I had that problem too, and it's a general issue with Fighters in those levels when Full Plate comes into play and bad guy BAB hasn't caught up.
I had smarter opponents (stone giants, bosses) switch to tactics like sundering, disarming, etc., which should be useful. The dumber opponents smashed harder and went down like chumps, but I was fine with that. My player made the character to be a melee killing machine and deserves his chance to shine.
Things will change once you get to flying opponents and into Sins of the Saviors as the Fighter may already be close to maxed out on AC and attack bonuses start creeping up into the high 20's, and save DCs get scary high.
The adventure is balanced for 4x15 point first level characters.
They're already 20% stronger because of the extra character and maybe another 20% for the extra 10 points.
If they would accept 15 point second level characters (0 xp or no is immaterial in the long run), you'd be better off unless your group really enjoys plowing through baddies without much challenge.
How about an even flatter 12 11+2 13 13 13 13?
I'd do a human polearm paladin 4/sorcerer 1/ gold dragon disciple 10, built for tripping. Core build:
Bumps go to strength, then charisma, then constitution.
He would end up with base scores of:
CL 8 sorcerer
1) Combat Expertise, improved trip
Smite, made of hit points, mobile, great saves, spells.
I know you've said no but, the nice part about the Ranger (Weapon and shield archetype) build is you get to where you want to be sooner:
1 - Improved shield bash
You could have scores like:
You don't have to be a fruity hippy smell the flowers elf ranger - you're a shield slamming dwarf ranger who kicks ass with that shield. Heck, you could even be the kind of ranger who doesn't like animals and plants and seeks to use his abilities to subjugate nature.
The downside is until 6th level, you are bashing or attacking but you get 4 extra levels of shield slam and 5 extra of Shield Master (which as I mentioned is a monster feat).
I'd focus more on figments and glamers because they are more often no save or save on interaction effects, which, depending on your DM, can require an action of some kind.
I'd avoid the phantasms at later levels because they are mind effecting and all too often targets are immune.
I think the coolest illusionists would be the ones that mix real and illusionary effects so the targets won't know whether the wall of stone is real or not or if the summoned creatures are real or not.
I'm planning an illusionist for next time and am thinking about using lots of conjurations and illusions of same, lots of battlefield control, buffing and miscellany.
Oh Star of mys't'ry, star of night
We're planning a game in the week after Christmas so I've been penning butchered Christmas Carols to pump up the event. This is my best effort so enjoy:
But do you recall
Xanesha the Lamia Matriarch
All of her thrall - charm slaves
Then one foggy Summer's Eve
All of the charm slaves swam hard
My group's going to be hit by random encounter howler monkey thieves in the pre-dawn light on day 3. They have a decent shelter built and they found Jenivere and cleared it of eurypterids and any treasure they could take.
I'm running this AP as a PBP game and I thought I'd share my maps as I make them:
Beach combat map (sorry too much hassle to repost a blank one - it's grainy and cheesy anyway):
Jenivere Battle Map:
My low-quality hand sketch of Jenivere on the Rocks as seen from the rocky shore at low tide:
These are not mine but they are good efforts:
Sandpoint / Catacombs of Wrath
Sandpoint Siege Guide
For me, my goal would be to minimize the amount of work I'd have to do in the long run. The easiest way to do that would be to get your PCs to the correct level sometime in the first three adventures (because it's much easier to boost lower-level encounters than it is to do the same with high-level ones).
To accomplish that goal, I'd shave a half to a third off your XP awards so the PCs feel like they are making progress when they are really falling back a bit. I'd keep the treasure similar to what's in the adventures so you don't pull too far ahead in Wealth by Level terms.
Burnt Offerings: Goblin encounters become Bugbears and Goblins (run the battles with oodles of stupid suicidal regular goblins running around soaking up fireballs and whatnot so you get the feel of goblins and the punch of bugbears), bump the named NPCs by several (3?) levels. Pace your XP for 6th level at completion.
Skinsaw Murders: Ghouls become Ghasts, Bump NPCs and use the full hardcoreness of Xanesha instead of pulling her punches like happens with most groups. Pace XP for 8th level at completion.
Hook Mountain Massacre: Give the Grauls the advanced simple template and Mammy a Level and aim for late 8th, early 9th level by then. At that point, they'll be ready for Fort Rannick and all that and back on the path at about the appropriate levels.
Pride/Confidence - "Be confident and your people will follow"
I suppose that is a valid question. I run a dynamic world where PC decisions and indecision affects the world around them but I am not a slave to events happening as they are outlined in the time line. If the Giant attack doesn't happen for 3 or 4 years of game time, I'm fine with that and then everything relevant to that attack will just have been moved forward by those 3 or 4 years. If, for instance they weather the giant attack and don't go after the source then the source will come to them in its own time and form.
The short answer is: My PCs haven't heard anything about Karzoug and his forces so they don't really exist until the plot dictates they are needed.
I did some reading ahead and I may a bunch of HMM etc. until and unless my PCs start spoiling for a fight. If they push through HMM on the medium advancement chain, they won't be more than 8th level by the end of the adventure so it'll start getting really hard for them.
My preliminary plan is to have them liberate Ft. Rannick (which I think they can safely do at 7th level with help) and then stop things there.
If they are eager to do some kingdom building at this time, I'm ready for that and one of the first encounters will probably be with the Shimmerglens Nymph, whatever her name is, so my PCs can be the ones to tell her about the attack. She'll rush away, never to be seen in corporeal form again and the rest of that thread will make more sense than in the original HMM version.
I'll probably give my PCs a couple of months to explore, govern and wonder about the wet/snowy weather before I spring the dam encounter on them. There will be red herring evidence from that one that will lead to the troll site from KM#2 if they follow it.
If they decide to be aggressive about pursuing the runelords plot, I'll let them do that as well but I'll probably be forced to up the xp awards to speed things up a bit in that respect.
I updated my complete preparations in my campaign thread but I thought I'd update here on my decisions about what memories to give to each player:
- Dwarf Barbarian, basic raging warrior
- Halfling Bard, history buff
- Shoanti Cleric of Erastil, hunter, Animal and Community
- Human Rogue, pretty much evil - going for Shadowdancer
- Human Wizard, blaster evoker
- Human Fighter, reckless sword and board type
- Human Water bloodline Sorcerer, also mostly a blaster
Session 18: TPK! TPK! TPK! TPK! TPK!
I had 5/7 players in attendance so in order to keep continuity, I had the two missing characters be abducted by Xanesha's agents while the party was selling loot. This was needed because I needed all the characters in attendance, even if the spotlight was to be on 5 of them.
At this stage, my party has bypassed all kinds of opportunity for recon, scouting and intel from prisoners so had no idea what they were stumbling into at the clocktower. In typical cocky fashion they strolled right in, worried more about spell durations than combat tactics.
After an easy time of the golem and the staircase, the party dribbled onto the clocktower roof, spread out and didn't have a coordinated attack at all, with the sword specialist fighter choosing to not melee and each person going one at a time against Mme. Xanesha. Without flanking, without sneak attacks, without any serious buffs/debuffs it wasn't even a close fight. The PCs hit all but 1 of her mirror images and managed to do about 30 points of damage total.
I adjusted Xanesha's spear into a normal sized Halberd and added an ability that it could optionally do subdual instead of lethal damage (because I expected this could be a learning opportunity regarding future encounters in this adventure path and was pretty sure I'd TPK using Xanesha as written).
It was a slaughter and I couldn't be happier. Each character was beaten into submission with no deaths so I can move onto my plan I've been working on for several months:
At the end of the evening, I collected their character sheets and will have to transpose them to equipment-less versions for our next session "Charm Zombies and the Escape from the Paradise Barge". The other good part of this is I'll be able to assess and balance the party wealth if necessary. I think I'm pretty good on that front but we'll see.
I'm half prepared for next time (I have the maps of the barge done and I have the broad chain of events written out) but I need to work on specific descriptions, dialogue and whatnot. The broad strokes are:
1) PCs get a description of snatches of images from months in wisdom-drained captivity. They have endured a hell of forced servitude as oarsmen aboard the Paradise Barge. Their snippits will include images of some of their more recognizable adventuring gear as trophies adorning the walls of the gambling barge.
I think I will leak these dream snippits out over email over the coming days before our next session.
2) One evening in the late summer/early fall (8 months after the disaster at the clocktower) when the barge is full of patrons and out on an evening cruise, one of the other captives finally snaps and smashes a lamp on himself, starting a fire at the stern of the boat. The patrons jump overboard and lady Xanesha (in human form) descends the stairs to the bowels of the ship where the PCs are held locked in place by their wisdom-drained, charmed state. She quickly gathers a treasure box and tells her thralls something like "I suppose your service is nearly over my pets. You have done well in your part to pave the way for Karzoug's Return" and leaves before the fire spreads too far.
3) Once the fire does enough damage to the stern, the barge begins taking on water and once the cold lake water hits the feet of my PCs. At this point, they wake, I return them character sheets with next to no equipment, Wisdom values of 1, and they can start rescuing themselves - somehow - as the barge begins to list and take on water in earnest.
4) The PCs make it to shore having left a lot of their loot behind as decorations on the wall. There, they learn the history of the barge and discover that they have been tattooed with the Sihedron Rune at the base of their necks. They will probably take a break here to regain drained wisdom and interact with the people of Turtleback Ferry.
5) They mount an underwater return to the barge (Cleric + water breathing) and regain whatever loot remains for them there plus any clues I wish to plant to keep the plot moving forward, if at all.
One alternative is to leave them with only sparse clues and a bit of a Mystery and run some RRR Kingmaker stuff out of Turtleback Ferry (the Trolls, some of the Fey stuff, the Owlbear and the Lizard Men remain from that book). Then when I figure that the PCs are ready for a change and some plot, Fort Rannick will fall and we'll start HMM. I'm leaning towards this approach so my PCs can drive the agenda to whether they want to leave the Sihedron Rune and Xanesha stuff behind them or whether they want to pursue that with all their resources. If they do use their resources (and divinations and whatnot) they will arrive just a bit too late to save the Fort.
I'm running numerous side quests as I am running a 7 PC group and medium advancement. The Burnt Offerings ones included some drama between the Licktoad and the Birdcruncher goblin tribes that was exported (with minimal effort) from Kingmaker.
Rather than repeat it all under spoiler tags, the story is here:
What do I do? Give me some ideas. I don't want to just jump back into combat with Xanesha. How should I handle this?
I have an elaborate plan for this eventuality and I actually hope I can whip up a TPK because I think it's so cool.
My plan for a TPK at the Clocktower is to have the PCs be taken by Xanesha up to Turtleback Ferry and forced to work on the Paradise barge, through a combination of wisdom drain and repeated charms/dominates. This would then mean that Xanesha replaces Leucretia as they are the same person. In this scenario, I would have Xanesha pick up the missing Rogue (after interrogating the other PCs) and I would put them all on the barge together.
Once they are on the barge, they would exist in a living death as charm/dominate slaves for some time (months? a year maybe? - probably just enough time to have the timeline make sense for it to be early winter up there), stripped of their identities and their will and made to serve drinks, cook and clean. Eventually, while the PCs are in the hold somewhere, one of the other slaves in the kitchen goes mad and suicidally lights himself on fire, starting a fire in the barge in general and causing it to sink.
Xanesha (in human form) then looks down into the hold, and smiles saying something about them having served their purpose anyway and leaves the PCs to die and goes away to organize the attack on Fort Rannick.
When the cold water of the lake hits the PCs' feet (think the rising water in the lower decks in Titanic), they snap out of their charm and are able to act. They have within their reach the ability to escape from the hold (haven't worked this out yet - I'm imagining an axe or something to cut their way out of the hold as it sinks) and swim to the surface, seeing on the way that many of their possessions were up on the walls in the gambling areas of the barge. They could then return to the barge at the bottom of the lake (water breathing) and retrieve the rest of their gear (probably missing gold and some items) and maybe get some clues about Xanesha's motivations etc. and get any missing treasure or XP they need to get to the next part of the story with a reasonable chance of success.
If you need to add any PCs in the process (i.e. if your Barbarian was dead dead and the player wants a new character), they are on the barge too.
This was the map I have made for the Barge:
I couldn't find one elsewhere so I mapped my vision of the Paradise Barge from HMM. I made it out of a turtle shell and gave it oars so the gambling patrons could go on little cruises powered by wisdom-drained charm zombies (that will include my PCs if I can manufacture a TPK back at the clocktower in Skinsaw).
I am planning on using the KM rules for a Rise of the Runelords campaign and the kingdom's starting location (Turtleback Ferry) is exclusively surrounded by forest, swamp, lakes and mountains for a very long distance so I have this problem too. My solution was to expand the definition of "Farm" and make all of the non-mountain hexes farm-able but to up the BP cost to do so:2BP - Grassland
4BP - Hills or Lake Front/Coastal (requires a pier in an adjoining city hex, representing it being "farmed" for fish, seaweed etc.)
6BP - Swamp (rice paddies, fishing)
8BP - Forest (hunting, logging, bee keeping, orchards, mushroom gathering, whatever an elf eats)
I suppose you could add dwarf agriculture in the mountains for a price too but I intend to keep mu PCs kingdom hedged back.