My Pathfinder Games Goes Mythic

Making a red dragon angry...not the best of ideas.What happens when you face mythic dragons and demons without a paladin on hand? My Pathfinder group is about to find out.

While I’ve been using a lot of the Pathfinder adventure paths lately (y’know, because they’re awesome), I find that I’m using them more in terms of broad plot strokes. That’s especially true of my current Wrath of the Righteous game, since the group started this path at 13th level and I’m changing a lot of the core assumptions, including the identity of the villain. Instead of going after the demon lord Deskari, the PCs are trying to take down the dragon-god Derrezen, aka the Red Mage, aka the guy who’s been the primary villain in my campaign setting for almost 15 years now. This session, I set aside the published adventure module so I could have Derrezen make the Second Dragon War that much more personal.

One of the recently introduced artifacts in my game is the Dragonheart, which is the crystallized heart of Derrezen’s original form (before he got killed, reincarnated, and then transformed into a brand new demigod – it’s best not to ask too many questions). This heart contains the remnants of Derrezen’s original divine power – enough to transform mortals into mythic beings and enough to bring a demigod to full godhood. Naturally, Derrezen wants it, and by allying with the demon lord Baphomet he found its hiding place. It was up to the PCs to stop him from getting it. Only one problem – Derrezen is a CR 30 creature, and the PCs were only 13th level.

Not that things like that stop the heroes, though. No matter how many times Derrezen hands these guys their asses, they always come back for more. This time around there was even a bit of hurt feelings as, thanks to a good initiative roll, the party’s inquisitor/rogue managed to get ahead of the paladin and be the first one to engage in melee. As Derrezen disarmed her and then started smacking her around with her own flaming halberd, the paladin was left muttering, “That should be my ass-kicking.”

To make matters worse, Derrezen was assisted by a mythic half-dragon sorcerer. However, she wound up doing very little thanks to insane rolls from Claude Awesome the Clydesdale, who managed to score a couple of crits and lay down about 100 hit points of damage before she even got to go. You would think that a horse character with almost no magic items would be at a disadvantage in a high-level group, but for some reason this horse always manages to look badass.

The entire fight for me was a calculated gamble. I knew the PCs weren’t going to be able to hurt Derrezen, but I figured the players would be clever enough to shoot for the real target – the Dragonheart. Honestly, this could have been a major flaw in my plan – the majority of the campaign relied on the PCs getting over their hatred for Derrezen and destroying the thing he was after.

I guess it wasn’t really that much of a gamble, though, since the players did exactly what I hoped they would do – actually, they did it even better, since I didn’t expect them to keep Derrezen busy while going after the heart. The paladin taunted him and got a severe beatdown as a result, but this allowed the sorcerer to sneak over and disintegrate the thing, unleashing a burst of divine energy that served as the group’s moment of ascension as mythic characters.

Derrezen went berserk, fried the entire group, and then finished the job of turning the city of Blackwood into a smoking hole in the ground. However, he doesn’t realize that the PCs were momentarily protected thanks to their mythic power. They awoke a couple days later, as good as new. Well, except one.

The paladin died from the initial explosion of the heart. I run the game with action points, and she could have used those to save herself, but the temptation to let a PC pass on after being badass enough to sacrifice herself to foil the plans of an evil demigod proved to be too much. Instead of keeping the character, the player allowed the paladin to pass on with a twist – the consciousness of her intelligent sword (the sword of Lorinth) has entered her body, allowing her old character Penelope to live again. On the storytelling side, I think this is awesome and the group got extra XP for the idea. On the mechanics side, having a high-level paladin sure would make fighting all these baddies a little easier…

This session also marked the introduction of Pathfinder’s new mythic rules to the game. Derrezen demonstrated some of them by using mythic surges to enhance his spells and get extra actions, and the PCs earned their first tier at the end of the session. While I’ll have to see how things work in the game, I like the rules so far.

First, I like how they work parallel to the existing rules rather than being limited to characters of higher than 20th level. That establishes different tiers of power. In terms of sheer character level, the highest-powered character in the game is a 22nd-level eldritch knight. However, he’s not a mythic character. He’s definitely impressive, but he doesn’t have certain things that the PCs now possess, such as the ability to spend a mythic surge to cast any arcane spell, whether the character normally knows it or not, like the PC sorcerer now has. Mythic tiers work with the regular rules, but they definitely give the feeling that it’s a whole new ballgame.

Second, I like how mythic abilities have a finite cap on them. Pretty much every mythic ability keys off the use of mythic surges, of which the PCs have a limited number per day. Hopefully, this will allow me to fine-tune the challenges by keeping an eye on resource management. I think I’ll probably have an easier time keeping the characters challenged by watching a daily resource better than if they just got a ton of extra permanent bonuses scattered around on their character sheets.

Whether the mythic rules work out or not remains to be seen, I have a good feeling about them so far. As to the campaign as a whole, my only concern is that I’m stuck running only one session a month.

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