Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tangent: Treasure and Leveling in The Hook Mountain Massacre

This is where all information on experience point totals, level marks and treasure parcels for The Hook Mountain Massacre will go. This post will be updated as the adventure is converted.

Treasure Parcels for Level 8:

  • Parcel 1 is found in Fort Rannick's secret tunnels.
  • Parcel 2 is found in the Grauls' fortune.
  • Parcel 3 is found in the satyrs' campsite.
  • Parcel 4 is allocated in The Skinsaw Murders.
  • Parcel 5 is found in the Grauls' fortune.
  • Parcel 6 is found in the satyrs' campsite.
  • Parcel 7 is found in the Grauls' fortune.
  • Parcel 8 is found in the Grauls' fortune.
  • Parcel 9 is found in the Grauls' fortune.
  • Parcel 10 is found in Rukus' room.

Treasure Parcels for Level 9:

  • Parcel 1 is found in the second story of Fort Rannick's keep.
  • Parcel 2 is found in the second story of Fort Rannick's keep.
  • Parcel 3 is found in the second story of Fort Rannick's keep.
  • Parcel 4 is found in the Grauls' fortune.
  • Parcel 5 is found in Gorger and Chaw's lair.
  • Parcel 6 is the reward for preventing the flood.
  • Parcel 7 is found in Gorger and Chaw's lair.
  • Parcel 8 is found in the keep's map room.
  • Parcel 9 is found in Fort Rannick's secret tunnels.
  • Parcel 10 is found in the upper floor of the farmhouse.

Treasure Parcels for Level 10:

  • Parcel 1 is found on Karly-Lop Kreeg.
  • Parcel 2 is found at the bottom of Skull's Crossing.
  • Parcel 3 is found in Skull's Watch.
  • Parcel 4 is found at the bottom of Skull's Crossing.
  • Parcel 5 is found aboard the mysterious derelict.
  • Parcel 6 is found aboard the mysterious derelict.
  • Parcel 7 is found in Gorger and Chaw's lair.
  • Parcel 8 is found aboard the mysterious derelict.
  • Parcel 9 is found in Skull's Watch.
  • Parcel 10 is found in Skull's Watch.

Treasure Parcels for Level 11:

  • Parcel 1 is found in the hags' lair.
  • Parcel 2 is found on Barl Breakbones.
  • Parcel 3 is found in the Kreeg clanhold sacrifical pit.
  • Parcel 4 is found on the statuesque corpse of Gargadros.
  • Parcel 5 is found in the hidden vault beyond the portal.
  • Parcel 6 is found on the leader of the mountain pass ambush.
  • Parcel 7 is found in the hidden vault beyond the portal.
  • Parcel 8 is found on the lycanthrope marauders.
  • Parcel 9 is found on the bandits attacking Fort Rannick.
  • Parcel 10 is found in the hags' lair.

Treasure Parcels for Level 12:

  • Parcel 1 is allocated in Fortress of the Stone Giants.
  • Parcel 2 is allocated in Fortress of the Stone Giants.
  • Parcel 3 is found in the hidden vault beyond the portal.
  • Parcel 4 is found in the hidden vault beyond the portal.
  • Parcel 5 is allocated in Fortress of the Stone Giants.
  • Parcel 6 is found in the hidden vault beyond the portal.
  • Parcel 7 is allocated in Fortress of the Stone Giants.
  • Parcel 8 is allocated in Fortress of the Stone Giants.
  • Parcel 9 is allocated in Fortress of the Stone Giants.
  • Parcel 10 is allocated in Fortress of the Stone Giants.

In the Hook's Shadow

However the party decides to reach Hook Mountain, Shalelu approaches them with a desire to join their expedition. This is an opportunity to provide your players with an ally, one of many they will come across in the course of this adventure.

In 3.5, the Leadership feat was used to justify such allies a lot of the time. That's unnecessary here. Allow the party to control Shalelu in encounters - they can decide amongst themselves who should actually make decisions for her. As the DM, though, you should determine her interaction with the party (and other NPCs). Print her stat block out and hand it to the players. Page 116 of the Dungeon Master's Guide provides some advice on how to handle the party's allies. Of particular importance is accounting for what is effectively an additional creature on the party's side in encounters, so be sure to divide the experience award up as though there were an extra party member. All encounters where Shalelu (or other allies) would be involved will be designed with a slightly higher XP budget to reflect this.

A couple notes on how Shalelu works as an NPC ally in combat. As a heroic-tier NPC, she has a single healing surge available to her each day (and the ability to use Second Wind like any PC), so while she has the same staying power in a fight that most PCs do, she doesn't have the heroes' ability to rise up to challenge encounter after encounter without time to recuperate. As an NPC, she also is out of the fight at 0 hit points. Whether she dies or is merely knocked unconscious is up to you as DM. She does not roll death saving throws while unconscious, so although this prevents her from bleeding out it also prevents her from recovering by rolling 20+. Make sure your PCs know how the recharge mechanic works, too. The important thing is to reinforce the feeling that the PCs are made of tougher stuff than Shalelu is. Though she is a capable bounty hunter, she does not have the heroic destiny that the PCs do. If you'd like, you can even have her comment on the fact that the PCs seem to be able to withstand so much punishment and still press on.

Varisia is a frontier, and there's no reason to make the party's trip to Turtleback Ferry a cake walk. I dislike the idea of random encounters as a DM tool for planning sessions. They have some utility in providing suggestions for what a party might come across if they go off the "rails" of the adventure, but there's no reason to keep something random when you can have control over it without the party knowing the difference. Knowing what the party will encounter allows it to be planned for. It's reasonable to assume that the party will be traveling through the wilderness on their way to Hook Mountain (even if by ferry), so there's no reason not to plan ahead for what they'll disturb along the way.

Stat block(s):

Quest card(s):

The Hook Mountain Massacre

My goals for this adventure are a tad broader than the previous. While I'm going to convert the adventure itself and the bestiary accompanying it, I'd also like to provide some 4th Edition depth to the Keeping the Keep article. I'll go into more detail when we reach that point. By the end of The Skinsaw Murders, the party should be 8th level. I'm going to structure the conversion of this adventure to provide enough experience to allow your PCs to be partway into 12th level (and, accordingly, paragon tier) by the end. As it turns out, The Hook Mountain Massacre is the perfect place to start the party's paragon adventures. It's this adventure that exposes the group to a region-wide threat, rather than the local ones they've been dealing with previously (limited to the problems plaguing Sandpoint and then Magnimar).

As with all converted adventures, it is essential that you be very familiar with the published original adventure and have it on hand. My advice is to read through it entirely before you start planning for your own group, and then to start checking out this conversion. When you feel like you're prepared, read on.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tangent: A Note on Images

I have previously extracted and posted all the isolated images from the Adventure Path here so that DMs could make use of them as player handouts or props in their game. Given the number of groups now making use of this conversion material I am no longer comfortable with posting such images without the permission of Paizo - even doing so previously was a pretty clear violation of copyright on my part. If you still want to be able to use the isolated images and are unable to extract them yourself (it requires a retail copy of Adobe Acrobat, which many people don't have) let me know and we can try to work something out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The End of The Skinsaw Murders

Play out the encounter with the Lord-Mayor of Magnimar as you'd like. The party shouldn't have to jump through any further hoops to get their reward. They should receive the experience award from the major quest they've been holding onto, as well as the sum of 3,650 gold pieces from the Lord-Mayor's coffers for preventing the eventual attempt on his life.

The threats within The Skinsaw Murders are at an end, but the plot for the souls of Varisia continues. Give the PCs plenty of time to rest and recuperate. If they have any loose ends, allow them to be pursued. If you haven't yet made use of the Sandpoint Devil (and are keen on doing so), provide the party with clues to track it down - or have it track them down. The party should have reached level 8 by this point. If they haven't, consider sending a challenge or two their way to help push them over the top.

When you think your players are ready to proceed with the storyline, crack open The Hook Mountain Massacre. It's time to get disturbing.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tangent: Fiddling Around with Stat Blocks

I fiddled around a bit with the way I create stat blocks. I did away with the text-box fest and changed the font to be more universal (Tahoma). The image is now a PNG file, which preserves color integrity better and actually takes up less space for relatively simple images like these stat blocks. There are also a few other differences, all of which I think bring the appearance more in line with how stat blocks are presented in official material.

The old format:

The new format:

Let me know what you think. The new format is the slightest bit easier for me to make.

Monday, February 16, 2009

E6 (The Angel)

Xanesha awaits the party's arrival here, no doubt aware of their presence at this point. She has with her the two ugothols still remaining under her control. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 2,600 xp (Level 10 Encounter)

This encounter can be murderously tough if the party gets careless. The height of this encounter above ground level is likely its most deadly aspect. A fall from this distance will result in no less than 16d10 points of damage if nothing is done to arrest it. Characters who fail their saving throw and topple over the edge should be allowed at least two opportunities to catch hold on a level of scaffolding below with a DC 15 Athletics check (taking 2d10 points of damage if they succeed on the first such check and 4d10 points of damage if they succeed on the second).

There are a few things to keep in mind when playing Xanesha. First, she uses her twisted serpents' suggestion ability as often as she can to keep enemies at bay. Because it restrains creatures it hits, she never targets PCs under its effects with her Karzoug's flame attacks (since the restrained condition prevents forced movement). She makes liberal use of her wanton's wiles ability, using it multiple times in a single round if she can manage it. If she dominates a foe, she uses wanton's wiles to slide the hapless creature into a good position to attack.

Hidden within the lamia's lair (or kept on her person) are treasure parcels 1 and 3 from level 7 and treasure parcel 4 from level 8. If you'd like, one of the treasure parcels (parcel 3 from level 7) can easily be made into an Amulet of False Life +2 in order to serve as the Sihedron Medallion.

Stat block(s):

E3 (The Bells)

The ugothols who dropped the bell on the stairwell wait here for the party to arrive. The map drawn in the adventure is somewhat incomplete - the stairs do in fact continue to wind up to the hole in the wall, despite not appearing on the illustration.

Terrain Features:

  • The Terrible Stair: See area E2 (The Terrible Stair).
  • Crossbeam Timbers: The timbers holding the bells aloft can be crossed by balancing (DC 15).
None of the monsters here risk their lives trying to cross the beams. They fight on the stairs when possible. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 1,950 xp (Level 9 Encounter)

If things go poorly for the ugothols, they will retreat out the scaffolding and into areas E4 and E5, which offer a wider area for them to maneuver in.

E2 (The Terrible Stair)

Another set of Faceless Stalkers are now assembled on the stair to stall the party's climb. The falling bell trap is also a part of this encounter, and should be triggered partway through the fight.

Terrain Features:

  • The Terrible Stair: The stairwell will collapse if too much weight is applied. Characters who survive a collapse hop to the nearest intact square of stairwell. Rules and stats for the stair are provided below.
I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 1,950 xp (Level 9 Encounter)

The monsters here are well aware of the hazard posed by the stairs and are careful not to remain next to other combatants for too long. They also know about the trapped bell and may be a little worried that their companions won't wait for them to get out of harm's way before dropping it on them. If they are obviously going to be overwhelmed, consider having them pull back towards E3.

Stat block(s):

E1 (The Scarecrow's Lair)

The Scarecrow is now mechanically a Bronze Warder - continue to run him as a self-aware golem, just substitute the new stat block. For the purposes of his guard ability, he may treat any of the ugothols/faceless stalkers as his masters. Speaking of which, E1 now also holds a trio of the ugothols. There are quite a few more in the clock tower than in the original adventure. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 1,500 xp (Level 7 Encounter)

Treasure parcels 2 and 4 from level 7 can be found either lying nearby or on the Scarecrow. Also here are the moldy leather sack with 175 gold pieces, tarnished silver right worth 125 gold pieces and silver mirror worth 100 gold pieces (altogether treasure parcel 9 from level 7).

The Shadow Clock

This area has one of the most confusing and troublesome maps to work with of the entire adventure. E2 itself requires well over 450 squares of space to represent properly on a battle mat. In running encounters ascending the tower, keep in mind that each section of the map is 20 feet above the last. Characters with the ability to teleport (or fly) can potentially skip a level of the map, necessitating that it all be drawn out ahead of time. Also note that moving from E3 to E4/E5 and then E6 requires using the exterior scaffolding of the clock tower. No interior set of stairs connects these levels.

If you are using a battle mat, draw out the entirety of area E2 ahead of time - at least the first four "levels". This will probably take up most of your mat's real estate but will come in handy when the party is advancing up the stairs and the defending monsters are heading down. It will be doubly useful when monsters or party members are knocked down to lower levels, requiring you to keep track of combat at different heights.

Chasing the Clocktower

Upon discovering the rookery at the top of the Seven's Sawmill, the PCs have a prime opportunity to track down who Ironbriar has been working with. Note that if they already managed to get ahold of information on Xanesha's lair (probably through Ironbriar himself) they will not need to participate in this encounter. In that case, consider awarding the party experience as though they had completed the skill challenge successfully.

Skill Challenge: Chasing the Clocktower

Setup: The rookery atop the sawmill holds three messenger ravens at the start of this encounter. By releasing one and following it, the party can discover the location of Xanesha's lair. This requires hasty navigation of the half mile of streets between Kyver's Islet and the Shadow, without losing sight of the raven.

Complexity: 4 (10 successes before 3 failures)
Level: 7 (1,200 xp)
Primary Skills: Athletics, Endurance, Nature, Perception, Streetwise

Athletics (DC 14): Forget the streets. You take to the rooftops of Magnimar, where there is no longer a skyline to disrupt your view of the messenger raven. Clambering up the sides of buildings and leaping gaps, you have little problem keeping up. Gain a success for the skill challenge.

Endurance (DC 19): Your stamina is tested to its limits, but you are able push yourself to keep within sight of the raven where your companions have failed. Negate one previous failure during this skill challenge.

Nature (DC 15): You have studied birds and may have even used them as messengers in the past. Their flight patterns are obvious to you, and you are able to use this knowledge to pick roads and alleyways, preventing the raven from flying too far ahead. Gain a success for the skill challenge.

Perception (DC 14): There! You spy your messenger raven ahead, winging its way towards an unseen goal. Pointing the bird out to your companions, you rush on in pursuit of it. Gain a success for the skill challenge. If the PCs thought to mark the raven in order to make it more visible from a distance, they receive a +2 bonus on Perception checks during the skill challenge.

Streetwise (DC 16): You know these streets well. Thanks to your familiarity with the city, you can anticipate short-cuts and potential roadblocks or bottlenecks. Gain a success for the skill challenge.

Success: The raven finishes its journey at the Shadow Clock and the PCs arrive at the base of the tottering tower. Xanesha, Wanton of Nature's Pagan Forms, waits within.

Failure: The party loses sight of the raven for too long - it has left them far behind. Luckily, the rookery contained three ravens at the start of this encounter. As long as a raven remains for the party to set loose, they can repeat the skill challenge. If they run out, consider having Xanesha send one of the ravens back a day later with a confused or angry note attached.

Quest card(s):

Tangent: How I Make Stat Blocks

I've been asked a couple of times about how I make the stat blocks I post here. I have no special trick to show off. It's all done very manually and takes about a half hour to create a new stat block (including working on the mechanics) and post it. I took some screen shots of what the process looks like in pieces. I use OpenOffice for the word processing, Paint for the image manipulation and a fan-created font for the 4th Edition symbols (melee/ranged/close/area icons and the d6 sides; I can't remember where I got the font originally, but if you search ENWorld you should be able to find it or one similar).

There are a number of automated stat block generators floating around, but I haven't seen one that creates them quite how I like so I resorted to doing them on my own. If someone eventually comes out with a stat block generator flexible enough to make any kind of monster while generating blocks that look close to or identical to the Monster Manual version I'll probably start using that.

Step 1:

I start by opening one of the stat blocks I've previously created in OpenOffice to use as a template. This way I don't have to resize any of the text boxes or background pieces. I've had to create new templates from scratch each time I create a new type of stat block (one for monsters, one for traps/hazards, one for diseases, one for magic items, etc.).

Step 2:

Each colored background piece is an independent art object rectangle. I have to move them aside to alter the text box(es) they highlight.

Step 3:

The body of the stat block (everything but the name/type and role/xp header) is a single text box. I type in all the mechanics before re-aligning/resizing the background pieces with the new stat block text.

Step 4:

The new stat block is complete. I save the OpenOffice document as its own file so I can edit it later if necessary. Quite often I'll notice an error in the stat block shortly after I upload it and I'll have to go back and fix it. Sometimes errors are pointed out to me weeks later.

Step 5:

I open print preview mode in order to get a cleaner snap of the finished stat block. After making sure it's viewed at 100% scale, I use that handy Print Screen key to capture it.

Step 6:

Look, Paint! After pasting the screen capture into paint I crop the stat block so that nothing else is included.

Step 7:

The final product: the isolated stat block will be saved as a JPEG file and uploaded to Blogger.

Update: this walkthrough is no longer accurate - I'm now using a different method and format for constructing stat blocks.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

D6 & D7 (Ironbriar)

Ironbriar waits here inside his office (unless he's somehow been alerted to the party's presence). When combat takes place in area D6 he spends two rounds donning his robe and mask before emerging on his initiative count during the third round of combat. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 2,350 xp (Level 10 Encounter)

The warlocks should focus on the same target, taking their turns consecutively in order to scour recently-cursed PCs. The thugs use each other to flank defender characters while Ironbriar and the war mage try to keep strikers blinded. Ironbriar spends his action point to use his bolts and dazzling burst on the same turn, and if he successfully hits a number of PCs he uses his sustaining incantation the following turn to keep the debilitating effects going.

It is possible to discover that Ironbriar is under the effects of a powerful charm. A passive or active Insight check at DC 24 (after engaging him in some short conversation) indicates that he is subject to an outside influence of some sort. A character aware of this and trained in the Arcana skill can detect magic as a standard action (DC 19) to identify the effect as arcane charm magic. Alternately, if the players knock Ironbriar out instead of killing him they can use detect magic to sense the presence of the charm effect on Ironbriar (DC 19). Either way, if they can render him helpless and get ahold of a Remove Affliction ritual they can remove the charm from Ironbriar and use him for information as outlined in the adventure.

Ironbriar's office now contains a Commune with Nature ritual book, the painting (worth 240 gold pieces) and the filigreed tome (worth 550 gold pieces). These altogether are treasure parcels 8 and 10 from level 7. He also carries - or stores in his office - treasure parcels 1 and 2 from level 6. His reaper's mask is non-magical in this conversion.

Stat block(s):

D5 (Log Splitters)

The characters have already witnessed what a log splitter is capable of doing to a person, and now they have the opportunity to inflict that horror upon others (or have it inflicted upon them, as the case may be).

Terrain Features:

  • Floor Openings: Creatures pushed into the openings fall 10 feet into area D4.
  • Log Splitters: The two northernmost openings in the floor contain the log splitters. Rules and stats for the log splitters are provided below.
Ironbriar's second-in-command oversees the constant operation of the sawmill here, where he can make sure that both the log splitters and the waterwheel machinery are operating properly. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • 1 Jordaini Enforcer (Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide)
  • 2 Thuggish Cultists (Dungeon #156)
  • 4 Snaketongue Initiates
  • 2 Log Splitters
Total: 2,100 xp (Level 9 Encounter)

All of the cultists know full well the dangers the log splitters pose to the careless. Those with forced-movement attacks use them to deadly advantage, taking every opportunity available to push PCs into the machinery.

Found in the closet in this room are three bags of gold containing 100 gold pieces each, the crystal decanter set with obsidian stopper worth 300 gold pieces, the tiny wooden box containing three poorly cut diamonds worth 200 gold pieces each and three potions of mimicry (treasure parcels 6 and 7 from level 6) as well as treasure parcel 3 (also from level 6).

Stat block(s):

D4 (Lumber Collection)

The slaughter continues. Norgorber would undoubtedly be pleased were it not his operatives being put to the sword.

Terrain Features:

  • Lumber Chutes: Creatures pushed into the chutes fall 20 feet into the river below.
It is possible for a stealthy or extremely goal-oriented party to avoid this encounter by skipping the room off the landing entirely (though unlikely, and potentially unwise). I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • 2 Human Ambushers (Pyramid of Shadows)
  • 3 Crimson Acolytes
  • 4 Snaketongue Initiates
Total: 1,800 xp (Level 8 Encounter)

D3 (The Undermill)

It's possible that this will be the first room the party explores. It's also possible that this will be the last room the party explores, if they explore it at all. If the group is quick enough in clearing out the sawmill, they may leave without those working at the waterwheels below ever having realized the intruders were here.

Terrain Features:

  • Waterwheels: Unless disabled, the waterwheels continue to turn during combat, posing a hazard to anyone fighting nearby. Rules and stats for the waterwheels are provided below.
  • Waterwheel Machinery: The constant motion of the gears and belts within the waterwheel apparatus poses a hazard to anyone fighting nearby. Rules and stats for the machinery are provided below.
Even if the party surprises the cultists by attacking them outright, their war razors should never be more than one move away from their starting position. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 2,200 xp (Level 9 Encounter)

The Crimson Acolytes have no problem luring foolhardy adventurers into fighting atop the dangerous waterwheels. Their +11 Acrobatics bonus gives them a fairly good chance of avoiding a drop into the river. The Acolytes' Crimson Path lets them easily maneuver atop the wheels (especially once bloodied). The Mystic Cultist reserves his Storm of the Ocean Lord power for when he can catch at least two PCs within the machinery or atop the waterwheels, and uses Ring of Terror to send would-be assailants into the wheels. The Thuggish Cultist likewise reserves his Knock 'em Flat for when it can best be used to send a PC into one of the hazards.

Stat block(s):

D2 (Loading Bay)

This room now contains an encounter - there's no real reason not to include one here, and the added experience will help keep the leveling scheme on target. The cultists here follow the same routine as those in area D3, responding to inquiries calmly while carefully positioning themselves to strike. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • 1 Cultist Warlock (Dungeon #157)
  • 2 Crimson Acolytes
  • 4 Snaketongue Initiates
  • 1 Zhent War Mage (Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide)
Total: 1,550 xp (Level 7 Encounter)

Though there are masks (and robes) kept nearby, the cultists' masks are non-magical.

The Seven's Sawmill

This series of encounters can be run in a largely linear fashion, thanks to the floor-by-floor design of the sawmill. There is one significant difference between this set of encounters in 4th Edition and in the original adventure: each encounter should be isolated, so that (barring extreme circumstances, like a PC running madly up the stairs into every workroom) the party will only be dealing with one encounter at a time. This means that the cultists are confident enough of their skill and numbers that they can handle the group, and that other floors' cultists will not be alerted to the intrusion until the party reaches their floor.

The reasoning behind this is simple. If even two of the encounters in the sawmill were to combine, the players would have an extremely difficult fight on their hands. To illustrate this in mechanical terms, imagine that floors 3 and 4 each have 1,500 xp worth of monsters in their respective encounters. Individually, these are level 7 encounters and completely appropriate for the party at this point in the adventure path. Combined, however, they total 3,000 xp worth of monsters - a level 11 encounter, at the upper edge of what the party might be able to handle (and possibly resulting in PC deaths). And if three such encounters were combined for whatever reason, the party would have a level 14 or 15 fight on their hand, far out of their league.

This wasn't a problem in 3rd Edition because encounter design was much looser. The ease of destroying large groups of monsters (a well-placed fireball, for instance) made increasing the size of an encounter a non-linear xp progression. In 4th Edition a greater emphasis is placed on non-minion monsters being credible threats for a number of rounds in order to create dynamic, tactically interesting fights. It also means that the party really can be overwhelmed if too many non-minion monsters join the fight.

It isn't difficult to justify this isolation even within the same building. The undermill is completely cut off, internally, from the other floors, and the machinery there obscures the sound of combat. The sound of machinery and other workshop noises permeates much of the rest of the sawmill as long as the waterwheels stay active, which makes hearing anything outside one's own room a feat.

That said, if you really want to threaten your players with the possibility of alerting larger portions of the sawmill, make any additional monsters that join the fray from other floors into minions (use Snaketongue Initiates). Keep the encounters on the other floors intact - they will play out as normal once the party actually reaches those floors. The cultists are simply sending their newest initiates out as reinforcements, or to slow the party down while they prepare their own defense. If this does occur, play the cultists on the alerted floors as being aware of the party. They will have already donned robes and masks by the time the PCs arrive.

The sawmill contains a total of five encounters, all of which are at or above the party's level. They should have a lot of incentive to fight all the way to the top of the mill without taking an extended rest, lest the cultists go into hiding or somehow procure reinforcements. If the party does chicken out and isn't able to finish the mill in one go, you'll have to adjudicate how the cultists deal with losing a significant number of their members (as well as the knowledge that they're exposed).

Note that all of the cultists' melee attacks with the Weapon keyword are made with a war razor, regardless of what the suggested stat block calls the attack.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ambush in the Garden

A second group of ugothols has been posted nearby to keep watch on the townhouse from the outside. They've taken up positions around the property as civilians, but when they notice the PCs entering the townhouse (or hear the sounds of combat coming from inside) they quickly shuffle into one of the adjacent alleys and shapeshift into the guise of a member of the Magnimar guard normally off-duty during this time. This takes ten minutes, but the party should take at least that long searching the townhouse for clues.

Once the party is done rummaging around the house, they hear a shout from the garden below. The second group, disguised as guards, claims that neighbors heard the sounds of an altercation coming from inside, and that they want to make sure everything is alright. The ugothols do everything they can to lure the party into the garden, where they have plenty of room to maneuver and can't be seen from the street (thanks to the high stone walls). When they think they have everyone assembled down in the garden, they attack. I suggest the following encouter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 1,600 xp (Level 7 Encounter)

During this fight, the ugothols remain in their disguises until they are bloodied, just in case the real guards notice the ruckus and come to investigate. If, for whatever reason, the party decides to ignore the bait and simply leaves by way of the front entrance the stalkers do not pursue them.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Foxglove's Townhouse

This encounter has the potential to be surprising, disturbing and morbidly funny all at once. When the PCs arrive (even if they break in), they should be greeted as though they are old friends. The ugothols waste no time in inviting the party to dinner in order to position them appropriately for the ambush they have in store.

The townhouse now contains four faceless stalkers. Two of them remain disguised as Aldern and Iesha, putting on (very rough) airs of normalcy. The other two hide in nearby rooms, waiting for the signal to attack. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 1,400 xp (Level 7 Encounter)

The ugothols don't waste any time in switching back to their true forms - there is no use in denying their deception, and they're more comfortable in their own skins. The PCs can find 1,000 gold pieces in ten small bags (treasure parcel 5 from level 6) stuffed into the locked mantel compartment.

While the party tangles with the faceless stalkers within the townhouse, a second group of ugothols are orchestrating another trap for the PCs close by...

Welcome to Magnimar

After the party reports to Sheriff Hemlock their findings at the Misgivings, they should have a fairly strong incentive to travel to Magnimar in order to follow up on clues found in the manor. It is more than likely that their first stop once reaching the City of Monuments is Aldern Foxglove's townhouse.

Don't forget to reward the party for completing any quests they've accumulated.

Exorcising Foxglove Manor

While entirely optional, many PCs would be hard-pressed to leave an obviously haunted house, suffused with the eternal essence of a failed lich, without seeing to it that no one else falls victim to its terrible curse. In the event that one of the PCs wants to deal with the problem, allow any characters trained in Religion to make a DC 12 check. If they succeed, one of them recalls a set of exorcism rites that could expel Vorel's spirit from the manor. If they hit a DC of 19 or higher, they recall a prayer that is particularly effective in turning liches, and can apply it to the following skill challenge for one automatic success.

Skill Challenge: Exorcising Foxglove Manor

Setup: Though the immediate threat to Sandpoint has been extinguished, Vorel's spirit is patient and lingering. Whether through chance, curse or destiny, the necromancer's line may suffer still unless that spirit is laid to rest. Properly equipped PCs can attempt to purge the hauntings from the manor, but Vorel is more than capable of fighting back. The party must visit every room in the manor (and its caverns) that contains a haunt. As they move from room to room, incanting the rites of exorcism, the Misgivings turns against them, sabotaging their efforts in myriad ways.

Complexity: 5 (12 successes before 3 failures)
Level: 6 (1,250 xp)
Primary Skills: Arcana, Dungeoneering, Endurance, Heal, History, Insight, Perception, Religion

Arcana (DC 14): Your studies of magical infestations and diseases allows you to construct subtle eldritch wards against Vorel's menace. Gain a success for the skill challenge, and choose either: grant an ally a +5 bonus to the next Religion check made during the skill challenge or negate the loss of one subsequent healing surge from the ally of your choice to Vorel's Spirit.

Dungeoneering (DC 18): The manor is ancient and Vorel knows its grounds well, but its creaks and groans speak to you, allowing you to shield your friends from the brunt of the next attack. Gain a success for the skill challenge and grant all allies a +2 bonus to all defenses until one of your allies is attacked by Vorel's Spirit. Only up to two successes from this skill can contribute to the skill challenge.

Endurance (DC 11): You strain under the malignant influence of Vorel's will but manage to free your mind of his taint while maintaining your efforts against him, for now. This skill may only be used by a character making an Arcana or Religion check, and negates the subsequent loss of one healing surge to Vorel's Spirit by that character. This does not grant a success for the skill challenge.

Heal (DC 18): Your companions struggle to complete the rites of exorcism, suffering from supernaturally-inflicted wounds, but you are right there to tend to them. Gain a success for the skill challenge and grant one ally a +3 bonus to one defense of your choice until that ally is attacked by Vorel's Spirit.

History (DC 18): The Misgivings has a storied past, but you are a scholar of the truth behind its rumors. Combining this knowledge with that of other infamous hauntings, you counsel your friends on the wisest course of action. Gain a success for the skill challenge or negate one previous failure. Only up to two successes (or negations of failures) from this skill can contribute to the skill challenge.

Insight (DC 16): Vorel is long dead, but you know enough of his morbid efforts at lichdom to guess at his spirit's intent. Grant each ally a +2 bonus to his or her next skill check. This does not grant a success for the skill challenge.

Perception (DC 18): It seems as though secrets lurk behind every other shadow in the manor, but you spot one before it is able to impede your party's efforts. Vorel's Spirit receives a -3 penalty to its next attack. This does not grant a success for the skill challenge.

Religion (DC 14): Words of prayer, protection and banishment flood your mind as you incant the rites of exorcism. Gain a success for the skill challenge. At least three successes must be achieved with this skill check in order to complete the skill challenge.

Success: As the party returns to Vorel's laboratory and recites the final incantations, the patch of fungus animates and tears free of the wall. The thing howls in a sloshy, barely human voice, then crumbles to dust—the haunt of Foxglove Manor is thusly exorcised, and while the building retains its unwelcoming aura, it is no longer haunted.

Failure: Each time a member of the party fails any check during the skill challenge (regardless of whether or not that skill can grant a success for the skill challenge), Vorel's spirit notices an opportunity to strike. See the Vorel's Spirit stat block below. The attacks can take any number of forms, depending on the defense Vorel's Spirit targets. You should determine how this plays out based on the room the party is currently in. For instance, an attack targeting Reflex that takes place in the library could involve scores of heavy tomes flung at the PCs from the bookshelves.

If the party accumulates three failures, the madness of the Misgivings drives the party off the Foxglove grounds as Vorel's cackling echoes at them from the manor. All participants in the skill challenge receive a -2 penalty to saving throws and cannot attempt the rites of exorcism again until they have reached two milestones.

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