I called this season “Family Matters” because it was so family friendly! Well, OK, it wasn’t family friendly at all. But the major theme was family.
- Serpent and his (serpentfolk) wife Samaritha had their egg!
- The PCs go to help Wogan’s sister and baby nephew in Nisroch!
- They go back to Staufendorf Island where a would-be wife awaits Sindawe, Serpent’s long lost mother (well, kinda), as well as the bastard children of the pirates from their last raid.
I must say, those who leave family, marital relations, etc. out of their games are missing out. We had some great drama this season of a much more nuanced version that “bad guy gonna blow up world go get ’em!”
This season took more than a year and a half, realtime. In fact, it contains the five year mark of the campaign!
Things I really liked about this season:
- The PCs returning to Riddleport as conquering heroes, and partying up the place as real pirate players, instead of the hirelings and minions they started out as; dealing with Clegg Zincher as equals, etc. I meant for it to feel gratifying, and like a graduation of sorts. They left as pirate noobs in Season Two and this is their homecoming having made a legendary-scope pirate voyage. They’re unlikely to be back there ever/for a long while so I wanted to wrap it up and put a cherry on top.
- All of Nidal. It’s crazy spooky and I tried to use every GM technique to bring the suck to life. It’s so bad that even though they could have sold the info for good money, the Araska and Dagger command crews basically agreed to not tell anyone about White Estrid’s approaching attack fleet because “this place needs to get wiped off the fucking map.” And then them having to skedaddle in the middle of the invasion when it all went down!
- The return to Staufen Manor, and all the bizarre and horrific goings-on, from the erodaemon preying on their greatest desires (including Serpent’s lost mother), to the aasimars who have had iron masks welded to their faces by envy-haunted Amalinda Staufen, to the lacquered bodies of her family and their baby-feast, to the dungeon of amputees that provide meat to feed her new “Ravenous” template. All super jacked up, *and* with the pleasant frisson of the PCs being somewhat to blame for it all.
I liked the Deepmar module OK, but in the end it felt a bit more like filler. But, I guess the PCs liked it, since they refused to leave before exploring every single nook and cranny of the island. And they got a new love interest for the celibate Wogan – half-orc barbarian Klangin and meek fledgling Nidalese cleric Rucia now both have their eyes set on him, much to his discomfort.
The pacing was also nice, with periods of good honest pirating between the landlubber adventures. The Teeth of Araska and its crew are a major character in their own right, and the PCs spend a lot of time interacting with, training, disciplining, etc. their crewmates.
Sources I used putting together Season Four, besides homebrew:
- Dark Wings Over Freeport (Green Ronin), at least a bit of it, for the old man/vrock attack in Riddleport
- The Midnight Mirror and U1 Gallery of Evil for the adventure in Karpad in Nidal, plus Nisroch info from Cities of Golarion and from reading the Pathfinder Tales novel Nightglass
- No Response from Deepmar, for Deepmar
- Hearkening back to Mansion of Shadows (Green Ronin), for Staufen Manor
- Raid on the Emperor’s Hand (Legendary Games), for the last bit of pirating
That’s not a huge amount of published page to get a year and a half out of, but it was well leavened with the PCs’ own plots and my fantasia upon all the published Golarion lore I can get my hands on from the various guidebooks, NPC books, etc. The deep Golarion lore forms a kind of base layer it all sits on; every trip somewhere has some point of interest or whatnot… Heck the PCs even feel safe asking. “Oh, what kind of things do they ship out of here?” “Well, lumber goes downriver, primarily darkwood and strangle tree wood.” “Whoa cool! Let’s buy some!” Nowadays for session prep I really just need some notes in Evernote and a Hero Lab portfolio with some NPCs and critters in it, and it all just runs itself.
Chris (Sindawe) says:
- I enjoyed the minor missions and the party in Riddleport. But I also enjoyed leaving that place — I had the sense that it was a place we were permitted to touch but not break. And as with all social structures, most PCs don’t have the patience or time to penetrate them without murder and arson. [GM – Heh, it’s pretty appropriate as pirates that being around large settlements where there are consequences for e.g. arson is undesirable. The PCs always needle me about Riddleport being a pirate-started city and it still not letting people go on murder-sprees or burn stuff down… But that’s why the deep blue’s out there!]
- I liked Deepmar – it had a mystery that we could solve without having something held hostage. Fighting crazy derro was memorable. Mitabu had several moments to shine. [GM – Yeah, this taught me to continue to have a strong exploration element in the game because they really took to it.]
- I am disappointed that Ed and Ashley didn’t continue gaming with us. [GM – Agreed, Ed hadn’t left quite yet by the end of the season but I think Ashley had, I’ll cover this in a later blog post.]
- I enjoyed the return to Staufen Manor, though I had hoped to find a baby Sindawe. [GM – I briefly considered this but thought it would be too dark and uncomfortable in what was already one of the darkest sessions to date, apparently I was wrong!]
- I enjoyed Nidal’s redneck country side and the story around Wogan’s sister. Patrick was given more face time than he wanted and he handled it well. I regret not having Sindawe bathe in the “golden god hot springs”. I also regret that the PCs were not called upon to commit atrocities that guaranteed the sister’s noble position. [GM: Yeah, Patrick is a quiet player and I wanted to put him in a lead role for a little bit, worked out well I thought.]
- We got away with murder in Nidal, which was nice. [GM: Quite so. Seems like a good vacation shirt slogan. “I got away with murder in Nidal and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”]
The other guys didn’t comment in email. Their feedback is in summary 35, though, where I asked everyone what they wanted less of, liked and wanted more of, etc. going forward.