4 - Fires of the Haunted City (GM Reference)


Age of Ashes

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I agree, the AP talks up Katapesh a lot more it seems like. Saggorak seems like a side-quest a bit?

But I got really lucky.

The much-beloved cleric was petrified in the last round of the last combat of book 3. No one else can fix him... so I had them meet someone in town who might be able to help, and he pointed them at the Dwarves of Saggorak who have the ability to de-stone/resurrect the poor little leshy. A bit more acrobatics to get them going in that direction (I gave the character the key to the gate, which he thought was a normal idol that had been given to him as a welcoming gift from the Dwarves of Kovlar, in expectation of his visit).

Painfully contrived, but this is Age of Ashes so it fit a little bit. :)

Liberty's Edge

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I'd have it noted in Laslunn's papers that Ilsrah's plans are relatively imminent, at least as compared to any plans back in Katapesh. Given that the key she has for Jewelgate is a gift for Ilsrah, that should incentivize the PCs to think 'there is something imminent right near the gate this key goes to'.

That would convince most PC groups I'm familiar with to prioritize Jewelgate.

You could also hint in the papers exactly how high level the 'main branch' in Katapesh are. Mention of the routine use of mind blank by multiple operatives there (who are not treated as exceptional) should disincentivize the 12th level PCs from thinking trying to take out the Scarlet Triad's home base is a good idea.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I indicated to the group that based on the notes in Laslunn's possession, Scarlet Triad seems to have some information about Alsetta's Ring and knows where the gates come out - i.e. the bad guys are at the other end of the gate.

Of course, then they walked through, handled the gate and the crystal encounters without any issue and TPKd against the first Gug encounter...


I have given them some Scarlet Triad correspondence where Issrah Embermead discusses the actions of the characters and suggests the Uri Zandivar that she convinces her new "friend" (Veshumirix) to launch an assault of the Citadel with his new "most loyal army" (of undead) after they are done with the city. This also goes with directions to the Jewelgate as the most direct route to the Citadel from her location, though currently unavailable because Laslunn is searching for the key in the Quarry (Laslunn have found it a month ago but is reluctant to send it to Issrah as per my story).
This gives the party an incentive to directly oppose whoever is scheming in the area near Jewelgate, otherwise they will face an army of something they can't oppose easily and the "friend".
This however a bit opposes to what the AP says about Triad being careful not to disturb the area around Breachil to not attract their Patron's attention, but it was very vague in my campaign anyway.


Curious if anyone expanded the council / sidequest chapter at all- I really like this part and I'm eager to try to get it right. I'd love to hear what people got up to and how they organised their thoughts or the possible party directions.


Silvative wrote:

Curious if anyone expanded the council / sidequest chapter at all- I really like this part and I'm eager to try to get it right. I'd love to hear what people got up to and how they organised their thoughts or the possible party directions.

I wonder if this is not the first time I've seen you post a question on these forums that is directly super relevant to me... I think I'm just a little bit behind your table!

I too want to know this. My players should reach Kovlar this week.


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Sporkedup wrote:


I wonder if this is not the first time I've seen you post a question on these forums that is directly super relevant to me... I think I'm just a little bit behind your table!

I too want to know this. My players should reach Kovlar this week.

Well, good luck for you that I just finished the council meeting! :P

It went well. I think what was key to success was finding art for each council member to show my players, and making sure everything was rped so that they didn't just roll skills with no narration. Then I gave a +2 if their answer played to the regent's specific likes/dislikes (eg, +2 if your house suggestion to Torra is creative).

They ended up feeling like it went very well. I did my best to give hints of feedback of how they were being received by the regent so they could roughly have an idea of how successful they were being. On my end I had a spreadsheet of all the regents' likes/dislikes and their questions and so on to help not lose track of who had gone yet. Something that helped with the Deduce Traditions roll was also to grab not only the regent profiles from the council chapter but also the guild profiles from the appendix. This essentially doubled the info I had to lean on which is important in a highly RP/Improv focused sequence. Warning! Have a drink ready. Doing all these voices, especially some of the more gruff and grumpy ones, *destroyed* my throat x)

I'm continuing the sidequesting next game and so still would love some feedback if anyone expanded these at all. I'm changing the Archmage's from an escort mission to a fetch quest, since they didn't tell him about the portal- instead he's sending them to fetch a magical artefact from the caves for him, now that they've proven themselves against the gugs. I think I'm also going to give Kord a mission where she leverages her underground contacts to have the pcs strike a rival gang and take out some competition, which will be a good moment to have Chiselrock / the guard intervene to a potential misunderstanding. That can also throw suspicion on Kord, which I think will complement the similar sequence in the heist. Finally, I think I'll be shifting the deep terror mission to the physic guild and probably making a new monster hunting / patrolling mission for Hammersong, since the physic guild are more likely to be concerned about pollution in the lake.

The main goal of the above changes is to give every council member a sidequest- but again, any suggestions are welcome, because I'm happy to do more than that. The two we did so far (the walls and the fake swords) needed some expanding IMO as they're resolved by only one roll each! I had the players *describe* to me how they caught the fake smith and it was much more satisfying even if it came down to four rolls instead of one. From my experience so far, the key to these is the RP. Don't just run them as written or you'll be done with the chapter in half an hour and everyone will be bored. Of course reacting that dynamically is hard... but it seems to have paid off from the player feedback I got!

Good luck to anyone using this advice, of course! And I'd love any tips traded in return :)


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Even though we haven’t finished book 3 yet, I’m starting my prep for book 4. Currently I’m trying to wrap my head around the grikkitog encounter towards the beginning, but failing miserably. The room the grikkitog is in isn’t overly large, especially for a huge creature - in fact the scale of the map in general seems too small for all of the large creatures living in it. I wonder if there would be any harm in doubling the size of the map in roll20 to make each square equal 10 feet? Anyway, the grikkitog’s Infestation Aura goes out 120 feet - wouldn’t it be literally sprouting eyes and mouths all over the entirety of the map? If so, why does it lure the party into kitchen - wouldn’t it have seen the events in the first encounter with it’s Infestation Aura and start attacking there? How have others run this encounter? Come to think of it, I wonder if it would make sense to have the tribe of gugs kind of worshiping it, with Xevalorg as high priest/shaman, and they frequently offer it sacrifices as a means of explaining why it just hasn’t devoured enough gugs to drive them from this place?


The grikkitog is Huge, but it doesn't actually appear on the map. It's a really weird monster so I don't blame you for being confused about this- essentially it's inhabiting the stoneworks, IE the floor, walls, within 120 feet. On a VTT the players would never see the token at all, the Grikkitog essentially *is* the room.

> Anyway, the grikkitog’s Infestation Aura goes out 120 feet - wouldn’t it be literally sprouting eyes and mouths all over the entirety of the map?

As you say- this is a HUGE oversight imo that you basically *have* to make a judgement call on. I decided that the Grikkitog's influence only extended to the entirety of the room, but not beyond, because that was the only way it made sense to me.

> How have others run this encounter?

For what it's worth, this encounter went really badly at my table. Players had no comprehension of what was happening. From their perspective this looked like a hazard, not a creature, so they were trying to work out "defuse" actions and never would have thought to literally attack the ground. What's more they were badly injured from the Gug fights, and the Grikkitog downed two of them on the first round. I had to generously say that it stopped grappling them after they went unconscious (which it had no real reason to do) so they could be dragged away and just gave them XP for "surviving" the encounter as if it was a trap.

I really like your idea of reworking the dungeon so that the Grikkitog is being worshipped by the Gugs. I definitely think it's a path worth pursuing. Personally, if I could go back, I'd just have removed the Grikkitog entirely and replaced it with an appropriately levelled hazard or haunt.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Yep, there are at least two forum threads dedicated to running a Grikkitog and I recommend checking them out.
Here's the main one

I agree with Silvative that one solve it restrict it to the kitchen, which is also what I did.

Even just in the room, it's a killer encounter. One of my characters made her knowledge check once it had lured multiple people into the room and attacked, and then another player cast True Seeing to find the core (which I ruled worked as a way of lowering the difficulty, and because it was a cool idea). Once he'd found the core, he used actions to point it out to the party and then they were able to have a chance. Without the knowledge check, spell, and pointing out, I'm pretty sure at least two of them would have died before they had even figured out they needed to flee. I'm totally fine with character death (we've lost 5 characters total in Books 1-3), but if I ran it as-is it didn't feel balanced.


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I cut out the grikkitog and plan to add it in soon (the party just reached Kovlar). I didn't like how it was shoehorned into somewhere it didn't belong at all...


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Sporkedup wrote:
I cut out the grikkitog and plan to add it in soon (the party just reached Kovlar). I didn't like how it was shoehorned into somewhere it didn't belong at all...

Oh, I don't know. Though it felt like a TPK-potential, I liked its placement, and my players commented how much they enjoyed the general dungeon overall. To me, the entire Hall of the Devouring Giants is meant to introduce the idea that Saggorak is a place overrun by horrors. The gugs have a bit of a gang stronghold there, and you can STILL find monstrosities like the Deculi or Grikkitog around any corner.

Also, there's this "What IS this place?!" question throughout the encounters as they progress through the ruins. I played up the Deception of the Grikkitog, and convinced them that an ancient dwarven spirit was trapped in the hearth and needed them to place a hand upon it and pray to their gods. If they were pure of heart, it said, he would be free and find peace (I also had a fun voice modulator which made it particularly fun). There were no evidence of gug activity in the room, which the spirit explained that only those with a noble purpose could enter. Once they killed the Grikkitog, I had a thin veneer of stone slide off the entire room, revealing gug bones and bloodstains, showing that the creature had actually fed on the gugs and they'd learned to avoid the room.


I'm sure it could have been fun! But my players do tend to get weary of dungeon crawling if it goes longer than a couple of sessions. I had to thin things out and the grikkitog, as the odd creature out here, was the unfortunate casualty, haha.

But again, a rogue, hungry earth elemental pretending to be an undead dwarf could fit about anywhere in Saggorak...


Tempted to swap the two Elite Stone Golems to two Weak Iron Golems or one Elite iron golem (Either way it's a Low encounter)

I've not used the Weak tag as much as the Elite one but I imagine that it's roughly balanced. Is there any reason not to do this? They already fought a Stone golem in book 3 so I thought a new stat block might change things up, and this *is* a forge. On the other hand, well, it was like 4 levels ago so a repeat enemy might help them feel stronger (though... elite tag) and it'll still be a golem even if I change it.

Kind of looking for ways to make this dungeon more interesting in general tbh. It's a strange one, but there are a good number of new/unique stat blocks inside past the golems so hopefully it'll feel interesting. Was considering having the effects of extreme heat environment in the forge room to validate my fire Dwarf and Goblin.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Silvative wrote:

Tempted to swap the two Elite Stone Golems to two Weak Iron Golems or one Elite iron golem (Either way it's a Low encounter)

I've not used the Weak tag as much as the Elite one but I imagine that it's roughly balanced. Is there any reason not to do this?

I'm a couple of sessions from this encounter but like the idea! It's the Hidden Forge in a temple to Droskar, so to me having Iron Golems makes sense. Also note that there is a Stone Golem encounter right at the beginning of Book 5, so all the more reason to put some variety in here.


Silvative wrote:
Tempted to swap the two Elite Stone Golems to two Weak Iron Golems or one Elite iron golem (Either way it's a Low encounter)

I was actually thinking of changing out the encounter with a pair of Spiral Centurions from Bestiary 2, just because it seems like there's been a couple of stone golems already in the AP - I totally get they were working on the AP at the same time as the core books, so only had access to a limited number of monsters.

Silvative wrote:
Kind of looking for ways to make this dungeon more interesting in general tbh.

I also found a map of a dwarven forge online that i might use instead - the final forge area is on a large platform held up with huge chains over a crevasse with lava far below. I'd also add some low-level duergar guards for the party to shove off the edge, and throw in some attempts for the Forge-Spurned to shove party members (with some hidden reflex saves they really can't fail just for the drama :)


> I was actually thinking of changing out the encounter with a pair of Spiral Centurions from Bestiary 2, just because it seems like there's been a couple of stone golems already in the AP

Love the Spiral Centurion idea- and I'm really glad I'm not the only one who was having those thoughts about the stone golems!

> Also note that there is a Stone Golem encounter right at the beginning of Book 5, so all the more reason to put some variety in here.

My goodness, if there's a *third* stone golem encounter then I *have* to change this one!


Ahh... wait, later in the book uses iron golems- there are two with Ilssrah. I suppose that's why they reused Stone golems instead.

Well, perhaps that and the lazurite golems mean I can just replace the encounter outright, like the Spiral Centurion suggestion- does a book really need three golem encounters? x)

I'll have a look for suitable candidates. Also, I suppose, even if I don't swap them Ilssrah could have the stone golems instead since she has the chisel- Iron make more sense in the Forge.

Silver Crusade

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Ngodrup wrote:

In area A1, the treasure available is referred to as a "staff of marvelous medicines".

Is this supposed to be a set of marvelous medicines, or a staff of healing? I would lean towards the former, but it's described as having "a pair of bronze serpents coiled around it", which makes me think much more of a staff than a set of healers tools.

Has anyone come up with an answer for this? Is it a staff that acts like Marvelous Medicines somehow? Is it a Major Staff of Healing? Is it just Marvelous Medicines?

It seems appropriate to give the players an item that's so useful against poisons given the Purple Worn in the next chamber, but it'd be really nice if this item was actually statted out somewhere...


Marvelous Medicines and Major Staff of Healing are both level-appropriate and thematic items. I'm sure either of them would be fine. You can also make a staff that mechanically works as a marvelous medicine if you want- a gm can homebrew, after all! Just be aware it'll be weaker than a normal one since it can't be worn. I went with the staff and my druid loves it, she can prep more chain lightning casts if her healing is handled by the staff.


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Silvative wrote:
You can also make a staff that mechanically works as a marvelous medicine if you want- a gm can homebrew, after all!

That's what I'm doing for my game.


Huh, so here's a question. After we talked about the Grikkitog I'm curious if anyone's run into a similar question with the vengeful ruin in the Haunted Halls (King Harral's house). From what I can tell, this creature (not hazard) *is* the building? It takes damage when it collapses the roof on you, and it's resistant to non-adamantine?

Does this mean the players have to literally attack the walls to damage it? Because they are DEFINITELY going to think this is a hazard.

Honestly, the hazard/creature distinction always feels so confusing x) Like in Book 2, the drag pillars even had a perception score- why aren't they just constructs?

I guess I'm trying to work out how the players should fight this creature. If they demolish the house, it dies, but they're supposed to *explore* the building. Alternatively, I suppose a cleric with lots of Heal casts could be helpful but my party don't have one. The ranger has a spirit-sight crossbow, so he can see into the Ethereal- would he be able to see the ghost's "true form" and shoot it that way? I don't totally get how the Ethereal plane works in this game (it mostly seems relevant for creatures like hags) but this could make sense to me, except, what do the other PCs do? Honestly they're probably going to spend a few turns trying to work out the hazard's "disable" prerequisite. I could have the ruin not attack dwarves (there's one in the party) as a hint they should disguise themselves but I don't think that's in the lore at all- there's a reason Kovlar couldn't conquer the city.

Honestly the only way I can see them working this encounter out is if I flat-out tell them and they just fireball the house indiscriminately from 100 feet away until it's rubble, which doesn't seem very fun. Any ideas? What am I missing?


The Soulbound Ruin is Room F1 on the Haunted Halls map, so if the party destroys the room they can still explore the rest of the building. I definitely agree with you that it would have been better to implement as a hazard.

My party climbed their way to the top of the Haunted Halls straight away, so I don't have any experience actually running it.


So my party want to cure Deadmouth...

I'd have thought it wouldn't work (perhaps that being made undead makes resurrection magic impossible) except the book explicitly floats it as a possibility. And since he's level 2, it won't even cost much. What I'm wondering is basically... what level do they need to cast it at?

Specifically, I'm trying to understand if I should measure his time of death from his first or second death. The book suggests having him be a character of historical importance so if it's the former you'd probably need to cast Resurrect at level 9 (as he hasn't died in the last decade) which makes it a pretty difficult thing for a party to manage right now. On the other hand, if the clock ticks from his latest/second death, then even a level 5 resurrect or a level 6 Raise Dead would work.

Another possible interpretation I had considered was that, as a ghoul, none of the restorative spells could repair the damage undeath has done to his body. While he's "relatively intact", he's also a different species in a meaningful way- just looking at his art, he would never pass for a human being and the spells don't mention "undoing" that sort of cosmetic transformation. In that case the Reincarnate ritual could still give his soul a new body, though- so long as it counts his "second death" (since even at level 9, Reincarnate only works within the last decade)

I know all of this is totally up to me as the GM but I wanted to hear other opinions if there are any. I wouldn't want to set a precedent that'll come back to bite me or that explicitly defies PF2E lore, after all. The mechanics of spirits and undeath do confuse me a little. For example, do killed ghouls still get to pass on and be judged by Pharasma? What about vampires? Are their souls just being "delayed" while they're undead but not ultimately denied the afterlife? If so, then those diseases/undead don't seem anywhere near as bad as certain other fates. It seems like it has huge ramifications on creatures like liches and vampires- if they're trading away their souls' afterlives for immortality as undead creatures. But I suppose a willing lich would be evil, so they're screwing up their afterlife anyway by eating souls?

Liberty's Edge

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Silvative wrote:

So my party want to cure Deadmouth...

I'd have thought it wouldn't work (perhaps that being made undead makes resurrection magic impossible) except the book explicitly floats it as a possibility. And since he's level 2, it won't even cost much. What I'm wondering is basically... what level do they need to cast it at?

You need to cast it based on his original level and time of death (time as a ghoul counts as time dead, not time alive). In practice, this probably does mean you need the 9th level version for this.

Silvative wrote:
I know all of this is totally up to me as the GM but I wanted to hear other opinions if there are any. I wouldn't want to set a precedent that'll come back to bite me or that explicitly defies PF2E lore, after all. The mechanics of spirits and undeath do confuse me a little. For example, do killed ghouls still get to pass on and be judged by Pharasma? What about vampires? Are their souls just being "delayed" while they're undead but not ultimately denied the afterlife? If so, then those diseases/undead don't seem anywhere near as bad as certain other fates. It seems like it has huge ramifications on creatures like liches and vampires- if they're trading away their souls' afterlives for immortality as undead creatures. But I suppose a willing lich would be evil, so they're screwing up their afterlife anyway by eating souls?

The souls of Undead killed do indeed pass on to Pharasma. Indeed, that's why she wants her followers to destroy them, so that their souls can pass on to her judgment, something otherwise prevented by their undead state.

Willing undead are usually, however, making a conscious choice to thwart Pharasma's will in a way that tends to hurt a lot of innocent people, which is not generally gonna result in going anywhere good for said afterlife. Not that she plays favorites, but it's the sort of thing that tends to make you Evil and Evil afterlives are universally pretty unpleasant.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Silvative wrote:

So my party want to cure Deadmouth...

I'd have thought it wouldn't work (perhaps that being made undead makes resurrection magic impossible) except the book explicitly floats it as a possibility. And since he's level 2, it won't even cost much. What I'm wondering is basically... what level do they need to cast it at?

You need to cast it based on his original level and time of death (time as a ghoul counts as time dead, not time alive). In practice, this probably does mean you need the 9th level version for this.

Silvative wrote:
I know all of this is totally up to me as the GM but I wanted to hear other opinions if there are any. I wouldn't want to set a precedent that'll come back to bite me or that explicitly defies PF2E lore, after all. The mechanics of spirits and undeath do confuse me a little. For example, do killed ghouls still get to pass on and be judged by Pharasma? What about vampires? Are their souls just being "delayed" while they're undead but not ultimately denied the afterlife? If so, then those diseases/undead don't seem anywhere near as bad as certain other fates. It seems like it has huge ramifications on creatures like liches and vampires- if they're trading away their souls' afterlives for immortality as undead creatures. But I suppose a willing lich would be evil, so they're screwing up their afterlife anyway by eating souls?

The souls of Undead killed do indeed pass on to Pharasma. Indeed, that's why she wants her followers to destroy them, so that their souls can pass on to her judgment, something otherwise prevented by their undead state.

Willing undead are usually, however, making a conscious choice to thwart Pharasma's will in a way that tends to hurt a lot of innocent people, which is not generally gonna result in going anywhere good for said afterlife. Not that she plays favorites, but it's the sort of thing that tends to make you Evil and Evil afterlives are universally pretty unpleasant.

Thanks for all the insights, especially for confirming my suspicions about Pharasma! So killing a ghoul is great, because you free their soul to pass on. And a Lich chose to become undead and fuel itself by death, so it's by definition evil.

Why do you think time as a ghoul counts on the clock? I agree that they're certainly "dead" in a sense (as in, undead). Someone else pointed out to me though that the time needed for the various resurrection spells is related to the soul's location, IE whether or not they have been judged, etc. If the soul is right next to you, even if it's in a ghoul, wouldn't that mean you didn't need to use the super high level magic to fetch the soul? What do you think?

Liberty's Edge

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Silvative wrote:
Thanks for all the insights, especially for confirming my suspicions about Pharasma! So killing a ghoul is great, because you free their soul to pass on. And a Lich chose to become undead and fuel itself by death, so it's by definition evil.

Yep. Undead in general are messing with her system, and Pharasma hates that.

Silvative wrote:
Why do you think time as a ghoul counts on the clock? I agree that they're certainly "dead" in a sense (as in, undead). Someone else pointed out to me though that the time needed for the various resurrection spells is related to the soul's location, IE whether or not they have been judged, etc. If the soul is right next to you, even if it's in a ghoul, wouldn't that mean you didn't need to use the super high level magic to fetch the soul? What do you think?

Well, you have to kill the ghoul before you can raise them (raising creatures that are currently undead does not work), at which point the soul heads out for judgment immediately, so it's not exactly right there. But the reason I think time as a ghoul counts as time dead is that I'm pretty sure this is how it's been treated by previous examples of this sort of thing, though I'd need to go in search of an example.


Gosh, I need help. Really badly lol.

So they cleared the entire Temple, except they nearly TPKed on Ilssrah. They only escaped because 3/4 characters have ddoor (two were down, one was literally handcuffed- she wasn't going for the kills because she wanted to take them alive, so they agreed to surrender then teleported out with <10 hp each. It was clutch as hell and they got super lucky on the handcuff flat check and on her attack of opportunity not being a crit.)

They didn't even knock out her golems- just ran- and now they want to rest one night and just... try again. No new gear or tactics or anything (barb doesn't have any property runes even though they physically own some, he just didn't transfer them)- they just want to walk back into the room. I think they just assume she'll still be there even though I've had baddies move after this sort of thing before. So... I'm genuinely not sure how this doesn't go horribly wrong. I mean, they're planning on amending their tactics (to things I suggested they could have done) but they're also not gearing up or changing their strategy at all. I mean I've literally told them "I don't think you're strong enough" and the barb player says "I disagree, I think we can do it".

Who tells their GM "I disagree, this fight isn't as hard as you are objectively OOC telling me"?

Ugh... not even sure how to approach this.

They're expecting her to not have moved her operation at all but like... why wouldn't she ? (I mean, I'm confident even if she didn't change a thing, she'd still win, but) she's obviously going to mix things up to keep her advantage over the party, whether that involves leaving or not.

I'm trying to understand what she would do with this time, though. I mean she could literally leave and just reappear next book if she wanted. That's what's probably happening with Laslunn (who they never met... at least Ilssrah's a returning villain). But if her entire operation is dismantled like that, why wouldn't she just leave and start over? Her plan kind of failed. If she really wants to salvage it, it's possible she goes down to try to get Veshumerix to help? But then what- she urges him to attack the city (without her forces or the Starved?) Or do they just find her down in his cave (makes that encounter Extreme probably, so... kind of makes the problem worse).

It seems like the "right" answer is to say "They've had enough warning" and just let them wipe but I like my players. And I feel bad for the other player. I genuinely don't understand where the barb is coming from here though. He keeps blaming the entire fight's failures on a single crit fail near the start even after I pointed out some of the tactical mistakes they made.

I offered to make the game easier and they refused and said they like the challenge but I think the barb is one of those players who likes his characters to die, rather than someone who enjoys risk but still wants to ultimately win?

At the same time as asking for the game to stay hard, neither of them are really engaging with tactics at all. They're smart people and one of them does freeze up in the thick of things which I try to be forgiving with but that's a bit different to this. I mean, we're using every variant rule buff in the book that's not ridiculously overpowered- free archetype, relics, two PCs each (two player party) etc. On top of that I've been slowly realising I've made loads of small rules errors in their favour (giving them all resistances and weaknesses on a successful recall knowledge, allowing property runes on specific weapons, letting them keep hold of their weapons after they go unconscious, etc). They should be overperforming, not this, but there's basically no tactics to how they play. Like it's at the point where in this fight at one point the barbarian, on his first turn, used Rage and then moved twice to get within 10 feet of the golem. He could have moved into melee range but he didn't. So the golem could attack him, but he couldn't attack it. If he wasn't entering it's reach, why not go 15 feet away so it has to move??? They're level 14!!

Maybe what the barb genuinely wants is to die in a way that's permanent so they don't res him (which, double ugh. I don't want to f~+# over his character's afterlife... unless Pharasma just says "two strikes you're out" or something) and then he'd be on a new PC he's more mechanically interested in (??) but that seems like a big leap to make on his behalf and I know if I ask him he'll say no...

I guess some of my issues go a bit beyond just not knowing what to do with Ilssrah lol. I'm kind of at a loss. I'm having a great time with the game one moment and then stuff like this just drains all the joy from it.


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I would absolutely have her go to Veshumirix for help. Whether or not he does is up in the air.

There's nothing wrong with giving the player's a hard, even impossible game/fight if that's what they want. The game isn't about you, after all. It's about them. While I always try to play like I'm the coach of the Washington Generals, sometimes that's just not possible or desired.


Fumarole wrote:

I would absolutely have her go to Veshumirix for help. Whether or not he does is up in the air.

There's nothing wrong with giving the player's a hard, even impossible game/fight if that's what they want. The game isn't about you, after all. It's about them. While I always try to play like I'm the coach of the Washington Generals, sometimes that's just not possible or desired.

One of the things I'm curious about is... well, I guess, Veshumerix and Ilssrah's plans. Maybe I need to re-read their chapters of the book...

Ilssrah:
- Hates dwarves, so if Kovlar suffers she wins
- Came here bc she wants the shard of the Orb (book says she already has it)
- Decided to get the dragon to destroy Kovlar while she's here, to get her more slaves and get revenge on the dwarves
- Is trying to cut a deal with the duergar on behalf of the Triad

Veshumerix:
- Wants to be really strong
- Wants to be rich

So I get why Ilssrah's here and why she's wooing the dragon to her side to try and get his help on things, but I'm less sure what's stopping them from striking already? What are they waiting for?

Since the start of the book, the players have
- Thwarted every attempt to slowly destabilize Kovlar
- Killed every Triad member in the Five Kings Mountains except Ilssrah herself
- Killed all the Duergar, ending chances of an alliance
- Killed Falrok, ending the Starved support of Veshumerix

Basically every single chess piece they had has been removed. Yet, even now as far as I can tell if they just strolled up to king harral's palace together they could kill him. They have to raze the city to stop him resurrecting but who would stop them with him gone?

The PCs, obviously, except Ilssrah just completely destroyed them. Why wouldn't she say to Veshumerix "Hey, while they're nursing their wounds, let's go finish them *and* that king off, then Kovlar will be defenseless."

But in that case, why didn't they move in on Kovlar before the PCs arrived? Were they just being extra cautious for no reason?

I suppose there's a chance this plays out and Veshumerix says "Nah your soldiers are all dead you're useless to me" and Ilssrah just leaves, as well?

I'm kind of leaning towards the former idea but there's a few ways it can go and I'm not sure what's most fair.

- Perhaps Ilssrah, overconfident, confronts the party before they can finish resting, perhaps while the dragon begins levelling buildings or heads for the palace. They might win, but what do we do about the dragon? There's no way they'll be up for a second fight.
- Ilssrah and the dragon attack the palace together, meaning the PCs have the aid of King Harral and the Armoured faction. This one could be a real slog to run but also has some potential for heroic sacrifices from the king and so on.
- Maybe one group go for the king and one for the defenseless (undead) civilians, forcing the party to choose who to save. At least that way they can fight them one by one. Perhaps the baddies take enough time to negotiate their new alliance that the party (and Ilssrah) have time to rest? It could be quite a cinematic moment if they choose to rescue the "civilian" undead, and return to find the graveknights' armour being melted to slag by dragonbreath or something.
- What if Ilssrah uses Sending to ask them to fight her at a specific spot. She shows up and gives them a good fight, and if she starts losing, suddenly, the dragon's minions come in and cover her retreat and she has an Ozymandias type of moment- "The dragon blew up the palace thirty minutes ago. Better hurry if you want to save the king". Then they can chase or Harral gets roasted, again.

Though Ilssrah's at full hp, she's used a lot of her bigger slots (barring Font spells) so although the party losing a long rest is harsh, it may actually save them in the long run. On the other hand, I doubt they can fight her a second time *and* Veshumerix without a rest in between.

Anyway yeah, I think all of these make sense, reading it over. They all could logically happen. So I guess I need to decide what makes for the most interesting game. Ilssrah leaving could also be interesting, perhaps in book 5 she could in the Pyramid, in charge of the slaves repairing the Orb? It fits her skillset and deity. I could find a similarly fitting spot for Laslunn, perhaps out in the savannah raiding farmers or in the camel mission or something.


I just thought of another motivation for Ilssrah. She's also here to find/secure the gate, right? So maybe that's a reason she sticks around- the party are here so she *knows* one of the gates is confirmed active and that they probably have the key.


I think I've mostly narrowed down to three possible routes, wondering if you lot had any thoughts on which seems most interesting. AOA book 4 spoilers for anyone else ofc

a) Ilssrah waits until morning, and uses Sending to tell the PCs to come meet her for a rematch. She isn't there. It was a ruse, and while they're distracted she goes for the king while Veshumerix attacks the city. They have to choose who to go after- if they pursue Ilssrah second, they arrive just in time to see her melting down the Armoured's plate into slag. She has some reinforcements from Vesh but is also weakened / low on spell slots from fighting King Harral. If they go for her first, perhaps they can save the armoured, but the king (when he returns) is weakened by the city's destruction, and "innocent" undead civilians die.

b) Ilssrah waits until morning, and uses Sending to tell the PCs to come meet her for a rematch. She's there, but it's a ruse- she's distracting them so Veshumerix can attack the city. She pretends to be willing to deal with them but really she's trying to extract info, especially about the Aiudara. If needed she fights them, and tries to escape alive if things go badly by revealing the ruse.

c) Ilssrah and Vesh don't split up- it ends up being a 2v2 battle. Players + Harral vs Ilssrah and Veshumerix. Obvious issue with this is it seems to have a lot of potential to be really deadly, and it also seems like a mess to GM, but it could also be kind of epic?

I see A as being a little more duplicitous and C being a little more overconfident, with B being a compromise between the two. Not sure which makes for the better story.

Other considerations:
- Can Ilssrah permanently kill the king without needing to raze the city? I should check if there are any level 8 spells that could help. Bind Soul? Consecrate?
- What if she didn't wait for morning, for C? She needs to rest to recover Sending for the mislead in A and B, but not if she's attacking directly. She's low on slots, but so are the PCs.

Either way:
- If Ilssrah survives, she can reappear in the Heist in book 5 and in the Red Pyramid, where she's in charge of the reconstruction of the Orb.
- If the PCs fail, Ilssrah can take them to Katapesh with her, which just leads the party into book 5 sooner. Perhaps the heist becomes a prison break instead or they escape along the way.
- If she has a chance, Ilssrah will steal the gate keys and try to extract information about the Aiudara.

Main risk is if she captures part of the party and the others run, but since I have two players with two characters each, we can survive a man down fairly well as they'll still have a character to play.

Overall... I think I like A or B best? It gives them a chance to get an advantage by refusing to fall for the bait. It's easier to GM. A has an interesting moral choice, while B could lead to some cool roleplay conversations

Scarab Sages

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Does anyone else find it strange that the "Corrupt Guards" are lawful evil? The description under False Arrest implies that Chiselrock has given them a fake conspiracy and has led them astray. I'm thinking I'll change them to lawful neutral.


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TomParker wrote:
Does anyone else find it strange that the "Corrupt Guards" are lawful evil? The description under False Arrest implies that Chiselrock has given them a fake conspiracy and has led them astray. I'm thinking I'll change them to lawful neutral.

That reasoning makes sense to me. I had the captain be a little more in on it than the others, but I played the guard more as conspiracy theorists that got suckered than actual fascists.

Scarab Sages

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Shouldn't there be a DC in the stat block for Zuferian's True Debilitating Bomb ability? Did people just apply the DC for 15th level?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
TomParker wrote:
Shouldn't there be a DC in the stat block for Zuferian's True Debilitating Bomb ability? Did people just apply the DC for 15th level?

I used what what the DC of a 15th lvl Alchemist with 8 INT would be.

10(base)+15(level)+4(expert)+8(INT) = 37

3 higher than what the normal level 15 DC is, but it didn't cause any problems. Most Enemy DC's tend to be above the standard anyway. (King Harrel's Spell DC is 35 for example, level 14 DC would normally be 32. Those poltergeists have a DC of 33, standard for 12 is 30. etc.)

Scarab Sages

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xNellynelx wrote:
TomParker wrote:
Shouldn't there be a DC in the stat block for Zuferian's True Debilitating Bomb ability? Did people just apply the DC for 15th level?

I used what what the DC of a 15th lvl Alchemist with 8 INT would be.

10(base)+15(level)+4(expert)+8(INT) = 37

Seems reasonable. My group has been skating by a bit lately. They could use a challenge.


TomParker wrote:
xNellynelx wrote:
TomParker wrote:
Shouldn't there be a DC in the stat block for Zuferian's True Debilitating Bomb ability? Did people just apply the DC for 15th level?

I used what what the DC of a 15th lvl Alchemist with 8 INT would be.

10(base)+15(level)+4(expert)+8(INT) = 37
Seems reasonable. My group has been skating by a bit lately. They could use a challenge.

Just FYI, the combats leading up to and including Zuferian are pretty easy if your group is comprised of decent players in regards to optimization and knowing the system. Do not worry, though, because latter fights of the book can be very hard.


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So since we have a 6th player in my group and they had an easy time with the Laslun encounter at the end of chapter 3 (even though I mashed Laslun, the rakshasa and the interlocutor fights together) I decided to step up the difficulty of the encounters slightly for the climax of the adventure.

For Ms. Embermead: Changed her spiritual infection spell to a level 8 Flame Strike. Gave her access to earth domain spells as well, since the 1 action stone toss synergises well with her, and she seems like an earthquake person.

Her sequence should be: Heroism self buff (ideally in advance if she is joined by allies), blade barrier, flame strike on ennemies making sure to atch her golems in it for heals, earthquake on group if people managed to cross the blade barrier, divine decree. All of this interspaced with 1 action attacks if she can.

The Dalos is now Elite.

Veshumerix has been changed to the spellcasting magma dragon variant, as a spontaneous spellcaster with the primal spell list.

Level 8 spells: Earthquake, Stoneskin
Level 7 spells: Resist Energy, Regenerate, Haste
Level 6 Spells: heal, true sight, death ward.

Sequence is to cast haste on himself and the magma guardians (resist energy will only be used if he can prebuff) then attack once if he can and dive in the lava with quickened action. While under lava he will cast stoneskin while the party deals with magma guardians, emerging for one attack. I will then have him use hit and run tactics where he uses the quickened action to emerge, breath fire, dive, emerge, fireball, dive and so on. If he gets wounded he will cast regenerate.

Just thought i'd post this here if anyone wants to spice up those encounters.

Scarab Sages

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My party has finally reached this book. I'm wondering if anyone's party resurrected Deadmouth? The AP says his memories might return. Did anyone cook up a good story for the tale of how he ended up a Darklands ghast? It's supposed to be so tragic that "he's gone to great lengths to forget it."

Dark Archive

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TomParker wrote:
My party has finally reached this book. I'm wondering if anyone's party resurrected Deadmouth? The AP says his memories might return. Did anyone cook up a good story for the tale of how he ended up a Darklands ghast? It's supposed to be so tragic that "he's gone to great lengths to forget it."

I'm planning on making him one of Ilgreth's apprentices. Both Droskar's Crag and Saggorak are in Five Kings Mountains, so I picture he might have been on an errand for his master when Mengkare shattered the orb of gold dragonkind. He was spared the brunt of the quaking and erupting, but as a result got lost in the Darklands where he eventually gets ghasted and captured by gugs (the adventure mentions he might be someone whose disappearance baffles historians, so I assume 700-ish years is survivable for a ghast; the gugs can keep him over generations if they don't live that long).

This ties him nicely, if only tangentially, into Mengkare's backstory.

Scarab Sages

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3Doubloons wrote:
I'm planning on making him one of Ilgreth's apprentices. Both Droskar's Crag and Saggorak are in Five Kings Mountains, so I picture he might have been on an errand for his master when Mengkare shattered the orb of gold dragonkind.

I wasn't real clear on how long Deadmouth was supposed to be undead and settled on a much shorter timeframe. I decided he was a key NPC from Curse of the Crimson Throne; this was the last AP we ran with this group, where I was a player and one of my AoA players was the GM. I thought it was a fun tie-in with an NPC who all the players in my game know.

My party ultimately didn't bother with resurrecting him.


Silvative wrote:

I think I've mostly narrowed down to three possible routes, wondering if you lot had any thoughts on which seems most interesting. AOA book 4 spoilers for anyone else ofc

...

So what did you end up doing? I would have leaned toward having Ilssrah just leave.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

What is Illsrah's deal with Chiselrock? He provides slaves to her and destabilizes Kovlar and then in exchange he gets to be king when it's over?

Scarab Sages

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GimmeYourShoes wrote:
What is Illsrah's deal with Chiselrock? He provides slaves to her and destabilizes Kovlar and then in exchange he gets to be king when it's over?

Here's how I read it:

Veshumirix wants Kovlar but doesn't believe he can easily take the city since its walls are warded and in good repair. This is talked about at the bottom of page 5. Illsrah came looking for a shard and convinced the dragon to give it up in exchange for an alliance and to help free Dahak (which she's told him is the Triad's goal).

She and Veshumirix are negotiating with the duergar to get their aid in conquering Kovlar, and I think to initiate slave trading with the duergar.

Chiselrock is a dupe. So the short answer to your question is that she's told him she's seeking something inside Kovlar. If he will weaken the city's defenses, she will attack, take what she needs, and retreat leaving Chiselrock the hero of the hour.

But based on the different stories she's told the dragon and Chiselrock, the weakening of the wards and other defenses is actually to allow Veshumirix to take the city with the aid of the undead of Saggorak and the duergar.

So in the end, she's lied to Chiselrock and he likely ends up dead or enslaved and she's lied to the dragon but figures the Triad will have achieved its goals by the time the dragon realizes they don't actually intend to free the manifestation of Dahak. The deal with the duergar is probably the closest thing to an honest agreement she's made.

That's my interpretation. There are several lies and double-crosses spread through this book of the AP, so you might interpret things differently.


When the Grikkitog entry says "This effect spreads even if the grikkitog does not have line of effect, though it can affect earth or stone on the surface and exposed to the air only if at least part of its core is exposed as well." Does that mean that some part of the creature isn't disguised and is easily observed and targeted?


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BeardedTree wrote:
When the Grikkitog entry says "This effect spreads even if the grikkitog does not have line of effect, though it can affect earth or stone on the surface and exposed to the air only if at least part of its core is exposed as well." Does that mean that some part of the creature isn't disguised and is easily observed and targeted?

No it means that the grikkigog must be exposed, but when it is exposed, it is disguised.

This creature is a literal TPK machine, handle it with care, and make sure its restrained to the kitchen for some reason or another.


AlastarOG wrote:
BeardedTree wrote:
When the Grikkitog entry says "This effect spreads even if the grikkitog does not have line of effect, though it can affect earth or stone on the surface and exposed to the air only if at least part of its core is exposed as well." Does that mean that some part of the creature isn't disguised and is easily observed and targeted?

No it means that the grikkigog must be exposed, but when it is exposed, it is disguised.

This creature is a literal TPK machine, handle it with care, and make sure its restrained to the kitchen for some reason or another.

I was really hoping that's what it meant because like you said otherwise it's a literally TPK machine. What did you do for it? The only way anyone can detect it by RAW is if they roll a natural 20 on their perception, and my players are already getting frustrated with things requiring such high rolls (and they have some PTSD from a previous DM adding so many templates to everything that regular monsters were almost invincible).

I might make it slightly more easily detected when it is attacking them, maybe give it a -5 on its Deception DC. A 36 is easier to hit than a 41 after all.

I know this creature has been discussed a lot and my guys won't get there this weekend but the way things have been going for them lately... they could die if the Grikkitog is played by the book.


BeardedTree wrote:
AlastarOG wrote:
BeardedTree wrote:
When the Grikkitog entry says "This effect spreads even if the grikkitog does not have line of effect, though it can affect earth or stone on the surface and exposed to the air only if at least part of its core is exposed as well." Does that mean that some part of the creature isn't disguised and is easily observed and targeted?

No it means that the grikkigog must be exposed, but when it is exposed, it is disguised.

This creature is a literal TPK machine, handle it with care, and make sure its restrained to the kitchen for some reason or another.

I was really hoping that's what it meant because like you said otherwise it's a literally TPK machine. What did you do for it? The only way anyone can detect it by RAW is if they roll a natural 20 on their perception, and my players are already getting frustrated with things requiring such high rolls (and they have some PTSD from a previous DM adding so many templates to everything that regular monsters were almost invincible).

I might make it slightly more easily detected when it is attacking them, maybe give it a -5 on its Deception DC. A 36 is easier to hit than a 41 after all.

I know this creature has been discussed a lot and my guys won't get there this weekend but the way things have been going for them lately... they could die if the Grikkitog is played by the book.

I had the grikkitog be antagonistic to the Gugs. The High priest of Azatoth sealed him in the kitchen and the Grikkitog can'T stone meld through the walls. The door to the kitchen also had a lot of warning signs written in Aklo like ''Don't come in unless you want to die!''

Knowing where he is more or less gives you options such as blasting it, glitterdusting it, Faerie Fire and so on. You can also take pot shots at squares where you think it is.

and RAW its possible to spot it, my Party's rogue pulled it off (16 wis, rogue, seeker elf, eyes of the eagle had to roll a 13 or higher, rolled a 16) but even if you don't spot it you can harm it, if he's within a confined area.

It also creates a ''Wtf is this?'' moment for the PC's but if they manage to identify it and the ''wards'' they can know that to let this thing escape the kitchen is a death wish.

Or alternatively, you could have it that the Grikkitog's true goal is freedomg not TPK. If it manages to escape the kitchen it melds away, maybe returning later but not immediately cause its g%~@%%n tired of the kitchen.

PC's can also decide to close the doors and leave it there.

So anyways, that's how I handled it, hope it helps.


I have an idea... depending how things go I'll suggest to them that they rest before they go into that room. There's an NPC from our previous game that I might incorporate into the Grikkitog encounter. That NPC was a Bogeyman with the Implacable Stalker, Nightmare Lord, and a few other templates. It stalked one of the players (who is not currently playing anymore) but I might just bring him back to give them a terrifying vision in their dreams of a violent death in the kitchen, but when they wake the kitchen is still just a kitchen with no Grikkitog in it.

If they die it was all just a dream and it'll be the return of a MUCH hated NPC. Maybe they'll even find a top hat in the kitchen with a poorly drawn stick figure...

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