Legacy of Fire Review & Reflection – Continued

Having finally finished my long-running (kinda) Legacy of Fire game, I figured to continue to review/reflect from my earlier post. Instead of lumping the entire second half of the adventure path into one post, I’m divvying it up three ways, to make it easier to read, and allow more time on each module. Without further ado…

Note: contains spoilers. I’ve actually seen a lot of traffic from search strings looking for a House of the Beast walk-through, so the spoiler note probably amounts to all of jack.

Dramatis Personae

We had quite a bit of changeover in the players/characters department, which is the fatal flaw of any game involving a lot of college students. (Particularly ones who go home for the summer, or complain about having class in the morning.) This module had the worst changeover: of the three characters who started in the first module, two of them (Muji the Cleric and Ashnale the Paladin, both of Saranrae) dropped out in this one, and replacements had to be found. We also lost Kobold the Nobald, but that just meant I didn’t get/have to roleplay the annoying mephit.

  • Malak: Ranger/Druid of Saranrae/Dread Commando,  Moldspeaker and gnoll hunter extraordinaire
  • Yantar (Monk)and Karek (Rogue), hired muscle to defend Rayhan’s villa. Also, another monk who showed up twice, and the world’s worst wizard, who were largely forgotten
  • Jawari: Druid/Wizard/Arcane Hierophant,  owner of many fine cats, all of them egregiously in heat

The first thing that happened was an immediate shift over to Pathfinder from 3.5. The actual transition was interesting; it went over seamlessly for the most part, and conversions were a snap thanks to The Archives of Nethys and d20PFSRD. The big thing I noticed was that the monks were a bit underpowered compared to 3.5 monks, partly because of build optimization (or lack thereof), and partly because of the abundance of big enemies (making it hard to tumble/make combat maneuvers against). It was a hassle converting back and forth, but it was relatively easy; monsters and the PCs were the only big changes.

The End of Eternity by Jason Nelson

The last module left our brave heroes, having freed Rayhan from the clutches of a largely unexplained plot, sitting around Rayhan’s place drinking tea and ruining property values. This module starts off with Rayhan reading the scroll and sucking everyone into the map, freeing Jhavhul to wreck havoc amongst the world. Whoops, heh.

Again, this didn’t fit the characters’ motivations in the slightest—they wanted to lock the map away so that nobody could potentially use it to free Jhavhul—but everyone was willing to roll with it, since it’s how the path works. As was pointed out by one player, it made sense in the grand sweeping scheme of things: the beginnings of a lengthy odyssey for the PCs, culminating in an epic showdown.

Jason Nelson was kind enough to forward on the draft of this module after seeing my post, and a major shout-out to him for that. It contained a lot more information about how Kakishon was structured, and about the various factions, including a bit of information that was lacking from the printed version. It also had a lot more encounters, and more detail on the islands not visited as part of the main quest.

And there’s plenty of room for expansion, too. It took a little nudging for the PCs to figure out how to use Kakishon’s built-in ship courier service, and after the PCs stopped off past the end of eternity (first thing and all), they went on a tour of Kakison to see all the sights and kill some monsters. Given time constraints, I ended up going over this one a lot faster than I’d wanted to; not as much time to explore Nex’s ancient ruined pleasure plane, more time working between the three factions.

The first battles were with a crew of leveled gnolls; Muji (PNPC) and Ashnale (before he dropped) wandered into the gnoll village alone, assuming they were just low-level thugs like before. Then one rolled a crit on Ashnale, and it was on. The various hydras were circumvented by high-level wild empathy + feats. I threw in a few other monsters on the various islands to shake things up—a coeurl, from van Vogt’s Voyage of the Space Beagle, which was statted up by Paizo during the Legacy of Fire series, and a dracodile from the Monsternomicon. Neither were particularly deadly; nor were the group of remorhaz encountered on the frozen island. More of a complaint about how the party fit within the CR brackets than with the module’s design.

My players are pretty cagey, though, and wanted to go around to all three factions to figure out which one to align with. Of the three, Dilix Mahad is the least like a true faction; generally she follows suit with the players. The Proteans were sympathized with, but the players (being good and more on the lawful side) didn’t buy into their “destruction is creation” bit. The last group, of shaitan earth-genies, are set up to be the general adversary; when the players started heckling the shaitan about why they didn’t stand up to Jhavhul when he ruled the plane, it sealed that deal. They had set up a diplomatic-dinner with the shaitan, and had a “bond of salt” that the PCs ended up breaking. Ashnale had been largely nice to the sphinx, and the fact that sphinxes saw a major power boost—and had symbol of sleep—ended up being pretty helpful, dropping most of the shaitan into slumber before things could get nasty.

My biggest complaint is one minor detail that my players managed to overblow all the way to 11. After hearing the rumor about an azer smith who hated Jhavhul, they set off to get some of the flint from the big flint spire in order to appease him. (I thought the massive anti-magic corpse and giant flint spire was pretty badass, in an Exalted way—what does the archmage use to kill an anti-magic creature? Gravity—but the players thought otherwise. Ah well.) Anyways, the azer supposedly loved flint from this mountain, so the PCs decided to spend six years excavating the mountaintop, then another six years dragging a block of flint the size of a Yugo through a volcano to the guy’s forge.

Needless to say, I went with the draft version, in which the smith laughs in the PCs’ faces and tells them it’s some kind of urban legend crossed with a stupid pledge dare—he’s more interested in the “useless but bring them anyways” crystals that grow at the top of the rock. In the future, I’d either axe the rumor, or otherwise circumvent the whole breaking out of mining picks, pulleys and levers. (Players: proof that no GM plan survives past contact.)

Also, I realize shaitan using earthmeld makes sense, but having the shaitan end-boss keep the captured protean in the Earth Seed was a little weird. Especially since somebody referenced it as his throne, and the players kept referring to the Earth Seed as “Obherak’s rock chair.”

Set Piece – Waves of Kakishon by Ashavan Doyon

The last session that Ashnale and the “wizard” showed up to was when they both left early; having nothing else prepared, I picked up the set-piece and inserted it into the module. Normally, the players are supposed to find out about the existence of some antediluvian dragon turtle, who has some turf war going with sahuagin, from some local fishermen.

You can probably see where the issues start to crop up: the only real “locals” in Kakishon are the gnoll tribes the PCs were hell-bent on putting to the torch, and it’s a bit crazy of Nex to put a dragon turtle, much less sahaugin and ancient oceanic civilizations, in his pleasure plane. Given that this set-piece isn’t on the back cover or in the Paizo.com description, this one has the distinct feel of being shoehorned in at the last minute.

There’s really not a good way to fit the backstory in, so the dragon turtle just swam up to the PCs when they got on a boat next, grabbed all the NPCs and PCs of players who weren’t there, and sank the boat. Luckily, the animated minotaur helmsman had some potions of water breathing, otherwise this adventure wouldn’t have taken place. (Having to think up something else wasn’t such a big deal; having the players, enthralled by the last three set-pieces, keep asking about the next one was.)

The rest of the set-piece is pretty straightforward. The dragon turtle has a lair. There are other things in the lair. The PCs kill all the other things in the lair, while descending in the water into the lair, until they reach the bottom and kill the dragon turtle. It’s a sad story when three PCs (Malak, Yantar, and Kerek) could take on the various sharks and the turtle itself without losing a player, but they came close to losing two: it bit and grabbed Malak in one round, and used its breath attack on Yantar the next. One scorched PC in its mouth (less than 10 hp), one scorched PC floating outside (less than 2 hp). Ouch.

The Bottom Line

All in all, things went pretty smoothly. The PCs gained a plane to explore, which only they know about. Jhavhul was immediately set up as the main antagonist, working back in Katapesh while the PCs flailed about elsewhere. The combat wasn’t terribly challenging, and I’m not sure why; the replacement PCs were all a few levels lower than the starter PCs, and of them, only Yantar and Karek managed to stick around for any period of time. I ended up liking the module, to a point: losing two original players made the original modules that much more nostalgic. End of Eternity, however, has a lot of things to do, a good balance between combat, roleplaying, and exploration, and was far and above better than the previous module.

Again, having the draft on hand gave me a ton more ideas for Kakishon, and I wish I could have switched to the slow-track and done a lot more with it. Jason Nelson really went overboard, so I can see why space constraints left most of it on the cutting room floor, and the most important parts were left for the printed version. The big part that was cut was a major dungeon-slog leading into the shaitan’s fortress; my players aren’t huge on breaking out the graph paper and doing the marching order/10 x 10 rooms thing, so I saved that for the next module.

While the set piece was a bit disappointing in how hard it has to be modified to actually work its way into Kakishon, it ended up being the most memorable of the set-pieces I ran. Since only three players showed up for it, and they all survived (more or less), I gave them all a Turtle Soup achievement feat in an attempt to get the other players to show up more. Guess that backfired.

The module ended with the characters finally freeing the proteans, setting Kakishon adrift into the multiverse, and using the Earth Seed to transport themselves out of the scroll… where they find themselves in the middle of a fiery treasure vault, with huge brass figures charging them from doors of roiling fire. Check back in a day or so when we get to The Impossible Eye.

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