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Leonard Kriegler

Mark Hoover's page

4,935 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists.


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No unfortunately. Their HP is still dependent on the PC's total. If however the character gets a boost from Toughness their familiar gets half.

I want to go to there. I have only professionally freelanced one time, to build an encounter within the PF game system. This thread has become my new favorite!

LoneKnave wrote:

Or throw clubs.

Which are also free BTW and do more damage, and you only need one feat to full attack with them.

Wow, that is a freaking awesome build. Yeah, it's shorter range but if you were mounted this would be great. With all the cash you'd save on the weapons you could trick out your mount with all kinds of defensive and mobility items so you're flying and get a +1 for higher ground on your melee attacks. Also since you don't have to spend feats on making the sling work in melee spend 2 feats to make your mount a familiar, then make your familiar a Mauler archetype. Now it shares all your combat feats, it's really strong and when worst comes to worst you have a flanking buddy.

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I think the bigger question is: how do you know you're diseased? The rules for diseases basically say you contract on the first failed save and actually take damage on the second, so between 1 and 2 by RAW you have NO symptoms.

Filth Fever has an onset of 1-3 days I think? So if you get bitten by a Dire Rat, fail your save and no one makes the Knowledge roll to know they usually carry the disease you could be somewhere 3 days later and suddenly all at once suffer a fever that deals 1-3 Con damage.

If you are suffering an inhaled disease, like Cackle Fever, can you give it to others by breathing on them during that first day before you take damage? If so, you've probably exposed your party, friends, family and everyone at the tavern while you were sleeping off that fight.

There's no RAW on transmitting a disease or the contagious period. I suppose if the GM wanted he could make one PC a Typhoid Mary and bring down an entire city from one botched Fort save.

Think of ALL the other ways to abuse the Mauler familiar archetype, what with shared feats, your BAB, Bull's Str and the like. Do you really need TWO size changes?

Frankly I just love making kobold NPCs with them! Adept 2 and you've got a familiar; Boon Companion and it's your level. Now add a ton of Warrior levels! You're full BAB -1, you have a couple 1st level spells, and you don't have a ton of feats but every combat one you have your Medium sized mount/familar has!

Kobolds riding swooping dinosaurs, riding medium-sized comp... dinosaurs with poisoned bites, or just riding medium sized rats that get a Climb AND Swim speed on top of their standard move...

OR... what about a mite with Vermin Empathy and a vermin familiar/Mauler archetype? It's normally got a crab familiar; now it's riding a medium sized crab of it's own, empathising with 2 more giant crabs and has Adept 2/warrior X behind it. This thing is firing poisoned crossbow bolts with vital strike from the shore of an underground lake and anyone foolish enough to get within reach of the crabs suffers x2 claw +14 (1d6+6 plus grab). Crab CMB is like +14 too and if the victim gets grabbed they're taking that damage plus drowning if it can move them far enough.

OMG that sounds awesome!

Familiars and their archetypes may be great for the heroes, but they're fantastic for the villains! Now you've got 2 viable combatants for the CR of one.

As far as I understand by RAW the disease does this:

Rat attack (9:00 PM on Sunday)
- Your Wizard 1 PC gets hit, fails save
- PCs slay all rats

Monday: 9:00 PM
- Wizard makes another Fort save, fails
- Wizard takes 1 Con damage from Filth Fever

Everything else is roleplay. Did the Wizard exhibit any outward signs between Sunday and Monday? Not by RAW, but the GM might suggest that the wound, even healed by clerical magic burned and ached. They may also say that, since it's called Filth Fever the PC began experiencing upset stomach and fever/chills starting the next morning.

The GM does NOT however have to apply any of these "symptoms" to the PC. In that case they don't even know they're sick until Monday 9:00 PM when they go from feeling fine to suddenly feeling weaker. Finally there is nothing RAW that says the PC cannot study spells or is otherwise distracted.

Gaberlunzie wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:
Why are they so bad? Because they will always do less damage than the crossbow and the bow. Period.

Honestly I don't think that is by itself the main reason. Because if slings where like 1d4 longbows, they'll have far less issues than now and be plenty used.

So it's not so much that they do _less_ damage, but that you have to jump through plenty of hoops just to get them to do the very basest of _required_ damage.

I could have a 10th level slinger that does acceptable damage for their level when full attacking with a sling. But instead, I could have an archer that do equal damage with the bow, but that also has a decent will save, and can also handle themselves in melee.

So what you're saying is that they do less damage initially, so you have to spend more feats to enhance that damage to compete with the bow, so that you end up with less defense or special effects in other areas?

That all started with does_less_damage.

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Y'know what I never understood? Treasure. It's one of the prime reasons for being a murderhobo, but why does ANY monster ever have it? Where do kobolds, bugbears, and fire giants spend all of their treasure? For that matter, when they're not spending it why is it sitting around in chests in their living room?

Just once I'd like an AP to include a goblin bank, or kobold markets or whatever.

So Hama, if every new game is like a first date, does that make PFS games like speed-dating?

As for backstory, like everything else that falls outside the ruling of the CRB mechanics in this game, all parties should work with, not for or against one another.

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You're right, of course. You and I, sitting across the web from another having a civil discourse can easily debate this gray area of the game and I agree on your point of alignment.

Try telling that to the peasant mother whose infant daughter was slain. Or the angry mob waiting outside with the rope. Or the baron whose land has just been burned and salted.

None of those folks, save a few adepts or other spellcaster types out of, say, a hundred people are going to bother reading your alignment with a spell or power. You have no reason to trust a villain, but you also have to know that since this isn't a video game EVERY action you take as a PC will have some kind of consequence in the world. If you DON'T kill the villain, he gets away. The goblin thing may have just been a ruse but at least the countryside is safe, for the moment. If you DO kill the villain and the goblin thing ends up being real, well...

My point is only that, in order to end rocket tag sometimes you have to target the players, not the PCs. If you give them somthing else to fight they use other skills, talents and abilities and the fight turns out very differently. It becomes more than "Beat initiative... charge/cast spell... roll damage... fight over" and instead it becomes "Stop the hammer from striking the anvil seven times to call down the demigod; destroy the creature's slime-armor before he can take damage; save the innocent town and wail on the villain another time."

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Nicos wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:

The point is that, when all is said and done if, in your game the primary method of conflict resolution is dealing enough damage to render your conflict unconscious or dead, then the sling is inferior to other options long term. If however you have a game that places emphasis on other forms of conflict resolution and damage is not a priority, the sling is an excellent choice.
Not sure what many other things the sling do besides doing damage to kill enemies in combat.

You're right of course; all they DO is deal damage. However they are cheap, so another thing they DO is save your PC money. They also save your PC some encumberance. Finally they are very easily hidden so they also do something with that, though it's not quantifiable here.

Long term with one feat they're usable at melee range; with another feat they can actually be used IN melee. Enchanting the sling provides attack and damage bonus for range but also in melee if you're using it with that one feat, so the money savings continue. The ammo's also cheap and there's even a cheap ammo to make the damage non-lethal for a build that focuses on NL damage.

As I said though, in the end if it IS all about the damage then a sling-focused build will ALWAYS be inferior. If however you have a need to build in a resource-restrained campaign or you'll be saving every gold piece for other stuff a sling-emphasis build is worthwhile.

JuanAdriel wrote:

Hp pools can be representative of some boss abilities or limbs. As exaqmple, a dragon boss can have 3 pools, for its head, claws and tail. They have diferent initiatives and actions.

When one of the pools if depleted, he loses the abilities asociated to it. Same agains the SoD effects, like having its tail petrified, or even the head, he can get his neck and mouth petrified and eyes petrified, but can still use his claws and tail (with blinded status).

Same for stun. The BBEG fails its save? now he got unable to move its claws, but still is dangerous with bite and tail.

I like this idea, but at the same time I can see the rules lawyer at my gaming table slamming a fist over it. Since this isn't how magic or combat works for every other monster, why does it happen with this one other than cinema?

4 10th level PCs go up agaisnt a CR 14 dragon. A petrification goes off, succeeds amazingly, but only petrifies it's wings. This allows the fighter to cut off its tail but then the dragon retaliates, unleashing a breath weapon that the wizard shockingly fails to defend against and she goes down. The cleric cranks up all his buffs and charges, doing enough damage to shatter one of the wings. The dragon is reeling but still somehow up. The rogue however, having been miraculously unseen through all of this and picks this moment to make a flying charge attack with SA that destroys the creature's head pool!

Huzzah! The wizard is saved by clerical healing, the PCs loot the treasure and the fair maiden is rescued!

A few weeks later the PCs meet 2 CR 8 dragons in a routine, hum-drum encounter (these creatures aren't bosses.) The wizard turns one fully to stone while the rogue and fighter get flying flank attacks and obliterate the second one. The cleric basically chills, waiting.

Now why did one big dragon only get partially affected by the spell while the other 2 SLIGHTLY smaller ones get fully affected?

If you're going to houserule things make sure there's a consistent rule and justification for it, that's all.

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Why are they so bad? Because they will always do less damage than the crossbow and the bow. Period. Now they're not worthless and yes, they have many fringe benefits. But then so do bows, crossbows, thrown weapons, and most melee weapons.

The point is that, when all is said and done if, in your game the primary method of conflict resolution is dealing enough damage to render your conflict unconscious or dead, then the sling is inferior to other options long term. If however you have a game that places emphasis on other forms of conflict resolution and damage is not a priority, the sling is an excellent choice.

One of the things I've noticed is that lots of folks talk about how great it is that you add your Str bonus to damage. Well there are ways, with melee weapons to use Dex to hit, and further use Dex for damage, keeping the PC SAD long term. Any build however that takes the sling seriously is automatically dependent on 2 stats, forever. There's no way to make Str the determining factor of attack bonus with this weapon and if you go with a straight Dex build for attack bonus and some feats you're leaving one of the so-called "advantages" of the sling on the table.

So in order to take full advantage of the sling you have to be a martially-motivated ranged attacker with lots of disposable feats, not a lot of cash, willing to pump up Str and Dex, and also able to tank somehow despite the lack of cash. Also you've got to pump some of those disposable feats into Will saves and some of your tanking into saves since you'll be flagging at those.

So, a human fighter in a primitive setting maybe?

a humble NPC build for kobolds; note the familiar is the Mauler archetype.

Kobold Rider/CR1:

Kobold Rider
LE female humanoid (reptilian) adept 2/warrior 1
Str 10, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10
Initiative +2; Senses: Darkvision 60’; Perception +1
HP 15 (2d6 plus 1d10+3)
AC 19; Touch 13; Flat Footed 17 (Armor +3, Dex +2, Natural +1, Shield +2, Size +1)
Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +3
Weakness: Light Sensitivity
Melee mwk shortsword +6 (1d4)
Ranged mwk shortbow +6 (1d6)
Spells (CL 2; concentration +3)
1st Bless, Burning Hands (DC 12), Obscuring Mist
0th Detect Magic, Guidance, Resistance
Skills Perception +5, Ride +6, Stealth +10
Feats Boon Companion, Weapon Finesse
Gear: mwk studded leather, mwk heavy shield, x10 scrolls: 1st Cure Light Wounds (x3), Cause Fear (DC 12), Comprehend Languages, Protection from Good (x2), 2nd Mirror Image (CL 4), Bull’s Strength (x2), mwk leather barding, mwk shortsword, mwk shortbow, 20 arrows
Familiar: Goaty McHornandhooves
HP 7
AC 15
Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +3
Melee +4 gore (1d6 +4)
Feats Power Attack
Before combat: Bless, Protection from Good on both kobold and familiar, Bull’s Strength on both kobold and familiar, Resistance on both kobold and rider. Kobold now has +1 to all attacks, +2 to melee weapon damage, AC +2 (versus good), all saves +1 (+3 versus fear effects). Familiar now has +3 on gore attack, +2 to damage, AC +2 (versus good), all saves +1 (+3 versus fear effects).
In combat: Kobold stays at range as much as possible; uses cover and difficult terrain to his advantage. If not killed at range but enemies advance, use Obscuring Mist and then buff more: Mirror Image on familiar, Guidance on familiar. Once melee is inevitable if all buffs are up goat attacks with +8 on first attack dealing 1d6+6 while kobold attacks with shortsword +7 dealing 1d6+2.

Not a bad mini-boss or elite guard to use in a kobold-themed adventure. You could use this general build with a little tweaking to represent a master and familiar, a cavalier, a paladin or even a ranger.

What's the best rogue build you can assemble with a familiar?

Druid - wildshape?

Fighter w/a level dip; wands and scrolls?

Actually, if you went 1 level wizard or witch, then the rest fighter the transmutations would be on your spell list and you'd also get a familiar. Pick the Mauler familiar archetype and now you've got a familiar that is strong, can turn medium size on its own, or can be the target of your transmutation items so that you're BOTH dragons. BAB only drops by 1 and you always have back up cantrips/1st level spells.

j b 200 wrote:
Displacement. Seriously, the 50% miss chance will really increase the encounter length and the players are less likely to feel that you are "cheating" then if they need to roll above an 18 to hit.

You could also do the same with simple fog. It's not somehting every PC can see through unless they've bought goggles and if the villain uses some 5' steps they move to the edge, attack, then fade back into the fog for the same concealment.

Obscuring Mist potion, smokestick, simple level 1 spell; all ways to pull this off. Couple with Mirror Image, then Blink and finally Blur, this fight could literally last for hours.

Kobold Adept 2/warrior 4 with UMD pumped up and a wand of Alter Self. Said guy has a goat mauler. Suddenly he's riding his goatfolk minion into battle as it wields a greataxe alongside it's gore attack...

OMG this is freaking awesome! But seriously, what about the OTHER familiar archetypes...

I prefer humanoids or fey, specifically kobolds or mites.

Kobolds: tack on NPC levels for CR -3 instead of 2. With creative use of shenanigans like the Familiar Folio or certain feats you have a CR1 kobold "Paladin" that is Adept 2/Warrior 1 riding around on a donkey rat that assumes a medium battle form thanks to one of the guy's feats being Boon Companion. He'll never do lots of damage but you've got 2 decent monsters for the price of one out of a single CR 1 encounter.

Mites: Vermin Empathy plus Scent. These things are MASTERS of using their environment. Give them some smokesticks and fill the area with fog; they don't care since they can hop on a mount to fly plus they can follow their foes by scent. Prestidigitation to scent-mark your enemies making it even easier. Since they're only CR 1/4 you can either pair them with vermin, run a horde, or add class levels easily to add challenge and diversity to the encounter.

Doesn't Arcane Strike only grant +1 damage, plus an additional +1 for every 5 CL? Where does the bonus to hit come from?

There's lots of obvious applications for mauler. Lets look at some other archetypes.

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Take 4 PCs, APL 5. They're pretty bad-a. The blaster caster can unleash several Burning Hands spells that deal 35 damage plus 1d6 Burn for 1 round and carries a DC 18 save; the fighter can slam with a +1 flaming greatsword +13 (2d6+16 plus 1d6 Fire); these 2 alone pre-buffs on average deal 61 damage in 1 round. If your villain is not immune to fire or weapon attacks these 2 alone can solo a CR5 or even 6 monster.

Why are PCs so bad-a? Feats and builds, sure, but also action economy and tactics. The four people playing these PCs WANT to win and will use EVERY advantage. A PC in my game remembered he picked up a homebrewed magic item that gave him a ridiculous Acrobatics for Jumping; he leapt 10' in the air to get on a ledge and gain a +1 to hit for higher ground.

I know you say you use some of the tactics above but if you do then your bosses would last longer. So really challenge yourself and determine: are you playing bosses like PCs?

1. Build: all PCs are build to succeed in combat. Most monsters as written in the Bestiaries aren't. Some have a skill focus in Perception when if they only took Power Attack instead they'd be DOMINATING solo combats. This is by far the easiest way to boost your boss - build them purely for that one, glorious gorefest that is the PC/Boss fight.

2. Tactics: PCs have an APL, or average party level. Emphasis: party. A single fighter at level 5 is dealing 26 HP damage in a round. With the addition of a single arcane casting PC he has the chance to be buffed with enhanced AC, Str and they do a combined total un-buffed of 61 damage. The PCs succeed because there's a lot of them. They have action economy, group tactics like flanking, and they use each other's strengths in tandem while covering one another's weaknesses.

Bosses should be no different. If they're called a boss they should command someone or thing; otherwise they're just a "specialist". If PCs get a boost from having one another around, your bosses should be gaining similiar advantage from their minions. A kobold NPC boss to challenge an APL 5 party could be a kobold Adept 2/Warrior 6; not super impressive but with buffs can be extremely tanky riding around on a medium sized mauler arch rat that deals as much damage as a 3/4 bab PC with its bite.

Now imagine if you added in a cleric 3 and a couple warrior 5 kobolds. yes the CR of the fight jumps to epic but no one kobold poses that much of a threat. But then the cleric tanks behind some kind of barrier and keeps dropping buffs on his boss; the 2 warriors survive the first round and are adding in Aid Another bonuses ensuring the kobold boss and his mount are always hitting. Suddenly after 2 rounds the fighter of the party has taken 60 damage and is starting to realize toe-to-toe isn't getting it done while the koblds keep taking 5' steps, flanking, using acrobatics to take no AoO's. The 2 warriors then suddenly change things up in round three, moving to flank the arcane caster and using their teamwork feat plus decent attacks to deal 2d6 +6 plus 2d6 SA damage to him while the cleric comes out from hiding sacrificing himself to heal the boss and also drop a quickened channel.

Hmm, PCs are starting the fight over again at half-strength? Now THAT's epic...

Finally, a note about enviornment and motivation. If you want your boss to last, give them an environment tailored to them. A shadow shouldn't be going toe-to-toe in a big open empty room with lots of PC generated light spells. A giant shouldn't be static in the middle of a cramped cave. If your boss has massive strength give them big things to throw, knock down or break. That frost giant? What if he smashed a false wall that contained frigid glacial waters? Suddenly the chamber fills to a depth of a Medium creature with icy water - the frost giant ignores the cold, acts as Entangled but still walking through the water and all of his opponents are making swim checks every round while taking non-lethal damage from the cold.

The motivation piece comes in 2 parts.

1: sometimes the boss is merely a smokescreen for the real threat. You could kill the boss easy, but the four diseased fast zombies headed up through the sewer will be in the market square in a few rounds and then you'll have an undead plague on your hands; the boss is coated in a slime swarm to which he's immune but the layers are so thick that their own immunity to weapon damage confers to him too; the worg sorcerer is behind a wall spitting Acid Splash spells. In these cases you have to deal with some other thing before you can land those satisfyingly murderderous crits on the boss' face.

2: Bosses should WANT to win! They were born to be #1, not turned into the party's #2. If your villain has access to treasure that helps them, use it; if they have poison or a disease they can unleash it should already be coursing through the PCs' veins. These creatures should be attacking by hit-and-run, leadig PCs into traps, using minions, their environment, and every possible buff to win. Moreover they should be lying, cheating, stealing, and using loved ones as bait constantly.

Level 1 the PCs encounter a Kobold Adept 6 as the head of a cult; they are soundly beaten by him and his minions but vow to end the cult's rule. By level 2 they've won a couple victories and meet the kobold again in battle; he unveils one of the PCs' siblings is a brainwashed agent of the cult and uses them to lead the fight against the PCs while he escapes. Level 3 the PCs have redeemed the sibling and bust up the main lair; the adept leader and his minions harry them with spells, murder holes and traps while the party barely survives to save a bunch of innocents. Now at level 4 the innocents have revealed that the real threat is the resurrection of a dragon and the PCs move to stop this. They again endure the nettling of the kobold cult in the primary cult temple making it all the way to the horde's chapel where they grind their way through dozens of fodder minions to finally go toe-to-toe with the adept who dies laughing; his death was the final ingredient to the dragon's resurrection!

Could the cult leader be brought back for as an undead for a couple slices of the next campaign arc? Who knows, but wouldn't it be fun to find out?

TheJeff: yes, you're right. This is why I've stipulated over and over that the GM

1. Not be a jerk about it
2. Work with the player

But to say that the backstory is somehow immutable I find disturbing. That's why I reference fear of change. If every single detail provided by the player in their character's backstory is unchangeable and must remain protected against the GM's intervention then I would suspect that there's more going on there than "I want something under my control."

Will there be things protected and respected in the social contract between player and GM? Possibly; it depends on how much trust and collaboration exists between the two and what the ultimate vision of the PC is based on each party's perception. I just would hope that, in the end, the GM was only modifying the backstory for the enhancement of the ongoing story at hand.

I've had jerk GMs. I had one guy not tell us until after the fact that if we chose to FAIL a save our characters would've survived, though have been slightly altered while MAKING our save actually killed us. Same GM took another failed save in another campaign and hinged the entire fate of the world on that one die roll. When I inevitably failed it I was hurled 1000 years in the future where my name and race were synonymous with every hell the earth had endured in an apocalypse I was blamed for. My entire race, home forest/kingdom and everyone I'd ever loved was obliterated. Oh yeah, and I lost a leg only to have it replaced with a combat tail. In the epilogue I got my leg back, so why was I complaining...

My point is that sometimes GMs modify backstories. Sometimes these modifications are a beautiful thing. For this reason I am ok with a GM working with me on mine and I hope that my players will let me work with theirs.

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That's RiDORKulous! TM

Imbicatus wrote:
King Crab has a little less STR at 7, but has two attacks with grab, constrict, and can stay out of water for a long time.

NICE! 2 attacks at +8 plus grab and constrict instead for the kobold. If the creature's +8 CMB can beat a 3rd level fighter's CMD you've still got him dead in 2 rounds but in round 2 he can't fight back. Brilliant!

A kobold Adept 2/Warrior 4 is a CR 3 threat riding around on a compsognathus with a Melee bite +9 (1d8+6 plus poison) while the kobold casts Bless (+1 to their attacks) before the melee and then attacks with his own Melee mwk longsword +7 (1d6+4). For feats the kobold took Evolved Familiar: improved damage (bite), Furious Focus (combat, shared with familiar) and Power Attack (combat, shared with familiar).

With Bless running that's 2 attacks every round:

Bite +10 (1d8+6)
Longsword +8 (1d6+4)

If both hit that's avg 18 HP. That means that he's dropping a 3rd level fighter if he survives to round 2. That's... not bad for a kobold. Let's hear it for the mean weenies!

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If we're talking a level of stagefright that impedes every day life I'm not a licensed therapist or anything. I hope that it's not as bad as that. I have however been involved in a speech club called Toastmasters. Some tips I've used from that and my own experience to overcome nerves in running a game are:

1. meet them as friends first. Even if you're already friends, just have them over to hang out and then gradually work into a game.

2. Tell them you're nervous. It's freeing and you know your audience will be supportive.

3. Don't make eye contact. I know this goes against giving speeches but you're running a game. Maybe put up a screen and run w/that obscuring your audience. Otherwise turn sideways so you're talking at the wall; it'll add an air of mystery as well as keep your attention off the reaction of the crowd.

4. Have a fidget. Keep something in your hand to roll around in your palm or rub with your fingertips.

5. Practice in a mirror. At least if you're prepared this might squash some of the butterflies.

It's never weak to give the PCs a way out of something. Its weak if you do it for them. Ex: remove curse scroll.

What if, instead of throwing the scroll in before you let the trap happen and see if if cursed anyone. If they blow their save, give them indicators of what the curse is doing:

1. plants wither at the PCs approach
2. their breath stinks of rot
3. if an arcanist checks the PC with Detect Magic they radiate an aura of necromancy

Now... let the PCs try stuff. Who cares what the rules say, let them just try. Maybe the PC cleric can extend the 3 day deadline by using 2 channels at once; this leaves the victim feeling weak for 24 hours (Fatigued). What if the herbalist ranger works with said cleric to find an herbal remedy.

If the PCs are really stuck and desperate throw them a bone. Knowledge: History or Religion or Arcana speaks of some ancient Varisian curses, inflicted by Harrowing that resemble this effect. To reverse the curse the victim must make a powerful undead revoke their unlife and willingly die, thereby redeeming the undead and the curse victim.

Suddenly... SIDE QUEST. In that "next town" they are currently vexed by a wight, the restless soul of a woman scorned. Her unnatural power has also produced skeletons from the tomb around her and now she threatens to lead an army of the dead on the town.

The party needs to go in, beat the skeletons, but then capture the wight. They then need to convince her that revenge is not the answer. Roleplaying, maybe some Diplomacy, and suddenly the woman is transforming before their eyes. Her corpse grows young and fair; her ghost rises from the corpse and somewhere behind her a great wheel turns. She praises the PCs for freeing her and places a spectral kiss on the cursed PC who is then released from their affliction.

HUZZAH! Now the character is no longer cursed, they have a really cool story and because of how they won the town is so overjoyed they reward the PCs with heaps of gold and items! And all of that from something that should've just killed them.

But in the end it's just as others have said. If you're having fun and the players are too, who cares?

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So... where's the slinging video?

*ducks as everyone throws garbage and boos*

Mackenzie Kavanaugh wrote:
Aardvark Barbarian wrote:
Also, it is written from a narrative view, not a character view. These are not events as my PC percieved them. These are the events that happened. The PC is not telling the backstory, I am, as if to say "this is who I will be playing" beyond the mechanics of race/class/alignment.
Yeah... it's one thing for the GM to look at the background, note that your mom was a paladin who fought in the Mendevian Crusades, and decide that there's a demon out for revenge who's going to take things out on you. It's another thing entirely for the GM to reveal that your mother was secretly an antipaladin, having fallen from grace and joined up with the demons.


1. Mom died and brought the vengeance of a demon upon me: I'm hunting demons and my build is designed around this.

2. Mom fell from grace and sided with the demons. She once HAD true grace though. I'm going to murder those stinking demons for corrupting her and hopefully remind her of her grace so I can redeem her. My build is around destroying those demons...

So your build and mechanics don't change. Your skills and feats don't change either. You do however have one MORE thing to do with your character though.

Why would you as a player be emotionally invested in murdering demons? They've been around forever, they'll be there forever more and even if you single-handedly closed the Worldwound permanently there'll be other ways for them to get in.

But your mom's redemption? That story has a beginning, middle and end. Maybe she wins and you die. Maybe you win and she's redeemed. Maybe no one wins and in the end you have to murder your own mother. That would suck, but it'd be a story, nothing more.

So WHY would it change things if you decided that your mom was a saint and your GM informed you otherwise?

Let's put it in RL terms: when I was a kid I thought my oldest brother was a pagan god. My dad left home so for years I thought of him as my father figure. Then when I was in college I learned that he struggled with addiction and took a certain job only because he was selling out to our old man. After that I got to know him even better and in the end I strongly encouraged him to follow his dream which he has and he's happier than I've seen him in years.

Sometimes we think things are one way. Then we learn differently. It doesn't change who we are, but it changes the choices we make going forward. That's life.

Now if the GM was a jerk about it, that's a different story...

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A lot of people say "don't change my backstory because..." and suggest many reasons. I think the main reason is fear. The character is the one thing the player has full control of and if the GM changes some detail of the backstory it usurps that control.

But does it?

Luke Skywalker was destined to be a moody Jedi from the start. Why? Because he struggled with his feelings of vengeance against Vader BEFORE he knew that was his dad. Did the reveal change the story? Sure, but did it change LUKE? I think in the end his build remained intact but perhaps the character's motivations got knocked around a bit.

Modifying the backstory doesn't HAVE to mean changing the character.

I still feel though that changes should be worked out with the player. This is after all a coop game where the story is woven with the group. If however the GM wants to take a saintly father figure and make him a coward or a murderer, this only modifies the story. Your character remains firmly in your control.

Think from another angle: GMs can change any NPC from good to evil or back at a moment's notice. What if the sheriff that's been your patron this whole time was just using the party to wipe out her competition? Now that the monsters and goblins are cleared out the sheriff reveals she's secretly a dragon blooded sorcerer, a dragon disciple and has ties to a tribe of kobolds that have been living in the sewers while creating inroads into the local mines.

Suddenly the party returns from a mission out of town (that was supposed to kill them all) and finds that the kobold underlords have enslaved the town and put everyone to work in the mines. Their patron the sheriff is sitting on top of a mountain of fresh gold and the PCs would be hard-pressed to go toe-to-toe with her.

That's entirely in the purview of the GM. The players have no input on that, it modifies the story greatly and doesn't change the characters at all. Moreover it adds a new wrinkle that annoys some players and really grabs others. Why?

Because some people fear change.

Some players want consistency. They want the law of averages to work so that their build is consistently awesome. They want to talk to the important people, kill monsters and get treasure, then rinse and repeat.

There is nothing wrong with these players.

I love consistency in gaming but for me personally too much of it is boring. If the GM wants to throw me for a loop I just strap into the roller coaster of TTRPG gaming and start screaming with a smile on my face. But that's me. Not everyone will like this ride.

So talk w/the players, your GM. Find out what kind of gamers they are. Figure out what kind YOU are. Once you know, if you are someone who honestly is ok with change realize that a change in your character's backstory doesn't diminish your control over that character at all.

If done properly this change won't modify your build; if anythig it may possibly introduce items, powers or traits that your character may yet develop. A change in your backstory will modify the story which may in turn change your perception of and immersion in the gameworld. This is no different from a change in the current storyline so if you appreciate change these tweaks are to be expected and savored.

So in the end I say communicate, trust your fellow gamers and be honest about your play style and theirs.

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I love low level. When I have a few minutes' spare time I love designing NPCs, encounters or items specifically geared at PF gaming between level 1-6. I think this is because RL conspires to keep my campaigns in these levels. Due to scheduling conflicts, personality clashes and folks moving I haven't gotten higher than 6th level in a decade!

Anyway I hope this thread catches on. I love seeing what people can accomplish at low levels.

Got it. Thanks!

Does anyone have a ruling on this?

I know about published material. I'm just wondering what folks do with their homebrewed/improvised stuff. A combo of 3 arcane spells ensures that a 1st level arcane caster villain has a +10 AC versus good PCs. That means that, if the wizard also has a decent Dex and a Size bonus, they're nearly unhittable.

A 4th buff on the same caster ensures that they have an inexhaustible ray of frost (ranged touch) with a +4 to hit. The right build gives the wizard a Ranged ray of frost (ranged attack) +4 (1d3+7) while they themselves are untouchable with a 24 AC. All at level 1.

That just seems more challenging than a CR 1/2 fight should be. WBL that caster can have as many as 5 level 1 scrolls if you count them as part of their gear; more if they have Scribe Scroll for free or you spend their WBL from offense/defense on the appropriate scrolls.

This then gives you a level 1 caster with the above stats who surrounds themselves with grease and mist making them concealed and the PCs can't charge. He then, what, just peppers them with rays until either the PCs are all dead/running away or they wait out his buffs? Again, this is a CR 1/2 threat.

Wow. Arcane casters really DO get all the fun stuff...

A kobold Adept 5/Warrior 4 is a CR 6 threat. This creature could potentially have a goat familiar with (using UMD and some scrolls) a 29 AC, melee gore +11/+6 (1d8+11) making it's attack while the kobold rides it into battle making a charging lance +11 (2d6+12). Of course, that's if all of the kobold's buffs were in place.

I guess my question is: what's the use of having a villain with a lot of spells/powers/items that buff him and his minions if they're not included in the fight? Should I, as the GM, just say that the villain has used them unless it's obvious that the party has taken him completely by surprise?

The rules on building an NPC state that giving something NPC levels makes them Level -2 for their CR, so a human warrior 4 is CR 2. Furthermore the rules for kobolds say that NPC levels for them are Level - 3 for determining CR, so a kobold warrior 4 is only CR 1.

What if you mix in PC levels?

I want to build a LE male kobold adept 3/rogue (counterfeit mage)3. Here's my build idea

Kulkk the Stroke:

LE male kobold adept 3/rogue (Counterfeit Mage) 3
Initiative +3; Senses Darkvision 60'; Perception +10
Str 6 Dex 17 Con 12 Int 8 Wis 14 Cha 13
HP 33 (6d6 +9)
AC 15; Touch 14; Flat Footed 16 (Dex +3, Natural +1, Size +1)
Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +6
Resist Electricity 5
Weakness: Light Sensitivity
Speed 30'
Melee mwk sickle +2 (1d4-1)
Range +1 hvy crossbow +7 (1d8+2)
SA: Sneak Attack +2d6;
BAB +3; CMB +0; CMD 13
Adept Spells Prepared (CL 3rd; concentration +5)
1st Obscuring Mist, Protection from Good
0th (at will) Detect Magic, Ghost Sound, Guidance
Spell Like Abilities
Shocking Grasp (5d6; 1/day)
Jolt (1d3; 3/day)
Feats: Arcane Strike, Draconic Aspect (Blue), Draconic Magic
Skills Acrobatics +10, Craft (Trapmaking) +8, Disable Device +10, Knowledge (Arcana) +3, Perception +10, Spellcraft +3, Stealth +12, Use Magic Device +10
Languages: Kobold
SQ Crafty, Familiar (Donkey Rat; Alertness, Deliver Touch Spells, Empathic Link, Improved Evasion, Share Spells), Rogue Talent (Minor Magic)
Gear: Cloak of Resistance +1, Wand: Mage Armor, Scrolls: Cure Light Wounds (x4), Expeditious Retreat (x2), Mirror Image, Protection from Good (x2), Shield, Shocking Grasp (x4), Shock Shield, Vanish (x2)
Familiar: Forkedtongue (Donkey Rat)
Senses Low Light Vision, Scent; Perception +6
AC 16 Touch 14, Flat Footed 13 (Dex +3, Natural +2, Size +1)
HP 16
Fort +3, Ref +6, Will +4
Speed 30', Swim 20'
Melee bite +7 (1d3-2)
BAB +3; CMB +0, CMD 13
Skills Perception +6, Stealth +12, Swim +6
Feats: Familiar Focus

Is Kulykk CR 4 or is the CR higher?

Another way to do it: all bosses automatically have the Endurance and Diehard feats for free. Basically this means that they keep fighting after they drop into negatives, losing 1 HP/round alongside any hits they take. This MIGHT give them time to either run away to heal or take one final "doomsday" action.

If your boss is intelligent, always have an out. I don't JUST mean Dimension Door, Simulacrum or Limited Wish. I mean "So... you've got me dead to rights. Bravo heroes. Unfortunately for you I've just sent off a Whispering Wind spell to band of goblin mercenaries. They are poised to lay waste to a random farmstead, kicking off a spree of destruction. Of course I could stop them, if you let me go. If you don't, well, what's a few dozen corpses? I won't tell if you don't..."

Of course PCs are never usually that forgiving. They kick in the door, roll initiative and start hacking. They never think that Rocket Tag could ever have any negative consequences. After all this is just a tabletop video game right? There's no roleplaying we need to consider is there?

*cut to the PCs chilling at the bar high-fiving each other for being such badasses*

GM: The door to the tavern creaks open and the room goes silent. The crowd parts ominously, admitting a young woman in tattered rags. She carries something in her arms, her eyes on it as she staggers toward you. There is a stench of blood and death following her. She stops, inches from your table. "This... is my daughter, Yala. She is... was... just four months old. She's gone... it's all gone..." her tear-streaked eyes meet yours. There is a seething hatred such that you've never seen in another's face. "... and its ALL your fault! You were supposed to be the heroes. You were supposed to SAVE us! Instead you let that tyrant unleash these... HORRORS on us! WHY DIDN'T YOU SAVE US?" She demands, drawing a dagger in unsteady hands. Roll initiative.

The PCs will easily defeat a N female human commoner 1 with a dagger. But how will they defeat the fact that, if they'd just stopped and listened to the boss monster's exposition they MIGHT have saved little Yala. They could've been heroes.

Now they're the villains.

After a few sessions of uprisings, riots, and other attempts on them as a result of their failure perhaps the players will learn. Maybe they'll embrace villainhood. Maybe they'll quit claiming you're an evil GM that was just out to get them all along. Whatever the case they'll probably not be thinking about Rocket Tag anymore...

Stockvillain wrote:

Making important things out of Viridium (an in-game radioactive material) could be a fun option.

On that note, viridium caltrops hidden in shallow, fetid water. Leprosy (DC 12) plus Filth Fever (or worse) to deal with. On a crit, add Greenblood Oil poisoning to the list. Whether or not you have them encounter undead in the same area is another option.

If you do have them encounter undead, give them skeletons. Their immunities and DR allow them to ignore the caltrops so they move at full movement through the area. Lastly the head of each skeleton detatches and flies as a Beheaded. If the hallway is decorated with ossuary designs it is a a Beheaded swarm.

If you want to increase AC, have the boss keep a low level minion around with Mage Armor, Protection from Good and Shield, then just say that your boss monster received the benefits of these three spells just before the PCs walked into the scene. Against any good PCs the monster is +10 to AC.

This same low level caster should be around for a couple levels, hitting the PCs with Ray of Enfeeblement or some other Str reducing magic. Jack up the DC on this attack; against a 14th level Barbarian you'll want a level 9 spellcaster which could potentially throw a Bestow Curse with a DC 20 save or something I think. -6 to Str isn't ginormous, but it's somehting.

Also this brings me back to the other point I made before: do other things besides attacking. Some monsters and builds can get really high CMBs. What if as the level 14 barbarian comes on one of the boss' minions focused every ounce of it's skill on sundering the barb's weapons? Meanwhile the boss is piling flaming carts in front of himself as a makeshift wall of fire.

I don't know; I guess I just feel like just adding in HP sort of just exacerbates the symptoms instead of addressing the source.

Imbicatus wrote:

Mauler Archetype on a psuedodragon as a small character. You have flying medium sized dragon mount. You can do it with any flying familiar, but the dragon is just cool.

Kobold Adept 5/Warrior 4 with a Pseudodragon (Mauler arch)

Feats: Boon Companion, Evolved Familiar: improved damage (sting), Furious Focus, Improved Familiar, Power Attack

With the Mauler you now have a pseudodragon that grows into a Medium mount with a 21 Str and a BAB +8. Swap the dragon's base feat for Familiar Focus and then have the kobold cast Bull's Str before the fight; now the dragon has a 25 Str. It makes a single Melee sting +15 (1d6+13) which carries a DC 14 Sleep effect in it. Meanwhile the Kobold on the dragon's back makes either a 5d4+5 (DC 14) Burning Hands spell attack or a single Melee +1 lance +10 (1d6+8; x2 on a charge) or a ranged +1 sling +10 (1d3 +4)

This build is a CR 6 monster. Also if you give the kobold Use Magic Device w/9 ranks and give it access to x2 scrolls ea of Mage Armor and Shield, both the kobold and mount could potentially be rocking a +10 AC prior to the beginning of the fight. That would be a VERY interesting fight...

The only problem I can find on familiars is that their To Hit bonuses suck. If you pick one as a full bab type PC then they get a bit better. If you go full bab and pick a Mauler arch on the familiar then they might have as good a chance as you to hit.

If however you're like me and are trying to play a spellcaster with a familiar you kind of hit a wall on To Hit bonuses. Is there any way in the Folio to boost the To Hit of familiars other than Mauler?

Rather than give extra HP pools to either side, consider that action economy thing one more time. A 10th level PC built strongly with a combat buddy in mind like an Animal Companion or Familiar likely has between 2-4 attacks in a full attack round. Your party could, conceivably have between 4 to 12 attack-type actions they could take in a given round.

Even if you've got a boss and some minions, more likely you'll have less things you can do than they can.

Add in the fact that beyond level 5 you begin running into monsters that can take out a single PC in one full attack round, if they get the chance, and then you see where the Rocket Tag syndrome comes from.

To me the solution isn't more HP pools on either side. It's matching up action economy and damage output.

A well built PC fighter at level 10 can kick out, say 100 damage in a round. A CR10 monster has likely 12D10+36 HP, for a total of 102HP. Your final fight then shouldn't be this one monster versus the party. It should be this monster x2 for an APL +2 fight.

Now while you have 2 different monsters, they don't have to be completely seperate.

Take a Marid and a Greater Water Elemental. Imagine an underground lake, out of which a marid rises engulfed inside of a Greater Water Elemental she's bound to her will. The 2 creatures attack as one: while the Marid unleashes a spell or 3 trident attacks potentially dealing a potential 84 damage the water elemental acts as her "armor" taking all the PCs damage and dealing 2 slams for 36 damage. Once the PCs take down the elemental in round one, they still have the Marid in round 2.

That's only 2 CR 9 monsters for a CR11 fight.

Try creative ways of combining monsters. Amalgam monsters, rider and mount, minion waves, symbiotes. My personal fave is an undead with some kind of mindless creature living inside it.

Also remember: fighting is more than trading blows. If the Marid in the example above lives to round 2 she has Plane Shift and Water Breathing. She also has a 23 Str. What if she ran away into another plane, then returned with a 100 block of ice? What if she tore a pillar down with a Sunder attack and started the cave collapsing? Look at the WHOLE monster and everything they're capable of before giving them more HP.

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I love low-level gaming! Give me a party of 1st level noobs and I'll give you an excellent adventure.

One I ran a little while ago was the start to a new campaign. The game opened with each PC receiving a letter directing them to the library of a college each attends. They meet one another there for the first time and realize that their letters combined reveal a riddle. This leads them to a book on an ancient hero - the only section missing is where said hero is buried. They go looking for the professor that will know the answer and he's mysteriously disappeared.

The PCs use some skills, gather some info and find the tomb. There they find clues suggesting a recent struggle; they also find their professor's pipe. What followed was a five-room dungeon of all non-lethal traps, summoned monsters and my fave: the flood chase

At one point the PCs find a secret door concealing a dungeon level below the mausoleum. They enter a vast, winding staircase heading down into a massive vault. The chamber below is ruined and partially flooded. At the top of the stairs is a giant monster mouth on the wall. The PCs sense a cool breeze and smell the ocean far below. Suddenly a swarm of bats comes out; it's not attacking them but rather it's fleeing from a surge of sea-water from below. The chase scene begins!

PCs must get to the bottom at the head of the wall of water. The stairs have three balcony levels. Everywhere there's debris and detritus the PCs must avoid on their way down. If they make the flooded hall before the water hits them from behind they take no damage. If they get caught they take damage and risk drowning.

One PC hid on a balcony. Water broke off from the main flood and infiltrated cracks and holes in the wall, only to come shooting out of the wall at the PC like a Hydraulic Push spell. Three other PCs went down the stairs. One made it only a single level; the next got close to the end but was tripped up near the bottom and took enough damage to be knocked unconscious. The final PC (the only one with healing) got to the bottom and dove onto a side ledge while the wall of water (carrying his friends) passed him. He fished the other three PCs out of the drink and got them back on their feet.

In the end they found the hero's personal tomb. He was famous for his shield and they found it along with his body in a wood sarcophagus. This was atop a pedestal in another flooded chamber. As soon as they touched the shield the chameber sealed and the water started rising. the PCs all got in the sarcophagus and floated on the rising water to the top of the tomb where they found an escape hatch with no wheel. The shield had to be affixed and used as the wheel. Once free they were back outside and there was their professor.

He asked them for the shield and they grudgingly agreed. He took the device and smashed it to pieces; it was a fake. This was all a graduation test to see if they had not only the skills to be adventurers but the moral fiber to give up the historic pieces for preservation instead of personal gain. The game ended with the professor admitting them to a waiting carriage, chatting with them about the ceremony and... WHAM! The carriage is hit by boulders and all the PCs take enough damage to knock them unconscious.

They came to and found the professor had been murdered. A chest containing "important documents" had been stolen. The rest of the game was going to involve the PCs going on smaller missions while solving the murder mystery as the first larger arc of the plot. Unfortunately it never really got going.

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416. You encounter a child selling Tindertwigs. She is frigid cold but is dressed only in rags despite the temperature. All she will accept is small change for her wares; anything else or any other action and she sprints around the corner into an alleyway where there is no sign of her, save for a pile of rags and burnt twigs.

417. A cart is clattering down a slope out of control towards a few children at play

418. a man in white and black robes moves effortlessly through the crowds in broad daylight. The hood and cowl of his garments are drawn tight, obscuring his face regardless of Perception checks. He disappears for a moment and suddenly is moving up the walls of the buildings with unearthly style and grace

419: a down-on-her-luck wizardess is propped on a gutter. All she has left is a small portion of her spellbook and some pre-purchased scroll paper and inks. She will pen her only spell left, Floating Disk, as a scroll spell for only 10 GP, just to survive.

420: A summoner is entertaining a crowd with minor conjurations. Suddenly one of his spells goes terribly awry and infernal sounds ripple through an ever-widening portal of fire and brimstone. A singular voice cries out "AFTER TEN THOUSAND YEARS! AT LAST! FREEDOM!" as framed in the portal a skull-topped scepter crowned with ram's horns begins to appear.

Familiar Focus is a good feat for your familiar to take right off the bat. At 1st level your little buddy has 2 hours of Mage Armor and 4 hours of Ant Haul with no hassling with metamagic. Having an owl that can suddenly fly around half the day with 20 AC unencumbered by the first 30 lbs at 80 move is pretty nice. Give it a bowling ball in a bag and have it drop that on enemies. Better yet 30lbs of oil flasks; the owl moves over the enemy w/the bag upside down while you cast Open/Close, dropping the oil everywhere. Now someone just throws a torch and watch everyone in the area take 1d3 damage for 2 rounds.

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In 3.0 a backpack held about 40lbs of material. A small sack I think carried 10lbs and a belt pouch carried 5lbs. I could be wrong though.

Anyway based on that I'd wager that a small chest, like a coffer could carry about 50lbs, and a large chest like a foot locker hauls about 150lbs.

I know for a fact that if you pile enough sacks on an enlarged goat familiar with Ant Haul cast on it you can haul 258lbs before he's encumbered. Get your spellcaster to also throw out an Unseen Servant and a Floating Disk behind themselves and their goat, and now you're carrying at least another 240lbs.

For the weight you're talking Near-guy, you're probably looking more at the wagon train type scenario...

Another tactic, once your familiar can hold a charge:
1. Evolved Familiar: Pounce - make a Full Attack after a Charge
2. Evolved Familiar: improved damage (gore)
3. You can deliver a Touch attack as part of a full attack: you target normal AC and make one attack roll with your natural weapon/unarmed attack; if the attack roll hits deliver damage from your natural weapon/unarmed attack and also deliver damage from your touch attack

So an enlarged goat with a bull's str carrying a charge of Shocking Grasp as the familiar of a 3rd level wizard could make a charge attack at +8 to hit and, if hitting would deliver gore damage of 1d8+4 plus 3d6 electricity. That seems kind of fun.

By doing some initial math though it seems like familiar-as-fighting-buddy sort of becomes irrelevant after about 6th level. Their BAB can't keep up with the AC's of the monsters you're facing. How do you buff a familiar with To Hit bonuses instead of damage bonuses?

You can take a feat that gives a familar a cantrip as a spell like ability. Technically this qualifies the familiar for the Arcane Strike feat. Could you then:

NG male human wizard 1
Feats: Evolved Familiar: Basic Magic - Mage Hand 1/day; Evolved Familiar: Improved Damage (claws; 1d6-2); Scribe Scroll
Arcane Bond: Familiar - Owl (swap out Weapon Finesse for Arcane Strike)

Now you have a familiar with:
Melee 2 talons +5 (1d6 -2 plus 1 magic); counts as magic for overcoming DR

Casting Enlarge Person on this familiar then gives you a Small sized flying combatant able to make a Charge attack at +6 (1d8+1) correct? Said creature can also manipulate a single 5lb item for a minute 1/day and even when not enlarged contribute at least 1 pt of damage on average to a fight while soaking up AoOs.

Sometimes home games, or any games, don't work out. People are people. They're fickle, childish, passive-aggressive and sometimes very opinionated. Others are VERY go-with-the-flow types.

I recommend anyone looking to game w/new people in RL go out for a non-gaming event first. Heck, go on a couple. You meet some dudes at a games store or online and want to get a game together, great! Before the first stat block hits meet 'em out for coffee, or beer, or a meal. Hang out with them at a ball game.

By doing this you see what they're like outside the game. Do they gripe about their job/school/significant others a lot? Do they have an issue with authority? Are they passive-aggressive, overly pushy, or have no opinions on anything?

All of this helps inform you what kind of gamer they are. Also you establish a baseline. If they all say "We love plot and RP" but then are socially awkward, don't read much and obsess over strategic video and board games, chances are you might need them to define what "plot" and "RP" mean to them.

Finally if you don't like them, you don't like them. That sucks, but that happens. I had a guy who wasn't doing anything wrong in my games; his builds were fine for the level of combat, he occasionally hogged the spotlight but whatever; we all do that from time to time. But in person he was dry, scientific. I couldn't joke w/him and we didn't seem to get along really well. Eventually the games just fizzled and I realized I just didn't like hanging with the dude.

That blows, but I've been rejected by enough people in my life to realize that some people you just don't gel with.

@ OP: sucks that you're in Ohio. I'm up here in MN and I prefer face-to-face over online interfacing. I hope your game either picks up or you get a new infusion of players/GMs.

If the GM asks for you to put together some kind of backstory they should tell you why they're asking. Sometimes GMs get runner's block; they can't think of where to take the campaign. If you've got a story about goblins burning down your village to justify becoming a ranger that hunts goblins, that's a good place to start.

1. if the GM asks and explains, and you chump out on it that's criminal
2. if the GM asks and you put something cool together that the GM doesn't uses, that's bad too

Now again I urge all GMs reading this thread: don't ONLY use backstories to hurt your players. Sometimes they put in cool things. If the player took the time to detail that her younger brother is an aspiring wizard put together a stat block for an adept 1 with an arcane instead of divine focus, then put him into one of the first adventures. Maybe he throws his big sis a spell her party needs; maybe he steals a wand for them.

Sometimes backstories should be used for good and not evil.

This helps mitigate some of those "Killer GM" stereotypes. If you're transparent with your players and then provide as much benefit as you do plot fodder from the backstory, there's no issue.

As for modifying backstories... here's the thing: players don't KNOW where the campaign is or where it's going when they make their character's history. If it's a highly decadent democratic kingdom and a campaign that focuses on intrigue it would be impossible for your character to be one of a long line of descent from the throne.

GMs are people. Different people think differently than you do. Add that to the not knowing the campaign thing and players should understand that their vision of the character's backstory may not gel with the GM's and vice versa.

GM's should work WITH their players; not FOR or AGAINST them.

Because people think differently and your players don't know your vision, have a dialogue with your players to help find a middle ground between what they want their character's story to be and what you need to make sense.

The only thing I ask of my players is: give me something in your backstory that can either fade into the background or can be resolved in a single session. I get frustrated when a player engineers something in their backstory that requires intrigue or highly involved plot to resolve. Reason being that I want this to be OUR campaign, not that character's.

So if your character hates goblins understand that not EVERY monster will be goblins. We can showcase your rage in a session from time to time, but otherwise that's something that can fade back. If however the character puts something in about a lost honor sword of the family they should not be discouraged when a rumor leads to it's recovery in a single gaming session since I don't want our campaign into your guy's family feud.

Finally, to the point of not derailing with backstories, I try to resolve the actionable points of backstories or at least touch on these backgrounds between 1st to 3rd level. Maybe after that we might revisit something but at that point I want the plot to be about what's happening now. This is something I tell my players: give me something, good or bad, that I can use quickly in your backstory. If someone's waiting around over three months of RL time for their cool backtory element to make an appearance, it's kind of frustrating.

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