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FullStarFullStar Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden. 7,661 posts (7,701 including aliases). 100 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist. 12 Pathfinder Society characters. 1 alias.


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

Most policies stayed the same, but a lot of text got abbreviated, so you kind of need to have the S7 guide in hand next to the S8 guide to actually use it. Unfortunately.

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

Prepping for next week. Looks exciting. Imaginative scenario, lots of moving parts. I do have some questions...


A1. The Entryway

The formerly opulent entry hall is filled with piles of
straw and rags that serve as chairs, as well as the tattered
sacks where its residents keep their meager possessions.
Creatures: The Empty (100 N male and female human
[Varisian] commoners 1) are suspicious of strangers.

Are there really a hundred beggars in there? How is Tsura the only one getting hit by falling brickwork then?

Also, the rewards for that scene look wrong; the loot found seems worth much more than the beggars' trinkets, but failing to save Tsura is a much bigger fraction of the scene reward.

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

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Flipmats vary quite a bit in how useful they are. On the one hand you have stuff like Arcane Dungeon that are so hyper-specific that you can only use them if you write the adventure around the map. On the other hand you have the quite generic terrain maps such as the Deep Forest and Hill Country maps; they can feature many many many different encounters.

I think some useful characteristics of maps are:

  • Tactically interesting features. A good map makes for a more interesting battlefield than a featureless plain. If there's too much open space on the mat, why even bother.

    Rather, we want features that we can play with. Such as trees to provide cover from flying enemies, rivers to cross (and face crocodiles), from which archers can rain down arrows on climbing assailants, shrubbery for ambushers to hide in, boulders to press our back to to stymie would-be flankers and so forth.

  • Not too cluttered. We do need some actual space to fight in. 5ft-corridors are awful if you have multiple players who bought a melee character. If there's not an open area anywhere, cavaliers, archers and blasters will be sad.

    I think this goes wrong with forest maps as well, due to the way trees are drawn. A bird's-eye view of a tree doesn't tell us where the trunk is. Rather, most tables will run the whole area shaded by the canopy as difficult/impassable terrain. Which means most forest maps become disguised versions of cave systems. Deep Forest is the rare exception which shows tree trunks. That does look a little "dead forest", but tactically it works better.

    Likewise, the Red Light District map has been quite useful because it's open enough to have scenes on, while the Slum District map is a maze of tiny rooms and I haven't seen it used anywhere yet.

  • Good-looking. If we're gonna shell out money for something on which to place our lovingly-painted minis, we do want it to look nice. The map should aid immersion in the adventure.

  • Generic = reusable It's far easier to re-use the Darklands map than the Tech Dungeon map.

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

I've been able to use Profession Barrister with my Asmodean Advocate cleric to discuss the finer points of Chelaxian law...

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Is there actually such a thing as a "shield magic item slot"? You can only get one shield AC bonus, but is there even such a thing a shield slot?

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Bargain. You could try to force the Planetar to do some things, but in the long run that's a bad thing. But it knows you could, and that is a bargaining chip. Don't lean on it too heavily of course.

So if you want something done, try to point out any Good aspects of the task. Meanwhile, offer to offset the "inconvenience"; as a high-level wizard you're able to do many things more efficiently than the Planetar. Different spell lists, allies in dubious places, all that. Imply that if you can't come to an agreement, that you'd have to apply force, but that you'd rather solve things amicably.

In the long run, this works better if you're neutral/good, as in, you're neutral, but don't do evil, you just aren't interesting in advancing Good either. As long as the Planetar isn't really scandalized about the tasks you ask of it or the things you offer in return, you can develop a working relation.

And in the real long run, what you're after is perhaps not just the Planetar; after a few levels, you're more powerful than that. But a direct relation to an insider who can get your concerns into the ear of the movers and shakers of the upper planes, that could be very useful.

Another idea: once you know its True Name, if you advance the Planetar's political standing among the heavenly hosts, you're improving the power of your "ally". So don't automatically refuse to do useful favors to it that might advance its standing.

Then again, expect "conversations" with superior heavenly beings that are nonplussed about the hold you have over the Planetar. Be nice.

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

I just told the players this is one of those Videogame things that you need to accept and get on with. "This is what you get: two normal rounds, followed by one round interacting with puzzles/circles."

It's not horribly immersion-breaking to me, although you can sort of see someone's toes sticking out from under that curtain. Just move on and progress the encounter. Not worth trying to make a big thing out of it. Better to spend your time on scoring than talking about it. Clock is ticking.

Wouldn't you rather play faster and get to brag to other players about how your table got so many successes, than argue with the GM about the reasonableness of a different action split, while he's bound by what the scenario gives him?

(As a GM I was just biding my time until I could run the mercenary leaders with Earthquake as their opening move...)

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By the way, did you know that if a rules lawyer is wrong too many times (or gets caught with too many questionable loopholes) you can disbar them?

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Creatures, even creatures with Hardness, aren't Objects.

Transmute Metal to Wood wrote:
Area all metal objects within a 40-ft.-radius burst

The spell does precisely nothing to robots.

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Shift (Su): At 1st level, you can teleport to a nearby space as a swift action as if using dimension door. This movement does not provoke an attack of opportunity. You must be able to see the space that you are moving into. You cannot take other creatures with you when you use this ability (except for familiars). You can move 5 feet for every two wizard levels you possess (minimum 5 feet). You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier.
Magical Knack wrote:
You were raised, either wholly or in part, by a magical creature, either after it found you abandoned in the woods or because your parents often left you in the care of a magical minion. This constant exposure to magic has made its mysteries easy for you to understand, even when you turn your mind to other devotions and tasks. Pick a class when you gain this trait—your caster level in that class gains a +2 trait bonus as long as this bonus doesn’t raise your caster level above your current Hit Dice.

Caster Level isn't the same as Wizard Level. The trait won't help your Shift power.

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

Is there a list somewhere describing for each scenario why it was retired? Would be interesting reading.

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

I think it's because this is such a fast-moving chase, it speed up the entire scenario. I mean, it counts for a full encounter's worth daily resource spending, but you do that in much less RL time. When I played it I really liked it, but felt is was done too soon as well.

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To be frank, I haven't run into many vampires in PFS. Vampires are classic long-term enemies, that tend to have layers of minions protecting them, and even if you beat a vampire in combat, you probably need to race to its coffin to finish it off. An enemy with that many twists and turns is quite difficult to write into a scenario intended to last 4 hours.

Then again, Horror Adventures is new and PFS tends to have a couple of scenarios featuring stuff from new hardcovers every season. So who knows...

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

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I'm real glad I bought the first one. Getting lots of use. Maps with properly-illustrated height differences are a cut above what you can quickly do with a marker.

To put it differently: tactically relevant scenery is hard if you can't draw it in a way players understand. This map broadens the possibilities of encounters. (Yes, some people can draw it themselves, but I'm not that good...)

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

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When I was a kid, my parents would have been somewhat leery of me going to spend the day at some adult stranger's house. But a public venue like a game store was perfect.

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

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Thomas Hutchins wrote:
The Seldon Plan wrote:
All my game stores do tabs, so I'm wondering how this'll work out since we close our tabs out at the end of the game...
Tonya Woldridge wrote:
If stores don't do receipts, they can work with their Venture-Agent to work out something.

I think this will be important to our local scene. We don't buy a lot of game product these days, but the food and drinks do add up. Might have to involve buying each other drinks to "inoculate" and get a sufficiently large receipt from a single player though ;)

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

You can find links to the boon downloads on the pages devoted to the books themselves.

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

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If it randomly picks one of the damaged scores, that's good enough for me. It does occasionally happen that that multiple scores get damaged and you care more about one than the other, but if you wanted fine-grained control, maybe potions aren't the way.

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

I suspect the least consistent explanation is correct: designers didn't mean to pin down Lesser Restoration potions in the same way that they do usually pin down Resist Energy potions.

In practice I'd say that any found potion without an explicit ability tag is "flexible". Does that mean players can buy flexible potions? I dunno. They appear on quite a few chronicle sheets...

Actually, I rarely see LR potions bought. Which is weird cuz the speedup is a real asset. Most of the time when I see LR consumables that people bought, it's partially charged wands. Money over speed? Flexibility over speed?

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I thought Wall of Force had to be vertical?

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I have a PC who is planning to get a pseudodragon familiar too; right now he's got a compsognathus figment familiar. I'm casting that as a dream of a dragon trying to narrow itself down into the proper shape and become fully real, but just not quite managing it yet.

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Oooh, interesting. Didn't know that existed. I have a character that could come in very handy for.

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Are you sure you don't mean faerie dragon, rather than pseudodragon? It looks like pseudodragons have always been legal, but you need a special boon for the faerie dragon.

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As for 15 minute adventuring day, that's something players do, not something the class forces players to do. PFS scenarios tend to be good at maintaining tempo, not giving players a chance to hit snooze and regain spells. Most of the time you have to do 3-4 encounters of meaningful CR per day. But after level 3 you rarely if ever really run out of spells.

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Clubs are pretty lame weapons, and you'll always be behind someone who picked a better weapon and otherwise did all the same optimizations as you did.

But just because you're not as powerful as you possibly could, doesn't mean you're too weak to be viable or useful. Depending on what you're playing, the exact type of weapon is usually only a small part of your overall effectiveness.

For a magus, the difference between a club and a scimitar with a long crit range is enormous. For a 2H style barbarian with high strength who does [weapon]+12 at level 1 (strength 18, rage, power attack), the difference between a club and an earthbreaker is much less important.

Where it gets rough for a while is DR. Clubs tend to be nonmetallic, which means cold iron, silver and adamantine DR are a problem. At least until you get enchanted to +3/+4, but that's fairly expensive. Well-chosen Bane or Furious enchantments can provide a shortcut.

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There's no true way to know, really. This is totally not the orthodox way to do it, so the normal rules for deriving the CR effects of adding levels don't apply.

If you take a monster with various abilities, switch out it's HD, and give it an equal amount of class levels along with all the class abilities, the monster is going to end up more powerful and versatile, so it's CR should go up up up.

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

The adventure does get a lot harder at 5 players, since the research difficulties and time requirements scale to 4 or 6 players. This is one scenario where I think an even finer-grained X-player adjustment would have been appropriate.

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

If you have to get raised+restored during a scenario and get bummed by the wait for the second restoration, try Soul Stimulant to mitigate the effects of the remaining negative level long enough to complete the mission.

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Melkiador wrote:
It's better on classes that don't need to use a standard action to cast it. So, good for a magus, warpriest and bloodrager.

I guess. I couldn't get any mileage out of it as a bomber alchemist. It'll be interesting for my future magus though, I was gonna make that one different from the usual shocking grasp build anyway.

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It's not a long-lasting spell, so you kind of need to cast it in combat, not before. Which means you're losing at least one standard action, on the hope that people will hit you with the right kind of weapons and not be resistant to acid. And not hit you too hard in the process. That's a lot of Ifs.

If it all works it's hilarious of course. But I've always been skeptical of spells and abilities that require enemies to hurt you first, because that's not actually something you should be allowing to happen. You'd have an ability that you were trying to prevent from triggering.

Caustic Blood is intense enough that it just might be worth it, but it's still rowing against the current.

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

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It should be noted I have absolutely no respect for page count or ugly chunks of white space on a page. I want every encounter to fit on a single page or on two facing pages, and likewise for statblocks. I hate it when an important paragraph is hiding on the next page.

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

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So, now that I've done all that post-mortem, how would I construct a Special? Without diving too deep into story, here are structural components:

  • Three Acts - a short opening (20%), big middle part (50%) and a climactic finale (30%). Everyone has to pause just before Act 1 (VC briefing), at the end of Act 2, and after Act 3 there'll be celebratory speeches.

    When Act 2 ends, the overseer signals table GMs to wrap up. At that point they have 5-10 minutes to wrap up the current encounter. Monster HP are suddenly set to single digits, interference "from the other pathfinders" ends various debilitating status effects and battlefield control, and the PCs should be able to win in short order. Taking these extra minutes is far more satisfying than the GM cutting you off. GMs will have a small sidebar in their scenario with some suggestions for flavoring just why Team Monster suddenly got weaker.

  • Each act contains a bunch of scenes. Careful attention is paid to the Critical Path of scenes that the PCs need to get through to get from beginning to end of the act. During writing, the scenario writer has to make estimates of how long each scene should last, and the editor will verify that those estimates are realistic. The sum of required scenes should fit in the amount of time allotted for the act, generously. This is all to ensure that players feel that the scenario was actually written to fit inside the slot.

    If the PCs receive choices about which direction to take, there should be some clear guideposts. If all that's required is to finish X scenes, fine. If the PCs need to finish either X[1-5] or Y[1-5], then there'll be clear signs that the PCs should keep going in the current direction. (Cosmic Captive is a good example of the latter, Siege of Serpents as well as Siege of the Diamond City were good at the former).

  • There is a clear plan of how the story will unfold towards the PCs - when they'll learn what bits of information.

  • There'll be a good mix of "local color" and "roaming overall theme" encounters. It takes only about two good encounters to really show off any area at most anyway.

  • Altogether, 1 opening encounter, 3-4 encounters in Act 2 and 1-2 in Act 3 is already quite ambitious.

  • There'll be nice inter-table things going on, like the way that a table could unlock benefits for all other tables in Cosmic Captive. There'll be handouts explaining to the players what they do.

  • Handouts handouts handouts - stuff like the big loot pack of an enemy basically placed there as a resupply point. We don't waste time identifying it, this enemy has thoughtfully placed informative labels on his wands and potions telling which is which, and there's a handout with everything itemized that the GM can just give the players.

    When we come to an area where the PCs have to do some puzzle or minigame, handout with the rules. If the rules don't fit nicely on a simple handout, they're probably too convoluted.

  • The monster appendix will be even more optimized. It will (as in Cosmic Captive) be sorted by tier; but then it will also be sorted by encounter, so that you don't need to flip back and forth. Statblocks will be fairly verbose, including the text for various unusual abilities so that you really don't need to have any second source next to it to look things up.

    Yes, I know that's a lot of work for the editor. But if HE doesn't do it, then EVERYONE ELSE has to do it. Which is silly and error-prone.

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

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So I said I'd cover my experiences as a GM and player separately. That was a few days back, let me continue now. This one'll be shorter.

  • Siege of Serpents This was the first special I'd run and I was so psyched. Afterwards I felt rather disappointed. There were significant flaws:

    - Most enemies were just plain feeble. Sure, I had a table of powergamers, but really, at no point did the monsters even stand a chance of making things scary. The only reason some of them survived to the second round of combat was because they started relatively far off from the party.

    - The amount of encounters needed to "win" an area was higher than the number of encounters actually assigned to those areas. There were a couple of "floating" encounters which you could pull, but that means a given party can clear only a single area before you have to start recycling floating encounters. Also, the floating encounters weren't very well-written (seriously, a fight with a gargantuan bird on a 8 x 10 square map?). While being pretty much mandatory encounters, they contributed rather little to the story.

    - The amount of encounters needed to score sufficient overall successes was insanely high. Although the encounters themselves were easy, it'll still take a long time and therefore make it hard to actually achieve a good score for the house. That doesn't feel fair.

    - Many of the encounters had stupid tactics. Like Flyby monsters in small rooms. Or monsters with lots of battlefield control (which just makes things take longer) but little ability to actually do much to the PCs besides slowing them down.

    There were a few nice touches though. Many of the "localized" encounters told part of the story of what was going on. And it's certainly nice to have a special on the grounds of the Grand Lodge itself, meaning you actually get to explore your home base for probably the first time.

    Lessons Make sure the math on required successes actually checks out. I can get sooo mad about this when it doesn't, it's just stupid when achieving a good/perfect score on a scenario is impossible due to writer error.

    Make sure floating encounters are really meaningful.

    Make sure enemies are up to the task of opposing the PCs, but don't indulge in tactics/abilities that slow things down too much. Pick enemies that don't control and are hard to control. And please just forget about that pathetic NPC codex.

  • Cosmic Captive This one was a lot more fun to GM. I had a highly optimized group of five players and they took on the high tier Earth path with gusto. Although they could handle it, they did feel properly challenged. I got to use one of the optional encounters too, and that was a really nice finale.

    I really dig the story of this special, but the problem is that there's no plan on how to communicate it to the players. Specials aren't like regular adventures where the GM can easily intervene to make sure the story makes it to the players; there's the outside influence of central timing to contend with and all kinds of other disruptions.

    In our case I prepared an inaugural speech for Sorrina, both to introduce her to people who haven't played the scenario from whence she came, and as a way to do some name-dropping and put in some teasers for the Cosmic Captive story so that players have a clue about what's going on. I also wrote handouts with in-character statements from various NPCs the players can talk with during the scenario, so that the unfolding of the story through the scenario is enabled a bit more.

    There were SO MANY encounters to prepare. Some were lackluster. Some were great. What I do like was that although players could take different routes and those choices were meaningful, at the same time quite a bunch of monsters got "recycled" by using them as part of encounters in multiple areas the players aren't likely to both visit. That way, the GM has to learn fewer monsters, while the players don't get to see many repeat monsters.

    I thought the floating encounters were theoretically interesting, and many with cool critters, but rather disconnected from the story.

    I did like that the monsters were relatively tough, these combats weren't too easy this time. Although my players did pick the heaviest path, they were also heavy hitters. This opportunity to guide the players to a difficulty setting they enjoy was quite an asset of the scenario.

    There were few mass synchronizing moments where PCs might be pulled out of an encounter before they were done. That's good. Cross-table influence was asynchronous but still noticeable.

    Lessons Do provide the GM with tools to scale difficulty to the party. Do cleverly re-use monsters in areas the players aren't likely to both visit.

    Multiple paths are nice because they provide the players choices, but seek a balance. It's okay for only half of the encounters to be "local" while "roaming" encounters make up the other half. That can help to drastically reduce the number of encounters a GM needs to prepare. But to make sure the roaming encounters are really cool, not filler content. They should advance the main storyline. They're a good way to make sure crucial plot points make it to all the tables, regardless of direction chosen.

    A Special needs a Message Plan for how to communicate its story to the players. In many specials this is easy, but Cosmic Captive is grounded on a piece of Golarion lore that's just plain obscure.

    Cutting the scenario into only a few "Acts" at the beginning of which tables have to synchronize is a good thing; leave them mostly to do Scenes one after another. There were far fewer people cut off prematurely during Cosmic Captive than during Sky Key Solution or (Aroden forbid) Blood Under Absalom.

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

Well, some of the specials were intended to close off a season. Some were meant to kickstart the next one. And some both.

You can probably guess this just from the scenario blurbs...:

Year of the Shadow Lodge
Blood Under Absalom
Race for the Runecarved Key
Siege of the Diamond City
Siege of Serpents
The Cosmic Captive

The Sky Key Solution

Legacy of the Stonelords

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In my home game I think I might handle manifestations in a way inspired by Scent;

  • Manifestations are more like feeling a "disturbance in the Force" than a show of lights. They can be detected even when you don't have a direct line of sight, such as around a corner.

  • Manifestations are noticeable even if the caster is invisible or hidden. If you're within 60ft of a manifestation you're immediately aware that something is happening, and you get a general idea of the compass direction it's coming from.

    Should it be 60ft? 30ft seems too little, very easily avoided in open spaces though still tricky indoors. At 60ft, you use the same range as most Darkvision users, but it also means Close range spells are almost impossible to sneakily cast. You could make manifestation distance depend on the power level of the spell but that would probably be a lot of work.

  • If a manifestation happens adjacent to you (i.e. caster is standing next to you) you pinpoint automatically. Otherwise you pinpoint if you succeed at the Spellcraft check to identify the spell. Since Spellcraft is trained-only, not everyone can do this.

    I use Identification DCs just to avoid bloating the list of different DCs we need to learn. It's not ideal though, because it means higher-level spells are harder to notice than lower-level spells.

  • You can use Spellcraft to identify a spell if you're either close enough to feel the manifestation; or if you can perceive the spell components (see somatic, hear verbal), at any distance.

    This does mean that sneaky casters (Silent/Still, psychic, SLA) can cast from a distance without setting off automatic alarms. But it requires actual tactics and positioning to pull off.

  • Perception modifiers also apply to Spellcraft check DCs, notably the +1 per 10ft of distance, +5 for a closed door or +10 for a wall, and +5 if the observer is distracted, for example by being in combat with other enemies.

    Invisibility penalties do not apply because visibility is not needed to "feel the Force" or hear verbal components. In the case of a silent spell cast beyond the "feel" range, invisibility would block Spellcraft entirely.

    Someone readying a counterspell against a specific enemy is not considered distracted by the rest of the combat when trying to Spellcraft that enemy.

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Velcro Zipper wrote:

The spell description says the bubble moves with you so I swam up into the air taking the bubble with me and catching the two demons within the water. The following round I summoned four augmented giant celestial octopuses within my water bubble. 36 attack rolls later the fight was over.

The way I see it, you're surrounded by water which means you need to be able to swim to move effectively. If you swim up, the bubble is going to follow you, but you can't swim out of the bubble so it just goes up with you effectively turning your globe into a flying fishbowl. Even better, any swimming allies can come with you.

You're correct that it does that as written, but it's sooooo weird... I strongly suspect the idea of the spell was that it makes any water around you calm, not that it creates water out of nowhere. It's an abjuration spell, not conjuration (creation).

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1 person marked this as FAQ candidate. 1 person marked this as a favorite.

*fails saving throw, posts*

Can I try to summarize what we'd like an FAQ on this to sort out?

  • In general we all agree that nowadays, manifestations exist. And they should, because they keep psychic casters from dominating people without any warning whatsoever. They also clarify why you can use spellcraft on component-less spells and SLAs.
  • A big question is whether the manifestations are visible even if the caster isn't (invisibility). There's a lot of disagreement on how it works, and if it should work.

    On the one hand, quite a few AP encounters have NPCs relying on it working. Perhaps also in PFS. With the "run as written" nature of scenarios, it would be awkward if their tactic is invalidated.

    Also, quite a few wizard PCs like their safe summoning. As do psychic casters who don't have to worry about verbal components.

    On the other hand, for everyone on the receiving end those encounters can be a bit of a drag. What with the new feats that you need to hide manifestations, they'd be relegated to a more specialized rarer niche.

    And, just because casting would give away your position, doesn't mean invisibility becomes useless. It'll still protect you from AoOs, or let you move away from your revealed-position after you cast your spell, or just use the invisibility to buff another party member.

    All in all it would be nice to get a decisive answer about this.

  • Quite a few older feats and abilities have language focusing on hiding your spellcasting by concealing the use of components, not on hiding manifestations. Are they supposed to hide manifestations now?

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BadBird wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
  • PCs can be competent at their main job without severe dumping other things, helping to maintain well-rounded PCs.
  • The irony, of course, being that plenty of people will take a 20 point buy and min/max like mad, and then gripe that their class doesn't grant enough skills...

    I do agree though that 20 is a good place in general.

    This is part of the irony of people moaning about "year of the skill check" which has been going on for a couple of years now.

    Once upon a time scenarios were quite dumb and all you needed was to be a combat monster. People "learned" that dumping Intelligence was fine, it got put in a lot of build guides too.

    You might even say, at that time 15 build points would have been enough, because scenarios were easier because they only challenge your PC on a few points instead of requiring more well-rounded abilities.

    Then the scenario-writing style changed to include more challenges beyond combat. Which I think is good - there's a lot more to Indiana Jones than the fights - but everything people had learned about it being OK to dump Int became false. And it's very painful if the stuff you have learned ceases to be true. Unlearning things is hard.

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

    Steven Schopmeyer wrote:
    Lau Bannenberg wrote:
    There were a couple of "extra credit" encounters that were only available at one route and only intended for top-tier, but those were really HEAVY things. Quite likely to TPK-unrecoverable top-tier parties who attempt them. You get a big reward if you manage them, but it's not expected that you'll even try. We're talking CR 17 "eat your soul" monsters against a level 10-11 party; strictly optional.

    That was the fight Wei Ji was talking about.

    We killed it.

    Good for you. Honestly.

    It was one of the more heinous statblocks I've seen. In the end I decided as GM that I'd push my players away from it because I believed it would most likely push half of the table into a state where they'd be unable to play on, due to

    being sent to another plane, petrified, have their souls eaten...

    I like that the option was there, and that I didn't have to use it if it wasn't appropriate.

    I'm glad I did get to run the special enemy towards the end;

    The oni opened up with Earthquake, burying the entire party. It took three rounds before the PCs had rallied enough to even deal any damage to their enemies.

    I really liked the room to scale challenge to group while running the high tier.

    Sovereign Court

    @Ravingdork: it goes like that every time some aspect of the rules that was previously vague gets nailed down; then suddenly it turns out that quite a few writers held other interpretations and got stuff published based on those (and often contradicting each other, too).

    Just imagine trying to nail down what "wielding" means.

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

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    Maybe it'll be useful to look at specials from a GM and a player perspective separately, to identify problems and possible solutions.

    I've played a bunch of specials, with mixed feelings, in this order:

    • Siege of the Diamond City - I was a brand new PFS player, playing the 1-2 tier. We had a great time with the initial missions. The final showdown however saw us trying to defend a catapult which we also had to fire. However, that required cooperation between a large number of PCs, and didn't scale very well to the number of players. So we alternated between fighting off waves of enemies (including the same wave three times in a row) and ploinking with the lesser siege weapon. Was rather disappointing.

      Lessons Careful with waves, once players see the pattern ennui sets
      in. Scale mechanics to the number of players on a table.

    • Year of the Shadow Lodge - It was the very first one, so let's be kind. Although it was a bit linear, it wasn't bad. At some point there was a monster that the low tables tried to avoid; then the high table defeated it and everyone could go on. That was fine. Then there was a door, and before the GM had properly told us what it looked like another table had smashed through it. Final fight took place in a room that looked rather implausibly small for such a final battle.

      Lessons Make sure you have enough room for your final battle so that you can really imagine multiple teams of pathfinders operating there at the same time. Stonelords learned this lesson very well. Also, one table affecting another is both a cool thing, but can also be annoying when it goes too fast.

    • Legacy of the Stonelords Oh man this was awesome. Definitely my favourite special. We had a very efficient party and GM, doing lots of encounters. We got to see and do lots of things, didn't get bogged down anywhere. Part of that was a well-skilled party of strikers, and neither us nor enemies went for battlefield control that slowed things down.

      Encounters here were thematic and reasonably varied; there was both stuff there for people with a dwarven angle to their character, and people with a demon-hunter angle. Archeology and skills too. Real choice of which area to go to (armory, temple district etc) was also very nice.

      And the big big big fight was perfectly set.

      We all make it to the Throne Room, which is big and has wide steps leading up to the Throne. Over there of course is the local demon overlord, but every step leading up to him had demonic defenders, each more terrible than the last. So the great invading pathfinder force pushes upwards like a wedge, junior pathfinder covering the flanks on the lower steps, and the most elite agents pushing up to the throne to challenge the demon king himself. It was an epic location and as a mass battle the whole place just made sense.

      Lessons Build encounters so they can run fast; avoid controller slogging matches. Multiple areas the PCs can go to, with some idea of what to expect (area name, thematic clues) are a nice thing. Your big fight should not be in "a room" but in an epic location that makes sense for a mass brawl.

    • Blood Under Absalom This one's a bit cheesy. It's got the intellectual grandeur of the Mortal Combat movies, really. Which isn't bad, if you don't try to take it seriously.

      Not so ideal was that this one had cut scenes and invisible walls like a poorly designed video game. Situations where an NPC tells you to "get to me if you can" and tosses some minions in the way, which you're supposed to fight. But after say, level 4, PCs start getting ideas about flying, just plain running past enemies or dimension door. Running smack into invisible walls because you can only transition to the next scene when # tables complete an encounter is annoying.

      We also had a LOT of encounters that we'd only just started when we got pushed to the next one because apparently enough other tables had finished theirs. This special had very rigid "synchronization" between tables; everyone does the same scene, then transitions. Such hard syncing means a lot of tables are either waiting or not getting to finish their scene.

      Lessons Avoid too much synchronization between tables. If parties can do multiple encounters in a row before (after a few hours) everyone gets shuffled off to the next act together, that means you avoid a lot of "couldn't finish our fight" angst.

      Avoid invisible walls. If you're not supposed to go somewhere yet, don't show it.

    • Race for the Runecarved Key We had a wonderful group for this, full of moral vacuums. Duly warned by all the reviews, I did not bring my paladin or inquisitor of Abadar, but instead my Urgathoa-gluttonizing investigator. Even so, when we got our first missions and realized "we're being sent here to kill these people and leave no witnesses", there was a moment around the table when it sank in that we were going over a moral horizon. The galling thing was really that it wasn't explained why this runecarved key was so important that we suddenly threw all morals out of the window, when normally we don't get ordered to do evil stuff even for things that do look important.

      Lessons Make sure the players understand the stakes and why the main point of the special is important.

    • Sky Key Solution I'd been looking forward to this one, but honestly I was disappointed. We brought a pretty powerful group, but I just didn't really feel challenged. Enemies weren't that hefty, most encounters were over before expending resources even became an option.

      But the most annoying thing here was the time pressure. We got cut off from a really cool encounter in the first half, and then during the second half we spent a lot of time with uninteresting cultists before being shuffled off to somewhere else. All the time were told the clock was ticking and we should hurry. The feeling I took away was that during specials, you should avoid talking to NPCs; that that's a waste of time, that you should bludgeon them with your optimized Diplomacy check and if that doesn't work, go to the next encounter rather than try to salvage a time-waster.

      Lessons Specials like this need a Time Plan, where the GM clearly knows which scenes are really important and which ones to skip if he's running out of time. To make sure that works, mark scenes with a "time budget", how long it's supposed to take. If you don't have that much time left until you need to transition to a new act, don't start the scene, that's better than starting and not getting to finish.

      I think such a time budget would really help a lot also in the writing; if a writer sees that the total time required to complete all scenes in a normal player's path through the special is more than the time allotted to the special, he knows that the adventure he designed is impossible.

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

    Perhaps because the GMG chase mechanics weren't really popular. Part of that may be because they look like they were made in theory and published without a lot of testing. But also because if you apply them really rigidly they're both frustrating if you haven't got the exact skill required, and really immersion-breaking.

    Modern chases have been much more flexible and also better about not leaving PCs behind against a barrier they're never going to be able to cross.

    Sovereign Court

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    wraithstrike wrote:

    Standard fantasy according to the CRB is 15 point buy and what is assumed for adventure paths. Standard rolling is roll 4d6, drop lowest.

    So there's the "Standard" way of generating ability scores:

    CRB > Getting Started > Generating Ability Score wrote:
    Standard: Roll 4d6, discard the lowest die result, and add the three remaining results together.

    Vs. "Standard Fantasy" purchase of scores. Which are NOT equivalent.

    And then there's the practice of 20pts which has become standardized through PFS.

    That's a lot of different standards you can cling to.

    Like any system with parameters, some value choices generate unpleasant or outright degenerate results, regardless of whether they're called a particular name like "standard". It's a matter of figuring out which values generate the nicest balance.

    I think the best balance is probably around 20pts;

    • MAD classes function well enough.
    • PCs aren't dwarfed by no-pts companions.
    • Everyone gets equal points to spend.
    • PCs can be competent at their main job without severe dumping other things, helping to maintain well-rounded PCs.
    • Not so powerful that you can't use stock Bestiary monsters without modification.

    Sovereign Court

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    wraithstrike wrote:
    The games assumes 15 point buy, but most people I know use 20.

    The game lists roll 4d6, drop lowest as it's base assumption, then goes on to suggest point buy as an alternative and guesses that 15 points is equivalent to 4d6 drop lowest.

    But is that true? I'm assuming the following point cost for stats below 7: 6->-6, 5->-9, 4->-12, 3->-16, based on the way the point costs increase for high scores. If you then enumerate all possible results of 4d6_DL, multiply by 6 and average the results, you get the exact expected point value of rolling. Which is 18.8287037037.

    So, rounded, that means rolling is worth 19 built points. You do risk more uneven (suboptimal) ability scores, on the other hand you're likely to get some rerolls for especially bad rolls.

    So altogether, 20 points looks quite reasonable. It strikes a decent balance between MAD and SAD classes, and companions that don't roll for stats.

    Sovereign Court

    CRB > Magic > Illusion > Disbelief wrote:
    A successful saving throw against an illusion reveals it to be false, but a figment or phantasm remains as a translucent outline.

    In other words, you can still read it but can't use it to not-see the medusa.

    Sovereign Court

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    If the GM is green, he may have been deceived by the note in the CRB that "10 pts is low fantasy". In that case, take a moment to educate him. Explain the following:

    - That there exist MAD and SAD classes. MAD classes suffer more from low point arrays.
    - SAD classes are the most high-fantasy ones. Lowering point buy to 10 encourages magic-intense play.
    - Companion creatures are not influenced by the stat array. If the stat array becomes lower, they start to look relatively better. At 10 points, an animal companion is probably stronger than most martial PCs. So low points encourage heavy use of companion creatures.

    The paradox of trying to achieve "low fantasy" with a 10pt buy is that you get more wizards, witches, clerics and summoners.


    If that doesn't work, consider running away.

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

    Wei Ji the Learner wrote:

    For Cosmic Captive:

    DESPITE the fact that we had the opportunity to take on some tough opponents, it VERY much felt like all agency was taken out of the player hands in the 10-11 tier this past weekend when we played it at SkalCon.


    "Oh, you can go to whatever area you want."

    IMPLIED through NPC interactions


    ...wouldn't burn me up so much EXCEPT that one of the boons is DIRECTLY related to WHICH areas the party engages encounters in, so someone following the requests of Society Leadership IC just got cut off from TWO of the options...

    It's interesting that's how it came across to you. Unfortunate, too. In truth that's not how it works under the hood.


    It's true that some routes were more brutal than others, but it was done the same at every tier. Regardless of what tier you were playing, if your table felt like challenging combat, go this way, and if you want to talk and tinker, go that other way. The same path was harder at every tier.

    The successes earned were also worth the same at every tier; a L1 party can contribute just as much in the Earth path as a L10 party. Every encounter is worth the same amount of points if won.

    There were a couple of "extra credit" encounters that were only available at one route and only intended for top-tier, but those were really HEAVY things. Quite likely to TPK-unrecoverable top-tier parties who attempt them. You get a big reward if you manage them, but it's not expected that you'll even try. We're talking CR 17 "eat your soul" monsters against a level 10-11 party; strictly optional.

    I really liked the way The Cosmic Captive handled encounter difficulty; by letting tables choose their difficulty setting I was able to take a bunch of our local meta's notorious powergamers (bless their black little hearts) and give them a challenging run where it's okay to be that powerful because the enemies can match it. This was so much more fun to GM than Siege of Serpents where most enemies were defeated before getting a second turn. I really liked the room for the GM and table to adapt to a desired difficulty level.


    More on improving specials later. This is a subject dear to my heart.

    Sovereign Court

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    deusvult wrote:

    I'll be the devil's advocate:

    Does it actually matter if the creature ability interacts with adamantine differently than do objects? There already are cases where the same rule treats creatures and objects differently.

    For example, objects take half damage from ranged weapons. But the exact same object, subject to the Animate Objects spell and resultingly turned into a creature, no longer suffers half damage from ranged attacks...

    It's pretty clear it's supposed to be Less Than 20 for objects, like it's always been. The most straightforward defence against adamantine is adamantine (hardness 20).

    As for creatures, it would also matter because creatures tend to gain hardness and DR in increments of 5. It's quite important to a DR 20 creature; either his ability is negated entirely or not at all.

    Also, do we really need "different by 1 point" rule differences just to make everything more complicated?

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

    deusvult wrote:

    Re: Lau and Pirate Rob (Pedantry alert for everyone else)

    This sentence seems to have confused you both:
    "No arcane scrolls either, but spell failure doesn't apply only to arcane spells... divine spells are excepted from spell failure."

    What I was saying there is that there's two ways to look at what is affected by ASF... either it affects only arcane spells OR it affects everything excepting those that are exempted (I.E. divine spells). And that I reject the former rationale (first) and embrace the latter (second). So, basically, I was saying the opposite of what you thought I was.

    I... really have trouble trying to make out what you mean here. Is it A or B?

    A) Arcane Spell Failure only affects arcane spellcasting.
    B) Arcane Spell Failure affects anyone who doesn't have an explicit exemption.

    I'm pretty sure A is the correct interpretation;

    Arcane Spell Failure Chance: Armor interferes with the gestures that a spellcaster must make to cast an arcane spell that has a somatic component. Arcane spellcasters face the possibility of arcane spell failure if they're wearing armor. Bards can wear light armor and use shields without incurring any arcane spell failure chance for their bard spells.

    Casting an Arcane Spell in Armor: A character who casts an arcane spell while wearing armor must usually make an arcane spell failure check. The number in the Arcane Spell Failure Chance column on Table: Armor and Shields is the percentage chance that the spell fails and is ruined. If the spell lacks a somatic component, however, it can be cast with no chance of arcane spell failure.

    Shields: If a character is wearing armor and using a shield, add the two numbers together to get a single arcane spell failure chance.

    Psychic and divine casters don't need a specific exemption, because it only ever applies to arcane casters.

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

    It depends. As far as I can tell, not every scenario implements the chase rules exactly according to the way they're set out in the GameMastery Guide.

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