Rebooting Savage Tide!

Savage Tide Adventure Path

Silver Crusade

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Several years ago, I posted my observations of what worked and didn't work to make Savage Tide amazing in my DM Notes. Those notes ended when we had a party wipe during the Lightless Depths, a beloved player had to leave for a new job, and it didn't feel right bringing a new player in at high levels.

Anyhow, years later, I moved to a new community, found a great gaming community, and we're venturing into this one again! So a few things:

1) If anyone is still active here, I'll post my notes and hope if we can to share notes. This is a classically fun campaign path, wish I could've finished it. My other posts give credit to the DM who inspired me quite a bit. I aim to follow his intent and expand Vanthus's role (his group never finished as well, alas!)

2) If you've run it into the City of Broken Idols and beyond, I want to know what worked and didn't work! I don't have DM notes generated yet, and given we're just getting started, plenty of time.

3) If you've got notes for 5E, great! If you have little things that worked, lemme know! (e.g. art for Lavinia, Vanthus, Avner, tips on running them). I've scoured this directory but might have missed something. I remember my first group absolutely hating (and thereby fondly remembering our campaign) Vanthus and Avner...

Silver Crusade

(Not sure if too many people still read this forum, but I'll add to it!) My previous DM notes were here .

There is no Honor

Largely unchanged from my prior notes.

Started with a Session 0 to tie into the campaign and let players fill in the blanks of how they got some fame. In addition to saving Vanthus, picked an old Dungeon Magazine short adventure and we roleplayed how the party got noticed for awhile in town as minor heroes, which triggered Lavinia to remember the good old days with some of them.

These good old days came from customized campaign backgrounds that the players could use to fill in blanks and tie to the NPCs. As DM Vermilleo on these forums and others comment: if the PCs don't care about Lavinia and Vanthus, this AP won't work.

Handed out backgrounds for players to pick: player has obsession with Isle of Dread lore and got hands on fragments of Captain Barbarrosa's ledgers / player briefly went to school with Lavinia and may have had a brief liaison, met Vanthus who was an arse / player paid to train with Jade Ravens, while on site at Vanderboren mansion briefly interacted with Vanthus and Lavinia / player has visions, tied to Vermilleo's campaign.

Added a random scene at the market where Avner's horse bumps a merchant (an entrepreneur who has invented the corn dog) and wants the ingrate to apologize to Thunderstrike. When he doesn't, Avner uses his steed to knock over the cart and keeps going. Found some fantastic "douchebag" art, but as in my prior notes, I want Avner to be a bit more complex. Assuming he lives to the Isle of Dread, in our last campaign he became a voice for the scared-witless common folk. Not saying it was the voice of reason, but enough that it kept him alive.

I need a cheat sheet for common foul phrases used by smugglers and pirates. There's some unsavory characters, and it would've helped for my adult table when they're spying on the Blue Nixie.

Skipped Factions this time. They didn't have much play last go around (you're away so long, and the rules don't convert to 5E well).

Pretty much finished at the exact same point as first time I ran this (Vanderboren vault). I let slip to the Rogue player that he might've been able to decipher the complex machinery of the vault and open it without knowing the combination, but unlikely without either years of training with a master or magical help (the adventure tosses in "DM only" stuff like explaining how Vanthus bypassed the lock, so I try to find ways to let this slip to players. Doesn't do me much good and makes more sense to the storyline!)

I ran Savage Tide in 5E for two separate groups. One was in person at a game store, the second was on roll20. The in person group got to about 14th level when you confront Vanthus in Divided's Ire, while the roll20 group went all the way to the conclusion. The first group lasted about a year and a half, the second one (that completed the path) was two years. At the time I ran it, about three years ago, Wizards hadn't put out their extra bestiaries yet, so I had to use a converter to get from 3.5 to 5E for some of the monsters.

For things that worked, the players loved their ship. When the shipwreck happens upon arriving at the Isle of Dread, they were sad as if a PC had died and didn't want to leave it behind. It is also easy to make the characters hate Vanthus if you let someone see a boat sailing away from the pirate's cove in "Bullywug's Gambit" and reveal it was him. Rowen from the first adventure garnered the player's sympathy simply because of how much she hated Vanthus. Later in the adventure path, the players were excited to befriend lots of "bad guys", running quests for the bullywug lich in "Into the Maw", sipping tea with Malcanthet, Red Shroud, and Tyrlandi made their day. There are a few moral choices that came up that the players enjoyed. In "Lightless Depths" there was delicious tension between releasing the aboleths against the kopru with one group, while the other questioned working with Nurt/Lynarra knowing full well they weren't an innocent gnome.

There were a few things that didn't work for me. Playing in a store for only three hours once a week meant I had to skip a lot of the hexcrawling in "Tides of Dread." Instead, we just ran a random encounter on the way to each encounter area. If I had accurately tracked time and movement, the game would've been weeks and weeks of random encounters with dinosaurs interspersed with completing one goal. I had one group that refused to leave Zotzilaha's treasure hoard alone, and ended up getting cursed for stealing from it and rushing to "City of Broken Idols" before going through "Lightless Depths." Another group got heavily invested in freeing Scuttlecove from tyranny, and spent a lot of time trying to clear the entire city of evil influence. They thought it was part of the adventure, and were surprised they were meant to go elsewhere to the pirate hideout.

The two biggest problems I had were related to how 5E breaks down as a system above tenth level, and the burnout on fiends in the last third of the campaign. Vanthus went down like a chump in "Tides of Dread" as did Demogorgan in "Prince of Demons". There's a chance for a random encounter in "Into the Maw" with a balor and I don't think he did one point of damage before being dropped. The group didn't have fantastic magical items either, the only weapon I gave out with a +X bonus was the artifact bow in "City of Broken Idols." I tried to counter this by giving named and important boss baddies max HP so they'd last more than one round. There was also a tension of tiptoeing between being courteous to demon lords while simultaneously knowing they were strong enough to fight them (seriously, the demon lords in 5E are pretty weak).

As to the second point, the last four issues of the path, an entire third, take place almost exclusively in the lower planes, with the majority of them being in the Abyss. The players began to feel some serious burnout on fighting yet more demons.

Silver Crusade

Thanks, good points to keep in mind. I was disappointed with what D&D did to the outerplanar baddies (just bags of hit points with multiple attacks), so I'll likely need to homebrew them to make them the nasty things they used to be.

Haven't done much high level play. We hit 14th level in "Out of the Abyss," and as written, the players would have wiped out any of the demon lords (Orcus, Demogorgon) at CR23 without breaking a sweat.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hey, I'm very interested in any notes you'd like to share based on your experience running Savage Tide. I bought the Dungeon Magazines from someone about a year ago and I was flipping through them again this week thinking I really should run this adventure.

My gaming group is a PF1 group but independent of ruleset I'd be happy to know about any flavor you added (or wish you would have added), how you built up tension before a big reveal or npc personalities you really played up.


I'm using the last chapter as a follow-up to Bastion of Broken Souls. I've stat blocked several high level NPCs from Savage Tide. You can find them here....

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