Disjointed Themes? [Spoilers]


Extinction Curse


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I have read through the first three books and I really think they're fun, but the themes seem a bit disjointed to me. On one hand you're a circus troupe, traveling around the Isle of Kortos and dealing with the Celestial Menagerie. On the other hand you're also dealing with the xulgath's threat to wipe out life with the Aeon Stones, a threat you essentially stumble upon.

Both of these themes are good and I think are handled well in the adventure, but they really don't seem connected much. We find out that Dusklight was working with the xulgaths, but that connection seems like a weak link to make the two themes work together more. Were I playing this adventure, I would feel drawn to one theme at the expense of the other.

Has anyone else felt this way? Any solutions? Am I totally missing something?

I have not played or ran the adventure yet, so if it comes together in-game I apologize.


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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKOQWbTdxy8


I’m not excited for when the next AP does the same thing with “being beat cops” and “whatever takes it to level 20.”


Remember spring APs are "experimental" while fall APs are "traditional".

I personally don't feel its a huge issue that the world-ending threat of this particular AP isn't targetting the Circus specifically.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

To be honest, I kinda of agree playing it through as a DM. I'm 75% through the first book, and the Xulgath threat is definitely random, and I do get the vibe the players wish this was wholly focused on being a circus (first session when they were running a circus gig? They were having an utter blast). Second book should be better for them, but beyond that I get the sense the Xulgath threat is going to take such a front seat that the circus stuff everyone has so much fun with is going to be taken to the sidelines.

I would definitely have to read the second and third books to be sure, but there is definitely a strangeness to be mashing two unrelated things and expecting players to connect to both well. My group is more connecting to the circus by a longshot, but that's partially due to the circus mechanics and partially because I've played up people like Jellico has Villains with a capital V followed by evil laughter. I definitely leaned into the camp hard, so when I'm RPing the more sober adventuring side people are just rolling with it.


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I believe they will still offer material for the circus even as the Xulgath threat takes precedence.

But it's probably a good idea to assume that performing circus shows are expected to become repetitive over time, and that the details of the circus can fade into the background as the heroes step up to save the world.

As a GM you have to work with what you've got. For instance, I've already accidentally on purpose revealed that the Xulgath they've just met in the Erran Tower will remain the main baddie for the campaign. I did this precisely because it's my job to tweak my players expectations so to blunt any possible disappointment down the line.

Good luck with your campaign!


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

Yes, the circus vs. troglodyte-fueled-apocalypse theme did strike me as a bit odd from the start. But I guess the circus theme really serves as a device to get a group of possibly exotic characters to the starting point in an obscure corner of the Isle of Erran. (Just as the whole caravan thing in Jade Regent was a plot device to get everybody over the North Pole to Minkai.)

In Extinction Curse the circus angle makes sense in Parts 1 & 2, fades in Part 3, and I expect will continue fading in the last half. Which is fine. Once your characters are archmages and master monks and whatnot, and trying to avert a supernatural catastrophe, running a circus is a bit beneath them.

But the circus material would be useful as (and more appropriate to, really) a framework for sandbox-style campaign of a circus roaming the Inner Sea or whatnot. (Or a survival-horror "Varisian circus shipwrecked on the shores of Arcadia" campaign. Hmm.)


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
keftiu wrote:
I’m not excited for when the next AP does the same thing with “being beat cops” and “whatever takes it to level 20.”

For Agents of Edgewatch, I hope there will be a logical campaign progression from "lowly beat cops in the city watch" to "super-agents of the Absalom Grand Council." That would make sense, at least.


Good comments folks, thank you all! I think you're on the right track with the "Circus will stop mattering after a few books" idea.

I think I personally would have been more interested in a purely circus-themed adventure (imagine a high-level clown trying to get an inevitable to laugh!), but adding in the xulgath/mass-death theme could work as a contrast to the life-is-fun circus. Putting the spotlight on the NPC's "mundane", simple, circus lives and all the drama that happens really makes the genocidal xulgath's evil *matter* more.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, PF Special Edition Subscriber

Maybe a table could even find a way to play it up as the PCs are secretly heroes, saving the world but hiding behind their mundane day jobs as thankless circus people? That's kind of the game I was thinking of running should I put this one together. Find ways to stress that being found out as heroes would damage the circus, and also try to attach them to the circus more than just "it's who I was at the start of this adventure."

Because a circus battling underground dinosaurs really needs some superheros in the mix, right?


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Sure, Sporked, but remember: that presumes the issue is a problem.

So before you do that (think too much about circus superheroes, that is) you really should consider the idea that the AP never intended the dichotomy to be a complication.

I hope you see I'm not trying to shut you down. Only that I think it's worthwhile to not simply assume your players are going to have a problem with this just because you can see the potential for a problem.

For instance: Perhaps the players suddenly decide that with a Troglodyte world invasion being imminent (or whatever), they no longer want to "waste time on frivolities", such as a Circus. They tell the Professor the Cirus is his now, and they stop looking for new circus recruits. Know what, that's very probably entirely okay. Already in the first installment, the adventure tells us "you can skip the circus entirely and still have the AP functioning".

tl;dr: make sure you have a problem before spending time on a solution, that's all

Cheers :)


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, PF Special Edition Subscriber

For sure. Though I wouldn't push that angle out of fear, just that I think my players would enjoy it.

Though based on the brief rundown I've given a few potentials, they definitely think the circus angle is a lot more compelling than the demon fighting one.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Still, the AP is called "Extinction Curse", not "Under the Big Top".


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Franz Lunzer wrote:
Still, the AP is called "Extinction Curse", not "Under the Big Top".

I think this is primarily where my disjointed expectations let me down in regards to this AP.

My PCs and I would have been more than happy with the latter, as every other AP we've got covers the former.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, PF Special Edition Subscriber

Right. I the consensus from these first three books is that it's a good AP, but not nearly as unique and original as it first looked like it might be.

Shadow Lodge

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Let us remember that this is a game built to facilitate stories about killing other beings and taking their stuff. It is good at that, and resists doing anything else. If you want Pathfinder APs to feel fresh and exciting, abstain for a couple of years and consume other media in the meantime.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
Ice Titan wrote:
Franz Lunzer wrote:
Still, the AP is called "Extinction Curse", not "Under the Big Top".

I think this is primarily where my disjointed expectations let me down in regards to this AP.

My PCs and I would have been more than happy with the latter, as every other AP we've got covers the former.

Quite understandable.

Let me ask how an "Under the Big Top" AP would play out though? How would it bring the PC's to 20th level?
For it to be an AP, it has to have a story line and escalating danger (to make encounters appropriate for the PC's rising levels).

If the UtBT-AP would play mostly under the tent-planes, for most of those 20 levels, I think it would be very repeating and not as much fun as it sounds. Sure, I can think of an antagonist to challenge the PC's for all that time, but I don't think you would get too much of variations in the encounters.


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Franz Lunzer wrote:

Quite understandable.

Let me ask how an "Under the Big Top" AP would play out though? How would it bring the PC's to 20th level?
For it to be an AP, it has to have a story line and escalating danger (to make encounters appropriate for the PC's rising levels).

If the UtBT-AP would play mostly under the tent-planes, for most of those 20 levels, I think it would be very repeating and not as much fun as it sounds. Sure, I can think of an antagonist to challenge the PC's for all that time, but I don't think you would get too much of variations in the encounters.

Spitballing Ideas:

-More of a hex-crawl, but you travel from settlement to settlement performing. Choosing which settlement to go to next can effect the difficulty of wowing the crowd, restocking supplies, etc. Small villages are easy to please but don't have much to offer. Big cities have resources galore, but the urban people are more jaded.

-Upkeep on the circus itself, including food, supplies, emotional wellbeing, etc. Could be similar to the wagon system in Jade Regent or the island survival in th beginning of Serpent's Skull.

-Replace the xulgaths in book 1 with an angry mob that attacks during a performance. The mob has been convinced by agents of Mistress Dusklight that the PCs are a threat (maybe framing them for a serious crime like murder?). Climax is trying to keep the mob at bay while also keeping up the show (ties into the title).

-Keep book 2 basically the same, you can even keep the xulgaths.

-For book 3 have the PC's travel around to major settlements instead of targeting the aeon towers. The serial killer angle would be fun to explore as the major threat or a medium threat. Could also make a no-fun-allowed church (Abadar, Zon-Kuthon, Erastil, Torag, Irori, or Asmodeus?) that is opposing the PC's because circuses are bad, a waste of money, leads to reckless behavior, etc. Won't someone think of the children? PC's can either expose harm the No Fun Church wants and/or show that their circus does genuine good for people.

-Not sure what lies ahead in Books 4-6, but getting big enough to play at Diobel and Absalom is definitely on the table. Can probably gain a powerful patron, which comes with its own complications. You'd be competing with more established shows that have their own theaters.

-At high levels you could go extra-planar, maybe even making a pit fiend laugh and enjoy the show!


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Franz Lunzer wrote:
Ice Titan wrote:
Franz Lunzer wrote:
Still, the AP is called "Extinction Curse", not "Under the Big Top".

I think this is primarily where my disjointed expectations let me down in regards to this AP.

My PCs and I would have been more than happy with the latter, as every other AP we've got covers the former.

Quite understandable.

Let me ask how an "Under the Big Top" AP would play out though? How would it bring the PC's to 20th level?

Challenge... accepted.

For my solution, I immediately thought... I wouldn't mind if Pathfinder had 3 book APs. I think I heard something about it not being that profitable for Starfinder however, so, that's that.

Book 1: The PCs all are part of a circus together. They perform and make merry. Someone kills the ringleader of their circus, so the PCs investigate. Their investigation turns up a new settlement to perform in, and an ancient ruin occupied by a cult. The PCs are also harried by old friends and enemies from the Celestial circus who see their ringleader's death as the death of their circus and are here to "help"-- fat chance! It turns out that the person who did it had connections to the cult, as well as a neighboring town's thieves' guild, and to devilish forces. The PCs don't catch them, but foil their lackey's plot to kill another influential performer-- maybe a bard or something that joins the party, that sounds cool. Meanwhile, the PCs encounter a strange man at the crossroads who is cryptic and foreshadowy...

Book 2: The PCs move to investigate the guild-- and in the background, the Celestial circus still haunts them, trying to poach their performers. They are able to infiltrate the thieves' guild under pretense of entertainment at a mob coronation (the man in black is there), performing their act in front of the local underworld nobility (and all of the good and bad stuff that entails!). After undertaking some tasks for the guild to earn their trust like helping or hindering two star-crossed lovers from rival families, fighting off assassins and that kind of stuff they earn another lead that takes them to their quarry through an abandoned menagerie (zoos are cool dungeons). They fight the bad guy who killed their ringmaster and win. But who ordered the killing? That's when they discover that it was the Celestial circus who's been bothering them all along!

Book 3: The third book is about investigating and fighting the Celestial circus, which has gone off the beaten path into a dangerous bayou locale (to get closer to a cool ancient location to fight creatures in), and finding revenge for their fallen ringmaster. They fight through the circus, then the ancient Thassilonian dungeon underneath (and a rad swamp bayou of cool adventure locations, engaging in banjo duels with locals, engaging in war dances with lizardfolk, the man in black again, and taming crocodiles) to learn that the circus itself was wrapped up in an insidious devil's pact, and it's been stealing people's souls-- including your dead ringmaster friend, but also, because the PCs all worked there (look at me working in background traits)-- all of their souls too if something isn't done!

Book 4: As is ceremony, the fourth book is a dungeon crawl into a massive sealed library in the center of Absalom. Learning the way around the mystical wards is as simple as helping an out-of-his-depth wizard fool his new cult of followers who expect him to try to undertake the test of the Starstone soon-- good thing everyone here is high level now! The PCs deal with pact devils, otherworldly nuisances and maybe even hunt down the last member of the Celestial circus who is full fiend-possessed, then crawl through a giant sealed tomb full of magical creatures and weird stuff. Is that painting of... the man in black? Who could that be?

Book 5: With the knowledge of how to break this curse in-hand, the PCs now just need to perform the ritual. The problem? Since the pact was signed in the Material, it can only be broken in Hell, and it can only be broken by a specific pact devil held captive by an archfiend. How are the PCs going to survive? Well... they have the Celestial circus's invitation to a giant Carnivale held in Hell once every 100 years. The PCs buckle up and travel to Dis, exploring the city and such, fighting the fiends who defy their archdevil's orders not to mess with performers, and mingling and meeting with other planar circuses and strange travellers who've come from all across creation to watch the show. They perform for a planar audience befitting of level 17 characters and then storm the archfiend's prison vaults while he's away, finding the pact devil! One last thing: The circus bad guys from Book 3 are back with the half-fiend template and looking for revenge!

The last book is them discovering that the contract is alive-- and it's own demiplane. They delve into it with the aid of powerful magic, battling against clauses and diving through literal loopholes. Right when the PCs break the pact, the archfiend arrives. It turns out he was the man in black at the crossroads the PCs kept meeting, guiding them along until they were strong enough for him to steal their souls! He blows up their circus and they all die... but wait! Shelyn saves them at the last moment, bringing them to Elysium since they're all rad 19th level performers and she's about that. Shelyn hates that this archfiend has been stealing performers souls and asks the PCs to save them. The heroes delve back into the archfiend's lair and defeat him, freeing their fellow artists throughout history. Roll credits, everybody claps.

After the campaign stuff is about going on tour in Heaven.


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I would so massively prefer smaller APs. Needing to scale up to 20 means you can either do zero-to-hero narratives, or end up with disjointed themes. It would also allow for more variety in setting; as someone who doesn't care that much about the area around Absalom, I'm looking at a good year of Adventure Path content not having any appeal to me.

Dark Archive

I still prefer 1-20 aps to 1-17 aps, though I can see market appeal for level 1-7 or 1-20 aps :p

That said I'm liking extinction curse so far and am really looking forward to Agents of Edgewatch


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, PF Special Edition Subscriber

I mean, the idea of a 1-20 campaign isn't that you have to level to 20... it's that it can keep going over the entire leveling life of a character. You can just run the first book or two if you don't want to go so high.

It's a little conjectury, but there looks like a natural stopping point at book 4 of Extinction Curse? We'll see how it plays out.

Dark Archive

CorvusMask wrote:
though I can see market appeal for level 1-7 or 1-20 aps

meant to say 1-7 or 1-10 aps so now I feel annoyed at typo making sentence nonsensical day later

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