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It's certainly the case that, traditionally - and in the US - the market for pen/paper RPGs has been heavily male/white. My comments will focus on the US.
I've gamed for 35 years, and in that time I've seen a considerable increase in female gamers, and have sat at plenty of 50/50 tables, but it's certainly an area which can be improved further. As for people of color, they are grossly underrepresented in pen/paper gaming - even here in Atlanta, which is demographically 54% black, I know three (serious) black gamers, which is almost crazily skewed.
This is interesting, because representation of minorities in online gaming is much greater - what gives?
Relevant aside: Many years ago I was a director at Borders, Inc, and served on its Diversity Board. One thing which puzzled us was why did our share of minority customers, and especially minority employees, trail US demographics? The basic answer turned out to be that we weren't building stores in minority neighborhoods: the retail marketplace reflects proximity. In the digital world, online sales would seem to obviate this, but retail placement still serves a marketing function which can drive online sales, so proximity of in-store displays, face-outs, and so on can affect the online retail environment.
Looking at Atlanta - again, a city whose greater metropolitan area is 54% black - I note that there are no game stores in predominantly black neighborhoods. I mean none - and we have about 20-odd game stores. So, there's basically no proximity marketing of pen/paper RPGs to black consumers in Atlanta. There are other sales venues, like Barnes & Noble, but again, mostly those are in "white" neighborhoods. The driver of RPG sales to black consumers (and I'm focusing on the black market share because I'm familiar with Atlanta) just isn't present.
Now, I have been the CEO of a publishing company, and I considered - being a gamer - launching a game publishing division, so I looked into the realities a bit: game publishers are uniquely at the mercy of physical outlets - game stores, book stores, conventions - to market their products. Paizo, too, is dependent on this framework of market proximity, and so its "target market", realistically, needs to reflect its market reach - and that's where game stores are, which is "white" neighborhoods.
That said, Paizo itself is pretty amazing in featuring - through its iconics - great variation in race and gender, so it's actually well-positioned to market to a very wide segment, demographically. The physical reach just isn't there.
Hence your "privileged white" GenCon environment.
(Internationally, you have plenty of demographic variety in gaming, because you have proximity to those groups in those nations - the Turks, for example, who are quite mad about gaming! If you go to Istanbul, I'm confident you will find game stores in Turkish neighborhoods...)
I'll throw in with Acedio.
I'm sure this can be added to, but I think it covers the basics.
Here's the thing - the gamers who attend cons are not drawn from some wealthy, privileged class of people with an ease of leisure to attend conventions: they generally make quite an effort to attend them, saving money, arranging vacation time, and so on. Typically, this planning begins a year in advance, necessary to book a reasonably proximal room.
They are either taking their families along, OR they are vacationing independent of their families - each day of con attendance is one less day to travel elsewhere. GenCon or the beach? Origins or Paris? It's tricky.
In other words, convention attendees make sacrifices to go.
Anyone can do it. When people complain about not being able to attend cons - usually in the form of complaints about convention boons - they're really just saying "I'm unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary for con attendance, but I want the stuff from there."
I, myself, don't attend cons. I spent this past weekend in Paris, attending a wedding there. In consequence, I have no star recharges and no android. That's fine - I don't really deserve them, having not bothered to arrange my situation in favor of GenCon.
Flip this around, and look at things from the con-goer's viewpoint: "Hey, I spent thousands of dollars (a significant chunk of annual income, since gamers tend to be below-median in income) and spent my vacation time coming here, rooming with 4 other guys, not sleeping, to get this rare boon. Yay!... wait, why does that guy have one?"
If you really want boon, attend a convention. Anyone can.
I've planar bound a movanic deva in PFS - different spell but same end effects - and it's certainly a useful outsider.
Huge elementals are great, in part simply because they're huge - I'm partial to huge air elementals myself.
Really, though, it's a matter of what you need. When I bound a movanic deva, I was with a healing-lite party. I've bound a Hound of Tindalous to track an enemy, an Erinyes as a bodyguard (true seeing + high perception), a Kolyarut Inevitable to track down someone, a succubus for the profane bonus to charisma, and a bebelith (for demon-hunting).
In the case of Planar Ally, you can get some of the high-save/high-charisma outsiders which are harder to bind, like an Akhana Aeon (which can raise dead) or a glabrezu (an amazing bodyguard/tank with powerful SLAs).
For a "combat intensive" day, my recommendation is something huge-sized and tough, like an earth elemental, bebelith, or glabrezu. Barbed devils are great, too, if you need medium-sized combatants, as are movanic devas (and they have a nice aura).
A couatl I've always found cool (my 3.5 wizard had a couatl henchman, from the Leadership feat! Good arguments since he was LG and my wizard was CG...)
I can't see any reason to punish players for being engaged in the scenario and using creative solutions.
I always reward players for creativity. In your example, yes, I'd give them the 10gp (it would just be added to the BBEG's treasure).
Obviously, you can't edit the chronicle sheet, and you should adhere to the PFSGtOP, and you need to respect the players' comfort level with "outside the box GMing", but you are *still* a GM.
Make Whole - repairing broken magic items.
Shrink Item - off-days are a good time to shrink some big things (like boulders, logs, long poles, or whatever) which could have applications later. Shrinking a boat could be handy if you don't want to spring for a Folding or Swan Boat. A small bounder can be reduced to a fine pebble, perfect for inserting into a keyhole so that it busts the lock when you dispel the shrinkage! So many uses.
Planar Binding/Planar Ally - off-days are a good time to bind servitors or make longer-term arrangements with allies. You can start with this at 9th level (for "lesser" spells).
Wall of Stone and Stone Shape - good time to work on your stronghold! Or to create a safe house in the area you're currently working (a place you'll know for teleportation needs).
Simulacrum and Clone - make functional and/or inert copies of yourself as needed. Store your clones in the above stronghold.
Create Demiplane (inc. lesser/greater) - for higher levels, THIS is your stronghold (if made permanent.)
Legend Lore - find details about your next adventure; this can take days or weeks to cast.
So many combos, too. A high-level wizard can polymorph into an Earth Elemental, earthglide a few thousand feet into the core of a mountain, Stone Shape a chamber there, create a demiplane with its entrance there, ward it against divinations, and then teleport or glide back out - he now has a very, very safe place where he can teleport (or greater teleport) himself and/or his party if needed, a place the enemy will be unable to trace or scry. A very productive pre-adventure day! He can shrink some choice boulders while he's at it. While he's doing that, the druid can Control Weather, and Commune with Nature, while the cleric casts a Hallow in the secret chamber, binding some defensive spells to it, after which he casts some divinations or Communes with his deity to gain insight into the dangers the next day will bring (making it easier to select spells the next day).
Just one example!
Well, of course, they're both phoenixes. The overall presentation is similar, kind of a "phoenix rising", but that's a common phoenix motif.
The Paizo phoenix is asymmetrical, and the bird's "body" is rotated about 15 degree clockwise (so the left "wingtip" rises higher).
The tattoo site version features a bilaterally-symmetrical body (down to every flame), and the orientation is "straight", with a vertical axis of symmetry.
Could the Paizo bird be inspired by the tattoo bird? Yes. A more likely scenario is that both the Paizo and tattoo birds are inspired by some older, more classic design (which I haven't time to look into, so I admit this is conjecture on my part.)
If you Google "phoenix", though, and review "Images", you will see many similar phoenix designs, such as this one from a psychology research group:
Verdict: "stolen" is quite a stretch!
I'd agree with Seth on this one.
I'll second it... no, third it!
Go ahead and speak English - I love the idea.
Your horse needs to be from Earth, too:
The gunslinger looks around, weathered face scrunched as he squints against an alien sun. Spitting a long stream of tobacco juice into the strange desert sand, he leans forward, taking up his reins, calming his nervous charger. "Well, Buttercup, I'm pretty damn sure this ain't Kansas."
The real question is why an enemy would ever target the PC's equipment instead of just trying to kill them. There are some enemies who will, but they should be few and far between. Most go for damage, or some form of battlefield control. Disarming might be a tactic, but destroying the weapons is usually inefficient in a fight.
The big exception to this would be an archer - a strong/damaging enemy can usually sunder a bow in one round, and for all practical purposes that character is now ineffective. De facto dead.
In fact, it would be crazy for a capable enemy to not sunder a bow, since, for various reasons (archers can always make full attacks, etc) archer tend to be the big damage guy. Sunder his bow and now you can focus on some other things.
As a GM, if I have a good archer in the party and a sunder-capable enemy, I'll probably always sunder the bow on round two ("ow, that hurt!").
I'll agree that actually taking a character's weapon and leaving with it is pretty uncool, unless the player has simply been brazenly careless: sundering is an attack against a character, but stealing is an attack against a player - you've basically destroyed his use of that character and/or his time investment in the character's development. It's worse than death, because once death is "cleared", the character is fully operational; not so for item loss.
CDG, in my view, is fine if it's tactically sound. I usually make my intent obvious, since (for me as a GM) part of it's tactical value is the threat of it - it may prompt other party members to change their actions that round (to rescue their ally). It's what a bad guy does!
(As an aside, I'll note that my PFS archer - a ranger 11 - has invested in both the impervious enchantment AND a fortifying stone for his +1 holy bow, so it's pretty durable: hardness 14 and 50 hit points, and even higher if subject to GMW. Highly recommended treatments for any archer, and only 3500gp!)
I love puzzles! I actually prefer they be player-solved... why even have them if it's just to soak some dice rolls?
As for dumped charisma and low social skills - here's a fun thing I tried out a few times at a gameday I used to run:
Normally, the way a social encounter is run is that the player lets loose his spiel, interacts with the NPCs, and then the GM calls for a roll - a roll which, often, hardly reflects the RP which occurred. So... I decided to reverse this.
I ran games in which RP would *start* with a die roll, and THEN the players had to craft their characters' commentary in-line with the roll. Obviously, this was a lot of fun when the diplomacy-penalty crowd blew a roll, and then proceeded to flub their intentions, insult their hosts, and so on. With the right group (which I, fortunately, had), it's a lot of laughs. Basically, you're using the roll as a "trigger" to initiate free-form RP, the results of which are constrained by the die roll but rendered plausible by the actual RP vocalization.
Worth a try, and gives the Charisma-dump crowd the chance to enjoy the inevitable hilarity their choices merit.
It's a terrifically versatile, self-contained class.
I played it in my current campaign because I knew the GM would be stingy about magic items and there'd be no "magic mart": the items you mention are all great, though mine only has the holy longbow ( a gift from a grateful temple).
Items that boost Perception are great - the ioun stone which gives Alertness and Eyes of the Eagle. I've actually gotten terrific use out of a ring of the chameleon (great thing about "find stuff" campaigns is that you use less-standard items): +31 stealth with only 10 ranks invested.
As for bracers, if your GM is crazy enough to allow it, the bracer's of falcon's aim are a no-brainer. Mine actually uses (found) greater bracers of archery. I just cast keen arrow when I can.
Speaking of which, since they have some 10min/level self-buffs (heroism, perceive cues) and GMW/GMV, a lesser rod of extend spell (or two) is a great purchase.
Efficient quiver, obviously.
Beyond that, stuff that helps with staying alive - enhanced mithril chain shirt, cloaks and rings of resistence and protection, amulets of natural armor, etc. Archers of course are supposed to stay back from attackers, but that doesn't always happen.
Oh, and if you have a mean GM, I'd recommend a fortifying stone and the impervious enchantment on your longbow - CMD is not the archer's forte, and so their bows are easily sundered. It's always wise to have a backup bow, as well - prior to improved precise shot, I think it's worth having a +1 seeking bow on hand, for those blurry/concealed situations.
Also, a full suite of arrow blanches (especially ghost salt), and some specialty arrows (I always have 10 adamantine arrows on hand). Again, my basically poor inquisitor has none of this, but my 11th level ranger (in a magic mart situation! PFS!) does, so I'm pulling some archery recs from him!
Hope it helps. Oh, and be sure to kill-steal from the barbarian at every opportunity!
You definitely want straight inquisitor - get to Greater Bane ASAP.
Strength can drop to 10 - he's not going to care about a strength bow, long term: his damage is all about bane, deadly aim, and self-buffs (like GMW, divine power, etc). Afford a holy bow ASAP (or unholy if your inquisitor goes that way).
You only need as much intelligence as there are creature-identifying knowledge skills, perception, and stealth: 10 is fine.
Put all those extra points you save from strength and intelligence (and dump charisma while you're at it) into pumping dex and wisdom. Bump those with stat items ASAP.
Just a quick-and-dirty: my 14th level Inquisitor of Sarenrae, with a +1 holy bow (+3 with GMW), fully buffed up can output something like 6d8+36d6+120 damage per round (average 274), assuming no threats (at 19-20, there's *probably* one crit) at +31/+31/+31/+31/+26 to hit. This can go higher if there are bards, greater heroism available, attacking while greater invis, and so on. 15 point buy, in my case. Obviously, that's dropping one BBEG per round, and at +17 initiative, he's unlikely to even have a chance to act.
The listed feats are pretty much perfect, though I will say you want as much perception and humanly (or fetchlingly) possible. Also, if I could reroll, I'd go "preacher" since ranged inquisitors get less use out of teamwork feats than melee ones do.
If you don't want to "waste any gold", I suppose you could just go Oni-spawn barbarian with adopted (orc) and tusked trait, maw and claw option on the Tiefling, and go all naked, clawed barbarian.
In fact, since everyone can rebuild, I think everyone should just be this at level 1: 6 naked, raging oni-spawn living off the land, each with 3 attacks doing 1d4+9 - that's a party output of 18d4+162 damage/round! (let's just call it 207).
(I suppose, for decency's sake, they could all spring for kilts and boots.)
Spring load wrist sheaths to draw potions as swift actions and Accelerated Drinker to drink them as move actions. Also very useful in using Breath of Life scrolls in a timely manner.
I'd say spring-loaded wrist sheathes are very, very common in PFS - I hardly know anyone who DOESN'T wear them (although I actually don't... the item just bugs me!)
That said, I don't think they can be used with potions or scrolls:
"The sheath can hold one forearm-length item, such as a dagger, dart, or wand, or up to five arrows or crossbow bolts"
Until potions are available in Pixy Stix form (a cool idea!), I don't see them fitting in a wrist sheath. As for scrolls, a scroll tube might fit in a wrist sheath, but a scroll itself hardly matches the kinds of items (thin, rigid) mentioned as loadable in a wrist sheath.
Considering the possibility of table variation, a handy haversack is probably a safer place to store a scroll of breath of life.
Technically, no - they do not. The theory is that they avoided the potential financial losses due to encounter risk (like death, or needing to have a disease removed, etc) as well as having avoided expending resources such as wand charges, scrolls, and so on.
No risk, no reward.
That said - and, caveat, I am Chaotic Neutral - here's what I do:
First, time never actually runs short - it's the players who run long, right? I assess the cause of "running long".
If the players made some bad calls which delayed them, then I penalize them the gold. This could mean camping to rest when they should have pressed on, following a red herring, just sucking at combat (thus taking to long), and so on. It's a player-side problem.
If we were all just having a blast roleplaying, and "oops, look at the time!", and I haven't egged them on to completion (judging that the RP should be encouraged), then that's really on me, not them; I don't penalize them. Full gold.
My general guideline is that if the pacing dragged because of me, I'm not docking gold; if it's because of them, I am docking gold. It's a bit subjective, obviously, but I've GMed organized play at cons for 15 years, and I don't recall any particular umbrage among players.
I will try to assess the nature of a group of players when we sit down at the table - do they seem like the kind who are just going to want free-form roleplaying? or the murder-hobo type? and adjust the pacing (and even the encounters) accordingly: I might remove a thug encounter/resource soak so we can spend more time at the Duke's dinner party, or shorted the dinner party to a few roles so I can fit in the tactically rigorous optional encounter - it's all about the feel I get for the players' (collective) preference.
I understand the one-time willingness to run 7-player tables, back when PFS was in growth mode. That said, I've maintained for some time that it's important to recognize the point at which an organized play campaign needs to shift from growth of playerbase to growth of play experience; a 7-player table greatly undermines play experience.
I won't run a 7-player table, and if I'm sitting at a table and a GM adds a 7th player, I'll leave that table; the only option with 7 players should be to divide into two 3-player tables, with one of the players GMing, and run pre-gens.
I'd love to see 3-6 players become a hard-and-fast rule so that 7-player tables are no longer an arguable option.
Players actually being engaged in the scenario, thinking strategically, and going out-of-box should ALWAYS be rewarded.
For timers? I'd start it, but with a little more prep: for example, the victim isn't bound to the altar, but is struggling as he's being led up to it.
For missing stuff? This is a big issue with scrying and teleport. I'd probably either give hints that they should check out the areas they bypassed (maybe a history check to remember tales of hidden wealth here, or a wisdom check for a "nagging feeling"), OR I'd just have the treasure be in the final area. There's just no good reason why players who play "smart" should be penalized for it.
I know as a player of a diviner I've been at tables where I scouted with an arcane eye, or scryed, or whatever, and the GM basically said "well, if you do that, you'll bypass stuff", leading to the table deciding to deliberately NOT do the tactical thing (like teleporting ahead to a safe location further in), and instead to slog through dangers... THAT is metagaming of the worst sort ("let's farm stuff"). Better for the GM to go with it, and be creative about rewarding the players appropriately.
Probably the #1 competency as a GM is being able to improvise when players eschew the linearity of a scenario (and let's admit it, PFS scenarios as a whole are very linear).
This thread has been discussed to death, so there's probably little to offer at this point, but I do have a couple of comments.
(i) There's a lot of very pompous declaration that "it's a social game". Well, it's not, really. It IS a role-playing game which is played in a social setting, but that's a bit different from saying it's a "social game". There's no special "duty" in making sure other players have fun; rather, it's really more effective to make sure *you* have fun. If you're doing that, and you conduct yourself in a manner which is respectful to other players (for example, not telling them how to play their characters, which seems to be the prevailing sentiment here), then that's about 90% of the pleasant play experience.
(ii) Lots of talk about good players handicapping themselves; it almost seems like a prideful mantra of "well, I do have optimized characters, but I make sure not to actually play them overly well!" Here's a thought: maybe if those characters are played to the hilt, it will be valuable for newer players? I, personally, value mentoring.
(iii) On a related note vis-à-vis (ii), if somehow we should agree that it *is* right for good players to restrain themselves, perhaps it's fair for "concept" players to strengthen their game? I know I've played at tables where I was having to burn resources and carry far more than my "weight" to keep the table alive... granted, for me that experience is more "awesome" than "onerous", but we may as well keep play modification symmetrical.
One of the great benefits of organized play is that it creates a great proving ground for improving rules knowledge, learning about builds, learning new strategies and spell combinations, and so on - benefits of playing with a ton of people; why try to throw a wrench into that? I'm sure I'm not the only one who has played with isolated "home game" groups which have been laboring under rules misconceptions, confusions with 3/3.5 and so on... problems which get "ironed out" in organized play. That is, if one allows the game to play out in-full.
Steven Huffstutler wrote:
I hear this argument all the time, and I beg to differ.
Which is more interesting:
"The BBEG got hit with a sword and died, like has happened literally thousands of times"
"So, we met the BBEG, and I actually managed to magic jar him... I had him coup de gras himself! It was awesome."
Which are people more likely to mention as a "you wouldn't believe what happened the other day" anecdote?
If you have a cool schtick, use it - more importantly, if you're GMing someone with a cool schtick, let THEM use it.
Playing a fey bloodline sorcerer, it has been INCREDIBLY common for GMs to just flat-out refuse to let spells of mine work, because they would resolve the encounter in an "un-fun" way... several of these have been four-star GMs, incidentally (just the other day, a GM even gleefully admitted he'd had an enemy autosucceed versus my quickened DC 32 hold monster... wow, nice, thanks)
Guess what happened to every monster who was ever "saved" from my sorcerer by GM cheating - they got killed with a sword! Isn't that unique? I'm certainly happy the narrative could be so greatly strengthened by having them get Killed by a Sword, rather than suffocated, or transformed into my dominated minion. I'm not bitter, I assure you.
Bit of theory: when a game plays out, it forms a digraph of cause-and-effect linkages. This can be simple (GM-forced linear narrative) or complex (GM allows fully complex character interactions with game elements). Complex things are prettier, more interesting. The best play is always for players to PLAY, and for judges to JUDGE... when the players hold back, and the judges build walls, the game suffers.
Well, as a player of enchanters... the spell confers "practical", not "actual", immunity from compulsion.
Here's what the spell explicitly says about charm and compulsion: "While under the effects of this spell, the target is immune to any new attempts to possess or exercise mental control over the target."
So the target isn't immune to the spell, but he is immune to the spell effect. In other words, he still need to save (at +2 resistance) versus, say, dominate person, and he might well fail this save, but the caster (succubus, vampire, etc) won't actually be able to exercise control.
It's an important distinction since dominate person has a longer duration than protection from evil, and it also addresses the problem of a 1st level abjuration trumping a 5th level enchantment - it's really a temporary suppression.
So a succubus accompanied by a babau demon (I can think of at least one PFS scneario offhand with such an arrangement) might dominate a fighter, realize she can't actually exert control, order the babau to target protection from evil with a dispel magic, thus gaining control if the protection is indeed dispelled.
It's still a terrific abjurant for hard-hitting BDFs, though!
As far as Steel Falcon goes - it's just one branch of the Eagle Knights, so if you should become an Eagle Knight (at 20 fame, with the appropriate PA expense) you can just *be* a Steel Falcon.
I suspect *most* Pathfinder Eagle Knights are Steel Falcons (it seems fitting), but it's worth mentioning that membership to the specific order is *secret*, so you wouldn't be known as Roland the Steel Falcon ;) They're the "Delta Operatives" of Andoran!
FYI my 11th level Ranger, Knight Captain Kyrian Solonor, is a Steel Falcon, so you can consider him one of your contacts in the organization if you like...
Not an uncommon problem.
Basically, mature players understand the concept of teamwork, and are fine with group items, including expendables (which, by helping "just one" player, actually help everyone, because that "one" player is also integral to the team). They know that they're playing for the big end-game cash-out (or whatever), and the best treasure allocation benefits the team as a whole.
Less mature players, of course, don't understand this, so it's best to either (i) determine the total treasure value, and dole out cash and items in whichever proportions makes this even or (ii) sell everything and just divide the cash. This latter approach especially is, frankly, stupid, because (assuming selling items around 1/2 retail) they're powering their party down 50% over time; but then, that's less mature players, right?
If you have players who are "jealous", then you have less mature players (note that "mature" here is a factor of player experience, not age), and it just needs to be divvied-up "equitably".
(Example: in our Legacy of Fire campaign, my ranged inquisitor has gotten a +1 ring of protection, +1 longbow, +1 mithril chain shirt; the barbarian has gotten +3 mithril chainmail and a +1 Life Drinker great axe/ I'm cool with this because (i) he can put those to good use, keeping enemies in melee while I attack from range and (ii) if we sold the big items, so he's have a +1 axe and +1 chain, he's much more likely to drop, causing me to waste actions healing him, avoiding melee charges and so on.)
There is a fine line between metagaming and knowing the game.
Some players really know the game well. They know the rules mechanics, they're familiar with the setting, and they're familiar with the bestiaries, spells, and magic items.
When a player who, as a player, recognizes that a creature is, say, a Glabrezu, but, because he's playing a PC who lacks Knowledge:Planes acts as though he does not, he is absolutely metagaming! By that criterion, the only avoidance of metagaming would occur when a player only plays PCs with knowledge skills mirroring his player knowledge of the game. It's absurd.
There is no reason a player who has taken the time to read the books shouldn't be better at the game than those who haven't, or that an experienced players shouldn't be better than those who aren't.
If I'm at-table, and my fighter (clueless about K:Planes) encounters a Glabrezu, and I deliberately, as a player, ignore what I know as I make tactical decisions (or worse, actually act counter to what I know is wise (a common psychological response to concealed prior knowledge), then why am I even playing? I can simply have someone else run my character - after all, he's just the sum of his traits and skills, right? - while I go grab a sandwich. It doesn't make sense.
A PC is not just a PC - he's a projection of the player into the game. The PC can do things the player can't - jump a forty foot chasm, say - and the PC may know things the PC doesn't - like the fact Glabrezu can reverse gravity at will, or rend, or appear veiled as a huge tree. That's the fun of the game, the bidirectional interplay between player and player, between player and GM, and between player and character.
In practice? If a player knows, based on GM description, what a monster is, he should act freely on that knowledge; if the GM wants to obfuscate within reason? All the better!
The check DC can also be modified from -5 (common monsters, like goblins or ghouls) to +5 for rare monsters (soul eater, tataka). Of course, "rarity" is subject to GM fiat, and most GMs simply use the flat 10+CR difficulty.
Still, if you have a rare sort of monster in a scenario, and you'd like to reserve some surprises for the PCs, it's well within RAW to set the DC as 15+CR!
I think a list of choices is a fine idea - I may do that myself (My PFS main is a rather mean fey sorceress with a DC 27 major curse!)
Obviously, there will indeed be table variation; a lot of PFS GMs are "new to GMing", and will likely be uncomfortable making a call, but a good rule to follow is that bestow curse is a 4th level spell, and major curse 6th, so any curses should be commensurate with those power levels.
A sorcerer might have cursed an enemy to be forever blind to beauty, which a GM might sort of softly rule to mean beings with charisma better than 16 or so would be effectively greater invisible to the victim; since greater invisibility is a 4th level spell, this is probably a reasonable curse.
(My sorceress, who is very vain, was turned permanently blue (rod of wonder), and is quite angered if she's referred to as "blue" rather than azure, and I'd like to have a contingency where if she's offended by being referred to as "blue", the offender is stricken with a major curse of may all the world be blue in your eyes, thus presenting an world in which everything appears bright blue. A flavor thing. We shall see!)
A thread on suggested curses would be amusing!
As the "owner" of a five month old girl, I will say that, while she's amazing, as far as any kind of ethos or moral/philosophical worldview?... Nah, she's got nothin'.
As per animals, definitely neutral.
(One exception: if one were running a campaign set in say, historical Europe, ie. "Christendom", babies would be born with "original sin", and thus would be evil until they were baptized, at which point they would be good. Interesting notion!)
The victim can't take actions, so it can't make fly checks - it does, in fact, free-fall.
Per "Environmental Rules" in the CRB, you fall 500 feet per round (which is why falls of less than 500 feet require casting of feather fall to mitigate, as you can't cast fly quickly enough). Of course, the maximum falling damage is 20d6, so anything higher than 210 feet doesn't matter, really.
It - along with the various hold spells - is an excellent counter to fliers, though the spell's short range poses a problem.
Well, by RAW it's the "monster identification" skill for humanoids, regardless of how silly it may seem: an adventurer who's lived all his life in, say, Korvosa, but who happens to have gone on a quest to the deep and faraway Vaults of Orv, will use K: Local to identify any bizarre humanoid servitors he may encounter there.
As for specifics, though, that's really a matter for the GM to decide. For example, let's say I see a Captain of the Guard - who happens to be, say, a hobgoblin (a humanoid) - and I make a K:Local check; the check gives me basically racial information - he has darkvision, he's stealthier than average, and so on. Nothing about class levels, not his name, not the schools he attended... nothing but the Bestiary listing. Further, this would be a DC 11 check to identify (his race is CR 1/2), so with a 16 check we'd know about the darkvision, with a 21 the racial stealth bonus, and so on.
That said, it's certainly reasonable that one might know something about him. As a GM, I'd leverage the +5 DC per detail rule to add particulars aside from the Bestiary, IF it was reasonable that I might know something. For example, if this captain belongs to an organization you've been fighting for some time, you might know things about key people - if it's some random captain in a stronghold you just happen to be infiltrating, it's probably not possible to know minute details about him. Again, this is really what you and your GM agree upon as reasonable.
Ex: Let's say my Hobgoblin captain is a 7th level fighter. To realize he's a hobgoblin, I go through my usual chain of DCs to identify the race, and know racial abilities (11, 16, 21, and so on). If the GM thinks it's reasonable, I might get that he's a hobgoblin fighter with a DC 17 (since he's CR 7 with the class): for example, I've been following the activities of the Brotherhood of Total Evil, and I know they recruit hobgoblins to train as fighters. If so, for each +5 increment, I might know some feats, schticks and so on (since I might know something about how the Brotherhood trains its warriors). If I get a crazy high roll (like a 38 or something) I might even know that this is Captain Gnash, favored scion of the Brotherhood, who's famous for sundering opponents weapons and then directing his men to grapple the disarmed opponent, AND that he personally slew Princess Daisy's pugs, or whatever).
tl;dr: By RAW, you automatically use K:Knowledge to access the Bestiary listing of humanoids; beyond that, it's what's reasonable and agreeable to the GM.
If your buddy was one-shot, then he's kind of in the category of "people who don't build good characters", right?
Having a number of PFS characters (levels 13, 12, 11, 7, 4, and 2), I've learned a few general principles for happy PFS play; the basic issue is that you never know who you're sitting down to play with (with exceptions, obviously, but in con and game day play, this is a general rule), so you can never completely rely on them. Bringing a broken character to the table isn't the answer, because those are almost always one-trick (or few-trick) ponies; they usually work well at low levels, but start to falter at higher levels (I see this with things like optimized grapplers, characters built on a heavy sneak attack or enforcer type schtick, casters focused very intensively on specialized blasting (like pyromancer-type builds), etc).
What you need to deal with the random tables of PFS is:
- ability to succeed at faction missions. *Mostly* this means the ability to make diplomacy checks. Being a total charisma dump (many PFS characters, especially "optimized" ones) isn't really a good idea. Why is this important? Because your later access to good items is dependent on prestige.
- the "I can't believe you don't have that" tool kit. Things like weapon blanches, potions of fly and lesser restoration, wands of CLW and endure elements, and all the other things which can compensate for having ineffective casters at the table.
That's about it. "Making the table cry", in addition to having limited long-time use in PFS (I'd hate to go through the retirement arc dependent on a fighter who's built only to trip, or a sorcerer who casts fire spells at +3 or +4 caster level... but has no other kinds of spells); it's also bad "game citizenship".
It's worth remembering that we play these games for fun, not "to win". If you prefer the latter, it's worth checking out card and board games instead. PFS *does* have a lot of "ineffective" players, because it attracts a lot of new, first-time players to the game: I meet many PFS players for whom this is their first time playing RPGs - and this is a GOOD thing. The best long-term strategy is to invite these players in, gently suggest things, answer when asked, and so on; eventually they'll learn the game, learn tactics, teamwork, and so on.
I play both PFS and a completely non-PFS home game.
PFS, of course, is pretty close to "anything goes"; there are restrictions (no words of power, no permanency, and so on), but mostly one can use any feat or spell, and there's a wide-open magic mart. My PFS characters - I admit - are comically powerful. I mean, I have an 11th level ranger who can make a DC 90 perception check... what does that even mean.
With notable exceptions, it's not especially challenging to play that way; it IS very challenging to judge PFS for the very same reason - dealing with optimally effective (I'm not going to say "overpowered" because that's nakedly subjective) PCs can be, well, disappointing from a GM's perspective.
How different is the home game! We're currently running Legacy of Fire (just starting on the 3rd book) with 15 point builds; typically we have 3-5 players at the table (depending on people's schedules). We are restricted to Core Rulebook and APG only, banning the Summoner and Gunslinger classes (for balance and flavor reasons, respectively), and our magic items are what we find (no magic mart). We have a "soft" ban on the Leadership feat (one player can have it), and pretty much we need to be self-sufficient (for example, several of us are currently suffering from Con drain - I'm down from a 14 to an 8, myself - with no hope of a restoration until our cleric hits level 7 (if he lasts that long - he's down 8 con!))
It's pretty brutal (I'm a player - level 7 inquisitor - not the GM), but it's SO challenging and fun. We actually have to depend on tactics, stealth, and playing smart, not brute-forcing the scenarios with raw ability or power. Do we think of ourselves as nerfed? No, because basically our GM just set Pathfinder back to a pre-power creep level, removed a terrible example of game design (the summoner), and removed something which doesn't fit, narratively (the gunslinger). I can still build a very effective character (notice that I selected an inquisitor, a good choice for a no-magic-mart campaign, since I can pretty well replicate magic weapon enhancements like bane and so on), but it's a very nice change from the complete cakewalk of PFS.
Pathfinder, in toto, is no longer a balanced ruleset; it's heading to where 3.5 was prior to 4E (it's not as bad yet - my last 3.5 character could shadow evoke a miracle with no material cost or xp expenditure, and was in general stupidly broken in a way not yet possible in Pathfinder, but still!) A serious, challenging campaign requires careful consideration by the GM of what will be allowed, refused, or changed. Nearly all mature game systems go through this phase - I'm not demonizing Pathfinder - but it simply doesn't work an an "everything goes" system.
Christopher Rowe wrote:
In my view, this approach is inadvisable.
I'll use my home group as an example: my home RPG group (which happens to be doing a Pathfinder AP at the moment), with the exception of myself, has never had any interest in organized play. In fact, they would take my "signing them up" so I could get GM credit in PFS as an affront - basically, using them to gain some kind of "stuff" exterior to our gaming group. It would do NOTHING for PFS, and would simply be me garnering myself hollow "GM points"; at worse, it could be considered as defrauding PFS.
But, let's say I did it anyway, "holding" chronicles for my players "just in case", and in fact at some point some of them DID happen to decide to play PFS (maybe at a local game day, or perhaps a con), and suddenly they're starting PFS with 7th level characters. They barely even know what PFS is - no clue about what "prestige" or "fame" are, no understanding of what various factions are about, and so on - but they're playing 5-9 or 7-11 scenarios. Again, how is this - foisting power-leveled neophytes on the scene - helping PFS? Well, it isn't.
When organized play incentivizes judges with accolades, free character advancement and so on (and it has taken differing forms in different organized play campaigns), it sometimes has the negative effect of causing people to focus on those meta-rewards (Living Greyhawk, for example, had a problem with people running "straw tables" for GM credits, so they would qualify for Wizards' GM reward card mailings). The degree of excitement over the prospect of judge rewards for the sanctioned APs worries me, especially given that these are likely to be run "out of view" in home settings; it's a perfect set-up for a certain species of fraud.
So, it's a slippery slope, and the best practice is to take a fairly strict approach to crediting sanctioned APs: for credit, both players and judge should be running them with the understanding that it's within the context of PFS play.
I don't think relativity applies to Pathfinder.
First, there are planes of existence, so that invalidates general relativity (which depends on geometric curvature of spacetime); second, the presence of instantaneous travel (teleportation) kind of trumps special relativity (which is dependent on the speed of light as a speed limit).
In the case of my model, for example, I basically ignored gravity in favor of pressure (or more precisely, I assumed a constant terrestrial gravitational field).
As for dropping a stone, anything above colossal size is subject to GM handwaving anyway :)
Certainly if you had a planeful of metastable ice II or III or something, and suddenly introduced it to normal terrestrial conditions, it might explode.
There are probably easier ways to kill enemies with water, of course!
Okay, this is fun.
Yes, your scheme would work.
First, I’m defining a “demiplane” as an thermodynamically fully isolated system which is isochoric (volume can’t change)… just so we’re on the same page. If someone thinks “planes” wouldn't be thermodynamically isolated (maybe there’s energy transfer with the astral or ethereal plane) then my argument won’t be valid.
Assuming a minimum-sized demiplace (one 10-foot cube, or 1000 cubic feet), at the moment the plane is filled at density 1 we’ll have 2.8317e+7 grams of water, or 1.573e+6 moles of water (assuming the decanter itself has negligible relative displacement).
Now, assuming this is an indestructible decanter that somehow lacks a “limiter” which responds to environmental pressure, so we keep adding water to this isochoric system. One interesting feature about water is that its phase diagram’s liquid-solid boundary has negative slope, so you essentially can’t press water “solid” (indeed, its solid phase is less dense that liquid, because strong hydrogen bonding forces the solid into a tetrahedral geometry, increasing “spacing” over its liquid form). Now, we’re adding pressure VERY slowly (30 gallons per round to an essentially 7480 gallon “tank” – our demiplane), but we also have an isolated system, so we’re slowly, inexorably adding heat – it can’t dissipate – so our water is getting hotter. Slowly, but hotter.
Folks have mentioned that water is pretty impervious to pressurization – this is a feature of liquids – but we’re dealing with a pretty unusual system (an ideally isolated thermodynamic system) – so we actually can explore some exotic states of water. For example, at some point, our phase diagram get a bit wonky, and we might move in and out of some different-geometry solid states (as systemic heating begins overpowering hydrogen bonding, for example). If you’re curious about these metastable forms of water, this paper has an extended phase diagram.
So, after a lot of interesting chemistry happens, and we start sort of moving away from a pressurized system of water to more things like hydronium. At 10,000 atmospheres (equal to a terrestrially-impossible 64 mile depth), for example, we’ll see Ice IV… so we still haven’t fused, but we’re at another exotic solid state, and we’re still adding water to the system. What we DO have, at this point, is something like the atmosphere of a water world… kind of interesting.
By the way, it’s probably important to point at t at this stage: it will take the decanter 2,055,000 years to achieve this level of pressure, adding its 30 gallons per round (the first problem evident in the scheme).
But we continue adding water, and our demiplane gets hotter, and goes through yet more exotic phase changes (there are fourteen forms of ice to go through!) The pressure needed to fuse water doesn’t really matter, because our water will have long ceased to be water by the time we get there – it’s elemental oxygen and hydrogen, and some other kinds of ions of the two in certain forms.
So what about fusion? This is a matter of sheer guesstimate outside of some very complex calculation of the Lawson criterion triple product (which I don't intend to do at 1:41am), and it’s hard to say what the pre-fusion conditions are like insofar as temperature, pressure, and so on. I guess we’re just looking for an explosion rather than sustainable fusion (building a star inside our demiplane)? It’s largely a matter of temperature, and relation of pressure to temperature for liquids involves evaluating a partial differential equation (again, meh), but it’s on the order of a billion atmospheres (the sun is 340 billion, but it's a fully sustained star, and there are non-nuclear explosive which achieve pressures of 100 million atmospheres, so… 1 billion seems like a good estimate).
Using a decanter of endless water, it would take 6.49e+14 years – that’s 649,000 one-billion year intervals of time – to achieve fusion in a 10x10x10 demiplane.
For scale, our (real) universe is estimated to be 13.75 billion years old – your project will take 47212 times longer than that (not to mention that it might well drain the elemental plane of water!)
The verdict: the plan works, but perhaps on a different time horizon than one might want.
Of course, we can mess with the flow of time when we create our demiplane, but that’s another discussion.
I often use discussions such as these - the twin conundrums of (i) finishing scenarios on time at conventions and (ii) what will be sacrificed, combat or roleplaying? - to illustrate why building very effective characters is actually better for roleplayers than the puzzling tradition of "I'm a roleplayer, so therefore I make weak characters":
If you build characters which can quickly steamroll the combat encounters, you'll actually have more time for roleplaying.