It sounds like there's a lot of variables in play here. Some of it might come down to differences in what's expected from the implicit social contract (a possible gm/player disagreement in expectations?)
Another thing to consider is not only the availability of other options but also the visibility of those options given the situational set-up. If time was a great factor and the lives of the other two pcs were of high importance/salience, other options may not be as visible as rushing to their aid. This is all the more so if the campaign has been set up more of as a story where the protagonists are expected to act through bold and impulsive action rather than a campaign where the protagonists are expected to act in a manner of cautious risk assessment and more deliberate strategic thinking.
As others have said, punishing and setting things up with fair and likely risks are probably two different things. An attempt at punishing comes from a desire to teach them a lesson or discourage bad or stupid behavior. Assigning risk is something a bit different- that comes not from a mentality of behavior modification but from designing a consistent world.
In this situation, if your objective is to punish the players, I would look long and hard at the circumstances of it before following through with this. In situations of great risk (the lives of other PCs) and great urgency (the time limit), often the more nuanced options that could be visible in calmer circumstances get thrown out the window. If one were to set up a no-win situation and then punish the players regardless of choice, that would seem to me to be unfair. I don't think that's necessarily the set up here, but the off-chance possibility of it is still worth looking out for.
If, on the other hand your motivation isn't so much to to punish but to just allocate a certain amount of risk that would or might objectively and visibly be there, then that risk just comes with the territory for a lot of groups. If, however, your game has established a previous environment where characters are afforded a good amount of story protection for doing things like rushing in Big-Damn-Hero-style to save the lives of their compatriots, then the situation of what is good form could very well be different.
What's good form and what's bad form here all just depends on what the set up is like and how it's perceived from the parties involved. Some discussion of differences in expectation may be warranted, if it seems to you these differences are large enough to cause a potential clash over them.
The only thing I would think to add to this conversation is to ask how you might vary things up a little bit. How might you find ways to "distract" the monk by involving him in other meaningful activities that highlight his other abilities (movement, etc)?
Varying things up a little bit might help, like having certain target bad guys trying to flee while their more muscled henchmen try to hold down the players long enough for their employers to escape. The monk has to choose whether to give chase using his better maneuverability or take out the goons that might threaten his friends.
Or feature things like the occasional natural disaster (landslide, fire, etc) where the object of the scenario isn't just to kill things but to survive going though horrible circumstances to save lives of property (you've got a kingdom to take care of now, so that usually means NPCs you care about).
And you can from time to time put him out of his element by forcing him to go on the offensive (count down clock of doom? hostages into the overly elaborate/not quite so easily escapable deathtraps?)
Also remember in a game like Kingmaker, the focus is often not so much on the individual encounter but rather the long haul. At level 7 you're not quite to the levels yet where you can buzz around instantly, nobody can do everything at once (there's should be at least a few opportunities to highlight this). So in the realms of diplomacy, espionage, and exploration, just as much focus can be put on what happens when they're not there as when they are. Give 'em choices of where they go and what they do, and with those choices often come the need for sacrifice (less often if they are careful of course).
Since you mentioned cyberpunk, what's the internet equivalent like on your world? If it allows for it, you might think of making it the equivalent of the Ethereal (and/or Astral) Planes. Like a sort of "Ethernet" as it were. And private server/secure domains could be the equivalent of demiplanes, "Ether Nodes" as it were. They talk a lot about this in the steam/etherpunk book for d20 modern "Etherscope", which I think is on sale here at paizo.com
As for the xill, they of course would be somehow naturally adept at breaking down the barrier between the physical world and the world of the Ether. They could be an only seemingly-sentient race of Ether viruses created and directed by unknown hands or even a program that's somehow achieved sentience and gone rogue.
Mark Hoover wrote:
The Pullstinger here is CR 2 (kobolds only get a -1 CR mod if they only have NPC levels)
A really weird error here, all my custom monsters are now showing up with really weird mythic ratings attached (none of them had any before). The mythic ratings almost seem random, and a lot of them would certainly be illegal if they were applied (eg. MR 298 applied to a CR 7 creature).
IMC, we're beginning to enter this range again, so I'd thought I'd reflect here on a few things. First, on the "require them to use these spells", I have several of my players groaning when I use this tact, and to some degree I can see where they're coming from. "Requiring" that they use spells or resources to amount to what is essentially plot-point connecting aids (i.e. used as necessary steps to get from Point A to Point B) can be frustrating b/c it's not necessarily the same thing as "being able to do awesome stuff" (i.e. doing fun stuff in spontaneous ways). So I feel the strategy of requiring spells to be used to solve scenarios or to get from Point A to Point B is best use sparingly, because overuse of this strategy can make using the spells a routine chore (and then we get into the same conundrum as thwarting them too often- why have them at all?)
Beyond simple spells, I think the combined use of spells should be examined. Often it's not a single spell that complicates things (unless it's simulacrum) that's tricky, but rather several spells laced together. With the amount of spells out there, it's pretty darn difficult for a DM to know what to expect in their combinations.
There's also the time/effort factor in dealing with spells and other high level abilities, not just the challenge of it. Legend Lore/Vision, for example, potentially unloads a massive info dump onto the players. And keeping up with the all treasure and NPC details (spells, etc) can be a hassle (even with automated tools like PCgen and combat manager). Alternate or more simplified means of developing stat blocks or even streamlined character progression might help here. As a quick and dirty alternative, some development on reskinning statblocks of monsters/NPCs from one form to another could be used like in the third-party "Filing Off the Serial Numbers" PDF. Particularly since all the prefab high level challenges are almost always outsiders, dragons, NPCs (heavily trending towards spellcasters), or creatures of Huge size or greater. While we're at it, an expanded list of high level critters that AREN'T one of the above is another thing I'd look forward to in a high level book.
Regarding expanding the reach of play beyond focusing on the PC as an individual (going into dominion level play, etc), I'm not sure this can work as a main element of high level play. Any such endeavor will requiring working with subsystems that can appear to be unwieldy and off past a certain point (I wouldn't enjoy having to rely on a kingdom spreadsheet after a certain point). Beyond that, a dominion level or similar focus would entail a lot of ad hoc challenges (ad hoc in the sense that they aren't as structurally governed as combat is). Dominion level play as the high-level campaign focus might work better if ad hoc assigning CRs to noncombat challenges was more systematically dealt with.
One of main things I think a high level book will need to address is the NPC (and possibly PC) creation time/complexity issue. This is hard because it comes from the "NPC rules equal PC rules" standard built right into the foundation of d20. Unless this primary conundrum is somehow addressed, I think high level play will always be no more than a tertiary focus.
302. Auctioning off a captured, polymorphed hero/heroine NPC to a host of other villains. The captured NPC has been polymorphed into some helpless animal form.
296. Tossing a penny into a fountain to make a wish.
297. Having breakfast served to him in bed.
298. Washing his familiar/animal companion
299. Doing his own yard work
300. Taking up a new hobby, like bird-calling
301. The villain is weighing the pros and cons of his various plans to decide which are good ideas and which are bad ideas.
Jester David wrote:
In volume 2 of Wrath of the Righteous, there is a
mythic chimera and a mythic, advanced shadow fiend already statted out.
Well, how much of a story is there to tell when that guy doesn't even remember what happened? At least we got more story than Norgorber, who is really good at being the god of secrets.
What if there's a reason for why Cayden can't remember? Maybe he was a member of Norgober's adventuring party when he passed the Test of the Starstone, or hell, maybe even a split personality of ol' Blackfingers himself?
The line from summmon monster is a legacy cut and paste error from 3.5. You can tell because it lists elementals separately when in PF elementals are simply a subtype of outsider (thus making the need for listing elementals redundant in the sentence).
If those templates changed the type at all or gave it an alignment subtype it would explicitly say so, like it does for other templates. There is no (explicit at least) rule linking the smite alignment or DR rules of the granted templates to a required alignment subtype. In fact,although the alignment of one of these given templates has an alignment requirement of the base template, the template doesn't actually change the alignment of said base creature. The template just means it resides on another plane, which doesn't necessarily require an alignment subtype.
I may be off base here, but I'm almost thinking Elminster would be a better stand in for Aroden than any of the actual gods. He's practically a god himself (and could have been a vessel of Mystra's lost power after she dies?) and covers the wise/aloof old man and embodiment of humanity better that Aroden seems to have for him. Elminster's hands are EVERYWHERE, and he's so iconic to the setting. I think, unless your guys are really familiar with the realms, having Elminster kick the bucket would set the tone for how dire things are and set up the PCs to be the epic heroes the adventure path seems to encourage.
The fiendish, entropic, resolute, and celestial creature templates do not alter creature type or introduce alignment based subtypes. You may be confusing them with the Half-Fiend and Half-Celestial templates, which turn creature types to Outsider with the native subtype.
Other ideas- simulacrums, familiars (with wands and UMD), minions (golems, constructs, undead), dominated monsters, quicken spell, contigency.
If you don't mind reskinning, you could also put together several creatures into one encounter and make them different body parts of the same creature (usually very big!)
You could look at the chase rules in the GMG and adapt them. Instead of the "chase" ending when one party reaches another, it ends when one crosses the finish line. You can use skill checks like Handle Animal or ride to get past obstacles, Survival for finding your way/choosing the right routes, etc. Maybe throw in a few encounters to sparse things up in between stages of the race.
I think there was something like this in the 3.5 DMG II about adding special powers like an extra standard action to NPCs. You might want to check there.
I had also been playing with the idea for one NPC general to have a ghost, shadow, or other incorporeal creature following the NPC around and acting as his "warrior spirit" which would normally be hidden in phase with him/occupying the same square. it would only manifest when he entered combat. I was planning on making the main NPC a fighter of some kind (perhaps with some templates) and the ghost a spellcaster (probably a sorcerer).
Another option would be to make your villain a summoner or druid. Also, necromancer with lots of undead cannon fodder.
One thing you will have to consider is the price of scrolls. It will go up as spontaneous casters generally get them at a later level (therefore you will need a higher caster level to figure into the cost equations).
A compromise you might want to consider is just banning the primary prepared spellcasters (wizard, cleric, witch, druid) and leave the secondary/tertiary prepared casters alone (alchemist, magus, ranger, and paladin). I've heard less of these classes becoming out of control due to their spell selection than the primary prepared casters. Their spell lists tend to be more limited and controllable, IMO. And a lot of the problematic spells (teleport, etc) kick in at a later level if they're on these spell lists at all. The alchemist could also alleviate many of the issues of a missing cleric too.
Don't forget different templates and prestige classes can also help you customize your necromancers. The eldritch knight could work for a more martial based necromancer (coupled with the Undead Anatomy spells). The Bloatmage may also make for a particularly disgusting encounter.
Various undead templates are out there for the taking that might have been assumed by some necromancers willingly (the vampire, the lich, the penangallan, etc) or unwilling (say a ghostly necromancer that was murdered by his peers and still holds onto this life with a sense of vengeance). You can also use base monsters (wights, ghouls, advanced mummies, etc) and add class levels to them.
You may also further customize necromancers by giving them certain sets of minions. (A paleontologist necromancer may favor fossilized [skeletal] dinosaurs, for example).
Okay, so this seems like a pretty complex situation you've got set up here, so I'm gonna need some more context before saying what I'd do.
Obi Kemnebi wrote:
In the campaign I'm DMing, there's a PC who started out as Neutral, but has slowly shifted to NG over the course of the game. He's also a necromancer, but only by the fact that he has an affinity for necromantic and negative energy spells. He hasn't raised any undead (though he has Decomposed and Recomposed a corpse or two) and he's technically only ever done one evil action (torturing a guy he'd blinded but who wasn't divulging information). He's killed an inquisitor and injured a number of others in Iomedae's service, all out of self defense.
Okay, i'd like to hear the context of how this happened. Did the inquisitor and other servants of Iomedae just attack the necromancer out of the blue?
Did he know whom they were, and did he have access to nonlethal means of defeating them?
Oh, and as a witch, his patron is (unbeknownst to the character) one of the four horseman of the apocalypse (specifically, Pestilence).
Is necromancy and/or witchcraft illegal in the land he's been peforming them in? Does anybody involved know of his patron's true nature?
He's now surrounded by inquisitors and paladins of Iomedae, under arrest, and being told he's already been tried and condemned for his crimes (necromancy, murder, defilement, and assault of a servant of the god). He claims he committed no crimes, and says that he refuses to be judged by mortals (especially those who have prejudice against simply on the grounds that he is a necromancer). He's openly declared that the only judgement he will accept would be that of Iomedae herself, and not through any of her servants.
Was the necromancer informed of his trial and chose not to attend it, or was he convicted in absentia without his knowledge? If he was not informed, I would think Iomedae would give the accused the chance to defend themselves (or have someone act as defense for them) in court.
One thing to consider here is under what context is he's made this claim of only being judged by the goddess herself. Is he doing so under a state of duress in that her servants have gone astray and he has no other choice but to call directly upon her? Or is he placing himself above mortal justice entirely (in this case, showing great hubris)?
And under what terms of surrender will the necromancer oblige? If the priests call upon a Commune spell, will he submit? Or will no measure short of the goddess appearing in person persuade the necromancer to submit?
Here's a few I can find
As you can see, most of these guys are associated with the Pathfinder Society (a fairly unique group as far as the Inner Seas go in that many of its goals are intellectual) or are also magic users of some kind. Magic seems to be the dominant "science" as far as Golarion is concerned (with the possible exception of Alkenstar).
Okay, this is really wicked cool. Very twisted baddies. I'll put all my substantive comments in spoilers and break them up by section of concern.
My biggest suggestion is to add bookmarks to it, if possible
Minor Editing Bugs:
Fishwives stat block (p. 24) has a +1 bonus to damage on the javelin but only has a Strength of 10.
The Preacher (p. 62) needs a save DC 13 for its Inflict Moderate Wounds SLA. It currently has none listed.
OGL Section 15 (p. 91) - you haven't credited the Advanced Bestiary, although you sourced it for the ooze creature template on the acid spider swarm on p. 64.
As for the actual content of the module, here's what I got from an initial pass through it.
Content spoilers and suggestions:
Wow, I really like how you mixed human depravity (the rivermaster, the cults) in with inhuman depravity (the the Othersiders, the clones gone wrong). The format of it (investigating the town first, then going into Moat-house like environs before heading towards the real deal), but the Lovecraftian/primal evil content reminds me of the Seeds of Sehan arc from Dungeon magazine. I really like Othersiders and their kindred, very surreal yet they have a reason for being there.
I also really liked your NPCS, especially the ones that could join the party. Dahlia, Merlock, and even the dual identity disorder orc are all great inclusions. Merlock especially is well connected with all the weird things in Graythorn castle.
You've also done for the most part a good job in making the game fairly free of railroading. Allowing Detect Evil to actually be useful is something that a lot of designers and GMs unfortunately avoid. Some of the early encounters in town(like Dahlia's framing) might be easy to either miss or circumvent completely (like Dahlia's framing if she's off traveling with the PCS or PCs are there when the militia come around to attack her), but thankfully, none of these seem too required of the plot.
You also give some good advice about the beginning about the importance of hints and such for the GM. Yet the module comes across slightly as having some of the problems of Paizo's Haunting of Harrowstone- basically the PCs should wait a level or two before heading to Graythorn or the monastery. Knowing some groups of player characters, they may have a laser like focus and zoom in to them without exploring the town fully enough and getting the needed XP in. This is especially true if they have friends are missing. Some more clues connecting the events in town to why their friends are missing might be useful (Speaking with Dahlia and maybe Serten were the only ones I saw that established connections between what's happening in town and the truth behind the disappearances of the PC's friends).
I definitely think you need to make the other sequel to this. Too much is left hanging to let this go to waste (the case with the elves, the final fate of other othersiders, etc).
Are you talking about giving a non-player character the gear value of a player character of equivalent level?
Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the designers have said that giving an NPC PC level gear should bump up his Challenge Rating by 1. So for example, a 5th level NPC with 10,500 GP in gear would be CR 5 (not 4).
They've done this several times in the Adventure Paths with some boss level characters, although with these encounters they tended to use a higher point buy (20 or so) as well.