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Bastard Spears: Spears (not longspears) can be used 1-handed as a martial weapon.
Critical Successes and Failures: For skill and ability checks, a roll of 20 is not an automatic success and a roll of 1 is not an automatic failure. If you roll a natural 20, it counts as if you had rolled a 30 on the d20. If you roll a natural 1, it counts as if you had rolled a -10.
It's important to use protection. Death ward.
Grigori Rasputin CR 17
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Cassock of the Black Monk
I can't wait to do this for the boss from Shadows of Gallowspire :)
There are PFS sanctioned modules at all levels of play, although there are so few in the 15 and above levels that there's a very narrow path to 20. Wardens of the Reborn Forge goes from 12 to 16 if you play it as a Seeker arc; what I'd like to see is a similar sanctioned high level module that takes you from 16 to 20.
Spoilers abound below.
I have GMed Shadows of Gallowspire and played in Crown of Fangs and The Empty Throne, though the last was highly modified from the original so I feel I can't accurately judge it.
Of those, I would rank them: 1) Shadows of Gallowspire, 2) Crown of Fangs, and 3) The Empty Throne.
Shadows of Gallowspire is a textbook high-level adventure. IMO, the key to high level design is not to negate the PCs crazy abilities that would break lower level adventures, but rather, to make those crazy abilities the entry requirement for the high level adventure. In other words, without the PCs and their superheroic powers, the plot doesn't advance. It makes those abilities meaningful, and therefore rewarding. Gallowspire hits this pitch perfect. The witchgate networks don't let the PCs bypass all the travel encounters by teleporting; oh no, they ensure the PCs hit the encounters (unless they use wind walk or some other clever PC trick). Renchurch is a great high-level dungeon, with plenty of atmospherics, lich widgets, effective and thematic haunts and traps, and hard encounters that make sense given the "dungeon ecology." Gallowspire and its environs, particularly the Marrowgarth fight in the ruins in the mortuary tempest, is one of the best encounters in the AP. My only beef with Gallowspire is that the published Adivion is, relatively speaking, a chump--nowhere near as difficult as some of the encounters leading up to him. And he should be stupid hard--which he is in Brandon's unpublished encounter notes, which he has courteously posted here in the forums.
Crown of Fangs was good--I liked the sandboxy approach to Castle Korvosa. I liked the Sorshen tie-in of the Sunken Queen--Ileosa drawing on the power of her spiritual predecessor--but the location itself seemed to fall flat.
I'd have to say, however, that my favorite "Chapter 6" is actually Chapters 11 and 12 of the Savage Tide AP. Ch 11, Enemies of My Enemy, brings together some of the most iconic NPCs in Greyhawk/Planescape lore, and the PCs have broad options as to how they accomplish their overall goal. And they really need all the resources at their 20th-level disposal to pull it off. Ch 12 pulls out all the stops with a full out invasion of the Abyss and a boss fight against, literally, the BAMFinest BAMF in the Fiend Folio.
I will say that dungeon crawls are super hard to design for high level characters without negating their abilities by some unbelievable contrivance. Bad design: you can't teleport because it breaks the dungeon. Better design: you can't teleport because plot reasons. Great design: you need to teleport (or burn some other high level resource) to beat this adventure. For instance, in Renchurch, you have no hope of resting there and no hope of finishing it without rest. There's just too many encounters. So the ability to use magic to bug out to a safe resting place somehow effectively says, you can't play here unless you are this tall. Even when Brandon negates some PC abilities by fiat, e.g. the ability to just fly to the top of Gallowspire, he does in in an amazing way (a storm of waves of incorporeal undead? yeah I buy that and it's AWESOME). Similarly, STAP Chs 11/12 just give you an epic problem, some external resources, and step back and say "you're 20th level, figure it out."
About your specific points: trap CR does not scale well past around 8 or 9. Most high level traps are a couple of wand of CLW charges and that's it. Traps that inflict other status effects are good, particularly if they're guarded by something hungry. Haunts seem to scale better, but if you're not in Renchurch they can be overdone. Monsters with class levels are harder to run, but I feel they're a good way to breathe new life into old critters... although if you're 16th level fighting ogres, it's not quite as awesome as fighting actual CR 16 monsters with no class levels, because you could kill ogres at level 2. It doesn't matter so much that these are SUPER ogres. They make good mooks, but what's more memorable, a fight with 6 ogre fighter 8s or a single nightwalker?
Sorry, Jim, you did get an essay. I passionately enjoy high level play but it is harder to design for, and I've done a lot of thinking about how to make high level play more tenable. Hope this is useful if you've waded through it.
Also, HD, I think maybe you underestimate the current renaissance of TTRPG. Maybe the market isn't what it was in the 80s, but I'd wager that since 2010 or so it's a darn sight bigger than what it was in the 90s and early 00s. This is purely anecdotal, but I had a couple decades where I had a really hard time finding games. Now I have to make hard decisions about who not to game with since there are more great games than I have time to play. Maybe a regional thing (though I think not), but geek chic is still strong. Maybe the biggest factor helping our analog hobby is technology: the Internet's ability to connect people with niche interests means those niches, and companies like Paizo who can position themselves well in them, can thrive.
You are correct, though, that Hasbro doesn't pay much attention to D&D other than for branding reasons. And they can afford not to. MtG dwarfs D&D by orders of magnitude.
Vic Wertz wrote:
If I was suddenly flush with that kind of cash, I'd be really tempted to rest on my laurels for the rest of my life. So thank you and Lisa for not doing that--you picked up the torch and kept running.
I don't want to take away from how nice the Strategy Guide will be for newer players, but I have to admit thinking how I'm going to give a gag copy to some of my long-time (since 1st Ed. through PF Beta to today) players: "hey bro, you need to step up your game... getting kind of rusty... just saying..."
As mentioned above, in general, you're going to want to cast your hr/level and 10 min/level buffs before you enter an area where you expect encounters.
Past 7th-8th level or so, you're going to add your 1 min/level buffs to that list, too, because you're going to use the extremely cost-effective lesser extend metamagic rods to extend those min/level buffs so they last for multiple encounters.
Round/level buffs are the ones you cast on the first round of combat or in the surprise round, or if you get a break where you can't do something else. Or you're going to cast them on your buddy, or have your buddy cast them on you. Prime example: haste. You're probably not going to bother extending these because until high levels, they're unlikely to last for more than a single encounter. Unless you are buffing the entire party, or you are combat ineffective against whatever you're fighting due to buffs not being up, don't burn a bunch of combat rounds getting your buffs spun up to fight. Bards are great for this past level 7-8 because they can a) cast extended good hope in advance, b) move action inspire courage, and c) haste to get massive group buffs up in basically 1 combat round.
If you summon, be sure to use rounds/level summon spells BEFORE you cast your rounds/level group buffs so the summoned critters can get the benefit, too.
The other two pieces of this are 1) that you must always strive to control when you have encounters. This is RPG tactics above the round-to-round level. Use divination magic, stealth (including invisibility, etc.), and scouting to make sure you know where the badguys are before they know where you are. Sometimes the bad guys are just going to get the drop on you, and that's part of adventuring--but do your part to make sure that's the exception rather than the rule.
And 2) stay on the offensive. Doing this lets you squeeze the most encounters into the few minutes every day covered by your min/level buffs. If possible, "blitz" entire dungeons/dungeon levels/encounter clusters while your min/level buffs are up. Loot the bodies later!
I'd just like to point out that at the very height of roleplaying's popularity (AD&D 1E), TSR mostly published adventures. There were only 8 rules supplements published during 1E's entire run.
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the height of roleplaying's popularity is right now. Until the last 3-4 years or so, never at any point in my life have I ever had to turn down games I would otherwise love to join. Anecdotal, sure, but I'm guessing hard numbers would tell the same story. I'd lay money that Paizo's sold more books than TSR ever did.
I think the OP's complaint does have some merit, but only if you consider that there are players on these forums who insist that if an option exists in the game, YOU MUST allow them to use it in YOUR game.
Because the antidote for bloat (heh, that rhymes) is house rules. Allow some things, don't allow others.
However, if you have a player who insists on their favorite option being allowed, and you as a GM don't want to allow it, you're probably feeling like things are bloated. The solution to this dilemma is yet another issue of group composition: reach an agreement or somebody needs to find a different group.
This dwarf-like creature glows with a pale blue radiance and appears to be wearing a large, dome-like, cobalt-speckled hat.
Dwarf Agaric CR 6
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Hive Mind (Su) A colony of dwarf agarics forms a rudimentary telepathic hive mind within a 100 foot radius. If one is aware of a particular danger, they all are aware. If one in the colony of dwarf agarics is not flat-footed, none of them are. No dwarf agaric in a colony is considered flanked unless all dwarf agarics in the colony are flanked.
Spore Swarm (Ex) Once per day as a standard action, a dwarf agaric can release a swarm of glowing spores, which it can control using its hive mind ability. The spore swarm has the same statistics as a cockroach swarm (Bestiary 2, p. 58) with the dwarf agaric’s hive mind and phosphorescence abilities and the plant type instead of the vermin type. Its swarm attack delivers the dwarf agaric’s disease and poison and limns affected creatures with its phosphorescence for 1d6 minutes.
Phosphorescence (Ex) A dwarf agaric glows with a pale blue phosphorescence equivalent to faerie fire.
Poison (Ex) Slam—injury; save Fort DC 18, frequency 1/round for 4 rounds, effect 1d4 Wis damage plus confused for 1 round, cure 1 save. Creatures that hit the dwarf agaric with natural attacks or unarmed strikes are exposed to its poison, a hallucinogenic mycotoxin. The confusion is a mind-affecting effect. The save DC is Constitution-based.
So called because of its appearance, a dwarf agaric resembles a crude dwarf-like creature with pallid flesh, dark spots for eyes, and beard-like tendrils under a bulbous nose. The blue-speckled appendage atop its head, often mistaken for a hat, is actually a mushroom cap, complete with gills. A dwarf agaric stands about four feet tall and weighs roughly 150 pounds.
Dwarf agarics are a rare, highly-evolved, and semi-sentient variety of cytillesh fungus found only in remote reaches of Nar-Voth. Like cytillesh, dwarf agarics glow with a pale blue bioluminescence and possess hallucinogenic and latent psychic properties. They lack any civilization or sophistication and do not use tools. Derro consider them a delicacy when properly cooked, but find them nearly impossible to cultivate due to their relative intelligence and the fungal infection their spores carry.
Crook of Unseen Forces
unseen servant (1 charge)
The spiritual weapon or weapon wielded by a spiritual ally takes the shape of the crook of unseen forces itself and gains the crook's enhancement bonus to attack and damage. Moreover, any spiritual weapon or spiritual ally created by the crook is invisible as if by greater invisibility, gaining the usual benefits when attacking creatures unable to see it. The invisible stalker summoned by the crook is an unliving construct rather than a true outsider.
In addition, by spending 1 charge as a standard action, the crook’s wielder can create an invisible force in a 30 foot line. The wielder can make a drag, reposition, or trip combat maneuver against any one creature in this line. Each additional creature affected costs 1 additional charge. This special combat maneuver check does not provoke attacks of opportunity and uses the wielder’s caster level plus Wisdom modifier in place of his Combat Maneuver Bonus. The wielder can choose to use the staff’s caster level instead of his own.
The All Seeing Eye wrote:
@thejeff - I have never been a fan of the 4 senators from the Dakotas having the same say as the senators of California and Texas two of the larges AND most populous states. The system poorly reflects the constituent needs on that level and the house is ABSOLUTELY unwieldly.
Working as intended. That's the very reason we have a bicameral legislature. The House represents individuals, the Senate represents States.
"Let me give you a little inside information about God. God likes to watch. He's a prankster. Think about it. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift, and then what does He do, I swear for His own amusement, his own private, cosmic gag reel, He sets the rules in opposition. It's the goof of all time. Look but don't touch. Touch, but don't taste. Taste, don't swallow. Ahaha. And while you're jumpin' from one foot to the next, what is he doing? He's laughin' His sick, f&%$in' ass off! He's a tight-ass! He's a SADIST! He's an absentee landlord! Worship that? NEVER!"
"In spite of all his imperfections, I'M A FAN OF MAN! I'm a humanist. Maybe the last humanist."
Lots of great villain quotes in that one!
Hannibal Lecter: "Quid pro quo. I tell you things, you tell me things. Not about this case, though. About yourself. Quid pro quo. Yes or no?"
ibid.: "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."
ibid.: "I do wish we could chat longer, but... I'm having an old friend for dinner."
Another Roy classic: "You wouldn't believe the things I've seen with your eyes."
The Emperor: Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design.
Ozymandias: Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago.
Goldfinger: No, Mr Bond! I expect you to die!
Belloq: Dr. Jones. Again we see there is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away.
Professor Moriarty: Let's not waste any more of one another's time. We both know how this ends.
There aren't really types of gamers I don't like, but there are types of gamers with whom I prefer not to game. Seriously, it's nothing personal, but sometimes gaming styles just don't mesh well. Doesn't mean we can't be friends, it just means I prefer to game with other people who share my tastes. As it happens, I have the luxury of being able to do so where I live.
For instance, reading the lists another poster in this thread (whom I won't call out by name), it sounds like we would have some very different and incompatible approaches to the game. Doesn't mean he's a bad person or isdoinitwrong. I'd happily game with him at a con, or at a PFS game day, but the differences in our playstyles probably wouldn't work out in a long-term home game.
OTOH, I can tell from Jaelithe's posts that he or she would probably fit in my home group quite well.