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Gregg Helmberger's page

Goblin Squad Member. RPG Superstar 2013 Star Voter. Pathfinder Society Member. 445 posts. 26 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character.


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We're almost at the end of Book 4, but the standout moment of the campaign so far came all the way back in the second session:

The party had routed the goblins in their attack on the town, and in investigating the corpses of the attackers, they noticed that some of the goblin gear seemed to have been salvaged from the town's own garbage. Two characters, an irresponsible rogue and a dissolute and slightly mad ranger, got very drunk, failed to drink the hagfish water, and decided that the fact that the goblins were scavenging trash was a Highly Significant Clue. Therefore they wandered over to Junker's Edge and tried to climb down to inspect the dump.

The rogue made his roll with aplomb, despite the penalty for drunkenness, and made it to the ground.

The ranger, however, rolled a natural 1 for a total of about 5; he also made it to the ground, but only by means of losing his grasp on the cliff face, pinwheeling down the rocks, and landing in the surf at something like -6 hp. The rogue hauled him out of the surf but was faced with a rising tide that threatened to drown them both. I had the ranger's player make a d20 roll as a Luck Roll (thank you, Call of Cthulhu!) and he rolled a 1. Just as he was staring up the cliff, trying to figure out how to haul an unconscious 220-lb man up them, the Gorvi boys begin tossing the detritus of the previous day's celebration over the cliff...

The ranger's player is long gone from the campaign, but we who remain often look back in amusement. :-D

Slithery D wrote:
Previous discussion thread on this subject here.

Excellent, that's just the sort of thing I was looking for. Thanks!

The text of Improved Familiar states, "You may choose a familiar with an alignment up to one step away on each alignment axis (lawful through chaotic, good through evil)." On its face, this seems to mean that a True Neutral wizard/witch/whatever could have a familiar of any alignment, since even the extreme alignments (Lawful Good, Chaotic Evil, etc.) are no more than one step away from True Neutral on each axis (i.e. one ethics step from neutral to lawful, one morals step from neutral to good). Or am I reading this wrong?

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I'm going to be running this in an online format (Google Hangouts/rolld20) and, crucially, in short sessions (2-1/2 hours) every two weeks, so I want something quick and clean even for long battles. I'd love to run it in GURPS because that has exactly the gritty combat feel I'd enjoy implementing, but it's way too crunchy for what I can do in this format.

I picked up Legend (for one American dollar, no less) and it looks like it will serve. Pretty much anything BRP-based runs smoothly, and I think it will do what I need it to do. Plus there's so much support for it out there, given that I can yank anything RuneQuest into it.

So thanks everyone who participated in this thread. I really appreciate all the advice.

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Matt Thomason wrote:
Gregg Helmberger wrote:

Oddly, one of the systems I'm strongly considering is BRP, and classic Runequest was the progenitor of that. I haven't seen the latest Runequest rules -- are the BRP-derived, or something else?

From what I understand, RQ6 is by the same authors as Mongoose's RuneQuest II, which in turn was the successor to Mongoose's RuneQuest which was heavily BRP-derived and licensed from and built atop the previous RuneQuest edition.

Another option would be to pick up RQII's successor at Mongoose, Legend (currently only $1 from DTRPG) - which was basically a rebadged RQII with the Glorantha stuff stripped off as they lost the license.

I just picked up Legend (because $1) so I will give it a look. It's backwards-compatible with all Runequest II products too, so it would have a lot of support. I'll take a peek at it and see what it's like.

Charlie D. wrote:
Torchbearer. Crazy awesome dungeon crawling. Check out the GM's screen

OK, that DM screen is awesome. :-D I don't think I'd ever use it, though, because this will be a Google Hangouts/Rolld20 game. Too bad, because I think my players would get a giggle out of it.

Charlie D. wrote:
D&D 5E. You can see basic character creation for free next month and a full set of basic rules for free in the middle of August. If you buy a PDF of a D&D Next adventure you can get the playtest rules with it right now.

I was thinking about that. I wasn't too impressed during the playtest, but I was looking at it for what it was trying to be: a Pathfinder slayer. It comes up short in that regard, but it there's potential for this application.

Charlie D. wrote:

Runequest 6. One book, all the rules. Has dwarves, elves, halflings. And for RQ 6 is "RuneQuest: Classic Fantasy

Rod Leary's excellent guide to traditional dungeon crawling, evoking the halcyon days of fantasy roleplaying's origins, comes to RuneQuest. Rod is adapting his Classic Fantasy rules (first published as an acclaimed BRP monograph) exclusively for RuneQuest 6th edition. This isn't a supplement - it's a complete game specifically tailored to recreating that original dungeoneering experience. Rod's hard at work on the manuscript, and we are anticipating a late 2014/early 2015 release."

Oddly, one of the systems I'm strongly considering is BRP, and classic Runequest was the progenitor of that. I haven't seen the latest Runequest rules -- are the BRP-derived, or something else?

Charlie D. wrote:
Fantasy Hero Complete.

I was a Hero player for many years before Pathfinder drew me back to D&D. I enjoyed it a lot, but it doesn't have a learning curve, it's got a learning cliff. Once you learn how the whole system works, it's dead easy to play and run, but until you do the whole thing seems random and confusing. Plus I kind of had a falling-out with the guys who ran the company...

Charlie D. wrote:
Dungeon World.

I looked at this one but it's too story-gamer for what I'm looking at. I don't mind story games, but I don't want to dungeon with one.

Charlie D. wrote:
HARP Fantasy.

I confess I know nothing whatsoever about this.

Charlie D. wrote:
Dungeon Crawl Classics. Not a retro-clone in my opinion and has great adventure support. Can't wait for my boxed set at the end of the year.

This one falls into retro-clone for me, though the adventure support is fantastic (if a tad uneven).

13th Age certainly sounds interesting. Is the system inextricably tied to the setting?

I'm thinking of putting together a megadungeon-type setting, but I'm not sure what system to use. I love Pathfinder, but combats can take a long time and creating replacement characters (and face it, in a proper megadungeon you're going to need replacement characters) can be problematic at middle levels and up, given the amount of time it takes to craft one and the amount of time it takes to learn to play what you've just crafted. Therefore, I'm looking for something else.

What I want:
* A system with some degree of customizability in characters to allow for, if not system mastery in the 3.x sense, at least some player creativity and choice in character design
* A character creation system that can generate mid-level and up characters efficiently
* A combat system that's got some options beyond "I attack" but is faster than Pathfinder
* A reasonable buy-in cost, since I don't want to spend $300 on books imported from Estonia or someplace (no offense intended to Estonians, I could just as well have chosen Latvia for this example :-D )
* A more-or-less typical fantasy setting; while I'm sure Numenera is great, it's not what I'm looking for

What I do not want:
* A retro-clone; I played the old D&D when it was new and I am under no illusion that it was better than newer incarnations
* Savage Worlds; IME the system isn't robust enough to support a lengthy campaign

What I don't care about one way or the other:
* A d20 system; fine if I have it, fine if I don't
* A point-buy system; ditto

So, does the system I'm describing even exist? Any ideas?

Cthulhudrew wrote:

How about: To Slay A God?

The AP would consist of the PCs gradually building up to finally destroying Rovagug once and for all. They'd do it piecemeal- destroying enclaves of cultists, artifacts and relics sacred to Rovagug; eventually destroying his remaining spawn. Then, when he's at his weakest, they'd go into the Pit of Gormuz itself and finally eliminate Rovagug in an epic confrontation.

(Among other things that could be done with this AP, we might finally get more info on Casmaron.)

Seeing as how a coalition of all the gods couldn't pull that off, I think that's far beyond the scope of what PCs can be expected to accomplish.

However, setting the same sights lower, what about, say, Achaekek? He's a legitimate deity, yes, but a minor one, and removing him could set the stage for the matriculation of a far more interesting and dynamic figure into the role of patron of assassins and thieves: Nocticula.

Because, frankly, Achaekek is boring and his assassins turning into giant insects is more silly than intimidating.

Adam, what about "colonization" in the sense of establishing a single town to serve as a trading post and entrepot to further exploration/interaction, without the intention of conquering vast swathes of land and/or displacing natives? This is the sense that Macau or Hong Kong was colonized -- the Portuguese and British didn't move on to subdue the whole of China. I think players might enjoy the challenge of setting up a settlement on foreign shores and encouraging both native and foreign traders and diplomats to come and do business there, especially if a system were established to calculate the conflicting desires of a dozen different stakeholders on both sides of the ocean.

Hey, hope you had a great Gen Con!

I'm running Rise of the Runelords, and in my campaign, Nualia got away at Thistletop. My initial thought is that I'd like her to have become a half-fiend, which is especially attractive given the variants in the new Demons Revisited. With that inspiration, I've decided I don't want to use the out-of-the-box half-fiend template given in the Bestiary.

My problem comes in deciding what sort of demon blood to give her. She seems like she's all about wrath, so half-vrock seems the most appropriate. However, she's getting her power from Lamashtu, and while Lamashtu does have some vrocks under her command, that really does seem like a Pazuzu thing. The text suggests that she might even become a succubus, but lust seems like it plays a very small part in her makeup.

So what's your suggestion? Is there another type of demon that I should look at, or should I come up with my own variant?

My group is dealing with the same issue. I had them know it with a DC28 Religion check, and then they went to Magnimar to buy a Dispel Evil scroll. Of course, once they got there, they discovered the wave of murders going on, they investigated the townhouse, they were attacked by Tsuto (who'd been captured in the Glassworks and sent to Magnimar), etc.

I don't mind a dead PC here and there, I just want to avoid a TPK. Besides, the PCs are fully laden with Hero Points, so they can save themselves that way in a pinch...unless they all go unconscious, in which case they're boned.

My group will be heading to the Sawmill this next session, and because we play long sessions, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them get to the Clock Tower as well. Is Xanesha still as utterly brutal as she was in the 3.5 days? She looks pretty horrific to me. I have a well-balanced party (paladin, cleric, fire wizard, and rogue/fighter on the track to become a duelist). Tsuto will attack them on the way up the stairs, so they'll be down a little more in the consumables department than they would normally be, but I don't anticipate him providing a real impediment so much as a little speed bump. Do I need to tone down Xanesha to avoid a TPK?

Consarn it! Everything I hear about this makes me want to play it more, but I don't think I'll ever get the chance because it doesn't seem like the sort of thing my group would go for. Grrr.

Oh well, at least there's some demodand love at last! Huzzah!

There's only one explanation for the lack of news: there's no such thing as PaizoCon.

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Congratulations! This is a big step in the right direction, IMO. Online play is vital for a lot of people who are isolated from other gamers, and it can bring people together from all over the world. It's exciting to see that the online play community is getting its due.

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Tangent101 wrote:

Guys. This is a game.

The point of it is for people to have fun.

Going around and brutally killing characters "because it's the smart thing for the villain to do" does not make for a fun game for the players.

And different people have different ways of having fun. There are plenty of games with rabidly passionate followings that I'd rather hit my thumb with a hammer than play. If you want to play your way and everybody's having fun, then you're doing it right. If I play my way and everyone's having fun, then I'm doing it right. The only wrong way to play is the way that isn't fun for you.

Therefore, "Going around and brutally killing characters 'because it's the smart thing for the villain to do' does not make for a fun game for the players" isn't universally true. It's true for you and your group? Great. It's not true for me, either as player or GM, and that's great too.

Tangent101 wrote:

My games are quite successful and very enjoyable... and I can count the number of characters I out-and-out killed on one hand. (Admittedly, one of those characters was cursed and kept "coming back" in different bodies, so I'm not sure if a couple of those deaths even count.) And I've been GMing since 1st edition AD&D.

So have I, and the one thing that time has taught me, more than anything else, is that every table is different, and trying to force a group into a style they don't like is the Original Sin of GMing, the sin from which all others emanate. I've killed a buttload of PCs and had a buttload of my PCs killed, and my players still enjoy the games, even as they're getting infuriated at the villains for killing their PCs.

Different strokes, and don't tell me my way of playing is wrong, because then the only one who's wrong is you.

mcbobbo wrote:

One more try?

Why do your NPCs only try to 'kill the hell' out of the PCs while in combat?

Specifically via RotRL...

** spoiler omitted **

...but this applies equally in other settings as well. Again, why not arcane lock the inn and burn it down?

Because that's not the terms of the engagement, and I imagine you well know this to be true. The PCs are assumed to have their chance to be heros.

Yes, they are assumed to have their chance to be heroes. However, they are not assumed to succeed. Success, rather, is contingent upon intelligence and some luck.

Bad guys have agency too, and the ones smart enough to think (which certainly isn't all opponents, but it is plenty) may, if the opportunity presents itself, coup de grace or at least take another attack against a down PC if they don't feel like taking the full turn action and AoO a cdg incurs. PCs (at least mine!) do exactly the same against downed foes who might be healed, as circumstances dictate.

Now, I would almost certainly not have a BBEG cdg an opponent when there's something more pressing to attend to, such as active foes in their face or other, more productive things to do, but a BBEG with a spare round will certainly start tying up loose ends.

mcbobbo wrote:
As for 'smart is new' or 'PC death is old school', yes and no to both. But neither would be an excuse to go out of your way to kill a player's character. See arcane locked inns for 'smart'.

I didn't say "smart is new." I said "smart is the new tough," by which I meant that Paizo deliberately constructs its APs to brutally punish stupid behavior. RotRL is no exception -- and why should it be? It set the mold. If your solution to every encounter is "I kick the door in and hit it with my axe," you WILL die unless the GM is inordinately tender with you.

And sometimes bad guys do get proactive. I had Nualia lay an ambush for the PCs when the came back for her a second time, and why not? She knew they were coming to kill her, she didn't want to die, and she was smart enough to make them pay for laziness. Next time they weren't so lazy in their approach. (Although I still can't get them to stop splitting the party no matter how many times they wander into monster dens while separated...but that's a different matter.)

I don't go out of my way to kill PCs, but I don't go out of my way to save them either. I have NPCs adhere to the printed tactics until they realize those tactics aren't working or need to change, and then they change. I treat the NPCs as though they want to succeed as badly as the PCs do. Anything else wouldn't be fair to my group.

mcbobbo wrote:
As for 'old school', I seem to remember having to start over at level 1. I'm guessing you don't still use THAT rule, too, eh? :)

Oh Lord no, and I never did back in the day either. Even when I was 11, I recognized that advice as being suited to a vastly larger and more...internally diverse group than mine. In fact, I never once gamed with anyone who followed that advice.

mcbobbo wrote:

And even if you did, it would be grossly innapropriate for RotRL.

Here's a thought - what if you kill the entire original party from Burnt Offerings? I can't see how you'd achieve the same story arc through people who didn't have the same attachments as are slowly built through the beginning. In fact, I see little to no mention of PC death anywhere in the AP. So far at least. But I see loads and loads of 'let them feel welcomed back' that wouldn't apply if they had never been there before.

My PCs are 4th level, and of 5 starting PCs, only 2 remain (though one player left the group, as is always the case when you assemble a group of strangers). One of those PCs has strong backstory ties to Sandpoint, the other doesn't. One views Sandpoint as HOME, the other got there on the morning of the Swallowtail Festival and doesn't feel entirely comfortable there for reasons of his backstory. So only one PC feels attachment to the town, and she's a squishy, and if she dies, well... <shrug> The story goes on. New heroes arise where old ones have fallen. The bad guys are still plotting and the good guys still have to stop them, and if I have to modify a couple of adventure hooks from what's printed, so what?

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Arnwyn wrote:
A bunch of stuff in response to wakedown.

I have to agree with Arnwyn here. In general, the PCs are going against very, very nasty people who aren't going to stand around waiting to be killed by the PCs. They have their own plans and desires and they will kill the hell out of anyone who gets in their way, and this includes PCs. Making sure a downed PC doesn't get up again is one way of doing it, as is not acting like a James Bond villain and introducing the most hackneyed of hackneyed cliches and monologuing-so-the-good-guys-can-escape. They're supposed to represent credible threats, not oafs who posture menacingly but meaninglessly.

At the risk of derailing the thread, the attitude of "I won't coup-de-grace a PC unless I know the player wants me to" is very much an innovation of the story game and its spreading influence, and not one a crotchety old buzzard like me cottons to. I tell my players to have a good idea of your replacement PC's replacement PC, because you might get there quicker than you'd like.

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Just to echo what's already been said, PCs must use sound tactics, not just once but every fight. This isn't even an RotRL-specific piece of advice, because almost every AP is this way: if you come in stupid, you die. Period. You need to buff like a maniac, debuff where possible, sneak, come from unexpected directions in unexpected ways, innovate your tactics (and keep innovating because many, many times the BBEG of a particular book or section is scrying or otherwise observing the party's tactics as they wade through the preliminary encounters and will be prepared for what it's seen them do), use ranged attacks, and use every trick they can think of in general.

The thing is, the opponents you're fighting are, for the most part, not stupid, and if they are stupid then they're at least cunning. They're prepared for the obvious approaches and they will slaughter you if you hit them the way they expect to be hit. You need to outthink them before you can outfight them.

As far as RotRL goes, my group is just dipping their beak into the second book and they've had tough fights all the way along, in spite of good party balance and generally good tactics.

Elyrium, Gogmurt, Bruthazmus, Orik & Lyrie, Ripnugget, and the yeth hounds all put at least one character down, though there were no party deaths until they went up against Nualia herself. The first time they faced her, she killed their new buddy Orik and they ran away; the second time they faced her she ambushed them on their way back to the dungeon and one-shotted a PC and then fled before they could surround her; the third time, they finally managed to drive her off but not kill her...I wonder if they'll see her again?
Every major fight has been harrowing, but they only lost a single PC in book one -- which to me means the books is extremely well designed. That's exactly the kind of balance you want, IMO. Players are supposed to have to strain every mental and physical muscle to win these kinds of things.

Smart is the new tough.

Has Paizo been satisfied with the sales of the RotRL hardcover? Satisfied enough that you'd consider giving the same treatment to other hard-to-get APs in the future? What about an occasional (as in when you can allocate resources) AP that only appears in hardcover, such as the Emerald Spire book from the Kickstarter?

Congratulations on your own "Ask anything" thread!

What are the odds of getting a few more kinds of demodands one of these days?

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"Give five reasons you no kill goblins. Now give five more."

"Which party member you laugh hardest when die?"

After several lengthy answers have been gleaned by the others on the panel:

"How come you still have so many words if you can write?"

Unless the campaign is going to be very unusual, I think humanoid (human) should always be a ranger's first choice of favored enemy. You get by far the most mileage out of it in any of the APs I'm familiar with (not specifically familiar with RoW, however). You're always fighting humans.

It's moot now, but my players bought a swan boat and had two warrior types spider climb up the side with ropes. It worked well...until they reached the top and ran into four goblins and their mounts playing with a seagull! Still it was a very, very successful assault, albeit a bit touch and go at times.

However, when they went down a couple of levels and ran into Nualia, the fun times stopped...

I've just kicked off a rolld20 game of Carrion Crown, and I'm not sure how to do the Father Charlatan encounter. Obviously I can't tell one player to leave the room, nor can I leave the room -- we're one big happy video chat. Father Charlatan is a weird, not very good encounter to begin with so I don't want to dilute it any more than it already is by just running it with everyone knowing everything that's going on, or even with the sole affected PC typing away on text chat and everyone else in the video. Is there a satisfactory solution that others have found? Or am I better off just rewriting the whole durned thing?

Anorak wrote:

Gregg, I run an online game over at Roll20 and I plan to run this when it arrives. If not me, there will be others too! So never say never!

It might be a while for me though...I currently have three games going! LOL

I know I'll never play this AP. This may be odd, given that the Worldwound is the area I've wanted to see an AP tackle most, and that I'm perfectly open to Mythic.

The problem is my players (isn't it always? ;-) ). My group tends to like lower-power, gritty fantasy, and they tend to get fidgety when 5th level spells start showing up. One player flat-out told me he has zero interest in Mythic, which isn't surprising since he's a fan of E6 and was very excited when 5e started talking about Bounded Accuracy. An AP where you end up fighting something on the order of a CR30 opponent wouldn't go over well with several in the group.

Ah well. I'm looking forward to it, and I'll enjoy reading it if nothing else. And it's not as though there's a dearth of APs my group is eager to get into...




Thank you!!!

I have a question on the cosmology of Golarion. How is it handled when someone is of an alignment that doesn't remotely match, or even diametrically opposes, the deity(ies) that govern their occupation? Historically people tended to pray to the deity that had dominion over the place they were praying and/or the activity they were performing at the time, but that doesn't seem to be the case in Golarion.

Take the example of a chaotic evil farmer. Pretty much all his time is taken up by farming, and farming governs his livelihood and his continued survival. Obviously he'd pray to the god of farming, Erastil, for success with his crops, right? Only Erastil is lawful good and he hates chaotic evil types, so he wouldn't welcome the farmer's prayers, right? So the farmer looks around for a god more closely matching his alignment, but what do Lamashtu, Rovagug, or any of the demon lords care about farming, which is what keeps him and his family alive? Even taking it one step further along the alignment spectrum doesn't help much, since Calistria, Gorum, Norgorber, and Urgathoa don't give much thought to sowing and reaping. What's a chaotic evil farmer to do?

Would this sort of a system tend to mitigate toward most farmers being lawful good, or would most sailors be neutral because that's Gozreh's alignment, for example?

On another divine note, the Inner Sea World Guide says that Shelyn's worship originated in Taldor. However, Shelyn was worshiped in ancient Azlant, and Taldor didn't arise until the descendants of a few surviving Azlanti colonists mingled with some natives thousands of years after Azlant was dead and gone. What's the dealie-o?

Jeff Erwin wrote:
...I'm in the pro-fiction camp because I see Golarion and the APs as embracing more than scenarios and game mechanics. Potentially, Golarion's success as a shared world extends into fiction that is read by non-gamers, like FR.

I seriously doubt anyone is picking up a $22 volume for six pages of fiction, however. Pathfinder Tales novels certainly fill that role, but the fiction in the AP books certainly does not, IMO.

James Sutter wrote:

Your wish is my command, Gregg! Allow me to introduce you to Pathfinder Web Fiction--it comes out every Wednesday, and it's totally free. :)


I actually consume more of the fiction that way than I ever do in the AP, because mentally it fills a different space for me when it's not in among the crunch. I was just thinking that a zine might be a way to do it where you could shake some more shekels free from me.

James Sutter wrote:

And while we're soliciting ideas, let's take it the other direction as well:

*If you're someone who doesn't currently find the AP fiction useful, is there something the fiction could do that WOULD make it fun and useful to you? What if the fiction had sidebars presenting relevant world information, or new magic items/feats/spells/etc., the way we sometimes did in the past? What if the art was full-color? What if one of the illustrations was replaced with a map of the location featured in the story? What if there were character stat blocks, the way we did for Eando Kline in Pathfinder #18?

I honestly think having small nuggets of usable material in the six pages of fiction would be more irritating than anything, just a reminded that these pages could be used to present more stuff like that but instead are being largely consumed by stuff that is completely useless to me. It would be less aggravating to have the fiction as is and just ignore the six pages the way I've been doing since I signed on to this wacky ride. I admit that this may be a function of my personality, which is inclined to adopt pet peeves at very little provocation. :-)

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Right now I'd ay my preference would be to remove the fiction from the AP book and expand the bestiary (more monsters = good!) and support articles (if for no other reason than it's fairly frequent occurrence that support articles leave me drooling and wanting more because they're so darned good).

Also, although I mentioned it above in an off-the-cuff manner, I think the idea of an e-zine of Pathfinder short fiction (preferably done in a pulp magazine style!) is very appealing, and you would be able to save print costs in an electronic format. It could be a showcase for new writers to show their stuff, for experienced writers to experiment with an idea that can't support a whole novel, and for everyone to poke their noses into corners of Golarion (and beyond!) that wouldn't get explored otherwise. You'd be able to expand the number of creative minds building your world at a relatively low cost and possibly with wide appeal. Forgive me if this product already exists and I'm too big a moron to realize it. :-)

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James Sutter wrote:

[snip] So please, regardless of which side of the fence you're on, don't be shy about giving us your opinions! [/snip]

Well, since you asked...

I understand how the fiction pages came to be, back when there was no other outlet for Pathfinder fiction and you were looking to replace a magazine of mixed content. However, I have only read a couple pieces of fiction in the APs and I've never been impressed either by the content itself or by its usefulness in running the campaign.

For me the fiction pages would very literally be more useful if they were blank pages to allow for note taking; however, a more constructive use of the pages would be to provide space for an in-depth background article, a good short side-adventure that can be run for parties needing more XP, more monsters or magic items, NPCs that can be slipped into the setting where that book of the AP takes place, or anything else actually game-related that can benefit me running (or occasionally playing) the adventure that's the heart of the book.

I feel that this would help address some of the issues that arise with the APs, and in particular two rather vexing issues that stem from the structure of the APs themselves. First, there's often a lack of "connective tissue" between books, such that they sometimes come across less as a cohesive campaign and more as six separate adventures that are somewhat thematically linked (Carrion Crown, for all its brilliance, was much this way). The pages taken up by the fiction could easily be used to suggest ways in which the current adventure could be linked either to the previous or to the next book, and maybe even have a short adventure (or adventure kernels) that can happen on the way from Point A (where one book leaves off) and Point B (where the next book begins. Just having that would dramatically help several of the APs, and wouldn't require a big, expensive art buy.

Secondly, in later books in particular, a lot of story/background gets omitted (by design or necessity) due to the fact that stat blocks swell enormously at higher levels. This is an unavoidable truth, unfortunately, so maybe the fiction pages could be used as a "safety valve" for that kind of material in the later books of an AP? I don't know how that would increase the workload of a certain already-burdened Creative Director, however.

Of course, those are only two ideas. Maybe you could have a recurring feature where designers trot out nasty traps/devious tricks that GMs can drop into their own adventures? Maybe you can have a rogues gallery feature where fully-statted NPCs of surprising and unusual builds can get some face time?

I guess the take-home for me is that I'm buying a game-usable product, and I want stuff I can use in my game. It doesn't necessarily have to be intended for the AP where it appears, but I want game-usable material of some description. Even brilliant fiction doesn't fit that definition, and the AP fiction I've read hasn't been brilliant. There are now plenty of other outlets for Pathfinder fiction, and I'm sure you've got plenty of excellent ideas for more. Honestly, put out an e-zine of short Pathfinder fiction and I might even subscribe if the price is right -- I just want something else from the APs.

Azten wrote:
You could always restat her as an inquisitor. I can't help but think that would make her more dangerous. Especially if Elyrium or a yeth hound is around to flank with(though Elyrium will need a reach weapon). Heck, she started this whole thing, throw some goblins in there as well.

I've been strongly considering giving her some goblins. It seems like some should be present for what will be, for all intents and purposes, the climactic battle of the book. Giving her, say, a few goblin archers in the far corner of the room might make the fight more...interesting.

I agree with DedmeetDM on the timeline. In the "Ask James Jacobs Anything" thread I asked him what campaign-specific piece of advice he'd give me for running this AP, and he said I should make sure to give the players plenty of time to wander around and explore off the rails, as it were.

Having Aldern hire a new party is one way to go, and it would tie him to the party from the outset, which is an advantage.

I think I might have Sandpoint hire a new party to investigate the fate of the Heroes, so that when the party returns victorious, the fickle Aldern can then become fixated on one of the new people. The odds are that the players are going to want to wander the Sandpoint hinterlands for a time anyway and they should be given the chance to do so, killing goblins and maybe having a close encounter with the Sandpoint Devil. Allow an appropriate amount of time to pass between the killing of Malfeshnekor and the ghoul outbreak and you're good to go.

Stazamos wrote:

But lastly:
Malfeshnekor is the big threat in this adventure. Nualia is a misguided soul that took the wrong path in life, ended up being a pawn. She wasn't even doing too well in figuring out how to release Malfeshnekor. Some group of adventurers figured it out in minutes, she spent how long? Well, it's not specified, but it's probably longer than a few minutes!

I wouldn't worry about beefing this up too much.

I find Malfeshnekor to be anticlimactic, honestly. Yes he's a big bad guy, but when the party fought Tsuto I beefed him up to Monk 2/Rogue 3, gave him 3 goblin buddies, AND had him ambush the 2nd-level PCs in a position where he could run around getting flanking, and they still took him down (albeit it was a challenging fight). The party will be 3rd level (at least) when they breach the sanctum, so there will be three casters with access to 2nd-level spells, two big tough armored guys with two-handed weapons, and two animal companions. Malfeshnekor's by himself and doesn't have room to maneuver -- he's going down hard.

James Jacobs wrote:

There are a LOT more Lovecraft inspirations and allusions and the like in pretty much each and every thing I write, in fact. Far too many to list here.

That's awesome. It's one of my favorite HPL stories, and that scene is one of the most unsettling ones he ever wrote, IMO.

I think this whole question had best be spoilered.

In Rise of the Runelords...:
In the Catacombs of Wrath in Burnt Offerings, I got a serious The Case of Charles Dexter Ward vibe from the zombie pit room. Given that you're a massive HPL fan, was that story an inspiration for that room? If it was, are there any other specific Lovecraft allusions I should be looking for in that book/AP?

My group currently consists of an elf enchantment-focused cleric of Calistria, a two-weapon-fighting ranger, a rogue, and a gnome fire elementalist. They're going to be joined by a dwarf druid with a bear companion. There will be multiclassing and I'll make sure they're 3rd level by the time they meet Nualia, so they'll likely be:

1. Elf Cleric of Calistria 3 (Lust and Trickery domains)
2. Gnome Fire Elementalist Wizard 3
3. Dwarf Druid 3 w/ bear
4. Human Rogue 2/Fighter 1
5. Human Ranger 2/Titan Mauler Barbarian 1 (or possibly Ranger 3)

With five PCs and an animal companion, it's obvious that I need to buff Nualia to keep her at the chapter-ending megabadass she needs to be, and there are, as I see it, three ways to do it:

1. Cleric 5/Fighter 2. This would give her third-level spells and another channel die but no iterative attack. She would probably concentrate on dropping a PC fast and then reanimating the corpse as a zombie.

2. Cleric 4/Fighter 3. This would give her an iterative attack. She would be the same as she's written in the book, but tougher in melee without any more flexibility.

3. Rebuild her from scratch as an antipaladin, which would make her a juggernaut with less spell flexibility and let me unleash the awfulness that is antipaladin.

Now I don't want to TPK the party but I've never been one to quail at a PC death or two, so I don't mind making her epically tough. Which build strikes the best balance?

I'd agree with posters who state that the book itself was well-enough written, but it didn't even attempt to take the race in a direction even slightly different from how it's been perceived since the beginning of RPGs. It was a wasted opportunity, in other words, to mark Golarion dwarves as a unique and special race you just couldn't find in other settings, like Golarion gnomes.

There have been many good suggestions in this thread, so I'll add my own. The most interesting thing about dwarves for me is their concept of honor. It's bound to be different from the human concept -- how? Might dwarven honor make it honorable to save the life of someone from a non-hostile race, but dishonorable to have one's life saved by such a person? Are dwarves living in places not ruled by dwarves considered to be exercising a simple choice, is it a specific sign of dwarven appreciation of that place, or is it considered an insult to family and clan that a dwarf would rather live under another race's rule? Is it honorable or dishonorable to have one's work traded to other races, i.e. is it good to have other races realize first-hand that dwarven craftsmanship is superior to their own, or does it sully the work to let other races get their filthy hands on it?

Likewise, how do these concepts of honor compel a dwarf to act? Do different levels of perceived disrespect mandate different levels of retribution (an unintentional verbal insult might demand a small monetary recompense while a deliberate slur against the whole dwarven race must be repaid by the deaths of the speaker and his two closest companions)? If a dwarf dishonors his clan and flees to the outside world, is it the job of the whole clan to bend every effort to get him back and punish him, or do they have certain people who do that, or do they think that living away from dwarven society is enough punishment for anyone? How do dwarves show respect to others of their people who have earned great honor, and how do such dwarves comport themselves among other races?

How would such views on honor shape dwarven society? Is failing to show appropriate and proper respect to another dwarf punishable, and does the punishment change based on the relative status of the parties in question? Are the constraints of honor relaxed within the family or are they strictly enforced even there? Do dwarves demand a certain respect from their non-dwarven companions, or do they just assume that other races are a bunch of grotesque barbarians who can't be expected to know how to wipe their own bums, much less comport themselves properly?

The best dwarven characters I've ever played adhered to a rigid code of honor, had strict expectations of others, and based their reactions to the world on criteria of race, caste, social class, economic status, and a host of other markers that those of other races considered baffling and arbitrary but that my character was ready and willing to die for. In Golarion terms they were almost like a cross between a Hellknight and a Tian-Min samurai. They were prickly customers to be sure, but they were very rewarding and memorable to play, and they defended the lives and honor of worthy allies with greater vigor than they defended their own. They had their own unique cultural outlook that had nothing to do with drunken, slobbish, foul-mouthed Scottish stereotypes.

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One solution for making pawns was suggested by a fellow in my group: printing the image(s) on a full-sheet sticker or label, then simply cutting them apart, peeling, and sticking on the cardboard. That's much easier than pasting things on and will produce better results, especially since stickers tend to produce bright and clean images, and it's something I intend to do to produce rune giants for my RotRL game.

Judging by your picture, you're a tyrannosaurus rex. Do you find flying inconvenient? Do you have to buy out a whole row of seats? Or do they make you ride in a big kennel in the baggage compartment? These are questions that need answers.

I forget, does Remove Colic get a save or not?

James Jacobs wrote:

Don't feel constrained by time or by the order in which events occur in the book. If the PCs want to take their time and get distracted, don't punish them for going off course. Sandpoint's detailed to the extent it is to ENCOURAGE that. Let the PCs react to events rather than forcing them into the next stage of things, and they'll have more fun!

Awesome! Thanks.

One more question: is "Black Magga and the Mothers of Oblivion" a great name for a rock band?

atheral wrote:

Just so I don't get too far behind in votes. Also attempting to stuff the ballot box is a no-no (unless apparently your a zombie from Chicago then it's a-okay but I'll need a certificate of residence and undeath).

[tally omitted]

Wow, great work wading through the thread and culling that! I'm not sure I'd have the patience to do that. :-)

I'm about to start GMing Rise of the Runelords (Anniversary Edition). I'm very excited about this, obviously, and I'm thinking of ways to make the experience really memorable for the players. I don't have to make any changes to the text because it's freakin' brilliant. I've been in the game for enough decades to know plenty of general GM tricks. I intend to make Sandpoint as vibrant as possible and to make the key NPCs sympathetic and interesting. My mind is already racing with ways to make the Kreegs more horrible than they already are, to make the Runeforge oppressive and unsettling, and to make the overall menace palpable and urgent. However, I've never experienced this campaign either as a player or a GM, and who better to ask for advice than you? So my question is this: what's the one piece (or more, if you're feeling exceptionally generous) of campaign-specific advice you'd give me to get the very most out of this AP and give my players the best time possible?

James Jacobs wrote:
Gregg Helmberger wrote:
What's a cool place in Golarion that most players there don't know about but should?
Ummmm... players? Or do you mean characters?

Well, I did mean players, but since you brought it up, both. :-)

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