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I have been looking at a lot of the different options for an AP to run for my group in the coming weeks. Having looked through a lot of the reviews that people have up and doing reading, I settled on Curse.
The intro of this seems a little weak to me, though I do love the specific way the group is pulled together. Once the first mission is completed, it just seems that the characters have little reason to stick together.
I was wondering on others experience regarding this, since some folks might just want to return to their regular lives at that point.
Cressida hires the party as a group to do the tasks she gives after they try to "sell" the broach, they all get paid together or they don't get paid at all because she doesn't think they can get the job done if it's just 3 or 2 of them. While many characters in real life should "want to return to normalcy" even amidst a city wide riot, there is the understood rule that your characters wouldn't or would find a reason to not do so immediately, otherwise you have no game.
Furthermore, Zellara tells them that they will be important in the coming turmoil. The party members should each care about the well being of their city, and all of this should be enough to keep a player interested in continuing with their characters.
Yeah, and every game has the need for the group to accept that they should stay together. This one just had a bigger buy in on that aspect to me than most.
I think part of that goes to the City adventure part of it, and that these folks seem like they should be natives to the area, and so have regular lives.
I was thinking of possibly having the PCs do a mission before the adventure starts where they are kinda forced into it by GL because of the history that each of them has with him. Perhaps blackmail or something like that, but something that invests them into the idea that they need to get this guy and that there isn't going to be an end to him using them like this, then they get the tip that can pull themselves out of this situation.
Anyone have any short adventure (PFS would be fine) that might fit into the kind of stuff that GL might make a group do for him?
If you are worried about the reason they stick together, then focus more attention on the coming riots after they kill GL. Have them rescue some guard/sable company members that are being swarmed by the rioters. The riots go on for days and days so there should be lots of action to draw them in and keep them together.
As for a pre adventure, I like the whole idea that Zellara brings them together initially from their past history with GL sensing greatness in them. Most of the campaign traits Harken back to when they were children and enslaved to GL, He now is an old man incapable of running anything bigger than his petty pickpocket orphan scheme. If he requested the PC to do a job for him, what is stopping the PCs from just offing him then and there.
Maybe a reworking of Hallow's Last Hope, with child characters, (some weaker threats to match,) and a younger Gaedren and Rolth Lamm testing a new disease the latter made on the kids, and the kids have to sneak into one of Rolth's underground lairs to find the antidote to save the other kids. When they get back, their absence has been noticed, they can't get back to save the other kids who are sick or they'll be caught and the antidote stolen, so their only choice is to save their own hides with the antidote and go their own ways until Zellara reunites them.
Only problem I could see is if they weren't all originally Lamm's Lambs and if one of them was an elf/dwarf/other long lived race to where they couldn't all be kids at the same time. The first one you could fix by requiring everyone to take the "directly affected by Lamm" version of the traits, but maybe you could get away with a "teenage" equivalent of an elf/dwarf lamb (don't know how creepy or evil you really want to make Gaedren but child sex slavery is an easy "hate me" character marker, if that isn't the kind of thing that would be off of your table). Other than that, you'd probably need to do all of these encounters individually with each PC in which case, modules are a bad idea for solo pre-level 1 characters.
In either case, bringing him to justice should be enough motivation, before Zellara gives them the opportunity wrapped up in a gift basket, Korvosa is already a really rocky city to live in to the point that any normalcy in their lives that they'd wish to return to both doesn't compare to how lucrative adventuring and being mercenaries for the guard is, let alone what a city wide riot and plague will do to said normalcy.
Here are the simple changes I made, thinking the same thing last time I ran this. No additional adventures necessary, just one completely rebuilt low-level NPC and one re-skinned boss. It's enough to keep the PCs together all the way through chapter 1, when they should hopefully have invested in the city's well-being, at least a little bit.
Background: Gaedren reconnected with his son Rolth in recent years, and this kindled an interest in necromancy for him.
What happens differently: When the players go to the Fishery, Gaedren flees via a scroll of dimension door at the first opportunity once there are any signs of combat, after gathering his essentials. He then lays low and eventually turns to his son in the warrens, and accepts a deal from Rolth giving him a place to hide in exchange for overseeing his operations. Plus, he'll have more time to practice his necromantic arts. Perhaps he has reanimated bodies of his henchmen when the players encounter him!
Who is different: Yargin, rather than an incompetent would-be wizard, is a proper low-level wizard or alchemist of appropriate CR (favoring acid, of course). He's found the same place Gaedren would be, having been tasked with recovering what useful goods he can during Gaedren's escape. That's the only fresh stat block you need.
As for Gaedren's fight, you can just run the fight with the derro boss as is, minus derro-specific qualities, or rebuild him as a CR-appropriate wizard. (Your call about statting his limp, it wouldn't be a big deal for a levitating wizard)
What I didn't do differently, but would do given the chance: I regret not building up to this version of Gaedren more. It's still important for the PCs to befriend the Shoanti, so they should be sent to recover the body from the Warrens, rather than being tipped off and doing it as a personal quest.
Doing it again, I would maybe have Gaedren working towards revenge against the PCs in the shadows throughout the chapter; have thugs try to track them and find out who they are and where they're staying, then taunt them with threatening messages or corner one or two of the PCs if the party splits during downtime. (Just have a good reason why they won't be able to answer the inevitable question of where Gaedren is! It can be as simple as him meeting in remote places or using a network of couriers.)
Then, when Kroft gives them orders to the Dead Warrens, mention some of her info is from an interrogated suspect who says "Gaedren is waiting for you." Have the Warrens be more on guard, with threats on the walls throughout. Stuff like "Welcome home, [former lamb]" or "You'll be with [love lost's name] soon, [pc with that trait]". I usually prefer more nuanced villains, but having a real irredeemable, despicable one like Gaedren can be nice now and then. Lean into it. Know your table, but get a little nasty and tasteless if you can.
Lastly, I would reinforce the importance of Rolth. You still have another chapter before you can confirm the Queen as the villain, so hinting strongly at him as future villain (and maybe implicating him in some crimes against the PCs) is a good way to keep them hooked.