Friday, January 30, 2015

WoTR: Purchases & Slavers Row (322,700gp spent)

This article is more to show the joys that a few crazy people can have spending way too much money worrying about trivialities of running a city, creating a festival and gaining population in the Pathfinder settlement of Drezen in the Worldwound.  Give me a heads up in the comments box if you're likely to do the same kind of expenditure lists as I have below.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

GM and Player Advice About GM Burnout

So awhile ago I discussed the differences between burnout and GM's block over here and defined a number of burn out causes over here, but I never ended up going over what a player or Game Master can do to prevent or reduce it.  Today, we'll look at exactly that.  Naturally my list isn't the Be All and End All of burnout prevention.  It is based on my opinions, biases and assumptions, so feel free to chime in with your own ideas.

This article focuses on those who are either teetering on the edge of burnout or who are currently struggling with burnout so it's not going to address player needs.   The GM is presumed to have expended all the effort they can at this point on Tasks With No End (i.e. adventure planning) so simply improving their technique in order to get a better response from their players isn't a viable option at this stage.

Lack of Work.
This can become a problem in comedic games where the rules are either simple (i.e. World of Darkness dungeon crawl) or the GM is expected to be a largely invisible force who sits back and occasionally administrates actions.  It can also be a problem if the players desire a romp through the pages of a bestiary in a simple dungeon while the GM wants to create clues, props and rich locations.  In short, the GM's boredom is driving their burn out.  My best recommendation here would be GM honesty while appealing to player consciences (and desire for further games) with a request to occasionally run one shot games that are more complicated.  Alternatively, the players could always recommend such an occasional adventure and put a lot of effort into taking it seriously even if they normally prefer Beer and Popcorn games.  A few sessions a year to the GM's preference can do wonders and the players may even find they look a few elements of a more complicated game - even if they are turned toward comedic effect.

Tasks With No End.
There's a lot of nitty gritty details that must be done by every GM.  There are descriptions, locations, pre-reading likely rules, running characters and keeping the players updated on the plot when they forget details between the sessions.  It's a good idea for the GM to look at tasks that could be handed off and do so to a player ... or better yet, for a player to offer to help.  At the one extreme, players could keep their own notes, level their own characters, track their own experience, manage their own handouts, sharpen their own pencils, and take turns with the dishes rather than relying on the GM's generosity.  At the other extreme where the GM simply runs really high effort games, it may be a good idea to either spread out the sessions so you have more time or have a few simpler sessions in between more complicated "Key" adventures.  On the plus side, people can be habituated to anything so if you go from a regular session to one with no holds barred, they'll be more likely to notice.

Impossible Tasks.
Some GMs also sometimes set themselves up to do massive undertakings - running 30 player LARPs single-handedly, running five campaigns a week which rely on pre-planning, or even doing both simultaneously!   If it's an impossible task, acknowledge it.  You have a long life to live.  Figure out what you want to do and pare down from there.  You won't do anyone any good if you cut five campaigns midway through.  Of course, if you could take that advice you probably wouldn't need to be reading this so I'll turn to the players instead and recommend that you do everything in your power to make things simpler for them and show your appreciation.  Few games require the players to do anything between sessions so it shouldn't be too much to ask that players do what was suggested in the above paragraph and maybe also bake the occasional snacks or offer to fetch the GM a drink when they get their own.

Problem Players.
Many GMs take on a player's problems as their own personal responsibility to solve. They convince themselves that they can do what highly paid and trained managers and consultants can't do to their paid employees ... change them to suit the role at hand.  A GM is not a trained psychologist and it's unfair on yourself to think that you are somehow a change guru.  Also remember that issues your players bring to the table may only be a problem for you, your game or your table.  It can be hard but if you are getting burned out by one of your players, you really are best off either politely excusing that player from your table or if that's not possible you could end your game for a few months and then create something different and invite other folks to game with you.  If the person in question queries why, you can truthfully state that you didn't think the game would suit their style.  As an example, if they are an avid dungeon crawler and you design a primarily political court game then they should understand even if they're not pleased with it.  If this would leave you with 2 - 3 players, well, there are plenty of games that suit a lower number.

Incompatible Demands.
Sometimes it seems that each and every player wants something different and those differences clash terribly.  Trying to integrate a player who adores gritty realism with someone who prefers thematic supremacy with someone who just wants to feel empowered and hit stuff can be difficult at best. Sometimes it just won't work. You can have an open conversation about the clashes but I've found that isn't effective because the players can't change what they want.  You could declare each session to focus on one player's desires but that often comes off as artificial.  I'd recommend cancelling the game and running a series of one shots that can each focus on a different style or getting a new gaming table.  You might be able to slowly get them all to appreciate each other's styles but if you're on the verge of burn out, you just don't have that much time.

Some Game Masters do all the paperwork, note taking, summarising, experience point tracking, damage tracking, rules tips and character sheet updates for their players. This might be because the players don't want to do it or because the GM thought they'd be helpful and took on too much extra work. If you're feeling burnt out, immediately stop these sundry tasks.  If your players don't note down exp, they probably don't value them highly and will live with the occasional loss due to forgetting to jot them down.  That's fine.  They'll live with it.  What they won't do is appreciate that the campaign ended and you've sworn off gaming for a year because you kept their exp tracks for them.  If you are a player, step up to the plate with this even if you hate keeping records.  Your GM will almost always appreciate it.

GM / Player Supremacy
There seems to be two major camps of roleplayers these days.  There are the old school folks who see the GM as a competitive God who must abide by certain rules while the players show their desperate appreciation.  On the other side you have folks who see the GM as a dutiful and grateful servant who should bow and scrape and be ever so pleased that someone deigned to let them spend a few hours a week preparing to entertain them.  Both sides are wrong.  GMs and players are people and often friends and that should be the focus of any interaction.  Be aware that even if the players understand that neither should be subservient to the others' needs, the Internet might be putting stupid expectations onto the GM (or inflating their ego to dangerous degrees).  Since GMs spend more time (generally) reading advice articles than their players, they're more prone to being messed with by these beliefs.  Besides all of that there is always an inordinate amount of pressure for the GMs to put on a show and though the pressure is normally invigorating, once burn out starts to set in that pressure becomes poison.

Meaninglessness of Achieved Goals
Once you get cynical, it's hard to find meaning in constantly being expected to freely provide entertainment for other people. There's no promotions, no pay rises, and no method of tracking your progress. Are you getting better or worse? Are your efforts all in vain?  Do the players even enjoy the campaign you have slogged over?  Regrettably effort doesn't guarantee reward and many a player will doggedly remain at a table even if they loathe the game simply due to a mixture of habit and friendship.  To make matters worse, burn out and cynicism makes stated goals of "give your players a fantastic time" seem all the more depressing.  What makes the players so special?  Why is no one slaving over me to give me a good time?  Why is the person putting in the most effort getting the least out of it?  These are the circular thoughts that creep up and eat away all good will the GM might feel toward the game and can poison the players' attempts to counteract the burnout with appreciation and congratulations.  Your best bet at this stage is to become a player for several months.*

*Many GMs become impatient with the lack of environmental control, lack of creative outlets for game design and lack of constant stimulation which comes with being a player.  In other words, for many GMs it can help counteract their jealousy and cynicism by helping them realise that being a player is not necessarily better but different.

Role Ambiguity.
This is not always a burn out causing problem but when it rears it's head it can be awfully depressing.  It most commonly occurs when your players don't seem to be enjoying the game, when your more exciting ideas frustrate them, or when the players themselves spend much of their time bickering or outright ignoring the game you set up.  Such a dysfunctional table can be the fault of mean-spirited or ignorant players or the fault of the GM themselves.  Sometimes it's just a clash of personalities at the table.  More rarely, the players just like to complain and are perfectly enjoying a campaign that nonetheless makes the GM miserable.  The ambiguity here is what responsibility the GM holds for such behaviours, whether they can (or should) attempt to fix it, and what the best route forward truly is.  I have no idea how to correct this once it crops up as I have spent a year trying to correct a dysfunctional table and had no success despite repeated entreaties to the players themselves.  In the end, it was probably the particular combination of players and expected campaign style that created the problem.

If you have too much to do, you become naturally exhausted by your efforts especially since your efforts at designing a great campaign very rarely translate to success in other areas of your life.  Excel at work and you may get a promotion or better job opportunity.  Excel at your home life and you get a great house and supportive family to spend your life with.  Excel in a campaign and you have a bubble of happiness for a few hours but may lose promotions, damage career options, alienate family and neglect home and garden.  Try to remember to keep all things in moderation and if the rest of your life is starting to back slide, it's worth taking a few weeks or months holiday from your hobby so that you can rescue everything else.  If you've managed to keep up with all of your responsibilities by sacrificing every scrap of Me Time, well, maybe it's time for you to take a break.

Truly Focused Player Advice
Social Support is one of the *biggest* methods of preventing or reducing burnout. This might mean putting up with the GM complaining about player antics and their lot in life (as problematic as that can be). It also means getting the GM to do non-GM-related things with you and the rest of the gaming group ... heading out to a movie, going to the beach, and hanging out with some pizza can all go towards helping the GM feel supported by their player base and comfortable in their company.  You don't want your friend to constantly see you as an effort, do you?  Bonus points if you can get the whole team together for this purpose.

Practical Support can also tie into this. This might mean providing the GM with a nice food treat, transport to the game site (if necessary), and purchasing and loaning game books at the table (to show you care and are willing to invest as they do).  Considering that many systems live and breathe with their supplements and that players love to use those supplements, purchasing one of said supplements is a really nice thing to do.  Bonus points if you literally give that supplement to your GM.  Yes, we're all poor but GMs aren't generally more wealthy than anyone else and it can really grate if too much of their own wealth goes into the game.  If you can't afford a full book, a module they would like to run or a game aid like an initiative tracking table or critical hit deck can work wonders.  Bonus BONUS points if you wrap it in bubble wrap for extra stress relief!

Game Support can target the actual irritants if the GM has real reason to get fed up with the game. This could mean tilting the game towards the GM's preferred genre (i.e. let your character get scared in that odd horror scene the GM loves; roleplay your heart out at the occasional political scene; really embrace the trap mechanics in their dungeon sprawl).  Or it could mean that you cut down (or increase) the out-of-character joking and chit-chat, especially in terms of listening to the GM.  Whenever your interrupt the GM's game-based descriptions and comments, you sideline half the table and make them repeat themselves.  Once or twice isn't so bad, but these things can become a terrible habit.  Keeping your own notes and actually reading them rather than relying on GM summaries also shows that you enjoy the game and helps cut back on the amount of GM investment.  Obviously, bringing lead pencils and dice and knowing what your sheet can do (or your friend's sheet if they are truly hopeless with the rules) can truly help as well.

Host Support is important because most GMs host the game for logistics purposes - they have all those books and potentially miniatures and hand outs, after all.  However that means they not only have the weighty and effortful GM role, but they also need to clean up and pack up as well.  While some GMs will look askance at the guests doing the dishes (never hurts to ask, though), you could certainly stack any used dishes, put away the dice, and put any trash in the bin.  This is especially wise if the GM isn't one to do housework as parents, spouses and flat mates will all be far more respectful toward your game if you don't leave the place a sty before you leave.  This will reduce the amount of flak your GM gets for running the game due to the extra work involved and you can never know when you could benefit from cashing in those brownie points!

HANDY TIP: Non-gamer spouses and parents, especially those responsible for housework, can generally be won over by sweets and treats as well.  If you bring over baked goods or crisps, remember to share with the rest of the household if you can.  Not only can the good will really help in terms of preventing random game cancellations but it's just a really nice thing to do.  Also make sure that you acknowledge said spouse / parents with a smile when you come into their home.  While not a common bad habit among players, guests who scuttle around and avoid eye contact tend to make people nervous.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

WoTR: Convincing the Churches, part 5

"I'm sorry.  We already donated at the office."
(Dragon Age Inquisition - quote mine)
Rellius, Archpriest of Asmodeus, is actually quite willing to assist against demonic incursions and will even happily set up, at the church's own expense, a cathedral within Drezen so long as he is convinced that they have a method to hold the city and so long as they can maintain that cathedral for 100 years (non-consecutive if the city falls again) and allow the Chelish to take command of any 10% treasure located by any army containing Chelish troops.  If they accept, they will gain two squads of Hellknights, twenty clerics and three armies of 100 Chelish soldiers.

ITEM OF INTEREST: He wears an elaborate wig (Judge's Wig) that grants a +4 bonus to Intimidate and Diplomacy checks as well as being able to scrutinise individuals with Discern Lies so long as they are within 30ft.

QUEST TO IMPRESS: None.  They just have to accept his terms.  If they negotiate firmly enough, he will drop the 10% rule to only those armies that have 50% Chelish troops.

The Seventh Church is the site where Iomedae called forth the Undenying Light, causing stars to shine through a terrible storm that was wracking Absalom. With torches and lanterns blown out, rain sleeting down in sheets, and waves cresting into the streets, on the night of that miracle a pack of sea-ghouls swarmed into the city. With the guard blinded in the darkness and communication by horn impossible, the ghouls ran roughshod through the city. Iomedae, still mortal, called for the Starstone to ask its brethren in the sky to light the city. The Cathedral of the Starstone glowed with blue fire, and the night stars shone rays of blue light through the clouds. The light pinpointed every ghoul in the city, and allowed Iomedae and other defenders to find and destroy them. This is the seventh of her 11 miraculous Acts, and the event is commemorated not only with the Temple, but with the Iomedaenne, a 10-foot statue of the goddess carved from red limestone thinly banded with sapphire.  Staffed with younger priests who are still in training, or very old priests who operate it as a form of retirement.  It is also a common destination for those so maimed, cursed, or aged as to be no longer sharp blades in Iomedae’s service, and who are fit mostly to train younger faithful.  The current head priest, Genedair the Faithful, is a human man in his early 90s. A hero of the Mendev Crusades, he now requires a staff and two young acolytes at his side to walk, though his mind remains as sharp as ever.

ITEM OF INTEREST: He wears a simple brass headband with a symbol of Iomedae that is a Headband of Ponderous Recollection (+2 Intelligence, skill bonuses can only be placed on Knowledge skills, swift action thrice per day to identify abilities and weaknesses as with a Knowledge check).

QUEST TO IMPRESS: Genedair is already impressed and eager to assist but he has provided all that he can.  If the PCs can arrange for access to a Teleportation Circle, they can speed up their assistance.
The Tempering Hall sits across the main street from the Seventh Church and is a training ground for Paladins of Iomedae and, by long-standing tradition, also those called by Abadar, Irori and Shelyn.  The Knight Lord of the Tempering House is Rochae Swiftblade, an experienced warrior who turned to Iomedae first as a cleric and only in the later years of his life as a paladin.  He can mention that there have been more paladins of Shelyn now than in previous years with three ready for creation.  There are 2d12 level 1 paladins ready for assignment.

Monday, January 26, 2015

WoTR: Convincing the Churches, part 4

Pharasmins embrace old age as a vital stage of life.

The church of Pharasma sits at the entrance to one of the great graveyards of Absalom. An elderly half-elven woman known as High Priestess Khallease wears a hooded, robe-like dress, and has a surpassingly youthful voice. She is rumoured to be a beautiful and young woman, perhaps an everlasting beauty, but who covers up her appearance so that she would not be distracted by seducers. She is concerned about the Worldwound as it is renowned for waylaying souls -- as are the succubi -- and wishes to see the Fallen and other undead released to return to their place of origin. She is particularly interested in seeking information on the druids who gave themselves to undeath in place of allowing demonic control.
ITEM OF INTEREST: The Pharasmin wears a Spectral Shroud - a thin bleached cloth over her chest and torso, that allows her to see invisible or ethereal creatures and once per day become invisible for 10 rounds with a fly speed equal to half speed.
QUEST TO IMPRESS: The church has no ban on resurrecting the dead so long as they are brought back via appropriate channels - i.e. resurrection or raise dead. If the PCs promise to investigate the rumour of the undead druids and their ritual sacrifice, slaying one and bringing it back for conversation, she will give them 1d6 level 5 Pharasmin clerics to assist in the creation of respectful funeral rites that will prevent return from the dead in Drezen. She will provide one Oil of Life from her collection to resurrect the druid. If the PCs think of it themselves and make a Diplomacy DC 30 check, she will come with them as part of her sacred duty to lay them to rest.

The Desnan High Priestess Elifteneal, a gnome, has Greater Teleport once per day and can send people to the Worldwound for a week or two if it is so arranged.  Desna, herself, seems to have taken an interest in the Worldwound and many dreams are always touched by it.  When the PCs arrive at the Desnan Temple of Dreams in a Petal District Park, which is actually managed by a variety of locals and wanderers, rather than any established clergy, they will learn of her interest in assisting them but she isn't there at the moment.  They need to track her down if they want her free teleports.

ITEM OF INTEREST: She wears a brightly coloured Mitre of the Hierophant which she uses to commune with Desna to learn further information and gain greater guidance.  She also wears a colourful Prophet's Pectoral with graven star-patterns and sacred stones that increases her chance of success with augury, divination and contact other plane by 1d6 and allows her to ask on additional question with commune each time.

QUEST TO IMPRESS: Elifteneal is an easy sell on assisting the Worldwound as her deity has told her how dangerous it is for Golarion so all the PCs need do is ask and if she can assist them she will.  All you need do is make several consecutive Gather Information and Perception checks to locate her.  She is happy to teleport 14 people into Mendev or Drezen per day but will only be here for another ten days (equal to 140 free teleports).

Scion Lady Seria Holden, Divinity Mage of Nethys, runs both hot and cold and is to a certain extent manic and driven by her investigations into a variety of partially taboo spells.  She is said to know every first, second and third level spell known to Golarion, but this is likely a lie.

ITEM OF INTEREST: She wears a Magician's Hat that allows her to shift her Metamagic feat from one prepared spell to another.

QUEST TO IMPRESS: The church of Nethys would be intrigued only by the potential for powerful forces of magic, such as the Weapon in the Rift and the Purity Forge.  So long as they may examine the various relics involved (such as the Weapon in the Rift if you have played through that).  The PCs can gain 1d6 level 5 mages eager to investigate the two artefacts.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fantasy RPG Realism & Patriarchal Norms

One thing I am tired of hearing about in the average fantasy game is how the subordination of women in fantasy world building is realistic and therefore here to stay.  I get it for medieval tales, I get it for certain fantasy tales, but what I don't see is why I have to deal with it in the grand majority of tales.

Why do I have to confront the reality that for the majority of world history my gender has been a second-class citizen, limited not just by the practicalities of birth and child rearing (which would limit soldiering among some women) but by the prejudice of the world itself?  Childbirth doesn't prevent women from being brave, being leaders or mages, either, and a world with magic could be a world with contraception and lowered infant mortality rates anyway so it could more easily become a society similar to our own.

But logistics aside, would you feel equally comfortable turning to a black player and saying: "Well, since this fantasy game is in a predominately white setting, you have to play a slave because that's only realistic?"

No, you wouldn't, because the implication there is that the natural place of a black person is as a slave and to countenance any alternative would be a misconception.  Yet we quietly happily churn out book after book, tale after tale, RPG after RPG, where we ram that thought down the throats of female consumers:
"If you were in this world, you would be thought inferior.  No matter where you went.  No matter what you could do.  No matter how many variety of magical spells a woman can cast ... men will always think themselves superior to women and look on in shocked surprise when a woman proves to have her own opinions."
Again, I have no problem with what people play at their own tables.  Both men and women enjoy playing with a variety of subjects, chauvinism and misogyny being one of them, but it is painful when the majority of texts pretty much say that it is the natural and ordinary state for women to be powerless and forced into a narrow section of roles.
What prompted this rant?
Why, Pathfinder Tales!  Although Pathfinder novels are exceptionally well-written with strong female lead characters, I've noticed that the grand majority of them are bereft of any minor female roles of note.  Many describe the soldiers, guardsmen, leaders and aristocrats as men and when the adventurers are led into the village they find women hanging out the washing and gossiping among themselves. 
Okay, that alone can be understood.  Child rearing does make it harder to be a soldier, though a complete lack of female soldiers indicates a law rather than a likelihood, but then you meet the leaders of these towns and villages and you find them to all be men.  Occasionally there's even comments about not wanting to stay behind with the women that the lead female has to roll her eyes and grit her teeth at.
This just really upsets me because the Adventure Paths have been so inclusive of women while touching on issues of sexism in just a few countries.  Now I have to look at huge swathes of Avistan and know that my female PC would be seen as an abnormality.  And people wonder why I prefer playing male PCs!
The Winter Witch shows how the Realms of the Mammoth Lords tribes are mildly matriarchal with a leading woman over an otherwise egalitarian tribe and this is shown as a counterpoint to both Irrisen (whose leaders are women though I don't know the norms of the general community) and the Varisians (where the women all seem to be flirty dancer types and the caravan guards are all men).  Korvosa, which is predominately Chelish colony, actually seems to give women more options than native Varisia.
Certainty (web fiction) explicitly states that the women stay back from the front lines of Mendev, by and large, because of the Worldwound, and though women are not in a subordinate position and while this makes more sense than most other options (since the Worldwound can taint your offspring with demonic essence), it still adds one area where you don't get to see the average woman in a cool light.
NOTE: The Worldwound Gambit turns this on its head by having powerful female Sarkorian barbarians, a female assassin offered inheritance rights over her older brother because of her father's preference with mention only of age-based inheritance, and a general mix up of male and female characters in both major and minor positions. 
Plague of Shadows has only two named female characters that I recall off the top of my head - a jealous baroness married to the victim and a barely seen shadow priestess.  All other characters - from troops to grey gardeners - were men.  I can't recall if any of the important VIP corpses were women, but I don't believe so.  The leader of the elven community and his troops were all men and his daughter appear to have no real skill.  The desire to have a son and heir was mentioned relating to Brevoy and the Brevoy-based baron's son refused to stay back because his pride wouldn't allow him to stay back with the women (never mind that there were two male soldiers and a single woman looking after the horses).
Master of Devils plays with some of the assumptions in Tien with a couple kick ass female paladins and other powerful female folks, but isn't very clear on general gender relations since while the monastery seems to be populated by men, that could likely be an artefact of sensible gender segregation among those who need to focus.
Song of the Serpent is one of the worst for all of the guards and miners met in Druma are male; mission involves a Kalistrade noble sending a man out to collect his daughter back; all dwarven soldiers, leaders and minors are men while women are only seen to be cheerfully raising kids; and the only named female character is a spoiled princess trope.
Nightglass, on the other hand, shows an egalitarian Nidal.  Chelish chauvinism is visible in the mining "boom town to be" with the jobs taken by men and women while the Strix are seen to be egalitarian.  Cheliax has always been noted as chauvinistic, which is funny because compared to the other books they seem far more progressive than several other nations with an important female wizard wielding real power.
The Crusader Road involves an Ustalavic noblewoman settling in the River Kingdoms and though there is a little shock at the fact the lady was taught how to slay monsters by her husband, that could very well be because nobles aren't supposed to do that sort of thing.  People quickly learn to ensure everyone is trained to fight and there's no comments about it being unwomanly to take up a bow or a sword.  Needless to say, I liked it.
Now, take any one of these books in isolation and I will agree with you that I am over reacting, but with each book I read I find that the places in Golarion where I can safely imagine myself to be an equal member of society is slowly slipping away.
So if we go by the books descriptions we have the gender relations thusly:
Patriarchal: Cheliax (less so than the others on this list), Brevoy, Galt, Five King Mountains outpost, Kyonin outpost, Varisia, Druma.
Unknown: Tien (unclear gender relations), Ustalav (unclear).
Egalitarian: Mendev (dependent on author), Nidal, Realm of the Mammoth Lords, Irrisen, River Kingdoms (implication that most towns would end up this way).
I am about to read The Wizard's Mask and learn the author's take on Molthune and Nirmathas.  Fingers crossed that they won't be bastions of masculinity like all these others!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

WoTR: Convincing the Churches, part 3

I always imagined that even clerics of Erastil have a kind
of down-to-earth and homely feel to them.
Father Mateo is determined to defend his city and is assisting people in Absalom to create, well, fall out shelters basically.  They are not a wealthy church, however, and have little to add to the war effort - a fact that is obvious to any who see the cozy set of five cottage-like temples.  He works with Malifa Sevan to create Halos of Inner Calm at cost to help her forge the tieflings into a community.  He will argue against other churches and royals donating much to the Mendevian crusade, preferring they turn their efforts to the problems facing those within their own city.  Due to this, he's actually a problem for the PCs.

ITEM OF INTEREST: He wears a Cap of the Free Thinker (looks much like a ranger's cap) to ensure that he always makes decisions free of influence.

QUEST TO IMPRESS: They need to convince him that the trouble in Mendev will affect Absalom and they can't do that until after they have exposed one of the demon's plots within the city.  Once they have done that, they will find 1d4 clerics who have no children and 1d8+2 lay members (generally the spouses and parents of the clergy) who will move to Drezen so long as they may stay in a secured location (i.e. barracks or the castle).  This will automatically upgrade the existing Erastil shrine (mentioned in Demon's Heresy) into a temple.  If the PCs are eager to redeem tieflings and other cultists in the Worldwound, then they will gladly help with this and each pair of worshippers will each adopt a tiefling orphan if such people exist in your game.
Vroclaw of Brevoy, High Priest of Abadar, Advisor to the Primarch is a stout human fellow who sees Mendev as fully civilised and the Worldwound as a lost venture -- though he would be willing to concede that a further ring of Wardstones needs to be built he imagines that the sheer quantities of money already funnelled to Mendev must be being misused if it hasn't found an answer yet.

On the other hand, Jostlin Ferqyr, human Keeper of the Vault of Abadar, is a level 15 human cleric of Abadar from the Ivy District who is predominately in charge but who is currently finding Absalom's needs rather dull.  She works within a tall, soaring building that is a marvel of engineering genius of polished obsidian made of levels slightly skewed from the one below it and then again with the level above that in the opposite direction to give an impression of a precariously perched building.  

ITEM OF INTEREST: Jostlin Ferqyr wears +2 ghost touch full plate mithral armour edged with gold and has a rather ceremonial light crossbow and a rather delicate Bracelet of Bargaining half-fused to the armour (+5 to Bluff, Diplomacy and Sense Motive checks) and can detect deceit when shaking on a deal.

QUEST TO IMPRESS: While Faldirr Makul will only provide a few lay priests (1d4) and a low ranking cleric to establish a bank / chapel in Drezen (at the expense of Drezen's coffers and only if sorely pressed), Jostlin Ferqyr desires to make her mark on the world and she's willing to take a gamble with her own considerable funds so long as the PCs can provide her with a secure location and some builders to forge a secure temple of Abadar soon as she arrives.  She will bring a Lyre of Building which halves construction times in my game.  She will arrange for a score of paladins from the Brotherhood of Abadar to accompany her and defend the temple.  During the sixth book, this temple will become a sanctuary for a number of nearby builders.

Hirkral Karktek, High Priest of Torag, is in charge of the church but to meet him you need to first convince Durkir Delgleam of your intent and need (unless you are also a dwarf).  Durkir Delgleam is a worshipper of Torag, and paladin, who takes care of the church built into one of Absalom's curtain walls.  He wears a long, well-used smithing apron and carries a hammer, working in the forge when considering any new possibility.  The temple around him is circular, built around the main forge.  He considers the Mendevian Crusade a vital one but sees greater importance in preparing an evacuation plan for the dwarves to Jormurden.

ITEM OF INTEREST: He wears Engineer's Workgloves that grant a +5 to Craft and Knowledge checks that also allows him to touch an object and understand how it works once per day.

Hirkral Karktek, High Priest of Torag, is interested in rumours of a dwarven Sky Citadel Jormurden, thought to be in old Sarkoris, in the Wolfcrags in the northwest of the Worldwound's Frostmire region.  He has heard tell that the Pathfinders have found the location, or rumours of it, which is thought to be located almost entirely underground with subterranean chambers filled with still-functioning traps.  They could raise quite a lot of gold and troops to re-take such a place and could lend forth an army but only if such an investigation is assured and mounted within 6 months of their arrival.  Three 300 person level 2 dwarven fighter armies and one 100 person level 3 dwarven fighters will arrive within 1d6 months to assist Drezen, Kenabres and the surrounding farmland.  These individuals can double as builders when not deployed.

College of Mysteries (Extra Option)
Brythen Blood, known as the painted man due to his plethora of tattoos, is 16th level sorcerer who stands as High Curator of the College of Mysteries in the Petal District.  The PCs will be invited to the college to wow them - inviting them foremost into a giant dome of arcane fused gemstone run by the Assembly of Enigmas.  He is interested in arranging for special lectures from leading arcanists, demon hunters and engineers from the Worldwound.  If the PCs can either arrange this or even manage the lectures (DC 30 check in any Knowledge skill), they can tweak the interest of 1d6 students per lecture (lectures take up an entire morning or afternoon).  A successful Perform, Diplomacy or Bluff check can also boost interest in any items that will be up for auction and increase their auction value by 15%.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

WoTR: Convincing the Churches, part 2

A typical Gorumite ... veteran soldier.
(Dragon Age Inquisition)
The Chief Priest of Gorum is a half-orc woman called Victa who had her position largely inflicted upon her by a rakish tiefling who finds her easy to manipulate into being somewhat of a symbol.  In fairness, the half-orc certainly has her god's favour.  The temple looks like a citadel in miniature with a simple shrine inside that is a pile of rocks with a helmet and blade set atop.  The Gorumites would be willing to go to the Worldwound but they can't be bothered taking such a long journey and there aren't many of them in the peaceful city -- most belong to mercenaries hoping to be hired.

ITEM OF INTEREST: The bare-chested half-orc wears bracers of armour so that she can show off her chest while still protecting himself.

QUEST TO IMPRESS: Win three fights with an epic sense of poise against folks such as three different CR 8 individuals (Axe Dancer Monk, Glaive Ranger Barbarian, and Street Artist Bard from NPC Codex) and do an epic speech or other inspiring performance to finish it off.  They can net the trio for Drezen if they win with style, panache and honour - especially if it's one against all three.  Then put up a Notice of Hire on the Gorumite's Church Board.  They will then be approached  by mercenary companies happy to travel to the Worldwound for 10,000gp per month per level 3 25 person human fighter army or 25,000gp per month per level 3 50 person cavalier army.

The salon is a bright, well-kept building constructed in the columned style of classic Azlanti temples with extensive reliefs that wrap the upper levels of the salon’s exteriors, depicting dozens of comely humanoids engaged in enthusiastic, acrobatic, and creative forms of promiscuity while wasps buzz around the rooftop gardens that produce a type of honey that can be turned into mead that is highly prized.  The property itself is primarily staffed by elves and half-elves with a smattering of other races included - such as tieflings.  There's also a set of public baths within it.  Dyrianna of House Avenstar is Head Hetaera of Calistria and Consul of the Courtsean's Guild, who is a stunningly beautiful half-elf who found her way out of slavery at a sin pit in the Coins 20 years ago, Dyrianna has come from literally having nothing to being one of the great powers in the Ascendant Court. She has been adopted into the powerful Avenstar House of elves, taken control of the prostitutes and through them the whole salon, and recently bought controlling interest in the city’s Courtesan’s Guild (regulating paid companions who neither work on a stage nor walk the streets). 

ITEM OF INTEREST: She wears a circlet of persuasion upon her head made of gold and onyx wasps chained together.

QUEST TO IMPRESS: Dryianna has little interest in the Worldwound but she has lived a rather boring and jaded life over the past few years and is willing to get swept up in the excitement of the situation if someone makes a Diplomacy 25 check.  Naturally she will then want to discuss it over dinner and should they manage to remain interesting - with Diplomacy 25 or appropriate Perform checks - she will provide some useful political "rumours" and even mention the Halo of Inner Calms currently being developed by a pauper tiefling, Malifa Sevan, which might be helpful.

POTENTIAL QUEST: Depending on your players comfort levels and your own personal interest, you could rule that the Silken Veil brothel in the Petal District mission draws her attention and agreement.  They can ensure that any goods sold in Absalom become so popular and hyped up that the PCs get full market value from them.

The church of Irori sits beneath the Gladiatorial Arena and is where the true Irorians practice and spar against each other.  It is a sprawling complex that features rooms for prayer, sleep and exercise.  Sathu Yzia Iron-Palm is the high priestess of Irorium in the Foreign Quarter of Absalom. Ganfen of House Kethlin, shrewd businessman, runs the gladitorial arena above ground and coaches important figures to fame and fortune.  The Arena is a 200-ft high structure built on the top of a hill with a 10-acre central stage and along the outer wall stand 33 stone statues of famous warriors that stand 150ft tall.  There is a main gate and four side gates with a sixth reserved for performers and workers.  The seats are divided into lowest (field seats) for VIPs, lower middle tier (Mezzanine seats) for the rich, upper middle tier (terrace seats) for those willing to pay a few silver coins, and the highest seating of wood seats in the grandstand is either cheap or free.  The actual followers of Irori lay within the vaulted chambers beneath the monastery.

ITEM OF INTEREST: Many of their worshippers wear Monk's Robes of various designs.

QUEST TO IMPRESS: Beating the champion in the arena (Swift Brawler, NPC Codex or other level 12 Monk) will single-handedly will win a pool of 36,000gp which has been steadily added to over the years as it costs 1000gp simply to compete.  One can also put in a gamble on the fight itself - 1 in 16 odds (add 10 per level's difference).  The maximum winnings via the gambling method is 108,000gp (so a 3000gp potential loss if they are level 10).  The Irori arena specialists can get a vague idea of HD by using an arteact to detect whether you would be affected by a Sleep or a Deep Slumber spell. Actually connecting with the Irori church requires one to not only win one of these bouts but to behave in such a way fitting of a worshipper to draw notice (or simply already knowing who to approach).  The church can offer training to monks but little else other than burgeoning respect in the community.

Monday, January 19, 2015

WoTR: Convincing the Churches, part 1

How I imagine Sarenrae or Shelyn clerics may look
(Dragon Age Inquisition)
If you're going to raise money for the Worldwound, you might as well have fun doing it.  Here are a few representative NPCs from a few of the Absalom churches that your PCs might like to contact.  After all, nobles are best found in soirees.  Clerics are best met in their churches, ideally with lay members and other clerics around so that they're reminded of their duties. 

Saphira, Lady of Intemperance of Cayden's temple, is a Varisian who runs the wooden meadhall in the Ascendant Court district.  She is pretty rough and ready, eager to throw off the chains of lawful oppression, and finds paladins rather irritating in their arrogant sincerity.  She's certain that should the Worldwound become any more than a local blight, she would have seen the signs in her faith.  She takes Cayden's silence on the matter as proof positive that Iomedae has it all squarely in hand.

ITEM OF INTEREST: She wears Daredevil boots that shimmer in vibrant shades of blazing red and burning orange that would allow her a +5 bonus to move through enemy's squares without provoking attacks of opportunity for up to 10 rounds per day and grants her a +1 bonus to strike those whose squares she's passed through - necessary for a pub owner.

QUEST TO IMPRESS: The Brazen Clutch (Dragons Unleashed) are in the Marketplace in the Coins, ready for sale.  One has already been sold to a Paracountess Helis Merciel (some advice in this post).  Saphira won't expect the PCs to free them but she will idly mention it as an example of how Absalom needs the help of her clerics most of all.  If they do free them, she will allow them to make a speech or give a DC 20 performance or diplomatic speech in the mead hall to rouse 1d6 adventurers + 1d6 for every 5 by which they beat the check.  Multiple characters can make individual rolls rather than simply aiding another, should they choose.
High Priestess Eleena Woodsong is a brisk female half elf 11th level cleric from the Shrine of Shelyn who is struggling to find beauty in the rather petty and cutthroat world of Absalom.  The Ivy District shrine is a garden of oaks, embraced by carefully cultivated and pruned rose bush vines, that surrounds a pristine pool often filled with swans.  Above the pool floats a single rose that changes colors with the seasons (white = winter, yellow = spring, fiery orange = summer, rust red = autumn).  There are benches around the clearing often occupied by lovers while artists and musicians sell their wares or practice their art around them.  The clerics tend the plants, offer suggestions to artists and provide advice to couples.  Marriage ceremonies are often conducted here so long as the love seems pure.

ITEM OF INTEREST: Simply to aid in her frequent appointments, Elena Woodsong wears Getaway Boots forever attuned to her shrine so that she can head out and then as a full-round action return to her temple as though by teleport.

QUEST TO IMPRESS: Eleena Woodsong has watched a number of performers go missing when they didn't pay their tithes to Alain Always.  She wants to know what happens to them.  If the PCs choose to take up this quest, they can either bait him by themselves appearing to be an upstart performer or through using spells such as Detect Thoughts while others are talking to him.  Alternatively they can simply tail him and watch him make arrangements to have non-tithe-paying performers rounded up on petty charges and held until the next Statue Street run.  Such performers are released last so that they are least likely to escape the gorgon.  Revealing this crime to Eleena or, better yet, to the general public, will net Eleena's support and she will encourage a multitude of performances about difficulties in Mendev - raising the values made at auction by 10%.

Scion Lady Xerashir of House Shamyidd, Bey of Sarenrae, can most often be found after her dawn prayers at the Temple of the Shining Star and while she is willing to listen she states that there are evils everywhere - pointing from slavery to plague to rumours of the Whispering Tyrant's continued influence in Ustalav.  Their resources are thin and moving her clerics from this place, needed as they are, to die on the open fields holds little value to her.  Her church has several open air healing pavilions and she is willing to allow them the chance to speak with the various clerics but will send word ahead, sullying the crusade's name, as she fears losing too many of her own on a hopeless cause. 

ITEM OF INTEREST: She wears a slender silver bracelet worked in an intertwined design of three flowers that can be identified as acacia, apocynum and bilberry that symbolizes concealment, treachery and falsehood.  It's a Seducer's Bane bracelet.

QUEST TO IMPRESS: She can be shamed by signs and stories of obvious redemption such as tiefling PCs and would be intrigued enough by the idea of the Purity Forge that she will enlist a small band of Sarenrae's faithful (10 individuals, only 2 clerics) to discover the secrets of the forge so that it can be used elsewhere.  For each major NPC the PCs have managed to redeem (or tales of groups of NPCs redeemed), she will throw in a shipment of enough cure light wounds potions to serve a medium sized army (or one army thrice) that will take three months to arrive as she becomes hopeful of what will soon come.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Plot Seeds For The Fallen

Found some of my old adventure ideas for my Demon: the Fallen campaign lying in a drawer.  Figured I should write them up and post them, thus relieving my drawer of its duty to hold onto them.  It also reminded me that I never finished updating the lore descriptions.  Silly me.

The fallen have finally gotten into a position of power and prestige when their old boss starts knocking.  He was low enough in the good old days that he's able to possess a host but the Fallen will need to select a suitable one and perform and determine the ritual's exacting requirements.  Accomplishing this feat will net them further prestige, but are they willing to cause a person's death to do it?  And more importantly, will their old boss feel conflicted feelings over his own host's death?

Those who are aware of the fallen are starting to become suicidal.  At first it's only hunters or other annoying figures, but after awhile it's loved ones as well, even thralls.  The PCs first become aware of it when one person approaches them and says: "You have the power to help us but you won't do it, will you?" before stepping into traffic.  Each has a loss or issue they have fixated on which they can see the Fallen powers as being a real solution - Wilds for famine, Realms for lost loved ones, Awakening or Flesh for cancer.

A superior in their faction or ministry wishes to study other supernatural creatures and demands that the PCs first obtain such a specimen, by violence or by guile, and then assist her in her experimentation.  The experiments aren't necessarily cruel, but they are callous, and the PCs are as likely to find a kind (or at least reasonable) specimen as a cruel one since supernaturals tend to lose morality and gain power over time and the weaker ones are more easily found and captured.  Can they do it?  Can they find another way?

A magical society seeks to exploit the demons they summon to drain them of their essence to fuel their rituals.  The First Preceptor of the Star Catchers has put out this tome as bait for Fallen - listing details from pre-history that will cause the Fallen to investigate one at a time.  The magic on the tome, however, also pulls true name syllables from readers and sends the information to the seven high priests.  Eventually the reader will succumb and be summoned to a hidden cell where they will be bound in a circle and drained of their essence until they are dissipated into nothingness.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Village Backgrounds Resources

Raging Swans has produced a pair of beautiful .pdfs with some quality two-page spreads on a dozen different villages including lovingly hand drawn village maps.  I don't often do reviews but these are beautifully done and at the moment a chunk of them (32 pages) are absolutely free!  Many of the villages have enough cute touches that you could use them as a launching pad (or a breather) for your campaign without being so overwhelmed with plots that you feel compelled to have the PCs remain there for the long haul.

You could drop these villages into any Pathfinder campaign and though it seems they focus on Pathfinder products, I don't see anything that would prevent them from being used in other settings and systems since they're pretty low on stats and high on ideas.  They have Village Backdrops I and Village Backdrops II currently available on

WoTR: Dangerous Quests in Absalom

Sometimes you just need to see things burn in a game.
(Dragon Age: Inquisition)
Since there's only so much time the average player can spend wining and dining church representatives, it's only right and fair to include a few other groups that can add an extra twist and a bit of flavour to the proceedings.  Absalom is a rich and twisted city in its own right.  Why go there if you don't get to partake of some of the city's strangeness?  We'll look at "Convincing the Churches" in later instalments but it's a good idea to take a look at the more "eventful" things you can throw at them so that you can consider where they could best fit.  These are quite handy quest ideas and adventures you can use to punctuate all of the politicking and ensure that the players have a little more to do than simply talking to people.

Tiefling Community
Malifa Sevan is a tiefling civic leader who is struggling to establish a sense of community.  My version of Malifa has her as a Motherless (Qlippoth born) who is quite hideous to behold with green screen and wriggling tendrils hanging off her chin.  Malifa Sevan is trying to develop Halos of Inner Calm which she can arrange to be made at the base cost of 8,000gp per device as described or a weaker version that lacks the Spell Resistance option and simply provides the bonus to saves.  These are a very useful, if pricey, way of equipping and soothing captured tieflings to speed up their redemption. 

Unfortunately, a small gang of evil tieflings has taken offence to their existence and has killed the five different individuals that she managed to assist so far.  If the PCs can take out that gang, she will let them keep the halos (which she figures is likely kept among their stash) as a sympathetic gnome workshop have decided to make replacements free of charge and she doesn't want to risk their motivation by receiving the halos now.  So long as they go to tieflings in need, she will be happy.

Statue Street
For the past 700 years, the Office of Prisons runs a competition to pardon nonviolent offenders (thieves, addicts, and debtors).  Such offenders are released into a barricaded street with an angry gorgon following them. If they escape, they are pardoned.  If they fail, they remain as statuesque decorations on the street.  Visitors to the street with find a few decorated with flowers from loved ones who still come to see them.  

The statues can often be purchased as a fundraiser for the government or for various charitable endeavours.  The statues are worth between 25gp to 250gp depending on the uniqueness, attractiveness and positioning of the statue.  A suicidally depressed male aasimar (Vulpinal traits) called Alexis can often be found tending to the statues or even talking to them.  He knows many of their stories and can help direct people to the good, the fair and the heroic.  Purchasing the statues, of course, is easy but would require a spell to return them to humanity.

There will be another run through Statue Street this very week and the Office of Prisons refuses to release any petty criminals to Mendev when this very important and august occasion is upon them.  While none of the good clerics enjoy this day, the Churches of Pharasma and Sarenrae are most disgusted by the loss of so many individuals to a fate that allows no death.  If the PCs are willing, either of those churches can arrange for them to be thrown into jail as vagrants and petty thieves, ensuring that they will reach the street.  There they can take on the rampaging bull and slay it, ensuring that the festival must end for at least a year while they source and transport a new gorgon.

While this will gain them some political enemies, if the fight is impressive enough the good individuals in the crowd can easily sway the rest to raucous applause.  It also isn't illegal for the petty criminals to fight for their lives though they will have no armour, spell component pouches or protective items, though casters might gather up items in the street (sand, spiders, etc.) with a successful Perception check and divine symbols of lawful or good gods may be brought to their final moments.  This will increase the CR by 2 or more depending on the party composition - natural attacks and monks will be very useful here though unlikely to be a part of the Wrath of the Righteous Campaign.

The Brazen Clutch
Dragons Unleashed
Take one brazen clutch of brass dragon wyrmlings from Dragons Unleashed (Pathfinder supplement), place in the Coins Grand Bazaar as they aren't protected by anti-slavery legislation (which prevents the sale of intelligent humanoids and native outsiders anywhere but in Misery Row) and give the eldest wyrmling to the Paracountess Helis Merciel and you've plenty of room for rivalry.  The brass wyrmlings can either offer their services in Drezen (though they're too weak to help with the Worldwound) as morale boosters or they can be spirited out of the country by a helpful good church, depending on your needs.
Hall of Drunken Heroes
Pathfinder Society Adventure

You can basically run the adventure straight out of the book, if you like, and have the Gallu, Fennix, unaware of the succubi's desperate acts to rescue her lover.  Why should you have him be unaware?  Why, because drawing attention of demons in Absalom will only make the nobles there more likely to lend aid against the Worldwound so the Gallu would work against such plans were he to know about them.
Alternatively, you could replace the succubi and shadow demon with Red Mantis assassins toting wands of charm person who wish to set up both the church of Cayden Cailean by making the demonologist chambers beneath the mead hall into a public scandal while simultaneously causing the deaths of the PCs who have angered Paracountess Helis Merciel (presuming that they stole her brass dragon wyrmling from the Brazen Clutch).  
Brother Dunnamast became possessed when he gazed into the cell holding Graz'ith Ur Maurgith to double check the wards as the Red Mantis assassins broke in and damaged some of the exterior sigils.  He managed to sneak out through the second secret passage as they entered via the first before he finally succumbed to the possession and is later found by the PCs.

The Silken Court
Owned by Elissa the Fair, the court promises the ability to meet any desire, for any patron, if the price is right.  In addition to its courtesans, the Silken Court offers the finest wines and drugs, hot baths of purified water or heated mud, masseurs brought from Tian Xia, and a well-appointed lounge where the very rich can relax in the presence of beautiful, young company and have their every need attended to.  This place can be used to extensively wine and dine certain clerics or nobles (for a +5 to +10 diplomacy check bonus).

GMs who are interested can run a precursor to the City of Locusts by placing a permanent Teleportation Circle to the Yearning House where those with known particular tastes can visit.  Elissa the Fair isn't a worshipper but she turns a blind eye to it, reasoning that it is better that evil people have a place to go where real humans are not being hurt, though she also doesn't check if innocents have been dominated or charmed into attending.  She made her deals firstly with one of the Mistresses of the Yearning House (pick one) quite some time ago.

If you go down this route, it will make storming the brothel later on more interesting but players must be of the type to understand that combat cannot be countenanced in such a high level area *and* their characters must be given adequate warning.  It may be worth having the Calistrian temple approach them with their suspicions and provide them with a temporary loan of valuable equipment that protects against mind control - negative energy drain is not a risk in this case as the succubi will not risk destroying potential spies for Deskari.  They can also provide pre-paid tokens that will allow them a full night with one of their best courtesans - though it is up to them to find a way to convince the madam that they would be more receptive to the Yearning House without specifically mentioning that secretive location.  Tieflings should get a bonus to any such rolls to be convincing.  Naturally those PCs who attend must be willing to go through with the act, else suspicions will be raised.

Once they are successful, their eye witness testimony will be enough to have the place shut down if they approach Lord Gyr Gixx.  Due to the popularity of the Silken Court among the more influential officials, nothing less than eye witness testimony will do and only a later surprise raid will effectively gather information on those so taken in.

Just to be cruel, I added an oolidoroo to the Yearning House inhabitants who is used to implant any partaker who is fool enough to fall asleep in a succubi's bed.  Hopefully the PCs will be wise enough to visit, fade to black, and then return within an hour or two. 

NOTE: Be extra, extra, extra sure that your players understand that this isn't a combat encounter they can win.  You might even mention that you are foreshadowing a location from Book 6 and that the NPCs within are Book 6 NPCs.  That should put them on their best behaviour.  If it wouldn't then this really isn't the right adventure for them.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

WoTR: Fundraising in Absalom

There's some pretty good political scenes in Dragon Age
Inquisition that you can use for inspiration.
Everyone needs a holiday and in a land of teleportation, why not jet off for a bit to avoid the dreary early days of a Worldwound Kuthona (December, winter) where the cold bites and the wind stings.  In order to break up the monotony of dungeon encounters and hex crawls, I dangled the possibility of auctioneering off Terendelev's hoard to Absalom to raise much-needed funds and troops for the Fifth and likely final crusade.  So the cast head into the teleportation circle in Starisse Spire, the Mendevian home of the Pathfinders, and arrive in the back of a warehouse owned by Lady Darchana.

Lady Darchana
Lady Darchana is a canonical character who wishes to gain power by creating a faster merchandise transportation method than shipping and caravans.  In order to fulfill that goal, she has established teleportation circles in several countries through the aid of a high level ally.  My personal addition to the canon is that one such teleportation circle was established in Starrise Spire so that the Pathfinders would be beholden to protect it.  In exchange for this protection, they are allowed to send six individuals through per week without charge.

As I wanted to build up to this encounter, Lady Darchana arranges for a meeting with them six days after they first enter Absalom and two days before the auction.  Depending on the number of leading NPCs they win over to their cause, depends on the final price she will demand per person.  Basically, the system is similar to Fame but the PCs can gain Fame for both winning over NPCs and other prestigious actions (namely public quests or performances).  The starting off is 50gp per person (who may bring as many supplies as they can carry).  The cost is reduced by 10gp for every 5 points they earn to a minimum of 10gp per person.

Main Pathfinder Sources
The PCs' primary contact in Absalom will be a 9th level fighter called Venture-Captain Adril Hestram who is a bear of a man renowned for his gallows humor and who will offer them lodgings in the visitor's section of the Lodge.  If the characters have completed the Weapon in the Rift, Ollysta Zadrian may accompany them into Absalom to provide them with advice and introductions.  Ollysta is a paladin of Sarenrae who used to be a member of the Pathfinder Society.  I'll put up articles covering the various church leaders and other adventures they can get into later.

The Grand Dance Hall of Kortos
On Day Six, Lady Darchana of the Arcanamirium sends a messenger to invite the PCs to attend her at the Grand Dance Hall of Kortos.  This ornate, round building had dozens of entrances at ground level and a few on the roof.  Currently the theatre is presenting Vudrani-style dancing troupes.  Naturally she has booked the highest balcony as she wishes to impress on them (and others watching from the other balconies) how important the negotiations will be.

Goodmiss Alidane of House Candren who is the manager of Sea King Shipyard and member of the Docks Council will offer to use her connections to get them access to cheap but good quality food as she has recently met a sympathetic supplier - actually Doctor Rolth (resurrected by his allies in my game following the events of Curse of the Crimson Throne).  The shipment is due to go out by sea vessel soon but if those passing through were to carry it, they could transport fresh food as well as dry.

Dirakah (actually a Gallu named Fennix who has an amulet that alters itself to look like a blue-haired gnome) is a merchant who has professed great interest in assisting Mendev's efforts, though he is keen to reinforce the fact that it is Mendev's problems.  He has gathered a sizable donation (15,000gp) held within coffers that could be used to pay the mercenaries in Nerosyan.  Naturally he doesn't mention that it is contaminated with Blood Veil (see Curse of the Crimson Throne AP).  Fennix is a servant of Baphomet and holds great respect for the marilith general, Aponavicius, which only makes him more eager to hear of the PC's successes in taking Drezen.

The Hellknight Feast
Pathfinder Society Adventure
This adventure works well when modified to cope with larger numbers of attendees, an auction and a big bang at the end.  The listed NPCs in that adventure should attend as should any enemies and allies that the PCs have already made along the way.  This event is slated for the Eighth Day after their arrival in Absalom.

Fennix is also in attendance though his plans are more long-term and he has nothing to do with the succubi's antics.  In truth, it would slay them all if it knew for an attack at this auction would be far more likely to rouse the support of Absalom rather than cause them to shun Mendev as trouble magnets because Absalom pride means they can hardly stand idly by when this happens on their own land.  

As Nocticula's servants are behind the sloppy strike, it is most assuredly to draw Absalom's ire in a roundabout manner though she would claim only a desire to capture the PCs.  She will have recruited any succubi who survived the Sword of Valor's exploits as a secret partnership that would be alleged to please Baphomet - they would be aiming to slay the PCs, after all.

Since a number of high level individuals will be present in the adventure, it is vital to justify their failure to act in place of the PCs.  My suggestion is to run background encounters where a few are assaulted by higher level enemies, a few fail their fortitude saves against poison, a few simply escape rather than risk their necks and others want to see what the PCs can do.  At the very beginning, the PCs would be approached as experts rather than risk setting off the entire affair.  You can justify this by having the initial poisonings either occur a bit later or having it occur in a private room.

It may also be worth throwing a few maids possessed by Shadow Demons into the mix if your PCs are higher level and likely to trounce the adventure as it stands.

At the end of the adventure, once the PCs return to the main area, Fennix is trying desperately to assure people that this must be a Mendevian trick to draw support to their cause.  At this point a mythic succubi teleports into the room with three lackeys (use the stats found in the Yearning House part of WoTR for the mythic succubi) and they attack him first as he stands in the center of the room. This forces him to reveal himself to defend himself and though the succubi attempts to apologise, it's too late, his cover is blown and he will attack her.  Once his hit points are dropped to half (or on the second turn if your PCs join the battle), he draws forth a diseased Orb of Tala.

Assume that half the gathering has already dispersed by this point, leaving 20 attendees.  Depending on your PC's level, throw a series of obstacles before the PCs that are easily moved to help them evacuate those who can't easily get themselves out.  This will also give them a clear objective to accomplish if they're too low level to get between a Gallu and a Mythic Succubi.  Removing the other succubi might be part of that. Any major cleric or high level PC they have wooed over to their side can each help another 1d4 people escape.

The Diseased Orb of Tala was made from one of the imperfect orbs constructed within the Tala Monastery and drenched in the disease and chaotic misery that permeated the monastery after Doctor Rolth infected their supplies with a particularly fast-acting form of the Blood Veil.  Once released from its bindings, the Diseased Orb will radiate pulses of chaotic evil energy, forcing all non-mythic creatures within 60ft to roll a Fortitude Save DC 21 each round to avoid becoming a Warped One.

Once he has drawn it, he will do nothing but move defensively and ready an action to shatter the orb - unless the orb is somehow removed from his hand before he can act, he breaks it and unleashes a mile wide burst of disease centered on the orb.  All within that mile needs to make a DC 16 Fortitude Save to avoid contracting the Blood Veil.

NOTE: If you intend on running Curse of the Crimson Throne after the events of Wrath of the Righteous, you may want to use a different plague and a different plague doctor.

DOUBLE NOTE: Bringing the imperfect orb of Tala to the Purification Forge will cause it to radiate Chaotic Good energies.  These energies will still cause people to potentially become Warped Ones but they get the choice to make the initial change (losing control after that point) and their alignment changes to Chaotic Good.  This functions as more of a last ditch defensive measure than anything else or, alternatively, a handy way to "convert" dozens of tiefling and humanoid cultists.  Shattering the purified orb will cast Remove Disease on all those within a one mile radius.