Posting this mostly because I'm amped for my session in 16 hours and the people I would usually talk about this I also GM for and are starting RotRL soon.
Background: I've been running this group for about a year and a half now (biweekly sessions) and the party is level 7, book 2.
The only remaining original PC is a Bloodrager who was 'raised' as the brother-companion of another original PC, an aasimar from a well to do Magnimarian aasimar family (now retired and unhappily married to Shayliss Vinder). He died in the Catacombs of Wrath and was Reanimated by Madam Mvashti and came back an aasimar himself. Shortly after, he began having strange dreams. Long story short, it turned out that he was Nualia's half-brother and amidst her evil rituals she could communicate with him through dreams, hoping to turn him to her side. Burnt Offerings otherwise played out fairly straight, though with a heavier-than-expected PC turnover for various reasons - I covered this in the Obituary thread a few months ago. The Bloodrager ended up killing Nualia after a running fight that covered all three levels of Thistletop and ended with him knifing her in the neck and collapsing because he was at 0hp while 3/4ths of the other PCs were already unconscious. Shalelu, piloted by a player who was mid-replacing a character, was the only conscious person after the fight.
The party then gave the bodies of Nualia, Tsuto and Lyrie to Justice Ironbriar, who had come to town as part of the Magnimarian reinforcements to defend Sandpoint and had offered the group a bounty on the evildoers. Ironbriar went back to Magnimar with the bodies.
Skinsaw Murders again played out fairly straight until the party came to Magnimar, where two of the newer bounty hunter PCs were handing in the collected heads of the Red Shiv gang (minor encounter on the road). The Justice ruling over their case? Ironbriar, of course. He ruled in their favour, sentenced the one man they kept alive to thirty years in the Hells, and then asked to see the party in his chambers. Once there he grilled them on what had been happening in Sandpoint, following the ruse that he was investigating similar murders in Magnimar. The PCs bought it hook, line and sinker, especially after they noticed he would pause once in a while and stare off into the distance - the newest PC, a wizard, detected an enchantment on him but didn't know dispel magic, and they left Ironbriar with the knowledge he was suffering an enchantment. They followed their few clues to the Foxglove Townhouse where they made 'friends' with the two Faceless Stalkers pretending to be the Foxgloves, and planned to use them to approach the Seven's Sawmill on the day that a payment used to be made by them, as found in the Foxglove ledger.
When the PC's returned the night of the plan (having staked out the Seven's Sawmill but seeing little suspicious activity, and also being chased by a Hellknight patrol), they found the house had been broken into, a big hole in the back of the house, and the bodies of the Faceless Stalkers. An awoken neighbour tells them the guards have already been by, and the commotion happened in the early hours of that day. As they were deciding what to do, lightning struck outside and Justice Ironbriar appeared at the front door - he is unconcerned that they are inside a crime scene, he needs their help. He has found out who put the enchantment on him, and who he thinks is behind the murders - a woman he thought was just a social climber might actually be leading a death cult! With shapechangers in the mix, he's taken time to round up his most trusted and tough City Watch for a raid, but he wants the PCs along since he trusts them as well and they are outsiders the shapechangers likely haven't gotten to. The last session ended with them setting out into the cold, rainy Neth night, running through Magnimar towards the Shadow Clock.
What the PCs don't know is as follows...
- When Ironbriar returned to Magnimar with the bodies, he cast Lyrie aside but brought Nualia and Tsuto to Xanesha. Using valuable arcane scrolls and resources, Xanesha raised Tsuto from the dead and gifted him to Ironbriar for the Skinsaw Cult. Fitting, since it was Ironbriar who whelped the bastard on Mrs. Kaijitsu in the first place. Rather than simply raising Nualia, Xanesha did something much more difficult - she turned the demon-tainted aasimar into a Revenant whose sole purpose is to see the Runelord of Greed returned to power. This was costly, drained much power and influence she had gathered, but seemed a cunning plan to gain a powerful, dedicated servant.
- When the PCs alerted Ironbriar to being enchanted, he did go and have it removed by a trusted spellcaster at the Justice Hall, and realized that he was being manipulated by Xanesha. He quickly formulated a plan to cover himself and his Skinsaw Cult, which he would much rather cover up than abandon if at all possible. He set things in motion, gathering his cultists, and kept a watch on the PCs. He had the Foxglove Faceless Stalkers killed.
- The hole in the back of the house was actually caused by the Scarecrow, who was checking on the Faceless Stalkers on Xanesha's orders as she has realized she's lost Ironbriar and needs to close ranks. The PCs did find massive footprints in the gardens/backyard, but couldn't identify them other than belonging to huge boots.
- Ironbriar has gathered all of his cultists, including Tsuto, and dressed them in City Watch winter/rain garb. They are his 'swat' team he's picked up the PCs with. When the time is right, he can order them to cast aside their watch cloaks and don their Skinsaw Masks.
- Tsuto, acting without his father/cult leader's permission, approached the new wizard PC who is a known magic item crafter. He ordered a pair of Aasimar Bane Brass Knuckles, citing that he had an Aasimar named Reginald that he really, really wanted to beat the crap out of. The wizard is now carrying those Aasimar Bane knuckles with him in a bag of holding, but hasn't yet had the time to recognize Tsuto as the man who ordered them.
So the party is heading to the Shadow Clock, on a cold and rainy night, accompanied by a bakers dozen Skinsaw Cultists disguised as City Watch. My plan is that when they arrive Ironbriar (who is just a lawyer, after all), and half of his men will surround the tower, while the other half and the party will storm the front. Inside, the PCs will find themselves looking up at Nualia, standing on the first flight of stairs, who warns her brother away before combat is engaged. The Scarecrow and three Faceless Stalkers will come from the outer rooms/shadows of the main floor of the Shadow Clock. Around turn 3, two Faceless Stalkers still high above will loose the Bell Trap on the combat below, killing off some of the cultists/possibly hurting a PC.
If/when the PCs give a sign they need help, Ironbriar and his outside guards will come in as backup - including Tsuto, who only now discovers his father lied when he said Nualia was dead (but really he didn't lie, cause she's an undead revenant). He'll have an outburst at Ironbriar (probably calling him father as a slip), and then try and get the Wizard to give him the Aasimar Bane Knuckles so he can go take care of "that f*@*ing devil-angel" he's been hunting. Of course, 1) they would no longer work on Nualia now that she is undead, and 2) he's not aiming for her anyways, he's aiming for the Bloodrager who killed him and Nualia.
Depending on how the fight is going, Ironbriar might signal his men to turncoat on them during this fight, or later when they confront Xanesha upstairs (who will be accompanied by a Will o' Wisp companion to provide flanking). When he does, I can physically replace the Town Guard paper minis I made with the Skinsaw Cult ones, and it's quite possible the PCs find themselves fighting alongside Nualia against this new threat.
Once the dust has settled, and if the PCs are totally victorious (with no escaping NPCs), they are in line to pick up about 70k worth of magic items (at half value) and gold/gems from the Shadow Clock encounter. My own gift to me, however, is that with Nualia as a revenant, she'll rise again in a few days and will be driven to find the next closest powerful servant of Xin - Lucrecia. And so is born a recurring villain who, maybe by book 5, the PCs will run into as she is treading the far wilds, inexorably pulled toward Xin-Shalast and who (if they don't just merc her immediately) could get a redemption arc as she struggles against her revenant drive and the feeling that Lamashtu betrayed and abandoned her to her fate as an undead. And who, if they can't find a way to 'fix' her, could inevitably betray them when they get into the room with Xin and he can command her himself.
Many of the above ideas/concepts come from the threads here on these boards, so a big thank-you to those who have been submitting suggested changes/improvements for over a decade. They have made my game so much more juicy behind the scenes, and all of it is about to pay off.
Knock on wood.
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I think it sounds stellar, excellent work on taking the time to alter the story so well. I always enjoy reading when someone has actually analyzed how the PC actions have impacted the events behind the scenes as well as made it personal for the players (the ordered magic item was a clever touch).
I know it will be a long time coming over the course of the whole campaign, but I really want to know how the Revenant Nualia plays out. Even if it might not always be interacting with her, there are a few points they could come across traces that she has been in an area recently.
Kudos for your hard work!
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Well, the session happened.
Scene-setting early went well. Everyone bought into it. I got to intro some new PC tokens I made, including an Enlarged version of the Bloodrager and a Large version of the Hunter's wolf companion. The party was all-in on Ironbriar's plans and reasoning, loved him bringing his SWAT team. Secretly-Tsuto approached the Wizard to say hello, surprised to see him and not expecting his Aasimar Bane Knuckle Dusters to be done. The Wizard was thrilled to see him and gave him the Dusters without being asked.
The Wizard magically smashed the front doors open and the party + 7 'guards' went in. The Nualia reveal was fantastic. At first the party thought SHE was Xanesha, or a Skinsaw Man, or even 'the Reaper Man' (Ironbriar) and got a nice short info dump that cleared up some things, left lingering questions, and most importantly directed the players that; 1) Xanesha was waiting above, and 2) Xanesha served a greater master, who Nualia was also bound to now.
The Hunter, when Nualia gave several warnings and knocked an arrow to her bow, initiated combat.
Round 1 the front line of the party knew 'a large something was stirring in the back corner under the stairs, slowly standing up'. The Guards spread out, cutting off the 3 Faceless Stalkers from the side rooms and initiating a back and forth combat that would last most of the next 8 combat rounds. Nualia takes some ranged hits from the Hunter/Slayer and the Swashbuckler hits her with a Tanglefoot bag after she casts her self-buffs. The Wizard runs into the middle of all his allies and casts Darkness, covering pretty much everyone. Half the party has Darkvision and can see through it, the other half begin stumbling around.
The Bloodrager Rages with Blur, then casts Haste on himself and runs past his meat shield guards and stands next to the 'big thing in the corner', which has it's initiative next. It stands up, revealing the Scarecrow.
The Scarecrow strikes. Crit. Scythes are x4. 84 damage because I had already worked out average damage for all NPC attacks to speed up combat (22 NPCs in the combat, even with grouped Init, was gonna be real slow if I had to math every damage roll). The Bloodrager, Round 1, goes from full to beyond negative Con because he loses his Max HP bonus from raging when he gets KO'd.
The Wizard says, "Don't worry, he has rich friends. I'll bring him back." He intends to get him to a temple to have someone cast Raise Dead.
Round 2 the Swashbuckler is now toe to toe with the Scarecrow while most of the rest of the party is dealing with Darkness or taking more shots at Nualia/the Faceless Stalkers. The Wizard casts Acid Pit under the Scarecrow.
The Scarecrow is standing over top of the Bloodragers body.
They both fall into the Acid Pit. The Bloodragers body begins melting. The Swashbuckler jumps in, acrobating to land on the Scarecrows shoulders/head.
Round 3 the Bell Trap is triggered above, smashing some of the 'guards' and the Swashbuckler leaps out of the way. The Bell, which landed next to the Pit, slides and covers the hole, trapping in the Swashbuckler, the Scarecrow and the Bloodragers body. Darkness is dispelled. The group Slayer chases Nualia up the stairs, as she retreats out of sight of his bow. That chase will last a couple more rounds. Wounds are being dealt all around but no one is going down.
Round 4 the Swashbuckler kills the Scarecrow after the Scarecrow can't slam her. She's still trapped under the Bell. The Wizard goes to help, and hearing no combat casts Shrink Object on the bell and dispels the Acid Pit, leaving the maimed Scarecrow body, the 2/3rd dissolved Bloodrager body (no more Raise Dead, to get him back it'll need to be Reincarnate or Resurrection), and the Swashbuckler prone on the ground.
Having heard the slam of the bell, Ironbriar looks in the front door.
Round 5 another Bell drops, slamming into the Hunter's large wolf, injuring it. Ironbriar whistles sharply inside and outside the tower. All of the Guards take a full round action to toss aside their Watch cloaks and helmets, revealing their Skinsaw Cult robes, donning their Skinsaw Masks and brandishing razors.
The Players freaked out at this point, especially when I replaced all of the Watch minis with the Cult minis. Info started dropping into place as they realized Ironbriar was the cult leader.
Tsuto steps in next to Ironbriar. Another wave of 'Oh, f$%%'. It was delicious. 6 more guards are outside the doorway, also in cult gear.
The Wizard, next to the Swashbuckler and surrounded by 4 of the now revealed cultists, casts Fly and goes straight up, stopping the Slayer from continuing the chase Nualia (who is at about 1/3 health but slowly regening since she is a Revenant with Regen 3/fire.) He turns back to the fight below and begins picking off cultists. He ends up with a fairly high kill count since he is out of reach and can see most of the battlefield. This turn he picks off 3 of the 4 cultists around the Swashbuckler since they were already wounded from the first Bell.
Ironbriar casts Confusion using his Reaper Mask, targeting the Hunter (I single-targeted instead of AoE). He fails the save.
Round 6, Nualia turns around and starts coming back down the stairs. The Slayer keeps up his volleys on the combat below. The Wizard drops a Pit outside the main doors, catching two of the next wave of cultists while 4 jump over and enter the fight.
Tsuto, not realizing the implications of the Hunter (and closest PC) being Confused, starts beating on him, as do a couple of Cultists. The Hunter drops his bow and pulls his never-used +1 sword and misses (he could attack since they attacked him). Ironbriar tries to Confuse the Wizard, who easily beats the DC. The Swashbuckler closes with Ironbriar.
Round 7. Another (the last) Bell Trap, clearing out some cultists/Stalkers and hurting the animal companion again. Nualia keeps moving down. The Slayer asks what is going on and if she wants a temporary alliance. She snarls and tells him what's up is betrayal. He takes this as a yes and keeps firing below, clearing out mooks.
Tsuto and some cultists keep hitting the Hunter and he's down to 1 hp. The hunter retaliates, dealing 20 damage to Tsuto with a surprise crit (his max is 46hp after advanced and a level).
Ironbriar gets off a Hold Person on the Swashbuckler. The Wizard casts Burning Disarm from a wand on Ironbriar's buckler, which is strapped on, so he needs to take the damage.
Round 8. Nualia takes one step and vaults over the handrail of the stairs, 3-point landing in between Tsuto and a cultist that just climbed out of the Pit near the door. Tsuto turns and immediately recognizes her. "My love! They said you were dead!" He reaches out to caress her face. She grabs Tsuto with her black demon claw and slices him across the chest, dealing 20 points of damage. She then slams him with her Revenant ability, dealing 6 damage and giving him a negative level. Tsuto shrivels a bit and she drops his corpse.
Meanwhile, while mooks are dropping left and right, the Hunter rolls 'attack closest creature' on his confusion chart. The closest creature is his animal companion. He spins and strikes, dealing enough damage to bring his wolf to -3 hp. The Wizard flies down and uses a CLW wand to heal it, it wakes back up at 2hp.
Ironbriar begins a summoning spell, intending to summon a pair of Lemures as meatshields. The Swashbuckler steps up and cuts him badly. The Slayer ends the job, punching a pair of arrows through his face. Ironbriar is dead.
Round 9. Nualia duels with two of the last cultists. The Slayer and the Swashbuckler put down the rest of the mooks. Nualia backs away towards the door, not running but defensive. The Wizard points out she's now on the edge of the Pit. Oops. She fails her save, falls in. The Wizard casts Web over the top.
While this is going on the Hunter rolls hot again, and needs to strike the nearest creature. It's his pet again. He crits. OOPS. His pet is at -18hp, with a Con of 19. It roles to Death Save, fails. It bleeds out and dies.
Session ends with the Hunter snapping out of his confusion and realizing what he's done, the Wizard intending to blast Nualia in the pit (she killed the last cultist down there pretty quick), the Swashbuckler distraught over everything, and the Slayer running up the stairs of the Shadow Clock to find whoever was dropping Bells on them (it's 2 Faceless Stalkers).
The session went 3.5 hours, almost all just in the combat. I think I dropped all the secrets and info I wanted, the players were jazzed about finding some answers and opening up bigger questions.
When my players Die in game I keep coming back to them in Init and do death scenes - usually they see a sea of stars (souls) around them, then get sucked into a light to Pharasma's plane where they join one of many lines of dead heading to her Tower of Judgement. He witnessed an Angel coming and taking away a soul, and then a Devil escorted by Esoboks claiming other souls. By the last few rounds I was trying to speed along the combat since we were past our usual play time so I promised him some non-session written content.
All this being said, I felt REALLY BAD killing him in the first round of what I knew was going to be a long combat. I didn't account for the Rage-HP drop when I told him I crit and the damage. I figured he might be KO'd and knew there was some available healing. Usually I would have gotten him to jaeger an enemy or ally, but with all the secrets I was dropping, and the fact that I had built some pretty intense cheat sheets that had multiple NPC stats/tactics on them, I couldn't do that.
Right now he's talking about rolling a Kinetecist, but the party is planning on doing what they can to resurrect him. As mentioned above, the Bloodrager was reincarnated earlier in the campaign from Human to Aasimar. I'm thinking of possibly pushing this further another step, but need to talk to him first.
I've introduced the possibility, and have done the conversion work, to integrate Matt Colville/MCDM's Strongholds and Followers into the game, and the Bloodrager was interested so I built out a bunch of possible follower charts for him. One of the top-tier 'Special Allies' was going to be an Astral Deva (Bestiary 1, messenger angels with scrolls that contain prophecies) - initially I was going to have him approach bearing the tidings of his Empyreal Lord master as a force for good in the region, and promise to watch the Bloodrager better than he had his own daughter - because the Astral Deva is Nualias father, having bedded a mortal woman to try and bring about the fragment of a prophecy on his scroll about an angel-child born of his mother that would protect from an impending great menace (the return of Xin, of course.) The Astral Deva Ef'd up, and fate produced the child anyway, who would only become an 'angel-child' when reincarnated after his first trial against evil.
All of this backstory, which the player doesn't know I've crafted since it was only meant to come up with some high rolls on random charts IF he invested in a stronghold, could be pushed forward timeline wise.
The Astral Deva could have an encounter with the Bloodrager's soul, picking him out of the line for Pharasma's judgement and telling him some of the info (hint at the prophecy, and the importance to the Empyreal Lord that he not be thrown away so lightly in his material domain (Magnimar) - they can't just send his soul back though, it needs to be enacted by his friends on the material plane.
Whether the players get a Resurrection or Reincarnation spell cast, I'm thinking the Bloodrager's body bursts into radiant light and disappears, and a new being forms - he's gone from Aasimar to full, if minor, Angel. This could either be a nerfed form with his current Bloodrager levels (the rest of the party will have levelled to 8, so he'll still be 7 but have some Angel abilities he can choose to 'level' in to gain more), or he could be CR7 and shed his Bloodrager class and begin leveling as a Kineticist if that's what he wants to move on to.
If I take this route, I have three possible celestial beings I've pinpointed as being possible build-points - a nerfed form of the Movanic Angel from Bestiary 2 (NG CR10, serve as infantry, suits if he stays Bloodrager), a nerfed Legion Archon from Bestiary 3 (LG CR7, also serve as infantry, fits as a natural progression visually/physically), or a Yamah Azata from Bestiary 6 (CG CR5, best one to build a Kineticist off of since he can grab 3 levels off the hop, the 'markings' can mirror his current Arcane Bloodline markings, and being an Azata fits with the Magnimar/Empyreal Lord influence.)
So yeah. The session happened. They still need to deal with pit-trapped Nualia, they have an ally and an animal companion to resurrect, and Xanesha is till lurking at the top of the Shadow Clock... for now...
And now that I think about it, if there's Resurrection Shenanigans happening at the same time the Wolf gets raised, I could do something with that too....
I've started outlining stuff here, so I figured I would keep going.
I presented the Bloodrager player a few options, including: if resurrected/reincarnated he can come back as a Bloodrager plus something special (would have been a nerfed Legion Archon and would grow in power as he leveled), or he could return with the same personality/history but have gone through 'something' and return with a partial reroll, or he could just not Res and fully roll a new character.
He went with the Partial Reroll, and I'm excited.
Currently, in-game, he is dead and standing in line in the Boneyard waiting to approach Pharasma's Tower - he's gotten bits and pieces, seeing packs Esoboks roaming the moon-like terrain, and Angel coming a claiming a soul and flying away with them, and a Devil walking down the line claiming souls that marked themselves for Hell in life.
My overall plan is as follows:
A nosoi comes to him while he is in line and needs to clarify some details of records - there's been a confusion because he's supposed to be human and he's not. Once it's clarified he's an Aasimar now, the Nosoi tut-tuts, thanks and flies off. Soon after an Astral Deva comes and pulls him from line, pulling him all the way out of the Boneyard and through the planes to the edge of Nirvana. This Astral Deva is Barchiel (non-cannon), and serves the Empyreal Lord Soralyon, the Mystic Angel. He will cryptically explain that he has been watching the Bloodrager from a distance since his last visit to the Boneyard and reincarnation in Sandpoint. It was Barchiel who facilitated the dream-connections between the Bloodrager and his half-sister Nualia, hoping that the Bloodrager would find a way to redeem her. He was disappointed when he killed Barchiel's daught- the poor girl.
This is a fake slip up, opening for the Bloodrager to pry. If he does, Barchiel will admit that he fathered Nualia directly. Astral Devas carry with them a long scroll that includes glimpses of fate and prophecy, and they never share what is on them. It is not unknown that prophecies broke when the god Aroden died however, and Barchiel admits that he acted upon something in his scroll, believing an Aasimar needed to be born in Magnimar during a specific space of time to combat a coming evil.
Barchiel has been sent to bring the Bloodrager's unjudged, unchanged soul to Soralyon in the moment of his coming resurrection. Any more time spent in the Empyreal Lord's presence would change the Bloodrager's soul too far and he would be stuck in Nirvana, instead of returned and empowered. The Astral Deva trusts Soralyon, and knows his master has knowledge beyond his own. He might get a few more tidbits of information, most likely hinting at things that are to come (Runewell, the ancient Library, maybe even Xin-Shalast).
At some point the conversation ends abruptly as Barchiel grabs him and drags him through the gates of Nirvana, appearing outside the Steward's Stone (a tall leaning obelisk covered in layers of strange, arcane writing), at the top of which is a room. Inside is Soralyon, and the Bloodrager gets one quick look at the Empyreal Lord who looks like pure, black marble (note: the bloodrager's skin became white marble when he became an aasimar). In that instant, the Empyreal Lord speaks directly into his mind, naming him and naming his previously unknown parents, and commanding him to fulfill a prophecy whispered by the dead god Aroden to Soralyon 800 years ago. It'll end with "Do not fail, or your world will surely suffer. The last time the Runelords walked free, their downfall caused an Age of Darkness that lasted a thousand years and all of civilization collapsed into anarchy. Now, my child, go!"
All of this gives me a great way to further empress upon that player, and through them onto the others, the coming dangers and that everything up until now has been tied to a bigger, badder guy up the chain. They've gotten big hints dropped by Revenant Nualia that her Mistress serves a greater Master, and the Bloodrager is going to return with some more 'actionable' (researchable) intelligence.
What Barchiel and the Bloodrager don't know is that Soralyon himself is the cause of the Bloodrager's strange abilities. He sits far back (800 years in fact) in the Bloodrager's ancestry; at first Aasimar were common in the bloodline, then less, then the only manifestations were in strange arcane birthmarks. The Bloodrager's Arcane Bloodline is caused by the manifestation of Soralyon, the Mystic Angel's bloodline and the prophecy, which calls for an 'angel-child.' The Bloodrager's first death and reincarnation was part of the prophecy, as when he touched the Boneyard and returned, his soul and bloodline were distilled, creating purity - he was reborn as the angel-child. Now, with a second death and Barchiel waiting, he is again being distilled and awakened.
When the Bloodrager returns, whether by Resurrection or Reincarnation, he will return reborn once more in a new body - he will be a Yamah Azata, his previously blue arcane Bloodrager markings becoming the white of the Yamah, and his skin turning the blue his marking always were. Further, he will no longer be a bloodrager and will instead be a 3rd level Kineticist (the class he wants to reroll in to), the final manifestation of his arcane bloodline mingled with a truly celestial body.
The Yamah is a CR5 creature, so I've distilled it down into a 'race' to more easily let the player write up a character sheet. He's going to keep his current stats but can flip around his physical ones (str/dex/con) to match his new class as desired. He'll get +2 to all stats, +2 more to two chosen, gets the defenses, the spell-like abilities, the wings and the special 'steal magic' ability (again, nicely fits the former Arcane Bloodline). He is losing everything from 7 levels of Bloodrager, including all of his feats, but is gaining the ranged-focused feats of the Yamah which should help with his ranged kineticist blasting.
I'm excited about making these moves, and am not too worried about power level right now since I can always make enemies harder. If the party resurrects the Hunter's pet at the same time, I've decided the lingering effects of the Empyreal Lord's influence on magic in the area causes the wolf to come back with the Half-Celestial template as well.
The real problem I'm faced with now is properly giving the other characters similar 'cool s#+$' in the coming book. The Catfolk Swashbuckler isn't too hard since she A) has been interested in taking over the Pixie's Kitten in Sandpoint, which would make a good establishment from S+F as mentioned in my above post, and B) tried to sneak into the Calistrian Temple in Magnimar and was caught by the high priestess - she wasn't allowed in to see the temple prostitutes because she isn't a worshipper, but was given some hints. After recent events she'll likely be looking for some vengeance, so a messenger from Calistria could start her down on an interesting path.
More difficult are the other two/three characters.
The Hunter might get his cool pet, but there isn't much more going on with that character. During downtime opportunities he goes deer hunting, and that's about it. I'm thinking he might have a Fey encounter of some sort, try and prod some more interesting things out of him.
The Slayer is sort of a weird duck. He's a halforc with 7 charisma who spends half of his money on fancy clothing (I'm pretty sure he went into this fight wearing a classic purple zuitsuit under his armor). He is a bowman, and a monster hunter. During the last downtime he went hunting the Sandpoint Devil and had a nighttime encounter and chase, so the obvious answer is the next downtime hunt he gets to fight it. This is a single-event thing however, and getting him something more lasting is difficult. He expressed interest in buying the Rusty Dragon but Ameiko was fairly clear she wasn't interested in selling, and suggested he talk to the owner of the White Stag, who might be more interested. That was a complete flop with him and went unfollowed. Other than just throwing more magical beasts at him, I'm not sure what else to do right now.
Finally, the Wizard is new. Soralyon would actually make a decent hook for him too, but there's probably something better. Backstory-wise he's been working at the Golemworks for years enchanting bulk batches of Golem parts and quit the job to pursue making more interesting magic items. I have a bit of time since he's been in the party for only 3 sessions and I can see what he does next downtime (probably crafting). I'd rather have something to plan with thought.
Looks like I'll be digging hard into the next few books looking for good places to hook in stuff. Suggestions, if anyone is actually reading these public musings, are appreciated.
On the Hunter front ... there ARE some nifty Fey bits that you can hook to in 3 and 6.
The bits in 3 went over very well for my group as a set piece, and I can imagine that the
Your Slayer ... Well, there's
Actually ... depending on how your party handles things there IS
I had the entire party hear Avaxial make an offer telepathically ... and while they were talking about it IC, someone got bored and wandered off and triggered a combat in another room.... and while THAT was being dealt with, one of the players made a fairly solid negotiation that included repairs to the Dam and a promise to not retaliate, and stay off the Prime Material for a set period (hundred? thousand? years). Once he was promised freedom, he negotiated with a 2nd PC to convince a 3rd to cast Restoration on him. ... and gave all 3 PC's the template, and then Avaxial BAILED.
...that's quite a template. Quickened fireball 3/day? Blasphemy? +4 AC and saves? +2 to 3 stats? They'll go to hell, but they may unbalance the campaign a little first.
As for the OP's hunter: it depends what sort of pet you want to allow (animals? templated animals? magical beasts?). He might rescue some creature from
The slayer...is the orc connection any use? Add a tribe of orcs to
The wizard should be fairly easy, this being all about the remains of Thassilon. Magical stuff abounds. Something will turn up, possibly
I've just gotta say, I love the effort you've gone to to integrate the party into the campaign and setting! I'm already a bit late into the campaign (Chapter 5), but this gives me inspiration for when I run Shattered Star next! :D
I wonder... Could you PM me the conversion you made of Matt's stuff to Pathfinder? It sounds intriguing to say the least and I have a Paladin in the party...
@Roonfizzle: I don't particularly remember the Haunted Heart area from my last skim through, but that was probably close to a year and a half ago now. I'll definitely need to check it out. Black Magga and the various Dragons I DO remember - I'm not sure how to tie BM in yet, but an inkling of connecting her to the Sandpoint Devil is brewing. Funny you mention the dragons though - the Slayer is carrying around Nualia's (first) +1 Bastard Sword, which since I don't like just handing a "here it's +1" weapon, I made a 'Dragonslayer' (+1, but against Dragons is +3) that is pitch black and seems to suck in light. He's carrying it around and has never used it 'Just in case.' That'll pan out.
Avaxial and that template are interesting, but I don't know if I want to give him a connection to a particular character backstory. It's a pretty tropey, iconic moment for the party to suddenly have the opportunity to deal with a powerful devil and I think it should play out how they want. That being said, I agree with Mudfoot that the template is a fat upgrade. I'll probably try to think up something a little more finessed once I hard-prep Avaxial.
@Mudfoot: Right now, from what I understand, the party is planning to get the now-Bloodrager resurrected/reincarnated, and I am (perhaps wrongly) assuming the Hunter will invest for doing the same to his pet, which is when I'll apply the Half-Celestial template from Bestiary 1. If, for some reason, he doesn't do that then I think waiting until the Grauls might be too long for him to go without a pet - the players are going to get some downtime once Xanesha is dealt with/escapes and they explain away how they killed a Justice of the Justice Court.
(Likely, Mayor Whats-his-Face is going to sweep it under the rug once he understands what was going on under his nose, then strongly suggest they remove themselves from the city and back to Sandpoint. They'll get a strong impression of his wealth and power. His secretary will assuage some hurt butts and explain the Mayors need to balance politics, and that the Mayor has infrequent need of people with their skills and pays handsomely, as long as they steer clear of Magnimar until summoned.)
This downtime is going to help push forward the timeline a bit (the night of the Shadow Clock fight is day 55 since the Swallow Tail Festival, with a 2 week downtime between Books 1 and 2), and in that downtime I'm expecting there to be Item Crafting and investments into Stronghold building in/around Sandpoint. All this being said, I doubt the Hunter spends that time not looking for a new pet, so if he doesn't Rez his current I'll need an encounter prepped. I'll have to start looking around for some interesting stuff.
The Orc connection is something I have been thinking of too, that and the fact that he is (I believe) Half Orc and Half Shoanti. There might be some neat Shoanti stuff I can work out if I prompt him to dig a bit deeper into picking a clan and such. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe his clan has an old legend about Magga and her 'spawn'.
Ancient Golems is a good point for the Wizard. I'm also thinking that, since he is fairly combat-light with feat investments into crafting, it would be neat to get him a martial retainer. Right now I'm playing with the concept that some perverted Wizard in the Magnimar wanted to turn his beautiful Angelic Guardian golem into his personal -ahem- using a modified stone-to-flesh spell. She awoke, but wasn't as pliable as expected since she's a bodyguard/combat golem and is pretty much a Red Sonja sort of personality. She ends up trying to find her 'father', the Wizard, based on the very small makers mark rune scarred into her forehead just below her hairline - which happens to be wear the Angelic Guardians fire halo headpiece was, and the Wizard worked for the Golemworks for years just enchanting fire-halo-headpieces one after the other. She'll be a loyal Follower as long as he isn't a jerk - I can't decide if she'll be a Follower as per S+F concepts, or a free Leadership feat as a Fighter.
@Fair Strides: Thanks! I put a lot of work into this game with maps/minis that the players give occasional comments about, but because I'm the 'outsider' of the group (I'm a relative, they all know each other from college) I don't always have a great read on what they are enjoying/appreciating with the story. This will hopefully change as I'm going to be a player in a 5e game my relative is running on our off-week.
I'll look at making my conversions into something... readable? I've been converting it piecemeal, and started with Towers and Establishments (little change) since they were what people were interested in, and then Bloodrager (now defunct) and Swashbuckler class-specific stuff since they were the two most vocal about wanting to invest in Strongholds. My Demesne Effects were the things I liked the most, so here's a couple samples:
Bloodrager (was going to be a Wizard Tower out of Thistletop): You gain a Demesne Effect in the local region (1mi per Stronghold level),wherein new, strange flora and fauna begin to appear within your demesne. As an Arcane Bloodrager your land begins to attract magical beasts such as a pack of blink dogs, and growth of new arcane-influenced plants such as grabbing vines.
Swashbuckler: You gain a Demesne Effect in the local region (1mi per Stronghold level),wherein you, your allies and the locals find that the environment in the domain always facilitates outrageous activities. There always happens to be a convenient rope to swing on, cart of hay at the bottom of a long drop or tablecloth to whisk out from under the dishes.
I also really enjoyed making the Follower charts for the Hybrid classes, smashing together their pieces from the original 5e charts into something that fit. I then went through and wrote one-paragraph descriptors/characters, basing as heavily as I could on content from the Sandpoint sourcebook and Golarion setting. I started listing some highlights and realized I have... a lot of favs on those lists. I'll just say the Sandpoint book is really good for mining local powers/interests.
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I just realized my last post didn't include what small update I could give.
The Bloodrager player has begun an online play-by-post scenario in Pharasma's Boneyard, waiting in the dozen-mile line of souls outside of Pharasma's tower of judgement. A Nosoi (though he doesn't know what it is) flew up and started questioning him about who he is, because it's records are confused - this was caused by his quick reincarnation before he was 'processed' the last time he was in the Boneyard. This is also offering him a chance to ask questions (which he isn't doing yet).
Once the Nosoi is done, it'll leave and allow the Astral Deva Barchiel to approach and scoop him out of line.
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I do like the Red Sonja golem idea. Of course, being an ex-golem, she'll have exactly no knowledge about the world and be incredibly naive. And all manner of men will be hitting on her, and she'll probably be hitting them back in a different way. And her 'owner' will want her back, as soon as he gets raised.
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You've pretty much nailed the subplot on the head, Mudfoot.
If I go with it, that'll probably come up during downtime after Book 3 so that by the time the end of Book 4 comes around they have an angry Wizard after them to make use of any knowledge they murderhobo past, and eventually he'll probably trail them into Book 5.
As for unbalancing the Campaign ... even with the additions, they don't match the DPR of the Dwarven Archer. (Legolas would potentially be jealous ... of the FIGHTER. Archery feats are no joke.),
YMMV. I tend to run more ... high fantasy games, with a little bit more rocket fuel than some. Yes, the Fighter's gotten a couple drops, but he's the most normal person at the table, build wise.
I may, or may not, visibly flinch every time he gets a full round attack. I'm just glad he does NOT get dex to damage. But then, I run that I get to use anything they do, plus a little more on top, just to keep things interesting.
Spoiler - they still win.
The Bloodrager has spoken with the Nosoi, and learned that he is in the Boneyard, that the bird he is speaking with has a name that translates to "Illkept Bookshelf" which is why he deals with the troubled records, and that his 'most likely outcome' is going to be different from most because he is 'marked.'
He asked what that meant, and how he was marked. The Nosoi explains there are many ways to be marked, including pacts with devils and such, but that his in particular is an ancestral mark in his blood - he should be aware of it (referencing his Arcane Bloodline.)
The Bloodrager asks who he is 'indebted to' for his empowered blood, and the Nosoi says it's not his place to say. He ends with "Your records are updated now, Azarbod Wyrd. Dependant upon what happens next, I expect we will never meet again. Or perhaps we will. I'll fly by if you end up in line again, just to say hello. I'm told it's nice to see a familiar face while you're waiting, at least that's what the Catrina's say. I wouldn't really know."
An unknown amount of time later (since the Boneyard is timeless), he sees huge flying golden pyramid with black wings sprouting from each side. This is Imot, the Symbol of Doom, the powerful psychopomp usher in charge of among other things, prophecies and the expunging of 'cultures that have overstayed their welcome.' I felt this a fitting figure for Soralyon to be acquaintances with, and to be aiding this particular prophecy (did I forget to mention he's also interested in portents and prophecies?).
An angelic being descends from near this pyramid, flies over the line and then lands. He speaks to the Bloodrager, calling him by name and naming himself 'Barchiel, Deva of my Empyreal Lord Soralyon.' He offers his hand to the Bloodrager and says 'Come with me.'
And that's where we are at now.
I am really enjoying folding in items like Imot, or even the Catrina psychopomp, even though the player/s will never get the reference or know the full story.
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One Night, Second Session
Well, Tuesday was the second session of my 'One Night Only' Shadowclock encounter. Suffice it to say, my players did not exactly exceed my expectations...
We left off with the Bloodrager dead, all of the Skinsaw Cult (including Ironbriar and a returned Tsuto) dead, and most of Xanesha's forces (Scarecrow and Faceless Stalkers) dead except for Nualia (who was captured in a Create Pit spell, with a Web spell over top of it), and a couple of Faceless Stalkers way up at the top of the tower.
Of the living PCs, the Wizard and the Swashbuckler were focused on trying to capture Nualia, the Hunter was mourning his deceased wolf, and the Slayer was sprinting up the stairs to the top of the tower. As we started the session, the Hunter decided to follow the Slayer.
That's right folks, we've got a perfectly split party.
The Swashbuckler in particular wants to capture Nualia to try and get more information out of her, and the Wizard is going along. Because we have multiple spells running with Round timers (and Revenant Nualia is healing 3 per round, not that the PCs have had a chance to notice this), we're in Initiative. This Downstairs Pair spend pretty much the next 3.5 hours of game time in combat rounds trying different ways to suppress Nualia. The Wizard burns all of his spell slots making more Pits (3 more pits were made, Nualia failed the saves on all but one of them to fall in) and other suppression tactics.
Trying to gently suggest that this might not be the best course of action, she responds to all of their questions and prompts with varying degrees of the following:
- It doesn't matter if you kill me and all of her other servants, my Mistress above will deal with you herself if she must
- You should probably take the body of my brother and leave (aka. her half-brother the Bloodrager. She is an intelligent/advanced Revenant and regrets her last battle with her only living kin (that shen knows of), and would rather see him ressurected as the Wizard says he will do. Them leaving would serve her orders of Xanesha to deal with the intruders).
- I will not stop
Finally, after about 15-18 combat rounds, between a Black Tentacles spell from the Wizard and some grapple/pin checks from the Swashbuckler, they get Nualia tied up and gagged. During their fight they realized she doesn't bleed properly and is healing, so they use some discarded swords from the fight to stab her through the gut and pin her to a wall.
They then spent about 12 minutes searching all the bodies and collecting all the magic items on the ground floor. This is quite a haul and they pile it up.
Then they realize that their allies haven't come back down from above, and the Wizard says he's pretty much useless at this point - all he has left is a Feather Fall spell. The Swashbuckler is feeling drained too (she's out of Pinache). They aren't sure what to do...
The Slayer is a few floors of stairs ahead of the hunter, and gets to the top first. He one-shots one of the two Faceless Stalkers who were dropping bells on people with a crit. He then duels the other one on the wooden scaffolding, taking his first hit since Book 2 started (and only losing Temp HP from his Sihedron Medallion).
The Hunter catches up, and together they climb out onto the outer scaffolding and see they can get into either a small room that leads onto the next floor (please, I beg inside my head, do this and delay your progress a bit), or they see a hole in the shingled roof they need to climb/acrobatics up to, where they see light spilling out into the dark of night.
They skip the room, and climb up.
They find, in Xanesha's Chamber, a beautiful woman who invites them to join her in her silk and pillows lounging area at the foot of the black angel statue that tops the Shadowclock. They do so, the Slayer sitting down and asking for her story, while the Hunter remains a bit more on edge but also enters deep into the room.
Xanesha has cast Major Image to create the human version of herself, and Ventriloquism to speak through it. She is currently clinging to the upper rafters of this room with her Climb speed (snake tail), and the Slayer sees her drop out of Inivisibility to reach out and touch the Hunter for some Wis drain to open combat.
The PCs split their rolls for the first couple of rounds - they do great on saves, beating the Medusa Mask and a Deep Slumber, but also can't break a 10 on the die to hit. Xanesha catches the Hunter in her second and final Deep Slumber spell, then turns to the Slayer and catches him with a Charm Monster on her following turn.
I had the room go dark as the players were no longer aware of what was going on up there, and this was occuring concurrent to the Nualia fight downstairs, which was wrapping up.
So it went dark, and THEN the Downstairs PCs decided to spend time collecting loot.
Overall, I was not intending this session to be the second in a row that was pretty much ALL combat rounds. I am super glad the Bloodrager was away on his honeymoon and didn't show up expecting to get a resurrection any time soon, cause he would have been waiting for another full session.
In game, since they stepped up to the Shadowclock, it's only been about 15 minutes.
I've got 1 PC dead, 2 PCs captured by a Lamia Matriarch, and 2 PCs tapped for resources and unaware of what is waiting above. Yikes.
What I'm thinking I'm going to do is move up the timeline on the Swashbucklers next encounter with the Calistrian faith - her last encounter was trying to sneak onto the Dome of the Savoured Sting grounds to get in and visit their temple prostitutes. She was caught and rebuffed by Ayamyra, the head Cleric, as she saw off the Calistrian city patrol for the night.
Start of next session I think Ayamyra and two of her Rogue toughs are going to come in the front door. Word of a strange procession of City Watch moving through the city reached her, and how they came to Underbridge, and she'll have come to investigate. They can tell her the story, and she can mention how this seems a worthy cause for sweet revenge in the eyes of Calistria.
Ayamyra can heal up any damage the Wizard and Swashbuckler have taken, and then will accompany them up the Shadowclock looking for this 'Mistress' and their silent allies. She'll leave the toughs downstairs watching over the captured Nualia (who will probably escape). Having a Level 7 Cleric (her official stats) should give them the boost they need - especially if she can break one or both of the captured PCs from their Charm Monster.
If they survive the fight (I haven't decided if the Will 'O Wisp minion will be up there or not, I didn't drop it in when just the 2 were there), she'll also prove a valuable contact when dealing with the fall out of them killing a Justice of the city. Likely her vouching for the PCs will get them an 'expedited exile' instead of a formal court date and getting sent down to the Hells. And on a more personal note, the Swashbuckler will gain two things: entrance in to see the Calistrian temple-prostitutes (I feel like I need to point out this is a female player playing a female swashbuckler who is so obsessed with getting into exclusive brothels), as well as an invitation into the mysteries of the Calistrian faith (perhaps getting her to build towards the Enchanting Courtesan prestige class).
The 'Exile' will likely be a cover up and for show. The PCs will be 'invited' to a meeting with the Mayor, who is pretty much an a-hole power broker, but when afterwards they meet with his Secretary they'll get paid in platinum the bounties for solving the ongoing murders, and uncovering a secret evil cult in the city, and he'll mention that the Mayor has need of folks like them, and for all that is ill favor is dangerous, he also pays generously to those who perform favours at his request. This should give the PCs more reason to leave Magnimar and return to Sandpoint (heading towards a Reincarnation for the Bloodrager from Madame Mvashti, who they know can do it, as well as their upcoming downtime (I'm thinking 2-3 months of winter)) but also leave open the hook for going up to Fort Rannick once their downtime is over.
Speaking of Sandpoint! Things have also been developing there while the PCs have been gone. Event 1 - the surviving Ghouls that the party missed ganged up and started attacking farmsteads again. Shalelu, having returned to the area, was doing what she could but returned to town hoping that the heroes were still there. She, Hemlock and Ameiko (as the most powerful noble in the region and a former adventurer) were trying to figure out what to do when Caizarlu, a wizard, approached them claiming to be a White Necormancer - he'd been tracking the Ghoul movements and had found their lair. All he needed was some protection while he enacted a ritual and he could banish the evil souls for good. With farmers dying by the day (and joining the pack), Ameiko and Shalelu set out the next day with him. Caizarlu uses Grayst Seville as a 'divining rod' to bring them to the mouth of a cave out in the foothills and begins his ritual, and the Ghouls attack, but it turns out his ritual is to gain control over them and not just banish them, cause he's Evil. Ameiko and Shalelu manage to kill the Necromancer and many of the ghouls, but some escape. (As you can see, the party didn't encounter Caizarlu and didn't clean up the issue of Grayst during their investigation - they were actually very polite at Habes Sanatorium).
Event 2, depending on how long the PCs take to get back to town, is that Father Zantus and some accolytes will try and cleanse the Misgivings with... not great success.
Finally, for this rambling post, the Bloodrager player's play-by-post 'in heaven' scene has progressed slowly but he has now been taken by Barchiel the Astral Deva through the void and to the gates of Nirvana. Barchiel pressed on him the dissapointment that the Bloodrager had opted to kill his sister isntead of redeem her. He did the 'my d-' slip but the Bloodrager didn't pry. The Bloodrager did, however, agree to try and redeem her if he could. Barchiel then told him that they were at the gates awaiting the time that his companions should resurrect him, and that his soul was to be distilled and sent back 'catalyzed'.
The Bloodrager asked what, if anything, he could be shown while they waited. Barchiel looked out into the Void of blackness outside the gates of Nirvana and spoke of the dangers out there, then he slipped into a prophetic moment and said the following, "The Well continues to fill, and though you have touched one of it's puddles and stoppered it's feeding as the beaver dams a stream, still the river flows and rips essence from souls destined for judgement. He left the City of Gold as Doom fell upon the world, his ill-advised deals damning his already thrice-damned soul but also the world he left behind - his rise will spell empire or calamity. Many are the secrets to defeat him, hidden in pockets and bubbles set apart, but woe befall the hero that would ignore the unpublished knowledge held in a Tower of Black."
Most of this is just vague reference to Xin, the Runewells feeding on souls and the City of Gold (which he saw the relief of in Thistletop). Empire or Calamity refers to the fact that if the Runewell fills and can power his return, he'll either come back and begin a new empire or the Denizens of Leng will betray him and open a gateway for them to tear into the material realm. Finally, the Tower of Black is obviously the Black Tower coming up in Book 4.
Unless the Bloodrager tries to pry further about something interesting, their conversation will get cut short and I'll move him on to a brief vision of Soralyon and then helping re-roll his character into his new angelic (azata) form.