Berk the Black wrote:
The Skeletal Dragon is fantastic. And I'm really looking forward to more aquatic creatures.
If you have a Hobby Lobby in your area, check out the animal packs you can get in the section with model train terrain. These come in tubes and there are a lot to choose from. The sea creatures pack has sharks, rays, and sea turtles, all of similar scale to 25-28mm figures.
On the road to the village they encounter an old woman, who gives them a cryptic warning, "'Ware the village ahead. Evil has come from a cold, dark place, and only true hearts, and brave, can save it now."
If the PCs ask questions, or give indication they might be able to help, she looks them over and says, "I'm not sure you're up to the task. Perhaps killing goblins and the occasional wolf is within your ability, but this might be beyond you. Or maybe not. That is for you to discover, I'm thinking."
Hopefully this cuts a little to their pride as adventurers.
When they arrive, the townsfolk are boarding up windows and hanging garlic above the doors. If there's a cleric or paladin in the party, the villagers are very welcoming, offering free rooms and meals in the inn if they'll help them with "a little problem".
If asked about the garlic and boarded windows they are evasive or outright lie. "Just local superstition. Some of the silly folk think the baron has a touch o' the old plague... probably nothing to that, or a mild case at worst. Garlic is supposed to ward off plague, you know."
If reluctant, as they should be if not a high level party, the villagers try to encourage them by mentioning Father Preston probably has some healing potions and such in the temple, and surely wouldn't mind if they used them for the baron.
A little information gathering by the PCs could turn up some clues:
After a couple of disappearances, the villagers got the "vampire jitters" and the priest got tired of trying to convince them there was no vampire and went up to the old keep to check it out for them. He didn't return.
The lord of the keep died five years ago this week.
The lord was a retired adventurer who made a fortune exploring the darklands and had some strange ways, including sealing off every cave in the area.
The priest was also an adventurer and companion of the lord when they were both younger. (In fact, you could have every disappearance connected, such as all members of this old adventurer group.)
On his deathbed, the lord made the priest swear he wouldn't bury him in the ground, but would instead seal him in a stone crypt in the highest chamber of the keep.
The villagers think the lord has returned as a vampire.
Of course, the truth is the derro are behind the strange disappearances, including the priest. When the PCs explore the old keep, they find a tunnel coming up into the cellar. They also find the crypt broken open and no body. (Which might get them convinced the lord IS a vampire)
Make a connection between the dead lord and the derro, perhaps some relic he stole from them as an adventurer. Now they've finally located him and find he's dead. But not to be deterred, they have a plan to call him back from the dead, to tell them where their relic is hidden. The old priest is captive and to be used in their ritual.
Having played D&D almost since the beginning (and our group calls PF D&D still) I've had many enjoyable characters. But most recently, and among my all time favorite, was my gnome druid, Krundalbar Glimberek. I was able to totally immerse myself in the eccentric nature of gnomes, which borders on insanity by the standards of other races.
He rode a giant toad (and had a miniature to match) which he named Hoppiton Webfoot III (since it was the third animal companion he tried to get. The first two were giant frogs and as he explained, one tried to eat him and one tried to drown him... and then eat him.) The gnome would never walk in front of the toad, unless out of reach of his tongue, explaining, "When you're only three feet tall, you can't be too trusting."
The party quickly renamed the toad "Hoppy" and he became a popular member of the party. When Krundalbar would do something really weird, a player would say, "I bet Hoppy is rolling his eyes and shaking his head."
When the adventure path took us on a long overland journey and I suggested leaving Hoppy behind, the party all chipped in and bought a wagon and insisted Hoppy come along.
He always introduced himself with,"I'm Krundalbar Glimberek, of the Sanos Forest Glimbereks."
He wore boots with the toes cut out, "Have you ever been walking along and started to wonder if you still had all your toes? Then you have to sit down, pull off your boots, and count them, or else the doubt will drive you crazy. This way, I can just glance down and save time."
He explained how his father encouraged him to become an adventurer, "My father said, 'Krunbalbar, you should get out and see the world. And you should get out now.'"
He was taught the secrets of druidism by Arkman Elmspirit, a kind and gentle fellow who’s only real drawback was that he was a werewolf. ("It were best to be high in a tree when the moon was full, if you catch my drift. Otherwise, old Arkman was a cheerful old fellow.")
He encountered his first brothel, which he mistook for a tapestry shop, "Everything was only 5 gold, the lady told me. So I said, 'I'll take that tapestry'. The ladies all thought that was funny, for some reason. Anyway, I didn't get my tapestry but I'm going back tomorrow."
Afterwards, he would divide his share of all loot into stacks of 5 gold. Eventually he convinced the party (even the priest) to invest in an upscale "Tapestry Shop", and would hang posters throughout Varisia "Visit Krundalbar's Tapestry Shop, in beautiful Magnimar!" (When the Magnimar book came out, Greg, owner of Comics Emporium, said the first thing the players asked was, "Does it have Krundalbar's Tapestry Shop?")
He also had a caparison made for Hoppy that advertised his shop.
For a time he wore a hollowed out watermelon for a helmet.
He collected buttons and had a vest with four rows of buttons, no two alike. A typical party looting after a battle would go:
Wizard: I cast detect magic on the bodies.
Barbarian: I search them for gold.
Krundalbar: Do they have any buttons?
He bought and took along on adventures anything with moving parts: folding chair, hinged box, astrolabe. He would assemble the astrolabe, take a reading, and then, with all seriousness, declare the party should continue to follow the trail.
His advice on fighting undead was, "First you stake them to the ground, then you fill their mouth with waffles. I read it in a book."
He only learned one phrase in dwarven, "Did you kill those people?" and used it as his opening introduction to every dwarf the party encountered. Even now in another campaign when the GM says something is written or said in dwarven, the players respond, "Did you kill those people?"
The party soon learned not to have him change to an animal and go for help or deliver a message. (He spent three days "hanging out" with the bats in Magnimar when he was supposed to be taking an important message to an npc)
When the party encountered giant tracks, he explained how to tell giants by type, "If they live in the hills, they're hill giants. If they live in the forest they're forest giants. And if they're on fire, they're fire giants. I've never seen a cloud giant, but one time I saw a cloud shaped like a dog. It was probably an omen but I couldn't figure it out."
He was my character though the Rise of the Rune Lords adventure path and I was able to play him so over-the-top that I might never be able to play another gnome just because I'd find myself cloning Krundalbar.
I bought it expecting the same detailed map as in the free download and was very disappointed to find an unlabeled map. Are my players supposed to write on it as they explore? I don't see that happening. So what use it it other than it looks good? It looks like I'll have to print out section by section the downloadable, labeled map, just for my use as I run it.
The hand out "hand drawn" map is great and I can see using that.
I'm considering putting the town map and unlabeled map under a sheet of clear plastic, so the players can write on it with grease pencils, but that won't be nearly as useful as a labeled map would have been.
I've been playing rpg's almost since D&D started, and have seen cross-gender role playing done well most of the time. It's more a matter of the maturity of the group than whether the player with the character can do "voices". I've played female characters many times, though 90% of my characters have been male, but I never try to speak with a female voice. At most I will talk quieter or do a few feminine hand gestures.
Usually I mix my role playing between speaking first person and stating things like, "Sarina says,'They look like trouble'." I find that stating the character's name often helps remind everyone it's a female character.
In fact right now in one of my Pathfinder games I'm playing Estellyn, a female elf rogue, very young (about 15 in human development) an orphan and street urchin who's a kleptomaniac and pathological liar. She's fun to play and drives the party paladin crazy and forces him to role play even more.
The paladin lectures her, or says, "We're not here to steal their silverware, Estellyn!"
Not the same, but this reminds me of something that happened when I was playing WOW. I had a female night elf character and fell in with another player doing some quests one night. After awhile he made some comment about my character being "hot" and I said that's why I like to play female night elves. Then it went like this:
Him: You're not really a girl?
With a dwarven wizard I'd consider going Universalist and take the hammer as a bonded item. You would get "Hand of the Apprentice" which allows you to throw a weapon and have it return instantly to you 3 + your Int bonus times/day. What dwarf wouldn't want a dwarven thrower variation?
I would suggest having an amulet as a bonded item. You will get to the level for "Craft Wondrous Items" quicker than craft wands, weapons, staff, etc. and can add something to it pretty cheaply, such as a skill bonus.
I had a player who managed to get killed three times in four sessions by reckless play in what was not a character killing campaign. After the third death I wrote this up and presented it to him at the next session, printed out in fantasy font.
Mutual of Greyhawk
Three untimely deaths in such a short period of time, four adventure "sessions", would have been excessive during the Greyhawk War, much less while doing low to mid-level adventuring.
We paid off your fist claim, which I believe was "Death by Hill Giant Bashing", even though entering an obviously occupied hill giant cave to "do a little looting" is the reason your third level rogue never made fourth level.
We questioned "Death by Falling in Lava" because you do not technically carry lava insurance and at least two other party members warned your new rogue not to try to flank the owlbear by getting on the cliff edge overlooking the lava.
We only agreed not to drop you after the second instance because you elected to try a druid rather than another rogue. (As the druid survived two sessions, there was a glimmer of hope you might actually take part in a "treasure split" and therefore keep your policy up-to-date.)
However, if you will look over your policy again, which is only a Mid-Level Adventurer Term Policy, you will see that "Death by Being Eaten by Giant Sea Snake While in Seal Form" is neither covered nor implied. When the real seals are bolting onto the shore, the water is churning and red with blood, and the rest of your party is shouting "Don’t go in the water!" in common, elven, dwarven and pig-Latin, we can’t understand how you thought it was a good idea.
We considered continuing your coverage when you wanted to start a fourth character who begins as a stable hand in a very peaceful small village but as soon as someone at the meeting said "pitchfork" that option was rejecting unanimously.
We hope you will find suitable coverage elsewhere, and suggest you take out a low coast liability policy just in case you get someone else killed next time.
Many years back I'm DM'ing a game and the party is on a ship far out in uncharted oceans seeking a fabled island. As an encounter, a massive whale attacks the ship and starts ramming into it. (Think Moby Dick).
The always overconfident fighter announces he's drinking a potion of water breathing and jumping overboard while the rest of the party is discussing what to do about the situation. The whale swallows him and starts diving to the bottom of the ocean.
Fighter: I'll cut my way out. Shouldn't take more than a minute.
After some fun, the party finds itself, along with the surviving crew members, sitting on a small reef with nothing but ocean in every direction, trying to gather enough from the debris of the ship to make a raft.
Wizard (Looking at fighter): I really, really wish I had a wish ring. I know what I'd wish for...
You could have the prison divided into sections, each built to contain and neutralize a specific type.
The Wet Wing: a section where it's always damp, to contain fire based creatures, with guards immune to fire
The Silent Corridor: permanent silence spells to contain creatures with sonic attacks, with guards who are deaf.
The Dark Cells: section always in darkness to contain creatures with gaze attacks, like the medusa, with blind guards who have blindsight.
The Silver Cells: Built to hold lycanthropes and devils, guards armed with silver weapons.
For more normal prisoners such as humans, special security sections:
The Wheel: A circular section with a slowly revolving inner wall containing a single opening that only lines up with each cell once per 24 hours, for maybe an hour each time. This gives time to feed the prisoner, or remove them, but could force the players to wait a long time for the cell they want to come into play.
The Aquatics: A section completely under water, with gillmen guards and/or sharks. The cells are elevated and contain air but only reachable through the water filled passages.
The Furnace: Corridor with permanent walls of fire on each side, heat side inward, with the door-less cells on the cool side. Guards are salamanders. Prisoners are brought in or out by means of energy resistance rings, fire.
Benicio Del Espada wrote:
I think this is good advice. Something simple but with lots of action. I'd add a bit of background and some roleplaying to give her a sense of why she'd go into that cave.For example:
You're the daughter of the only soldier your small village ever produced. Most everyone else is a farmer or craftsman. Your father is dead now, but while he lived he taught you how to hunt with a bow and gave you some lessons on swinging his old long sword. He even let you try on his chain shirt just to show you how it felt to go into battle in armor. Since his passing five years ago (Your mother died earlier)you've been the village hunter, and on occasion dealt with wolves that come too near the livestock.
Now something terrible has happened. First there were rumors of something moving about the old mine a few miles from town and some livestock went missing. But yesterday, a farmer didn't return who went looking for a lost cow. Today villagers found blood and his old crumpled hat beside a trail within a mile of the mine. And a footprint that was small and humanoid in the blood. They're sure whatever has moved into the cave killed him and took the body or maybe even captured him.
As the closest thing to a fighter the village has, they're asking you to do something to protect them. You've told them you'll need a little time to think about it and, while they wait, you've entered your little cottage to make up your mind. You've laid out your father's chain shirt and sword on the bed and stand staring at them. You're not a soldier like he was, but you are his daughter. And your people are begging for your help...
I began playing D&D in 1976. My group and I changed to every new addition, upgrading our characters to the new rules and moving right along. We loved the game. And we were loyal to the game, and felt it was loyal to us.
Then came a total change in D&D. Not only was 4th not the same game, but there was a feeling of being just the next guy in line to give money to an unappreciative sales clerk who wouldn't even make eye contact.
Along came Pathfinder and again there was that feel of community, of a game made and sold by people who loved the game themselves. The people of Paizo have treated players with the respect we once had from D&D. When I stand in that imaginary line to buy my Pathfinder product, the sales clerk says, "Hey, did you see the cool artwork on page 33? What do you think of the new feats in chapter five?"
Paizo makes eye contact, the way D&D once did. Why would I consider abandoning that just because the rude sales clerk now wants my input?
Sorry, WOTC, you got my input when I got out of the D&D line and moved to the Pathfinder line.
Close range is a trap. Arcane mark let's you use spell combat/spellstrike for a 0th level spell and there's so many other useful arcanas to take.
Ah, but with Close Range you can use 0 level Ray of Frost with spellstrike all day long. And with Liquid Ice as a focus you do 1d3+1 with it. If you're going to take the -2 penalty to get in two attacks with spell combat/spellstrike, why not do some damage with it? And because a crit with the weapon is also a crit with the spell, you double the Ray of Frost for 1d3+1 X 2, which is 4-8 damage.
I use a scimitar, so crits chances come up fairly often. I also took Dervish Dance so my Dex bonus is my damage bonus. At 5th level I'll get to add Keen to the scimitar from my arcane pool (Already a +1 weapon) to have a 15-20 critical threat range. Or I'll add one of the energy damage effects, as the situation demands.
I'm currently playing both classes in two campaigns, the inquisitor is level 13 and the magus 4th. So far, the magus is much more destructive in combat than the inquisitor was at this level, but the inquisitor was able to do a lot more to help the party outside of combat, including healing.
The real difference is the inquisitor can burn through his judgments very quickly at low levels, which weakens him in situations where multiple encounters are happening each day. This is really annoying when you turn on judgment because it looks like a serious fight coming only to have it over in 2 rounds. Judgments would be better if they were so-many rounds per day and not have to be used consecutively. By the mid to higher levels the inquisitor doesn't seem to suffer resource depletion too often.
My magus has never used up his entire arcane pool between rests. Your arcane pool is 1/2 level (minimum 1) + int modifier. So, assuming you at least have a +3 Int bonus, that's 4 times per day you can make your weapon magical at 1st level. By contrast, a 1-3rd level inquisitor only has 1 judgment a day.
So all in all, while both are front loaded, the magus seems to have more stamina as far as class abilities across multiple encounters at lower levels.
I went kensai on the magus and skipped bladebound. The problem with bladebound is you give up the 3rd level arcana, and you really want that to get Close Range arcana. Also, you go from 1/2 level arcane pool points to 1/3 level. And finally, even though you can expend a point from the blades pool to add +1 to the blade, it only has 1 point in it's pool initially and doesn't get a +1 bonus to it's Int until 5th level.
Is a Rogue “skimming” treasure as he finds it “Role playing” or is he stealing from his adventuring companions?
He's cheating the rest of the party members as well as the other players; he's stealing resources from the party and some of the enjoyment from the players. Pathfinder and D&D are not competitive games, they are cooperative games.
If the rogue player wants to role play his character as a pick pocket or shop lifter, let him do it against the NPCs, who after all didn't invest time and money to playing the game and won't resent him for it outside the game.
As a DM, I've always been against anything that causes people to leave the table with hard feeling towards a fellow gamer. A player in my game stole a ring from treasure and more than a decade later other players in the group still remember it. They aren't resentful of his rogue, they're resentful of the player himself because they trusted him. This game requires trust around the table. You can't see everyone's dice rolls, so you trust them to have actually rolled a "hit" when they say they did, to erase the gold off their sheet when the party all chips in to buy potions, and to see that everyone gets an equal share of the rewards for the risks they took as a party.
Put another way, I can talk to non-gamers who are nonetheless pop-culture savvy, point to Sir Lancelot, and say, "That there is a Paladin. He's real good and rides a horse and swings a sword and stuff." Nods.
Actually, Lancelot wasn't a paladin. His son, Sir Galahad, was the paladin. And for a great read on the Arthurian stories with some real grit to it read "Parsival or a Knight's Tale" by Richard Monaco.
Parsival and Galahad are two differing versions of a paladin to use as examples for RPG play; Galahad is pure by choice and Parsival by naivete.
Yeah, I thought they did a good job with it. Much better than they've pulled off with three Conan attempts now. They made Howard's version of the world seem like just the place a Solomon Kane would be needed.
Check out Howard's Solomon Kane short stories. You'll get a better feel for the Inquisitor.
Exactly how I interpret the class. I made mine along the lines of Solomon Kane, even to using a figure that looks like Kane and painting it that way. I made mine a Cheliaxian with heavy leanings towards enforcing LAW. The fun is in having him interpret Law in his own way.
His overall philosophy (which I used in my Pathfinder Chronicle story "The Politics of Hell") is, "The law cannot persuade where it cannot punish."
My gnome druid rode a giant toad throughout the Rise of the Runelords AP. For long overland journeys the party had a wagon and Hoppy (Hoppiton Webfoot III) would ride in it so as not to slow the party. I took appropriate riding skills so as to fight mounted (which was no longer used once I could wild shape into effective combat forms).
Along the way Krundalbar had a special saddle and leather armor barding made for Hoppy, as well as a colorful caparison advertising an up scale brothel the gnome convinced the party to invest in.
Reaper makes a cool figure of a druid on a giant toad, which inspired the character.
Go to Gnome on Toad.
Not to nit pick, but most vipers don't have heat sensing ability, only pit vipers do. The western world has pit vipers (rattlesnakes, cotton mouths, and copper heads). Old world vipers lack the "pits" that sense heat. Also, some of the large constricters have a more primitive heat sensing nerve system along the edge of their mouths.
I used to work with pit vipers (and other snakes) and their ability to strike at heat sources with pin point accuracy is amazing. Take a balloon that's been blown up for a little while, then blow up another one and extend both towards a rattlesnake on a stick and the snake will strike only the one with warm air in it. In absolute darkness a pit viper can strike with something like 95% accuracy.
We used to try to educate people on the dangers of messing with rattlesnakes with a garden hoe, stick, or something similar. They step up to poke the snake with the stick and are surprised when it instead strikes their foot or hand.
An odd bit of trivia but it wasn't even discovered that pit vipers had this ability until we had invented heat seeking missiles ourselves. Then someone said, "I wonder if that's why rattlesnakes are so accurate?"
I think it says something about the cleric class that there's no high level straight cleric in this thread.
I have a 16th level cleric of Mitra (before TSR defined all their gods we put together our own pantheon). He actually became too powerful and purpose-focused to play.
We played the original Judges Guild "Dark Tower", and a cleric could become very powerful in the course of that adventure. He ended up with a gem embedded in his forehead and a number of Mitra artifacts, as well as two 10th level paladins he could summon up daily (Lions of Mitra they were called). The downside was he was compelled by the embedded gem to destroy all evil he came across, and he also had trouble playing well with chaotic types.
Eventually I semi-retired him; built a temple and had him start a knightly order to roam his territory dealing out justice.
OK, now I get to expose how ancient I am. The first character I rolled up for D&D was in 1976 and it was a wizard named Thondomain. I played him (as well as other characters) through pretty much every D&D module as well as scores of original campaigns. It's a few years since I've been able to play him at all, but he's sitting at 28th level.
Having gone through every incarnation of D&D (except 4th), he's immensely powerful in spells known and magic items, not to mention sitting on around 5 million GPs. (Remember when gold was XP?) He has a rock troll for a henchman and is on friendly terms with a couple of dragons that occasionally are involved in the campaign.
Our group has a core that's played together since around 1980 and play Pathfinder now. We created an order called The Silver Band, on an island off Gradsul, Keoland. Thondomain is the head archmage, but there are 3 other PC archmages, several in the 12-16 level range, as well as high level fighters, clerics, etc. All PC's. The island and the complex there is fully mapped out, inventories of all the Silver Band has in its library and treasuries, etc.
When the Greyhawk Wars took place in the campaign world, our group took an active part, even fighting against Iuz in his territories. Also fought Loth in the Demonweb Pit and Grazzit in the Abyss. Since we never allowed our characters to become "god killer" in power, none of these powerful foes were destroyed by us, keeping us grounded in the idea that gods should always be more powerful than PCs.
Our Greyhawk campaign was very rich in detail and PC interaction and we're working now to develop our Golarion campaign the same.
If a player does something really "above and beyond" you might give them an XP bonus, but the best course is to give XP on a party basis.
Yes, the rogue disarmed the trap, but the cleric healed the party, the fighter hewed the monster, the wizard cast a useful spell, and the bard restrung his lute or something. In other words, the rogue did his job as a member of a party that works together.
Now, as Has'Kar said, if someone role played well (especially if others didn't even make an effort) it's not a bad idea to give them a bonus, and let it be known in a positive way.
An additional point, as all these real world figures are given for ancient times on Earth; people of those times didn't know those figures. The Roman Empire did a Census, and perhaps the Chinese, but most nations probably never had anywhere near the information on their populations that we have.
That lack of hard numbers allowed for the belief in many mythical lands and lost continents. It encouraged a belief that elves lived in the deeper forests or trolls underground or dragons in the mountains. In Golarion, they do!
Of course, taxes are collected and borders more or less defined, so there is at least an estimate of populations within the civilized regions. But how accurate are those tax figures and how recognizable those borders?
I personally like a fantasy world where there are vast areas of dangerous and unexplored regions even within great nations, where nobody can say with certainty how many people there are in the world, much less elves and dwarves, and where far off lands are just "that way, somewhere."
Or as Lord Dunsany once said, the most intriguing phrase in the English language is "Over the hills and far away".
1) I would rule "Yes". You have the Ride skill with "cover" as an immediate action to allow a character drop down to the side and attempt a ride check to use the mount for cover. If the AoO didn't include the rider as a target the skill would be unneeded.
2) I would say "No" on this one. The idea behind Dragged and Bullrushed not provoking is to prevent generated AoO's when it's not the character's turn. Being dragged behind a horse would fall into that.
Our group is considering starting off with the fast XP column and switching to medium or slow at set points, such as fast to level 7, then switch to one of the slower columns.
Another way to avoid feeling like your characters are zooming up in level while the rest of the world was eating breakfast is to put time jumps in between adventures.
As to that general, he might be a level 11 fighter, but he probably quit fighting individual combats some time ago, and thus quit advancing in class. It doesn't mean he shouldn't have levels in "military leader" or something that players don't get.
We take max at first level and top half of die on following levels. If you roll a 1-4 on a d8, re-roll till you get 5-8. It makes for higher HP totals as well as leveling out the HP between classes, so that a wizard, for example, is percentage-wise where he should be compared to the fighter.
Focus more on preventing damage prior to combat. Stack on buffs that up AC. Put blur on your front line fighter. Convince fighters to at least try to tumble into position rather than walk through the AoO.
Changing how the party fights, especially if they cooperate, will reduce the damage they take and allow the cleric to do something beside cast a cure spell every round.
At 4 hours a month, you'll be in RotRL a long time. We just finished it, playing 4 hours a week and it took about a year.
I would suggest Crypt of the Everflame. It's a module rather than AP. And it sounds good for your group mix.
A harmless village tradition (in which nobody has ever died and the "monsters" and traps aren't deadly) turns out to be very much a life or death struggle.
They even use one of the battle mats for the dungeon, so you can pick that up for added visual effect.
Abraham spalding wrote:
Yes, but that could quickly be abused. A character with 0 points in Acrobatics uses those consecutive 5' steps to move, at no risk, around an opponent with a high CMD to set up the flank for the rogue. Or to move past the enemy fighter so as to end up standing next to the enemy spell caster ready to do an attack of opportunity.
By the same logic, you can move 20'+ in a round, why can't you take that move in 5' steps?
The character taking his 20' of movement in 5' step increments to get around an opponent to flank without provoking an attack of opportunity or the character taking several swift actions to avoid the consequences of standard or full round actions both sound doable on the surface but would affect game balance.
That's where feats come in, to allow a way to bend core concepts without breaking them.
Halfings have built their entire existence on living among humans without drawing attention to themselves. Playing a halfling should have that at the core.
The Pathfinder gnome is far and away their best race concept, with the halfling a distant second. The rest, sadly, don't seem much different from any other D&D style campaign world.
Talk to them "in character". Have your character show interest in their's.
"So, Artavicus, I see you favor the battle axe. Is there a tale to that choice?"
Or perhaps team up with one or both when the party is in town, such as suggesting you three go replenish the party's supplies while the other's tend to something else.
I've seen that often used in our campaigns; a more experienced role player taking a reserved player along to buy supplies, check out a tavern, look for a game of chance, etc.
And lastly, be descriptive in what your character is doing. "I'm going to attempt to tumble past the troll and, as I come to my feet behind it, try to slash it behind the knees to bring it down."
Maybe some of this will encourage them to try the same.
I've used several different, unexpected intros.
One campaign I started with, "You're in the Red Drake Tavern in Gradsul, you haven't met each other yet. It's a busy night and someone shouts, 'There they are!'. Roll initiative!"
Another I began with, "You're just waking up, noticing these other people who are also waking up that are all strangers to you. You're in a circular chamber with no doors, a twenty foot ceiling, and sand for a floor. You realize that you have no weapons, armor, or other gear. And you have no idea where you are or how you got here."
Behind the screen. You take away some of the mystery when everything is right out on the table. Also, experienced players can learn a lot of information they shouldn't know if you roll everything in the open.
We had a GM/DM who didn't use the screen. His combats went like this:
GM: (Open roll a 16 on D20) What's your AC?
Everyone loses any feeling that this encounter is a challenge. Fighter power attacks rest of fight. Rogue doesn't bother to try to tumble to get a flank. Wizard doesn't cast anything because it's a pushover fight.
Wizard: I cast "flaming sphere" where the guard captain is. Reflex DC 15.
Finally the players asked the GM to start using the screen because the fights were boring when it was easy to figure out just how much or how little a challenge the encounters were.
The screen also allows fudging, which should be in every GM's arsenal.
The GM is rolling more dice per encounter than any single player, and by the odds going to roll criticals more often. And usually against the same 2-3 front line characters. On a hot dice night, the GM could kill a character who wasn't played badly.
In either example you have a player who sits out of the game at least the rest of the evening.
Lastly, it takes a lot away from the game to roll in the open, IMHO. I'd rather hear, "The battle axe swishes by your head, barely missing you." instead of see the GM roll a "5" and say, "He missed."
I was at Coastcon, in Biloxi, back in the '90s and Elmore had a table in the dealer's room. He used to be a regular at the con and I always made a point to spend some time talking with him. At this con I was sitting at his table with him and his wife. She decided to go to the mall for a little while.
Larry had art portfolios of his work he was autographing to sell, and also the D&D cards with his work on them. His wife reminded him the items were to sell for more than retail because they were autographed. I think they had a sign on the table with the prices.
During the time she was gone he sold a few of the art packs, but at the regular retail price. He didn't charge anything for the cards when he autographed them. One kid even brought a Jeff Easley card for an autograph and Elmore pointed out that it wasn't his art work and signed one of his cards and gave it to him.
We spent a couple hours discussing art, D&D, Snarfquest, TSR, etc. He was really cool with everyone, especially the kids. He probably signed over 100 autographs on everything from the art packs to D&D books to cards to Dragon magazines. All free.
When his wife returned, she looked in the money box and said something like, "I knew I should have stayed at the table. This is about what was in there when I left."
Larry said, "It's been a slow day, hon."
Several years back we had two groups playing at the local hobby store (Comic Emporium in Panama City, Florida) and both of us who were DMs happened to be running adventures around Keoland. At one point, it happened that both groups (about 7 players in each) were in the Dreadwood Forest at the same time. So we decided to come up with something to involve both.
I built a palisade at home out of cardboard, painted it up, and brought it to the hobby store. It was 4' X 4' with a few buildings inside, steps up to the ramparts, and corner towers.
We had the two parties arrive at the fort on the same night of play, just as a large humanoid force was preparing to attack it. The groups had different reasons for being there and though each had seen signs of large humanoid groups in the area, neither was aware they were going to combine into one large party to help the residents of the fort fight a battle.
We took them to the back room where the fort was set up and let them fight a full scale battle against several hundred orcs, goblins, and ogres. Casters got to expend every AoE they had on large groups of monsters, melee fighters got to take on the ogres, and the healers had to try to keep both parties plus the npc's alive. They had a great time.
It was actually a fun dungeon crawl, but extremely tough. There were three buried towers and you could go from tough fight to TPK just by going down one flight of stairs.
For example, in one section that was supposedly for around 3rd level, there was a group of trolls in plate armor behind an illusionary wall that were to ambush the party as they came down the stairs. Not hard enough? Well, there was also a fountain on that level that gave the monsters who drank from it over time +2 levels. So the trolls were not only in plate armor, they were level 8.
On another level there were, if I recall correctly, 800 invisible stalkers. (Yep, 800)
I talked for a couple hours with Dave Arneson and we discussed the original Greyhawk Castle. He said Gary's D&D group was a lot like Knights of the Dinner Table during that time and it was a matter of could the DM kill them off before they wrecked the adventure? As a DM could naturally just have the ceiling collapse and kill everyone you'd think the players had no chance, but Dave said Gary stuck to the rules and to what he had written for the encounters, which gave the players a fighting chance. And, Gygax generally included on the adventure the items or hints you needed to defeat the encounters. My players used to say about modules that Gygax wrote, "If you find a burnt out torch, keep it, because you'll probably need it later for something."
I owned a hobby store at the time (I actually opened it because of my interest in D&D). I recall a few church ladies stopping in to complain about it.
My most vivid memory, though, was a preacher who came by (possibly from the same church) to inquire on what the game was really about. I told him there was a group playing that evening and invited him to come watch. The D&D groups played in the back of the store but it wasn't closed off to other customers and the players were used to people hanging around watching.
About an hour into the session the preacher arrived and asked if it was alright for him to watch. Naturally I told him to go on back there. He spent about an hour sitting to the side watching the game, then came back up to the counter. I asked him what he thought, did it look like kids involved in Satanism?
I never got another visit from church members to complain about the game, and suspect the preacher might have had a rational talk with the members who believed the Chick Track trash.
Back stories are a way to urge players to add more to the game than "guy with sword". Without motivation, some players will, as WarEagleMage said, play the same character over and over. Or rather, play themselves over and over.
They don't have to be completely filled out, nor does everything in the backstory have to ever come out in the game.
A good player will add detail as it comes up in game; he put skill points in crafting, weapons, and at some point mentions he had an uncle who was a weapon smith. Or he doesn't.
But with a good GM, that could add to the game. "I'm looking for a crafter's mark on the sword. My uncle was a weapon smith and always put his mark on his work."
Also, as Evil Lincoln says, a backstory gives the GM an idea of what the players are interested in for the adventure.
Players expect the GM to have more depth to the game than buildings with false fronts and nameless, bland npc's. If they want a world where there really is something over the next hill, the bartender has a story to tell, and the dungeon has a history behind it, why shouldn't they put some depth into the characters they take into that world?
Bricks without straw are more easily made than imagination without memories. - Lord Dunsany
To be fair to Mok, though, Paizo has a habit of reusing certain types of encounter sets ups from AP to AP. For example, I've seen variations of this in probably a half dozen major combat encounters across three APs so far:
Mini-boss type is flying, invisible, and casting spells. Our players have begun to complain about it, suggesting the GM change it and put the guy on a balcony or behind cover or casting spells from behind an illusion just to break the pattern. It happened so often in Shackled City that even the monk started carrying a bow and a sack of flour.
You don't want to play your character using knowledge he wouldn't have, but you also don't want to play him stupid. Just because the character has never in his life been set up to take the fall for a crime someone else commited doesn't mean he should trust the smiling noble who wants you to "take this key and just check up on my country estate for me, OK? Oh, and, don't tell anyone where you're going."