2 - Cult of Cinders (GM Reference)


Age of Ashes

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Liberty's Edge

Xeall wrote:
Anyone else thrown off by Boggard Swampseer image in the book (which I have used for my Roll20 token) has a glowing crossbow, yet Boggard Swampseers don't have crossbows, let alone glowing ones?

Yeah...that's weird.

You could either give them corssbows (pretty easy, doesn't unbalance anything, should probably have +10 to hit for 1d8+3 damage), or use this picture from the Bestiary instead.


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Xeall wrote:
Anyone else thrown off by Boggard Swampseer image in the book (which I have used for my Roll20 token) has a glowing crossbow, yet Boggard Swampseers don't have crossbows, let alone glowing ones?

Not me. I tell my players that the minis used, images of NPCs, or maps on the screen are merely representations of what's happening in the game to help their imagination and don't necessarily 100% reflect what is actually there. My words describing these things are more important than these representations, and if they have any questions to ask me. I do try to get things as close as I can, but my time and budget are unfortunately limited.


Fumarole wrote:
Not me. I tell my players that the minis used, images of NPCs, or maps on the screen are merely representations of what's happening in the game to help their imagination and don't necessarily 100% reflect what is actually there. My words describing these things are more important than these representations, and if they have any questions to ask me. I do try to get things as close as I can, but my time and budget are unfortunately limited.

Oh I totally get that and its super understandable. Use what you got. It's just the official art next to the creature in the adventure has something the creature doesn't, and that threw me when I hadn't remembered every creatures weapons on top of their abilities, set up my boggards in the mine to pepper the party who had raised the alarm, only to discover they don't have crossbows.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
You could either give them corssbows (pretty easy, doesn't unbalance anything, should probably have +10 to hit for 1d8+3 damage), or use this picture from the Bestiary instead.

Yeah, easy fix, but I think due to their unlikeliness to survive many rounds versus a level 8 party when they attack the Temple, I'll just narratively fob it off as their Acid Arrow spell. Have them fire a couple of "Acid Bolts" from their crossbows before throwing them asside to engage in CC.

Dark Archive

My party is almost done with this book and they seem to struggle with encounters. There are some from the GMs point (Me) that go by with minimal effort required from the group. Some encounter seem to take all of their resources and they have the retreat and reset constantly. I have been running everything as written and leveling them when the book suggests they should gain their next level.

I have even killed two characters and seemingly knock some players to the ground consistently. Is anyone else having this happen for them too?


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

These are tough fights. My party cleared out the whole surface-level of the Mine and would have TPKed if not for the cleric. They came back the next day (minus the Cleric; he couldn't make the session) to deal with the mine pit and TPKed. Part of this was some awful decisions on their part. Part of it was a few mistakes I made on mine. I had no idea they would TPK. The whole pit together is an Extreme encounter, but so many of the creatures ignore the PCs unless they come into the pit or attack the pillar that I thought they would have it. Naunets wrecked them, though.

These are tough encounters.

Dark Archive

caps wrote:

These are tough fights. My party cleared out the whole surface-level of the Mine and would have TPKed if not for the cleric. They came back the next day (minus the Cleric; he couldn't make the session) to deal with the mine pit and TPKed. Part of this was some awful decisions on their part. Part of it was a few mistakes I made on mine. I had no idea they would TPK. The whole pit together is an Extreme encounter, but so many of the creatures ignore the PCs unless they come into the pit or attack the pillar that I thought they would have it. Naunets wrecked them, though.

These are tough encounters.

Our session yesterday started with the boss fight and I figured we'd roll into the next book. I ended up killing three players and almost a fourth. The final 2/5 of the party ran away with hopes of finding help. One player has died twice and is understandably annoyed. They expressed worry about continuing to struggle with future encounters and I don't know how to assuage that fear.


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meepothegreat wrote:
I have even killed two characters and seemingly knock some players to the ground consistently. Is anyone else having this happen for them too?

Running Age of Ashes as written I have found that it's more common for at least one PC to hit the dying state in a given battle than not. The party has learned to heal up after battles before proceeding.

Dark Archive

Fumarole wrote:
meepothegreat wrote:
I have even killed two characters and seemingly knock some players to the ground consistently. Is anyone else having this happen for them too?
Running Age of Ashes as written I have found that it's more common for at least one PC to hit the dying state in a given battle than not. The party has learned to heal up after battles before proceeding.

Interesting. I guess there isn't a time limit specified for things to happen really as well. Every session I've started making sure they start with a hero point each since the first book. I figure they are supposed to be the heroes of the story/town.


What did you all do in terms of gifts from the Ekujae to the party members? The module recommends Sixth level permanent magic items particular to each PC. I don’t really know the magic in Pathfinder 2 well yet and would love to hear what you all did!


meepothegreat wrote:
caps wrote:

These are tough fights. My party cleared out the whole surface-level of the Mine and would have TPKed if not for the cleric. They came back the next day (minus the Cleric; he couldn't make the session) to deal with the mine pit and TPKed. Part of this was some awful decisions on their part. Part of it was a few mistakes I made on mine. I had no idea they would TPK. The whole pit together is an Extreme encounter, but so many of the creatures ignore the PCs unless they come into the pit or attack the pillar that I thought they would have it. Naunets wrecked them, though.

These are tough encounters.

Our session yesterday started with the boss fight and I figured we'd roll into the next book. I ended up killing three players and almost a fourth. The final 2/5 of the party ran away with hopes of finding help. One player has died twice and is understandably annoyed. They expressed worry about continuing to struggle with future encounters and I don't know how to assuage that fear.

I have killed four characters in book two. Two of which were in the boss fight, and yes I did combine the boss fight and the chimeras. But they made some bad choices there (like sending in the squishy sorcerer first so she could try to enchant the enemy).

Dark Archive

Voomer wrote:
What did you all do in terms of gifts from the Ekujae to the party members? The module recommends Sixth level permanent magic items particular to each PC. I don’t really know the magic in Pathfinder 2 well yet and would love to hear what you all did!

I sort of delved through appropriate level items and tried to find something that should help with help them. My party has...had...a lot of casters. So I tried to give a wand it staff if I could.


meepothegreat wrote:
I sort of delved through appropriate level items and tried to find something that should help with help them. My party has...had...a lot of casters. So I tried to give a wand it staff if I could.

Do you remember any of the specific items/wands/staffs you chose?


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For Event 1 (A Dancing Game) in Akrivel, does the -4 circumstance penalty apply to the NPCs, or is that already factored into their unarmed attack modifiers? I am assuming it is not factored in, but don't want to unnecessarily penalize the NPCs.

Liberty's Edge

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Fumarole wrote:
For Event 1 (A Dancing Game) in Akrivel, does the -4 circumstance penalty apply to the NPCs, or is that already factored into their unarmed attack modifiers? I am assuming it is not factored in, but don't want to unnecessarily penalize the NPCs.

It's definitely not factored in based on the challenge level guidelines for NPCs.

Personally, I actually changed the more experienced dancers to have -4 less to-hit but to not take the penalty, as otherwise their to-hit is way higher than it should be for side characters, IMO. This change preserves their challenge level for the contest, while eliminating that world building issue. My players probably won't even notice, but that sort of detail makes me happy personally.


Hi guys,

A question to you if you already have progressed further into the path.

I was planning to have my group stumble upon an abandoned wizard tower in the jungle and the wizard or scholar having made research into this part of the world examining the aspect of Dahak and the events that transpired all that time ago. I want to use it to double down on the history as explained by the Ekujae (from a different perspective) but also to drop in hints of that the gold seems tainted not only by arsene but seems to also inherit a kind of magical essence.

I would also like to mention that this wizard was aware of hunter gate and the inherent flaw that let the aspect of Dahak go on the rampage and here I'd like some thoughts if this is too early /gives away anything from later books in the path?

Thanks!


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TheWanderingM wrote:

Hi guys,

A question to you if you already have progressed further into the path.

I was planning to have my group stumble upon an abandoned wizard tower in the jungle and the wizard or scholar having made research into this part of the world examining the aspect of Dahak and the events that transpired all that time ago. I want to use it to double down on the history as explained by the Ekujae (from a different perspective) but also to drop in hints of that the gold seems tainted not only by arsene but seems to also inherit a kind of magical essence.

I would also like to mention that this wizard was aware of hunter gate and the inherent flaw that let the aspect of Dahak go on the rampage and here I'd like some thoughts if this is too early /gives away anything from later books in the path?

Thanks!

I think you'd be mostly fine! Far as I can remember, the large majority of what the Dahak/gate lore is is explained by the Ekujae anyways. If you want to be sure, read ahead in book 6 when they really get into the gateways and deal with Dahak's copy. They shouldn't really be able to try anything unwise without the magic from Mengkare to keep them alive in there, so I can't imagine it would break much!

Just got to watch spoiling anything in regards to Mengkare, really.


TheWanderingM wrote:

Hi guys,

A question to you if you already have progressed further into the path.

I was planning to have my group stumble upon an abandoned wizard tower in the jungle and the wizard or scholar having made research into this part of the world examining the aspect of Dahak and the events that transpired all that time ago. I want to use it to double down on the history as explained by the Ekujae (from a different perspective) but also to drop in hints of that the gold seems tainted not only by arsene but seems to also inherit a kind of magical essence.

I would also like to mention that this wizard was aware of hunter gate and the inherent flaw that let the aspect of Dahak go on the rampage and here I'd like some thoughts if this is too early /gives away anything from later books in the path?

Thanks!

I see no problem here.

I did the same as you, and considered the gold taint magical in nature, and the arsenic statblock just a guidance about how the taint affects a body. It worked perfectly.

My players don't look at gold the same way anymore after finishing this part :-)

As for the wizard knowing about the flaw... well, he may not know the specifics and just have a theory. My players thought about that on their own when the ekujae told them their legend, after seeing for themselves the manifestation of Dahak and the damage inside Huntergate.


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TheWanderingM wrote:

Hi guys,

A question to you if you already have progressed further into the path.

I was planning to have my group stumble upon an abandoned wizard tower in the jungle and the wizard or scholar having made research into this part of the world examining the aspect of Dahak and the events that transpired all that time ago...

Thanks!

I agree that all sounds fine. The one thing I suggest you give some thought to is why the Ekujae have not thoroughly investigated the tower already. Their concern with control over their lands is an ongoing theme in the module


Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Deadmanwalking wrote:
The Charau-Ka Butchers specifically are also straight up a math error, having a to-hit bonus that's +2 or +3 higher than it should be. They are in need of errata (this goes back to the 'not used to the new edition' thing mentioned above, this time on the creature design side).

I noticed this also. Have the devs ever commented on it?

Liberty's Edge

caps wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:
The Charau-Ka Butchers specifically are also straight up a math error, having a to-hit bonus that's +2 or +3 higher than it should be. They are in need of errata (this goes back to the 'not used to the new edition' thing mentioned above, this time on the creature design side).
I noticed this also. Have the devs ever commented on it?

Not to my knowledge. It's possible we'll get revised stats in something like the forthcoming Mwangi Expanse book, though.


How did folks handle the golem? I know several of my PCs are going to get cursed and then they are going to need to withdraw. What did your PCs do? Did they head back to the Ekujae or were they able to quickly recover from the curse using their existing resources? Any house rules with respect to the curse? I think it is cool in combat, but it is a drag if it too much sidetracks from the overall assault on the fortress. Any thoughts on the possibility of saying this is a weak version of the curse that goes away with a night's rest?


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Get some healing potions into their hands ahead of time and this shouldn't be a huge issue. Maybe the swampseers protecting the outside are carrying some.


Great idea to have the swampseers carrying potions. But it seems like I'd need to give them over a dozen healing potions to cover the damage that thing can do! How did it go in your game, if you've gotten there?


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My PCs almost got wrecked by the golem. Two of them were at 0 hp after the fight. I allowed them to trek back to Breachill to purchase potions afterwards.


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Voomer wrote:
Great idea to have the swampseers carrying potions. But it seems like I'd need to give them over a dozen healing potions to cover the damage that thing can do! How did it go in your game, if you've gotten there?

My PCs are still tromping through the jungle; they haven't found the mine or the fortress yet.


Fumarole wrote:
Voomer wrote:
Great idea to have the swampseers carrying potions. But it seems like I'd need to give them over a dozen healing potions to cover the damage that thing can do! How did it go in your game, if you've gotten there?
My PCs are still tromping through the jungle; they haven't found the mine or the fortress yet.

Got it. Watch out for the proteans in the mine. Definite TPK risk there.


BeardedTree wrote:
My PCs almost got wrecked by the golem. Two of them were at 0 hp after the fight. I allowed them to trek back to Breachill to purchase potions afterwards.

Thanks for letting me know. That settles my resolve to give them a bunch of potions from the swampseers. Not sure why the author didn't think of that. In general, these cinderclaws carry NO loot.


My PCs just pulled nearly the whole mine - and somehow survived.
They killed the Vrock outside the camp, snuck around and killed the spiders, and decided to spy on the camp for a little longer than I thought appropriate. After some time a dragon priest patrol arrived after tracking the PCs to the camp - and immediately spotted the PC hiding at the top of the hill of mud.
Hezle summoned nearly all the warriors before the PCs called out the name of her tribe. While the PCs faced waves of boggards and charau-ka, Hezle then released Mokele-Mbembe and rolled well enough to Command Animal in order to save the PCs. By that time 2 PCs were down burning hero points to avoid death, but the final 2 butchers fled to avoid Hezle and her pet.
Only 13 rounds of combat, but the closest I have gotten to a TPK in 2e!


Vardoc Bloodstone wrote:

My PCs just pulled nearly the whole mine - and somehow survived.

I gather they did not take on the proteans in the same sequence? Those things are tough! My PCs "befriended" Hezle, let loose the Mokele-Mbembe on the Cinderclaws, and ignored the mud pile, so the fight up top wasn't as tough as your PCs faced, but they went immediately to engage the proteans in the pit, and that didn't go well.


Voomer wrote:
I gather they did not take on the proteans in the same sequence? Those things are tough!

Nope - they haven’t gone down in the pit yet, that should be next session, and after a full night’s rest I’m sure. I’m hoping they are a tough fight!


Vardoc Bloodstone wrote:
Voomer wrote:
I gather they did not take on the proteans in the same sequence? Those things are tough!
Nope - they haven’t gone down in the pit yet, that should be next session, and after a full night’s rest I’m sure. I’m hoping they are a tough fight!

In my group it was a hilarious, surprising, and terrifying moment when the reptilian ones took flight!


I'm trying something different with respect to the fortress, and we'll see how it works out. In general, I have found the module a little too deadly for my PCs and have been concerned that the fortress would be REALLY deadly if they took it on as written. So, I have been letting the PCs bleed out adversaries from inside the fortress so there will be fewer fights once they get inside. It's not like Belmazog is a master tactician, so it's very plausible she would let that happen.

For example, those biloko who can get huge hunted the party down at the site of the ruin/pillar near the fortress -- which was more fun because it gave more space for a combat with huge opponents. Subsequently, the party fought the dinosaur in the water around the fortress and then withdrew, so the fortress has time to reinforce the boggards outside -- including with the two chimera from inside. And the fight with them will be more fun because they can fly around.

It may be that things ultimately will be a little too easy inside, but I'm ok with that if things will feel more balanced and fun overall. Anyhow, thought I'd share and I'll let you know how it goes!


Voomer wrote:

I'm trying something different with respect to the fortress, and we'll see how it works out. In general, I have found the module a little too deadly for my PCs and have been concerned that the fortress would be REALLY deadly if they took it on as written. So, I have been letting the PCs bleed out adversaries from inside the fortress so there will be fewer fights once they get inside. It's not like Belmazog is a master tactician, so it's very plausible she would let that happen.

For example, those biloko who can get huge hunted the party down at the site of the ruin/pillar near the fortress -- which was more fun because it gave more space for a combat with huge opponents. Subsequently, the party fought the dinosaur in the water around the fortress and then withdrew, so the fortress has time to reinforce the boggards outside -- including with the two chimera from inside. And the fight with them will be more fun because they can fly around.

It may be that things ultimately will be a little too easy inside, but I'm ok with that if things will feel more balanced and fun overall. Anyhow, thought I'd share and I'll let you know how it goes!

I let my guys plink away at the inside of the fortress, mainly because after adjusting everything for 7 PCs the fights turned NASTY and my guys don't use tactics very well...


Hilariously, it absolutely did NOT go as I thought it would. Instead of taking a gradual approach, the invulnerable goblin got dropped from a height and (amazingly) smashed a hole in the roof and immediately we were in a battle royale centered in Kyrion's room, with Belmazog and the priests to the North, the hellhound and another priest to the south, other reinforcements beyond to the South, and chimeras and boggards following the party in through the hole in the roof! It could be TPK, but if the party manages to kill Belmazog (the fighter is on top of her) and release Kyrion (the goblin is trying), then the other cinderclaws may lose resolve. Ironically, the only one who won't be part of the battle royale is the golem waiting for intruders at the front door...


So, last night my party ended up in an unfortunate situation where they managed to stumble across the mine during Hexploration while underleveled, and they scouted the place out while invisible and one of them came up with a plan to poison their food stores with arsenic. Which did a number on the lower level critters, but still left a pretty unaffected Hezle and Butcher squad, which promptly forced them to flee.

But the thing that I kept coming back to was how high the numbers were for the butchers, so I tried to reverse engineer them, and it feels like they're a bit off for level 6 monsters.

The Bida earlier on is a level 8 monster with the same +20 to hit, and even if I'm assuming that the butchers are a level 6 fighter with 20 strength and a +1 would be 6 (master) + 6 (level) + 5 (strength) + 1 (item) = 18, and given they are raging like barbarians, 16 seems more appropriate. Did anyone else notice these monsters fighting above their weightclass?


kodra wrote:

So, last night my party ended up in an unfortunate situation where they managed to stumble across the mine during Hexploration while underleveled, and they scouted the place out while invisible and one of them came up with a plan to poison their food stores with arsenic. Which did a number on the lower level critters, but still left a pretty unaffected Hezle and Butcher squad, which promptly forced them to flee.

But the thing that I kept coming back to was how high the numbers were for the butchers, so I tried to reverse engineer them, and it feels like they're a bit off for level 6 monsters.

The Bida earlier on is a level 8 monster with the same +20 to hit, and even if I'm assuming that the butchers are a level 6 fighter with 20 strength and a +1 would be 6 (master) + 6 (level) + 5 (strength) + 1 (item) = 18, and given they are raging like barbarians, 16 seems more appropriate. Did anyone else notice these monsters fighting above their weightclass?

The butchers do indeed have incorrect stats. IIRC it was an editing oversight where they were unintentionally printed with Level 8 stats in some areas instead of Level 6 stats. I'd recommend setting their to hit modifier on each of their strikes to 17, the High to hit modifier for a Level 6 creature from the Monster Creation Rules. Their AC, hit points, saving throws, and damage are all in line with a Level 6 creature already.


People who run Milestone leveling rather than experience, how did you do it for this book? They reach level 6 after leaving the Ekujae, but everything between then and the fortress can be pretty much done in any order. When should you level them up to 7?


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Salamileg wrote:
People who run Milestone leveling rather than experience, how did you do it for this book? They reach level 6 after leaving the Ekujae, but everything between then and the fortress can be pretty much done in any order. When should you level them up to 7?

By the book? When they have half the pillars finished. But I will say that the jungle crawl is really rough at 6th level so you might consider pushing that up a bit.


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My party found the mine at 6th and almost lost a member to the vrock. After it was defeated Hezle gathered the defenders and started to attack. The party released the dinosaur and then fled. Even though it is premature I told them to level up to seven before attacking the mine again. There's just no way they'd survive with all of the mine's defenses alerted at level six. At seven it is going to be a rough thing as well, but at least now they (mostly) know what they're up against.


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It seems odd to me that Renali is not listed as speaking Mwangi. The beginning of Book 2 says she can act as a translator for the party, but that doesn't seem feasible/practical if she only speaks Anadi and Common. I've ruled that she speaks Mwangi, but I'm wondering how others have dealt with this potential oversight/gap.


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shipstadpilot11 wrote:
I'm wondering how others have dealt with this potential oversight/gap.

I let her know Mwangi...

Liberty's Edge

So, I am a bit late to the party but I am curious if I might be missing something. I am running two different groups through AoA and both are now in book 2, the Cult of Cinders. Both groups now have a caster with invisibility sphere and both groups use it to get up to the dragon pillars and disable them before the battle even starts.
I feel like the pillars are not supposed to be so easy. Am I missing something here? I don't see any way for the pillars or their guards to detect the party while they are invisible, though I did rule the guards immediately became aware once the magic of the pillars was disabled. Any thoughts on this? The fights so far have mostly been piece of cake for the party when they don't have to deal with the pillars and the guards.


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Invisibility makes you undetected. Being undetected means the party needs to critically fail their sneak checks when approaching the pillar (which then is bumped up to failure due to invisibility) to make a noise, or something else gives away their presence; they then become hidden and the pillar knows the square they're in. This is when the pillar would attack them (needing to pass a DC 11 flat check to successfully target them). Invisibility is very powerful, but it's not a guaranteed success.

Scarab Sages

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Fumarole makes some great points. Also keep in mind that many of the creatures around the pillars have additional senses. Several have scent, so they will likely detect an approaching party to some degree.

Invisibility sphere states that it's nearly impossible to keep everywhere together and coordinated enough to stay in the sphere during an encounter, and that at most invisibility sphere will last until the end of the first round. I'd say that if a creature with scent detects them and attacks them, they're in encounter mode and trying to avoid an attack. Even if the attack misses, I would think invisibility sphere is going to end.

Liberty's Edge

Ah, that was my problem, I had the guards that had scent more than 30 feet away from the pillar so the scent never kicked in. Good point for my second group, I will have the guards camping right next to the pillar so they are within rage of the scent abilities!
Also with the first party that has bypassed most of them, the darn rogue kept passing his disable check on the first try or that would have given them away as well. I wish they had made the pillars need 2 checks to disarm instead of just the one... I suppose I could just rule that but I think making sure the guards are a little closer will do the trick!


My guys started using invisibility to bypass the pillar's beams which made some of the fights anticlimactic but also frustrated them when they finally circled back to A5 and the black pillar. I almost killed the monk because he tried sneaking up to the pillar and as soon as he got within 30 feet of the two Racharaks (I had 7 people at that point and they were level 7) they used their breath weapons because they smelled him but couldn't see him (and it didn't help everyone else was over 130 feet away). That fight was almost a TPK when he went down and the pillar started blinding people.

It also didn't help that the only people that COULD disable the pillar were the three people that were trained in Athletics. Word of advice. If you haven't already stress the importance of increasing their ranks in various skills... namely Religion and Thievery. None of my characters were expert in either to disable Wrath of the Destroyer. That almost killed them too. I took pity on them and let the bard use Performance to pray to Desna to disable it.


Hi guys, my group is approaching the fortress of sorrow and is about to break in. They just levelled up to 8° after the last fight in the gold mine, and they are a little tired of the very frequent fight encounters in the jungle….this module really goes from one pillar fight to the next with really little roleplay interaction. So I don't want them to have 6 more consecutive fights (sweettoth, golem, dormitory, kitchen, dragon priests, chimeras) before the final boss battle. On the other hand I don't want to just eliminate encounters having them pass level 8 in two sessions. Any suggestion?


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My players have been leveling up every other session on average using milestone leveling. I haven't skipped very many encounters, but we do play longer sessions (closer to six hours).

Maybe a roleplaying encounter they missed earlier can show up here? Perhaps the kishi?

Maybe after Sweettooth is defeated the cult can try to parley with the party?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

This problem kind of solved itself for my party after they got their asses kicked by the Clay Golem, and they retreated to Akrivel to de-curse and recuperate.

But also I didn't really have a severe roleplay deficit going into the fortress because I played up what opportunities presented themselves during the pillar hunt. The Bida and the Kishi both involved 30 minute chats before my group's bloodlust kicked in. Pendergrast is obviously a hoot both times. One of the rescued Grippli turned into an NPC that helped my party at the mines, where they then got to interact with Hezle. They had long conversations with the kobolds and Edka, and a shorter one the demon hunters.

The roleplay was out there to be had. I don't really have any solid suggestions for squeezing more conversational blood from the Fortress of Sorrows stone. Maybe give some of the enemies common language proficiency and let them taunt the party during the fight, maybe they get captured alive and interrogated. Maybe the Spawns of Dahak have a rivalry going and boast to each other during their turns. Make the Izolith encounter easier to talk through. Make the Dragon Priests proselytize during combat. Sprinkling just a little bit of chat into the encounter slog could help get you through to the Kyrion/Belmazog payoff.


doctorfabius wrote:
...I don't want them to have 6 more consecutive fights (sweettoth, golem, dormitory, kitchen, dragon priests, chimeras) before the final boss battle. On the other hand I don't want to just eliminate encounters having them pass level 8 in two sessions. Any suggestion?

The hellhound in my game was under an unwilling contract with the BBEG. It didn't attack the PCs on sight, and if the players could work a different contract with the hellhound, they could avoid that fight.

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