Legacy of Fire Review & Reflection – Endgame

At last, the conclusion! It was a long time coming, but after finding the Scroll of Kakishon, having a mini-odyssey across the planes, and accidentally releasing their arch-nemesis Jhavhul, the PCs have finally returned home… to a burned and battered Katapesh. Still, it’s a lot better off than their home of Kelmarane and the Pale Mountain, now occupied by Jhavhul and his minions.

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

Relatively the same as the last game, though Yantar the Monk was missing. He’d gone home for the summer, and while having another chair filled would have been nice, the big think he took away was Sp0oky the lucky cat.

  • Malak: Ranger/Druid of Saranrae/Dread Commando,  Moldspeaker and gnoll hunter extraordinaire
  • Muji: Cleric of Saranrae, massive mountain of a man, badger-summoner and healbot
  • Karek: Rogue, hired muscle to help defend/serve at Rayhan’s villa, who discovered that Hunter’s Surprise + Improved 2-Weapon Fighting is one of the deadliest combinations in the APG rules.

The Final Wish by Rob McCreary

Because of planer exchange rates, the players were most interested in getting back to Katapesh after the last module to do some shopping; some of the last monsters were pretty damn deadly, so I can’t blame them for wanting an edge.

Katapesh itself, however, was still in turmoil, having just bought off Jhavhul and sent him away, and the Pactmasters weren’t too keen on letting the PCs back into the city. Instead, they teleported to Absalom, and went from there.

The first half of the module is setup for the endgame: Nefeshti summons them back to the monastery, explains what’s been going on, and coordinates a planned strategic strike with the players. This part introduces a cinematic subsystem—liberation points, accrued from performing surgical strikes, and the more liberation points the PCs have, the better their allied army is doing.  It tries to be very epic and flexible in its handling of the d20 rules.

It’s pretty cool to have this “return to their roots” beginning, with the characters showing back up in Kelmarane. And the cinematic feel is a nice idea. The problem breaks down in the encounter balancing: after fending off CR 14s and 15s, the group suddenly found itself fighting… groups of four or five CR7s. Karek ended up soloing the first half while everyone shopped, in order to grind XP and get to the same level as everyone else, and managed to get through each of the four encounter areas without dying. (This was having converted the CR 7 Janni to Pathfinder, including their class levels.) They did give him quite a fight, with their Favored Enemy: Human bonuses, but couldn’t hold a candle to a 13th-level Rogue.

The final battle takes place in the Temple of Saranrae, with another cinematic subsystem: the PCs have to make character level checks, which represents how many thousands gnolls they’ve killed in a round, and how much damage they’ve taken/healed. The problem here is that there’s only four rounds of this, and it only does 4d6 damage… if the 13/14th-level PCs fail a DC 20 character level check. (I think it added in their favored ability modifier, too.) There’s no way this is a challenge to PCs of this level. And it doesn’t clarify if the cleric’s X levels of healing spells patch up the 4d6 damage the PCs are taking.

There’s also a few real combats in there, against a high-level gnoll cleric, and a battle surmounting the Brazen Tower splitting the Battle Market wide open, but these were also far, far less challenging than the encounters at the end of the previous module. Both the gnoll cleric and the last Templar were killed in one round, making that pretty anticlimactic. (And that was pumping up their hit points to try to avoid the whole one-round combat thing.)

So, while I love, love, love the cinematic flair and liberation points, the challenge level was underwhelming. The whole thing took less than two hours—closer to one—and didn’t invigorate anyone. The PCs had spent a ridiculous amount of time preparing for all of this, which in the end was just dull shopping; I had to sit there and watch them shop, because I couldn’t convince them how much of a cakewalk it would be.

The second part is a bit more interesting: tracking down Jhavhul to the Pale Mountain, and going up against him and his assortment of wish-fueled baddies. (Note that the distance between Kelmarane and the Pale Mountain is treated as a lot closer than it was in Howl of the Carrion King.) The PCs managed to slaughter their way through around the dungeon, avoiding most of the interesting fights, until they ran smack into Jhavhul.

A note to any of my players, or any other players, reading along at home: when the GM asks you multiple times if you were sneaking… say yes and roll your goddamn stealth checks.

So, they fled from Jhavhul down a side corridor, immediately saw three Efreet laughing and playing cards, and decided to mop these guys up. Karek ran in to clean house. These were illusions; the real, invisible Efreet smacked the living crap out of him with their great spears. After a few rounds of this, Jhavhul came flying in, and the noise attracted the attention of a bunch of other monsters.

What saved them here was Tempest’s whirlwind and weather control abilities; Malak blew everyone out of the room, except Jhavhul. Jhavhul’s stats are beastly; he has a bajillion strength, over 300 hit points, and one of the best weapons wielded by an NPC in the path. This barely saved him; he went for maybe three rounds, because as soon as Karek tagged him with his Hunter’s Surprise, Jhavhul was down over 200 hp.

Originally, I’d figured that Jhavhul’s death would be the lode-bearing death which caused the mountain to collapse and Xotani to spew forth. The mountain did collapse, as the PCs assembled the captured NPCs and grabbed as much of Jhavhul’s loot as possible, but in the end I went back on the plan to raise Xotani, and for good reason.

As easily as these PCs could trump anything within their bracket, Xotani has a number of features that would have ruined them: DR 15/Epic, Regen 40, some 800 hp, Firebleed, etc. If they tried to do their standard thing of charge-and-melee, they would have done a good chunk of damage (Tempest, Hunter’s Surprise, and Holy Smite) before being driven off (or killed) by the Firebleed, at which point Xotani would regen. When the PCs’ ridiculous magic items melted from the heat of the fire, they’d end up squashed by Xotani. If they took to their bathrugs of flying, Xotani would just ignore their ranged attacks and take off on a trail of destruction. I had a list setup of how everyone could chip in: all the NPCs, and potential GMPCs for all the characters whose players no longer showed up. Even that wouldn’t have mattered; after Rayhan ran out of [cold] spells, the game would pretty much be over.

Thus, things ended on a triumphant note, with the glorious heroes returning to their broken home of Kelmarane for a celebratory feast with all the rescued NPCs.

The Bottom Line

The last module was a long dungeon-crawl slogfest, which got a little tedious near the end. This one flew by, and though it had its challenges for the PCs, it was comparatively easier, faster, and shorter. I was still burned out from the Impossible Eye, and we ended up marathoning this last module in one night, so I don’t think it got the coverage or depth it deserved.

Compared to The Impossible Eye, The Final Wish was far too easy for my players’ power level, and needed some serious additions (or revisions) to be a challenge. If we/I hadn’t been hell-bent to finish it that night, adding in some more higher-level threats, and replacing the Janni with something dangerous, would have helped mollify that. The cinematic aspects were a great idea, but the execution was lacking something. And even if the PCs had gone through every room in Jhavhul’s dungeon, the module would still be on the short side. (Probably for the best, having spent more time with Impossible Eye than we did on End of Eternity and Final Wish combined.)

In terms of plot, The Final Wish does everything right that it should. It’s a nice circular end—the return home—to a long, planer odyssey. The end boss we’ve been building up for the past few modules has his appearance, we see the last of the Templars (and Nefeshti), and even the Carrion King makes an appearance. (Heh.) There’s really nothing wrong with Final Wish, or the path’s arc, but my group drove this last module  into the ground. For the final part of an epic arc, I was hoping for some truly memorable/rewarding challenges—hence, Xotani—and between the power creep and the mobs of CR7s, I don’t think the module delivered.

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