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Leonard Kriegler

Mark Hoover's page

5,280 posts. 1 review. No lists. No wishlists.


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Good underdogs. These are the characters I play, the people I root for and how I've come to see myself over the years.

Good: I loathe evil. Seriously. In real life it makes me NUTS when people drive recklessly (I have KIDS man!), take up 2 parking spots (I'M following the rules, what makes YOU so special?) and have bad manners (would it KILL you to ask, not tell, and use "please" and "thank you?") While that's not really "evil" its as close as I get in RL (THANK GOD!) In games I never play evil characters. When I run games my villains tend to be so irredeemably vile that they elicit pure hate from the PCs, even if one of them happens to have an evil alignment.

Underdogs: For years I only played Halflings. My favorite villainous sentient race isn't orcs or even goblins... it's kobolds. I make "mean wheenies" decks in Magic card games. Bottom line: if you've been pegged as weak, overlooked and written off by everyone else around you, I'm your cheerleader.

Finally, above and beyond all of this I've revealed myself as the classic "Sensitive guy from the 80's" that my mother raised me to be. I try to humanize the whole game. I add mature themes. My kobolds have more of a reason to ambush the heroes than "because they were there."

The last PC I played was a human ranger. He comes upon a mass grave; a plot device to explain a necromancer's "node of power" mechanic that was granting a +1 Caster Level to his spells. Here I am, first level, descending into the pit. "What the hell are you doing" one of the other players asks. I looked right at him: "we can't just LEAVE them there! They were villagers, people. Those are someone's sons and daughters, someone's FAMILY! Sure we drove the necromancer off and sure I could die down there amid a sea of undead, but some of those lucky souls haven't animated. We OWE it to the village to rescue these people, if only for closure. What if it was your brother, or mother; what if your SON was down there?"

So we went down, beat some skeletons and zombies, and then spent the next half an hour of the session detailing how we rescued the dead from among the undead, scoured the pit with fire, the cleric muttered some prayers and then we somberly delivered the dead back to the village and helped them bury their own. It was kind of sad but at least it was human.

I don't like playing murderhobos. If others play them, fine, but that's not me.

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I wouldn't really say I'm a brutal GM. Its just that I have the godlike power to decide when I want to completely destroy the entire party and sometimes I exercise that power with immediate and undeniable results. What's so wrong with that?


Seriously though I think Alkenstar above has it right - I think "brutal" is when the GM has a "Me versus Them" mentality regarding the players. I have to admit though this is REALLY easy for some of us to fall into.

We're human. We have petty feelings and some GMs like myself are little more than overgrown children. I can't speak for everyone else but these ugly emotions tend to well up in me when the PCs confront a "boss" type villain.

See I like to pretend I'm an adventure writer, a real storyteller, and not the pure hack I am in real life. As such I have a vision for how this is encounter is "supposed" to look: the kobold, much more impressive than his weakling brethren, appears near the top of the cavern from fissure in the rock. He's laughing menacingly. As he boldly leaps from the ledge a winged shape, like a tiny dragon, suddenly expands to Medium size as he lands nimbly on its back. "Fools!" he starts in a surprisingly dark and confident common parlance. "You have walked right into my..."

And that's about where my players hijack the scene. Four attacks later and the last two minion kobolds are dead, the BBEG's Mauler Familiar is bleeding out in the corner and the boss himself is brutally wounded, and he hasn't even finished his epic monologue let alone cast a single spell.

WTF man?!? Don't my players KNOW how awesome a storyteller I think I am? Don't they appreciate the gravitas of Imvyryx the Dragon's Fang? If they'd only listened they'd have understood how he clawed his way up through the ranks of the elder kobolds, staged a coup and then masterfully framed his own accomplices for the action, branding them as heretics and having them killed for it. Now, alone and unrivaled in his power Imvyryx directly converses with Mordalith, the Old Black Dragon who is the real threat in this campaign. As one of Mordalith's trusted subordinates Imvyryx commands real power and is tasked with shutting down all merchant trade flowing through the Bleakmoss Moors.

Imvyryx is cool, and powerful, and has a compelling personality and backstory! If. Only. I. Could. SHOW. Them!

But no. My stinking players wrecked it all with their awesomely perfect builds, masterful tactics and a couple lucky die rolls. Freaking meanies! Well, I'll show them! Imvyryx just HAPPENED to have a wand of Cure Light Wounds and I'm just going to completely re-write the rules of the entire game and say that because it's a unique wand he can expend multiple charges at once and heal like a high-level channel. Bam! Imvyryx and his familiar Vilewing are both fully healed and flying - Vilewing never took an action this round so he's double-moving WITH Imvyryx on his back.

Oh, and just to add to their frustration the PCs' ranged attacks, while brutal, leave both rider and mount JUST barely alive enough to pull that hidden lever (that I just thought up) in the roof of the cave starting an avalanche! HA HA suckers! Rocks Fall... YOU ALL DIE!


Or at least, that's all what flashes through my head. The reality is that Imvyryx bites it after a round and the players look around and go "ok... let's loot this place!"

So I completely understand the TEMPTATION to go brutal. I try not to; most of the time I don't break that way but I'm ashamed to say that sometimes I do. To all in this thread: please don't judge us GMs too harshly. We're human after all.

Caveat to all of the above: I still think being a "brutal" GM is wrong.

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5th level sales analyst. I have the feats Arcane Analysis, Create Wondrous Data and Weapon Focus: Spreadsheet. I'm mostly the party face though, with some battlefield control spells like Obscuring Numbers and Create Margin Pit.

3rd level. Not too powerful; craft wondrous items, decent in a fight but still have lots of career ahead to develop a niche.

I just realized one answer to my question that no one has mentioned. At least, I don't think anyone's mentioned it; this is a longer thread than most I get going.

When PF was first conceived, as far as I know, most APs were generated for a 15 Pt buy with CRB created characters. 4 level 1 PCs, w/a 15 Pt buy, starting gold by class and no access to Ultimate Campaign/Magic Capital plus birchbark scroll paper could be expected, at best, to have basic weapons and armor and maybe about 2-4 scrolls, if they're lucky.

For this party, four kobolds as written in the Beastiary WOULD be an average challenge.

Now I'm just talking about the kobolds. Or goblins. Or whatever is armed with simple, weak weapons. I'm NOT talking about things like Cover, Small space, Difficult Terrain, natural Hazards or whatever. Those are supposed to add to the CR of the encounter.

At higher levels I might see a GM custom-arming their monsters. Respectfully though I'd like to say this to the posters in this thread:

I'm only suggesting optimizing the weapons carried.

Because of this I respectfully disagree that changing the weapons changes the CR. If you take 4 kobolds, change nothing else, but make their spears longspears and their slings into crossbows, they'll deal more damage but they still have the same chances to hit, same HP, same defenses and weaknesses, etc. Therefore I'd postulate that arming them thusly doesn't magically transform an encounter with 4 of them from a CR 1 to a CR 2.

Now if instead you made the average kobold warrior 1 with Kobold Sniper, gave them leather armor, rebuilt them with the Heroic array of stats, armed them with a crossbow and a greatsword and finally put them in natural caves with plenty of rocky outcrops from behind which they might crouch and snipe, then yes, their CR should change.

Now you're talking about an AC 16 creature with Stealth +11 firing a crossbow +5 (1d6) potentially denying your Dex bonus and further potentially hiding that same round to do it all over again next round and if you get close to them they've got a greatsword +2 (1d10) if cornered. That's far more lethal than a typical CR 1/4 creature.

I feel like I'm roleplaying right now, participating in this thread.

Lem-a-Lem-a-Ding-Dong: I like #'s 2 and 5 in your post and it's something I never thought of before. What is the main issue with being a martial? Certain weapons hit certain things, so you have to have the RIGHT tool for the job. Most PCs just golf bag it and carry a magic weapon, cold iron weapon, silver weapon, bludgeoning, etc.

If you've joined a special guild and consult w/them before adventures you could get advanced intel on likely monsters and their weaknesses. Once done the guild might outfit you with the right weapons right there or in the field.

I could imagine a scene where the dwarf fighter is just about to enter a tomb. The likely monsters were skeletons so he picked up some info and is carrying a dwarven longhammer on loan from the guild but on the final leg of the journey they learned there's a shadow controlling the tomb. He opens a scroll (really a wondrous item that allows him to communicate with the guild) and jots a request for a ghost-touch weapon. Moments later an agent, teleported to his location, jogs up and hands off a +1 Ghost Touch Greataxe along with a stern warning not to lose, break or even dirty the device on pain of expulsion and fines.

Kind of like having the ability to call in an airstrike.

One way to speed things up: combine Unchained Crafting with the Downtime rules from Ultimate Campaign. Take the "Smithy" building from Downtime:

Smithy wrote:

Create 18 Goods, 1 Influence, 17 Labor (730 gp)

Rooms 1 Forge, 1 Office, 2 Storages

An armorsmith, blacksmith, or weaponsmith.

With the Rooms listed the PC gains a +14 to earning GP or Goods. Earn a bunch of Goods and spend them; they grant +1 bonuses to your crafting (Max +5). The Forge also counts as Masterwork Tools for another +2. Tack on some trained helpers adding Aid Another bonuses (you can have 2 of them in the Forge with you) and you've jacked up your crafting output.

Figuring you've built a Smithy for yourself by level 2 and you've maxed out your Craft: Weaponsmithing you've got at least a +5 from your own skill, you've spent 5 Goods for another +5, you've got 2 Aid Another bonuses for +4 and the Masterwork Tools bonus of the Forge gives you another +2. That's +16 on your roll.

If you can't take 10 on your crafting roll you've got a 17-in-20 chance for success. If you pull off an average roll of 10 on a d20 you're beating your DC by 5 so about half of your crafting days will get some kind of multiplier.

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BioB: I'm in the same boat. My gamers and I are older and more experienced, but we're having the same issues. We get together for 5-7, sometimes 8 hour sessions and make it through only a few encounters.

My players really enjoy social time. I have nothing against that but I've said I'd rather do one night where we just hang out as friends and socialize and keep the game day separate. I don't know about your game but for me there's a lot of symptoms stemming from the same cause:

My gamers just want to hang out and chat.

Now there's nothing wrong with that. Some of my best games are among friends that socialize. But when I take the time to put a game together I'd like to chew up some plot, roll some dice and move it along. In short on game days I'd like the game to be the primary focus and source of fun.

I don't always get what I want though.

I've found a lot more enjoyment in a second group of gamers. We meet more frequently (once a week versus 2/month) but we only play for 3 hours. There's still chit chat, jokes and socialization, but since it's only 3hrs of play we all feel focused and the game moves along.

In a 3 hr session with more players of the same experience level as my other game we get as much if not more done.

So I guess my advice, to you and myself is: have a conversation with your players, tell them your concerns and if any of them are on board, play shorter sessions.

I haven't played with inexperienced players in a long time. Among vets of the game however I can tell you that focused players, in a 3 hr session with me running, have gotten through 7 encounters at level 1. It wiped out their resources, but they plowed through.

The PCs scouted the session before, which helped. They felt confident they knew what to expect. They got through a hazard, got to "room" 1; a beach area with kobolds in a bunker. From there they dealt with 3 kobold warrior 1, moved up through a gauntlet of 4 more kobolds using magic to conceal themselves, fought a tatzlwyrm at the top, followed that fight with more kobolds, then went back down, through the bunker and into the kobold lair where they dealt with a trap and finally a couple elite kobold warrior 2 backed by a kobold adept 3.

All of that in 3 hours.

It CAN be done. The players need to be focused on what they're doing and they need to be motivated to get things done. Finally they need to know what they're capable of and get a little luck in their rolls, but it CAN be done.

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Kobold Cleaver wrote:

A kobold with a greatsword and CR 1/4 might have the same CR, but he's more dangerous. That's the whole point. Why does half of this thread think the default kobold needs to be more dangerous? Why? I really don't get this, and I feel like it's the main barrier here. Show me there's a reason for you wanting kobolds to not die. Far too keen on what and how, but not so hot on why!

Whoops. Been listening to too much JCS lately. Just kidding there's no such thing.

No, you're right of course Cleavy McKoboldpants. Some creatures were just born to die - that's the meta reason that justifies poor weapon choice and I'm ok with that for mooks. I think all of this stems from the fact that, without changing anything in the standard kobold build other than shortbows I made a gauntlet of an area in a dungeon. The kobolds were secondary; their placement in Full Cover was primary. Suddenly my players freaked saying "HOW COULD KOBOLDS HAVE SHORTBOWS YOURE THE DEVIL!!!" when I started questioning "why NOT?"

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I didn't mean for this to be about kobolds, I just didn't have a better example. However there are CR 7 kobolds in the Monster Codex and those monsters are measured in CR by their class levels, so I guess that's a good place to start.

1. Tech: these creatures gain a bonus to trapmaking, a craft skill. They are, however in the fluff noted as being excellent miners. WHAT ARE THEY MINING, AND WHY? If metal, why can't they have decent weapons as fits their Warrior NPC levels? Axes made of stone and bronze go back to primitive man; why not Int 10 mining tribal monsters?

2. Economy: who are they mining/trapmaking FOR? WHY are they so good at stealth? For fun? Is sneaking up on people comedy among kobolds? No, I'd postulate they are actively stalking the dozens of races they have a grudge against, some of whom (Gnomes) are Small sized.

3. Warriors: I get it - their "proficient with all Martial weapons" might just be the versatility to adapt to any simple/martial weapon they find lying about. However why are these creatures, who unlike commoners or experts are SOLELY interested in battle (the NPC class is Warrior after all) not innovating new weapons like the goblin dogchopper?

If a culture is capable of innovations like "Tucker's Kobolds" why can't they make longer daggers (shortswords) or primitive hunting bows (shortbows) like many primitive tribal cultures in RL?

I think all of those arguments are silly, but that's just my OPINION and is not meant to be definitive or a rebuttal of your worldview. However I'd say CR is my primary reason for adhering to poor weapon choices.

A kobold (for lack of a better example) with a normal 1hand spear is CR 1/4; a kobold with a crossbow, leather armor and a buckler attacking 1/round while taking 5' steps, possessing a melee AC of 16 with a Ranged att of lt x-bow +4 (1d6) with the Point Blank Shot feat is probably closer to a CR 1/3 than 1/4.

Still, I like what Jimmy J-bird says above: each GM can outfit their monsters as they see fit.

The problem I see Lem-dawg is that the stuff above isn't anything a good, selfish murder-hobo can't do themselves.

1. Guarantee of quality: by leveling up they have this guarantee and if someone flim-flams them, murder.

2. Protection from abuse by clients: my +2 flaming greatsword is nicknamed "Insurance"

3. Shared pool of political influence: politics? I don't understand; is that a different dungeon?

Guilds like what you're describing are great flavor, fun for certain types of gamers or great justifications for NPC actions/abilities. Some players however will find no use for price fixing, contract negotiations and ransom payment.

The 4th point you make gets closer to what some players need: measurable reward for investment. If I'm going to join a group, what's in it for me? At this point you enter the realm of:

NPC Boons
Additional Traits
Competency bonuses on Skills
Reduced item pricing
Other benefits

Now Mega-L I'm not saying that guilds such that you suggest shouldn't exist. I'm merely suggesting that for some players this is just fluff.

There are all kinds of GMs because lets face it; GM's are people too. Sometimes we GM's fall prey to things like jealousy, frustration or revenge. If you've had an honest conversation with the GM and he's still 1-shotting your AC 30 dwarf monks, chances are the GM in question is just upset and lashing out.

Treat him like a toddler having a tantrum or being naughty.

If your GM won't listen to reason take yourself out of the situation, like taking the toddler's toys away. If said GM then goes off on you or tries to shift the blame, as calmly as you can simply remind them that you'd like to have a constructive dialogue. Ask them why they feel the need to kill your characters. Sure, he gave you the chance to come back in the OP, but he still killed the PC rather than capture, subdue or "leave for dead."

Try to get at the root of the problem. If the GM stonewalls you, complete the action of removing yourself and let this person know in no uncertain terms that you'll be back only when they've had the chance to cool off and are willing to deal with the issue.

In the meantime there are SO many more ways to get your gaming fix. Meetup groups, game stores, online requests for local gamers, play-by-post, or Roll20 are all options. There's also board games, video games, or even just simply cracking your own books and designing your own stuff.

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The problem is that guilds for other classes actually PRODUCE something the PCs can use:

Thieves' Guild: they might have poisons, access to black market goods, etc.

Wizards School: arcane spellcasters can learn spells, buy spells/scrolls/wands, items can be enchanted and so on

Church/Temple: the party might buy spell use, healing potions, learn divine mysteries or the like

Martial types aren't dependent on anything but weapons and armor which, unless magical are usually available everywhere. If they're magic weapons and armor they probably aren't being mass produced and might even be the purview of individual merchants or even the Wizards School or the Church/Temple.

I would postulate then that martial guilds either:

1. be incorporated with other guilds
2. grant martials a unique resource they specifically can use

Some examples might be:

- Tribe of the Brutereig: a local tribe of barbarians, living just outside town but friendly with civilization. The noble clan is willing to train battlers if they pass a grueling "testing" consisting of a gauntlet of fights culminating in lethal techniques. Those who earn their way into training with the Brutereig learn skills in hand fighting, raging or fighting with an axe and shield. In game terms: the PC gains either a +1 to CMB with a specific maneuver, gains 1 round of Rage in addition to their normal limit or gain the benefit of the feat Weapon Focus but only when using a weapon from the Axes fighter weapon group and a shield in their off hand and only for defense.

- Order of Earthlore: a dwarven sect embodying the faiths of Abadar, Erastil, Nethys and Pharasma, the Order of Earthlore are militant protectors of weapons and lore pertaining to the destruction of dragons. The order however often trains and employs those who may not have the same zeal for the divine their full members do; often their field agents aren't even people of faith at all. The Order feels this helps manage corruption in their ranks. These agents however are rigorously tested to ensure they are up to the tasks needed to battle the scourge of dragonkind. In game terms: the PC can utilize this group like a standard Church/Temple type guild. In addition martial types may train with the group to be one of their agents, receiving a +1 to any attack roll made against creatures with the Dragon type.

Now what does membership look like and how is it maintained? That I don't know. I'm sure there's dozens of supplemental mechanics on this topic. In 3x D&D there were Organizations in the PHBII but I'm sure there's other rule sets.

For me personally I'd create an entry requirement, like a battery of tests or missions or whatever; something more than just "pay gold/get in" to make it special for the players. Once they're in the organization then I'd create levels of membership. Maybe something like:

1. Lay Memebership: you gain basic access to mundane lore and services provided by the organization. Maintaining this level of membership requires nothing more than a yearly due of 50 GP

2. Agent Membership: to achieve this level you must have achieved a notable success in the name of the guild while also donating a treasure of at least 300 GP. At this level you may choose one of the benefits associated with the guild as listed above. Maintaining this level of membership requires the yearly due and undertaking one quest/year in the name of the guild

3. Leadership Membership: To achieve this level you must have at least 7 ranks in a skill associated with the guild and be an Agent in good standing in the guild. At this level you gain a second benefit associated with the guild as listed above; you also gain the Leadership feat as a Bonus feat but your Cohort and Followers must be drawn from guild members. Maintaining this level of membership requires the yearly due as well as an oath to never refuse a quest in the name of the guild.

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Kalindlara wrote:

Following Mr. Jacobs and his point about the art, most of the art in the Bestiary was taken from the various modules and such. ^_^

So if the kobold in the adventure had a spear, then the art had a spear, and so the Bestiary kobold inherited that spear along with her art.

For this reason I advise all GMs use art from the module Dragon's Demand.

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DrDeth wrote:
Ed Reppert wrote:

Using Prestidigitation as a light spell won't work. From the spell description: "prestidigitation lacks the power to duplicate any other spell effects."

Thus, Prestidigitation can do nothing since Wish can duplicate or do just about anything (up to a certain level of power).

Since Light= "This spell causes a touched object to glow like a torch...", I'd certainly allow prestidigitation to glow as a candle. Thereby it doesnt DUPLICATE the Light spell.

Y'know, I've always wondered that myself. Prestidigitation suggests it can do other things, but WHAT since everything is prohibited if you go high enough in the spell lists (Wish/Limited Wish). So then... why suggest it might do more?

That's why I've allowed it to create puffs of smoke enough to fill a single square or a candle flame or even modify other spells so that some minor effect is modified. Had a druid and wizard work together once with Flame Strike and Prestidigitation; the color change option in Prestidigitation changed the color of the fire to clear so it was essentially invisible and they snuck past a guard.

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A kobold makes traps. One Pazio module had them in a dungeon with a crossbow trap. How then could they have a crossbow in a trap, but not a weapon? How do they have the Warrior NPC class (proficient in ALL Martial weapons) if they have no access to said "weapon shop?"

Finally, everyone always says: Tucker's Kobolds. Let's say you have that scenario, where you've got 50 kobolds defending some incredibly grueling gauntlet against oncoming adventurers. Presumably they'd slay some, if not ALL of their foes. What happens to their enemies' weapons?

My last 3 sets of PCs in my games have included a Halfling, grippli and another Halfling; one of the halflings and the grippli were both rangers. If those 2 fought some kobolds, got ambushed and were defeated, the kobolds would then have access to chakrams, axes, a short sword and a shortbow.

Heck YEAH they're going to use 'em!

So this is my response to "they don't have the tech"

1. they can make a trap, they can make a weapon

2. they loot the dead, like any good PC

3. if any gear was damaged they take it to the local sorcerer with the Mending cantrip, drop some gold, and they have a new weapon in their arsenal

Purple Dragon Knight wrote:

I just calculated the effective strength of all regular familiars in battle form (my criteria was "min 14 STR")

Here are the winners:

Compsognathus; Master gains a +4 bonus on Initiative checks; STR 15, 1 bite (poison)

Crab, king; Master gains a +2 bonus on CMB checks to start and maintain a grapple; STR 14, 2 claws (grab)

Fox; Master gains a +2 bonus on Reflex saves; STR 16, 1 bite

Goat; Master gains a +3 bonus on Survival checks; STR 15, 1 gore

Octopus, blue-ringed; Master gains a +3 bonus on Swim checks; STR 15, 1 bite (poison) and 1 tentacles (grab)

Pig; Master gains a +3 bonus on Diplomacy checks; STR 14, 1 bite

Raccoon; Master gains a +3 bonus on Sleight of Hand checks; STR 15, 1 bite

Wallaby; Master gains a +3 bonus on Acrobatics checks; STR 15, 1 kick

I will now look quickly at the Improved Familiars...

I'd like an honorable mention for the Owl. Master gains +3 Perception in dim light (have a PC with low light or Darkvision); only STR 13 but x2 talons (1d8+1).

That means your mauler can get in a Full Attack of at least x2 talons +3 [+4 if attacking from overhead] (1d8+1) for an avg damage on 2 hits of 11 damage. Add in the fact that if you're Small or Tiny you could be riding the thing; you can drop Mage Armor on it and's still got a respectable 18 AC; if you finish off what your familiar hit this round and it has at least 1 HD your mauler gets his Bond Forged in Blood bonus and I thought this familiar was at least worth mentioning.

Let's take the lowly kobold. In my Bestiary 1 I see a pic of a kobold with a bone through its nose, a spear and it's range weapon lists a sling. Bear in mind that it is defined by its class levels. Its listed class in the stat block is Warrior 1, one of the only advantages of which is all martial weapons.

Why so cruel to the kobold?

Without changing/optimizing stats, adding PC class levels or modifying any feats I'm looking at a Str 9, Dex 13 Small sized creature. Said creature is also of average intelligence and capable of wielding ANY martial weapon, so why is he depicted with THESE weapons?

A simple change from a sling to a shortbow gives the kobold a +2 avg damage for a mere 30gp. There's not much you can do for the melee weapon but if he HAS to fight melee you could drop a Lucerne hammer in his hands; justify it as a mining hammer and pick combined. He's using 2 hands for his ranged weapons; why not max out his damage potential?

Ok, so maybe the hammer is too much but seriously; why a spear and sling? For that matter mites are throwing darts? Seriously? They ride on giant vermin; poisoned darts or instead maybe a crossbow?

I get hamstringing monsters with inferior stat arrays compared to the heroes. After all the PCs ARE presumably the heroes right? But really sub-standard gear seems like overkill on making monsters weaker than the PCs.

What if the spellcasting worked like the rogue talents Minor Magic and Major Magic? Essentially some minor tricks the familiar has picked up based on exposure to/training with magic via link to the master/mistress.

Also some things to think about:

How does this fit with Improved Familiars?

How will this work with Familiar Archetypes?

I wonder if, since there are now many ways to enhance familiars through feats, class archetypes and familiar archetypes on top of many buff spells a familiar-centric PrC may be redundant. Then again that's only my opinion.

What kind of campaign do you want to run there? Will there be a lot of political intrigue? Do you anticipate lots of deities involved?

I personally second Oaky upthread. Start small and build out. Also consider some big questions like I mention here because those will help guide your creation.

Frankly I'd say, looking at the first few pics on the inspiration link above that you do something with dragons, forests and the fey. Maybe some world connected to the First World, making it natural, primal. Everything there is bigger; giants, trolls, witches and barbarians.

Also look at the darker faerie tales of old. Have monsters who aren't motivated by treasure. The fey in your lands for example might be able to boost their powers with innocent blood on hand; hags need to eat children to survive; wolves can talk.

Think of some of your favorite RPG video games. they have great expansive visuals for their lands, but the actual world is purposely left vague. There was once a great empire, referred to only as "The Great Empire." They ruled everything and created a system of knights and golems to protect everyone. One day the golems went crazy and now the empire is in ruins, with dozens of squabbling kingdoms rising up out of the ashes.

The old knights, last remnants of the old empire, still roam but they are lost (NPCs, villains). The Young Kingdoms are only as big as America's Rhode Island and in the wilderness even smaller "freeholds" or free states are controlled by warlords, tyrants and messiahs. The PCs then hail from one of the Young Kingdoms - only really define that one and the needed parameters of the current adventure. You've got the broad strokes: ruins everywhere with giant statue chunks (inert golems) all over the land, the Young Kingdoms, Freeholds. Now each adventure just simply fills in the details and the best is: your players are helping you finish it.

Encourage your players to help. Tell them if they add details through character creation they get an extra Trait related to those details. Once the game gets rolling ask them for feedback and vibe off their suggestions. If they want to see megafauna and giant robots in the game you might say that the Great Empire delved into experiments on animals to compete with dragons or that some of the golems have been reactivated.

ryric wrote:

Theoretically you can use the pit spells to circumvent floor things that are even more inconvenient. Pressure plate that sets off a trap? Pit and it's gone. Small pool of lava or acid? Pit and it's gone. You can take out the middle of a bridge. You can temporarily erase a trap door/escape hatch. And so forth.

I wouldn't say that the pit spells destroy any of these things, but the real floor is suppressed for the duration of the pit.

Also lets you get past doors/gates too heavy for your Knock or Open/Close spells. Create a pit under the threshold, climb down, go under then go back up the other side of the pit.

Dracovar wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:

Arcane Mark glows and is permanent on inanimate objects. Even if this is only as bright as a candle (5' rad Dim Light) if spammed around it can provide light forever.

In one game we had a wizard with an owl familiar. He put Arcane Mark on a pebble and had the creature carry it in it's mouth on scouting flights. Owls get Low Light and the wizard himself got +3 Perception in Dim Light. This simple rock made sure the two were never completely blind (unless magical darkness) and the wizard's Per was better than the ranger's.

While I love Arcane Mark shenanigans, and I'd concede that brightness of the glow should be at least that of a dim candle, I'd debate the glowing part - as the spell only mentions the invisible variant of the Arcane Mark 'glowing' when hit by a Detect Magic. Quite a specific set of circumstances (which can be used to one's advantage to trigger a Programmed Image, for example).

Nothing else, other than assumption or House Rule, that a visible mark should glow. It has no need to glow, it's already visible.

Then how do you get all those glowing runes in video games? It's not just Symbol spells or Explosive Runes since they don't ALWAYS kill you. I always just assumed that's what Arcane Mark was: a magic version of a small neon that says "eat at Joes."

If not Arcane Mark, then could you do this with Prestidigitation? Create a heatless candle flame that only illuminates a 5' rad with Dim Light? Or does that violate the "infringes on another spell" clause?

Hama wrote:
Asking me?

Knee jerk reaction. When one of my players makes a statement like that I always ask them to describe it. Ex:

player My Halfling intimidates

me HOW does your Halfling Intimidate?

Player Umm... intimidatingly?

me What does he do/say that's so intimidating?

Player He shakes his fist and says "you better tell me what I want to know or else!"

Then they roll and I go on to add detail to the scene along with the reaction based on the roll. To me, describing what action(s) the PC took to accomplish their skill check is just as good as inhabiting the mind and voice of the character for roleplaying, but to each their own.

However just being present is RP, so I guess I should stop questioning people at the table. *Sad walking away music*

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Everyone's experience varies with "theater of the mind" versus battlemats and minis. My own personal experience has been that when I don't use some visuals my players get bogged down in "where am I? How far away is the goblin? Are there any ledges or niches in the wall?" etc.

I can manage as fast if not faster combats if I just take a few seconds to draw it out with a marker and put something, whether its minis or dice or SOMETHING to represent the villains. The slowness comes from those individual players who, regardless of the medium used consider themselves chess masters moving pawns into the PERFECT position.

Seriously. Yes, you have a sleep spell; sometimes it won't catch ALL the villains, no matter where you drop it. Yes, you have feats that let you ignore difficult terrain; no matter where you charge you won't be able to cleave ALL the monsters next round. The point is you need to be able to make a course of action, commit to it and trust that, if your move wasn't perfect your other team members can pick up your slack.

The bottom line in any fight regardless of level or power is simply to be able to do 1/4 of all HP damage in a round w/out dying. Are you facing one big dragon with 400 HP? Then your party needs to dish out 100 per guy from the 4 of you. Wizard can only drop 60? That's fine; the fighter can throw 140, so you're covered.

On the other hand if you're a 2nd level party facing off against 8 goblin warrior 1 villains, your wizard probably can't deal 10 pts of damage but they have a Sleep spell that can take out 2 of goblins. You'll WANT to angle it and finagle like 7 of them into the area of effect but so long as you catch 2, you're good.

TL/DR: battlemats are ok sometimes and players might be faster if they just worried about handling 1/4 of a fight and didn't sweat the rest.

Hama wrote:
Snowblind wrote:
Hama wrote:
Aranna wrote:
Hama wrote:
Um sorry, but not staying in character is a lack of role-play.

Unless of course it IS role play.

Hama wrote:
Yeah, but "I ask the inkeep about horse racing" is not.

Actually any interaction as your character outside of the mechanical side of the game is role play... Just because someone is worse at it then someone else it doesn't stop it from being role play.

Hama wrote:
Just describing your action isn't.

Only if you are merely expressing a mechanical roll in flowery language... only... if however you are describing an interaction then yes it is role playing.

Example: <rolls dice> "I swing wildly at the Orc and connect leaving a bloody gash across his arm." Not role play.

"After wounding the Orc I warn him to stay away from this village... or else." IS role play.

Sorry, describing interaction is not roleplay for me. But then, everyone has their preferences.

So does that mean if I want to roleplay intimating a halfling I have to bring a nerfbat and a midget? Since describing interactiion is not roleplaying?

Remind me to not play an evil character until I can find someone with a prosthetic limb I can cut digits off.

No, it means that you have to actually roleplay your halfling intimidating. You can't just say "my halfling intimidates".

HOW does your Halfling intimidate?

Matthew Downie wrote:
thejeff wrote:

I like how everyone has strict, hard limits on what is or is not roleplay. And how they're all different.

I use the strict dictionary definition:

Roleplay (noun): a form of entertainment where you use randomly generated numbers to kill orcs.

Here's how big a nerd I am: I just actually LOOKED UP the definition. The online oxford-English defines it as:

Oxford University Press wrote:

1. psychology

the acting out or performance of a particular role, either consciously (as a technique in psychotherapy or training) or unconsciously, in accordance with the perceived expectations of society with regard to a person's behavior in a particular context.

2. participation in a role-playing game.

So now I have to go apologize to all my old gamers. Apparently by definition just sitting at the table and rolling dice actually DOES = roleplaying.

Carry on.

Y'know the other reason why I suck at maps? Layers. If I were any good at understanding and using online resources like Photoshop or if I could draw better than a 1st grader I'd be able to put 2 terrain types on top of one another.

In my home town there is a lot of marsh area, so on a region-scale map (1 inch equals 10 miles for example) you might have the area as marsh. However right in the middle of that marsh is a decent sized lake that folks go boating on, there's a belt of woodlands that carves through it and on the western edge there's some significant hills.

I cannot, for the life of me seem to express on paper this concept. Every map I make has a blob for forests or water, or humps for hills, or pointy hills for mountains. I don't seem to have the skill to express the epic vision in my head that even though said mountains are a small, 20 mile range roughly 30 miles wide surrounded by another 5 miles all around them by foothills, there are deep vales nestled in them. Some of these vales are thick with pine and birch that reach all the way up the middle peaks while others are sodden with peat bogs, meadows and moors.

Wait, what was that middle thing again? About what roleplaying is?

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Arcane Mark glows and is permanent on inanimate objects. Even if this is only as bright as a candle (5' rad Dim Light) if spammed around it can provide light forever.

In one game we had a wizard with an owl familiar. He put Arcane Mark on a pebble and had the creature carry it in it's mouth on scouting flights. Owls get Low Light and the wizard himself got +3 Perception in Dim Light. This simple rock made sure the two were never completely blind (unless magical darkness) and the wizard's Per was better than the ranger's.

I have to second the "people trying to decide what to do" thing. Here's my mandate to my players: we have a whiteboard on which everyone's initiatives are listed. I have another player running it but will let folks know where we are in a round and let the next guy know they're "on deck." If you're not ready to go on your initiative I'm still going to count to 30, then you've delayed til after the next PC goes. So:

GM: ok, top of the round. Druid, you're up; Hunter, you're on deck.

Druid: Ok, umm...

GM: *with his fingers* 1...2...3...

Druid: Ok... right... there's 3 kobold snipers behind the rocks... Move action: pull myself up on shore... to here *moves mini to a square on the map* and then start casting Summon Nature's Ally.

GM: Ok. The druid hauls up out of the murk, speeds across open ground to duck behind a low hedge and begins muttering in the druidic tongue. Hunter; you're up. Barbarian: you're up after the hunter, then it's the kobolds.

Hunter: ummm...

GM *starts counting*

Hunter ...

GM *finishes counting* Ok; hunter will go after the barbarian. Barbarian, you're up...

Between that and folks not knowing what their feats/powers/spells do, I'm surprised we get through any combat at all.

Players have gotten mad at me for delaying but honestly I'm up front with them about what's going to happen and I tell them WHY I'm doing it, so I don't feel too bad. When every fight, even an APL -1 degenerates into a chess match/game of scrabble where every action is calculated and every option is researched real time the game is no fun anymore.

Spell cards. An updated character sheet. Pre-determined bonuses. These should be mandatory in front of any player when playing live.

Oh, and @DMCal - yet another similarity between us. When playing as a player I'm always conscious of who the guy before me in initiative is and what they're doing; when my turn comes I'm usually already rolling my attack and potential damage AS I'm describing my PC's actions. I also can usually tally off for the GM all the situational modifiers: bard song in the background, charge bonus, penalty for squeezing, etc. so they know where my final To Hit number comes from. I think GMs think I'm too controlling but my turn is usually over in about 2-5 minutes.

I know Flash is DC but Stan Lee was once quoted years ago in an interview about the Hulk "I know nothing of science." Nuff said.

Jiggy wrote:
Jacob Saltband wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
Skimming this thread has cemented my belief that most people who have strong opinions about what roleplaying is have no f~$&ing clue what roleplaying is.
So elaborate. Tell us what real roleplaying is.

I'll start with the corny one-liner version: "Roleplaying" is when the "playing" is based on the "role".

To expand on this a bit, it basically comes down to decision points: whenever it comes time for the player to decide what to do, roleplaying is when that decision is based who the character is.

Roleplaying is not, as some seem to think, a synonym for "talking to NPCs".
Roleplaying is not the other side of the RPG coin from combat, or the part of the game that doesn't involve dice.
Roleplaying does not require acting anything out (though that can be fun in itself).

Roleplaying is when the player chooses to make the decision that the character would make.

Heck, depending on the situation, a combat could be more roleplay-heavy than a dialogue with an NPC: if you encounter a creepy NPC that the player knows the GM wants him to talk to but a real person in that position would do something else, then engaging in that dialogue would actually be a failure to roleplay. Meanwhile, if you're in a combat that has some depth of decision-making (instead of nothing to do but full-attacking whatever's in range) and those decisions are made based on what kind of person the PC is, then that's good roleplaying.

Every time the players encounter a decision that needs to be made, it's a chance to roleplay. Making a decision that's in line with the character's persona is roleplaying, while making a decision that's contrary to it is failing to roleplay. And that distinction is 100% independent of the presence or absence of die rolls, NPCs, silly voices, or combat. It is the simple act of making the choices that the character would make.

Making choices the character would make is similar to #1 above. You're absolutely right Jigster; roleplaying is simply playing a role. I guess folks' confusion, mine included is we're crossing the act of roleplaying with the delivery of decisions.

No you folks are probably right; I don't think it's challenge so much as variety that I'm missing. Pan, I hear what you're saying as well. I've gotten some feedback from my players in past campaigns that my game finds a rut easily and I can be kind of boring so I guess I'm just being paranoid.

I suppose what's fueling all of this was looking over threads I've posted in and realized there's a lot of cool ideas out there. Stuff I've liked, stolen and built on in my own campaign notes. But then in looking over the adventures I've written for my actual homebrew I'm seeing a definite pattern.

Jiggy, thanks for the link. I need to change things up. Not just so my players can still have fun but so I can enjoy the stuff I'm putting on the table.

Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:

Warning: these are my opinions. Here's the 3 styles of RP I tend to see at my table:

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **...

Uh, you excluded the best style, chucklehead.

** spoiler omitted **

LOL'd and spilled hot coffee. You win KC Masterpiece!

TmegZ: I know your posts aren't real life but I like to think that in RL you use just as few words at the table as you do here

GM: the gate guards accost you. What do you do?

Tri guy: I use Intimidate to make them let us in

GM: How. Describe it.

Triple threat: I grin.

GM: *shudders* Ok ok, they let you in. Jeez... stop it man.

In point #3 I was exaggerating the speech but it owes to the point: the difference between #2 and #3 is theatrics. If you speak in character, however briefly or you are otherwise immersed IN your character and setting, you're a #3. If however you're in the 3rd person merely DESCRIBING the action, you're a #2.

Like The bald one and the Eternal Smirk above I drift between 2 and 3, but mostly 2.

Liz Courts wrote:
It's less being "wrong" and more being "consistent." If you establish that the Branmourn Forest is split in twain by a canyon that spews red silt every spring with the snowmelt, you just need to remember that you said that and add the necessary geographical features. (Notes are a GM's BFF.)

"Branmourn." I love it. When naming the wood ages ago two old men stood on a hillside:

1. Well, we've finally trekked to the far side of the ridge. Just below is a new woodland unseen by any in our tribe before.

2. What'll we call it then? And what's for breakfast?

1. I don't know what to name it yet. Meanwhile all I have is these muffins...

2. BRAN?! I HATE Bran! I literally MOURN the invention of this incessant stuff and you've baked it into stale muffins?

1. Mourn... Bran... YEAH, that's IT! Forever more shall this be known as the Branmourn Forest!

Anyway madam manager that is sound advice. Give a region some personality, then make a note of it. Remember to bring it up once in a while. In the case of the above-mentioned wood have the PCs get caught in a Crimson Flood or perhaps have them present in a town when it flows through the river and the local priest of Gozreh get's all antsy about the "omens" this foretells.

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Warning: these are my opinions. Here's the 3 styles of RP I tend to see at my table:

1. Non-Existent::

GM: 2 armed dwarves guard the gate. "Next!" one barks gruffly. "Oh, its one of you BEARDLESS types. Give me a good reason I should let you four in!"
Player: I use Diplomacy to talk him into letting us in. I got... 27

2. Self-describing::

GM: 2 armed dwarves guard the gate. "Next!" one barks gruffly. "Oh, its one of you BEARDLESS types. Give me a good reason I should let you four in!"
Player: I use Diplomacy to talk him into letting us in. As part of the diplomacy I'll explain we're merchants, here to peddle goods obtained in the last adventure. I'll try to impress him with what we've done and plainly display the gear and weapons we took off the kobolds. Finally I'll explain financially the revenue the town will receive when our business is complete. I got... 27

3. Fully immersive::

GM: 2 armed dwarves guard the gate. "Next!" one barks gruffly. "Oh, its one of you BEARDLESS types. Give me a good reason I should let you four in!"
Player: *in character's voice and accent* "I am Nearon, a humble merchant by trade but also a devout of Abadar, the Lord in Stone. By virtue of his Holy Key I beseech you: let us pass. This day in your fine city my compatriots and I seek to do business in your market square. Recently we were ambushed by night; kobold brigands in yon forest in the vales below but we held our own. Our hunter companion, the grippli Niblix was able to find their track and follow it most of the next day, until we at last arrived at their lair. There we did battle with dozens of the reptilian pests. There the kobolds had enshrined graven images of their deity dragon, Mordalith and a tatzlwyrm of unusual size and cunning was being actively revered as an agent of this pagan patron. Our fight took us into the heart of a cluster of ruins enshrouded in dense thickets arranged like a temple complex but by Abadar's Bargain we were able to win the day against even the wyrm itself. Now we bear with us the spoils of our harrowing adventure. We wish to sell them here, in your town, and use our newfound wealth to purchase lodging, fresh supplies and pray even beg the dwarven smiths of such great renown as those in residence within these walls to improve upon the axe of our warrior, Fynna the Cleaver. I'd dare say your town would benefit mightily for admitting us; no sooner would our goods be sold than the coffers of your castle would be that much richer as we spend all we have earned right back again." I use Diplomacy to talk him into letting us in. I got... 27

None of the above is bad/wrong, nor are any better than another. They simply are. I suppose it really depends on how the table consensus goes of what works best for you.

For me I humbly request that each player at least skip #1 and play some measure of #2 or #3. My personal style is probably a blend of both, but I tend more towards #2 just out of time constraints.

Basically I'm a big fan of #2's. That probably didn't come out right...

Thanks Mighty J. The PCs aren't very well optimized and the players are enjoying the combat level so I don't think its that. I guess I was wondering if I should be throwing more at them. Like there's this tangled creepy forest that looks 1000 years old but only regrew over the area over the past century. In the setting info I've talked about how dark and mysterious it is but should I have things like

- plant hazards

- plant/animal monster attacks

- fights with weird terrain obstacles like giant mushrooms or shrubs as dense as walls

I just feel like my game is a lot of fluff but then the crunch amounts to: You go here... fight... you crawl back out. Hooray, you survived. Count your loot in town.

So I've been reading around the "Gamer Talk" forum and looking at some of the stuff that some of the posters consider status quo for their games. Stuff like killer plants, fish and exotic wildlife all supremely adapted for murder, plus APL +1 to +2 on every standard encounter, etc. Not one at a time mind you, but CONSTANTLY.

Am I too soft on my players?

My last few gaming sessions have been 2-6 fight scenes on average (some with none; some with 8) but said fights have been APL, APL -1 or APL +1 or +2. I have provided a few instances of terrain hazards such as slopes or loose rocks and cover/obstacles, but that's it. Within these sessions I've had maybe 2 Fort saves and no other types, combats the PCs had plenty of options to either win or flee from, and journeys through a tangled forest with nary a hazard or natural foe in sight.

I'll ask again; am I running on easy mode right now?

"Are your players having fun?" Yes, they are; that's not the point. This is more a question about me to find out more about what kind of GM I am.

Who is Vandal Savage?

I know nothing of DC as I always made mine Marvel/Excelsior!/'nuff said. I am excited for this show however. Hopefully it's got a really big budget for special effects. I also really like the actress who plays Sara Lance so it's great to see her happening again. That being said though doesn't that completely disintegrate a lot of the drama from this past season of Arrow? Also I want to know too: how long can you be dead to come back in a Lazarus Pit? Can it just be a single bone? Like, can I go find a saint's finger bone from some sepulcher and toss it in the soup and get him back?

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12. The Pampered Talon
This inn caters specifically to the needs of adventurers with animal companions, familiars and mounts. The main house is accentuated with numerous outbuildings, sheds and lush grounds for open play. The proprietess, Mynika Silvermane is a trained wizard with an owl familiar named Moontalon who takes great pride in caring for the animals of her guests. The creatures she cares for are given space to frolic, fine meals suited to their native diets and sumptuous accommodations either within their owners' suites or one of the support buildings throughout the compound. Mistress Silvermane will not admit guests who do not have an animal companion of some kind, and this includes adventurers with improved familiars, bound elementals, constructs or other faux support creatures.

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The "terrifying wild" I speak of is a stretch of land dotted with primeval forests, moors and swamps. Stalking this area are dragons, kobolds, aberrations and undead. Up until a century ago the forest was much smaller, scattered and passable. There were swaths of arable land and this whole wilderness was in fact moderately settled with small towns, villages and modest castles.

The Wilding caused the forest to replenish itself tenfold. It also brought about a general surge of growth in the land itself; marsh grasses and weeds on the moors choked fields; the swamps became even more dense; even the meadows and fields themselves were overgrown and savage. Monstrous creatures either returned to the land, mutated out of the natural flora and fauna or were re-awakened from beneath the earth.

Now the area, known as the Sothryn Wylds lay in ruins. See that stand of pines? They literally sprang from a collection of buildings that were once a village. At the heart of it is a ruined tower and hall that once served the lord in residence while other boulders and rubble shrouded in moss and hedgerows was the church. The broken remains of civilization lay about the land partially digested by the wilderness.

Only in the last 20 years have those few settlements that survived here begun to reach out and explore the burgeoning wilderness around them once more. A single road, the Old Lochby that traces the western bank of the great Loch Soth survived the Wilding. This ribbon of stone is the lifeline that guides travel back to the northern reaches of the Rukenval, the name of the region as a whole.

The Wilding not only consumed the land but it changed the very landscape as well. Streams and rivers changed course. Hills rose and fell like waves against a shore. This makes old maps and writings tenuous at best for wanderers and adventurers alike. Now the populace clusters around the town of Valyg's Crossing in the Sothryn Wylds. Once this town was a center of commerce situated at nearly the center of Loch Soth with great swaths of civilization north, south and west of it. Now it is an island in a sea of ruins and wilderness.

That's basically my current campaign.

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The 8th Dwarf wrote:

G'day TG thanks for the shout out.

What I do now is scout around for beta Tests, one offs, freebies, free systems and Free intro/quick start games. And occasionally talk my group into testing stuff out. I have recently run the Alpha test for Rolemaster Unified, at no cost all I had to do was sign up to the ICE forums. Also the Bargain Bin in RPG stores is a good place to pick up cheep stuff...I am goIng to haggle over a $20 4e Gamma World Box I saw the other day if it's still there, see if I can get it for $15.

This is one of the reasons I say all old GMs should go to a con. Any con. Hopefully there's one nearby. I used to have this really cool one, y'know, GenCon? I lived in Chicago and the con used to be in Milwaukee so it was quick drive and I was there. Then it went mainstream, moved to Indiana which wasn't all THAT far away but it just wasn't the same con. But then I moved too, up to Minnesota so I was plain out of luck.

A few years ago up here I found Con of the North. They've been around for years but it isn't mainstream like other cons I've attended. Its old skool; guys selling things out of milk crates; more gaming than deal-making; people playing with actual pen and paper, not tablets and iPads. I freaking LOVE it!

So another bit of advice I give to all burnt out GMs is get to a con if you can. I know Cal that this isn't convenient for you but maybe it's like a therapeutic retreat. Just to smell old books and bad BO, sit among your people without judgment or posturing and jump into games from every country, era and genre is a gift all GMs need to give themselves once in a while.

How far ARE things supposed to be? I have that problem as well.

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Kthulhu wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:
KotBl always represented for me the classic megadungeon.
Fairly small for a megadungeon. When I think megadungeon, I think this.

For a kid learning to play, that was a megadungeon.

A buddy of mine years ago was way into old-skool and got a hold of a map of the levels under Castle Greyhawk. "That wasn't enough for me" he said so he also got a map of some huge castle in England. He took the English map and made encounters or write-ups for EVERY room, major hall, outbuilding, etc. PLUS he had random tables, PLUS he had wilderness adventures, PLUS some of the wilderness adventures had whole dungeons with them.

It was the most ridiculous amount of gaming I'd ever seen in my life to that point.

I felt really bad for the dude too. He started building the thing for a gaming club he was part of, for when he finally got his shot at running. A few months before finishing the whole group finished their old campaign but decided to disband since one guy was moving away. Literally years of this dude's life were dedicated to a project that never got played.

Anyway sorry for the derail.

I get what everyone's saying about the old school modules aging. Even the best of them seem 2 dimensional in relation to stuff written in the last 10 to 15 years. IMO (and yours will likely differ) the reason for this is motivation and depth of character.

The old giant modules for example. They just start; "there's these hill giants attacking so you're doing something about it..." and you don't really know or even care who the villains are or why you're the heroes on this particular case.

Now consider the first book of Rise of the Runelords. You have a whole town, complete with fleshed out NPCs. The villains too have needs, wants and motivations. GMs are given enough info to really know

the guy working with the goblins in the glassworks
and such. At certain points GMs are encouraged to make the PCs care about Sandpoint and its people as that's central to the entire AP.

Even the stand alone modules are like this. Keep on the Borderlands: a great stand-alone with tons for the PCs to do but as mentioned upthread it's not even details-light. The details are literally non-existent. Hollow's Last Hope on the other hand has fully-developed NPCs plus, if the players are paying attention, the sub-plot that the Lumber Consortium is squeezing this town to death.

So I guess what I'd say is this: old skool modules are really great if you need bones or inspiration on which to hang your campaign. You can really customize them to your needs. That's why I like calling them "modules." Current pre-written adventures are more like mini-campaigns in and of themselves. You don't really have to do anything except open them, read ahead a little and start running.

@ Greywolf: thanks for your input. I know small towns really shouldn't be self-sufficient. That's why I'm following the model of a large village, town or city with a few if not dozens of these little settlements around it.

@ Kren: I've been basing a lot of what I've done in relation to populace on the Life in a Medieval Village by Gies as well as the Medieval Demographics website. I've never really understood the "manor system" to be honest. I've read dozens of books on it but it makes no sense. The manor is sometimes a location, sometimes not; it is a representation of the lord/ruler of an amount of land. The ruler/manor/whatever then had 1 village, maybe 4? This makes zero sense in my brain.

Firstly how then do you have landless nobles? Also how can one ruler have multiple settlements? Wouldn't he have vassals that administrate those lands? What does it take to qualify as a manor and can you lose manorial status? How doe this relate to the aristocracy? Are the landed aristocracy also manorial lords?

All of that is probably another thread though so I won't derail by expecting answers to the above. Suffice it to say in this thread I'm chiefly concerned with how you end up with a 100 mile stretch of land between major centers of commerce. Wouldn't that next town 100 miles away just basically become a free state on its own? Who's going to ride 100 miles through terrifying wilds just to collect some taxes or tell people in the next town that the king's kid is about to get married?

One way to reduce cost is to use the Ultimate Campaign rules for Downtime. One activity during downtime is generating capital. One kind of capital you can generate is Goods.

The mechanic works like this: you use a skill (most Craft, Performance or Profession skills as well as Diplomacy and many others) and make a check (you can take 10); for every 10 in the final check you have the potential for 1 Goods. You have to spend 10 GP/Goods to actually receive the capital. This is all an abstraction representing your PC working their skill for a day of Downtime, using materials and paying for extra tools and such with the result being a collection of raw materials useful for future projects.

You can then spend the Goods you've just generated to pay the costs for mundane crafting. Every 1 Goods is worth 20 GP worth of crafting costs. Let's use an example:

Your dwarf fighter 2 wants to craft a dwarven longhammer. He has a 14 Int and 2 ranks in Craft: Weaponsmithing for a total bonus of +7. He also has a set of masterwork crafting tools for an additional +2. Day 1 of Downtime he rolls a crafting check to generate Goods and rolls an 11, for a total Craft: Weaponsmithing check of 20.

The dwarf pays 20 GP and earns 2 Goods. He immediately spends 1 of these to pay the 23 GP cost of crafting a longhammer. He pays an additional 3 GP of his own and banks the extra 1 Goods for another project.

Essentially what the dwarf did was work with a smith in town. He did some odd finish work for the smith earning wholesale pricing on some steel for the longhammer he'll be making. In essence he spent 13 GP instead of 23 GP for this project, saving him 10 GP.

These ideas all sound cool and very cinematic. I especially like how you're adding the machine purely because some of the players enjoy that stuff. It shows you've already got the mindset of someone who wants to share their game with their players rather than throw it at them.

That being said its very easy with a powerful NPC to make scenes more about you than the PCs. I'd be careful with the retired paladin/cleric showdown. It can easily become you playing and your players watching from the sidelines.

My suggestion would be to have the PCs and paladin get separated in the bowels of the machine. Make the thing SO big that the machine itself is a dungeon. Have the paladin say "I'm headed up to the bridge to stall for time; you four head down to the engine room. Its up to you to save the city by stopping this juggernaut!" this makes the party feel important and also gets the paladin out of the way.

After they've fought their way down to the engine and killed the device they also have a bird's eye view of the street outside through a port window. Suddenly there's a crash from above and the paladin hits the pavers followed by the evil cleric. The PCs catch snippets of the banter between the two and get the idea that the 2 are old foes. Finally, in the end the paladin is struck down but the cleric is so hurt from the smiting that he needs to flee.

Once the PCs finally make it out to the paladin's broken body he's on his last breaths. The party gets a final warning from the old hero and maybe he lays hands on them and imparts some power of the divine on them or their items or something.

Now the PCs have a holy mission, a cool origin story and an arch villain to deal with.

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