Book 1 - Introductions

posted by LongDarkNight Original SA post

Way of the Wicked - Book 1 - Introductions

The Way of the Wicked(WotW) is a level 1-20 Adventure Path for evil characters published by Fire Mountain Games for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game system. It’s one of the more popular 3rd party adventure books for Pathfinder, showing up in the top 10 downloads of the monthly Paizo newsletter for years. Equally important, I ran the whole campaign from start to finish over the course of about 2.5 years. We’re starting with book 1 of 6: The Knot of Thorns. As a warning I’m not doing spoilers on anything so if you are or might be playing this campaign proceed at your own discretion.

We start with a page from the author about the repetitive nature of playing as heroes and saving the world. He then launches into the well known issues with running an evil campaign; games devolving into PvP, finding motivation for adventures and the difficulty of developing interesting wicked plans.

Traditional good campaigns are straightforward, find bad guys, kill them, take their stuff, smile for the simple village folk, save the day. So why be evil?


The short answer – it is fun to be the bad guy! It’s fun to menace the populace in black spiky armor and to call forth the powers of hell to do your bidding. Bad guys get all the best lines. Bad guys have style. Bad guys get to laugh maniacally as they plot the downfall of those fools who dared oppose them!
WotW gives the players and their characters goals to work towards and organizing principles to avoid the common problems that arise in an evil campaign. More on this later.



Guilty. You are a lawbreaker – the worst of the worst. Too dangerous to live amongst the good people of Talingarde, they dragged you in chains before a magistrate and condemned you. They sent you to the worst prison in the land and there they forever marked you. They held you down and branded you with a runic F. You are forsaken. You won’t be at Branderscar Prison for long. Branderscar is only a holding pen. In three days – justice comes. In three days – everything ends.
What a pity. If only there was a way out of this stinking rat-hole. If only there was a way to escape. If only…
No. No one has ever escaped from Branderscar Prison. This is where your story ends.

You too can own* this bitchin' armor by the end of this book. *Limit 1 armor per party.

Talingarde is the most sickeningly lawful-good kingdom you could ever hate to find. Mendicant clerics roam the land healing the sick for nothing in return but thanks, noble knights sally forth to crush the first stirrings of evil. The land is ruled by House Darius supported by the Church of Mitra. You’ve lived your whole life in this place hiding who you are; and given the chance you’d destroy it all. The light of Mitra shines throughout the kingdom, but it wasn’t always that way. Before the rise of House Darius all gods were tolerated; now all faiths but Mitra have been suppressed and Asmodeus has been outlawed. In Talingarde crime is not tolerated, you have all been caught and convicted for something you really did; none of you are innocent.

Char Gen
Starting with stats the book suggests a standard 25 point buy (which is what I used) or an alternate method. First choose your primary stat and put an 18 in it, then choose a dump stat and put an 8 in it. For the other 4 stats roll 1d10+7 in order - without rerolls. The author argues that it gives a slightly higher power level than point buy and makes more interesting characters, I didn’t want my players saddled with that degree of randomness in what would be a long campaign.

Next choose a Race, the book discourages anything far outside the human norm as they would stick out and be a liability when you’re on a secret mission to destroy the kingdom.

There’s advice on all character Classes but we’ll cover the exceptions; anything goes but Paladin.
Instead players can be an Anti-Paladin, except LE and not CE. There are a few suggested changes to class abilities to accommodate the alignment shift.
Barbarians are allowed as long as they do not have the Chaotic alignment. Though rebellious by nature there may be good story reasons one would join up with followers of Asmodeus.
Cavaliers are advised to choose selfish orders such as the Order of the Cockatrice.
Evil Druids also need a good reason to team up with the worshippers of Asmodeus as they cannot be Lawful.
Gunslingers are also discouraged as the setting assumes no firearms and there is no gear intended for their use.
Ninja and Samurai need a good reason to be so far from home and may not have access to the weapons and armor that are preferred by their class.

For Feats nothing is changed. The book does suggest giving all PCs +2 Skill points per level to represent villains of their caliber being above average. (I used this option but should have limited it to non-INT classes).

No need to buy equipment since you’re all starting locked up in Castle Branderscar. Casters have lost their spellbooks, component pouches, familiars, foci, holy symbols and other assorted tools of the trade. They do though begin the game with all their memorized spells. (I appreciate the straight forwardness on this part, I think we've all had a GM let us buy all our equipment only to say, 'Surprise, you're in jail, erase all that shit'.)

Only four Alignment types are valid for this campaign; lawful neutral, lawful evil, neutral or neutral evil. It's suggested that the GM can prohibit anything except LE. Lastly the PCs pick two Traits (essentially half feats), one of which must be the heinous crime you committed.
A final word of advice to the players is that they will be recruited into an Asmodean conspiracy and should make a character that will say ‘yes’ to that offer. (Again being up front with the players

You got caught doing something bad, very bad and were sent to the worst prison in Talingarde. You have may have done other terrible things in your time before being caught but that doesn’t matter. This crime is what matters, it’s what defines you. As a sign of your guilt you have been branded so that all good men and women will recognize your wickedness.

I can’t help but think of how Blue Rose deals with bad people; rehabilitation rather than mutilation.

The book offers 20 suggested crimes:

Punishment: Death by burning
Benefit: Whenever you score a critical hit with a fire attack, you receive a +2 fire damage bonus to your damage roll.
This bonus is a trait bonus.

Attempted Murder
Punishment: Death by beheading
Benefit: You gain a +2 trait bonus to Intimidate checks, and Intimidate is always a class skill for you.

Punishment: Death by burning
Benefit: +2 trait bonus to Knowledge (religion) and Knowledge (religion) is always a class skill for you.

Consorting with the Dark Powers (Witchcraft)
Punishment: Death by burning
Benefit: You receive a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (planes) and Knowledge (arcana) checks,
and one of these skills (your choice) is always a class skill for you.

Punishment: Death by burning
Benefit: You receive +1 trait bonus on all saving throws against divine spells.

Punishment: Death by hanging
Benefit: You receive one bonus skill point per level that must be spent on the Profession (Soldier) skill.
Profession (Soldier) is always a class skill for you.

Dueling unto Death
Punishment: Death by beheading
Benefit: You gain a +1 trait bonus to Fortitude saves.

Punishment: Life at hard labor in the salt mines
Benefit: You receive a +2 trait bonus to Intimidate checks, and Intimidate is always a class skill for you.

Punishment: Life at hard labor in the salt mines
Benefit: You gain a +3 trait bonus to Linguistics skill checks to commit forgery
and Linguistics is always a class skill for you.

Punishment: Life at hard labor in the salt mines
Benefit: You receive a +2 trait bonus to Bluff checks and Bluff is always a class kill for you.

Grave Robbery
Punishment: Death by beheading
Benefit: You receive a +1 trait bonus to confirm critical hits.

Punishment: Death by burning.
Benefit: You receive a +1 trait bonus on all saving throws against divine spells.

High Theft
Punishment: Life at hard labor in the salt mines
Benefit: You receive a +1 trait bonus to Reflex saves.

High Treason
Punishment: Death by drawing and quartering
Benefit: You receive a +1 trait bonus to Will saves.

Punishment: Death by beheading
Benefit: You receive a +1 trait bonus to both Disarm and Grapple attempts.

Punishment: Death by beheading
Benefit: You deal 1 additional point of damage when flanking a foe.
This additional damage is a trait bonus.

Punishment: Death by hanging
Benefit: You may select either Bluff or Intimidate.
The selected skill receives a +2 trait bonus and is always a class skill for you.

Punishment: Death by beheading
Benefit: You receive a +1 trait bonus to Bluff checks and Bluff is always a class skill for you.
Further if you ever take the Leadership feat, you gain a +1 trait bonus to your Leadership score.

Punishment: Death by beheading
Benefit: You receive a +1 trait bonus to both Disarm and Grapple attempts.

Slave Trading
Punishment: Death by beheading
Benefit: You receive one bonus skill point per level that must be spent on the Appraise skill.
The Appraise skill is always a class skill for you.

Anti-Paladin - Tiefling, devoted herself to Asmodeus. Caught desecrating a Mitran church.
Cleric - Human, cleric of Asmodeus. He had a pathological hatred of orphans. Caught burning down a Mitran church.
Ninja - Human, last surviving heir of a far off kingdom. Fled to Talingarde where he was caught in a duel to the death.
Witch - Human, power hungry to a fault. She was caught trying to summon a devil.
Wizard - Elf, only interested in increasing his own knowledge. Accused of blasphemy for arguing the superiority of arcane magic.

NEXT TIME: A brief history of Talingarde and more thoughts on being a do-badder.

Book 1 - Talingarde: A Gazetteer

posted by LongDarkNight Original SA post

Way of the Wicked - Book 1 -

Talingarde: A Gazetteer
The setting for WotW is the kingdom of Talingarde an England sized island off the coast of the main continent. Almost no information is given about the mainland over the course of the Adventure Path so it could easily be slotted into Golarion or any other campaign world.
Alignment: LG
Capital: Matharyn (105,000)
Notable Settlements: Ghastenhall (82,000), Daveryn (59,000), 
Havelyn (21,000), Farholde (9,500), Aldencross (1,800), Varyston (1,200)
Ruler: King Markadian V called the Brave, Protector of the Righteous
Government: Religious Monarchy
Languages: Common, Dwarven
Religion: Mitra, the Shining Lord
Eighty years ago the now peaceful nation was wracked by a war of succession contested between the half-elven lords of House Barca and noble human knights of House Darius. At the time of the war Talingarde was a polytheistic nation, with the ruling Barcan kings having a special affinity for Asmodeus. House Darius recognizes only one god, Mitra, and opposes Asmodeus most of all. The final battle of the war occurred on the Plains of Tamberlyn where King Jaraad of House Barca meet Markadian of House Darius. The Darian forces were vastly outnumbered but filled with holy zeal; the Barcan army was composed mainly of mercenaries. The Battle of Tamberlyn was fought between two enormous stone spires known as the Lords of Tamberlyn. Cutting a long story short the Barcan army was poorly managed and through a series of blunders was devastated by the forces of Markadian, longbowmen enfilading their foes trapped in mud and disastrous retreats. Finally King Jaraad and his elite griffon mounted knights brought the fight to Markadian and his personal guard. After a mighty duel Jaraad was slain and Markadian claimed the throne. The battle proved a complete rout for House Barca, instead of utterly destroying his former foes the new King Markadian, called the Victor, showed mercy and spared those that would bend the knee swearing to the new King and Mitra.

For 46 years after the war Markadian reigned as king of Talingarde. The young paladin proved himself a capable ruler; defeating a bugbear invasion, bringing unruly nobles to heel, turning the capital Matharyn into a great city, reinforcing the defenses along the northern border and making peace with the Yutak Tribes. The Victor spread the worship of Mitra throughout the kingdom while tolerating other faiths; including that of Asmodeus as long as it was discrete.


Today, his statues are to be found in almost every town and hamlet throughout
the kingdom. He did have his faults though. Like so many great rulers – he was a great soldier and king but a poor father.
The Victor was succeeded by his son Martius, Markadian II called the Learned. Martius was a poor king notable mainly for ordering the construction of the great library of Matharyn and rebuilding the old family castle into the royal palace known as the Adarium. Martius had no interest into the day to day ruling of the kingdom and allowed his brother Prince Hallen to take great role in running the kingdom. This arrangement would have been fine except that Prince Hallen was batshit crazy. The Prince believed that his mother was an angel and that he was infallible; on magically craft wings he would soar above the capital and soon he received visions of “angels”. Rumors reached the King that his brother spoke of replacing him, rumors the King dismissed.

The Prince, gripped by madness, flew to the Adarium and slew the King with a flaming sword; ending his brother’s six year rule and proclaiming himself the new king, Markadian the III, later called ‘the Mad’. While many would have accepted the new king as a messenger from Mitra it would not last. Soon after insane commands began to flow forth, including an order to prepare the armies of Talingarde for an invasion of Hell to put an end to Asmodeus, Prince of the Nine Hells.


Officially, the histories record that after only five months in power Markadian III called the Mad tried to fly from the highest spire of the Adarium without his magic wings. More likely, he was thrown from the spire by paladins who would tolerate no more of this madman’s blasphemies.
The heir to the throne was the son of the second king Martius; Marcus, 29 years old, was a brave and handsome knight. After the troubles of the last six and half years he needed to unite the kingdom against a common enemy. King Markadian IV known as the Zealot, began the Asmodean Purges, blaming the unpopular cult for using black magic to drive the previous king mad. All effort were turned towards exterminating the Asmodeans and they almost succeeded. Markadian IV passed after reigning for 12 years, blame for his untimely death was placed on the cult of Asmodeus igniting a new round of purges.

The current king, Markadian V succeeded his father, at the age of 22. He has reigned now for 16 years. An early test of his rule came in repelling another bugbear invasion, earning him the title “the Brave”.


Markadian V has continued the prohibition against the cult of Asmodeus but does not pursue the purges with the same vigor as his father. After all, that battle is largely won. No one has heard of an Asmodean cultist in Talingarde for years. Instead, he turns his attention to the west and the north hoping to be the king who brings the entire island of Talingarde under his dynasty’s dominion. He has failed in one duty however. He has failed to yet produce a son. Instead, he has only one child -- a beautiful, brilliant young princess named Bellinda. Twenty years of age, she is already a prodigy of arcane magic. If her father produces no heir it is an open question whether the men of Talingarde will follow a queen instead of a king. Her story is yet to be written.

The major island and it’s attendant lesser islands can be grouped into six regions:

The Cambrian Bay
A massive sea in the center of Talingarde connects the kingdom, including the major cities Matharyn and Ghastenhall and the Heartlands. For some reason the book includes the city of Daveryn in this region despite being separated by a massive mountain range. Daveryn, Ghastenhall and Matharyn are given more detail in future books of the Adventure Path.

The Heartland
The nation’s true strength; vast stretches of farmland, broken up by small forests and dotted with bucolic villages. This region is the source of the many hedge knights, devout priests and stout peasants that provide the backbone of Talingarde.

The Borderlands
The most prominent feature of this region is the Watch Wall a series of 12 castles stretching from Farholde in the west to the eastern edge of the island. The fortifications run from sea to sea along the river Tyburn and Lake Tarik and protect the kingdom from invasion by savage bugbear tribe and other monsters from the frozen north.

The Caer Bryr
A mountain range separates the forest from which this region draws it’s name from Talingarde proper. It is the home of a primitive human and half elven tribes, the Iraens, followers of a druidic faith who do not acknowledge the supremacy of Mitra or the king in Matharyn. Legends tell of all manner of spirits and monsters haunting the forest.

The Savage North
The plains, mountains and forest of this fertile region are dominated by 3 species; the savage Bugbears, the Naatanuk a race of sapient polar bears, and the enigmatic Ice Elves. It is considered a mystery to most people in Talingarde.

The Lands of the Yutak
The Yutak are basically eskimos. They’re a friendly people but mostly keep to themselves since they don’t share a common language with the Talireans. They will trade furs and ivory for worked goods and are known to visit cities on the western coast from time to time.

The book includes 9 locations that aren’t part of the adventure path but could serve potential side quests. Extra plot hooks are appreciated but there’s enough content in the AP I never felt the need to use them. For the sake of brevity I’m just listing them.

The Lost Island of Taane-thak (mythic home of a frost giant kingdom)
The Barrow of the First King (lost tomb rumored to contain an Asmodean artifact)
The Children of the White Spider (a race of intelligent spiders hidden in the Caer Bryr)
The Mead Hall of the Ice Elven King (rumored to be a refuge in the frozen north)
The Lost Ansgarian Mine (legendary mithral mine of the dwarven kings)
The Ice Troll Forges (remnants of a troll civilization craft powerful weapons)
The Sunken City of Aath-Aryn (a sunken Talirean city home to a Triton kingdom)
The Wreck of the Dawn Triumphant (a sunken ship containing a Mitran artifact)
The Holy Caverns of the Naatanuk (treasure hoard of their shaman leaders)

In our last bit of setting information in this section the book details 4 groups in Talingarde that will play an important role over the course of the campaign.

The Knights of the Alerion
Now the foremost knightly order in the land this brotherhood rose to prominence after supporting House Darius during the war of succession. They are fiercely devoted to Mitra and were the chief prosecutors of the purges against worshippers of Asmodeus after the death of Markadian III. The current king is the highest ranking member of the order.

Sacred Brotherhood of the Gryphon
The remnants of the knightly orders that supported the Barcan side of the war. Today the group is in decline as greater prestige can be earned for a competent knight by joining the Knights of Alerion. The Gryphon’s do though boast many famous members over their history including their present leader, Lord Vastenus Barca, most trusted military commander of the current king.

The Church of Mitra
The force that binds the kingdom rivaling House Darius in power. Priests of Mitra are everywhere doing good works and helping the people of the kingdom. The people of Talingarde trust the servants of the Shining Lord and the royal house works with them ‘hand in glove’. The great Cathedral is located in the capital city of Matharyn.

The Blessed Order of St. Macarius
An order of monks that travel the kingdom tending to the sick and alleviating suffering and in times of war travel with the army to heal the injured. Most interestingly nearly all members Church of Mitra capable of casting divine spells come from this order.

The author expands on the introduction with useful advice about 5 common pitfalls of an evil campaign and how this adventure addresses them.

1 - No Rest for the Wicked
Heroes can sit back waiting to sally forth and dispatch evil foes. Villains need to have evil schemes, which can be difficult for the players to concoct as the lack the comprehensive information the GM possess. WotW deals with this by giving the characters a pre-made plan devised by an NPC. The plot to destroy Talingarde is complex and the PCs are an integral part.

2 - The Trouble with Minions
Evil masterminds often have hordes of minions to do their bidding which can get boring for the players as their servants are out having all the fun. The second book in the AP will add optional rules to run an evil organization but the players should never rely on their minions. WotW addresses this by presenting challenges that no mob of underlings could hope to deal with; some things, if you want them done right, you have to do yourself.

3 - Us against the World
Evil campaigns often breakdown as player characters come into conflict and disagreements devolve into murder,magic and PvP. In a basic good campaign things wouldn’t go that far but with evil characters all bets are off. WotW deals with this in two ways: early on the PCs are required to sign a devilish contract prohibiting them from betraying each other; second, while the PCs may hate each other and have rivals among their allies the overwhelming theme is that the entire kingdom of Talingarde is opposed to them and if they don’t cooperate they will be destroyed.

4 - PG-13 Villainy
Boundaries are important in a shared experience like an RPG; what’s appropriate for one group may not be for another. Torture, mass executions, hot wax bondage; these aspects of the story are interesting to explore but should be handled in a way that doesn’t derail the campaign with out of character arguments. The author suggests handling this like a PG-13 movie where the worst stuff is done off screen or with a face to black. The characters should be villains, not the players.

5 - On a Mission from God
Evil for it’s own sake is boring and mindless slaughter does not a campaign make. Our villains need a motivation and the so called good people of Talingarde have provided it by persecuting the followers of Asmodeus. Before House Darius took over the worship of many gods was permitted, now all gods but Mitra are suppressed and Asmodeus is forbidden. The book recommends that the PCs find motivation beyond just mayhem; they need to have suffered indignities at the hands of Mitra’s followers that required cold hard vengeance. We are urged to be fans of the characters, even if they’re terrible people, on their quest for vengeance.

The book ends with a synopsis of the campaign. I appreciate the author giving an outline of things to come. For a GM thinking about running this AP it let’s them plan ahead to future challenges. Going to boil it down to the highlight reel.

Book I
- Escape prison
- Join the cult of Asmodeus lead by Cardinal Thorn
- Deliver weapons to a Bugbear Horde
- Destroy a key fortification allowing Bugbears into the kingdom

Book II
- Travel to Farholde on the western border of the kingdom
- Seize control of an ancient daemonic temple
- Defend the temple for 31 weeks
- Complete an unholy ritual to obtain a magic disease

Book III
- Travel to the city of Ghastenhall
- Gather an elite army to assault the holy Vale of Valtaerna
- Launch your raid on the Vale
- Control the Vale for 3 months and slaughter any that oppose you
- Storm the great Cathedral of Mitra destroy the Order of St. Macarius

Book IV
- Travel to the Bugbear occupied city of Daveryn
- Propose an alliance with the great black wyrm Chargammon
- Destroy Chargammon's nemesis to gain his help
- Assassinate King Markadian with Chargammon's assistance

Book V
- Cardinal Thorn tries to destroy the PCs fearing their power
- The PCs get a chance to deal with the Paladin that has dogged their steps
- Locate the Cardinal's phylactery
- Track down and destroy their master

Book VI
- With Thorn defeated only the destruction of the Bugbear horde stands in the way of seizing power
- For 3 years the PCs will control Talingarde
- The Princess returns to lead her people against the villainous tyrants
- A final climactic battle

This is a 6 book AP but there is a 7th book that contains a bunch of bonus material that didn't make it into the other books and expands on the story.

NEXT TIME: The actual adventure.

Book 1 - The Branderscar Redemption

posted by LongDarkNight Original SA post

Way of the Wicked - Book 1 - The Branderscar Redemption

I lied at the end of the last installment, we’ve got some more backstory before the actual adventure. Screw you, we’re Evil.

Each book also starts with this handy summary, the story being divided into Acts. Using the breakdown of when PC’s should level I ignored XP for my campaign and just had PCs level when appropriate.

Because making a character in Pathfinder is slow

As established, Talingarde is bestest most Lawful Good kingdom ever constituted, but its rulers made a mistake when they drove out Asmodeus and persecuted his adherents. The devil god demands respect and will have his revenge. If only the knights of Talingarde had completed their work and not allowed an Asmodean priest to survive.

Samuel Havelyn was the bookish second son of a noble family, he joined the Church of Mitra but his father was only impressed by the knightly deeds of his older brother Sir Thomas. Young Samuel rose quickly in the Church by virtue of scholarship and was resigned to leading a life of devotion until one fateful day.


Samuel met Bronwyn. Bronwyn of Balentyne was perhaps the greatest beauty of her generation. Samuel fell deeply in love almost instantly and, using all his wit and charm, befriended her. His hope was that with time he could turn friendship into love.
Samuel was firmly in the friendzone, made all the worse when Bronwyn met his handsome brother and fell in love with Sir Thomas. Soon Thomas and Bronwyn were married and on their wedding night Samuel prayed to Asmodeus, calling down a curse upon the couple.


The curse would claim the life of Bronwyn, causing her to die in childbirth. Still her child survived and was named for his grandfather, who had died the year he was born -- Richard Thomasson of Havelyn.

Samuel would continue his rise in the Church of Mitra, attaining the rank of Cardinal, while expanding his knowledge of and devotion to Asmodeus. Eventually he was caught by the inquisition and burned at the stake along with his library of forbidden tomes. Any ordinary man would have died that day. Samuel lived and clawing his way from an unmarked grave uttered terrible oaths to Asmodeus. Asmodeus heard and on that night Samuel was reborn a lich, taking the name Cardinal Adrastus Thorn.

Cardinal Thorn would flee to the frozen north and there by divine guidance met another Asmodean, the warrior Sakkarot. Thorn crafted him a flaming axe gaining the savage warrior’s allegiance. There beyond the borders of Talingarde Thorn devised a plan to destroy the kingdom that had shunned him.
  1. First, unite the Bugbear tribes under Sakkarot
  2. Second, destroy the four pillars of Talingarde
    1. The Watch Wall
    2. The Holy Order of Saint Macarius
    3. The Knights of the Alerion
    4. The Royal House of Darius
  3. Third, when all seems lost an heir to throne will appear and defeat the Bugbear menace. Of course this lost scion of House Barca would be a worshipper of Asmodeus.
Cardinal Thorn can’t do this all by himself, he needs minions. He plans to gather nine “Knots” of followers one for each circle of hell. Thorn is committed to his gimmick as a good villain should be. The first 8 knots have been recruited it only remains to recruit the final group and as luck would have it an assortment of hardened criminals are awaiting punishment in Branderscar prison. Escaping the prison will be the perfect test for this group, a way to prove their are fit to be his most elite servants.

The book gives a summary of who these are Knots and what they’re up to which I’m skipping preserve the surprises later in the AP. I will point out that 3 of the Knots only consist of one member. Cardinal Thorn has some issues with organizational bloat.

No one has ever escaped from the Rock

ACT ONE: PRISON BREAK! (PCs are level 1)
Or PCs have been beaten, branded, searched thoroughly and find themselves shackled hand and foot to the wall in a common cell. Escape is unlikely, you have little choice but to wait grimly for sentence to be carried out. After some time to get acquainted and discuss their various crimes they are interrupted by the arrival of a group of armed guards led by the watch Sergeant Tomas Blackerly(CN Human Fighter 3) . This is the guy that held the brand when you were first brought to the prison and he laughed while you burned.

An Unexpected Visitor
Now he seems slightly confused (he’s charmed). He order’s one of the PCs to be unshackled and brought out of the cell to meet with a lovely lady who wants to say her final farewells. The book suggests choosing the most social character of the group. Waiting in a room down the hall is a beautiful woman who has obviously been crying.


“Oh, dearest,” proclaims the unfamiliar woman. “I’m so relieved you’re alive!” She quickly turns to Tomas. “Could we please have a moment alone, good sir? For pity’s sake?”
Tomas goes blank for a bit and then quickly agrees. “Of course, my lady. For you,’ tis no problem.”
Once he’s out of the room her demeanor changes revealing the grief as an act. She introduces herself as Tiadora and explains that if only they could escape Branderscar they have a mysterious benefactor that would like to meet them. Should they be successful the PCs are given directions to an old manor not far off. She offers the character her veil as a token of her very false affections.


Veil of Useful Items
This appears to be a fine silk veil of gossamer cloth. Only as it is held and closely inspected can you see small cloth patches of various shapes. One patch can be detached each round as a move action. Detaching a patch causes it to become an actual item. This veil contains:
• 2 daggers
• Bullseye lantern (full, lit and shuttered)
• Hempen rope (50-foot coil)
• Sack full of needed spell components (worth less than a 1 gp) and common clothes in the PCs sizes
• Thieves Tools, Masterwork
• Window (2 ft. by 4 ft., up to 2 ft. deep)
• Potion of cure light wounds
• 100 gold pieces
• Unholy Symbol of Asmodeus (silver)
Note that the window patch will create a window (and therefore a hole) in a nearby wall. If there are no nearby walls, it simply turns into a common wooden window frame. It cannot be
placed on a living creature however. Once removed, a patch cannot be replaced.

Useful indeed.

The PC is given a chance to ask questions but will only receive vague answers, any request for help in escaping is rebuffed. This encounter sets the tone for Tiadora throughout the campaign, she’s kind of a bitch and has little respect for the PCs. After this bit of roleplaying the guards return and she acts out an emotional exit. Before leaving she hits Sgt Blackerly with the whammy again suggesting he not have the PC searched before being returned to the cell. The PC gets one last jab from Tiadora via telepathic message reminding them they have 3 days to escape. Afterwards the PC is returned to the cell and shackled with the others. (I took the chosen player into a different room to have this conversation and enjoyed watching him explain all this to the other PCs and them be baffled.) Although the the PCs are now left alone in their cell prison guards, equipped with a signal horn, are not far away.

The first real challenge our PCs will face is getting out of this damned cell. With the Veil they now have a real chance. But don’t forget those guards, if the PCs argue loudly or make noise in their escape attempt they will respond and they have the numbers to overwhelm the PCs. As failed attempts mount the guards grow more and more suspicious so a single concerted effort is best. If no PC can effectively pick the lock there are suggestions for creative use of a variety of low level spells. Fortunately the walls and floors of the castle are thick stone, nothing short of the signal horn will be heard by anyone except the guards stationed nearby. Once out of their manacles and past the cell door they only need to deal with those guards and the rest of the castle. No sweat.

The PCs start in room 18A, the other cells are empty except for 19. In this cell is Grumblejack, one of the last remaining ogres in Talingarde. He’s remarkable in a number of ways; he has above average intelligence, his alignment is NE rather than CE, and if you notice the tiny horns he has just a drop of fiendish blood in his family tree. Grumblejack was living a life of casual banditry out in the countryside until he was caught not long ago. He can be cowed into helping the PCs in their escape attempt and could eventually be a servant to this wicked band.

A lovable fuzzball.

The guards (LG Human Warrior 2) are stationed in room 17 once dealt with there are two ways down from here; an oversized chimney to room 11 or stairs to room 16. The chimney leads to the keep’s kitchen and is a DC 10 climb check. These are the only two ways out as this floor has no windows. (Although this would be a good use of the Veil.) Off of the guard room is a small chamber, room 20 with a wooden table where the lucky PC had his meeting with Tiadora.

Unbeknownst to PCs they are unwittingly helped by one other person; Sgt Tomas Blackerly. The Sergeant has for years been skimming from the payroll, running illicit card games, selling the guards cheap booze and operating the castle guard at half its normal complement of men. This sad state of affairs has been allowed by the Warden, Mathias Richter, a wizard from a noble family who is more interested in his arcane researches than running the prison. Thanks to Sgt Blackerly most guard posts are undermanned and the guards the PCs meet have a 25% chance of being drunk. If the PCs escape their cell but are recaptured by the guards Blackerly ceases his illicit activities for the time being, making their escape efforts more difficult. Do it right the first time, don’t fuck up.

On the 1st floor of the Great Hall the PCs will encounter the most concentrated resistance.
8 - the Entry Way is 80 feet long and lit by a pair of torches. At the massive door on the north wall two guards are stationed. The PCs will need to be extra stealthy or act fast to deal with these two before they can sound the alarm.
9 - in the Barracks the PCs will typically find 3 off duty guards. Without their armor they are much less of a threat. The room contains a number of cots and a dozen locked chests. We get a d20 table for chest contents. A handful of money can be found between 1 and 25 gp of loose cash, there are a few objects worth significantly more and some food. The real treasure is an assortment of commoners clothes. The PCs are dressed in filthy prison rags, equipped with normal clothing they can move about the castle without being immediately recognized as escapees.
10 - The Mess Hall is empty most of the time and likely to be so at any time the PCs are making their escape.
11 - The Kitchen will usually have two NPC servants of the castle working to prepare meals for the guards. It also contains a large store of food which could be useful to escaping prisoners.
12 - The Armory door is locked (DC 25), Sgt Blackerly has the key. Inside is enough assorted armor and weapons to outfit the whole group. Any weapons in which the PCs are specialized can also be found here.
13 - The Storeroom is also locked (DC 25). In here are spare guard uniforms (useful!), torches, 100ft of rope and two 10 gallon kegs of lantern oil (that’s a lot of mayhem) along with other assorted junk.
14 - The Sergeant’s Office is cluttered and his desk covered in paperwork. A careful examination will find a map of the prison and and evidence that he is stealing from the prison.
15 - The Sergeant’s Quarters are messy and contain little of value. Hidden under the bed though is an iron lock box (DC 30) containing a dozen bottle of cheap whisky and 1235gp. All PCs will immediately realize this is not the normal stash of a guardsman.
16 - A stairwell connecting with room 17. It’s lit by 1 torch.

Outside the Great Hall
4 - In front of the main entrance is a Fountain with a statue of Dothan the Just, patron saint of law and order. . The courtyard area surrounding the prison is patrolled by two guards equipped with a bullseye lantern and a signal horn.
5 - On the east side of the castle is a vegetable garden. The PCs can gather several days provisions from here.
5a is a belladonna shrub. A PC that recognizes it can gather a few doses worth of poisoned leaves.
6 - The Guard Towers are the remnants of a bygone era of the castle. The battlement is patrolled by a pair of guards. (Anyone looking at the map will see that the Warden’s Tower splits up the wall but our AP test doesn’t address this.) The castle walls are also the first chance for the PCs to escape. One look should discourage any attempt here; a 60 ft drop to jagged rocks will only be followed by a swim against vicious tides. Nothing a level 1 PC is likely to survive.
6a is the castle Garderobe and it offers two opportunities. Off-duty guards can be caught here doing their business and if killed their absence won’t be noted right away. It’s also a slightly safer way out of the castle and into the sea. The sea is still a terrible choice.
7 - The prison’s Kennel house two watchdogs, eliminating them can slow down any attempt to track the PCs after their escape.

The Warden’s Tower
21 - The first floor contains a history of the castle along with a number of proud banners. It’s well lit and has a spiral staircase leading up.
22 - The Warden’s Library fills this floor. There are a lot of books but only 3 of value with prices ranging from 75 - 250gp..
23 - The spiral staircase ends here. There’s two doors in the room but it’s otherwise empty unless the PCs have fucked up somehow and the castle is on alert.
24 - The Warden’s Office is sparse and functional. In his desk can be found a very useful map of the surrounding area including their destination. In a locked drawer is the Warden’s spellbook which any wizard PC will appreciate.
25 - The Warden’s Private Chambers are finely appointed as befits the son of a noble house. Mathias Richter (LH Human Aristocrat 1/Wizard 3) can be found here most of the time unless the castle is on alert. He’ll try to run if confronted with melee combat but will fight to keep any prisoners from escaping.

The Gatehouse
3 - A three story structure marking the PCs exit from the keep.
3a - Heavy double doors on either side of the room with arrow slits on the east and west wall, overhead is murder hole. Not a good place to be caught.
3b - There’s no lock on the door leading into this room and a ladder will connect them to the rest of the building.
3c - This room is where Sgt Blackerly is most likely to be found running his illicit cards games. Guards who should be on watch in other parts of the prison are here gambling leaving their posts at half strength.
3d - This level connects 3b and 3c and the roof. It has more arrow slits looking out in all directions.
3e - The roof has one guard his compatriot being involved in the card game below. Jumping from here to the water below is guaranteed suicide.

The Way out
2 - The 100ft long bridge is the only safe place to jump to the into the sea but why would you do that with the guardhouse so close.
1 - The Guard House has one guard on duty (the other being in Blackerly’s card game) with a guard dog. Once eliminated the PCs are free.

There's some good fights to be had getting out of the prison and the PCs will be sorely tested

The PCs need to get to the manor, ahead of the is a trackless salt marsh. There’s a few maps of this area in the prison which if found makes the journey trivial. If not they have to navigate the swap with each failed skill checks delaying them an hour. If the don’t make it by dawn search parties will be out for them.


On the moor, our villains can meet any animal companions, mounts or familiars they are due. Such an animal may (at the Game Master’s discretion) lead them to the house of Adrastus Thorn almost as if some divine patron were sending them a sign.
Also to be found on the moor is Lashtongue the Giant Toad, he’s a grumpy old SOB that will try to eat anything he meets. If killed the PCs can track down his lair which contains 170gp worth of loot. This whole section feels anti-climatic after the prison break and I skipped it.

This section also has advice about what to do if the PCs go off the rails and try to go somewhere other than the manor house. They are wanted men and women with no resources; all roads lead to Cardinal Thorn. Let’s assume the PCs do as expected.


After escaping the prison, surviving the monstrous Lashtongue and crossing the moors with guard patrols at your heels, finding the house on the Old Moor Road pales beside your other accomplishments. As promised, a lonely lantern burns in the upper story. The place otherwise shows little sign of habitation. Old but well-appointed, the house is large, imposing and alone on its hill. Painted a dark green and surrounded by barbed wrought iron fencing, nothing about this place seems inviting or a sanctuary. Still, it is your destination. Where will you go if not here? You have an appointment to keep. Best not to keep your nameless benefactor waiting…
If the PCs don’t escape after 3 days punishment is carried out and our story is over. The book recommends against this for obvious reasons.

NEXT TIME: Meet your Master

Book 1 - All Twisted Up

posted by LongDarkNight Original SA post

Way of the Wicked - Book 1 - All Twisted Up

ACT TWO: INTO THE KNOT (PCs are level 2)
The PCs are met at the door by Tiadora, she’s changed her clothes but she’s still a bitch.


“Dearest, you took long enough,” she says pitilessly. “We were beginning to wonder if you’d ever make it. Oh, and you brought friends. The master commands all of you to appear before him but before that, you must be made presentable. Slaves!” She claps her hands. A dozen young attractive men and women all wearing very traditional servant’s livery appear quickly, their heads bowed. “These people are our guests,” she commands imperiously. “See them to their rooms. I want them cleaned, dressed and refreshed. Quickly.” There is something in that last word that sounds like a threat. Certainly the slaves take it that way, hustling to perform their duties.
The slaves have all been charmed so often by Tiadora that they’ve effectively been lobotomized. The PCs are given a chance to relax but are eventually summoned to meet the master. If Grumblejack is with the party he is not invited to the meeting.

Devilishly handsome.


At last Tiadora leads you to a beautifully appointed office richly decorated with dark wood and sumptuous brocade tapestry. Sitting in a leather high-backed chair is a devilishly handsome fellow who smiles as you enter. “I believe you to be the first to ever escape from Branderscar Prison. Well done! Of course, you had help from the outside,” he says with a wicked smile.

“But enough with the pleasantries. You must be curious why I’ve helped you. Rest assured this is no random act of altruism. I have brought you here for a reason. My name is Cardinal Adrastus Thorn. I am the last high priest of Asmodeus left on the island of Talingarde. Once the Prince of Nessus was rightly revered alongside the other great powers. Now, the king of Talingarde has become a puppet to Mitran fanatics who wish to destroy any religion that does not bow to their insipid sun god.

“For their blasphemy, I will see the same people who imprisoned and condemned you suffer. I understand what you went through for I have faced it myself.” With that, he pulls down the sleeve of his robe and reveals his own runic ‘F’ brand. “I am going to burn Talingarde to the ground and from the ashes I will build a new nation that knows its rightful master. I cannot do this alone. I seek servants worthy of our Infernal Father’s majesty. Have I found them in you?”

He rises and his eyes flash with hellfire and divine purpose. “Join me! Serve me well in this holy endeavor and I will raise you up in the eyes of gods and men. I will make you princes of the new Talingarde. Today, swear fealty to me and to Asmodeus.”

“Put aside forgiveness and I shall give you vengeance. Put aside mercy and be made powerful. Put aside peace and become my harbingers of war. What say you? Will you swear your allegiance or will you burn with the rest of the blind fools?”

If they decline the offer or try to attack Thorn it ends badly, Tiadora makes short work of them. Let’s assume the PCs accept the offer. Asmodeus is a LE god so this whole arrangement is sealed with a contract signed in the blood of the PCs and the Cardinal. There’s one copy for the PCs and one for Thorn to keep.


Behold on this day __________ in the eighth age of this world a perpetual Compact is made between Cardinal Adrastus Thorn (hereafter the Master) and those who would be bound to him as his acolytes (hereafter the Bound). Both the Master and the Bound shall hold fast and true to this Compact through all trial and tribulation. By blood and soul the Bound commit to the Compact and swear that it shall never be undone.

The Bound shall know and understand the Four Loyalties.

The First Loyalty is to their patron and god – mighty Asmodeus, first among the fallen, prince of the nine hells, our father below. They shall do all that can be done to further his worship and his glory.

The Second Loyalty is to their master – He who is called the Cardinal Adrastus Thorn, High Priest of Asmodeus in Talingarde. They shall do the Master no harm and obey his every commandment as long as those commandments do not clash with their First Loyalty.

The Third Loyalty is to their companions – the other Bound who serve alongside them. The Bound shall deal with each other fairly and honorably as long as doing so does not clash with their first or second loyalties. All treasure, wealth and reward garnered in their exploits will be equally shared with all of the Bound who aided in its acquisition.

The Fourth Loyalty is to themselves – for Asmodeus is the Lord of Ambition and all who serve him should strive to become great and powerful in his service as long as doing so does not clash with their first, second or third loyalties. By their weakness, ye shall know the Unworthy.

The Bound swear that they cleave to and uphold the Four Loyalties even in the face of death and damnation.

The Master swears that as long as the Four Loyalties are upheld, he shall reward the Bound as they deserve for their deeds.

Thus it is written, and thus it shall be.

We being of sound mind and free will do so swear and let they who violates this Compact know all the wrath of Hell unending.

The Pact is important for game reasons because it helps to avoid the usual evil campaign pitfall of the party members turning on each other.

With the diabolical legal formalities completed Thorn gives them 3 days to rest and relax. They can amuse themselves with the servants in the Manor but are prohibited from leaving. Questions to Tiadora will be meet with more vague, sneering answers. Tiadora uses this time to surreptitiously collect hair samples from each of the PCs. With these samples and their blood on the contact Thorn will have no trouble scrying on the PCs.

The PCs are also provided with any starting equipment the would normally have received, up to 200gp of other class appropriate gear, a silver unholy symbol of Asmodeus and one very useful item:


Iron Circlet
This circlet of wrought iron alters itself to comfortably fit any wearer. It allows the wearer to alter their appearance as with a disguise self spell. As part of the disguise, the circlet can be changed to appear as any sort of hat, headgear, or hairstyle the wearer desires.
Unbeknownst to the PCs the Iron Circlet is not just a tarted up hat of disguise, it also gives the wearer a -10 penalty on saves vs divination if the caster has something belonging to them, like a lock of hair or blood. The Cardinal has serious trust issues.

The PCs will also find they are not alone in the Manor, there is another group of fresh recruits, Thorn’s prospective 7th knot. The group calls themselves “The White Ravens”.

Elise Zadaria (LE Human Witch CR2) - the leader of a group of wicked adventurers from the mainland.
Dostan Alfson (NE Half-Elf Barbarian CR2) - he talks very little and is fanatically devoted to Elise.
Tallus “Trak” Rackburn (LE Human Ranger CR2) - twin brother to the groups Cleric Trik he delights in hunting humans.
Titus “Trik” Rackburn (LE Human Cleric CR2) twin brother to Trak, an outwardly pleasant demeanor hides his true nature; that he is a cultist of Asmodeus and serial killer.

The White Ravens could shape up to rivals, allies or romantic interests. They will play a larger role in Book 2 of the AP, for now though they aren’t important. When 3 days have elapsed the PCs are brought before Cardinal Thorn.



“Have you enjoyed your gifts? The iron circlets allow you to move amongst your enemies as one of them. The silver amulets will remind you of your true loyalties. And the other items – well, you need them now.
“You have done well to escape from Branderscar and to accept my offer. However, you are still not ready for my service. Tiadora will lead you to the basement of this domicile. There you will find nine chambers each more dangerous than the last. Somewhere hidden within these chambers is a pendant of silver and sapphire. Recover the pendant and bring it to me. Let nothing and no one stand in your way.”
He stands up and looks out of the manor house window across the grey moor. “It’s almost dusk. You have until dusk tomorrow to bring me my prize. Do not fail me.”
Cardinal Thorn takes a seat at his desk. Tiadora arrives right on cue. “This way,” is all she says.
Tiadora is again less than helpful when questioned. She will admit that the PCs can bring Grumblejack with them and they can leave the basement if they wish. Once their questions are finished she leaves them at a set of stairs leading below the Manor. The rooms below serve as a test for potential recruits and eliminates the unworthy.

1 - The Chamber of Deception - Stone stair lead down to an empty chamber. On the archway is an inscription, “Deception is a tool. Self-deception is death. Deceive always thy enemy but never thyself.” The entrances to all the rooms here give these types of hints. The doorway to the east is bait for a pit trap. The north is an alcove containing alchemist’s fire and another inscription, “Thou hast seen through deception to uncover a useful tool.” The south wall contains the true exit.

2 - The Chamber of Many Paths - “Following the herd is for fools. Fear not their icy derision. Instead, fear only thy Infernal Lord.” The chamber is strangely cold and there are tracks leading to the doors on the south and east walls. These are booby trapped with spears. The western wall has a door but it’s covered by a Violet Mold. Fire and body heat will make the mold grow and deal damage to the PCs, cold damage will destroy it.

3 - The Chamber of Darkness - “Know your enemy. Shatter all that blinds you and then burn thy adversary to ashes.” The room beyond is shrouded in magic darkness the source of which is a glass orb in the center of the room. The darkness provides cover for a nasty Vampiric mist that will pick away at the PCs if they fumble around the room. The two doors out of the room are barred and will take a full round to open. Destroying the orb or casting magic light spells is the best way to deal with this room.

4 - Timeon’s Redoubt - “Cruelty is a tool not a pastime. Be ruthless to thy enemy but reward those who serve thee well.” This room contains only a torturer’s rack. A search of the room will reveal a hidden chamber and the terrified squire Timeon(LG Human Aristoract CR1/4) who has been here a few days. Cardinal Thorn has allow him to overhear some details about the rest of the dungeon which would be useful to know. The PCs can talk him out of the information or torture it out of him. (I think one of the later books in the AP suggest he can be pushed into a crisis of faith and overtime converted to worshipping Asmodeus if the PCs let him live and treat him kindly. My player’s never came to this room.)

5 - The Chamber of Might - “The chosen are revealed by their might. The weak deserve no sympathy.” The door to the south is barred but before the PCs can get out they have to deal with a pair of Mithral Cobras (CR3). They have high AC, DR 5/-, construct traits, SR13 and paralysis poison. This was a tough fight and softenes up the PCs for what comes after.

6 - The Chamber of Sin - “Suffer not the fool. Stupidity is our faith’s cardinal sin.” In the middle of the chamber is a pedestal with a silver and sapphire amulet. An Appraise or Perception check will reveal the sapphires are fake. Taking the stair to the east will activate a spiked ball trapping hitting anyone between the dotted lines. If the PCs try to present the amulet to Cardinal Thorn he berates them and orders them back to the basement.
6a and 6b - a secret passage will bring the PCs around room 7.

7 - The Chamber of the Shrieker - “Secrecy is our greatest ally. Exposure brings death.” Beyond the door is another darkened room. In the center of the room is a Shrieker which if the PCs trigger it will alert the occupants of rooms 8 and 9, The east wall hides a staircase leading to another part of the manor.

8 - The Chamber of the Risen - “Beware the fallen for they may rise once more to threaten you.” In this room are 8 barnacle encrusted coffins, 4 of them contain Draugr. It the PCs triggered the Shrieker thy will have already awakened and begun tearing their wear through coffins and doors to get to room 7. (Timeon knows about these two rooms.)

9 - Sir Balin’s Cell - “Serve thy master well and be rewarded.” The door is heavy and well locked but a key hangs on the wall nearby.


Sir Balin of Karfeld waits in this cell. He is a captured knight of the Alerion order and is personally famous for hunting followers of Asmodeus. He may have been instrumental in capturing one or more of the PCs.
Cardinal Thorn captured Sir Balin(LG Human Fighter 5) and Timeon a few days ago as a gift to the PCs and a final test. There’s a variety of ways he can bargained with or blackmailed but let’s get real, it’s murder time. Around his neck is a silver and sapphire holy symbol of Mitra and the object of their quest.

Cardinal Thorn congratulates the party and gives a little speech about how much you should hate any Mitrans. Then he offers to complete your training.

If the PCs fail to return the amulet in 24 hours Thorn admonishes them and orders Tiadora, in a fade to black, to torture the shit of out the group for their failure. They still get to complete their training but are a little worse for wear.

Of course Cardinal Thorn was scrying on the party the whole time and has learned about their strengths and weakness. Over the next 3 months he trains the group, forging them into the perfect weapon of his revenge. This is all handled as a montage, but when the training is done they do gain a mechanical benefit, another Trait.

“Asmodeus is with you.” - Whenever you channel energy, you gain a +1 trait bonus to the save DC of your channeled energy.
“Deception is a tool. Master it.” - You gain a +1 trait bonus to Bluff and Sense Motive.
“Discover what is real and what is illusion.” - You gain a +2 trait bonus on saving throws against illusions.
“Fear nothing save our dread lord.” - You gain a +2 trait bonus on saving throws against fear effects.
“Focus strengthens your will.” - You gain a +2 trait bonus on saving throws against charm and compulsion effects.
“Let us perfect your favorite spell” - Pick one spell. This spell’s effects manifest at +1 caster level.
“Quiet as death” - You gain a +2 trait bonus to Stealth checks.
“Strike first, strike ruthlessly and thus be victorious” - You gain a +2 trait bonus on Initiative checks. (All but one of my player’s chose this, because you know Pathfinder.)
“Wear your armor like a second skin.” - When you wear armor of any sort, reduce that suit’s armor check penalty by 1 to a minimum check penalty of 0.
“You shall be my angel slayer.” - You gain a +2 trait bonus on Knowledge (planes) checks about good-aligned celestials and receive a +1 trait bonus to any damage roll you make against them.

During these 3 months The White Ravens are undergoing the same training and there are opportunities for roleplaying. When your training is finished the Cardinal rewards you with a feast complete with a summoned devil, human sacrifice and other devilish rituals.


Behold he proclaims, “The Nessian Knot is forged.”
“Just in time,” Cardinal Thorn remarks. “My ship has arrived.” On the river dock behind the manor under cover of darkness, a square-sailed longship sails into the slip. It sits heavily in the water, laden with a substantial cargo.

NEXT TIME - The Frozen North

Book 1 - A Kickstarter for Evil

posted by LongDarkNight Original SA post

Way of the Wicked - Book 1 - A Kickstarter for Evil

When last we left our maltagonists they had completed their induction into the service of Asmodeus and their master Cardinal Thorn had feted them in an unholy feast.

ACT THREE: FIRE AXE (PCs are 3rd level)
Unbeknownst to the PCs Cardinal Thorn commands the 7th Knot to begin a campaign of subversion and murder all along the Watch Wall to weaken the Northern defenses ahead of the PCs mission. They are summoned next to receive their orders.


“Your mission is war, my children. You will bring war to Talingarde.”
The 9th Knot is given two objectives. First, escort that ship mentioned at the end of the last Act into the Frozen North, it is laden with crafted weapons destined for the horde of the Bugbear chief Sakkarot Fire-Axe. The Bugbear horde is camped on the north side of Lake Tarik. After the cargo is delivered the PCs will be taken across the lake to complete part two of their mission. Thorn does order them to tie up loose ends and kill the ship’s Captain Kargeld Odenkirk along with the rest of the crew and burn the Frosthamar, the man is too greedy and knows too much. Also take the money he was paid, because fuck anyone not useful to the Cardinal.

Part two is a bit harder; nearby is Castle Balentyne, one of the key defensive points of the Watch Wall. Bugbears are dumb and no amount of arms and armor from the civilized world will get them past this fortification. The PCs will need to destroy the defenses of Castle Balentyne, kill it’s commander Lord Thomas Havelyn(Cardinal Thorn’s brother), raise the gates and allow Sakkarot’s horde to pass. Cardinal Thorn hands the PCs an enchanted clay tablet to break once their mission is complete. After some promises of reward for success and threats of eternal torment for failure he toasts the group and sends them off.

Now We’re on a Boat
The Frosthamar is an over sized Viking longboat; it sits low in the water thanks to the the 24 tons of weapons and armor, bearing the sign of the Fire-Axe, earmarked for the Bugbear Horde. The ship is crewed by a half dozen foreign sailors commanded by Captain Kargeld (NE Human Barbarian 4). The ship is sturdy and well made but without comforts; the PCs will sleep on deck with the crew. Kargeld heads down river and out to sea proceeding north along the coast; it’s slow going with such a heavy cargo. Kargeld refuses to stop at the port of Daveryn for fear of being caught; you have now been at sea for a week. Further north beyond the Watch Wall the seas grow rougher and we’ll face a series of events before Act III is complete.

1 - The Blade of St. Martius - As the ship passed the eastern terminus of the Watch Wall it is approached by a patrol vessel. The PCs and Captain Kargeld get a Perception check to notice “The Blade of St. Martius” before it arrives. Otherwise they are surprised and have less than a minute to prepare. “The Blade” is a fast 30 footer crewed by a dozen soldiers and it’s Captain, Edward Sambryl. The Frosthamar cannot hope to outrun it. The Blade will come along sides and prepare to board. The book lays out a few ways this can go. If the PCs let Kargeld take the lead he rages as soon as Sambryl and the 4 soldiers come aboard, meanwhile the 8 still on The Blade open up with arrow fire focusing on any obvious magic users. The PCs can also try deceiving Sambryl using their iron circlets or forged documents.

2 - The Hope of the Haunted
- Nerianus is a Triton Oracle of Mitra (level 4) (Oracles being the divine version of Sorcerers in Pathfinder). How a fishman ends up being devoted to Mitra is a good question, but whatever. Lately he’s been having visions of a terrible evil force rising and has gathered a level appropriate group to attack the PCs. Two dolphins, four Triton Warriors, a Small Water Elemental and Nerianus himself attack the Frosthamar. Once defeated Nerianus will make the following prophecy with his last gasps:


“The shining sun has seen the wickedness you hide in hearts. And thus it will be the son who brings your doom.”
This the first reference the PCs get to Sir Richard Thomasson Haveyln, who will be a foe throughout the the AP. He is the son of the man they have been sent to kill and the nephew of their master, Cardinal Thorn. The handling of Sir Richard is one of my nitpicks with the AP; a solid nemesis is important to get any group of PCs (good or evil) invested in a long term campaign and WotW undersells him all along the way. They’ll face him directly in books 2 and 5, but he’s working against them behind the scenes in books 3 and 4. I dealt with this two ways. First, some of the Mitran casters the PCs defeated would utter dying prophecies similar to the one uttered by Nerianus; second, two of the PCs were killed by Sir Richard during book 2 and afterwards they had weird visions that told somewhat of his actions off camera during books 3 and 4.

3 - Seal Isle - Far in the frozen north is an island that is home to the richest fur seal nesting ground in Talingarde. Captain Kargeld will divert the ship there for 3 days to harvest as many pelts as possible. Hunting parties will make Survival checks gathering more pelts based on the margin of success. Lurking in the water is a pair of Bunyips that will try to dump boats into the water. (The thought of Swim checks and water based combat in Pathfinder gives me indigestion so I just skipped this encounter.)

4 - The Whale-Hunters - The ship is approached by a small group of kayaks and a canoe around noon of some day. These boats are crewed by Yutak hunters heading south to trade furs and ivory with the Talireans. The hunters are lead by White Tusk a young chieftain of the Yutak (N Human Ranger 4) and a shaman Joseph Calls-Fire-From-Water (CN Human Druid 3). The Yutak are interested in trade and have a bountiful haul from their recent expedition; 15 walrus tusks totaling 1200gp and a large 8ft narwhal horn worth 2000gp. The narwhal horn proves easy to enchant and reduce the time and cost if made into a magic staff, rod or wand. Throughout the AP the PCs will find similar unique quasi-magical components that can serve as trophies of their journey. I really like this element the authors included.
The Yutak don’t work metal and value it highly; they will make generous trades with the PCs. If it comes to violence there aren’t any consequences and the PCs sail off with a tidy haul. If trade is concluded peacefully White Tusk can provide information about Event 5 and may be a useful ally later in the campaign.

5 - The Laughing Storm - Sometime in the dead of night the temperature plummets and snow starts falling on the open deck of the Frosthamar. The crew lights torches which offends a local ice spirit, Kiliketz (N Ice Mephit). Kiliketz is accompanied by 4 ice elementals (yah! para-elemental planes) who terrify the crew. It’s up to the PCs and Kargeld to fight this encounter. If Kiliketz is capture alive he can be intimidated into serving the PCs.

6 - The Bugbear Camp - North of Seal Island is a bay that leads to the river Taiga, a passage to Lake Tarik. Kargeld deftly maneuvers the Frosthamar through the ice floe that crowds the bay. The river winds through an ancient, snow-covered forest and between towering mountains to their destination. On the northern bank of Lake Tarik sprawls the camp of Sakkarot Fire-Axe, thousands of Bugbears can be seen even from a distance. The PCs can also make out goblins, polar bears and few giants in the camp.
A crude pier extends into the lake, the only place for the Frosthamar to dock. At the end of the pier are 4 bored Bugbear thugs that will try to attack the ship as soon as it docks to kill the PCs and seize the cargo for themselves. If not dealt with quickly more Bugbears will join in hoping for a share of the spoils.
Shortly after Sakkarot will arrive and demand to know who sent them, any appropriate response will satisfy him.

Hail Asmodeus!


“These humans are my guests. I will deal with anyone who harms them. They are our allies!” He walks over to the boat and rips open one of the crates revealing finely made axes with in. He tosses one to a nearby bugbear warrior who until this time only had a crude club to wield. “Behold, they bring us steel!” This earns the PCs a terrifying chorus of growls and cheers from the monstrous assembly.
As the cargo is distributed the PCs can witness, in a short time, the horde transforming into an army. Later Sakkarot holds a feast in honor of the PCs with all manner of savage creatures in attendance. It looks a lot like the Dothraki wedding from Game of Thrones.

7 - A Private Audience - As the festivities abate Sakkarot invites the PCs to speak privately and dismisses his lieutenants. If for whatever reason a fight breaks out his guards aren’t far off and the Fire-Axe(LE bugbear Fighter 8 with elite ability scores and a +2 unholy flaming greataxe) is no pushover. Sakkarot wants to learn what the PCs know about Thorn’s plan and proves to be far above average intelligence for a Bugbear. In casual conversation he’ll reveal a couple of things; burned onto the fur of his chest is the unholy symbol of Asmodeus and he is the leader and only member of the 1st Knot.
This is also an opportunity for the PCs to learn more about the conspiracy they have joined. With role-playing and Skill checks Sakkarot will reveal that he intends to betray the Bugbear horde in service of Thorn's plan and he knows that Cardinal Thorn was once a priest of Mitra. When the conversation peters out Sakkarot will close the evening.


“Tomorrow you must depart this camp. It will never be truly safe for you here. Over the next week, more tribes will rally to my banner. I will promise them blood and give them steel. Then at last I will be ready to march. A week after that – I will be poised to strike. I will move my horde to the valley just north of Balentyne. There we will wait for your signal. Fire this rocket into the air. Within the hour, we will attack. Make sure that the way is ready.
“After we gather, my horde will be idle and start to grow anxious. I can hold them together for another two weeks. After that, I expect desertions and squabbling. Get your work done before then. You have one month to infiltrate and destroy Balentyne.”
The Fire-Axe will be another major NPC that shows up again in Books 3, 4, 5 and maybe 6 so this is a good opportunity to build a relationship.

8 - Loose Ends - With the feast and private meeting concluded the PCs can complete the last leg of their journey. Kargeld is anxious to be away from the camp. The ship crosses the mist covered lake and deposits the PCs on the southern shore; from here Kargeld plans to betray them and flee beyond Cardinal Thorn’s reach. If he is not dealt with Castle Balentyne will receive a warning within a few days and Act 4 will be much more complicated.

Assuming standard murder-hoboism and a healthy dose of evil this won’t come to pass. With the captain and crew murdered roughly 6200gp in coin and sundries can be gathered from the ship.

The PCs stand on the shore of Lake Tarik ready to begin the next phase of Cardinal Thorn’s plan; they have 4 weeks to complete their mission. The Act closes like this:


You are close now. Just a few miles from here sits the small market town of Aldencross and less than a mile from there is the watchtower of Balentyne – your goal. Already Sakkarot’s horde gathers and prepares to move. Within two weeks, they will be in a small valley north of the lake awaiting your signal. Fire the rocket into the air at just the right moment and you will take the first step towards claiming vengeance against Talingarde.
Destiny has taken you here. Destiny has given you a mission. There is no doubt that the future of this green and pleasant land lies in your hands. You could go to that town right now and warn them of the plots of the sinister Cardinal Thorn. You could give yourself up and face the justice you deserve. You could turn back from the horror and the slaughter that you are going to inflict upon these Mitran sheep. This is that moment. This is the turning point. After this, there is no going back. Any one eager for redemption?
I thought not. Come, my friends. We have work to do. We must burn Balentyne.
The DM narration makes these weird changes between 1st and 3rd person a few times in the AP.

Acts 2 & 3 establishes one of my favorite things about this AP, a sense of time elapsing. In the other Pathfinder APs I’ve done you go from zero to hero in a few months. This AP takes place over 5-6 years which feels more reasonable and reflects the earlier conceit that villains need to execute plans that take time to develop while heroes react to threats.

NEXT TIME: We didn’t start the Fire.

Book 1 - We didn’t start the Fire

posted by LongDarkNight Original SA post

Way of the Wicked - Book 1 - We didn’t start the Fire

We totally did start the Fire.

ACT FOUR: Burning Balentyne (PCs are 4th level)
Cardinal Thorn believes this mission will succeed because no one expects an attack from within, Talingarde is united behind the worship of Mitra and the opposition to evil. Surely no one would aid the savage Bugbears in invading the kingdom. Thorn also does not know the full extent of Castle Balentyne’s defenses and prefers to let the PCs find out rather than leading the attack himself.

It will quickly become obvious that a direct assault is suicidal; unlike Castle Branderscar this place is fully and competently manned. Such a foolhardy attack would be a CR 16+ encounter and the castle would send out ravens requesting reinforcements.

One Hundred Guards!?!
Opponents in Castle Balentyne can be put into 3 groups. The author suggests focusing on the first 2 groups as fighting 100 low level dudes is boring.
The important people in the Castle are Lord Havelyn, his captains Eddarly, Mott, Varning and Barhold, the priest Father Donnagin and the mage Titus. Also included in this group are the Dwarven engineer Barnabus Eisenbauch and Mad Martin the master of ravens.

Three inhuman creatures also inhabit the Castle. A group of Lantern Archons, an Ice Golem and Mad Martin’s raven swarm. They will only be encountered in specific places.

Lastly are the 100 ordinary human guards, servants, dwarves and other mooks.. They can be dealt with easily in small groups but if allowed to mass up they will overwhelm the PCs. Killing their leaders will reduce them to a cowering mass instead of a real threat.

Castle Balentyne

Nice castle you got there, shame if something happened to it.

The castle overlooks the River Tyburn and Lake Tarik to the west. A massive bridge allows access to the Frozen North.

Trees are cleared back 100 yards giving clear line of sight on anyone approaching the castle. About a mile away is the market town of Aldencross.

Here’s the Castle layout, about 4 times as much to explore and fuck around with as Branderscar.




That was a lot of castle, but let’s not forget why we’re here. If the defenses of Castle Balentyne can be brought down Sakkarot’s horde will invade Talingrade completing the first step in Cardinal Thorn’s plan. Also his stupid brother will be dead. But you can’t just attach directly, the castle on full alert at full strength will likely crush the PCs and at the very least allow time for reinforcements to arrive. A dollop of sneakiness is the order of the day. The book suggests a few obvious approaches for the GM but as we all know PCs can and will do anything.
Humble Servants - Using the iron circlets PCs can disguise themselves as the castle’s menial laborers. Lowly servant’s can go nearly anywhere in Balentyne and spread all manner of chaos. If the castle is put on lockdown, welp, now they’re trapped in here with you.
Murderous Mice - The secret door in room 1 leads to the Lord’s Dalliance in Aldencross. This passage will let the PCs enter the castle at any time, wreak havoc and slip out. Eventually the passage will be discovered but the damage they can do from within should be irreparable.
Agents of the King - Posing as servants of King Markadian the PCs can gain entrance the highest levels of the Keep. This is a conspicuous position and suspicion will quickly fall on them once trouble starts.
The Lost Patrol - Regular patrols are sent out along the River Tyburn and the southern edge of Lake Tarik; usually Captain Varning and 6 other mounted guardsman. The patrol can be ambushed the PCs can impersonate them to gain entrance to the castle. This ruse won’t last long as the guards know each other well after years of service together.
The Play’s The Thing! - Ye Merrie Men a troupe of traveling actors, led by William Marcus Marlowe, the beloved Bard of Barrington, are set to arrive soon for a one night only performance of their famous play “The Fall of Amberlyn”. The PCs can murder the troupe and take their places to gain access to the castle. They will have a few days before the performance to do their dirty work.


Event 1 - Arriving across Lake Tarik the PCs have a range of options on how they proceed. This section of the AP is sandbox-ish, with a concrete goal but no fixed path on how to achieve it. The book presents some events that could occur depending on how they proceed.
Aldencross is accustomed to traders and adventurers so a few more strangers won’t be out of place. The PCs can pick up mundane and minor magic items and potions, at this point they have a hefty pile of money to spend.


LG small town
Corruption +0; Crime +0; Economy +2; Law +1; Lore +0; Society +2
Qualities pious, prosperous, strategic location
Danger -5
Government autocracy chosen by the monarchy in Matharyn
Population 1,800 (1,500 humans;150 dwarves; 50 halflings; 100 other)
Notable NPCs
Lord Thomas Havelyn, commander of Balentyne and Lord of Aldencross (LG male human aristocrat 2/ paladin 7)
Father Donnagin, priest of Mitra (LG male human cleric 6)
Tacitus of Morimun, magister (LN male human wizard 7)
Bellam Barhold, owner of the Lord’s Dalliance (N male human expert 3)
Base Value 1,400 gp; Purchase Limit 7500 gp ; Spellcasting 3rd
level divine, 4th level arcane
Minor Items 3d4 items; Medium Items 1d6 items; Major Items --

The Lord’s Dalliance is Aldencross’ only inn. Guards and other travelers can often be found here enjoying strong drink and the company of buxom serving wenches. It’s a good place to gather information about the Castle Balentyne and it’s inhabitants. There’s a d20 table of rumors that can be gathered here something that we’ll get any time the PCs stay in one place for an extended time in the AP. Some are true others are false; some are completely irrelevant. Here are a few examples.


Lord Havelyn is a good soul but so grim and gloomy. For so great a lord to be unhappy, he must be guilty about something! (False. Lord Havelyn is grim and unhappy because of the loss of his true love Bronwyn. It may have been years ago but he never rediscovered his joy after she died.)


There’s a pack of dwarves in town led by a grumpy short fellow named Barnabus Eisenbauch. They’re here to fix up the watchtower or so I’ve heard. A hard working fellow -- just don’t challenge him to a drinking contest. He’ll drink you under the table every time! (True. Barnabus does have a weakness for strong drink and is staying at this very inn. See below for more details on how this could be used to the PC’s advantage.)


They say the bugbears are massing up north. I wonder what their up to? Well, it doesn’t matter! We’ll be ready for ‘em! You’d think those shaggy walking carpets would have learned by now that the Watch Wall is unbreakable!{Partially True. The bugbears are massing and the Watch Wall is far from unbreakable. But this is a common belief about town.)


Did you hear about prisoners escaping from Branderscar? Were they ever caught? (Not yet.)
On the last example we’ll get an entry or two on each rumor table about the consequences of the PCs actions and what is going on in the Kingdom. You the, PC, is making a difference in the world.

Event 2 - Before the Markadian dynasty the Lord’s Dalliance was a brothel. House Markadian outlawed prostitution but they kept the name for the inn. Long before the current royal family a commander of Castle Balentyne had a secret passage constructed leading from the dwarven vault to the inn’s basement so he could meet with his favorite lady. The secret door is well concealed and will be difficult for the PCs to locate if they even know of it’s existence. The innkeep Bellam Barhold does know about the passage and on the first night the PCs stay at the Dalliance he uses it to sneak into Balentyne to liberate some fine elven wine from the vault. Perception checks will reveal someone sneaking around the inn and if they investigate the PCs may learn about the secret door. If Barhold is killed it will raise suspicions and Father Donnagin will investigate. (Guess what my idiot players did their first night in town?)
Event 3 - A group of 11 dwarves are also staying at the Dalliance, they are here as part of a project to rebuild the watchtower defenses. The group is lead by Barnabus Eisenbauch (N Dwarf Expert 4/Fighter 2) and they can usually be found at the inn when off duty. Up in Barnabus’ room is a full map of the watchtower which would be invaluable to the PCs. Barnabus and his men love to drink and can be baited into drinking contests which the PCs can exploit to their advantage.
Event 4 - It is common knowledge among guards and around town that Captain Varning leads a patrol of the wilderness about once a week. Accompanied by 6 other guards the mounted patrol makes it’s way through the wilderness searching for signs of any threats from the north trying to slip across the waters of Lake Tarik. This is a good opportunity to kill a watch captain and a few guards away from the castle and even infiltrate by impersonating them.
Event 5 - Captain Mott and his beautiful wife Kaitlyn are in a loveless arranged marriage, he’s not a bad guy but neglects his young wife in favor of his military duties hoping to secure a promotion and knighthood. Meanwhile the handsome Captain Zack Eddarly has been taking Kaitlyn to pound town. If the PCs can learn of the affair it’s a simple matter to anonymously send word to Captain Mott. He’ll challenge Eddarly to a duel and one of them will wind up dead. If we remember back to character creation “Dueling unto Death” is a capital offense so two guard captains can be eliminated this way.
Event 6 - Once a week Mama Louisa Giuseppe comes up from Aldencross to cook a special beef stew. Years ago her son’s were part of the garrison and she continues this tradition to honor them and the guardsmen. This old woman’s generosity is an opportunity for the PCs to poison the guard killing and incapacitating some number depending on the poison used.
Event 7 - Ye Merrie Men will be performing their current play “The Fall of Amberlyn” in the Great Hall of the Keep a show that will be attended by nearly all the major NPCs in the castle along with 70 guards, all the servants, acolytes and dwarven engineers. This makes a great distraction with which to kill the only major NPC not in attendance, Mad Martin the master of ravens, and other damage to the defenses. If the PCs impersonate the troupe they will have access to the Keep for 24 hours before they are expected to put on the play. There’s some Performance skill checks and if the play goes off well they will be invited to a private dinner with Lord Havelyn, the four captains and Father Donnagin whom will be mostly defenseless. With one fell stroke the PCs could cut off the head of the snake and have the run of a leaderless Castle Balentyne.

I saved this part for last. As the PCs are doing their best to do their worst behind the screen the GM is keeping track of how much damage they have caused. When the PCs launch their signal rocket and the Bugbear horde attacks this will be the measure of how well they have prepared the way for Der Tag.


Actions that can gain (or lose) the PCs Victory Points:
• 5 VP Kill Lord Thomas Havelyn
• -10 VP Lord Thomas not dead during assault
• 2 VP each Kill or remove Captains Eddarly, Mott,
Varning and Barhold
• 3 VP Kill Father Donnagin, priest of Mitra
• 4 VP Kill the magister Tacitus of Morimun
• -5 VP Tacitus alive and in possession of his wand of
fireball during assault
• 1 VP Every Five Soldiers non-combatant during assault
(max. 20 VP)
• 3 VP Destroy the Rookery (see room 43)
• 5 VP Open the portcullis and lower the drawbridge
for the Attackers (see room 25)
• 2 VP Destroy the lantern archons (see room 26)
• 2 VP Kill Barnabus the dwarven siege engineer
• 1 VP Every Five dwarves non-combatant during assault
(max. 2 VP)
• 1 VP Sabotage siege engine (see room 33; max. 4 VP)
• 1 VP Sabotage the murder holes (see room 25)
• 1 VP Burn the arrow stores (see room 38)
• 1 VP Sabotage the seal of Balentyne (see room 23a)
• -2 VP Every day after thirty before the attack commences
Remember that Sakkarot can only maintain his horde at peak strength of 30 days, after that things start to fall apart and infighting breaks up his forces.
Based on the PCs victory point score we have a range of results.
20 or less: Premature Attack - The assault fails, most of the horde is killed along with Sakkarot. Cardinal Thorn’s plans are in ruin; the book suggests there is a path forward but it would require the GM to radically alter the entire AP.
21-30: Repulsed - The horde is beaten back but Sakkarot survives. The PCs can try again but another failure wipes out Sakkarot and the horde.
31-40: Hard Fought Victory - Success but at a cost; much of the horde is killed in the fighting and Sakkarot loses an eye in the battle. The fighting takes long enough that villagers from Aldencross are able to flee spreading word of the invasion.
41-50: Victory - The castle falls and there are minor losses from the horde. Sakkarot is unwounded and the horde quickly reforms to march south. Villagers from Aldencross flee south spreading terror and panic at word of the Fire-Axe’s horde.
51 or more: Slaughter - This is total victory, the Bugbear horde overwhelms Balentyne with few losses, overruns Aldencross in a “feast of human flesh and an orgy of death”. Sakkarot’s forces quickly sweep south spreading death and hatred to all mankind.

With your mission accomplished the PCs should fire off the signal rocket. The Bugbear horde will pour over the landscape to the north in the thousands. Within the hour they will be inside Balentyne battling the remaining inhabitants. Any major NPCs remaining will try to stop the PCs during this time which could make for an interesting climactic battle.
The PCs should remember at this point to break the clay tablet they were given by Cardinal Thorn a few weeks ago. Tiadora will arrive shortly and lead them to a boat waiting on the lakeside. For their faithful service the PCs receive 5000gp in platinum ingots and a hand written note:



“Our lord smiles upon your success. Here is a token of my esteem. Use it to rest, recover and strengthen yourselves. Other commands will come when the Knot is needed. Your work has just begun. – A.”
From a promontory, you can see the great bugbear horde camped south of the Watch Wall. Balentyne yet burns behind you. Tiadora remarks, “I have seen no evidence of any army gathering to meet the horde. It seems Zadaria has also succeeded at her mission and has assassinated the commanders. Truly, a great achievement.
“Making matters worse for poor Talingarde, small bands of creatures unaligned with Sakkarot approach the breach, eager to take advantage of the chaos. How could these beasts know already about this break in the Watch Wall? Someone must have told them. Probably best to leave. This region is about to become very dangerous.
“Still, this will not be enough. Balentyne may be broken but Talingarde is yet strong. Soon word will reach the south. The Heartland and the great cities of the Cambrian Bay will marshal their armies. They will meet Sakkarot on the field and it will be far too close to a fair fight. We must
do something about that.
“Come, my lords, your ship awaits. Try not to burn this one.”
Lords. She called you lords. And lords you are. Lords of death and destruction. Lords of evil. Do you remember Branderscar? Do you remember being held down and branded like animals? How far you have come and how long yet the journey before you. Tiadora is right. This is only your first steps along the way of the wicked.
Savor it, this is one of the few times Tiadora will show you any respect. The boat will take you to your next destination, Book 2 - Call Forth the Darkness.

Whew, the first stage of our wicked journey is complete. There’s some good things in this Book but it’s not the best part of the AP. A prison break is old hat but we get some clever twists. The training montage in Act 2 is neat. The trip north to the Bugbear camp give some interesting details but is mostly filler. Act 4 is the a great opportunity for the PCs to shine and think outside the box. All in all I would rank the first book of the AP 5th out of 6. Book 2 is my favorite and I look forward to covering it in 2017.

Acknowledgements: Big thanks to my contributors on this project; Sun Ra and scotch.

Book 2 - Introductions

posted by LongDarkNight Original SA post

Way of the Wicked - Book 2 - Introductions

The Way of the Wicked(WotW) is a level 1-20 Adventure Path for evil characters published by Fire Mountain Games for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game system. It’s one of the more popular 3rd party adventure books for Pathfinder, showing up in the top 10 downloads of the weekly Paizo newsletter for years. Equally important, I ran the whole campaign from start to finish over the course of about 2.5 years. Next up is book 2 of 6: Call Forth Darkness. As a warning I’m not doing spoilers on anything so if you are or might be playing this campaign proceed at your own discretion.

Previously on WotW…our villains had escaped from the most secure prison in the kingdom of Talingarde. They were recruited into the service of the last High Priest of Asmodeus with the intention of overthrowing the Kingdom. After delivering a few tons of weapons and armor to a Bugbear horde they destroyed a key fortification allowing the horde to invade Talingarde.

This book is where we start getting to the red meat, entering territory not usually encountered in a standard campaign. Far to the west of where we left off is the city of Farholde an often forgotten part of the kingdom that borders on a horrible secret. In the great forest to the south The Horn of Abaddon lies waiting, once the home of a daemonic cult. The PCs will take control there and make it a dungeon to call their own, for 7 months they will need to defend this dungeon from monsters, natural disasters and invading murderhobos to complete a ritual most profane. This book contains numerous encounters including 7 bands of adventurers intent on defeating the PCs or just looting their dungeon, the author offers some advice.


Personally, I’d replace at least one of those adventuring parties. Throw it out. Instead, replace it with PCs from your player's’ own past. You remember that annoying enchanter who mind-controlled all your monsters? The druid who stayed in bear-form most of the last campaign? The rogue who talked his way out of every death-trap you threw at him? Bring ‘em to the Horn. You’ve got 222 days for the players to receive a large dose of their own medicine.

A bit passive-aggressive*, including the other comments that now is the chance for the GM to take revenge on the players for all the times they wrecked up his carefully designed dungeons in previous campaigns.

We’re also promised an optional system for managing the mooks and underlings such wicked villains are sure to attract. We’ll be covering this later in the write up.

*(Fully justified if your group contains a Druid that gives invasive colonoscopies to dragons.)

So back in the last book we had a rad history of Talingarde to which I’m sure you all paid careful attention; just like my players. King Markadian I kicked a lot of ass and united the kingdom, but during his reign he undertook a secret quest to banish a daemon prince from the island. For centuries a death cult that worshipped pestilence inhabited a fortress called the Horn of Abaddon hidden in the forests near Farholde. Markadian and his knights stormed the Horn, putting the cultists to the sword and the king himself slew the daemon prince Vetra-Kali Eats-the-Eyes, banishing him to whatever Neutral Evil shithole daemons come from in PF. The King being a wise Paladin knew that the daemon could eventually return so with the aid of his Clerics they fashioned a holy artifact that would forever bar the return of Vetra-Kali. The King did his best to wipe out all record of the cult and his quest against them.

Decades later Cardinal Samuel Havelyn would learn about the Horn and the great seal warding against Vetra-Kali. Now risen as the lich Adrastus Thorn he seeks to free the daemon and bind it to his service. The daemon can be forced to produce a horrifying pestilence that will devastate Talingarde from within while it is dealing with the Bugbear Horde of Sakkarot Fire-Axe. While the bugbears have won several battles the noble houses of Talingarde are mustering their armies to put an end to the Fire-Axe. By unleashing the plague known as the Tears of Achlys Cardinal Thorn plans to gut Talingarde from within while it deals with the external threat.

The PCs are being sent to Farholde to accomplish this unholy mission for Cardinal Thorn, but they are not the first of his minions to be sent. Months ago the Fourth Knot (Phlegethian) was dispatched retrieve this plague but after locating the Horn of Abaddon all communication with the ceased. The Horn, it turns out, is not completely abandoned and the Fourth met a grisly end. Cardinal Thorn has no idea what happened to the Fourth Knot but now that the PCs have unleashed the Bugbears this is now his highest priority. (This is a minor plot hole since presumably Thorn took the same precautions with the Fourth Knot as he did with the PCs and can just scry them to learn that they dead.) Now Thorn is sending the PCs and the Seventh Knot, Elise Zadaria and the White Ravens, to succeed where the others failed.

The PCs will be spending much of their time in and around Farholde during this part of the AP. So we get some useful background on the region, interesting NPCs and possible side quests.


Alignment: CG
Government autocracy chosen by the monarchy in Matharyn
Population 9,500 (7,500 humans; 1,100 half-elves; 650 elves; 125 dwarves; 90 halflings; 35 other)
Notable NPCs
Lord Argus Welshire, Duke of Farholde, Commander of the Castle Hamarhall - away at war
Sir Valin Darian, Knight of the Alerion, 2nd in command of the Castle Hamarhall
Baron Arkov Vandermir
Abbess Temperance Avigail of the Order of Saint Cynthia-Celeste
Hugo Hallynbeck, mayor and reeve of Farholde

Farholde is northwestern most city in the Kingdom of Talingarde, a backwater of the greater kingdom it has long served an important role as part of the Watch Wall protecting the Borderlands. Now the great Castle Hamarhall is mostly empty, it’s commander Lord Argus having taken the garrison east to join the battle against the Fire-Axe.


And yet, here in this backwater, the fate of tens of thousands of Talireans will be decided. This could be Farholde’s moment of triumph, where alone it met a great evil and brought it low. Or, this could be its darkest hour, where less than a day’s ride from its walls, the city did nothing as a monster was born.

The city is built up on nine hills along Lake Scardynn to protect the structures there from annual flooding. Every year the Lake overflows it banks and deposits rich sediment on the floodplain making the surrounding farmland incredibly fertile. The other major industry in Farholde is fishing; Lake Scardynn is deep and home to all manner of fish and sometimes giant crayfish.

For untold centuries the region had been an outpost of the barbaric Iraen; this came to end a few hundred years ago when King Accarius IV (of house Barca, the previous rulers of Talingarde) to destroy the natives and establish a colony of Talireans. Now the Iraens haunt the forests and glens of the Caer Bryr.

Notable Landmarks of Farholde
1. Hamarhall - A symbol of royal might in this far flung corner of the kingdom it would normally be manned by over 100 knights and soldiers. Now it contains only a skeleton crew. The book advises the DM that PCs may want to perform an encore of the Burning of Balentyne here but it would only serve to warn those nearby townsfolk that something is seriously amiss.
2. The Accarian Beacon - A lighthouse at the place where Lake Scardynn meets the sea. It contains the winch that controls a sea chain meant to cut off the lake in case of invasion. Not sure who this is supposed to keep out or in. The keeper of the lighthouse is a minor noble, Sir Bonder, and he has a gang of ruffians known as the Breakers. He has potential to be an ally or rival for the PCs burgeoning criminal empire.
3. Calliver Green - Home to the six estates of the rich and powerful in Farholde, the Green is a gently sloping hill with access controlled by a small guard post and private security.


Welshire Hall (the personal estate of the duke himself)
Vanderhall (Baron Arkov Vandermir’s estate)
Beaconhelm (the estate of Sir Bonder of the Beacon)
Hallynsgate (home of the mayor and reeve, Hugo Hallynbeck)
Cranstyn Spire (owned by Farholde’s wealthiest merchant – the lady Shalyn Marsten)
Far Ghasten (an empty but meticulously maintained manor owned by the powerful Ghastens of Ghastenhall).
4. Abbey of Saint Cynthia-Celeste - Sisters of the Order are a common sight around Farholde, they serve the memory of their devil hunting founder. Within the walls of the convent a 300+ badass battle nuns ready to defend the city or take the fight to the wicked if necessary. The are lead by Abbess Temperance Avigail.
5. The Vandermir Orphanage - What appears on the surface to be a charitable operation for the poor unfortunate orphan children is in fact a recruiting center for thugs and criminals to serve Baron Vandermir. Overseen by Master Bergill Mott (LE Human Wizard 4) he protects the reputation of the orphanage while the surrounding neighborhood becomes increasingly crime-ridden.
6. Bryrwatch (The Trident) - This 3 floored tower is manned by a half dozen soldiers tasked with warning the city of any threats coming from the forest or lake.
7. Auld’Irey - The oldest and largest part of the city; most of the markets, inns and taverns are found here. It’s a nice place to live, also being home to the city guard.
8. Templeton Rise - Rising above the Auld’Irey is the site of an ancient pagan temple later converted and rebuilt for use by the Talirean pantheon. Later when the Darian dynasty came to power and a new temple was built dedicated solely to the worship of Mitra the property was sold to powerful merchant family, the Marstens, currently led by lady Shalyn Marsten. This is the major trading hub in Farholde.
9. Newchurch - The neighborhood takes its name from the structure that dominates the hilltop, a beautiful church dedicated to Mitra. The construction was ordered by King Markadian during his visit here. Most of the temple staff have gone off to war with Lord Argus and his troops.
10. Drownington - A shanty town for local poors that sits below the highwater line. It is difficult for the city guard to get there so they largely ignore it, making a great place for criminals to hideout and vice to flourish.
11. Lord Drownington’s Manor -


There is only one permanent structure in Drownington built on a slab of rock that is mostly above the flood line (by almost four inches!). There stands a stout stone bunker that has barely survived a hundred floods. A crudely made sign in front reads Lord Drownington’s Manor. Equal parts bar, brothel, fight club, black market and thieves’ guild, this is without a doubt the most dangerous place in Farholde.
This is the domain of a large, angry, profane, scar covered man, Rubal Thraam (CN Human Fighter 4/Rogue 2); he stabbified the previous owner and now runs the dirtiest place in town.
12. Wrecker Isle - A pile of stones and debris rising out of Lake Scardynn; the locals consider nothing more than a navigational hazard. Buried below it is the ancient barrow of a powerful Iraen druid. The restless spirit is the source of the occasional sea gigantic sea creatures that infest the lake. If the PCs stumble upon the tomb dealing with the spirit is a possible side quest.
13. Westell - Separate from the city of Farholde this is a small rural community. Beyond and to the south is fertile farmland, most of which is owned by Baron Vandermir. These farms supply much of Farholde’s food.
14. Corgan’s Landing - The cities main wharf a massive stone pier juts out into the lake. It contains numerous storehouse and business offices. The Harbormaster also keeps watch here, enforcing the king's law and collecting his taxes.

We get some options for less traditional groups and how that would affect the course of the campaign.

The Last Cult - All the PCs are Clerics, the last remaining faithful of the cult of Asmodeus. Multiclassing is restricted, PCs cannot take more levels in a non-Cleric classes than they have Cleric levels. We’re all familiar with the power divide between casters and martials in PF at this point so it’s not a difficult change to make.

The Blackfire Tribe - Goblins! Pathfinder loves it’s goblins and this option has the whole party as a misfit tribe of LE gobbos. The PCs are the last surviving members of a tribe that worships Asmodeus; it’s a chance to play out a David vs Goliath story, if David was green and 30% teeth by volume. Could be a fun option if your players are already invested in Pathfinder’s goblin stories, also a chance for 3 goblins in a trenchcoat to impersonate a guard.

The Knights of Nessus - The No Casters Allowed option. Players can choose from any martial class without spells and in addition cannot multiclass or take any prestige class that would give them spells or spell like abilities. The book recognizes you’ll need to make significant changes to the AP for this to work. To me it seems like an exercise in frustration, the GM would need to pile on healing potions, wands and a ridiculous number of other magic items for the PCs to deal with some of the encounters in this AP; good luck fighting a phoenix or a lich with no casters.

The College of Thorns - Decades ago Talingarde was home to one of the world’s greatest colleges of wizardry. With the rise of House Darius and the Church of Mitra the college was destroyed along with many of it’s members in a pogrom against arcane magic. The school went underground and the PCs are its last surviving students; each will play a specialist wizard. Henchmen will be much more valuable to serve as meat shields for the PCs before they go quadratic. This is a different exercise in frustration bordering on masochism for any GM, I’m getting indigestion again at the thought of an all wizard party.

The Infernal Thain - Centuries ago this island was home to a mighty dwarven kingdom, then came the Talireans. The human invaders conquered the island, destroying the dwarven cities one by one. Modern dwarves found in kingdom are those that knelt to the humans and betrayed their kind. Now only a few remain of this ancient and noble line, filled with bitterness and a thirst for vengeance they have been transformed from ordinary dwarves into Duergar. In this scenario all the PCs are duergar, and Cardinal Thorn is a duergar lich. A new feat is included to negate their sunlight weakness with a suggestion to give it to all PCs as a bonus feat. Evil dwarves is not territory we’ve seen explored before so this is an interesting option.

NEXT TIME: Encounter at Farholde Station

Book 2 - Encounter at Farholde Station

posted by LongDarkNight Original SA post

Way of the Wicked - Book 2 - Encounter at Farholde Station

When last we left the PCs they had destroyed the defenses of Castle Balentyne allowing a Bugbear horde of Sakkarot Fire-Axe to invade Talingarde. With the mission accomplished Thorn’s servant Tiadora picked them up on barge waiting nearby to whisk them away from the battle. Let’s see what the future holds for the PCs.

For reference, as well, the GM map of the kingdom. The PCs have come a long way from Brandescar prison. One of my favorite things about this AP is the feeling of distance and time. The other PF APs feel claustrophobic, taking place in a small area and the PCs gaining amazing levels in a short amount of time. This is the opposite, we’re about to spend a long time doing some very wicked shit.

ACT ONE: FARHOLDE (The PCs are level 5)

Event 1 - The Love Boat - Hallstyn’s Folly is a dilapidated river barge whose captain and crew are firmly under the devil Tiadora’s control via castings of enthrall. The single cabin has been claimed by Tiadora so the PCs and crew will have to sleep on deck, the northern nights are cold and unpleasant. The boat is headed to Farholde, a 300 mile journey that will take about 12 days. Along the way the boat will drop anchor each night near a village, Tiadora will use her at will teleport to visit the village in the guise of a holy Knight of Alerion. Conducting a witch hunt for imaginary Asmodean cultist she murders and tortures the most trustworthy members of the community. In the wake of Hallstyn’s Folly is a trail of suffering and lamentation. PCs can try to ask her about their upcoming mission or her nightly activities but in her typical fashion she is evasive and venomous.

The power of Satan compels that blouse

On the twelfth night of your journey Tiadora informs you that Cardinal Thorn is waiting in the cabin. He’s still in his human disguise looking as devilishly handsome as ever and here to give a boat load of exposition along with their next mission.


You have served me faithfully, my ninth knot, and I have rewarded you both in treasure and vengeance. Thanks to your efforts, the Fire-Axe has been unleashed. Even now he writes his name in blood across the Borderlands.

Three battles have been fought and three victories won. The villages of Ambryl and Tarrington Fields lie sacked. The fortress of Lorringsgate is in ruins. Each of you did your part in seeing these triumphs come to fruition. Do not think I have forgotten that.

But our work is not yet done. Talingarde has not yet acquiesced to our unholy master nor tasted the full measure of our vengeance. So I have another mission for you. Tomorrow this barge will dock in Farholde, the northernmost town in all the realm. Farholde is a backwater of no real significance. Its lord has already left the place hoping for glory in the war. But it does border the Caer Bryr (pronounced care-briar), the largest unmapped forest on the entire island.

Hidden within the Caer Bryr is the Horn of Abaddon, an ancient temple once occupied by a particularly loathesome death cult called ‘The Sons of the Pale Horseman’. Almost eighty years ago the first Darian king, Markadian I called the Victorious overthrew the Horn and destroyed the Sons. No great loss, honestly.

But what the Victor found within the temple is why we are here. He defeated a daemon prince called Vetra-Kali Eats-the-Eyes. So terrified of this monstrosity was the king, that he had the priests of Mitra craft a great silver seal to forever forbid the daemon from returning to our plane of existence. The seal remains to this day.

I have learned the truth about this daemon prince. I have learned what the Victor feared. Vetra-Kali is an archdeacon in service to the lord of pestilence. This immortal monster could create a plague so virulent that it will bring Talingarde to its knees.

When the Victor attacked, the Daemon Prince was close to unleashing his masterpiece upon the world -- a pestilence known as the Tears of Achlys (pronounced ACK-Lis). I am uncertain of the specifics of this plague but if anything could terror in the heart of the Victor, then I want it. The Tears of Achlys will be our poisoned dagger into the heart of Talingarde.

I already have agents in the great cities of this kingdom. With this pestilence, they could deliver blight and death to the very center of the realm. Caught between the twin storms of the Fire-Axe and Vetra-Kali’s gift, we shall bring ruin to Talingarde. This gift you shall bring to me.

It will not be easy. I have already lost one band of followers on this errand. I sent the fourth knot to find the Horn of Abaddon. They succeeded at that at least – revealing to me that it was concealed within a great spire of stone less than a day’s ride from Farholde.

But then they vanished. I have heard no more from the elven ranger Aiden Kael since. He knew the Caer Bryr well so no normal hazard would defeat him. Perhaps the Horn of Abaddon is guarded. I cannot say. But it matters not! The Tears of Achlys must be mine!

I am undeterred by this setback. Where one knot failed, two will succeed. I will also send my seventh knot – the Knot Hibernal led by Elise Zadaria. I task you with finding the Horn and calling forth Vetra-Kali. Elise and her knot will aid you. Elise proved herself a capable assassin in our last venture. The seventh knot will remain in Farholde and see that anyone who tries to find the Horn and interfere with your work meets an unhappy end. Thus, you will have time to do what must be done.

There is another who may be able to aid you. Once a thriving cult of Asmodeus existed in Farholde. It was led by a half-elvish noble – the Baron Arkov Vandermir. He is treacherous and decadent, but wealthy and well-connected. Tiadora will introduce you before she departs.

I know not what aid the Baron can provide, but his family is old and long has dwelt in Farholde. Never trust him but know this – he’s afraid of me and with good reason. If he does try anything remind him that you are in Farholde on my behalf. That should keep him in line.

Find the Horn. Find the seal and shatter it. Call Vetra-Kali back to our world. Bind him to your will and force service from the monster. And then bring his gift to me. Can you do this, my knot? Have I found servants with might and will enough to see this task done?

Cardinal Thorn will answer questions from the PCs, the book suggests a few topics. If asked about Aiden Kael the Cardinal commands you to kill him for his failure. On the ethics of unleashing plague daemons Thorn is only interested in results, he doesn’t care if you destroy Vetra-Kali or leave him loose upon the world. The PCs are given another clay seal to use if they need to contact him. With that he dismisses the 9th Knot.

Event 2 - Arrival - The next day the boat arrives at Farholde and Tiadora gives the PCs another day to dick around before their dinner with Baron Vandermir. There are plenty of shops and taverns in the city where the PCs can reequip including a variety of minor magic items for sale. There are also rumors to be had, we get another d20 table to gather information. Again we get a range of items, true, false or story fluff. Some of it is useful though.


My poor Jeffy has gone to war. I hope he’s alright! (A common sentiment about town. Many loved one have gone to fight the Fire-Axe and his horde. Pity them for if Thorn has his way, likely Jeffy will not be coming home.)


The Bugbears are marching towards Farholde! We’ve got evacuate the city! (False. This is simple panic in a time of war.)


Lord Welshire may have gone to war but at least Sir Valin still mans the Castle Farthyn. A knight of true noble blood, he is! Why, they say he is distant kin of the Victor himself! (True. Sir Valin is actually a distant relative of the Victor. That makes him crucial in Act Four.)

Event 3 - Dinner Date - The next night Tiadora meets the PCs at the docks and escorts them to dinner with Baron Arkov Vandermir(Half-elf Sorcerer 7/Aristocrat 3) at his mansion on Calliver’s Green. The house guards will collect any visible weapons from the PCs . An appropriate skill check will let the PCs know that the guard’s livery is a variant of ancient line of House Barca. After a few cocktails and hors d'oeuvres the Baron arrives, he’s a young and handsome half-elf. Looking in his eyes reveals a cruel and wicked man.

Greetings M’elf

The Baron has no love for Mitra or House Darius, his father was killed at Tamberlyn 80 years ago fighting alongside King Jarad of House Barca. But when given the chance to renounce Asmodeus he took it and later survived the purges of the mad king Markadian IV, he hasn’t lived over a century by being foolish and that is exactly what the PCs represent. Once dinner is on the table and the servants have cleared out his drops pretense.


“You come to me as beggars, the last remnants of a forbidden faith. You will promise me much, of that I have no doubt. But all that I am likely to earn from helping you is the inquisitor’s pyre. Tell me, why should I help the likes of you?”
The book offers two suggestions as to how this can go. First if the PCs roleplay and make some social persuasion skill checks they can convince the Baron to aid them. He hates House Darius and if the PCs can make a plausible case he sees the opportunity for revenge. Whichever PC does the best job persuading the Baron will become the liaison for the group. The other option is to murder the Baron is negotiations sour and use the iron circlets to impersonate him. Since he’s a well known figure in Farholde this will be a difficult ruse to maintain.
Assuming the PCs make nice with the Baron his friendship comes with a number of benefits. He’s currently the richest and most powerful man in the city and will aid the PCs, within reason. He can set them up with a safehouse, provide protection from most run-ins with the law, put them in contact with disreputable merchants in town and act as a negotiator for them if necessary.
The Baron will not directly help them in the search for the Horn or fight their fights. He’s cautious and will try to maintain plausible deniability if they are killed or captured.

Event 4 - Bird Law - After dinner with the Baron is concluded Tiadora informs the PCs that the White Ravens are arriving on another barge tomorrow. When the PCs meet up with the Seventh Knot Elise hides her fury at being an assistant to the party and immediately begins to plan how she can betray them and gain Cardinal Thorn’s favor. In the meantime she will “help” the PCs and presents this plan.


It is my intention in the next few months to have spies set up in every inn, tavern and anywhere else adventurers and explorers might congregate. When you do find the Horn of Abaddon, contact me. For those groups I can’t personally dispatch, I’ll send a messenger with any information I can gather.
This is a decent plan and will work out for awhile, as we’ll see soon, but also sets up the sudden but inevitable betrayal that only the most incompetent players will not see coming a mile away.

Event 5 - Finding the Horn - With all this preface and distraction done we get down to the true goal of Act I, finding the Horn of Abaddon. There is no set timeframe for the PCs to accomplish this but they know Cardinal Thorn wants it done ASAP. The Caer Bryr is a dense, dark, dangerous forest that few Talireans have ever entered or explored. In each generation though a foolhardy few do seek adventure and treasure in the Bryr, some even come back alive.
The Horn is only about 1-2 days horse ride away but it is hidden amongst similar stone spires in a temperate rainforest crawling with nasty creatures. Their predecessor Aiden Kael was an expert tracker and it took him several weeks to locate the Horn, but the PCs can save time if they find his room at a tavern in Farholde where a detailed map will show them the Horn’s location. If the PCs don’t find the map they will need to search the wilderness making Perception checks whilst dodging the hostile flora and fauna.

When the PCs do find the Horn they’ll need to deal with Jurak the Elder, a treant intent on keeping away the curious, a tribe of murderous Boggards, a damned Wraith and a pair of polite daemons. The first visit could be the last for the unwary.

Based on a real world thing

Eventually they will find the Horn of Abaddon and we can segue into Act II.

NEXT TIME: Grab that Horn by the Horn

Book 2 - Grab that Horn by the Horn

posted by LongDarkNight Original SA post

Way of the Wicked - Book 2 - Grab that Horn by the Horn

There is some disconnect between the end of Act I and the start of Act II. You end with the assumption of finding the Horn but Act II starts with the search, it's a weird blearing of the two parts. That said we can learn what the northern Caer Bryr is like and what dangers await the PCs. It’s a temperate rainforest (not unlike the Pacific Northwest where the publishers are located) full of giant trees and thriving with all manner of wildlife. The Lake of Skye feeds numerous streams that in turn the Salt Brack. This great brackish swamp is teeming with reptiles, amphibians and birds; it is also home to many boggard tribes, these disgusting frog people despise human and elf alike. The most prominent feature of the region are the stone spires that dot the region. Local legend holds they were carved by giants in time immemorial.

This is the GM map

Before we enter the Horn there are a few exterior encounters the PCs may have to deal with.

Event 1: Jurak the Elder
Long before the Victor destroyed the Cult of Vetra-Kali this self righteous pile of kindling was doing his best to hamper their activities. After the Victor’s triumph he charged Jurak (NG Treant CR 8) with defending the Horn against the return of evil. Fortunately for the PCs he’s not very bright and can be easily deceived. Or the PCs can murderize him. If not dealt with prior to the start of Act III he will do everything in his power to oppose the PCs once the Ritual starts. He can also summon his ally Calliaste Shanda (Event 3) who won’t arrive in time to save Jurak but will mess with the PCs later.

Better than bad, he’s Good
I enjoyed running Jurak as so helpful, friendly and stodgy that my players killed him just to stop the unwanted dadly advice.

Event 2: Rare Pepes
The base of the Horn is riddled with caverns and fetid swamp water, a tribe of Boggards, the Bane-Wogs, call these warrens home. They believe the Horn is sacred to their patron deity Dagon; they’re wrong, ain’t religion a funny thing.
The tribe is led by Kumanda Slays-Nine-Men (CE Boggard Barbarian 5), he’s got a sweet masterwork greatsword he took off a Farholde guard captain and controls the tribe by force in traditional Chaotic Evil fashion.

The other major player here is Zikomo Hears-the-Father (CE Boggard Oracle 4) a drug-addled shaman that spends most of his time preaching the good word about Dagon rising from the sea to kill us all. Praise be to Dagon!

These frog people can be brought to heel if the PCs slay Kumanda; if they do so Zikomo will declare them the new emissaries of “Father Dagon” and the tribe will serve them*. The cavern system can hold 32 Boggards and Zikomo will proceed to recruit more frog people to serve as (minions for the PCs, more on minions next time). Zikomo will help the PCs for a time but will ultimately betray them to serve Father Dagon. Chaotic Evil going to Chaotic Evil.

Event 3: Stupid sexy Snake Lady
Some time ago an Callista Shanda (CG Lillend CR 7) came to the Caer Bryr on an errand for her extraplanar overlord. She liked the place so much she stuck around and has ever since been a force for good in forest. In her centuries inhabiting the area she’s picked up a group of elven consorts (CG Fey Elf Ranger CR 2), male and female, that will fight alongside her. She is also good friends with Jurak the Elder and is in regular contact with him via speak with plants.
If Jurak stops responding she will assemble her crew and come looking for answers in a few days. If she finds evidence of Jurak’s death and of the evil PCs about doing evil things she’ll attack directly. The PCs will likely defeat her allies and drive her off; the lillend has an impressive array of spell-like abilities and can easily evade the PCs to revenge herself another day. Callista will find good adventurers in Farholde to support and guide towards defeating the evil menace at the Horn.
There is an alternate resolution though. If the PCs can make friendly contact with Callista and convince her that the humans in Farholde are responsible for the death of Jurak she will turn her rage against the city. She’ll eventually be defeated by the battle sisters from the Abbey. Score one for the bad guys turning the forces of good against each other.

With those side events out of the way let us actually seize the Horn of Abaddon. The Horn consists of five levels, 3 of which are accessible from the ground by a normal PC group. The top two require flight to get at from the outside but since the whole place is overgrown with vines they are unlikely to see these points on ingress. It's quite the fixer upper, approximately 14,000 square feet of of unholy real estate. This place will be the PCs fortress for the 222 days it takes to complete the ritual so as we explore we’ll get some history of the place and future opportunities. The GM advice make no bones about two things; first that NPC do-gooders will attack the Horn trying to disrupt the ritual, and second that the PCs will think of defensive measures not suggested by the authors. We also get a bonus XP chart based on the “Security Points” accrued by the PCs in coming up with ways to defend the Horn, smart PCs are going to want to find ways to improve the defenses of the Horn.

Lower Caverns

The lowest level of the Horn has become home to the previously mentioned Boggard tribe, the Bane-Wogs. It’s also the most likely point of entry for the Ninth Knot.

Level One

Level Two


Note: Casting any spell with the evil descriptor is impeded on this level until the Knight’s Shrine is desecrated. See 2-18 for details.

Level Three

The last leg of our journey before the PCs reach the unholy chambers at the peak of the spire. The 200 foot high spiral is well lit by sickly green continual flames, the walls are decorated with the daemonic end game of destroying the higher planes and their celestial inhabitants.

The Sanctum of Vetra-Kali

The Ritual
With the Horn explored the PCs will need to figure out how to complete their task from Cardinal Thorn, obtaining the super-plague known as the Tears of Achlys.


To perform the ritual the villains need eight components:
1) “The Dirges of Apollyon” (C13) -- This is the holy book that details the ritual.
2) 666 doses of unholy water (S-1) -- The statue of Vetra-Kali creates unholy water at will.
3) The Eye of Vigilance (C13) -- this jewel, restored to the statue, lets our villains scry (as the spell scrying) the entire Horn of Abaddon.
4) The Eye of Hatred (3-6) -- this jewel, restored to the statue, glows whenever a divine spell of Mitra is cast within the Horn.
5) The Withering Eye (2-19) -- this jewel, restored to the statue, desecrates the Horn (as the spell but for both undead and daemons).
6) a death priest or descendant (2-19) -- Halthus the Flayer, a petrified priest can be restored using stone salve (2-12). He has The Withering Eye in his pouch and can serve as the sacrifice. Failing him, there are doubtless other descendants of the “Sons” living in Farholde. The Baron could dredge up such a descendant if asked.
7) A devout follower of Mitra -- This is easy to acquire. Sister Marta Dian (of Hallack’s Crew -- Act 3, Event 2) or any of Harkon’s Hands (Act 3, Event 7) certainly count as do any number of nuns and priests in Farholde.
8) The bloodline of the Victor -- There is only one relative of the Victor in Farholde -- Sir Valin Darian, commander of the Hamarhall. Inside his castle he is a daunting target but he will in time come to our villains of his own accord(Act 3, Event 13).

We conclude with some advice from the authors on how the GM should handle the Ritual. The PCs should be concerned with defending the Horn but on your side of the screen it’s about pressure but not actually disrupting the Ritual. Not, that is until the final 5 days when a hell breaks loose and the PCs will face their greatest test yet. Once the first days worth of prayers is completed the Ritual should be treated as something going on in the background since we won’t be playing out every one of the 222 days of the ritual. The AP itself goes week by week
The Horn of Abaddon under their control the members of the Ninth Knot are now level 7. As every boy and girl knows 7th level is a very special time in an character's life. It’s when they can take the Leadership feat.

NEXT TIME: Fantastic minions and where to find them

Book 2 - Fantastic minions and where to find them

posted by LongDarkNight Original SA post

Way of the Wicked - Book 2 - Fantastic minions and where to find them

Get me all the cheetos from the WaWa

Having hordes of disposable, nameless henchmen is a staple of any villain’s career and WotW provides an optional sub-system for just that. Now the last thing needs is more sub-systems but bear with me here, I think this one is pretty good. Leadership has long been a vestige of 2nd Edition that designers refused to get rid of but didn’t have any clearly defined mechanics other than getting a pile of dudes and a cohort; leaving the player and GM to argue about how they can be used. The system presented here streamlines the process.

How do I build an Evil Organization?
Easy, step one is to take the Leadership feat. If more than one PC does so they can choose to form a council and pool their points to create a more powerful evil organization. Control of the organization will be shared so this may cause issues, the wicked aren’t known for sharing.

Next step, stats; this is d20 so everything has stats. Your organization stats map to the traditional PC stats. The scores range from -5 to +10 and are applied to all actions taken by your minions.

Ruthless - using violence to solve problems.
Secrecy - hiding your nefarious activities.
Survivability - the ability to weather adversity.
Connections - getting things done without violence.
Espionage - intelligence gathering capability.
Loyalty - measure of your minions devotion.

The scores will fluctuate over the course of the game but if any fall to -5 the organization is prevented from taking certain actions. In addition if either Survivability or Loyalty go to -5 your organization is destroyed or collapses.

All the scores start at 0 and when your organization is formed the PCs can spend points equal to their positive Charisma mod to raise the stats on a 1-to-1 basis. No stat can be raised above +4 when founding an evil organization. In addition every time the Master gains a level they can raise a stat by 1 and events in game will raise or lower the scores.

Last piece of bookkeeping is to determine the number of actions your organization can take each week using the chart below. The total number of actions is combined if the PCs have formed a council.
Level + Charisma Mod.                                     Actions per Week
            9 or less                                     0
            10                                            1
            11                                            1
            12                                            1
            13                                            2
            14                                            2
            15                                            3
            16                                            3
            17                                            4
            18                                            4
            19                                            5
            20                                            5
            21                                            6
            22                                            7
            23                                            8
            24                                            9
            25 or more                                    10
Now that we’ve made our evil organization what can we do with it? Any time you assign your minions a task it’s resolved by rolling 1d20 + relevant score. Shocking, I know. All these Action Checks are subject to critical failure or success. There’s some recommended DCs for actions but I suspect they aren’t based on any math so I’m not listing them here.
If your minions fail an action you can “Vader” the check and execute one of them to get a reroll, your organization takes a -1 to Loyalty.

The Action List
A sampling of the things you can use your evil organization to accomplish. The book encourages homebrewing additional actions, which we did. For the sake of brevity I’m only including the full text of a few.

Abduct Peasants (violent action): You need peasants (lvl 1-3 commoners) for your gruesome experiments or perhaps as monster chow. Roll a Ruthless Check.

Assassination (violent action): Your minions attempt to kill someone. Roll a Ruthless Check. Important NPCs are often immune to this action.
- Success: The target dies. -1 to Secrecy.
- Failure: The target does not die.
- Natural 1: The target does not die and minions are captured. -1 to Secrecy and Survivability.
- Natural 20: The target dies and it looks like an accident. +1 to Ruthless.

Criminal Enterprise (violent action): Your organization uses crime to acquire funds. Roll a Ruthless Check.

Frame Someone (skilled action): Your minions plant evidence to convince the law that someone is guilty of some unsavory crime. Roll an Espionage Check.

Gather Information (skilled action): Your organization tries to gather three random rumors (see page 9) or tries to answer three questions that might be known about town. Roll a Connections Check.

Grave-Robbing (violent action): Your organization violates graves to acquire corpses and skeletons for you. Roll a Secrecy Check.

Guard Duty: You assign your organization to guard a location for a week. This creates an encounter equal to a CR of the level of the highest level master -2.

Hunt Beasts (violent action): You order the capture of wild beasts to guard your base. Roll a Ruthless Check.
- Success: Roll 1d10. The minions catch:
1 - 1d3 Snakes, Venomous (CR 1)
2 - 1d3 Giant Spiders (CR 1)
3 - 1d2 Crocodiles (CR 2)
4 - 1d2 Snake, Constrictor (CR 2)
5 - 1d2 Giant Leeches (CR 2)
6 - 1d2 Giant Toads (CR 2)
7 - 1d2 Tatzlwyrms (CR 2)
8 - Giant Mantis (CR 3)
9 - Giant Scorpion (CR 3)
10 - Chupacabra (CR 3)
- Failure: Minions catch nothing.
- Natural 1: Monsters catch minions. Survivability -1.
- Natural 20: They catch a hydra (CR 4)

Indoctrinate: Your minions have grown quarrelous and forget their place. Teach them the meaning of obedience. Loyalty +1 up to a maximun of zero.

Lay Low: You organization keeps out of the spotlight for a while. Secrecy +1 up to a maximum of zero.

Legitimate Enterprise (skilled action): Your organization uses legitimate means to acquire funds. Roll a Connections Check.
- Success: Level*(1d4-1)*10 gp is acquired.
- Failure/Natural 1: no consequences
- Natural 20: Success and +1 to Connections

Recover: Your organization stays out of danger and focuses on recruiting new members. Surivability +1 up to a maximum of zero.

Spread Disinformation (skilled action): You organization tries to convince the populace of something isn’t true. Roll an Espionage check.

Torture Captives (violent action): Extract information from “guests” of your dungeon. Roll a Ruthless check.
- Success: You receive answers to three questions.
- Failure: No results.
- Natural 1: The prisoner dies (50%) or escapes (50%).
- Natural 20: Success and +1 to Ruthless.

Training (skilled action): Increase Ruthless, Competence or Espionage by +1 up to a maximum of zero.

Trap Building (skilled action): Roll a Connections check to fix a trap.

Trap Repair (skilled action): Roll a Connections Action Check to fix three traps.

Our homebrewed actions were:
Recruit Boggards (violent action): Your Banewog tribesmen recruit other Boggards from nearby tribes to join the holy mission of summoning Father Dagon. Roll a Ruthless check.
- Success: Gain ‘1d3-1’ Boggards.
- Fail: No effect.
- Natural 1: Lose ‘1d3-1’ Boggards.
- Natural 20: As Success and gain a special Boggard Minion with 1d3 Character levels.

Obtain Contraband (skilled action): Use your organization to obtain some item that cannot be procured legally. Roll an Espionage Check.
- Success: The item can be acquired in ‘1d3(+1, +0, -1)’ weeks.
- Fail: The desired item cannot be acquired for any price.
- Natural 1: Your inquires draw unwanted attention. -1 Secrecy.
- Natural 20: You find a source with no delay and +1 Connections.

Enhance Reputation (skilled action): You minions organize a whisper campaign in the underworld granting a bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy or Intimidate when appropriate. Roll a Loyalty check.
- Success: For the next week PC’s gain a +5 organization bonus.
- Fail: No effect.
- Natural 1: Your minions draw unwanted attention. -1 Secrecy.
- Natural 20: As Success and +1 Loyalty

Every month the organization is subject to some event with a range of consequences. GM rolls 1d20, this cannot be rerolled by the PCs executing a minion.

1: Disquiet in the ranks. Make a Loyalty Check.
- Success: Lose an action next week
- Failure: Desertions. All Scores -1.
- Natural 1: Assassination Attempt. The Game Master puts together a level appropriate encounter based around the fact that your minions want you dead.
- Natural 20: No penalties
2-6: No Events
7: Capable Leadership. Gain a bonus action next week.
8: Times are Hard. Your minions have suffered more losses than usual. Can they endure this time of trials? Make a Survivability Check.
9: Revealed! You are being hunted. Can they find your organization before it’s too late? Roll a Secrecy Check.
10: Recruitment Opportunity. Can you ever have enough minions? Make a Survivability Check.
- Success: Your ranks grow. Survivability +1.
- Failure/Natural 1: No effect.
- Natural 20: Rapid growth. Survivability +2.
11: Rumors and Whispers. -1 to Loyalty.
12: Your Organization is a Shadow. +1 to Secrecy.
13: Infiltration Opportunity. You have a chance to get an agent amongst your enemies. Are you sneaky enough take advantage of it? Make an Espionage Check.
14: Talkative Minion. -1 to Secrecy.
15: You Give Them So Much. +1 to Loyalty.
16: The Cause Grows. +1 to Survivability.
17: Turf War. Other criminal organizations try to take your turf. Can you defend what’s yours? Make a Ruthless Check.
18: Unnecessary Squabbles. -1 to Survivability.
19: A Caper. This job could make you rich if you can pull it off. Make a Connections check.
- Success: Level*1d6*100 gp. Connections +1.
- Failure: Bridges are burned. Connections -1.
- Natural 1: A massive blunder. Connections -1 and Secrecy -1.
- Natural 20: Masterfully done. Success plus Secrecy +1.
20: Rare Opportunity. You have a chance to really expand your power base. Make an Action Check of your choice.
- Success: Opportunity Seized! +1 to the score of your choice.
- Failure/Nat. 1: Opportunity missed. No effect.
- Natural 20: Success beyond your wildest dreams! +1 to all scores.

Using a Cohort
Per standard Leadership feat rules you also get a cohort. If all you PCs take Leadership this can quickly turn into a clown car so it’s good to choose just one NPC as your cohort and Grumblejack is a handy option. Assigning your cohort to go along with with your minions on a mission they can add an appropriate bonus to the action, for example Grumblejack’s +6 Strength bonus to violent actions. If the action fails and any Survivability would be lost the cohort must succeed at a Fort save or die. The bonus provided is huge but it would suck to have a senior henchman you’ve grown attached to die on single save.
(I didn’t like this section and completely rewrote it in the rules presented to my players.)

Recruiting Minions in Farholde
So where are all these disposable henchmen (and presumably henchladies) coming from? Presumably they are being recruit from among the orphans of the PCs made an alliance with Baron Vandermir. If not there are plenty of thugs in Drownington that can be recruited. In addition if the PCs take over the Boggard tribe in the Lower Caverns they can get a number of bonus “Boggard” actions based on the size of the tribe, maximum 4 actions per week. The Boggards are adept at violent actions but will take a -4 penalty to any skilled actions.

A few notes before we get back to unleashing some hell.

We’re jumping around a bit in this post since these two sections appear at the end of the book. The authors give some advice on troubleshooting problems that might arise during this part of the AP.

Some PCs may not want to summon a daemon; the whole Ritual and plan to unleash the Tears of Achlys is a terrible idea. Too bad, you signed a contract. If the PCs resist too much a visit from Tiadora can remind them they don’t have a say in the matter. A bit railroady but so much else about the AP is a sandbox I can forgive it.

Missing Components
There are a few essential items for the Ritual that the PCs may not find or obtain due to mistakes by the players or bad luck for the characters. The authors give some advice on what to do if C13 isn’t found or if the PCs accidently kill Halthus or Sir Valin Darin. None of these scenarios came up with my group but there are good suggestions for dealing with obvious situations that could derail the campaign.

Turtle, turtle
The PCs may also decide to seal up the lower levels of the Horn and try to grind out the Ritual by bunkering up in the Sanctum. If the lower levels are abandoned the various threats we’re going to meet in the next entry will clear out the lower levels and work to crack the defenses of the sanctum. They may even join forces and form a supergroup of adventurers, like some sort of Nick Cave and the Good Seeds, to take down our maltagonists. The book notes that many weeks of nothing leading up to a climatic onslaught is boring and potentially campaign ending. There are suggestions for problems that can arise if the PCs do turtle up to help break them out of their shell.

Now returning to our regularly scheduled programming and Act III

NEXT TIME: Evil, the long way around