DM Livgins Campaign Journal


Hell's Rebels

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This is my journal to talk about my experiences, struggles, and joys in running my first ever Adventure Path. The primary purpose of this thread is a place to order my thoughts, however everyone is welcome to post here and join the conversation.

Spoiler:
I can't believe it took me this long to run an Adventure Path, but sometimes the winds of life and hobby blow in strange directions. For the first years of Pathfinder I ran and played in home brew material, then I found PFS and dived head first into that, now a couple moves and a few PFS lodges later I have a small PFS lodge with 6 regular player that just finished the playtest. I decided that a change of pace was in order, something different to do until the release of 2nd edition.

After an extensive survey of player preferences we decided to close the doors on the lodge until the release of PF2 and become Hell's Rebels!


The players have really embraced the campaign and made characters that are citizens of Kintargo.

We have an inquisitor of Sarenrae who has been living on the streets and hiding from the Dottari ever since the Silver Star was torched. They are desperately searching for any word of Shensen and are frightened to return to their own home.

We have tiefling slayer who belongs to a minor noble family. Their tainted blood is tolerated but not embraced within the family. They have been meeting in secret with a priest named 'Heathen Macao' who has been educating them on the Cult of Milani. But this priest stopped contacting him after the night of ash, the character is determined to find out what happened to them and continue his induction into the cult.

We have a skald (Juniper) who didn't want to get caught up in this mess but keeps getting sucked into it. They are studying music at the Academy and were really excited about their upcoming part in the huntress of heroes but then the opera house closed down. They were getting over the disappointment and continuing their studies when a crazy group mate talked them into coming to the Aria Park protest, which turned into a riot!

Then there is John Pulver, investigator, who is determined the the Temple Hill Slasher lives and House Thrune is covering it up! Little does he know he shares Iudeimus Tenement with a copycat killer!

Also in Iudeimus Tenement is the resident Mesmerist, who's blooming hypnotherapy clinic is struggling under oppressive licencing fees.


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If they haven’t crafted the background of their own minor noble family look to Regegious (sp) as there is a campaign tie in that can be brought in earlier (via CCG)

My anagram skills are poor but is the heathen who I think it is ?


Looking forward reading about your groups experiences DM Livgin! Down with Thrune!

Shadow Lodge

Dotting.


Yep, 'Heathen Macao' is one of Hetamon Haace's many aliases. Tell me more about that tie in? I don't recognize CCG.

So the inquisitor and the only healer in the group was sick for the first session, the party struggled without healing. They used all of Rexus's healing, bought a few healing potions, and even went to the Church of Shelyn for some healing (where the Mesmerist agreed to do pro-bono work for a discounted cost, not sure how I'll use this quest hook yet).

It doesn't help that they are used to the time pressure of PFS scenarios, it didn't cross their mind to take a day or two to rest after getting thrashed by the Citizen Group Thugs attacking Rexus.


DM Livgin wrote:

Yep, 'Heathen Macao' is one of Hetamon Haace's many aliases. Tell me more about that tie in? I don't recognize CCG.

So the inquisitor and the only healer in the group was sick for the first session, the party struggled without healing. They used all of Rexus's healing, bought a few healing potions, and even went to the Church of Shelyn for some healing (where the Mesmerist agreed to do pro-bono work for a discounted cost, not sure how I'll use this quest hook yet).

It doesn't help that they are used to the time pressure of PFS scenarios, it didn't cross their mind to take a day or two to rest after getting thrashed by the Citizen Group Thugs attacking Rexus.

What healing does Rexus have?

As to the tie in - in book 4 the group are attacked by the leader of the Chellish Citizens Group (CCG) : Tombus Regegious (I may have misspelled his last name). Weirdly he has dottari with him

But he is a minor noble hence why I mentioned him


Lanathar wrote:


What healing does Rexus have?

As to the tie in - in book 4 the group are attacked by the leader of the Chellish Citizens Group (CCG) : Tombus Regegious (I may have misspelled his last name). Weirdly he has dottari with him

But he is a minor noble hence why I mentioned him

Rexus had three healing potions.

I'll check out Tombus's history, would make a good tie-in / rivalry.


Session two is finished and the Silver Ravens are reborn. They will focus on Secrecy, an invisible force that will oppose the House of Thrune at every turn.

We are experimenting with a communal experience pool, instead of splitting the experience evenly it is pooled then distributed out to characters one level at a time (with the constraint that no character can be two levels ahead of any other). So two characters leveled up after the first session, and everyone else leveled up after the second session. A few level 2 characters help even out the difficulty and the party was able to celebrate the other character's new abilities they leveled a few at the time.

Although I adjusted the number of opponents for 6 players, I haven't increased the treasure or story experience for 6 players yet. I'm trying to decide between just increasing these to suit, or I'm going to sit on them and hand them out for unexpected awesomeness.


Lanathar wrote:
As to the tie in - in book 4 the group are attacked by the leader of the Chellish Citizens Group (CCG) : Tombus Regegious (I may have misspelled his last name). Weirdly he has dottari with him

I actually had Tombus be fought with two "Citizens' Troops," (CR 6, 8 HD), and gave that troop the Savage Troop template from Bestiary 6 (gives the troop the ability to Rage for 4+Con mod rounds per day). I always thought of the CCG as being the ragtag group of misfits who try to help Thrune but ends up being more of an annoyance than anything, and I created that specific troop to better fit the flavor of the battle.

But I digress.

An interesting thought going forward: Unnamed NPCs that the PCs kill (and I mean reduce their hp to equal to or greater than their Con score) decrease Kintargo's population for the Rebellion. It's a little extra bookkeeping, but it makes the players realize that their actions have consequences and to adjust as needed.

And I personally do the milestone-based leveling-up system (after X event the PCs level), mostly because it requires a little less bookkeeping, but I would tread lightly with the system you're going for--have PCs at different levels from one another can lead to a bit of a strange situation (especially when they're relying on the higher-leveled person to do the work). I'm not saying that it's a bad idea, but rather that it's a risky one.


We decided to try the XP pool because; 1) We played a dungeon delve table top game that used it and thought it was cool. 2) we have played a lot of PFS where it was normal to have staggered levels.

We are going to re-assess the xp pooling plan every book.


I disguised Blosodriette's contract as a scroll of detect magic, they never looked twice at it.

I knew they would use detect magic to poor over the crate's loot, and the dim aura without an explanation would be extremely suspicious to the group (meaning the secret page doesn't function very well at hiding the contract).

I'm a little concerned I'm being unfair to my players and giving secret page more power than in should have and that if someone wanted the contract to be better hidden they would have cast a permanent magic aura on it also.

It slipped my mind to give the character that deciphered the scroll with read magic a linguistics or perception check to notice the oddities. So I'll give them a roll the next session (they wake up in the middle of the night bothered by a detail that their awake mind missed). I'm considering giving them a bonus to their roll because they used read magic.


Session 3 is finished. The communal experience points continues to work well, the group is excited about other characters leveling up (the martials first jumped to level 2 as everyone was excited for them to have more HP, then the casters were the first to jump to level 3 as everyone was excited about level 2 spells).

They sold the scroll of detect magic that Blosodriette's contract was diguised as. So I'm trying to figure out what Crissali of Crissali’s Fine Tomes will do when she discovers that the scroll she was sold is actually a infernal contract. I like the idea that this has happened before and that Crissali has a procedure for it. Any recommendation?

The Sallix Salt Works was really fun; by spying on the place they were able to spot that the foreman occasionally make midnight black market runs, selling salt. So they came up with the plan to have the kitsune disguise themself as the dwarf foreman and run into the building in his underwear yelling about being robbed. They bluffed the guards and convinced them all to run out and chase down some imagined bandits. With that distraction they freed the prisoners and made a silent escape in a row boat across the river. It was a bloodless victory, although they were very close to killing all the sleeping guards before one of the characters backed out, deciding that they were not comfortable with killing helpless sleeping men (so they just stole the keys and locked the barracks door).


DM Livgin wrote:
They sold the scroll of detect magic that Blosodriette's contract was diguised as. So I'm trying to figure out what Crissali of Crissali’s Fine Tomes will do when she discovers that the scroll she was sold is actually a infernal contract. I like the idea that this has happened before and that Crissali has a procedure for it. Any recommendation?

That depends on whether you want the storyline to continue or not. If you want to explore that plotline (e.g. you want to introduce the Sarinis early, or someone's wanting one of these as an Improved Familiar down the line), then the policy is for Crissali to demand either a return of funds or for the party to deal with it. If you don't care for the storyline (and my table found and killed the imp before any complications happened), then Crissali just deals with it as an 8th level wizard and marks up his prices for the party to cover his costs in the future, letting them know after the fact what happened.


roguerouge wrote:
DM Livgin wrote:
They sold the scroll of detect magic that Blosodriette's contract was diguised as. So I'm trying to figure out what Crissali of Crissali’s Fine Tomes will do when she discovers that the scroll she was sold is actually a infernal contract. I like the idea that this has happened before and that Crissali has a procedure for it. Any recommendation?
That depends on whether you want the storyline to continue or not. If you want to explore that plotline (e.g. you want to introduce the Sarinis early, or someone's wanting one of these as an Improved Familiar down the line), then the policy is for Crissali to demand either a return of funds or for the party to deal with it. If you don't care for the storyline (and my table found and killed the imp before any complications happened), then Crissali just deals with it as an 8th level wizard and marks up his prices for the party to cover his costs in the future, letting them know after the fact what happened.

I like the idea of Crissali handing over this bill that they can't afford for destroyed merchandise, and claiming that they owe her a big favor if is they don't want her suing them for 'negligent handling of dangerous creatures causing property damage'.

I'm ok with the Blosodriette plot being shortcutted, but I want to do it in such a way that the character know that they dodged a bullet.


DM Livgin wrote:
roguerouge wrote:
DM Livgin wrote:
They sold the scroll of detect magic that Blosodriette's contract was diguised as. So I'm trying to figure out what Crissali of Crissali’s Fine Tomes will do when she discovers that the scroll she was sold is actually a infernal contract. I like the idea that this has happened before and that Crissali has a procedure for it. Any recommendation?
That depends on whether you want the storyline to continue or not. If you want to explore that plotline (e.g. you want to introduce the Sarinis early, or someone's wanting one of these as an Improved Familiar down the line), then the policy is for Crissali to demand either a return of funds or for the party to deal with it. If you don't care for the storyline (and my table found and killed the imp before any complications happened), then Crissali just deals with it as an 8th level wizard and marks up his prices for the party to cover his costs in the future, letting them know after the fact what happened.

I like the idea of Crissali handing over this bill that they can't afford for destroyed merchandise, and claiming that they owe her a big favor if is they don't want her suing them for 'negligent handling of dangerous creatures causing property damage'.

I'm ok with the Blosodriette plot being shortcutted, but I want to do it in such a way that the character know that they dodged a bullet.

Hmmm... So a few points/questions - though I might be too late.

Spoiler:

The scroll is an infernal contract disguised with secret page - but it's not disguised to appear as scroll of detect magic - in Pathfinder, detect magic doesn't make a lot of sense as a scroll given its a 0-level spell any caster can use on an unlimited basis. That would produce more curiosity not less as would be intended.

I agree Crissali would have a better chance of noting the strange features of the scroll - both in making either the DC30 Perception or Linguistics check called for in the AP and in using detect magic herself to notice that the scroll is definitely not a scroll of detect magic. Which she should do as an automatic step in any purchase of a magic item (scroll or otherwise.) Further it is a DC 20 Spellcraft check for her to decipher a scroll of detect magic which she has a dramatically higher chance of doing than a 1st through 3rd level pc. Indeed, an 8th level wizard should be able to take 10 and hit that DC without fail.

But setting aside the plausibility of Crissali discovering the scroll is or is not a scroll of detect magic, why is the consequence of her possession of it destroyed merchandise? Blosodriette is assumed to start breaking stuff at Crissali's? That seems insane behavior for the imp. The pc's are wet-behind-the-ears neophytes she can manipulate with her abilities (or at least think she can) but Crissali is a mid-level wizard, just the kind of person most likely to a) figure out what's going on and b) have the ability to do something about it - cast dispel magic on the scroll and reveal the contract. Frankly, given Crissali's reported political neutrality and the virtually non-existent status of the Silver Ravens (at this point in the campaign), one of Crissali's most likely choices is to return the contract to the Sarini's - politically (and possibly financially) expedient for her. Blosodriette would seriously consider revealing herself to the wizard and suggesting it. Perhaps even using suggestion to help it along.

And this thread and many of the responses could benefit from a spoiler tag.


Blosodriette's introduction can be incredibly frustrating for the players and can cause the game to stall. Having Crissali find the contract and force the characters to deal with the imp could be a lot of fun.

How I used Blosodriette:
But I'm also rather biased towards Blosodriette as she ended up being one of the more memorable characters in my game and most of the players grew really attached to the little imp.
One could control her, and she started off as a nice moral dilemma. She wasn't able to do anything for books 1-4 due to the restrictions the PCs placed on her. But the players realized she could be used at the end of book 4 for reconnaissance so they freed her from her contract. (It helped that I had her wanting to honestly help them and had her fighting against her evil nature). When a PC interacted with the Soul Anchor Blosodriette had all of her memories returned and she saw all of the horrible things she had done in her life. The sentence "and somewhere in Kintargo a tiny imp falls to her hands and knees, and gasps the words 'I remember everything' as tears starting falling from her eyes" had an amazing impact on everyone.


Blosodriette in my game:
I personally did a script change and made whomever held the contract be able to control Blosodriette. I also made the choice to say that there were at least some magical documents (other than the contract, of course) so that it wouldn’t be über obvious that the contract was there. I honestly wish that I thought of disguising it as a worthless scroll (maybe a non-cantrip, like magic mouth).

I digress; it was actually an interesting time when Blosodriette revealed herself—my group spent a good half-session (about 2 hours) going “What the heck can we do?” The kitsune arcane trickster (well, intending to be one) decided that she wanted to redeem the imp (because she had the contract). They actually ended up making Blosodriette the Ravens’ strategist! XD

I ended up having her being an unrepentant *sshole and the kitsune is still determined to redeem her!

Suggestion for Livgin:
Depending on when the PCs sold the contract, they could very well have done an unintentional breach of secrecy. If they sold it after they established themselves in the Wasp’s Nest then Blosodriette would know the location of the Ravens’ hideout! If the contract ended up in the Sarinis’ hands, then it could be a very interesting development for Barzillai (since Sarini wants to be favorable in his eyes)! Just my two cents.

Latrecis wrote:
And this thread and many of the responses could benefit from a spoiler tag.

I know I just did that (more as a “just in case”), but care to elaborate what you mean by this?


KingTreyIII wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

Latrecis wrote:
And this thread and many of the responses could benefit from a spoiler tag.
I know I just did that (more as a “just in case”), but care to elaborate what you mean by this?

Sure. The thread title is Campaign Journal so I suppose its reasonable for readers to assume details of the campaign will be discussed. However the thread starts with character creation and initial pc group formation, etc. and discusses initial encounters of the AP. Readers might also assume the journal will follow the narrative of the campaign so if I'm a player in an HR campaign and we're well into Book 3, the first few posts should be harmless. But suddenly key details from Book 4 and Book 6 show up in the posts. And there is a lot of discussion about one of the thornier mysteries of Book 1.

I also acknowledge that thread titles and much of the content in any thread in the AP-specific forums are spoileresque by their nature so anyone reading here is taking chances - buyer beware and all that. I just think we should help people make informed decisions by putting spoiler in the thread title if the intention is to discuss material specific to GM's and use the spoiler tag for similar content within a thread. But I'm kind of anal retentive so...


I've flagged mine due to it requiring a spoiler tag. I had managed to delude myself into thinking that the thread title said "spoiler".

Paizo Employee Customer Service Representative

Spoiler tags added! Let me know if y'all want some of the text not hidden behind the tag.


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Virginia J. wrote:
Spoiler tags added! Let me know if y'all want some of the text not hidden behind the tag.

Sorry about the confusion. I thought it was possible to add a spoiler label to the thread title.

Blosodriette: Awesome advice everyone, you have provided inspiration and made my game better. Here is how it went down:

Laria sold the scroll along with some other valuables the Ravens were fencing, which Crissali accepted without immediate appraisal because everyone trusts Laria. When Crissali later inspected the scroll she discovered it's true nature and discovered Blosodriette, she also noticed the oddities of Blosodriette and decided that the strange imp was an anomaly worth study. Blosodriette balked at further imprisonment and a life as a research subject and tried to provoke Crissali into destroying the contract or otherwise banishing the imp. In the fuss some merchandise was damaged, including the scroll of teleport.

Crissali was willing to write off the loss of the scroll as the cost of a new and fascinating research topic (why does this imp occasionally use old Kintargo folk sayings? Did the imp just play an halfling slave melody on it's lute?) Until one of her lapis lupis and other arcane component suppliers drew the attention of the Chelish Citizens Group and ended up in a 'doghouse'. She now needs that supplier free if she is going to continue her research.

That brings us to Crissali sitting in Laria's office in the Long Roads Coffeehouse threatening to take the 'Silver Ravens' to civil court with charges of 'Negligent Handling of Dangerous Creatures Causing Property Damage over 999 Gold Crowns' as per Section VII, Division 1, C66.2(b)(1) of the 4689 Chelish Trade Act. She offers to settle if they replace the destroyed scroll (which they can't afford)... or maybe she can be convinced to forgive everything if they complete a favor for her, something well suited to their skills and position: freeing her arcane supplier from the Chelish Citizen Group unsanctioned doghousing.

One of her conditions to the favor is that she keeps Bloodriette to study, which achieves a few goals in establishing the setting;
-The group has a contact studying the soul anchor,.
-They met a prominent merchant that will supply goods as they level up.
-They have met an arcane researcher that help with other mysteries they uncover.
-This is an NPC that is much more powerful than them, who they will eventually outpace which should be rewarding for the players.[/list]


I had Rexus begin brewing potions. Did anyone have a problems with him becoming a source of item crafting?

The group is excited about crafting magic items, but I feel like crafting feats make the rest of the gameplay less fun for that character who invested in feats that do so little besides the money they save.


That's a great way to bring them in to rescuing someone from being doghoused! Hopefully she becomes an important NPC to the group. (My group ended up using Hetamon (the tiefling tailor) and Zea (the young tiefling mentioned on the inside cover of book 2) for a lot of things early on in the campaign. (Those two remained important throughout the whole game, but they were the main two for the first 2 books. It helped that I had a tiefling in the group...)
I don't think Crissali was ever mentioned in my game and Laria didn't really click with anyone.

DM Livgin wrote:
I had Rexus begin brewing potions. Did anyone have a problems with him becoming a source of item crafting?

Is he going to be selling them to the PCs at regular price? If so, I can't see a problem. If he's doing it at a discount be careful because the PCs get stinkin' rich at various points throughout the adventure.


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Oh my goodness gracious, that's brilliant! That's a very good transition from an impromptu situation into a written-in situation.

That said, if you haven't had her do so yet I would personally have Crissali keep quiet about why she wants to study Blosodriette (don't want some little nobodies mooching off of her research). And this probably shouldn't need to be said, but I'll say it anyway: if the civil court case goes down then I would hang a Notoriety increase over their heads.

As for the potion stuff, I'd say keep it at a 10% discount from Rexus (and even that is a little bit high) but know that he can only create very specific potions from his spell list.

FYI, I may come to this thread occasionally to just say stuff about my group's time, but certainly not as consistently or as much as Livgin.

Character Relations in my game (book 2/3/6 spoilers):
My group is kinda under-roleplaying (mostly because I'm trying to get them through Book 2 and the boring low levels) but there have still been some interesting character interactions:

The Calistrian herald caller's whole backstory is based around the fact that the high priest of Asmodeus screwed over her father (a priest of Asmodeus himself) by turning him into a scapegoat for his crimes (which makes it hilarious that I re-worked Grivenner into a herald caller/Diabolist [from the new Book of the Damned]). I am actually in the process of figuring out how I can shift the blame from Grivenner to the devil Fangrane from Book 6--the best I've got so far is that he had a contract with the devil to harvest the soul of one of his clergy and the scapegoat thing was the "public" reason for the PC's father getting killed.

The aasimar vigilante actually created a lot of characters that weren't written in using the surnames of a lot of the noble families that he did know, and one of them was that he accidentally caused the death of the eldest child of the Aulorian family and I was just giggling with malicious delight because I knew that they had to save Marquel Aulorian and I knew that Marquel would blame that PC for the death of his brother. Marquel actually ended up challenging him to a duel.

The kitsune arcane trickster actually made a big connection with Vendalfek and is basically an ad hoc familiar. She also connected decently well with Luculla Gens (I fooled them into thinking she was a Milanite) as well as another Mahathallan of my own creation named Caterina (she used to be an instructor at Lady Docur's School and basically runs a pesh ring). They're actually about to go into Lucky Bones later today, so they're in for a surprise.

The half-orc skald is actually kinda tough for me because he hasn't really made a connection very much. His backstory is that he's a member of the Cloven Hoof Society before the Night of Ashes saw Vestori disappear.

Anyways, weird off-topic tangent aside, keep track of those kinds of interactions because they will actually be important during the Ruby Masquerade.


DM Livgin wrote:

I had Rexus begin brewing potions. Did anyone have a problems with him becoming a source of item crafting?

The group is excited about crafting magic items, but I feel like crafting feats make the rest of the gameplay less fun for that character who invested in feats that do so little besides the money they save.

If you see the endings of book 3 and 4, the mass combats mean that the PCs need a boost, particularly since at least one PC might have optimized for skills rather than combat. I think it's fine.


Warped Savant wrote:


I don't think Crissali was ever mentioned in my game and Laria didn't really click with anyone.

My arcanist PC appreciates his no-distractions policy.


roguerouge wrote:
My arcanist PC appreciates his no-distractions policy.

I was surprised for a second so had to check my notes... Nandy Crissali is a woman. (In Hell's Bright Shadow, P 65, J2)


Drat. I also typically switch the gender of Vannases Trex back and forth.


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KingTreyIII wrote:
FYI, I may come to this thread occasionally to just say stuff about my group's time, but certainly not as consistently or as much as Livgin.

I'm cashing this one in, and this happened with my group last night and I really wanna talk about it!

Book 2 Spoilers:
So my group finished the Mahathallah section of the Lucky Bones and it was...something.

First off, I tend to rework NPCs and encounters to be more optimized because my group is a bunch of power-gamers and they said that they like that I do that.

So, I kept the standard cultists as cleric/rogue but gave them Net Adept (might as well use that free proficiency for something). Nothing too interesting.

Maglap I actually replaced with an advanced Morgodea (can't remember which book, but it's in one of the Hell's Rebels bestiaries) who had an Ioun Torch and I honestly felt that that was a better fight, as well as giving the players a moment of "What the hell is that?!"

The bearded devil was a hard fight! The wizard cast a create pit right in the middle of the room that the devil saved against and it actually worked in his favor (it made the already-tight spacing even worse) and he fell when the skald caught both me and the devil off-guard by running to grab his silver morningstar and then charging! Unfortunately, the combat lasted exactly long enough for Luculla to grab the twins without the PCs noticing.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made a Mahathallan of my own by the name of Caterina, who was a oracle with the Intrigue mystery and the Sahir-Afiyun feat (because she was a serious pesh dealer). When Luculla decided to act as a sacrifice, I had Caterina act as the high priestess in Luculla's stead.

Now, I was planning on using this fight to test the PCs' endurance, so I added in an Ichkoh sahkil that was called with lesser planar ally and Caterina and the two cultists. I saw how depleted they were on resources, so I nixed the cultists. Because of how long they took with taking 20s on the cell where the twins were as well as the iron door, they actually managed to drain Caterina of all of her buffs! She was a sitting duck with a 14 AC. Long story short, the sakhil's deal (min./level) ran out mid-combat (an impromptu GM call to save the PCs' behinds from being annihilated by the barely-hurt outsider), so it shifted to the Ethereal Plane, leaving Caterina (who got hit with a crit with a glaive) pretty much screwed.

Afterwards, I had Luculla actually reveal herself to be a changeling to help with her lie (that she tried escaping the cult itself), and the group was actually really sympathetic towards her (I made the Sense Motive checks in secret; none of them saw through her lies!). In order to get into C9 (which is where Luculla's "gear" [incriminating evidence]) I had to have Luculla dispel the force ward because none of the PCs could (and she needed to destroy that incriminating evidence more than to do a little extra damage).

Now, I set the in-game rule that if the PCs kill (not knock unconscious) an unnamed NPC then they would reduce Kintargo's population, so they were just wondering what the hell to do with the cultists (I was secretly going to not have it count against Kintargo's population, but I wanted to see what they did), and they did the most unknowingly stupid thing that they could have: they left it up to Luculla to deliver the cultists to the dottari! Basically, they just gave the entire cult back to the high priestess! I'm so using that against them in the future!


King Trey III, possible use for you: (and spoilers for later books)

Spoiler:
You could replace the Skinsaw cult in the later books with the Mahathallah cultists so that they feel like a more natural fit of enemies.
BUT!
Thrune corrupted something sacred to them. I'm sure you know what I mean. (If not, PM me). They should be fighting Thrune. My group killed the cultists but Luculla tricked them in much the same way it happened in your game. She admitted to being a changeling and said the cult was sacrificing her because she wouldn't join them. The group had her leave the Lucky Bones with the twins (because she could get them out and bring them somewhere safe) and wasn't seen again until much later. She died protecting a thing and I replaced the written-in NPC with her.


Good tactics by your players. Delay is an under-used tactic in combat preparation.


It was a busy week at work and I definitely came into this weeks session underprepared! Having the broad outline of the adventure to follow while improvising is a blessing compared to learning and absorbing a new plot every week in PFS.

My lack of preparation aside the players really carried the day by planning a heist to stop the unsanctioned doghouseing and investigating the trouble at Clenchjaw's. The night finished with a ghoul invasion in the sewers that they cleared before any teams were affected (being the only combat of the night).

They are starting to lean into the lawful nature of Cheliax and forged a prisoner transfer form to take custody of the dog housing victim, the investigator blew the forgery DC out of the water. A player had a 'wait what' moment when they found out that the salt-works prisoners had their prisoner numbers tattooed on them (they used this to make up an assigned prisoner number for the doghouse victim transfer form). I'll be circling back to make sure that my players still consent with some of the themes and content of this campaign.

The Clenchjaw encounter followed the script fairly close, but was a good encounter to make the world feel believable and lived-in. One character previously worked at the Thrashing Badger and was greeted by their old regulars, and the conflict in the bar between the working folk and the displaced university students / politicals is a conflict our group of players all empathize with and have witnessed.

The struggle of being competent revolutionaries:
The players are starting to feel torn between having a well executed heist and the fun of getting in fights. Every time a bloodless plan goes off perfectly they are excited that there characters are excelling (and they built characters with the appropriate skills to excel) but also sad cause they love the Pathfinder combat system (a big part of the game). We are drifting closer to the danger zone where an one of the players will soon start declaring that they kick down the door and start a fight just because they are bored of talking their way out of fights. Next week they will be entering the Fantasmagorium so the will be a good relief valve, but I am thinking about how to talk to the group about this. I feel like they are almost self-sabotaging their fun, they choose to focus on secrecy and are choosing to plan well executed heists but they are are missing the combats.

There is also an aspect of group decision making going on; where although most the players might favor a direct combat the group discussion always drifts toward what looks like a 'best plan' (the bloodless heist). One of my ideas is the that player that brings the food (we have a rotating schedule) is the group leader that night and they have to act as the chair during planning sessions (they decide when to stop planning and execute the plan, they decide between ideas when two different but good ideas are presented). The goal is to give the group permission to have bad plans, to make mistakes, and to get in fights.

It doesn't help that they are accustomed to PFS were there is an average of two to three combats per session, even if you try to avoid them. They are constantly caught by surprise by how soft the rails are. I'm also considering applying the railroad a little heavier, and forcing in combat encounters that they are trying to avoid.

I told the group wrong info:
I feel like a pillar of GMing is making up material to write in an off the cuff comment that the the players latched on to. So, I told the group that the rebellion is capped at Rank 5 because the Longroads Coffee House is too small of a base of operations. Now I see that the cap goes up after the Fantasmagorium due to 'increased support'. They are now on an aggressive hunt for a new base of operations (which is awesome cause I'm able to drop plot hooks everywhere), but I need to rationalize the rank increase to 10 at the end of book 1. They will want to use the Fantasmagorium, that deviates from the script heavily and it has them moving locations repeatedly. I want to come up with something that believably expands the capacity of the Longroads Coffee House... Some way to improve access in the sewers?


Crissali: The group was unhappy with being blackmailed, but appear to be on cooperative if unfriendly terms with her after rescuing her supplier from the doghousing.


I don't think it would hurt to tell players that every book has a major dungeon crawl, along with encounters that can be resolved by combat, heist, and/or intrigue. It might help with the FOMO concern. I also try to make sure that about half to a quarter of each session has a combat in it: it's early yet, so you might also let them know that you're aware that combat is fun and that it will be a regular feature of games.


Can they start making safe houses as a way to "expand" their operations? It may be that the constraint is the same people walking into the same very public coffeehouse draws attraction that limits your rebellion size for a time, but that rotating the big meeting allows you to expand by minimizing the likelihood of hostile attention.


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DM Livgin wrote:
...I need to rationalize the rank increase to 10 at the end of book 1. They will want to use the Fantasmagorium, that deviates from the script heavily and it has them moving locations repeatedly.

Fantasmagorium spoilers:
At the end of the Fantasmagorium (Side tangent: my players loved the Ripley's Believe It or Not vibe to it!) there is a set of soul tomes that grant a +2 to all Organization checks, I would also flavor it as a significant increase in knowledge of Kintargo and secret organizations to increasing the max rank to 10.

As for using the Fantasmagorium as a base, it's a simple solution: Thrune already knows that it exists and has already infiltrated it.

Shadow Lodge

KingTreyIII wrote:
DM Livgin wrote:
...I need to rationalize the rank increase to 10 at the end of book 1. They will want to use the Fantasmagorium, that deviates from the script heavily and it has them moving locations repeatedly.
** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Not to mention that the Many-Steps Monastery suffers from the same problem as the Fair Fortune Livery when it comes to use as a hideout (as opposed to a cache): it only has one exit. The Wasp's Nest and the Lucky Bones have bolt holes leading to the Villegre sewers and the Yolubilis estuary respectively, but the only way to not get cornered in the Many-Steps Monastery is to be able to teleport.

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Okay, I need a little advice (and perhaps moral support):

Book 2 spoilers:
So my players just finished the undead section of the Lucky Bones and they were REALLY struggling! I managed to kill the cleric because they didn’t this to dismiss shield other during the Lorelu fight, which made them have to use their scroll of raise dead. They then fought the xorn and before I even noticed it managed to kill the front-line vigilante.

Knowing that in order to raise the vigilante back it would require going to the temple of Asmodeus or Zon-Kuthon, which I know that my group would NEVER do just out of principle. Knowing that I adjusted the xorn’s last attack to be nonlethal, and I got some serious pushback from that player—he honestly didn’t believe that it would fight nonlethally and was acting like he WANTED his character to die (he actually enjoys the character, so I know it’s not from a lack of motivation). He eventually stood down, but against the six ghasts he almost immediately got paralyzed, and I REALLY had to stretch the ghasts’ motivation to make sure that they DIDN’T coup de grace him.

Now, I know that the risk of character death is part of the game and that GMs shouldn’t just coddle their players, but I don’t like just slaughtering players for no reason—especially if they have no way back—and the Lucky Bones is DEADLY! So...am I in the wrong here? It’s been bugging me so much and I just don’t know if I did something disrespectful or what...


Okay a lot of things to be said and since a couple of them are spoilery (that is too a word) I'll put it all behind the tag.

Spoiler:

So they got to Lorelu with Shield Other up? Had they come straight from fighting the Luculla bunch? And why did that kill the cleric? Lorelu only gets one attack a round - the cleric got into the fight with the ghost with Shield Other up with low enough hit points to be killed by taking half the damage from a 7d6 attack - okay maybe it was 10d6 with sneak attack? The original target should have gotten a Fort save to cut it in half and even if that failed that should be 30-40 hp, split in half gets to 20hp of damage. That took the cleric past -CON? And if the cleric survived the first attack through Shield Other - that should have gotten cancelled at the cleric's next action if his hp were so low. Seems strange.

Also, the Lucky Bones exploration is not on a timer, especially after the Mahathallah cultists have been dealt with. There is no reason for your pc's to push through multiple encounters in an area that has been locked up/static for decades. There's no crime in hinting or explicitly telling them "Its clear no one has been in these halls for decades." Maybe even: "Hint: you can take your time and handle exploration slowly." And if there is a crime in it, it seems a misdemeanor in comparison to directly changing combat in a way that's obvious to the players. To a level they argue with you against themselves.

On that front, the player was correct. No way the Xorn would use a non-lethal attack, especially if it had already been using lethal attacks. And the creature's explicit role in the trap is to kill intruders.

No, ghasts would not coup de grace fallen enemies if there were ambient enemies still around. I rarely have enemies/NPC's use coup de grace on fallen pc's unless they have specific enmity for that pc - as long as there are other pc's/enemies in the area. Why? Because it's suicidal. Why should a creature take an action to kill an already incapacitated character while other characters in the area are still actively trying to kill it?

I assume the Raise Dead scroll in question was the one they found in Luculla's stuff? That isn't they only Raise Dead they can come up with. If they are running the Rebellion and have Hetamon as an ally, one of the caches he can provide for them (Major) includes a scroll of Raise Dead.

And not to be the Forum Police, but you seem to have usurped another DM's campaign journal thread. Perhaps your questions would be better placed in a thread of their own or the relevant-for-the-book GM thread?


Spoiler:
Latrecis wrote:
And not to be the Forum Police, but you seem to have usurped another DM's campaign journal thread. Perhaps your questions would be better placed in a thread of their own or the relevant-for-the-book GM thread?

You make an excellent point there. Sorry, Livgins!


DM Livgin wrote:

This is my journal to talk about my experiences, struggles, and joys in running my first ever Adventure Path. The primary purpose of this thread is a place to order my thoughts, however everyone is welcome to post here and join the conversation.

** spoiler omitted **

After an extensive survey of player preferences we decided to close the doors on the lodge until the release of PF2 and become Hell's Rebels!

DM Livgin I wondered for the longest time if you were still active on these forums as I haven't seen you in ages. It's good reading your thread mate.


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Atalius wrote:
DM Livgin I wondered for the longest time if you were still active on these forums as I haven't seen you in ages. It's good reading your thread mate.

Thanks for the kind words. I've been GMing more than I've been playing recently, and as a consequence I've spent less time in the rules forums. Insert joke about 'rules are for players, not GMs.'

HOCUM’S FANTASMAGORIUM!!!1!
The outrageous silliness of this place was a blast to run. When the characters read the list of displays on the old faded banners they were ready to nope out: "Insect Zoo?... Can we avoid that one? Who brought alchemist fire?". We were able to finish the first floor in this session.

Difficulty: I'm still struggling to intuitively adjust to the lower power level of this campaign (15 point buy, and everyone agreed to make 'ok' characters). Every fight I expect to be a steam-roll is instead exactly challenging enough.

The zombie fight chained into the redactor fight, so the team started the fight wounded and out of position. Then the redactors were able to knock the main damage dealer out in the first round of combat, turning the rest of the combat into this long fight of attrition. However, the wizard was packing a glitterdust so they were able to counter the invisible healer easy.

I've been just adding more enemies to adjust the CR for 4 to 6 players, but that is making some crowded battlefields and slow fights. In the fights that already have several low level mooks I'm going to start adding 'elites' to make up the CR difference.

Mercy versus Loot: The cleric overseeing the redaction on the main floor surrendered and offered to spill all the beans in exchange for being released with his armor and weapons. After some debate the group decided to deceive him into thinking they would release him, got all the information they could, then executed him. The driving factor in their decision was his +1 weapon that he wanted to be released with. I'm not sure if this was a good moment of self reflection for the group (you aren't the good guys you claim to be) or a clash of narrative versus mechanics (the mechanics of the game punishes the group for telling the story they want to tell).

Next week they will head deeper into the Many-Steps Monastery, I'm now expecting a long and challenging fight deep below.


A piece of advice for the monastery (don’t know if I need to put it in spoilers but I will anyway):

Spoiler:
I personally replaced the ogrekin with an actual ogre (had no gear except a broken club; made it almost exactly CR 2). The reason why I did so is because the Lout is guarding the door to Nox and, in my mind, I couldn’t see why Nox wouldn’t join the fight against Lout (or the redactors in that same room for that matter), and Nox is a serious fight in her own right, much less combined with other encounters!

Basically I had Lout stand in the doorway between Nox’s area and the one before and pretty much said that it’s body blocked line of sight into (and out of) the next room (hence why I went with a full-blood ogre: they’re Large).

TL; DR: replace the ogrekin with a full ogre to act as an ad hoc door so that Nox doesn’t join in on other encounters and rain hell on the party!


That was one hell of a session. Nox made for a terrifying encounter.

The Many-Steps Monastery: The group managed to beat the Scrivenite at initiative, successfully slumber hexed it then successfully cast sleep in it's slumbering form. Giving them 4 minutes until it woke and would raise the alarm.

With the element of surprise they were able to ambush the first group, unfortunately the noise alerted the second group.

I had Nox casually watch the fight in the common room while holding back her hell hounds (2 hell hounds as a 6 player adjustment, plus they were with her), as she callously watched the disposable agents of the church get cut down, allowing them to wear down her foes before entering the fray. This of course made it a back to back fight with her charging in before the last redactor was slain.

Nox fought like a boss, but with clever/lucky tactics they backed her into a corner and slowly began wearing her down. Eventually she made a break for it, survived the AoO and dimension doored away.

Unfortunately that lemure, her weak little summon, managed to down the warpriest. I made a few mistakes here and had the lemure attack the warpriest when I thought he was staggered but he was actually unconscious and attacked with both attacks when the creature should have attacked once then moved after someone else. This poor warpriest was also suffering from ghoul fever at the time and only had 8 Con, so the lemure was able to bring him down to -8 hp exactly. I feel bad about this, but I also don't because he stormed this lower level without using one of the several potions of lesser restoration that they had...

So I'm deciding between a few options on what to do here;

1) Let the dice stay were they fell: His character is dead, rises as a ghoul at midnight, and terrorizes the hideout. He rolls a new character.
2) Point them towards the free scroll of raise dead; Rexus might recall that scroll is in stock and tell them to go begging at the temple.
3) Tell them I made two mistakes and retcon the death; This is the most fair, but I think it damages the immersion a lot. There was this huge oh-no moment when everything felt much more real when the warpriest died.
4) Try to preserve the immersion while giving the character/player a consolation prize; He is a hexenhammer inquisitor that has this great flavor us using dark powers. We (I've been discussing this with the player) at having him rise again with the ghoul corruption from the horror adventures.

We just came out of the playtest and PFS before that and the entire group is adjusting to playing the same character continuously. Out of habit most players have been making back up characters. This player had a back up character ready to go even before this session, a very effective mouser swashbuckler. And he was initially very excited about his character dying and being able to switch. But there are a few problems if he brings in this new character; I either have to nerf his starting wealth or he will bring in a gold influx to the group (they are feeling poor), this character is much more effective that the rest of the group and deviates from the 'make well rounded characters' agreement (I believe that everyone, or no one in a group should min-max), and lastly I'm scared of the slippery slope where everyone wants to keep making new characters (I know the answer to this is greater investment in the characters by the players, not trying to stomp it down).

I'm liking #4 the most and will try to tie it in with the soul anchor. The player is also liking the idea of this internally torn inquisitor of Sarenrae, hating the corrupted being they are but remembering the teachings of redemption.


4, 2, 1 is the order I would consider them in. #3 isn't an option in my mind as there's two ways to avoid doing it while keeping the character alive and the player seems fine with option 1.

I haven't looked at Horror Adventures so I don't know what the ghoul corruption does... I should change that... but I like the idea of the character having inner turmoil. Inner turmoil is ALWAYS* the best choice.

*Okay, not always but very nearly always.


First character death and return should be a great opportunity to foreshadow the soul anchor. That's what I did when a PC's pit spell sucked in another PC to their death.


So we went through the whole Octavius introductions and Hellknight rescue in a single session. That Kyton is a very hard fight for a group of poor level 4s. Luckily the mesmerist got a hideous laughter through which gave the group the win.

Most the group is level 5 now but that treasure in the lucky bones can't come soon enough.


We wrapped up the Varl Wex investigation and the Red Jills from book one in this session.

It was fun to have the murdered in the same building that two of the PCs lived. Wex spent most the combat trying to get his knife then trying to escape the mobbing. Which was good, the team needed a successful fight, and it was a good reward for a successful investigation. It would have been a very different fight if he would have been armed and ready for the group.

Upgrading Scarplume to level 6 and flying around throwing fireballs was a blast to GM.

Notoriety; I was worried that the gift presentation would feel forced at the end of book two, that the Silver Ravens where to sneaky for it to make sense but the the group really dialed up the PR campaign this book. Some NPCs are also doing PR work without direction and the group is running with it. Lucculla is making raven cookies with silver sprinkles. They are running a team of rowboats across the river.

Brazillia inviting them by name will not surprise the group.


Poison Pen: This took most of a session as the group attempted to talk their way in through the front door. It went poorly and I'm fairly sure that family is now soundly in the thrune camp as the Silver Ravens stormed their place and kidnapped their son in broad daylight.

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...

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