On the trail of a villain intent on destroying the world, the heroes will travel from the frontiers to metropolises to the deserts and jungles of Golarion. The campaign will focus on character development, piecing the puzzle together, along with the usual high fantasy themes. Magic is there, not rare, but not abundant.

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Players, Make Sure Your Characters Actually Want To Be Here
from Neal Litherland, Improved Initiative blog

I've been talking to the DMs a lot in my Monday posts of late, so I figured it was time to take a moment to address the players out there. Because there's a big trap that almost all of us fall into in our gaming careers, and it can ruin the game for the rest of the folks at the table... especially if more than one of you fell into it without even knowing it.

In short, a lot of us make characters who practically have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the adventure... and we should all take a moment to stop that.

Bandits, huh? Doesn't sound like my problem.

Apathetic Characters Make For Frustrated Storytellers

I mentioned this back in 5 Tips To Get The Most Out of Your Next LARP, and it was the tip that got the most love. As such, I figured it was worth repeating, and elaborating on, for the folks in back.

Do not make a recalcitrant character. Do not make an apathetic character. Do not make a character who is looking for absolutely any reason to abandon the party and go do their own thing. This is a cooperative game, and it works best if everyone there has a character they want to play, and that character wants to be part of this story.

Have sword, will travel.
It's true that part of this relies on the DM working with you to make sure your character fits into the game. However, you are responsible for the final form your character takes, the drives they possess, and the actions they end up taking. Which is why it's important to think about not just what would make them fun to play, and what their personal objectives and goals are, but about how they interact with the wider world.

Lastly, it's important for you to come up with reasons for them to get involved.

You Have To Want To Be Involved (Even If The PC Doesn't)

Despite the title of this post, and everything I just said, I will admit that sometimes you want to play the reluctant badass character. The old campaigner who laid their sword aside, the wizard who's just too busy to bother with all this adventuring nonsense, or the monk who's trying to learn deeper meanings of the world instead of brawling with bugbears.

I get it. This is literally one of my favorite archetypes as a player. However, what I will tell you from experience is that if you are going to bring this character to the game, then it is up to you as the player to come up with a reason they are getting involved in the plot rather than putting that burden on the DM.

A blind old woman rolled the bones? Good enough for me!
Take the example of the retired hardass. Sure, he's got the skills, but he hung up his sword when he came back from the war, and he wants to be just a simple farmer now. However, if you want to be involved in the game, you need to provide a reason that Aethor takes that wall hanger down from over the fireplace and hits the campaign trail again.

It could literally be anything you want it to be! For instance...

- He Cares About Another Party Member: Maybe the wizard is his nephew, or the bard is an old friend that he knows gets into trouble when he's not around. Whatever the reason, he's not letting them risk their lives without him to watch their back. He still doesn't care about the bandit lord, or the goblin horde, because those things aren't his prerogative, but he's fully invested.

- It's The Right Thing To Do: Paladins aren't the only ones with a strong code of ethics. If the town is looking for people to make a stand, whether it's against a necromancer defiling graves to build an undead army, or gnolls raiding a settlement and taking people as slaves, somebody has to put a stop to that. Rule 303; you've got the means and skills, so you've got the responsibility to do something about it.

- He Owes Someone a Favor: This is particularly true for scenarios that I mentioned in Did Your Character Have A Former Life? Maybe they don't want to leave the farm, the forge, or the tavern behind, but they've got a debt to pay. It might be an old friend they would have helped for the asking, or a grim, John Wick-style blood debt, but whatever it is should get them out the door and on the adventure path to clear their ledger.

- Someone Ordered Him To: This is, perhaps, the easiest form of motivation in the history of a storytelling; you go to do the thing because it's your job, and your problem. Whether you're the local priest, a militia sergeant, a town guard, a sheriff's deputy, or a hedge knight charged with patrolling the highways, whatever is going wrong is something you've been ordered to fix. And because you like your job, you go do the thing.

Those are just some of the most common instances I could suggest. However, the important thing to remember is that you need to be the one that provides this hook for your PC to get in on the action. This may require you to talk with the DM and hash out some quick ideas, but generally speaking anytime you're saving the person behind the screen the work of roping you in it's something they're going to appreciate.

You Are In Control of Your Character

One of the most frustrating things you can hear as a DM is the phrase, "My character wouldn't be interested in that." Any time you feel the urge to say this, stop, take a step back, and look at the situation from a different angle. Find a reason, even if it means you have to alter your character just a bit in order to smooth the way forward.

They took children, you said? I'm in.
Take Shadrick Vars, known to most as the Gray Man. He's a bad man to fool with, and it's said he won't so much as lift a finger unless there's a coin in it for him. Hardly the sort of character you'd expect to show up to help hunt down a set of kidnappers; especially if the bounty for them is hardly worth a day's work. But if you're the player at the controls, it's your job to ask why he's opted to take on this mostly altruistic task. Even (or especially) if it's out of character for him to do so.

Is it because Shadrick was taken from his parents at a young age, sold to a cartel boss and trained as an enforcer, and he wants to put that part of him to rest by helping this child? Does he know the family, perhaps suspecting they might actually be distant kin of his? Does he have a strict, "No spouses, no kids," rule, and he means to make an example of those who offend his sensibilities on his home turf? All of these are possible, and it wouldn't require changing the fundamental nature of the character. Each one of these reasons gets him out on the adventure, though, and give the character a compelling reason to see this arc through to the end.

The key thing is to take the initiative. Don't sit around waiting for the DM to give you personal attention to get you to come along, or for the rest of the table to ask pretty please; find a reason to set your character to the task, and get involved. Once you do that, the momentum builds, and everything gets a whole lot easier.
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10 Things to Remember when playing RPGs
1. Lean Into Failure (Occasionally)

You play games to win, and you win an RPG by succeeding at your goals (defeat the villain, get the gold, get more powerful, and the like). But if you’re a player focused on story, you need to look at things a little differently sometimes, because to win an RPG from this perspective is to tell a great story. And sometimes the best stories arise out of failure or defeat.

2. Anticipating Where the PCs Will Go

A good GM knows where the PCs will go and what they’ll do before they do. However, the GM doesn’t force them to go anywhere or do anything. How on earth do you accomplish that?

Players have their PCs go where things sound most appealing, interesting, or fulfilling of their goals (wealth, power, information, the recovery of the kidnapped duke, or whatever). And you are the one who controls the places and things that fit that description.

Sometimes, you can subtly encourage the PCs to go in a certain direction or do a certain thing (because you’ve got stuff prepared for that choice). You do this by observing and learning what the players are likely to do. Once you figure things like that out, you can guide the players and they won’t even know you’re doing it.

3. Leading Questions

GMs should be very aware of when they ask leading questions. Now, my point here isn’t to encourage you to avoid them—just to be aware of them. Sometimes, leading questions are valuable tools. But most players will read into a leading question, so don’t use them unless you want a player to read into them. This leading question is probably the most powerful in the arsenal: Are you sure you want to do that?

4. Speaking for the Group

Sometimes one player will attempt to speak for the group, saying something like “We turn on our flashlights and go inside the warehouse.” If that happens, just go with it. If the other players don’t object, it makes things a little easier and moves them along a little faster. You don’t have to get confirmation from all the other players. It’s their duty to pay attention and interject with “Wait, I don’t want to go into the warehouse,” or “I’ll stay outside while everyone else goes in” if that’s how they feel.

5. Answering Questions

Sometimes a player will ask a question that they shouldn’t have the answer to. Questions like “Are the police in this town corrupt?” or “Where do criminals fence their stolen goods around here?” Rather than saying, “You don’t know,” try instead asking the player “How will you go about finding the answer to that question?” Doing that turns their question into a forward-moving action. It becomes something to do, and doing things is more interesting than asking the GM questions.

6. Pacing Within a Session—Important Moments

Sometimes, though, it’s worth taking a bit of time with an important moment. An audience with the queen, the appearance of an elder god, or flying a spaceship into a black hole are all scenes where it might be okay to take your time. In fact, the change of pacing will highlight the importance of the moment and can, all by itself, convey the gravity you want. But here’s the thing about slower pacing—you have to fill up the gaps with something. In other words, it’s okay to slow things down, but if you do, you need more evocative description, more intriguing NPCs, or more exciting action.

7. Pacing Within a Session—Unimportant Moments

A GM who is adept at pacing will take this a step further, to the point of perhaps surprising the players, at least at first. If there are a couple of rather low-powered guards at the entrance to a high-tech complex and the players announce their intention to take them out quickly, the GM might just say, “Okay, you knock out the guards. What do you do with their unconscious bodies?” No die rolls, no game mechanics.

That will catch the players off guard at first, but it’s going to tell them about the difficulty of the challenge and the importance of the encounter. In an instance like this, the GM knows that PC victory is a foregone conclusion, and rather than taking ten minutes to resolve the rather meaningless encounter, they simply get to the heart of the matter, which is what the PCs do immediately after the fight—do they try to hide their infiltration or charge right in? Because the GM knows that decision will affect the rest of the session far more than how much damage they can inflict on a low-powered foe. Plus, it saves session time for the challenging encounters to come.

8. Enduring Player Agency

If you put a PC in a situation where their abilities don’t work, you’re taking away their agency. Rather than negate their abilities, require them. If a character can phase through walls, don’t set up the villain’s fortress so that the walls prevent phasing. Instead, make it so that phasing is literally the only way the PCs can get in. By requiring that ability, you’ve rewarded the player for selecting it.

9. Even a Simple Game Is Fun

The events that occur because of ideas generated by the players rather than the GM, and events that come about because of the inherent randomness of the game, are far more likely to make or break a session than the ideas the GM provides.

My point here isn’t to contend that the GM doesn’t matter. As someone who loves running RPGs more than almost any other activity, I’d never say that. What I’m saying is don’t put too much pressure on yourself as you’re getting ready to run a session, particularly if you’re a new GM. I’ve made this point many times, but I’ll make it again: RPGs are about group storytelling. It’s not all on you. It’s on the group as a whole.

10. Character Death

Sometimes in RPGs we gloss over the effects of death in the story, but that’s not entirely believable and means missing out on great narrative opportunities. If a character dies, talk about how that impacts the survivors. Have a funeral in the story. Track down their next of kin. Build a memorial. Do something to recognize that the characters in the group are very likely close friends and would react as people who have lost someone significant in their lives.
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Information you might be interested in....
    [li]Rawrence's activities were unknown by Zon-Kuthon and the country of Nidal until recently. Once they became aware, Zon-Kuthon worked to help the PCs as much as his church could, to the limit of actually betraying Slumbersun and Rawrence.[/li]

    [li]Slumbersun was founded by Rawrence and his brother, Nathan Caligaro. Nidal financed the facility due the unique drugs and alchemical goods that Slumbersun could provide. Once Rawrence's true agenda became known, Zon-Kuthon withdrew its support and Rawrence then allied himself with the Aspis Consortium.[/li]

    [li]Zon-Kuthon is very well aware of what the PCs are doing with the backing of the church of Sarenrae. In fact, Zon-Kuthon is willing to clandestinely support the PCs and probably, other churches that would usually be at odds with Sarenrae, would be willing to help. Nothing is guaranteed though.[/li]

    [li]Currently neither Rawrence nor Nathan are at Slumbersun. Vagnius does not know where they are (and Zon-Kuthon did not inform him), but he has heard rumors that Nathan is in Taldor helping the chaos growing there to expand. Rawrence is in Vudra and rumored to be working with a consortium of rakashas towards aims unknown.[/li]

    [li]Slumbersun is currently under the control of a psychic named Kar Zaweeb, a strange creature that Professor Kramolag brought out of the Darklands and raised up. Kar Zaweeb is obsessed with his dreams and is working on a way to breach the walls between the Dreamlands and Golarion.[/li]

    [li]Professor Kramolag is a female human that Vagnius has not dealt with much. She is of indeterminate blood (though Kramolag says that she was the head researcher for a Runelord Sorshen back in ancient Thassilon. Kramolag is powerful, both in arcane magic and divine magic, but Vagnius doubts she is actually from Thassilon.[/li]

    [li]Professor Kramolag is a researcher in the study of alien religions. She maintains several satellite facilities associated with her primary lab in Nidal. Slumbersun is one such facility.[/li]

    [li]Kramolag has captured and cultivated both alien species and humanoid cultists dedicated to otherworldly powers like the Outer Gods, dissecting and interviewing them to better understand the faiths beyond the stars.[/li]

    [li]Rawrence was last at Slumbersun two weeks ago. He spent a day or so here, spending much of the time cloistered with Kar Zweeb. When Rawrence left he destroyed his quarters, collapsing the tunnels and chambers. Vagnius doubts he will return to Slumbersun.[/li]

    [li]Rawrence will return to Nidal and report to his superiors (nobles as opposed to the church of Zon-Kuthon (though he is loyal to Zon-Kuthon as well, it is just the nobles that pay his bills). After that he will return to the lands of the Rho and tell the Rho about Slumbersun. He suspects that the Rho will then move to destroy Slumbersun.[/li]
Session: Game Session - Saturday, Nov 24 2018 from 11:30 PM to 7:30 AM
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Spawn of Rovagug
Ulunat Festering Ulunat, the Unholy First ca. -3470 AR; possibly -3923 AR A colossal beetle, around whose shed carapace the Osirian capital of Sothis has grown.
Tarrasque The Armageddon Engine -632 AR The most terrible of the Spawn. Sealed in a hidden cavern beneath Avistan.
Volnagur The End-Singer 909 AR A winged beast seen across Garund, Casmaron, and Arcadia.
Chemnosit Great Doom Chemnosit, the Monarch Worm (Year unknown; after Ulunat) Feared throughout the Darklands. Reportedly defeated multiple times, but always returns.
Kothogaz Unyielding Kothogaz, The Dance of Disharmony (Year unknown) A Spawn in Casmaron that reportedly slew a million Vudrani before being defeated by Khiben-Sald, the first majarajah of Vudra.
Xotani Wrath-Blazing Xotani, the Firebleeder (Year unknown) Slain by the Legion of Wands. Its grave lies in Katapesh.

Ulunat was said to be a hulking, three-eyed monstrosity with four wings, ten limbs tipped with blades, and a black mirrored carapace. Its single great horn was said to absorb arcane energy and reflect it back on the caster in the form of horrific, literally heart-stopping terror. Ulunat ravaged Garund in -3729 AR. It destroyed six legions of the Jistka Imperium. Its activities continued until -3470 AR, when it is said that Azghaad, the man who would eventually found Osirion, killed Ulunat by channeling the full power of Nethys. This is untrue: spawn of Rovagug are unkillable, and Ulunat was merely banished to a pocket realm beneath its physical carcass, where it still sleeps. Many cultists have tried to free Ulunat throughout the years; all such attempts have failed and been erased from Osirion's official history so as not to encourage subsequent ones. However, currently there are at least three cults dedicated to freeing this Spawn. These are: the Chime of Doom, run by a pit-born tiefling names Kurdashir the Everflame; the Grey Slayers, a guild of rogues and miscreants run by Clewadyn, a annis-spawned oracle; and the Black Blade, a mercenary company run by Thrask, a half-orc barbarian/fighter.

The Tarrasque
The Tarrasque is a colossal, hunched, relatively simplistic-looking land vertebrate. Its most notable features are a carapace capable of reflecting magic and a huge jaw with sharp teeth capable of swallowing whole villages. Its horns and tail are also deadly weapons in their own right. It is thought to have been created by Rovagug while in the Pit of Gormuz, the Tarrasque is one of the most powerful and destructive creatures known. Those not touched by the Ravager believe that this creature is the current herald of the god of destruction. It is drawn to human settlements, brutally exterminating the populace and hunting down escaping survivors.

The Tarrasque emerged in Casmaron from the Pit of Gormuz in -632 AR. It took three months to destroy most of the nearby nation of Ninshabur and force the elite to hide in magically-shrouded Tabsagal, where they eventually succumbed to famine, disease and suicide. After exterminating Ninshabur, it turned north and surged north towards Iobara and into the lands that are now controlled by the Rho. It fled that land after an encounter with a shaman armed with nothing more than pink powder.

After that, the Tarrasque turned west and rampaged into Avistan, destroying the city of Oppara in the process. It then crossed the Inner Sea, seeking old foes of Rovagug in Garund and brought about the fall of the flying city of Kho, capital of the Shory Empire, causing it to come crashing down in the Barrier Wall mountains in the Mwangi Expanse. It was eventually stopped, apparently once again crossing the Inner Sea, and imprisoned in a cave somewhere in Avistan; the anniversary of its defeat is celebrated as a national holiday in many nations, including Taldor and Osirion (Lamashan 14).

Volnagur, the End-Singer, is one of the Spawn of Rovagug. It arrived after Ulunat, though the date of its arrival is unknown. Volnagur had wings and has been spotted throughout Garund, Casmaron, and Arcadia. There are further reports of Volnagur in the traditions surrounding Sarusan, an island located in a trackless sea south of Tian Xia's Valashmai peninsula. It is possible that this Spawn may make its home there.

Volnagur's first known appearance in 909 AR was at the site of what is now Holy Xatramba, in the eastern jungle of the Mwangi Expanse, southwest of the city of Kibwe. It was defeated there, apparently with the help of the Serpentfolk. If this were its first appearance, it must be the last of the Spawn. It was been defeated above the Zho Mountains (which run through Qadira) in 1540 AR, and in the valleys surrounding Mount Na-Ken, a peak in the Shining Mountains of Osirion, in 2062 AR.

In 4540 AR, a mining colony in Sargava consisting of 8,000 people went out of communication. A later expedition discovered that all had perished in a chaotic internal melée. The recent consensus is that it was Volnagur's work. Prior to 4711 AR, most assumed that Volnagur was dead. I remain unsure.

Chemnosit, also called Great Doom Chemnosit or the Monarch Worm, is among the four spawn best known on the continent of Avistan. When it arrived is unknown, except that it escaped the Pit of Gormuz after the great beetle Ulunat. After breaking free from its prison, Chemnosit burrowed into the Darklands, where the urdefhan in Orv and certain of the more debased humanoids there worship it. On occasion the drow and duergar of Sekamina have called it up, usually to the ruin of their settlements. Svirfneblin have also witnessed it, but perhaps not (yet) in their own domiciles. The book Way of the End-Name includes a description of the beast, stating that "it rears up like a snake about to strike".

Chemnosit is not known to be deceased.

Kothogaz is not well known in Avistan or Garund, but surviving parts of the acid-scourged Ezida Scrolls provide a most detailed known description of it: a shell like a horned beetle's: veined wings of broken glass; a torso resembling a humanoid with a slug-like abdomen and moist, chitinous armor; four arms, two tipped in pincers; a drooling maw that forms most of its head; and dozens of eyes arrayed above its mouth.

(Ezida is a city state on the southern coast of the Castrovin Sea on the continent of Casmaron, and is ruled by the followers of a religious figure known as the Namzaruum, an ancient hero-god of Casmaron.)

Only bits and pieces of lore is available about Kothogaz:
    [li]Kothogaz was first spotted near old Ezida, then a city of Ninshabur. Hathga-Tah the Ninshaburite also described Kothogaz as "pus of raw and bursted wounds" in his list of the Spawn of Rovagug.[/li]
    [li]A bit from Kothogaz is blamed for the disfigurement and madness of the gold dragon Trilochan in the Nahari Desert.[/li]
    [li]Kothogaz is said to have scattered three pieces of the Champion of the Gilded Host, a powerful construct, when it trampled across Vudra.[/li]
In the mid-4th century AR, Kothogaz came upon Vudra, then disunited, and wrought much destruction in it. The legendary hero Khiben-Said, whom the current maharajah claims as an ancestor, led the defense of this land. In a battle that tales claim cost a million Vudrani lives, the hero-priests cast it into the ocean and boiled the ocean, weakening it to the point where the creature's heart could be extracted.

The heart was then shattered into "101 pieces", and the largest is said to lie beneath Padiskar on Jamleray. The rest were scattered to the four winds.

Wrath-Blazing Xotani, the Firebleeder, haunted northern Garund and its portion of Nar-Voth, the uppermost region of the Darklands. Scholars blame it for the wastes of Katapesh, Nex, and southern Osirion. It did not cross the Inner Sea and appears not to have delved into Sekamina (which lies below Nar-Voth).

Circa 2100 AR, the Legion of Wands-comprised of genie binders from Katapesh, sand mages from Osirion, archmages from Nex, and others from across Garund-formed, and in 2104 AR the Legion trapped Xotani in the Brazen Peaks of Katapesh. After a battle lasting "a day and a night", they defeated it. The Legion of Wands disappeared from all records, apparently disbanding in the defeat of Xotani.

Lesser Spawn
An unnamed creature terrorized the Vudran realm of Ninshabur in -3923 AR. Most scholars believe this to be Ulunat, but records are unclear and undiscerning.

The asymmetrical Slohr, which trampled the Arthfell Forest in 3537 AR

The multi-headed Gray-Stag-Devourer of the Crown of the World and Irrisen

Urtleytlar, the Tempest Queen, a scylla cleric of Rovagug came from deep in the Darklands, perhaps even escaping from Rovagug's cage. The first reference I found of her cites that she swam the Sightless Sea for centuries, raiding drow coastal settlements in Sekamina before emerging into the broken continent of Azlant.

Urtleytlar spent her first millennia on the surface terrorizing the Arcadian eastern coast. After Aroden's death, Urtleytlar felt the ensuing surge of chaos and the call of Rovagug to the east, to the Inner Sea region. She saw the Eye of Abendego as a manifestation of the Rough Beast's destructive power, delights in it, and preaches Rovagug's words of destruction through the ruin she sows.

Urtleytlar has gathered numerous evil aquatic humanoids and sailors, who extend her reach to the Sodden Lands and Shackles. Some say she guides foolish sailors hoping to sail into the storm, providing them temporary safety in exchange for a taste of their souls. A handful of Urtleytlar's boggard slaves offer slaves to her as sacrifices. She makes choice selections among them, leaving the scraps to the boggards. She enjoys their adoration, even though the boggards are not necessary for her plans of conquest. Urtleytlar also counts in her service hundreds of skum in the sunken ruins of Lirgen. They deal with the boggards and humans in the Sodden Lands, provide Urtleytlar with slaves and food, and she strengthens their reach by aiding them in their destructive endeavors.

Urtleytlar uses Megrexti, her charybdis counterpart, as a living weapon, sending it into the middle of fleets and delighting in the ensuing mayhem.

As allies, none of these creatures seem suitable. Though, at least, Urtleytlar will listen to reason even if she can't be bargained with. It would be worthwhile to send an emissary there, though I should expect it to be a one-way trip.

A visit to the isle of Sarusan should also be planned. Especially if the pink powder from the legend of the Tarrasque can be verified and isolated.
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Pointer-left Red_thumb

I am 14 going on 15. I'll..., take advantage..., of you!
After much time spent with these new allies Red feels he has a pretty good understanding of how they operate when things get exciting.

Rurik: Let Me Axe you a Question, You're Dead now? Let me Axe you once more!
Dagi: Punch-Punch-Grab-Slam-Throw-Punch-Punch
Adriana: PEW-PEW-PEW
Kerreth: You Need More Boom-Boom-Boom? I'm all out of those how's this? BOOOOOM!
Angels: YES MASTER! Flutter-Slash-Slash
Which Witch: The Last thing you Expect!

Ok, so maybe Red doesn't understand All of the party just yet. But as he looks around during combat he is starting to pick up patterns. The Dwarf with an Orc complex always seems to be attacking high, trying to remove heads. The Orc with a Dwarf Complex seems to always be attacking low trying to take an opponents feet out from under them.

"I'm starting to think I can use this. If I'm attentive and time my strikes... yeah this just might work! Of course we'll have to work together, and it's ALWAYS best if the target is properly distracted!"

Yes... I think I can become quite the 'Opportunist'!
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