Friday, July 31, 2009

Tangent: Monster Builder First Impressions

I've had a chance to fiddle around with the Monster Builder. It's a fantastic tool, on par with the Character Builder in terms of utility (this time for the DMs out there rather than players), and I'll be getting to know it a lot better in the coming months.

That said, I won't be using it for my monsters for a couple reasons. Primarily, the Monster Builder remains in beta. It is missing a few features that would need to be able to include in my monsters (immunities, for instance, are not present in the Monster Builder; it's a known issue, and they're working on it). It also needs to be more flexible. As it stands, not enough of the fields are customizable.

When these issues are fixed, however, I will very strongly consider posting packages of custom monsters for each adventure so that DMs who wish to make use of the Adventure Tools suite in their own games can get the most use out of this conversion project. I will probably stick to the stat block format I've been using for the actual compiled conversions, as it suits my needs perfectly (namely, fitting into the OpenOffice Writer layout I use).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tangent: D&D Insider Monster Builder Upcoming Beta

Word is that the new Monster Builder application (part of the D&D Insider Campaign Tools suite) will see a beta release tomorrow for all subscribers. I like the look of the tool a lot, and everything I've heard so far describes it as extremely powerful and flexible. I'll need to see what the options for exporting finished stat blocks are, but it's possible that I will eventually switch over to that format. It won't happen immediately, though. I want to wait for similar tools to be made available for the creation of magic items, traps & hazards, skill challenges, etc. so that the formatting remains coherent throughout my finished compilations.

That doesn't change the fact that I may occasionally make use of the tool to build monsters in the meantime, since it takes care of much of the math for you. I may also release packages of all my custom stat blocks in whatever proprietary format the Monster Builder saves its monster files as. I'll have a lot more information available once I have a chance to fiddle around with the tool tomorrow evening.

Stay tuned!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tangent: Savage Tide

Yet another conversion project has been started over at The Chronicles of Abysm, this time dealing with the pre-Pathfinder Savage Tide adventure path. While it's still in the planning phase, what has been posted so far looks excellent. There's a lot of foresight going into the project, which is a very helpful foundation to have. I'll be following the blog, and you should give it a look too.

Tangent: 4th Edition Divine Domains in Golarion

Divine Power was released this past month, and it reintroduces domains to 4th Edition, including new domain feats and domain-specific Divinity powers. While the domains for the core 4th Edition pantheon are listed, other campaign settings will need to determine for themselves which domains are appropriate for which deities. Where Golarion is concerned, an effort should be made to make these options available to PCs worshiping the requisite deities. With that in mind, the following is a list of the most prominent Golarion deities (as listed in the Rise of the Runelords Player's Guide) and their updated 4th Edition domains.

Erastil: Life, protection, wilderness
Iomedae: Justice, sun, war
Torag: Creation, earth, protection
Sarenrae: Hope, life, sun
Shelyn: Love, luck, skill
Desna: Change, freedom, luck
Cayden Cailean: Change, freedom, strength
Abadar: Civilization, earth, justice
Irori: Civilization, knowledge, strength
Gozreh: Sea, storm, wilderness
Pharasma: Death, fate, life
Nethys: Arcana, destruction, knowledge
Gorum: Destruction, strength, war
Calistria: Luck, trickery, vengeance

These new domains will appear in the next update to the Burnt Offerings and Player's Guide conversion PDF.

D5 (Chokepoint)

A small force of ogre soldiers guards the interior of the clanhold from here, acting as the last line of defense before the more vital caverns are breached. Barl is, by now, aware of the intrusion as the sound of combat echoes through the clanhold's caverns. He summons and sends forth an undead creature of shadow - an Oni Souleater - to halt the PCs' progress. It arrives and rolls initiative at the beginning of the third round of combat. All of the ogres are startled by the creature's presence, but quickly conclude that Barl sent it and fight on, reminded of what befalls those who fail to please their new lord. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • 4 Ogre Savages
  • 4 Ogre Skirmishers
  • Oni Souleater (see Open Grave)
Total: 2,900 xp (Level 11 Encounter)

D1 (Entrance)

When Barl made an example of the sleeping guard ogre, he decided to try out a new necromantic ritual - one that would flay the skin from the ogre's corpse and then animate it. The result is a titan shell, a gruesome display of the sort of thing Breakbones is capable of. Its presence unnerves the other ogres stationed here, which suits Barl just fine. Even if they didn't expect to suffer the same fate if they doze off, none of them feel comfortable trying to sleep with the undead skin of one of their clansmen hanging around. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • Titan Shell (see Open Grave)
  • Ogre Warhulk
  • 2 Ogre Skirmishers
Total: 2,600 xp (Level 10 Encounter)

The Sihedron medallion hung around Gargadros' neck in area D3 will magically resize itself to fit the neck of any creature who wears it. Give it the powers of a level 12 neck slot item (treasure parcel 4 from level 11).

At the bottom of the sacrificial pit in area D4 lies an unharmed magic item, buried amongst the ash and bones (treasure parcel 3 from level 11).

Harrowing the Hook

Scaling a miles-high mountain in the middle of a supernaturally strong blizzard knowing that a clan of bloodthirsty ogres is waiting at the top is absolutely a skill challenge-worthy scenario.

Skill Challenge: Harrowing the Hook

Setup: The Kreeg clanhold lies a half-mile from the top of Hook Mountain's 10,000-foot peak. The PCs would be served well by some (perhaps magical) climbing gear. Don't forget to reward creative thinking; if the PCs can come up with a good use for one of their daily utility powers, for instance, don't hesitate to give them a free success or significant bonus to a check.

Stat block:

Mountain Pass Ambush

As the PCs approach the base of Hook Mountain, they are engulfed in a snowstorm. The Kreegs have set an ambush ahead in the anticipation of an investigation of the Hook. They wait for the adventurers' arrival in a canyon fortified with a pair of long-abandoned stone watchtowers.

The ogre thugs arrive in two waves of six. The first wave descends upon the PCs from the other end of the canyon while the Overlord watches from one of the canyon walls above. When the first wave is demolished, he orders the second group in and leaps down to join the fray himself. The ogre in charge (possessed of some shamanistic power in addition to his brute strength - here, an Oni Overlord) is demanding an abusive of his slave troops. His interaction with the ogre minions is going to be the star of this encounter. He can hand out 5 temporary hit points each round, but deals 5 damage to any nearby ally who misses with an attack. Play this up. He rewards success with temporary hit points, and those who fail him have the life crushed from their throats at a distance by his aura (unless, of course, they've earned his approval previously, in which case they might be allowed one slip-up before he decides to kill him). In all likelihood, the Overlord will be responsible for nearly as many deaths among his men as the PCs are. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • Oni Overlord
  • 12 Ogre Thugs
Total: 3,200 xp (Level 11 Encounter)

The Overlord has a tome of rituals slung over his shoulder. Assign roughly 4,000 gold pieces worth of rituals to this book, including a couple your PCs might have been talking about looking into, and a couple they haven't considered but might find useful. The ritual book is treasure parcel 6 from level 11.

Note: This encounter was designed to take advantage of Paizo's GameMastery Flip-Mat: Mountain Pass map. The canyon side provides the perfect ambush site for the ogres. The encounter runs just fine without it, but if you want to add some exciting map artwork to your game this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tangent: Playing Dragonborn in Pathfinder

Dragonborn have an interesting (and very recent) past, in terms of their attachment to the Dungeons & Dragons game. Their first appearance in 3.5 was as a transitive race made up of those who willingly underwent a process by which they were reborn into new, draconic bodies out of dedication to their god. It wasn't until 4th Edition that they saw an incarnation as a "true" race. They lack a clear place in Golarion. I will try to offer a few ways for you to establish dragonborn history within your Pathfinder campaign.

As draconic demihumans, it's clear that however they are incorporated they ought to have some connection to true dragons. It needn't be as direct as the result of a breeding process, but the clear influence of dragons in their physiology needs to be explained somehow. They also need a place of origin, and a place of refuge in the modern world. Here are a few suggestions on ways to insert dragonborn into Golarion:

  • The gold dragon Mengkare, ever in determined pursuit of societal perfection, experimented briefly with instructing a handful of his people to breed with him (or with other dragons he recruited for the purpose) in order to study the offsprings' worth. Though capable humanoids, he eventually determined that this new race would not move his society closer to perfection. Abandoning the project, he sent the dragonborn away from Hermea, scattering them to the nations of the inner sea. If you use this option, dragonborn have an extremely short history, and no personal culture save a shared bitterness at Mengkare's treatment of them (or their parents, if they are descended from those exiled by Mengkare).
  • During the height of Thassilon when the Runelords' magic might was at it's strongest, Karzoug the Claimer hatched a twisted plan. Though he numbered many dragons among his followers, their conniving minds prevented him from placing much trust in them. On the other hand, while he could easily cow and subjugate the human population, they lacked the might and ferocity of his dragon allies. In a moment of terrible insight, he realized that if he could combine the two he might create a race with the ferocity and cunning of a dragon, but without the force of will that made them impossible to utterly control. Using his powerful transmutation magic he was able to fuse dragon and humanoid together, creating a new race: the dragonborn. They served their master well, proving stronger than his human troops. But after the fall of Thassilon and the loss of their master, the dragonborn scattered. Some joined those humans who would eventually become the Shoanti tribes, others devoted themselves to the dragons, and more still traveled as far away from Thassilon as they could, making their way to other countries. (Credit to Eldim for this suggestion)
  • In the forming of the world, as Apsu and Tiamat created the gods themselves, they instilled a tiny portion of themselves in creation. During the Age of Darkness, hidden far away in the unexplored regions of the Mwangi Expanse, the dragonborn carved out a place for themselves in the endless jungle. Infused with the barest spark of divinity, dragonborn shaman foretold a rise to greatness in the Age of Glory to come. In preparation, a number of dragonborn were sent into the rest of the world to take stock of what they were certain would eventually become their domain. When word of the sundering of the magics of prophecy reached the ears of dragonborn civilization, however, scores of disillusioned tribesmen abandoned the Mwangi Expanse to try and bring about what they considered their destiny the old-fashioned way: by earning it.
Dragonborn in your Rise of the Runelords campaign might come from a rich tribal history, or enter play with a complete lack of personal heritage or identity. Here are some ways to give dragonborn a special relevance to the events of the adventure path:

  • As the progeny of a race that once belonged to the personal army of a Runelord, Thassilonian lore has seeped into dragonborn culture as legend and fable. Runes might have developed special significance for the dragonborn people, and the PC might find disturbing similarities between familiar dragonborn motifs and his increasing exposure to the ruins and remains of ancient Thassilon.
  • The PC took up a life of adventuring in order to embrace an imagined personal or shared racial destiny unmade at the advent of the Age of Lost Omens. As his adventures earn him more prestige and glory, he might become increasingly hopeful that the key to that destiny lies within reach. The prospect of uncovering the mysteries of ancient Thassilon only serve to fuel this drive.

Burnt Offerings Conversion Updated to v0.6

I've made a few changes to the Burnt Offerings compiled conversion document. Most notably, I've added area C27 - the bunyip encounter. My playtest group neglected the encounter on their way through Thistletop, but for the sake of completeness I feel it should be included.

I have also made some minor changes to the Divinity feats presented in the appendix, both to bring their power levels more in line with other Divinity feats, and to update a couple to reflect newer rules material (Arcana of Nethys, for instance, was written back when holy symbols were the only divine implement; it now properly works with all divine implements).

You can download the conversion document here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Emerging from Whitewillow

As one final reminder of the state of supernatural decay Whitewillow suffers from, the party runs afoul of a pack of drakes and their naga handler after they meet with Myriana. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

  • 2 Portal Drakes (see Draconomicon)
  • 3 Scytheclaw Drakes
  • Guardian Naga
Total: 3,900 xp (Level 13 Encounter)

Assuming you use the suggested initiative rules in the Dungeon Master's Guide, the portal drakes can use their catch a ride ability to piggyback on each other's teleports, effectively doubling the distance they can move each turn and still attack. Their portal bursts can be used to position characters in the middle of swampy difficult terrain. The rest of this encounter is fairly straightforward.

Once the PCs arrive back at Turtleback Ferry, they have nothing left but to ascend Hook Mountain and put a stop to the Kreegs once and for all.

Heart of Sadness

There is little necessary conversion work for the PCs' meeting with Myriana. If the party decides to fight her, or angers her in a way that causes her to attack, this is where you ought to consider a bit of restraint in pulling out the battlemat. She cannot be permanently destroyed, and would prefer not to kill any of the heroes herself, so I suggest running any such combat as a quick free-form encounter. If the PCs decide to destroy her, they ought to succeed in doing so. Though she is a creature of vengeance and capable of bending the swamp to her will, she isn't really a match for the adventurers if they work together to defeat her. However, if you feel it's appropriate given the specific circumstances of your game, you may get the chance to stop an overzealous PC in his tracks with her gaze. If this happens you can play it as a bargaining chip against them - it illustrates that Myriana has power, and that she might become a real threat to any nearby civilization if she isn't appeased.

Assuming the party eventually agrees to retrieve Lamatar's corpse, give them a major quest to reflect their task.

Into Whitewillow

As the PCs begin to explore Whitewillow, they are set upon by a band of harpies, led by an undead harpy they continue to revere and obey in its current state. In addition, the dead pools described in the original adventure make an appearance here as a pair of haunted hazards. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 4,200 xp (Level 13 Encounter)

The dead pools each occupy a 10-foot by 10-foot space, and should be placed with some distance between them. In all likelihood, combat will gravitate towards one or the other, but that doesn't mean that both won't see action in this encounter.

The ghost harpy is the star of the show here. She uses her spirit call as often as possible to draw multiple PCs to the dead pools, organizing them adjacent to the pool itself in order to maximize its impact. The other harpies run interference, fending off melee characters as necessary.

Stat block:

The Haunted Heart

As the PCs are lured to Whitewillow, you have a couple decisions to make. There are a number of suggestions in the original adventure on how to drive home the idea that this area of the Shimmerglens is fundamentally wrong. The author advises putting away the battlemat for this portion of the adventure. At the same time, I think it would be a shame to pass up the chance at some ghostly combat in the middle of a corrupted swamp, so I'm setting a single combat encounter on the way in, and a single encounter on the way out. If you want to maintain an extended period of map-free roleplaying, run the combat encounter on the way in before anything else in Whitewillow.

I advise against using the ghostly revels as a hazard for the PCs. Describe it in as much detail as you wish, and perhaps mention that the PCs feel deathly cold as the spirits pass through them. If you feel like it's necessary to threaten them with getting caught in their path, an attack against Will (at +14) targeting each PC which drains a healing surge on a hit should suffice.

The mysterious derelict holds the book of music (now worth 6,500 gold pieces) and the goblet (now worth 500 gold pieces). Together these are treasure parcels 5, 6 and 8 from level 10.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tangent: One Year

As of this past Friday, Tales from the Rusty Dragon is now a full year old! I'd like to give a huge thank you to everyone who has followed the project, made suggestions, pointed out issues, spread word of mouth or run the converted adventures for their own groups! Hopefully by this time next year I will be finished with or nearing completion of the entire Rise of the Runelords adventure path.

Though not necessarily related to hitting the one year mark, I have decided to convert D2: Seven Swords of Sin to 4th Edition. This will happen concurrently with the ongoing Rise of the Runelords conversion. I'm not sure when that project will start, or in what format it will appear (though there will definitely be a compiled conversion PDF), but when I do have more to share I'll post it here. Seven Swords of Sin is a solid one-shot dungeon crawl adventure that happens to explore a couple facets of the campaign lore touched upon in Rise of the Runelords.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tangent: Curse of the Crimson Throne and Legacy of Fire

It's been a slow couple of weeks as I try and gather my regular group together over the summer. I have some material ready to go, but I'd like to run as much of it by my group as possible before I publish it to the blog. As soon as that happens, there will be a sizable update.

A couple of other enthusiasts have started their own conversion projects. John (Tales from the Three Rings Tavern) began his Curse of the Crimson Throne conversion blog this last month, and Craig (Blog Under a Wanderin' Star) has started in on the first adventure of the Legacy of Fire adventure path. It's fantastic to see others try their hand at this sort of thing, and I'll be following both projects closely.