Sovereign Court Prologue (SPOILERS)


War for the Crown


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First and foremost,in case you didn’t look at the title properly, this is not a thread for players. There are MAJOR SPOILERS for THE ENTIRE WAR FOR THE CROWN AP, and also SEVERAL PFS MODULES. Specifically The Infernal Vault, The Dalsine Affair, Library of the Lion, Birthright Betrayed, The Jarlsblood Witch Saga, and The Lion’s Justice.

You have been warned.

I took inspiration from this thread along with the PFS books made to tie into the events of this AP to develop a prologue of sorts to the AP proper. Having now run it in its completion (the prologue; the AP is in full swing and my players have just finished Crownfall), I thought I would lay out what I built and how it went.

The primary objective of this was to provide a certain amount of context for the AP (at least one of my players is fairly new to Golarion, while the others are pretty big lore nerds), as well as foreshadow a lot of the events in the AP, including the primary villains. It also had the added bonus of giving me a chance to playtest and refine a few house rules and social systems. These are issues I had a fair amount of trouble with when I ran Hell’s Rebels for the first time, so I wanted to make sure to get it right this time around.

The prologue is composed of six Pathfinder Society modules, starting 12 years before the events of the AP (4706 AR) and spanning up until the events of the first part of Crownfall. It follows the exploits of the Sovereign Court, from their early beginnings as a group of aspiring Pathfinders working for the Taldan faction up to modern day, where they are Lady Morilla’s elite covert agents in service to Princess Eutropia.

So, without further ado, the books and how I altered them slightly to tie into the AP:

Book 1: The Infernal Vault
The year is 4706 AR and a group of pathfinder agents are assembled by the scheming Taldan noble Jacquo Dalsine to execute an operation in Absalom. There, they meet with Lady Gloriana Morilla, who informs them that their mission is to infiltrate a vault belonging to the Chelish Deckland family, stop Lady Celeena Deckland from revealing sensitive records, and convince her to join the Taldan cause as a double agent.

The purpose of this book was to introduce the characters to the most basic social combat mechanics and set the tone of the adventure. It also introduced Lady Morilla, Baron Dalsine, and Lady Deckland as major characters that would play a part in the overall plot.

Changes:

- The players are all assumed to be relatively new members of the Taldan faction. Emphasis is put on this rather than them being Pathfinders. In hindsight, I could have even opted to have them be called the Sovereign Court from the very beginning, since the faction change from PFS doesn’t really play into this story.

- The mission statement of “stop Lady Deckland” was altered to more aggressively emphasise capturing her alive (the Taldan faction objective) so that the players would have to utilise diplomacy to talk down a hostile target. This allowed me to test my streamlined social combat rules in a hostile negotiation scenario (my version of social combat is adjusted so that Discovery checks are move actions and Influence checks are standard, meaning they can be used in combat situations).

- Following her capture, Celeena Deckland goes on to becoming a spy for Taldor within the Chelaxian courts. She is however found out in 4010 AR and hunted by Asmodaean Inquisitors, and “rescued” by Nenareen Adella (who informed them in the first place). The Duchess of Blood tricks Celeena into believing that it was the Society that betrayed her. She is given an opportunity to join the Immaculate Circle and gain vengeance against the Sovereign Court. Lady Morilla loses all contact with her at this point, and believes that she was caught and killed.

- The “Taldan dagger” that the Taldor faction is supposed to retrieve for bonus prestige was altered to be the Scion's Dagger relic. It would later be stolen from the Pathfinders (either by Lady Deckland or by Chalfon Dalsine, who takes it from Baron Jacquo) and given to the Immaculate Circle, which is how it comes to appear in The Twilight Child.

Other Notes:

- Players started this at level 2. No reason for this besides my and the party's general distaste for level 1 fragility.

Book 2: The Dalsine Affair
The Taldan agents (now level 3) are sent to rescue a group of Sarenites from the lodge in Oppara before they're caught by the Lion Blades, only to discover that this was a diversion by Lord Chalfon Dalsine to orchestrate the encounter between Baron Jacquo and Pasha Muhlia Al-Jakri of the Qadiran faction. The agents arrive just too late as Baron Jacquo is killed, but defeat Chalfon. The agents attend Jacquo’s funeral and briefly meet the Dalsine patriarch, and Lady Morilla subsequently takes over the Taldan Faction.

Changes:

- The canonical date of events is moved to 4708 AR to be 10 years before the events of Songbird, Scion, Saboteur. The reasons for this will be clearer with the rest of the changes.

- Both the encounters with the militia and the guards at the Dalsine manor were organised to play along with the social combat structure I used with Lady Deckland. All in all it played fairly similarly to skill challenges, which worked fairly well at keeping the pace.

- The leader of the surviving Cult of the Dawnflower members is Zenaida Tandleos, leader of Oppara’s Sarenite church from Temples of the Inner Sea. I did this to have her be an eventual asset in Book 6 of the prologue (the life debt she owes them ended up getting used to have her cast resurrection on Kalbio).

- I added a slightly more detailed Opparan sewer sequence that included encounters with a slithering pit and an onyvolan. I did this mostly to replace the spider encounter (one of my players is an arachnophobe) and to use these interesting creatures since I don’t use random encounters (one of the PCs is also known for their large hat, which happened to be a very fortunate coincidence for me). One of my players inspected the hat the onyvolan was wearing, so I quickly fluffed that is had the name “Adella” embroidered inside as a little bit of extra foreshadowing.

- Charito (the Sarenite who reveals that she may have leaked into to Chalfon) was reflavoured to be a servant of a lesser branch of the Vernisant family. I did this specifically because one of my players is a noble scion of Vernisant and also a Sarenite. Charito was his nurse as a child, which is where he learned about Sarenrae. She also alludes to her lady and Chalfon having an affair, which will come into play in how the Vernisant PC ends up “inheriting” a certain Dalsine estate.

- The influence that convinced Chalfon to orchestrate his cousin’s death is changed to be “The Immortal Duke” (ie Duke Lotheed). Chalfon’s diary and ring reveal that he was an aspiring member of the Immaculate Circle and was acting on their behalf (though the reason is left unclear to the PCs, who can find nothing about the Circle or the Immortal Duke beyond them being some secret organisation, which are a dime a dozen in Taldor).

- The Dalsines at the time of this adventure are the keepers of Songbird Hall in Meratt, and Baron Jacquo is the owner of the Betony Estate (naturally renamed the Dalsine estate). Baron Jacquo is detailed to be the only son of Count Theollo Dalsine. The reason Duke Panivar arranged for Chalfon’s actions was to ensure that Count Dalsine would have no heirs, so that upon his death stewardship of Songbird Hall would shift to the Lotheeds. Martella’s father would discover Panivar’s immortality by investigating the circumstances of his family’s sudden good fortune.

- After Chalfon is defeated, the PCs are invited by Lady Morilla to go to Meratt with her for the funeral and to pay their respects to Count Dalsine, where they encounter the nobles from book 2 of the AP. This was a mostly open-ended sequence where the players could get various bits of foreshadowing and more knowledge about the various families (including the Lotheeds).

- In addition to the Meratt nobility, Count Orlundo Zespire (who is a friend to Count Dalsine) is present, and the PCs appearance at this funeral is what impresses him to consider their aid some years later.

- Baron Araig Telus is present at the funeral. He was a close friend (and possibly lover) of Jacquo’s, and takes his loss poorly. Soon after the funeral, he secludes himself in his estate. Around this time, he has an encounter with the Sisters of Indulgent Dreams, and is cursed. His lack of social appearances is blamed on his mourning over Jacquo’s death, though in reality the curse is more to blame.

- The Sisters of Indulgent Dreams arrived at the Lotheed estate soon after the funeral on Duke Panivar’s orders to arrange for Count Theollo’s discrete assassination in 4709 AR.

- Duke Panivar and Duchess Veleto Lotheed (at least, her facsimile) are present at the funeral. This is the most direct interaction with a member of the Circle the players will have before the final book of the AP. I did use it as an opportunity to impress upon them his power (he used time shift at one point during the scene to prevent a minor inconvenience; the level of magic was beyond what the players could readily identify).

- Baron Nicolaus Okerra and his wife Baroness Nirvenna Okerra are present at the funeral. Nirvenna recently gave birth to their daughter Selli, and Baron Nicolaus is considering retirement in order to spend time with their newborn daughter. Nirvenna would die in 4716 AR.

- Dame Parthenna Crabbe is present at the funeral, and is giving advice to Nirvenna about being a mother, having had her own daughter a few years back.

Other Notes:

- I did also have the scene of a young Bartelby taunting Martella here (I specifically used the mud slinging image from the front matter of book 2 as a reference), though I realise now that they would have been too old for that scene to occur at this stage. Perhaps I could have introduced them as relatively young adults here instead.

- I intend to have Lord Chalfon Dalsine appear as a petitioner or outsider of some sort in Duskfathom.

Book 3: Library of the Lion
It’s 4713 AR, and the Taldan agents (now level 4) are commissioned by an anonymous benefactor (Princess Eutropia) to infiltrate a Lion Blades training base to locate information about Taldan inheritance law.

Changes:

- More of an emphasis is placed on getting the information for Princess Eutropia than on the Shining Crusade details.
- Marquess Charlotte Deschamps makes an appearance as a member of the Pathfinder Society’s more covert branch (and as another liaison to Princess Eutropia), and offers the PCs suggestions about how they can better sneak into the library undetected. At this stage, she is the wife of a Taldan Senator.
- The attendant to the library that checks up on them is Kathann Zalar, still a young inexperienced clerk and not yet a full-fledged Lion Blade. She comes to realise that the visitors were up to something after their departure, and her investigation leads her to discovering the Princess Eutropia was the one responsible for the infiltration of the vault. This is what sparked her forming her eventual alliance with the Princess.
- There is a book outlining a great deal of information about the infamous lich Tar-Baphon (this is normally part of the Cheliax faction’s mission). The book appears to have recently been copied. This was done by Celeena Deckland, who recently infiltrated the Library in order to retrieve her own means of immortality to join the Immaculate Circle.
- The Band of the Crusader’s Alliance was once held in the Library of the Lion, but has been stolen by the time the PCs have come here.
- Glorymane has a recollection of many historical figures, including some of the members of the Immaculate Circle. In my game, the players didn’t dig into this.

Other Notes:

- I did keep the Worldwound aspect of the goal in here, but mostly because my group has also been playing Wrath of the Righteous, so it was relevant to the grander lore of our Golarion. I like to make easter egg mentions of other APs we’ve done throughout my games, since we’ve established that they’re all part of the same canon and I’m a sucker for continuity nods.

Book 4: Birthright Betrayed
In 4017 AR, the Taldan agents (lvl 5), now rebranded as the Sovereign Court, are tasked with investigating Earl Calhadion Vernisant’s ongoing indiscretions relating to unlawful appropriation of artifacts and funding of piracy in Ridonport, and confronting him if he is found to be guilty.

Changes:

- Count Orlundo Zespire is present during the briefing, having remembered the PCs and Lady Morilla from the Dalsine funeral. He is the one that calls upon the Sovereign Court to help him in the first place.
- Calbio of Breezy Creek is present in the museum, having been contracted to create a tapestry for the museum. (I actually forgot to implement this one at the time, which is kind of a shame.)
- If Rasvelg Coalbraid is befriended by the PCs, he offers up the line “Rasvelg Coalbraid attests this one’s sail is sturdy”. This line, if spoken to another Coalbraid in the next book, provides a bonus towards influencing them.
- Several of the items Calhadion has taken from the museum were for the purpose of bribing his way into the Immaculate Circle.
- The pirates mention that while they didn’t know who their benefactor was, on at least one occasion they noticed a man with antlers watching them from the treeline. They suspect fey nonsense or some sort of weird helmet, but this is in fact Count Ghoom keeping an eye on things.

Other Notes:

- While I didn’t do it in my game, I think there was a definite opportunity to slide in another Taldan relic link in here. The museum is a perfect spot to place one that either is lost later or is appropriated by Calhadion prior to the PCs arrival.

Book 5: The Jarlsblood Witch Saga
In spring of 2018 AR, the Sovereign Court (lvl 7) is sent to the Land of the Linnorm Kings to clear the name of Kolvi, ancestor to a member of the Ulfen Guard who may be of use as a contact.

Changes:

- I didn’t really change much of anything here, aside from include the link to Rasvelg from the previous book.

Other Notes:

- I included an original character during the visit to Torsig’s lodge. This was an ally NPC during my run of Hell’s Rebels who eventually became the Venture Captain for Kintargo. Just another continuity nod.

Book 6: The Lion’s Justice
Learning from their recently acquired ally in the Ulfen Guard that the Grand Prince is planning an attack on the Senate, the Sovereign Court (lvl 8) collects evidence from Earl Vernisant’s estate, then make their way to the Senate floor to stop the massacre with the help of the Lion Blades.

Changes:

- I ran this in tandem with the part 1 of Crownfall. Once The Jarlsblood Witch Saga was complete, I started Crownfall, then continued until they were about to watch the Grand Prince’s speech. The next session was with the Sovereign Court, and continued until they departed for the Senate, at which point I suddently switched back to the AP PCs witnessing the massacre, and giving them a few rounds to try and fight/escape, only to be taken out one by one (making each character disappear one by one like that turned out great by the way; my players had no idea what was going on and it played into the panicked mood of the scene perfectly). That session ended with the AP PCs having vanished, leaving things uncertain. Then the next session was the Sovereign Court arriving at the Senate, and defeating the foes. Once Calhadion was beaten, it was back to the AP PCs and shall remain as such for the rest of the game.

- Kathann Zalar is present at the Library of the Lion when they visit, and explains that since their intrusion, her investigations allowed her to build a connection with Princess Eutropia. She commends them on their skills all those years ago, and then departs to the Senate to take her role in ushering the AP PCs into the building.

- Glorymane recognises the PCs and happily speaks to them if they chose to interact.

- Laurisa Tromaine, Glorymane, and the Library of the Lion will get re-used along with Kathann for City in the Lion’s Eye, and may make mention of the events of this and the Library of the Lion scenario.

- I called out the fact that Calhadion’s home in Oppara is the same map as the one for the Arnisant historical residence as being a deliberate choice: Calhadion made his residence to be a replica to further emphasise his association with the hero.

- Because the party had some trouble with the fight against the Brotherhood of Silence agents, I had the poisoned Ionnia drag herself to Calhadion’s office and procure a neutralise poison potion for herself as well as a “control rod” with which to override the golem’s order of not attacking the Brotherhood agents. It took her several rounds to get there though, so it was mostly in the event that the PCs weren’t able to turn things around.

- The documents in Vernisant’s safe included a letter from Duchess Adella (which I did write out) giving him instructions for the Exaltation Massacre. It mentions that Al-Jakri’s insurgents will be present (and later killed so as to use them as a patsy for the massacre, helping further push the war with Qadira position Pythareus is going for). She also specifically calls out Lady Deckland and her grudge against Lady Morilla and the Sovereign Court. She concludes her message with a warning that he not fail like he did in Ridonport, should he wish to join the Circle’s ranks.

- During the gala itself, the AP PCs didn’t have much of a chance to speak with Calhadion (he dismisses them out of hand as having something more important to attend to). Instead, they had an opportunity to see him having changed from parade armour to full plate not long before the Grand Prince’s speech.

- Karina Deckland was replaced with Celeena. By this point Celeena is fully under the Duchess of Blood’s influence and has apparently taken on some qualities that suggest she attempted to attain lichdom. I left the lichdom part vague, particularly since these PCs in my game were not particularly knowledgeable. I also used this to justify how she would know the player’s tactics and respond in kind.

- I replaced Celeena’s devil minions with troops (specifically the dottari troops from Song of Silver). There were two assassin troops (one of which could be dispersed through social combat if the players chose to do so) and one Lion Blades troop to assist the players in the event that things got too rough (the Lion Blades used the inquisitor troop statblock so that they could provide healing).

- Calhadion kills Lord Kastner as the PCs arrived in the Arcade of Triumphs after defeating Celeena. I did this because I killed off all the NPCs that the AP PCs failed to influence during the gala (plus it made for good dramatic effect).

- Following the end of part 2 of Crownfall, I had the AP PCs stay with the Sovereign Court, and participate in the discussion of what to do with Kalbio (more accurately, the one player with a strong investment in Kalbio was able to overhear the Sovereign Court talk about it). This was so that the players could have their characters from the AP push their choice of whether to revive him or not to the Sovereign Court characters, who had the means to do it but hadn’t met him and so would have no significant reason to get involved. It helped that the player in question had made her AP character be the former servant of her prologue character, so the rapport was already there.

- Zenaida Tandleos remembers her debt to the PCs from The Dalsine Affair, and will gladly revive any of the PCs or another character (namely Kalbio) if asked.

- The help Lady Morilla provides with the Dignified Repository takes the form of her sending one of the Sovereign Court characters to scout. The effects are otherwise the same. Conveniently in my game the only Sovereign Court PC who was mostly unharmed after the fight was a Ninja, so their role in being a scout and discretely thinning the herd made perfect sense.

- I added an extra sequence where after the AP PCs got through the entire Dignified Repository fighting only Mr. Smiles and Wyssilka (they were extremely effective in their disguise/stealth approach), the now healed up Sovereign Court group came back and swept through the remaining grunts throughout the building. It was a way to take care of all the remaining enemies quickly while also giving the players a bit of catharsis in the form of being way over-levelled. I may have also played “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” as the combat music.

As you can probably imagine, doing all of this was a lot of work, but I would say that this little project of mine turned out to be a pretty resounding success overall. While it’s still a bit early to tell if the players will catch all my links, I think it will definitely help them further down the road. They’ve already caught on to certain recurring details, such as circles and their association with some background manipulating force, and they latched onto certain details such as the “antlered man” fairly hard. I intend to pepper more references, callbacks, and foreshadowing in the AP as well, but this has helped me figure out a good groundwork of what does and doesn’t work for this group.

I think it was most valuable however for helping me refine my use of the influence and social combat rules. I originally was trying to use the full statblock version of the rules, but quite frankly the pace at which I had to update information for the players made it untenable, so by the time I reached The Jarlsblood Witch Saga is was significantly stripped down, giving the players only what they needed to know at the time. I think that made things run much more smoothly with the social aspect of the game overall.

Hopefully this exceedingly long dissertation will prove useful in terms of giving some of you ideas for your own games.


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Whoops, realised too late that my link didn't get included in the text.
I was attempting to give credit to OmegaZ and this thread for inspiring some of my ideas.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

That is some excellent and thorough work. I did the final three scenarios as an interlude after the end of book 1 and I'm having the society pcs as recurring npcs (mostly at the beginning of book 5) as those characters rode off in a carriage at the end of book 1 with Morilla and Kalbio (who the society folks had no idea was important but the main characters have no idea is still alive).

Who knows maybe someday I will run it again and give some of this a shot. :D


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Thanks! Those three scenarios that were released with WftC are definitely what sparked my inspiration for this in the first place. From there it was a logical step to include the books The Lion's Justice references, and then the Dalsine Affair came in because I needed to justify the switch in leadership. Everything kind of came together after that.

Using the Society PCs for book 5 makes a lot of sense. I'm going to have a bit of a hard time justifying it in my case since none of my player's Sovereign Court PCs are very academic (they are literally all martials or hybrid martials). They do make for good occasional stand-ins however. Personally I'm a fan of populating the world with a whole bunch of named characters to give a sense of a living reality with many movers and shakers, even if the players don't latch onto all of them.

While I'm thinking of it, I did forget to include one other book that I haven't run, but am considering. I may toss in Tomb of the Iron Medusa between books 4 and 5 of the AP, having it be a flashback to a group of adventurers and/or Pythareus' agents (possibly even letting players take the bosses from Book 4) delving in and learning the Stavian family secret. That way the reveal can be suitably hyped up to lead into the next book and the fallout that it causes.

I'll most likely see with my players when that time comes.


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Trichotome,

This truly is great work! I love how things are interconnected and foreshadowed. This clearly was a lot of work but the end result shows the planning you put into the project.

It is unfortunate that I am currently in Book 3 - The Twilight Child, as its too late for me to run the prologue. Nevertheless, I have archived your work in my library in the event that I run this AP again in the future. I hope you don't mind, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your work is very inspiring!

Also, since you mentioned the OmegaZ thread, I have been making use of his ideas too. The additional foreshadowing, and in particular, OmegaZ's thoughts on how to handle Prince Carrius and the cult in Book 3 has worked out wonderfully. At the beginning of the Twilight Child, I didn't have Martella mention the cult at all. Instead, she mentioned bandit activity, a missing agent, and a strong need to represent Eutropia well in order for Yanmass to side with them over Pythareus. Once the PCs arrived in Yanmass, the PCs learned about both the seemingly helpful "offshoot Abadaran group", and the dreams that were afflicting the people of Yanmass. With all of these things going on, my PCs felt that investigating the cult could wait - there didn't seem to be any threat. Thus far, they have dealt with the pairaka's causing the dreams, and next session they will deal with the traitors at Tallgrasses. Once that is complete, they intend to investigate the cult which is basically the last section of the module (other than dealing with Merkondus).

Its here where I have made a few changes of my own from OmegaZ's ideas. First, I have decided the cult only meets weekly instead of daily. This is mainly attributed to the fact that in just over a week of in game time, the PCs have made good headway in this adventure. If I recall correctly, there are 8 persona phases and this will help me extend the timeline to fit those 8 persona phases in. Second, I have decided that only regular citizens have attended any of the sermons featuring Prince Carrius. Being peasants for the most part, they are not up on Taldor nobility knowledge (or in my case Lore as I am using PF2 playtest rules). Thus, no one even realizes who the twilight child is, and therefore there is even less of a reason to investigate the cult first. I think this puts the proper spotlight on the PCs. They become the first people to recognize that the Twilight Child is a "returned" Prince Carrius. Further, it makes the last section of the module more interesting because the PCs need to find out if this is some sort of deception or not. And since its not, how the hell did this happen. Since I have used OmegaZ's advice to bring up Carrius several times throughout the AP so far (old stories about him, seeing paintings of him in Birdsong Palace, etc), it really ties in strongly that the PCs are the first to recognize him since he is fresh in their minds.

Anyways, I wanted to add some additional insight for people who haven't gotten this far as to what has and hasn't worked well.

Edit - One other thing I wanted to add about your work. I really love how you evoke a sense of time passing through the prologue. You see many of the AP players at earlier times in their lives. A young Dame Crabbe, Baron Okerra with a wife, etc. This is so great!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thank you so much! I'm so pleased to hear it! It makes me happy to know my work might be useful to others as well.

I really like your ideas for the Twilight Child situation. From the sounds of it I think it does a good job pacing it out a bit better as a mystery. Given that investigation is a heavy part of that book in particular, not giving the PCs the answers right away seems like a good call. I had definitely considered doing something similar but haven't ironed out the details, but I may just steal some of yours. I can already see my PCs using disguise tactics to infiltrate the cult and possibly doing a little digging into other aspects of the cult (the players already know about circles being important). It may be a good way to get out more of Vaddrigan's story as well.

One aspect of that I expect to have some trouble with is Xan, and how to get around him being far too obtuse to negotiate with, especially since the PCs wouldn't have the expertise to necessarily contradict his authority. In my case I fully intend on taking advantage of the fact that one of my PCs is a summoner with an eidolon that I've fluffed to be a marut inevitable that is investigating the immaculate circle via the PC (and therefore can provide some fact-checking on Xan's claims). But I never did come up with an alternative in the event that the eidolon is unable to intervene. I imagine there might be something worth doing there to give diplomatic players a means to successfully argue their way past Xan. I'd be curious to know if you had any ideas for this particular issue?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Trichotome wrote:
One aspect of that I expect to have some trouble with is Xan, and how to get around him being far too obtuse to negotiate with, especially since the PCs wouldn't have the expertise to necessarily contradict his authority. In my case I fully intend on taking advantage of the fact that one of my PCs is a summoner with an eidolon that I've fluffed to be a marut inevitable that is investigating the immaculate circle via the PC (and therefore can provide some fact-checking on Xan's claims). But I never did come up with an alternative in the event that the eidolon is unable to intervene. I imagine there might be something worth doing there to give diplomatic players a means to successfully argue their way past Xan. I'd be curious to know if you had any ideas for this particular issue?

I chose a pretty extreme solution when it comes to Xan. The PCs will not encounter him until AFTER they rescue Prince Carrius and are ready to leave town. At which point, the encounter (fight) will occur as the module suggests (in which Xan wants to kill the party and take Prince Carrius for examination).

I did have townsfolk mention the rumors of Xan around the area so that when they do encounter him its not out of nowhere, but ultimately, with the changes I mentioned before, I felt that if they met Xan beforehand it would spoil the surprise of who The Twilight Child is and change the focus of the mystery. I just can't conceive of a way for the PCs to encounter Xan without "changing the feel and tone" of the module as I want to present it.

In fact, doing it this way, I think it throws one last curveball at the PCs. After the PCs determine that this is the true Prince Carrius, and they have rescued him from the cult, and are on their way back to Martella/Eutropia, now they have some planar creature (a psychopomp) claiming that Prince Carrius is contravening Pharasma's judgement, which ultimately introduces another mystery which I think explains why Prince Carrius is a background figure during the next module (which is because Eutropia is trying to understand how Carrius has come back and his issues go beyond just being drugged by the cult).

To me, the flow of all this, is so much stronger than if they meet Xan beforehand. Xan is a real danger in making the cult too interesting too early. As mentioned in my previous post, the weight of Martella's/Eutropia's political needs should be pushing the adventure forward. Combine that with the fact that the general population is benefiting from the cult (and by the way, I tried to avoid the word cult as long as possible - in fact, the only person to call them a cult was Chief Enumerator Abrun as he was explicitly able to tell the PCs that the cult was not actually following the Abadar faith, but even then, he couldn't call the cult evil since they weren't doing anything wrong) and it allows the players to make this a low priority especially in the face of cannibalistic dreams, a missing regiment, and high banditry. Not all these concerns need to be equal, and I think this does that nicely.

It may not suit everyone's campaign, but it has worked well so far for me. Next session my group will begin the cult investigation, so if I hit any trouble spots, I will let everyone know!

Edit: I should add that I expect the final encounter with Xan has to be a fight with no way around it. Allowing negotiation weakens the impact of the strange circumstances of Prince Carrius's return. Xan's strong convictions should be a nice foreshadow of "The Six Legend Soul" module.

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