Adventuring in the Shadow of the Demon Lord, part 1

This past Friday, we were down a couple of players, so we had decided that Paul would run his game. He then thought he might be late getting to the session, so asked Taylor to bring something. That something was his new book, Shadow of the Demon Lord, and we set to make characters.

We delved into the quick but immersive character creation and had everything done within probably fifteen minutes, with Taylor walking three of us through the process. Other than your race, rolls determine everything about your character, but none of us felt like we ended up with a bad character in the end. The gear and traits provided by these rolls really set up who you are when circumstances or decision forces you to adventure/survive in the world, and we were able to pick up on the cues we were given and roleplay fun characters. The feel of the characters is definitely reminiscent of Warhammer Fantasy, which was a nice change of pace from our usual Golarion-based characters in the Pathfinder games. In the end, we ended up with a Goblin, a Dwarf, and a small Clockwork that could fly, each with their own quirks and professions.

Taylor had actually written a homebrew scenario for our trail run of the game, setting us accompanying a caravan to a distant city. The caravan was attacked at about the midway point and the three PCs were taken by the assailants and placed in a cell in a stone building. My Goblin (whose name was Poop - a name suggested in the race section, I might add) and Paul's Dwarf (I don't remember the names of his or Angela's characters, sorry) were able to rattle the rusted bars of the cell loose and make good our escape with our clockwork friend. A guard heard us and burst through the door, brandishing a sickle.

We took down this guard (a Cultist from the book) and made it further in, toward what we expected was the way out. Upon climbing up a ladder to a trapdoor, we encountered more Cultists and explored some other doors leading off from this area. One was filled with the viscera of several bodies that had been flayed, dissected, or otherwise experimented on. The opposite door had mold and slime and my goblin trekked in to look for anything useful, turning up a goblet and some delicious soggy apples!

I can't recall if this was on the same level, but we also found a room wherein the caravan master we had been traveling with was strung up with chains that were stretching his shoulders and hips as far as they could go. The mechanism was set up with pulleys and the weight was balanced on a narrow metal bar. Angela's Clockwork flew in and inspected the mechanism and reported how it worked to the Dwarf and Goblin, at which point the Dwarf moved in, triggering a tripwire and unbalancing the weight and pulling the poor human apart before our eyes. The Dwarf gained a point of insanity for the realization that he was the reason behind the man's death.

Upon climbing up further, we entered a chamber with a Cultist that was performing a ritual. We tried to speak to her, but she did nothing but berate us and scream for our heads, then soundly thumped us once the Dwarf was targeted by a powerful spell and my Goblin suffered a spell crit sending me to 0 maximum health.

Thus ended the careers of those adventurers, but we had only spent two hours in character creation and playing the adventure to the point where we wiped. David had shown up by then, and we decided to play out a second adventure, which I volunteered to run to familiarize myself with the system.

That's for the next post, though!


Rise of the Runelords, Fall of the Lords of Fort Rannick

And so, after 51 sessions carried out over the course of 3 years (not including the year and change hiatus), my Rise of the Runelords campaign came to an end.

I hadn't posted about it since the group fell to Xanesha, here, but in the sessions since the game came back, a lot of things happened. Many of the original characters returned (except for Hyrum and Natasha, and we never saw Elspeth again) because Vic was able to shake Xanesha's charm and dump the bodies of his comrades at the Abadaran church. Some more people joined our group for good, and some came and went, and with them, their characters.

Along the way, our heroes fought against the hideously mutated Kreegs and burned their compound to near uselessness, they liberated Fort Rannick from the merciless ogres that had taken it over, and were granted titles and the land surrounding the fort for their efforts.

The Lords of Rannick then left their lands in the hands of their trusted stewards to venture to their hometown of Sandpoint, where they were able to thwart a raid by stone giants, and then chased the giants to the place from which they had planned to launch an invasion of the lowlands. Our heroes took the fight to the leaders of this faction of giants and destroyed them, but confirmed what they had suspected for some time: there was a greater threat behind the giants; a tyrant of old who sought his return to the physical world and the reclamation of his old kingdom. This was Karzoug, the Runelord of Shalast, perhaps one of the most powerful wizards to have ever lived!

Being called and returning to Sandpoint after a short respite at home, our band descended into a portion of the ancient ruins under the town that had been blocked til this point. There, they uncovered a written passage hinting at a font of arcane knowledge belonging to the Runelords, hidden in the mountains to the north, and they made their preparations from Sandpoint and headed to the spot they would uncover this Runeforge. There, however, they were beaten back by the ancient white, Arkrhyst, who made its lair in the cavern that housed the entrance to Runeforge. After traveling back to safety and recuperating, they made a second attempt at the dragon, this time summoning help, and were able to slay the beast.

Then they made entry into Runeforge. Though they were able to identify the passages matching the various entries associated with each Runelord's realm of power, they decided to work clockwise and systematically explore the arcane secrets therein. Their first challenge came in the form of a trap cleverly designed to trigger multiple Mirrors of Opposition. After defeating their clones, the group pressed in further and were felled by the six simulacrum copies of the wizard Vraxeris, and their devastating spell onslaught.

Cast of Characters
Walt Thrune, Chelaxian Human Cleric 12 (Merciful Healer) of Sarenrae - Paul (deceased)
Rissi Scuttle, Ratfolk Alchemist 12 - Angela (deceased)
Vic Alvaraz, Varisian Human Fighter 12 (Mobile Fighter) - David (deceased)
Indigo, Chelaxian Human Paladin 5/Holy Vindicator 8 - Taylor (deceased)
Thrask, Orc Barbarian 11 (Invulnerable Rager) - Jon
Trink Peacepath, Vanara Monk 10 (Qinggong)  - Sam (deceased)

With only one PC technically surviving, due to the player's absence, I called the game.

This was a tough campaign, and one that seemed to really ratchet up in difficulty when the campaign enters the 5th book of the series. There was some discussion about deaths and the larger number of characters contributing to less gold share and thus, being slightly behind the curve, when it came to power level. I do agree to those points, but I also saw certain things like item hoarding to be just as detrimental. The difficulty of the adventure as written had also taken a turn that, at least in my opinion, is hard to prepare for when things had been at a certain level before.

Overall, I don't have any major complaints, and other than Taylor thinking the path perhaps too bland (which is very legitimate, as Rise of the Runelords doesn't - nor was it intended to - bring anything new to the table), I don't feel that the players do...or at least they haven't been voiced.

If anyone who happens to read this was considering running Rise, I would say go for it. Since it's a published campaign, you'll have to fill in quite a few of the gaps in the story, but I felt like I was given the tools to do that with the material as presented. The Paizo forums are also full of great ideas for enhancing the campaign.

This was a very fulfilling campaign, and I'm sure we'll be telling stories from it for a long while.