Tower of the Drowned Dead (GM Reference)

Ruins of Azlant

The purpose of this thread is to clarify questions arising in this adventure. This is a SPOILER filled zone, do not venture further if you do not wish the adventure to be spoiled for you, and spoiler tags are not required when posting here.

This thread is a GM Reference thread for Part 5 of the Ruins of Azlant Adventure Path. Links for the individual threads for each part are as follows:

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Re the necromantic gloop in the pipes of The Vaults: "If these substances are released into the room, all living creatures in the room after 1 minute must succeed at a DC 25 Fortitude save or suffer the released substances’ effects for 1d6 hours." So, your blackened, skeletal limb grows back to normal with no aid?

Auberon's motivations are a bit confusing. None of this is a showstopper, but it probably warrants some thought at least before your group gets to this point.

It is clear that he is desperate to get his phylactery back. A group of well equipped adventurers show up who don't know he is a lich and have 2 motivations. One, they want Ochymua stopped, and two, they want their friend taken prisoner back.

Anyway, in their initial conversation through the statue, why wouldn't Auberon just negotiate with them. "You want Ochymua stopped and the druid girl (or warrior boy) back. I want a very special iuon stone Ochymua stole from me. I will give you the girl (or boy) and reward you greatly."

As opposed to trying to parlay with them once only after they group that totally wiped out his minions throughout the tower ...

I suppose that if the PCs find out more about Auberon, they would likely want to put an end to his other misgivings as well, but I don't recall that information coming out. Otherwise, why would the lich wait until they've reached him when he came talk to them other times...

Looking at Auberon's stat-block, I had to snicker a bit.

He's been alive for 10,000+ years, has the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat, has had tons of alone time in this tower, and yet he has a masterwork quarterstaff ...

Let's see.

Auberon is an extraordinarily intelligent wizard with a wide array of resources at his disposal, starting with daily access to 8th level wizard spells, continuing with a mostly intact arcane research facility from the most advanced civilization in the history of the world, and finishing with a large number of powerful minions.

He has dedicated himself to the eradication of merfolk and elves. For the first thousand years, conditions were hostile to living creatures due to an ongoing nuclear winter, giving his undead significant advantages.

For the vast majority of his existence, prophecy worked, and he had access to a whole demiplane specifically designed to make divination and prophetic revelations easier to perform.

And how far has he gotten with his grand campaign?

A twenty-five mile radius around his tower.

In ten thousand years.

Heck, he hasn't even bothered to say "Clean up this rubble and fix the damage" to his minions for ten thousand years. Tower maintenance can easily be a low priority and still get done in ten thousand years.

Averaging out his accomplishments over the span of ten thousand years, this makes Auberon a roughly CR 1/2 challenge.


Yeah, I love the tower dungeon and a lot of the background story behind it. Auberon's background could use some help. Of course the players don't really know any of this, and it doesn't seem important to the plot so tweaks are easy here.

The tower could be moved much farther away and Auberon could be a much greater terror to the surrounding area. I am not sure that I would even have Ochymua steal his phylactery, but rather perhaps make it look more like he and Auberon had a great battle in the Omen Dominion once the apprentice's ruse was found out. Perhaps Auberon could also have been pursuing the same weapon Ochymua was in his effort to eradicate agholthu and merfolk alike.

One thing I have to say is that the write-up for additional Azlanti ruins spread around is fantastic. I would be very tempted to incorporate one of those with a much shorter romp through this tower.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Time flies when you're immortal and hatching plans in your tower.

But just wait until his doomsday device is done in one week!

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Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

I dunno, I can relate to the idea that he's planning to do all this stuff, but just hasn't gotten around to it yet. While reading this adventure, every time it mentioned something he hadn't gotten around to yet, I chuckled.

I have a bunch of Bones kickstarter minis that I'm planning to paint. I have a house that needs cleaning before my mother-in-law visits. I have a season of Game of Thrones on Bluray to watch. But I spent my week of vacation watching the Dr Who marathon on BBC America instead of doing any of that. Oh, well, there's always next year...

So maybe Auberon just needs a really kick-ass gaming console or a viewing portal to other worlds (so he can watch the equivalent of Real Housewives of Absalom), and that's where he spends all his time.

Somehow, a couch potato so dedicated to watching extra-planar soap operas that he's failed to accomplish anything of note in longer than the entire history of real-world civilization doesn't say "big bad evil guy" to me. Unless you're aiming to run it as a comedy, I suppose.

I have some ideas for how to address this, but at this point I want to read the final book before putting any serious work into it. The overarching plot made sense to me through book 3, and then started getting less coherent, so there may need to be some more basic plot changes to make everything hang together to my satisfaction.

Dark Archive

Just to note, NPC don't level up with same rate as PCs do, so you could assume that during that ten thousand years he 1) leveled up several times 2) built everything by himself(maybe he's perfectionist or something and prefers to do it hand by hand) 3) recruited his minion 4) probably got his minions killed by resistance/adventurers several times. 5) recruited minions again/fixed his tower again

Its one of those things you kind of have to handwave somehow in fantasy settings since it never makes sense how fantasy settings can have thousands of years without advancing technology(even with magic, that doesn't really make sense since people like doing things just because they can)

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

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I didn't feel like spending a ton of time going over what ol' Auby's schedule had been like over the past ten millennia would have added much to this adventure or Adventure Path, so we used that space for more exciting things.

I also like the idea that liches, while smart as hell for the most part, are also a bit disjointed from the ways mortals normally think. I mean, if doing whatever vile thing it is you do to live forever and then do so (up until a point where PCs show up) you're probably not going to be thinking along the same lines as your average mortal humanoid player race. Also, flaws and "wait-whats!?" are fun and give a ton of agency to GMs to tailor the game experiences to their individual tables far better than I can do in the text space available.

I agree, we don't need a massive list of everything Auberon's ever done.

But leaving it dangling with the impression that this powerful, motivated individual has done effectively nothing for thousands upon thousands of years doesn't work well either. It makes him seem much less a threat. Power which is never used stops being power.

So all we need is something that explains why he hasn't done anything. Here are three scenarios that do exactly that:

Down But Not Out:
Throughout the Age of Darkness Auberon relentlessly pursued his vendetta, in time dominating most of the Arcadian Sea. But eventually the merfolk from that era rallied and fought back. At the height of this conflict a small group of merfolk heroes confronted and defeated Auberon; but his phylactery was only damaged, not destroyed as they believed. It took 8,500 years for Auberon's body to reform -- but reform it did, and in the past five centuries he has repaired his phylactery and begun slowly, carefully rebuilding the resources he will need to once again pursue his genocidal plans on a grand scale.

The Broken Dominion:
When Earthfall came, Auberon elected to ride it out from inside the Omen Dominion, reasoning that there is no place safer during such an event than another plane of existence. Bu the stones of Earthfall were more than mere rocks; they were the vessels of the incredible arcane power of a united alghollthu synod. Though the worst effects were prevented by the heroic sacrifice of Acavna and Amaznen, there was more than enough residual power to play havoc with the ordinary function of magic throughout the region, and even across planes. As a result of a near miss by one fragment, the Omen Dominion got stuck in a time loop: every morning Auberon would finish prepping spells, relax a few hours, decide to leave the Dominion, and then skip back to the beginning of the day without realizing anything had changed. Thus, he was trapped from the moment of Earthfall -- until the death of Aroden fundamentally changed the nature of prophecy, and broke the loop. Now Auberon is free, and has been busily gathering resources to enact his much-delayed vengeance.

Note: using this would require significantly adjusting Vallik's timeline in City of the Deep, since Aroden died just over a century ago.

Lichdom Unattained:
Auberon failed to complete his transformation into a lich before Earthfall hit. Indeed, the impact came just at the height of the ceremony. His body crumbled in fire and ash, but his soul was caught in an incomplete phylactery. Thus he persisted in a transitive state for millennia. Then, four centuries ago, an ambitious merfolk necromancer named Litanu discovered the Alabaster Trident and the phylactery within. Her experiments on the phylactery eventually completed the ritual, releasing Auberon -- whereupon Litanu discovered she had not made herself a servant, as she expected, but a master. Auberon transformed her into the first of the undead merfolk who would come to bear her name, and set about building the armies he would need to enact his vengeance for the fall of Azlant and his millennia of imprisonment.

Those are about a paragraph each. They could probably be shortened further, if needed. The operative bit is that they answer questions like What has this guy been doing all this time? and Why isn't he ruling the world, or at least the ocean?

Dark Archive

I would like to point out that players aren't often bothered with such details in my experience xD Lot of time I see forum people complaining about plot points, its only the GMs <_<

I do agree that from logical standpoint it doesn't make much of sense, but again, you have to have suspension of disbelief for lot of stuff when it comes to ancient super villains. I'd personally just go with "He is meticulously super genius with infinite time, so he builds each his clockwork minion as if it was a master piece" type of logic.

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That is a good point, Corvus, as well. If the most glaring issue is "what was the lich doing with his spare time", then everything else is likely pretty solid. Of course, it is hard to discuss actually play matters at this point since very few groups would have made it to this book yet.

Given that, I didn't really try to think about it much, but I imagine that even if you knew what you were going it would take a tremendous amount of time to build and program a functional clockwork leviathan single handed. I am sure there was a lot of time spent on failing and trying again as well.

If I made it to this book, I think I would just play up the "mad scientist tinkerer" aspect of Auberon and perhaps leave a lot more evidence of his clockwork machinations. "One time the master went into his laboratory and didn't come back out for 300 years, oh those were good times ...".

I very much like the Omen Dominion. It's pretty cool.

Paizo Employee Developer

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I suppose Auberon spent his time doing whatever incredibly long-lived NPCs have done with their time: obsessing unhealthily over their plans. Or maybe spending a lot of time texting each other about it. "Hey, Rovagug, Auberon here. Still imprisoned, big guy? Ha ha. Still waiting on those genocide tips from ya, ya big ol' force of destruction."

More seriously, the tumbledown nature of the flooded tower is intentional (as is the fact that Auberon hasn't even been back to his mortal bedroom); it shows that Auberon thinks such concerns are so far beneath him that he doesn't even notice that they're missing/falling apart/wholly unused, etc. It demonstrates colossal arrogance. (Similarly, not going to the PCs right at first to say "how about a deal, kids" and instead requiring they fight their way right to his literal doorstep to get his attention is part of this same arrogance.)

Regarding how far his genocidal purge has gone, that's not as critical to the overall story, so it can be much larger if you think necessary to establish him as a genuine threat. Alternatively, have you ever heard of the aquatic elleshthu or nollenom races? No? It's because Auberon started with them, and wiped them out completely!

Paizo Employee Developer

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justaworm wrote:
If I made it to this book, I think I would just play up the "mad scientist tinkerer" aspect of Auberon and perhaps leave a lot more evidence of his clockwork machinations. "One time the master went into his laboratory and didn't come back out for 300 years, oh those were good times ...".

I like it. Baucrade is probably a good NPC to communicate this.

In the second room of the tines it mentions as one of the treasures that there is a telescope lens. I'm assuming this is a big telescope lens, however I can't find anything in ultimate equipment that gives any idea on size/weight etc. Can anyone help?

12" Zeiss Telescope

This is a 12" diameter lens. The article doesn't mention the lens weight, and I know nothing at all about telescope lenses, but I would say that 10 lbs is a fair estimate.

Does anyone know how long the litanus sequestering paralysis lasts?

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Tinalles wrote:

So all we need is something that explains why he hasn't done anything. Here are three scenarios that do exactly that:

Tinalles, these are awesome. I will use one of them; probably Down but not Out. I want Auberon to be really scary, otherwise there's not much point to this whole episode.

I am struggling with plot in advance because we plan to run Azlant as a Kingmaker game. Modules 1-3 are perfect for this. Modules 4-6 are not, and I have to start planning now for ways to change the pacing and emphasis.

For people saying "players don't care"--mine does, so I have to sweat this stuff. Also, I care, and I GM better when I believe in my material. Auberon needs to scare ME--then I can communicate that in play. The Auberon I get from reading this is an essay on the banality of evil, which is an interesting concept but I don't think it really fits here.

What is the point of having 14th level characters make a DC 15 perception check? In some areas it says if they beat it by 10 but other areas it's just a straight up 15 roll. This is requested numerous times in the AP. DC 15 checks is something that you normally see at low levels.

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I have now run all of Tower of the Drowned Dead and have a few comments:

(1) DCs are, as Roysler noted, surprisingly low almost everywhere. The only hard non-combat rolls are the Symbols, where the DC is set by the system.

(2) It felt very sparse in play. Auberon is supposed to be a great necromancer but there are maybe a dozen undead in total. My player says it's an EXP issue. Groups which don't use EXP, like mine, may want to add a lot more critters. It plays very fast and doesn't feel like a full sized dungeon. I'd recommend doubling or tripling the creature count, using the multitude of empty rooms to contain them.

(3) My group walked all over it. They started at the recommended 13th level and did not level up, so they were still 13th at the end; also we play a spellcasting variant so that they only had 6th level spells, not 7th. I had the creatures clump up much more than the module indicates--I put all of the litanus, juju zombies, and the head torturer together, for example. I added more undead and another pelagic child. Didn't matter. The only things that did the PCs any damage were the nautiloids. Most of the enemies had a lot of trouble hitting the PCs (whose ACs ranged from 31 to 36, which I think is normal enough at 13th level) and they evaporated really fast. I had high hopes for Uluuthan, but that was the one place where the PCs got lucky--critical hit disintegrate. Disclaimer: I did not run the fight with Xochitl as I had already established that it was off on a mission when the PCs hit the tower.

This was a stark contrast with City in the Deeps, which was very hard, perhaps too hard for my group, throughout. (The immunity of deep merfolk to sneak attack really hurt our PCs, who rely on sneak attack quite a bit.)

My player chose a novel approach to Auberon, which was to force him to surrender and cart him off in chains--they had planned this in great detail, and for non-module reasons had a good place to stick him. But it says something about how unstressed they were that they could beat Auberon without using any of their big stuff. They simply delegated their wizard (who is some archetype that is good at dispel magic) to counterspell everything Auberon cast. Only failed once, which got the wizard feebleminded, but by then the fight was essentially over.

If I had it to do over again, I would pack stuff in there and try to make it feel like a challenge. More clockworks of all kinds, more undead, and one or two more serious henchmen like the torturer.

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