PC wasting time, during the "siege" of Thisteltop


Rise of the Runelords


Nearly first time DM here, ive got a pretty new group on my hand(we have started around a year ago)and i picked up RotRL during christmas as our first AP.

The PCs reached Thisteltop around two Sessions ago, and after getting split up and heavily damaged they set the labyrinth on fire and retreated for ~2 Days. After that they did a nightly attack over the burned down ground, reached the actual fortress and got nearly killed by some crits from the Goblin Dogs runnig around in the yard.
They thought it would be a good idea to run away and lick their wounds.

The following Day they attacked again,and promptly run into a trap set by Ripnuget and got nearly killed by him and his Guards. This time they continued and got stopped by Bruthazamus and Oric whom the both knocked out, but not without injures. They killed Bruthazamus and broke Orics legs, and carried him out of Thistletop to their camp.

Now my Problems are as followed.
1)They try to play it like an Computer Game, not expecting anything to change after they come back(even tho i stated this multiple times and they run into Ripnuggets Trap because of this

2)resulting out of this, they often don't see NPCs as living, inteligent beeings, expecially Enemys. Their Treatment of Oric nearly killed him.

These are both very generic, but any advice in this direction would be greatly apreciated.

More importantly is my question regarding the time. Since their arrival at Thisteltop nearly 4 Days passed and after the loss of Bruthazamus and Oric Nualia is not going to sit still.Pretty much all the Goblins in Thistletop are dead, but most of her followers are alive. I need an Idea what she and her companions would do ,she still has her hounds,Lyrie and Tsuto.

Thanks in advance

PS: Sorry for the horrible formating


I would say it depends on how close Nualia feels she is to releasing Malfeshnekor. If she thinks it's "any day now" she may press on (perhaps cutting the rope bridge to the land to make it more difficult for her to be disturbed. In this instance, assume she has a boat or some other method of leaving the island when she's finished.) Maybe give her another level of cleric and have her use Animate Dead to turn all the dead goblins into zombies or skeletons (after casting Desecrate in the Temple of Lamashtu to super-charge it, or course.)

If she feels it will take longer, have her and Lyrie hightail it back to Magnimar with all their research to wait things out. The party arrives and discovers Thistletop abandoned. Knowing the adventurers are easily distracted, Nualia just waits a few weeks for them to get involved in some other quest and then returns to Thistletop to resume her efforts to free Malfeshnekor. You can then have an army of goblins with a half-fiend Nualia and Malfeshnekor at their head attack Sandpoint sometime down the road. (Assuming the party doesn't manage to find and slay Malfeshnekor before then. If they do, they just follow the advice in the AP for what she does if she is forced to flee.)

ETA: Side note, the AP (or at least the Anniversary Edition) states the thistle maze (and the stockade) is incredibly wet due to the proximity to the sea and frequent rain, meaning attempts to burn it result in a lot of smoke but not much else. Too late now, I realize, but I figured I should mention it.


<double-edged sarcasm mode on> Welcome to the wonderful world of game-mastering where the players are stubborn clods that don't do what you want, er... expect. <double-edged sarcasm mode off>

It's not a surprise that taking out Thistletop takes multiple assaults especially for new players. My own group - decidedly the opposite of new - had to retreat and rest and return the next day.

It sounds like your players are not playing it like a computer game because they are retreating when at the end of their resources, instead of blundering though assuming "the level" is "designed" to be taken out in one pass-through. Learning to expect or anticipate changes in response to their previous actions takes some time. What should they have done to avoid Ripnugget's trap? These are still 2nd or 3rd level characters - they don't have a lot of divination powers. They may have assumed you'd give them perception checks to notice things. Is it just that they are not asking enough questions? That too is an acquired skill.

You only gave limited information about their treatment of enemies, but I find it hard to fault what you described. Let's be clear: every being in Thistletop will leave Golarion none the poorer when dead. They all deserve a Terminate with Extreme Prejudice designation.

Spoiler:

Nualia murdered her father, burned his church to the ground and is a cleric of the Demon Goddess of Depravity and Perversion. She's sacrificing living beings to said Goddess in a temple in the very fort we're discussing. She and her allies have already sponsored/led two assaults on Sandpoint (including Tsuto's family squabble) in which multiple citizens have died, some horribly (see the Glassworks.) And they plan on burning the entire town to the ground as a sacrifice to fuel her transformation into a succubus! The whole fort is in need of a good killing. Keep in mind, your players/the pc's don't know much if anything about the NPC's backgrounds. If you or they want to explore that, all well and good, but if they've decided the occupants need to be put down like rabid dogs, not sure how you can argue with that.

And at that, they only broke Oric's legs. Not sure he deserves much better.

As for what the survivors will do...

Spoiler:

Having taken the casualties already inflicted, a rational person would retreat. But Nualia is the opposite of rational. One option is for her to recruit more goblins from the Mosswood tribe. But that seems a bit punitive - your players have defeated the goblins, not sure they should have to fight more. Nualia and her allies should defend the first dungeon level. Two hounds guard one stairwell and Lyrie and Tsuto the other. Nualia and the remaining hound are in the Temple ready to respond. This way your group can still fight them piecemeal. They could also make one stairwell impassable, forcing the pc's down the other and all of the survivors ambush them there, but that might be more than the pc's can handle (high CR, etc.) My view of Nualia is that she sees herself on an (un)holy mission from her Goddess and will fight to the death to succeed. Or until she is the only living thing left on her side. For my part, I used Melville's quote as a guiding motivation for her: "To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee." Whether Lyrie or Tsuto are quite as devoted is up to you to decide.


I am perhaps overly fond of the dunderhead due to how he became a recurring NPC in my first run, but I wouldn't agree with the assessment that Orik deserves to have his legs broken. (As someone who broke their femur when he was a child, it's not an experience I would wish on anyone.) While by no means a good person (he did murder an alchemist for scamming him, after all) he's decidedly uncomfortable with the evil shenanigans he's found himself mixed up in and as-written will fully acquiesce to the party's demands should they get him to surrender.


Hmm.. my players (30 year veterans) made mistakes based on "how things used to be" (2nd Edition AD&D memories). As a result, they also had to retreat and lick their wounds more than once. So here's what I did:

Changes for later visits:

  • My PCS missed Nualia, Bruthazmus, Orik and Lyrie .. so Bruthazmus, Lyrie, and Orik planned an ambush on the route between Sandpoint and Thistletop.
  • Nualia goes to the Mosswood to recruit more goblins, splitting the Mosswood tribe. She STAYS there while a Mosswoord "goblin her" (a new NPC of my creation) travels to Thistletop with 2 Goblin Commando "retainers". He stays out of the underground levels.
  • Bruthazmus used alchemist's fire from a fallen PC to rig simple traps on the stairs from the ground level to the first dungeon level.
  • Emptied undergreound rooms gradually fill with vermin or weak monsters... giant cockroaches, cockroach swarms, rat swarms, stirges, etc. The bedrooms gained a giant cockroach and a cockroach swarm after about a week, for example.
  • Mostly, Nualia relied on the 2 Yeth Hounds in the chapel to keep an eye on the place and deal with any returning intruders before she returns.
  • When Thistletop is thoroughly sacked (and all her supporting characters defeated/captured), Nualia retreats to Magnimar to be a recurring villain later (as suggested in Concluding the Adventure for that chapter).


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

It sounds like you're getting frustrated with your players, but just try and stay patient and it will become clear to them that this isn't a video game and that things change all the time. If, for example, they set their camp someplace near Thistletop that can be tracked, have them get attacked by a night-time raid (most of the enemies can see in the dark better than they can). Have the bridge be cut if things get really dire so they have to try an amphibious, cliff-climbing assault, etc. You guys should find your rhythm over time.


Kalshane wrote:
I am perhaps overly fond of the dunderhead due to how he became a recurring NPC in my first run, but I wouldn't agree with the assessment that Orik deserves to have his legs broken. (As someone who broke their femur when he was a child, it's not an experience I would wish on anyone.) While by no means a good person (he did murder an alchemist for scamming him, after all) he's decidedly uncomfortable with the evil shenanigans he's found himself mixed up in and as-written will fully acquiesce to the party's demands should they get him to surrender.

I agree Orik is the most redeemable/least awful resident of Thistletop. However...

Spoiler:

He's not really innocent. He's stood by and done nothing (and perhaps helped) while Nualia and her other minions planned multiple assaults on Sandpoint and she started actively sacrificing living creatures (albeit largely goblins) to a CE Demon Goddess. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. And it's not like he couldn't have left at any time. Nualia is barely paying attention to the upper levels. He could easily head upstairs, tell Ripnugget Nualia ordered him into town to see what happened to Tsuto (though in the OP's campaign Tsuto appears to have survived) or any other excuse. What's the goblin chief going to say/do? By the time anyone catches on, he's halfway to Sandpoint, where he can save himself by narcing out Nualia and her loathsome throng. Especially after he hears what Tsuto did.

I agree breaking his legs borders on torture and is definitely harsh. However, he was also just fighting alongside the rest of the crazies trying to kill the pc's so it's easy to see why the pc's might be vindictive. The OP also didn't say why the pc's broke his legs - maybe they wanted to prevent him from escaping and to have an independent witness - the story they're going to tell the people of Sandpoint is pretty wild. Lastly, in a world with magical healing, such injuries can be overcome a bit easier.


Thank you for all your good responses.

Firstly in regard to Oric, our party is a little unbalanced with a strong ass,two handed Axed wielding, half orc barbar, who got ~70-85 Percent of all Kills so far. The other players don't have a huge Problem with that,even tho they do maybe half his damage.
That dude nocked Barazahmus and Oric with two stikes each out,and while Barazhamus fainted, Oric begged for Mercy. They then used Barazahmus as a target dummy to test the "strange rune bolts(anti elvish) from Barazahmus.

Their Plan was to capture Oric, and indeed prevent fleeing by breaking one of his legs.The Problem was that the Barbar trashed both his legs with his axe( i let him role a "hit dice" where 1-5 would cut them off, and the higher he rolled the better he would do it, and a damage dice afterwards. He threw a 6 and a full damaga dice, which let to two open limb fractures.)This and their following Prcedure to get him out nearly killed him.

In regards to Nualia im a little bit devided, I like Latrecis Aproach, but the PCs already took a pretty long time to clean up the catacombs and glassworks and since the inital Assault on Sandpoint a lot fo time has passed.
How long should it take Nualia to free Malfsehnekor, since the start of the chapter, and if she gets him, what would her next Step be?
I think tracking down the PCs, that obliterated some of her allies would be just as rational as to head back to Magnimar.


Define "a pretty long time." And how long do you think it's going to be before the pc's go back to Thistletop? Isn't it going to be the next day?

I think I may be seeing part of the problem - your view of the urgency doesn't match the player's view. Your expectations are not matching reality.

Technically, rules-as-written, there is NO way for Nualia to free Malfeshnekor. She lacks access to the spells necessary to remove the binding that traps him. This is on purpose - you will note there are no instructions or guidance in the AP for what happens when Malfeshnekor gets free other than a vague assumption he, Nualia and a horde of goblins will attack Sandpoint. You will also note, there is no timetable provided for his freedom - no fixed schedule such as: if the pc's haven't done X by 9 days after Y, Nualia frees Malfeshnekor and <bad things happen, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.> The intention of Tsuto's diary, etc. is to create narrative urgency without trapping GM's in a hard timeline. Some groups may go to Thistletop immediately, some may need a day or two to recover from the Cathedral of Wrath, some may want to wait a day or two for Hemlock to return from Magnimar. And some may take multiple assaults on Thistletop to get to Nualia (the root of the problem) - this might be due to bad luck, bad tactics, fragile 3rd level characters and so forth.

So you can add a ticking clock to the situation if you want but you're outside the bounds of the AP (and that's totally okay - make it your own.) If you do that, however, you had better be sure your players are crystal clear on the consequences of their decisions. Remember they don't know what you know. Based on the info provided, I see a group of pc's trying their best to get into Thistletop and deal with the situation. I really don't see any "wasting time" - instead it seems their only crime is that it's taking them longer than you expected.

Consequences (like Malfeshnekor gets free) are good if the pc's are being frivolous or negligent and not so good if their sins are being inexperienced or inefficient.


I will say one really nasty thing a GM could do, without adding any extra enemies or traps, would be for to have Nualia send one of her yeth hounds to ambush the PCs while they're trying to traverse the bridge. Panicked PCs on a rickety bridge against a flying enemy with DR could be a really, really ugly fight. (Thinking about it further, you might not actually want to do this, as it could very easily turn into a TPK depending on how badly the PCs do on their saves against the fear effect.)


Thank you again

Latrecis you are absolutly right, from the info they got they don't see any kind of bigger Problem infront of them, except maybe another raid into sandpoint in a distant future(which seems pretty unlikly now that they killed most of the Goblin in Thistletop)
They probably did not even saw Ripnuggets assault and Orics/Bruthazamus attack as Traps but rather bad luck/ normal part of their(The Enemys,not the PCs) Day Routine. They think and thought in that situation, that these Enemys are like Dungeon creeps who idle around at a set Position all day,until heros arive to kill them.

Anyway i would like to give them this sense Urgency to keep them on their toes. Our next session is tommorw i hope i get an idea until then.


Ok, so the broken legs on Orik sounds like it wasn't deliberate on the part of the Players.

There are no rules for hitting specific locations in the Core of Pathfinder. There are optional ones in Ultimate Combat, but that's assumed you're making them your standard for all fights, not just a one-time thing.

The issue I see there is that that approach was vague.. "roll 1d6 and the better you do, the more messed up he winds up based on your damage" ... "oh, a 6, and then max damage? Wow. Sucks to be Orik, then".

That's too random to blame on the Players. THEY did not break Orik's legs, YOU did. Because that's 100% house-rules.

The take-away should be ... don't make such decisions randomly, and don't make them for the Players. If THEY choose to actually break his legs, that's on them (and, in RotRL, maybe someone's getting some Wrath sin points out of it as a result).

There are other, non-lethal ways to restrain someone. There are rules for tying someone up (in the Grapple rules). There are manacles (in the Equipment list). If they did not bring manacles (and there's no real reason to expect they would), they could try to improvise something.

Anyway.. for the sense of urgency... maybe Father Zantus reads the omens and says "danger is brewing". Old lady Mvashti may do a Harrow reading and foresee "ravening hordes of the demon goddess growing". If they have not neutralized the runewell under Sandpoint, a sinspawn crawling out and slaughtering a few people might get their attention (as noted in the adventure).

Finally, they don't HAVE to kill Malfeshnekor. Driving Nualia away can be considered enough of a victory for now, if you and they want to. Let them move on to the Skinsaw Murders if they believe they are done. If Nualia comes back months later, several levels higher and leading a horde with Malfeshnekor, that's a development based on the players' decisions.

The AP presents that "starting circumstances" for each section. The players don't need to visit every room and kill every monster to accomplish the mission goal. The AP will change in response to the players' choices, and part of the GM's job is to determine what those changes are.


Sorry this was a missunderstanding, after a lengthy Discussion they decided to break his legs, because they thought they did not had any other Options to restrain him. And they let the Barbar do it, exspecially because he has the most strength...You are righ tho I decided to rule it on the spot and let the barbar do his "damage roll", which was maybe wrong in hindsight(I did made it pretty clear what would happen to him, based on his rolls).

I like the idea of Father Zantus giving his advice plus mayber a sinspawn attacking out of the Catacombs, to wake them up a little.

I take away from this Thread, that
1) my players are not as slow as i thought
2) Some pretty neat Ideas what the PCs could run into during their hopefully last assault tomorrow
3) Nualina is not going to free Malfeshnekor, i took that wrongly from the AP book.
4) Some neat Ideas how to keep them on their toes.

Thanks a lot to anybody involved, its nice a comunity like this exists.

That said,any further advice is always greatly apreciated.


BadAndMad wrote:

Sorry this was a missunderstanding, after a lengthy Discussion they decided to break his legs, because they thought they did not had any other Options to restrain him. And they let the Barbar do it, exspecially because he has the most strength...You are righ tho I decided to rule it on the spot and let the barbar do his "damage roll", which was maybe wrong in hindsight(I did made it pretty clear what would happen to him, based on his rolls).

Not to worry.. if the Players decided their PCs would break Orik's legs, then you're pretty much thrown into house-rules territory anyway. Calling it a variation of Coup-de-Gras (which automatically does maximum damage) and replacing the Fort save-or-die with a Fort save-or-be-lamed would work as well, and would be pretty close to where you wound up.

As for Nualia getting Malfeshnekor out, that's not going to happen soon, but it can (and eventually will) happen if the PCs let the problem sit for too long. As Latrecis noted, she doesn't have the spells required NOW, but she's researching the means. That could lead her to something else, like an Occult Ritual (from Occult Adventures).

The adventure moves at "the speed of plot" (as some like to refer to it), meaning that things don't necessarily advance until you need them to.

Balancing "downtime" to heal, craft, and such against the story's implied urgency is a challenge. Every adventure assumes there's some downtime going on... but I don't think any of them make that clear enough, especially for new GMs.

The way I look at it is, until the PCs "trigger" a section of the adventure, it isn't going to start by itself (unless the adventure has come kind of timer/trigger built in already); but once the PCs kick it off, like dominoes falling events will keep heppening according to how they were set up.


I think Nualia believes she's close to freeing Malfeshnikor, and I can't imagine her wanting to stop under any but the most extreme circumstances. That said, she'll also have been told that her fortress has been under repeated attacks and that she's losing defenders.

I think that she would send Ripnugget out to recruit another dozen goblins, to come and help in a surprise attack on the PC camp at night. Whatever goblins remain at the fortress attack from one direction while the reinforcements attack from the other, and they all get air support from a yeth hound.

Nualia is insane, but she's not stupid. And she wouldn't want to send a yeth hound out to attack the PCs by itself, and she wouldn't trust a bunch of goblins to take down a party already proven to be adequate at goblin crunching. But coordinating an attack that lets her one of her yeth hounds attack from above while the enemy has to defend against threats on the ground? Yeah, she'd be all over that.


There's that, Mr. Grogg, but also Nualia is determined to burn Sandpoint as an offering to Lamashtu.. and for that, she needs a goblin army. So the loss of the goblins could reasonably send her out seeking a fresh batch.

A lot depends on exactly who she has left to work with.


Ripnugget is already dead, she is left with Tsuto,Lyria and her hounds.

I could imagine, she would send tsuto(and maybe Lyria, they don't like each other,but i can'T imagine Goblins obeying just Tsuto...) to recruit new Goblins, while her Yeth hounds from the capel would guard the stairwells.

Scarab Sages

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Urath DM wrote:
If THEY choose to actually break his legs, that's on them (and, in RotRL, maybe someone's getting some Wrath sin points out of it as a result).

Side note:

Spoiler:
If you haven't taken a look at sin points yet, do it now. Starting assigning them now and make a note of what they did to earn them. My group is coming up on 4 years of playing this, and they recently reached Runeforge. When under the effect of sin points, they really loved that I described mental flashbacks of events that happened 3 years ago as the mechanical effect of their dominant sin was revealed. The sooner you start tracking them, the better.


BadAndMad wrote:

Ripnugget is already dead, she is left with Tsuto,Lyria and her hounds.

I could imagine, she would send tsuto(and maybe Lyria, they don't like each other,but i can'T imagine Goblins obeying just Tsuto...) to recruit new Goblins, while her Yeth hounds from the capel would guard the stairwells.

Nualia is the one who has the only real chance of recruiting them, I think. That's the whole point of her having the Mark of Lamashtu, and the Yeth Hounds, to show Lamashtu's favor. Tsuto and Lyrie are just two more humans to be killed and eaten. It is not like the goblin tribes have any real concepts of diplomacy to work with.


Welp its too late for that now ^^, Lyria and Tsuto indeed got another Tribe to join them, inparticiular because of some magic by Lyria and the head of Ripnugget,held up by Tsuto.
And yes TomParker im traking them.


My group of power gamers (it was my first time Gming and I didn't supervise character creation properly) rolled through the entire campaign with hardly a scratch until they hit the hounds in the chapel. After that they felt they needed to rest instead of continuing on.

They chose the top level of Thistletop to sleep in. After multiple rounds of combat. Knowing there was a bbeg awaiting them.

So I decided that Nualia was given an Urdefhan to make up for the loss of her hounds, and she attacked that night. With the Urdefhan, a hound, and Nualia it made for one of the tenser moments in the game to that point.


If you are finding your Barbarian is dominating, you could try giving NPC clerics the 'calm emotion' spell.

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