Rise of the Runelords–Thistletop

(Originally posted on the Dwarven Forge forums)

[Game date: 2013 Jul 27]

On the lowest level of Thistletop, the heroes found Nualia – the woman who had united the goblin tribes in their common purpose. After a harrowing battle with her, they defeated her, only to find the memories of her haunted life flooding into their souls. Saddened at the loss, they nevertheless pressed forward, and discovered that she was far from the only source of danger in these ancient ruins…

Campaign Journal

  1. Session 10:
    1. Date: 2013 Jul 27

                                               i.     Players: Gragdar, Vaelmorn, Derrik, Camla

    1. Thistletop

                                               i.     The group returned back up to the other side of the bridge to recuperate after the battle with Nualia, taking her head with them. Among several notes and journals found with the body, they learn that Nualia planned to lead a goblin army to raze Sandpoint to the ground as a burnt offering to Lmashtu; her reward would be full transformation of her body into the fullness of a fiend – her arm of which was just the beginning. And the sacrifice of lives would fuel a “runewell” in the catacombs beneath the town! While they didn’t detail was how it worked, but cautioned that it not overextend the runewell’s stores, lest it be deactivated.

                                               ii.   They attempt to question the captive Lyrie about the runewell without success.

1.     Vaelmorn finds that Lyrie’s cat had partially bit through the ties, and uses it as blackmail to interrogate her. When she refuses, he kills it.

2.     As she rages at him, he throws her over the bridge, still tied up.

3.    Derrik jumps over bridge and rescues her! “Everyone’s redeemable.”

4.  After seeing the length at which the Paladin would risk his life for a captured hostage, Derrik and Gragdar relent to the others and allow her to be taken into custody.

                                             iii.     Sublevels

1.    Returning to the underground base, they find a secret doors leading to a trio of rooms. The first held is a barren room with an upraised dial and a marble throne flanked by statues of a man clutching a blook and a glaive. A ghostly figure seems to be seated in the throne – the same man as the statue. He seems to be addressing an audience as he moves about, his fingers decoradted with hooked rings. Camla makes out his words to be ancient Thassilonian, repeating the same message over and over: “… is upon us, but I command you remain. Witness my power, how Alaznist’s petty wrath is but a flash compared to my strength. Take my final work to your graves, and let its memory be the last thing you…”. They determine it is an illusion and continue.

2.  The second room contains 3 low tables covered with drills, saws, knives, and other tools. Near one of the tables, a mish-mashed collection of bones. 

3.  They enter into the third room, with no signs of magic nor evil detected and are ambushed by a wolf-demon of enormous size! The creatured mauls several of the heroes who were determined to bring it low. Until Camla, recognizing it as a Greater Barghest, screams out the danger to his companions. The bloody skeleton of Koruvus once again provides distraction as the heroes attempt to flee the room in terror and engage it from outside. The barghest proves to be trapped in the room, but rends the fleeing interlopers – who only managed to survive with the faith and blessings of Camla and Derik. From the doorway, a poisoned javelin strikes it square in the chest, but is not quite able to penetrate the thick hides of the foul beast. They stab at it with the recovered ranseur, but it quickly sunders the ancient weapon. The creature then attempted to use its charms to lure in Vaelmorn, which the drow narrowly shakes off. Finally, the power of Derrik’s faith brought low the creature with arrows that suck deep into the maw of the ravenous barghest.



A wolf-demon of enormous power!



                                           iii.     Exploring the rest of the subfloors, they encounter the undead shadows of the architects left behind to guard their creation.

1.     A judicious use of magic allowed them to overcome the non-corporeal creatures; Gragdar’s magic weapon spell on Derrik’s bow alloed them to save Shalelu from one of the shadows.

2.  During the battle, Gragdar takes command of one of the shadows.




A room hidden behind an entire wall that revolved to reveal the sarcophagi of the architects! And one guarded by their undead spirits!



                                            iv.     He uses the shadow to good effect.

1.     It explores the last basement room which it partially flooded. A giant crab was hiding in the water which the shadow quickly rendered powerless.

2.     They take the treasures from the room and guide the shadow back up to the midlevel to kill the strange tentacled squid-like creature living in one of the caves.

3.     They then command it back to the Thistle hedge to kill the creature that the goblins feared at the bottom of the “Howling Hole”.



And the treasury, partly flooded… unguarded, or so it seemed…


(An overview of the layout – note, I took some liberties with the official map.)


Rise of the Runelords–Nualia

Campaign Journal

Session 9:

  1. Date: 2012 Jul 13
    1. PCs: Camla, Derrik, Gragdar, Vaelmorn, Miyamoto
  2. Thistletop
    1. During the middle of the night, they spot a well armed human fleeing across the bridge. He is taken captive by threats of cutting the bridge.


      1. He tells them his name is Orik and he wantss no further part of Nualia’s crew; especially after seeing the massacre of the goblins by the heroes.
      2. He describes the ritual sacrifices that Nualia does. He requests they spare Lyrie. He is willing to go face justice.
      3. They tie him up and leave Shal to guard him.
    1. Goblins redux (and Lyrie!)
      1. Crossing back, they discovered the animated corpses of the goblins in the throne room. Entering in, they encounter a Sorceress, who is stationed there to guard against another incursion. Her scorching ray greets Vaehrun as they enter. Her magical attacks greatly injure the group, but she is taken captive.
      2. A fierce debate arises as to her fate. She is allowed to live, determined by the flip of a coin. She is tied up and left on the isle side of the bridge.


  1. Nualia
    1. Not wanting to give Nualia time to become alerted, they set off in search for her.
    2. They quickly search a capel to Lamashtu and move on.
    3. Descending, they find themselves in an ancient complex within the isle. The entire level appears to be canted, and the first room shows several statues that have toppled over. In addition, a pair of severed heads on spikes at the far end of the room turn and watch as they make their way forward.
    4. Within the exiting corridor, Camla detects a trap on a pair of statues. Sending forth Koruvus’ skeleton, they watch helplessly as a pair of portcullis slam down, subjecting it to the slashes of ancient weapons, before falling open to a pit beneath filled with spikes.
    5. Beyond, they find a small room within which waits an incensed Nualia flanked by a pair of dogs. “HOW DARE YOU INTRUDE!!” she screams at them as the hounds begin their attack. Her powerful sword blow cuts down Vartha’s skeleton in one slash; the dogs’ unearthly howl sends Gragdar fleeing in fear while Vaehrun is almost cut down by another swing of the magicked sword – he is only able to withdraw when his shield bash forces her to stumble back a few feet. When the drow tries to conceal the room in darkness to gain advantage, she banishes it with a wave of her clawed hand. “HOW DARE YOU INTRUDE!!!” Another howl sends Miyamoto fleeing in panic, his club dropped at his feet. A rout is avoided when Camla and Derrick step up to shore up the faltering line; Camla summons forth a skeletal champion behind Nualia – providing just enough distraction that Derrick is able sneak up and use Lyries’ wand of Shocking Grasp to send a bolt of pure electricity into the wayward Aasimar. Screaming at the sudden pain, her eyes lock onto the paladin and memories of her childhood tortures at their hands feeds her anger. “Camla. Derrik,” she utters, as the fury of the sword and claw dig into Derrik. The paladin uses all the force of his faith to remain standing, shored up by Camla’s healing to buy time for the others to catch their breath. Summoning the deeper darkness again, Vhaerun provides cover for Gragdar to once again use his connection to the negative energies to drain her life. She responds in kind. But the wear of the fighting has taken its toll on her, as she finally drops with a series of blows that find their home.250px-Nualia
    6. Upon her last breath, the heroes are assaulted by a wave of emotions; drawn into her death throes, they remember. They remember the fear of the dark, and the man who took her in. They remember the stares and murmurs and finger point by everyone wherever they went. They remember the whispered words murmured at each passing. They remember – was that Camla? – who plucked at her hair. They remember the shoving and rhymes – “Nualia, Nualia, girl with no mum; Nualia, Nualia, dad all gone; Nualia, Nualia, girl with purple eyes; Nualia, Nualia, beware her touch!” They remember the questions and requests – do your tears really cure warts? could you touch this? Could you kiss that? The varisians were always the worst. They remembered watching as their peers snuck their first kisses; and how no boy would talk with her. They remembered the giggling as they walked past. They remembered the young Varisian man who first told her she was wonderful and beautiful and special. They remember Dellek embracing them in hidden smuggler’s tunnels. And the shock when he called her those names when she told him that she was with child. They remember the man who had promised her forever, leaving Sandpoint with a sneer. They remembered her father’s anger and the nightly lectures about her sins. They remember the giggles that turned to snickers at the fishmarket. They remember the fingerpointing as her belly grew. They remember the night the pain felt as if the life growing in her was clawing its way out. They remember the blanching midwives stealing away the thing that came forth from her. They remember drowing into the grief, into the anger, into the loneliness, into the wrath… and waking months later into clarity. They remember locking the door to father’s room, and setting the fire. They remember going to Magnimar and taking vengeance against Dellek; and the quickening of the need for more against Sandpoint. They remember the woman who gave her the medallion that would guide them to destiny. They remember being drawn to the bricked up smuggler’s tunnel, and the quasit within. They remember the calls that led her to Thistletop. ‘FREE ME. FREE ME. FREE ME.’”
    7. Shaken, the heroes emerge from the memories, the pleading, demanding, monstrous voice echoing into the distance.



Lyrie and Nualia


I changed Lyrie to be a Magus as a solitary level 4 Wizard for 2 reasons: (1) aw written, she would not even be a speedbump against a full party , and (2) I thought that the concept of a magical rapier wielding magus with the high crit chance of shocking grasp would be too sweet to pass up! (My players are min-maxers and it’s fun for me to create similarly powerful challenges). To make it interesting as well, after the heroes’ initial incursion onto the island, the defenders were on alert; the goblin bodies were animated into undead, and Lyrie was stationed at the keep.

Lyrie CR 6

Female Magus 5 / Wizard 1
CE Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +3

AC 21, touch 14, flat-footed (+3 dex, +4 armor, +4 shield)

DEF +11 (+3 dex +8 shield spell), Armor DR 4 (Mage Armor)

hp 39 (5d8+1d6 +6 Con + 5 favored class)

hp 51 (5d8+1d6+Con 12) :
Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +5
Defensive Abilities mage armor, shield spell

Speed 30 ft.
Melee MW rapier +7 (1d6/ 18-20 & spellstrike)
Melee +1 keen rapier +7 (1d6+1/ 15-20 & spellstrike)
Special Attacks arcane strike (+2 damage), spell combat, spellstrike, arcane pool (6):

Magus Spells Prepared (CL 5th; concentration +15)
2nd (3/day): Scorching Ray, Mirror Image, Invisibility

1st (5/day-5) Windy Escape, Burning Hands, Ray of Enfeeblement, Warding Weapon, Shocking Grasp,

Wizard Spells Prepared (CL 1st; concentration +11)

1st (2/day) Shield, Mage Armor

Str 10, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 18, Wis 8, Cha 8
Base Atk +3; CMB +3; CMD 16
Feats Scribe Scroll, Combat Casting, Weapon Finesse, Arcane strike (+2 damage), Uncanny concentration, Combat Expertise (Magus bonus feat)
Skills Knowledge (arcana) +13, Knowledge (engineering) +13, Knowledge (history) +13, Knowledge (local) +13, Perception +1, Sense Motive +1, Spellcraft +13, Stealth +5
Languages Common, Elven, Goblin, Osiriani, Thassilonian
SQ arcane bone (cat named Skivver), wand wielder arcana

Combat Gear dagger, MW Rapier, wand of shocking grasp (CL 5, 9 charges), scroll of comprehend languages, scroll of minor image, scroll of see invisibility, scroll of sleep, scroll of whispering wind,

Other Gear cloak of resistance +1, silver comb (25 gp), spring loaded wrist sheath (can ready wand of shocking grasp as swift action), fine silk gown (60 gp), everburning torch, small pouch of artifacts (hair, fingernail clipping, used handerchiefs, and a pearl earring worth 50 gp) stolen from Tusto Kaijitsu, 3 pp, 278 gp

Spellbook Contains all prepared spells plus comprehend languages, detect secret doors, floating disc, identify, locate object, minor image, obscuring mist, see invisibility, sleep, and spider climb.


Before Combat Before combat starts, Lyrie casts mage armor. If she has sufficient warning, she subsequently casts shield.
During Combat

1st round: Using combat expertise and fighting defensively to augment her defenses while cast defensively warding weapon. (-5 attack, +3 AC)

2nd round: Swift action to spend 1 arcana pool to enhance rapier to +1 keen (lasts 10 rounds), cast shocking grasp, and use spellstrike to deliver the attack.

3rd round: Arcane strike each round after (+2 damage)

Lyrie uses windy escape (immediate) against any attacks that successfully hit her. She casts mirror image if she gets hurt even with windy escape. She uses spell recall (swift) for windy escape to use defensively. After using up her prepared offensive spells, she switches to using her wand of shocking grasp with spellstrike, all the while using the high crit modifier of her keen rapier.

Morale Lyrie is a coward at heart, and when she gets to half her hit points, she attempts to flee to the closest ally for help, using invisibility to help flee. If she believes the PCs have harmed Tsuto, though, her anger takes over and she fights to the death in an attempt to avenge him.



Ahhh… what fond memories of Nualia. I too up’ed her challenge, and what a memorable experience! She is the perfect candidate to be a Antipaladin, so I used a mash-up of suggestions from the excellent Paizo forums on variant interpretations of Nualia. In combination with her aura of cowardice, and the yeth hounds fear effect with baying (and the possiblity of Nualia herself using the bane fear effects!), half the party was always cowering in fear. The memory of the fight was driven home with the monologue I gave the players having their PCs experience her troubled backstory. Quite fun!

Nualia CR 7

Female Angel-Blooded Aasimar (Angelkin) Antipaladin 6
CE Medium Outsider (native)
Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception -2
Aura strong evil, aura of cowardice (10 ft. radius, -4 to saves vs fear)

AC 17, touch 10, flat-footed 17 (+7 armor)

DEF +1 (armor), Armor DR 7 + DR 5/good if fiendish
hp 80 (6d10+24+Con 16) :
Fort +12, Ref +6, Will +8 SR 11 (if fiendish)
Immune disease; Resist acid 5, cold 5, electricity 5 (cold 10/ fire 10)

Defensive Abilities plague bringer, unholy resilience;
Speed 20 ft. (armored)
Melee +3 vicious Bastard sword +13/+8 (1d10+7/19-20/x2 + 2d6 damage if take 1d6) and
Claw +5 (1d6+2/x2)
Ranged Masterwork Composite shortbow (Str +3) +7/+2 (1d6+3/x3)
Special Attacks channel negative energy (3d6, DC 15) x3, cruelty (DC 15; sickened, staggered), fiendish boon 1/day (+1, 6 minutes), smite good 2/day (+2 attack, +6 damage, +2 AC), touch of corruption 6/day (3d6 plus cruelty)
Spell-Like Abilities Detect Good (At will), Remove Disease (1/day)
Antipaladin Spells Prepared (CL 3, touch +9, ranged touch +5, concentration +5):
1 (2/day) Doom (DC 14), Litany of Weakness, Bane

Str 18, Dex 10, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 16
Base Atk +6; CMB +10; CMD 20
Feats Channel Smite, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Bastard sword), Lamashtu’s Mark (1/day)
Skills Acrobatics -3 (-7 jump), Bluff +4, Climb +1, Diplomacy +1, Disguise +4, Escape Artist -3, Fly -3, Handle Animal +7, Heal +0, Intimidate +14, Knowledge (religion) +10, Linguistics +2, Ride -3, Sense Motive +2, Stealth +1, Swim +1; armor check penalty -3; Racial Modifiers +2 Heal
Languages Celestial, Common, Elven, Goblin
SQ antipaladin channel negative energy 3d6 (3/day) (aura of cowardice, aura of evil, channel negative energy, clean small objects, cruelties (shaken [dc 16], staggered [dc 16]), fiendish boons (fiendish servant iii [2/day]), touch of corruption (3d6) (6/day), unholy resilience
Other Gear +1 Breastplate, +3 Bastard sword, Masterwork Composite shortbow (Str +3), 20 arrows , Sihedron medallion, gold holy symbol (worth 100 gp)
Special Abilities
Antipaladin Channel Negative Energy 3d6 (2 uses of Touch of Corruption) (DC 16) (Su) Positive energy heals the living and harms the undead; negative has the reverse effect.
Aura of Cowardice (Su) Enemies within 10 ft. are not Immune to fear and take -4 to saves vs. fear effects.
Aura of Evil (Ex) The antipaladin has an Aura of Evil with power equal to her class level.
Channel Negative Energy (Su) You can channel negative energy to heal the undead and injure the living.
Channel Smite Channel energy can be delivered through a Smite attack.
Clean Small Objects Small metal items in your hands are cleaned and shined.
Cruelty (Shaken) (6 rds) (DC 16) (Su) When you use your Touch of Corruption ability, you may also make your target shaken for 1r/Antipaladin level

You may only apply a single Cruelty ability to each use of Touch of Corruption, chosen when used.
Cruelty (Staggered) (3 rds) (DC 16) (Su) When you use your touch of corruption ability, you may also make your target staggered for 1 rd per 2 Antipaladin levels

You may only apply a single Cruelty ability to each use of touch of corruption, chosen when used.
Damage Resistance, Acid (5) You have the specified Damage Resistance against Acid attacks.
Damage Resistance, Cold (5) You have the specified Damage Resistance against Cold attacks.
Damage Resistance, Electricity (5) You have the specified Damage Resistance against Electricity attacks.
Darkvision (60 feet) You can see in the dark (black and white vision only).
Detect Good (At will) (Sp) You can use Detect Good at will (as the spell).
Fiendish Boon (Enhance weapon) (1/day, 6 min) (Sp) Add keen
Immunity to Disease You are immune to diseases.
Lamashtu’s Mark (1/day) 1/day: inflict 1d4 CHA penalty on an opponent you strike.
Smite Good (2/day) (Su) +3 to hit, +6 to damage, +3 deflection bonus to AC when used.
Touch of Corruption (3d6) (6/day) (Su) You can inflict 3d6 damage, 6/day
Unholy Resilience (Su) You gain your Charisma Bonus as a bonus to all saving throws.


Before Combat If Nualia suspects combat is imminent, she summons her fiendish spirit into her sword, granting it the vicious ability, and casts protection from good.

During Combat Nualia activates her Sihedron medallion as a free action at the start of combat to gain false life.

She prefers to casts litanies on her enemies while in melee. She prefers to fight with her bastard sword and claw, her face an impassive mask save for her eyes, which blaze with anger; but she will not hesitate to use her touch of corruption to stagger particularly dangerous enemies. If she can, she will move to make sure her aura of cowardice affects as many of her opponents as possible before her yeth hound ally uses its bay.

She uses smite good as quickly as possible, preferring to target good-aligned divine casters. If possible, she moves into the hall to the south so that it’s harder to surround her, and so she has an escape route handy, using channeled negative energy to clear a path if needed.

Morale Nualia is loath to abandon her hard work, but if reduced to fewer than 15 hit points, she does just that, reasoning that escape and eventual revenge is better than death at the hands of the PCs. She does her best to flee Thistletop, ordering any surviving minions she encounters to guard her retreat.

To increase her nastiness even further, there’s a gray area in the rules that suggests she might be able to use her claw to deliver her touch of corruption as a standard melee attack – if you decide to go that way, her claw attack is a +9, and deals 1d6+3 damage (plus the touch of corruption damage and stagger effect).

Also not only is the yeth hound bay a fear effect, but so is bane, and bane‘s penalty to fear effect saves stacks with her aura of cowardice. She should quite literally leave your PCs cowering in fear! 😉

6hp * 5 + 10 + 3*6 + 6 favored class

False life: 1d10+5

Divine Favor: +1 hit and damage

Rise of the Runelords – Thistletop

(Originally posted on the Dwarven Forge forums)

[Game date: 2013 Jul 05]

The Dwarven Forge Woodlands set turned out wonderfully for the use as the layout for the Thistle tunnels leading to Thistletop. The PC’s were all understandably scared of squeezing into the mound of nestles, wherein dozens of goblins were hiding.

The group was able to successfully navigate their way through, although Gogmurt proved quite elusive with his special ability to walk through the thistle walls!

Stumbling upon the Birdcruncher tribe:


Fighting Gogmurt, as he casts Entangle!




Tangletooth slain…


Making the way across the rigged rope bridge, the heroes of Sandpoint arrive at the crumbling keep. There they dispatch the distracted guards, and Warchief Ripnugget’s hosts.

(Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough of my pieces to fully make out the keep, so I didn’t build out the courtyard or outbuildings. So just the front portion, watch towers, and throne room.)

Entering the open front doors:


Peeking into the throne room reveals the Warchief astride a giant gecko holding court over his tribe.



Exploring the courtyard:


Campaign Journal

  1. Session 8:
    1. Date: 2013 Jul 05
      1. Players: Group
    2. Thistletop
      1. Scouted Thistletop
        1. Scared at the fortified nature of it: the Thistles and the bridge
        2. Weighed assault options
        3. Decided to do a water assault
          1. Returned to town to get boat and waited a week until the new moon.
          2. Heard about the “sea monster”
          3. Reconsidered their options
          4. Went back, and camped out. Noticed evening fog, and decided to attack.
      2. Clear out Thistle tunnels
        1. Found way to Birdcruncher goblins and killed them.
        2. Found westernmost exit, looking over cliff out to the island.
        3. Wandered past the howling hole and found the kennels. They filled the goblin dogs full of arrows.
        4. Scouted out past kennels and spotted firepelt cat hiding around corner.
          1. Vaehrun charged cat and attacked. Gogmurt then cast entangle, and moved into and out through magical brambles and thistles attacking the party. They eventually capture him when Vaehrun remained beyond one thistle wall waiting for him to cross while he was harassed with spells and missle weapons.
          2.  Questioned Gogmurt and rested.
            1. Learned about the sea monster, as well as about Nualia’s companions.
            2. They leave him tied up in the Thistles
      3. Explored upper levels of Thistletop
        1. Crossing the bridge, they explored some of the ruined fort atop the isle. Shalelu and Vaehrun killed the sleeping pickle-thieving goblins. Then explored the courtyard, giving up after being unable to open up the nailed shut stable.
        2. They dispatch the goblins playing cards, and snuck up on Warchief Ripnugget and his retinue in the throne room. Summoning a deeper darkness, Gragdar moved into the room and killed all the goblins with the powers of negative energy.
      4. Chased Ripnugget down
        1. Following the open doorway down, they find a naked bugbear with a bow behind a line of naked female goblins. As they engage, the are surprised by a very-much alive Ripnugget who frequently charges while running alongside the walls and ceilings atop his giant gecko! They eventually take him down, but not before taking heavy damage.
        2. The group retreats back across the bridge.
        3. They vote upon Gogmurt’s fate, and decide to let him go, now that the Thistletop goblins have been decimated.

Rise of the Runelords–Thistletop planning

(Originally posted on the Dwarven Forge forums)

I’m running my group through Paizo’s most excellent Rise of the Runelords adventure path (the new anniversary edition one), and I am looking forward to using the Woodlands set for the thistle tunnels.

I know that I won’t be able to reproduce the map per se, but I wanted to convey the same feel, so I put together this rough approximation. I was trying to go for a more "random" meandering path feel with varying widths of passages; that’s why some have walls back to back. I was looking for some suggestions before I run it on Friday.

The upside down tile is to represent the Howling Hole, and I didn’t have enough tiles with me to finish putting the walls for Gogmurt’s area, but will do that once I get to the venue (this is 3 sets shown, and I brought a few other sets there already.)