Missing Plot Point--Why Go to Tian Xia (Books 1-2)?


Jade Regent


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(Do we really need spoiler tags by this date?)

Our group successfully got through Brinewall Castle to recover Ameiko's family seal, cure her magical coma, see a nifty historical vision about her family's arrival in Avistan, etc. She expressed an interest in traveling to Kalsgard to recover their ancestral sword, sold to a merchant up there many years back. No problem, we chorused; Ameiko's our friend, we got a caravan here, sounds like a fun trip!

Now we're most of the way through Book 2 (Night of Frozen Shadows), and the GM's getting nervous. Why? Because apparently a LOT of the story depends on the PCs looking for a guide to take them across the Crown of the World to Minkai. Only... we're not looking for such a guide. Because it's never occurred to us to make such a trip. Why would we?

Seriously, we must have missed something here. Why are the PCs supposed to be interested in traveling to Tian Xia at this stage of the story? Sure, there's a crazily well-funded and well-organized thieves' guild trying to stop us from recovering Ameiko's family sword, and we're happily doing all we can to put a stop to that. But we're not lifting a finger to find any 'missing guide,' because we don't know he exists and we don't know that we should be looking for one.

Now, maybe it will turn out that these Frozen Shadows are part of a larger organization with all sorts of schemes that involve Minkai, and we'll eventually want to go there.... But at this exact moment, the GM is saying the story is stalled because we don't want to go there already. And until we start hunting down a guide for a trip none of us have even considered taking, the plot can't advance.

What's up, folks? Are the PCs supposed to start Book 2 already eager for a trip to Tian Xia? If so, where does the idea come from? None of the NPCs have mentioned it to us, and we've gone back and double-checked with everyone we can think of to see if we missed something.

Addendum: As players, we're not trying to be difficult. We know the Adventure Path is supposed to go there. And we're trying our best to find some reason, some clue or hint SOMEWHERE, that will suggest to our PCs that a tip to Minkai might be a good idea. But so far, we haven't found any.

Acquisitives

For our group it was very simple:
Ameiko, now aware of her family legacy, wants to get to Tian to claim her throne. And as we are her friends and are looking for an adventure (something EVERY character should do!!!!), it was no question that we help her achieving this.

Also the DM changed the vision a little bit and make us something like the Ameikos "Oath-Bound Honorguard" (but this wasn't really needed).

For my character (Half-Orc Bear Shaman) it's his duty to protect his friends and also he hopes to get a fresh start there and get the chance to become more then only "the half-orc".


I made the mistake of trying to run JR for one of my groups and ran straight into this problem. I ended up having Ameiko state her intention to head to the motherland and straight up ask the PCs to come along.
The players shrugged and went along with it, mostly, I think, out of the knowledge that there would be no game if they did otherwise; none of them cared for Ameiko in the slightest.


I solved this problem accidentally while solving another problem.

I was worried about Ameiko Kaijitsu being too powerful at 5th level and stealing the show from the player characters. So I swapped her out for her half-sister Amaya.

My chronicles Amaya of Westcrown have the full spoiler-laden story, but Amaya is an alternative character that James Jacobs had suggested in case the players had played through Rise of the Runelords and Ameiko Kaijitsu had died in that adventure.

Ameiko's father had had an affair with a Chelish noblewoman and Amaya was the result. In my story, the noblewoman's family had kept the pregnancy secret and put Amaya in an orphanage in Westcrown for privileged illegitimate children, so the orphans grew up knowing that they were from an esteemed family. Many had dreams that one day their family would reclaim them. Instead, Ameiko found out about Amaya and wrote to her. After their father had died and after the events of Pathfinder Adventure Path #25, The Bastards of Erebus, (no, Amaya is not the bastard in the title), Amaya had to flee Westcrown. She went to Sandpoint to join Ameiko. And she took Ameiko's place in The Brinewall Legacy.

Thus, Amaya had dreamed as a child about being a secret heir to noble family and her claim to the Amatatsu clan fit that dream. She wanted to go to Tian Xia to learn about her heritage.

For further coincidence, I had eight players during The Brinewall Legacy but three moved out of state, another quit gaming to spend time with a newborn son, and I forgot what happened to the fifth player, so over half the party disappeared before Night of Frozen Shadows. Thus, I declared that those party members had decided to remain in Varisa rather than traveling to Tian Xia. Of the three remaining players, two had originally come from Tian Xia. We recruited two more players whose characters came from the Jade Quarter of Kalsgard and were also interested in visiting the homeland of their grandparents.

As for Calybos1's game, the GM needs to make Ameiko interested in going to Minkai. Maybe she wants to claim the Jade Throne. Maybe she wants to find family that is not as bitter and abusive as her father Lonjiku Kaijitsu. Maybe she wants revenge on the oni and the traitors who drove her clan out of Minkai and then followed them to murder them in Brinewall Castle.

Once Ameiko resolves to go to Minkai, the PCs have to decide whether to follow her. If a PC does not want to go, then leave that character in Varisia and have the player create a new character to join them in Kalsgard.

As for the missing guide Ulf Gormundr, his best friend will ask the party to rescue him. Ulf is necessary to lead the caravan on the safe path over the northern ice cap in The Hungry Storm. The caravan from Sandpoint does not know how to survive on the ice. Most of the other northern guides never returned from their previous expeditions and the rest are scared. Thus, if the party wants to go to Tian Xia, they will become involved with the intrigue in Kalsgard of which the Frozen Shadows are only the primary piece.


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Peg'giz wrote:

For our group it was very simple:

Ameiko, now aware of her family legacy, wants to get to Tian to claim her throne. And as we are her friends and are looking for an adventure (something EVERY character should do!!!!), it was no question that we help her achieving this.

Ah, but that's the problem. She doesn't want to do this. We all saw the same vision she did--weird and tragic family history, desperate need to sell a family treasure to somebody in Kalsgard. And her conclusion was not "I need to travel across the world to Minkai!" It was "Dammit, I want my family's sword back, and there's a chance that this merchant in Kalsgard still has it."

We're 100% on Ameiko's side. We're glad to help her get that sword. And as adventurers, if a random stranger in Kalsgard comes running up to us, panting "Help, help! My friend (who happens to be an experienced guide across arctic terrain) has gone missing!" we'll gladly help rescue him, too. But the PCs still aren't planning a trek to Tian Xia, because literally nothing in the story has suggested the idea.

The players know we need to go there, and we want our PCs to get there--quite looking forward to it, in fact! (That's the main reason we decided on this AP.) We just haven't found the in-game reason for the PCs to actually hit on the idea, and we thought the story had offered one that we'd missed.

Acquisitives

For my group the decision was done, right after the vision. After this "Our" Ameiko wanted to get to Tian to claim what is her heritage.

For this we had to get the sword first to legitimate her claim. When we arrived in Karlsgard we also looked for a Guide and the old Ulfen trader pointed us to Uk and so everything started.

It seems that your groups issue is more with the motivation of Ameiko, I think she should be the driving force behind the decision to go to Tian, maybe your DM missed something (or mine added something^^).

Our DM also gave us some kind of Oath during the Vision, making us to "Protectors of the heir (Ameiko)" which made clear that we have to help her to get to Tian.


Calybos1 wrote:
But the PCs still aren't planning a trek to Tian Xia, because literally nothing in the story has suggested the idea.

Not even the "Jade Regent" title of the adventure path? Or the sentence, "An investigation reveals mysteries and menaces aplenty, but also a treasure holding the answer to not just one of Varisia’s greatest mysteries, but a conspiracy spanning continents and empires," in the blurb on the back cover of The Brinewall Legacy?

Okay, the PCs don't know they are on an adventure path and didn't read that. Nevertheless, that is why two of my players created characters from Tian Xia. They wanted to play Jade Regent for its Japanese theme. When I warned them that they would start in Varisia, they decided to bring their own Japanese flavor, a human ninja and a kitsune sorcerer disguised as human.

Peg'giz wrote:
It seems that your groups issue is more with the motivation of Ameiko, I think she should be the driving force behind the decision to go to Tian, maybe your DM missed something (or mine added something^^).

Yes, the GM dropped the ball. Since modules have different writers, the plot hook leading to the next module is often underplayed. I have learned that fixing that error is the GM's job.

However, Ameiko has one more motivation. She could be assassinated if she returns to Sandpoint.

The Adventure Background on pages 7 and 8 of The Brinewall Legacy explains how the Amatatsus royal family fled the oni who were killing off royalty of Minkai back in 4652 AR. They sold the family sword Suishen to purchase Brinewall Castle, but later established a glassblowing business farther south in Sandpoint, which became their main residence.

In 4687 AR Rokuro and his son Lonjiku visited Brinewall so that Rokuro could explain the secret family legacy to his son Lonjiku. Unfortunately, Lonjiku was careless with the warding boxes and released enough magic for the oni in Minkai to pinpoint the Amatatsu Seal. (I don't know how. Oni are not known for being well observant.) They sent ninja assassins to kill the remaining Amatatsu family. Only Lonjiku survived, because he was lost at sea and presumed dead when the ninja investigated Sandpoint itself.

The other Five Storms oni will eventually investigate Lord Kikonu's death. They know that the Amatatsu renamed themselves Kaijitsu, so word of Ameiko Kaijitsu and her relation to Lonjiku Kaijitsu will result in the oni sending ninja again to finish exterminating the Amatatsu.

Minor Night of Frozen Shadows spoiler:
And the ninja sent to kill the Amatatsu were the Frozen Shadows. They never returned to Minkai. Instead, they set up a secret base near Kalsgard in the Land of the Linnorm Kings. And they recently received news that Kikonu is dead, faster than the party can travel.


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Yeah, we were kinda hoping that investigations in Kalsgard would lead us to a trip to Minkai. Maybe these surprisingly well funded and well-organized "Frozen Shadows" are up to something that points in that direction, or maybe if someone asked us to rescue a missing guide who knew something about a problem in Minkai it could suggest a trip there. We're more than willing to go there, we just need a reason.

The GM's concern is that apparently a bunch of plot points require our PCs to already want to go to Minkai before he can give them to us, and we're trying to figure out how to link up what's already happened to making that a thing. As it is, our PCs are wandering the streets of Kalsgard, being hunted by mystery assassins while we try to identify them and track down a stolen magic sword, and the plot requires us to stop suddenly, smack ourselves in the forehead, and announce, "Of course! What we really need to do right now is (choose one):

a) "Take a cruise to Japan!"
b) "Enroll in an alchemical college!"
c) "Take up country line-dancing!"

We COULD do any one of those things, but how do they apply to our situation? The story hasn't taken us there.


Calybos1 wrote:
The GM's concern is that apparently a bunch of plot points require our PCs to already want to go to Minkai before he can give them to us, and we're trying to figure out how to link up what's already happened to making that a thing.

Night of Frozen Shadows has a Notoriety Point system for governing events in Kalsgard initiated by the bad guys. Kalsgard is a trade city, and thus strangers visiting is no big deal. The party has to earn the ire of the city bad guys before the city bad guys progress from harassing them to trying to murder them. (The Ulfen raiders who attacked the party on the road at the Skalsbridge are a separate branch of bad guys who don't rely on Notoriety Points.)

These Notoriety-Point events have nothing to do with Minkai.

My wife, who had played the ninja Ebony Blossom in my campaign, points out that a roleplaying campaign is collaborative storytelling. You will need to invent your characters' own reasons for going to Minkai. You have all the main world-spanning secrets already.


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Calybos1 wrote:
Ah, but that's the problem. She doesn't want to do this. We all saw the same vision she did--weird and tragic family history, desperate need to sell a family treasure to somebody in Kalsgard. And her conclusion was not "I need to travel across the world to Minkai!" It was "Dammit, I want my family's sword back, and there's a chance that this merchant in Kalsgard still has it."

That's where the problem is. The book explicitly says that the vision makes Ameiko think, "I need to travel across the world to Minkai to reclaim my birthright! And maybe pick up that sword along the way!"

If the GM messed this up, she needs to have another vision.

Climax of Book 1:
In the visions, the PCs see an army of terrible fiends—with burning skin, glaring eyes, and sharp tusks, wearing strange armor and wielding exotic weapons—emerge in a storm from a vast forest, then descend upon a nation populated by Tian people. This vision is swiftly followed by another: a young man dressed in royal robes stands over a simple well, a friend at his side. Suddenly, the friend grows nearly three times in size and is sheathed in a frightening suit of jade armor. The jade warrior draws a sword and strikes down his royal friend, then holds the bloody sword aloft in triumph. A third vision follows, this time of a young Tian man handing a beautiful sword to a richly dressed Ulfen man in exchange for a bag of gold. Finally, this vision fades, and the PCs see their friend Ameiko waking from her deep sleep, but she is dressed in the finery of an empress. She rises from sleep not in a humble Varisian caravan, but from a resting spot within the arms of a jade throne.

These visions pass in the span of a few heartbeats, and after they do, they impart knowledge to the PCs’ minds.

The PCs know that the land they saw invaded by fiends was Minkai, that the man they saw murdered by the jade warrior was Emperor Shigure of Minkai. They know that Ameiko Kaijitsu’s true family name is Amatatsu, one of the five royal families of Minkai—indeed, the last surviving royal family. The PCs recognize the young Tian man with the sword as Ameiko’s grandfather, Rokuro Kaijitsu, formerly Amatatsu Tsutoku, selling the family’s legendary sword Suishen to the Ulfen merchant Fynn Snaevald in the city of Kalsgard to finance his family’s flight and exile.

They also know that Suishen is intelligent, and can impart much more knowledge of the Amatatsu family’s legacy if recovered. Further, they know that Ameiko herself is the heir of her line. Finally, the PCs know all of the powers and abilities of both the Amatatsu Seal and its warding box — including the danger of leaving the warding box open, which would allow the oni of the Five Storms to once more track the Amatatsu Seal.

Back at the caravan, Ameiko experiences these same visions, and as they pass, she wakes with a gasp as the kami possessing her returns in a flash back to the Amatatsu Seal.

She quickly recovers from the ordeal, and like the PCs, may be a bit overwhelmed at what the visions revealed, but by the time “Night of Frozen Shadows” begins, she is eager to travel to Minkai to seize her birthright and save an empire.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

You could also try to work in the Frozen Shadows/Five storms connection; that their true masters are in Minkai, and that they will keep coming until the PC's have been killed.


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Matthew Downie wrote:
Spoiler:
Finally, the PCs know all of the powers and abilities of both the Amatatsu Seal and its warding box

Ahh, that could be the problem. You see, the GM took this part literally too, so he gave us the writeup of the magic item in question. And as a result, in the brief in-character discussion that followed....

Spoiler:

Party: "So, does Minkai need Ameiko to return there and claim the throne?"
Ameiko: "Well, I could, I suppose... but there are four other houses with Seals of their own."
PC1: "But we know the other houses have all died out."
PC2: "Not a problem. Because we know that the Seals can create new heirs as needed from any nearby people."
GM/Ameiko: "...Wait, what?"
PC3: "Hey, that's right. It's right there in the writeup for the Amatatsu Seal: 'Should no Amatatsus of pure blood be able to take up that charge, however, the Amatatsu Seal can invest the right to rule as an Amatatsu in any number of living humanoid hosts'."
Other PCs: "Hey, yeah! So Minkai's really got no problems after all; the remaining Seals can pick out any number of suitable candidates without us. We're all set. Off to Kalsgard! Let's go get that sword!"
GM: (silently cursing and weeping)

This wasn't done maliciously; we honestly expected the Kalsgard chapter to provide us with the reason to go on to Minkai.


Calybos1 wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Ahh, that could be the problem. You see, the GM took this part literally too, so he gave us the writeup of the magic item in question. And as a result, in the brief in-character discussion that followed....

Spoiler:
Party: "So, does Minkai need Ameiko to return there and claim the throne?"
Ameiko: "Well, I could, I suppose... but there are four other houses with Seals of their own."
PC1: "But we know the other houses have all died out."
PC2: "Not a problem. Because we know that the Seals can create new heirs as needed from any nearby people."
GM/Ameiko: "...Wait, what?"
PC3: "Hey, that's right. It's right there in the writeup for the Amatatsu Seal: 'Should no Amatatsus of pure blood be able to take up that charge, however, the Amatatsu Seal can invest the right to rule as an Amatatsu in any number of living humanoid hosts'."
Other PCs: "Hey, yeah! So Minkai's really got no problems after all; the remaining Seals can pick out any number of suitable candidates without us. We're all set. Off to Kalsgard! Let's go get that sword!"
GM: (silently cursing and weeping)

This wasn't done maliciously; we honestly expected the Kalsgard chapter to provide us with the reason to go on to Minkai.

Oh dear, that property of the Amatatsu Seal. My campaign--and several other campaigns that I read about in this forum--decided to pretend that it never had that ability. It seriously undermines the campaign.

Musings:
I can understand why the writers gave the Amatatsu Seal the power to create Amatatsu scions, people who could inherit the Jade Throne. Ameiko Kaijitsu could die during the campaign, leaving the party without an heir to escort. And I read of some campaigns where a PC wanted the throne for his- or herself. The scion power gave them that option.

In fact, The Brinewall Legacy said,

The Brinewall Legacy, Visions of Jade, page 50 wrote:
The Amatatsu Seal is a potent artifact, one capable of altering destiny and changing the course of nations. When the PCs first open the warding box that contains it, the Amatatsu Seal immediately marks each character as an agent of the family, turning them into Amatatsu scions, as detailed on page 60. In addition, the PCs momentarily black out and experience a rapid series of visions.
The Brinewall Legacy, Amatatsu Seal (Minor Artifact), page 60 wrote:
This stone statuette of a dragon is one of five royal seals of Minkai, and represents the Amatatsu family’s divine right to rule the empire of Minkai. Should no Amatatsus of pure blood be able to take up that charge, however, the Amatatsu Seal can invest the right to rule as an Amatatsu in any number of living humanoid hosts. These Amatatsu scions often experience a series of visions of the past, present, and possible future.

This means that everyone in the secret vault when the warding box was opened was automatically declared a legitimate heir to the Jade Throne.

And we had a goblin PC in the party. Imagine a goblin as the approved emperor of Minkai.

Spoiler for The Empty Throne:
The oni have possession of the other four Imperial Seals of the Higashiyam family, Shojinawa family, Sigumata family, and Teikoku family. If the oni use a seal to create an heir upon the death or dethronement of the Jade Regent Soto Takahiro, then they would select someone who is already their puppet. The new true emperor would be as bad as the Jade Regent.


Your party doesn't have any reason, for the moment to cross the Crown of the World ? So, is it really a problem ?

Now, you are in Kalsgard to find the ancestral swork of your friend Ameiko, perfect, focus on it. Up to your DM to adjust the story for that and ensure to add good reasons to push you to travel to the Minkai...

He will probably have to rewrite some of the investigation and the different events that will happen, but I can see many option for him to ensure that Ameiko and your party will want to continue her trip... I won't spoil here as you are not the DM, but an easy way could be for your ennemies to kill some of your friends in the caravan and to run away to the North...

This is a very basic reason, but with if your DM wants some help, maybe he should come here and we can share many ideas.

On my side, I made some adjustments in the campaign to ensure that as much as possible of the party as good reasons (personnal or not) to continue to the North, this way, I avoid this issue.

Another solution can also be that some of the party give up the campaign and new characters to join the caravan... In the Jade district, it looks easy to find people with good reason to go back to the Mnkai once they discover that Ameiko can claim for the throne...

Liberty's Edge

The Seal just needs to inform the PCs and Ameiko that ever since being awakened by their arrival, it has tried to contact the other Seals to no avail. It fears they might have been depowered, corrupted or destroyed.

Leave it to the GM to find an explanation they like (mystical disturbances or whatever).

Alors, IIRC, hunting for the sword leads the PCs to the guide in a way.

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