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I am somewhat confused by the "role" of the shamans in the Danger at Dunwater module from Ghosts of Saltmarsh. I understand the politics as described, and obviously it is up to the DM to play the parts however they feel, but the descriptions seem kind of contradictory.

Assuming that the party is trying to succeed in the mission (minor spoiler), then the description for area 20 of the lizardfolk lair is kind of confusing (GoS, p. 75):

[...] and instead the lizardfolk take the characters in custody and take them to see the queen.

If the party showed up accompanied by friendly lizardfolk, they would probably already have met the queen... Would the shamans still attack on sight if the party is accompanied by friendlies?
Given the DC checks for "persuading" the shamans, is it implied that the shamans and the party always discuss the matter in the presence of the Queen?

I am curious about how other DMs have handled this situation if "so far, up to this point, the party is doing well and has avoided fighting."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This seems to be phrased somewhat like a discussion prompt - though I think with some editing, it could be adjusted to be a more answerable Q&A. Right now, it basically asks, "How do other DMs roleplay [these characters]?". All answers to such a question would be equally valid; there's no way to determine a single "best" answer. However, you could perhaps ask what guidance the adventure gives on how to RP the shamans, or ask specifically about the issue you're confused about, rather than just asking generally how people RP the shamans. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 11 at 2:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I don't think that this is an issue in the context of running the module (it might be one if we didn't have that context). The q describes a specific scenario at a specific point of the module. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Apr 11 at 11:28
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I just finished running this section a few weeks ago.

First, it helps if you read the whole entry. Also, remember that the entries cannot cover every possible contingency; this section is too dynamic. The description of room 20 reads (p. 75):

A lizardfolk shaman is leading two disciples (lizardfolk) in a short prayer to Semuanya.

If the party arrives here accompanied by friendly lizardfolk, the shaman initially urges the guards to attack. A successful DC 15 Charisma (Persuasion) check by a character prevents a fight, and instead the lizardfolk take the characters in custody and take them to meet the queen.

Next, consider that here are many ways the characters can reach this area, including ways that do not involve meeting the queen. They could even fight their way here. If the party comes in through the correct entrance and someone in the party speaks Draconic, and they think up a good story, they can enter the village normally (read communications and disposition), so there are several ways the can interact with lizardfolk without having talked to the queen.

Also, consider that lizardfolk are not psychic; it is entirely possible for the party to have spoke to the queen and yet for many lizardfolk to not know that. Even if they have met the queen, there is no reason to believe shamans were present.

Next, remember from the entry at the beginning of the chapter on politics among the lizardfolk (p. 62; emphasis mine):

Opposing that group (mostly covertly, for the rule of the queen remains absolute) are the traditionalists, led by the shamans. The shamans believe that allying and intermingling with other races is contrary to the divine will of their god, Semuanya, and that no good can come of it. Consequently, the shamans hate and distrust the minister, Sauriv, whom they consider to be the prime instigator of these efforts that go against nature. They dare not move openly against him, however, since he enjoys the trust and favor of the queen.

Also, notice that in the "Goodwill Tour" section (p. 63), the Persuasion check DC for earning the shamans' trust is higher than for earning the trust of any other group or individual in the lizardfolk lair.

From this, we can conclude that the shamans want to start a fight or at least an incident. They don't want the party in the village. They see the very presence of the party as an affront to their religion; they dislike lizardfolk who even cooperate with humans. So even if the party arrives with friendly lizardfolk, the shaman tries to create an incident, knowing that if the party harms any lizardfolk it will help sway the queen against them. The shaman wants to start trouble, and the party has to act to convince the guards not to fight. Remember that the guards will not speak Common.

Personally, I love this part because you can use it to show the party how they can easily be tricked into undermining their own goals, if they just react to everything in a knee-jerk way.

Remember, the entries cannot cover every possible contingency. The village is meant to be a dynamic place with dispositions being changed by the players - which is why politics and communications is discussed first. Covering every contingency would fill a book just for this one single chapter. If the entry does not fit based on what has already occurred, ignore it, but chances are if the party is in that spot, it is a ploy by the shamans that could work.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I love this answer, I think it would be even better if you'd condense the information of "The shamans believe that allying and intermingling with other races is contrary to the divine will of their god, Semuanya, and that no good can come of it." to use it as a header. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Apr 11 at 11:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ If the entry does not fit based on what has already occurred, ignore it - which is what I did ... very nice answer. 👍😎 \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 11 at 15:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @John this is a great answer, thanks. Late last night after having read through the mod for the first time I went back over it with the map next to me and yes, there are many ways the party can get to that point. I was using area "20" as an example, mainly, as the same situation exists elsewhere but you're right: the shamans want to prevent an alliance from occurring and unless several things fall into place (that DC 20 check and getting over the language barrier, etc.) they will likely succeed. Again - great answer - thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Omortis Apr 12 at 1:46

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