1 - Hellknight Hill (GM Reference)


Age of Ashes

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber
TheDarkestSouls wrote:
NielsenE wrote:

I'm a little confused as to how the numbers of spectators at the kick-off event are supposed to work.

Page 9, says there 40 spectators aside from the PCs and councilors/Warbal.

Page 10: Says 20 of the 40 get out on their own; while 20 need help

The town councilors rescue 20 spectators if left to their own devices. (But possibly only 15, their last rescue is on the turn spectators fall unconscious, so depending if town councilors go before the hazard's initiative. We're not given initiative modifiers for them though...)

It also says it takes 15 spectators to setup the bucket brigade, but we already have 20 non-endangered spectators that got out immediately?

So one reading says that the PCs are free to completely focus on the fire/fire mephit and that all the spectators will be saved w/o them doing anything. Which seems a little odd to award the 5xp per saved spectator when its nothing they have to do.

I'm not a fan of making things harder for the PCs especially not in the first encounter of the scenario, so I'm happy to run it in what feels like easy mode, but wanted to double check these numbers. I thought it should be an encounter that has the PCs trying to keep the fire away from the rescuee's and working to clear the more endangered side of the room, possibly while engaging the mephit. Felt like it would be very cinematic and fluid. But it almost sounds like the PCs actions won't matter.

If I recall correctly, the bucket brigade doesn't work properly unless someone is guiding them. So the councillors can save other citizens OR they can help run the bucket brigade, but I don't think they're capable of both. The players should need to pick up the remaining slack.

I had assumed the non-endangered spectators were the ones the councillors help. So they help their 20 spectators (the last 5 of which are carried unconscious on the councillors' shoulders as they leave and stay outside). If the PCs tell the councillors to do something else, they add the spectators that councillor to the list of spectators to rescue


What are Voz's skeletons supposed to be? The encounter suggests a skeletal champion and a skeleton guard, but the text says "skeletal champions" at one point, so it could be two skeletal champions instead.


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Colette Brunel wrote:
What are Voz's skeletons supposed to be? The encounter suggests a skeletal champion and a skeleton guard, but the text says "skeletal champions" at one point, so it could be two skeletal champions instead.

I suppose it had once been 2 Skeletal Champions, but later it was revised to a champ+common skeletons. Have tested both encounters against my group and 2 Champs felt much harder to fight against (it was a wipe), so I think that's why they made it a bit easier.

Just guessing.


I’m sorry - I’m positive these are stupid questions & probably belong in the rules thread, but I didn’t think I could get specific enough without my post being nothing but spoiler tags. There’s 2 encounters with flying creatures - a giant bat on the first level and the Emperor Birds a level down, and for the life of me I’m not getting how to GM this. On most rounds, would a flying creature fly towards a PC (1 action), hover (1 action) and then get one attack? Could it fly to a PC (1 action), then take 2 attacks with the assumption that it’s still moving & its first action next round would be to fly past? Or does a flying creature generally swoop down, attack once & keep going? And if they ARE just constantly flapping around the room, is it an acrobatics check to turn at every wall? Or am I just overthinking everything?

The Exchange

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

"You can use an action to Fly 0 feet to hover in place. If you’re airborne at the end of your turn and didn’t use a Fly action this round, you fall."

So, the creature can Fly up, make two attacks and end its turn. The next turn, it would need to either take an action to "Fly 0" and remain in place, or make its attacks and then fly onward.

This is a little inconsistent with the Maneuver in Flight action under Acrobatics, which suggests that in general a hover in place action might be an Expert action, while "reverse direction" is Master. But that's all at GM discretion.

I'd be inclined to take context into account. Somebody flying through magical means probably doesn't need a roll to hover in place, just spend an action to keep themselves aloft. But I've never seen a falcon hovering like a hummingbird, so the Emperor Birds would probably require Acrobatics to hover. Turning around as a Master-level action I can only imagine as flipping a U-turn in place, which again I can't imagine a bird doing, but turning if they've got some room around them shouldn't be too difficult.

The 10-foot hallway for birds with 5-foot wingspans is a bit tight. I'd probably have them swooping past back and forth with a DC 10 to turn around at the ends (rolling a 1 would be a failure, and they'd bang a wing and tumble to the floor). The bat, I'm picturing wide flappy wings as it basically hovers over somebody's face clawing at them. No check, just use a Fly 0 action.

At the end of the day, I'd remember that unlike 3.x, PF2 doesn't proceed from the assumption that PCs and monsters play by the exact same rules. If you can describe it in a way that sounds legit to you and your players, go ahead and do it.


Thank you very much!


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sir NotAppearingInThisFilm wrote:
I’m sorry - I’m positive these are stupid questions & probably belong in the rules thread, but I didn’t think I could get specific enough without my post being nothing but spoiler tags. There’s 2 encounters with flying creatures - a giant bat on the first level and the Emperor Birds a level down, and for the life of me I’m not getting how to GM this. On most rounds, would a flying creature fly towards a PC (1 action), hover (1 action) and then get one attack? Could it fly to a PC (1 action), then take 2 attacks with the assumption that it’s still moving & its first action next round would be to fly past? Or does a flying creature generally swoop down, attack once & keep going? And if they ARE just constantly flapping around the room, is it an acrobatics check to turn at every wall? Or am I just overthinking everything?

As long as it spends one action to Fly it remains airborne at the end of its turn. So yes, it can spend one action to Fly (even if it remains in the same square) and two actions to Strike.

CRB page 472 wrote:
If you’re airborne at the end of your turn and didn’t use a Fly action this round, you fall.

Grand Lodge

Um, possibly dumb question here for you all.
How does XP work nowadays? Like, Chapter 2 says that if you successfully improve the goblin dogs attitude you gain the XP as if you defeated the three in combat, but... How much XP do they give? The Core Rulebook just talks about party level differences, so should I just assume this is a level 1 fight and give out 40 XP for it?


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
HitherandThence wrote:

Um, possibly dumb question here for you all.

How does XP work nowadays? Like, Chapter 2 says that if you successfully improve the goblin dogs attitude you gain the XP as if you defeated the three in combat, but... How much XP do they give? The Core Rulebook just talks about party level differences, so should I just assume this is a level 1 fight and give out 40 XP for it?

I *think* that this is how it works, but if someone comes along with a better answer, I'll learn something, too:

A goblin dog is a Creature 1, and the party is level 1 when they encounter it. Each creature at the same level as the party is worth 40 XP, so 3 goblin dogs are worth 120 XP.

This also works out with the encounter being tagged as Severe 1, because a Severe encounter is listed as 120 XP in table 10-1 on p. 489 of the CRB.

So, 120 XP for 3 goblin dogs, a severe encounter for a level 1 party.

The Exchange

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Correct, with one point worth emphasizing:

Quote:
Encounters with adversaries and hazards grant a set amount of XP. When the group overcomes an encounter with creatures or hazards, each character gains XP equal to the total XP of the creatures and hazards in the encounter (this excludes XP adjustments for different party sizes; see Party Size for details).

If you were adjusting the encounter for 6 characters, the "encounter budget" for that would be 180...so, say you add an Elite Goblin Dog to the encounter. The encounter is then a Severe 1 for a party of 6, and characters all earn the reward for a regular Severe encounter of their level, which is 120.

If you wanted to over-complicate things, you could also say that each character is awarded XP equal to the Encounter Budget * (4 / x) where X is the number of players.


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Maelorn7 wrote:
Colette Brunel wrote:
What are Voz's skeletons supposed to be? The encounter suggests a skeletal champion and a skeleton guard, but the text says "skeletal champions" at one point, so it could be two skeletal champions instead.

I suppose it had once been 2 Skeletal Champions, but later it was revised to a champ+common skeletons. Have tested both encounters against my group and 2 Champs felt much harder to fight against (it was a wipe), so I think that's why they made it a bit easier.

Just guessing.

Out of curiosity, did you run the skeletons as minions (as would be implied by the use of the create undead ritual Voz knows)?

The encounter budget (as a severe 3 encounter) accounts for the skeletons as normal enemies present in the encounter, and I'm debating treating them as minions to reinforce the "standard" rules for how undead work. Limiting them to two actions and eating Voz's actions to command them should be a much easier encounter, so much so I'm thinking of replacing the generic skeleton guard with another champion so it's potentially actually worth commanding (and/or providing other boosts to make it comparable to a severe encounter)

Although I guess she's actually not high enough level to have a level 2 skeleton as a minion, so maybe bumping her up a level would be the way to go assuming I don't just run the encounter without treating them as minions as written. It's not a "NPCs have to follow PC rules" mindset here, just a "I know my players will ask about undead/whatever minions eventually so I'd like the drawbacks to be convincingly represented up front" thing.


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RicoTheBold wrote:
Maelorn7 wrote:
Colette Brunel wrote:
What are Voz's skeletons supposed to be? The encounter suggests a skeletal champion and a skeleton guard, but the text says "skeletal champions" at one point, so it could be two skeletal champions instead.

I suppose it had once been 2 Skeletal Champions, but later it was revised to a champ+common skeletons. Have tested both encounters against my group and 2 Champs felt much harder to fight against (it was a wipe), so I think that's why they made it a bit easier.

Just guessing.

Out of curiosity, did you run the skeletons as minions (as would be implied by the use of the create undead ritual Voz knows)?

The encounter budget (as a severe 3 encounter) accounts for the skeletons as normal enemies present in the encounter, and I'm debating treating them as minions to reinforce the "standard" rules for how undead work. Limiting them to two actions and eating Voz's actions to command them should be a much easier encounter, so much so I'm thinking of replacing the generic skeleton guard with another champion so it's potentially actually worth commanding (and/or providing other boosts to make it comparable to a severe encounter)

Although I guess she's actually not high enough level to have a level 2 skeleton as a minion, so maybe bumping her up a level would be the way to go assuming I don't just run the encounter without treating them as minions as written. It's not a "NPCs have to follow PC rules" mindset here, just a "I know my players will ask about undead/whatever minions eventually so I'd like the drawbacks to be convincingly represented up front" thing.

I ran them as independant monsters, so no Minion Trait, but it would be a nice way to weaken them. Actually I found that 1 Champ + 1 Skeleton was not a problem at all (skeleton was one-shotted by a monk), so I tried to harden it.

I actually also found out that Voz has just 2 AOE spells which she could use against PCs and they are fairly weak against lvl3 party. What is a real threah though is the Vampiric Touch spell which she can recharge with the dagger. 6d6 negative damage + healing herself was pretty dangerous and is a nice answer to anyone trying to close up on her.

What I also discovered is that the Ralldar is VERY STRONG. I just ran 2 test encounters and each of them was really dangerous and the party wiped there. His Enlarge which gives his attacks reach 15ft + 4dmg on each hit is no joke, he one-shotted a sorcerer, teared apart the fighter in 2 rounds and even the cleric could not damage him enough with his healing emanation (I took fiend-damaging feat for a cleric) + Divine Lance with good damage.

So everybody watch out for him XD and remember about Renali (she can save the party and I suppose they might need it).


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ralldar is listed as severe for a good reason. The PCs would do well to try to placate him instead of fight.


Fumarole wrote:
Ralldar is listed as severe for a good reason. The PCs would do well to try to placate him instead of fight.

Yeah, I know, I just found Voz + 2 skelies not so hard for PCs even though she is also listed as Severe.

Liberty's Edge

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Single foes are almost always significantly tougher in PF2 than groups of the same 'difficulty' are. Level just matters so much.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I haven't had a chance to actually play since the playtest, but my experience back then was that the way to beat a strong solo monster was to out-last them. Offensive abilities are unreliable due to the huge disparity in AC and saves, but defensive abilities like healing remain fully-effective. The best tactic is just to chip away at them while soaking up what they're dealing to you; if the solo monster can't actually overpower you and deal damage faster than you can heal, it won't have the resources to outlast you.


Dasrak wrote:
I haven't had a chance to actually play since the playtest, but my experience back then was that the way to beat a strong solo monster was to out-last them. Offensive abilities are unreliable due to the huge disparity in AC and saves, but defensive abilities like healing remain fully-effective. The best tactic is just to chip away at them while soaking up what they're dealing to you; if the solo monster can't actually overpower you and deal damage faster than you can heal, it won't have the resources to outlast you.

My cleric never managed to outheal with his 2d8 mass heal (which is also 2d8 damage vs Bargheist) the massive 20+ dmg he dealt to my test PCs.

I am glad I tested it before throwing at my players XD


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

So, after much preparation and a couple of play-day cancellations, I finally ran my first session of this AP. I as well have performed some rewrites:

1. The amount of time in which the precursory events take place has been shortened. The first and only smoke signal arises on the morning of the Call of Heroes. Calmont sees this and decides he has to take quick action to make sure no heroes investigate. Little does he know, there would be no intervention from the town, but better safe than sorry, right? My introduction:

Quote:

The Five Kings Mountains span the eastern horizon, an army of monoliths standing timeless and resolute against an iridescent sky. As the sun rises, shafts of golden light slip through the gaps between the mountains’ peaks and cascade to the valley below, bringing an ethereal glow to the shroud of fog that resides there. For most, the view would be hard to ignore. However, even in a small town and at such an early hour, there are those with more pressing matters to tend to...

A lone figure hurries through a dark and empty street. Small in stature, its presence is dwarfed by the buildings surrounding it, which loom over it much like the mountains to the east. But it’s not the east that seems to concern it... The figure stops in its tracks, beholding a different sight, one much more unusual for a resident of these parts. Rising above the hills to the north of town, a plume of dark red smoke streaks like blood across that same beautiful morning sky. From beneath its cloak, the figure releases a short growl. Without another moment of hesitation, it bounds off again, scampering forward with purpose.

2. Extended character introductions are a staple of my 1st sessions. I used this opportunity to go ahead and introduce some characters from the town. In particular, Voz was in the very first player character scene, presented to a book-interested PC as a fairly non-chalant bookseller, though I subtley had her try to talk him into leaving her shop. No one seemed to think twice about it, mwahahaha. Roxie Denn was also shown, and Jorell Blacktusk (PC works at the Archives, and is also the son of Greta Gardania, the Council President).

3. The town is presented as odd. I explicitly told the outsiders and the more skeptical locals that the cult of personality around Lamond Breachton feels a bit strange. However, when they heard the story of how the town came to be, they didn't seem to think much off about it. And when all the townsfolk were super polite and friendly with them, they sort of forgot about it entirely.

4. Warbal is not a character just yet. Yet she DID light the signal fire, hoping that someone would come. Her and her alone. Rather than have a goblin ambassador to a town in a nation that only in the recent past was overrun by rampaging goblins, I'm going to ease into this. Perhaps this is one of the first examples of goblins becoming accepted in society, as presented in 2E. The Bumblebrashers will be a docile tribe, they just will not be initially integrated into Breachill.

5. As stated in #1, the issue at Hellknight Hill is not presented in the meeting. Rather, Quentino Posandi from the Council presents that a shipment of stones and metals disappeared on the road. He is hoping to hire adventurers to investigate. Another pre-made group of adventurers (The Singing Blades) is present at the Call for Heroes, however. More experienced, they win the Council's decision for the investigation of the missing shipment. They leave before the meeting is over, prior to the fire occuring. This will ultimately tie into Chapter 4 and Guardian's Way, when the PCs find the shipment was stolen by the mercenaries hiding there. They will also find the corpses of the Singing Blades... ;)

6. The guards rush in when the fire mephit attacks, the door is closed and barred behind them. Calmont isn't such a bumbling fool that he gets himself seen. In fact, he's a stealthy little fellow who thinks pretty quick on his feet.

Due to the extended character intros, the sessions ended right after the fire was put out, which resulted in only one NPC death -- one of the guards. Instead of going right to the Citadel, the PCs are going to have to get leads (do some Gather Information!), in which they will get another look at Reliant Book Company (using someone else in this thread's idea that the shop is closing down for a loss prevention inventory due to Calmont's treachery), they will meet Alak Stagram, and they will learn that a small figure was seen rushing out of town to Hellknight Hill. I'm hoping to make them think that this is a goblin that set the fire, then I'm going to thwart their racism (or ancestrism?) and present the goblins as the good guys!

I have more that I could share, including character motivations/the precursory events leading up to the signal fire, but this already pretty long. If anyone has any questions, let me know! I will post a follow if people are interested in hearing how it goes down!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Very creative, thanks for the read :D


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Yoshua wrote:
Very creative, thanks for the read :D

Assuming you were referring to my post, thank you, buddy, and you are welcome!

It goes without saying that anyone running this adventure is free to (beg,) steal or borrow anything I post!


Does anybody consider not attacking the hunting spiders in D1 so that way if and when the PCs befriend Renali, she could use them to assist her and the party against the other threats in the Goblinblood Caves?


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Cellion wrote:

Having read through the adventure now, I was struck by quite a few elements that people have already commented on earlier in the thread and in the reviews for book 1. The one that struck me most was the following:

Why is almost every NPC hilariously incompetent?

I've recently been running book 1 of the original Rise of the Runelords. Over the course of that first book, the main villain of the story and her lieutenants accomplish much of what they set out to do. I'll refrain from listing any specifics, but people they want to die end up dying, things they want to sacrifice to foul gods get sacrificed. There's a real sense that its only the intervention of the PCs that stops them from completing their evil plans.

In comparison, the most NPCs Hellknight Hill are bumbling idiots.

  • Calmont wants to go to the Citadel to locate Alseta's Ring and sell info to whoever will buy it. He doesn't want anyone to beat him to this discovery, especially not any pesky PCs. But somehow he reasons that he should first set fire to the town hall, which paints a target on his head and ENSURES that people will go to Hellknight Hill to bring him to justice.
  • The Cinderclaws send their grauladons chasing the goblins up towards the surface, and oh no!, both stairways collapse, trapping those bumbling cultists in two separate groups!
  • Calmont wants to know from the goblins how to get downstairs, but in Helba's own words "We would have told him how to get downstairs, but he grabbed me too fast and started screaming, and waving that knife, and we couldn't get a word in edgewise". Calmont is presented as so crazy that he can't even let his prisoners submit to his demands.
  • The Bumblebrasher goblin tribe is so incompetent that a bookseller's apprentice with a dagger manages to overpower them.
  • The Cinderclaw cultists in the basement - A) Don't find the secret exit that literally all of them have enough perception bonus to locate. B) Don't think to either free their leader or clear the stairway leading...
  • The opening villains of Rise set each other on fire and drown themselves in rain barrels. At several points the plot is moved along because a supposedly competent mastermind has a journal or letter they leave behind that outlines the plot enough to get the party on their trail. Tons of boss enemies just sit lazily in their throne room waiting for you to murder their underlings rather than join them to overwhelm you.

    By comparison Calmont is at least supposed to be an idiot.

    A certain level of villainous incompetence seems to be a necessary for an adventure path. That's probably because they can't be written assuming the players are extremely competent. Not every group has the tactical skills to deal with the entire dungeon, boss included, crashing down on them organically when the alarm is raised. Nor do they always pay enough attention to piece together the clues to keep the plot moving.

    You can make the villains act smarter if it suits your group or they tend to point out silly choices the bad guys make... But not everyone wants that. I had a villain in Carrion Crown take a more active role in the hunting the PCs, murdering their NPC friend and then taking her place to poison one of the PCs and kill them while they were helpless. It made more sense narratively and was still very appropriate for the genre... But my players still hated it.


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    The emperor birds in the vaultway are supposed to be sentries. They have no darkvision. The room is pitch black. How is this supposed to work out?


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    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

    They can still hear just fine, I imagine. And unless every single PC has darkvision, the PCs probably have a light source on them.

    It seems incredibly cruel to keep them in a pitch-black room all day, but the Cinderclaws aren't exactly nice folks.


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    My upcoming session of Age of Ashes 1: Hellknight Hill is looking to prove interesting. During the first (very long) session, the party managed through the entirety of the adventure's 1st-level gameplay while taking not a single point of damage and expending not a single spell slot.

    As per the adventure path, the party already has Alak Stagram as a GMPC. I followed the adventure's suggestions to combine encounters together; I had already combined four encounters into two more compressed and difficult encounters, which the PCs still blew through. Thus, the party is heading straight into the lower levels of the dungeon without even dropping by town first. The party has already intimidated Calmont into compliance, and Calmont has been following the party as a pack mule.

    I asked the group if they would want Calmont to join in on fights, with me combining encounters even further, as per the adventure. The answer has been "Yes." I also had Helba inform the party of the kobold dragon mages, Pib and Zarf, and if the party is destined to recruit them as additional combat helpers against the Cinderclaws, then I figure that the kobold dragon mages may as well join in on combat directly.

    Between Alak (the early game babysitter who scales poorly later on), Calmont, and the two kobold dragon mages all piling together and me having to compress encounters into one giant mess, this is turning into the world's worst Fire Emblem impression. All the more so since I am using anime girl images for everyone as I usually do. And the first upcoming encounter involves two darkvisionless enemies in a pitch-black room whose AoE offensive abilities affect one another, while later encounters have other enemies accidentally affecting their own allies with different AoE offensive abilities. And there is a grizzly bear that can be quasi-recruitable.

    This is becoming quite the mess.

    Also, after the party ended 1st-level gameplay and hit 2nd level, I ended the session on a cliffhanger of the warg mother. Of course, this encounter barely has any guidelines, let alone prescribed statistics. I took notice of the fact that in the bestiary, winter wolves are technically wargs, so I had the warg mother stroll in as an elite-adjusted winter wolf.

    I took some serious effort in humanizing the warg mother (including my standard anime girl image), with just a touch of evil as she dragged in the still-conscious town lumberjack girl as a meal. She has made a heartfelt case in the Common tongue on why she should get to keep and raise her own babies. However, seeing how the party has knocked out every single non-undead creature in the dungeon so far (except for a giant bat that accidentally ate a lethal critical Precision hit), including the warg father, the PCs and Alak are simply going to knock out this elite winter wolf and reunite the lupine family all together.

    I can afford to have the warg mother be an elite-adjusted winter wolf, because this will be the first time that Calmont is joining in on the fight, like some cheesy moment where the token evil teammate finally has the heart to draw steel on behalf of their companions.

    I still think this is the worst of the premade adventures during the release month. I think that the first batch of Pathfinder Society adventures, Fall of Plaguestone, and Cult of Cinders are all better-written adventures.


    Colette Brunel wrote:
    The emperor birds in the vaultway are supposed to be sentries. They have no darkvision. The room is pitch black. How is this supposed to work out?

    For ease of use, just give them darkvision this time.

    If someone ever uses emperor birds in a homebrew adventure, I'd say make sure they have at least dim light to see by without having to rely on the party's light cantrip.


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    So, we finally managed to start the campaign.

    First the party meets outside the Wizard's Grace. Torvak, the former town guard fighter, has already made friends with Illidan, his halfling rogue sometimes-accomplice. They notice this half-elven young woman with Varisian tattoos covering her chest and shoulders - Melyanna, storm order druid - and chat her up, then do the same for the aloof elf wizard - Meredel. They enter the tavern, drink, eat the roast boar with lentils, chat, and the locals go cheer up their fighter friend and his new acquaintances. Everyone roleplays well, the descriptions are very good, people are enjoying themselves.

    At noon the bells chime and the party briefly talk with Warbal, immediately agreeing on trying to find out what happened to "her Bumblebrashers" (mostly the fighter gets very serious and interested). Then they enter the town hall and a couple minutes later, fire mephit. Druid unleashes hydraulic push, misses mephit but quenches a square of fire, rogue acts next, runs to hide behind Greta's chair, lops a dagger at the mephit, sneak crits amongst loud jubilations. The party immediately goes into rescue mode and helps out all the panicked people and their crying children, but doesn't give a s+!* about stopping the fire, so Greta takes matters into her own hands and organizes a bucket brigade. Shortly after, even though the monetary awards for the quests leave them non-plussed, the party leaves for Hellknight Hill, thinking they'll probably make a pretty penny with the loot from the Citadel.

    In the meantime the druid thinks back at the fire they just escaped and wonders if her nightmares of Breachill burning could refer to this. She rolls Dahak Lore, crits, and remembers that he's the dragon god of destruction and there's one Age no one ever mentions - the Age of Ashes, when he caused dragonstorms on Golarion. Maybe this was a spark, but the real fire is yet to come.

    The fighter manages to get them lost in the wooded mile between town and fortress, to everyone's hilarity, but nothing serious. They reach their destination, immediately decide the main entry is too obvious, scout the outer walls, and finally decide to approach the big puddle with an armored corpse on a muddy island - and the graveshells attack. Wizard and druid electrocute the one still in the brackish pool, fighter stands in front of the other and dodges its awkward attacks, rogue uses the chance to flank and sneak attack from behind, fighter finishes the beast off. Very impressing. The party gathers the loot but decides not to carry everything with them around in a big crumbling monster-infested citadel, so they hide their still small treasure and wizard uses the much-maligned sigil spell to mark the place to his own eyes only. Pretty smart.

    They enter and find a couple interesting scrolls, but while they do so they rile off the warg who tries to swallow the halfling rogue whole, who dodges and counts his blessings. Fighter wounds the big bad wolf, who retreats to the skeletons cells, waiting to spring his attack as soon as he sees them get near, and threatening them with no appreciable result. He doesn't see the rogue get close enough to toss a sneak attack dagger though, but decides he's had enough and bites/grab the fighter's arm - the rest of the party finishes him off though. Then they proceed to attend to fighter's wounds.

    As soon as they're done, they inspect the skeletons, which obviously get to their creaky feet. The casters destroy two with spells, making them go boom into sharp bone shards, but the fighter, who never was one to consider low-level undead too highly, grabs a staff and wielding it two-handed charges and demolishes the remaining ones by himself, taking some damage from the small bursts but still getting the job done impressively quick.

    The rogue eyes with palpable greed the lockers in the prison and of course starts picking locks, breaking a pick but pulling out a spare, and delivering various silver bludgeons to the fighter, plus elixirs and talismans the party doesn't take much to identify. Fighter decides all these weapons weigh too much and hides them too, to retrieve later, barring one mace that totes fits his aesthetic.

    At this point it's clear the fighter brought a shield purely for ornamental purposes, so, short on hit points and with the sunset filtering through the arrow slits, he proposes to dig in for the night. They block the door with their staves, sleep, memorize spells, finish caring for the fighter's wounds and back at it they go.

    Next room, a giant bat attacks. Fighter as always strikes true, but it thrashes wildly with its big wings and manages to hit. He answers by critting a demoralize and sending it fleeing, and of course as soon as its back is turned the rogue finishes it with a sneak attack.

    At this point it was about 5 in the morning and we decided to get back to it next week, but everyone was happy, we all had fun, and the session had been enjoyed by all. Combat runs surprisingly smooth, secret rolls are easy if you use an online die roller on your laptop and don't advertise what you're doing, non-magical healing can really take you places, everyone gets their chance to shine many many times, spells are at your fingertips every time you need them with the right site and there are cards to remind the players of their possible actions during a fight (more on all this later). All in all, great game, great adventure, 10/10, would run again. Only tiny detail we find slightly underwhelming is the advancement pace, but considering the guys have racked up only one accomplishment reward till now it's reasonable and they'll soon get more (I'm dying to see how they react to the warg puppies!!).

    These are the action cards we're using, and this is Spellfinder and it works like a charm. Archives of Nethys of course to quickly access rules, and this is the dice roller I use.

    I'm reading Cult of Cinders and can't wait for my guys to finish this one and take the trip to the Mwangi Expanse btw. Loving this AP.


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    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
    Colette Brunel wrote:

    My upcoming session of Age of Ashes 1: Hellknight Hill is looking to prove interesting. During the first (very long) session, the party managed through the entirety of the adventure's 1st-level gameplay while taking not a single point of damage and expending not a single spell slot.

    As per the adventure path, the party already has Alak Stagram as a GMPC. I followed the adventure's suggestions to combine encounters together; I had already combined four encounters into two more compressed and difficult encounters, which the PCs still blew through. Thus, the party is heading straight into the lower levels of the dungeon without even dropping by town first. The party has already intimidated Calmont into compliance, and Calmont has been following the party as a pack mule.

    I asked the group if they would want Calmont to join in on fights, with me combining encounters even further, as per the adventure. The answer has been "Yes." I also had Helba inform the party of the kobold dragon mages, Pib and Zarf, and if the party is destined to recruit them as additional combat helpers against the Cinderclaws, then I figure that the kobold dragon mages may as well join in on combat directly.

    Between Alak (the early game babysitter who scales poorly later on), Calmont, and the two kobold dragon mages all piling together and me having to compress encounters into one giant mess, this is turning into the world's worst Fire Emblem impression. All the more so since I am using anime girl images for everyone as I usually do. And the first upcoming encounter involves two darkvisionless enemies in a pitch-black room whose AoE offensive abilities affect one another, while later encounters have other enemies accidentally affecting their own allies with different AoE offensive abilities. And there is a grizzly bear that can be quasi-recruitable.

    This is becoming quite the mess.

    Also, after the party ended 1st-level gameplay and hit 2nd level, I ended the session on a cliffhanger of the warg mother. Of course, this encounter...

    This is like reading a review of a recipe online "I changed X Y Z and it tastes terrible! Horrible recipe!"

    Can't wait for an update.

    Paizo Employee Creative Director

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    Mechalibur wrote:

    They can still hear just fine, I imagine. And unless every single PC has darkvision, the PCs probably have a light source on them.

    It seems incredibly cruel to keep them in a pitch-black room all day, but the Cinderclaws aren't exactly nice folks.

    This is pretty much spot on.

    If EVERY PC in the group has darkvision, this is an encounter in which they have a significant advantage. This is by design. Not every encounter is meant to be 100% balanced in every way. I try hard to make sure that now and then, encounters in adventures are stacked in the PCs favor, particularly if the PCs use the right tactics against the encounter.

    And yeah, the Cinderclaws are jerks.

    Paizo Employee Creative Director

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    Roswynn wrote:
    Colette Brunel wrote:
    The emperor birds in the vaultway are supposed to be sentries. They have no darkvision. The room is pitch black. How is this supposed to work out?

    For ease of use, just give them darkvision this time.

    If someone ever uses emperor birds in a homebrew adventure, I'd say make sure they have at least dim light to see by without having to rely on the party's light cantrip.

    And again, consider this from the original intent that was to give characters with darkvision a chance to enjoy their advantage.

    In most cases, the PCs need light too, and they'll be bringing light with them, and thus the birds will be fine.

    In cases where no PC needs light, or a PC with darkvision sneaks ahead... this encounter gives that party or that PC a fun reward for a character choice and lets them use something to their advantage. That's a nice change of pace now and then for players to encounter, and makes them feel like the world isn't always perfectly poised to defeat them. Sometimes the bad guys make mistakes too.


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    Vlorax wrote:

    This is like reading a review of a recipe online "I changed X Y Z and it tastes terrible! Horrible recipe!"

    Can't wait for an update.

    I think you misunderstand me. The first session was essentially doing everything by-the-book.

    The first session was very long. We made it through the entirety of Age of Ashes 1: Hellknight Hill's 1st-level gameplay sequences in one very long session. It was... okay. Not the best of adventures by any stretch, and the whole adventure is very clearly designed to hand-hold a newbie group along, so it is a bit of a cakewalk for more experienced groups. Some of the noncombat scenes' mechanics were rather nonsensical. It was a very generic, humdrum dungeon crawl, just barely serviceable. All in all, I think that Fall of Plaguestone, Cult of Cinders, and the first batch of Pathfinder Society adventures are better and more engaging in many respects.

    The plotline was on the generally nonsensical and head-scratching side, too. So many of the NPCs come across as incompetent and barely able to tie their metaphorical shoelaces.

    Despite me merging four separate encounters into only two separate encounters, the PCs got through 1st-level gameplay with not a single point of damage taken and not a single spell expended. Certainly, it helped that the opening scene's mechanics are on the janky, poorly-explained, counterintuitive, and easily gameable side. The party picked up the friendly 2nd-level fighter GMPC soon thereafter.

    This image is a piece of contextless funposting. The PCs managed to knock out and capture every non-undead creature throughout 1st-level gameplay (even animals), except for a giant bat, which was accidentally killed with a critical Precision hit.

    Meanwhile, I am looking at this video that purports that Age of Ashes is oh so very hard, and I am left here with a party that went through the adventure's 1st-level gameplay with not a single point of damage ever taken and not a single spell expended, even after combining some encounters together. A GMPC is a hell of a drug.

    It is not as though I am some limp-wristed GM who goes easy on enemy tactics, either. I am the GM who ran roughly two dozen iterations of playtest adventures, and TPKed the party every single time; on two occasions, even TPKing the party twice during a single session. I do not go easy on players and use the most vicious, rules-legal tactics possible.

    I think I can identify why this video claims that Age of Ashes' first encounter, a gimmicky puzzle encounter, is difficult. It actually is genuinely difficult... if the mechanics are obfuscated from the PCs, the GM simply tells the PCs to "do something heroic," and the PCs try to do "the heroic thing" or "what action heroes would do," like trying to fight a certain enemy that appears. If the players are transparently informed of the mechanics, they do the safe but boring thing, and they delegate tasks to the NPCs by yelling at them to do things, then the PCs can get through the encounter before the hazard can even deal a single point of damage on the fourth round.

    My GMing style is grounded in mechanical transparency. I am a D&D 4e DM at heart, and I like to be transparent with players. Whenever there is some sort of skill challenge or other mechanics-heavy, noncombat-oriented encounter, I sit down with the players and explain to them the precise mechanics of the scene. My own 4e DM does this, and a group of adventures I enjoy, the late-cycle Living Forgotten Realms 4e adventures, do the same thing (they often have handouts for players explaining mechanics for off-beat skill challenges). It is all about transparency and the players making informed decisions.

    So when the adventure path opens up with a gimmick encounter that relies on opaque (and badly-explained, even towards the GM) mechanics for difficulty, it is no surprise that the challenge instantly evaporates when the players are informed of the mechanics. I am not a fan of challenge through opaque mechanics.

    The party was a generic maestro bard, a generic flickmace paladin champion, a generic guisarme fighter, a generic crossbow Precision ranger, and, come the dungeon crawl proper, the adventure-path-original 2nd-level fighter GMPC. The party favored Wisdom over Constitution, and part of the exploration mode standard operating procedures that were agreed upon before the game included extensive use of the Scout activity. In other words, the party was often able to get the drop on enemies, and the front line had good AC and tough choices for the enemies, between reach weapon Attack of Opportunity and flickmace Ranged Retribution.

    So yes. The first session was all by-the-book, and it cleared out the 1st-level gameplay of the adventure. The book lets Alak hop along, so I did that. The book advises that if Alak hops along, some encounters should be combined; I did that as well (I combined the warg with the grauladons, and the giant bat with the skeletons).

    I take it that this is more acceptable to your standards?

    Would you prefer that I keep the second session fully by-the-book as well? That would mean allowing Pib and Zarf to join in on the fighting (because the book explicitly mentions that as a possibility), but not letting Calmont join.


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    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
    Colette Brunel wrote:
    Vlorax wrote:

    This is like reading a review of a recipe online "I changed X Y Z and it tastes terrible! Horrible recipe!"

    Can't wait for an update.

    I think you misunderstand me. The first session was essentially doing everything by-the-book.

    It's your game you can DM however you like, I know of your playtest posts as well.

    I'm surprised that nobody took any damage, your players must be very experienced, and I'd argue that taking the weapon that you proclaimed as the best choice in a different post(flick-mace) isn't all that generic.

    I'm also running Age of Ashes and with 6 players and added 1 mephit to the first encounter, it died in 1 hit from the barb and added little to the fight.

    1 of the PC's almost died in the fire and they were unable to put it out. I explained how the fire could be dealt with but did not tell them they could avoid fighting the mephit and it would ignore them.

    PC's engaged, two of them got hit by it's aoe, 1 crit failed and caught on fire. He then rolled terribly and almost burned alive from the persistent damage. I forgot that standing near the fire would cause damage, if I hadn't he probably would have fallen unconscious, I also did not have the fire spread directly to any squares they occupied.

    After that they headed to the citadel, where one of them got infected with Goblin Pox and others took some dmg from the dogs. They defeated the grualudon after i forgot to increase the encounter difficulty and then talked down Calmont. They currently have him captured and are returning to town as requested after freeing the bumblebrashers as that was their mission.

    They haven't met Alak yet and the book mentions you may combine encounters. I'm mostly impressed that your "generic" group has such great defenses to have not taken a single point of dmg.


    It is mostly the initiative, the friendly GMPC, and the enemy-restricting combo that is a guisarme fighter's Attack of Opportunity and a flickmace paladin champion's Ranged Retribution that are ensuring that the party can get through battles without a hitch, while taking zero points of damage, and while expending no spell slots at all. The first encounter was rendered easy because it is the kind of challenge where the players can blaze through it (no pun intended) if they know how the mechanics work, and my style as a GM is to be transparent with letting players know how the mechanics of such weird gimmick encounters actually work.

    I like to think that I have been reasonably by-the-book all throughout the first session, which covered the adventure's 1st-level gameplay. So I ask you, then, should I continue to be by-the-book and not allow Calmont to join in, or should I allow him to join in and combine encounters even further? The latter most definitely would not be by-the-book.

    In my mind, a coerced Calmont is reasonably cooperative to those who do not mistreat him (I figured that Voz did actually mistreat him), and an intimidated Calmont could very well genuinely fight for the party.


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    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
    Colette Brunel wrote:


    In my mind, a coerced Calmont is reasonably cooperative to those who do not mistreat him (I figured that Voz did actually mistreat him), and an intimidated Calmont could very well genuinely fight for the party.

    I have Calmont being much more of a cruel idiot. He set fire to a town council and released a Mephit on innocent people who he presumably lived and worked with. If he's helping the party it would only be until he saw an opportunity to escape and/or kill them.


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    I have ultimately decided on my game plan for the upcoming session. I already ramped up the core assumption of the warg mother, by having her be an elite winter wolf type of warg. So that is the first battle: four PCs, Alak, and Calmont versus an elite winter wolf.

    The second battle is, once again, the four PCs, Alak, and Calmont. They fight the two emperor birds, which, as James Jacobs has noted, really are darkvisionless sentries in a pitch-black room. Come the start of the second round, due to the shrieking emperor birds, the soulbound doll and the gelatinous cube both come bursting into the vaultway to join the fray.

    The players and their PCs are set on picking up the dragon mages, so they will recruit Pib and Zarf. Thus, the warband will then be the four PCs, Alak, and Calmont. The Cinderclaws, having already heard the ruckus, will band together. The two sides will clash in one grand rumble. The first wave will be the three boggard warriors and the two boggard scouts. The second wave, arriving at the start of the second round, will be the five charau-ka.

    Remember that the players themselves are fine with GMPCs joining along. And despite the GMPCs, this degree of encounter-combining could very well be significantly more difficult than the original battles. And remember that all of this is happening with no 8-hour resting in between. I will give an update on how this more challenging (despite the GMPC help) take on the vaults plays out.


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    James Jacobs wrote:

    And again, consider this from the original intent that was to give characters with darkvision a chance to enjoy their advantage.

    In most cases, the PCs need light too, and they'll be bringing light with them, and thus the birds will be fine.

    In cases where no PC needs light, or a PC with darkvision sneaks ahead... this encounter gives that party or that PC a fun reward for a character choice and lets them use something to their advantage. That's a nice change of pace now and then for players to encounter, and makes them feel like the world isn't always perfectly poised to defeat them. Sometimes the bad guys make mistakes too.

    Sorry JJ, I hadn't at all considered the birds could have been actually left in the dark by Amanda and you on purpose - interesting idea, will use as is!


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    On the topic of the birds, from a narrative perspective, the bad guys are careless enough to place sentries without darkvision in a pitch-black room. From an encounter design perspective, this encounter is designed to let all-darkvision parties steamroll the opposition. It is... strange, and I am not sure I quite agree with this type of design.


    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

    I just want to say kudos to the author for the staging of the fight against the Bloody Blades. My party launched a surprise attack on the camp from the south, and the resulting fight was a fantastic advertisement for the free-flowing nature of combat in PF2.

    There were archers on both sides moving in and out of cover behind various trees to get shots off, melee-focused combatants shifting tactics to dash behind buildings or under the ten foot platforms to shield themselves from the ranged fire, and then trying to climb up the rope ladders or just jumping up to the platform 10' above, spell casters moving around to find pairs of Electric Arc targets in range, and so on.

    A really fun fight.

    Dark Archive

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    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
    Colette Brunel wrote:
    On the topic of the birds, from a narrative perspective, the bad guys are careless enough to place sentries without darkvision in a pitch-black room. From an encounter design perspective, this encounter is designed to let all-darkvision parties steamroll the opposition. It is... strange, and I am not sure I quite agree with this type of design.

    Yeah especially when the thing there likely posting the sentries against (Since party dosent arrive till after they do it) is Goblins and Kobolds both of which have darkvision.


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    Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
    Kevin Mack wrote:
    Colette Brunel wrote:
    On the topic of the birds, from a narrative perspective, the bad guys are careless enough to place sentries without darkvision in a pitch-black room. From an encounter design perspective, this encounter is designed to let all-darkvision parties steamroll the opposition. It is... strange, and I am not sure I quite agree with this type of design.
    Yeah especially when the thing there likely posting the sentries against (Since party dosent arrive till after they do it) is Goblins and Kobolds both of which have darkvision.

    From what I can tell, none of the bad guys in part 3 have Nature, Lore, or Society. How do they know that goblins and kobolds have darkvision?


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    Surely the Cinderclaws would have noticed that something was up when they invaded a dark and lightless area?


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    Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

    *shrug* Maybe they haven't noticed the Emperor Birds don't have darkvision.

    The Cinderclaws the party encounters in the Citadel are very clearly portrayed as being not very intelligent. The brains of the operation are trapped under the Goblinblood Caves, and even Malarunk, the leader of the expedition, has a +0 Int bonus.

    I think you may be expecting too high a level of competence, given the listed stats and skills of the creatures in question.


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    The boggards have Intelligence modifier -1 and Wisdom modifier +2. They are below-average in book smarts, and moderately remarkable in terms of intuition and common sense.

    The charau-ka likewise have Intelligence modifier -1 and Wisdom modifier +1. They are below-average in book smarts, but their intuition and common sense are above-average.


    Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

    The DC to Recall Knowledge about an emperor bird (creature level 2) is 16. The boggards have a +2 bonus, so they have to roll a natural 14. And that presumes they care.

    James Jacobs has already pointed out that the Cinderclaws are basically jerks. They don't care if the birds survive anything passing through the area, only that they make enough noise to alert the Cinderclaws that something is coming. If the birds all get slaughtered horribly by a party of dwarves, that works just as well for the Cinderclaws as long as they scream about it. And the text specifically says the Cinderclaws don't come to investigate sounds of battle. The birds are expendable.

    Grand Lodge

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    Regarding the emperor birds, my assumption was that the cult just brought what they had with them at the time and the aiudara closed behind them before they could go 'Hey wait a minute this doesn't seem right' and then they just did the best they could with what they had. Their placement of the birds within the Fort might just have been a 'we'll probably post some guys here with lights once we've got a handle of this whole place and dug our boss back out the hole' and they were just there to plug the gap in their defenses.

    Dark Archive

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    Thing about Cinderclaws is that when you read second adventure, you realize that they indeed are NOT smart. VERY much not smart.


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    About villainous incompetence, if there is anything I've truly learned over the past few years, its that evil is at its core, really freakin' stupid.

    Evil is deciding that you are right and that everyone else is wrong even when conventional wisdom and facts and general reality say different, and just barrelling on ahead anyway because you KNOW you're right, even when it gets people hurt, even when it puts the world at risk, not stopping even then because you'd rather be dead than wrong at that point.

    Evil is presuming you're better than everyone else and that only your opinion matters and only people like you matter, and everyone else can just die, and anything that challenges that world view or makes you personally uncomfortable must be bad and has to be destroyed, even if its not doing anything to bother your or has anything to do with you.

    Evil is being weak and frightened and small, and being so afraid of your fellow man that you have to puff yourself up and scream and badger and threaten people because you think that makes you look strong and brave. But it doesn't because you don't understand that true strength is calm, and gentle and peaceful.

    Evil is being too afraid to live comfortably with your fellow man. Its being too weak to accept the fact that the world around you is going to change and it belongs to the next generation, its being too stupid to realize that IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.

    And this applies to every single villain in fiction. Across the board. Dr. Doom? he's pathetic. Megatron? pathetic. Bowser Koopa, Darkseid, The Joker, The Red Skull, Vecna, Azalin, Freeza, Darth Vader, Senator Armstrong, Jack Spicer, Khan, Queen Beryl, Jasper, Jafar, Lex Luthor, All of them. If you just stop and think about it, you will realize these guys are all, to the last one, from Unicron to Boris Badinov, pathetic stupid losers.


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    Well, it played as I forecasted - my party has successfully reasoned that Voz Lyraine is not a villain for just wanting to explore the Alseta ring and wanting to earn money on that. Her Norgorber worship was successfully hidden by her, even though she made a remark about the Dark Father taking the Bloody Blades' death as a tribute.

    They parleyed with her and offered her as much as the Scarlet Triad did (I made it 3.5k gp to make it a very big sum, though some guidance of how much the Triad offered her would be great). With a very hard Diplomacy check they had come to and agreement that they will pay it withing 6 months and the party offered to seal the contract with Magic (so everybody is defended against the betrayal).

    The only way it is possible is via the Geas ritual which Voz said she has the book about (her background came handy here). And the next session we are going to RP the magic contract with her. Yay!


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    Quick question on reward money: For successfully rescuing the spectators and dousing the fire, Greta offers the PCs 50 sp (= 5 gp) each. Then she offers 10 gp for contacting the Bumblebrashers and 10 gp for bringing back Calmont alive (so, a total of 20 gp for their level 1 adventure). Is the 20 gp the total reward (so, another 5 gp each for a party of 4), or the reward per PC?


    William Lane 245 wrote:
    Quick question on reward money: For successfully rescuing the spectators and dousing the fire, Greta offers the PCs 50 sp (= 5 gp) each. Then she offers 10 gp for contacting the Bumblebrashers and 10 gp for bringing back Calmont alive (so, a total of 20 gp for their level 1 adventure). Is the 20 gp the total reward (so, another 5 gp each for a party of 4), or the reward per PC?

    I decided to tally up the treasures from Chapters 1 & 2 (Level 1) of Hellknight Hill, and came up with ~200 gp of items and money, which is slightly greater than the 175 gp recommended in the CRB. (I'm guessing this is another asynchronous development between the CRB and the AP.) So, if the 20 gp is a lump sum, that brings the party's total treasure value at the end of level 1 to 240 gp, which seems plenty good.

    But please correct me if I'm mistaken!

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