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Would you read a new blog or watch a new youtube channel on Pathfinder advice (rules, builds, gm tips, etc?)
I'd hit that. Seriously, I've watched stuff on the subjects and read tons of blog posts specific to PF, so I'd likely read your stuff. I plan on dropping my own blog to post encounter ideas for PF games. It'll hopefully be a sort of rolling random encounter chart with tips and suggestions on how to work them into your game.
I think I've just resolved this is a player thing. There's just always some player at my tables who doesn't seem to want to engage with the others. Its nothing against anyone in most cases. No one's trying to hurt anyone else's feelings. There's just one player usually (sometimes more than one; rarely none at all) who simply wants to sort of shine on their own.
Usually with these folks it's not about combat. They're more than willing to fill a "role." Like "we've got three melee types and a squishy arcane caster. I'll play a ranged cleric for divine spells and distance damage" or whatever. But then once that immediate need is filled their character is always sort of... off, doing their own thing.
The most frustrating common trait with these folks (at my tables anyway; your experiences are probably different than mine) is that if you offer any suggestions as to how they can engage with the group, optimize their tactics or get more use out of spells or whatever they are at the very least offended and at worst defensive. They don't want to be told how to play their character so how dare you?
If I'm being a tool at the table, I want someone to tell me. Other folks may not be so... open to feedback. But to me this is the essence of party unity and part and parcel to the using buffs and heals and tactics to support your fellows.
You need to be willing to be part of the group, and not just for the experience points. Some of this involvement will be rewards and accolades; some of it may be critiques and feedback. I feel like all players should be willing to accept the good with the bad.
Honestly the part of the trailer I liked more than anything was Ma Kent saying "You don't owe them ANYTHING." Every version of Superman always portrays Ma and Pa Kent as these moral, upstanding farmers with real middle America values and such - basically a trope in and of themselves.
But imagine: your baby boy has all these powers, sure, but now the WHOLE world wants a piece of him. He's a threat to everyone, which means that big ol' "S" on his chest is nothing more than a target. Your baby boy is the most wanted man on the planet with everyone gunning for him.
I don't think I'd bake my son a pie and say "you have a purpose boy; now go get 'em!"
Now I know after that line she tells him to be a god or a savior or whatever they need him to be and all that but in that one line I imagine Martha Kent looking up at her baby boy and what she's really saying is "I don't WANT you to go and be a hero. Stay home. Be safe. YOU DON'T OWE THEM ANYTHING!"
No parent should ever have to shoulder the burden of their child constantly and knowingly placing themselves in harm's way. No parent should ever have to bury a child. I can't even begin to imagine the fear that Martha Kent has endured every waking moment of her life since she found that darling baby boy.
So no Clark. You don't owe them ANYTHING. Your mama loves you. She wants you safe, and alive, and to be her boy forever.
But that's yet another reason why we love this character isn't it? Because despite all he stands to lose and all he leaves behind, he CHOOSES to rise up and be a hero.
Batman has only Alfred and was honed by guilt and fear. Wonder Woman was born and bred a warrior. But Clark Kent has to look up, out of a cornfield in Kansas and see his loving parents and his high school sweetheart and this idyllic life he has, and then he has to CHOOSE to leave.
How many of us would leave paradise by choice to go and do something right for others?
So Martha Kent I feel your pain, your anguish. Hold your boy just a bit longer. Make him know that he's loved. But when he's made his choice just remember: he's no super BOY. He has to make his own way now.
Everyone with kids should listen to Ma Kent's words in the trailer just one more time and think what you would do.
I haven't had any issues with it. Granted all my games are homebrewed and I haven't gotten a campaign above 6th level so YRMV but it's a good baseline.
That's all I've used it for though: a baseline.
In this thread the astute Alexander Augunas links to a document about creating interesting encounters. In that he throws out an interesting idea: create an experience budget of what your PCs can handle individually and then "buy" monsters based on the exp budget.
For example if you have a group of 5 PCs, all level 2, first start with APL 2. Generally the APL and CR mechanics assume a party of 4 PCs, so if you've got APL 2, that means four level 2 PCs can handle a CR 2 monster between them as an Average threat. A CR 2 is worth 600 xp, so 1 level 2 PC can handle about 150 xp worth of monster individually.
So with a party of 5 PCs, all level 2, this means you've got an xp budget of 150 xp x 5 PCs, for a total of 750 experience. So you could drop, say, 4 kobold warrior 2 (540 xp) accompanied by a kobold adept 3 (200 xp) and the fight should waste about 20% of the party's resources.
This allows you to use CR as a guideline to help you calculate your budgets, but at the same time you're not bound to it religiously. With CR helping to set the budget in the background you get a more accurate read on what your players can handle and you can build specific to the party.
Mending. Later, Make Whole and later still, Fabricate. I'm going to tack that onto Knowledge: Engineering. All those dungeons, ruins and broken tombs we explore? They're all going to be fixed up and they'll all be mine.
Seriously. Just Mending alone means at 1st level every piece of broken ammo we can find is fixed. By 3rd level I'm repairing daggers and Small sized light weapons. Since I have an Exploiter Wizard and Cypher Magic I write scrolls that I cast 2nd level scrolls into and then cast at 3rd level. By 3rd level if I've got the cash I'm going to be casting 5th level scroll spells of Mending to fix light shields, weapons and small furniture.
Then comes Make Whole. It gets the same treatment if we have enough downtime. Suddenly walls begin to come back into shape. Our first adventure we found a ruined stone cottage; that's going to be my first base of operations. I'm going to take the time to set up a restoration business, re-sell all these old weapons and pieces of gear from adventures that I can recover and use the gold to fuel the scrolls. Said scrolls and spells will rebuild the cottage along with hired help.
Once that's done I intend to build a network of locales. Anytime we find some old ruin or broken building I'm fixing it up, making it better and getting it warded with mundane (transplanted padlocks recovered with Mending, perhaps minor traps) and then magic (Arcane Lock, Alarm, Sepia Snake Sigil, etc) means.
So with advice from Aux and DM Cal (thank you both by the way) I'm trying to wrangle a self-imposed project: 30 days, 30 encounters.
The idea is that I have a low level game and my players and I both seem to work best when the world is kind of open-ended. My players like to talk about what might be going on and I like riffing off of them, but this kind of play needs solid encounter ideas prepped so you can drop in action at a moment's notice.
So far this project has spun off into creative spirals side-tracking me from the actual encounters. I am trying to get disciplined though. The hope is that I can produce 30 low level (CR 1/2 - CR 6) encounters with ideas on how to drop them into multiple terrains, motivations for the villains beyond "murder... eat..." and maybe even some thoughts on how they can be resolved without resorting to combat.
One I've used for a long time is the Goblin Fey Hunters. It's a CR 2 - 4 encounter depending on how many goblins are in the encounter and their NPC classes. The idea though is simple; when encountered the goblins aren't looking to ambush the PCs. The creatures are armed with weapons, sure, but also a mancatcher sized for capturing Tiny sized creatures, a butterfly net (Reach weapon targeting Touch AC; victim is Entangled) and in possession of a cold-iron masterwork lantern (a pixie prison).
This can obviously be dropped into a lot of wilderness environments. If adding it to rugged, hilly terrain they might be hunting for a korred in which case the lantern might be a wood-and-iron cart/cage; if underground maybe they're hunting mites and have bug spray (some minor irritant with a DC 12 Fort save). The concept here is that the goblins will certainly fight, kill and eat the PCs, but if the characters want they can try to direct the goblins toward fey (real or from a Bluff check) to end the encounter without combat. Heck if they roll really well they might even be able to barter with the Fey Hunters; I usually include an adept or even a PC caster type with some scrolls. The characters might exchange info or something useful to hunting the fey in exchange for a scroll spell.
More than just random tables, I like having thoughtful encounters prepped ahead of time like this. Players in my game slowly learn that with me behind the screens not every monster is just a loot bag with teeth or weapons. Hopefully then they use that knowledge to interact with encounters and piece together what's really going on. When immersion happens I get engaged players; that's one of my ultimate goals.
When you said "keys" I thought you were having an Oprah moment and giving them a car!
Once again to the Wizard of TOZ: based on your posts I imagine you looking EXACTLY like your avatar, though I suppose I figure you're pointing a Buddy Jesus finger at me instead of a sword, but still.
You are blessed man. You need to start a gratitude journal if you don't have one already. If you ever decide to run a seminar on how to achieve awesomeness just send me the invite and I'll figure out how to be there.
By contrast my wife has no interest in playing these games. She plays board games with me once in a while, but that's about it. My kids were into it for a while, but then they both decided they wanted to be "cool" so over the last several months that ship has sailed.
One daughter even let slip that I still have a red cloak hanging in my closet for Rennaisance Faire visits. Oh yeah, now to all the neighborhood kids I'm "that guy." I'm hoping it keeps them OFF my lawn rather then bringing more of them in.
To the thread though I'm once again in the Auxmaulous camp. I love creating and being the GM is a great outlet for that. One thing I love even more though is not knowing what's coming next. I know or have an idea of what encounters to work into tonight's session, but otherwise I just show up, recap where we left off and hand everything over to the players.
I make a random roll for some minor piece of set dressing like a weather event, piece of terrain or maybe a minor encounter. Thankfully I've got players who like to think out loud. I pull that rip chord and watch them debate the whys of what I just dropped on the table, then the game spins off in some random direction. Bliss!
So I set myself a challenge: 30 days, 30 low-level encounters right? I have a game going every week that's at level 2 so I figure I can work the encounters into the game, plus I was thinking about starting a blog with free encounters and ideas so these would be good fodder for that too.
I grab some dice and the PF Beastiary 1. I get "2d6 goblins" so I put that down and start designing. They're the Mirthskinner Tribe, called such cuz they skin their victims and wear grinning masks of said stuff. Then that leads me to an idea, which in turn becomes part of a larger power struggle between a ghast who was a former cult leader and just HAPPENED to have been a noble when alive.
Now I've got a cursed noble line, a survivor of the ghast's family predations, said survivor has grown into an Aristocrat 1 but also exhibits burgeoning Sorcerer powers with the Undead bloodline. Oh, and she chafes against her super-lawful asimar lady-in-waiting and is not-so-secretly in love with the captain of the guard, a half-elf Warrior. Said captain has made a deal with the goblins to deliver the girl whose kidnapping will draw out the lady-in-waiting so that she can reveal the whereabouts of the family fortune and all concerned except the asimar and her mistress believe the ghast to be a myth.
What's wrong with me? First I spend months with writer's block and am so burned out running my other game that I turn the reigns over to one of the players, now I try to discipline myself to writing just simple encounters and instead I have the rudiments of an entire module.
Frankly I've always enjoyed simple, practical reasons for mazes and dungeons:
- a prison
Taking these 3 basic concepts you can go all over the place. For example, take Prison. Add, say, a hobgoblin warlord with bugbear wardens. Suddenly this place looks like the Saw movies. The hobgoblin is Lawful Evil and a strong believer in survival of the fittest; his bugbear minions are neutral evil and track foes by fear. The "prison" then is for dissidents to the hobgoblin warlord's rule. Those who survive are a fitting challenge to the master himself; those who fail either die in hideous traps or are afflicted with a palpable fear (even surviving one of the true death traps inflicts the Shaken condition of a set amount of time) that can then be smelled by the bugbears who pounce on their prey and consume them.
You can play this little game with many different monsters. Grab a Beastiary, turn to a random page, and find a creature capable of either building the place itself or appropriate to the setting. Then pick one of the 3 and go from there:
Monster: Imp/Type: a defense
In response the Boneward was crafted. Miles of tunnels and corridors of ossuary with macabre purpose to confound and defeat any trespasser while the cult passed with impunity. Even better were the spells woven into the traps that caused hallucinations and weakened the minds of those entering. The way the Boneward was designed was to confuse mortals and cause them to commit acts of corruption and sin. At key points along the way these sinners could "Atone" by sacrificing themselves. The souls of the sinners then would be drawn through the labyrinth via dread necromancy to feed the Speaker of Orcus.
The maze's traps were so ingenious that they ensnared all of the lesser members of the cult itself. The highest members realized their folly and tried to escape the maze but were tricked by the Speaker. Abyssal fiends made short work of the masters and the Boneward was lost. The place was such a deathtrap that many heroes tried to navigate it in order to shut it down but they too were destroyed in its depths so the Boneward entrances were sealed and the place was left to rot.
It didn't die.
Now a century later a plague of undeath has been traced to the Boneward. The maze exists solely to protect one creature - The Speaker of Orcus. Some in the land once more desire its forbidden lore and would risk their minds and souls to have the power. Others have pledged themselves to the Speaker's destruction. It is believed that should the imp be found and slain, the Boneward can finally be destroyed.
This is a really fun thought experiment actually. Hopefully this is good inspiration.
The Green Tea Gamer wrote:
My gamers just simply don't respond to "inbetween game" correspondence. Between sessions I ask about planning next adventures, making magic items, leveling, etc. No one replies and then we hit the table next and my players are like "wait... where were we?"
I've never punished them, but I have had the conversation telling them it annoys me. People get busy, especially at the age and responsibility level of my players. On the other hand they cry about not having wealth by level despite having free skill ranks in professions, Downtime lasting days to weeks at a time, and at least one of my current PCs has a free crafting feat (Scribe Scroll). I've even told them I'm using the Ultimate Campaign Downtime rules; crafting would be EVEN CHEAPER.
I don't punish them. I just keep running the lean game I was before. If they don't read my emails, get the cue to scribe a dozen scrolls, and then they run out of spells 4 rooms into the dungeon and have to flee complaining they got no loot again... that's not really my fault entirely.
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
I apologize for coming to the party late but I just found this thread. AD: I concur with your viewpoints and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. Also, I like Teamwork feats in PF. I like not only what they do, but I like that they MAKE the players work as a team.
RPGs are collaborative experiences, in my opinion. Why then do SO many of my players try to "win" but optimizing their characters so extremely that there's no fight they can't solo?
Finally... I freaking LOVE Downtime. LOVE it. I could spend entire game sessions building strongholds, making magic items, talking to NPCs etc. The games for me are NOT just a series of fights leading to an epic finish.
22. More damage
23. The naïve hope that SOMEONE out there plays like you do
24. To get the chance to come out from behind the screens and play for a change
26. To split the bill a few more ways
27. Testing the theory that EVERYONE takes Improved Initiative
28. To try out new game systems
30. To self-destruct the current campaign, blame it on the new guy(s) and then get to the new stuff that you REALLY wanted to run all along...
1. Settle all rolls with drinking contests
... or you can accept that should ALL of these circumstances come to pass simultaneously it probably means that none of you really wanted to game tonight anyway. In that case pack up your books and leave by whatever mode of transport brought you to this desolate locale.
Better yet, take the other gamers with you. Go out. See a local show; watch a movie together; grab some food, coffee or (age permitting) a drink and gripe about how the campaign REALLY went downhill when you stopped coordinating who brought the 1 set of communal dice to the run-down cabin in the woods where you all started meeting after that anonymous invite on Meetup.com suggested the place.
Y'know, that place in the middle of nowhere with no one around for miles, impossible to find civilization from in a reasonable amount of driving distance, that doesn't get Wi-Fi so you all stopped bringing devices, that sits at the edge of a cemetery, next to a haunted lake, run-down mine and abandoned amusement park? Come to think of it, this bar has an awful lot of lovely people with double sets of holes in their necks. Weird that the "core books" for this campaign were the Necronomicon, the Naturo Demonto and the Book of Shadows but whatever. Just down your drinks and get back to the cabin like that weird gypsy lady said outside.
I love me some sandboxy type play. I think the hardest thing about running a sandbox game is motivating and engaging my players. The whole thing that makes it a "sandbox" for me personally is that the players drive the story forward with their decisions while the gameworld continues reacting in the background.
For example right now I have a game that has a main plot of exploring the wilds and finding out why dragons have returned. That's a huge and vague plot, not one you can just walk down in a straight line. As such the PCs have chosen to join and remain affiliated with an adventurer's guild.
The first couple of games there was a specific mission: find a locale in the wilds and clear it of kobolds and blight. Even this was too big to just railroad, so the players took a couple approaches. First they scouted the locale, found it, and tested the site's initial defenses. Barely surviving this recon they pulled back and hid in the wilds.
While hunting in the woods I arbitrarily rolled a wilderness locale: a shallow cave with dried blood on the entry. I was feeling saucy so I gave it an occult/horror feel but otherwise there was no encounter, just a site. The players seized on it and the next thing I knew there was a cult side plot.
I'd completely forgotten that one of the PCs had an evil cult in their backstory until the player reminded me in the moment. I ran with it, stole a village I'd written up for another game and situated the cult there. Wham-bam, we had a couple of adventures where the PCs saved this village from evil! Best of all it tied into the PC's backstory so the player was really dialed in.
When they finally got back after the kobolds they had a little extra loot from the village they'd saved. This ended up making a solid difference and the PCs were able to push through clearing the place out in 2 game sessions encompassing one long day of battle. They came back to town exhausted but victorious. Now they're off on a follow up plot from the cult thing tied into resolving the one PC's actual backstory.
I have written encounters and some plot, but basically the players are making choices (like missions from the guild or pursuing personal plots) and the world is just reacting. Fun times!
First and foremost: this thread is exactly why you always have a grippli in the party. 20' climb plus the racial traits Jumper and Glider. Now you have something that can take 10 on any climb or jump check, is always considered to have the 10' running start in a jump and can glide to add 5' horizontally to every 10' dropped, all without magic. Otherwise:
- Spells: Animate Rope, Fly, Summon Monster, Obscuring Mist, Enlarge Person, any Transmutation that achieves a Large or larger form, Long Arm for extra 5' reach specifically with arms, Levitate, Jump, Air Walk, or any Transmutation whose form grants wings/flight.
- Equipment: rope and grappling hook, Tanglefoot Bag, net, spiked chain, or any ranged weapon. I know ranged weapons weren't your thing, but as a GM I'd have allowed my players to attempt anchoring a rope into the creature by firing an arrow/bolt into him.
Finally if I were the GM, there's the Fastball Special as perfected by masters Nikolovich and Logan of Westchester County, NY, USA. Essentially your barbarian/bloodrager/fighter/strong guy grabs the guy with the highest CMB who is Medium sized or smaller and chucks him up at the creature. You're making a ranged touch with an Improvised weapon which is oversized, so -8 to the attack to begin with and then your range increments are 10' so a 20' throw would suffer a total of -10 before feats/buffs. Still if you hit then the CMB guy can use the throw as a Charge action to gain a +2 on the maneuver, either Drag or Reposition or a good old fashioned Grapple to attempt to get the villain where you need him to be.
I do this all the time. I don't act out any of the personalities, but I lay out fight scenes and go through them. See I write all my own adventures for my homebrew so the normal process is:
1. I set up an adventure, following the basic guidlines of the CRB, Bestiaries, and the GM's Guide.
2. I add/tweak some encounters; re-skin monsters, add/change powers and feats, etc.
3. I play-test what I've made with a quartet of generic PCs. For the purpose of these tests the party is generally not as optimized as I know how to make them.
4. If the fights result in TPKs or the clues are impossible to find with standard die rolls, etc then I start watering it down; if I go through the fights a couple times and my generics barely break a sweat, I tinker a bit more.
Note: during these sessions anywhere possible I use averages. I assume 10's on skill checks, average damages and have everyone taking 10's on saves as well. If this yields a cake-walk for the PCs the first time through, then I use some die rolls. If it's STILL too easy, that's when the revisions happen.
It's not that I'm playing the game solo, but more along the lines of running simulations to see if my games work. This is how I figured out that swapping out a wyvern's sting for a tail slap and a breath weapon was devastating to what I'd consider an average level 4 party.
Forget that class-centered thinking. Get a fighter type; get 'em to take 5 ranks in Craft: weapons. Now make them take Master Craftsman. Blam; non-spellcaster crafter.
Bottom line is I run homebrew games and haven't gotten a game up to level 10 in a long time. However I constantly tell my players not to forget Scribe Scroll or other crafting feats or even skills they have.
I also use the optional rules in Ultimate Campaign and other books to make it even cheaper. For example making birch bark scrolls, did you know you can use those plus the Scribe Scroll feat coupled with earning Magic capital to craft 16 level 1/CL 1 scrolls for a cost of 50 GP?
My players don't.
So my advice:
1. look into crafting your own gear
I get that some folks at my table are introverted, may have anxieties or be on a spectrum. Both my kids are on a spectrum and have social issues of their own. I try to be as sensitive to that as I can.
As a result I generally allow my players to say as little or as much as they'd like. Typically a social encounter or a social aspect of a larger encounter is a joint effort. Something prompts the interaction in game. The player announces their intention, I ask for a roll and while they're rolling I ask them to give me some kind of direction of what they're doing.
For example last game session the PCs were gathering info on a couple different points. There is a boggard witch harassing a village and the PCs want to know about her, but there's also a wicked ranger in town stirring up trouble. The party decided to split up. Two guys went to talk to a mysterious little girl, an abarrent leftover of a now-defunct Lamashtu cult. One PC just wanted to gather info in general about the witch and the other wanted to talk to a high-priestess about specific questions.
We broke off into three different skill challenges.
The 2 guys talking to the little girl did some prep work; they gathered apples she likes, got some fresh clothes to give her and went over their talking points. While this was happening I turned to the guy wanting to get general info. He's not much in the way of social skills so I confirmed with him his intent. Then I asked for a Diplomacy roll. While he was rolling I just asked to describe how his guy would use his Diplomacy. He said he'd start at the inn and ask around the villagers, try and get the "mythology" of the witch.
When he was done he rolled well enough to get the info he was looking for. I described it in a montage. "You ask the innkeep and he tells you to talk to old Jed. Old Jed tells you some creepy story going back a year, then his wife pops in. She describes the recent attack and how it's nothing compared to what the witch'll do to you if you go out in the swamps. She then sends you to her sister Mirelda who tells you about the old runestones at the edge of the marsh; past those is the witch's domain. This goes on for a few hours (three) and here's all the details you learn..." and then I finished his challenge by relating all the general info on the boggard witch.
I come back to the guys talking to the little girl and they tell me how they've prepped and how they want to talk to her. After a Diplomacy check to coax her out and start the dialogue they begin asking their questions. All three of us went back and forth, in character, having a conversation about all the little girl knew. I hunched my body, spoke through one side of my mouth and tried to talk like a 10 year old kid would. Their Diplomacy roll got the ball rolling and was high enough to justify some very specific answers (Total of 26 on the check plus the gifts they brought gave a hidden circumstance bonus of +4 pushing them to a total of 30) so we just roleplayed it instead of me giving it in a summary.
Thirdly there was the guy talking to the high-priestess. Said cleric is a devout of Gozreh and a grippli, but she also venerates Pharasma and lives out of the burial caves at the swamp-waters' edge. Needless to say she's creepy. He made his way down to talk to her, described wanting to do an exchange of knowledge with her for the info he wanted, and then made a Diplomacy roll which bombed (total 13). The priestess, referred to under the title the "Marmer" invited him into her chambers and meant to sit with him; the first thing she did was offer him some stale biscuits, tree-sap syrup and a home-rolled cigar. Since the PC is an elf and gets played as highly civilized I was not surprised when the player kind of turned his nose up. Working with the player we described the failure together, the elf taking a cracked earthen cup in his dainty hand, pinky out, to drink some revolting tea. Then the Marmer acting disgusted that SHE would need HIS help learning what's going on in the village; if she needed lore she'd ask the wind or the water and they'd whisper all she needed to know. Finally she turned invisible and jumped up on the ceiling, telling him to leave.
Everyone had fun and everyone's strengths got played to. The point of all the above is that there's no one set way to do it; you have to roll with your players, know them and work with them organically to resolve social skills. The one thing I DO ask of my players though is to add SOME kind of description to their action or at least an explanation. I don't accept "I attack" or "I use Profession: Librarian" in other situations so "I use Diplomacy" isn't a complete answer for me. I either prompt with "HOW do you do it" or "What goal are you trying to achieve" or something if they don't feel like roleplaying and I reserve the right to describe the scene once the roll has been made working WITH them as necessary.
So here's the thing: fights are only as interesting as the PLAYERS make them, not the GM. I have 2 lots of players across 2 groups currently and they all have different styles. A couple are optimizers for their own stats but then once battles hit they are ALL about the numbers; their "fun" comes from being mathematically superior no mater how much/little strategy they use. For these folks it doesn't matter that I've got a dozen kobolds, scattered around 3 "kill zones" both outdoors and in a tight cavern hall, with rocks and crags providing cover AND I've given the party a scroll of Obscuring Mist.
Then there are other players who approach each fight cinematically. They make some ridiculously bad strategic decisions, like hanging back at range against said kobolds, attacking with a weak-to-hit-bonus bow while they AND the kobolds are all in cover, and realizing only after several rounds that they're not hitting the kobolds except on a 20. But that doesn't matter to these folks because for them there's the "cool" factor of, one scene later, using a bunch of cantrips and the aforementioned Obscuring Mist to unnerve 8 out of 12 kobolds into retreat with a creepy sheet ghost - a shirt with a horrifying face painted on it in glow-in-the-dark inks, set to a faint glow with Prestidigitation, made to float with Mage Hand and backed with eerie sounds a la Ghost Sound, all while being surrounded in a sudden pea-soup fog while the PCs sneak through the area undetected.
TL/DR: bottom line sometimes it doesn't matter WHAT you put in front of your players in terms of environment. You put rocks and trees in the battle map, they figure out how to still maximize the one charging lane; the caves are fed with smoke and heat by underground vents, the players just use cantrips and Endure Elements along with a Survival check and then ignore the potential hazards; the rats infect the PCs with a disease, they ignore it and move on knowing there will be whole days until onset and they start suffering.
Some players have fun from combat in different ways.
For other players, even a completely empty room can still be interesting. They climb walls, use doorways, or even bring their own cover with them using magic. I had one 2nd level wizard cast Floating Disk, transfer it to his rat familiar, and then had the rat walking around trailing a 200-lb table wood table with it. In some fights the barbarian and cleric would grab said table and either Bull Rush with it, lay it out for Cover or use it to get Higher Ground. After the fights if they had time the wizard would read off a scroll of Make Whole and repair the thing.
If your the GM and want to make things interesting simply set scenes, locate the players who WANT to make the fights about more than numbers, and then get out of their way. Incentivize them by reminding them of strategic environmental bonuses until they have a good handle on them and even toss them some Circumstance bonuses once in a while. Before you know it those players are using every inch of every scene.
Finally let me also say... roleplaying.
If you want a fight to be more interesting without being deadly, try using some narrative or acting skills when running it. Who says spiders can't talk? Sure the rules suggest they can't, but who cares? The spiders all talked in the Lord of the Rings books, why not in your games? If the spiders were suddenly whispering from Stealth, things like "Welcome to my den little flies... your blood will feed my bones for DAYSSSSS..." or whatever there are some players who will suddenly perk up and get engaged.
A fight with four kobolds hiding in a dungeon room is boring. A fight with 4 kobolds, hiding in a ruined chapel with overturned pews, an altar and niches in the walls is better, but still only a little for some players.
Add one more dimension of interest by making it 4 kobolds named Bylx, Nuglyk, Alkyvex and Thryggh - one is a Warrior with Weapon Finesse, another is an Adept but with modified spells cast as Arcane instead of Divine and he's got Scribe Scroll so the kobolds have a bunch of those, the third is a classic Divine adept with Combat Reflexes and decent armor that acts like a tank and the fourth has the Kobold Sniper feat and darts through the cover every round making ranged attacks against foes denied their Dex bonus. Now along with all of this, reward the arcane spellcaster for taking the Draconic language by having them understand the kobolds as they talk to one another in combat:
Bylx: Mordalith's Balls Alkyvex, I thought you said that pit trap filled with rats was "infallible!"
Alkyvex: (in a lisp) Sorry Bylx, they must be stronger than they look
Nuglyk: (in a high, squeaky voice) well they're no match for the draconic power of the arts arcane! We shall weaken them further then lead them astray; these fools will never find the treasure beneath the altar! (a misdirect; the kobolds have an exploding Alchemist's Fire trap hidden there)
Thryggh: (in a deep voice; he has the trait that makes him more intimidating) No doubt Nug! They won't get past ME (positions himself in the open, in front of the altar) and they'll regret trying! (to the players, in Common) Come fools; try to take our treasure and pay for it with your LIVES (Intimidation check)
Now as the fight goes on, if the kobolds live for more than a round they can quip about good hits they've made or bad misses by the PCs; they might call out expletives invoking the dragon Mordalith who they worship; you might even give them some dramatic death speech as they are defeated. With a little roleplaying these four kobolds may just occupy a niche of imagination that otherwise would have been left untouched by this fight scene in your players' minds.
One thing to do is to simulate things w/out telling the PCs what's happening. Take for example the simple act of turning into a zombie:
The standard, Pathfinder way is that you either get Animate Dead cast on you or you succumb to a disease and rise as a zombie. Both are very technical and easy for players to identify.
What if there was a third way?
In a dungeon I ran a while ago I warned players that the tomb they were headed into had an active aura of negative energy; it wasn't an identifiable spell effect but rather just a general blight like someone left pinholes between the Material and the Negative planes there. As a result undead spawned from the place with no easy explanation of why or how to shut it down.
They go in on their mission. A few rooms in they come across a kobold on the floor. This isn't a combat encounter; the creature is just laying there, writhing in agony. One of the players says "I use a Heal check to see if I can see what's wrong." triggering a description rather than an explanation:
The kobold turns painfully to face you. The side that had been obscured is horribly rotted and gangrenous. Its eye oozes from the socket even as it's bloated lips utter "Kill... me... PLEASE..." in a hoarse, slurring speech.
They didn't have a reason WHY it was rotting, other than this place. They didn't know what was happening. They ended up killing the thing but I could tell one of the players was a tad unnerved. Later I had them encounter fully undead kobolds and a pixie who'd been trapped in the tomb and due to it's fey nature couldn't be turned into an undead so instead it was completely mad. During this encounter it taunted them with the fact that this was the PCs fate as well, or worse. Then I asked them all for Fort saves despite the fact that the encounter was over.
Suddenly the players realized that this place was slowly killing them. The longer they were there, the worse it would get. For now it was nothing more than risking Fatigued but they didn't know that. All the players knew was that the pixie was here for years and was utterly insane; a group of kobolds had been lured in and trapped for only a couple weeks and already they were rotted, shambling corpses. They had to end this; they had to get OUT!
I guess the point is one thing that robs the scare from things is knowing EXACTLY what's going on. If you're watching a movie or reading a book you can get scared knowing what's coming (the guy with the chainsaw stalking the cheerleader through the abandoned asylum) because as the audience you're powerless to stop it. Once the evil is either unknowable/indescribable to the players (not just the PCs mind you) or it becomes something that cannot be reasonably overcome with normal powers/feats/abilities/attacks, suddenly you have achieved an heightened level of tension.
It's in the name: Alter Self. You are slightly altering yourself, not fully immersing yourself in another form or shape or putting on a different physique altogether (Giant Form, Beast Shape Monstrous Physique).
Alter Self is like becoming a Scooby Doo villain: you get inside a rubber suit, add some lifts or scooch down a bit (size changes) and are generally closer to your new form on the outside but on the inside you're still you.
The one statement I keep coming back to from this thread is to the effect of: "why take a Teamwork Feat if you can do better with a General/Combat feat?" In the example of my familiar-focused wizard, why take, say, Lookout (I can act in a Surprise round if my familiar makes its Perception, or vice versa) when I could instead take Dazing Spell or Greater Spell Focus or another feat that allows me to end combats faster?
It seems in most instances that there are stronger options for feats than any of the Teamwork feats. The only exception I can find is Shake it Off which can deliver the effect of a constant Resistance spell, but even then you have to be adjacent.
Look again at my familiar-focused wizard. Let's say I take Escape Route and Shake it Off. My buddy needs to be on me/near me to benefit from either feat. If I'm going to focus on using the familiar proactively then the minute it leaves my side I lose those feats.
So then Teamwork feats are things with specific conditions that deliver a set benefit but only in specific instances. If you lowered the benefit they delivered, they might even make great Traits. Imagine if Shake it Off were a "Teamwork Trait"; all possessors of the trait simply get a static +1 on ALL saves when adjacent.
Anyway the point is there always seems to be a better use for feats than the Teamwork feats. If you get them free, then great, but if not why take them?
I like rolling, but not for all the reasons above. I enjoy the clatter of dice, the tactile sensation of them rattling in my hand. I enjoy the ritual of the maths. I relish the anticipation and I try to savor every good stat (12 or higher) as a minor victory over cruel fate.
I have an emotional connection to dice rolling. For me "roll"play is synonymous with roleplay. I don't however expect that all my fellow gamers will share my zeal so most of the time I just ask them what they want to do or go with a point buy.
Ok, I homebrew most everything in my games. The stuff I do take from modules/APs is modified to fit my gameworld. That being said I have plenty of megadungeons.
For the purposes of this discussion I'm defining "megadungeon" as any dungeon that can't reasonably be expected to be cleared, ever, instead requiring PCs to make surgical strikes or prolonged explorations within. By this definition I have had megadungeons set in:
Some of these places have obvious areas for rest. In the Nettlewood for example it is well known that there are many small, shallow caves not only in the rugged hillsides but even under tree roots and along hedgerows (Knowledge: Geography; DC 15 to locate). That being said you might have to deal with some Grinning Goats, Rootrender kobolds or various flora/fauna when you get there but these can easily be barricaded (DC 20 Survival check) against the elements and common nuisances like rats and wild dogs.
Other places, like the underground labyrinths beneath Flamenwing Castle that span miles of tunnels, rooms and chambers are less obvious but still provide ample space. In traditional "dungeons" like this I use the following ratio: In every 10 rooms there will be 4 encounters with monsters, 2 traps/tricks/puzzles etc (no monsters or things that ALERT nearby monsters) and 2 empty rooms.
Empty rooms are their own resource. Several game sessions ago the PCs exploring Flamenwing came across a sub-level which had belonged to an alchemist. She had allied with goblins, tried to double cross them and both groups (goblins and alchemist) had been destroyed. After the subsequent coup kobolds exploring the area had set up temporary guard posts around the sub-level and were slowly exploring it themselves for resources while dealing with the slimes, oozes and undead left behind by the conflict.
The PCs came along and found the ultimate room. Tucked in the back of the sub-level was a small sanctum which the alchemist had used as her "Back Door"; an empty room with built in shelves, a small table and a ladder to a hidden escape hatch 60' overhead, exiting out into the surface above.
The PCs set up here and rested. After a time they completely cleared the sub-level and sealed off a section of 4 other rooms, giving them tactical control over 5 rooms in total. Among these they found a well leading to a lower level while the ladder took them to the surface. This section of 5 rooms were warded, outfitted with locks and magic, and cleaned using divine and arcane spells. Now the PCs have a Secret Lair.
Finally the encounters I use rarely fit the 15 minute workday. A particular "level" of my megadungeons has at least around 24 encounters (maybe more) plus random encounter tables. Within these however I try to include many APL -1 encounters. For example if the PCs are APL 3 I try to design at least 12 encounters of CR 2. Why? Because if the PCs encounter 1 room next to another that are both filled with monsters, reinforcements won't completely destroy them. Also the PCs can chew through dozens of encounters at a time, meaning if they push themselves the PCs can have a full 8 hours of adventure.
TL/DR: I guess my suggestions would be:
1. If you don't have a reasonable expectation that PCs will completely clear a dungeon or a level of a dungeon, provide natural "rest stops"
2. Try to organize your encounters to support a longer adventure day without overwhelmning your PCs
3. Encourage your players (through actual conversation or hints/suggestions left by previous occupants) to establish temporary or permanent bases of operation throughout larger "dungeon" environments
Last, but certainly not least, if you know it's going to be a LONG dungeon/megadungeon experience, take pity on your PCs with consumables and one-time boons. Here are some that I've used:
1. The Lyrakien: so Lyrakien Azatas tell tales and remove fatigue right? Well I had one in a "megadungeon" where she challenged a PC to a tale-telling contest. If the PC successfully beat her in a challenge (she got a 21 Perform: Oratory) they unlock an extended ritual that turned 2 hours into an 8 hour rest.
2. A font of positive energy: so I had a font at the end of a dead end hall that 1/day expelled water that acted like a Channel Energy for healing. The device granted the effect of a level 5 channel effect (heal 3d6 damage) and it repulsed undead. The players made a successful knowledge, barricaded themselves in and defended their position for 2 nights of rest there healing to full and repairing all their gear.
3. Scrolls/potions/wands: add these to EVERY treasure. I mean EVERY one. Do they always need to be combat oriented? Heck NO! Scroll of web shelter at 4th level but with Extend Spell on it: its worth 300 GP sure, but it's also granting an 8 hour shelter for 4 PCs to rest that can be concealed outdoors. A wand of Arcane Lock; 30 GP/charge but seals the party into an empty chamber well for the foreseeable future.
In other words: first give them a REASON to rest (more than a 15 minute workday) and then give them the tools they need to survive. If they screw it up at that point its not your fault!
@VT: I think that's WHY I play the underdogs. Growing up I was always the shortest, heaviest, slowest, and most average in school. I was Charlie Brown with a full head of hair. For me in real life there was never that chance to claw my way up from the bottom and really shine.
In these games? I can be a Halfling, an orphan, kicked around and abandoned by every other person he's met. Until one day an old ranger takes him in, shows him a few tricks and promptly passes into the Great Wheel.
Now I'm back out there, the smallest and perceived weakest guy in the group. Then I pull out a sling. I'm not going to do much damage, but see that ogre charging us? Wham: his weapon is disarmed, Wham: he's tripped mid-charge. I've effectively ended the threat (for this round anyway) without moving, all with a simple strip of leather and some rocks.
THAT to me is badass.
Anybody can be the human fighter with 20 Str and a greatsword, Power Attack, Weapon Focus and Furious Focus that can hit anything in melee at first level and deliver avg 17 damage a round. It takes real skill, grit and intestinal fortitude to play the Halfling dex-based guy with a sling building towards skills over brawn and still finding ways to contribute to ending fights.
One thing I'd like to point out: the bestiary for "kobold" has them living in temperate underground or deep forest. They aren't ALWAYS the cave-dwelling miners.
Upthread it was said that weapon choices are made by art. I think it also ties into a pre-conceived notion, a mental snapshot designers had of creatures at the time they were entered into the bestiaries. Folks conceived of mites and went "they seem like petty weaklings; let's give 'em darts."
Add that in with the fact that mites are only supposed to be CR 1/4 and yeah, it makes sense. Now however you've got tons of new books, expanded feats, and a variety of weapons. Going with vanilla mites out of the beastiary against a group of decently optimized and armed PCs even in an APL 1 group will virtually guarantee the mites' destruction.
However if you had four PCs, level 1 with a 15 pt buy who had to stick to the CRB and core starting gold, 4 vanilla mites might actually be an Average challenge.
I feel like I've grown just a little more in my understanding and appreciation of the game...
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
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?"
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 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
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.
For this reason I advise all GMs use art from the module Dragon's Demand.
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.
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
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.
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.
Warning: these are my opinions. Here's the 3 styles of RP I tend to see at my table:
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
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...
12. The Pampered Talon
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.
The 8th Dwarf wrote:
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.