Last Monday I run our 4th Pathfinder session of Curse of the Crimson Throne. This is my first time running an Adventure Path and I choose CotCT because of its nice mix of urban and horror themes, together with distinctive mechanics (the Harrow Deck and the introduction of Character Traits) and an original history. While I have criticized Character Traits in the past, I’m actually a great fan of this rule when used for its original purpose: link new characters to the campaign’s local scenario or NPCs. And CotCT does this magnanimously.
For those that don’t known it…
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….the adventure takes place in the city of Korvosa, the former colony and now pretentious capital of the frontier region of Varisia, ancient seat of the fallen Thassilonian Empire – and evil magocracy based on sin magic, whose disturbing and cyclopean monuments haunt the region (and we’re talking of really BIG ruins for the thassilonians enslaved giants).
Varisia has a superb Sword & Sorcery vibe. Korvosa itself is built over Shoanti sacred ground – the Shoanti are the local human barbarians, a nice blend of Native American and African cultures who live in a yet nicer place called the Cinderlands. The dark and gothic Castle Korvosa, seat of the local monarchy, rests atop the Great Mastaba – a giant Aztec-like pyramid or ziggurat. Cool, huh?
The city is a pit of corruption, with a territorialist Thieves Guild (that extorts the citizens in open daylight), competitive gang bosses, competitive guards (the poor Korvosan Guard, the Sable Company hippogriff riders and the Hellknights), scheming noble houses, byzantine laws, pseudragon and imp aerial fights, otyughs, giant underground Vaults and rakshasas!… did I mention rakshasas? In a nutshell: perfect.
Adding to the mix there’s the Curse of the Crimson Throne itself. It’s whispered that Korvosa’s throne carries a curse, for no monarch to ever sit on it dies of natural causes. A good part of the Adventure Path deals with the Curse.
The whole mess starts when the king is found dead, apparently from a wasting disease. However, rumors about poison and regicide start to show up in no time. The young, beautiful and frivolous Queen Ileosa isn’t stupid and quickly produces a scapegoat – a (also young and beautiful) artist named Trinia Sabor*. The party (working for the Korvosan Guard) is summoned to retrieve Trinia before either the Queen’s men or your typical lynching mob get to her first.
My players not only managed to reach Trinia first, but when pursued by a Sable Company hippogriff rider the one playing with a female half-elf rogue exchanged places with the girl to save her. It was something totally unexpected, but awesome for all of us. Unfortunately the rogue was caught later and brought before the Queen. She already knew the player characters from a previous meeting but didn’t thought twice before ordering the rogue to be feebleminded. Next session is “Trinia’s” execution and my players are already itching for it. Together with Pathfinder Chase rules (used by us for the first time in scene where they pursued the true Trinia over Korvosa rooftops), this was probably my best game sessions this year for me.
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Before ending this short post, I must recommend this excellent blend of weird monstersand strange ideas by Zak S at Playing D&D With Porn Stars. Zak’s take on D&D, mixing surreal/weird fantasy and horror is great and his Vornheim book is already famous among Old School blogs – it was nominated to the ENnies! (Speaking frankly, even if you play only Pathfinder or D&D 4th do yourself a favor and pick this little book, you’ll be surprised).
*I don’t know if the Nicolas Logue did this on purpose but many of first CotCT book’s NPCs have Portuguese surnames (or even names), which definitely sounds odd to my players. Trinia Sabor, for example, is “Trinia Taste” and Grau Soldado (a local NPC guard) is the worst case: “Rank Soldier”.