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
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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MaskedGuy

Explorer
Got chance to play Malevolence while wrath was on break, wrath break about to end. Bit annoyed we did decide to continue it to end in 1e, but eh, maybe I can figure out something to make combat bit more interesting. Still excited also that plans to play in edgewatch seems to be proceeding (jade regent 2e conversion is going okay though life is kinda sapping my energy I need for prepping conversions xD)

But yeah my starfinder campaign is super close to the end as well and in abomination vault they are at level 3 and still haven't died somehow :D Dunno how long my only 5e campaign is gonna last but I'm extremely glad when I can stop running 5e since while players are giving me strength to continue that one, I don't really find homebrewing 5e monsters/npcs fun in the same way I liked it in other systems
 

!DWolf

Adventurer
I ran a one-shot for Halloween that I’m pretty pleased with. It was a conversion of the Call of Cthulhu scenario Cold Warning. It went very well and was a lot of fun. Conversion was easy because the (1920s) Call of Cthulhu is usually very similar in how you set up a pathfinder 2e horror adventure: I used a variant of the vacation opening suggested by Seth Skorkowsky in his review of the scenario though instead of being on vacation, the characters were traveling north from Andoran over the Five Kings Mountains when an early snow closed the pass, trapping everyone until spring. The only inn in the town where everyone was stuck was overfull, so the characters sought out rooms in a nearby hunting lodge. I localized all the names, replaced modern conveniences with older ones (crossbows instead of guns, etc.), and did a really nice full scale map of the lodge in dungeondraft. I also made pregens. For them I used the WFRP 2e career compendium to randomly generate careers, then turned those careers into level 3 characters (fighters, rogues, and rangers to try and keep things simple since I had players new to the system) with free-archetype and automatic bonus progression. Gear was based on what was listed in the career and I tried to select mostly passive or easily understood abilities. I also tweaked the villains motivations a bit, changed the location of a few clues, etc. to try and make it fit better in the timeslot (a single 4+ hour session).

That being said, I find it helpful to document my mistakes and thing I need to work on, and since I love to talk about my games have a big long post of the things I thought I did wrong:
  1. I didn’t have time to make suspect cards. And some of my players really need suspect cards to keep track what was going on, especially with the Taldor/Andoran names.
  2. Item cards. Like suspect cards but not as vital. Most characters had elixir’s of life, some had traps, and some could do herbalism. Having cards for these things would have made it a lot easier to run the characters, especially for the players brand new to the system.
  3. I didn’t add any guests to the lodge because I was trying to keep the session within a 4 hour window. This made it feel small and rushed. I think dedicating two or three sessions to it would be better, but a one-session one shot is a lot easier to organize.
  4. Snowshoes and Armor. I needed a system to keep track of who was wearing their snowshoes and armor. I’m thinking cards for them as well, characters can set the cards in front of them to remind them/ me they are wearing snowshoes/armor.
  5. Frostbite. So frostbite has three stages, I looked at it and thought “three stage affliction”. It worked okay. But after playing and reflecting on it I thought up a way of doing it (attached) that might be more fun.
  6. The blizzard: I just copied the blizzard mechanics straight from the scenario, but in retrospect they were both too easy (only a single success needed) and too hard (high DC). I think a victory point subsystem with more successes but at a lower DC would have served me much better (also attached).
  7. Random Hazards: in the scenario’s random encounter tables there are a couple of hazards that I altered a bit and built as PF2e hazards. One was a gully with a crust of snow over the lip of it (which is a hazard that almost got me once in real life) and the other was a widowmaker branch. They ran fine, but their interaction with the frostbite system was a little clunky and very mechanical in it’s approach. I think. I think the better frostbite system will fix this as well... or it might make it worse.
  8. I didn’t use secret rolls (because I generally think it is more fun for the players to roll things), but in a hardcore mystery like this I think they would have enhanced the mood. Next time I am going to use secret rolls.
  9. Speaking of enhancing the mood. A howling wind ambient soundtrack would have really helped with the blizzard.
  10. The heart attack and medical treatment of frostbite were both too easy. Basically, it was solved in a single roll. I think a victory point system for the heart attack, and a location/severity based system for the frostbite (attached) would work much better.
  11. I statted up the main villain as a 5th level NPC ranger with a couple of ritualist dedication feats and an Esoteric Knowledge ability that let him become trained in any skill during daily prep. And that worked fairly well except he seemed too much like a normal guy once the PCs attempted to murder him (as in almost completely unable to defend himself against 6 PCs, three of which were fighters); I kept him moving (despite all the AOOs) and he escaped, but he had like two hit points after two rounds. I think I might increase his level to 6 in future games and/or I might add an additional movement or getaway type ability. I think its awesome though that he is a ranger and not a spellcaster, really threw the characters for a loop.
  12. The player’s figured out that they needed to use a spell to banish the BBEG (which I had placed in a book in the office along with three other spells as plot points/red herrings), but I stated up the spells using ritual rules and those are more of a downtime thing. I improvised a victory point system during play and I think that is the way to go. So when I run this again I am going to build an elaborate victory point subsystem for performing each ritual.
  13. For the wendigo, I substituted a custom monster (based off my vague memories from the first part of Pact by Wildbow) and just used owlbear stats with immunity to cold, a large vulnerability to hot iron and critical hits, and the ghost’s rejuvenation ability unless killed by hot iron. I was very happy with the offense of the monsters and not so happy with the defense. They seemed much too durable until their weakness was exploited and fighting them took too long for the time I had available. I need to fiddle around with the stats but I’m thinking dropping them a level, moving their offensive ability to the high side and their defenses to the low side would work better. I also think that I might set them up with a system like the skeleton’s: low ac/hp but with resist all except hot iron.
 

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MaskedGuy

Explorer
Welp players finished with killing Babhomet. Forgot to use power attack, but at most one character might have died temporarily, mythic party pretty hard to stop. One book to go and free from 1e for while.

One more session and devastation ark is finished, jade regent I had lot of fun shenanigans with ninja enemy homebrew and abomination vaults is going through "welp half of the party had to step out because of work so recruiting two players... Who happen to be newbies to 2e. In third level of abomination vaults. Oh boi" situation :'D
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
Current status: After wrath our saturday game turned out to be starfinder version of legendary planet(I'm a player, having fun playing a gray), in Jade Regent party slayed a dragon(no deaths but I did get close to offing someone :p Perhaps I took too easy on them, but eh they did get lucky), in the newbie 5e campaign I'm feeling like even closer to end of this thing(16 so that is like four more levels only) and I've gotten to play automaton inventor in edgewatch and are up to level 3 so still alive. Oh and Abomination Vaults is up to level 6 and I think they have reached the point where they are less likely to die, though still powerful traps and foes are included. New AV players have been fun and I started doing bit more downtime in the city between dungeon delves. Semi depressed at moment I think I did worse in rpg superstar than last year, but maybe I can still find extra energy to work on rpg projects besides campaigns I'm in.
 


MaskedGuy

Explorer
Players leveled up to level 8 in abomination vaults, so they are gonna have bit easier time with seventh floor's boss.

Last two sessions have been pretty cool, party managed to get decently attached to evil crook they ended up convincing to come with them for adventure on three last floors and that eventually ended up in redemption story for them when they learned something pretty spoilery. And in this session I got opportunity to turn 3x3 small room mini boss fight into "mini boss runs into different room and combines multiple different encounters together to buy distance between himself and party" to make encounter harder and more memorable without it turning overwhelming. Really nice indeed
 

!DWolf

Adventurer
Due to my new job and losing the last of my original players of Serpent's Skull to real life, I decided to end the AP and switch to a new adventure/AP with the remaining players (and people interested in PF2e but not at starting at LV8). After a vote our next AP was determined to be Abomination Vaults (spoilers ahead). We have currently played two sessions (about 8 hours) and it has been really fun:
  • For the ground level I printed out the map at scale and laid it out, justifying it in that the ruins have been explored and the layout is known. For the lower levels though, I am planning on running mostly old school theater of the mind/graph paper. Currently the players have only ventured briefly into the second level (where they found the bloodsiphon and ran for it after it one shot the 13 hp elf wizard) but my previous attempts at running games in this manner (for which I used a specifically modified version of N1 Cult of the Reptile God) was a big success so I hope this will be too.
  • During the first session the PCs returned to Otari after every fight (though I increased the walk to an hour), so I made a rumor table and prepped some side quests/Troubles in Otari. Naturally, the PCs didn't return to town once during the second session, instead plowing their way through the entire rest of the first floor.
  • The last time I ran mites was at the start of Kingmaker (pf1e) which was really fun but it took me forever to prep as I had to basically make custom creatures and then test the combats to get a dynamic, tactical combat that worked. This time I just copied the monsters stat blocks, shoved them in a binder with a few combat trackers, and was able to get an engaging combat almost right out of the box (for the second session I invested a bit more in setting up my binder with what amounts to a partial delve layout and some rumor tables, but it only took me a couple hours to do a full floor so still much faster than PF1e).
  • I ran the mites dynamically (that is they leave their rooms and respond to the players) and it worked wonderfully with the mites ranging all over the place, attacking from walls and roofs, sending giant vermin to attack the PCs, and setting up sentries and ambushes. The only “problem” was that they killed Boss Scrawg as he was trying to surrender with a critical hit from a produce flame that knocked him across the room and then a magic missile spell to finish the job while he unconscious and on fire (they HATED him). I did make the vermin slightly better trained though, to increase the difficulty level slightly and help with the dynamic flow of combat.
  • Both types of wisps ran really well, though I wish there were more bodies in the chapel so the PCs could act on the information they get after the first wisp claims the thief’s body and they realize what they are dealing with.

I am also continuing to run Legacy of Fire. I set up the House of the Beast with my raid system with the addition of hidden camps that they could rest at and three hour (one watch) movement from one location to another and it worked great. They just killed the Carrion King in an epic boss fight and are heading down to retrieve the scroll. The problem I am having with this game right now is that after the thrilling, three-stage nail-biter boss fight with the Carrion King; the rasts and ghosts in the dungeon, though interesting, just didn’t get the adrenaline pumping the same way.
Finally, I continue to have the same problem with both games of PF2e I am running: I sit down to play and five minutes later the session is getting good and everything is gelling then I look up and realize that four hours have passed and it’s time to go.
 

!DWolf

Adventurer
Played the third session of Abomination Vaults this weekend. My thoughts:
  • I forgot to mention last time but I used the start at the entrance to the ruins opening. However, I used Decuma during session 0 so most of the characters already had connections with each other and the town. It worked really well.
  • I am also using the XP system instead of milestones. It is much easier than the last time I used XP (in kingmaker for pf2e).
  • The PCs needed to get into the gauntlight. They have explored everything but two rooms and are steadfastly refusing to go anywhere near the place at night. They broke two picks, went back to town to try and hire a master thief to open the lock, came back with a crowbar and two of the PCs almost fell to their deaths trying to pry the trapdoor open (the crowbar was apparently cursed because it rolled really bad, including a bunch of nat 1s) this whole ordeal took most of an in-game day. Finally, they gave up and searched the two remaining rooms where they easily found the key to open the trapdoor.
  • They spent a bunch of time in town (looking for a way into the trapdoor mostly) and via the clues in the gauntlight and my rumor table, they managed to also get a side-quest (find the thieves). They also heard rumors of two other side-quests (the werewolf, the fish-camp) but decided not to pursue them. This worked out quite well as it gave them more mysteries to chew on.
  • After getting into the gauntlight, they decided to poke around downstairs. I am running the lower levels as an old-school, theater-of-the-mind dungeon crawl, though I sketched out some of the more complicated rooms on flip maps for reference. It worked great: the characters crept around, sat in random chairs and found a secret door, listened at doors and avoided any that had sounds behind them, blundered into deadly traps, followed strange lights, nearly got killed by a giant skeleton, and otherwise were the classic dungeon-crawling fools. I though they were going to skip the morlocks entirely but, after healing up from the giant skeleton back on the surface, they decided to venture down and see what was making all that noise. They barged in on a couple of morlock engineers and just massacred them.
  • I am planning the morlock’s response to this. This level seems to have a minor theme of traps and trap builders and so I am going to play into that, with the morlocks doing a bunch of defensive plays. I am also going to emphases the morlocks fascination with clockwork and the fact they were working on autocrossbows.
  • After killing the morlocks and running back to the secret door before the morlocks buddies can respond, the party headed back to town where I triggered the deadtide. The undead were an absolute joke as (after the disastrous fight with the giant skeleton) they were aware of most of the skeletons resistances. They used the warhammers from the morlocks and just wrecked the encounter. Then the scalathrax showed up and almost TPKed the party. I had a wall around the graveyard and it was moving all over the place, gaining cover between attacks, and picking off PCs with ranged attacks or moving in to grapple and bite PCs that isolated themselves trying to get clear shots. All the characters went down once and the fight was probably one turn away from a TPK. What saved the party was the wizard getting a good result on a recall knowledge and knowing it was weak to fire. The bard did die though, our first death of the campaign.
  • I’m really looking forward to next session, I’m having a blast running this. One thing I want to try though is having more downtime in town. I’m planning on trying two things to facilitate this: an expanded Downtime quick reference chart (with entries like Make a Friend and Do Research in the Dawnflower Library on it); and maybe instituting a version of the old school time passes between sessions at equal rates in the real world and game world (though it would be X days in game world per week in the real world, with X probably being 1-3).

And now some statistics (does not include session 0):

Number of Play Sessions: 3
Total Play Time: 693 minutes
Total Keyed Areas Explored: 34/358 (9.5%)
Side Quests Completed: 0
Time in Combat: 325 minutes
% of Play Time in Combat: 47%
Mean Time to Complete a Combat Encounter: 23.21 minutes
Median Time to Complete a Combat Encounter: 22.5 minutes
Mean Combat Encounter Time based on Book Encounters: 19.11 minutes
Shortest Combat: 3 minutes
Longest Combat: 47 minutes
PC Deaths: 1
 

Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
I'm running 2 games, both in Pathfinder 2E with some modifications (much less non-magical healing, much more crafting requirements, slight caster improvements, heavy use of alignment, restricted races... think grimdark fantasy, the opposite of Boo the Hamster).

In one we are doing Abomination Vaults, but with an all-gnome party, based in the Gnomish Lands, with the villain replaces with a scorned gnome mage names Saladore Togglesrpocket. I mixed in a plot with the elemental mageocracy of their home town, basically a copy of our Trump/Putin rumors/stuff from 2020, with Clan Azure and their newly elected obnoxious self-destructive leader in the pocket of the Children of Pyre's leader, who has komprmat on him and has installed him to ruin Clan Azure from within and eventually attack the fire clan, giving them their excuse to attack back. It's a really intense plot, with one player who infiltrated Cla Azure's brainwashing villa now missing (and about to kill the Prime Minister of Mayalaya!). We are on session 28, with maybe 8 more to go before the fleshwarps abominations destroy the gnome town of Chumbawamba.

The other game is set in the Varkonan lands (Egypt/Atlantis/Arabaia analog in my gameworld) with 5 demigods coming down to Mazariim (the gameworld), and how the players must race to acquire the Machine of Gyru, a device a mortal dwarf one made to ascend to godhood bu absorbing mana. In my gameworld, even the most powerful gods are just entities... think of casting 10th level spells but not wiping out planets or creating universes. Anyhow, they must travel to far-away lands in a race with the entities. Now on session 11, where they have made friends with one demigod of knowledge, and they are seeking the demigod of fate. The demigod of fury and primal rage is already looking for the first part of the machine. The end result will affect a 10 year 10 campaign story arc with the finale campaign named "The Coming of the Lines" where ley-lines are becoming active and might destroy the world, all thanks to side effects of the players winning most of those campaigns since 2013 (not all heh)
 
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!DWolf

Adventurer
Some updates:

In Legacy of Fire the characters got the scroll they were looking for in the tomb (and a one-shot item, the rod of resurrection, for a PCs personal quest to resurrect his wife, they also found a glass dagger that when used breaks and gives the effect of finger of death in addition to normal damage) and came back up. Since they had skipped effectively half the content of the dungeon, I had a gnoll civil war break out with the death of the Carrion King and a vicious three way fight going on that blocked off certain areas and forced the PCs to either fight never-ending waves of opponents (moving encounters from nearby areas) or sneak through exploring the parts of the dungeon they skipped to look for another exit (and to get to the dead body of the wife, who was a goblin follower of Lamashtu). They choose the waves and fought through three waves (giant hyenas, carrion guards, and unchosen) to get to the wife’s body to use the rod of resurrection. The wife then had them go down and take care of the Madfang the Holy Ascentioner: which they did in less than a round as he rolled low on initiative and the barbarian and rogue rolled high. The barbarian strode in, raged, and crit for triple damage with a magic flaming axe. Then the rogue walk up and sneak attacked with the glass dagger and that was the end of Mad Fang. Which was a shame because I was planning on him throwing alchemist items to delay the party while leading them on a chase through the unexplored portions of the third level. However, they then asked the wife which way to escape since the route they took through the gatehouse was blocked by (now hostile) troglodytes and she is leading them through the spider’s route as they are mostly to big to use the routes the goblins took. And while they were debating the route, the sorcerer split from the party, headed through the gnoll wives, and reached the prison to rescue Yuseifah (who had information on his family that was sold into slavery), he then had to race to catch up with the party who had moved on without him. All in all it was a fantastic game.

In Abomination Vaults we had a plot and roleplay heavy session with the entire first two hours taken up with introducing two new surprise PCs (well a surprise to me) and dealing with the immediate aftermath of the deadtide.
  • The townsfolk were ready to form a mob to lynch Wrin (the party’s employer/friend who asked them to check out the Gauntlight) as they had decided she was behind the deadtide (she’s an eccentric tiefling who hired adventurer’s to break into the Gauntlight and immediately after that was the deadtide – she obviously needed access to it to start the deadtide. Logic). The four original players tried to stop this but rolled poorly while the two new ones (and one of the original players that rolled a nat 1 to request) got swept up in the mob.
  • The mayor (who everyone despises) turned out to be despicable. He did however manage to stop the mob. He then employed the players to go back to the Gauntlight and a) get evidence that Wrin was behind it so that he could have her lynched legally and/or b) stop this from happening again.
  • The players then went around and roleplayed with the various players in town (including Carmin who is the only one in town more despised than the mayor). The Champion of Milani is now going to run for mayor, so I get to have fun with small town politics in the future and, because of the structure of Otari, I can use this to hook them into the plots of the lumber companies and the second part of Troubles in Otari.
  • Otari is extremely well designed with lots of good schisms/sources of conflict and personalities to draw from and a lot of side/quests mysteries that lead to the dungeon. It also has evocative but not too fantastical locations (the giants wheel and flume, Wrin’s Wonders, the Crooks Nook) and I had a blast running it.
  • I got player buy in for the downtime rules (1 day in game/1 week real time) to get them more involved with the town. I wish though that I had implemented this from the start as what I was trying to emphasis in this portion of the adventure, from a theme/hero’s journey point of view, is contrasting the mundane world of Otari filled with petty people and cutthroat small-town politics with the fanatical and dangerous world of the dungeon. The hour walk through the swamp is the transition between the two. The deadtide was the intrusion of the fanatical on the mundane and the actual inciting incident of the story (which is why I like starting at the entrance of the Gauntlight, Wrin asking them to check out the gauntlight is not the inciting incident of the adventure and shouldn’t have a lot of time devoted to it). And I think this would have worked better with downtime spent in Otari at the beginning of the adventure so the players could know the town better.
  • I like there is no proper inn in Otari. This forces the players to interact with the town people to find a place to stay and gives me options to hook them into scenarios. Currently two PCs (cleric and champion) are staying in monk cells at the Dawnflower library, one PC is crashing on the floor/common room of the Crook’s Nook for 5 cp a night and not happy about it (wizard), one was staying at the jail but had to spend the night with the champion in the library as the jail was full after the deadtide (thief rogue, he got caught stealing and he’s waiting for his trial but his old friend the champion has vouched for him so he gets out of jail for adventuring), one is staying at a worker camp outside the lumberyard (lumberjack fighter), and one is slumming with the druids at the Stone Ring (ranger).
  • I am of the opinion that hooks are the lifeblood of large dungeons as they give the players focus and reasons to venture ever deeper, and Abomination Vaults is delivering both the quality and quantity of hooks to keep the players engaged. One problem I have though, since I am running Troubles in Otari alongside Abomination Vaults, is while Abomination Vaults has a lot of good hooks to Otari, and Troubles has some not so great hooks to Otari, there are no hooks to or from Abomination Vaults to Troubles in Otari. I am inserting hooks between the two (the fish camp is near the sea caves Jaul uses and he sometimes crashes there, the necromancer in part 2 is intrigued with the legend of Belcorra and Volluk or even in league with Volluk and is going to supply him with more dwarves in exchange for his patronage, the cult in part three is at the entrance to the tunnel from C2, morlock surface activity is conflated with the work of the Leadbusters, etc.) but am considering using another module like N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God (replacing Explicita with Mwibah) to stitch things together more tightly – what’s stopping me is that I kind of want to keep Otari firmly centered in the mundane world.

During the second half of the game, the PCs finally got back to the dungeon.
  • After reading about overloaded encounter dice I decided to give it a try. The party explored a little and then opened up a secret door. I rolled the encounter die and got a 1-Wandering Monster which I figured would be the devil cleaning the place (I made it elite to compensate for the extra players). Combat ensued and I was fully intending to have it surrender once the PCs got it’s hp down a little… then the champion grabbed it and the fighter used the opportunity to crit with a power attack from a greataxe and just annihilated it. Just like poor Boss Scrawng.
  • The encounter die decided they didn’t like that and when resetting the scene after combat it rolled a 1 again and the party heard morlocks approaching. They turned out the lights so as to better be diplomatic with the light sensitive morlocks. The morlock who knew the PCs had already murdered two of them. So the PCs were in the dark where half of them couldn’t see, and injured from fighting the devil, when four morlock scavengers burst in with a repaired autocrossbow from the hall (it had been mounted and pointed up the other corridor where the morlocks had assumed the PCs came from because they didn’t know about the secret doors so it took a couple of rounds to get there) and proceeded to wreck them, downing multiple PCs with their first action. A vicious fight ensued as the PCs tried to get a light going (one of the downed PCs was the only one with a light spell). Fortunately, the fighter power attacked the autocrossbow and destroyed it before it could fire again and wipe out the rest of the party and the party managed to rally. They even took the last morlock alive (the fighter crit yet again).
  • Resetting the scene, I rolled a 1 yet again on the encounter die. They heard more morlocks in the halls. Realizing they couldn’t get through another combat they retreated through the secret door to heal up and talk to the captured morlock, arranging an audience with his boss. They showed the morlock the secret doors they were using to get around and the morlock was very excited to tell the other morlocks. The rogue briefly considers murdering him before he can tell but decides not to.
  • They open the secret door and I rolled the encounter die – another 1. The morlock boss and three morlocks were waiting for them. They were very excited to learn about the secret doors (as that gave them a route to the surface not guarded by a dragon). One of the PCs spoke undercommon so they came to a deal: the morlocks would give them free passage in return for killing a dangerous water monster (the aforementioned dragon) and bowing before the ghost queen. The morlock boss was going to lead them through the morlocks traps to the dragon when the party decided that he needed to die. There was a vicious fight where morlocks fell like wheat before the reaper and the morlock king bravely ran away (his occult attack ability btw is extremely potent allowing him incredible mobility while still slinging spells). The party almost TPKed themselves chasing after an enemy through unknown ground, spreading themselves out and leaving several members blind in the dark, before the wizard yelled at everyone to come to their senses. They retreated to the surface.
  • Since it was now night time (because of the late start and long time healing themselves after being wrecked in the first two encounters), they decided to rest in the gauntlight cupola (a highly defensible position) rather than trudge back through the swamp and I finally got to run the Blood of Belcorra haunt encounter that only happens at night. After it was exorcised, the blood shot up and flowed into the cupola and the party decided that they would rather head back through the swamp.
  • For the next session, with access to the surface, the morlocks (the four who survive at least) are going to become a major threat as they fortify the entrance to the underground and begin construction of their ultimate clockwork weapon: metal gear. Obviously rumors of Morlock activities will reach town and I intend to have them conflated with part 2 of Troubles in Otari and to have the lumberjack fighter get some hooks through the Otari lumber company/Giant’s wheel as well.
  • The dungeon continues to run extremely well, even though I kept rolling 1’s on the encounter dice. Everything has a good amount of thought put behind it and things flow together so well that the place practically runs itself.
  • I am going to try a couple more sessions with the overloaded encounter dice to see how they work when they roll something other than ones.

All and all two fantastic sessions. Contrasting the two dungeons I think that while the House of the Beast is good, as a dungeon, Abomination Vaults is far superior. James Jacobs did a fantastic job and it is easy to see, even after a handful of sessions, why this is considered one of PF2E’s top modules.
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
Currently finished with running book 3 of jade regent and wrapping my head around how to prep book 4 because uh that book might require lot of changing. Abomination vault is in book 3 (they have met the ghost yay) In edgewatch I'm playing in we just defeated hopefully the hardest boss of the second book's final dungeon (who got bright idea of making ooze without weaknesses of ooze? :'D That thing is horrifying).

Life's been pretty stressful recently unfortunately but hopefully that eases soon again
 

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