Changes to Silver Star (Book 4, spoilers)


Hell's Rebels


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So the whole mission at the Silver Star always stuck out to me as not fitting in with the rest of the book. The enemies are only tangentially related to Thrune, don't control any sort of strategic position in the city, and seem like the last kind of folk that the Asmodeans would ally with even if they were desperate.

I've decided to replace the encounters there with cultists of Mahathallah. While the PC's did behead Luculla in my campaign, several of her sisters (in my campaign the cultists were all spawn of the same green hag) got away. I also wanted to reuse Luculla and I'm not running books 5 and 6. So I had Luculla come back as a witchfire cleric, along with some new minions and her surviving sisters. I'm still keeping the charmed tiefling rogue but it will be Zea, as Strea is feebleminded in the temple of Asmodeus. Zea is deeply in love with the Lamia who charmed her and will fight to defend her lover unless the charm is removed. Even then, she'll have conflicted feelings. I've also upgraded encounter level to handle party size, over WBL, and over level. I expect the party to be about 11th level when/if they encounter this.

Encounters:

Sewers- x2 CR9 advanced drowning devils
(CR11)

Bedroom- CR9 Zea (charmed) tiefling UC rogue 10; CR11 (yet unnamed) Lamia matriarch antipaladin (tyrant) 3
(CR12)

Chapel- CR12 Luculla Gens Witchfire cleric 7; x4 CR5 cultist changeling vigilante (cabalist) 6
(CR13)

Luculla is particular has turned out pretty brutal. Her touch AC is super high, much to the chagrin of the gunslinger. I don't expect the other encounters to be all that difficult, though if the advanced drowning devils get an ambush off their poison might be an issue.

Plot wise, Luculla came back due to previous exposure to the soul anchor, as well as a "blessing" from her Patron. I'm aware that she technically isn't a hag or a witch, but close enough right? Plus my PC's won't be seeing the witchfire cleric at the soul anchor. She genuinely had feelings for a now deceased PC, who stood by while the rest of the party coup-de-grace'd her. They then used speak with dead but she made her save and told them a bunch of lies. So now she's furious and obsesses with revenge. She equally hates Barzillai and Co. as he slaughtered the majority of her cult at the soul anchor. Her mother was killed in that battle, possibly she was the high priestess? I don't think it was ever made clear if there was a connection between Luculla and the cultists at the anchor but I've chosen to make them related.

Anyway I'd welcome any feedback on this, criticism is encouraged so long add it is constructive.


Update: I swapped out one of the cultists for a wretchghost and have placed the chapel under the effects of a desecrate spell with an altar.

Also, Luculla won't flee from this combat- she's equally overconfident and consumed by rage. If the PC's kill another of her sisters, she pursues them until one or the other is killed. Unless they teleport or something that prevents her from following.


Why is Luculla and her throng at the Silver Star? If she hates Barzillai and hates the pc's there seem like a lot more interesting spots for her to pursue revenge...

Certainly agree the Silver Star encounter in the AP is very disconnected from the rest of the AP themes/story elements. And if your pc's have history with Luculla and won't be doing Book 5 and 6, the witchfire and cultists look like good answers.


Latrecis wrote:

Why is Luculla and her throng at the Silver Star? If she hates Barzillai and hates the pc's there seem like a lot more interesting spots for her to pursue revenge...

Certainly agree the Silver Star encounter in the AP is very disconnected from the rest of the AP themes/story elements. And if your pc's have history with Luculla and won't be doing Book 5 and 6, the witchfire and cultists look like good answers.

Fair point. I was mostly reusing the map/encounter out of laziness. Where do you think would make a more fitting place for them to set up shop?


I can definitely appreciate wanting to re-use the map

I am tempted to make changes as well both because the current encounters seem very easy and as has been mentioned they don't really fit with the AP

(I have already had Hetamon go missing so I would still need him to be somewhere)

Your ideas seem good especially if you are cutting book 5 and 6. I am quite tempted to cut those books myself but I think my group are very keen to try and complete a full 6 book AP

To what extent are your encounters designed as a counter on the gunslinger touch AC targetting? Not a criticism because the witchfire cleric is a really thematic choice

As for other uses for the silver star it is not really clear what prior enemies Shensen might have had and even if she did why they would hole up there. But that is a criticism of the written encounter as well as it is not obvious why they are there unless I misremember something from the text (perhaps something to do with the power of that font ??)


Artofregicide wrote:
Latrecis wrote:

Why is Luculla and her throng at the Silver Star? If she hates Barzillai and hates the pc's there seem like a lot more interesting spots for her to pursue revenge...

Certainly agree the Silver Star encounter in the AP is very disconnected from the rest of the AP themes/story elements. And if your pc's have history with Luculla and won't be doing Book 5 and 6, the witchfire and cultists look like good answers.

Fair point. I was mostly reusing the map/encounter out of laziness. Where do you think would make a more fitting place for them to set up shop?

Never let it be said I don't support GM laziness - it's one of my defining features!

Are you still planning on using the Authority Point system? Dealing with the Silver Star and its occupants gives the Ravens control of Jarvis End. If you move the encounter, you may need to solve for control of Jarvis End. You could put Hei-fen and her cast of characters there instead...

Luculla and her minions could attack the headquarters (assuming the Ravens are using the Lucky Bones in your campaign) - she knows all about it. And Tombus and some CCG thugs with Dottari support could be doing bad things to the tieflings in the Devil's Nursery or ambush the pc's while en route to another mission.

Luculla could also be hunting for Barzillai. She could attack the Opera House not knowing he's moved. Or she could attack while the pc's are trying to setup to use the Song of Silver. She could show up late in the assault on the Temple of Asmodeus seeking to kill the pc's and Barzillai. She could kidnap Setrona and Octavio as bait for an ambush of the pc's - she knows Setrona and probably knows she is allied with the Ravens - this would happen at the Tooth and Nail.


Lanathar wrote:

To what extent are your encounters designed as a counter on the gunslinger touch AC targetting? Not a criticism because the witchfire cleric is a really thematic choice

As for other uses for the silver star it is not really clear what prior enemies Shensen might have had and even if she did why they would hole up there. But that is a criticism of the written encounter as well as it is not obvious why they are there unless I misremember something from the text (perhaps something to do with the power of that font ??)

I'm really not building encounters to foil the gunslinger. I just really like witchfires, and noticed when I was done making the character she had a really high touch AC.

Actually the player and I both agree that the gunslinger isn't balanced (he's a musketmaster to boot) so we may seek out a fix that doesn't completely penalize his character.

In my campaign the cultists of Mahathallah preferred to take over abandoned holy sites of other faiths, ie. the Lucky Bones and Norgorber. They're probably trying to corrupt the dawnflower font but that's about all I got for reason for them to be there.

Latrecis wrote:

Never let it be said I don't support GM laziness - it's one of my defining features!

Are you still planning on using the Authority Point system? Dealing with the Silver Star and its occupants gives the Ravens control of Jarvis End. If you move the encounter, you may need to solve for control of Jarvis End. You could put Hei-fen and her cast of characters there instead...

Luculla and her minions could attack the headquarters (assuming the Ravens are using the Lucky Bones in your campaign) - she knows all about it. And Tombus and some CCG thugs with Dottari support could be doing bad things to the tieflings in the Devil's Nursery or ambush the pc's while en route to another mission.

Luculla could also be hunting for Barzillai. She could attack the Opera House not knowing he's moved. Or she could attack while the pc's are trying to setup to use the Song of Silver. She could show up late in the assault on the Temple of Asmodeus seeking to kill the pc's and Barzillai. She could kidnap Setrona and Octavio as bait for an ambush of the pc's - she knows Setrona and probably knows she is allied with the Ravens - this would happen at the Tooth and Nail.

I am doing a modified version of the authority point system, which is far less generous to the PC's until they start taking districts and eliminating lieutenants.

I've planned for control of Jarvis End to be predicated on control of the opera house, meaning they have further motivation to clear it out beyond loot, experience, and curiosity.

The Silver Star is basically a side mission or complication. I think if the PC's don't deal with Luculla, she will come after them one way or another.

That said it may be possible for them to ally with her, at least until Barzillai is dead. Not that the cult of Mahathallah make good allies...

I'm planning on having Hei-Fen and crew attack the Lucky Bones, actually. Tombus and the CCG will absolutely be doing atrocities in redroof headquartered in the Cloven Hoof Society. I've built some of his more elite goons as hangman vigilantes...


Artofregicide wrote:

I've planned for control of Jarvis End to be predicated on control of the opera house, meaning they have further motivation to clear it out beyond loot, experience, and curiosity...

I'm planning on having Hei-Fen and crew attack the Lucky Bones, actually. Tombus and the CCG will absolutely be doing atrocities in redroof headquartered in the Cloven Hoof Society. I've built some of his more elite goons as hangman vigilantes...

Totally agree the Opera House seems a much more appropriate control point for Jarvis End.

And I am also planning on having Hei Fen attack the Lucky Bones instead of Tombus. He and his goons will be threatening to lynch Hetamon and Strea as part of a pogrom against the tieflings in the Devil's Nursery. Don't see any reason not to make Barzillai and his minions utterly despicable. (I don't think the Natsiel encounter makes a lot of sense either.)

Shadow Lodge

Latrecis wrote:
Totally agree the Opera House seems a much more appropriate control point for Jarvis End.

I'll third the motion. Which should really mean that the PCs have a good chance to start with Jarvis End in control as well as Old Kintargo, depending on how the Ruby Massacre plays out. It was probably to avoid this too-easy start (as well as for the more cynical reasons like playing up the writer's ex-PC) that the Silver Star mini-dungeon carries with it district control in the first place.


Latrecis wrote:
Artofregicide wrote:

stuff

Totally agree the Opera House seems a much more appropriate control point for Jarvis End.

And I am also planning on having Hei Fen attack the Lucky Bones instead of Tombus. He and his goons will be threatening to lynch Hetamon and Strea as part of a pogrom against the tieflings in the Devil's Nursery. Don't see any reason not to make Barzillai and his minions utterly despicable. (I don't think the Natsiel encounter makes a lot of sense either.)

I think we're pretty much on the same page here. I've also moved Tiarese and kitty to the Alabaster Academy which is the new control point for the Villagre. Replacing her at the records hall is a half elf master redactor (who is actually a memory devil with class levels). I've basically set up a strategic control point and Lieutenant for each district. The Silver Ravens will both have to drop Barzillai's authority to 0 and take every district except the temple district to trigger the endgame.

zimmerwald1915 wrote:

I'll third the motion. Which should really mean that the PCs have a good chance to start with Jarvis End in control as well as Old Kintargo, depending on how the Ruby Massacre plays out. It was probably to avoid this too-easy start (as well as for the more cynical reasons like playing up the writer's ex-PC) that the Silver Star mini-dungeon carries with it district control in the first place.

I'm okay with the PC's starting with control of two districts, but I think it's unlikely that they'll have resources to survive the Masquerade and clear out the rest of the Opera House in the same night. This gives them a reason to take a second pass.

In regards to Shensen, I'm definitely reducing her role in the campaign (and I've completely removed Guttugger) but as my bard dropped out for personal reasons they may need her to perform the Song of Silver. Which is complicated because Tiarese removed her tongue as part of a ritual to transform into a greater banshee (with witch spellcasting) after death instead of a Nemhain, which is a super cool monster but doesn't fit her at all. I don't get the impression that Tiarese is strongly devoted to any cause except her own.

Mostly unrelated but she keeps a cold iron box with a tooth fairy swarm inside with her at all times as a nasty surprise for the PC's and a screen to escape. I'm completely nixing her suicidal martyr tactics entirely- becoming undead is a fallback, not a goal. There's more than enough fanatical and blindly loyal followers in Barzillai's fold, so an 18 INT spellcaster doesn't fit the bill. Well, excluding Zella but she's special... and a halfling in my campaign because I misread her description.


Have you made any changes to Tiarese as she seems very weak as written (especially the 18 int at level 10+ part). Most NPCs seem incredibly badly built with Shensen being the exception

(But I may be overlooking Feeblemind again but she has less resources than Heta-mum )

I didn’t really want to run Shensen and also thought she would make things too easy. So I played I made her a frustrating impulsive loose cannon and played her tactics to the letter - start with rod of wonder and then some (ineffectual) ranged spells . The players were goggling at her . I was quite pleased with myself

It turns out my group are going to need to dawnflower font to heal Feeblemind !

*

Who did you misread as a halfling ?!

*

When you say “swarm of tooth fairies” - have you come up with a block for them using swarm rules ? In fairness if I used this the fact there is a Kineticist in my group would mean unless he is pre engaged such a swarm probably dies in one round

Unless the idea is to make the players want to stop them getting out into the world and waste one or two valuable actions


Lanathar wrote:

Have you made any changes to Tiarese as she seems very weak as written (especially the 18 int at level 10+ part). Most NPCs seem incredibly badly built with Shensen being the exception

(But I may be overlooking Feeblemind again but she has less resources than Heta-mum )

I didn’t really want to run Shensen and also thought she would make things too easy. So I played I made her a frustrating impulsive loose cannon and played her tactics to the letter - start with rod of wonder and then some (ineffectual) ranged spells . The players were goggling at her . I was quite pleased with myself

It turns out my group are going to need to dawnflower font to heal Feeblemind !

*

Who did you misread as a halfling ?!

*

When you say “swarm of tooth fairies” - have you come up with a block for them using swarm rules ? In fairness if I used this the fact there is a Kineticist in my group would mean unless he is pre engaged such a swarm probably dies in one round

Unless the idea is to make the players want to stop them getting out into the world and waste one or two valuable actions

Changes to Tiarese: Firstly I made her 14th level, changed her hexes up a bit, and made some serious changes to her spell list, particularly adding summon monster at 5th-7th. I did give her a headband of INT and a bunch of AC boosting items, changed up her consumables including giving her a potion of invisibility and a stone salve. Also swapped her wand to glitterdust. She still is a bit of a glass cannon.

I've also changed her ritual from turning her into a Nehaim to a greater banshee with witch spellcasting. One of the components to this was Shensen's tongue, pried from her petrified mouth and restored. She will return potentially in book 4, since I'm not running the last two probably.

Shensen will be significantly less potent without the ability to speak, and her tongue can't be restored unless Tiarese is either permanently put to rest or her transformation is foiled.

But yeah I'm not really sure how to run Shensen. I'm leaning firebrand political activist. Who can't talk, obviously.

I misread Zella Zidlii, the Varisian harrower wizard as a halfling. It's turned out very well in my campaign actually.

I made a custom statblock, based somewhat on the hellwasp swarm stats. Since it's relatively low CR, I could drop several but it's mostly meant as an annoyance and screen for Tiarese's escape, as well as a callback to book 1.

If you have a Kineticist I assume most things die really quickly. My group is more reliant on weapon damage so a high level swarm will send them for a loop.


Yes the Kineticist massive damage from range blowing away DR really changes the dynamic and is not really something I think the AP write up assumes

That said the devoted muse with a holy glaive has been killing everything recently !

*

Has anyone kept Strea in the silver star

As it is not obvious what happened to her in-between the Night of Ashes and the current raid on the star. In my game I feel that has been close to 3 months


I left Strea feebleminded in the temple of Asmodeus, in a basement dungeon stolen from Citadel Drezden in WotR.

I replaced her with Zea in the Silver Star, and since I'm not using Nastiel for that purpose I had her charmed by a different character.


I kept Strea in the Silver Star and the only change I made to the place was that Hetamon wasn't there.
But I ran Hell's Rebels are an incredibly heavily modified Kingmaker and I had told my players from the beginning that I wasn't planning on changing much and that some things (at least one) might stand out as odd/out of place.
Once they did the Silver Star they laughed and asked if that was the one that seemed out of place compared to everything else and we all had fun with it.

A game is about fun. If something is occasionally out of place or doesn't make all that much sense most people don't actually mind, so long as the GM can make fun of it too.


Warped Savant wrote:

I kept Strea in the Silver Star and the only change I made to the place was that Hetamon wasn't there.

But I ran Hell's Rebels are an incredibly heavily modified Kingmaker and I had told my players from the beginning that I wasn't planning on changing much and that some things (at least one) might stand out as odd/out of place.
Once they did the Silver Star they laughed and asked if that was the one that seemed out of place compared to everything else and we all had fun with it.

A game is about fun. If something is occasionally out of place or doesn't make all that much sense most people don't actually mind, so long as the GM can make fun of it too.

I think this is a great approach. And I like odd, "I would never do that" encounters in AP's since it keeps my players from zeroing in on my own tendencies. However... I try to pay attention to what encounters tell the players about the world/story line. The Silver Star encounter comes just as the pc's/players are about to learn everything isn't what they thought it was and a half-succubus worshiper of an obscure demon lord engaged in trying to create an undead hag by sacrificing a son who's relationship to her is utterly out of the blue creates a lot of potential confusion. Having Strea, who presumably has been a prisoner of Thrune since the Night of Ashes, be there in thrall to Natsiel is even harder to explain. Or rather keep players/pc's from using for conclusions that are completely wrong.

But it's really a matter of play style. And for Lanathar who may be ending at Book 4, it may not make that much difference.


I don't mind the players not figuring everything out. Sometimes, in life, you don't get all of the answers. How did Strea end up in the hands of a half-succubus? There's nothing in the area to indicate how it happened. Let the players run wild with it.
I think, in my head, the Mahathallah cultists were working against Thrune, as was Natsiel, so Natsiel was willing to grant the cultists a favour and, in return, the cultists had to kidnap Strea from Thrune. Natsiel wanted Strea in the hopes that the idea of rescuing Strea would lure Hetamon into a trap.

But then I messed up and had Hetamon at the Ruby Massacre so apparently Natsiel was too subtle in her clues to Hetamon about where Strea was being held. (And she was being held in the Silver Star as a way to mock everyone in town in a "ha ha, I'm hiding in a place that matters to your precious heroes and you have no idea" type of thing.)

Oh, and Natsiel had removed the feeble-mind effect so that she could get some information from Strea.

Or something like that.

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