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Pathfinder Society Survival 101

Monday, October 8, 2012

One of the concerns I have heard pop up lately, both on the messageboards and at shows, is that Pathfinder Society scenarios have become more deadly. I've heard horror stories about TPKs on the rise in various regions of the world. Let's see if we can help combat some of that and help the new player, or the low-level character of a veteran, with some options that may just prove useful.

One of the benefits of being a Venture-Captain before this job was that I met a wide variety of players throughout the southeast. Each and every one has their strong points and weaknesses. One of the strongest rules players I know from my time in Georgia was Jordan James. He survived quite a few tables I GMed, and most of the time, it was because of brilliant use of a piece of equipment I had never heard of or had seen used once at most. He has been discussing equipment that makes survival easier, specifically when it comes to lower-level characters, with the Georgia crowd for the last year through their Pathfinder Society lodge messageboards.

After speaking with Jordan this past week, he proved excited to share his thoughts on a few overlooked items that might just make the difference between your low-level character surviving or going to meet Pharsma earlier than anticipated.

Jordan advised, "Here we have a simple list of items I have found to be ridiculously useful, and sometimes critical, to have around for those situations that, if you aren't prepared, may very well turn into a TPK."

"Please do reply with items I've missed (there will be many) because the sole intention here is to provide a helpful thread for fellow adventurers, and to have a little fun in writing it," he noted.

So, what are some things that are just wonderful to have available in a pinch, and more often than not, are generally not well known?

Elixir of Spirit Sight (1,000 gp): From Pathfinder Adventure Path #38: City of Seven Spears, 1,000 gp for 1 minute of see invisibility and ghost touch for both your weapons and armor! Incorporeal entities got you down with strength drains and random irritating things that ignore your armor and halves your damage? Go to town on them with this wonderful concoction.

Bladeguard (40 gp): Straight out of the Advanced Player's Guide and into your martially inclined character's inventory. This clear resin protects a weapon from harmful attacks from oozes, rust monsters, and similar effects that corrode or melt weapons, rendering the weapon immune for 24 hours. One pot can coat one two-handed weapon, two one-handed or light weapons, or 50 ammunition items. Applying it takes 1 full round. Immersing the weapon in water or similar liquid washes it off. That's pretty useful for its cost.

Potion of Feather Step (50 gp): More Advanced Player's Guide spell goodness, and bottled for your convenience. For 10 minutes, you can ignore difficult terrain, and even take 5-foot steps in such an area, oh HADES YES! Seriously, have you got one of those wizards in your party? You know the type: crazy guy throwing around stone call, sleet storm, and other such "control" spells thinking he's awesome, when all he's really doing is making it impossible for you to move? This bottle is your answer (you can even throw the empty remains at the wizard afterward as a free action!). Smart wizards of the above type also keep a couple of these on hand.

Potion of Invigorate (50 gp): Going into battle with a creature that can sap your endurance, leaving you fatigued or exhausted, this potion will banish that pathetic mortal weakness and allow you to ignore the associated penalties for 10 WHOLE MINUTES. Of course, when it runs out, you get not only the penalties, but also an extra d6 points of nonlethal damage for your arrogance in ignoring your natural limits—but hey, performance enhancements are just an easy way of separating winners from losers! Honestly, though, ignoring those penalties for 10 minutes, that's freaking awesome for 50 gp.

Potion of Delay Poison (300 gp): 300 gp might sound like a lot, but for that handful of gold, you get to tell any and all poisons coursing through your veins for the next HOUR to sit down, shut up, and wait for you to finish beating the stuffing out of the poor fool that thought poisoning you would be its ticket to victory. This is like antitoxin, but sexy.

Smoked Goggles (10 gp): So, medusa, basilisks, and other gaze-type critters suck. You can avert your eyes (50% chance to avoid the gaze, 20% miss chance that round), or close them (immune to the gaze, but then everything gains total concealment from you, which kind of sucks). The answer: These cheap-as-dirt goggles grant you a +8 circumstance bonus on your saving throws vs. gaze, and all you suffer is a 20% miss chance (and a -4 on Perception checks—I know, a real deal breaker there if you're using these for combat). More Advanced Player's Guide goodness.

Smelling Salts (25 gp): Speaking of Advanced Player's Guide goodness, one last entry is the useful smelling salts. These sharply scented gray crystals cause people inhaling them to regain consciousness. Smelling salts grant you a new saving throw to resist any spell or effect that has already rendered you unconscious or staggered. If exposed to smelling salts while dying, you immediately become conscious and staggered, but must still make stabilization checks each round; if you perform any standard action (or any other strenuous action), you take 1 point of damage after completing the act and fall unconscious again. A container of smelling salts has dozens of uses if stoppered after each use, but depletes in a matter of hours if left opened. That's just nifty.

Bracers of Archery, Lesser (5,000 gp): A wrist slot that offers +1 to hit with a bow you're already proficient with is okay, but the hidden gem is that it works like the greater variety in terms of providing you proficiency with ANY bow (excluding crossbows). For characters without any bow proficiency or chaffing under a short bow only restriction, save the feat, drop 5,000 gp, and be happy!

Elixirs (250 gp): These are pretty well known, but just in case, for a paltry 250 gp you can pack potions for a +10 competence bonus on Acrobatics Perception, Stealth, and Swim checks. Handy, but keep in mind the swimming one is sort of overshadowed by the touch of sea potion below.

Golembane Scarab (2,500 gp): It's a neck slot that detects golems within 60 feet and ignores their DR with weapon, unarmed, or natural attacks. This can be a nice little package of helpfulness here!

Pathfinder's Pouch (1,000 gp): This little gem from Seekers of Secrets functions as a small bag of holding, allowing one to store up to 10 pounds of items within its 2-cubic-feet limit. Why is it special? Because detect magic ain't got nothing on this pro—thus, a Pathfinder can keep important or dangerous items safe in its confines with little worry from guards, customs, and random searches. Even if the pouch is opened and turned upside down with a shake, as long as the proper command word remains unspoken, nothing in the extradimensional space will fall out.

Potion of Bestow Grace (400 gp): For good characters only, but this can be a sweet bonus if you happen to have the rare positive Charisma modifier (and aren't already a paladin). For 4 minutes, you get a sacred bonus on all of your saving throws equal to your Charisma score bonus. That's almost good enough to make me consider being good, almost...

Oil of Weapon of Awe (300 gp): For 3 minutes, your weapon not only gains a +2 sacred bonus on damage rolls, but if you score a critical hit, it causes the creature hit to become shaken for 1 round with no save. It can't be used on natural weapons (though it can on unarmed strikes), but the gravy is that when used on ranged weapons, it applies to missiles fired. Loving some of these Advanced Player's Guide spells.

Potion of Touch of Sea (50 gp): For a measly 50 gp, you get a 30-foot swim speed, +8 competence bonus on Swim checks, the ability to take 10 on Swim checks even when distracted or endangered, and even use the run action while swimming. While this is more than enough to leave the poor elixir of swimming curled up in a corner, the one caveat is that it doesn't enable you to breath underwater, but for 1 minute of duration, you are bloody well near a seal.

The following are from the Pathfinder Society Field Guide:

Air Crystals (50 gp): An inexpensive personal bottle of air. Find yourself underwater, in a void, or otherwise bereft of air? Pop some of these beauties in your mouth and you've got 1 minute of breathing space to plan your escape (note that you can't talk while chewing on these crystals).

Comfort (armor special ability) (5,000 gp): Whoa. Okay, for 5,000 gp (doesn't even take up a slot of enhancement bonus on your armor) you get armor that is always clean, doesn't penalize you in hot weather, counts as cold-weather clothing in cold weather, reduces armor check penalties by 1 (minimum 0), AND regardless of what kind of armor it is, it can be slept in as if it were light armor! Note that only applies to being slept in, but my goodness, for anyone concerned about getting caught without their armor in the night, this is a sweet solution!

Dweomer's Essence (500 gp): Casters take note! For 500 gp this one-off pinch of powder may seem insane, until you notice that you can add it as an extra material component to any spell you are casting and receive a +5 bonus to your caster level to overcome spell resistance. It's like an on-demand rod of piercing spell, except it's available whenever you need it, stacks with the Piercing Spell feat if you really need that spell to land, and doesn't cost you an action to get out a rod or an additional level to apply the metamagic. This is the sort of awesome that I'd pay more than 500 gp for, so enjoy and keep some in the component pouch!

Fortunate Charm (3,000 gp): Anything that can help alleviate the terrible pain of lame dice is wonderful, and this neck slot beauty does just that once per day on a failed skill or concentration check. Since failing checks like that can often result in extremely severe consequences, 3,000 gp for that kind of love is just sweet.

Runestone of Power (2,000 gp): Wow, that's a lot of gold! Ever looked longingly at wizards and their fancy pearls of power letting them get free spells? Well, as long as you're a bard, inquisitor, oracle, sorcerer, or summoner you are in luck! For the cost of double an equivalent pearl of power, once per day (per runestone, of course) a spell you cast of its level uses the runestone's power and not one of your limited spells per day.

Potion of Stalwart Resolve (300 gp): New cleric spells to the rescue! For 3 rounds per pop, this little gem lets you ignore ability damage and penalties to any one ability score of your choice (unless it equals your total ability score, in which case you're still screwed). It has a short duration and doesn't protect you from ability drain, but when you really need to shake off some bad ability damage and get back into the fight, this is what you need.

Now for a few from the Adventurer's Armory:

Weapon Cord (1 sp): Cheap as dirt and twice as useful! If you are disarmed or drop your weapon, it never moves farther away from you than an adjacent square and you can recover it as a swift action. The caveat is you cannot wield another weapon with the same hand the cord is tied to, and removing the cord is either a full-round action (untying) or move action (cutting). Great for archers who never want to be separated from their bows.

Spring-Loaded Wrist Sheath (5 gp): Retrieve any dagger, dart, wand, or equivalent-sized object (forearm length or so) as a swift action. Let me provide a simple example of why this is awesome. Your friend is 20 feet away and dying. You move to her, get out your wand, are out of actions, and she dies at your feet. With this wrist sheath, you move to her, produce your wand of cure light wounds with a swift flourish, and save her life.

Antiplague (50 gp): Getting diseased can be really bad. Use this if you know you're moving into an area where such might be likely. For an hour, you receive a +5 alchemical bonus on Fort saves against disease. Even better, if you're already diseased, this will let you make two saves (no +5 bonus though) and use the better result. Good thing to have.

Vermin Repellent (5 gp): Not a perfect defense, but it keeps individual vermin away and swarms of vermin must make a DC 15 Fortitude save to enter your square. Not bad for a 4-hour buff.

Allnight (75 gp): Recommending "herbs" and "black market items"—I love this guide! Allnight eliminates the effects of fatigue for 8 hours, during which time you take a –2 penalty on all skill checks, and when the duration runs out, you're exhausted. The good news: Combine a couple doses with a couple potions of lesser restoration and you are the Energizer Bunny.

And a few other generally useful items to have around:

Potion of Blur (300 gp): Sure, the miss chance may only be 20%, but there are a couple nice bonuses during its 3-minute duration. First, since you gain concealment, most precision-based damage, such as from sneak attacks, won't work on you unless the user has some pretty special feats. Second, if you like to be stealthy, then here is your bottle of "hide in plain sight," since this grants you that necessary concealment you need to hide.

Oil of Align Weapon (300 gp): Your go-to spell when you need a weapon to bypass DR of the evil/good/lawful/chaotic types. Three minutes per use, so it should last long enough to even apply before combat if you know what's around the corner.

Potion of Remove Sickness (50 gp): For 10 minutes, you gain a +4 morale bonus on saves vs. disease and the sickened and nauseated conditions, or suppress effects already being experienced for the duration of the spell. While being sickened is annoying, some diseases, and especially being nauseated, really can make you useless, so this is a lifesaver. Pro tip: When you're nauseated, you can't take standard actions, so either pour this down a nauseated ally's throat on your turn, or hold it out and have one of your comrades do the same for you.

Potion of Negate Aroma (50 gp): For the sneaky types that are sick and tired of being given away by scent, one hit off this potion and you've got 1 hour of scentless scouting as long as you don't get doused in a new, smelly substance.

I know there are more, especially out of Ultimate Equipment, but those are a few I really wanted to throw out! Post other great options and we all might just survive an extra encounter or two!

Mike Brock
Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator

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Tags: Pathfinder Society
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Grand Lodge **** Venture-Agent aka kinevon

To Scale the Dragon, in my experience as a player, can be fairly deadly. Not the Aspis Consortium, but the other, up on the mountain...

Several of the low tier modules have their potentially deadly aspects, including Thornkeep: The Accursed Halls, Crypt of the Everflame, etc.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What are some items that are 'must haves' for tier 7-11?

Silver Crusade *** Venture-Agent aka Hrothdane

Any time I see an enemy with power attack and a x3 or x4 weapon in a scenario I'm prepping, I feel very nervous for my players.

Grand Lodge **** Venture-Lieutenant, Indiana—Bloomington aka BartonOliver

3 people marked this as a favorite.
DragoDorn wrote:
What are some items that are 'must haves' for tier 7-11?

While there are certain items/spells/classes/feats I feel fill some of these roles better than others. There is no particular item every character has to have.

So my (partial) list of must haves:

A way to contribute to healing

A way to fly.

A way to deal with Darkness (even Deeper as a bonus).

A way to deal with swarms.

A way to deal with flying enemies.

A way to deal with invisibility.

Something useful they do well in combat.

Something useful they do well out of combat.

Silver Crusade ***** Venture-Captain, Indiana—Bloomington aka CanisDirus

5 people marked this as a favorite.

An oldie but a goodie:

Painlord's What to Expect at a PFS Table

Scarab Sages **** Venture-Agent, Netherlands—Utrecht aka Woran

BartonOliver wrote:
Woran wrote:
BartonOliver wrote:
Matthew Morris wrote:

In general...

Anything written by Kyle Baird

Not quite anything, he also wrote the Confirmation, though definitely a good rule of thumb.

The confirmation has the dreaded great axe crit at lvl 1 which has claimed many a fresh character.

Getting crit is getting crit. That has relatively little to do with difficulty of a scenario (except IMO cases where the enemy is specifically built for Crits) and that scenario does quite a a bit to alleviate the possibility of being crit (depending on the players)

Well, if they fight the [redacted] before heading into the cave, they are quite screwed. If they fight the [redacted] at the end of the scenario, the fight is much easier.

But a greataxe crit at lvl 1 is still a very dangerous thing. It can easily get a character from full health to dead in one go. 3x damage is painfull.

Grand Lodge **** Venture-Lieutenant, Indiana—Bloomington aka BartonOliver

Woran wrote:
BartonOliver wrote:

Getting crit is getting crit. That has relatively little to do with difficulty of a scenario (except IMO cases where the enemy is specifically built for Crits) and that scenario does quite a a bit to alleviate the possibility of being crit (depending on the players)

Well, if they fight the [redacted] before heading into the cave, they are quite screwed. If they fight the [redacted] at the end of the scenario, the fight is much easier.

But a greataxe crit at lvl 1 is still a very dangerous thing. It can easily get a character from full health to dead in one go. 3x damage is painfull.

Thank you for re-stating my point.

Confirmation Crit Math:
As for the greataxe on [redacted] or otherwise for that matter. There is approximately a 3.75% (assumes average AC at level 1 of PCs to be 15) chance of a crit for an average of 39 damage (kills any level 1 but low chance). A longsword at the same strength crit 7.5% of the time for 21 damage (i.e. twice as likely and still downs maybe kills any level 1). Also, if they fight at the end the crit likelihood drops to 3.25% and is a x2 weapon with average damage of 22. (probably kills anything besides high con d10 classes and Barbs, but low chance of actually happening)

If I had to guess this is the reason to choose a x3 weapon, also character death at level 1 is less of a big deal than other times.

Sovereign Court ** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

Re: Confirmation -

Isn't the crit range of the post-cave minotaur encounter only a 20/x2? I remember some discussions about that number, because it's less than you'd expect from an axe. But, less by design perhaps.

Grand Lodge **** Venture-Lieutenant, Indiana—Bloomington aka BartonOliver

Ascalaphus wrote:

Re: Confirmation -

** spoiler omitted **


More details:
It drops to x2 because of the Broken condition from Janira's scroll of shatter. (It also drops in damage from 3d6 to 2d6)
Scarab Sages **** Venture-Agent, Netherlands—Utrecht aka Woran

Ascalaphus wrote:

Re: Confirmation -

** spoiler omitted **

Huh, you're right. But I forgot he has a total of three attaks.

the confirmation:
Melee broken battleaxe +7/+2 (2d6+4/×2) and gore +4 (1d6+2)


Woran wrote:
Also, Myrddin, did you play all your tables with six players? The earlier season scenarios were written with four players in mind. A full party most certainly makes them easier.

At cons, the table was almost always full. At my weekly game, we typically have four players and sometimes five.

Liberty's Edge

We failed Fabric of Reality, #4-16 with I think 2 dead, 2 captured, and 1 ran away.

Dark Archive *

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Severing Ties:
Dangerous: Throwing a Basilisk at a level 1 party.

More Dangerous: The party charming the basilisk and then having to spend there rest of the dungeon playing hide and seek with a walking fort save factory. Although to be fair, it did pretty much solo the rest of the dungeon for us - we can forgive it for turning one of the party members into stone, can't we? :)

Scarab Sages **

In my experience, nothing is dangerous if you blow it up first!

Scarab Sages ****

Lassenkirche wrote:
In my experience, nothing is dangerous if you blow it up first!

Baby Dinosaurs

Scarab Sages **

Flutter wrote:
Lassenkirche wrote:
In my experience, nothing is dangerous if you blow it up first!
Baby Dinosaurs

I would say baby dinosaurs blow up just as well as everything else, but I'd be lying.

They blow up even better!


BartonOliver wrote:
Myrddin111 wrote:

So, honestly, I'd love to see a list of those scenarios that are considered "the most dangerous".

(Temple of Empyreal Enlightment certain has potential)....

.... Kirin and Kraken both have the potential to be deadly but not the reputation (at least not yet)

Commenting on the two I've played:

Empyreal Enlightenment was one of the first few PFS sessions I played. Our party must have been 1-2, maybe even all level 1, and not very experienced players. We didn't make any unforced errors, but the BBEG fight was more than that particular group could handle.

Empyreal Enlightenment Spoiler:
We didn't lose any fingers to the statue, although we executed the chant/curse. And *almost* lost a party member to the haunt thingy in the kitchen. The BBEG and his little friend are plenty to muck up a bunch of 1-2 levels unless you make your saves and can toss some damage relatively quickly and/or at range. We weren't good at either one. Our GM was merciful and had guards escort us out rather than TPKing us.

Just played Kirin and Kraken Saturday - my first 7-11, although I used a Seelah (paladin) pregen since my highest level character is 6.2. We had a table of six, with two pregens (the other was the gunslinger), a stupid powerful fighter-beatstick 8 , a Bones Oracle 9, a Mystic Theurge 8, and a transmuter Wizard 10. We played the low subtier, and it went pretty well. The paladin did get beaten down pretty hard in the second fight. The GM even commented that this one was practically made to be tough on pallys. A couple of self-heals and some help from the Oracle and it was ok. Overall we avoided the stupid mistakes and a big saving throw made some things much easier:

Kirin and Kraken spoiler:
We were diplomatic with King, so we didn't mistakenly open the front door, nor take anything that we weren't specifically granted permission for. And the BBEG failed a save vs. Fear that took it out of the final fight.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Washington—Seattle aka Taenia

Of Kirin and Kraken Spoiler:
Fear the SQUIZARD!

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