An alternate end fight

Rise of the Runelords

My players are finally approaching the end of the campaign. They entered the Pinnacle of Avarice last session.

The campaign has run very, very long, and so I am not eager to extend the campaign beyond the published material. Therefore, I have quietly eliminated the possibility of Mhar Massif erupting if someone activates the Leng Device. One way or another, the fight with Karzoug will be the end of the campaign.

So after some thought, I decided to use it to offer the players an alternate end fight. They can fight Karzoug here and now, in the world where he has been studying them and preparing specifically to counteract their favorite tricks.

Or ... they can use the Leng Device to travel backwards in time to a few months before Earthfall and assassinate Karzoug when he has no idea who the heck they are or even that they exist.

Going back in time will make the fight easier; and they can undo all the damage Karzoug has done in their time. But at the same time, they would lose everything. They have friends, lovers, wealth, respect -- are they willing to sacrifice all that to undo all the damage Karzoug has done to their time, and to give themselves an edge over the most dangerous opponent they will ever face?

In order to make this choice more difficult, I have carefully integrated time travel into the campaign. In the ruins of Crystilan, they met a Time Dragon who informed them that they will have been very late, and once they are not so late they would have been welcome to a ride. They were extremely puzzled by this cryptic declaration, but the gist is they can go find the time dragon in the past and get a ride forward to their own time.

Alternately, the bard and her cohort (a cleric of Ng) did a short solo side quest in which they traveled two million years back in time in order to plant a fossilized tree seed at the confluence of two flows of gods' blood left over from a battle between Rovagug and Sarenrae. They traveled in time by entering the Season of Hungering Sun, one of the unused seasons that the gods decided not to include when they put together the final version of the prime material plane. It lies adjacent to every summer solstice in history. As demigod of lost seasons, Ng has access to this place, and sometimes sends his servants through it to undertake inscrutable tasks for him. As one of his highest level clerics, the cohort could ask Ng to let them use the Season of Hungering Sun to return to their proper time.

If they choose to use the Leng Device, they'll pop out in Karzoug's throne room on the summer solstice before Earthfall, as he is in the midst of holding court. In terms of creatures, I'm thinking the following:

  • Karzoug (of course)
  • Khalib
  • A Champion of Greed who is not Viorian Dekanti but uses her stats
  • An adult blue dragon because he just keeps one as a pet.
  • A couple of cloud giant guards

There will also be some non-combatants scattered around -- a delegation from somewhere, perhaps, and some courtiers. These will flee in panic as violence breaks out.

I plan to remind them that they may want to figure out some way of escaping once Karzoug is dead, but leave it up to them how exactly they accomplish that.

As for what happens once they're done ... as mentioned, I've provided a couple of different mechanisms to return to their own time. I'm still trying to work out all the consequences of killing Karzoug in the past.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I love ethical/character dilemmas like this! What a cool choice! I guess since you're taking Mhar off the table you're fine with the Leng device functioning only as intended, because I thought as printed it wouldn't do what it was advertised to do due to tampering...

Are you thinking of running Return of the Runelords? It's got some great Time Travel themes! Unfortunately, the time travel now will complicate that AP if you want to run it. If not, don't worry. I'll try not to spoiler that AP here. I also want you to think about the following consequences:


If Karzoug is killed in the past, published material suggests he was barely holding / about to lose to Alaznist. Suddenly losing Karzoug and his successor would probably mean Alaznist overruns Shalast, which might have replacement consequences for the future

If Karzoug is killed in the past, his soul will have had plenty of time to go through judgement and not be available for Return of the Runelords plot.

If Karzoug's damage is undone, there will be no motivation to assemble the Shattered Star, so that AP probably wouldn't happen at all.

Technically published material says Karzoug tampered with Crystilan and that's why it's ruins, so if he isn't alive to tamper any more there could be ripples about Crystilan (I'm not sure what you've done there so far as it's not normally part of Rise if I recall)

Glad I checked back on this!

Thanks for pointing out those continuity issues. Those are helpful.

I'm not concerned about inter-AP continuity in this case, as I will not be running another AP for this group. We cannot meet regularly enough to get through one in any kind of reasonable time frame. This Rise of the Runelords has been going since spring of 2012; I anticipate finishing next spring, which will mean it took eight years to run the AP.

I had no idea it would take this long when I began, and I am not signing up for another stint. Going forward, I will not run an AP for a group that won't commit to meeting at least once every two weeks for four hours, rather than once every 4-6 weeks for 3 hours like this one.

They're great people, I love them all, but either we're going to do homebrew where I can more easily control the length of the campaign, or we'll do shorter published adventures. I might cherry-pick individual books from other APs and run them as stand-alone adventures. Carrion Crown Book 4 looks like a good candidate, for instance, or Book 1 of Serpent's Skull. There was a good thread on standalone AP books on Reddit recently.

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