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Lee Hanna's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 417 posts. No reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist.


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I started with xp, but moved away from it a few levels ago. Since I am running a lot of chunks out of order, for me it's been a matter of, "Do they need to be x level or x+1 to take on this bit", or "Can I up/down-grade the encounters here to meet their levels?"

Right now, they are levelling between sessions to 12th (I hope they will all be done by dice-on-the-table time tomorrow), and I intend to hold them there for a few sessions, before they head on to Irrovetti's palace.

pennywit wrote:

Are your players open to semi-mass combat?

I don't think so. I made some modifications to the battlefield rules, adding a map that can be maneuvered across.

I think most of the fights will be played now like suggested in Heroes of Battle, or as in Tatzylford. They do know that I reserve the right to have at least one more "real" battle, which I think will be with one or more of the Pitax Regiments and the wyverns.

IMC, the party has taken temporary control of Drelevgrad and neutralized the Tiger Lords, so we're heading out of Book 4 and into 5.

My players have signalled to me that they prefer the personal action of their PCs to fighting battles using the Mass Combat system, so I am looking for ways to play to that desire. One that I've thought of is that they might sneak up on some of Pitax's army units, and do a Pearl Harbor-style strike to take out leaders and disorganize one of the smaller armies. Like the hill giants.

I've dusted off good ol' G1, Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, and am making conversions. So far, I think I will:
- tell the players that the giants have just been raiding some human settlements, and scouts have tracked them back to this wooden fort. There are a lot of them gathered there right now, but the weather may close them in for a while (it's good to have a Winter Oracle in the party).
- swap out the "cloud giant envoys" in favor of Imeckus Stroon, since he got away from Drelevgrad by Teleport last game.
- Most of the underground map, especially the troglodyte lair, will be erased,
- I am debating replacing the bugbear slaves with humans, taken from Pitax & Drelev villages & farms.

Any suggestions?

Depends on how you interpret inheritance and succession. Off-hand, I'd say Lady Dreleva has the best claim, and if the players won't back her up, she will go to the Swordlords to seek aid in reclaiming her land. While she's at it, she may complain about the sudden offing of her late husband, without trial, by a party that had no jurisdiction over her family's lands.

How well connected are the Strogons to the other 7 noble families in your Brevoy?

If Imeckus is heading back to Pitax (I missed that he came from there?), perhaps the brother & sister could team up to bring two streams of power to town to take it over for themselves. Or they could end up fighting each other for it, too.

If the Tiger Lords are still out there, and the PCs have no logical way to find out about Armag's Tomb, then by all means, have the barbarians, now led by their transformed Twice-Born, ride into town and sack it for themselves. And then ride on the PCs kingdom (with Irrovetti's blessing).

IMC, my group just did much the same thing, but they killed both Drelev and Maray, and intend to leave Lady Dreleva in charge. She managed to convince the party that she was not at all part of their plot to seize the PCs.

A wild card may be Numesti-- Kisandra may also flee to the Swordlords, or Irrovetti, to plead for aid, since the PCs didn't help her at all, and may well have gotten her father and sister executed by inaction.

If there's only going to be one encounter per day, make it a doozy. I, too, have to deal with a tricked-out Cavalier when most encounters are outdoors.

It seems that the fights that have been memorable have featured a moderate number of "big" monsters-- Hargulka and his trolls, a batch of ogres that I swapped in for the spriggans, the hill giants at Drelevgrad. The cavalier could knock down 1 with every charge, while the rest of the party had their hands full with just two more at a time.

Another alternative is lots of mooks with strong leaders, but that doesn't seem to work too well for me-- the dice don't like my bosses.

Well, certainly the Drelevs need to be invited, as the closest neighbors. Lady D will be /dreadfully/ insulted not to be invited.

The kingdoms/houses represented at the Rushlight Games are contenders for invitations as neighbors, as are the 7 major houses named for Brevoy. The ruler of Restov, too.

Mr. Grogg's idea of a child-stealing hag could have creepy/scary implications early on, if you adopt the concept (common here) that Svetlana and Oleg are expecting. One or both of them may fear/expect the same, since they likely knew Mr. & Mrs. Nettles.

In my campaign, I'm not running in the Stolen Lands, I set up the Stag Lord & company as members of the losing faction in the last civil war in "Brevoy-equivalent". They were here to try to build up power/wear down Restov's power.

Groglodyte wrote:

When combined with the design space it provides to enthusiastic GMs, this can lead to a campaign that stretches numerous real-time years. I think it's incredibly rare, however, to find a group that will stay engaged with a single campaign over 3+ years. I think its even rarer to find a GM who can keep up her or his energy up for that long.

Moreover, in my long experience behind the screen, I've always enjoyed ending a campaign with the players wanting more instead of lingering in malaise that eventually ends the campaign and possibly breaks up the gaming group.

To that end, unless you and your group are one of the rare exceptions I mentioned above, I recommend speeding things up if you're at 2+ years and are nowhere close to the end.

1. Ditch the emphasis on exploration. After Vordakai, I don't think my players spent more than one or two sessions exploring. One player was a little bummed by this, but I think he appreciated the increased pace.


4. Cut. I took out Irovetti's tournament altogether. At that point, the players were incredibly suspicious of him and it felt cheap to launch a surprise attack they would have suspected the entire time.

I'm with you on this. I am prepping for session 30, playing monthly (almost), and while no one's lost interest, I am in fear of it happening. Our last two APs deleted the last 2+ books. As such, I am squashing books 3, 4, & 5 together, so that we can get into book 6 with momentum behind us. The war is nearly upon them, and they know it will happen.

Works for me. I got time.


These look nice, but translations from files to reality are a stumbling block for me. What would it take to get these into playable maps?

KenderKin wrote:

Look at the conversion threads at "Keep on the Borderlands", an 81 page free pdf.

With lots of fun stuff I am tempted to incorporate nearly all of it into my KM game!

Threads where?

Wow, just might do that.

My campaign has gone off the rails long ago, which is fine. In my sandbox, the rulers are going to do some exploring/excavating (with permission) in the hills beyond Drelev's turf. I think he should want to accompany them.

Has anyone done some role-playing with Lord Drelev? Any suggestions how to play to his strengths?

Something else I should have mentioned earlier: make a calendar. I made a simple one in Excel, 7 columns by 12 lines. The columns are labelled:
- Time (month of the year)
- PC activities (what they're up to)
- Events (random events to their realm, or other things)
- Regional events (what the neighboring lands, like Brevoy or Pitax, are up to)
- Local events (what the 'lesser' neighbors are up to, like Restov, Varn, Stag Lord, or Drelev)
- NPC actions (non-realm NPCs, like Grigori or some of the fey)
- Secret NPC actions (ditto, but by separating them I'm less likely to blab)

Twelve lines work for twelve months/kingdom turns in a year. I like to roll kingdom events that far out, so I can better weave a story around some of them.

I print off these at least a year ahead of the players, so I can think about how their actions will trigger NPC activity, and where plots or encounters might work out.

I use the same format for non-kingdom adventures, changing the Time column to days, and Events to Weather. I can then guesstimate how many hexes the group will be moving, and roll up random encounters and think about what conditions will be like. Twelve lines on two sides is roughly a 3-week expedition, a lot of my group's explorations in Books 1 & 2 lasted about that long.

The above have your answers.

An additional note: be aware that armies smaller than Large are really fragile. Since the attack rolls are d20-based and the result is army hp lost, a high or even a moderate roll can wipe out an army in one shot. Good for getting battles over with quickly, not good if you've invested in it and your kingdom is taking stat hits for dead armies.

I'd suggest reducing the die size if all the armies involved are not at least Large.

Updating mine. We're at the end of Book 3, with some heavy mashups between 3 & 4. All are level 10, the realm is size 80.

-Yulianna Lodovka, Rogue. Now elevated from Baroness to Countess, she rules from Tuskwater Keep (Stag Lord's old place). Her mother was an explorer, and mysteriously disappeared in the Stolen Lands when she was small. She is married to Mikhail Papanovich, oldest son of a merchant house, with 2 small children.
- Viktor Kurganyev, Cavalier, Warden. His older brother, Anatoli, (replaced Akiros), is the General.
- Jana, Ranger (guide). Our group's mapper and Councilor, she's married to Garan Petrov, the Treasurer, and they have an infant son.
- Petra, Oracle with a white wolf as a companion, Magister.
- Vriska, Barbarian. She had been the Royal Enforcer, but once Varn's land opened up, she asked to be named Baroness there, as a vassal to Yulianna.

Two reasons I can see to keep a standing army: One is that new armies have Morale +0, and units that have won battles may increase their Morale and add Tactics. So, veteran/standing units are more capable than green ones.
Second is the limit to how many can be raised per month, as mentioned above. If you need lots of armies, you'd better start early.

Ultimate Rulership (Legendary Games) adds rules for population, and caps army size based on that (and that can be altered by edicts).

Ultimate Campaign also allows armies to be put in reserve, taking less Consumption per month. This is very popular with my players.

All of the above!

Make NPC cards: I think players connect better to NPCs if they can see faces. I use a lot of the images in the AP, as well as some images pulled off the internet, placing them on 4x6" cards.

I wanted to get more politics, so I put some effort into naming and filling out neighboring noble houses who are off the map-edge or in Brevoy.

Yeah, druid supporting undead bandits sounds like a winner. They could fade into the forest to raid some more. This could be a time/place to introduce Drelev or the people who live in Nivatka's Crossing, if the bandits try to raid there once or twice.

They could take the ruins of Candlemere as their new base, or the King's fort on the highway.

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Last Saturday's game featured the final half of Armag's tomb. During the fight with the skeletal champions, some were up on the ledge, shooting down at the PCs. When the PC barbarian jumped & climbed up the wall, she faced down one of the skeletons while standing next to the edge. The skeleton attempted to Bull Rush her back off the ledge... and rolled a 1.
"He lunges out you with outstretched arms, but his shove falls short. He looks embarrassed, and lamely attempts to impress you with Jazz Hands."

Cue the Achmed the Dead Terrorist quotes. "I keel you!"

Lee Hanna wrote:

IMC (not Golarion), I am planning to have Irovetti and his bard win over Drelev, and convince him that I. is going to be the winner of a big war vs. Brevoy. My party has been pretty successful at diplomacy with Drelev so far, so he's going to invite them to his castle, and make them an Offer They Can't Refuse. Of course, I fully expect combat to break out instead....

I've already run the Rushlight Tournament, but I held it at Ft. Drelev-- the whole tournament thing being something that Ivar's brought back from some foreign land.

It just occurred to me, reading these posts again, that since I've already done the Tournament once, is do it again. It's at/after the second tournament (4 or 5 years later?) that Irrovetti, via Drelev and Lady Maray, will make his "offer you can't refuse" to the players and other local nobles, who will have all gathered at his castle, without armies, when the hill giants move in.

I'm very curious about this one. I'm a WW2 buff, I've read a little about the Night Witches. I ran a WW1 RPG campaign 2 years back, and it was a little unsatisfying; I am curious how the *World ruleset can handle an air mission.

Re: passage of time-- I let them know at the end of a book that time will skipped. I let them know that they have time for politics, diplomacy, crafting, family/dynasty building. Sometimes something might come up as a result of their plans that could be an adventure session.

A partial game report, no player fatalities.

Last night, we played session 25 of my game, set in the world of Birthright, so the names and places have been changed from the Kingmaker AP. I'm a mishmash of Books 3 and 4, so that Armag's Tomb is where Vordekai's lair is, Varn is the guy turning into Armag, and Vordekai got taken out a few sessions ago. Varn dragged the missing citizens of Varnhold off into the mountains to dig out the tomb.

Where it started to get strange: Our oracle, while investigating the Oculus, consulted with her immortal patron, who is Lawful Evil. She had no objection to the use of the eye, and the oracle was already (partly) blinded by her class. So, she accepted her fate and popped it in.

Not so strange: The party led their army into Varn's land, and we set up for a battle using the mass combat rules from Ultimate Campaign. We had played with these once before, against Hargulka's troll kingdom, and some players didn't like them at all-- with Small and Medium armies, it was too easy to one-shot-kill a whole army. Which happened to 2/3 of the realm's armies. This time, we built up so that all of the units were Medium or Large. Once I laid out the armies (I made a card for each unit, so that all could perhaps visualize who was fighting whom), then it got weird.

Strange: the player who most strongly objected to the system, did it because there is no visible tactical maneuver: the cards don't move around to fight. I thought this strange, since he'd objected (years ago when he was DM) to my trying to use tactics in a game. A debate broke out, and we decided to not play this out as a battle. It will be played out, just for fun and education, at some later time. BTW, a 10th-level barbarian looks like she should carve her way through a Large army of warrior-1s all by herself.

More strange: the night before the battle, our Oracle walked out of camp, near to the enemy camp, and used the haunting call effect of the Oculus to "Don't trust the priests" among Armag's army. I ruled that this would disrupt the loyalties and combat effectiveness of Varn's/Armag's armies enough that they fought poorly the next day, and were quickly overwhelmed by the PCs and their armies.

We went on to play into half of the Armag's Tomb dungeon, suspending the game with the golem's defeat.

As Pennywit says, after RRR, the exploration fades, as most of the hexes seem to be claimed by someone else, and can be claimed by defeating one's enemies.

And I echo captain yesterday, doing the kingdom turns away from the table works very well. At least for my group, as I only have one player who cares about that at all.

I do like your idea of getting them to meet Varn and hammer out boundaries. Any element of diplomacy and meeting the neighbors is a good idea in my book. Get them to meet with Drelev, while you're at it, let them form some impressions of him. Introduce some of the other nearby nobles, so that when they pop in for quests, it doesn't seem so contrived.

pennywit wrote:
I'm playing with the concept, and I'm beginning to like the idea of Book 4 as a cold war between Irovetti and my players. I'm not sure, precisely, how to engineer that, but I like the idea that Irovetti and my players are in a battle of wits and diplomacy before warming up to the Rushlight Tournament in book 5.

IMC (not Golarion), I am planning to have Irovetti and his bard win over Drelev, and convince him that they I. is going to be the winner of a big war vs. Brevoy. My party has been pretty successful at diplomacy with Drelev so far, so he's going to invite them to his castle, and make them an Offer They Can't Refuse. Of course, I fully expect combat to break out instead....

I've already run the Rushlight Tournament, but I held it at Ft. Drelev-- the whole tournament thing being something that Ivar's brought back from some foreign land.

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This last is funny, considering I just finished reading a biography, one of the subject's political mantras was that "the best social program is a job".

Circulate rumors about the wonders of the Rushlight Tournament beforehand, especially if it's an annual event.

If Irrovetti is popping by to meet the neighbors, have him relay some impressions of the Drelevs, too.

Irrovetti, as spelled, needs to have an over-the-top Italian accent, IMO. Pitax seems like a northern Italian pre-Renaissance city to me.

FWIW, my group is near the end of Book 3, too, maybe 3 sessions to wrap it up?

In the Shackled City Ap, our group incorporated as Elite Recovery, since the early missions focussed on bringing people back to the city. My urban druid PC even took some levels in a bounty-hunter PrC (Bloodhound?) to help us out.

Wow, I wish I'd started off like that!

Like something involving the fey couldn't be "wrong"?

One of my PCs has a fey-like missing mother as well, my urge has been to swap her with Evindra, but I don't think I can pull the trigger on that. I may instead have her remains be among those in Armag's tomb.

Yes, yes: applause.


True, perhaps Kurrg or one of the leaders of the armies in Pitax.

Armag could reappear in place of Pitax's barbarian hero, Villamor Koth, either at the Tournament or in the castle or on the battlefield.

I think someone earlier was in the same boat, they let the players hear the "tame" owlbear, amid other signs of bandit power.

Like seeing another bandit-hunting group get shot down by the archers while being swarmed by the zombie minefield.

Sounds like a good plan to me, except for the 10-15 years part. It may be just me, but I would go for sooner than that.

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Long time ago (the 90s), I was running a Birthright campaign. Player A brought in a human fighter with a bloodline, father unknown. Player B and I were talking one night about this, and noticed that Character A's bloodline was exactly half of Character B's, which meant it was possible that Character A could be the son of B (half-elf), and their ages were appropriate, too. He and I agreed to keep this a secret. We even joked among the rest of the group about revealing Character B's also-unknown father in a Darth Vader-style reveal.

Sooner or later, the group meets a dryad who'e been living in this area for a long time, and she agrees to answer some Questions. Character A asks, "Who is my father, and where is he?"
"Why don't you ask him, he's standing right next to him?"

The look on A's face? Priceless. "N-No. Just... no."

I'd go with the above.

I sit corrected, then.

Krensky wrote:

Its from cyberpunk, where it referred to the typical protagonist as a marginalised malcontent, misfit, or both. The low life part of high tech lowlifes.


It doesn't quite so much apply directly to cyberpunk as it was more a tongue in cheek description made up by K.W. Jeeter to describe his and some other works that had thematic similarities to the cyberpunk of the time but were set in a Victorian milieu and emulated the scientific romance conventions more so than cyberpunk's near future one and hard bitten detective and film noir stylings.

I'd understood that "steampunk" was coined as a joke. Some early Victorian science fiction things (with no punk themes in them at all) didn't sell well in the early '90s, and someone looked at the success of cyberpunk at the time, so the line was, "Well, if we called it steampunk, maybe it would sell."

I heard that from Frank Chadwick, creator of Space:1889, which called itself a "Victorian scientific romance" RPG/boardgame/miniatures game setting. The game dates to 1988-89, so it predates steampunk by a fair bit. It was heavily influenced by Verne, Burroughs, Doyle, and other late 19th-century writers, as well as the films that derived from those works. I loved (and continue to love) S:1889 as a setting, but the more recent development of steampunk doesn't light my boiler. Several other fans of the setting say they prefer the label "steampulp" for its more optimistic or romantic tones, and I agree.

As for the OP's problem with super-powerful technology, that's one of the things that turn me off of the genre, as well.

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I used a spreadsheet to make a quick one-page calendar. 12 lines, 7 columns. Each line can be a month on a yearly calendar or a day on a daily calendar, I use both. The columns are labelled:
Time (day or month)
PC actions
local events
regional events
NPC actions
secret NPC actions

I use a page for most game sessions, each line is a day, and the Time column is also used for weather. I use it to track when random encounters are expected (I roll them up in advance), where the PCs are or are expected to be, what's going on in the area around them, and so on. The NPC actions and events sections allow me to introduce background things that may or may not affect the game (NPC #55 returns to town, a freak tornado levels some trees by the lake, the King of Oobilax is visiting his neighbor Snorkia, etc.), and some of them might not be revealed.

I use the same blank template for a calendar year in my Kingmaker campaign, again planning out random events and news items.

Confirmed, the oracle only added Restoration to her repertoire this session. Now that we are aware of that, the barb. can get "fixed."

No one had Restoration available, or we missed that somehow. I think the oracle only added it to her list this session.

My group went into Vordakai's tomb today. They include 3 9th level PCs, 1 7th, 1 8th, a winter-wolf companion and one 6th and two 7th level cohorts. I was kinda worried that the piscodaemon in W14 would kill a PC, especially the 7th level barbarian (already killed her once, thus the lower level). As their only rogue does not have trapfinding, I was afraid the trapped room in W10 would be a TPK.


When they did trigger the trap, the one-turn delay meant most of them made it to the north portcullis before anything bad really happened, and then the oracle cast Wall of Ice at the entrance to the room, keeping the rapidly-filling water away from them. Plenty of time to escape.

Then, when facing down the piscodaemon, she cast Ice Slick under the beastie, so of course he rolled a 1 on his Acrobatics check to stay upright, blew the Concentration check to cast defensively, and died to a mess of AoOs. This is also how Vesket bought the farm, by the way. The oracle is becoming an occasional party-saver for them.

Once again, not a PC for me.

The piscodaemon in V's tomb is kinda wimpy when both front-line fighters facing him are protected by Freedom of Action (spell and ring), and then he blows his Acrobatics roll against the Ice Slick spell (see above: Vesket) and then can't roll to cast defensively his stinking cloud to cover his retreat.

There was a contender for the Roman throne named Maximus Thrax; I've been wanting to use that for years.

StrangePackage wrote:
Don't you feel sorry for any commoner in a tavern with the average pompous, violent clowns in any given "adventuring" group?

Sal's used to be a nice quiet tavern until the murderhobos showed up.

IMC, the players have started diplomatic overtures towards Drelev, playing up that they started (early) clearing the bogs but not claiming hexes. It seems to be working pretty well, at least they think so (They think Lady Maray is working for them).

I'm musing about having Drelev invite them to his castle for an important meeting (read: an offer they can't refuse), which will turn into an attempt at an ambush. You all can guess how that will go over with PCs, right?

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While at the Rushlight Tournament (run early IMC), some of the council members split up to make friends with their neighbors-- I ran these as similar to the Diplomatic Edicts in Ultimate Campaign.

Their Grand Diplomat, Lily Teskertin, went to see Varn. Varn had already approached them about building a connecting road through the pass, as the PCs had a road and new village only 2 hexes away. It should have been a slam-dunk to set up an Embassy agreement here. One of the players picked up the die, I told her the modifiers, but not the (really low) DC. Lily rolled a 1.

"What could a charming teenage girl have said to an old bachelor warrior that could have gone so wrong?"
"I guess we learned something about why Lord Varn's still unmarried?"

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