Players talked about it for several minutes before even asking what was in the treasure pile. Always a nice touch when a bad guy battle lives up to the hype.
Player who dealt the final hit said her hands were shaking the last few rolls when it was just her, and everyone was leaned in and hunched over every time I rolled an attack on table or she swung the bone club. Players called it the most epic battle they've had; archer used all his arrows, cleric used all his prepared spells, and wizard was down to wands.
When Vordakai came back in without a scratch on him, a lot of groans, but they were expecting it and figured he wouldn't abandon his treasure and throne room so easily.
A good day.
Had to share, longest combat I've ever run in Pathfinder.
Caution: spoilers for players ahead
Party was 8th level - inquisitor, cleric, archer fighter, wizard - when they met Vordakai. Spells and abilities were half gone. This one took 40 rounds and over 3 hours of real-time, and it came down to a tense back-and-forth, resulting in the inquistor, last person standing, beating in the skull of Vordakai with a bone club from his own throne.
Early going: The plan was simple, figuring Vordakai was a caster thanks to catching him scrying, the party would use Silence on an arrow and take away his spells. However, the silence arrow was botched when Vordakai dominated the archer fighter, who shot his ally and spent most of the battle fighting for the enemy with 3 arrows a turn. Seemed destined for a wipe, but I can be surprised.
The wizard shut down the fighter with "mad monkeys" (a swarm), as the fighter couldn't make a save to save his life this day. A few clerical searing lights and magic missiles (once the shield was dispelled) and things looked good early on, but Vordakai had some nasty attacks. When Vordakai managed to close ranks and paralyze 3/4 of the players, leaving only the archer (who finally, finally rolled a natural 20 to break the domination), things looked dire.
At this point, I figured the party needed a desperate break, and a reward for having brought Xamanthe, the chief's daughter, this far. She had been digging in Vordakai's treasure pile after finding her flail (which could be used to overcome Vordakai's DR), and since the party missed (in the adventure as written) a really-essential Ring of Freedom of Movement, I ruled she spent 5 rounds finding it as part of the equipment she originally came in with. Vordakai's DC on the paralysis was just insanely high to not have this item in play.
Xamanthe put the ring on the paralyzed inquisitor, who used the last of her "bane" to unleash some lucky, well-timed, and high damage hits, enough to convince Vordakai to flee and heal himself. The ring unparalyzed everyone, and the party healed itself as Vordakai did the same. By this time, we were nearing the 22 round mark, and all 120 damage done by the players was about to be erased.
When he returned around 8 rounds later, the party was all over him, flanking and fighting on and around his bone throne. The inquisitor player asked if she could make improvised weapons from his throne, and I agreed. She then used a "judgment" to make her bone club magical to overcome his blunt DR while another player used Xamanthe's flail. I ruled on max damage or a crit, the bone would shatter (and it did, twice, resulting in her taking an attack of opportunity to break off a new one).
Still, Vordakai's paralysis is nasty. By round 33, he had used up all his spells of consequence, and he proceeded to paralyze the cleric, wizard, and then fighter. This left the inquisitor one-on-one, with no healing, nothing but her judgments, faith, and a lot of luck. Fighting on the throne bench, she swung bones from Vordakai's own throne at him. If he weren't so irritated with her, he declared earlier upon seeing it, he would be amused.
The last few rounds were telling. [note: I roll above table, so no GM fudging dice on this one...there were intakes of breath on each roll]. The inquisitor player had used up her "bane" ability, so it was purely a desperate beatdown with an improvised weapon. The club broke on a hit; she retrieved a new one. Round 38, she had 9 hit points left and no healing; Vordakai had 4 hit points but wouldn't risk a full-round action to heal himself. Whoever hit next wins. At this point, he hit on a 9 or better, she hit on a 12 or better. Round 38 comes and goes, no one connects. Round 39, a very tense exchange, but the battle would not end.
Round 40, I (the GM) roll an 8, just barely missing, as if somehow Vordakai saw his doom coming. Round 40, she swings twice, and with one lucky strike...the bone hits for maximum damage, breaks atop his skull, and the lich wizard falls, beaten into dust by his own macabre throne.
Irony, for sure, and helluva a battle.
Just started running the Surtovan marriage proposal. Fits perfectly, had to stop our session mid-dinner.
Thus far, my sharp party has gathered that letting Issians (per the Surtovan family) gain foothold in Varnhold would likely spark the civil war between great houses. Nicolai has as much told them he'd need to send troops to secure his wife's holdings, protect against the centaurs, and subjugate the dangerous surroundings. Given that the Swordlords and the Rostland side would be "flanked," they'd have no choice but to try and oust the Issians. The party's kingdom to the west and Varnhold would become the site of a bloody civil war. As much as the marriage may seem foppish and Nicolai a "nobody," it's a major political event for us. To complicate matters, the party's recently "raised" Duke (killed in action earlier) is a Surtovan bastard. He has abdicated his position, coincidentally easing tensions as to our kingdom's loyalties in the eyes of the Swordlords.
The Daughter is willing to go along with any plan, other than breaking her Oath, that keeps the kingdom out of foreign hands. She's young but her father educated her well.
My party's proposal (they aren't going with tact, after making sure Nicolai was reminded he's a bastard) was to tell Nicolai that Maegar Varn (deceased) married one of the players (the marriage was arranged but Varn vanished before it was official). Nicolai countered by saying the wife would be bound by Varn's contract and be obligated to enforce it, so they went with Plan B (in Dude's possible endings) to say the two arranged for the daughter to marry another player and it trumps the contract. As we paused, they are using a magical Sending to have Oleg work on forging a contract. As much as it's deceitful, our lawful players realize a civil war on their lands is the alternative should they fail.
My players have been emailing and calling me after this one, so excellent ideas Dude.
On a side, they really didn't play out setting up the dinner or "training" the staff. Rather, they made Nicolai wait (delayed) while they figured out why he was there and what it really meant. Dinner was terrible, as Nicolai has pointed out. It has also never crossed their minds to search his stuff or follow his guards, though my hints have opened the door to such avenues. Just depends on the player types I suppose.
Not enough thanks for your modifications Dude. They've taken our campaign from good to amazing.
My campaign has a daughter of Maegar, and this addition rocks. Can't wait to see how it plays out!
Have you modified the opening encounter at Tatzleford (or whatever town works) for a more dynamic mass combat? I suppose it's "easing" everyone into it with a simple setup, but would like to wow them.
It'd be a perfect springboard to Kingmaker's mass combat rules if your DM is willing to use those. If not, other players may not appreciate having to wait for you to manage the retinue at the table, so do as much off table as possible. Taking ranks in Profession: Soldier would make sense.
If he's a Patton, he may just issue orders and appoint capable people to carry them out rather than personally lead each charge. It may open up story hooks from time to time (e.g 2nd company came across a buried obelisk with runes on the outline of a door that has no handle).
When I allowed leadership, a PC brought his 6 dwarf retainers (with him making the 7th dwarf, you can imagine a few chuckles). They were low-key, setting up camp, carrying gear, playing cards and brewing beer. They went into dungeons and generally once a beachhead was established would stay in a secure area if possible till the party scouted ahead. They didn't hog the spotlight nor take up any extra game table time.
On the other hand, if all players are into the idea, it could be a group project.
I don't have issue with this, only to point out that respect works both ways. and that a GM is due some amount of deference given the work he or she is doing so that players can have their fun.
Agreed, players who routinely show up late, who are constantly unprepared, who don't bother paying attention, or who intentionally undermine story plots are abusing their "player fiat" to "game as I see fit" rather than remembering it's a group game. Everyone should go home having said they had a good time that day, even the GM.
Jeff Clem wrote:
Would a Summoner Synthesist that has the Eidolons evolution incorporeal by pass DR then?
Negative, while they may pass through armor, being incorporeal doesn't resolve damage reduction, which lies in something other than armor. Your incorporeal form will easily hit a golem (for example), ignoring its natural armor, but without a STR bonus or the right type of weapon, likely do no harm because of the heavy enchantments that created it and made its core more than just metal. However, delivering touch spells while incorporeal...that can get nasty on certain foes as the spectre demonstrates.
A GM first and foremost serves the players. He invests hours of preparation in the spirit of comraderie, knowing that players take hours of their time to be at this particular gaming table, time that may be precious due to busy work schedules, school, and family. His pleasure derives from the player's enjoyment of the game. His "right" to run the game as he pleases is derived from the expectation of his friends around the table in having a good time. Abusing that right insults those around him and the investment they have made that day. If the question is being asked by players whether the GM should have absolute authority, it likely derives from a breach in trust and expectation. A good GM will listen. A poor GM will find himself rolling the dice alone.
A GM's authority: Should be absolute in areas of game world, what character types allowed, what feats and items allowed, reactions of NPCs, in-game rules calls, and occasional dice-fudging to make the game interesting. Players should be consulted in advance if the particular game setting or any rule changes are ones they would like to try.
A GM's authority should not: Interfere in how a player runs his character, favor one player over another, force someone to make choices the GM prefers, alter the rules without notice to players, ignore rules that the players rely upon (unless there's a plot reason for such), or in any way diminish the fun of the entire group.
Don't ban wands; they allow clerics to do something besides heal in combat. Plus, why the stigma against healthy characters? If the party has the resources they are entitled to use them. Depending on the combat, wands can be run through fairly quickly, but they're leaps and bounds better than trying to buy potions.
I would treat the daemon more like a trap and allot CR for either "solving" it or slaying it. Given that the "summons" is via artifact, has a duration that exceeds most normal summons, and not a part of any battle with Vordakai, it stands by itself for XP grants.
James Jacobs in an old thread on summons and XP discussed using GM sense to allot XP when summons are used in atypical ways outside of a combat. His example was a vrock summoning another vrock to attack the party each day while staying out of battle itself. Would grant XP as it's really a challenge separate from combat with the summoner. In combat, when the summoner can be targeted, would make sense to not grant extra XP.
Name: Duke Rousek
Third death in this accursed tomb thus far (one may be permanent, another character was revived, and a third is obscure as his real-life player is having a child and has to break for a bit), though it's hard to tell a party at 8th level they shouldn't enter the Tomb to discover the fate of Varnhold. Kind of the entire adventure premise, eh? With that said, Vordakai has 3 Soul Eaters in his employ each set individually to assassinate a party member that he's scouted with his familiar. Despite having faced one, the party had no real clue how dangerous these things were until two ambushed them in the Tomb. Two failed saves and the 10 Wisdom Cavalier was downed with 0 Wisdom. Despite best efforts from another party member, the cavalier's soul was ripped (but not eaten forever).
Now the party has a dilemma. Using suggestions from Dudemeister's modifications, the party previously had met a "spirit of air" called Kizabubwa, a massive black-feathered roc living atop Talon's Peak. After having a vision in the tower of a time when elves made war with the cyclopses long ago, and how the ancient centaur tribes were driven to war upon the cyclopses empire, the cavalier opted to be "tested" by the spirit. He failed the test but survived. Kizakubwa declared his spirit forfeit to the land, that when he should die, his spirit could not be raised lest he draw the wrath of Kizakubwa upon him (and whatever kingdom would shelter him). [Note: heavily mysticized the Heights and fleshed out centaur culture, made "nomen" a derogatory name humans gave the centaurs].
Curious to see how this plays out as the Duke's wife back home is expecting him back and the party has a Raise Dead scroll....
But this will wait as the group has, in the meanwhile, stashed the body and penetrated Vordakai's inner tomb. Likely we'll see more names here, but may the dice fall kindly!
My two cents: sounds like the campaign is getting to be a drag for everyone, especially since the core (kingdom building) is boring to your players. I'd hang it up, start something new, and consider ensuring players use a 15-pt build, which is what APs are designed for, and you make decisions on how to handle crafting in advance to avoid abuse.
As an aside, we're in Book 3 of Kingmaker with 4-5 players in any given session, and there's been 4 permanent party deaths already with several others avoided by judicious use of hero points. From time to time I toss a random encounter at night, and players don't exhaust all their powers in one battle just for the risk.
Ancient Chitzen Itza had an observatory in the city, and there's one on Talon Peak (ruined) in Varnhold Vanishing. As for benefits, figure +2 Loyalty as a testament to investment in advanced science and culture, and maybe a building bonus to spells like Augury, Divination, or attempts to foretell the future cast within the improvement. Cost might be more around the 40-50 range.
We use 15-point builds in a fairly challenging adventure path (Kingmaker), and I find Hero Points a must to keep the tally of character deaths down.
However, hoarding and tracking points can be a pain, so we use a simplified variant of Hero Points. As my players do put time and effort into characters, I want to give them a chance when the dice just don't fall their way, though there have been times it just won't matter.
Variant: 1 use of a Hero Point at each level (can't hoard, use it or lose it each level). Can use the "avoid death" option or force an immediate reroll.
Time when it worked: PC got critted by a nasty heavy axe swing, players thought with all the blood she was decapitated. However, by use of the hero point, she was badly cut and on death's door, but still breathing.
Time when it didn't work: PC got grappled by a chuul and failed his paralysis save while separated from party. Use a Hero Point to reroll and made his save. However, next round, hit again and failed. Character died soon thereafter.
Every battle need not be a "close call." With some folks going down during the "final encounter," it sounds like the whole dungeon provided a decent challenge. Also sounds like your players had fun (funny RP moments, etc.)
CR also may depend on how many build points you gave. For example, with 20pt builds and a smart (optimizing) party, I always assume a +1 CR.
The only difference between SLA and regular spells is that they cannot be counterspelled or be used to counterspell.
Nastiness I've used with teleporting devils: horned devil with lava pits in cave, fights from pits using reach and spells or teleports into them to regenerate a bit in peace and quiet; pit fiend (older edition but same idea) in a building it knew well, hit and run teleporting, never letting the party rest and regenerating if needed.
A highly intelligent devil or demon should be played as nasty as possible, so if they teleport away to regenerate, then (assuming they have intel on the party) pop back in to drop a spell or an attack, that's smart combat. They can play that game all day, and the party has to rest eventually.
If you look at the worst of them, the Pit Fiend can "scry" his enemies, eventually succeeding, and teleport in from a distance, get surprise, throw a "quickened" fireball and teleport away.
A bearded devil (Int 6), however, might only see the teleport as an advantage to close ranks rather than hit-and-run.
If the party is having a rough time of it, consider the arrogance of the outsider. After all, I doubt the demons respect mortals and wouldn't contemplate the need to retreat early on, giving the party a chance to slay the creature. Or, if they're summoned, they may be tasked and unable to fulfill that task by fleeing.
Only popped the tarrasque in twice for 2nd edition adventures. First was part of a module where the tarrasque was ravaging a village; in order to achieve the greater good (one of those moral dilemmas) party had to let it be and finish their quest. Second group entirely sought it out purposefully to end its threat to the world but didn't have a Wish in hand to finish the deed.
No clue how it would look in Pathfinder, doubt my players want to find out.
Also recall a 2nd edition dragonlance adventure, which was beyond ridiculous, wherein a tarrasque was waiting in a large closet for whoever opened the door. Same adventure also had notes that BBEG will float in, cast spells on party, but can't be hurt... If that crap can get published... Anyhoo, off topic.
Can imagine the player getting a bit frustrated if others are telling him how he has to roleplay his character, but if he has issues about his boundaries, to keep his powers, can he consult with someone from his church? You could drop hints of GM wisdom that way.
Perhaps he should know a balance of good and evil must exist, that the paladin is a counterbalance to evil but that doesn't mean he has license to murder those who have done no wrong other than "ping" on his radar. It is a tool to protect the weak, the helpless, to allow the paladin to be a force of justice when the time comes and to unmask darkness and deceit when it moves to harm others. But slaying everyone who 'pings?' The paladin should examine his personal code and question whether his diety really advocates this use of his power.
Having run kingmaker to 8th lvl thus far, that's got to be a home-brewed encounter and unbalanced for your levels. I'd surmise a CR8 or 9, which should be lethal for 4th level PCs. Anyways, beyond this unbalanced encounter, folks should be playing smart enough that healing in combat should be a rarer event than it seems to be now. As noted, a rogue crossbow wielder isn't going to help much, and since a good offense beats a good healing defense, things need to adjust. Went through a similar learning curve with a new player in our group who tried the ranged rogue and wasn't contributing to combat.
Also, no magic items at 4th? Ouch.
Name: Grand Diplomat Valister
Vordakai's tomb hosts a very nasty trap whereby a room seals and begins to flood while two cyclops zombies and a giant eel drop in. The party had no water breathing and only brute strength to try and lift the porcullis leading out (at a DC 25). Valister was on the wrong side of the room, near the zombies, and with some terribly lucky GM rolls, went down and dying to zombie axes while trying to escape. Two players managed to get the portcullis up in 4 feet of water while a third went back to rescue Valister. The third player risked life and limb and zombie axes to grab Valister's body, but wading in 4' deep water hampered him too much. He couldn't defend himself as zombie chops rained down. Facing two zombies and drowning, the other two players had no choice but to release the portcullis and flee...
Name: Spymaster Svany
Gory Details: See above. Perished trying to save his companion.
Using Dude's ideas for joining with the Nomen (I gave them a more tribal name and am using swahili for exotic feel, Nomen is just silly), here's what we've gotten through so far, things I like and would do differently:
- Heavy hints at Varnhold's fort about centaurs being in conflict spurred my party to seek them out for answers. Once they understood the centaurs more, they even buried the hides at the tanners.
- Encounter with centaurs on border, Diplomacy too high for this group to break ground, so I let slip the centaurs wanted what was stolen from them, and the thieves would know. Centaurs believe humans ("two legs", "hooomans") stole Skybolt. This party didn't know what they wanted until they consulted a sage on centaur customs (sacred items would be practical, for survival, yet ornate). Played the centaurs with american indian flair. Rather than jewelry, tattoos are main decoration.
- Had to do away with flat Diplomacy check and did a roleplay encounter once Skybolt returned as players weren't making the high roll.
- First night, before speaking with party, Aecora did a ritual in Sylvan about her people's ancient herds whose hooves shook the land like thunder, splitting and coming to these lands, followed by ritual words after each major point from the crowd. Finishes with reference to keeping watch over the evil in these lands, "ever watchful" being the proper reply. Party had a helm to comprehend languages, so felt they were privy to a rare and special event.
- Kankerata Run = excellent idea. Aecora suggests younger generation only knows humanoids as warbringers, would symbolize their effort to understand. Spirit of Earth Kankerata was sacred, so any efforts to harm would be viewed as sacrilege. No equipment allowed, though armor and clothes could be worn to protect "thin skins."
In retrospect, I should have read "chase" rules better as I wasn't sure where folks ended up when they achieved both tasks. Some tasks were near impossible (getting by Kankerata) for those without skill ranks. Should have used a "take a 20" option to spend 2 turns to get past a spot. Still, made for a good challenge, and only by the narrowest of margins did the centaur war-chief Danide beat out one of our PCs who took everyone by surprise. Limited Kankerata's hits to 1x per encounter area due to failure rate on some checks.
- Aecora iterated only by understanding their people would the party understand the evil they guard. Took a few weeks of "diplomacy" checks by players to join rituals, become more in tune with centaurs.
- Aecora tasked party with visiting and understanding symbolism of their sacred sites once next level of trust reached (the graveyard, linnorn bones, whispering grotto, talon peak).
We're paused at Talon Peak. Centaurs can't climb well, so they revere the aerie. Haven't decided how to play it out, considering the following:
Small peak, Kizakubwa (the roc) will give egg and insight if party can ride her (per Dude's mods). Shortest encounter.
Tall peak, climb rules, roc as above. Medium encounter, thrill of a mountain climb.
That Tower leads to dream-world of the elves who inhabited the lands long ago, trapped in a nightmare and unable to have final rest. Drawing inspiration from Dragonlance dreamweave from 1st edition. In that, party entered complex spell that kept elven lands in a nightmare, partially real and some illusion. There were 5 encounter paths and 5 versions of the player, 4 illusory and one real. It was possible up to the last encounter the player never figures out which is real, but if he did, the illusory ones could work to keep the real PC alive. Given the complexity of characters now as compared to yesteryear, was thinking of having the PCs inhabit randomly assigned unique elves to keep the rules simpler. Was thinking this was all a complex spell by Vordekai at the height of his power that did away with elves in these lands long ago.
Anyhow, adding a lot of mysticism to the Dunsward area, and the players love it. Dudemeister's inspirations to build trust has really expanded this module into the awesome range of play for us.
You've got to invest interest in the "hook" for your players, and I'm taking that they're challenging you on this. After all, they didn't sign up to chase undead for some "box" that has no meaning to them. I don't know your plot, but maybe have others in the region hurt/killed by undead as they systematically retrieve anything that resembles a golden box. Fights break out, accusations are made. Eventually, folks will clamor for something to be done. The sheriff is in over his/her head. Heroes are needed...
Make the world reactive. If the PCs take or don't take actions, the world around them should register some difference.
As noted, in campaign making, a background tied to the specific setting (all Pathfinder campaigns have guides for this) makes a huge difference to customize "hooks" as compared to "I'm Rolf the barbarian who hates wizards and was forced to live with wolves growing up." Rolf's really got nothing investing him in your current game (unless people are hunting wolves and that's part of the adventure...)
Carnival of Tears 3.5 module fits perfectly (@5th level) and with some slight modifications lets you introduce a bad guy previously thought deceased (assuming he's dead in your campaign). Given that it involves dark fey, can't go wrong.
We're into Book 3, and I'm liking Dudemeister's thoughts on winning over the Nomen Centaurs as a series of challenges. Looking to expand on the legendary aspect, make the land more mystical once one learns it, as the centaurs have done.
We took this week off with a few players gone and while playing some board games instead, spoke with my crew about the challenges awaiting.
The inquisitor player spoke with the others who did hang out this week, and the others agreed it wasn't fun having her run around with a wand considering the inquisitor can really do some combat damage. Still don't have anyone leaping to "retire" their character. Communication is great, love my players.
@ Umbranus: swarms come up often enough in kingmaker and the players have learned to run rather than hope they have enough alchemist fire in hand. Won't always work, but for now...
re traps: Kingmaker doesn't have a lot of traps, but the ones that do pop up always seem to get this party. I know there's a really deadly one coming up in 1-2 sessions...
@ Count Duck: As to what the party needs, I think only #2 (melee power) is covered. No mass damage, no healing outside a cure wand, no trap disabling though one character should be able to spot trouble, and limited knowledge skills. So much flavor text going to waste with no well-rounded knowledge skills...
They're feeling the pinch already, I think, in one session by toting around newly acquired magical items and having no way to identify what they do as well as toting around arcane items that are useless. Considering no one has put points into UMD, going to be a lot of loot that goes to market.
Updating, the inquisitor player just posted that she can't keep up with healing and isn't going to do it in combat. Not her diety's style anyways. I think it's good that's out in the open.
Because this really came to light this past game session, haven't done much nudging to any other players to consider whether 4 fighter-types is what works, especially when that +5 weapon of awesomeness drops and everyone wants it, or when a PC dies because the one with the healing wand didn't run over and save them in time. It's not the party success I'm so worried about as it is heading off sore feelings at the pass.
Agree with middle of road if he's new, let him stabilize but don't replay the combat. I trust my players to know their characters and have stated if they forget a bonus, we don't go back. May be the ring was chafing, he removed it, and forgot. Big oops but players, new and old, can't be disrupting the flow of the game by announcing 5 rounds later they should have taken less damage.
@Eben: running AP (Kingmaker); with the exception of a few forum-inspired alterations, I largely run it as-is and I roll dice above table. This has led to a few PC deaths, but I don't like to coddle and the players like the grittiness.
@Thorkull: Inquisitor player feels she's done nothing last few sessions but run around waving a wand. Hasn't even activated bane ability. I've advised her to tell the group she can't keep up and healing them in combat is no longer an option. But with a purely hack-n-slash party, there is no debilitation of enemies with the wave of a hand, and they're going to take a lot of damage in melee at times.
We don't use NPCs unless a player is absent to take us below 4 PCs, at which point we play the absent player's PC.
I make a "campaign guide," inspired by the adventure paths, that lays out the starting area, a hint to the impetus of the campaign, as well as guidelines for character creation and any house rules or gameplay rules. I also have the players make characters as a group so we don't arrive with 4 archery-based fighters.
As a player, you might want to know exactly what would be in one of these "guides" even if the GM isn't providing one. Also ask about "banned" feats or classes as some gamers believe, as an example, that Leadership is a broken feat, or that a Gunslinger might not fit in with their ancient evil campaign.
After some character deaths, my players' 7th level party is pretty one-dimensional:
- melee paladin, non-casting archetype
They're now competing for much of the same loot, have only one character who can use a wand (aka one healer), no arcane ability, no ability to "restore" or revive the dead, and cross-over skill sets. The inquisitor player is beginning to resent having to be the only "healer" as she chose this class to not have to do so.
I've always been a "let the dice fall as they may" GM and I hate the idea of telling players what to play, but this seems a formula for disaster down the road. The inquisitor player is unhappy.
Should I take my own advice and let the dice (and players) land as they will, or has anyone ever had to step in and make some suggestions?
Name: Duke Vadim
The Gory Details:
It's been a deadly ride so far with our 4th player character death and at least 2 avoided by use of Hero Points. In any case, after clearing Varnhold's fort of spriggans, our Duke swept the place with a Detect Magic spell and found potions hidden in the well. Checking that the well led to an underground stream, he went exploring, using his eidolon for water breathing (archetype). Alas, he followed the stream to the Kiravoy River alone where a nasty chuul was wondering where its next meal would be. While the sorcerer fought valiantly with what he had, the chuul was in its natural environment and eventually grappled the poor gnome, paralyzing him. (Although we use a variation of Hero Points, even that wasn't enough to save the day). To his credit, when the chuul's digestive system went to work on a necklace of fireballs, it all went off, leaving a field of debris that eventually made its way to the surface, tipping the rest of the party that was searching for him as to a grisly fate... Interestingly enough, this has led to the ascension of a new Duke and his wife NPC Lily Teskerten, who has always refused a spot on the council with her husband unless it were as the duchess.
Update: we switched to a "story based" system as encounter-based XP was getting tough to balance if the random encounter table rolled a few times and tough if a player has to miss some time.
Books are generally based for 3 levels, so for upcoming VV, we're testing the following, level gained when, as a group:
*75% of secondary quests attempted/completed
15 point builds are more than adequate; don't recommend 20 for a 4-person party. Group builds being "off" won't really make a difference if your players are halfway responsible in character development.
Since party can rely on wands/potions for healing, a sorcerer or someone that can use arcane equipment would balance things out, whether they be offensive, defensive, or buffing in nature. Wouldn't duplicate a role your party has (e.g. a druid might intrude on Ranger's outdoor usefulness).
I won't sell you on what action to take as I think players should do what they will, but your DM might be one of those who would say something similar if at 1st level you made a beeline for the Stag Lord's fortress. Me, I like the game a lot more if my players do what's right for them. If that means rescuing the villagers ASAP, then go for it.
We're starting book 3, and I've found that the "selling items" phase is essential to build BPs in the early going, and we've agreed to not exploit building a district just to maximize item sales.
@tarcandor: We're playing our game as you're thinking and it works. My players do not get info on what a building does, only the cost and building requirements. They love not knowing what each building does until after they build it and feel it more captures the feel of starting a kingdom. They build what they think the town needs and get an idea off what they build what should go next. I use the NPCs on the council to give an annual or bi-annual assessment of what they think the place needs. It was very slow going at first because the economy was sluggish, but they figured it out, much like novice rulers might.
For game terms, I've declared that magic item sales aren't the cause of the influx of BPs, and it makes no sense the kingdom would "steal" the profits of the shopowner, as it looks on paper.
Rather, the party has a unique shop or building that brings in a lot of traffic and interest (all our buildings that generate magic items have a background). Travelers coming to invest in rare elven furniture may spend money in taverns, or donate to the temple, etc., and the kingdom benefits. To give randomization to the mechanics behind the attention of these particular buildings, we use the item economy rules as written, but again I prefer to reword what it actually represents. Of course, there's only so much money that comes in, so the limited sale per district represents this mechanic.
As to taxation, unrest can quickly decimate a kingdom, as it adds to the DC of all rolls, and a random event can jump this higher. You may want to add a Stability penalty instead.
Akiros from Kingmaker is a good example of a "risen evil," but the basic premise is that it's much easier to fall from goodness than it is to rise from evil.
Akiros was a young paladin who had an affair and when the husband found out, the wife lied about her willingness. In a fit of rage, Akiros killed her and the husband. Shunned by his god, he fled into the wilds and became a bandit. Years later, in a battle with his master the bandit king, Akiros turned sides and helped the party, seeking no absolution but rather to do one good act in his life. Rather than execute him, the party has over a period of two years learned his past and redeemed him to helping others. Obviously, he'll never be a paladin again, and given his act of strangling a woman and slaying an innocent man, he'll never truly claim goodness.
I'm in book 2 and have used medium, but with a few bad rolls on the random encounter tables leading to extra combats, your XP can quickly get out of line with the adventure. I have also added custom content, and this has increased the XP flow.
Given the sandbox nature and what I have done, I'd be inclined to use the "slow" track (and may switch to it) and give a "story" award for major accomplishments. If XP is lagging, you can always award XP for handling social encounters rather than just combats.
On behalf of one of my poor players who said he was having a bad feeling about his character before the day started... Really just a freaky day for the DM's dice, which were rolling a lot of 20s.
Later that game afternoon...
Later that game afternoon
Should have been another party death (once again a confirmed crit by a battle-axe wielding fey that slew a player), but fortunately we use hero points and the player had squirreled away 2 points, leaving everything thinking she'd been slain but hanging in at death's door. Alas, this character does not make the cut, just honorable mention.
Maybe you can throw more bandit lairs or something and they can get as their loot more BPs. -Just sayin.
Hmmm, intriguing idea, and encouragement to secure those wild hexes. They cleared the elven keep and hired some adventurers to haul out the heavy stuff; with an elven delegation wanting to investigate (once the route there is safer), might be worth tossing some BPs into the mix if they can accomplish this.
The town's first (and only) district is nearly full, and we do have one shop contributing to minor magic items. The party had a real problem filling the NPC slot for "magister," which tanked the economy early on.
Further, unrest spiked heavily when they expanded quickly and failed some stability rolls at the startup. Suppose maybe we're more reflective of a 1 year growth than a 2 year growth due to the struggles early on.
I've considered removing the magic item economy and replacing it with a game mechanic of a trade agreement (exclusive rights to the exotic wares, for example), same mechanics. Since it's minor items, doesn't add much at this time, but I like the idea (from another thread) of role-playing out some negotiations.
As to random events, we do one each month and there hasn't been much to the extreme. Given the kingdom's low Command DC, there's little chance for failure on those rolls. Slow and steady it seems.
They don't see an overwhelming advantage to expansion (they did build a mine on the gold vein) and have been focusing on building up the village. Using the River Kingdoms guide, so there's economic benefits for the wilderness hexes. But they don't like the idea of the Kingdom's DC going up, though right now most checks have about 10% to fail.
I think a lot of it has to do with BPs, that they'd like to expand, but with only 6-7 BPs a month rolling in (sometimes a few more), that's not much to build with.
Assume Kingmaker is more like a black & white coloring book. You have the picture, the layout, but to really make it shine, you the DM need to fill in the pages with your own colorful designs.
For example, I snagged an idea here and began the campaign with a prologue where 6 months prior to arriving at Oleg's the party met at a wedding in Restov where they developed backgrounds and explained relations that would involve them in going southwest to the Greenbelt.
It's all about being reactive (as mentioned above) to your players. Each week, I alter events significantly based off what they've done, and I take a LOT of wisdom and great ideas from these forums (one of the best is dudemeister's monster kingdom idea to spice up RRR, the second module, which seems a bit aimless without some work).
The designers have left a lot of room for customization, on purpose I believe, so take full advantage.
We just hit the 2-year anniversary of the founding of the PC's kingdom, and I'm not sure what we should be at for growth. I know by VV it should be @50 hexes, curious how others went.
Note: we're taking a role-play approach to building, so players know the cost but not necessarily the mechanical benefit to each building. E.g. they don't know in advance a castle halves the cost of a town hall, so they built the town hall first because that made sense to have a seat of government in a Lawful kingdom. The players wanted it this way to keep some mystery to building. The NPC councilors offer their input from time to time as do locals.
After two years, kingdom is 7 hexes, 1 city with almost every square full in one district, no unrest or consumption costs, and bringing in on average @6-7 BP a month. Moving too slow, just right?