D&D 5E [Let's Read] The Sunken Isles

Libertad

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Hello everyone, and welcome to my next Let’s Read! This time we’re tackling a level 1 to 20 adventure path and brand new Fantasy Counterpart Hawaiian setting. Taking place in the scenic Isles of Manaki, the good people of the land find themselves facing multiple existential threats, from a risen undead emperor to a dispassionate god who views his creations as a failed canvas in need of a blank slate. From worm-dug tunnels running beneath the ocean’s surface to coral reefs besieged by wrathful celestials, the Sunken Isles campaign has many places to explore in a pseudo-sandbox environment. And they all have consequences and developments for where they visit and who they choose to help…or fail in helping.

To the more socially conscious readers, I’d like to point out that the creation of this book had heavy contribution from Native Hawaiians, ranging from Honua Consulting and Purple Mai'a as sensitivity readers, to hiring the artist Solomon Enos. With the debacle that was Mythic Polynesia last year, it’s good to see that there are other tabletop publishers who went the extra mile to avoid repeating misinformed and bigoted narratives by reaching out to the communities that would be affected by this..

Our book opens up with a very brief overview of the setting and accompanying adventure path: the Isles of Manaki are a tropical region in the middle of the ocean whose inhabitants have been isolated from the rest of the world for most of its history. The wicked king of the Ikolf, Skati Fylkyr (or Skomm Fylkir as an epithet title), inherited the throne of a dwarven empire from far off lands. Unlike his kinder father, he sought to exploit the region’s life energy for personal necromantic empowerment. After a brutal invasion, Skati was sealed away from the combined efforts of native Manaki and sympathetic Ikolf. After the latter took pains in making up for the harm they’ve done, both groups lived in relative peace for generations. The need for external trade from growing populations encouraged the Isles to conduct trade with outside civilizations, which brought merchant ships as well as predatory pirates and others with ill intent. These problems become exacerbated when the necromantic king is revived by sympathetic cultists, which in turn sets off a chain of events where various supernatural forces engage in a civil war over Manaki’s fate, and the PCs have to put a stop to them all.

The Sunken Isles adventure path takes the form of a pseudo-sandbox: the campaign spans 20 in-game weeks, where the PCs gain a level at the end of each week. For most of those weeks the party has the choice of visiting 2-3 specific locations, and while they can theoretically explore beyond such choices the in-game hooks and encouragement steers them towards recommended areas. In a few cases PCs have opportunities to visit prior locations which have changed since they were last there, often with new problems. Due to this relatively rapid progression, downtime activities are appropriately sped up, where actions and projects are often undertaken by NPC allies providing services such as crafting with progress measured in days or 1-3 weeks. The adventure is intended to be on the higher end of lethality, so backup PCs are encouraged. Death has a penalty where the replacement PC doesn’t benefit from that week’s level-up at the end of the adventure.

A level-up a week sounds pretty fast-paced, and overall this is true for the adventure. But 20 weeks is around 5 months, which is a little under half a year, and a lot of published campaigns have just as quick if not quicker in-game time progression by the time PCs become epic heroes. But with that said, the PCs in the Sunken Isles will be moving around a lot, as sailing between islands takes several days at most which often means that they’ll have a few days to resolve or explore whatever dungeon/conflict/goal is waiting for them at that location. This also means that doing a “100% Run” in visiting all locations during momentous events is practically impossible, so PCs will have to make weighty decisions on who they help and where they go, which can have reverberating effects through the rest of the campaign. I’m not exactly a fan of holding off level-ups, even if the penalty is non-cumulative; it can feel like quite the downer when everyone else in the party unlocks their new ASI/feats but you don’t, or when a few PCs get amazing 20th level abilities which almost never happens in D&D and some players miss out on this.

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Our first chapter opens up with new Player Options in the form of races and backgrounds. Sunken Isles dispenses with racial ability score bonuses, where you can assign a net +3 increase to the scores of your choice but with no more than +2 in a single score, and your starting language is Common plus one other (Dwarvish and Promordial are the most common other tongues in the Isles of Manaki). I should note that of the new races, the aquatic ones (decapodoians and kia’i) can still see the color blue when using darkvision. May not matter in most campaigns, but is a neat little feature I felt like pointing out.

We’ve got three new races. The Decapodoians are sapient crustaceans divided into two subraces: the ‘ula’ula who evolved from lobsters, and the mant-i who evolved from mantis shrimp. Both groups call Chitoni as their ancestral home, a collection of rocky isles and shallow pools linked together by an underwater network of tunnels. ‘Ula’ula are introspective and philosophical, while the mant-i are more emotional and prize the martial arts. Decapodians as a race can be either Small or Medium at character creation, can breathe both air and water but risk exhaustion if they aren’t submerged in salt water daily for at least an hour, and cannot wear armor but have natural armor of 13 + their Dexterity modifier, which they lose from molting during the summer.* The ‘ula’ula subrace has 60 foot darkvision, can disengage as a bonus action, advantage on Perception checks based on scent, and have a slow walking speed of 20 feet but fast swimming speed of 40 feet. The manti-i, by contrast, have average walking and fast swimming speeds, have 120 feet of darkvision, advantage on attack rolls against surprised creatures, gain double proficiency in Perception, and at 5th level add a bonus die of fire damage on all their melee attacks if the target fails a Constitution save (1d6 to 1d10).

*This has plot relevance, as Skati Fylkir’s (the undead dwarven king) army attacks Chitoni during their molting season.

As a race, the decapodians are kind of weak. Being unable to wear armor really limits them to a small variety of class types, and the mant-i subrace is overall better than the ‘ula’ula. Double proficiency on Perception is a clear winner above advantage on scent-based Perception, and Disengage as a bonus action is something that can be replicated by a Rogue. The bonus fire damage is nice, but as it forces a save on every attack that can quickly bog down the game in saving throws. The mant-i do make for useful party scouts, so I’ll give them that.

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The kia’i are amphibious humanoids with fishlike characteristics, but unlike merfolk their bottom halves have feet as well as smaller fins running along their limbs. Most live in underwater habitats, from caves to coral reefs, and prioritize simple self-sustaining lives in harmony with the natural world. Almost all kia’i are born female, but in later years they transform into men who are given elevated leadership positions in society. Some kia’i are born male, and are celebrated as being a gift from the Star Breather, the creator god of the Sunken Isles.

Kia’i have no subraces, and can choose to be either Small or Medium at character creation. They have an average swimming and walking speed, are amphibious, have 60 foot darkvision, and once per short rest can cast Create or Destroy Water, and at 8th level can cast Fog Cloud once per short rest.

Once again, kia’i are a pretty weak racial option. I cannot help but compare them to tritons or water genasi, who are official races with a similar concept and more abilities, plus the triton are able to Fog Cloud at an earlier level along with more rest-based spells.

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Mirescales round out our new races. Appearing as humanoid feathered dinosaurs, their origin lies with a vessel of poachers carrying cages of rare animals from the Primal Archipelago. Their ship sank during a violent storm, falling all the way into the Entropy Abyss deep sea trench, whose magical energies miraculously transformed the sailors who survived. When they emerged, their forms were melded with the animals they captured, and they resettled on the swampy island of Springbog. There aren’t many mirescales, numbering a little over 200, and their society is more like a close-knit family whose laws operate on an honor system. They have involved rituals for courtship and alcohol consumption, and they’re famous for their local beverages of grak and moondew. The latter drink has magical properties and is shared only with those they have a strong bond with.

In terms of stats mirescales are Small size, with a slow walking speed of 25 feet and a burrowing speed of 15 feet, along with 60 feet of Darkvision. They aren’t amphibious but can hold their breath for 15 minutes, ignore the penalties of difficult terrain, have advantage on saves against being knocked prone (but not opposed checks like being shoved) and are proficient in a whopping 3 skills (Medicine, Stealth, Survival) and brewer’s supplies.

Mirescales I’d rate a bit higher than the other original races in this chapter for effectiveness. Medicine and brewer’s supplies are more situational proficiencies, but Stealth and Survival along with a burrowing speed and ignoring difficult terrain are pretty nice to have. The advantage against being knocked prone is a bit unintuitive, as while there are a few spells and effects that can inflict the prone condition the ever-common shove action is something they won’t be as good against in defending.

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Supplementing our races are six new backgrounds for the Sunken Isles. Oddly the book doesn’t explain how existing backgrounds can be incorporated into the setting, which is a bit of an oversight. Native Manaki is a human-only background for the humans of the Isles and is more of a cultural descriptor than an occupation. Most Manaki humans were traditionally nomadic, sailing between islands, but after culturally merging with the Ikolf more of them live in sedentary settlements. They are proficient in the nature and survival skills along with herbalism kits and leatherworker’s tools, and their feature lets them start play knowing a ritual where after 10 minutes they can call upon a helpful spirit representing a conceptual word (nourish, grow, vision, or falsehood) whose effects are subject to GM fiat.

Reclaimer is a kia’i only background, representing those among their number who worship the Star Breather and are tasked with the Ceremony of Rebirth ritual, where the deceased’s remains are sent into the Black Atoll to be reborn. They are proficient in Arcana, History, the Deep Speech language, and as a feature can cast gentle repose as a ritual with no material components, and the spell has a permanent duration if cast within the Relinquit of Kauhale (the kia’i’s equivalent to a necropolis). Reef guardians are the other kia’i background, of elders (or very talented younger kia’i) who learn of a sacred ritual to manipulate coral into growing faster and various forms. They have the same skill and tool proficiencies as a Native Manaki save that they swap leatherworker’s tools for Deep Speech, and their feature lets them spend an hour crafting weapons and tools out of living coral, and they can communicate with fish native to coral reefs.

Ikolf Descendants are a dwarf-only background, representing the Isles’ dwarven population. Most of them look upon the reign of Skati Fylkir (alternatively called Skomm Fylkir) with disdain, as a man who ushered in an era of darkness that their people have taken pains to undo. But there are some socially outcast cultists who want to revive him and Make Manaki Great Again. Ikolf culture is basically Fantasy Counterpart Scandinavia, albeit co-existing among the Manaki resulted in some cultural crossover. They are proficient in Arcana and Persuasion, mason’s tools and one type of musical instrument. Their feature makes them five times as productive as unskilled laborers when repairing and creating stone items and structures, and can turn a ruined building into a fully secured shelter during a long rest.

Retired Adventurer is a background for PCs who’ve been around the block despite being 1st level. They have proficiency in Insight and Perception as well as one type of artisan’s tools and gaming set. They have two Features to choose from: the first has the GM provide a hint about what’s to come whenever they visit a new area, or once per week can gain 1d4 days’ worth of rations when visiting a settlement. I don’t know about you, but the former sounds a lot more useful!

Stranded Survivor is our final background and entry for the first chapter, representing people who ended up on the Isles of Manaki after a disastrous storm, mutiny, or other catastrophe that separated them from their sailing vessel. They are proficient in Athletics and Survival along with carpenter’s tools and water vehicles. Their feature lets them automatically set up camp and find food for up to 3 people in any area that isn’t entirely bereft of flora and fauna, and they can create a fire or shelter from rain without tools in 10 minutes.

When it comes to the new backgrounds, I’d have to pick Retired Adventurer as the clear winner. Perception is the most-used skill in 5th Edition, and one of its features is bound to get the most use for the widest amount of situations. Ikolf Descendant and Stranded Survivor both have features that partially handwave the trials of survival. The features of Native Manaki and the kia’i ones are the most subjective.

Thoughts So Far: The Sunken Isles has a promising premise, and the Fantasy Counterpart Culture it’s drawing influence from is one that isn’t often done in tabletop gaming. However, the new options for PCs leave something to be desired and are of questionable balance; I mean, you’d expect the decaopodians to have natural claw attacks; why else would you play a lobster-person?!

Join us next time as we explore new rules for sea travel, a crafting system, and the magical underpinnings of the Isles in Chapter 2: Venturing Through Manaki!
 
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Libertad

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Our next chapter covers a series of new rules to be used in conjunction with the adventure path. While technically they can be adopted for campaigns beyond the Sunken Isles, quite a bit of it makes references or is specific to elements within the adventure.

Sailing Through the Isles: Journey by Sea covers sea traveling, an element the party will have to do to visit the majority of places in Manaki. PCs and the appropriate NPCs take specific roles during the journey which have their own features, such as a Captain who adds their Wisdom modifier to the ship during combat, or the Shipwright who can restore hit points to a damaged ship with the appropriate tools during a short or long rest. When embarking to a destination, a navigation roll, seafaring roll, and weather roll are made. The navigation roll is an Intelligence check that adds proficiency bonus if the navigator is proficient in navigation tools or the Survival skill, and the DC determines how quickly they arrive at their destination and if they fail badly enough also trigger a random encounter. The seafaring roll is a D20 that adds cumulative +1s for various circumstances, and the overall result determines penalties and benefits the party suffers during the trip. This can range from seasickness that poisons them for 1d4 days to gaining Bless spell benefits for an hour from feeling refreshed. Finally, the weather roll determines the weather for the entire week, which typically applies bonuses or penalties to the prior rolls, although by Week 11 and higher magical weather can occur in the form of a living tidal wave that attacks the ship (using water elemental stats but Gargantuan size).

There are of course random encounter tables for sea travel based on the weather, and range from typical combat from pirates and sea monsters to other encounter types such as getting stuck on a sandbar, debris which can be scavenged for valuables, and meeting traveling kia’i merchants.

We also get stats for various kinds of sailing vessels, ranging from simple barges to galleons. Watercraft come with lots of hit points, as even the most meager has a healthy 70, but the main hindrance is they don’t recover hit points as fast like PCs spending hit dice to rest. They have stat blocks much like NPCs and monsters, although they lack mental ability scores and have immunities typical to objects. We have very simple rules for ship combat being half a page, where ships act on their own initiative in combat and have a number of actions equal to the number of crew on board. Actions include things like aiming weapons, firing weapons, changing speed, or changing direction. And ships can be upgraded too, ranging from mundane weapon emplacements from ballistae to cannons, to supernatural spirit carvings and figureheads. Spirit carvings are made by native Manaki who invite spirits into their vessels for various benefits by expending charges, such as allowing the ship to gain an extra action in combat or rerolling on the weather table. Figureheads are dwarven creations designed to ward off evil spirits, but work too well in warding off all spirits so ships can either have spirit carvings or figureheads but not both. There are three figureheads which tend to involve risk mitigation, such as automatically frightening a few weak monsters away during combat at sea or allowing those on the ship to see the stars no matter the weather conditions.

While there are likely much more in-depth rules for naval combat and sea vessels out there, what we get in the Sunken Isles is rather functional. My major concern would be that the time PCs get a big crew and quite a few weapons they can get a lot of actions in ship combat, but as galleons and cannons can’t be bought or crafted, only found during adventures, this is mitigated a bit. There’s also the fact that a lot of adventures take place inland on the islands visited, so PCs can’t always rely on a barrage of cannonfire to save them.

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Resources: An Economy Without Gold reflects the Isles’ unique economy. Fiat currency hasn’t been invented, and outside traders don’t use it either; instead people make use of the barter system, and the adventure path dispenses with using gold/silver/copper pieces as treasure. The closest are valuable items such as artwork and gemstones that have listed monetary values. The Sunken Isles has a new mechanic known as Resources, a generic term for a variety of trade goods and valuables that can be used to purchase various items and services. For example, crafting a new weapon may require wood and metal resources, and a magical potion may require foraged goods and monster parts. Resources are measured in Units, and can be gained via appropriate tool checks while harvesting, spending 1-3 days of downtime in searching for resources on an island based on their rarity, and as rewards for services and quests in the adventure. PCs can also delegate resource gathering to the villagers of Makolf (the starting town/home base of the PCs) via Expeditions, which can be done to an island the PCs visited once per week. This frees up the PCs to do other stuff, but expeditions don’t gather as much as if the PCs were directly doing it, and at later weeks the Isles become more dangerous in general which decreases the chances of successful expeditions.

Resources can then be spent by PCs for Crafting. Crafting in the Sunken Isles is a simple minigame divided into 3 parts: a cost in Resources, an appropriate proficiency (typically tool proficiencies), and the amount of time needed to craft usually ranging from 1 to 3 weeks. Crafting typically doesn’t require skill checks, as the item is automatically complete once the resources and time are paid. The things PCs and their allies can craft range from weapons and armor, mithral/silver enhancements, temporary +1 enhancement/+1d6 energy damage to weapons from magical enchantments that last for 1d6 days, a small variety of poisons and potions, and pretty much any kind of sea vessel and carving/figurehead upgrades save for a galleon (which are mostly foreign ships). PCs can also spend resources to make improvements to the village of Makolf, such as building homes for refugees or protective spirit totems and charms to help defend the village.

PCs get rewarded for crafting beyond just new items. When a PC makes 5 items that take a week or longer to craft, they gain a signature enhancement they then apply to all of their items from then on if it’d be appropriate for such items. There are five different signatures to be chosen from, such as stylish artwork that grants the item’s wielder +2 on Charisma checks to adding +1 to skill checks, attack rolls, or save DCs made with the item.

The crafting rules appear functional to my initial. Monster parts can be a very easy resource to come by on account that combat is a big part of the adventure, even if the text stipulates that only magical monsters and not mundane creatures can be harvested from. But as monster parts are used for crafting potions and poisons which are single-use, this is a worthy trade-off. Building heavy armor or mithral armor takes 2 or 3 weeks respectively, which likely means that a party may get access to plate armor much earlier than usual, although replacing said armor or making sets for multiple PCs can get cost-prohibitive. Boats and town improvements take a lot of wood to build, with quite a few taking 3-5 units but some as much as 7 or 10.

As for temporary magical enhancements, they don’t cost resources save for the weapon required and the aid of a specific NPC, and as the weapon is not consumed during this (it becomes mundane) it’s still an attractive option. I do like the idea of signatures representing PCs becoming good at crafting, as they make a nice little reward to encourage them to make their own items rather than relying on NPCs to do all their work. The text does float a variant rule for weapon durability ratings, where weapons built by the PCs break after 1d10 days but anything built by a Makolf native is permanent. Which if anything explicitly disincentivizes PCs from crafting themselves at all, and I don’t like this variant for that reason.

My one other criticism is that while treasure isn’t as important in 5th Edition as it is in 3rd or 4th Edition, the monetary values of treasure found in the campaign have no easy conversion for trading for units. There’s also the fact that the crafting rules are pretty simple in comparison to some more robust third party sourcebooks such as Ghesh’s Guide to Making Things or the Armorer’s Handbook. While having 5,000 gold worth of valuable art objects and gemstones can feel nice, the impact is a bit lessened when parties can’t then use such treasure to obtain more useful things.

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Magic In the Sunken Isles is our final section of Chapter 2, discussing the cosmic foundations of the setting. Everything in the Isles of Manaki are creations of the Star Breather, where everything has a spirit. Spirits are divided between animated spirits, which include living creatures, weather, and concepts such as communities. Animated spirits can affect the world in immediate ways, from performing rituals to physical activity. The weakness of animated spirits is mortality, as eventually their time must come to an end to preserve the immortal spirits. Inanimate spirits include natural features such as oceans and stones to abstract concepts like words. Their powers include being able to respond to rituals and anchor the world in stable ways. They are most often incapable of acting on their own, requiring mortal spirits to realize their full potential. Half-immortals are the setting’s closest equivalent to a pantheon of gods, having the best of both worlds. Examples include Kadaur, the oldest island who can materialize a smaller humanoid form as an extension of his will, or Old Shell who appears as a huge decapodian whose soul is connected to his peoples’ homeland of Chitoni. Each half-immortal has a Dominant Domain, which grants them exceptional power in regards to a certain aspect of reality, which is reflected in their stat blocks.

Magic in the setting is an expression of mortal passion, rituals designed to communicate with spirits to realize some action or state of being in the world. When a spellcaster uses magic, they’re calling upon a spirit, and the casting of a spell can take on certain aesthetic manifestations based on the personality traits of the caster and spirit in question.

And of course there are new rules to go with this; at certain points during the adventure, PCs may gain knowledge of Ancient Rituals. They are basically spells unaffiliated with any class in particular, having only a level requirement to be learned and don’t consume spell slots. They still obey typical spell rules such as range and casting time, and have a drawback known as Maledictio which is a price to pay in exchange for working that ritual.

Additionally, the machinations of the Star Breather, Kadaur, and other manifestations of primal energies increase over the course of the campaign, making the Isles a more unpredictable and dangerous place. At the beginning of each session, the GM rolls a Timer Die which gets smaller in later weeks, and the Timer’s value is reduced by 1 each time a spell is cast by anyone during the adventure. When the number reaches one, a Raw Magic Die is rolled and the Time resets. Raw Magic is a d20 table with random effects similar to a Wild Sorcerer, ranging from having a nearby nonmagical casting focus or weapon turn into a friendly poisonous snake, taking 1d4 psychic damage for one round whenever a creature they see takes damage, an explosion of life granting 30 temporary hit points to everyone within 120 feet of the caster, or a flurry of magic missiles shooting out of the caster’s body at random targets and making them suffer disadvantage on Constitution saves until the next short rest. The effects aren’t truly random in magnitude, as the Die starts at a 1d4 during the first two weeks and by the 14th to 20th weeks is a full 1d20. Beyond these particular rules, later weeks of the campaign can see rogue magic come to life, being spontaneously cast out of nowhere during combat as lair actions or the magic a caster uses comes to life with a will of its own.

I can’t say that I’m a fan of the Timer/Raw Magic Dice. Even the largest Timer Die is a 1d8, and as it applies every time a spell is cast and not just per caster this means it will be coming up a lot even in a party with a single magic-user. It can thus end up as a hindrance in slowing down the game by additional book-keeping for the table.

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Every hero needs a villain, just as every epic fantasy campaign needs a BBEG…or two, or three, or heck even five if you want to be technical! This short chapter outlines the major figures responsible for the Isles of Manaki’s miseries and the primary antagonists of the adventure. One thing in the PCs favor is that none of these villains are necessarily allied with each other, being comrades of shaky convenience at best (in the Undead Lords’ case) or outright foes at worst.

The Star Breather, Creator of the Isles of Manaki is the primary god of the setting. It existed before the creation of this world, roaming the cosmos and designing many other worlds. Each world was drawn from a part of itself in hopes of making a grand work, much like a painter seeking a magnum opus. The Isles of Manaki are the third world it has created. In spite of being a god, the Star Breather is bound by its own nature, to create and abandon a world before moving on to the next project. It also cannot create or destroy new life directly in a reality once it has been created. Instead, it can reincarnate souls via rituals, where four times a year the kia’i bring dead to the mouth of the Black Atoll, the region of the Isles the Star Breather’s influence is strongest. In exchange for the dead, children born the next year are blessed with health.

Initially inactive, the eruption of Kaldaur’s volcano caused the Star Breather to painfully awaken, for that volcano is connected to its heart. The Star Breather then watches the state of the Isles over time, and deems the world to be a failed work. Like a dispassionate painter, the deity seeks to erase all that has been built up to build upon a blank canvas. To do this it converts the bodies at the Black Atoll into celestials known as ecliptics. Sweeping across the Isles as a single-minded army, they slay all living beings they come across, bringing more dead back to the Black Atoll to turn into more ecliptics. And once all but the ecliptics are gone, the Star Breather’s next great work can begin.

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Kada, the Body of Kadaur is a humanoid extension of the island of Kadaur, the largest and oldest of the Isles of Manaki. Appearing like a person forged from the natural elements, his bones are vines, his blood water, and his skin stone. He is a half immortal, having existed as a great hero throughout the Isles’ history and praised by both Manaki and Ikolf alike. It was Kada who used his island body to let civilization be built upon, it was Kada who brought Quing and the dragons to the Isles to act as guardians, and it was Kada who led the forces against Skomm Fylkir. A temple known as Skyreach is built at Kadaur’s volcano, where people make pilgrimages to honor him.

And yet, Kada has become dissatisfied with the Isles he has defended for so long. The expansion of the outside world into this tropical paradise has brought sunken ships that devastate the reefs, poisons and diseases unfamiliar to the natives, greedy opportunists, and destruction of natural resources. Kada has begun to blame the Manaki and Ikolf for letting such foreign influences into the Isles, and at the campaign’s beginning he messed with rituals not meant to be messed with by causing a volcanic eruption. Intending to cover all of the Isles in his magic ichor, the eruption falls far short of this attempt and only serves to weaken him as well as bringing about the inadvertent awakening of the Star Breather.

During the campaign, Kada is a stern and distant authority figure, acting as the closest thing to a ruler over Makolf, but can also serve as a useful source of information to the PCs. His supposedly helpful nature is but a cover for his intentions, and over the course of the campaign he makes pacts with other powerful spirits. As the ecliptics and undead armies lay waste to more and more of the Isles, Kada becomes increasingly resolute in his belief that the lives of mortal despoilers weigh far less than the lives of the myriad plants, animals, and other life of the Isles. If he can kill the mortals and the Star Breather, he can save what’s left of the Isles by returning it to its original form by mixing the divine ichor into the ocean. Kada’s rituals make sea travel increasingly dangerous and also risk sinking the island of Kadaur and killing everything on it. Once it submerges, the volcano’s ichor will mix with the sea. This will doom all life, not just mortal life, as it spreads over time. A rather unintentional nasty side effect of Kada’s intentions!

Unlike the undead lords or the Star Breather, Kada is influenced by a warped sense of protection, which means it is possible for the PCs to recruit him to their side against the other archvillains.

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The Undead Lords are an alliance of convenience between three infamous figures from Manaki’s history. Skati Fylkir Af Ikolf is the dwarven king who brought so much death and destruction in his quest for arcane power, first making his own people of Ikolf suffer before turning his attention to the Isles of Manaki. He was the one who created the first undead in the Isles, a monstrous state of being previously unknown to the region, and as he could not be slain in the traditional way Kada instead opted to immobilize him by thrusting the legendary spear Marrow into the necromancer. Pinned by the heart to his own sacrificial temple, Manaki and Ikolf mages quickly got to work in raising power rituals to ensure he would be eternally frozen in a never-ending state of being.

Around the beginning of the campaign, dwarven cultists of Skati will remove Marrow and disrupt the magic, and he wastes no time in getting around to rebuilding his undead empire. He sets about using his forces and strong-arming the PCs into reviving two other notorious undead historical figures to recruit to his side, and makes a nearby set of dwarven ruins his home base where he starts building up an undead army.

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Kumuhea is the second Undead Lord, a Manaki druid who had an unmatched ability to command the forces of stone and soil. She could not cross the ocean, and sought to build a set of underground tunnels to bypass the dangers of sea travel to connect the various islands. The other ancient natives disagreed with her goals, feeling that this defied Manaki itself, yet she persisted. At first Kumuhea used decapodian laborers, but their progress was too slow. Then she turned to domesticating wurms, creatures of legend that swam through stone like fish swim through water. Her expansive network was viewed as a great boon, and she developed her own set of written records to catalog her revolutionary spells and works. But pride goeth before a fall, and the spirits of the ocean who had enough triggered a series of cataclysmic earthquakes to collapse the tunnel network, leaving it a fractured mess and burying Kumuhea herself beneath a tomb of stone and water. She now serves as a cautionary tale for children who complain about long journeys and bad weather, and her writings can still be found throughout the Isles but are shunned as forbidden magic by natives.

Skati revives Kumuhea with the intention of making use of her magic and knowledge, for it was finding her writings that made him so interested in the Isles’ potential in the first place. Kumuhea isn’t evil-aligned like Skati and in fact detests him, but she tolerates their alliance for the time being in returning to her project of resurrecting the wurms and reopening the collapsed tunnels. Which in turn Skati hopes to use to transport his undead armies quickly throughout the Isles.

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Captain Keelhaul is our final Undead Lord. Originally going by the name of Fiaee Drahl, he was born in a distant land ruled by ruthless merchants. He and his twin brother Anson had differing views on their lot in life: Anson had no hope in fundamentally changing the system, but Fiaee burned with a desire for change. When the brothers built a warship for a merchant, they were cheated out of compensation when the merchant burned down the harbor after stealing the ship. Fiaee caught up to her and sadistically tortured her to death. Anson was horrified by his brother’s action, but Fiaee disagreed and adopted the life of a pirate. Fiaee eventually gained a fleet of his own with the warship, now known as the Bloody Twins for the two siren figureheads.

Captain Keelhaul would soon turn into a hypocrite, not becoming a Robin Hood savior but instead yet another robber-baron motivated by greed with a convenient target against all merchants. When he learned of the Isles of Manaki, he took the opportunity to use it as a base of operations for there was no effective navy to oppose him there, and the many lagoons and coral reefs were littered with the wooden bones of fallen ships. The kia’i hated what the pirates were doing, both on a moral and ecological level, and with the aid of Anson Drahl they ambushed the Bloody Twins and sent Keelhaul and his ship to sleep with the fishes.

After being resurrected by Skati Fylkir, the dwarf found him easy to manipulate: being a stereotypical pirate, it was all too easy to win him over with alcohol and promises to let him have free reign in terrorizing the Isles. With trade routes disrupted and communities sacked, their weakened defenses and corpses provided ever more unliving foot soldiers for Skati’s new empire.

So in conclusion, we have a BBEG who wants to destroy the world, a BBEG who wants to save the world but may inadvertently destroy it, and a BBEG who wants to rule the world. And all of them don’t like each other due to these opposing goals.

Thoughts So Far: The seafaring and crafting rules are simple yet sleek, adding just enough to make the Sunken Isles feel different from many campaigns. I do feel that they’re a bit too simple, particularly the crafting, which could've been enhanced with more options to have more meaningful choices as the campaign progresses. I like the rundown of magic, but I would’ve liked to see more explanation of how the various classes fit into the Sunken Isles. If all magic draws from spirits in the world, what makes the druid so special? And besides the Star Breather, there isn’t much in the way of religious beliefs so this leaves one asking what would a Cleric PC worship or how their faiths would take shape in the campaign.

I really like the antagonists. Each of them have straightforward goals and serve as persistent threats for the PCs to fight, with enough variety and motivations between them to make them all feel different even if their rank and file forces amount to “monstrous armies sweeping throughout the lands.”

Join us next time as we cover the first parts of the adventure path in Adventure Overview and Our Tale Begins!
 

Libertad

Hero
So this part of the review’s going to be a tad unconventional. Chapter 4 gives the overview of the adventure in broad strokes, separated by weeks and levels. Chapter 5 covers the first 3 weeks, save the 2nd, which is covered in Chapter 6. And Chapter 6 covers the rest of the locations in the Isles of Manaki save the Black Atoll which serves as the end game in Chapter 7. The locations in Chapter 6 cover locations alphabetically, not when they’d first be visited, and due to this you get places that talk about events and characters that haven’t yet been covered in the book, which is some pretty poor organization IMO. For those reasons this Let’s Read will cover the adventure in chronological weeks, touching on the places visited during those times.

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At the first three weeks of the campaign, all is well ecologically speaking. The Islands have abundant natural resources and magic remains predictable. Taking place on the Island of Kadaur in the village of Makolf, the annual Gathering Festival is celebrated annually to commemorate the people unifying in overthrowing Skati Fylkir. Dancing, feasting, sports, storytelling, and other fun diversions are planned, and people from across the Isles make trips to Makolf to join in the festivities. During this time some storytellers go over Manaki’s history, and the PCs can compete in contests via skill checks and win some minor equipment as prizes. If the PCs don’t know each other, the festival provides a good means for them to learn about their upcoming adventuring buddies. But on the third day of celebrations, the island begins to rumble from a volcanic eruption! Instead of lava, multicolored paintlike blood spews forth, turning into giant crab monsters in a place that lands near the PCs. Kada will appear at this time, casting a spell to turn the falling rocks into dust and can aid the PCs in fighting off the crabs if the DM desires. The villagers are relieved at Kada’s arrival, and the half-immortal explains that a great force is about to change the Isles but he is in a weakened state. He then asks the strongest people in the village to head to Fylkir’s Fall, the final resting place of Skati Fylkir, to ensure that he hasn’t risen.

It’s presumed that the PCs will volunteer, and 1d6 tribal warriors along with 2 Ikolf dwarves will accompany them; but the dwarves are secretly Skati cultists. The PCs can learn more about the dread reign of Fylkir from them if need be, and the GM can drop a random encounter or two during the journey, likely against a wild boar or poisonous snakes.

Fylkir’s Fall is a temple that is avoided by everyone, and understandably so: Skati’s lingering magical influence douses the nearby terrain in a storm of perpetual bloody rain that recycles into the surrounding atmosphere. A curse causes creatures and objects within 300 feet of the temple to magically repeat every week, which is part of the magical warding stones erected to keep Skati in an eternal prison. The undercover cultists will encourage the PCs to explore if they decide to report back to the village first, supposedly to ensure Skati is still put down. The tribal warriors, by contrast, will be more than eager to leave but will accompany the PCs. Skati’s body is pinned in place by the legendary spear Marrow, and the temple is bereft of traps and dangers. However, the PCs can find a hidden crypt via a slit in the throne, where they can find the magic dagger Friendfire (+1d4 psychic damage when attacking friendly creatures) along with some of Skati’s personal writings, such research into a supposed ritual to gain godhood and rumors of a legendary weapon that supposedly grant absolute authority over the Isles (the weapon Allay, which has several quests to create).

While it’s possible that a PC may be foolish enough to take Marrow and end up resurrecting Skati that way,* the adventure presumes that the Ikolf cultists will destroy the warding stones while the PCs are distracted and exploring, which undoes the protective magics holding Skati in place. Standing up and taking hold of his surroundings, the Undead Lord will give a villainous speech to the party, telling them to flee and report his return to their rulers. He has no desire to dirty his hands in fighting the party, even if they attack him, and will enter the temple as five skeletons appear to attack the party.

*Once Skati is free the PCs have the opportunity to take the weapon for themselves. Kada will otherwise retrieve it for himself by the third week. If a PC is responsible for freeing Skati and Kada knows about it, he will attack the PC to kill them and grant the spear to another party member. It’s a +1 spear that once per day can render a creature that has less than half its maximum hit points paralyzed, immovable, and invulnerable for the next seven days if they fail a DC 20 Constitution save. The paralysis is ended early if the spear is removed from the creature.

Thoughts: This concludes the first Week of the campaign, and so far it’s pretty railroady. Skati has to rise, and it presumes that the PCs are unable to detect the cultist’s deception among them. As for the volcanic eruption, I’d recommend letting the PCs fight the giant crabs, having Kada intervene if they get overrun by the monsters. If he just shows up to save the day without the PCs getting to roll initiative, that won’t be as much fun. It also further compounds the feeling of “it doesn’t matter what we do” when the dwarven cultists destroy the stones.

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The village of Makolf is our central base for much of the campaign. A settlement home to both Native Manaki and Ikolf dwarves, it stands as a testament to the unity of the two peoples and is the largest settlement in the Isles in being home to about 600 souls. Most homes are communal family dwellings with central rooms and a few side rooms, and the adventure suggests asking the PCs where they live and with whom to give them deeper ties to the community. There’s a single local storehouse that holds reserve supplies for the whole village, and an open-walled structure around a clearing serves as a village center for the people to gather about. Two drums magically enchanted to be clearly heard anywhere in the village serve as means to alert everyone to gather for some important event.

We have write ups of various NPCs, notably craftspeople and those who can provide important services for the PCs during the campaign. Olaf can temporarily enchant one magic item per week that lasts for 1d4 days, with item rarity increasing as the weeks go by, and some NPCs come to settle in the village later on in the campaign, notably refugees from other communities.

There are nine side quests to do in Makolf, five of which can be triggered at any week as the DM desires and four of which appear during later weeks in the campaign. They involve helping out the villagers and visitors with various tasks, such as the kia’i Onaona rewarding the party with healing potions if they retrieve some doghouse bush seeds (plants whose seeds can transform into doglike plants to defend it), entertaining the villagers as morale decreases and getting magical tattoos as a reward if successful, or searching for missing children during later weeks that are running from monsters in the nearby wilderness.

The PCs can also help improve Makolf’s defenses during downtime, which helps them better defend against undead and ecliptic attacks while the party is away adventuring. Sadly there’s little rules for this beyond DM Fiat.

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During the second week, an injured merchant arrives in Makolf. Bearing dire news, he claims that the nearby town of Keyport (the prime trading outpost on Kadaur) was attacked by strange fishlike beings (in reality an ecliptic attack), who killed nearly everyone and dragged bodies with them into the ocean. As Makolf relies upon Keyport’s overseas shipments, an elder will plead for the PCs to check the town if they don’t go to visit on their own volition.

Located in the north of Kadaur, Keyport is a major shipping hub, holding an open-air marketplace, warehouses, storehouses for trade goods and sea vessels, and of course taverns and inns. The town is nearly devoid of life, even animals, by the time the PCs arrive. Goods have been dropped and spilled in the middle of town, and the boats at the docks all abandoned. The PCs can find Chuck Lawrence, a shipwright unconscious under a pile of dead ecliptics, who is grateful if revived and can offer his services while searfaring if ever needed. There’s also Larry Baker, the keeper of the Flappin’ Kraken tavern who is hiding in a secret portion of the kraken statue part of the tavern. He’ll remain in Keyport, confident that such a tragedy won’t happen again and that the town will recover.

During the way there, the PCs will come across a swarm of ecliptic scavengers eating and stripping the remains of a horse to bring back to the black atoll. If sent by one of Makolf’s elders, the PCs are tasked with checking on the supplies in the warehouse. This huge building is full of various sorts of items to be shipped (along with Units of wood and stone), and is magically cooled to enhance the viability of perishable supplies. An ecliptic hauler is here, gathering bird eggs in the building to take back to the Black Atoll.

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I suppose now’s a good time to talk about the ecliptics. Ecliptics are beings created from recycled souls when the Star Breather needs to directly intervene in any of the worlds it created. They come in a wide variety of forms and alignments, but the ones in this adventure are typically Lawful Evil (cuz y’know, genocide) and tend to look like vicious sea monsters. They are single-minded in their purpose, which is to go to where the Star Breather assigns them and kill and capture any living creatures found there to take back to the Black Atoll. Some particularly strong-willed souls and more powerful ecliptics can have something approaching a personality, although even then they have the mentality of a hardened soldier bent on destruction. Their missions are quite literal, meaning that they won’t attack the PCs first if they just randomly run across them, or if they weren’t originally present at the sight of the attack.

The ecliptic hauler is a pretty tough challenge for 2nd level PCs, being a melee-focused bipedal crablike being who can attack and grapple up to four times per turn. It can substitute an attack with launching a swarm of ecliptic scavengers out of its hauler’s net, but can only “summon” one swarm this way per day or until the swarm is scooped back in. As for the scavengers, they can look like a variety of small oceanic shelled creatures, typically snails, slugs, shrimps, and/or nudibranchs, and as you can guess they primarily attack by swarming over a target. Both monsters lack ranged attacks, and in the case of the hauler it has poor mental saves and the scavengers have a very slow speed, so PCs can outmaneuver them if they’re smart enough to not engage in melee.

Even as a ghost town other people will travel to Keyport over time, as it still remains an important destination for sailors. PCs can convince villagers in Makolf to make repairs and defend it. One particular NPC, a mirescale merchant by the name of RockJaw, arrives later this week and can tell the PCs more about his home of SpringBog.

Thoughts: This week is slightly less railroady in the fact that the PCs have more opportunity to act on their own initiative and make meaningful choices. Gaining the aid of Chuck can help raise their survivability in the Ecliptic Hauler battle, but otherwise they don’t have any NPC allies to fall back on. The major detriment in this adventure is that there are only two encounters beyond any side quests the DM drops in.

During the third week, Kada has left the village to take care of some wild magic menacing the skies (in reality he’s redirecting the wild magic to rain down on the islands and ocean). It is during this time Skati Fylkir sends out several zombies to deliver a message to Makolf. Quickly causing panic, one of the zombies says that they bear a message from the dwarven king himself to send their strongest to meet with him in the temple of Fylkir’s Fall. The zombies have thurisaz tattoos which deal an AoE attack of 2d6 lightning damage to all creatures within 60 feet, or activated once per long rest as an action. No it’s not a unique monster ability, but a new magic item even the PCs can get. It is through these tattoos that the zombies hold the village hostage, for if the PCs (or a village warrior who takes the initiative themselves) attack a zombie it will activate the tattoo and end up killing a bunch of villagers.

When the PCs go back to Fylkir’s Fall, they will find Skati hard at work doing BBEG stuff, like magically drawing the blood from surrounding animals as red lightning strikes the temple. He compliments the PCs for realizing that it’s “prudent to work with me rather than against me” and some cultists will give them magic items as a gift. His task for the PCs is to find one of two powerful figures from the Isles’ history to aid him, for he is currently unable to travel beyond the main island.

Content Warning: Suicide

Skati will also order two of his cultists to stab themselves to death, just to show the PCs how fanatical his minions are and how influential he is. Their deaths will also power the next magical ritual.

Two giant pillars of plasma will streak across the sky in different directions. This is Skati reviving the two other Undead Lords; he will assign the PCs the errand of finding and retrieving one of them while he’ll assign other islanders to go find the other. Skati will also give them a bloodstained compass that points in the general direction of their assigned Undead Lord.

This decision sets a recurring theme through the rest of the Sunken Isles; in going down one route, the other route’s events are “locked off” as some other group retrieves the other Undead Lord. As just about every week gives the PCs about 2 places to travel before the next week (and thus next hook) pops up, they need to manage their time wisely.

Also while traveling to the assigned Undead Lord, the adventure presumes another week has passed, putting the PCs at 4th level! Wow, these levels are going by pretty quickly, huh?

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If the PCs choose to look for Kumuhea, they’ll need to head somewhere near Alalula Cove,* where they pass by some smaller empty settlements depopulated from travelers to the Gathering Festival (hasn’t it been nearly a month since?) and ecliptic attacks, and PCs can find random small-time loot if they look around these abandoned places. The book notes that the communal nature of Manaki Islanders says that there’s little moral reservation against this technical grave-robbing, for if someone’s in need, it’s everyone’s duty to provide for them and such resources would be better used for those still alive.

*A location that has its own entry and is not visited itself during this adventure.

The PCs will come across an inhabited village of Eikheim, which is near one of the rumored entrances to Kumuhea’s tunnels. A child in the village offers to take them to said entrance if the party teaches him how to better fight monsters. The cave is home to traps Kumuhea designed long ago, pockets of hot water from an underground spring that spurt boiling geysers. The cave entrance is also marked with stone carvings which, if translated, can teach a party member the Lutum Scutum Ancient Ritual. It is cast as a bonus action, commanding the earth to block incoming attacks, forcing creatures to suffer disadvantage on their first attack roll against the caster. The ritual’s maledictio is reducing the caster’s speed to 0 and making them suffer disadvantage on all attack rolls.

Further inside the PCs can find more of Kumuhea’s writings, this time not containing any rituals but more collections of information of various usability. They can also a complicated rope and pulley system that can transport heavy rocks. The sections of the tunnel are ruined and require days’ worth of labor to clear, and the GM can intersperse these with random encounters of widely varying lethality.

Another thing I’d like to note about the Sunken Isles; many encounters, random and otherwise, don’t have a set amount of enemies to fight, often determining the opposition’s number by die rolls. Given the importance of action economy, this means that some sections of the adventure path can end up much more difficult, or much less, depending on the results. For this adventure in particular, you may fight 2d6 giant crabs (doable to difficult), 1d4+2 giant spiders (slightly more doable), or 3d6+1 gray oozes (can easily end up deadly). Kumuhea can be found buried alive…well, undead, with a single hand of hers uselessly grasping the air. A single earth elemental will attack the party, mistakenly presuming they’re trying to hurt her.

Although unhappy about her undead state, Kumuhea will be thankful for being freed. She will laugh if they bring up Skati, claiming that mortal rulers overestimate their own status, and will magically transport the party to the tunnel entrance. Although not eager to have a meeting with Skati, a condition of the necromancer’s spell overwhelms her, making her realize she doesn’t have a choice in the matter.

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Should the PCs opt to find Captain Keelhaul instead, they will head for a beach on Kadaur’s west, where they will find a lighthouse home to a friendly family. A family whose demeanor will darken if they mention their mission. Their trust can be gained if the children are rescued from a random monster encounter that shows up on the beach (these encounters are more fair, typically being just one or two stronger monsters such as a giant scorpion…but what if the PCs fail to earn their trust?) where they’ll reveal that one of the people who took down Captain Keelhaul lives in a nearby cave. It is Anson Drahl, who has a hunch for why the PCs are here. He will share with them his and his brother’s backstory, and while troubled that his brother is revived knows that there’s nothing any of them can do to stop him for the time being. Anson will help the PCs sail to get him if it means averting Skati’s wrath. The PCs will be taken out to sea in a fishing boat and given magical potions that let them breathe water for 8 hours, and swimming below they can encounter swarms of quippers and a giant shark on their way to the Bloody Twins wreckage. They will need to perform Strength checks that take up time in clearing the debris (the family in the lighthouse can give the PCs magical tattoos that can grant temporary water breathing that refreshes daily) in order to free Captain Keelhaul. Keelhaul’s first question is if the party has any whiskey, and why he’s been brought back. Unlike Kumuhea he is interested in seeing what Skati Falkyr has to offer him.

In both instances villagers will be deathly afraid of the Undead Lords and give the party a wide berth. When they return to Fylkir’s Fall, Skati has a party planned, with zombie servants setting up dishes of smoked meat and glasses of whiskey. As a reward, the necromancer will tell the PCs the password to let the tattooed zombies leave Makolf. As the party is made to leave, they can hear the two Undead Lords talking: in Kumuhea’s case she sees right through Skati’s flattery and demands to know why he summoned her, while in Captain Keelhaul’s case he’s more than happy to go back to his old life in exchange for all the carnage, vengeance, and whiskey Skati can provide him.

Thoughts So Far: The first few adventures in the Sunken Isles leave much to be desired. They are railroady in a way that pretty obviously harms PC autonomy. While there are parts that gently steer the party in certain directions, the adventures fail to take into account more rebellious courses of action. What if the PCs try to escape Makolf and the island of Kadaur to find other allies to fight Skati, or look for where Kada seemingly vanished? What if they pretend to go along with finding one of the undead lords and leave the same way? What if the cultists who’d be responsible for awakening Skati are detected by the PCs somehow or die in a random encounter on the way to Fylkir’s Fall?

There’s also the fact that the adventures are relatively light on combat, and are spaced apart such that the PCs have ample time for long rests. This may give them the wrong ideas for future adventures that may be more combat-intensive if they get too used to going nova.

Join us next time as the PCs get their first ship, have the choice of visiting the mirescale or decapodian home settlement, and visit a fabled lighthouse or an archipelago filled with giant monsters!
 

Libertad

Hero
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Important Note: I should’ve addressed this in the prior post, but Captain Keelhaul’s brother leaves the PCs as soon they rescue the undead pirate, forcing them to swim back to shore without a boat. Anson Drahl is too afraid to face him at the moment, as Keelhaul would surely kill him upon meeting.

Hey everyone, I was really sick last night so I was unable to do much work in getting a post up. But fortunately I’m feeling a lot better.

For the fifth week of the adventure, Manaki’s resources are starting to dwindle, with more freshwater bastions at risk of loss, and Kada’s supernatural tampering along with the ecliptic and undead forces are making the Isles more dangerous. The PCs need to find a seaworthy vessel to explore more of the Isles, and the abandoned ships in Keyport are a great opportunity. There are several choices ranging from sailing canoes to even galleons, although there aren’t anywhere near enough people to help crew the latter type of ship. If the PCs aided Captain Keelhaul, he will tell them where to find a hidden ship of his, the Keeler Queen, behind a hidden wall of flowers near the town. But since it’s been a while, it’s in a decrepit condition and needs additional repairs.

As for the sixth week, the PCs can choose to visit either Chitoni or SpringBog. Reasons to visit Chitoni include hearing of their legendary artisanship in hopes of getting special gear forged, while for SpringBog they could’ve heard that strange things are happening there from a mirescale NPC or RockJaw hoping to open up a trading route between his swampy home and Keyport. Both areas are primarily new settlements to visit, with various NPCs and minor quests the party can undertake to gain their trust and favor.

Chitoni appears as a series of rocky islands with small tide pools and little else, but a vast network of undersea tunnels is the heart of their community. While visiting, the PCs can:

  1. gain proficiency in smith’s tools from the artisan Hamhand the Red
  2. also do quests for him in finding monster parts to forge magical armor as a reward
  3. participate in a one-on-one duel in an arena where they can gain magical tattoos as a reward
  4. use bait to lure out some dangerous sahuagin so that the decapodians can do some maintenance.

Two NPCs serving as revered figures in the community are also of interest. The first is Old Shell, a half-immortal decapodian of prodigious size whose life force is tied to Chitoni; if he dies, the community will crumble. The other is Gigas, a giant oyster who is harboring a magical pearl he hopes to make just perfect in the coming weeks. Old Shell is expecting the PCs and wants to meet with them, and he can direct the party to help the community via the aforementioned side quests. He (as well as Gigas) have Goodwill scores which can be altered by PC actions. Higher scores give the PCs access to more privileged knowledge about the Isles. As for Gigas, he is most eager to consume new and interesting things, and PCs who bring him enough edible items of sufficient rarity and quality increase his positive disposition. This helps lower the DC for Persuasion in convincing Gigas to give up his unique Pearl, which can be used to forge a variety of magical items. But by the 12th week the pearl has increased to an even greater size, allowing for more powerful options.

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SpringBog is a flat and boggy island, and its majority of solid terrain is marshy and muddy. The mirescales build their dwellings upon wooden walkways and logs lashed together, with boats used to cross over deeper and larger sections of water. The major gathering place for SpringBog is the Uncracked Egg tavern, which serves as a gathering point and entertainment area. Their major source of freshwater comes from the Eye, an underwater vent which shoots into pockets of seawater around the island to turn into fresh water. The most accessible part of the Eye is an almond-shaped pool with a mud wall built around it, giving it the appearance of an eye from above.

RoundBelly, the owner of the Uncracked Egg, is the closest thing to a community leader, and his still creates the unique magical alcohol Moondew from a supernatural resource known as the Flux. A drop is added to each drink, and the resource can also be later used to help forge the weapon Allay. There’s also LickSpittle, a mirescale trader who has picked up quite a few things on his travels and can tell the party about some of the future places to explore.

There are four major quests the PCs can undertake at SpringBog, and most come from RoundBelly. One involves inspecting the Eye for oddities given its recent disturbing red coloration, where the PCs will fight ecliptic shockers* that spring out from the water. This is the first time the mirescales become aware of these monsters, although their eldest villager SmashThumb mentions hearing about such monsters when the gods and spirits become angry.

Another quest has the PCs scour the island for non-flux moondew ingredients, where they visit specific areas on the island and possibly risk random encounters while doing so. A third side quest involves helping SmashThumb’s grandson court a woman he’s interested in via helping hunt a fearsome beast, come up with a suitable gift, and teaching him some good dance moves. The fourth quest has the PCs make an acquaintance with GoodEye, a mirescale warrior who asks them to accompany her on a hunt and later challenges them to a drinking contest. A PC who bests her can gain a Heartripper, a type of magic spear that can be thrown and magically draw a struck target back to the thrower, or once per long rest turn into a thrown bolt of lightning that’s an AoE attack.

*Medium-sized flying eels who can shoot lightning as a ranged attack or poisoned pins, along with a variety of divination and debuff spells.

So to cover the mirescale’s trademark magic item, moondew is a potion with a 1d12 table of random effects. This reflects the flux’s chaotic energies, and the effects range from replicating the effects of existing potions (Animal Friendship, Growth, Mind Reading, Healing) as well as various other effects such as resistance to various elemental energy types, increasing someone’s Strength, regaining expended spell slots, and a few negative effects such as becoming drunk for 1d6 hours or other creatures gaining advantage on Charisma checks in interacting with the drinker.

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After making contact with the decapodan and/or mirescale settlements, the PCs have two more locations to visit by the seventh week. The first is either the Eastguard or Westguard lighthouse whose inhabitants and quests are the same (the lighthouse the PCs don’t pick is overrun in an ecliptic attack), or the Primal Archipelago. The hook for the lighthouses is that they serve as a vital tool for ships sailing to and from the Isles, and due to the increased danger those responsible for refueling were unable to make the trip. It thus falls to the PCs to help make a fuel shipment when a Makolf villager asks for their help. As for the Primal Archipelago, LickSpittle in SpringBog will mention to the PCs that bandits at this island chain are looking for a standing stone inscribed with an ancient ritual. Guessing correctly that it’s one of Kumuhea’s forbidden spells, he urges the PCs to destroy the stone if they find it but are welcome to learn the ritual itself if they never make any copies of it.

Covering the lighthouse first, it is common for certain types of criminals and other outcasts in the Isles of Manaki to be assigned to working at Eastguard and Westguard. They live away from the original community where they did harm, and their service helps the rest of the Isles. Not all labor is necessarily forced or imposed. In some cases, those who feel they need to atone for some misdeed also come to the lighthouses. Anson Drahl can be found here, and depending on the lighthouse in question he can reveal some useful information about his brother: that one of the hags in Turntail Swamp was romantically involved with Captain Keelhaul and may know of a way to take him down, or hoping to intercept a shipment of the Captain’s favorite drink and lace it with something that can kill an undead. Not a poison, but perhaps an explosive…

The other lighthouse inhabitants include the half-dwarf half-human bard Ginning who made a few enemies during the Gathering Festival of last year, the Manaki warrior Pika who accidentally killed a friend during a sporting accident, and the old Ikolf woman Skree who spends her spare time crocheting and reading her impressive book collection. There’s also a nearby community of lapalapas living in a nearby cove. They’re an intelligent species of humpback whales with horns who produce a magical gray amber that can burn on top of or even underwater. It is thus a valuable trade good and also serves as fuel for the lighthouse.

PCs visiting the lighthouse during week 7 arrive (after a random encounter or two at sea, DM’s discretion) on the eve of a storm, with red lightning strikes like that seen at Fylkir’s Fall. While grateful for the shipment, Skree notes that the amount isn’t enough to last until the next supply run. There is some gray amber that can be mixed with the oil to make it last longer, but the cave where it’s stored is currently overrun by aquatic owlbears attracted by the smell. PCs must be careful, for using fire during the fight can risk explosions that burn away the amber.

Over the next few days the PCs can further aid the lighthouse by performing side quests and labor in exchange for items, such as shoring up the defenses, locating a lost magic stone that can slow down the erosion of rocks the lighthouse is built upon, and swimming down to a sunken ship to salvage goods from it (and fight some sharks scavenging the corpses of sailors). PCs who earn Skree’s respect learn that she shares a bloodline with Skati Fylkir, and she has family members loyal to him. Skree mentions a series of nearby Ruins at which they’re believed to be scavenging, which is a possible location to visit in Week 8. The party can also learn that the lapalapas are incredibly afraid of the island of Redfield, for there are monsters there.

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The Primal Archipelago is located in the northeastern section of the Isles of Manaki, a stretch of unclaimed wilderness due to the huge and dangerous creatures calling it home. Some Ikolf settlers sought to build lighthouses among the islands, which were quickly abandoned. Currently the archipelago is home to a group of bandits/pirates led by Bartholowmew “the Barrel,” who seeks to get rich off the archipelago’s natural resources as well as find its untapped legendary magic. Currently they’re using one of the abandoned lighthouses as a home base, and their entire group numbers nearly 50 people. The bandits may not be initially hostile to the party, who will be taken to their boss. But if the PCs share why they’re actually visiting the island then they will attack the party. Otherwise Bart will attempt to make a deal with them, where if they can find a lost weapons shipment from a sunken ship he will consider the party allies. The sunken ship has quite a bit of weapons (none magical, unfortunately). Helping out Bartholomew can count their crew to be a possible allied group during the war at the end of the campaign. Otherwise transporting the weapons back to Makolf can greatly increase that settlement’s defenses.

Beyond Bart’s crew, there’s a druid by the name of Xavier D. Drake who got marooned on the island, managing to survive by befriending the animals and becoming a druid. A t-rex, the sole remaining of its kind on the archipelago, has become a steadfast companion of Drake’s who he nicknamed Lady. Lady’s home is near Kumuhea’s standing stone. In fact, Xavier was the pilot of the crashed ship, and the party can gain his and Lady’s help in fighting Bart’s bandits. The bandits are aware of Xavier’s existence, albeit only as a wild man who rides upon beasts like they’re horses, and one of the Hook Brothers (the bandit gang’s chief scouts) believes that he knows where to find the ancient magic.

The Standing Stone can be translated via the proper magic or an Intelligence Check. Its magic is Nihil Edo, a level 8 spell that requires 1 hour to cast and lasts (more appropriately, the aura it generates) for 8 hours. Upon completion of casting, all nonliving edibles within 30 feet of the caster turns to dust, but in exchange every creature of the caster’s choice that comes within 30 feet of them gains enough nourishment to sustain them for 7 days. Beasts that also enter this area become charmed by the caster for 1 hour on a failed save. Its drawback is that any creature nourished by the spell after 7 days gains 1 level of exhaustion that only goes away after 1d6 days.

This spell is an infinite food glitch!

Upon leaving the island, the next hook occurs as a small winged fiendish creature (a quasit or imp) lands upon the ship, desperately pleading for aid and flies off in the direction of Redfield, one of the Week 8 islands to explore.

Thoughts So Far: The 5th through 7th week locations are a clear upgrade in comparison to the first stretch of the adventure path. The PCs have more overall freedom in making their choices, and the side quests in the settlements and lighthouse provide good opportunities to learn both more about their locations, get useful items, and earn the goodwill of the communities. The Primal Archipelago has an open-ended means of resolution depending on whether the PCs side with the druid or the bandits. But I have to say that the idea of attacking a bandit camp with a friggin’ t-rex is just awesome!

Join us next time as we visit a bunch of other places in the middle levels of this adventure path, from an island hosting a devil-demon war to the underwater settlement of the kia’i!
 
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Libertad

Hero
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I should’ve done this in an earlier post, but I’ll put up a two-page map spread of the Isles of Manaki. There is no distance measurement provided, with the rationale given that the DM should have PCs sail at the speed of plot between areas.

For Week 8, we have not one, but three potential areas to explore: the Living Wall coral reef where the PCs sabotage Captain Keelhaul’s sunken ship (or rather, its magical figureheads) before he can raise it from the depths, a set of Ruins on the western edge of Kadaur where the PCs meet up with dwarven archeologists to learn more about Skati’s plans for his undead army, and the island of Redfield which is home to warring clans of demons and devils.

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The Living Wall is the largest coral reef in the Isles, located off the northwestern side of Kadaur and serves as a protective barrier against storms, tsunamis, and tropical waves. In addition to the startling diversity of marine life, groups of kia’i and merfolk live among the Wall, tending to it. There’s also a nearby Lifebearer Lagoon which is where Captain Keelhaul’s dead body rested, and if the PCs helped free him they’ve been to this area before. The wooden figureheads are actually living creatures trapped in a wooden state, and if they’re removed the party can rob Keelhaul of a useful magical boon when he magically raises the ship. The figureheads will be more positively inclined towards the party if they’re removed without taking damage (most likely a Dispel Magic) and in this case give them a warning of Keelhaul’s approach before swimming off at high speeds (the text mentions that any attempts at catching them fail). NPC crew members will do their best to warn the party of his approach, and this is an encounter the PCs are supposed to run away from, for Keelhaul is a pretty tough CR 11 undead accompanied by 21 undead pirates. While fleeing, the quasit/imp from Redfield will appear and try to lead them to the island.

But what of the actual Reef? Well the party can meet with the kia’i and merfolk there, who are happy to have visitors and give the PCs a tour. They don’t have anything in the way of useful quests at the moment, but they’ll drop hints that the Glowing Caves (Week 9 location) have valuable resources to harvest, particularly for growing new coral beds. Finding the proper resources and bringing it back to the Living Wall gives more hit points to the reef during the 18th week during the ecliptic invasion.

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Located on the western edge of Kadaur (not far from Fylkir’s Fall, actually) lies a now-nameless former Ikolf settlement. Great works of stone amid the jungle hold secrets of forbidden magic, and during Skati’s reign the settlement was the site of many horrors. After he was pinned in place by Marrow, the Ikolf resettled elsewhere on the island and let the place fall into Ruins. A small group of Ikolf archeologists plus one gnome are exploring the place during the 8th week; after this week Skati’s forces will commit to strengthening the ruins, and by the 14th week it will be a veritable fortress of operations. Besides the archeologists are various ghosts created by Skati’s rituals occupying the ruins. The most likely hook for getting the PCs involved is hearing that the ruins can be a great means of unearthing information on Skati Fylkir.

Of the archeologist team, one of them is secretly a Skati cultist, something she keeps secret even from her own husband. There are five sidequests the PCs can undertake at this time at the behest of the archeologists, from clearing the ruins of undead so they can perform research in peace, helping the ghost of a child reunite with his sister so the two can pass on, clearing a boulder out from a passage leading to a Sacrifice Chamber holding some magical treasures, and the last side quest involves finding out who has been sneaking into one of the archeologist’s tents at night. It is in fact the secret cultist, and the PCs may be able to track down the guilty party who will try and trick them into drinking some poisoned soup that will make them fall asleep (no save) if they fail a Perception check to detect the poison. If such a thing happens, the cultist will leave the Ruins. The cultist has a locked box detailing blueprints for future undersea tunnels for Kumuhea’s project: they show that one such route will sink the island of SpringBog, as well as plans to attack Chitoni in four weeks when their molting season begins. If the PCs are unable to locate the culprit, the cultist will have fled and her husband managed to unlock the box, letting the PCs know what he found in it. Either way, he’ll tell the PCs about the Week 9 locations as being “areas of interest” to Skati’s forces.

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Redfield is our final Week 8 location, containing one of the only known extraplanar portals in the Sunken Isles. The portals were built during Skati Fylkir’s reign as part of his experiments, and the island was isolated enough to be far from any prying eyes. He made the foolish decision to make two portals, one summoning demons, and the other summoning devils in hopes of using them to fight the Islands’ draconic protectors. But the fiends were more interested in continuing their Lower Planes vendettas, and Skati abandoned the island and kept Redfield contained with warding magic. Due to this, the island is awash in ruins holding otherworldly weapons and spirits.

The most likely way the PCs have been pointed to Redfield is via either Frizzle the quasit or Batibat the imp, who are low-ranking fiends for their respective sides. The island is locked in an eternal state of war, where slain demons and devils are replaced by more soldiers from their home plane. The demons’ home base is the petrified remains of a giant monstrous heart of a mighty unnamed warbeast created by Skati, while the devils have a more typical multi-story fortress. The leaders of both fiendish armies are a pit fiend (Thrugnon) and a balor (Zorgomuth), so the PCs can’t realistically cleanse Redfield of fiends or simply kill their leader on their own. Instead they can gain favor with one of the factions by sabotaging one of the portals or arranging for the enemy leader to get assassinated. The PCs can even find a nonviolent end to the conflict via diplomacy!

In order to achieve Diplomacy, the PCs have to perform tasks for both leaders, such as clearing out infestations of minor demons/devils, engage in nonlethal combat training against their second-in-commands, or teaching new skills to the troops. Sabotaging a portal involves damaging the runic stones powering it, and the respective rings will send more devils/demons through the portal who will try to stop the PCs. In the case of assassinating an enemy leader, this can be done via a tripwire trap and some allied fiends to lure them out, tripping the fiendish lord into a nearby portal to teleport into the heart of the other fiendish army’s camp, dooming them to death.

Redfield’s future changes based on what route the parties take. Diplomacy results in the fiends coexisting and building an actual town with meager yet functional services. Sabotaging the portal causes the losing side to be nearly decimated in numbers the next time the PCs visit. In the event of treacherous assassination, the winning side disperses the leaderless forces, allowing the victorious fiends to start exploring nearby islands. Either way, PCs can be given an Event Compass as a reward (if they allied with neither, may find it in the respective fiends’ HQ). This magic item works as both a normal compass, and points to a location where something horrible is at risk of happening and thus serves as a hook for a variety of future locations.

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Once again we get 3 locations to explore for the 9th week, two of which are new and one of which is a return to SpringBog. The new locations include the Glowing Caves, an island to the southeast of Kadaur filled with unique and strange life forms as well as Units of valuable resources, and the Entropy Abyss which is a deep sea trench running from Kadaur to the Black Atoll.

Let’s cover the Glowing Caves first. In addition to their unique beauty and resources, the place is of cultural significance to the various people of Manaki, and it’s not uncommon to find pilgrims here celebrating some holiday. It’s believed that the Caves have a link of some kind to the fey. One closely guarded resource is the very soil of the Caves, which can only be extracted by a single hand-held metal scoop (a shambling mound attacks anyone who digs with other things). The soil is so potent that if placed in any container with organic components the roots begin growing quickly regardless of climate, so only completely nonorganic containers (glass and metal that has been scrubbed and heated) can be used. There are also supterramobi fungi, mobile mushrooms that can hold water in a cup or bowl shape which many merfolk use to travel about on land. Unfortunately the fungi die when transported out of the Glowing Caves, so they’re mostly used by merfolk to harvest things out of water. The Garden contains a lot of plant-based treasures and ingredients, such as nightflower pollen which can blind a target for 1d4 if thrown at their face.

Kumuhea used a secret tunnel in the past to set up a hidden library, which is guarded by a poison gas trap. The writings are magically guarded to deal damage to those who are unable to disable them (Kumuhea knows how to decode the traps), but also of interest in the library is a hidden passage to a long tunnel that serves as a gateway to other worlds. There’s even a d6 table of noncombat encounters of what the PCs can witness:

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I recognize the 1 and 4 results as shoutouts to Dark Souls and Ratchet & Clank, but I don’t recognize the other four.

Sidequests that can be taken in the Glowing Caves mostly involve resource collection: gathering lichen for mirescales in exchange for some of their famous alcohol, bringing soil from the garden to the Hags of Turntail Swamp in exchange for an orb that can be attached to Allay and give the wielder +2 AC, gathering ink ingredients for tattooists in Makolf, and mirescales brewing new drinks who need taste testers to subject themselves to a 1d6 table of random effects.

Upon leaving the Glowing Caves, some NPCs may suggest the PCs to visit Turntail Swamp, the Living Wall, or Kauhale if they’re taking some of the magic soil with them as the people there could make use of it. Kada will also appear as the party’s sailing away, asking for them to give him Marrow for the week if a PC has it. In exchange, Kada will tell the party that one of Skait’s undead allies (Captain Keelhaul) is stationed at Keyport and it can be a good opportunity to sabotage his plans.

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The Entropy Abyss also has that otherworldly touch, but of a more scary and lonesome feel in contrast to the Glowing Caves. The Abyss has existed since the Isles’ creation, a fissure between realities whose makeup defies comprehension. Likely reasons the PCs may visit during the 9th week may be to scavenge the wreckage of ships, learn about the origin of the Mirescale or some other secret. Due to its location unprotected PCs will take 4 bludgeoning damage every round from extreme pressure, but a Dive Deep Tattoo, resistance to bludgeoning damage, or drinking moondew can grant immunity to the effect (8 hours in the third case, and this quality is unknown even to the mirescales). The trench is impossibly wide by the PC’s perception, with geothermal vents lining up at the trench’s edge. One side of the trench is covered in shipwrecks as far as the eye can see; in fact, there are ships that haven’t been invented down here, such as submarines, for they are “ghost ships” in being spectral doubles of ships that have been created and yet to be created. We also have a sidebar for a new Ancient Ritual, Levo Navis, which if cast can magical raise a sunken ship to the surface of the water with a drawback that the ship’s hit points and hit point maximums are halved per casting…and if the ritual isn’t recast within 5 minutes, the ship rises 600 feet into the air before crashing down likely to a lot of fall damage! Strangely nowhere else in the book mentions this ritual or where it can be learned.

The monsters that are fought in the trench are appropriately creepy reflavored aquatic monsters, such as leechlike creatures blinking with faint blue lights that use the poisonous snake swarm stat block. We also get three new monsters: a Grandis Luminosus Os which is a giant glowing eel that can suck in and swallow targets with an AoE cone, an Imperatrix Leviathan which is a big-ass glowing fish,and viper piscis who are long fish whose mouths are filled with needle-like teeth.

The major location in the Abyss is the Mired Sail, the galleon that was ground zero for the creation of the mirescale race. The trench’s strange magic created a magical double, for the original ship has long since been destroyed, and casting Speak with Dead on the corpses inside can tip the party off to other locations they didn’t visit in previous weeks (DM’s discretion). The ship has magical watertight rooms that prevent its interior from being flooded, and its primary inhabitants are entropic mirescales (basically big tough kobolds who can breathe underwater) who are also strange doubles of the transformed inhabitants. These mirescales have gone mad, worshiping the ship’s cargo and being hostile to the PC’s presence, although their leader Rednose initially appears more reasonable and will try to win the party over before attempting to get them killed by attracting the attention of an imperatrix leviathan. This is a potentially fun hit-and-run combat where the PCs can escape through wreckage out of its reach to catch their breath. The mirescales are keeping Jackdaw, the captain of the ship, imprisoned (who isn’t the real deal but also a double) and he alone among the crew hasn’t been subjected to the strange warping magics and thus appears like a regular human. There’s also a young t-rex imprisoned in the ship’s hold that can also be freed, and during the leviathan fight Jackdaw can obtain a second bit of Flux which can be useful for various purposes such as crafting Allay or replacing the lost one in the case of SpringBog sinking.

The t-rex is actually a young version of the species Tyrannavis Deus, a half-immortal lord of beasts located on the Primal Archipelago. If rescued and brought to its kin, the young half-immortal can become an ally during the war at the end of the campaign. As for JackDaw, if he’s brought to SpringBog he and RoundBelly will become great friends over a shared love for alcohol.
 
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Libertad

Hero
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The return to SpringBog marks a dramatic increase in the stakes of the campaign: due to Kumuhea’s tunnel network beneath it the entire island is going to sink. This is inevitable, and sensing weakness the Star Breather sent out an ecliptic army to kill and take back as many mirescales as possible. If the PCs don’t aid the evacuation effort, this will spell the virtual extinction of the mirescale race, for their survivors will be reduced to a bare handful of traumatized people. Beyond the cultist notes in the Ruins or the Event Compass, PCs may also learn of SpringBog’s dire fate from a mirescale villager in Makolf.

The evacuation of SpringBog is a combat-heavy series of encounters that feel like a disaster movie. The PCs and mirescale allies will be fighting off waves of ecliptics amid a slowly flooding swamp, and in addition to combat the party will have to help the mirescales fasten together sea vessels to evacuate the island, venture further inland to save the egg clutches, and help save the Flux in the still given it’s a necessary component for making moondew. During the final fight as the remaining mirescales set out to sea, a strange occurrence happens: one of the ecliptic, a giant serpentine fish, attacks its fellows. It telepathically communicates with the party to be prepared for “more will come; their voices grow louder.” This is the Keahi, an ecliptic who managed to avoid the Star Breather’s domination; if the PCs manage to save at least two settlements from genocide the creature can come to their aid in the final war.

The mirescale fleet sets course for Keyport. Although safe, they are understandably depressed due to losing their home, and there are short in-character texts for various NPCs thanking the party while also asking what they can do to be of help in their new home.

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During the 10th week, the PCs have three choices: Captain Keelhaul has docked in Keyport, which can be a prime opportunity to take him out early on; Turntail Swamp, which is home to a trio of hags whose magical powers may be of aid; and Kauhale, the kia’i’s ancestral homeland where the PCs can help forge an alliance between them and the land-bound races.

Regarding Keyport, Captain Keelhaul will start disassembling other ships in port to make repairs to the Bloody Twins, increasing its strength and power. Depending on their prior interactions the PCs who meet the Captain may find him initially friendly instead of hostile. In such a case he knows they are fated to fight to the death in the future and is content to show off his ship in a demonstration of power. The ship will gain more hit points every day it’s moored, although the PCs can sabotage the effort in various ways such as killing off undead dockworkers or damaging the figureheads if they’re still attached.

I suppose now’s a good time to talk about Keelhaul and his crew. The Captain is a large undead who is primarily a physical fighter with a cutlass and a flintlock pistol as well as a bite attack that can swallow Medium or smaller sized creatures. He can also chug down alcohol as a rechargeable special ability that grants advantage on his next attack and resistance from damage from the next attack. If he dies he explodes in a shower of rotten flesh as an AoE.

While quite tough, he doesn’t have any legendary or lair actions, which in this case is likely a good thing as he has an undead crew. This particular encounter doesn’t mention how many there are, but presuming the prior event in the Lifebearer Lagoon may include as much as 21 undead. Keelhaul’s undead pirates come in two varieties of stat blocks: Sunken Sailors who are undead wielding cutlasses who upon death explode into a shower of bones which use rat or quipper stat blocks depending on where they died, and Dusted Ancients who are undead with minor spellcasting capabilities with a mixture of druidic and arcane spells.

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Kauhale rounds out our major population centers of the Isles of Manaki, sitting under Lifebearer Lagoon. There is fierce debate between the kia’i and decapodians whether Kauhale or Chitoni was the first technical civilization. There’s a variety of hooks provided for why the PCs would visit, such as meeting a kia’i NPC asking the party to check in on family or following up on rumors of ecliptic scouts in the area. Several of the kia’i speak in their native language in in-character boxed text, which is actually the Hawaiian language. In fact, some of the NPCs have short lists of real-world Hawaiian proverbs to use during the right situation, such as “no cliff is so tall it cannot be climbed.” Some notable locations in this underwater settlement is the Conch, its seat of government which is a coral building grown in the shape of a conch shell; a coral polyp farm on a plateau whose harvests are transported elsewhere in town or to the Living Wall; the Relinquit which is where the dead bodies of various islanders found at sea are stored before being taken to the Black Atoll for the Ceremony of Rebirth; and the Recordum, which is a coral structure containing all sorts of goods obtained from shipwrecks.

PCs who come to Kauhale for the first time will be directed to the Conch where they speak with Unu, their leader. One kia’i, Kimokea, is not as trusting of the PCs due to an overall dislike of things that come from the land, but Unu and other kia’i will be eager to accommodate the party. Even more so if they’re willing to help out with various side quests around town!

There’s an awful lot of quests and activities the PCs can take: they can look through the Recordum which is a collection of miscellaneous materials,* harvest some giant octopus ink for the tattoist Iolana, protect the spawning grounds from a wave of ecliptics, save one of the kia’i elders and his summoned water elemental against ecliptic attackers, and possibly discover Kimokea’s hidden whiskey stash, either stumbling upon it in the Relinquit or by earning his trust after some heavy drinking. The stash has bottles of Captain Jack, which in fact is Keelhaul’s favorite brand of whiskey and thus could be a useful item in bargaining with him…or blowing him up.

*Including a new Ancient Ritual, Itero Ritual, which can allow up to six targets to go back 7 days in time, but they lose any non-memory benefits from passage of time including leveling up. They gain advantage on repeated actions and interactions made under similar circumstances as the week progresses to its original “warp point,” and its drawback is that if the hand-holding circle while casting the spell is broken it causes a d4 table of random effects such as aging the targets or jumping forward in time one week. This is an extremely potent spell, in that it pretty much acts as a save point.

Completing the quests gets the party rewarded a progressive number of gemstones and magic items, and they are later invited to a dinner party at the Conch. The PCs can socialize with the kia’i, learning more information about other locations in the Isles, talk about the growing ecliptic threat, get a Friend of the Kia’i Tattoo magic item inscribed on them,* and learn about strange growths in the coral at the Living Wall.

*Cast water breathing once per week, gain 10 foot bonus to swim speed, hostile kia’i instead start with indifferent attitude.

If the PCs don’t attend the feast, Unu will seek them out privately; he may also do this while they’re staying in air-filled guest rooms during nightfall. He’ll gift the party Wavesplitter, a magic dagger which is the oldest weapon in the Isles, forged from a magic pearl created by the oyster Gigas. He doesn’t want the PCs to let any other kia’i know that they have the weapon, for it is a priceless heirloom of their people. But Una understands that Wavesplitter would be better served in their hands in bringing peace to the Isles. Wavesplitter is a +1 dagger that must be attuned to. The attuned can breathe underwater, walk on liquid surfaces like Jesus, and once per day as an action can part sections of water in either a 60 foot radius or 120 foot long by 5 foot tunnel.

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Turntail Swamp is our final area of the 10th week. Occupying the northeast Island of Manaki, it is mostly uninhabited, and those intelligent life forms that do stay here have been touched by magic. The island was made by a portion of the Star Breather’s bile, and the swamp’s physical makeup has unique magic properties which acted as a beacon of opportunity for spellcasters and supernatural creatures. The major inhabitants are a community of intelligent otters, with Flip-Tail as a temporary ally for the PCs during their visit, the three Yala hags who came from a distant unknown land and live in their own mobile magic huts, and the lich Rimim Speki who used to be Skati Fylkir’s closest advisor before becoming disillusioned with his rule and went into hiding in the swamp. There’s also the visitor Captain Moku Va’a, whose grandfather was lost on the island many years ago and can also serve as a temporary ally. He can teach the party how to make reinforced nets which have a higher escape DC 15 than the typical net.

There aren’t many quests in Turntail Swamp; they will first meet Moku Va’a as they reach the shore, where he explains his search for his grandfather. His grandfather has been turned into a statue by Fela Yala, the middle-aged hag and former fling of Captain Keelhaul, and is kept in her hut. She turned the man to stone because she realized that Keelhaul would murder him in a fit of jealousy. If the PCs have soil from the Glowing Caves, the hag will turn him back in exchange for it. Otherwise they can find some soil in Rimim Speki’s tower, and the hag points this out.

The three hag sisters used to be friendly, but recent magical anomalies draining fresh water from the swamp has frayed their relationship. None of them know the cause but suspect the others of being responsible; beyond losing a drinking source, this also affects the swamp’s delicate ecology by also causing the plant and animal life to be less toxic and thus less harvestable for poison. The PCs can meet one of the hags thirsty for water, and if polite with her she can explain their predicament.

The party can look around the swamp for the other hags, whose huts are mysteriously empty. Flip-Tail will be running from a hydra as the PCs exit the third one, and if rescued will explain that the lost water is not due to intentional magic but rather the very ground shifting and causing the water to seep underground. Explaining this to the first hag will cause her to realize their mistake; the sisters will reconcile, and give the party various magic items as rewards. If the PCs are unable to solve this mystery the next time they return to the Swamp, the hags will have slain each other in a duel, and their huts will be wandering randomly.

The shifting ground is due to recent excavation by Kumuhea, under instructions from Skati who wants to “visit an old friend” on the Island. PCs looking into this mystery will eventually find the druid emerging from a moss curtain. The hags actually personally know her, surprised to see her undead and kicking. But their demeanor will quickly become hostile upon finding out that she is the cause of the freshwater draining. Kumuhea (along with four dusted ancients) and the hags will engage in combat, and the PCs can choose to aid one side. Helping the hags will earn their gratitude as well as them mentioning the lich in the sunken tower as Skati’s former advisor. If the PCs aid Kumuhea, this will improve her disposition to them as if they retrieved her body. If they already did, she will almost never be hostile to the party unless they’re hostile to her.

Due to action economy alone, Kumuhea is quite overmatched if the PCs side with the hags. Statwise she is a CR 11 druid who can cast up to 8th level spells, specializing in earth and and summoning magic, and as a rechargeable ability can cause a shockwave that turns nearby stone/earth terrain to become difficult terrain. As for the hags, each of them share the same stats: a CR 10 fey with quite a bit of HP, high AC, and a multiattack of 3 claw attacks, which make them pretty good melee fighters. But they also have a variety of utility magic, such as at-will darkness and hold person and they can cast fear and hypnotic pattern 3 times per day each. Like Captain Keelhaul, Kumuhea has no legendary or lair actions.

As for the lich and the tower, the structure is leaning 75 degrees at an angle. Walking in, the PCs will find Rimim Speki inside, angry at his inability to waterproof the building. He says that if the PCs can find his golden chalice won’t kill them and provide them with useful information. The chalice can be found in the lower levels, and the PCs will have to fight 10 sunken sailors in order to get it. In exchange, Speki will use the chalice to cast the Scry spell and see what Skati’s up to. The lich will explain his backstory, and tells the PCs that Skati seeks to return to his old seat of power in one month’s time (the Ruins during the 14th week).

Thoughts So Far: These are an awful lot of interesting locations. I’m most fond of SpringBog’s evacuation, Redfield, and Kauhale. The evacuation really ups the stakes and shows the consequences should the PCs fail in their mission, while Kauhale and Redfield are neat communities with quests and conflicts that can be resolved in a variety of ways. I’m not really feeling the Entropy Abyss, as at this point in the campaign it really only has one place of interest to explore, in contrast with the Glowing Caves which has a variety of treasures, encounters, and characters. Almost every location has a good selection of treasures as rewards for quests and exploration, which is a big plus.

I do like how the consequences of choosing certain locations over the others have more direct effects. Not interfering with Captain Keelhaul’s ship repairs makes his vessel more dangerous when the party does fight him on the high seas, and failing to evacuate SpringBog will kill off virtually an entire community and thus useful NPCs and their services. I do feel that the potential battles with the Undead Lords at this time are rather lop-sided in terms of action economy: unless they’re canny, PCs can face an awful lot of undead in Keyport, whereas the fight against Kumuhea in Turntail Swamp can become a curbstomp. I’d recommend beefing up the druid or having a Contingency spell teleporting her away so that she can fight another day if she’d get KO’d. I’m also not feeling the new rituals: the ship-raising one is rather situational, and the one that can turn the party back in time is open to some powerful abuse.

Join us next time as we continue on this adventure path, from exploring Kumuhea’s tunnel network to the undead siege of Chitoni!
 
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Libertad

Hero
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It’s the 11th week, and things are steadily getting worse: food is being rationed, freshwater’s growing scarce, and up to half of the Isles’ population could be either dead or missing. If you might remember, Kada either has or asked to borrow Marrow from the PCs. He intends to use it for a ritual during this week, where he forms a pact with the spirits of the sea, sky, and storms which make sea travel even more dangerous.

But that brings up the next question. What if the PCs refuse to give Kada the weapon for whatever reason? Does he steal it from them, take it by force, somehow perform this ritual without the weapon? The adventure doesn’t say.

Once again we have three locations to visit this week. The first is Alaula Cove, where they can locate Ansaon Drahl, get an opportunity to attack and defeat Kumuhea, or otherwise sabotage her creation of undead wurms she’s using to excavate the tunnels. The second location is the Wishmaster’s Conclave, a hidden location home to a group of bored genies who can bestow wishes upon the PCs. The third location is Seputus, a formerly underwater city that rose where SpringBog used to be.

Let’s cover Alaula Cove first. It used to be Kumuhea’s former base of operations, and now she visits it regularly as well as the new Ruins where Skati is building up his forces. The Cove is home to the Keawe family, a small group of outcast Manaki who view Kumuhea as a visionary rather than someone to shun. Malu, their matriarch, knows how to read the druid’s unique script, and she’s in denial that their idol is now an undead and in league with dark forces. Her daughter Alamea has private reservations. Anson Drahl has left the lighthouse and is in a nearby hideout, and the party can get plot hooks for either rumored sightings of Drahl or valuable info on Kumuhea’s tunnel system.

Malu and her family won’t be initially hostile when the PCs visit; a flamboyance of flamingos act as the Cove’s alarm system, and will rush to attack the PCs. The normal flamingos are low-threat fodder, but a particularly large and threatening species known as flamingo shrimplords (God I love that name) have resistance to nonmagical physical attacks, a powerful multiattack beak, and a once per rest intimidating glare gaze attack that deals psychic damage. The flamingos can be called off by petitioning Malu to do so when she arrives 2 rounds into the combat to see the ruckus. She will recognize PCs who helped Kumuhea from the druid’s description of them, and trust them more. Through this trust the PCs can further learn about Kumuhea’s goals, albeit in a biased way, such as there are “plans in place” for Chitoni, having added fast-growing wurms to an underground stable, and that Kumuhea has a secret library in the Glowing Caves as well as a tunnel leading to it.

Drahl’s hideout is a camouflaged treehouse lined with various traps, and if the PCs never met him he’ll not trust them and may even attack if they sneak into the treehouse. But otherwise he can impart useful information about Captain Keelhaul: such as the fact he has a phobia of dogs, or he blinks rapidly whenever he’s about to attack, as well as his favorite brand of whiskey. If Keelhaul is already dead, Drahl will be both happy that his reign of terror is over but also sad due to the death of the only family left. He’ll then visit Keyport or Makolf to help defend that settlement, or can even accompany the party as an ally depending on their relationship with him.

As for the tunnels, they are an expansive underground network, with magically reinforced sections that keep any seawater “locked” from flooding the entire network via invisible barriers that it cannot pass through. But even with the aid of magic and wurms, Kumuhea’s project still has a long way to go, and there are lots of tunnels that are collapsed, incomplete, or scarcely patrolled. We have new unique random encounter tables passed on certain sections of tunnel. Kumuhea’s tunnel network becomes more expansive as the weeks go by, opening up into more locations. Technically speaking the PCs can make use of the network straight from week 1, although that’s unlikely given the enemies being much too strong for them.

Kumuhea has a private domicile in the Junction, a crossroads where all of the tunnels converge. Given that this is her primary home, she will be either hostile or curious as to why the PCs are there depending on their prior encounters.

If the party didn’t rescue Kalaiwehiwa during chapter 5, and she doesn’t know them from any other location, she immediately attacks, joined by the two undead wurms in the adjoining bedroom.

I tried CTRL + F for this name, and couldn’t find it anywhere else in the book. I presume it’s from a prior draft of the Sunken Isles for a former name of Kumuhea. She’s also rescued in Chapter 4, not 5.

There is one benefit to attacking and slaying Kumuhea here, and if she had a positive relationship beforehand:* Before dying for real, she will give them the Wurm Bracelet, which lets the wearer exert control on the wurms both living and undead. Otherwise the flamingos will all depart once the PCs leave the tunnels, leaving a Swan Boat Feather Token behind.

*This would be an obscure unlockable in a video game.

Lastly, the other important location in the tunnel system is the Wurmery, a place where Kumuhea is raising batches of wurms. About a half-dozen immature wurms plus a grown undead wurm watching over them are here, along with many more cocoons full of wurm eggs. They’ve been fed corpses of people and animals, and some minor treasure can be found among the corpses. In terms of stats young wurms are burrowing animals that have great nonvisual senses and a nasty bite attack, and can move through solid rock as difficult terrain. As for the undead worm, it is the same but much larger, with more hit points, a multiattack bite, and immune to poison damage and the poisoned condition.

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Wishmaster’s Conclave is a hidden underwater sanctum home to four genies (two djinni, two efreeti) who use it as a leisurely gathering place. The PCs may have heard of its location from Iolana in Kauhale, the hags of Turntail Swamp, or Larry Baker in Keyport if the PCs haven’t talked with either of the former NPCs. Due to the place’s secrecy, the PCs only know its general location in the open ocean, and the Conclave is protected by a powerful illusion making it look like some gigantic sleeping sea creature such as a kraken or purple worm. Typical anti-illusion features can detect the unreal nature, such as noticing some schools of fish partially swimming through it. The “mouth” of the illusion is in fact a portal covered by a watertight membrane, and the Conclave’s interior is richly appointed in a similar manner to a noble’s mansion complete with Unseen Servants. The room the PCs enter contains four valuable stones on a table, with writing on the ceiling giving instructions to use the stones to open nearby doors to meet the genies. Each genie has their own challenge for granting the party a Wish, and possibly magic items as bonus or alternative prizes. However, each wish has its own restricted activities beyond the limitations of the spell itself.

The djinni Bibbledraze asks the party to perform a sufficiently entertaining story, such as one of their past adventures, and it’s a simple DC 20 Performance check; this wish cannot grant the PCs weapons. The djinni Therafuze wants to test a PC in single combat and will grant two wishes instead of one, with the rest of the party and other genies watching them fight in an arena; these Wish’s limitations are that they won’t make the party richer. The efreeti Godmeat is rather eccentric, and wants the PCs to guess his name based on a pictographic puzzle along with a riddle:

I rage like spreading fire,
Do not open my door.
For if you invoke my ire,
My blade will invoke your gore.
But if you speak my name,
I’ll listen to your plea.
Do not belittle my fame,
Or the deaths will number three.
To earn my lordly claim,
View you a graven beast.
Ignore those that are same,
And offer a favored feast.
Move its tail to its head,
But alter not its meal.
Speak all of what now is read,
When you’re facing my ordeal.

Inscribed near the puzzle:
A dog
A turtle
A lizard

GM Note: The answer is “Godmeat.” The turtle and lizard are both reptiles, and so can be ignored. After the “head” and “tail” of the remaining animal are swapped, you get “god” (i.e. dog spelled backward), and a dog’s favorite meal is meat.

It may just be me, but I find this riddle really unintuitive.

Godmeat will attack the party as soon as he’s summoned, but stop if a PC rightly guesses his name and will then grant them his wish; his wish can’t involve life or death. If the PCs defeat him in combat without guessing his name, they’ll get a Circlet of Blasting and nothing else.

The efreeti Skegolom will only give his Wish if the party declares him the best of all the genies. They can do this by summoning and besting the other genies and giving him the other three stones. His wish has no additional restrictions, for after all he’s “the best of them all.”

Beyond gaining wishes, the genies can further aid the PCs if they help solve an ages-old argument among them. They all have riddles for the party, and want the PCs to decide which of them is the best riddler. Each genie has a unique magic item to give them if selected, but the losing genies will cast Bestow Curse on PCs. The party can gain other magic items if they convince the genies they’re all equally good, there’s a tie between two or three, or if they refuse to select a winner (in this case a PC has to show them that they’re a better riddler than all of them). Before the PCs leave, the genies will warn them about incoming danger at Chitoni and the Eastguard/Westguard Lighthouse in the coming week.

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Long ago, the Star Breather created a race of aquatic beings known as the minax. They were selfish people who only sought to enrich themselves and control the world for their own purposes, causing the god to deem them a failed people. It buried their city deep beneath the ocean, intending to later reclaim and remake them. But that day never came, and the minax lived in the dark depths of the ocean. That is, until Springbog’s sinking caused their city of Seputus to rise to the surface.

The minax’s government is an authoritarian aristocracy, and their leader Duxxack is aware that another minax by the name of Vomm is hoping to usurp him. In addition to this coup in the making, Skati’s cultists have ventured into the area in hopes of recruiting the minax to their ranks. The outcome of whether Duxxack or Vomm is the leader determines their foreign policy: if Vomm’s coup succeeds, he will ally with Skati in hopes of making their civilization a predominant power among the Isles. If Duxxack survives, he will take the long way and stay isolationist as they watch the rest of the conflict play out. If the cultists are slain and Vomm is in power, he will send the minax into the Isles to hunt and raid, not allying with anyone.

When the PCs arrive, an entropic ecliptic hunter will be attacking their city. Ecliptic hunters come in three sizes (lesser, regular, and greater) and Entropic versions have gained unique blessings from the Star Breather in the form of randomly-determined rechargeable abilities and enhancements to their physical form. Otherwise hunters are hit-and-run melee fighters with bite and tail attacks, but greater versions are effectively boss monsters with legendary resistance, frightful presence, and supernatural legendary actions such as pronouncing divine judgment in the form of psychic damage or generating a radius of magical darkness. PCs who help the minax guards fight the ecliptic can earn their respect and an audience with Duxxack this way. PCs who decide to attack both will be attacked by the minax as well, but the latter will attempt to call a truce if either the PCs or the ecliptic causes enough casualties.

Duxxack may be the lesser evil, but he’s still a very unpleasant person: he has quests to give, but he believes that the PC’s labor is compensation enough for not having them executed. It takes the words of one of his advisors to compensate the party with material rewards. The quests include reporting on who is occupying a nearby watchtower (the Skati cultists), stealthily investigating what Vomm’s forces are up to (some non-minax prisoners can be rescued too, who were kidnapped and interrogated by Vomm’s soldiers on the defenses of their home villages), and eventually assassinating Vomm. It’s possible that Vomm will try to convince the party to double-cross Duxxack and kill him instead.

We should talk about stats for the minax. They look like paler versions of the kia’i with resemblances to skeletal predatory humanoid fish. Statwise they come in two varieties: Guards are very strong maul-wielders with a variety of offensive and debuff spells, and their elders are similar but less physically powerful and have access to some more powerful magic. Both have immunity to poison damage, too. There are stats for kia’i guards and elders too, which are the same but no poison immunity, the guards wield glaives, and their spells tend to be less offensive and more battlefield control.

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Moving on to the 12th week, the PCs have to choose one of two locations under siege: the lighthouse of Eastguard or Westguard (whichever one the PCs visited last if they did, or determined by the DM otherwise) which is being attacked by the ecliptic, or the settlement of Chitoni which is being attacked by Skati’s undead army during the decapodians’ vulnerable molting season. If the lighthouse isn’t saved, its inhabitants will be slaughtered and its lamp extinguished. If Chitoni isn’t saved, then Old Shell will perish, the caves will crumble and sink into the thermal vent below the settlement, and the majority of the Isles’ decapodians will be gone.

Let’s cover the lighthouse first: the trigger for the ecliptic attack is that a galleon from a distant mainland nation is carrying valuable supplies to the Isles, and the ecliptics want to sink it and claim the materials while also destroying the lighthouse.

Failing this mission results in the party and any other living creatures at the lighthouse being taken to the Black Atoll to be reborn as bakarai.

Once again, this is the only time in the book I can find the term “bakarai.” Presumably it’s a type of ecliptic, but what kind I don’t know.

Much like the evacuation of SpringBog, this quest is a series of combat encounters: during the first wave the PCs and their allies must prevent ecliptic haulers from reaching the lighthouse and extinguishing the light. Meanwhile, an ecliptic hunter is stealthily scaling the lighthouse wall to extinguish the flame. A character can manipulate the light to split, with one guiding the ship and the other revealing the presence of far more ecliptics in the water to warn the passing ship. Said ship will then fire on the ecliptics, reducing their number.

At some point during the fight, an ecliptic hunter will attack and damage the lighthouse (this can’t be prevented) which forces the PCs to obtain fuel barrels from the storage cave (which is currently occupied by ecliptic shockers) to relight it. Additionally, a pair of minax guards are hunting the nearby lapalapa, and their amber will be useful both as a weapon during the siege and to make the lighthouse shine ever brighter. If the PCs helped evacuate SpringBog, then Keahi will appear again to help fight the ecliptic army.

Once the PCs successfully repel the ecliptics, Skati’s forces haven’t been idle; realizing that the blood of his descendants and relatives is magically potent for sacrificial purposes, a team of undead draugr are dispatched to the lighthouse to kidnap Skree. If kidnapped, the PCs have an opportunity to save Skree by the 14th week. Later than that she will be sacrificed and turned into an undead.

The draugr are humanoid undead clad in medium or heavy armor and multiattack with shortswords and shortbows. Draugr warmongers are CR 1 cannon fodder, although Greater Draugr are CR 4, have a ranged Bloodshot attack, and can reawaken even if defeated 1d6+1 days later if their corpse isn’t burnt. Lesser Draugur are even weaker than warmongers in every way.

Split into two posts due to length.
 
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