Feedback from an investigation-focused adventure

Doomsday Dawn Game Master Feedback

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Or: The tale of a cultist, an oil, a tuna and a colossal chainmail sock


Our group had time to playtest parts 1, 2, 4 and 7 of Doomsday Dawn, and we provided feedback through the surveys. One weekend, when several of our group were away, we played a rewritten version of part 6 that was designed to be completed in one evening and focused almost entirely on social interaction and investigation. There were far too many changes for us to respond to the standard surveys for part 6, so I’m posting this report in the hope that it contains a data point or two that will be useful (or at least of some interest).

Key changes:

  • There were various additional ways for the PCs to gain information and get past the kraken without having to fight it.
  • There was no curse for critically failing Gather Information checks.
  • There were no restrictions on spellcasting in the citadel.
  • Kasbeel was not working for Whark - instead, she was staying in Plumetown.
  • Whark wouldn’t assist the PCs directly - if they mentioned the book, she would plan to auction it off to the highest bidder after the gala.
  • The Night Heralds’ message was not designed to be intercepted.
  • Kasbeel obtained details of the citadel’s defences from Whark’s disgraced former first mate. Necerion was actively working on a way to get past the kraken safely - this was still in progress as the PCs arrived, so Necerion was staying in Plumetown rather than hiding in the citadel.
  • Out of all the PCs, only Necerion’s nemesis had met him before (this was just to emphasise the nemesis’s connection, but it ended up having a significant impact on the game because of the details of the locate spell). The nemesis knew that Necerion was an occult caster who frequently used disappearance, lots of aggressive magic and mundane disguises, and who might have infernal support.
  • I set various DCs in advance for Diplomacy and other checks, ranging from DC 5 (to learn that a contract devil is on the island!) to DC 40 (to persuade Whark’s former first mate to reveal anything useful).

    The PCs:

  • goblin bard
  • elven rogue
  • dwarven cleric of Nethys

    The player of the elven rogue commented that she particularly enjoyed playing this character.

    Some numbers:

  • Time taken to create PCs: about 2 hours, according to the player of the rogue (most of this was spent on selecting feats)
  • Time taken to play the session: about 3.5 hours
  • Hero points given out: 6
  • Hero points used: 0
  • PCs reduced to 0 hit points: 0 (there was no real combat)

    Results of some skill checks:

  • The PCs all easily made the DC 17 Deception check to infiltrate the gala without attracting suspicion.
  • The players made multiple Gather Information rolls to pick up general knowledge as they mingled in the gala - the results were all in the 30-35 range.
  • Two of the PCs met the imprisoned first mate and between them made three Diplomacy rolls of 40 or above in a row to convince him to tell them everything.
  • I gave the PCs a couple of opportunities to spot the disguised Necerion in the crowd, but the players all rolled low for this and didn’t get anywhere near his Stealth DC.

    A comment on a couple of feats:

    Glad-Hand and Lengthy Diversion were both used in effective ways during the adventure. The players of the bard and rogue seemed to enjoy having access to a range of social feats.

    Results of some spells:

  • The cleric PC cast locate to try to find the book - this failed because of the vault’s lead lining.
  • Because only the rogue PC had met Necerion before (see Key Changes, above), the cleric couldn’t use locate to determine the direction to him.
  • Necerion critically succeeded on his save against the bard PC’s scrying.
  • Prying eye and ethereal jaunt were both useful for exploring the citadel.
  • Teleport was more useful than it should have been (we forgot to double-check the casting time).
  • Reverse gravity was cast a couple of times near the vault. The water surface was included in the area of the spell. Things got … a little bit damp.

    Necerion’s scheme:

    The PCs interrupted Necerion as he was just starting to implement his plan for getting past the kraken. He was about to set a contraption (consisting of an enormous oily sheet of chainmail connected to a complex spring mechanism encasing a whole tuna) swinging above the water near the vault. (He commissioned this from a master trap-maker visiting Plumetown.) The idea is that the kraken grabs the tuna, triggering the springs that wrap the chainmail around one of the kraken’s tentacles. The chainmail is coated with antimagic oil, which makes the kraken immune to the enchantment that was cast on it, allowing it to escape. (Should this scheme work? Does a creature being encased in chainmail due to a trap count as “wearing” the chainmail? Yes, it works! I’m the GM!)

    The most fun part to GM:

    The PCs stayed at the best (and third worst) inn in Plumetown and found that they were in the room next door to a polite contract devil. They shared a breakfast of white wine and muffins with her on the terrace. The genteel conversation began with pleasantries about the weather but quickly progressed to hints that Kasbeel might not be entirely committed to the success of the Night Heralds’ plans, and then to offers of wishes in exchange for something unspecified. (No souls were sold in the course of this adventure.)


    Setting DCs for the various checks seemed straightforward.

    GMing this session had a somewhat different feel to it from other Pathfinder games our group has played. In our previous Pathfinder games, there are typically a few PCs with high Diplomacy, and all the other PCs tend to avoid interacting with NPCs if there’s any risk of negative outcomes - in these cases, a diplomacy-focused part of an adventure can be lots of fun to GM but there’s always pressure to move on because some PCs aren’t letting themselves get involved. In this session, all the PCs had high enough Diplomacy to engage with the investigation.

    The results of the various skill checks were a reminder that sequences of random numbers will often have more “clumping” than most people intuitively expect - there were several cases in this session where all three players got similar results for the same check. (This may have a particular impact on adventure design if DCs are set high enough that there’s a significant risk of failure even for PCs with high modifiers for the relevant skill.)

    After I decided that Necerion would not want to risk casting dispel magic while in range of the kraken’s tentacles, it was a bit challenging to work out if there were any feasible alternative approaches - this is probably inevitable given my unfamiliarly with the rules. The oil-coated tuna-baited chainmail trap was the best* option I could think of.

    * the use of the word ‘best’ is not intended to imply ‘good’. :-)


    Completely unfounded and yet entirely true:
    The best coincidence of the session: The bard PC impulsively started a rumour that Kasbeel had secretly met with Whark’s former first mate. This rumour was repeated to the PCs every time they subsequently made a Gather Information roll. Although they had no way of knowing at the time, the rumour happened to be true.

    Hell’s soundtracks:
    During breakfast on the terrace, the goblin bard PC has been singing random repetitive snippets of goblin songs…
    Kasbeel (not seriously): “This background music reminds me of home.”
    Goblin bard PC: “Sounds great!”
    Elven rogue PC: “No, you get sent to a part that’s full of elves. Singing dirges. That each last for thousands of years.”

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