DM Livgins Campaign Journal


Hell's Rebels

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Shadow Lodge

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DM Livgin wrote:

Wealth: The group is moving away from shared wealth and towards individual splits. It worked well to get the frontliners weapons and armor and to pay for their healing, but now we are splitting it up so that characters can make purchases without having to rationalize it to the group and get approval from the group.

In hindsight there is a good bit here about how the rebellion almost got caught up in the same bureaucracy that plagues their nation...

Allow me to register my sincere disappointment in your players for this blatant embezzlement and cavalier disregard of organizational democracy.

;)


Lucky Bones, session 1; That was a great session, lots of character development, and two deaths...

Luculla; Confusion and mooks tossing around hold person + command is a terrifying combination. The skald and wizard got confused and started attacking each other, The skald killed the wizard in two rounds. As confusion messed with half the party, one of the melee characters fled due to command, and the next melee character beside Luculla got held. Luculla got hit pretty hard and wasn't sure this fight was fully under control, so she coup de grace'd the held melee character, that character then failed their constitution roll by 1...

But at least the reveal the Luculla was a villain was a great review...


That is awesome! The fight in that section was so nearly a TPK for my group... they loved it.
I see people on here mention that it looks way too easy and say that they're going to up the difficulty. I'm glad to see that it wasn't just my group that had a hard time with it.


Warped Savant wrote:

That is awesome! The fight in that section was so nearly a TPK for my group... they loved it.

I see people on here mention that it looks way too easy and say that they're going to up the difficulty. I'm glad to see that it wasn't just my group that had a hard time with it.

My players have only been playing Pathfinder for a year or so, used a 15 point buy, and decided as a group to not optimize. I see how different groups will have a different experience with these encounters.


As I mentioned earlier, we started this campaign under the agreement that we should make 'ok' characters and not maximally optimize. This is all from the belief that the game is the most fun when the whole party can contribute and no single character consistently steals the spotlight.

After the first character died in book one I was able to bribe them to not make a new optimized character with the ghoul corruption. Now that two more have died, one of them took a raise dead but the other is looking at a hard hitting bloodrager.

If I want to stick with the original plan of having the group all the same optimization; what arguments or GM tools can I use to convince this player whose character just died not to make a brutal murder machine. Alternatively, how would give your other players a chance to optimize their characters as this rage-magic machine shows up to begin trivializing encounters?


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I think you might be fighting against the tide. The pc's are dying and if your players are investing into their pc's that's going to bug them. (And you really want it to.) So they are going to look for ways to prevent that. Their only answer is: build stronger characters. Also as they build system mastery over time, they are going to want to use those skills.

I'm going to show my heretic leanings here but "non-optimized characters" is often just a euphemism for weak characters. Weak characters aren't fun to play. What I think most people really mean or want when they say non-optimized characters is well-rounded characters. You can build a fighter with the social skills of a wooden post and the brains of a rock that can take out an entire tribe of orcs on his own. And if the campaign is all combat encounters, all the time, that will work out awesome for you. Other players with classes that force character development into skills or other non-combat features may struggle to compete for glory.

But, at least in this AP, you have an ally. This AP actually makes skills mean something and does it throughout the entire AP. There are critical diplomacy and bluff checks to be made in social encounters in Book 6. So I would encourage you to go full blunt with your players - take the player's guide and turn it up to 11. "If all your character can do is fight, you are going to spend whole sessions doing nothing. Or making it worse/harder for the rest of the group. Your character had better be good at stealth or social or knowledge as well as combat. If you dump stat charisma or get 2 skill points a level, you're going to hurt the team and spend time being bored. It will be like your pc died, only we won't be working to a spot where you can introduce a new one."


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Latrecis wrote:
So I would encourage you to go full blunt with your players - take the player's guide and turn it up to 11. "If all your character can do is fight, you are going to spend whole sessions doing nothing. Or making it worse/harder for the rest of the group. Your character had better be good at stealth or social or knowledge as well as combat. If you dump stat charisma or get 2 skill points a level, you're going to hurt the team and spend time being bored. It will be like your pc died, only we won't be working to a spot where you can introduce a new one."

"Be sure to make a character that the rest of the group would want around as a co-leader of the Ravens. That means you have to have the skills to not be a hindrance to rest of the group when you're on a stealth mission. If you're only good at fighting then why would they include you in a social mission? They'd find an NPC to join them instead."


The points above about letting the player know that they need to have the ability to help on stealth and diplomacy missions is a good way to mitigate combat optimization. But take a look at what they're up against in the finale of book three and the entirety of book four, especially its finale, before you too firmly dissuade having some combat optimization.


Thanks for the advice everyone. I relaxed and the previously deceased character made an arcane bloodrager. The group had a hazing phase of the new character wanting to join the rebellion that they seemed to enjoy but it wound down before is became to unpleasant for the bloodrager (a mock interview process). The group had a WTF moment as they were introduced to the arcane bloodragers abilities in combat (blur for free, power attack + 2 handing + arcane strike), but were immediately grateful for this as the next two encounters pushed the group to its limits.

Lorelu
The group detected magic and evil and entered this room on high alert and buffed (haste), which created the classic dilemma of do they attack while buffed or they hear out what this ghost has to say. I like this dilemma as it creates a meaningful choice for the group, talk and learn something or fight with advantage but it has a meta incentive to murderhobo which I dislike. Has anyone ran a game that handwaved the duration of buffs during monologues or negotiations? I feel like it becomes less of a problem at higher levels as even minute-long buffs will last through a conversation but with round per level buffs and low level casters it often comes up, the duration of buffs in this circumstance is one of the reasons I didn't like the fixed spell durations during the playtest. Thoughts?

I came up with a game called 'eleven' that is a copy of blackjack. The player rolls two d6 and then can keep rolling d6 to get as close as possible to 11 without going over. The dealer/house rolls second so that they can stop early if the player busted but can also lose on a 12 (house has a definite advantage here). This was an adequately engaging minigame. Only two characters actually entered the gambling hall, so I had the ghost interact with them and ignore the rest of the group (not demanding that they also gamble). The kindhearted skald stayed perfectly in character and asked how to bring the ghost peace as their first question (this character killed the wizard while confused, the character is struggling to deal with the trauma). The ghost let them leave with it's bones without a fight.

Wretchghosts
The group has bad touch AC. 2d6 twice a round starts to add up very fast. luckily the two frontliners (bloodrager and inquisitor) became addicted which allowed them to deal full damage while reducing the ghosts AC. At the end of the fight they were both at single digit HP (I added one additional wretchghost as a 5 player adjustment).

The Watcher in the Walls
I love that this trap was neither mechanical or magical, the group was not expecting it. They spotted the red tile path and decided that red tiles were safe and was able to safely move around, they even discovered and looted the yellow tiles safely. Unfortunately the investigator decided that the yellow tiles must not be trapped, he did just pull up the tile to reveal a treasure stash, not traps, no magic... This was another hard fight, I had to fudge a damage dice to prevent the inquisitor from dying, he has 10 constitution...

We stopped here for the night.

The inquisitor managed stay close to the bloodrager for damage and the skald was happy to step back into a more bard-like support role so it looks like the group is happy with this and no one feels like their role had been one-upped. The group has a strong skill set so they were ok with the addition of a combat oriented member.

The Skald Subquest
Two sessions ago the scald and wizard got confused and ended up locked in a confusion battle. Predictably the skald killed the wizard (my rules oversight here but I think the wizard should have been attacking with spells). Even though they were able to raise the wizard the skald character is pretty down about this and is roleplaying it very well, they delivered the body of the dead slayer to their family and sung them a beautiful song. They have started to reach out to Octavius for counselling/support and now I want to give that player a reward for roleplaying. My only idea so far is adding the Hellknight devotion feat as a rebellion bonus feat for that character. I'd like to come up with a 1-3 hr subplot written for that character specifically but have no ideas, her father is in a debtor's prison in the Mwangi and her brother took up bounty hunting/enforcer work to attempt to pay off family debts, she fled the Mwangi to avoid imprisonment for crimes. Any thoughts?


Lucky Bones, session 3;

It feels like we are moving at a crawl, but we are still on schedule for 7 sessions a book as I think we will finish after the next session.

I'm really happy with the ghast fight, it was a relatively easy fight except that the skald got paralyzed in the first round. The team took that very serious! The wizard slowed them so they could not coup de grace, then the bloodrager dragged them back back from the frontline. All to avoid the very real threat of the ghasts dragging her into the room to FEAST! I'm proud that no one messes around with ghouls/ghasts in my game, it is my monster that pulls no punches.,,

The investigator aced the secret code to bypass the trap so they never encountered the creepy bug.

And when they saw the big deep well, the mesmerist who happened to be wearing the cloak of the manta ray volunteered to scout... so they quickly had to mount a rescue while completely unprepared for underwater combat. The mesmerist had a moment to shine by telekinetic maneuvering a trident away from a skum and then handing it to the bloodrager. Another high point of the fight was everyone using the cultist wands of hold person to paralyze the skum, followed by the ghoul corrupted inquisitor biting out their throats (coup de grace)...

The session concluded with a side quest in the salt swamps south of Kintargo to deal with a rogue Elder Cordulegaster that was making the Seers of Saint Senex nervous. The Cordulegaster cast confusion in the surprise round and that would have killed a character except that the mesmerist took an ability to treat confusion. In the end the hexenhammer inquisitor managed to slumber the creature and the team grouped up to coup de grace it.


Lucky Bones Session 4;

It feels like this dungeon was a slow crawl. It didn't help that work has been busy so I'm less prepared than normal.

The enchanter went down quickly to a disruptive bloodrager with step up. I think I'm going to need to modify the encounters so that they don't completely dominate. And by modify I mean put the 6 player adjustment back in, I was leaving it out after the frequent deaths.

The Shell Sentinels were a challenging fight, they left to take a few days rest to recover after that fight. Luckily they were tempted to scout ahead and found the elves which gave us RP in the downtime.

Lucky Bones Session 5;
The last few encounters were easy to round up and were almost anti-climatic.

They got lucky repeatedly against the drowning devil, which could have been a hard fight, but they repeatedly rolled 20s and he rolled 1 against a save or suck spell. They joked that even the dice were done with this place.

The devil's drowning aura really highlighted how excited I am for second edition, as the bloodrager had to figure out what it meant to be in heavy armor in the middle of the fight after failing his save. Yes if I had prepped more thoroughly I could have figured that out myself and had a summary for each character should they fail, but I didn't.

The mesmerist put on the robe of bones and became cursed. They called on a favor from Captain Handsome, as he is now known, to get someone to cast heal after the remove curse. I had him sail in a priest of 'Pharasma' from Vyre to cast the heal, this is the priest from the Book 3 gazetteer that is actually a priest of Norberger stealing bodies. The group was able to successfully cast remove curse saving the priest some spells, so he told them that he was grateful and that they should call on him if they are ever in Vyre. I'm not sure what I'll do with this plot hook, but I'm looking forward for another NPC to betray the group. In hindsight this would have been a good chance to introduce Lady Mialari Docur with her scroll of heal, but oh well.

Next week we begin Book 3.


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Book 3 Session 1;

A slow start to this book but we had the first silver council, somewhat established who had keys to the the hideout, and traveled to the aquatic elf village (fighting the warden and speaking to the elder). At the time it felt like a slow session where nothing happened, but that summary covered a lot of ground. We also spend a lot of time on the economics of their row boat ferry system and on the logistics of a mint garden in the former opium den.

The group grappled the warden to the ground and threw some chains on him to keep him restrained. They made a few attempts to dispel the domination but couldn't beat the dispel DC. However the mesmerist was able to use share memory to see the 'elf druid ghost' commanding to keep outsiders away as they are 'the cause of the plague', and her instructions to return in 14 days.

I also figured out why some of the sessions go so slow (What? it only took 6 months... I might lack a little empathy...) One of the players really likes the sitting around the table making jokes aspect of the game and intentional derails the game to get back to that atmosphere. And of course they are funny enough that we all enjoy it... This is a problem because others in the group (myself) really like the feelings of accomplishment from progress and come away unhappy if there were no milestones achieved during a session. Now that I've identified what is happening I feel better prepared to recognize the behavior and redirect attention so that we can hit a milestone every session. It also opens up the chance to find a compromise; during the Thursday game they run I as a player will double down on the table fun that they enjoy while they dial it back on the Tuesday game? I haven't discussed this with them much beyond the point of identifying and recognizing that is something they enjoy and try to encourage at the table.

Also the inquisitor with the corruption (ghoul) curse is dominated with orders to sit and do nothing else for 16 days (they need a 20 on the caster level check to dispel it). So the team pulled straws to see who had to force feed him his 'special' meal... There is definitely a theme in this campaign of how much is the group willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

Book 3 Session 2;

This session was a real highlight. We accomplished a major milestone, the group excelled in combat, I got to revive and old joy by making custom monsters, and the boss fight kept the group on their toes.

To make a 6 player adjustment I decided to open up my long neglected Bestiary, appendix 2: monster advancement to make first a draugr ogre fighter for the first group, add 2 hit dice to the shark, and then make a lvl 4 rogue draugr captain. I opted to leave the final encounter as is, in hindsight a ghost or wraith addition would have been appropriate. The group trounced these additions, in part due to the mesmerist rolling hot with Pilfering Hand and disarming the orge's trident, and both the rogue's shortswords... but I'm happy he got a chance to shine in the level of undead that were immune to the rest of his tricks.

Although the initial fights were relatively easy they were complicated by the wizard failing his will save and being compelled to dive to the bottom of the pit. We ruled that the compulsion was to 'dive' so he didn't dimension door to the bottom, or shift away from allies trying to grapple him. This resulted in a staggered arrive for the group to the shark fight, and then a rush down to the second draugr fight.

The aboleth fight was a real highlight, the players loved the double illusions and their only protection against domination was a summoned hound archon with it's aura of protection from evil. It became a game of protecting the archon that the aboleth was determined to kill. The aboleth dominated the inquisitor, then the hound archon gave the inquisitor a re-roll that he passed, which he then turned and bane-crit the aboleth with... My advice for running this encounter is to create a few cards that explain the truth of the situation; then role their will saves behind the screen. When someone passes a will save give them a card explaining that the ghost is actually the aboleth, or that that aboleth is actually an illusion and the real one is behind them, or that they are dominated and are to stop attacking. Then inform the player that they can tell others what is on the card but can not show it. It takes the core idea of taking them out of the room to share info and speeds it up a little. After a few people have made their saves abandon the cards so it doesn't become too frustrating, as it is the sense of confusion and uncertainty in those first couple rounds that the group will look back on fondly.

Next session the group will be recruiting the Nobles or heading to Vyre. I wrote a few encounters for the Nobles, but only one is a combat encounter, so they may not take too long. I'll need to prepare a few random encounters in Vyre, especially something for the priest of Norgorber that the group, and Captain Handsome, believe is a priest of Pharasma. I did drop some hints that someone was using the rowboat ferries to kidnap, Vyre is a good place to wrap up that side-plot. I could also tie the missing persons into the Jarvis or Jhaltero recruitment as either missing workers or a missing cousin.


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Your pace is much better than my group's. We started pretty much this time last year and are just starting book 4. We don't have a regular weekly slot though

I appreciated your musings on how your adjusting for 6 players may have contributed to lots of character deaths. It is such a fine balancing line. I had this issue as I had spells with 5 players. One really moaned about the difficulty and would prefer things to be run straight out of the book (since the general conception is paizo APs are quite easy as written)

My group hated the double illusions but I think they were already finding the water combats a slog.

I had grand ideas to add more meat to the nobles but ended up wanting to move things on. I wanted to use chase rules for a boar hunt for the hunting obsessed noble. I had a party boat ride for the shipping guy and had the boat capsized by sea drakes. That was mean of me...

I am intrigued as to how you adjust the Masquerade for 6 people. That is a really mind-boggling encounter as it's CR doesn't really reflect that a large chunk of the enemies aren't targeting the group...


I've pushed really hard for routine, to make it that Tuesday is Pathfinder night, always.

I'm glad they came straight out of lucky bones into the aboleth quest because the water combat rules were all fresh in their minds. Yes they were tired of endless water, but they had the rules down so the added illusions were not overwhelming.

For the Masquerade, I feel like the 'gimmick' is the chaos, the sheer number of opponents present; even if they are not directly attacking the party. So the ideal adjustment is to add more enemies... Which will make a long fight even longer. So ya, I'm not sure that is the right answer. I'll be starting my detailed prep for the the Ruby Masqurade shortly.

Book 3, Session 3;

One of the characters joined the Order of Torrent! So we had a nice little Reckoning ceremony where the Lictor drowned the character and they had to make a CON save to come back to life as the Lictor performed CPR. The Lictor's first order to the new Hellknight was to find the missing Robert Jhaltero who I ran as kidnapped instead of needing smuggled out the city.

Robert Jhaltero took a half session to rescue. The Jhaltero cousin and many others had cone missing while taking the row boats across town. The group split up, half running a sting operation by taking the boats while invisible or hidden party members watch, half hit the streets to ask around and investigate the neighborhoods where people disappeared. With an exceptional gather information roll the investigators found some children that warned them about the spooky wearhouse. Inside they found a pair of tenome (from the #99 bestiary) who were kidnapping lone travellers. The tenome fared very poorly against the group of 5 (one absent player). Clues in the warehouse led them to a docked ship and an encounter with the captain (Skinsaw cultist from book 4) and a bone golem below decks. The Jhaltero cousin and many other kidnapped victims were rescued below decks. Clues pointed that someone in Vyre was behind the kidnappings, I haven't decided who yet.

The Baroness Belcara Jarvis quest went a little faster. They discovered that the Baroness wasn't at her estates but was instead at a walled construction site on the former site of the Thrashing Badger. The group cautiously asked around to discover what she was building, and although they got mixed responses the consensus was that it was a new garrison so that that Thrune could better 'protect'. When investigating the site and impressing the site the Baroness exhaustedly explained that no, it wasn't a garrison, it was a replacement tavern that replace both the mundane and political function of the Thrashing Badger as a place to drink and have political discourse. She explained that someone had been spreading misinformation and that here worksite was being thieved and vandalized every night. The group took a few days to speak with the locals one on one to show that they were being manipulated by 'the man' and explain that actually the new construction was going to be a tavern that would make their life better.

This session happened on the day of our provincial election (71% turnout, OMG), while news was being made in the states, and I'd just watched this series on social media manipulation. So I leaned heavily into the miss-information and polarization themes.

Next week I hope to finish up the Nobles, and move on to Menador Gap. However they are feeling the reduced purchasing power of martial law and the small size of their city, so may head to Vyre to make a shopping trip instead.

Cities and magic item availability;

Now that the group is getting up in levels they are purchasing beyond the 4,400 gp marketplace base value. They have recruited a team of Black Marketeers to expand their purchasing power, but are pushing against that limit also (I encouraged them to also recruit merchant lords). So I'm looking at how are they going to purchase the items they want.

A few of the assumptions I'm starting with (you may not agree with these and that is ok);
1 - Taking crafting feats is a tax on the character, as a GM I'd much rather they took feats that they might enjoy more or help them perform their roles better.
2 - I want a scarcity of magic items; to highlight the oppressiveness of martial law and remind the group that they are high rollers and big deals in this town.
3 - I support that magic items are generally crafted as required, and that the items sitting in shops are the random loot that other adventures have sold.
4 - With the large catalog of magic items in Pathfinder and the specificness of many character builds they are unlikely to get the magic items they want by randomly rolling the newly available marketplace minor, medium, and major items.
5 - I want the players to be able to gain the items they want, after an appropriate amount of friction.

With this I'm going to try to come up with a guideline of how many magic crafters are available in Kintargo, how available they are for crafting, and how trustworthy they are. So that Kintargo will have an availability of crafters that the Silver Raven can go to to get new magic items made, with a degree of scarcity. Before I spend my time trying to come up with an economic simulation system for an imagined market... Has anyone else already done this?

I also had a look at Hetamon Haace's skills and found them poorly suited for crafting. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to hand wave those skills and let him auto-succeed at crafting, level him up slowly while improving those skills, or leave him as is...


DM Livgin wrote:
1 - Taking crafting feats is a tax on the character, as a GM I'd much rather they took feats that they might enjoy more or help them perform their roles better.

I pretty much agree with everything except the above. (Yes, Hetamon's build is just wrong for what he's supposed to do and have done.)

Crafting feats aren't a tax, they're a boon. You could argue they are overpowered in comparison to other feats. Especially in a restricted magic item market such as HR.

The pc's get the magic items they want for half price. That's a pretty nifty outcome and all it costs them is downtime. Craft Wand and Craft Wondrous items are particularly powerful. The wizard gets wands of invisibility, fly and haste. Boom! The party has access to those spells much more frequently and the wizard can memorize other spells in those "slots" thereby increasing his flexibility and getting other spells into play.

To get the most out of them, it helps if the pc's/players have a communal approach to treasure, etc. and other pc's fund the item builds the crafter(s) take on, etc.


Latrecis wrote:
DM Livgin wrote:
1 - Taking crafting feats is a tax on the character, as a GM I'd much rather they took feats that they might enjoy more or help them perform their roles better.

I pretty much agree with everything except the above. (Yes, Hetamon's build is just wrong for what he's supposed to do and have done.)

Crafting feats aren't a tax, they're a boon. You could argue they are overpowered in comparison to other feats. Especially in a restricted magic item market such as HR.

The pc's get the magic items they want for half price. That's a pretty nifty outcome and all it costs them is downtime. Craft Wand and Craft Wondrous items are particularly powerful. The wizard gets wands of invisibility, fly and haste. Boom! The party has access to those spells much more frequently and the wizard can memorize other spells in those "slots" thereby increasing his flexibility and getting other spells into play.

To get the most out of them, it helps if the pc's/players have a communal approach to treasure, etc. and other pc's fund the item builds the crafter(s) take on, etc.

Deleting my rant on crafting and trying to break it down to one line: I'd rather the group take feats that change how their character interact with the game challenges instead of one that modifies their wealth, something that I as a GM manage tightly already.

Crafting is very powerful, I just gripe that the crafting feats bridge the gold-feat gap that is otherwise not bridged. With crafting feats encouraged the summoner has to choose between taking one of the many fun feats that make them a better summoner, or take a crafting feat. Here they are stuck with the undesirable decision between being slightly better at their chosen roll or rolling around in piles and piles of gold. This is twice the problem when party wealth is a challenge wrote, managed and arbited by the GM. If no one takes a crafting feat and the group is falling behind, more rewards will be found. If the group took every crafting feat are rolling in cash (writing wish scrolls to bypass every encounter), then less rewards will be found.

The arguments above applies to everything in the game. If the group is flying around, they will encounter flying enemies. If a player makes an enchanter and the GM only throws undead at them then that GM is not making the game fun. If the enemy is fond of throwing 4 fireballs at once and often does through the campaign, the group will start taking lightning reflexes. The problem with crafting is that because it affects the rewards of every encounter and can up to double those rewards it has a very drastic effect on the game, from one feat chain. Like the character build is 'meta more moneys'.

If crafting is sufficiently rewarded, the question of 'Who is going to play the crafter?' will end up right beside the question of 'who is going to play the healer?', resulting in a player playing the role the group needs instead of one they are excited about.


Interesting perspective. I'm not sure how taking a crafting feat doesn't make the Summoner better at whatever role he/she is filling. Whatever the Summoner is doing, there are magic items that make him/her better at it or allow him/her to do it more often or keep him/her alive while doing it.

It's really a question of plausibility and mindshare. If the pc's want specific items it will seem contrived if they frequently get them via combat/treasure. And if they don't get them via treasure then they either need to buy them or make them. At that point, your focusing on one form of administrivia or another - either they're shopping at Walmart for a Plume of Pinache or they are getting someone in the party to make them one.

But I can acknowledge I'm pretty flippant about pc wealth. I don't adjust the treasure in the AP (and boy are there some BIG hauls available in this AP - the Lucky Bones is loaded!) and I let the players choose how they want to spend their resources including feats and money. And time. One key is to establish that time isn't infinite - the pc's can't wait around for weeks for magic items to get made (and it's a day per 1000gp of cost.) And if the pc's/players get more powerful because they used their feats and crafting smartly, it's my job to adjust accordingly. My players have pretty good system mastery and I have to adjust almost all the encounters anyway since the as-written tactics in most AP's are mediocre (at best.)

On a perhaps more helpful note about the number of crafters available, since the highest spell level available is 4th, I assumed that the highest level casters available for crafting are 7th level. Given the only casters we know about that are higher than that are almost all in Barzillai's retinue and therefore highly unlikely to craft items for the pc's that sets a cap on what items can be crafted. Of course, I don't have hesitation about limiting/discouraging crafting feats so that model may not be viable for you.


I kept hearing that there are big hauls in this AP, and had been fairly tight with treasure accordingly (making some adjustments for 6 PC and adding a few random encounters with hauls), but found that the Lucky Bones only brought them up to where I thought they should be. Good to know that my expected wealth is higher (I come from an organized play background).

That caster level helps; no one can do rods and staffs, and rings will be very rare.

Speaking the enemy crafting; I wonder if it is too late to write a sidequest where the group finds out Thrune is getting a magic item (a magic glaive, foreshadow!) made and tries to plan a heist to steal it...


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My group wanted a bank heist style of session during book 3 so I found one online that I could easily adjust to suit Kintargo/the AP better.
The group was quite happy to really screw Thrune over before attacking him directly.


Personally, I always liked crafting and buff spells as a player--it made me feel like I was empowering my teammates and being Team Mom. But, yes, it can mess with a game and NPCs can provide this kind of service in place of tables where the player's power-gaming rather than just doing good teamwork. Whatever works for your table is usually best.


Warped Savant wrote:

My group wanted a bank heist style of session during book 3 so I found one online that I could easily adjust to suit Kintargo/the AP better.

The group was quite happy to really screw Thrune over before attacking him directly.

Oh? Which one?


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roguerouge wrote:
Warped Savant wrote:

My group wanted a bank heist style of session during book 3 so I found one online that I could easily adjust to suit Kintargo/the AP better.

The group was quite happy to really screw Thrune over before attacking him directly.
Oh? Which one?

The players did it after Menador Gap but before the Masquerade. They wanted to steal the money Thrune used to pay the dottari/hellknights; I don't remember how much I had in there as the PCs intended to give it all away anyways. I probably looked up how much guards were paid and multiplied that by a bunch. I used THIS as the skeleton, had the entrance be at set of stairs going down at the back of the Records Hall (so the PCs had to get through the defenses of that room first, using the information from book 4), had Erinyes Devils come out of the paintings (but used the description for Interrogator Devils and had them size large without making any adjustments) and a regular Erinyes Devil guarding the main vault. I also changed the stuff in the main vault so that one had the items found in the Records Hall from book 4 and redacted (or ready to be redacted) books. And changed how the two paths into the vault worked... and probably some other things.

Slight change to book 3 & 4 as a result of this:
Tiarise wasn't in the Records Hall when the PCs went after the vault, Thrune had Tiarise help with the Masquerade and had Cizmekris make sure she didn't teleport away by Ciz casting Dimensional Anchor on her during the fight. So in book 4 I had Aluceda Zhol defending the Records Hall instead of.

Here, I'll just post the rewritten post from that link behind a spoiler tag.

The Vault Job:
THE VAULT JOB

BIG PROBLEMS
Before the would-be thieves can even get close to the vault, these Big Problems must be resolved. There are a couple of ways to do this: You can collaborate with the players and have them establish what the Big Problems are. Or, you can use the Big Problems I suggest below. The point of the Big Problem is to identify an obstacle that must be overcome with an Outlandish Solution.
No matter what, the Big Problem will be resolved by the Outlandish Solution; however, depending on how the scene(s) involving that Big Problem play out, other stakes are in play. As the scenes play out - actions taken, ability checks made - it may just cost them something in the process.

Getting into the Records House
Only families that own one of the vault rooms in the basement have access to the room at the back of the Records House. The guards are familiar with each of the Noble Houses and their families so bluffing their way in will be particularily difficult.

Remaining Quiet if there is a Fight
Loud fighting will draw attention from the guard and people working in the Records Hall. They will shout for reinforcements which arrive in 1D6 minutes (subtract 1 minute for DC 10 Diplomacy and 1 minute for every 5 above that)

Access to the Vault
The Church of Asmodeus have security measures that can thwart even the most concerted of efforts to rob the vaults. Even getting close to the vault, let alone getting inside, is a major challenge. The stakes in play here might be gold, the promise of favors that must be fulfilled, or leaving incriminating evidence behind that may come back to haunt the adventurers.

The Other Key
As part of their security measures, the Church of Asmodeus uses a system of dual control when it comes to locks and keys. In order to open very secure vaults, two people must use two different keys at the same time. Rexus has but one of these keys. The stakes here might again be gold, favors, or accidentally tipping off House Thrune who put guards in the lift just in case.

An Escape Plan
Once the theft of goods in their care becomes known (and that'll happen quickly for sure), there will be precious little time to get out of the vaults and the Records House. There needs to be a plan in place or else the adventurers are as good as caught. Again, the stakes here might be gold or favors or anything else that's reasonable for the situation.

OUTLANDISH SOLUTIONS
This is the players' role! Don't you be coming up with solutions for them! The key thing to get across to them is that, whatever craziness they come up with, it's going to definitely work (but maybe at a cost). So encourage them to come up with Rube-Goldberg style solutions and/or cinematically pulpy actions. Try to get one character to deal with one Big Problem - that character is the "lead," and the rest of the characters act in support as "features." Set some stakes for the scene(s), then play them out, throwing some dice if you find actions to have uncertain outcomes. Cut the scene when it's been resolved and jump to the next one. For example, if a player proposes he calls upon his Criminal Contact to get The Other Key, present a social interaction scene with that contact. If the player does well (and rolls well) in the scene, then he gets the key, no problem. If he doesn't do so well (or rolls poorly), then he gets the key but it costs him something.

THE TWIST
At a point that most makes sense in the action (after the PCs are in the Lift or Vault), one of the four Big Problems come back to threaten the whole scheme. As it turns out, one of the adventurers' Outlandish Solutions just doesn't work out even when they thought it would. Choose one that'll be most interesting or just pick one at random. Then throw that monkey wrench at the characters and see how the players deal with it. It might be that The Other Key doesn't work or the airship they arranged for their Escape Plan isn't at the docking port. Whatever it is, give the players a fair chance of resolving it, rolling ability checks or the like when the outcome of their actions are uncertain.

THE LIFT
Entrance: A grand marble arch bounds a set of heavy stone and metal doors that lead into the area of the lift. On the inside the arch is incribed in Infernal: "The Eyes of the Amaimon Be Upon You."

The Lift: A magically-powered apparatus that can be controlled to hold a half-ton of weight and raise or lower to or from the vault. It is emblazoned with the seal of House Thrune. It cannot be used unless it is unlocked (see below). Once unlocked, touching the Infernal runes will send it up or down after a short pause to allow for people to step on the platform.

Paintings: On the walls west, north, and east of the lift are fine paintings. The west painting depicts an interrogator devil observing her Infernal Majestrix Queen Abrogail I signing the Cheliax Covenant with Asmodeus with the Menador Mountains in the background. Knowledge to know it was painted by the famous artist Deft Otak. The northern painting shows House Thrune fighting against a massive army with devils coming down the mountains from behind the opposing army. The artist name has been forgotten by time. The final painting, on the east wall, shows her Infernal Majestrix Queen Abrogail I sitting upon her throne with the legions of hell standing behind her. Knowledge to know it was painted by Welv Naldra.

Hexagonal Pillars: These pillars are constructed of metal and stone. On each side are letters in Infernal script. On the SW pillar are the letters, H - K - L - D - Z - G. On the NW pillar are the letters, C - E - I - O - Q - R. On the SE pillar are the letters, V - N - B - T - S - N. On the NE pillar are the letters, W - X - A - F - J - Y. The pillars can be rotated clockwise which each face of hexagon pointing toward the Infernal runes on the lift apparatus. When placed in the correct sequence, the lift is unlocked with an audible "click." If, however, the wrong sequence is set (all four pillars must have been manipulated in some fashion), then an interrogator devil is summoned from one of the paintings and it attacks. Three manticores can be summoned in this fashion after which the lift completely shuts down, useless until reset by the Silver Keys.

I - D, II - O, III - W, IIII - N. The initials on the two paintings provide a clue to this. As well, the only letters of the alphabet missing from the hexagonal pillars are "U" and "P," which may provide a hint since this lift is at the first floor and can't go up at all.

Wait - isn't this a problem with One True Solution? Hell no - the players remembered to bring a rogue along, right? Good. The rogue can always try to hotwire the lift or whatever - it just takes more time and probably has a chance of failure. If that's the case, consider adjudicating failure on the check as "progress combined with a setback." For example, the rogue gets the thing working, but the thieves' tools are ruined or it takes up more time than expected or it shocks the crap out of him for 2d10 unholy damage.

At the bottom of the lift shaft, two metal doors open to trapped hallways which lead into the vault proper. Once past those hazards, the adventurers will have to deal with a shortage of time, their own greed in the face of immeasurable wealth, a precarious pit, and a guardian in the form of an erinyes devil that floats silently above the pit and will accost anyone who is not affiliated with House Thrune or in the company of the same. In addition to its normal abilities, it can also innately detect the keys to the vault and will try to take said keys as its primary objective.

Remember, the characters have only a five minute window including the time they spent on the lift to successfully get what they came for and get out before a guard rotation comes around. If any traps are set off, however, the guard rotation shows up one minute later.

FEATURES OF THE AREA
The Lift: There is an Infernal rune carved onto the wall northeast of the lift that can send it back up.

Beyond the Northern Door: A 20-foot-long empty hallway ends at a locked metal door with no obvious keyhole, doorknob, or mechanism. Above the door is carved in Infernal: "The Wise Tongue of Lord Morikkan is the Key." Along the walls are variously-carved devil faces, mouths agape as if talking, four on each side of the hallway (about 5 feet apart from each other). There is an obvious seam on the ceiling at the midpoint of the corridor.

Inside each of the carvings' mouths is a stone button. If the correct button is chosen, the door at the end of the hallway unlocks and can be pushed open. However, the seam on the ceiling marks the edge of a huge block of stone, a 10-foot cube of dense rock that will fall when the wrong button is depressed. It also blocks further passage into the vault from this direction. The best way to avoid this from happening is to know what Lord Morrikan looks like which may be certain or uncertain (perhaps a Knowledge (History) check is in order to know what type of devil Lord Morrikan is) depending on the established backgrounds of the PCs in the scenario. A clever rogue might also be able to detect and disable the trap with time (of which there isn't much) and effort. If anyone is standing under the block when the trap is sprung, they should make a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw or take 4d10 bludgeoning damage (half damage on a save) and is restrained until freed by an ally making a DC 16 Strength check to pull them out. While restrained in this fashion, the character takes another 1d10 damage per round.

Faces: Nemesis Devil, Bearded Devil, Apostate Devil, Accomplice Devil, Warmonger Devil, *Contract Devil, Vengeance Devil, Accuser Devil

The carving that correctly depicts Lord Morikkan is the third one on the left.

Beyond the Eastern Door: A 20-foot-long hallway ends in a door covered in sharp iron spikes that bears the sigil of House Thrune. The hallway-side of the door leading to this corridor is peppered with holes. A groove runs down the walls on either side from door to door. Above the spiked door is Infernal script: "Know the Creation and the Destruction." On slightly raised stones ix names are carved in the ground at regular intervals between the doors (left to right, closest to farthest starting from the lift): Tanessen (most powerful in Kintargo), Taranik (DC 20 History, first commander of first Hellknight (order of the rack)), Mandraxaid (DC 15 History, first high priest of Asmodeus in Kintargo), Asgavan (once held the throne), Leroung (academics & arcanists, pursues knowledge), Tasetas (DC History, final high priest of Aroden), Sarini (DC 15 History, First Lord-Mayor after civil war)

The key to avoiding this trap is knowing which family names are historical firsts or lasts. Again, this might be certain for characters of particular established backgrounds and uncertain for the rest (and deserving of an Knowledge (History or Noble) check). Stepping on the correct names (Mandraxaid (DC 15 History, first high priest of Asmodeus in Kintargo), Tasetas (DC History, final high priest of Aroden), Taranik (DC 20 History, first commander of first Hellknight order), Sarini (DC 15 History, First Lord-Mayor after civil war)) is safe and unlocks the door when the final one is stepped on. Stepping on an incorrect name activates the trap: The door closest to the lift slams shut and locks while the spiked door rolls along the tracks in the walls at 5 feet per round. If it makes contact with a creature, it inflicts 4d10 piercing damage and 1d10 piercing damage per round of contact. Once the spikes make contact with the holes of the door opposite it, the trap shuts down and waits to be reset by the Silver Keys.

Minor Vaults: There are eight minor vaults here, each containing closed chests, sacks, and crates that contain vast amounts of gold and the like. The doors are locked iron portcullises. Once past those, a character trying to snatch treasure as quickly as possible can grab 100 gp for each container in the vault per round. (So that's 200 gp to 500 gp per turn depending on the vault.) The locks are increasingly complex, however, starting at DC 15 for a rushed lockpicking job on the least-filled minor vault and escalating by +2 for each step up thereafter to a DC 21. Remember, there is a half-ton weight limit to the lift too!

Pit: A 20-foot-square pit yawns open here, with hellfire 40 feet below the opening. Falling in inflicts 4D10 unholy damage, 4d6 bludgeoning damage and knocks the creature prone. At regular intervals, a magically-generated gust of wind blows downward from vents in the ceiling above the pit. This makes jumping across from one side to another uncertain in most cases, requiring either a DC 18 Strength or Intelligence check to power through or time the gust just so.

Control Panels: Flanking either side of the pit are stairs that lead into chambers wherein a single control panel is mounted on the north wall (in the east chamber) or the east wall (in the north chamber). In the center of the control panel is a keyhole. When the proper key is placed in each keyhole and turned at the same time, the main vault door opens and floor covering the pit slowly appears and provides access to the vault.

The Vault: Inside the vault is a single dais upon which rests the gold and silver for paying city employees. There are also two doors in this vault behind these locked doors (DC 20 for a rush job of lockpicking) are vast stores of knowledge both damning and valuable and coveted magical items.

West: locked adamantine-and-darkwood box worth 2,500 gp (hardness 20, hp 40, break DC 32, Disable Device DC 40); Tiarise carries the box’s key. Inside the box can be found several documents, including an infernal contract between Tiarise and an individual named Oughorthan. With a successful DC 25 Knowledge (history or planes) check, a character recognizes the name as that of a pit fiend servitor of Mephistopheles who aided House Thrune in defeating the Silver Ravens during the civil war. Other documents in the chest include rough notes for numerous rituals Tiarise aided Barzillai in devising or researching (these rituals are summarized in the nearby sidebar) and notes referencing the Book of the Damned. Finally, four magic scrolls are found here—two scrolls of legend lore, a scroll of planar ally, and a scroll of stone to flesh.
South: racks of books chronicling the history of Kintargo. Approximately 1/3rd of the 45 books have red 'x's on the spines, signifying that they have been redacted and altered to suit Barzillai's new history of Kintargo.

Ritual Notes
The ritual notes found in the vault are not complete enough to allow PCs to recreate their effects, but learning about them should provide closure to earlier mysteries as well as provide clues and foreshadowing for future events.
Beckon Playmates: A ritual to lure tooth fairies into this world that involves the murder of a child.
Devil-Binding: Rituals for the binding of a devil to a living creature in order to create a devilbound creature. These notes indicate Nox and Rivozair have been subjected to this ritual. (Knowledge Planes DC 25: gains darkvision, see in darkness, adds natural armour, resist poison and fire, grants regeneration (good spells, good weapons), soul is damned to hell upon death, gains powers depending on the type of devil they're bound to.
Mephisto Manifestation: A staggeringly complex ritual intended to lure direct intervention of the archdevil Mephistopheles into events on the Material Plane.
Binding the Soul to the Stone: A ritual to transform a person into a guardian undead spirit called a nemhain. Notes further indicate Tiarise has performed this ritual on herself, but that her transformation into an undead guardian will take some time after her death.

ADJUDICATION
When it comes to adjudicating the actions of the characters in this scenario, I recommend that the DM use the "middle path" discussed on page 236-237 of the DMG. That is, you keep a balance between granting automatic success (or failure) and asking for checks. You want the player's skill to matter in a game like this and checks to come into play only when dramatically appropriate.

As well, consider using "progress combined with a setback" (Basic Rules, page 58) wherever possible when adjudicating failure on a check. This means that on a failed check, the character succeeds totally or partially, but it costs something. Because of the timed nature of the scenario, a good cost is simply time. With only five minutes (50 rounds) to do what they need to do in the lift and vault, taxing the players 30 seconds on a failed Dexterity (Thieves' Tools) check to pick a lock stings, but doesn't stall the game or force the player to repeat actions. Another example of partial success would be in the traps in the vault. If the player fails an Intelligence (History) check when trying to figure out which of the bloodlines are correct, give them half of the answer (say, the two correct names nearest the spiked door).

Also remember that any character that takes 10 times the normal amount of time needed to resolve a task automatically succeeds (DMG, page 237). So if picking a lock or disabling a trap takes a round with a check, then taking one's time about it, it takes a full minute without a check. This makes the time they have a resource the players can manage. If they're ahead of the game, they can afford to take their time.


Hopefully that all makes sense. If there's something that doesn't, or you want anything clarified, let me know and I'll try to help.


Thanks for sharing that Vault Job, it looks really cool.

Book 3, Session 4;

Two more noble houses recruited. I ran the Vashnarstill by the book, but created a chase scene for the Aulamaxa followed by a fight against two Erinyes assassins (no assassin class levels, but that would be super cool...). That 600 supporter boost was huge. So I need to come up with gifts for everyone for next week.

Fox Hunt chase scene:

I had the Aulamaxa participating in a fox hunt and the Lady Mialari Docur was able to get the ravens invitations. From there the chase scene began; The group arrives to the hunting camp late and the main party has already left and they must rush to catch up. My kitsune player had feeling regarding foc hunting.

1) Knowledge Nobility (one success req.) to know the proper attire to arrive in;
Success; They are able to purchase proper attire in Kintargo. If they succeed by 5 they know a place to rent or are familiar enough to create magical disguises without reference material.
Fail; They are delayed once as their contact at the hunting camp refuses to sent them on the hunt until they scrounge up enough appropriate attire.

2) Ride / Handle Animal (50% of group must succeed) to get these hot headed hunter horses under control, mounted up, and on the way out of camp.
Fail; They are delayed as it takes a while to get everyone mounted and the horses under control.

3) Ride / Acrobatics / Knowledge geography (50% of group muse succeed) to navigate the hunting course at breakneck speed, attempting to catch up to the group.
Fail; the group is delayed as riders are dismounted by low hanging branches.
Remember the three musketeer movie where Dartanian jumps over the low hanging branch from horseback, when my teleportation wizard decided he wanted to use his shift ability, and with a successful concentration check was able to teleport around the branches from the back of a galloping horse.

4) Perception / survival (one success req.) to find the trail that they lost, as they are deep in the woods and can't see the dust cloud they initially followed.
Fail; They are delayed.

5) Handle Animal (50% success require, or one clever solution); The animals smell something foul and bawk, refusing to go further. This is an attempt to foreshadow trouble ahead, so allow them to abandon the horse, buff, or anything else along those lines. My investigator mixed up some vapor-rub on run to block the horses sense of smell. The wizard summoned a fiendish bat and switched mounts. (photo! Ezren on the right riding the bat.)
Fail; They are delayed.

6) The encounter;
Two Erinyes assassins were dispatched by Thrune to massacre the Archbaroness Eldonna Aulamaxa and any witnesses while she was out of the city. They located a bog near the hunting path and disguised it with [i]minor image[i/] to appear as a meadow, finally one shot the fox hounds while the other augmented the illusion with the sounds of chasing hounds to the lead the Archbaroness and here hunting party into their trap. The entire bog is difficult terrain and any riders who gallop into must pass a DC 20 ride check or are thrown prone into the bog, those who pass are thrown but land standing.

The Erinyes mission is to kill the Archbaroness but they will change targets if they recognize the party as the Ravens, or to respond to new threats. The Archbaroness is tougher than she looks and will be unconscious and bleeding after 2 full attacks.

0 Delays; The party catches up to the hunt and hears a faint yelp followed by the sound of the hounds vearing into a meadow. The group gets a will save against the minor image, able to avoid charging into it, and participating in the surprise round if they pass.
1-2 Delays; The hunting party was caught in the trap, but no shots have been fired yet. The Archbaroness is unwounded. The party is surprised by the minor image.
3-4 Delays; The erinyes have thrown down unholy blights and peppered the Archbaroness in arrows. The Archbaroness is nearly dead, drastic steps to prevent the erinyes from finishing her off.
5 Delays; They arrive to an empty bog full of dead bodies, the erinyes have fled leaving the bodies for scavengers. Mission failed unless they raise the Archbaroness from the dead.

[ooc]Killing two erinyes is a big wealth jump, you may want to have one erinyes with two bearded devils pre-summoned.

The group also developed the idea that they want to recruit one of the houses that supports Thrune and that they want to raze one of the houses that supports Thrune. So I have some planning to do there... I'm kinda excited for them trying to raze an entire house because it plays into Thrune's plan with the Ruby Masquerade.

The group used one the the handsome captain's favors to get him to act as a merchant lords team for a week, teleporting to Absalom to complete a massive shopping trip. I figure they are pretty close to wealth by level once their massive bag of consumables is counted.


We are constantly encountering the little frictions in the system that make me excited for 2nd Edition; targeting spells while blind, a new player still dealing with the action types, trying to remember what the penalty is for using a composite longbow while fatigued is due to the strength penalty.


DM Livgin wrote:
We are constantly encountering the little frictions in the system that make me excited for 2nd Edition; targeting spells while blind, a new player still dealing with the action types, trying to remember what the penalty is for using a composite longbow while fatigued is due to the strength penalty.

What is the concern on the blindness part? You need line of sight to target don’t you ?


Ya, you need to be able to see the target to target them with a spell. Which creates a few winning tactics where a blind caster is a dead caster (if they are not packing fireballs).

This has three problems:
1) It creates a few optimum tactics, blinding a caster is always going to pay off. Optimum tactics are bad for the game because if there is only one good choice, there isn't actually a choice.
2) It is a 'hard counter' to targeting casters, meaning that that blinded NPC or Player is basically out of the fight. A boring resolution, but on par with the rest of the save or suck in the game.
3) It breaks verisimilitude with spells like the command spell, where you can't hell a command at an enemy because you can not see them.

All small problems, but they are friction in the system.

More experienced groups will be travelling with oils of remove blindness, but they will also be preparing persistent blindness spells for all the enemy casters.

In the playtest targeting while blind had a 50% miss chance, just like attacking.


I'm not sure how Blindness is a particularly awful save or suck spell, of which there are an abundance - sleep, hold person, dominate person, disintegrate, etc. Though I will admit the fort save targeting casters whose fort saves may not be the best and permanent duration are nasty features. Basically it's a non-hp targeting disabling spell of which the system has plenty. If a caster is paralyzed, unconscious or turned to stone or dust they're just as unable to cast spells.

If you think there won't be optimum tactics in 2E, I wager those will be discovered by the interweb optimizers shortly after publication. And I'm not sure everything that was in the playtest is guaranteed to make the final cut (but I might be wrong on that.)

But most importantly, it's been a while since I've used Blindness on my pc's - Thanks for the reminder! (I won't tell them where I got the idea ;)


Latrecis wrote:

Crafting feats aren't a tax, they're a boon. You could argue they are overpowered in comparison to other feats. Especially in a restricted magic item market such as HR.

The pc's get the magic items they want for half price.

FWIW that's literally not how it's supposed to work.

"However, game balance for the default campaign experience expects you and all other PCs to be close to the listed wealth values, so the GM shouldn’t just let you craft double the normal amount of gear. As a guideline, allowing a crafting PC to exceed the Character Wealth by Level guidelines by about 25% is fair, or even up to 50% if the PC has multiple crafting feats.

If you are creating items for other characters in the party, the increased wealth for the other characters should come out of your increased allotment. Not only does this prevent you from skewing the wealth by level for everyone in the party, but it encourages other characters to learn item creation feats."

Latrecis wrote:
I'm not sure how Blindness is a particularly awful save or suck spell

Well, for starters it's permanent and available a spell level lower than the spell that removes it.


With this last session everyone leveled up to 8 and we decided to stop the using the experience pool with one person leveling up at a time. At the lower levels it was a successful team exercise where the level ups were distributed to help reinforce the team. Now the jumps are smaller and we ended up rolling off for the last few level ups.

We will mover back to the core rulebook of experience.

I also constantly forget to give bonus plot experience for the 6 players, and not every encounter is adjusted for 6 players... So near the end of every book I'm scrambling to find excuses to give bonus experience.


I'll have an update from the last game later, but first something far more important:

I'll be gone for two sessions during PaizoCon and had the bright but last minute idea of writing an 'In their shoes' adventure for the group for one of my players to run in my absence.

So I've been brainstorming ideas of things Thrune has done that that can be a 4-8 hour plot where the players play the bad guys (level 3-5). The group is right before the Ruby Masquerade.

  • The trip down to the soul anchor. Too high level, too many spoilers.
  • Purging the Hocum’s Fantasmagorium and the Many-Steps Monastery. The current front runner. One of them can even play Nox and Yilliv the Scrivenite
  • Capturing the lord mayor. Too high level, too many spoilers.
  • Capturing the Shensen. Not enough content, too many spoilers.

Any other events during the night of ashes I'm forgetting. Any upcoming plots where it would be ok to spoiler the players on?


Capturing the Order of the Torrent? One advantage - even though they might be playing evil characters, their orders will be to capture not kill.

Taking out the Thrashing Badger and some Milanites? Not many spoilers and might explain why Hetamon was originally slow to engage/trust/ally. And why there aren't many Milani worshippers around to help.


Oh, good ideas!


I like the idea of capturing some Torrent Hellknights!
If the players succeed: Great!
If the players fail: Those Hellknights got away and left the city but a different group of enemies managed to capture the ones that are imprisoned in the book. Maybe, right at the beginning, state that there's two groups of Hellknights to capture (maybe one's in the countryside and one's in the city?) that way it doesn't seem as forced that a group was captured even if the PCs fail.
And the players can decide if they want to go after the ones in the city or the ones in the countryside? Not much would change beyond the maps you would have to use and, if they went to the countryside, you could introduce one of the smaller settlements that are mentioned in some of the AP books.


Here is the long overdue update;

Book 3, Session 5:
Stormed Menador Gap. The group too full advantage of a wand of invisibility for this encounter. Once all six party members were invisible our reckless wizard took two party members and blindly dimension doored into the center of the keep while the other three members flew to the ramparts.

The three that teleported got split by a wall with 2 ending up in a bathroom, and one ending up alone in the War Room with Lucian... Luckily there are massive stealth bonuses for sitting still and doing nothing. So he sat and waited until the other teleporters opened the door for the outside force and the team was able to group up. Once everyone was near it turned into a clever pincher attack with the main team attacking from the front while the skald attacked from invisible from behind.

Predictably, the team did well against a dis-mounted cavalier.

This encounter allowed characters to excel in their roles. The tanky inquisitor was able to run across open battlements and the archers could only hit him on a 20 while the bloodrager was able to one shot these archers but was slowly being bleed out by many crossbow bolts. Our wizard with shift and dimension door was able to help the teem stay mobile.

Book 3, Session 6:
Cleaned up and investigated and collapsed Menador Gap. Had a few random encounters on the return trip.

Book 3, Session 7:
Visited Vyre to do some shopping and recruit the Queen of Delights. I had the Handsome Captain stationed in Vyre because Kintargo is to risky with his kidnapped companion, so he was able to serve as a local guide.

We had a lot of fun role-playing this session however I was not able to fit in any combat encounters.

A day in the villians shoes:
Since I'll be gone to paizocon the next two weeks, one of my players will be GMing the raid on the Many Steps Monastery. I'm excited to hear how it goes.

It was really fun going through the 'Redactions and Revenge' chapter of 'In Hell's Bright Shadow' and redacting it.


A day in the villians shoes:

A player GMed the Night of Ashes raid on the Many Steps Monastery. It sounds like the group had fun and they commented on how it was a fun change of pace to have such a singular purpose. Although they didn't like it when I asked them to hand over the character sheets of the characters they made, sounds like there were some combat monsters that they do not want to encounter on the other side of the GM screen...

Ruby Masquerade: Part 1

This session included preparation for the masquerade up to the unmasking. They struggled to generate masquerade points and ended up triggering an early ambush at 11 pm, the ten point penalty for being spotted sneaking around in the basement combined with the high cost of exploring in a group pushed them over the limit.

They enjoyed all the call backs to old acquaintances at the party.

One character decided to invest most their skill ranks in dance at level 9 having heard of the Dance of the Damned. They did well but was not able to win the competition. However they were able to reliably generate masquerade points.

Next week's session will begin with the ambush triggered early with half the party in the secret tunnels. We will see how the encounter goes with the party split. I think Barzillia will send one bone devil and the basement hell hounds after those in the basement while he and Nox kill those upstairs (can't have them escaping out the secret exit).

I was not able to work in the skinsaw cultist ambushes.

I also explained to the group that the informal table agreement that as long as the party doesn't split itself, no one will be ambushed and killed while alone would be suspended for this chapter. That going exploring by yourself is fair game, but also carries significant risk.

The party warpriest encountered the lord mayor vampire while exploring. She was able to dominate him and since he was the only present and current threat instructed him to return to her master in the Shadowsquare without speaking with his allies. However the group was easily able to make their sense motive checks to realize what happened when he went to leave without saying anything to them, especially since this character was previously dominated one before and they knew all the signs. The wizard was able to summon a Vulpinal Agathion which cast dispel evil on the warpriest, removing the dominate.

Later in the night they teleported three members downstairs to ambush and kill the vampire, they made short work of her.

I feel like the group is really coming into their own power-wise and will need to be diligent in applying the 6 player adjustment in the future. I believe the 6 player adjustment for the masquerade will be that the party is split, that one bone devil goes after the basement group with the hell hounds right away, and that Barzilli successfully pre-summons his extra bone devil (that will attack citizens).


Ruby Masquerade: Part 2

6 Player Adjustment: Thrune pre-summons his bone devil. Added an extra Erinyes.

This did not go well for the party. When Thrune sprung the trap the party was split (due to running out of masquerade points).

The downstairs group of 3 (Skald, Warpriest, Investigator) fought their way back towards the orchestra pit through the six hell hounds and the bone devil. The hell hounds were a distraction but the bone devil slowed them down, did a little damage, and more importantly poisoned the Skald for 6 strength damage total.

The upstairs group of 3 (Mesmerist, Conjurer, Bloodrager) split up immediately. As the guards were herding the guests into the main rooms the Bloodrager bluffed their way past the guards and too the bathroom to retrieve their greatsword and look longingly at their armor (footnote 1). When the ambush started the Conjurer turned invisible and started summoning monsters. That left the poor mesmerist standing very alone in front of Thrune and the bearded devils that were determined to kill Silver Ravens. Normally the Mesmerist's good disguise would help here, except that they were wearing the only gift Thrune was able to give them from Book 2 so he was well watched in the lead up (I handwaved them 'marking' the Mesmerist early in the party, in hindsight this might not have been fair, footnote 2).

The Mesmerist did well, causing several guards and two bearded devils to panic but once the Erinyes summoned two more bearded devils behind him he was doomed. Olmer the armor smith from Old Kintargo threw himself between the devil's glaives and the Mesmerist to cover their escape into the orchestra pit. Thrune, Nox, and the Devils followed them into the pit and quickly cut them down.

At at this point the conjurer's summons were doing a number on Thrune with their multiple attacks and his low AC so he commanded an Erinyes to find an kill the invisible summoner (because they have true seeing) before teleporting to healing. The Conjurer was already wounded from a few unholy blights, so it only took 3 arrows to fully kill them. They awoke next round to a Breath of Life, as Mistress Docur used some First Aid Gloves on them. They promptly shifted downstairs into the costume room to hide for a bit. The Mistress Docur then collapsed, full of the additional arrows she shielded the Conjurer from.

The Warpriest was able to join the fight in the Orchestra Pit, a round too late to save the Mesmerist. As they rushed in, Nox swung out her glaive to sweep out their feet, tripping them... Then everyone grouped up and knocked the Warpriest out with a few lucky rolls helped by the prone penalty (this character has poor constitution).

The Bloodrager fought their way out of the bathroom, unarmored. Killing many guards and a couple bearded devils along the way. They killed the enemies quickly but the battle was one of attrition and they were receiving many wounds. They worked their way to the second floor to solo the bone devil Killing guests up their.

To keep the Player in the game I gave the Mesmerist Octavius's sheet. Octavious went down fast...

This is when Laria and a few halflings dropped a fog cloud on the Orchestra Pit melee and dragged away the Warpriest into a side room to apply some healing. Unfortunately due to the Bearded Devil infernal wounds, it took three rounds and three potions to get the healing to work. Delaying their return to the fight.

The Skald and the Investigator took a while to kill several hell hounds and the basement bone devil and when they joined the Orchestra Pit melee it was fog cloud full and summoned deamons fighting devils and the screams of pain. They began a vicious toe to toe fight with Nox and the Bearded Devils. Nox was severely hampered by the fog cloud and alternated between attacking with the glaive at a penalty and using her touch attack.

When Octavious went down I gave the Mesmerist player Elni Nones (sp?) whom the Handsome Captain sent to keep an eye on the action. Like a champ she walked into melee, and critically hit a devil in melee for x4 damage. Unfortunately she then left the fog cloud to find better gun targets. A Erinyes was able to critically would her in two rounds. At this point I was running out of NPC sheets and pulled a fighter/slayer sheet from the Song of Silver npc list for them to play as Setrona, Octavian's sister.

The Skald and Investigator killed Nox and then the Investigator coup de grace'd Nox with a holy weapon. At this point the Conjurer was able to walk into the fog cloud and haste a group of allies.

I thought this was the turn around for the win... But the patched up Warpriest walked out of the fog cloud, fired a searing light at the second flying Erinyes, failed to pass SR, then was filled with arrows over two rounds. The skald went toe to toe with a Erinyes in the fog cloud, but due to several unlucky rolls and several lucky rolls; the Erinyes killed them with a long sword crit.

The Bloodrager had a show down with the second floor Bone Devil and found out how much DR10/good sucks. They were slowly getting beat and decided to run when an Erinyes moved from the Orchestra Pit fight up to the second floor. The Erinyes was able to run them down and knock them out.

The Investigator made a heroic last stand but did not have the damage to turn the tide and went down slowly to the two bearded devils (the two that panicked due to the fear spell at the start of the fight) and the Erinyes.

With everything going poorly the Conjurer instructed the remaining summons to grab bodies and to run. Friendly npcs saw these summons running with bodies and ensured the bodies were returned to the Ravens when the summon durations ended.

The Final Tally:

Deceased NPCs: Laria, Mistress Docur, The Shellet Father, Rexus, Octavian, Olmer, Korva Fushi.

Dead Guests: 150

Skald: Dead. Body Retrieved.
Warpriest: Alive.
Investigator: Dead. Body Lost.
Mesmerist: Dead. Body Retrieved.
Conjurer: Alive
Bloodrager: Alive. Captured.

Our Mesmerist will be gone for the Summer, so I was planning to do an attack on the Lucky Bones as the kick off to book 4 (because they set a pile of traps in the base) but they might favor attacking Kintargo Keep first to get their characters back. They will also want to return and loot the Opera House (The found the big treasure room).

I've asked those who are captured or have a missing body to make an NPC to play in the meantime.

---------

footnote 1: This character who choose not to wear their armor or carry their weapon because they were very excited about their fancy dress. Top points for role playing, but I'm not sure about the massive self imposed handicap. I could have made the fight a little easier to reflect their decisions, but I'm happy enough with the results. This was intended to be a very hard fight.

footnote 2: My group of players are amazing and almost never challenge my GM rulings. So I sometimes make huge mistakes; Attacking an unconscious character when there is a better target in reach, or completely discounting a character's disguise. So I'm going to formalize 'secret hero points' for when I make large mistakes that can not be easily retconned. These hero points allow any one idea to 'work', or allow you to break one mechanical rule (for example; run a spell like how you think it works from reading just the description, ignoring the fine print), or almost come back from the dead (coming back from the dead for free with a corruption). Basically a free pass on any one idea once.


Also, our skald is now the head of the Order of the Torrent due to the death of Octavius. Maybe their are some higher ranked members abroad, but she is the highest ranking member in Kintargo. What can I do to show / reflect / reward their new position?

Shadow Lodge

DM Livgin wrote:
Also, our skald is now the head of the Order of the Torrent due to the death of Octavius. Maybe their are some higher ranked members abroad, but she is the highest ranking member in Kintargo. What can I do to show / reflect / reward their new position?

Put her in charge of the team of armigers as a bonus team in addition to those granted by her Charisma, and let her wear Hellknight armor without penalty as if she had (her level - 10) levels in the Hellknight prestige class?


She is multiclassing skald / hellknight already... So maybe a custom feat that treats the rage song as 4 levels higher, or one that adds a few caster level progressions...


Been a while since I updated. Thanks for sticking around for updates.

The Song of Silver: Session 1

The next session had a great 'morning after a bad party' vibe to it, which worked.

Skald: Dead. Body Retrieved.
The Hellknights of the Order of the Torrent were leaderless after the Ruby Masquerade. Octavious was dead and his body was missing, but someone was able to drag the Skald's body back to the Lucky Bones. So without any orders the Hellknights (which were trained as a caster team) took one of the parties scrolls of raise dead, brought the Skald back to life, then elected them paralictor.

To reflect the Skald's new authority, the Hellknight team now no longer counts against the rebellion team limit (Which should have always been the case but I missed that...)

Warpriest: Alive.
This poor Warpriest woke up bandaged in some noble's bedroom. After some initial confusion they thanked their rescuers (sympathetic nobles who escaped the Ruby Masquerade and had strong feeling about Thrune trying to kill them) and return to the Lucky Bones... By sprouting five burning wings and flying over the entire city!!!

This established the theme for the coming conflict well. Now sympathizers leave five candles in their window at night to plead to the Silver Ravens for aid.

Investigator: Dead. Body Lost.

In order to participate in the session, this player rolled a temp-NPC character to play as Chuko.

The team had seen a hidden vault of treasure in the Opera House and couldn't remember if they had closed the door behind them. So the first priority was treasure.

The team raided the Opera House, using a sabotage team to lure away the soldiers guarding it, killed the devils inside, and made away with the treasure and a few bodies that Thrune haven't recovered yet, including the Investigator's. (There was 150 dead, it was taking time to find and recover the valuable dead.)

The Investigator was raised.

Mesmerist: Dead. Body Retrieved.

A sympathiser recovered and returned this body to the Ravens, he was then raised at the end of the session.

This Player was leaving for the summer to take a vacation, get married, then have a honeymoon. So they used the secret hero point to pick up the Possessed Corruption!! A lingering soul in the Opera House, awakened by the violence, found root the in the Mesmerists receptive mind. Shortly after being raised the Mesmerist, told the team he needed some time and walked out... Always being the warden of their minds, the group took him at his word and gave him his space... To battle in his mind with this possessing spirit!!!

They made temp-NPC as one of the mercs saved from the salt pit to plat in the few sessions they would be around for.

Conjurer: Alive

The reigns of leadership were thrust on this character that had been happy to follow previously. Their ability to dimension door team members and the ability to use the wands of invisibility has been huge in allowing the team to pick their fights.

Bloodrager: Alive. Captured.

This player made a temp-NPC cleric of Shelyn, sent by the temple to read the room on the Silver Ravens, to participate while their character was imprisoned.

I was able to run this character's imprisoned experience over play by post between sessions. They immediately attempted to escape when awakening (I worry they would have succeeded if they had waited until the non-lethal damage had healed, they woke with 50% lethal damage and 49% non-lethal damage). They broke their chains, created a weapon of force, and started smashing down their cell door. Predictably the first warden and his suits of armor come to subdue the unruly prisoner. It is a brutal, bloody battle where the Bloodrage destroyed multiple suits of the under arms and wounded the First Warden. Eventually they are subdued and placed on in a much more secure arrangement.


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Song of Silver: Session many.

I've been failing to update, so I'm just going to jump to the highlights.

I'm loving Thrune and his temple. The group just fought him for the second time. The first time they had him stunned and in the negatives the Gardener dimension doored him away. This time Thrune attacked while they were near the end of their exploration in the temple and low on resources, the group fled with dimension door.

Every time Thrune fights the Silver Ravens he is getting smarter and more cautious. After the first fight he acquired a few scrolls of true seeing. After this fight I think he will acquire a phase locking spiked gauntlet.

My plan is to have him teleport to the belfry instead of completely away during the next fight so that the when they win in the belfry the book is completely done. But if this works it means the they will fight him 4 times!


Song of Silver: The last Session

Once of my players returned from a 2 month hiatus just in time to corner and kill Thrune.

It was a suitably epic fight with Thrune killing one character and putting everyone else's life at risk. Adding up the CRs it was a CR 18 fight, very epic at APL +5. The fight was easier than the CR suggests because the enemies joined the fight in a staggered approach and the party was able to pre-buff while the Asmodians did not.

I had Asmoden d-door down to help thrune when things got bad for Thrune. Because I wanted the death of Thrune to be the end of the chapter. (I was looking at Thrune teleporting up to the belfry, but the temple was suitably epic, drawing it out more would have been bad for pacing).

So, Through all of book 4 the team had barely made any gear upgrades because I'd been enforcing the rule that enchanting gear takes 1 day per 1000g. And no one wanted to be without their good gear or weapon. Now they have piles and piles of loot and will be going on a week long shopping trip in Absalom...

I also plan to make sure that the next few session have relatively easy fights after the grinder they went through.


Thanks for the idea to potentially have Thrune teleport up to the Asmoden to be the final fight if needed

As for easy fights - for what it is worth the slaver mission in book 5 looks like it should be stupidly easy for a competent level 13 party. Albeit things are in the wrong order if you do that first

The part to hell looks like it could have some nasty elements - although perhaps I am just thinking about the illusionary floor...(although I assume you get a will save as soon as you try to step on it?)

How much in game time are you planning on having between 4 and 5 ?


Lanathar wrote:

Thanks for the idea to potentially have Thrune teleport up to the Asmoden to be the final fight if needed

As for easy fights - for what it is worth the slaver mission in book 5 looks like it should be stupidly easy for a competent level 13 party. Albeit things are in the wrong order if you do that first

The part to hell looks like it could have some nasty elements - although perhaps I am just thinking about the illusionary floor...(although I assume you get a will save as soon as you try to step on it?)

How much in game time are you planning on having between 4 and 5 ?

I have a 6 player party, so they fight the fights easy if I don't add 50% more enemies, or if the enemies don't fight too smart. I was worried about the slavers, because it will be laughably easy, which I think is an appropriate way to reflect their new place in the world as plane-traveling-heros.

If the group is traveling carefully they will get saves to spot the illusionary floor, in initiative they won't get a save until someone falls, but I will use the grab an edge climbing rule.

I'm going to assume two weeks, plus any time they take for crafting. Eventually the celebrations will wind down and NPCs will start worrying about Cheliax but I won't start pressuring the party until a month of more has passed.


DM Livgin wrote:
Lanathar wrote:

Thanks for the idea to potentially have Thrune teleport up to the Asmoden to be the final fight if needed

As for easy fights - for what it is worth the slaver mission in book 5 looks like it should be stupidly easy for a competent level 13 party. Albeit things are in the wrong order if you do that first

The part to hell looks like it could have some nasty elements - although perhaps I am just thinking about the illusionary floor...(although I assume you get a will save as soon as you try to step on it?)

How much in game time are you planning on having between 4 and 5 ?

I have a 6 player party, so they fight the fights easy if I don't add 50% more enemies, or if the enemies don't fight too smart. I was worried about the slavers, because it will be laughably easy, which I think is an appropriate way to reflect their new place in the world as plane-traveling-heros.

If the group is traveling carefully they will get saves to spot the illusionary floor, in initiative they won't get a save until someone falls, but I will use the grab an edge climbing rule.

I'm going to assume two weeks, plus any time they take for crafting. Eventually the celebrations will wind down and NPCs will start worrying about Cheliax but I won't start pressuring the party until a month of more has passed.

Isn't the grab and edge DC quite tough? Or am I thinking catching yourself on a normal wall?

Do you get saves to spot the illusion? I thought you had to interact? And isn't it too late at that point (I am bad at illusion magic)


All this is my own interpretation of the rules as my own way to stay sane:

I've read interacting with an illusion as taking an action (any type but free) related to the illusion. So attacking or coercing or anything that takes in game actions.

I rule that if the group is exploring cautiously; they are taking move actions to make perception checks to search for traps and hidden loot (which I only roll when relevant).

So, if they see the devils and charge; no save. If they are moving slowly talking their way through, they will get a will save.

Thanks for pointing out how hard the grab an edge DC is, that might not save them. But I'm still not worried. 20d6 is usually 70 damage, and they have had enough problems with hellfire that I expect them to have fire resistance 30 while in hell. Then many of them can fly by one means or another. It feels like a resource check more than anything else.

Speaking of resource checks. I need to remember to really play up the darkness so that they are primed for the Mangvhune darkness/invisibility tricks. There is the group's first time at high levels so there is a learning curve. The first darkness encounter was the Serpent of Darkness in the temple, this one was gentle because they entered the fight on their own terms. The Second darkness encounter will be in Hell (and THE TERAPASILLION’S SHADOW) where the devils (shadow creatures) will use darkness heavily (I'll add devils casting deeper darkness if needed). Then the Third darkness encounter will be Mangvhune where the players will feel clever if they have adequately prepared for darkness and foolish if they haven't.


I also used the major illusion trick in book 3 where some devil assassins made a bog look like a meadow to trap the party as they were riding in a fox-hunt. (An extra encounter I made for recruiting a noble.)


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My current plan for the belfry is for that to be part of the Haunting of Kintargo in book 6.


One of my players is quite excited about converting the temple to Sarenrae. Any recommendations for sub-quests for converting a temple? They will drop some gold on a shrine, cast a hallow and consencrate, and pass some knowledge religion checks. But I'm looking for a quest or two to make it feel more significant.


DM Livgin wrote:
One of my players is quite excited about converting the temple to Sarenrae. Any recommendations for sub-quests for converting a temple? They will drop some gold on a shrine, cast a hallow and consencrate, and pass some knowledge religion checks. But I'm looking for a quest or two to make it feel more significant.

Are relics a thing in pathfinder religion ? Perhaps they need a specific relic, focus or component of great power to undo such powerful evil

Or perhaps even find a powerful cleric of sarenrae that they need to convince
Depending on how much of a detour this might involve travelling to a different place

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