Start Age of Ashes with 4th level party?

Age of Ashes

The Situation
Our group just finished our first game, Fall of Plaguestone. Two group members, myself and my friend, played AD&D a few decades ago. The rest of the group is my friend's wife, his two daughters and my son. So, two of us are rusty and 4 brand new players.
The game went well after a few sessions getting familiar with the rules and mechanics. Our kids had a challenging time getting into the idea of role play but they seemed to make some progress.
For our next adventure, the kids want to keep their characters. My friend's character died at the end of Plaguestone and he's going to GM our next game. His idea is to let the survivors of Plaguestone (2 druids, a sorcerer and an alchemist) and my to-be-created character start Age of Ashes at 4th level.


    * Does this make sense?
    * Should he raise the encounter stats to make it more challenging for the party?
    * Should he keep the encounters as they are so we earn less XP until the CR begins to match our party level?
    * Are there resources you can recommend to facilitate making the encounters more difficult?
    * I'm leaning towards an Investigator or Wizard, so I can use knowledge skills to add lore context and hopefully facilitate role play.
    * Any other thoughts on why we should or should not be doing this?

Thanks for the help. Please no spoilers.

Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The GM could liberally apply the Elite template to foes, that would certainly help.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The game could be compressed down a bit, lots of filler encounters can be done away with and some loot should be removed since the party presumably has some already. I in general don't recommend using XP and just doing milestone leveling instead, but going by that it would be a while before you leveled again. It would be fairly easy to tie in a group of established heroes story wise at least.

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

If I were the GM tasked with adapting the entire Book 1 to start at 4th level I think I would probably ignore XP awards for the entirety of Hellknight Hill, and remove the bulk of the filler combats while buffing the remaining ones. I'd make the party do the entire book's worth of content stuck at 4th level so that they're on track for the rest of the AoA series starting at level 5.

Since you're not the GM I don't want to go into too many details, but it's clear that there are only a few "highlight" combats involving story NPCs or cool setups, which I'd keep. I'd make all of those encounters moderate or severe for a 4th level party (matching the original difficulty rating for an at-level group) by adding foes, or upgrading basic monsters to higher tier versions or making them elite.

I'd also remove most of the low-level rewards and just give gold and consumables until they hit the book's 4th level content, where I'd just play it out as written.

The fights I would keep:

Town Hall Fire (upgrade mephit to Living Wildfire)
Alak's Test Arena (replace imps with Barbazu(s?), level up Alak)
Courtyard (Elite Grauladon)
Battlements (Elite Calmont)
Vault Northern Chambers (one big wave fight with Boggard Warriors and Swampseers, Charau-ka warriors and acolytes, and Pibb & Zarf coming in as allies...with Big Bumble as a wildcard).
Vault Southern Chambers (Elite Skeletal Hellknight + Wights + Hellcrown/skeleton fodder)
Guardian's Way (as-is)
Voz Lirayne (as-is?)
Ralldar (as-is)
Malarunk (as-is)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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My suggestion would be to run Hellknight Hill as-is. Remember that a 4th level party will gain a LOT less XP from lower level encounters (and no XP at all from anything that is level –1, regardless of how many level –1 creatures they fight at once). Keep an eye on the player's engagement, and if it appears they're starting to get bored with the easy encounters, then that's when I'd start omitting sections or compressing encounters to speed things along.

The combats should go pretty quickly with the PCs being so tough, and they should be able to also blaze through more encounters without stopping to rest, which can make for a fun change of pace for play AND can help the PCs feel tough, which is always nice to feel as a player. If every combat's equally tough, you run the risk of the players never feeling like they're getting more powerful. Variety like this can be refreshing!

Great input. Thanks everyone.
Any thoughts on the class selection question?

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

What kind of Sorcerer is already in the group? If it's not arcane, than I lean toward the wizard; if the sorcerer has the arcane spell list, then either option probably works. (I'm afraid I don't know enough about the Investigator to confidently advise here.)

If you do choose Wizard, let the GM know that while there are Arcane Prepared spellcasters scattered throughout the adventure path, NONE of their stat blocks mention them having spellbooks - but they all should.

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

We won't know much for sure in the investigator until it drops next week. But going off the playtest I'm sure it will be better at knowledge and background lore than the wizard. But it also depends on what else is in the party.

Cintra Bristol wrote:
What kind of Sorcerer is already in the group? If it's not arcane, than I lean toward the wizard; if the sorcerer has the arcane spell list, then either option probably works.

She's a Primal Sorcerer.

I admit that part of the appeal to Wizard is thinking about arcane spells and party needs at higher levels.
Thanks for the input.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I recommend a Champion. There is some stuff later on that just hits really hard and any sort of mitigation goes a long way on keeping the group alive.

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