Tag Archives: curse of the crimson throne

Curse of the Crimson Throne Finale

Crown of Fangs Part III is the campaign finale for the Curse of the Crimson Throne.  Annata, Malcolm, Thorndyke, and Cayen have to depose the evil queen and then stop her weird blood ritual from killing everyone in Korvosa.

For nine months (realtime and, approximately, game time) we’ve been working towards this moment.  Over many battles we’ve learned our own powers and how to work together as a team in perfect concert.  And it all pays off.  We storm Castle Korvosa and liberate it, only to discover the real Queen has already left for an ancient Thassilonian site for her blood ritual.  But the hounds of war have been loosed and distance and sorcery do not deter us from the pursuit of justice.

When everything has settled, we get the rarest of rare things – a real storybook ending.  You’ll have to read the full session summary for the details!

I personally enjoyed this campaign the most of all the ones you see here, and I think the other guys feel the same way.   Using the Pathfinder beta rules, we didn’t have much in the way of rule frustration that mars some of our other games, and the mix of solid roleplaying along with interesting NPCs, sweet locations, and demented foes came out as a totally solid mix.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our tale of the Curse of the Crimson Throne.  Check out our continuing adventures for more fun!

Second Curse of the Crimson Throne “Crown of Fangs” Session Summary Posted

In Crown of Fangs, Part II, it gets interesting.  We go back to assault the castle again.  And we get to use a deck of many things!  Old school indeed.  And we mostly survive!  Thorndyke gets to kill a horned devil not once but twice with the magic sword Serith-Tial.  And Malcolm gets a keep and lands; his long held goal of becoming Doctor Doom is near at hand.

Annata has a bit of a bad day – she gets tentacle-raped to death by a worm devil.  Her deck of many things draw is the only thing that saves her!  And she goes from orphan to noble in the bargain.

And our new bard Cayen has a complicated love life.  First, his brother shows up to play his barbarian girlfriend, which is weird out of the gate.  Then, he gets his alignment changed by the deck to Lawful.  And finally, the Red Mantis leader falls in love with him (again, the deck at work).  Hell hath no fury like a high level barbarian woman scorned!

Next session will be the campaign finale.    Will we defeat the Queen?  Will Snu-Snu cleave Cayden in half?  Will Vencarlo finally romance Annata?  Will Thorndyke do justice to the legend of Blackjack?  Will Annata become the next Queen?  What will Malcolm choose to defile with his bodily excretions now?  And will Korvosa finally be free?  So many questions – but nothing might and magic can’t answer!

First Curse of the Crimson Throne “Crown of Fangs” Session Summary Posted

The last chapter of Curse of the Crimson Throne starts out with a bang in Crown of Fangs, Part I.  In Kaer Maga we meet a bard and his Shoanti barbarian girlfriend/henchman who also wants to see the Queen fall in Korvosa.  We sign them up!

Behind the scenes, Patrick (Thorndyke) is in London for a month, so we had to send him ahead of the group to “scout”.  Bruce (Valash) is still stuck in a bizarre  employment purgatory where his ex-employer is keeping him on on a contract basis but he has to fly to frickin’ Minnepolis every week and is unlikely to ever return, really.  This left us with only me (Annata) and Chris (Malcolm) – we are mighty, but 2 PCs is a little light.  Luckily, there was a player who had to drop out of the other Curse of the Crimson Throne session at this point, Ed (Cayden Cailean, a bard).  To get in a better RP experience, rather than run one 8-person game of CoCT, Paul (our GM) kindly split our gaming group and ran 2 4-person games.  So we called up Ed and he’ll be getting to finish out the AP, just with us instead of his original party!  That’s a nice win-win.

After we blow all our money on the best gear the Pathfinder RPG and Magic Item Compendium have to offer, Annata Word of Recalls our group back to Korvosa, into the shrine to Sarenrae at the Temple of Many, where she spent so many years as an initiate.  We’re quickly reunited with the rest of our resistance brethren – Vencarlo, Neolandus the seneschal, Grau the guardsman, and even Field Marshal Cressida Croft has gotten off her ass and decided it’s time to fight the Queen.  They give us a laundry list of targets which we go and prosecute, including a Blackjack impersonator and Sabine herself!  Sabine, for those not following along, was at the heart of a love triangle ending in a duel between Grau and Vencarlo back in the day, and now she’s the Queen’s lesbian lover and goon squad commander.  Except, sadly, they say she’s really honorable at heart and should be turned and brought back alive.  Annata’s a good enough Sarenrae… -ite?  ist?  that she’ll do it, but it doesn’t make some parts of her heart happy.  We brought her back alive; I’m sure she’ll start vamping on Vencarlo again.

Annata is still way in love with Vencarlo and keeps trying to get him to do something about it, but he keeps saying “Yes, well, back to the struggle…”  When she was younger this would have driven her into a fit of insecurity, but she’s pretty confident in herself now and it’s starting to annoy her.  “I’m cute, smart, and can wipe out a small army solo, what’s his problem?!?”

We also go on a special ops mission inside the Queen’s palace.  The bloatmage, her new seneschal, escapes us but we kill a mess of devils and retrieve the body of an Abadarian priest.  Our comrades get things underway, and resistance forces reclaim the streets of Korvosa!

Things are going well.  Annata’s still trying to figure out Cayden’s part in the story.  She is one of those people who sees symbolism in everything, and so far she’s seen huge parallels between Malcolm and Thorndyke and the original founders of Korvosa, Field Marshal Jakthion Korvosa and original Sable Company Marine Waydon Endrin.  She wouldn’t be surprised, when it’s all over, to see them heading up the Korvosan Guard and Sable Company Marines respectively.  She suspects she’s Alika Epakena (St. Alika, who died saving Korvosa from the Great Fire).  She died once already at the hands of a demilich in Scarwall Keep, and though her comrades released her soul and got her a Resurrection, it definitely showed her that there’s ways to die that magic won’t cure, and would be unsurprised to give her life permanently in a final effort to save her beloved Korvosa.   Cayden – she’s not sure.  Maybe he represents Montlion Jeggare, the gentleman explorer who also had a hand in the founding of the city, and became a major merchant house?  The whole thing with House Arkona hasn’t been resolved yet; her deal with the hidden rakshasa Lord Arkona is chafing at her and her inclination to purge all evil from Korvosa is starting to chip away at it, so there may certainly be a power vacuum there too.  She’ll figure it out, she’s sure that destiny’s hand is laid hard upon the group.

Third Curse of the Crimson Throne “Skeletons of Scarwall” Session Summary Posted

Quite the drama erupts in Part III of The Skeletons of Scarwall, in which our dear priestess Annata gets killed!  The last sub-boss in Scarwall got her with a Trap the Soul, and all our anti-undead/necromancy/death magic protections were of no avail because – get this – that’s a conjuration spell.  The boys killed the demi-lich and broke the gem, but then had to Shadow Walk back to Kaer Maga to get a Resurrection.  On the one hand, dying is scary, on the other hand, she got to see Sarenrae Heaven first hand and meet the Sunlord Thalachos, Sarenrae’s herald, so after she recovers from the physical aftereffects she’s mentally and spiritually quite invigorated.

Then the Shadow Count (and pet chain devil) finally turns on us and Laori.  We spank him but Laori heads out to Cenobite Heaven to sightsee, so the Boner Squad is no more.  And sadly Laori missed her last chance to put the moves on Annata.

And then we finally get the fabled (and holy, intelligent, and badass) blade Serith-Teal!   Thondyke is chosen as its wielder; as it’s both intelligent and holy it’ll have no part of Malcolm, and Annata (though to be honest a little jealous) thinks he’ll get a lot more use out of it.

And with that, Castle Scarwall is cleansed!  We get a sending from Vencarlo that tells us it’s time to return to Korvosa and whip some bitch-queen ass.  About time, we reply.  But first, we have $50k a head to gear ourselves out like the 14th level master killers we are!  To the magic mall!

Go enjoy the full 10 page .pdf summary of the session (and all the others).  Your favorite adventurers will return next session with Crown of Fangs!

Second Curse of the Crimson Throne “Skeletons of Scarwall” Session Summary Posted

We continue to clear Castle Scarwall in Part II of Skeletons of Scarwall (8 page .pdf).  Two more of the four sub-bosses, a devil bat lady (who really reminds me of an enemy from some video game I can’t place) and a shadow dragon, fall to our swords and sorcery, leaving only one sub-boss to go and then the main boss – who we already killed once before, so no worries there.  Our party is only three strong, but we are mighty!

The main challenge is keeping enough spells held back to take care of Shadow Count Sial when he finally decides to turn on us.  He’s acting even twitchier than usual and it’s clearly only a matter of time.  I hope Laori sides with us and not him when it all goes down.  Though Annata’s not quite sold on the hot girl-on-girl Laori proposed last session, she’s been a good friend so far.

We hit level 13 at the end of the session.  For Annata, I’m thinking adding a level of Crusader (a holy martial artist from Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords) to get more combat prowess.  She’s supposed to be a holy warrior but her damage sucks (1d6+2 whether you need it or not!).  She’s finally worked through the feat chains to add one of the Pathfinder beta crit feats, which will help…  She could make her crits fatigue, stagger, sicken, or bleed an opponent, I’m still deciding which.  But with Crusader she’d get all kinds of nice boosts.  Paul’s letting me swap out Stone Dragon school for Desert Wind school to match Sarenrae’s sun focus, though counting the powers as one level higher.  I’m thinking Death Mark, Fan the Flames, Flashing Sun, Foehammer, Divine Surge, and Thicket of Blades stance.  Although Iron Guard’s Glare is also attractive, and if combined with Fire Riposte and Holocaust Cloak, and potentially the various fire shield magics Annata has available to her, could be compelling.

It’s a shame to lose a level of spellcasting, but truth be told, seventh level cleric spells suck.  First of all, there’s not enough of them.  And four of those, really the only good ones, are basically the same spell (dictum/holy word/blasphemy/word of chaos).  Spells like Holy Word and Disrupting Weapon suck because they specify that they only affect creatures of less than your caster level.  So they’re no use on big bads, they are only mook-mowers, and we have plenty of other mook-mowing options. The symbol spells which also take up several spots on the spell list suffer from the same issue.  She’ll miss the level bump to Channel Energy way more.

Hot Girl On Girl Action In Our D&D Campaign?

In our last Curse of the Crimson Throne episode, my character Annata had a surprise sexual proposition from her friend Laori.  I was faced with the decision of whether or not to give in to the frenzied cries of “We want slashfic!” from my fellow party members.  I made my decision, but as I reflected on the thought process I went through to arrive at it, I started to consider the nature of that process.

For some reason, there is very little talk out there about how people actually conduct character immersion in role-playing games.  I suspect it’s the minority that do it at all; many people deliberately reject it and even those who talk about in-character play seem to equate it to things like “using funny voices” or other trivia that reveal that they don’t really understand what immersion, in my opinion, really is.  I wanted to share the method behind how I run “in character” and hopefully get some insights from others out there who do the same.

Here’s some background on the situation in the game to provide a shared context.  My character, Annata, is a priestess of Sarenrae, sun goddess of redemption.  She grew up on the streets as part of a Fagin-style child crime group.  She escaped to the church and grew up there.  She was in the big city of Korvosa and worked as a physician, so she wasn’t cloistered and isn’t ignorant of the world, but her semi-isolation in living arrangements  and total devotion to her duties kept her from “dating” per se.  And long story short, now she’s an adventurer.

Our group met an odd woman, a “Forsaken” elf (Annata’s not 100% sure what that means) named Laori, and have adventured with her on and off.  She’s a cleric of Zon-Kuthon (think the Cenobites from Hellraiser).  Normally that would be “bad,” but her and her organization’s goals align with our heroes’.  And more than that, she’s likable.  She’s a happy, peppy, and perky (if evil) S&M Gothchick.  Sarenrae’s faith is very ecumenical, and her personality is a lot like Annata’s, so they took to each other quickly and became friends.  All the guys think (from a distance) that she’s hot; here’s the somewhat anime-looking artist’s conception of Laori in her spiked chainmail catsuit:

Laori

Anyway, last session Annata and Laori were chattering away and kinda out of nowhere, she lets me know that she wouldn’t mind getting more intimate with me.  Annata does like Laori; she’s a peppy chirpy cleric too and she definitely saw her as (platonic) girl-friend material, but this was a surprise twist she didn’t see coming.

Interesting! So here’s a peek into how my thought process went. I admit it’s a mix of true immersion and metagame thinking about my character’s personality, but I find that necessary because you seldom have enough information about the fictional world to avoid the “meta” totally.

First, my immediate reaction was intuitive, a quick reaction based on my conceptualization of Annata’s personality. Is it completely out of the question?  No.  Is it a slam dunk? No.  I could see it going either way.

I made a quick roll.   I like to use dice in these kinds of situations. Some people object to this and think any kind of personality mechanic, even an informal appeal to  fate like this one, is “roll-playing” and not immersion.  But in my opinion, the only way to truly simulate real feelings in game is to add some randomization. In the real world, attraction and the like don’t follow any automatic rules. You don’t control who YOU are attracted to.  You may have a “type” but the factors that go into it are too many to be deterministic.  If she had been propositioned by some random person she didn’t know or didn’t like, then I wouldn’t make a roll. If it was some guy she was totally into, then probably I wouldn’t roll either – unless in my opinion the situation was off enough that she might react poorly. In this case, I did what I usually do – a d20 roll, higher means more positive, with vague modifiers applied mentally. Think of it as the other person making a Charisma check. She’s made a handful of checks like this over the course of the campaign, when she’s met someone and I want to know “is chemistry kicking in.” So I made the roll. My gut was “if this isn’t real high, there’s no way.”  I don’t set hard thresholds and results (too much work!  The whole intuition plus roll happens in 5 seconds total), but in this case my gut said 1-5: Disgust, rejection, breaking off friendship; 6-10: Rejection, no explicit breaking off of the friendship but she won’t trust her afterwards; 11-15: Rejection but with friendship not severely affected; 16-20 Maybe, intrigued – not “Yes,” but “She’d think about it.”

Roll result – 18. That’s pretty high. Certainly not high enough for a good girl who has always thought of herself as straight to drop trou on the spot, but enough that after politely extricating herself, she found the idea unexpectedly intriguing and churned over it in her mind afterward in traditional woman-hashing-over-a-relationship fashion.

Here’s the mental path I went through.  Annata has been pretty staunchly straight so far; she was interested in two guys back in Korvosa (Grau, who was a bit of a project for her, and Vencarlo, a sophisticated older gentleman who ended up being the local equivalent of Zorro). Now, she is in love with Vencarlo, or thinks she is (it’s her first time in love). But he hasn’t reciprocated much, and since they both blew town she’s not sure if they’ll ever meet again. And she feels emotionally vulnerable, being away from Korvosa and all.  She’s heard of such things (woman on woman) but never thought about it herself.  What would Sarenrae do?

Meta-thinking comes in here.  I’m not sure if Sarenrae is for or against that kind of thing. One of the problems with fantasy religions is that there’s usually a lot undefined in terms of expected behavior of parishioners.   Is premarital sex OK at all?  Is homosexuality?  This is hard because these should be game “facts” and not subjective, which means I have to engage in metagame thinking. I decide that Sarenrae’s faith is probably not strictly against either, though general societal conservatism that would look down on both would be present.

Back to fully in-character.  Annata has often meditated upon the beauty of the goddess as part of her religion, though (it was the beauty of a statue of the Dawnflower that drew her when she was a street urchin).  Annata has gone through several emotional states in the campaign; when the group left Korvosa for the wilderness she transitioned from her current gig as somewhat strident wound-tight freedom fighter into a bit of a depressed martyr complex, but recently their time with the Shoanti barbarians ended up being kinda “Spring Break”-ey and she got to relax and party and open her mind, so she is in an experimental and confident kind of mood generally.  Laori is clearly a little S&Mey, which isn’t something Annata conceives herself as into, but she is pretty submissive and I can see the dynamics of a top/bottom relationship working there.  And finally, Annata is worried she might be embarrassed if the other guys found out – it might diminish her stature as a spirital leader in the party, generate jealousy, or just get her razzed more.  In the end, a lot of mixed feelings that don’t call for clear action one way or the other.

She thought over it long enough that the sheer weight of the analysis took some of the edge off – she’s not going to act on it (and probably won’t mention it happened). But she took it well enough that it won’t affect her friendship with Laori, and that means she might try again, and if it does it’s got a chance of going farther. I’m pretty comfortable that this is a realistic reaction – I’ve known a couple people over time who have been tempted (sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully) by a daring and insistent gay friend.

I haven’t gone into my method for how I play female characters; that’s a big topic and only peripherally relevant.  (Nor do I feel like I need to justify it; the people who are “against” crossgender play are wrestling with deep-seated emotional problems IMO.)  But suffice it to say the thinking through the various pros and cons I go through above is my attempt at a female approach to analyzing relationship issues, as opposed to the more… elemental typical male response.  (In this case, I am guessing the other two male PCs’ reaction would be “Hell yeah!” tempered only by explicit or implict fear that Laori would be the “top”.)  I wish I could do it more completely “in character,” but I find myself having to pepper the thought process with little meta-thoughts a lot.

I’m interested in how other people work through in-character issues. (I know some of you don’t, and think this is all weird, and say D&D is just for combat-n-fun… Feel free to not respond then.)  Do you use pure immersion (“I am Annata, and I think this…”), metagame evaluation of your character’s personality (“Annata has this in her background so she’d probably react this way…”) , randomization (“I roll d20 and… Annata likes it!”), something else I haven’t thought of, or a mix of these? And if a mix, in what proportions?

Probably one missing element is metagame group dynamics. “Would the other people at the table feel weird about this?” I almost totally omit that. Either I’m a role-playing purist, or I’m just a narcissist that doesn’t give a good goddamn what other people think, but there it is. Another is the narrativist approach, determining if this would make for a good story or not and deciding on those grounds. I do keep that in the back of my mind a little I guess… If I think it would generate a shit story I’d steer away from it out of fear of “ruining the game for everyone”.   I also try to remove “What I the player think about this” as much as possible.  Do I the player think Annata-on-Laori action would be hot; do I believe homosexuality is right, etc – I deliberately firewall that away (as much as is possible) in favor of my character’s personality and beliefs.  Or worse, what someone else thinks – I have little tolerance for people who interject with “Well, a good character/cleric/woman/etc. would…”  I politely encourage folks like that to close their filthy gobs.  And lastly, “acting.”  Immersion is akin to method acting, but in my mind the more commonly defined RPG actor stance – “using voices” and dramatic turns and flourishes – have jack crap to do with real in character play.

Thus after thinking about it, I’d have to say my pet “in character” thought process mix is:

  • As much immersion as I can (50%)
  • Metagame evaluation to fill in the gaps where I can’t fully immerse (35%)
  • Randomness where I think that human feelings should not be deterministic (10%)
  • A shade of “will this derail the story” in the back of my mind (5%)

I’m really interested in hearing other people’s method for “deep IC” play!

First Curse of the Crimson Throne “Skeletons of Scarwall” Session Summary Posted

We head out to haunted Castle Scarwall in Part I of Skeletons of Scarwall (8 page .pdf), the fifth and penultimate chapter of the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path.  Fighting undead is where Annata is a Viking, so we’re kicking bony ass and taking ghoulish names.  We were tickled to be fighting orcs and skeletons, it’s like we’re first level all over again.

I know it’s hard for a DM to run NPCs in a party, but these three Brotherhood of Bones hangers-on we have are worthless with a capital LESS!  Well, except for our favorite, Laori, who is always entertaining.  This session, she let Annata know she’d like to sleep with her!  I’m writing a separate blog post about how she dealt with that.  Will it violate the Paizo fansite license morals clause?  Find out, read the full summary!

At the end, we fought and slew what we think is the “main boss” but it didn’t lift the evil aura around the place; Paul was impressed that I then intuited we’d need to kill all the sub-bosses and then kill the main boss else he’d just respawn.   I’ve been playing RPGs and computer games for 25 years, I know how game designers think.

Let me say again for the record how sweet the Channel Energy power is for clerics in Pathfinder.  For those not familiar with it, Pathfinder replaced turning undead with “channeling energy.”  It heals people in short range and harms AND turns undead.  You can augment it with feats as Annata has – her channeling damages (but doesn’t turn) evil outsiders, she can make it heal only her allies (by default it heals everyone in range), and she’s quickened it to a free action with Quicken Turning.  It means that:

  • If you have a day where you’re not fighting undead, one of your major class powers isn’t worthless.
  • You can heal at range rather than always having to incur attacks of opportunity to go heal a comrade.
  • You can heal multiple party members at once.
  • You have loads of dice of healing that don’t eat up  your spell slots.  Thus you get to use spells for useful proactive things.
  • With the quicken, you aren’t wasting your time every round of combat with only healing.

Face it, as damage dealing has grown, Cure spells have not kept pace.  Even low level characters dish out or take like 20 points of damage a round – at our level, 80 points in a round isn’t uncommon and I’ve seen more than 100.  The usual 1d, 2d, 3d, 4d Cure spells are pretty much worthless in the face of that; I’d need ten minutes and my entire spell loadout to take care of just a couple rounds of combat.  So the channeling steps in to fill the gap and let the cleric do something in a round other than heal.  Neat!