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Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Eleventh Session

Waterspout

Eleventh Session (10 page pdf) – “The Key To War Machine, Part I” – The pirates brave the Sodden Lands to find the control key to the superweapon. A shore party descends into a boggy crypt…

First, the ship has to deal with the issue of Serpent’s wife Samaritha being lost overboard in the Eye of Abendego. With clever use of spells and some sharp sailing they find her and are effecting a rescue, when my next random Eye of Abendego weather conditions roll comes up double zero.

The entire crew is lining the port rail, intent on watching the rescue. From the other railing, Wekk the Cloven screams, “Great Gozreh’s cock!” As everyone whirls, they see him pointing at a waterspout forming to the north. (A waterspout is a tornado over water, for you landlubbers.)

The next bit is the PCs desperately trying to keep their ship together as the waterspout hits – my ship rules turn this into a pretty epic and interesting “combat.” Serpent keeps leaping overboard to save people, which in hurricane-racked seas would be suicide if he wasn’t all optimized with a Swim speed and everything.

Finally they get to the Sodden Lands and go ashore. They’re searching a ruined Chelaxian plantation for the control doohickey for the war machine Mase Venjum promised them. This bit is taken from Tomb of the Necrophage from Tombs of Golarion. In the first part they mainly just fight angry juju zombies; apparently someone’s gotten here before them.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Tenth Session

The Kraken’s Spite

Tenth Session (11 page pdf) – “The Eye of the Storm” – The pirates take on a skald and set off through the Eye of Abendego, which tests their mettle as sailors harshly – and Samaritha is lost overboard when a waterspout hits!

So first they come across a weird sight – an Ulfen longship!  This far south? They decide to parley instead of fight (probably a good idea, as the ship is the Kraken’s Spite from Ships of the Inner Sea, and the crew is pretty stout). They just want to get rid of a skald that needs to go further south.  Why?  Well apparently Ulfen Linnorm King White Estrid sacked Nisroch and sent skalds in all four compass directions to spread the word of her feat!  And those of you who’ve been with us a while remember that the PCs were there when her fleet attacked…

Maar Eiderson

I hadn’t yet determined what happened in the Estrid vs Nisroch battle, and decided to leave it up to the dice, and dependent on the fight between White Estrid’s ice linnorm thrall Boiltongue and the ancient umbral dragon the Nidalese had put in place after her first raid for such an eventuality.  So between sessions I rolled out a fight between the two and – OK I’m such a nerd – composed a skald poem to relate it to the PCs.  The fight took a long time. Here it is, The Battle of the Two Dragons in its entirety, related by the skald Maar Eiderson.

As the fleets of the Northmen reaved into Nisroch harbor
Estrid’s Pet wreaked destruction on the darkling city
When an ebon tower rove asunder and a great shadow wyrm arose
The two huge beasts circled each other and darkened the ground
Boiltongue spoke first and his maw sprayed ice across the blackness
The other replied in a cacophony of shadow that drained the icy one’s might
But then the ice hardened and it fell like a mountain to earth
The crash was felt throughout the bay
As darkling buildings were crushed to gravel
But Boiltongue raged aloft, blinded by the shades
As the dark one tried to free itself from the frost
The linnorm’s vision cleared, and he followed the shade to ground
And snapped at its flitting flanks, as it shook free of the encircling ice
The dark dragon’s eyes blazed as it uttered a dark word of destruction
That caused the bravest men’s hearts to quake
But Boiltongue the linnorm is beyond such magics
And continued to press his attack unslaked
The shadow wyrm pulled together the shadows to encircle him
But Boiltongue struck unerringly through the darkness
The shade spoke again and shadows spilled out, covering the wyrm of ice
Whose claws and fangs lashed out but could not find purchase
The shade took to the air with frightening speed
Its wings blew building walls down, like a storm from the north
As men and darklings fought and died around
But Boiltongue followed it into the twilight sky
The shadow wyrm called upon its dark magic and became faster still
Like a shadow flits across a wall, it darted by Boiltongue and each
time opened a rent
In the great linnorm’s side. But the linnorm’s wounds knit
Almost as speedily as they opened; and he bode his time
And iced its wings again as it approached
The shade fell into the bay, and the wave it made as it smote the water
Raised up boats a dozen feet; the ice wyrm followed right after
But the shade broke free of the ice and turned his full fury onto Boiltongue
Ripping into the linnorm with fangs and claws and pinions again and again
Till Boiltongue’s blood stained the dark waters oil-black
The linnorm coiled around the dragon and dragged it down into the icy waters
It burst free and shot out of the waters into the darkened sky
And circled enraged looking for its opponent
But Boiltongue lurked below, the icy waters knitting his wounds
The shadow wyrm descended on a longship, and shadows vomited from its maw
Draining the life from a dozen Ulfen warriors
Boiltongue surfaced by Estrid’s flagship and the king saw he was weakened
By the shadow wyrm’s foul darkness
She ordered her war-priest to restore his strength and enchant his fangs
That they might find purchase on his ghostly foe
And the Lord in Iron’s blessing was given unto the linnorm
The umbral dragon’s fiery eyes espied this and he spoke his word of
destruction against the priest
Whose ears bled, and quaked in agony
Boiltongue surged from the waters to answer this offense
And the dark one eagerly met him
Determined to rip him asunder once and for all
Boiltongue’s fangs sank into the shade in turn
And their serpentine bodies coiled about each other in a death-knot
The shadowy one broke free of Boiltongue’s embrace and shot away
Boiltongue coiled up into the sky proudly awaiting its charge
It paused, muttering draconic magic, and then advanced
But turned aside, hurtling down towards Estrid’s ship
The linnorm ignored this, and charged and struck at air
Whence the real dragon commanded its shadowy double
Taken aback, it again breathed out its shadows on the linnorm
But prepared for its tricks, Boiltongue was barely affected
And his mighty jaws crunched down on the shade’s neck
It roared as the linnorm’s feared venom, the black blood of the earth
Flowed into its veins. In a frenzy it tore into Boiltongue
As Boiltongue replied fang for fang
But the shadow dragon’s pinion struck to the heart of the great linnorm
And this time it was Boiltongue that fell from the heavens
Into the icy heart of the bay; the dragon roared in triumph and followed
Him down to finish off his victim; but in the chaos of the spray
He missed the linnorm’s throat with his claws
And Boiltongue, his wounds healing, lashed from the waves
And raked his foe with poisoned fang; the umbral one raged
And slashed and battered his wounded foe into icy hunks of flesh
Then tried to rise, but the venom in its blood found
Its dark heart, and it fell again into the waters
And sank into the depths alongside the linnorm.
Men on both sides shrank from the fray
To see such destruction wrought by the massive titans
Upon each others’ colossal frames
Ice and shadow unleashing their might
To finally take each other in their death-spasms
But the linnorm is no mere beast
He is a part of the arctic primeval
Even as the battle between Ulfen and darklings swelled
His corpse began to come together
And knit itself back into its ancient shape
Ice gripped the hearts of the Nidalese scum
As Boiltongue rose again from the waves
The umbral scourge defeated
He devoured its dark heart And his roar was like the north wind
And the howl of the wendigo in winter
The defenders quailed and fled from the fight
And thus did the men of Halgrim, led by White Estrid the Linnorm King
Sack Nisroch again.

White Estrid and Boiltongue

Both of them had DR and SR and high saves so the fight went many rounds. The umbral dragon had the linnorm generally outclassed, but its regeneration (and a little help from the Ulfen) kept it in the fight long enough to finally get its poison to proc, and once that happens it’s a short trip.

Well roused by the recitation, the Teeth of Araska sails into the permanent hurricane the Eye of Abendego… The storms batter the ship, and they manage to keep control but Samaritha is washed overboard!  Fly doesn’t do the trick when the ship’s flying before a gale wind…

All Those Lovely NPCs

In a recent comment on a Reavers session summary, flyboy1986 asked:

I’ve marvelled at how each of the crew seem to have a distinct personality (besides being murder-hobos). How do you keep track of everything??

Great question.  Thanks for noticing and I’m glad it comes through!  One of the things that I believe is the most important in an immersive RPG campaign is putting effort into well realized NPCs and bringing them to life.  I would venture to say it’s near impossible to put too much work into that aspect of a campaign.  In our Reavers game, besides the usual crop of villains and lovers and whatnot, they have a crew of over 60 people on their pirate ship.

Some people would have you “abstract that out.” Those people suck. Think about well done movies/TV shows.  They have even minor characters be memorable – even people you don’t hear their names.  To take a naval example, movies like Pirates of the Caribbean or Master and Commander, you feel like you recognize and know a little bit about random ship crew – there’s the ones that get more play than others (the two guys who were soldiers and became pirates in Pirates, the old Hold Fast guy in Master) but the more you see some random swab and remember them and think “oh yeah that’s the flute playing guy” the more realistic a world you get.  And realism of your game world is the table stakes for player investment in the world and NPCs.

Now, I don’t rely on tooling for much of it – here’s the actual documented list of crew on the Teeth of Araska:

Crew

PCs and Command Crew

  1. Captain Sindawe H’kilata Narr, the fist-punchin’ Mwangi monk (Chris).
  2. Quartermaster Ref “Serpent” Jorensen, the staff-bashin’ Ulfen druid/ranger and his snake Saluthra (Paul).
  3. Master Gunner Wogan, the pistol-packin’ celibate cleric of Gozreh (Patrick).
  4. Bosun Tommy Blacktoes, the staff-slingin’ sneaky halfling rogue (was Kevin, now an NPC).
  5. Ship’s Wizard Samaritha, the wand-blastin’ serpentfolk wizard in the guise of a pretty half-elf; Serpent’s wife.
  6. Ship’s Surgeon Hatshepsut, monk and high priestess of a lost civilization and her cobra Naja.
  7. Lavender Lil, a buxom tiefling ex-prostitute, and Tommy’s girlfriend.

Araska Pirates (all have gunnery, a silver plated weapon, and a clw potion)

  1. Gunner’s Mate Stoke, Ftr3, gunner’s mate, married to Tegan, breastplate +1, potion alter self, heavy mace +1
  2. Carpenter Tanned Hank – Ftr3, really, really tanned. Swim skill. Ship’s masterwork spear, breastplate +1
  3. Second Mate Tasty Mike, Ftr3, former Chelish navy, studded leather +1, +1 heavy mace
  4. First Mate Big Mike, Ftr3, from Sargava, part owner of the Vile Fish, studded leather +1, +1 shortsword.
  5. Third Mate Klangin – Ex-Chelish prisoner, half-orc rog4/barb4, some magic
  6. Coxswain Gareb – Ftr3, Andoren, swim skill, ship’s long bow, ring of swimming, cloak of resistance +1, horn of fog
  7. Orgon – Ftr3, short, bald , battleaxe +1
  8. Slasher Jim – Ftr3, knife expert. Azlanti amulet of natural armor +1, trident +1
  9. Dum-dum – Ftr3, simpleton + masterwork wooden shield, shock net

Freedmen (Ex-Chelish slaves) – leather and long spear if not otherwise noted, one silver plated weapon

  1. Bel, ex-eunuch slave – War3, masterwork chain, silver heavy mace
  2. Pirro, porter – Com3, charged spear, mwk heavy shield, potion darkvision
  3. Ori, cook – Com3, ring of protection +1
  4. Sevgi, ex-harem slave – War3, studded leather, cloak resistance +1, +1 longsword, belt incredible dex +2
  5. Kahina, ex-household slave – Rog2, amulet natural armor +1
  6. Karomander, fine craftsman – Exp3

Bunyip Crew (gunners have 1 less rank in Stealth; all have 1d6 SA, 2d6 if flanking with each other)

  1. Billy Breadbasket – Rog1/War2, cook, gay
  2. Feissian Hareskinner – Rog1/War2
  3. Dario – Rog1/War2
  4. Samuel – Rog1/War2, hand axe +1
  5. Taunya – Rog1/War2, master gunner
  6. Clubbreaker Cordell – Rog1/War2
  7. “Sexy Beast” Sapier – Rog1/War2, master gunner, belt giant strength +2
  8. Tiberiu – Rog1/War2, belt giant strength +2
  9. Hovax Littlehands – Rog1/War2
  10. Prand – Rog1/War2

Wandering Dagger Crew (War2 Str +1 Dex +1 Con +1 Prof (sail) +5, Toughness, Power Attack/various AC 14 HP 20 BAB +3  Melee +4 Dmg 1d8+1) mwk flail + mwk wood shield

  1. Thalios Dondrel, son of Mordekai (was first mate)
  2. Blacktop Bill (was quartermaster)
  3. Crazy Jake (was master gunner)
  4. Courtland Breeden
  5. Eamon
  6. Stormy Sherman (allegedly her real name)
  7. Wekk the Cloven – Shoanti

Recruits

  1. Mitabu, the keel-breakin’ Mwangi rogue
  2. Zoamai, the elf-hatin’ half-Mwangi, half-elf sorceress, headband of mental prowess
  3. Olgvik – Bar2/Rog1, Ulfen low-level barbarian with a greataxe, captured at sea, potion expeditious retreat
  4. JJ – seamunculus of a wizard refugee from the Sun Temple Colony
  5. Claxton, Exp3 from the Sun Temple Colony
  6. Nemo – Shipmate
  7. Melella – half-elf druid 1 from Magnimar, druid’s vestment, treant seeds
  8. Rucia – fledgling Desnan ex-waitress from Nidal, cleric 1
  9. Arsonee – a heavily scarred Nidalese fisherwoman
  10. Luca Caletti – Ex-Chelish marine with a black powder sniping rifle
  11. Brancis – Ex-Chelish prisoner
  12. Phamas Harcey – Ex-Chelish prisoner, high profession(sailor)
  13. Aelia – aasimar bedwarmer for Big Mike
  14. Flavia – aasimar bedwarmer for Gareb
  15. Volcatia – aasimar bedwarmer for Little Mike
  16. Said – Rahadoumi cabin boy
  17. Narbus “Lefty” Smeet – Exp2/War1, lad from the Sun Temple Colony
  18. Kutaamo – tengu Rog3
  19. Mandohu – lizardfolk warrior, hat of disguise, ring of feather falling
  20. Chidike – Mwangi ex-slave off the Boastful Shaman
  21. Kunto – Mwangi ex-slave off the Boastful Shaman

Passengers

  1. Marr Eiderson – Ulfen skald (bard).

That’s it. 61 people (including the PCs).  A hefty challenge – but heck, I need to push my own abilities while GMing to get better!

Thalios Dondrel

Thalios Dondrel, Son of Mordekai

Of course all 61 of them didn’t just airdrop in one day. This campaign’s 6 years in. So what I do is, when they’re introduced, try to make sure and include something interesting about each one.  The first crewman they ever met was Thalios Dondrel, son of Mordekai, and besides his name he was butt naked on a ghost ship when they met him, and he speaks in a super-piratey accent all the time. When they met him again much later, they remembered him.

The ex-Chelaxian slaves they rescued, settled on an island, and later went back to recruit as pirates – there was an illustration in the module of Bel, Pirro, and Sevgi. Bel was bald and heavy so I decided he was a eunuch, and he and Sevgi had this weird relationship that then made him really want to go to Druid Witch Regeneration Island to get his gear regrown.  having actual goals other than “serve the PCs” adds realism and thus

Kahina, Bel, and Pirro

Sevgi, Bel, and Pirro

remembrance. Pirro was human but the PCs kept thinking he was half elf from his picture. Some people say “always go with what the PCs say!” but you have to mix it up – often it’s great to grab onto something the PCs say and add it to the NPC, but in this case I contravened that by saying “nope, human!” so they decided he was pretty metrosexual.

Mix it up.  There’s a handful of crew I use voices for (I don’t use voices for everyone, but JJ the perverted seamunculus gets a Gilbert Gottfried voice), a handful I use body language for (Lavender Lil most notably), others with specific habits (like Slasher Jim the serial killer or Stoke who is kinda deaf and talks loud). Some I’ve got a good picture for that I use, too – just Google it up, or rip pics from gaming PDFs (or even take cell phone pics from print ones). There’s Big Mike and Little Mike, whose names and dynamic I stole from two old gaming buddies I had in Memphis.  A NPC from Nidal has different flavor from a NPC from the Sun Temple Colony in sunken Azlant, or an ex-Chelish military recruit, or an escaped slave. Remember that different players remember things differently – they may be a more visual person or may like Cheliax a lot or whatever, so they’ll glom onto some things another player doesn’t.

And then there’s just incidents of luck.  I roll randomly when they’re in port to see what good and bad things happen, and once one guy gets robbed by a bunch of hookers that becomes part of his character. There’ll be a fight at sea on the ship and I’ll roll some dice and determine that Tanned Hank rushes a monster while others are hanging back, and suddenly the PCs are like “that guy’s crazy, which normally would be good but he’s our only carpenter so we really need to manage protecting him better…”

Then once there’s anything memorable about a character – you double down on it.  Whenever that NPC is involved in something – maybe it has to do with that.  Oh that pirate’s a junkie, so if some random encounter happens to her it is while she’s trying to buy drugs.  A little reinforcement goes a long way. Wogan accidentally said something to Klangin the orc when they found her, so now she’s continually pursuing him romantically (as is the meek Desnan, Rucia), so the chaste cleric is in a weird love triangle.  It makes the NPCs vivid to him and the rest of the PCs (since egging them has a lot of entertainment value).  I try to never say “a crewman says X.”  It’s always someone specific. I roll 1d61 (computers, it’s easy) and when it tells me Dum-Dum is the crewman on watch, and then I roll a Perception check to notice another ship and he botches it, the PCs are like “well… He isn’t the brightest, I mean, it’s in his name, can’t really blame him that much.” In the real world, people start interpreting input to reinforce preexisting assumptions they have about people.  This is problematic in the real world but it’s your friend as a GM.

You’ll notice I don’t have much of that written down in the crew list.  It’s in session summaries, but in general when done right people just remember. If it has to be written down, it’s already unsuccessful.

Sometimes I wish I had a more rich relationship mapping tool, and have considered a bit more of a morale/mutiny kind of system – but more tracking or mechanics isn’t strictly needed.  I’ll have one of the PCs make a Diplomacy check if I think the crew’s opinion is at stake over something to see how they take it.

And besides that – just give NPCs some initiative.  I mean, I’ve played in so many games where all the NPCs just sit there like it’s World of fucking Warcraft waiting for PCs to ‘activate’ them.  My PCs know if they leave their pirates around for too long unsupervised they’re going to definitely try to steal, snort, screw, or deface something.  They’re pirates!!!  And they get ideas of their own. Like when they were on Firewatch Island and went on shore considering looting the local monastery.  The PCs found out about zombie attacks and called a boat over from the ship, with a monk in attendance.  They told the crewmen “tonight, there may be a zombie attack…” in kind of a weird leading way.  So the pirates decided that was their captain trying to subtly communicate to them, and rowed back that evening dressed and made up like zombies to “attack the monastery.”  The PCs weren’t sure whether to crack up, be upset, or be impressed with their plan.  NPCs run off, they get married, they drown in a ditch when drunk. They’ve got their own agendas and ideas, they’re racist against elves or are kinda OCD about stuff or are always talking about the inn they’ll buy when they retire rich.  Just take some random thing that comes to mind from a real person or a book/TV/movie character or whatnot from the last week and stick it onto an NPC and watch it grow.

And it pays off.  A number of times they’ve had some random crew member – and not one of the main ones – get into a fix to where I kinda assume they’ll just sail on and let them rot in jail or be kidnapped by a rich pervert or whatever.  But they absolutely don’t, and go out of their way and to great expense and/or danger to rescue them, even if it’s objectively deserved and/or their fault. They invest thousands of gold in magic items into their crew. They trust some, distrust others, enjoy the company of some, not so much of others…  All of the ingredients required to be realistic and memorable.

 

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Ninth Session

Ninth Session (12 page pdf) – “The Sea Queen’s Pearl, Part II” – While they are making their escape, the crew encounters their own Jurassic Park. Once they return, it’s all shopping and celebration and planning for their voyage south to reclaim a secret Chelaxian superweapon!

I like the sessions where they have their pirate crew around; I really try to set a certain tone with their pirates, best described as “murder frat” – equal parts casual brutality and juvenile fucking around. It’s that contrast that makes similar fiction compelling, from the Sons of Anarchy biker gangs to the Goodfellas mobsters. The PCs seem to have an unlimited appetite to getting drawn into whatever problems or shenanigans their crew is into.

Little Mike gets a new nickname, “Tasty Mike,” this session, for how the monsters all seem to want to take a bite out of him.  He takes this on enthusiastically because being “Little Mike” to Big Mike really irritates him.  (This is actually taken from my Memphis gaming group, where we had two Mikes and dubbed one Little Mike and one Big Mike and Little Mike just couldn’t ever get over it.)

After more shenanigans and equipping, it’s off to get the Chelish superweapon, the Terraken, to become terrors of the shipping lanes!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Eighth Session

tarins-crown-coverEighth Session (8 page pdf) – “The Sea Queen’s Pearl” – A trek overland to a pirate hideout, and then it’s pirate on pirate murder as they storm a rival captain’s redoubt!

Pretty much the entire session is a lightning raid on the pirate keep, which is from the Legendary Games adventure Islands of Plunder: Tarin’s Crown, only very slightly modified from its original form. It’s hard hitting action all the way through!

Wrath of the Righteous Retrospective

Well, we finished our Wrath of the Righteous campaign successfully.  You can read the many, many session summaries and weep in fear at our hellacious character builds at the link.  “Yeah, I’m level 16 with 10 mythic tiers, no big deal.”

Overall we enjoyed this AP, but it was deeply flawed in a number of ways.  It was ambitious, but its reach exceeded its grasp.

The Characters

I enjoyed my PC, Antonius.  I tied him into a Dave Gross novel even, as being a ward of Count Varian Jeggare gained after the Iron Mountain massacre in Tien Xia.  Having been brought up some in Cheliax he was a nice foil to the rest of the party’s expectations.   I was pro-tiefling (because of Uncle Jeggare’s man Radovan) and, true to a LG alignment, saw LE devils and CG whatnots with equivalent amounts of distaste. So some of the goody-goodys looked on his proud red and black Chelish garb with suspicion. As a monk/paladin of Irori he was different and I tried to balance the “lack of attachment” Irori thing with, you  know, Pathfinder, gotta have some loot to play.  I also gave a try playing him as a gay character, but all the major NPCs were chicks in this AP!  So I was largely thwarted there.  I tried to start something up with some guy’s brother we found who had been turned to a statue and we turned him back but then it was “back to the Abyss to kill demons” and the task at hand, realistically, was always more pressing than love, so really no romantic attachments were made by any of the PCs in this AP.  I did pull off the “you are already dead” Fist of the North Star move once in a while, which made me happy.

The other PCs were all fun. Our aasimar sorceress was our war leader since the mini-ruleset about wars was all about Charisma, so we called her “Khaleesi” much to Tim’s chagrin. Patrick was Shawanda the paladin (modeled on the iconic paladin), who paladinned up the paladin. Matt was Trystan the archer, who built his own religion. Bruce (Skyping in) was Tabregon the oracle, who largely healed and boasted about how much he could carry.  Chris’ cleric Tsuguri was of some good Tien moon and insanity god, so that was nice and different.

The Story

The story was decent.  A bit railroady.  We went to interesting places and saw interesting demons and killed them, which definitely lives up to what it says on the tin.  It did get a bit repetitive – one fire, bug, and ichor soaked place after another loses its punch with repetition.

The initial NPCs were supposed to be interesting throughout the entire campaign.  They weren’t.  We picked out other NPCs we liked more, like Uziel our repentant tiefling.  Our GM was a good sport about pivoting to them instead of the goons we were “supposed to” care about. This happened in Jade Regent too.  “Here’s people you should care about, instead of the more interesting people you meet” is crap design and they need to quit it. I mean, a GM should just call the audible but they can feel constrained from doing that when the adventure keeps trotting someone out because it “might be important” that it’s them… They should explicitly say “you can sub in other NPCs into whatever weird relationship or plot minigame we’ve built into this.”

There were too many high level NPCs for us to pal around with really.  Our poor GM – he’s trying to run a crapload of super high power bad guys, and besides our party we end up having a variety of angels and a Runelord and such along with us. So none of them really get their due.  We converted a Runelord to good!  And then it was just kinda like “we have a pet Runelord now.”  “Hey Alderpash you gonna get the lead out and fireball someone or just sit on your ass another round?!?” There were so many rules options it was too much to keep up with just for ourselves and for the primary bad guy, let along a bunch of other high-level-plus-epic-tier guys.  It devalued them.

But we kept interested in the story, in fact later on in the AP the GM was kinda dispirited at how much we were rolling over the fights and wanted to know if we wanted to continue the AP or not.  We said yes – by this time the idea of more grindy fights was not attractive, but gunning through the encounters to get to the story points was interesting.

Challenge Level

The AP was flat underpowered.  By a large margin.  Some of this is the mythic rules (coming next) but frankly I’m not sure we needed the mythic tiers to rock this AP. The GM upped enemies and added stuff and had bunches of singleton enemies band together.  We still one-rounded a lot of stuff.

This was partly good and partly bad.  On the one hand, when we one-rounded a mythic two-headed linnorm, I felt like “boo – that should have been more epic.” But when confronted with another fight with bugs with 1000 hp apiece, I couldn’t get those combats over with fast enough.

The Mythic Rules

The mythic rules are a innovative ruleset from Paizo.  They’re not just retreading 3.5 content, they are continuously exploring the design space and coming up with more options.

The mythic rules, as written, are 50% on target.  They’re billed as “not just more plusses – they’re truly myth and legend level powers.” And that’s true – sometimes.  The story they tell about the mythic rules is compelling, its execution slightly less so, and its use in this AP much less so.

My most bad ass power was Imprinting Hand. Also very thematic as an Irori worshipper.  I could touch someone and gain knowledge about them.  The GM loved this too, as he could dump the 1 page of AP backstory on me in the 30 seconds before we ripped whatever it was asunder for good. That’s a mythic power.

For every one of those, there’s a “double your plusses” power.  Mythic Power Attack, et al.  Those weren’t fun, they were just power inflation. Various others made us immune to something – we liked those, though they frustrated the GM.  He’d do something whizbang to us and we’d say “Oh, I’m unaffected…” We started referring to these at the table as our “cheating bonus.”  “The room fills with poison gas!  Make a DC 30 Fort save!” “I’m not affected.  You know, cheating bonus.” The GM would just sigh and move on.

Then the other powers – which were fun but also the real source of mass power – were the ones giving us extra actions.  Lots of extra actions.  That’s how we’d really kill stuff.  I could double move then full attack then get an extra attack.

The mythic rules as written are OK.  But Wrath of the Righteous did not make the best use of them.

First of all – mythic enemies are supposed to be legendary enemies. We ended up fighting mythic bugs.  Not bug-men named the King of Biting Ants or whatever – just big locusts they gave mythic tiers to.  Super stupid.

Second – they did not use mythic flaws at all.  I was hoping we’d have a lot of fights that required smarts.  You know, a giant minotaur we just can’t hurt until we figure out he’s only vulnerable to mistletoe sprigs, that kind of stuff.  That’s covered in the mythic rules.  Nope!  Not a single damn opponent had those.  The answer was always, always, “just pour on more hit points worth of damage.”  That’s extremely unfortunate and I don’t understand the thinking there.  I know the Paizo designers are smarter than that.  Is it “well some players are dumb and if they can’t just hack their way through everything they’ll get TPKed and/or frustrated and that’s bad for sales?”  I don’t know, but it made mythic combat – which should allegedly be more interesting that just pure high-level combat – even more predictable and “mash the buttons till it dies.”  Well, this AP buyer would like to request some that require two brain cells to rub together and not just DPS.

Conclusion

I don’t want to say this AP was bad – but it kinda broke us of Pathfinder, to be honest.  One of the reasons we went with Dungeon World for our next campaign was that we were looking for other options – 5e, Savage Worlds, DW – because after this festival of rules and math, when we looked at new APs and considered launching into one, we (and more importantly, the GM) were like – “Fuck this, I don’t want to do this again.”

It’s not just the mythic rules’ fault, we’ve been playing Pathfinder a long time and with every year there’s another 50 lbs. of rules options. It gets tiring.  I remember our last D&D 3.5e campaign before we left 3.5e behind for good, we were so jaded we were all playing super weird races and classes trying to recapture that elusive high – “chasing the dragon” in a very real sense. We had to take a break.

I’m still running a Pathfinder campaign – that I’ve deliberately kept down to 8th level over like 5 years because I have been doing this long enough I can see when the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.

We’re still using Paizo APs because they generally rock especially when divorced from the weight of the rules.  Will we go back to Pathfinder?  Maybe at some point, hard to say right now.

So I’m not saying don’t play Wrath of the Righteous – but I am saying know what you’re getting into.  If you love the rules and tactics, you’ll love it.  If you don’t, but want to put a lot of work into revamping it, you’ll probably love it too – it has a good chassis that if a GM were to significantly alter it (reduce number but add weight/complexity of… everything) it’d make a rollicking good story. But running it as-is, even with minor mods, it’s a mixed bag.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Seventh Session

ilizmagorti

Ilizmagorti

Seventh Session (10 page pdf) – “Ilizmagorti” – The home of the Red Mantis assassins! But fear turns quickly to drinking. And safaris! Shimye-Magalla commands her faithful to recover a holy artifact…

So Ilizmagorti is the not so secret HQ of the Red Mantis assassin cult. So “don’t jack with the locals” is the order of the day.  This puts a bit of the fear into the PCs but then they have a good time…

Ilizmagorti is detailed in Cities of Golarion, and they have a sidebar with all these local booze concoctions.  I buy these books to use every scrap of local color, so I make the navigator Tarek more interesting by him being a closet epicurean who knows all the best places to eat and drink on the island.  The PCs happily take his lead and I get to roll off all the various boozes of the island… From the Rusty Cutlass to the Dark and Stormy to the Whore’s Breakfast, they drink them all.

And in an entertaining cameo, when Sindawe goes to the Quarterdeck, a ship’s captain-only tavern, he shares info and shoots the shit with Captain Harrigan, the villain of the first part of the Skull & Shackles adventure path.

But then, a dream… Many of the crew share allegiance of some sort or another to Desna, Gozreh, or the janiform combo of the two, Shimye-Magalla, who is worshipped down in these parts. She comes to them and encourages them to retrieve a holy artifact!

They ask around and find out that Captain Jared “Red Skewer” Tarin and his crew are holed up at their base on the island with the loot. And that a half dozen other pirate ships are lurking nearby because they all want his score for themselves.

Wogan asks, “What’s on the land side?”

“Apes. Man eating plants. Folks building ice factories. It would be daring but certainly less awful than the sea wall.”

Note the Mosquito Coast reference?  Paul Theroux?  Read a book!!!

Anyway so safaris to see dinosaurs aren’t uncommon here, so they book one as cover and head out into the bush with the plans of ascending Tarin’s Crown…