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Pathfinder 2E I feel at peace

!DWolf

Adventurer
I love talking about my games, so I figured I would post a (long and rambling) update because I GMed the first session of Legacy of Fire yesterday! It was a bit of a rocky start because the game store was hosting an event and my map press got lost in the mix and we couldn't use our normal room but were instead stuck in the loud fishbowl up front and my throat still hurts from having to talk over everyone, but everyone had fun in the end.

So I made some modifications to the first book – I couldn't find any adventures that I liked and fit well within it, so I wrote my own based loosely (very loosely) on 'The Temple of Zanak Khan' from Intruders: Encounters with the Abyss with violence and xenophobia replacing sex and depravity. I also made the murder mystery in part one of the module an actual murder mystery – with the motive being the dreams from the temple. I kept it pretty simple and made suspect cards (an absolute necessity for any whodunit in my opinion) and it ran great (despite the noise from the other four games being run in the same room at the same time).

murder mysteries aren’t complex until they're Mage: the Awakening murder mysteries. I love the game but I would spend weeks working out how everything happened and thinking of potential clues and solutions: yes you absolutely can go back in time and try to stop the murder from taking place (other players notice my evil smile and immediately think to check the Acanthus’s gun against the bullets from the victim to make sure that they didn’t commit the murder by going into the past to stop the murder that they themselves committed in a temporal paradox); and sure Death can just tell you who did it but she wants a favor from you in exchange (my evil smile betrays me again… though they later went back and took the deal!).

We ended it almost exactly where I thought we would despite me having seven players and things tending to take forever with that many. I did run two combats: a moderate with two low threat creatures and a hazard and a low with a single boss creature and they went very well and though the boss got swarmed as I expected, he took a couple of characters down with crits before he died. I love that in 2e, making fun, interesting, challenging fights takes me about 10-30 minutes (literally for the boss I copied an NPC’s stats out of the book and swapped out two abilities for quick draw and double slice). In 1e I would have to spend hours on every fight to get much less satisfactory results.

Next time I get to run my first dream sequence – I am either going to go for a fast and dreamy chase rule inspired sequence or (since I have so many players), a team PVP camp infiltration/defense sequence, or a siege sequence depending on how much time I have to prepare for it.

Finally, I designed a new time wheel for Legacy of Fire. This time I used GIMP for better control of the wedges, and printed it out on glossy photopaper with borderless printing and used spray adhesive to adhere it to thin cardboard
Time Wheel 2.png
and it looks absolutely fantastic.
 

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Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
In addition to my take on Serpents skull for PF2E, I am still running kingmaker (pf1e), though it’s finally reaching its conclusion.
Hey, I'm late to the party, but I noticed you're also running Serpent's Skull in PF2. I've been using the second half of book 2 (Tazion) in a highly modified version for some 15 or so sessions now, and we're just beginning book 3 (Saventh-Yhi), again in a highly modified version. Notably, I've had to homebrew a lot of creatures because my PCs are now 9th level, 2 levels above the baseline for this book. I've had to set up a lot of maps for VTT and wondered if we could pool resources, depending on where you are in the campaign.
 

!DWolf

Adventurer
Hey, I'm late to the party, but I noticed you're also running Serpent's Skull in PF2. I've been using the second half of book 2 (Tazion) in a highly modified version for some 15 or so sessions now, and we're just beginning book 3 (Saventh-Yhi), again in a highly modified version. Notably, I've had to homebrew a lot of creatures because my PCs are now 9th level, 2 levels above the baseline for this book. I've had to set up a lot of maps for VTT and wondered if we could pool resources, depending on where you are in the campaign.
That is a great idea; unfortunately we are far behind you (and I only play in person so I don’t prep or need VTT stuff). My group is just about to leave Kalabuto (where they played through a mashup of Carrion Hill, N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God, and Dawn of the Scarlet Sun); and since I am going to add a bunch of stuff to the river voyage (elements from Theodore Roosevelt’s River of Doubt expedition, encounters from River into Darkness, stuff with Mzali because we had a player join who is playing a Bright Lion, etc.) it will probably be at least six months before we get out of Tazion since we only play Serpent’s Skull every other week.

I am interested in how you modified Tazion, though. My previous prep added elements from Cult of Cinders into it (specifically the dragon pillars and barrier and a modified version of the mine so that they have another way to sneak into the city and bypass the pillars), but since the Mwangi Expanse book came out and I got a new player, I am redoing it as well as some more Mzali stuff (I retconned that in their height the Mzali found and explored the ruins, and had a small archeological outpost there, then they accidentally unleashed a horror in the water system which will take the place of the decapus).
 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
My modifications were centered around 3 themes:
1) Modern wizards are obsessed with the idea of lost Azlanti magic - my group began their quest on the trail of an evil wizard who had captured and maimed over half the group earlier in the campaign, and his "expedition" replaced the competing factions. Once in the city, the PCs explored a series of subterranean Azlanti tombs corrupted by the foul magic of the serpentfolk.
2) The Charau-ka were also corrupted from their tribal demon-worshipping origins to serve the serpentfolk god, and made regular sacrifices at the Well of Souls where the decapus was replaced by a fiendish squid with Cthulhoid overtones, kind of a Watcher in the Water vibe, and only by destroying that creature could they lift the curse over Tazion.
3) The northern zigurrat held the most well-preserved Azlanti artifact, a portal that could be activated by four Azlanti Aeon stones recovered from the tombs of Savith's fallen companions and that could be guided (with difficult Arcana checks) to teleport almost anywhere, but would eventually be used to reach lost Saventh-Yhi. After facing the four Azlanti idols, the PCs absorbed the spirits of long-dead Azlanti heroes, gaining a part of their memories (which retroactively gave them the Free Archetype feats, representing the knowledge of these past lives).

Now that they are just beginning to explore Saventh-Yhi (book 3 of the campaign) they will have to combat the ressurgence of dark serpentfolk magic which is insidiously weakening the wards over Saventh-Yhi and re-establish the power of the Seven Spears to prevent the rise of old Vaolisa, the Serpentfolk Empire that thirst for revenge on the descendants of the lost Azlanti.

Earlier, on the trail of the evil wizard searching for Tazion, they had to confront most of the content from the 2nd half of book 2 (Mzali necromancers, various jungle hazards, stray demons once worshipped by the Charau-ka, and dozens of dinosaurs living in the Bandu hills). All the while pursued themselves by an expedition mounted by the cunning Aspis Consortium, who will become one of the main adversaries in Saventh-Yhi.

Although I far prefer playing around the tabletop, with the lockdowns and curfews we've gone through in the last year and a half here in France, we've been forced to play on VTT, so I've had to source maps and tokens and such, in addition to writing up tons of creatures adapted from PF1, and often raised several levels. My group was 6th level when they left Kalabuto and now are 9th level as they begin trying to reach the outskirts of Saventh-Yhi, so a lot of the creatures had to be made just a wee bit more dangerous than the stock versions from the bestiaries (when the critters even exist in statted form in PF2, which isn't always the case).
 

!DWolf

Adventurer
So it been a while, and I figured I would update about the games I’m running in case anyone is interested.

Legacy of Fire

We played our second session of Legacy of Fire last week. In this session the players started tackling the monastery and cleared most of the first floor. This session was interesting in that it included the most difficult to run encounter of 2e so far: the chapel. It was difficult mainly because of the huge two level structure with multiple hazards that changed levels combined with the larger number of monsters (there were nine). Normally, I would reduce the monsters to a troop, but because of the importance of individual positioning in this battle I didn't. The very noisy environment we were playing in (multiple Warhammer 40K games were going on at the same time and some of the 40K players brought their kids and they were watching movies on their laptops) also didn't help. It only took an hour and a half to run but it felt like four hours to me. If I were to run it again though, I would definitely invest the time to make a multilevel map because having the entire table covered in maps and having to constantly move tokens/minis from one map to another didn’t work very well. Everyone still had fun though:

The cleric entered the chapel by himself and got ambushed by the pugwampis hiding in rafters by their nest. The other characters quickly arrived and a ranged weapon fight broke out, with the pugwampis slowly whittling down the players. Then the monk managed to get up to the rafters, followed shortly by the sorcerer and finally the rogue, causing the pugwampis to begin to retreat back to their nest (as outlined in the module). A retreat they were able to complete because the sorcerer attempted to move up to the monk and collapsed a support beam with their combined weight, sending the sorcerer crashing to the floor below while the monk grabbed an edge. The monk then leaped across the rafters, grabbing the side of the pugwampi nest, after which he proceeded to kick out the supporting beams, causing the entire structure to begin to collapse. A structure that was now on fire because the ranger and the cleric had decided to light it up from directly below (I made a rules mistake here: a flint a steel would take at least three actions to light a torch and I let them do it in one). The pugwampi, who had delayed, took their actions to escape the flaming, collapsing deathtrap by leaping down, which did not go well. The ranger and cleric got clear as pugwampi slammed into the ground all around them. Then the goblin rogue jumped down from the rafters and killed a couple of the prone pugwampi with a death from above maneuver. The sorcerer then used a three-action harm to kill most of the remaining pugwampi, save for the king and one of his retainers who had not managed to get clear of the structure before it collapsed. Crawling his way out, the king managed to knee-cap the goblin before he got killed by said goblin. The PCs then retreated from the burning room to let the fire die out. The resulting plume of smoke was visible for miles, so that will be interesting for next session.

I am also happy so far with my Numenera inspired magic item system. The basics is that there are only limited number of permanent items (which are all relics) and all other items are consumables. To facilitate play I printed out a bunch (currently over 30 and I intend to keep adding more until I get up to multiple hundreds) of 3x5 index cards with consumable magic items on them, with no level or price listed, and I just hand them out randomly whenever a magical treasure is indicated. The key to this is getting the players to use the consumables instead of hoarding them, and so far they have been (probably due to the difficulty/perceived difficult of some of the fights so far).

Serpent's Skull

This session was a dungeon crawl based on the second level of N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God and I ran it with no player visible maps, just my description of the dungeon and combats (very oldschool, which is not my usual style as I am usually very map and prop heavy). I deliberately set the dungeon up to be run this way: the rooms were simple to describe without complex layouts (a complete contrast with the Legacy of Fire session) and every combat was with only one or two monsters. In the end I think it went very well and I had a lot of fun running it. So much so that I am debating using this style of play to run the crypts under the monastery in Legacy of Fire (expanded a bit into a proper dungeon), the aqueduct in Tazion (expanded into a full dungeon), the lower parts of the House of the Beast, and the Vaults of Madness. If I do use this style of game again, I am going to try the tension pool mechanic from Angry GM, especially for the House of the Beast which I want to feel very dynamic.
 

!DWolf

Adventurer
I’m stuck at home with a migraine so have an update:

Out of curiosity I calculated the combat times for my last five sessions. My average combat time is about 31 minutes, median is 24 minutes, and the maximum was 86 minutes (the pugwampi nest). Here is the list of combats if anyone is interested:

Howl of the Carrion King Session 1:
• Attempting to subdue a duelist – 45 minutes
• Rescuing a goat from two pugwampi in a cactus field – 36 minutes

Howl of the Carrion King Session 2:
• Stumbling on a trio of bloodseekers encountered while scouting – 13 minutes
• Fighting a 10 pugwampi, including their king, in the rafters of a chapel – 1 hour 26 minutes
• Fighting three pugwampi “chefs” in a glass filled kitchen along with four baboons that heard the sound of nearby fighting and joined in to reinforce the pugwampi – 46 minutes

Howl of the Carrion King Session 3:
• Ambushed by a giant solifugid – 24 minutes
• Examining a laboratory and being ambushed by four oozes – 25 minutes

Racing to Ruin Session 14 (This session was set as an old school dungeon crawl and it uses a quicker pacing)
• Being examined by four pygmy crocodiles while poling a boat (combat avoided) – 7 minutes
• Fighting through a trapped guard post manned by two xulgaths, who were reinforced by two mud vipers (from a trap that dropped them), and then four more xulgaths from a nearby room – 22 minutes
• Getting stuck in the web of a giant spider who ambushed the party – 10 minutes
• Spotting a zombie working a pump system and attacking it only to be swarmed by the centipedes that were living under its skin – 16 minutes
• Narrowly avoiding being ambushed by a troop of xulgath along with their leader – 16 minutes
• Being lunged at by a frilled lizard that was chained to a wall and couldn’t quite reach the PCs since they were pressed up against the other wall (combat bypassed) – 2 minutes
• Poling a boat and being ambushed by a naga boss – 40 minutes
• Surprising a boss demonologist who after several rounds of fighting the players, joined forces with them to take on the big boss: a spawn of yog-sothoth – 1 hour and 20 minutes

Racing to Ruin Session 15
• Ambushed by ruffians in the night – 32 minutes

Legacy of Fire

This was an interesting session. We started where we left off exploring the monastery. There was a fight with a giant solifugid that was pretty fun and then the players entered the crypts. I went with just using the crypts presented in the book, mostly due to lack of time, and that was a mistake: the players seemed all amped for a dungeon crawl and a boss fight (typical crypt stuff) but since they entered in the alchemical laboratory they fought the ‘boss’ immediately and the dungeon crawl was mostly a loot run. If I were to run it again I would defiantly expand it into a proper dungeon with a couple of traps and a solid boss right by the secret exit.

The monastery cleared, we had a bunch of role-play as everyone moved the base into the monastery. The first custom dream sequence was up next and (again due to lack of time) it was just a three obstacle chase: get into the enemy camp, find the general, assassinate him. It went well enough: except that the characters couldn’t get past the first obstacle! They eventually just attacked the guards and slipped past in the confusion. The rest went better, though I really liked some of the creative solutions that they came up with, so I maybe lowered the DCs a little too much to reward the creativity. Once they woke up they heard the Howl of the Carrion King go out and questioned the gnoll expert about it. So far so good.

Here is where it gets weird. The next day they are given their assignments: they are to scout out the town and start softening the gnolls up for the coming fight. They choose to take the high risk high reward tactic of pretending to be merchants and head to the battle market. This is despite them having horrible success with the same tactic in the dream. But then they start using things that they thought up in the dream to better prepare for their attempt! I didn’t intend or anticipate this.

My current plan is to run the whole thing as an infiltration, with them starting with three edge points from the steps they have already taken. Hopefully, it will all go well. It will certainly be a different experience as I don’t think I have run a non-cyberpunk infiltration game? (if you are looking for a fantastic heist example though: RPPR’s lunar bank robbery episodes of their Know Evil Eclipse Phase campaign are top notch). It may be interrupted by the next dream sequence (which I have already mapped out and probably will not provide any inadvertent foreshadowing) but that will provide a good change of pace for the session (it should be mostly combat this time while combat is a failure state of the infiltration).

Serpents Skull

This was an interesting session in that it was mostly wrap up of the Kalabuto arc. We also had a new player which was kind of good timing as they are leaving Kalabuto and starting the next leg of the journey but mostly bad timing because they didn’t have much to do for the first part of the session and the session pacing was horribly off compared to what it normally is. It was still an okay session and I hope they come back (and I can figure out how to pace the upcoming games).

Then we had a boat ride to the Lake of Vanished Armies that was way too railroady for me. I tried to spice it up with forewarning of upcoming events (Mzali Rangers in the area, talk of the lake monster, etc.) and a mystery encounter leading to a treasure map and a sea hag boss. But the mystery encounter was sort of a miss and we had to end the session before going after the treasure.

The big challenge for future games is going to be running the boat trip up to Taizon. I generally don’t run railroad style games, but the boat ride is sort of like a literal railroad and I don’t know how to offer characters meaningful choices when they are stuck on the boat moving along a set path. I might look up a couple of mystery games set on riverboats or railroads and see what they do. But I remember listening to the The Five Toned Goddess for Eclipse Phase, and while interesting, something like that is completely unsuitable for my Serpent Skull game. So lots of GMing challenges coming up in this game.
 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
When I ran the trip up through the Screaming Jungle, I didn't allow boat traffic, postulating a series of rapids that prevented significant river travel. The PCs had to advance on foot, braving the heat, humidity and diseases. I adopted the section on jungle diseases from Heart of the Jungle, but the PCs managed to make all their saves, so nobody suffered from boot rot, malaria or anything else.
The PCs also had to bring a dozen local bearers, and a jungle guide from Kalabuto, because they were facing a trek of over a month's slogging through the jungle and the Bandu Hills.
The Bandu hills themselves were set up as populated by dinosaurs, both herbivores and predators.

But the really significant part is foreshadowing the various expeditions. I chucked out all the material from Serpent's Skull and adapted it to my own storyline. The PCs were following the ill-fated expedition of an evil Chelaxian wizard, and kept finding the bodies of hired mercenaries that had fallen to the jungle predators. Before that wizard had left Kalabuto, he'd had a falling out with the Baron of Kalabuto, a greedy ex-Chelaxian who wanted the fabled treasure for himself, and whose rather large group was following several days behind the PCs, and whose group had also been infiltrated by Aspis Consortium agents with their own agenda. This following group didn't come into play until much later, after the PCs had had a few weeks to explore Tazion itself, but the PCs caught up to the leading group and the first Chelaxian wizard just before arriving at Tazion, his expedition having been whittled down to just a handful of mercenaries. This gave the PCs first stab at Tazion, where I placed a dozen Charau-ka villages within the ruins, and added a number of tombs and crumbling underground areas that the PCs were able to explore, securing much-needed ancient Azlanti magic items that would help them as they continued their quest.
 

!DWolf

Adventurer
So I just finished my Legacy of Fire game session and since I was logging in anyways to upvote @Philip Benz (thank you for sharing your experiences btw), I figured I would give an update now instead of in a couple weeks.

First of all the maps: I knew that almost the entire session was going to be in the battlemarket so, after a lot of internal debate, I printed the entire map out at full scale. I hate how blurry it looks at that scale (I need to investigate AI upscalers) and I could only fit the first two levels on the table but they played perfectly and I got several complements from passersby (we play in a game store and the rpg rooms are still closed due to construction) about how cool they looked and I’m pretty chuffed about the results.

As for the game itself, I set it up by taking parts of the Refuge of Nethys optional dungeon and repurposing them as a B “plot”. I also (as the module suggests) imported NPCs from two of the characters backstories into the situation. That gave me the prep for a total of eight “plots”, which I felt was enough.

Important note: when I say “plot” I don’t actually mean plot as in a sequence of events the PCs must follow instead I mean setting up a situation which will generate a plot organically as the PCs interact with it.

Running it: I started with a very brief infiltration for the PCs to establish themselves as merchants (I should have made this slightly harder in retrospect, it wasn’t really an infiltration, just a single obstacle that didn’t last long as the characters were on a hot streak starting off with a crit success on a deception check) and then ran the rest as a six turn exploration with a gladiatorial fight taking place after turn 3. It worked fantastically, it was like the game ran itself as the players wandered around interacting with the various NPCs and exploring the place.

The gladiators fight was also interesting. It was a single level two PC (a monk) versus a level three opponent. However, the PC had Tempest (basically converted as just a frost rune at this point) and immediately prior to the fight had been subjected to the infusium and jacked up with haste, heroism, and a couple other effects. Also the other PCs were helping with creative means from the sidelines (or using the fight as a distraction to snoop around restricted areas). The PC won by the skin of their teeth (much to the relief of the party goblin rogue who had taken bets without any knowledge of gambling lore!) and the session ended after three more turns of exploration in which the PCs explored even more and got pulled even further into the local intrigues. We left off with the PCs plotting how to kill off the ogre gladiator.

I didn’t actually have time to get to the next dream sequence, but I felt the pacing was good enough without it, and we will definitely get to it next time.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I need to investigate AI upscalers
I use waifu2x-converter-cpp to upscale wallpaper. It seems to work okay with battlemaps, but it’s not going to perform miracles with low-resolution maps. The maps in Paizo’s PDFs are very low resolution, especially if you want to use them at scale. See below for a comparison.

I extracted the maps from the PDF using pdfimages (from the Poppler) and upscaled them to scale. The left side was done using a simple bilinear filter in Affinity Photo (assuming that your printer doesn’t do anything more sophisticated). The right side was upscaled using waifu2x-converter-cpp. I also included a photo of a printout with minis for scale (featuring Valeros, Seoni, Harsk, Ezren, and Kyra versus Sorshen and Aldern Foxglove).
 

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