Nice twist, nice poem, and nice add-on explaining the options!
Have random questions on the fascinating wording...
1. "The clergy unable reconcile" there's no "to" between unable and reconcile on purpose right? 2. "Her infernal servant fond" what is meant by fond here?
I don't care about grammar, vocabulary and spelling, I'm just asking because I like the style.
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Anyway, good job!
Some thoughts for GMs:
1. What are the townsfolk like? They are several generations in to having the 'good' and 'evil' among them be singled out for death by the demon, but their ancestors were unable to return without completing their mission. I imagine a steadfast people, friendly enough but they try to shoo strangers out of town for their own safety. They can vary from lawful to chaotic, so how does this change aspects like crime?
2. The players are capable of learning and deciphering the poem. They can rid the town of the demon by giving him closure, by proving that his mistress is dead and releasing him from his vows. Is this the right thing to do? They are actively helping an evil creature, and possibly releasing him into the world. On the other hand, it is a good thing to do for both the demon and the town.
1. A local lord wants to lay claim to the town to establish a trading route, but all of his emissaries keep disappearing. You are the last resort before he declares war.
2. You are caught in a violent storm and seek shelter in a small chapel upon the hill just before sundown. As you look out the window you see the storm is subsiding and the mist rising, but you can still hear thunder. As the demon's shadow falls over you you realize that you will not be leaving this place. Not unless you can unravel its secret.
3. Some folks at an inn are calling for a strange ballad the bard has not heard of. They are shady travelers from a small town not too far away, and vicious rumors about them fill the tavern.
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4. A cleric and dear friend has been given a sacred quest to defeat the demon, and most likely get himself killed. You must either stand in his way or conquer the demon before he does.
This good for the quest. The disclaimer on top makes it work, because it made me know going in what I was dealing with. It does reduce its utility for me and a lot of gamers, as we don't Pathfinder (Now, if you could of included Runequest stats....)
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Is Pathfinder old school or just old school inspired?
Well, this is rather flawless and I've read it twice. Tucker Kobolds the were-rat version! The level of detail with every contingency accounted for, brings to mind published adventure material, naturally. Having no interest in Pathfinder stats, didn't take away anything from this, for me. I simply read those bits as..."Rat, trapper/ranger lvl2, fights with wakazashi, sneaking and wounding"..."Rat, 2nd lvl transmuter...Rat...ninja...etc..." ok, got it! Can adapt that to my game without issue.
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Kudos to you. The commitment and effort involved in writing this shines through admirably!
Pathfinder is now the second-youngest D&D game out there, the youngest being 5E. Much like how Pathfinder is updated 3.5 (which is updated 3E) this is a relatively modern example of old-school.
I used the motif of rats in the basement because that is one of the first tropes of D&D gaming, and it subverts that to some extent. What should be the wholesale slaughter of the Ratfolk is not nearly as easy as it would first seem.
Tucker's Kobolds is one of those D&D legends that is up there with a Gazebo; everyone aspires to run a "Tucker's Kobolds" at least once. You can get more information in the description link if you are unfamiliar, but the premise is a bunch of monsters which the party considers insignificant use smart tactics to take them down a few pegs. There really is no way to express a comprehensive dungeon version of that which does not rely on mechanics, and d20 is steeped in piling on advantages and disadvantages as you can see from the Relevant Rules appendix, a Swarmer whose ability to hit is only +10 effectively becomes something like +24.
Runequest is percentile based, so from what I understand of Eclipse Phase (also percentile based) modifying this is fairly easy.
Rats in the Basement, now with support for percentile based systems.
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Edits: WYSIWYG y u lie to me and put spaces everywhere?
Alright, so I started running this as a one-shot. The group did not get very far, only up into area 1.5, before we had to go do other things. Here are my findings.
1. Area 1.1 proved simultaneously more and less of a challenge than expected.
The party went the Flamestrike/Fireball route to getting rid of the initial swarm. The shadow description led some to think that the fleeing ratfolk was an undead creature, but when a party member ran up and jumped at the hole with a blade to widen it the ratfolk nature of the defenders was discovered (the Swarmer fled as described). There was some dithering as to what to do with the hole. The cleric filled it with water, but when it was decided that there were probably more, which could dig more tunnels and still pose a threat, they cast a sphere of air on the halfling rogue and sent him through.
He initially lost his shoes to the glue but was able to eventually retrieve them "I'd really like to keep my shoes, because caltrops." Smart player. I did not allow a save or perception check for the glue, he was detailing how he was focused on sneaking, had no reason to anticipate any traps, and in the strict sense glue on the floor is not really a trap. This did not seem to bother the player, especially considering the 'trap' caused no lasting effect other than a temporary inconvenience. If your players fail to say they are looking for traps from this point forth (and do not have the appropriate rogue ability for auto-detecting traps) any misfortune that befalls them is of their own doing.
2. As expected the long, sinewy tunnel just after area 1.1 is very important. It acquaints players with the rules for squeezing in a low-pressure environment, and more than that if the players are going to waste resources on bypassing it they either waste them now our establish how to circumvent them.
One player had an adamantine weapon and wanted to use it to carve out the tunnels to make them wider. I said he could, but it would dull the blade (reducing the 1d6 of his 1d6+28 damage by 1 every time he did so). He disagreed because of it being adamantine. I disagreed because otherwise the adamantine pickaxe would not be so coveted. In retrospect I should have let him. If your player insists the same, let them. Encourage them. Let them spend 20 minutes making the tunnel wide enough, then remind them that they're not a stonemason right before you duplicate the collapsing ceiling trap from area 2.2 on top of them. Explain to them that ratfolk don't like squeezing any more than humans do, they've left these areas tight for creatures of even their size because they are structurally unstable to make larger. Depending where they are in the dungeon anyone who was above them might survive the fall (1d6 falling damage and 2d6 bludgeoning) and have a few bombs to add to the mess the PCs have created for themselves.
I did not anticipate the sorcerer turning into an earth elemental (elemental body spell). This had surprisingly little effect other than speeding up the squeezing through aspect for him; the spell transforms him into a large creature, but squeezing states no penalty for spellcasting in tight quarters anyways. Spells cannot be cast from within the stone (no verbal components or line of sight), so the sorcerer still had to exit to participate in combat or discuss with his allies. Obviously he would not want to wander too far into the rock away from the party either. Doing so nearly got him killed (more on this later).
3. My initial intended hiding place for the first pair of ratfolk in the far southeast tunnel may or may not be acceptable.
The halfling rogue went poking his nose around rather early and ran into them while separate from the party (which were on either side of a dark grey area). He immediately fled and the cleric sealed them off with a casting of Stoneshape. On the one hand I did not want them to be so easily found out so they could attack from the rear, on the other hand it seemed to successfully thwart any desire from the rogue to go off on his own or explore crevices too thoroughly.
4. To my great sadness, the aforementioned aversion to exploring led to the avoiding of area 1.2. I should have made it more appealing when they were nearby by saying the sorcerer's light caught the glint of gold, anything to catch their interest.
5. It was at the first ambush at area 1.3 I discovered the great weakness of the ratfolk: High-level rogues and barbarians have improved uncanny dodge (or alternatively, the fortification armor enhancement). This information should be passed through the warren fairly quickly (who has it and who does not) and Swarmers will focus on those who lack imperiousness to their flanking abilities while Bombers on those who do. There is no way to circumvent improved uncanny dodge, it is part of the right and privilege of being a high level member of those classes.
Fortification can be suppressed with Dispel, and Dispelling bomb was an alternative I considered for some of the bombers though I did not use it for sake of simplicity. I also don't know mechanically if the numbers would work out, but it is my first thought. The ratfolk here fled as intended, spreading the word to their allies.
6. The pit trap, wire trap, and "anomaly in the ceiling" in area 1.4 was easily discovered. I explained the modest increase in difficulty circumventing the pit trap due to the tight corridors. The sorcerer, being a large earth elemental, could glide and cover the pit while still surrounded and suspended on each side by rock. This did cover the sorcerer in tar, however, and the tar was set on fire without further hitch. It made me appreciate how low the DCs on these traps are, but they are not really supposed to be difficult to spot. A 7th level trapper ranger cannot, and should not, compete with a level 17 rogue.
7. Area 1.5. Oh man.
This was the kind of fustercluck that makes me eternally grateful for Fantasy Grounds. If you do not have Fantasy Grounds and are using some other product like roll20 you will need an excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the bonuses, penalties, status effects, durations... everything. Make sure you are fully organized and prepared for this room and the final confrontation.
Part of what compounded the problem is that the rogue easily spotted the murder hole, but no one managed to 'see' the invisible ratfolk. This would have been a totally normal course of events if the earth-gliding-elemental-sorcerer had not decided to go up and take on the bombers atop the murder hole himself. I had to set up a separate map only visible to him, unmask the section where he was with the bombers, and run two simultaneous combats. He was glued to the floor after the first attack (his feet dangling out the cavern ceiling, the floor is about 5' thick). The bombers backed off in a wider-than-cone-range angle from each other, so what should have been a one-shot-kill turned into a two-shot-kill. Since the cleric had already used all her damage spells on the large basement rat swarm the sorcerer was trying to only use 5-6th level slots. First attack on a rat, 10d6. 14 damage. I kid you not. We were all in awe at how badly he must have angered the dice gods. The bombers get two more bombs off on him (in retrospect after realizing he was a caster who was glued to the floor one of them should have used a banshee firework on him instead of bombing), and the injured one began to retreat. He cast a spell on the remaining one. 37 damage. The rat had 38 HP (Fantasy Grounds can automatically roll HP, otherwise it would have been 46). The bomber gets one more shot before he's taken down and now the 138 HP sorcerer is 10 HP from KO, and glued to the floor for the rest of the combat while the party takes on the swarmers below, unaware of how scorched his upper half is aside from his frantically flailing legs. The Swarmers reveal themselves, moving along the edges of the room down to encircle the party and attack the squishy cleric at the back. Then we had to break for IRL events.
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In the moment it that combat was a pain. Narrating it now though... it was awesome.
You got the jist of what happened, and the particulars don't matter much. Tengus are raven-folk (they could be large black dogs for all that it matters though); the term for a baby rat is "pup" which might be why you thought they were dogs. As for Theta's actions; imagine yourself standing in front of the capitol building of an unfriendly foreign nation with a request for the president. You're going to dress respectably for the occasion, and you'd like to be invited past the guards even if they won't necessarily stop you from going in.
It's just a colorful (and less boring) depiction of how Orin and Fiddlestix came to be suspicious of humans and develop the elaborate tactics they employ. They are retired adventurers just like the PCs and miles (and worlds) away from Annawan - but they will always be ready.
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It's not stated, but the rat-swarm did not turn on the caretakers in the first scene. I've changed a sentence to make it more clear: "The bodies of the primary Basement caretaker for the Verbing Noun and her two assistants lie on one of the lower shelves, killed trying to save their rodent charges from the PC's onslaught." The idea is that the PCs kill the swarm with a common AOE like cloudkill, flamestrike, fireball, or even flooding the basement, and the ratfolk caretakers become collateral damage. The ratfolk think the humans have turned on them again, the PCs don't realize they've just killed civilians, and the whole situation escalates into storming/defending the warren.