So, last night I was back to my role as GM of our Serpent Skull adventure path. The game is now past the post to Module 5 entitled the Thousand Fangs Below. Essentially the plot up until now has been (and this is a really quick spoiler free plot synopsis)
- Module 1 Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv: Players get shipwrecked and have to find way off island after finding details of a lost city being researched by a humanoid like snake person
- Module 2 Racing to Ruin: Word is out that the players know of the famed lost city and they choose a side to travel to a ruin that will show them the way to the lost city. They find a humanoid like snake person in disguise attempting to find the same thing at the ruin
- Module 3 City of Seven Spears: The players finally make the lost city and find that it is not really all that lost, just a little bit misplaced with some interesting denizens. They do some heap big exploration and then find a hidden vault at the end that promises to lead them to some secret underground after a battle with an undead sorcerer humanoid serpent like being
- Module 4 The Vaults of Madness: The players find out that there are seven underground vaults that will allow them to activate a portal to a massive underground city created by these mysterious serpent folk. They also find out that there is someone trapped down there that can fill them in on the danger they face from these mysterious beings
- Module 5 The Thousand Fangs Below: The players move into the underground city called Ilmurea to find that things are a little more complex than they at first thought they would be…
The following images are of these modules taken from the Paizo website, the company responsible for the Pathfinder game.
|The first 5 modules of the Serpent Skull Pathfinder adventure path
There is of course a 6th module to follow but I will talk about that as I go through it. It is called Sanctum of the Serpent God just for information sake 🙂
We have been playing the modules since around late December last year (2011) and played at least once a week, sometimes more when I have been on holidays to get to this stage. The players have grown from 1st level characters all the way up to 13th level at the moment. The players are feeling the plot lines coming together and they are all excited about where things are heading and making their predictions. They can taste the end so to speak. So, I think perhaps it is an idea to introduce the player characters to you.
We will start with Seleca Crane. She is played by my 15 year old daughter and is a cavalier in class. At the start of the game the only class that is suggested that may not be a perfect fit for the campaign was a cavalier so that is exactly what she played. Essentially the middle ground between a paladin and a fighter, the cavalier is a mount obsessed diplomatic brute and Seleca is all of these things. She has developed into a massively powerful fighter and diplomat showing great versatility throughout the game so far but has been plagued by little opportunity to use her mount in the tight jungle and underground setting. Regardless of this she has lost two mounts. One in the second module and one last night. She also holds the dubious title of most character deaths in the campaign. She has died six times over the course of the adventures, and my daughter is (quite amusingly) quite defensive and proud of this title.
|Pathfinder Advanced Race Guide
Seeing as though I focussed on character deaths, we will go in descending order now. the next player controls Kaleb the monk who began life in the shipwreck as a half-ork. He has died five times in the campaign so far and the last time he died he took the reincarnation option (as I expanded the list to include those races in the advanced race guide) and has ended up an Aasimar. Kaleb is probably the least focussed character in the game as he began to multi-class to cleric and Seleca took leadership and brought in a paladin (and then a cleric after the paladin died as her cohorts from the leadership feat) which outclassed him. That said he is a great monk but his player (Scott) gets frustrated (often) at the rest of the parties individual rather than team focus and struggles at times to reconcile this with his characters role. He is a good fighter, but not the best, he is a handy second rung healer, but not the best, he is OK at some utility magic, but not the best and so on. he is the backbone to a lot of what the party can do but ultimately a utility character. he is the reinforcement that can swing a battle but not the shock trooper that could win it by himself. Scott and I have been roleplaying together for the better part of twenty three years, and he was the guy that inspired me to get back into it whole heartedly with 4th edition DnD.
The next death tally is I think three deaths? The character is named Seroquel and he began play at the shipwreck as a gnomish alchemist. His last death inspired him to take a reincarnate also due to the addition of the Advanced Race Guide in the charts and he turned into a Tiefling. Seroquel has taken a prestige class being the Master Chymist. He spends much of his time in his alter ego form of Hank (who looks like a bright red winged devil) and has always been the colour in this group. As a gnome, Seroquel was always focussed on taking the prestige class and started by taking feral discoveries. He soon found that attacking with claws and two bites made him a formidable opponent but he always wanted more. Anything tribal and a little feral he took it and then he managed to pay to have enlarge person cast on him with permanency which made him the biggest freak show in the party until his reincarnation. He is the most unpredictable player (Mark) and you just cannot bank on what his focus will be in any situation until he gets into it. He may just stand back and throw bombs. He may feral mutagen up and attack with tooth and claw. He may just rely on elixirs (spells) or meet any combination of the above to be very unpredictable. The one truth is he spends more and more time as his violent alter ego Hank than he does the charming gnomish Seroquel at the moment and when he is in his mutagenic form he is as effective, if not more so, than Seleca in hand to hand combat.
The final player has had only one death. He started about a month after the shipwreck and came from Melbourne to get in on the gaming goodness! The player started as a half-elf sorcerer with the Shadow bloodline and quickly multi-classed into rogue as well, making him a lethal assassin type spell caster (though I am sure Cameron, the player, is shaking his head as reads my simplification just then). The character’s name started as Cisco Cigliaro (which I had plenty of fun needling him about courtesy of Gelik Aberwhinge the NPC) and after his death he took reincarnation he became a Fetchling (or a Kayal as I can hear him saying) which is essentially a human whose blood has been tainted with the beings of the Plane of Shadows. With this change he took a small aside to travel to the Plane of Shadows and came back with a new name, Janthir of the Kayal. This may have been prompted by Gelik, in the preceding game, convincing Cisco to make a total ass of himself to give him a bonus to his comedy performance. Achieving a legendary result there are stories all over southern Garundi of Cisco Cigliaro and his many embarrassing foibles. Any truth that the name change next game is connected, surely not! regardless of the Gelik/Janthir rivalry (and they do loathe one another) Janthir is by far the most focussed and powerful spell caster in the group. He is also handy in a battle with his sneaky rogue skills and a great scout. What is there not to love?
This group of four make up the core of a group of six that includes Gelik (who, for all the GM’s that have run this campaign before is the ONLY castaway they managed to save) and a half-elf named Juliver who they encountered at the end of the fourth module. She has connections with the missing individual that if found may lead them on to the sixth and final module. I have a couple of the players run these two NPC’s for me and I have to admit, last night they both truly began to get into their mindsets and the NPC’s are fleshing out well. Unfortunately at the end of the game last night, both the NPC’s died due to death from massive damage after an encounter with a group of Demon Vrock’s.
You see, last night the players were at a point where they could have very well started their assault on the large serpentfolk stronghold. They had avoided a whole heap of encounters and looked like they were on path for a direct assault so I spent all my time reacquainting myself with this part of the module but of course they threw a spanner in the works. They decided to head back to the aboveground camp and do some “shopping”. As they returned through the vault to go back underground there is an effect that may make the players go paranoid (essentially permanently without treatment) and as they entered the players with the worst two saving throws succeeded their save and the pair with the best two saving throws failed. This caused the two players with the most direction (Kaleb and Cisco) to distance themselves (quite literally) from the group and left Seleca and Hank in control. Well, of course they decided NOT to go to the serpentfolk stronghold. Instead they took the marker (I get them to mark their rout on a laminated map of the underground city from the Paizo map pack), looked at the map and decided all of the bits they felt looked interesting and took off after those.
|Seleca’s miniature I painted
That said, the tour last night took in one of the serpent gates that leads to the underworld of Orv where they fought a bunch of serpentfolk guards who killed the cavaliers mount (I just finished painting the mounted figure and I know, I KNOW she is going to want a bloody griffon next) and gave the party a good run for their money. After that they headed for what looked to be a manmade structure only to hear some demons dancing in the distance that lead to the Vrock encounter that killed the two NPC’s. following this haphazard approach I have declared that the party is now being lead by the Irish Mine Detectors of Ilmurea who are guaranteed now to run into nearly every encounter they have avoided!
This week I know that I am going to spend a good deal of time designing the building they were last headed to to find out next week they will take a completely different tack and my designing will be for naught. That said at least this way I got to do my impersonation of a Vrock doing his dance of ruin. I know it amused the players seeing me do my “Boggart vordock vroom thume loom” dance last night as a huge winged demon. Made me wish I had videoed it for the blog… Next time perhaps.
Now you have met the players my next blog will likely take in the design of the building that I am hoping they will focus on next week. This will hopefully give you some idea of the process I go through in making my games come to life…