It took us a long time to get through Burnt Offerings, for the usual reasons. Scheduling issues, mostly, with some long breaks as players were sent out of town for various reasons.
I found the adventure ran very smoothly, with minimal railroading. The actual structure of the adventure helped a lot. The first half has the PCs in reaction mode, and the second half does a good job helping to transition them into being active without being too obvious about it.
The PCs I ended up with:
Valak of the Sun Clan - a Shoanti "monk", cast out from his tribe and working as a bouncer of the brothel when we start. I put "monk" in quotes, because the character class is Monk, but the character is not. He ends up in a fledgling relationship with Ameiko.
Hyanth, Cleric of Abbadar - the charismatic travelling priest. This is the target of Shayliss affections, which turned into a nice running subplot.
Voldeman the Necromancer - a wizard from Magnimar, who has come to Sandpoint to follow up on clues surrounding his master's brutal assassination. His master was found with a sihedron rune carved into his chest (I was laying the groundwork for Skinsaw Murders here)
Dolgan the Musketeer - a dwarven ranger from the far, far south. He's armed with a musket and revolver and hates goblins. Naturally, when he hears about Sandpoint's goblin problem, he comes calling.
Vaxielle, ex-Soldier - mustered out of the Magnimar military, Vaxielle has retired to Sandpoint but finds himself drawn out by the danger to the town. He's a long spear user.
I've never had all 5 present for a session yet, as at least one player's been unavailable.
The attack on Sandpoint and the subsequent minor events were really fun to play. The town really does feel alive and it doesn't feel too forced when the PCs become the focus of the townspeoples attention and support. I didn't push things too much, letting the players spend the days after the attack doing what they wanted to do.
The Tsuto attack on the Glassworks plus the information Dolgan was gathering while patrolling the local farms for goblins, pointed the PCs towards Thistletop in a way that felt like it was rewarding them for their initiative, rather than just handing them the next set of clues.
They also had fun with the Catacombs of Wrath, and join what appears to be a long list of parties who defeat Erylium using grapple.
The assault on Thistletop ended up being a series of at least 4 distinct attacks. The fight in the thornbushes was very brutal... an entangle spell in the thorns became a frightening and deadly encounter (since the thorns would do damage every turn someone was entangled). The team pulled back and rested up after this.
There then followed a botched assault on the fort proper that turned into showcase for Valak (him being the only one to actually make it across to the fort - everyone else ended up in the drink and swimming to stay alive). Once everyone was not drowned, they once more pulled back - but destroyed the bridge.
At this point, I had Orik, the fighter on the bad guy team, bail on his fellows and come warn the PCs about what they were going to face. I did this for two reasons - one, because it seemed to fit the character of Orik, based on his write up. And two, because I got the distinct impression the players didn't feel any sense of urgency. Orik was able to give them a "ticking clock". The PCs sent him on his way (with a horse), which I'm going to use as a hook into the Hooksaw Mountain stuff.
It was also at this point I realized that Nualia's party and the PCs party had a strange mirror-mirror quality: Nualia had assembled a ranger, cleric, monk, wizard and fighter. The PCs were a ranger, cleric, monk, wizard and fighter. Kismet!
Another assault was made on Thistletop, which cleared out Chief Ripnugget and the gobbos upstairs. The party pulled back again. At this point, Nualia was a day or to away from freeing the barghest, and I had word reach the PCs that the goblin tribes were marching towards Thistletop.
The final assault was made and Nualia defeated soon after. I don't know that the PCs had a hard time of it - the yeth hounds put a hurt on them, it's true, but otherwise the fights seemed fair and balanced.
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