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Unchained does have some "short rest" rules for the Stamina Pool, which seems intended to help Fighters and perhaps other martials. Oddly enough it might be casters who could most benefit from some sort of "short rest" crutch since they're the ones who usually want to rest after the "15 minute adventure day". Sure, it would let them go nova without ending up powerless, but the fact they wouldn't be powerless might help the Fighters cajole them into continuing and the DM into convincing them he's not just trying to force them into fights they can't participate in.
If you torture the Paladin maybe you could turn him into an Anti-Paladin. Of course that's a terrible idea, but playing a serial killer in a heroic campaign probably is too. That said, it is fun to think about...
As far as being a serial killer goes, you might want to concentrate on lowly NPCs such as prostitutes and beggars, the sort of folks who real serial killers tend to kill. I guess you could also have your PC get married and poison off the spouse, another common method used by serial killers. Bemoaning the loss of your beloved Cassilda when the other players know you murdered her to inherit her house/general store/country inn/etc for use as a party base.
Maybe her daughter Lolita who supposedly went mad with grief and jumped in the river or ironically got run over by the undertaker's wagon is really being held prisoner in a soundproof basement where you perform experiments in an attempt to make her your "masterpiece". When the Paladin finally finds out it might make for quite a roleplaying scene.
Adopting a masked or otherwise disguised murder persona might make it easier to make secret deals with people like gravediggers so you could do things like use paralytic poison on peasants so that they appear dead and then come to dig them up later (perhaps since the gravedigger agreed to give you the "corpse" to use "for science" - maybe you get him addicted to some "special" alchemical hooch so he's more likely to tell himself your cover story is true, pray that your cover story is true until he sees proof of your subterfuge and dies in a grisly manner)
A wand jockey familiar can help you get out lots of low level spell effects really fast. If you can get the other PCs to chip in some gold a wand of Good Hope is almost like having a Bard in a stick. Getting a +2 to attacks, damage, and saving throws is a pretty big deal. As long as you restrict the familiar to buffs and cures a lot of DMs won't even send in the hardcore familiar killing squads.
If you don't want to invest in Improved Familiar then the Valet familiar archetype helps you craft twice as fast and also gets all your teamwork feats. There's also a Bodyguard archetype which raises your AC and an Emissary archetype which can use a Cleric domain power once per day. Even if your DM tells you straight up that he or she will be on a non-stop mission to slaughter familiars you could probably still get a lot of service out of a figment archetype familiar since it comes back every day even if killed kind of like an eidolon. Attacks which are killing your familiar aren't killing you, and later on the figment can get some interesting evolutions.
I think that the best time to rest isn't when you’re out of resources but when you have enough resources left for at least one more good fight. Similarly, if the dungeon seems like it is too dangerous to rest in you should probably think about finding a way back out before you're completely exhausted and or surrounded by foes.
I also think that maybe too few casters consider the wisdom of buying or crafting scrolls and wands. Using them might not be as exciting as casting your highest level spells, but it sure beats standing around shooting a light crossbow for 1d8.
Math is important. I think math will show that the potential benefit from many teamwork feats is bigger and better than the benefit from non-teamwork feats which grant similar bonuses. What's tougher to determine is how often you'll be able to set up the situation to enjoy the potential benefits of the teamwork feat, what consequences you'll suffer for doing so, and how often the benefit will be "worth it".
One thing math doesn't take into account is how the table will react to what you do. Parties who clump up might get zapped with a bunch of AoE, but those who split up could be subjected to divide and conquer tactics like Walls or even just a bunch of enemies ganging up on one isolated PC. It isn't just the DM involved in this since Invisible Flying Summoner might get left in the lurch by the other PCs when he gets in trouble more often than the "Come Follow Me!" melee tank who stands in front taking abuse for the rest of the team while he hands them bonuses.
It a crazy Barbarian with no pants snorts some magic mushroom spores and charges headlong into battle the DM also might let things slide a little more than if a 200+ DPR archer finally gets cornered by some melee mooks. There are people playing the games, and they're likely to react to the story you create in the ways they feel are appropriate.
Folks frequently bring up Kingmaker as an example of an "easy" AP. The many one encounter days really can allow some "nova" tactics, but there is some extended adventuring at certain points in the AP (or at least our DM forced us into some), and more importantly some of the random encounters in the wilderness can be absolutely brutal.
Kingmaker Random Encounter Spoilers:
Fairly early in the AP you can run into groups of up to 7 or 8 Shocker Lizards. At low levels a 14d8 shock is likely to be lethal to at least some PCs. We avoided this fate by summoning a Mite and sending the miserable little critter in first so the lizards would shock him. Then we rushed in and slaughtered most of them before they could shock again. If we'd failed the Knowledge check to know about Shocker Lizards our adventure might have ended right there.
There were also some encounters with lots of wolves and later lots of giant dragonflies which nearly killed the archer though perhaps she'd neglected melee defenses a bit. The random dragon encounters were absolutely the worst though. At 11th level we ran into 1d4 CR11 Adult Black Dragons in the Hooktongue Slough. They came upon us while we were sleeping, creeping up with +20 Stealth. Luckily somebody had prepared Communal Resist Energy to guard against will-o-wisps, and luckily my PC happened to be very good at fighting dragons. It was still nearly a TPK though. Later on another random dragon encounter, CR16 I think, ended up being a tougher fight than the much ballyhooed CR17 dragon we met later on. That's not to say that the CR16 dragon was tougher, just that we didn't show up to fight it buffed, ready, and loaded for dragon.
There was also a pretty nasty green slime trap in one dungeon which I used a Hero Point to boost my saving throw against. The DM still gloats that my PC surely would have died otherwise, and I still insist that he can't know that for sure since we did have good Knowledge skills and casters with fire spells.
I recall 1 PC who was around dying twice and spending Hero Points to survive at least a couple of other times. The guy who replaced him later in the campaign due to scheduling conflicts survived one fight only because the DM rolled a bunch of 1s and 2s on a big full attack and another only because we used the scroll of Last Breath I'd bought as my PC's "insurance policy" on him. One of the other original PCs had to spend 2 Hero Points to survive the big random encounter from the spoiler above though my PC had Ultimate Mercy by that point and could have easily brought her back. We only had 3-4 players for most of the campaign, but it seemed to me like there was plenty of danger. The DM, on the other hand, felt like we were steamrolling everything and kept asking if he should increase the challenge for us.
@doc the grey - If my Viking were aware of the game rules he’d tell you that Saving Shield is a steaming pile of pig manure compared to his “Viking” Shield Wall. He might fly into a Rage if somebody suggested that he should grant an adjacent ally a +2 shield bonus which wouldn’t stack with any existing shield bonus as an immediate action instead of increasing an adjacent ally’s existing shield bonus by +2. Immediate actions are valuable, and people who fight without shields are fools (at least in Arnvarg Askettil’s 8 Wisdom opinion - his Asgard Shield is one of his most prized possessions)
@Scott Wilhelm - Teamwork feats seem like they’d be a tough choice in PFS unless you’ve got an adventuring buddy who will always be there with you. On a slight tangent, you mentioned knocking people prone by pushing them into walls or allies using Shield Slam. I’m not sure if pushing an enemy into an ally would result in knocking the enemy prone though. On the other hand, Unchained has a combat trick for Shield Slam which allows you to attempt a Trip, Disarm, or Sunder instead of a Bull Rush after hitting with your shield.
I never said we don't have to be adjacent, just that, "There's nothing about being adjacent to each other which prevents us from using Reach weapons". Since that apparently wasn't clear enough, what I meant is that if we're standing adjacent to each other to qualify for the benefit of Amplified Rage we can still use Reach weapons. We could also qualify for the benefit of Amplified Rage by flanking a common enemy (with or without Reach weapons) rather than being adjacent, but I don't think we concentrate on flanking enough to make Outflank better than Amplified Rage for us, and staying adjacent to each other is probably easier for us to control than keeping a foe in flank anyhow.
Honestly even the bit about Amplified Rage preventing us from charging seems a little suspect to me since in fact we could still charge, and the second orc charging into an adjacent position would even still get a +2 to hit and +3 to damage boost on his or her attack. Even halved that's still a pretty decent bonus, and the PCs in question don't charge a lot anyhow. Of course if they did there's another teamwork feat which could help with that.
Stealth Synergy might be better than the entire party taking Skill Focus (Stealth), but it might not be better than just the PCs who need a little extra Stealth taking Skill Focus (Stealth) or nobody taking Skill Focus (Stealth) and everybody or the lowest Stealth PCs buying cloaks of elvenkind. I'm not saying Stealth Synergy is bad, just that it might not be "worth it" if everybody has a decent Stealth modifier and takes 10.
Maybe I don't understand the "nova" thing. What makes it a "nova"? Does some other effect besides Shock Shield trigger? I guess you could use both effects since they're different action types, but while Shock Shield is a minute per level you can keep a spell stored in your armor for as long as you'd like until you get hit (which hopefully isn't often for a Wizard)
I have a PC who usually triggers about 5-6 attacks on a foe he trips. When we're facing a centipede or a flying fish (seriously our last encounter was a Huge magical flying fish with Awesome Blow) my investment in Trip feats and Vicious Stomp seems like a big waste of time. When we're facing a foe who can be tripped it is "pretty nice" though. That PC doesn't even have Tandem Trip since that party has no other trippers, but the idea is really that situational feats are situationally useful, not anything about teamwork feats in particular though they've almost by definition highly situational.
The same PC is the one considering Amplified Rage. Criticisms like questioning how often we have two orcs who Rage in the party don't seem very applicable for a party which will have two orcs who Rage. There's nothing about being adjacent to each other which prevents us from using Reach weapons. In fact, against foes who can't be tripped the Scarred Witch Doctor often stands behind the Fighter who has higher AC and uses hexes or her prehensile hair since she doesn't need to be adjacent to the foe for Vicious Stomp. It is tough to argue with the idea that we'll often be caught in the same AoE spells, but that's already the case given our clustered up combat tactics. Sometimes being reasonably close to other PCs can also be nice such as if you've got somebody who casts buff spells. That's not really a big benefit for the PCs looking at Amplified Rage, but the Shield Wall folks get a lot of Haste and Good Hope, and just last session the whole party needed to get adjacent to the same square for a Communal spell.
People hate teamwork feats though, so bringing up examples of when they might be useful is probably sort of a silly effort, especially when we all know that there is probably something else which could have been more useful. Like by 17th level the fact we'll be orcs trying to hit things in melee rather than Wizards putting them in a Maze puts us in a position that's tough to defend from a "best bang for the buck" perspective. We're doing it because it seems like it might be fun and should work well enough to win the combats we expect to face (though honestly in a homebrew we can only guess)
Since the froghemoth doesn't have to meet the 2 hands requirement I don't think there's any need to assume that its natural attacks count as hands for any purpose. A megalodon's Bite probably doesn't count as a hand either. In any event, it certainly doesn't have 2 of them or any other grasping appendage which might serve the purpose of a hand.
I'd like to think that having a natural attack with Grab should be sufficient to permit grappling even without any hands and that the rules for Grapple simply failed to take PCs with natural attacks and Grab into account. I'm sure other folks feel otherwise though.
Yeah, I'd been saying earlier in the thread that teamwork feats and maneuvers like Trip are probably better in an AP than in a homebrew where the DM might emphasize certain types of monsters or change plans to thwart your abilities. Maybe I wasn't clear enough about that.
In my haste to expound upon the wonderful possibilities of playing PCs just like mine I also kind of forgot that gustavo was playing Giantslayer. That said, I think that some other player in a different campaign might find the relative values of Outflank and BGH work out differently though. I mean, if you're playing "Against the Kobolds" maybe BGH wouldn't be so hot. On the other hand, maybe the kobolds have a bunch of pet dragons and it would be just grand. All 3 games I'm in right now are homebrew, so it is tough for me to predict what might work.
As far as the situation being mostly under your control with "many" teamwork feats I'll stand by my assertion, especially as it relates to the relative control you have over something like favored enemy at least in a relatively railroaded campaign. I mean, if you take favored enemy (undead) and then the DM never uses any undead it could be a pretty disappointing choice. If you and your friend take Shield Wall and then stand next to each other in most combats you'll mostly get your +2 AC. Whether or not standing near each other it a terrible idea is a subject which might be worthy of its own thread, but at least you have some control. The same could be said for Amplified Rage, which I think will actually end up being pretty nice.
Outflank has all the same problems as flanking, and Tandem Trip has most of the same problems as tripping. Deepening your investment in a risky tactic like flanking or tripping might not be as prudent as diversifying into other abilities, but when your high risk investment pays off it will probably be nice. A lot of folks are risk averse in various ways, and that probably contributes to the avoidance of teamwork feats.
I really wanted to tell you all about casting Rime Frostbite with a metamagic reduction trait and using it with the Enforcer feat, but Sor/Wiz doesn't get Frostbite. Instead I'll mention that Frigid Touch is a very powerful spell. You've got plenty of melee damage folks, so the low damage doesn't seem like a problem. Making an enemy staggered and entangled seems like a pretty good move.
Rime Shock Shield doesn't sound bad, but I'd rather put Rime Frigid Touch in Spell Storing armor. Then if anybody hits you in melee you can stagger them, which I believes stops their full attack right there. There are various type of armor which work for Wizards (at least if they're mithral)
Fire Shield can be used to deal cold damage, and while getting hit to do damage usually isn't a great idea there's a Mass Fire Shield spell from 3.5 (Spell Compendium I think) which could really give the monsters something to think about. You could also check out 3.5 Flame Whips, which gives you a couple of touch attacks with 15 foot reach and 6d6 damage each. It isn't a ton of damage, but it conserves spell slots since you can just kill all the mooks with one casting while standing behind the meat shields. As I recall, if you have Eschew Materials you can cast other spells while maintaining the Whips.
There are always some risks to making assumptions. Like you could take Big Game Hunter expecting a bunch of Large opponents and then end up in an urban setting fighting mostly humanoids. On the contrary, you could expect to be fighting mostly humanoids in an urban setting and then get sent to another plane where you spend most of your time hunting big dinosaurs. I sometimes feel like Rangers can be a frustrating class since so many of their abilities rely on being able to guess where you'll go and what you'll fight. At least the situation which allows the use of many of the teamwork feats is something mostly under your control. I just wish there were some more inspiring teamwork feat selections to share with a valet familiar who doesn't attack in combat. I mean, the familiar gets the feat for free, but I still don't see much worth taking.
@Gronk - One criticism I'll offer on Lookout is that unless somebody has an ability to always act in the surprise round you could find that having the entire team invest a feat into not being surprised becomes a big disappointment when the DM ensures (or simply rules by fiat) that you're all surprised anyhow.
Your group stealth story seems pretty sad, but did the players know about Taking 10? If so are you sure they understand that you can take 10 even when there's a risk of failure? It is taking 20 which isn't allowed then, but a lot of folks get those rules confused, and some DMs enforce them incorrectly. Anyhow, in some ways Teamwork Feats might as well be called Don't Work All the Time Feats, and a lot of players probably figure that feats which don't work all the time won't work when they need them.
I didn't know about the lizard-people from Draco, but a lot of things begin to make sense now...
It seems like a shame that a Fighter who wants to spend two feats on Craft Magic Arms & Armor basically has it turn into Craft Magic Arms OR Armor and doesn't even have the option of spending another feat to get the "&". Craft Wondrous Items seems a lot more flexible. Depending on how strict the DM is with item descriptions, Craft (Leather) or Craft (Jewelry) could be used for a lot of stuff. I mean, whether an amulet of mighty fists could be a dog collar of mighty biting is probably up to the DM. I know there are some real sticklers in regards to boots and horseshoes, but I'm not sure how many DMs would say that bracers or armor need to be made of a certain material or couldn't actually be magic bracelets.
Could anybody clarify "for sure" whether the Frostbite spell used by itself as a touch attack could trigger Enforcer? I'd assume that a Magus with Improved Unarmed Strike could choose to do nonlethal damage and trigger Enforcer, but I wonder whether the spell itself counts as "a melee weapon". I'd think the answer should be yes since Inspire Courage boosts the "weapon damage" from rays, but sometimes things are really complicated.
@Xymor - I guess Stealth Synergy might be OK, but the problem with Stealth is usually that the party has one or more PCs who won’t even try to be stealthy. If everybody is at least investing ranks in Stealth I’d guess you could probably get by just buying some cheap cloaks of elvenkind for the less stealthy folks. I’d rather see a non-teamwork feat which allows a character with high Stealth to share some of his or her bonus with allies.
@gustavo iglesias - It is kind of a long feat chain, but I’ve found that Spring Attack can be a nice feat for getting animal companions into flanking position. You move up, bite the front or side of the enemy, and then move around to the back. With a Menacing amulet you double the flanking bonus, and you don’t even need to spend a feat. If you’re already down that road at 5th level then adding Outflank at 8th for an extra +2 bonus might not seem bad. A retired PC of mine used a flanking hyena to set up his Pounce. I originally took the hyena for RP reasons, but I found that a Medium animal is often a lot easier to get into position. You could probably find mechanically better options than the hyena.
Regarding the comparison of +1 to attacks and +2 to damage I think that Power Attack seems like a decent gauge, so +1 to hit might be worth around +2 to damage. I'd actually value the attack bonus a bit more with a Druid though since it seems likely that the PC or companion might like to perform some combat maneuvers.
@Weslocke - It sounds like your players have a different style of gaming than a lot of folks I know. There are a few PCs where the players have only a rough idea of what their PC wants to do and seem to pick feats almost at random when they gain a level, but most builds are planned out at least somewhat in advance. If you want to get good at stuff like mounted combat, TWF, or most combat maneuvers it can take most if not all of your feats. As an aside, a Paladin with a heavy shield also seems like a potentially sad PC since that makes it really hard to use Lay on Hands (thanks, Pistolero...thanks a lot...) I guess you could use Shield Wall with a light shield, but that would halve the benefit.
I know people who swear by Tandem Trip. The main problem I see with it is that it deepens your investment in Trip, which is a tactic the DM can easily take off the table completely (especially in the land of homebrew)
Regarding adjacency, Bodyguard and In Harm's Way require adjacency too but strike me as pretty good feats for the right team. We've used Bodyguard successfully in a couple of campaigns. I also like Mounted Combat, which is obviously kind of situation based since you need to be on the mount. As for actual teamwork feats, Shield Wall hasn't been bad, and the PCs who have it like to be adjacent anyhow since Shield Slam allows them to create AoOs for each other (not when the opponent is moved away, but when it tries to stand up or move back in)
It sounds like there's at least some interest out there in the concept of games where 9 level casting classes are absent or delayed. I suppose that spell restrictions could accomplish a lot of the same goals though I've generally observed that people react better to not being allowed to play a class than being allowed to play it but then having powers taken away.
If you want to be stingy about ammunition I guess you could probably make that work. Simple stuff like closely tracking encumbrance might make characters reconsider how they're equipped as well. I guess you could consider requiring regular maintenance on armor and weapons and assigning a cost to that. The maintenance might require a Craft or Profession check of some sort along with some time. Stuff which isn't maintained might take penalties or even end up with the broken condition. I suppose you could also consider making a lot of the equipment available at very low levels broken or at least fragile. If rolling a 1 means you broke your weapon then finding/stealing some backup weapons might be more important, and finding a regular or masterwork item could be a significant event.
Does Stealth Synergy let you use your ally's Stealth modifier and or ignore your own armor check penalty, or does it just let you use an ally's d20 roll? The problem I've usually seen with being stealthy is that most parties seem to have at least one PC who won't go along with it.
@Gwen - My girlfriend and I have our PCs work together enough that at least one group mildly ridicules us for it, but we still don't tend to take a lot of teamwork feats. Perhaps that's because we tend to go for PCs from different classes who cover each other's weaknesses and therefore want different bonuses.
@maouse - One of the Ninjas is a catfolk who does TWF with claw blades or a claw blade and a wakizashi. His big tricks in low level combat were missing a lot and getting dropped to below 0 hit points since he had a crappy AC. At 11th level he uses a wand of Shield before combat and he's usually invisible. Suddenly he's a melee powerhouse. The other Ninja is a goblin who uses Spring Attack. Maybe that's a dumb plan, but while he hasn't been impressive in terms of damage output he also hasn't been unconscious repeatedly.
Obviously moving into flank to slice and dice is an option, but that's one the Unchained Rogue has too, and at low levels sneak attack damage doesn't end up being more than what a Fighter with a high Str can churn out with a big weapon and Power Attack. I seem to recall that around level 8-9 the TWF Ninja was hitting for around 20 damage per attack. My Monk 2 / Fighter X was doing around the same damage per hit, hitting more consistently, and making around as many attacks using stuff like Vicious Stomp, Enforcer+Hurtful, and Greater Trip. Eventually the Ninja will gain Claw Pounce and be a DPR superstar, but in the meantime I've still got more versatility when unable to full attack since I can usually generate at least two attacks to his one and perform some debuffs while I'm at it.
I'd bet that you could monkey around with a succubus class and get the abilities to come online at a time you think is reasonable. Looking at how many levels you'd need to roughly simulate the powers with an eidolon might not be unreasonable way to gauge things.
As an aside, if the player is talking about making the succubus a Paladin maybe there's a chance he really just wants a sexy cohort with horns and wings. If so then a re-skinned strix with class levels might work out almost as well. Maybe she's a "half-succubus" (Dad cast Death Ward). Actually, there's a somewhat less powerful monster like that called an Alu-Demon which might make a less disruptive cohort.
Pops was a Good aligned preacher man, but he just couldn't resist a tryst with Succubus Vergara. Now their daughter is the hottest half-fiend in town but has a heart of gold and wants to smite the Evil Pimps who have oppressed her and the Girls for so long. Only our brave hero the PC can satisfy her Abyssal cravings and help keep the Girls on the narrow but not necessarily completely straight path to redemption. Remember, folks, Paladins are immune to disease.
I'm actually a fan of Raise Dead and similar magic. My Kingmaker PC actually took the Ultimate Mercy and helped fallen PCs get back into action cheap more than once. In fact, the DM in that campaign kind of suggested that I take the feat since he was worried about killing off PCs. My PC was very durable and never needed such help. In fact, serving as the "anchor" to prevent a TPK was a big part of his role, and he was the last PC standing at least twice. In another campaign long ago a PC of mine died, and when he came back later on I had him research a new spell for breathing fire and claim that he learned it from one of his ancestors in Hell.
As a DM I generally discourage replacement PCs by making them come in a level lower than the PC they're replacing. This makes Raise Dead and similar options less of a bad choice in mechanical terms, and when less emotionally attached players when people talk with bravado about how they like a challenge and want death to be a real threat I figure that making death a worse deal overall actually helps fulfill that goal they're striving for. If replacement PCs are basically a power up that takes some of the sting out of death. If death is always a downgrade I think that puts a little extra zest on it. Do remember that we use Hero Points, so these deaths don't tend to happen easily though since new PCs start with just 1 Hero Point they're also somewhat more vulnerable until they gain a level or two.
@Pan - What level is your party? Are other methods of returning from the dead restricted?
The existing chart tends to make monstrous cohorts very expensive. I'd say that the CRx2 guideline is probably better than the CR+1 guideline. Comparing the succubus to existing monstrous cohorts like the 16th level CR 8 Erinyes certainly seems fair too.
If you would like the PC to have access to the cohort before 16th level you could get a little more creative. Here are some options which come to mind:
The advantage of #3 would be that you could probably allow the player to unlock the more powerful succubus abilities faster without throwing off game balance. How the relationship is roleplayed would really be up to the player, and maybe the mortal character thinks he or she is "in charge". If options 2 or 3 sound interesting I'd guess that you can find a "monster class" for succubus somewhere which tells you how many hit dice and which powers a monster PC should gain at each "level". You could easily back that into the standard Leadership model for cohort levels.
There was a 3.5 book called Savage Species which had a bunch of monster classes. I'm sure a gazillion homebrew succubus classes are also available on the web. For some reasons folks really like the succubus.
The froghemoth isn't humanoid and therefore wouldn't suffer the -4 penalty for grappling, but I suspect that the "two hands free" restriction was likely written considering "normal" humanoids who have two arms with hands as their only grasping appendages. I'd also guess that the penalty applies to creatures with a humanoid shape, not necessarily those with the humanoid creature type, such as a human PC polymorphed into a lion, a constrictor snake, or a giant octopus.
I have a different PC with the Tentacle discovery, and he actually wears his buckler strapped to the Tentacle (which is styled as a prehensile "devil tail") to keep his hands free for a heavy flail. He's focused on Trip and Dirty Trick rather than grapple, so questions about how well he can grapple with a hand and a tentacle or even just a tentacle haven't come up yet.
From what I've seen in play at levels 10 and 11 the Ninja's swift action access to Greater Invisibility can be really impressive. Combined with his low Will save it also makes the other PCs terrified of him getting dominated. I guess a Rogue could do the same thing a little bit slower with a wand, and relying on invisibility to get sneak attack might end up being a mediocre plan at higher levels anyhow.
At levels 1-9 the Ninjas in two different campaigns pretty much sucked. I haven't seen the Unchained Rogue in action yet, but I suspect that free Weapon Finesse and Dex to damage will help it perform a little better at low to mid levels. Even the now powerful 11th level Ninja was literally a laughingstock at lower levels, and that was compared to a Monk/Fighter (not unchained)
The groups I play with use Hero Points. You can still die while using them, but it usually takes a pretty bad run of luck or repeated bad decisions. We also generally allow Raise Dead and other magic to bring back the dead if the player so desires (and the PC can afford it)
Some folks actually enjoy PC death since it lets them play more new and different characters. They can still keep the revolving door going with Hero Points by simply spending them on bold and daring maneuvers likely to end in PC death. The more conservative folks can be bold when they've got some Hero Points and back off a little when they don't.
I think that limiting access to spell casting at least early on might work out better than allowing casting classes but then denying them the ability to cast their spells consistently. If you're not going to make them at least meter out their spell use by controlling the flow of material components then saying they have to search for them seems like it could be just a background thing in the story.
I honestly sort of enjoyed the grueling "shipwrecked on a tropical island" adventure the DM of my first 3e campaign ran even though some other players don't remember it as fondly. I was a Fighter with no armor fighting stuff with a stick I found in the jungle (club). If the story transitions from a struggle for survival against the wilderness to a struggle for survival due to poverty and NPC authorities confiscating your treasure things can get sour pretty quickly though.
There was a 3.5 book called Heroes of Horror which might have some good advice for you as far as making things gritty and intimidating goes. I personally think ghouls have a pretty good combination of danger and creepiness though I generally have a house rule removing the Fort save from coup de grace. At low levels the double damage is pretty scary all by itself though.
My girlfriend and I play a couple of orcs who plan to take Amplified Rage, but we probably won’t get the feat until 15th or even 17th level since both PCs are busy developing other areas first (hexes and grappling for hers, dirty tricks and mutant wings for mine). My PC is Lawful, so I didn't expect to have Rage until ACG came out and I saw the Bloodrager.
I figure that Teamwork feats might get used more in games where Leadership is common though honestly the Mythic game where most of us have cohorts doesn't have any teamwork feats beyond Shield Wall, which the girlfriend and I both took at low levels since we'd been watching Vikings. Another player had his cohort take it too so she can get in on the +2 AC. I'd say it is an OK feat overall, but we really took it for the Viking theme more than the mechanical benefit.
I guess another strike against teamwork feats is that to enjoy the benefit you generally need to have two PCs of the same general type (melee, caster, crafter, etc) working together. A lot of time parties prefer to have a variety of abilities.
Even considering all of that I think teamwork feats are a nifty concept and have some good potential for PCs as well as monsters. Maybe I'll try to team up with somebody in a future campaign.
I agree that limbs which count as hands should count as hands for grappling. I'd also kind of expect that a creature with the Grab ability should be able to conduct a grapple using that ability without a penalty. That's just conjecture though. In the case of the Feral Gnasher you get a special ability leaving your hands free while you grapple with your mouth.
I assume that to grapple foes with ranged weapons you need to have a rope or cable attached. In fact, after some research I see that the description for the harpoon mentions the rope explicitly. The barbed arrow/bolt not only mentions rope but specifies silk rope. The Sibat doesn't mention a rope but does say that if you move "far away" to be out of the Sibat's reach you end the grapple. Since the Sibat is a light weapon without the reach quality this statement seems doubly mysterious to me (and how far away is "far away"?) I'll go ahead and guess that the problem here is with the Sibat description rather than the grapple quality. Something, possible a trailing rope, is missing from the description. Maybe the Sibat is meant to be a light harpoon-like weapon. Certainly some Google searches can turn up images of sibats meant for fishing which look like that.
I find the harpoon rules kind of disappointing since you don't have much chance of getting the harpoon to attach. I wonder if something which worked more like a Net which has to hit regular AC instead of touch AC might have worked better. It seems like something grappled on the end of a rope should be able to move "only within the limits that the rope allows" (as the Net description states) rather than being unable to move at all (as per the Grappled condition stating, "Grappled creatures cannot move"). I guess that "I wish this certain weapon quality worked differently than the way it does" is really not a Rules Question though.
As another brief tangent, I seem to recall the White Haired Witch being pretty disappointing mechanically despite the cool Bride With White Hair flavor. My girlfriend has a Scarred Witch Doctor with the Prehensile Hair hex though, and that seems to work pretty well.
If I have time perhaps I'll do some analysis and make a chart of how the level progression would go. I've seen a lot of people advise amping up the encounters in APs even for a 4 PC party, so maybe if the PCs ended up a few levels behind that would theoretically be a good thing.
I figure that eventually the dice will favor the monsters and the PCs will have some tough challenges, but honestly I'm on my first AP as a DM. The fact I usually run homebrew material might have skewed my view of CR to make higher CR encounters seem deadlier than they are. I rarely need a CR of more than APL or maybe APL+1 to challenge a party unless there's something unusual going on. Maybe the AP encounters won't measure up though. I'm eager to see how it goes.
If the PC can be human I'd probably go with Eldritch Heritage (Arcane) and set that up by taking the Focused Study racial trait for humans. Then you can take Skill Focus as a bonus feat at 1st level and get two more free Skill Focus feats at levels 8 and 16.
The Familiar Bond feat also might be worth checking out if your friend would prefer Iron Will as the prerequisite feat instead of Skill Focus in a Knowledge skill. The familiar you get from Familiar Bond has some limitations though.
Finally, there's variant multiclassing from Unchained. The Witch and Wizard options both give you a familiar along with some other stuff like hexes or school abilities, some of which are actually pretty nice. Giving up roughly half your feats might seem like a bad deal, but if you consider the two feat cost of getting a familiar you're basically ahead at levels 1-6, break even at 7, and don't really lose a feat from your build until level 11, by which time you've gained several potentially cool abilities. If you take the Wizard path you even get a bonus feat at 15th level.
The biggest problem with all this is that you can't get a faerie dragon familiar before 7th level, possibly 9th with Eldritch Heritage (what you use to fulfill the level requirement is a somewhat debated subject)
Not being able to take AoOs isn't necessarily the same as not threatening an area. If two PCs are flanking an enemy and one grapples him the folks I play with would mostly agree that they're still flanking him since there doesn't seem to be a rule saying that you can't threaten while grappling. I suppose there could be some rule we're missing or some intent which isn't expressed as clearly as the developers might have hoped though. For what it's worth we'd even expect that you'd get the +2 flanking bonus on your grapple checks.
@Duiker - I don't like it much when DMs don't use XP but then crank up the difficultly of the encounters without any effect on rewards. Maybe you haven't had a "no XP" DM go nuts with CR on you, but it made several folks in a campaign I played a while back nearly give up. I think it actually contributed to one guy leaving the group, and several had begun to complain quite a bit.
@Saldiven - If you increase the CR there's more XP to divide among the PCs, so they go up in level faster than they would if you didn't increase the CR. Of course you can account for that by continuing to increase the CR in future encounters. I was just wondering if using the Slow XP chart might slow leveling enough that the PCs would naturally gravitate to a level where the encounters would be challenging as written. Obviously that wouldn't help much at the beginning of 1st level, but the beginning of 1st level is usually a pretty dangerous and exciting time anyhow.
Just an idea...
I'm not sure if Mark's post is a good FAQ candidate since it doesn't really ask a question. My post asks several questions and isn't really clear enough for a FAQ request.
Mark said he's writing a grapple blog, so I don't think the various issues around grappling will get forgotten. I guess like you I'm just eager to find out how this stuff should work since it affects one of my current PC. In the meantime I'll probably just play it conservatively. At worst I can use my left over standard action for another attack.
Increasing the CR means increasing the XP. That seems likely to just turbo charge the PC rise to power. I wonder how using the Slow XP chart might work out. On another note, a 3 round combat sounds pretty reasonable. Are you sure that the players as a group feel the encounters are too easy, or could you just be facing some DM fatigue from the monsters always losing?
I'm kind of facing the opposite problem since I'm running an AP for just 2 PCs. I gave them a couple of extra levels to even out APL vs CR, and they've been blasting through the early encounters with comical ease. I figure it should probably even out a bit later on though. If they end up getting too weak they'll also have access to cohorts and such if desired.
I'd think that organizing them in plastic bags or pocketed sheets labeled with the first letter of the monster's name would be easier and possibly more effective. Anyhow, I'm sure that somebody could make better use of pawns, but my own experience with them was pretty lame.
When I don't have a suitable mini for a monster I'll sometimes just print out a picture of the appropriate size such as a 4x4 picture of a shark for a Megalodon. I guess if I got a few pawn bases to mount them on I'd have my very own homemade pawns.
I always use a mini for my PC. I usually modify and paint that mini. I prefer minis made of vinyl or other plastics to metal minis for this because:
I also like to use minis when I'm the DM if possible. I have a pretty large number of D&D and Pathfinder prepainted minis, but those can be a little expensive, especially for larger minis. I've also got a bunch of MageKnight, Dreamblade, and HeroClix/HorrorClix minis, many of them purchased for as little as 49 cents. I've also been known to sculpt my own minis from a variety of materials. There's some self-curing white stuff called SculpIt which is good enough for mushrooms and other fungal monsters, and I've found that Sculpey is very easy to work with and can be carved and filed into fairly detailed shapes after it is baked.
The DM for our Kingmaker campaign bought a box of pawns for the Bestiary monsters, but he never organized them very well, so most of the time we fought empty bases. Even when he could find the right pawn he often didn't have enough of them. Overall the experience was not a lot better than in the days of yore when we played with a DM who used a bag of plastic ninjas for Large creatures and a bag of plastic Indians for Huge creatures. The ninjas were white, grey, and black, and the Indians were a bunch of colors like yellow, green, and red. Encounters often started with questions like "Are they Ninja sized or Indian sized?" and proceeded with statements like, "I attack the green guy"
@Scott Wilhelm - Stuff like the removal of size restrictions or the need to spend an action maintaining a pin from round to round seem like obviously intentional changes to some people but like potential mistakes or oversights to others. Sure, the size restriction isn't in the RAW, but from what I can see neither is the restriction about not maintaining the grapple with Greater Grapple in the same round when you establish it. Mark apparently put that language into the combat trick for Greater Grapple because of something people were "not seeing" in the CRB though. I guess the FAQ will tell all.
@threemilechild - I'd be interested in knowing the "official" rules for Grapple despite any house rules we might decide to use. You also might find official rulings helpful for your own grappling PC since she'll probably be establishing a lot of grapples during AoOs and might be facing some very big enemies (judging from the DM in questions's general tendencies and recent discovery of Awesome Blow). I guess the question of whether Awesome Blow breaks a grapple is an entirely separate thread though.