Wow, what a book! I'm really excited about that Masquerade Ball adventure where you have to kill Juliet, and then have to rescue her soul from a netherwordly prison. That up-and-coming author really seems to have some neat ideas in there. I'd definitely buy it just for that one alone. ;-)
Now that I've gotten that shameless plug out of my system,
I'm running it right now for my Wednesday night group. The PCs just hit 11th level. We're having a lot of fun. You have to get into the swing of it: it requires a certain mindset to play.
It gives away a lot of treasure. And nonstandard treasure at that (my party recently found a belt of titan strength +8 and a ring of +4 will saves).
The encounters are tough (two weeks ago we fought a creature that, on top of his 3 strong physical attacks, could cast hold person twice per round as a free action, no daily limit). And the encounter design is pretty interesting: often relying on a large group of enemies, or a mixed group of opponents. It's rare to fight a solitary powerful creature. The CRs are wacky: you'll be on a level designed for level 10 characters, and one room will have a CR 2 encounter, then the next room a CR 13 encounter. It keeps players on their toes. (It's very interesting for the casters, as they have to keep sizing up the situation, never knowing when to nova or when to hold back.)
The dungeon isn't really driven by plot, nor by being completionist (ie clearing out a level). It's driven by the players deciding "this stuff is hard, let's stay on this level a little longer" until the players level up enough and eventually say "this stuff is starting to feel easy, let's go to a deeper level". They manage their own risk/reward. Therefore, you need a motivated group, who enjoys dungeons, just for the sake of dungeons.
Hope that helps!
Under the Pathfinder rulesset, it's very hard to have the PCs "lose" without "dying." There are many reasons for this, but one of the largest is lack of a "wound penalty" system to encounter PCs to give up while they still can. Consider adding such a thing as a houserule.
Beyond that, I've always had great success with maiming the characters. Cut off a finger. Put out an eye. Give a permanent limp. And arrange the situation so healing magic can't fix it. It's gotta feel permanent in order for it to feel like a true "loss". Since maiming is fairly underused, it retains a good shock-value, and it actually hurts the one thing players care about: themselves.
Also, if you get the players fully on-board (and really, they should be) pause the game every now and again, and ask the PCs to describe what they are feeling right now. Have them narrate it to the group. By creating an explicit venue for players to think and share (rather than it just be conveyed through potentially poor OOG acting skills), it makes the feelings across the whole table much stronger.
As someone who has early access to the PDF, let me say: this thing is amazing. I have never before seen a sandbox game, in any medium, where I can get true non-linearity and a strong over-arching plot. I really can have my cake and eat it too. It is wonderful to behold, and I hope I see many more products that follow the layout and format of Razor Coast.
I cannot recommend this strongly enough to GMs learning how to put together a campaign. It's like a college-level textbook on adventure-crafting.
...now what about magic items? Does a player have the "right" to any item in the CRB if he has the money as listed in there?
Nope, for several reasons.
#1: By RAW, there are rules about settlement size and the 70% chance-to-find issue. (Granted, this stops becoming an issue once the PCs get teleport and just start going to Absalom for everything)
#2: It's fine to say many items are simply "illegal" and cannot be acquired without appropriate (chaotic or evil) contacts. For example, I have a standing rule in most of my games that most societies have outlawed selling scrolls/magicitems of the Enchantment and Necromancy schools. (I let the PCs go on mini-quests to find a black-market broker, but they don't get it painlessly.)
#3: sSmetimes you want to run a "treasure only" campaign. Because there's a real pleasure and joy in finding and using what you find. You need to be up-front about this campaign-type, and you don't want to run every campaign like this, but once the PCs get accustomed to the constraints, they can start really having some fun with it (and if you do this, please give some appropriate deference to weaponspecialist Fighters)
#4: Sometimes I just ban stuff. Back in 3.5, I banned the spiked chain. "Because." Generally, I try to have a reason for it, but sometimes I don't. The key is being up-front. If you pretend that everything is allowed (because you are silent on the issue), and then a PC decides he wants something, and then you say "no", then you're the jerk GM.
Basically, you want to set expectations. If you violate expectations, or change the game under the player's feet, they get justifiably upset, and may feel like they are being singled out. Come up with clear, fair rules.
Also, just a tip: I know in the world of email it's tempting to "resolve character build stuff between sessions." Don't. Have everyone get in the room, and everyone discuss, as a group what they want to do. You'll find that peer pressure will shut down the crazy ideas for you, and everyone will gel better. And if peer pressure turns against you as GM, well, maybe you should change, for the betterment of the group.
On a purely tactical level, I see "giving the GM deference" is a way to keep the game going. In my experience, GM burnout is a very real thing and real problem. Coming up with plotlines and investing the creative energy takes time and gusto. And if the GM loses interest in the campaign, then it tends to end in only a couple months.
Most people I play with nowadays don't want to play in a campaign that lasts less than 10 sessions. They want something enduring, and want to see something grow and flourish. And that requires work. It involves cultivation.
The way things have always worked in my circle of friends as we all sit around and pitch ideas for our campaigns. Then we all vote on which sounds the coolest, and we do that for as long as we can get it to last. Originally, we used to pick the campaign that sounded coolest or that we most wanted to personally play in. In other words, we used selfish logic. Then, as time passed, we realized something: the key determining factor in a game's success and longevity wasn't how cool the premise was, or how much we wanted to play it, but how enthusiastic the GM was about it. A passionate GM creates and amazing game. A burned-out GM creates a terrible game. So we learned: cultivate passion. And that means deference to the creative visionary.
Now, any good visionary lets other people contribute to the work, and create their own riffs and expansions on that shared work. But someone has to "be the keeper of the flame", and be the arbiter that decide what stays in and what stays out. Otherwise, you lose the vision, and you get a compromised work that isn't what sparked the passion to begin with.
Now, you could turn my argument around and say I play with "thin skinned GMs" if you wanted. *shrug* I personally don't see it that way. I just know that in my experience, creative passion is a hard thing to keep cultivated when you have a career, marriage, and young kids. So we all work together to keep it well-fed, no matter who it is we happen to be feeding. Because we want long-campaigns. (Thus none of my logic applies to one-shots or short arcs.)
Depends on what you're talking about.
Usually, I run strongly thematic games. And everyone has to agree up-front to follow the theme. This doesn't require any time to "analyze" a strange race: I just know it will break the theme. But that's not the topic you are addressing.
Currently, I am running a game where I said "anything goes" and I would not put restrictions on the players. I had a player ask me the other day to play a Sorcerer who used the Words of Power system from Ultimate Magic. I started reading it, and realized that it would take me a very long time to learn the system well enough (which includes reading all of the FAQ pages and forum posts on it). Please note that I hold myself to a high standard of GMing. That means, I want to be able to quickly adjudicate combats, and I want to get it right, and I don't want to get into a rules-argument in the middle of someone's initiative round. Because then I'm not delivering a good experience for the group. And to learn all of Words of Power, so that I could consider how every effect works properly, it would have taken me several hours, which, unfortunately, I could not spare. So I apologized, and turned the player down.
In that same campaign, I have another player who likes to brainstorm. He would create a strange archetype-and-PrC laden build and say "how's this?", and I would begin to study it, so that I could adjudicate it quickly and fairly in combat. However, no sooner than was my analysis complete, but he would have come up with another, more interesting build, and say "how's this?" He would end up giving me half-a-dozen builds, because he wanted all of them pre-approved, so he could run DPR and other stats against them, and see which one won out and would be best to play. Eventually I had to say, "sorry, but this is an unfair use of my time. You are only allowed to send me one more build to review, and that's final. You'll have to pick from what you have."
It's easy to analyze an archetype that swaps out 3/4s BAB for extra d6s of Sneak Attack. But new spells, new feats, new systems ... those take a lot longer. And eventually, yes, it does become an unfair burden on the GM, especially when you multiply it times the number of players.
On 05/20/10 we held our first session of Kingmaker with 1st level characters. We played through books 1, 2, and 3, with copious additional material. Over the course of nine in-game years, the party founded a kingdom, conquered the Greenbelt area, and reached level 10. On 08/02/12, party TPK'd against Vordekai.
The following week, we rerolled new characters, starting at level 5, and advanced the in-game clock by 6 months. The kingdom was in shambles, the various cities independent or given over to bandits, and the remaining council squabbling over the scraps. The new party did not consist of rulers, but were merely adventurers, concerned citizens of the crumbling country. They played with these characters for eight months, and the new party gained 5 more levels. They eventually recaptured the imprisoned souls of the old party, returned them to life, and on 03/12/13, the combined two-characters-per-player party defeated Vordekai and his minions in an epic showdown.
However, in the time the king was gone, the inheritance passed to next of kin: his older brother of House Medvyed. So last night, on 04/11/13, in a deliberately brazen move, the king rode his horse into the throneroom of Medvyed, snatched the crown from his brother's hands, and placed it upon his own head.
Now, there will be war.
Basically, the idea is that vanity is the greatest of all sins. Therefore, one must commit sins in order to break one's own vanity. This led to orgies.
I love the fact that this is a problem. Having magic mini-marts breaks immersion and breaks the fun of finding treasure. It also encourages entitlement mentality.
The fact that APs work to break this entitlement menality is great. For me, this is a feature.
However, my opinion does not invalidate yours, and it's interesting to see how the different APs get written to try to alternatively cater to both of us at different times. Not all APs have the issue that you mentioned. Some (like KM & CC, and especially LoF) do. Others (like CoT, JR, or ShS) don't. We each get to pick and choose our favorites.
The Mouth/Gullet is neat. It's rather large and sprawling, but there's a lot of empty rooms. It gives a good "exploring" feeling. It has its own odd self-interconnectedness, and it makes for a good time trying to find your way around. There are some unique encounters and sinister traps, all that make sense for low-level. It'll be memorable, with the snickering door, or the slot machine of fate as two fun examples.
The Cloister has a lot of content. I haven't actually done the pagecount, but I think it has more than the Mouth/Gullet. I haven't read through it as closely, but the maps jumped out at me: they are very poorly laid out. It doesn't find the standards used elsewhere in the book at all. One dungeon floor will be spread across several images on several pages, with notes on how to link them. Another weird design is that the bottommost room is labeled as "CR 18+" and has 666 CR 1 killer frogs. Not a swarm, but unique enemies. I'm not sure what to make of that...
The wilderness content is by-and-large not low-level friendly. You'll want to keep them confined to the Zelkor's Ferry / Mouth of Doom region and not let them wander. You need to be about 6th level to interact with it meaningfully. Most of the outdoor stuff is in the CR 10ish range.
Zelkor's Ferry feels a bit like any of the towns from Diablo II. It's small, its quiant, the locals are weird. Nothing here to pull at the heartstrings. The innkeeper is a wereboar. There's a local necromancer that has a % chance of successfully raising you from the dead, etc. It allows for quirky fun, but it's not a place for heroes to save.
And the PCs will quickly grow beyond it. It's only a valid homebase for very low level characters.
Hopefully that was helpful!
A few things to remember about Detect Evil:
- it has verbal and somatic components; in the PF world, it is safe to assume that all humans can "recognize spellcasting when they see it", even if they can't figure out what is being cast (that takes ranks in Spellcraft). Many social situations can explode when the other group goes "DUDE! WTF?! WHY ARE YOU CASTING A SPELL AT ME!?!", they have no idea if it's a fireball, or a dominate person, etc. It's just not socially proper to cast spells in people's faces.
- the first round merely detects "the presence of absence of evil within the area of effect (a cone)"; in places like Feldgrau, of course that's going to trigger no matter what. This round of ambiguity gives the other person time to freak out or flee (as per the above bullet). Only on the second round can you associate an aura with a location.
- if a character moves outside of the spell's effect during this round, the spell must be recast.
- there's lots of valid reasons to detect evil. Carrying an evil magic item, being under the effects of an evil curse, etc. Especially in Ustalav, where curses abound. To drive the point home: Frodo Baggins would "detect as evil" throughout all of LotR, and you definitely should not kill him on sight (though you certainly would want to ask some hard questions).
- many characters that can detect evil have Lawful alignments or other codes of conduct. Killing someone in self defense is self defense. Killing someone who is in the act of committing an evil act is defending the innocent. Killing someone "because they looked wrong" is murder, and murder is illegal. Paladins cannot kill someone "just because they ping" - they need due cause. Petty criminals detect as evil: and "execution" does not match the crime of "petty theft."
The pace of leveling is uneven in the first bit. It feels rapid in book 1, then much slower in book 2.
In book 1, one of the players will take the role of the "moldspeaker" and becomes a bit of a special PC throughout the campaign. If he dies, the campaign loses a little something. Figure out ahead of time if you want the mold to be transferable on death, or if you'll follow canon, and have death be the end of that boon.
The expansion articles in books 1 and 2 should be used to flesh out exploring in and around the region. Use this material to transition gradually from book 1 to 2: don't just start book 2 after book 1 finishes. You'll have to write some of your own stuff though.
The Carrion King hits like a Mac Truck. If your party doesn't optimize, expect a TPK. If your party does optimize, expect a couple deaths anyway.
There is a way to go straight from the outside of the House of the Beast right into the Carrion King's throne room. (Through a chimney.) This bypasses most of the dungeon. Some call this a glitch, others call this awesome. Think about whether or not you want it to be possible before you get surprised be it.
Book 3 is a little underpowered. Enemies die a bit easier. Consider boosting the Jackel.
If you want to do any urban side-treks, do them during book 3. The format is loose enough to absorb them. Besides, it helps spend time while you're waiting for an opening to transition to book 4.
The transition between books 3 and 4 is rough. Very rough. Very, very rough. Plan ahead how you're going to handle this. Figure it out before your PCs even finish book 2. You want it to be organic. (Hence the suggestion of sidequests.)
Book 4 is great. Enjoy it.
Book 5 is a slog. First: it's a high-level dungeon crawl filled with many enemies that have no purpose other than to grind though. Second: your players will resent going from one prison to the next. Third: the plot is telling you to "HURRY UP" (after all, an army of Efreeti are trashing your hometown while you're here) and you can't do much about it. All this leads to player frustration. I would cut 2/3rds of the material. Figure out the few bits that let you know about Javhul's backstory, and leave the rest.
Note that there are no "towns" or access to markets throughout all of books 4 and 5. For old-school players who like using the treasure they find, this is fine. For new-school players, who tend to expect to be able to always sell their magic items and buy better stuff from the magimart: they will be very frustrated. Either way, consider modifying treasure to match what the PCs are specialized in, so as to mitigate.
Book 6 is neat. Figure out ahead of time how you want to handle the fact that Nefeshti is giving away Wishes to the party.
There's a few ways to "break" things in book 6. Let them. It's not that important anyways.
Sword of Islam
Whenever the wielder of the Sword of Islam recites the Shahadah as a standard action, he receives the benefit of protection from evil at CL 14. If he sheathes the blade, or hands it to another, the protection lapses. This ability is usable once per Salat; thus, a maximum of five times per day, but certainly only once per encounter.
The Sword of Islam can call a man to repent once per day. The wielder points the blade towards an intelligent target within 100 feet and denounces their sins before Allah, most glorious, as an intimidate check to demoralize with a +4 sacred bonus. If the target becomes shaken, then the visible judgment of Allah, most just, causes all non-Muslims that can see the target and hear the wielder to become shaken for the duration. Regardless of the success of the intimidate check, the Sword of Islam gains the bane special weapon ability against the target. Yet, if at any time, the target falls prostrate, confesses the Shahadah, begs for forgiveness from Allah, most merciful, and swears to submit himself to right teaching under the wielder of the Sword of Islam, then the oath automatically is sealed by a quest (no saving throw) at CL 14. The Sword of Islam loses the bane ability and will treat him as a pious Muslim (see below) for the duration of the quest.
The blade cannot cut the skin of a pious* Muslim. If the blade is struck against the flesh of such a man, the sword shall not pierce his skin, for it is the will of Allah, most peaceful, that no pious Muslim should ever shed the blood of another. However, Allah, most wise, knows that sometimes conflict must occur, and therefore permits the blade to be used to deal nonlethal damage to a pious Muslim, provided the wielder takes the normal -4 penalty to hit.
Muslims can prove their piety by running their open hand across the cutting edge of the blade and revealing an unbroken palm. Woe to the infidel who attempts such a ruse! If an infidel attempts to move his palm over the blade (perhaps by using Sleight of Hand to merely appear to touch the blade), the Sword of Islam detects the infidel’s trickery, and makes an attack roll with +18 to hit against him (if the infidel is not prepared for this, he is caught flatfooted, and likely does not receive his armor bonus either, as his hand would likely be ungauntleted). Allah, most vigilant, can see into the hearts of men.
*note: not all Muslims who profess the name of Allah and his messenger, peace be upon him, have the same devotion to the Qur’an and zeal for the faith. A “pious” Muslim is someone of Lawful Good alignment who is strict in his adherence to each of the Five Pillars, seeking to submit to the will of Allah in all things.
Emotions run very high right at the end of a gaming session when everyone is rushed. Now that you've all gone to sleep and had a day to digest, contact the wizard player (email/phonecall/whatever) and discuss the issue. There is a very good chance that he will feel very differently now than he did this weekend.
Tell him that you want to preserve the horror, but you also want to his decency. Ask him what he proposes. If he's being reasonable, go with it. If he's not being reasonable, well, you have an immature player problem, and you should propose that the basinet had toppled upside down, thus giving the baby total cover and thus immunity to the fireball. However, in order to preserve the horror, when they investigate the room, put a young lad (only you know how young you can go with this player) and have the lad be burned to death as well - a young convert to the cult that didn't know what he was getting into, or a big brother to the baby perhaps. Point is, maybe it's just "baby" that freaks him out.
I would start next session with reminding people to dissassociate with their characters. "Elric the Wizard" is not "Erik the computer programmer", and what one does and experiences is not the same as the other. Ask every player to describe how their character is feeling about the Undiomede House and how the creepiness is getting to them. Encourage specific 3rd-person description. It can help diffuse the tension.
I really like the formatting of the hardcover better than the PDFs. Having the maps appear in-line (rather than appendiced) is very nice. Also I like the grouping of monsters (there's so many, it feels like I bought a bonus Bestiary!)
Though it is a bit weird that 180 pages are spent on printing every map in the book three times. :-/
Hey, whatever, I'm satisfied. Now just to figure out how to get a group to run through this monster...
Carrion Crown requires an extreme amount of buy-in from your PCs. They have to want to do a Gothic Horror campaign, and want to build PCs that will be outcasts and reviled while selflessly trying to save the world. You also have to take it seriously: it falls apart if you are too laid back. If the PCs aren't 100% on board with this, the campaign will fail. That being said, it's definately the better campaign overal.
Serpent's Skull doesn't care what you are. You could be good, evil, or just greedy. Your PCs can take it seriously, or treat it as one big joke. You're given a HUGE HUGE playground, and can do WHATEVER you want in it. There's nothing you can really do to break theme. Based on your group description, I would recommend this AP for you group. That being said, um, check out my review of book 3 if you have the time.
For those interested in a slightly stricter definition of "average party", previously the devs have described it as such:
- all four of the traditional party roles are covered in some fashion, though this is taken liberally (for example, a Paladin can count as "healer" and an Alchemist can count as "rogue")
- approximately 20% of all "character build choices" will be used to support backstory/flavor/RP or are otherwise "wasted" from a power point of view. "Choices" includes ability scores, feats, skill points, rage powers, rogue tricks, etc.
- characters will not be able to rest whenever they want to. There will always be some risk involved in setting up camp, getting back to town, etc. The party is never able to nova with confidence that there is nothing else coming at them that day.
- characters will not find all of the loot in the book (approx 75%, but heavily varies). The majority of a character's equipped gear at any point in time will come from treasure hoards and not from custom purchases or item crafting. Less than half of the GP-value of carried gear will be from purchases/crafting.
- in battle, characters will not metagame to gain an advantage. This means they will have to roll Knowledge(X) to know the weakness of monsters they fight, rather than simply know from system mastery that (for example) trolls require fire or acid to kill. It also means they will not engage in "excessive" tabletalk to figure out the optimum strategy to kill an opponent.
And, of course, given these are broad generalizations, they are voided often. But it helps establish a baseline to build against. If your players are better (or worse) than any of the above, you may consider tweaking point-buy or other variables to account for such.
Orlovsky is the single most powerful house, (even more powerful than Surtova) but it cannot move on its own, for if it were to, the other houses would have a knee-jerk reaction to defend the throne (out of fear that "the throne" would be the winning coalition, and each house wants to be on the winning side). That being said, Orlovsky is trying to shore up alliances with other houses. It is on favorable terms with Medvyed (for historical reasons), and has been giving copious aid&support to the floundering Garess, and so long as Garess is firmly latched to Orlovsky's teat, their loyality will remain unquestioned.
Surtova is the next most powerful house, and currently controls the throne. They maintain a firm grip over their northern (ancestral) holdings, but the grip over their southern holdings is weak (recently taken from Rogavaria). Many of the farmers within the old Rogavarian lands sell their goods at the PCs' capital rather than New Stetven (because it's closer, and their loyalties are weak). I have represented this mechanically as the PCs' Kingdom receiving bonus farm hexes without having to add to their Command DC. If Surtova ever notices that the PCs have been (ignorantly) stealing from them, there will be hell to pay.
Next in power is Lebeda, the rising star of the Brevic houses. Historically, it has been one of the weaker houses, existing mostly on the periphery, having only their robust cultural identity to fall back on. This cultural pride is so strong that even during the centuries where the craftsmanship of Brevoy was dominated by the Dwarves of house Garess, when all of the other Brevic houses shut down their competing industries, the fiercely proud Lebedans instead took to a "buy local" mindset, insisting that they would only buy Lebedan-produced goods, even if they were more expensive and of inferior quality. This uniquely positioned them for their meteoric rise, as Garess's downfall has been their great gain: with the flow of dwarven-crafted goods dried up, the artisans, jewelers and blacksmiths of Lebeda have eagerly filled the void, virtually redrawing the tradelines of Brevoy in the last couple decades.
Defining the middle of the power-spectrum is House Medvyed. They are the hearty and durabe "heartland" of Brevoy. They enjoy a historical friendshp with their northern neighbor (Orlovsky). Much of Medvyed is rural or backcountry, and pockets of Erasil worship can be found there. All of my PCs are "from" Medvyed one way or another. The Ruler is the son of the vassal knight of Lord Medvyed. Our Treasurer is from the Mivon branch of House Medvyed (remember that the Brevic houses have corresponding houses in Mivon, depending on who fled when). And our High Priest is technically Surtovan, but has renounced her heritage and choses to identify with the common people, having grown up in rural Medvyed.
I haven't done much with Lodvoka yet in my campaign. They are the historically weakest house in Brevoy (however Garess has since sunk below them). They control the north, and are therefore allied with Surtova. They very loosely control some land north of the Lake of Mists and Veils (stuff I've pulled from the Crown of the World article in JR#3). Later in the campaign, I will reveal how Choral the Conquerer came to these lands first to do his final staging and preparations for the invasion of Brevoy, and how they, in great fear, betrayed the country of Brevoy to him, revealing all of Brevoy's defenses and weaknesses. In return, Choral gave them some reward of great power that I'll make important to the campaign once the PCs get to high enough level. Revealing this fact will essentially turn Lodvoka into a pariah state basically kick it out of Brevoy, leaving Surtova exposed with no real allies.
Finally, at the bottom of the totem pole is weak, pathetic Garess. They used to be so powerful, so dominant, virtually controlling trade across the country. Now, they are nothing. They were completely reliant on being the middlemen to the great and impressive trade with the dwarves. Their land looks like dried up earth.
The PCs have been dutifully holding Lebedan-cultural festivals in their capital every year since the country's inception. This has earned tremendous brownie points. Historically, it has been in form of gifts (read: GM-hand-picked magic-items from 3PP books.) However, just recently, Lady Lebeda proposed to the Ruler of the PC Kingdom that he should foster her son (and heir to the house) as a squire. (A la Theo Greyjoy from Game of Thrones.) "One rising star recognizes another." They see the growing factionalism in Brevoy, and want to create a southern-alliance to counterbalance against the Lodvoka-Surtova alliance as well as the Orlovsky-Medvyed-Garess alliance.
Orlovsky keeps their fingers in every pie, and was the first to recognize the PCs' Kingdom as a Noble House of Brevoy. They also provided far-and-away the most funds for when the PCs were first starting out.
Last night, the heroes finally opened the sealed gate that leads down to the long-last Garess dwarves, slew the evil inside (using a heavily modified Clash of the Kingslayers as an outline), and reopened trade with the outside world.
The political upheavel will be glorious.
My impressions are mixed. (Note: I've only read the first half of the module so far.)
I really like how each of the components are presented. There's just enough information to spark GM interest and get the ball rolling, without an overly drawn-out hand-holding like we sometimes see. It almost feels like a gazeteer-format. It really reminds me of the locations in Kingmaker. These are a ton of fun to GM, as it gives me enough space to "make it my own" without being crowded with too many details.
I like how Rickety Squibs is detailed out via Events that are all somewhat related. It feels very "lived in."
I haven't taken as close a look at Tidewater Rock, but I get the same vibe. It's "here's this area, GM it" much like we saw for the first half of book 1. Good stuff. Really tough for a novice GM, but lots of fun for a veteren.
What I don't like is the connection to Tidewater Rock. How are the PCs supposed to "know" to attack it? The excuse given in the module is flimsier than flimsy. Really? It's a good luck blessing? And therefore we should follow up on it? I can think of a million reasons why the PCs would either write that off or assume that it's a bad idea. (Or alternatively, they have no idea what they are supposed to do after leaving Rickety's, and decide to beeline there, out of a gamer instinct to "follow plot") This will require alteration.
This game might be difficult for novice players - it relies heavily (even more heavily than Kingmaker IMHO) on player-drive and player-initiative. I imagine a lot of players getting stuck.
Some of the encounters smell like trouble to me.
Those are my first impressions. Haven't read the final parts yet.
1) Be up-front about the purpose and tone of the campaign, and make sure the players are 100% on-board with it. Let them know this isn't a "raid dungeons, kill monsters, get loot" campaign. Mindset is key. Make the characters *want* to be sovereigns for being sovereign's sake, and for no other reason and for the pursuit of no other reward.
2) Let go of the reins. You don't run this campaign, the players do. This bears breaking down into two subpoints, so that I can make sure emphasize them both:
2a) The players will go wherever they want, ally with whomever they want, and prioritize whatever they want. You should therefore prep the setting but not the plotline. Think of yourself like the code behind an MMO server: your job is merely to respond to player's actions, not to cause actions yourself.
Therefore, be harsher than you normally would. Since the player's decisions matter, make sure they matter. Let them die. Let them lose territory. You should be much more of a "merciless DM" in Kingmaker than you are otherwise. Besides, unlike any other AP, Kingmaker recovers gracefully from a TPK: so long as the Kingdom endures, even a new crop of heroes provides a strong enough sense of continuity that it doesn't feel cheap or artificial.
2b) Give them GM-like narrative control during the copious off-time. Most groups follow the pattern of the PCs asking the GMs what exists in the world, and the GMs asserting that X, Y or Z exists, then the PCs have to choose between those three options. Break this mindset: train your PCs to assert what exists, as if they were mini-GMs. They're the rulers afterall. Let the king say "I host a tournament. This-or-that noble comes and visits. I beat him. The girls go wild over me." Let the high priest say "I hold a grand festival to my god. Villagers come from miles around. I give an amazing sermon, and cause a huge revival. Many women dedicate the firstborn sons to the church, and the ranks of my clergy swell." None of that required any die-rolls, or asking you for permission. They just said it, by fiat. It's scary and difficult to let go of control. But your will reap wonders from it.
3) Make it your own. This is your game. Every building should have something notable about it. If the PCs build a smithy, they have to describe what the smith acts like. If the PCs build a tavern, they have to tell you what the signature dish is. If the PCs build a shrine, they have to tell you what miracle it is commemorating. Etc. When running kingdom events, make sure to set the events at these locations. Have NPCs mention the famous local microbrew, let the protests happen outside churches they've built, etc. The more you lead by example and use the environment, the better it will feed back into point #2b above.
4) Make sure you use the expanded events table, and interpret the results. Do not run them rote, but flavor them and come up with cool ways to twist them in. See point #3 above.
5) Kingmaker isn't an Adventure Path, this is a toolbox of neat stuff. Use what you like, throw out what you don't, and throw in tons of stuff of your own creation.
I envision such a conversation between Adivion and the PCs in his townhouse in Caliphas, or perhaps his estate in Ardeal, over tea, sometime between the end of book 3 and the start of book 6.
I did not write the "Carrion Crown" poem. It was Petros that discovered it, almost nine years ago, back when he was putting together the Order's records on the Whispering Way. We studied it together, him and I, and concluded that it was written during the lifetime of Tar-Baphon. Or rather, during his undead years, but before his destruction, if you can call that a "lifetime." It seems to describe a way to constitute a new phylactery.
We decided that such a treasure would be immeasurably tempting to any members of the Whispering Way. So I took advantage of the role I previously held at the Quarterfaux Archives, and I had it published under my name. I even joined the Whispering Way during this time. Disgusting organization, really, if you can even call it that. It is a shadow of whatever it once was, a fully decentralized mess of necromancers and other wretches with delusions of grandeur. It is not run like a sophisticated, modern organization should be run. It turns out obsession with dead people doesn't translate over into logistical finesse with living ones.
I digress. My role in joining the Whispering Way was to fish out any real threats within it, and keep tabs on them. The Carrion Crown poem was the bait. Petros had affection for this sort of opposition research, as I'm sure you are aware. All manner of necrophiles sought me out to learn more, or try to coordinate work on assembling the ingredients. Some even managed to get quite far under my guiding hand. Petros and I didn't feel any threat from having the poem "out there", as it had been in quite wide circulation for some time immediately after Tar-Baphon's defeat, and it gave him no boon then. However, as an added protection, I was there to mentor the would-be reborn-Tyrants to "guide" their progress. Sometimes this was straight into the waiting arms of Pharasmin Inquisitors. *smug grin*
So, the case of one Mr Vrood. The Order, as you know, has its fingers in many pies, particularly in the northwest. It was time for a change of power in the Shudderwood. The details and motivations for this, are, how do you say, "Esoteric." I gave Mr Vrood an invitation to Ascanor Lodge so that he could retrieve the packlord's heart for me. This plan, as you are doubtlessly keenly aware, was a complete disaster. Not only did the fool Vrood fail to actually deliver the heart to me, but the only worthwhile mind in all Ustalav had to pay the price of his crude insolence.
Why didn't you tell the Professor about your arrangement with Vrood?
What do the other lines of the poem refer to?
Where are the components now?
I understand Hawkrin's Ghost, the Packlord's Heart, and the Feldgrau Skull are all part of the poem, but how does the Seasage Effigy fit into this?
I am glad for the sharpened focus of this book.
A request: can you please spend extra pages on indexes? I imagine there will be an index that lists all Fighters, then all Druids, etc.
But can there be another index that lists things by conceptual categories? (Kindof a replacement for the "environment" section in Bestiaries.)
"finesse builds" includes DEX-based Fighters, combat Rogues, TWF Rangers, etc.
"savages" that includes not just Barbarians, but shape-focused Druids, 2H-Fighters, and other outdoorsy ones.
"city gaurds" isn't just polearm-focused Fighters, but also battlefield-control Wizards, sensemotive-focused Paladins, lawfully-aligned Rogues, and the ilk.
As a GM, I often think first in terms of niche, then in terms of class. Providing an index to help me along those lines could really make this product extra useful for me!
James Jacobs wrote:
The problem is that players like to know "is my class OK?" People only want to play classes that have abilities that would be useful to the AP. Quick examples:
Rogue: are there going to be a lot of traps?
The previous player's guides soothed those nerves. Now, players don't know if they have a "useful" or "safe" concept, and are skittish and need assurance that they are choosing a good character concept. Sure, that's my role as GM, but unless I've read through several issues of the AP already, that's tricky.
You say "all APs work for all classes/races" but that's not true. Paladins (as commonly played) don't work in most APs. Cavaliers don't work in hardly any APs. Item Crafting only works in half of APs. City-hating only works in half of APs. Dwarven PCs will never meet a Dwarven NPC in half of APs.
I don't think the lengthy writeups we've historially seen are needed. But a quick "this is okay" or "this will be more challenging" call for each class would be quite useful.
So, maybe we're Paizo-fanboys, or maybe we were just *that* anxious to get our pirate-on, but tonight we decided to play a oneshot focused around the new naval-combat rules in the S&S Player's Guide.
We can into a lot of rules questions. If anyone knows clear answers to these questions, please chime in! Maybe we can turn this thread into a clearing-house for figuring out the rules.
Without further ado:
Our ship was on fire, then we grappled and began shipboard combat; how do we now put the fire out? Can we take the "uncontrolled action"? Or is the crew too busy fighting, and we're doomed to burn?
We had lots of momentum (4 squares/rd), and start only 1 square away from another ship, so we attempt to ram. We fail the CMB check; do we end adjacent? Do we "slip on by" the ship and end elsewhere? The text says our "movement rate is reduced to 0", which implies that kicks in next turn - but what about this one?
We are now perpendicularly adjacent to the enemy ship (from the failed ram). We then initiate a grapple (and succeed!), do the ships move to parallel position? The text seems to say so. If this is the case, on which initiative tick? The exact tick matters, as now shipboard combat is about to begin, and the spellcasters are itching to try out their short-range spells.
When you do a mass attack from the broadsides, what attack bonus do you use? We eventually picked +3, because we figured they'd all be warrior 1, with a dex mod of 1, and they all took weaponfocus(seigeengine). But what should we have really done? Are there rules for getting a better crew?
The text says the sails become broken if "half the squares of sails are destroyed" (sidebar, pg 11). The enemy ship had 90 squares of sails, but we didn't have any ideas as how to correlate the damage we were doing to the squares that the ship had. So we just went with "half HP" instead to make it consistant with how other things get broken.
We attacked the enemy sails, they got the broken condition: what exactly does this do? We ruled -2 to Prof(sailor) checks to accelerate/deccelerate. Is this right?
How does "changing the heading of your ship" work? When we did it, there were three squares between our two ships. Then we successfully did a "hard to starboard" action. Because our ship was three squares long, this made us instantly adjacent. Is this correct?
I don't know why there's all the fuss over "conversions." The biggest change between 3.5 and PF are class-features. The impact on monsters and traps was minimal. I've run many 3.5 adventures in Pathfinder "off the cuff" without doing any preplanning. The only hiccup is coming up with CMD values for the monsters. Which you can just do on the spot if the PCs try do a maneuver. (And against huge enemies, they are unlikely to try anyways.)
Don't paint yourself into a box. Not that much changed.
Traps? Not a big deal. A few in books 2 and 6, but nothing too noteworthy.
This campaign uses "haunts" instead of "traps." So every bit of caution and obligation that makes you feel like you need a Rogue, channel those feelings into an obligation for a Cleric, however large or small that is for you.
James Jacobs wrote:
I find this disappointing.
The god articles were only interesting when they important setting elements (like Sarenrae in LoF or Pharasma in CC). Otherwise, they just felt like a bunch of wasted space. Nearly all the book 5 dieties felt like wasted space.
I know the AP model is supposed to look like a magazine subscription, but I don't really see value in getting a diety article once every 3 issues and having random bits of general lore scattered through my collection.
The strict adherance to diety-article placement really bothers me. Why did we have Nethys in SS5, and then Ydersius in SS6? Why do we have Besmara in S&S1, and Torag in S&S2? Looks there there were some real easy fixes that could have been made, and not fixing them gives a really forced look to the way things are written.
APs have been hurt by it. The Gorum article should have gone in KM4, where the PCs fight the holy warrior of Gorum, and should not have gone in KM5, where the two support articles should have been on Pitax and Mass Combat. Instead, Mass Combat got shoved into an Appendix because the location of the Gorum article was dictated by this weird pattern that Paizo is forcing the APs to fit into.
My customer-feedback is to ditch the rigid pattern that you are following the the god-articles. I know that once you started the list of the 20 major ones, you had to finish it, but now there is a transition point and we have an opening. Let's not go down that path again.
After you statted out all the base classes in the back of the books, you dropped the pregens. Now that we've described up all the gods, let's move on to more AP-relevant content.
I do all of these same things in my campaign too! (even the slight name-change!)
I fully and strongly advocate this route.
Oh, and in my campaign, they're getting married. 'cuz that's Gothic for you. Adivon's affection for his old mentor takes a creepy turn as he becomes devoted to "preserving his genius, and perfecting it by combining with my own."
There's a lot of unevenness in the item pricing in the CRB, but there's some ways to navigate through it. Here's some fairly specific advice I would have:
When you create an item, you have a pretty good idea what would be the ideal level for a character to own it. This is usually within +/- 2 of the CL of the item. Then, look up the most expensive "big 6" item that the character can be safely assumed to possess at that level. This sets a soft floor that you probably should not go below, simply because of the way big6 items tend to be priced.
Then double the cost of that big6 item. This sets a hard ceiling for how expensive your item can be. Reason being: if adventurers find your item as loot, and they could sell it to buy their next big6, they'll do that every time. You want to remove that choice.
The CRB charges a lot extra for unrelated effects, and we should follow that lead. If your item is capable of doing things that are revelant in different situations/applications, it needs to be near the higher end of the scale.
After all of this, put the PC spin on it. "If I found this as loot, and the magimart was nearby, would I hawk it?" Divorce yourself from how "cool" your item is, and just judge it on power and usefulness. Make sure to doc the price severely if it only has niche or situation-dependant usefulness. Look at a Paizo AP and ask yourself "what percentage of encounters could I use this on?"
Therefore, I would strongly advise of developing outside of your level range. If you only have depth of experience PCing (not GMing, but PCing) up to 8th level, then don't design an item for 12th level characters. You haven't developed the intuition, and your perspective is all wrong.
Hope that helps!
In my campaign I find the foreshadowing and sense of impending dread easy to build: I keep talking about Brevic history, the weak grasp that Surtova has on the throne, the Valley of Fire, how House Rogavaria was the real power before the pretenders, how the heraldry came to be, how the Rostlanders were decimated, how the Vanishing dramatically up-ended the economy, how Mivon was founded, how there's so many dragons in the mountains...
Wait, we're still talking about the same BBEG, right? Choral the Conquerer, right?
We know that he's from Ardeal. So I'm reading that chapter and basically making him the stereotypical Ardealian noble who moved to Caliphas.
He's got a "summer home" back in the old capital (sprawling mansion grounds falling into rot), which is really the traditional family estate, and lives most of his time in a fancy condo in Caliphas.
I'm working on a module that takes place between Broken Moon and Wake of the Watcher that goes into Adivon's Father's story a little bit. I'll share what I got once I get that thing hammered out (will take a month or more though).
I recently tied up Trial of the Beast. Here's what I did:
The Palatine Eye had been waging a guerrila political campaign against Caromac for many years, slowly undermining his authority and turning support away from him. Eventually, they got him into enough of a bind where they could threaten him directly. (Never decided exactly what that is; not too important.) They gave him a choice: do this the easy way, step down from the throne, and we will make sure you and your family are taken care of and you preserve your wealth; or do this the hard way and you will lose all that you hold dear.
Caromac took the easy way. Not because it was the right thing, but because he was blackmailed.
Now, some years later, his wife was with child, and in giving birth, she died. He grieved for her pain, he grieved for his stillborn son, but he did not grieve her death: he knew what the clerics of Pharasma would do for him, as they have always dutifully served his family.
However, to his great shock, they clerics of Lepidstadt refused to raise his wife from the dead. This was the great betrayal of the Palatine Eye: they saw the opportunity to end the royal line and prevent future monarchs, so they took it. I made Embreth Daramid a key decision-maker of this betrayal, just to add some extra political drama.
The anguish of "who do we trust?" and "who is the Good guy here?" that my players went through - it was amazing. :-)
This is the wrong campaign for your group.
This isn't unique to the funeral: this sort of situation will keep coming up over and over again in the campaign.
Why did you pick Carrion Crown? It seems very much not a sound pick for your group. Just because you like it as GM doesn't mean it's a good idea to run.
I would explain to your PCs that you made a mistake in selecting the campaign, that this week is movienight/boardgamenight, and next week you'll start up something else. Perhaps Legacy of Fire or Serpent's Skull.
If, for some reason, you insist on running the campaign anyway, then you have to take drastic action. Force the Alpha-Min-Maxer to play a Lawfully-aligned character (who would never murder someone without due court process), or a social character (who is minmaxed around Diplomacy), or else he can't play in your game. If you're not willing to reign him in, you are dooming yourself and your entire party to misery. Don't ruin the rest of your friends' night. Make the changes.
How are the PCs supposed to survive the final combat?
First, let's look at the lead up:
- The PCs are likely to have prepared spells to help them against human opponents (ie Charm Person), as those have been the only visible antagonists so far.
- They've fought through some of the Chernowitz (sp) Manor, and maybe some of the misbegotten behind it.
- There's a chance that one of the PCs starts off bound or otherwise missing gear (though unlikely).
- They just finished fighting a level 5 Cleric with high DCs on crippling debuffs such as Bestow Curse.
- And the PCs are expected to be level three.
So they're likely been roughed up as much as they can handle, and then they have to fight a Blightspawn?!
This sucker is listed at CR 5, and has some great opening moves available to it. An additional Bestow Curse is cruel, but bonuses like Blur also make for a tough fight. Add on to that +10 to hit and 2d6+7 damage, and you have a recipe for one PC death every other round. With the ability to threaten out to 10ft reach, the PCs can't even effectively heal/retreat if things are going poorly or they want to change up tactics.
The creature has DR 5/magic: it isn't a given that PCs can bypass that at level 3. Let's eyeball it that only half the characters in the party can, and they still get to deal with fast-healing and AC 18 on top of that.
How is this supposed to be doable at the party's level? Has anyone run it; how did it go?
I want a Brevoy AP.
Due to the amazing success of Kingmaker, to hundreds of Paizo-fans, the River Kingdoms is their "first home." Other fans feel that way about Varisia, but there's five APs out or announced that take place there. The River Kingdoms has only one.
And Brevoy looks awesome. George R R Martin's Game of Thrones series is clearly inspiration for this region, and the book series and TV show are hugely popular right now.
There's a hunger for urban campaigns. Curse of the Crimson Throne is possibly the highest rated AP on the boards, and people loved the idea (if not the execution) of Council of Theives. I think Brevoy would be a wonderful place to set the next urban campaign.
The Slavic/Russian flavor of Brevoy is a great place to unleash some incredible creativity, and really dig into a specific culture's creatures and mythos. I can see some really nice support articles coming out of such a location.
And besides, any and all support articles from the Brevoy AP would be used as good background and sidequests for the Kingmaker AP.
We care about Brevoy. We know about Orlovsky, and their machinations towards the throne. We wonder about the disappearance of House Rogavaria, and want to know what happened there. The setting is already known; the fan-base is built-in. We want to do this.
Just something to consider.
If anyone saunters over to KQ front page today, my entry is currently getting featured.
I feel so proud. :-)
Thank you, army of kobolds, for flying my flag for a day. It's a real honor.
Maybe I shouldn't tell you this, but this is the first time my work has been published anywhere as a standalone piece. You put sparkles in the eyes of this aspiring designer. I couldn't be more glad today.
It's toilsome work, but I'm well on my way to answering my own feature request. I'm creating a massive repository of player-created stuff: searchable, sortable, and categorized, because a lot of awesome stuff has fallen through the cracks and that is a shame.
The domain is purchased, Joomla is installed, I've learned how to use the software, come up with my organization strategy, and I've gone through about 300 threads so far (only 650 more to go!). Not too bad for a week's work.
However, like I said, it's toilsome.
I haven't touched the GM Threads yet: the ones stickied at the top of the forums. They're just one bridge too far for me. So I'm requesting help.
It is true that the main purpose of the website is to present unofficial content. However, it would be a good idea to have an errata and FAQ section, with the developers' official patches and clarifications. But while I know would be good to do this, my heart just isn't in it. I'm (personally) only interested in the creative stuff.
So I want help!
Could I enlist someone (or someones) to go through those mammoth stickied threads and produce a document that contains the erratas and clarifications in consolidated format, without the discussion? (I'm not too particular about the format: I'll be converting to HTML in the end) If, in the process of going through those threads, you find cool house rules, please put them in a seperate document. Furthermore, "guides" or other "how to"s should be in their own document as well. The goal is organization. :-)
I'll handle the other stuff, but I would like to outsource this one particular piece.
Before someone jumps in and says "why not do a wiki?", it's because I want to use certain Joomla features that let users rate & recommend content, so as to help people find what they're looking for for their campaign. Besides, I don't see the articles being very interlinked, which is typically what you'd use a wiki for.
I'll suggest people respond to the thread with comments like "I've got Mass Combat covered!", and then someone else with "and I'll do Thousand Screams!", announcing intent ahead of time, rather than waiting until you're done, so there's no duplicated work.
Thanks so much for chipping in to make this community even better-er!
I look at it a totally different way: it doesn't matter what the official answer is. Figure out what makes sense for that battle, and figure out what sort of treasure you want your PCs to have afterwards.
I think giving it reach is probably too powerful for an already powerful fight. And large-size takes away its ability to be used effectively be a PC. So therefore, if I were GMing, I'd make it a vanilla spear.
*shrug* or whatever polearm my party's fighter happened to specialize in. Why not hand out candy?
This campaign is pretty short on foreshadowing, and you just got the ultimate way to fix that.
Let the PC have visions of what's going on in the Eye of Avarice. Let them see memories of Karzhoug ruling from on-high during his heyday. Let him see Karzhoug talking with his minions...
And then have the PC draw his own conclusions about whether or not this vision works both ways....
But don't screw him over. Don't give him penalties vs Karzhoug, etc. Getting spied on his bad enough.
I'm sorry GoblinsEightyFive. I know you want to be told you're wrong, and that would lead to a discussion. But no-one is going to do that. Hell hath frozen over, and the entire forums are in agreement on this point.
It's.... really weird. But there's nothing to discuss when everyone agrees. You're just right, and everyone knows it. Done. Peace is boring. :-)
Disclaimer: I've never run a campaign primarily based around the journey. But I have run many campaigns that had journies in them.
Basically, think of vignettes to use.
But first, in order to get the license to go there, have a little back-and-forth with your PCs as you develop heavier and heavier vignettes.
First, mention something innocuous that doesn't directly involve the PCs but sets a mood. Try and rely on senses and sensations other than just the visual. And personification imagery can make things a little more interesting.
Now that you've established a bit of literary genre, bluntly inform the PCs that the days are long and boring. Ask them pointed questions about what they are doing with all of their time. Don't accept gamey answers like "I'm crafting a Wondrous Item" - that doesn't take 100% of your concentration and time.
Hopefully they've given you something to work with. Even so, do this a few more times. Go back and forth. As GM, you describe some sort of tone-setting piece, then as PCs they tell you a little about their characters. Remember: you're not asking them to respond to your vignettes, they are only there to set the tone and to help draw people into immersion. Don't be direct! To use the previous example, don't ask the PCs "do you find the cicadas annoying?" (But if they go there on their own, awesome.)
Once you've established immersion and established a bit of the PC's routine, then it's time to grab the reins. Put the PCs in situations, and feel free to dictate their actions a little bit, so long as it is consistant with answers you've given before.
Your narration suggests a response to them, but they don't have to take it. They could talk about how time at the monastery showed them infiniate patience or somesuch. That's fine. You were showing them that they were in an annoying situation, not that they themselves were annoyed.
Once you build up PC trust, you can turn the game into a series of "what do you do in this situation?" questions.
And of course, with all of this stuff, don't do it all at once. Have one or two back-and-forths, then have them fight a monster or explore a dungeon, or whatever it is that actually moves the plotline. Then do a few more back-and-forths, and then move on to do more plot. Interlace. And watch your PCs. If they're bored with it, then just play the LotR overland journey music and be done with it.
Hope that helps!
Umbral Reaver wrote:
I think that's fairly well known already. Some amount of GM and player rationality and reasonability is expected when reviewing a race for use in their game, even if the points add up nicely.
Honest question: then why have points? If the strategy is "let's be reasonable and fair about this" (and that's not a bad strategy!), then why do you have points at all? Why not simply have a menu of uncosted attributes to pick from?
Points imply those points mean something.
Running this right now for my group.
Prep like mad. Usually, I'm fine with improving, but for this, since getting the details correct is so important, you need to know your stuff cold. Create GM notes.
Think through the likely questions and have answers for them ready. For example:
About the investigations: think about how you'll run them.
Personally, I roleplayed the Beast as more angry than child-like (like the Mary Shelly Creature), but that was my personal choice.
I hope those extremely random insights were somewhat helpful. Goodluck!
Toadkiller Dog wrote:
Making a character with STR 16 right of the bat severly gimps your other scores, and actually makes you weaker than other characters since the total of your modifiers (before racial) will be +5, whereas the usual is +6. Is +2 dmg for first three levels really worth it?
To the people I play with, yes. "You must have an 18 in your key stat, otherwise you suck." There is *intense* power-competition and arms-racing between the PCs at my table. I personally find it disgusting, as it leads to winners and losers, with the losers feeling like chump change and scrapping their characters trying to chase down the next power-build. However, those are my PCs. So I do what I can to reign in the problem.
Hi, I would like to submit a request to the moderation staff (Gary, Ross, and to an extent James).
I can't speak for the rest of the boards, but I spend a great deal of time in the Adventure Path subforums. These forums really help "make" the APs for me, and for many other readers as well. I know you recognize this too, as you've started explicitly instructing readers in the print product to go online and log on to the forums. (I'm referring to the Forward of CC#6.) This is great.
However, the forums are a mess. A thread will start with one subject line, and then meander into another. Sometimes, threads that started off well get buried in dozens of posts asking for people to share email addresses. Othertimes, the same question is asked a dozen times in a dozen threads. This is how human conversation usually goes, and it needs a steward to help make it useful.
There are true gems in the forums. Entire adventures. New encounter tables. New NPCs. Guides for how to tweak or fix encounters or plotlines. Pure gold for running an AP, and a great part of using the Paizo product.
I want to be able to get at that gold. I guess my vision for the AP boards is less "a place to discuss" and more "a giant wikipedia entry." My vision might not match up to your vision, but I'd still like to share mine.
One proposal would be to be dilligent about Forking and Combining threads. I know you don't like to delete/ignore posts, that's fine. But if you could help us combine all of the "my Economy in Kingmaker is out of control!" theads (and put the already-described answer to that problem in front of people), and also peel away all of the "can I have your email?" posts from an otherwise useful thread, then would be a huge help.
Another proposal is to find a way to enshrine the gold. Currently we have two systems: stickied threads, and favorited posts. Neither really accomplish the goal. For specific posts (or specific threads) that have great community-created content, I propose that we can nominate it for enshrinement. Perhaps if the post gets over 30 Favorites (or some other mechanic) it gets promoted to a special "AP contributions and FAQ" section. Then this special forum can be a one-stop shop that contains answers to common questions ("what advancement track do we use?") as well as preserve that really cool model of the Vekker's Cabin that someone made.
I will suggest that by being a lot more proactive in your moderation, specifically to encourage organization, particularly in the Adventure Path forums, would help realize greater value from your products.
Thanks for listening!
When you ask "is the plot strong?" I must reiterate that this is a "string of pearls" campaign. There is very little in the way of overarching plotline. There is nothing tying the adventures together (even from the GM's point of view) other than "these guys are collecting ingredients for an evil ritual, let's stop them" and "they killed the professor, let's take vengence." There aren't even any recurring NPCs in the entire campaign. However, within each pearl, I have found each and every plot to be lucious and well-formed (with the possible exception of the 6th, as addressed in my OP).
As for knowledge-gathering-skills, I think Tobias made an excellent post, to which I have little to add. The art for you as a GM will be in controlling the rate of the outflow of information. You don't want the PCs to learn everything up-front, nor do you wish to reveal it all at the end. Each pearl works best by having a gradual reveal throughout its events. The modules help you acheive that end, but industrious players (esp those with magical divination specialties) will find a way to break that. Don't let them: the mystique of the campaign will suffer for it.
There are no "clunkers" in the campaign, but I here are the potential areas for friction or pitfall:
Hope that helps.