PFS 10-23: Passing the Torch 2


GM Discussion

2/5

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I ran this twice at GenCon, and I’m curious how folks handled or plan on handling the character of GM Torch.

I had a little trouble with what I saw as an overly sympathetic portrayal of GM Torch in this scenario. After some thought, I played him as a very obsessive fanatic, able to rationalize any action as justified by his pursuit of Vahlo and willing to sacrifice others’ lives for his obsession. Then with Vahlo’s death, GM Torch comes more than a little adrift mentally as the one thing that has given him purpose for all these years is gone.

This had an effect on the encounter with Zurnzal as the PCs didn’t have too much trouble realizing that Zurnzal thought Torch and this raid on the Grand Lodge were nuts while Vahlo was on the loose and the Whispering Tyrant was besieging the city. In both games I ran, the PCs saw that Zurnzal didn’t want to be there and let him go in return for his information on Vahlo and Torch.

I’d appreciate others’ thoughts and approaches to this (or any other) element of the scenario.

Dark Archive 5/5 Venture-Agent, Ohio—Columbus aka Cirithiel

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I disagree.

I believe his story about faking his betrayal in Rivalry’s End. That little speech he gave never meshed well with how he acted in other scenarios. It felt fake at the time.

I see Torch as a man driven by the need for justice. Certainly bitter and resentful, but also a champion for those being abused. And, to him, the “abused” are the Pathfinder agents. He has demonstrated that he is willing to do what needs to be done in order to protect others, even if those same people will vilify him for his actions. But also a man who is not going to complain if serving justice means he can serve a side of revenge on those that wronged him in the past. Chaotic Good, leaning Chaotic Neutral. The kind of man who belies that the end justifies the means.

I am glad to see that the Emerald Sage Jewel healed some of his scars. Perhaps it’s healed his soul a bit too.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

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I thought this was the only way to reconcile the different views on Torch. It doesn't excuse his actions but keeps a consistency of motivation across the years.

Dark Archive 4/5

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Played last night, as an avid Torch must die person. I was impressed at the writing to clear everything up. We made a different choice in the scenario, largely because even if there was a lot of ends justifying the means reasoning (which arguably was the problem he was trying to solve originally) he came off as sincere and the magnitude of the events was pretty epic.

Dark Archive 5/5 Venture-Agent, Ohio—Columbus aka Cirithiel

My rofl-stomping group reported for part 2 of the mission last night, but without their Life Oracle. The Oracle was apparently just slowing them down as we completed the scenario in about 4 hours (compared to 7 hours for part 1).

Everyone was glad, if confused, to see Eliza at the Wounded Wisp. Speculation of what she was doing in Absalom instead of Galt led to the off the cuff suggestion that she might be a member of the Decemverate. A quick chuckle around the table at the unlikliness of that and they were prepared to hear her out. Eager to do her bidding, they made straight for Skyreach, flying over the front gate, but leaving it locked. As soon as they noticed buildings on fire, undead wandering aimlessly, and unknown people sneaking around the grounds, their energies were diverted from Skyreach to the more immediate problems.

They quickly mopped up the various problems and “scared straight” some agents of GM Torch. Who promptly spilled the beans about Zurnzal in the Repository.

One petrified Arcanist later, and the PCs finally found out the location of Vahlo. And Torch. The storming of Skyreach is back on!

Aside: The other table was splaying Serpents Ire so we had a two-Zurenzal evening. Everyone had a chuckle about being in two places at once, once they realized who my group was pumping for information.

The fight atop the towers was a letdown since we only had 4 players, so there were no minions to take the PCs attention from the main guy. Knocked him out in one round. Once everyone got blown to the Wall, they were both horrified to see the fully healthy halfling and amused that the imposing Taldan man was actually a halfling. He made it to two rounds this time, and had the chance to smite the halfling paladin of Chaldira. But even my dice wanted him dead and three nat 1s in a row later, the PCs got the upper hand, and the graveknight fell to a well-timed arrow from GM Torch.

The PCs drew weapons as Torch approached, but were willing to listen once he dropped his bow. As the pile of items on the ground grew, so did their sympathies for him. By the time he offered to answer all their questions, there was no thought of killing him.

Of course the first question hey ask is one Torch couldn’t answer. (Since the info wasn’t in the scenario!) They wanted to know the names of the other two Decemverate members that he had incriminating information on.

The next question was how he knew Vahlo was a graveknight. The little history lesson made the paladin turn white realizing that it could have easily been her, as he was once also a halfling paladin of Chaldira. That couldn’t have worked out better if I’d planned it. And it caused the paladin to be a little more understanding about Torch’s actions.

After confessing all, Torch is going to go spend some time on the tropical island owned by one of the PCs. A nice little vacation where they can keep an eye on him.

The PCs were ready to take up arms gain when two of the Decemverate strolled up, but quickly calmed when Eliza revealed herself. When she made her speech about passing the helm to another, every member of the party literally put their hands out to take it.

And Fade to Black........

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, France—Paris

The group we had for the scenario. We were playing 17-18 with 4-player adjustment. No hard mode like in part 1 because the archer felt unsafe doing so (understandably, as hit points and armor class weren't great) :

Me as a Swashbuckler 15/Vigilante 1/Bloodrager 1
Life oracle 16
Fighter (archer) 16
Fighter (TWF with shield) 16
Paladin 4/Rogue 12

I will speak only about the mechanical aspects since I already wrote on the plot on the "What did you choose" topic. We convinced the excsinder archon to guard the remaining documents without much difficulty given the life oracle and myself had a pretty good diplomacy bonus. The dominate on Janira was quickly dispelled, and we suffered quite a bit of damage against the undeath pillars, but otherwise it was fine.

The fight against Zurnzal and his acolytes wasn't difficult. They all hit hard but otherwise don't have a big resilience. He tried to get the death attack on the life oracle and it initially succeeded, but using the reroll and it failed at the end (we didn't know about the possible negotiation tactic). I was at 5ft. from him at the moment of his attempt so when it was my turn, I did the 5ft. and I attacked five times getting past his orc ferocity. He has a decent number of HP but the AC clearly wasn't on par (I did roll nicely though so it helped). The alchemists were taken out in short order thereafter.

Against the variant nightcrawler, we spent some resources because the archer got heavily hurt. Not a long fight but it's clearly designed to waste resources.

First fight against Vahlo :
Not being able to see invisibility or sensing him in another way brought some scare in the start. I had to blindly try to locate him hoping I could pinpoint the location. So I went first, where he was probably located. This is where being Lawful Neutral saved my character because he didn't get smited. That gave time for the others to organize and arrive proper. The archer was an aasimar so when the smite arrived on her, she got quickly smoked (although not dead). The paladin/rogue then took a big dent, which was made worse given she was a tiefling (although high AC prevented some of the worst hits). The Life oracle wasn't empty yet but Heal/Mass Heals were flying all over the place. It lasted a number of rounds I do not remember. We finally defeated him once.

I'll say that not having to face the astradaemons due to the adjustment helped a lot. With them as meatshields and decent harassers, it could have turned out worse. There's a small problem of having single-enemy encounters, that it's easier than having a slightly diminished (wouldn't have minded the sickened condition) but still having the minions.

Second fight against Vahlo :
Everybody got back up, and the fact that Vahlo wasn't invisible anymore made things quicker. But we were distracted by the Pathfinder ghosts so we couldn't put him away that quick. Some character got their wisdom lowered, compounded with the aura of cowardice, that was, yikes. It was more brutal than the first encore because it was more direct. I was afraid the life oracle had nothing left, she probably had little more than a couple of level 5 slots. Moderate fortification on the armor and very high AC against good-aligned characters didn't help.

The scenario has a good lore and is a nice story conclusion to PF1. Just that mechanically, a more balanced group could possible stomp on the scenario if not hard mode. The other table played on 14-15 hard mode because they were only 4 players, but banishments and other niceties made their life much easier.

Grand Lodge 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, Texas—Austin aka Partizanski

Some of the DC's say Easy/Average/Hard, but for some reason I cannot find the chart that explains what the numbers for these DC's are actually laid out?

If I don't find anything, I will go back to part 1 and grab those DC's

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Captain, California—Sacramento aka FLite

Can anyone tell me what the approximate run time of parts one and two are? I am trying to determine if a 9 hour slot will be long enough.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Part one timed out in the morning GenCon slot but we were in the final battle at that point. So five hours is safe. Part two went much faster but we were a lot looser with things on Sunday night and there was at least one encounter that got bypassed. (Zurnzal sulks if you counter his party trick with Particulate Form.) Assuming you aren’t taking much in the way of breaks, nine hours should be plenty.

5/5

I have started to prep the stat blocks for this and have some questions/comments.

As previously mentioned there are a couple of references to using Easy/Average/Hard DCs (one in the sword sidebar, love its abilities by the way and one in the ritual, there may be others). I assume we just grab the DCs from Part 1?

The tactics on the Nightshades for tier 14-15 and 17-18 seem to be reversed. 14-15 shows as using quickened cone of cold but it doesnt have it, 17-18 shows quickened unholy blast, it has cone of cold instead. Do we just swop them around?

Vahlo uses his fiendish boon in all tiers but only adds unholy. He gets more than a +2 benefit in every tier. Its worth noting for people running that he cannot add any more as the weapon caps out at +10 effective bonus.

Zurnzals CMB numbers are sort of wrong, or at least if you use them as is they are. The default numbers are correct in a general sense but do not account for the ability to add things like enhancement bonuses for certain types of maneuvers which is important given he uses trip and disarm.

Likewise Vahlo's CM values do not account for his desecrate bonus or the benefit of the locked gauntet which is worth keeping an eye on.

Vahlo's cruelty DCs are not correct in anything other than high tier. They are largely not listed, there is a passing reference to DC27 in his tactics. This is only right for tier 1718. Tier 12-13 should be DC22, 14-15 should be DC24. I assume you dont want us stunning level 12 PCs for multiple rounds with DC27 effects?

For people running Vahlo at mid and high tier that arrow deflecting buckler is an important bit of kit it is very easy to miss.

The advanced daemons in tier 1718 have the wrong devour DC, it should be 27. Looks like the effect of the advanced template on it was missed.

Overall I like the look of this a lot, plenty here to challenge even a well prepared party.

5/5

Also, the tactics for the nightshade suggest that true seeing defeats mind blank. I had always assumed it to be the other way around. Is that meant to bbbe specific to this creature or an indication of the regular interaction of these spells?

5/5

Also a couple of other things to note.

The Helm gives Vahlo true seeing, this isnt listed in his senses.

He casts non detection himself to get a better caster level (which helps with his tactics). However, the Helm grants the same ability, presumably using its caster levdel as a base? It says it works like an amulet of proof against detetcion and location. It sets the caster level DC base don its caster level. I would expect the decemvirate helm to use its own.

Vahlos caster level is also inconsistent. At 1213 and 1415 it is class level -3 (which is right), at 1718 it is his full class level.

Paizo Employee 5/5 Organized Play Lead Developer

andreww wrote:

I have started to prep the stat blocks for this and have some questions/comments.

As previously mentioned there are a couple of references to using Easy/Average/Hard DCs (one in the sword sidebar, love its abilities by the way and one in the ritual, there may be others). I assume we just grab the DCs from Part 1?

Leaving those references in there was an error. For those who do not have Part 1 on hand, here's the chart.

DC chart:

SKILL CHECK AND COMBAT MANEUVER DCS
Subtier Easy Average Hard
12–13 23 29 35
14–15 25 31 38
17–18 28 34 42
SAVING THROW DCS
Subtier Easy Average Hard
12–13 20 23 26
14–15 22 25 28
17–18 24 28 32

andreww wrote:


The tactics on the Nightshades for tier 14-15 and 17-18 seem to be reversed. 14-15 shows as using quickened cone of cold but it doesnt have it, 17-18 shows quickened unholy blast, it has cone of cold instead. Do we just swop them around?

Yes, just swap them.

andreww wrote:


Vahlo uses his fiendish boon in all tiers but only adds unholy. He gets more than a +2 benefit in every tier. Its worth noting for people running that he cannot add any more as the weapon caps out at +10 effective bonus.

That's a rules wrinkle we ran into with this. An opponent with a weapon so powerful he couldn't apply the full extent of this class abilities. #Firstworldantipaladinproblems

andreww wrote:


Vahlo's cruelty DCs are not correct in anything other than high tier. They are largely not listed, there is a passing reference to DC27 in his tactics. This is only right for tier 1718. Tier 12-13 should be DC22, 14-15 should be DC24. I assume you dont want us stunning level 12 PCs for multiple rounds with DC27 effects?

The passing reference came from a copy-paste error in tactics. Please use 10+1/2 antipaladin level+cha mod as normal for the rules of the cruelty ability (which comes out to DC 22/DC 24 as andreww notes).

andreww wrote:


The advanced daemons in tier 1718 have the wrong devour DC, it should be 27. Looks like the effect of the advanced template on it was missed.

Yes, its supposed to be DC 27 as listed in the special attacks, rather than 25 as listed in the special ability block.

5/5

Thanks for this Linda. I did have another issue crop up now I have finished prepping this, how do players qualify for the Bag of Contingencies boon?

Paizo Employee 5/5 Organized Play Lead Developer

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andreww wrote:
Thanks for this Linda. I did have another issue crop up now I have finished prepping this, how do players qualify for the Bag of Contingencies boon?

earning boon:

Ah, right. As the boon's text implies, this one's basically automatic. As long as the group doesn't TPK before meeting Torch, they get this boon.

5/5

I ran this last night, after action report below. A couple of other issues cropped up I wasnt sure about.

1. You get 4 stabilisation points if you disable all 3 pylons. The four player adjust removes one pylon. I assume the group gets an extra point if they disable both of those? It was how I ran it.

2. I was a little unsure how you got a point from dealing with the gangs working for Torch. If you take them out in 1 round you dont get hit back. If it takes longer they are automatically neutralised. Do you have to take them out in 1 round to get the point? If so are these effectively automatic stabilisation points?

OK, on to the after action report. I will pop it into a spoiler just in case.

Report:

The game ran at tier 17-18 with the four player adjustment. The team was:

Level 14 Witch
Level 15 Sorcerer/Oracle Mystic Theurge, grandfathered early entry, just had level 7 arcane spells
Level 16 Monk, full dimensional assault, Justin Thyme, the fastest man alive
Level 15 Paladin, sword and board
Level 18 Ranger, archer turret of death, decent defences
Level 18 Druid16|Monk2, melee monster, persistently in dragon form

Stabilise the Chaos

The group lack the skill to unlock the gates so force them open. Seeing the choas they head to deal with the fire first but get distracted by Janira. They identify what is going on with her, fail to dispel it but convince her to go catalogue all of the pathfinders on the Wall of Names! Entering Starhall two of them wave their VC titles about and they convince the Archon to leave. Heading back out they continue to ignore the undead outside of the Mausoleum and subdue the thieves looting artefacts. They learn about Zurnzal and head there.

Inside the Repository the druid spots the enemies, he has persistent blindsense from dragon form as well as echolocation active. Zurnzal still gives his negotiation trick a go but the Druid is on top of him in the surprise round and trips him before he can pull it off. They end up negotiating and Zurnzal bugs out, telling them where they can find Torch.

The Optional

Then things get nasty. the special turns up and vital strike bites the ranger through the fog for almost all of his health. I sting several people but the paladin, monk and druid are all immune to poison. People are suitably horrified by its vital strike damage, which regularly hits triple digits. I am also mean and tend to vital strike and then burrow away out of sight. Several people take horrific damage before it is finallly brought down. The monk is very sad about the forbiddance effect which mirrors his experience at the end of Part 1. The mystic theurge gets poisoned and has to use a Heal spell to avoid dying. It is a horrific poison. The four player adjustment for this encounter is very weak. The DR reduction is irrelevant and its SLA's are OK but nothing special. I did paralyse the witch for a bit with mass hold monster. Hard mode here would have been a TPK.

Heading outside they deal with the mausoleum. They end up splitting up a bit for reasons which are not entirely clear and the Druid destroys one pylon causing the explosion. He has death ward, the rest do not. The mystic theurge and witch are hiding together in an emergency force sphere. The second pylon is dealt with by the Druid on his own.

Heading out they remove the other two groups of agents. Its worth noting at this point that they only take out one group in a single round, with a combination of lots of direct damage and a prismatic spray.

Battle atop Skyreach

Heading towards skyreach they fly up to the roof. Vahlo ambushes them and drops the Paladin before she gets a chance to act. The Paladin and Monk are both good and get smited making him next to impossible to hit. It takes a round or two for them to negate his greater invis and his SR causes some problems. I do down the Monk as well but against non smite targets his damage is not great, especially considering a couple of PCs now have deathward. He does absorb a couple of spells. Particulate Form negates a bunch of the other threat he poses and eventually he goes down. The four player adjust here does have a major effect. The daemons are a real and potentially horrific threat. Double energy drain in one round for 4d4 negative levels means someone is having a very bad day.

The Wall of Names

They blunt the collapsing ritual a bit and get thrown to the Wall where they meet Janira again. The spirits dont last long, high level archers with ghost salt arrows make short work of them but he is having trouble hitting Vahlo again even with +4 favoured enemy. -6 to hit from weather conditions is punishing. The rest of the group quickly converge on Vahlo, a mixture of dimension doors and telekinetic charge, but that just makes it easier for him to down the Paladin and Monk again, his damage against smited targets is very high.

Eventually he is brought down by Druid dragon damage, he could not overcome high AC, immunity to negative energy and non good targets fast enough. I am dubious about the impact of the four player adjust here, -2 to rols and DCs is a fairly small effect given he starts back at full strength. It did mean one PC made a save against cruelty but it was at the very end.

Overall this was a lot of fun to run and presents a real and serious challenge, even to well built and capable PCs.

5/5

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One last couple of issues.

Addendum:

One of the first questions my group had for Torch was who were the other two Decemvirate members who were likely to flee and what did they do. I had nothing to offer them for this, hopefully it will come out at some point in the future.

Secondly, for running Vahlo, something I only just noticed while running it. He has blindsight 30' for anyone dying or taking bleed damage (such as from the sword) which I totally overlooked in my initial prep. Its worth bearing in mind although my lot negated it with stupid particle form.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, France—Paris

What struck me when I played that one was how impactful it was of not being good-aligned. I remind the chaotic good aasimar fighter getting sent out of space and the neutral good life oracle not faring much better. Felt very lucky playing a lawful neutral swashbuckler. Really felt having a big touch AC saved my life (having uncanny dodge too).

Luckily we skipped the optional encounter, because I would say this would have put us in a much harder position.

I'll GM these in a not-so-distant future. I tried to offer these a couple of weeks ago but it didn't happen. But either as a GM or as a player, same response : yikes party balance. We missed an arcane spellcaster, and that contributed to make things more difficult. The other group was slightly more unstable on physical abilities but had a much better divine/arcane spellcasting which helped them deal with things quicker (they played in 14-15, but if they had similar levels than us, they would still have been faster)

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