot stop the unstoppable force of oblivion, working to end the universe since the begining of universe itself.

Because you cannot kill them, as it is not dead what can eternal lie. Yet with Strange Aeons, even Death may die.


I was wondering, liches need to use Craft Wondrous Item to create their phylactery according to the template, but Ariadnah doesn't seem to have that feat listed. I could just hand-wave it, but I was curious if CWI was actually necessary or if I was missing something?

Dark Archive

So I have half an idea floating around. My group is nearing the end of book 5, and while I started off with a few extra emphasized Briarstone Witch references, they've been not existent for a couple of books. The party began with a pair of changeling twins who even without their memory loss never knew their mother. The half formed idea is to some how make the Briarstone Witch responsible, but that is about as far as I got. Any suggestions?


Interesting Thought.

My first but was that the briarstone witch is no hag, but she could defenitly be in cohort with her. Maybe the ambassador hag from their dreamquest has a connection to their mother. How did they got the Soulstone? If the stone was stolen, the ambassador might be out for revenge. And another maybe could be that your changelings caught the attention of their mother during that event.

She could have struck a deal with mother Ariadna to get hold of her offspring again.

This might be a very great and wonderfull roleplay experience. The ultimate showdown with your creator.

Dark Archive

They fought for the Soulstone, though they definitely had some fun moments trying to figure out if she was their mother. It is definitely possible for the Briarstone Witch to have manipulated events to lead to their birth. I think the trick is how to get some of that reveal in, or at least hint at it before the final encounter. Maybe I can drop some hints in the Necronomicon the party Wizard has been studying that thing like crazy...


Davor Firetusk wrote:
They fought for the Soulstone, though they definitely had some fun moments trying to figure out if she was their mother. It is definitely possible for the Briarstone Witch to have manipulated events to lead to their birth. I think the trick is how to get some of that reveal in, or at least hint at it before the final encounter. Maybe I can drop some hints in the Necronomicon the party Wizard has been studying that thing like crazy...

What about nightmares) The night hag could haunt their dreams. The delusion madness could work in your favour as well.

Dark Archive

Finished on Saturday night, and it was a very fun last session.
We did all of Paris and Thrushmoor. First a general comment I lost control of the mood early-on and instead of true horror we ended-up more with Army of Darkness. We all had fun, but I figure that is worth knowing. Anyway Paris was very entertaining in that fashion from a role-playing perspective. The highlight came during the ritual. Rather annoyed at getting ambushed everytime they did a ritual they went ahead and dropped a Prismatic Sphere (I let them go to 17th level prior to the final session) and a Control Winds around that. I thought about it for half a second, chuckled to myself and said sorry guys but we still need to roll initiative. The sphere did a lot of damage to the bhole, but it almost lived long enough to Awesome Blow a PC into the Prismatic sphere itself.

Like others I adjusted the Pallid Mask encounter, I turned it into a combat with both him and Weralai (back by popular demand). I adjusted the monologue to have them responsible for killing Queen Cassilda's form and actively trying to prevent the PCs from getting to the Asylum. Narratively it worked very well. Due to a terrible save role the Mask went out in the first round before doing anything.

In retrospect I should have prescripted the return to the asylum. My extemp was OK but could have been better. Resolvingthe time loop paradox worked out perfectly because the one PC who was not originally in the asylum was the one who actually woke up the PCs in their cells.

The final combat was the right level of difficulty, my efforts to put some dreams in helping to establish the Witch as a behind the scenes puppet master who had also orchestrated the birth on my changeling twins went off perfectly and got some more by in to the final combat.

The first round Maze spell helped to break-up my groups normal tactics and really turned the fight into a good battle of attrition. Eventually the frustrated cleric burned a wish scroll to get out of the maze as things were starting to look dire. Ultimately they pulled it out low on resources, but without anyone dropping unconscious.

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