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I notice that several people have brought up modern military oaths and creeds already, but for me, I want to turn towards an actual discussion of military and law enforcement ethics. This is because, while mantras and high sounding ideals are nice, and they are often the details that survive into the historical records (or at least the ones that most people bother reading), they might not actually reflect the spoken and unspoken codes of conduct that were actually followed.
The Warrior Ethos sums up the essence of the military ethic: I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. We are deadly serious about that fallen comrade bit, too.
This is because clarifying some of those details are important since the line between 'strategy' and 'dishonorable conduct' needs to be very clear so that the paladin can be something other than a froathing leeroy jinkins style religious fantatic. Are ambushes and steal dishonorable tactics? What about the use of smoke screens?
Ambushes, raiding supply trains, foraging, and smoke screens are all time-honored tactics. No reason a paladin shouldn't use any of these. However, an honorable combatant code should probably prohibit a paladin from intentionally harming noncombatants, except in unavoidable collateral damage type cases. For instance, no killing the squires with the supply trains, but if you have to cast earthquake under the enemy army and there happens to be some squires with the supply trains with it, fair play.
Those questions make me turn towards the kind of conduct expected of a SWAT team as a comparison (although, I'll admit, my understanding is based more off of hollywood here). They are expected to protect civilians and maintain public trust, which lends well to being LG (even if it is not strictly necessary). Typically they are expected to try to issue warnings and try to negotiate surrender. At the same time, they are allowed a certain degree of leeway when a civilian is in immediate...
Law enforcement and military objectives are different. The military aim is to kill the enemy; whereas the LE aim is to apprehend him.
Proportionality is key. If there's an enemy sniper in a village bell tower, no earthquaking the entire village to get him. Fireball might be OK unless the church underneath the bell tower is flammable and full of civilians. The paladin is probably constrained to respect lawful and/or good places of worship, but is permitted self-defense in any case.
See Laws of War and rules of engagement. Actual operational ROE are usually classified, but you can find examples like the NATO ROE and the San Remo ROE Handbook on that wiki page. The general principles protect noncombatants (including detainees and POWs), culturally significant sites, medical personnel, and clergy; mandate proportionality and limit the use of certain kinds of weapons ("terror" weapons such as chemical/biological weapons); establish escalation of force procedures; and allow for self-defense.
Before you get in a tizzy about chemical weapons, think about this. Incendiaries are also generally banned. So if you want to go very strict on this, almost all magic would be banned: not just cloudkill, but also stinking cloud and fireball.
Take off the kid gloves.
But... not every fight needs to be APL +2.
Do not get attached to your bad guys.
But... consider what protections the bad guys would reasonably have.
Understand how high-level capabilities change the game.
Do we have any military personnel Pathfinder players that can comment on what happens during the 'heat of the moment' in combat when the enemy throws up their arm and says "I surrender"?
By the law of warfare, that person's no longer a combatant. You can take them prisoner, but you can't shoot them.
If you kill them "in the heat of the moment," it's murder. That doesn't mean it never happens. You can read about instances of it in the memoirs of some WWII, Korea, and Vietnam veterans, although I can't recall any particular instance I've read about.
In game, a good character could have any number of reasons for not accepting surrender.
For instance, if you're a good-aligned Andoran navy captain and you've boarded a known pirate ship, you aren't likely to take any prisoners since you'd just make them walk the plank anyways; you'd just kill them all in the boarding action. You're legally (and, IMO, morally) justified in doing so.
Or say you're in Belkzen and the orc raiding party you've been tracking surrenders. Are you going to march them back 100's of miles to some lawful territory so they can get a kangaroo trial, risking the chance that they'll escape or be rescued by other orcs? Are you going to let them go so they can plunder and murder the next village? Probably neither.
Cigarettes are addictive, but that doesn't mean they leap into your mouth and light themselves.
Your choices matter. You shouldn't rely on the rest of society to save you from bad decisions.
You wear them walking around a FOB because there is traffic. Never heard of anybody wearing them out on patrol or otherwise outside the wire.
Separating one's own personal views from a supposedly impartial moderation process is pretty hard in the first place. I might not even notice posts with which I agree, but which otherwise violate messageboard rules. OTOH, if a post pushes my particular hot buttons, I'm much more likely to notice and flag it.
Paizo's mods do a pretty good job of maintaining impartiality for the most part. They do have their own opinions, and are not afraid to take sides on some issues of particular importance in their company culture (women's equality and homosexuality come to mind). I'm obviously not privy to the details, but I imagine their moderation policy could be summed up as "don't piss off the customers, but don't compromise your principles, either." I have appreciated the times when Paizo employees have told particularly offensive posters, basically, "we're OK with losing your business, because your views are so offensive we don't want to be associated with you in any way."
TL;DR Moderators are human like the rest of us. Their biases are inevitably going to creep in no matter how hard they try to be impartial. Paizo does try and, for the most part, succeeds.
I loved the dragon! His last few lines are great!
"I am fire... I am death."
"My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!"
It's pretty hard to improve on the dialogue in the original. Jackson doesn't.
I can handle railroading if it's done artfully. What makes me see red is when I get railroaded to failure. I don't like impossible scenarios that inexorably, unavoidably result in the PCs getting hosed. I don't mean encounters I can't win... that's acceptable and lends verisimilitude. What I'm talking about is when EVERY encounter is way over the PCs heads, and when, through skill, luck, and clever plans, we triumph anyways, the bad guys suddenly develop plot armor and we lose.
What will make me pack up my bags as a GM is when the group agrees to do a published adventure and then, once we're playing, decides they want to go do something else. We all agreed to do something that involves a certain amount of railroading. If we decided to do the "Explore the Haunted Mansion" adventure and instead you want to "Investigate the Thieves' Guild," I have nothing for you. Let's order pizza and watch a movie and next time don't ask me to prep something you don't really want to play. Corollary to this one is when players bring character concepts that are totally incompatible with the adventure that we all agreed to do, e.g., a typical paladin in an adventure in which the PCs are members of an assassin's guild.
It all boils down to expectation management. I don't like getting bait-and-switched, regardless of whether I'm playing or GMing.
el cuervo wrote:
I have a house rule that talking is a free action that can be done ONLY on your turn (normally it's a free action you can do whenever). Also, that free action gives you 6 seconds of talking. So you can strategize somewhat, but you can't really formulate 10 minutes worth of battle plan in the surprise round. And you can't get a reply until your buddy's turn.
Telepathy allows you to circumvent all of these restrictions, so spells like telepathic bond become as valuable as you'd expect a 5th level spell to be.
They systematically cleared EVERYTHING in Feldgrau before tackling the tower. Unbeknownst to them, it was the smartest thing they could have done.
I did, however, give Vrood an extra level of Agent of the Grave to fix the problem with his stat block (no 6th level spell access if he's 11th level). I also switched out his wand of animate dead for a wand of enervation, both because it made him more dangerous and because it's better treasure.
The Hobbit movies are Peter Jackson's fanfic of the actual Hobbit.
Were they enjoyable? Sure. But they weren't really The Hobbit.
Imagine if you took Pulp Fiction, and took out all the brilliant dialogue scenes, and replaced them with wuxia action fight scenes. Jules and Vincent leaping across rooftops on wires. Mia Wallace freeze frame Trinity kicking the maitre'd at Jack Rabbit Slim's while dodging bullets. Butch punching the other guy so hard his head falls off into Marcellus Wallace's lap. Maybe that would be entertaining, but it certainly wouldn't match the spirit of the original.
And that's my problem with Jackson's Hobbit. He took out almost all of Tolkien's dialogue--truly brilliant, funny stuff--and replaced it with green screen gonzo action scenes. I can only watch elves shoot three orcs simultaneously while balancing on the head of a dwarf, in a barrel, rushing downstream through rapids, so many times before I just want to yawn. I'd much rather have seen that funny scene where all the dwarves are showing up to Beorn's door in small groups so as not to anger him. Or Beorn teasing Bilbo about the goblin head and warg skin trophies. Or the dogs on four legs serving a vegetarian supper.
I want to see how Martin Freeman does this: “It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterward were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.” I want to hear the entirety of Smaug's magnificent boast: “Revenge!” he snorted, and the light of his eyes lit the the hall from floor to ceiling like scarlet lightning. “Revenge! The King under the Mountain is dead and where are his kin that dare seek revenge? Girion Lord of Dale is dead, and I have eaten his people like a wolf among sheep, and where are his sons’ sons that dare approach me? I kill where I wish and none dare resist. I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong strong. Thief in the Shadows!” he gloated. “My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”
My pet peeve when GMing is when players interrupt me or try to talk over me when I'm reading box text. Same when players talk to each other when I'm reading box text, then ask me to repeat it. If only they'd been listening the first time, they probably would have gotten that extremely important clue or bit of description.
What's your pet peeve when GMing?
Let's keep it away from "entitled player" or optimization threadjacks.
Put me down in favor of not opening up additional races. Star Wars would have been a lot less interesting if the main characters were Chewbacca, two droids, an Ewok, and Jar-Jar Binks. Humans and the human-like core races lend the game a verisimilitude that would be shattered by a proliferation of the more outre races.
The only other thought I have is that additional races could be opened and closed based on season metaplots. For instance, tengu, wayang, samsaran, and nagaji open at the beginning of the Tian-Xia focused Season 3, then closed at the beginning of Season 4, with characters created during S3 grandfathered in. Or, only issue the boons for those races during the appropriate season. Aasimar and tieflings would, of course, be appropriate for Season 5. The elemental races could be appropriate for Season 6 since that's supposed to be Osirion-focused to tie in with Mummy's Mask AP.
Abstract loot systems like that of The One Ring go a long way toward mitigating the looting mentality.
Treasure is a long-standing trope of the genre, though. Especially monster treasure. Plus it feels nice to most players when overcoming the risks results in tangible rewards. For beer-and-pretzels kinds of groups, kill-loot-level is a perfectly acceptable way to play. It's probably not as satisfying for more in-depth groups.
I'm picking up what you're putting down, though. I can't recall any character I've played that could be described as a "murder hobo." I think the term's probably overused, sort of like "broken."
"Captain Galengol Greencloak of the Andoran frigate Impartial, at your service. I shoot things. points at the dog-mounted halfing (Mrs. Bell's character) She charges things. Point us where you want the enemy reduced."
pets an armored mastiff crouching at his feet "Oh yeah, this is Zarta. That's a good dog. You're a good girl, aren't you? Yes you are. Don't bite Drandle, he's not a bad guy, he's just old." scratches ears
Arbitrary does not necessarily mean un-fun. Quite on the contrary. It may be MORE fun to handle certain things arbitrarily, by GM fiat or handwave. Detailed systems exist to handle lots of things beyond the direct purview of the PCs; GMs indeed MUST handwave most of that in order to keep the game from bogging down with minutia.
Whether or not WBL audits fall into the category of minutia is a matter of personal preference.
When you have a lot of experience GMing and balancing encounters over a range of different power levels, you develop a sort of intuition for balance. Like you know that incorporeal things will be more difficult for a low-magic party, or golems will be more difficult for a spellcaster party. You also get a feel for the demonstrated capabilities of a party. Character level is part of it. Wealth is part of it, too, though less important than character level. Player skill is a huge element of overall party power, and it can be particularly difficult to design challenging, but not overwhelming, encounters if you have very skilled players. Is there a mechanic for adjusting CR or balancing encounters if that's the case? Nope. You have to learn to eyeball it and use judgment. WBL is handy as a guideline, as a metric to measure the power of PC wealth, as a way to kit out higher level new PCs, and yes, to balance encounters and to LEARN how to balance encounters, but it's not a magical formula for awesomeness and fun.
Use WBL all you want, but realize that there are some folks out there who really can gauge party power and encounter balance pretty accurately without relying on WBL. Or, for that matter, on APL and CR. In fact, an experienced GM's judgment is probably a BETTER gauge of party power than APL/WBL.
Pirate Rob wrote:
Well, it is literally the nuclear option.
It's OK to disagree with the developers about aspects of design. SKR's probably my fave rules designer in the industry, but I couldn't disagree more about how he thinks Craft feats should interact with WBL. It isn't a question of who's right--until Paizo fires him and hires me as a rules designer, Sean's right--it's a question of which design results in more fun. I just happen to think that the game is more fun when Craft feats provide a customization advantage rather than a WBL hack.
Personally, I find WBL useful only insofar as it, well, stays useful. For the most part I run APs and I don't fiddle much with the treasure, so I trust that the PCs are generally staying around WBL with the treasure given by the AP; crafting and selling generally balance each other out. So the chances of me spending an hour auditing WBL every time PCs level? Nil.
I'd probably use WBL to equip a new PC or a replacement PC, but that would probably also cause me to actually do an audit to make sure the new PC wasn't coming in significantly more or less well-equipped than everybody else.
If the PCs don't get treasure because they resolved an encounter by some other satisfactory method (Diplomacy, stealth, etc.) I generally sub in that treasure somewhere else. But if they are under-equipped because they just didn't find something? Well, they should have looked harder. I won't reward them for failure by positively adjusting wealth toward WBL.
I've actually done something rather like what the OP suggests. I created a setting with some pretty severe restrictions in place, then told my players, "break this world."
The basic premises of the setting were:
human-centric with human sub-races, no standard non-human races; githzerai were allowed as PC races
One of my players wanted to play a monk. I told him that I wanted to model monk-like supernaturally-enabled warrior-types with psychic warriors or perhaps multiclass fighter-psions. After some negotiating, we wound up collaborating on developing a really cool, really flavorful monk order, the Order of St. Oriel of the River. He didn't get exactly what he wanted, but he got pretty close while staying consistent with the setting parameters.
Another player, hearing that paladins in the setting were super-rare (like Moses rare), wanted to play a paladin. She was a Joan of Arc-like figure in the setting and wound up starting a crusade against the yuan-ti, founding a knightly order, starting her own fiefdom by wresting an island colony from githyanki invaders, and being revered as a saint.
I think it's OK to establish some setting parameters about which you're not willing to be flexible, if you are willing to be flexible and accommodating about other things.