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Leonard Kriegler

Mark Hoover's page

5,286 posts. 1 review. No lists. No wishlists.

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@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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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Alkie hit on a good point: deny them full attacks. At 9th level a PC can easily be getting off 3 attacks in a round and quite possibly as many as 6-7. That's a ridiculous amount of damage. Couple that with quickened spells, improved familiars using wands and other shenanigans and this party can really unleash heck when they are using all their actions.

Find ways to remove some of those and make them burn Move actions. Dirty Trick maneuvers, giving attacks Burn, Dazing spells etc are all good candidates and I'm certain there's a truckload more. A monk that can't flurry, a fighter only making single attacks while moving, a witch or warpriest only having the ability to fire off a single spell; these all hearken back to when the PCs were lower level and had to make the most out of their ONE action, thus helping to add the drama.

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So I know - we all make our own rules and screw reality in our fantasy games. Still, I'm trying to get a handle on how other GMs do this.

In my current homebrew we're in the Sothryn Wylds. The area was hit hard by a global calamity called the Wilding and most civilization was destroyed. Not surprisingly I'm running this as a "points of light"/sandbox kind of game.

To the north though is the rest of the region, a land called Rukenvall. Now this area has towns and villages in a feudal system. Trying to be realistic I've described a town surrounded by a dozen outer settlements from as small as a PF "Thorp" which I call a farmstead to as large as a village of some 400-600 souls.

Does this seem right? I've basically got civilization hexes scattered every 20-30 miles from one another along major roads and waterways. I look at published fantasy settings and they have like one town, no smaller settlements even hinted at, for every 100 miles. What do you do in your setting?

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Is this whole thing tongue-in-cheek or is there a mechanic for pulling these off? Like should I incentivize my players to Castlevania by offering them full healing at the end of the scene or something? I suppose if they're pulling off that achievement the healing should be a floating heart symbol in mid-air once the BBEG is defeated; they need to jump into it or whip it to collect the HPs.

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Hey Cal, long time no talk! Running encounters after level 5 is hard. I got one of my campaigns up that high and played for another few months going from level 5 to 6 and I have to say designing all the fights from levels 1-5 combined weren't as bad as going from 5-6.

The PCs finally had 3rd level spells and could afford 4th level one-off resources. They had magic weapons, ridiculous damage per round for their level and the ranger had an insane initiative so he was going first all the time. I did a couple things to at least slow the party down which I don't know if they'd work for your guys or not but here goes:

1. If the BBEG was going to have potential buffs (spells, SLAs, etc.) I'd just start them off with most of them already running. For example I had a mite wizard with Mage Armor, Invisibility and a scroll of Mirror Image. When the PCs encountered him he was already armored with Mirror Image running and after 2 rounds he cast invisibility (which ended up not meaning anything because of a readied Glitterdust, but whatever).

2. Minions, LOTS of minions. Seriously if the party is level 5 I just grabbed CR2 monsters and added enough of a mob to make them a CR5 threat in and of themselves. Such creatures won't really do much to the PCs, even en masse; they'll just distract enough from the BBEG to pull something epic together.

3. Use weird terrain. I had another fight with mites take place in a brewery where the floor was flooded with molasses and wart mash. For the non-flying PCs it was like moving in a swamp. Add in that there were non-combatant insect swarms like worms and cockroaches in the goo - no damage but Distraction and major difficult terrain and at least it made the fight memorable.

The last thing I will say is this: make sure you're feeling the material you wrote. If your heart's not in it as the GM, whether you're in pain, you've had writer's block or you're just plain burned out behind the screens, then no matter how much prep you've put in the game just won't pop.

Part of this could be the players too. I've got 2 gaming groups right now. One is playing short, weekly sessions so by necessity when we get to the table everyone's gotta be invested if we are going to get anything done. The other meets monthly for one long session; we tend to play like big, rumbling beasts who take a while to get going and spend so much energy at one thing we miss out on others.

As a GM I vibe better off the weekly gamers. They are really engaged and ask a lot of good questions so the energy level stays up. Not surprisingly with 5 engaged players and a decent energy level I've been able to muster some really impressive fights as well as trick them with a couple sub-plots.

My best advice for you Cal: don't GM for a good stretch. I know you and your boys rarely play and when you do no one wants to run, but there's gotta be SOME way for you to get out of the GM's seat for a bit. Play another system, have someone else run your game or just stop playing RPGs at all. Certain things, medically speaking, will always be there and seriously dude that sucks but sometimes constantly running the game can be an energy sink in itself and you just need to recharge.

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PF homebrewed game: I'm running a sandbox/megadungeon; super "open-world" concept. Often PCs run across monsters above their pay grade.

The party at the time:

LG male human paladin (Iomedae) 2
NG male dwarf cleric (Saranrae) 2
NG male half elf ranger (Dungeon Rover)2
CG male Halfling sorcerer (Faerie Dragon Bloodline) 2

The setup: PCs are scouting a way into a new section of the megadungeon: a bunch of cave entrances from a sparsely wooded hollow (my homage to the Caves of Chaos). In one the party spots movement and out comes a CR1 party of goblins in stealth, trying to sneak up on the PCs. Combat ensues. Another group of goblins is leaving the cave, just about to reinforce their buddies when they turn, look skyward and flee screaming. The party looks up to see a Young wyvern, out on the hunt and closing fast. The Halfling had failed a save from fear (from the goblins) so he's already running in the trees, so the party decides to scatter and hide rather than flee to the cave.

The paladin realizes that this strategy will definitely get someone killed and boldly steps into the wyvern's line.

What ensued was one of the most EPIC battle scenes I've had in a LONG time! The wyvern charges and, even though wyverns aren't technically dragons I give the paladin full smiting on the thing. He smites, deals some damage, and is impaled by a brutal stinger attack which knocks him into negatives and he fails his save against the creature's poison. He rolls though and manages to stablize.

Next round the other PCs turn and begin to re-group below as the wyvern grapples it's prey and begins to lift off. The dwarf pulls a PHENOMINAL Climb check out of nowhere and hurls himself into the trees getting close enough in one Move to channel. Even though this heals the wyvern a bit it also gets the paladin awake. The other PCs take some pock shots at the beast; one misses and the other deals 2 damage.

The paladin, now awake, has his smite still running and attacks, critting! He also uses a Free to lay hands on himself and heals a little more. The wyvern, still grappling, maintains its hold, flies the both of them higher in the air, and gets a crit of its own with it's stinger and the paladin, who lost a little Con before resisting the last batch of poison fails to save versus this new attack.

The dwarf keeps climbing and channeling. 2 more pock shots from below and the wyvern takes damage from both. It decides, now 60' in the air, that it's prey isn't worth it and drops the paladin who is beginning to stir once more from the channeled energy. Said paladin begins an uncontrolled fall, 60', through the canopy.

The dwarf heroically hurls himself out of the tree to soak some of the damage and break the fall. Both PCs hit the ground with the paladin burning his last lay hands and the dwarf burning his last channel for the day. Both are close to death, but by HP they're alive. The paladin keeps failing his save versus the poison though and has at this point taken so much Con damage that he's at Con of 2.

He's choking on the ground, flat on his back but alive and grinning. Then he rolls his final Fort save against the poison... and fails it. He takes 3 Con damage and dies. There's a moment of silent disbelief at the table. I look at my buddy, and he's grinning. I ask if he REALLY wants to die on a random encounter and he just laughs, nodding yes.

So I paint the scene: the paladin, broken but alive, grins up at the party. Suddenly his whole body convulses in pain and he's clutching at his chest. Blood, mixed with a blackish ichor, streams from his mouth as he coughs. "Take care... of the orphans I... was looking after..." he whispers, grabbing the dwarf's shoulder. "They will need guidance... and the care of a father... watch over them..." and with that another convulsion and the man's grip goes slack.

Now, throughout the campaign I'd added in a homebrewed faerie called a Gravesworn Piskie; basically a Sprite with it's powers slightly altered that acts as nature's guardian of the dead and abhorrent of undead. The very first adventure the paladin had used EXTREME Diplomacy and skipped one whole section of conflict by working with them instead of against them. He'd become a true friend to the creatures.

At the moment of his death suddenly they appeared, in droves, weeping. They formed a ring around his body and used their magic to create a cairn on the spot while the corpse descended into the earth. He'd also been a weaponsmith, the son of a legendary smith in the campaign, so the cairn was topped with an anvil. Finally Iomedae's own power descended from the heavens as a bolt of lightning from a clear sky overhead. The bolt struck the anvil and the thing was instantly Consecrated.

Ulfbert's Cairn still exists in my gameworld, a year in RL later. It is known to have restorative and healing powers and is slowly becoming a shrine for Iomedaen pilgrims who dare to come that close to the megadungeon. My buddy moved away in RL but his paladin, though only 2nd level, will always be a part of the game.

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I don't get to be a player often but as a GM I'm fond of catchphrases, expletives and verbal cues for my NPCs. I have a group of kobolds who worship a dead black dragon called Mordalith; often they exclaim "MORDALITH'S BALLS!" when upset.

If I do get the chance to play I'm going to try and work that in. Maybe have a fighter that calls his weapons girls' names or a brawler that names his moves. Instead of "I attack" I'll shout out "Take a face fulla' GLADYS!" when rolling to hit with my greataxe.

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HyperMissingno wrote:

Kiss a wall, open a door.

Switchblade dildo.
Hat of many animals.
Potato Room.
Glory Hole Lock.
Revenge of Hopscotch.

That's all coming to my head right now. Inquire further if you want details.

... what?

Umm, you have just set a bar that I don't know can be topped on a private forum. I thought my buddy was weird when we encountered mushroom-folk called the Dildonians. The thread is yours.

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GMs do stupid things sometimes. I certainly stand accused.

1. As a child of the late 70's/early 80's I routinely steal from old action films. I once ran an entire campaign loosely based on Big Trouble in Little China.

2. I also love adding movie lines into NPC dialogue. I used to give out Exp to folks who caught it and could name the movie/character.

3. I usually enjoy a beer or three with the game.

4. Action scenes are a big deal at my table as I like to act out some of the motions, add sound effects, etc. As such I've broken a lamp, knocked over the entire gaming table and once even toppled an entire full, just-opened 2 litre of Mountain Dew on a player among other mishaps.

Still eccentricity is like the glue that holds all of us together as a community. At a game session last year I had a table with:

- a stoner in a homemade cloak
- an uber-professional executive who programs code
- a grown man with a bigger collection of toys than my daughters
- a heavy metal producer/critic

Bear in mind: we were in public at a local game store. I loved it and am very proud of the diversity. I only wish there'd been some girls there.

Needless to say: I hope GMs continue being nuts. I hope players stay silly and weird. If ever my games get tame and predictable I'll probably start looking for someone to pawn all this stuff to.

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All I ask of my players is engagement, but I ask it of all the things they do in the game. Combat is easy: you're engaged when you're rolling dice to see just how well your optimized PCs are beating the h*$& out of the monster(s). But what about the other parts of the game.

I don't need actors or engineers, the same way as I don't require detailed knowledge of medieval weapons, armor and fighting techniques. I do however ask that my players get into these other parts as fiercely as they do combat. Whatever that looks like for them, so be it.

This means if I hand you a room in a dungeon with no obvious monsters, I expect the players to rp their characters looking around. Yes, you roll a Perception, but tell me what you're doing to perceive. If I give you obvious items in said room, like a tapestry or a lever, I have an expecation that your characters will manipulate that item or interact with it in some meaningful way. I'm not saying I expect stupidity; Mage Hand, 10' poles, charmed monsters etc work to handle these things fine but if you're just making a skill check I'm going to ask you to describe it.

Same thing with social encounters. If you walk up on an troll low on resources and want to try and sweet-talk your way over the bridge just making a skill check won't cut it with me. I don't expect you to be a master thespian or even speak in 1st person but I expect you to have some kind of response to the question "HOW do you sweet-talk the troll?"

Like someone mentioned upthread; if we're just making rolls then we're playing a board game. If I'm expected to provide some kind of exposition with setting as the GM I feel its reasonable for my players to provide similar exposition with their interaction in the setting.

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If you're not using the rules in Ultimate Campaign, go back to the standard skills section. He makes a check with Profession: Brewer each week; half that check is the amount he makes in a week. Figure his brewery business represents Masterwork tools and figure his assistants are all using Aid Another with the possibility of 3 helping him at one time since that's the full amount of folks he could reasonably fit into a workshop at one time.

So: figuring a Cleric with a Profession: Brewer +15 (Class Skill +3, Wis Bonus +5, 7 ranks at level 7) and add in a Guidance spell +1, x3 Aid Another bonuses +6 and Masterwork tools +2 for a total bonus of +24. He takes 10, gets 34, and takes home 17 GP in profit each week. Handwave it and say that this profit includes paying his employees, covering overhead, marketing etc.

If he wants to make "masterwork" brandy the work it like a Craft check. Set the DC at 20 (or if he wants to make more of the stuff, DC 30) and multiply his Profession check by the DC. SO long as his check hits the DC (taking a 10, it hits both) he produces X amount of SP worth of the item he's crafting in a week.

Fine wine is listed at 10 GP/bottle, so let's use that as our basis for the brandy. If we use the Profession check result above of 34 and set a DC of 30 for this crafting check, we have a total result of 1020 SP worth of brandy made in a week. This brewery somehow manages to churn out the equivalent of 10.2 bottles of some of the finest brandy around/week.

Not too shabby.

Figure like with crafting he's spending half the cost in raw materials (51 GP) and again handwave the employees' salaries into these costs and then have him sell his bottles for 51 GP profit/week. If you want no muss/no fuss rules to quickly decide what this player's doing with his downtime each week, there you go.

Hopefully though the GM aslo recognizes how into this the player is and rewards them with more than money. Maybe the brewery attracts the attention of a cult of Cayden Cailean or a vengeful water nixie is cheesed off that you're tapping her waters. This brewery could be the springboard to an entire campaign!

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I don't know how Golarion does it. I have this ability firmly rooted in the Eldest.

In my homebrew the Eldest are the only constants in a sea of change. This makes them at once both all-powerful and nearly insane. Imagine if your entire world around you was defined by constant change and you are the only one who can't.

As such the Eldest have the will to impose form on the formlessness around them. In their fevered minds they envision a "perfect" land and each Eldest creates this differently. There was Mad Queen Mabbe who imagined a world of mirrors where all would look upon her beauty and despair; there was the Red Queen who had the mind of a 6 year old mortal girl and envisioned a "Wonderland"; then there was Luposz, the Werewolf Lord, who saw only an endless land of pinewood and night.

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Another way to combat the speed, bloat etc is... just play CRB Pathfinder. Tell your players up front that you're just going Core. There's nothing bad/wrong with it and you can still reach some pretty insane power levels. In the mean time, try make the fun of the game less about how many cool tricks your optimized Brawler has and more about all the things you can think of to use Profession: Woodcutter for other than answering questions or earning a daily wage. For example, did you know that under alternate scroll materials you can make birchbark paper with Profession: Woodcutter?

I guess my point is it comes back to player/GM engagement, again. Both sides have to buy in and say its ok, and then really play with what they agree to. It also comes down to this: want what you have, and don't worry about having what you want.

Sure, everyone wants a hybrid of rangers and rogues who are full BAB, get talents and ranger fighting styles every level and get scaling attack/damage bonuses, but too bad. Play a ranger, add some rogue skills, call it a day; you'll STILL have fun.

If on the other hand you feel like you can't ever achieve the real vision of your character and thus your fun without deviating from core, then maybe the problem isn't the character or rules bloat. The thing about system bloat is: it's only bloated if you use all the new rules/options.

Back in 1e and 2e we used to make up custom stuff all the time, at least in my group. We made up hybrid classes, new spells, and used Marvel Super Heroes to give super powers to characters to make them more interesting. Now in 3x/Pathfinder we have expanded skills, spells and the mechanic of Feats and Traits to quantify this stuff. Don't want to use the ones outside the CRB? Don't.

And I agree with folks upthread. Pure sandbox ("You've met at the tavern... go.") is an acquired taste and not for all. That being said I've never really had the desire to play an AP becuase to me it feels too scripted. Rather I prefer something in the middle; sandbox but with plot hooks.

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Headfirst wrote:
Pax Veritas wrote:
Question: What can be done to re-ignite the flame of these veteran gamer blues?

The simplest advice I can give for both players and DMs:

For players: Stop making characters designed only to win. You will get bored with characters who are built to deal maximum damage, have the highest skill checks, or know every spell. Instead, build a mechanically viable character around a robust personality.

For DMs: Stop writing your adventures to tell a story and start writing them to tell the players' stories. When your games thrive on collaboration instead of exposition, they will be more engaging, last longer, and end up requiring less work to design and maintain.

Remember though that for the "For DMs" section to work there has to be collaboration. If the players are just reactionary, looking to be entertained and aren't engaging in the game world, this is kind of a moot point. If however the players have come up with not only "robust personalities" but are playing TOWARD something like a goal or achievement then you've got your collaboration.

Everyone needs buy in and everyone needs to be driving the plot forward.

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In our current homebrew campaign my players' first adventure brought them face-to-face with a kobold mastermind with an insidious plan to flood the town. The party stopped it at the zero hour, but not without many near-death escapes! When all was said and done though, all I said was that their contact was so grateful in town that they'd all been given 4 Goods and 4 Labor (capital from the Downtime system in Ultimate Campaign) as a reward. So between the 5 PCs that's 4 Goods and 4 Labor EACH, totaling 40 capital.

Without hesitation they asked if they could build outside town at a spot they'd found in the first adventure. There was a grove near a tiny marsh but one guy's a druid and the other's a swamp druid. I said sure. Suddenly the 1/2 orc female barbarian is using Profession: Woodcutter to cut and mill trees, carefully selected by the druids, to expand the capital they have.

Now the PCs, only 2nd level, have a fieldstone cottage, Viking longhouse style, with a round tower. They are right on the edge of a stand of hardwood trees (and Darkwood if they go looking) and a marsh area rich with fish and animals (since there's a hunter in the party and the druids enjoy trapping and fishing). I am really encouraging them and want them to build up home base.

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10' from the trap, sure, but if you've got Trapspotter, Trapfinding and you are a player in a game where you know your GM is gonna drop traps on you, you better darn well be declaring Perception to detect traps constantly. In that instance no, Trapspotting doesn't find the trap but your Perception might be high enough to detect the magic trap before it goes off.

An Acid Arrow trap has a proximity trigger in the form of an Alarm spell. Perception isn't Detect Magic but with a 27 or higher the perceiver should be able to notice something off about the square they're about to enter which would set off the trap. It might look something like this:

PC's are navigating narrow halls when they come to this corner. The rogue is in front, scouting for ambushes and traps; the player rolls their Perception and gets a 28.

GM: As you approach the corner here (indicates the bend on the map) you notice an odd distortion in the air; dust particles just seem to hover a few inches off the ground despite there being no wind, wires, or webs to hold them there.

Rogue player: That's weird. Do I think it might be some kind of trap or something?

GM: You get the sense that a blind corner would be a great place for a trap or ambush, so yes it COULD be a trap.

Rogue player: Without moving INTO that square I want to look around and see if there's any other signs in the area, like scorches on the walls, bloodstains, or chips in the stone where weapons have impacted. Also I'm going to tell the wizard that I think some magic or something might be holding up the dust above the floor here.

Wizard player: I cast Detect Magic and concentrate for 3 rounds

GM: Ok, so the rogue is taking a 20 on their Perception and for 3 full rounds is doing nothing but visually inspecting every inch of the area. During that time the wizard is casting Detect Magic and concentrating. What's everyone else doing?

Fighter player: Knowledge: Dungeoneering; do I know of any underground hazard that makes dust float? Also I'm backing up to here (indicates the rear of the party) and keeping watch. (the player rolls 2 d20's)Knowledge check; 11, Perception; 21.

Cleric player: I'll be casting Guidance every round; once on the rogue, then the wizard, and finally on the fighter.

GM: Ok, here's what you find: rogue, you notice there are acid burns in several places around the square with the distortion; directional patterns indicate the acid came from down the hall, this way (indicates the area from which the Acid Arrow trap launches). The fighter doesn't recall any dungeon hazards or anything that cause what's happening but as he's looking back down the hall (roll for random encounter; an encounter is indicated. More rolls indicate 3 ghouls and a ghast) you spy 4 humanoid shapes moving through the darkness with practiced stealth, approaching the party; a nauseating stench wafts up the hallway from them. You notice them on round 2 and they seem to notice you as well despite still being 40' back. Are you taking any actions?

Fighter player: I draw my composite longbow and fire an arrow (rolls a d20 and a d8) 21; if it hits I did 11 damage. I tell the rest of the party we're about to have company.

GM: Ok you hit, but rather than drop like a sack of potatoes the creature keeps coming. Round 3, cleric and fighter give me initiatives; wizard is still concentrating and the rogue is committed to taking a 20. Speaking of the wizard, so far in rounds 1 and 2 you've discovered that there is a magic aura in the square where the dust is floating and in round 2 you've determined that there's only one aura which is of Faint strength.

Now the ghouls move up and begin the attacks; one charges the fighter and gets punched in the face but still hits with its bite; he doesn't get paralyzed but the cleric determines what they are. The ghast moves into position behind the first ghoul and the wounded one moves to the back; the fighter falls prey to the DC 15 stench aura from a terrible Fort save and gets Sickened.

The GM informs the wizard player that the aura is an arcane Abjuration spell and a roll from the wizard identifies it as an Alarm spell. On round 4 the rogue and wizard attempt to start aiding the fighter against the full attack of the ghast who survives his 2h sword power attack hit barely and then inflicts serious damage. The cleric channels and the combat progresses.

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One thing I keep forgetting:

OP Rules wrote:

2. The corresponding numbers will show you the five races on the list that will be the player races for your setting. These five races are the only "default assumption" choices for your setting's player race options.

So, this means that the five I roll up are just the default PC races. In my regular homebrew campaign right now I've developed kobolds with a whole society as a major part of the setting, but they're not a race the players want to use.

By that logic, my setting in this thread doesn't have to be ONLY the five races I make up. Think about it; what if you got x2 medusa, grippli, construct-based humanoids of your own creation and lizardfolk, but the setting was about how the humans, dwarves and elves replaced goblins, kobolds and orcs as the "villainous" races?

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So, you're saying, account for the stat then?

To each their own, but I don't really adhere to penalize/reward for low/high stats, or even expect people to play specifically to their character's stats.

I have a gal playing a barbarian in my game currently. She often forgets, when not in combat, that even while not raging she is strong enough to take 10 and pull a DC 15 Break check.

GM: the kobolds have retreated through a field of loose boulders they have piled up for cover, under a low overhang and through a narrow cave opening. Said opening has no door but is Small sized

Players: how are we ever going to keep them from just retreating back out and hitting us from behind as we climb this hill

GM: the boulders are loose, but heavy; there are tool marks suggesting that the kobolds levered them into place

Players: but we don't have a handy lever. How are we supposed to move them

GM: you need someone strong

Barbarian: ...

GM: someone REALLY strong

Barbarian: ...

GM: someone in the party KNOWN for their amazing strength

Barbarian: ...

Other players: barbarian-girl! move the bloody rocks!

Bear in mind; said barbarian has a 12 Int, so not brainless by any stretch. Simply put there have been several situations where massive strength could be used to: hoist a heavy table as cover, move boulders, haul logs, throw another PC up to a ledge (or at least provide Aid Another as a boost up) and smash in a door. The gal playing the barbarian is not accustomed to thinking of herself as strong enough to press 300 lbs easy, so she doesn't default to acting like "strong girl."

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I don't understand

Penguin's gambit to start the war. He sends a hit man, rigs it so hit man fails, and hit man's head goes to his boss in a box. I get how THAT works. The part I don't get though is how Falcone doesn't INSTANTLY go "I didn't hire this guy to do anything" and then start putting the pieces together and go kill Cobblepot.

With this show I just keep shrugging and going "But hey, it's Batman so... just keep watching" but I keep walking away feeling underwhelmed.

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Lamontius wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Can we get back to arguing about whether or not you're a bad person if you start with an 18 instead of whether or not you're a bad person for saying a low Charisma means people don't like you?

17 16 14 12 10 7

haters gonna hate at level 4 and 8
and I am a poet and I did not even know it



... and ainters gonna aint.

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alexd1976 wrote:
thejeff wrote:

You also apparently can't tell unless he's actually making skill rolls. After all it's a mental stat and you can't tell unless it's actively being used to make rolls. (or Take 10s.)

Even then it's only the skills. If he's got a Know(Local) of 10 and an Int of 3, there's no way to tell he's dumb as long as you're on his topic.

I mean... has anyone on here ever MET someone with an IQ of 60? You can tell pretty easily... really guys...

Stupid is as stupid does sir. My mamma taught me.

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Also Tark I like where you're going with your stuff. Some other ideas:

Deep fried mushrooms on a bed of nettle leaves with roast mutton in a mustard sauce

Brine-boiled mutton served "corned" with boiled beets and cabbage; on the side is a stout-mustard sauce

A chilled plate of goat cheese, nettleberries and carrots

Peppered goat meat sliced thin and fried in goat butter and oil, then served with a smear of jellied shrieker and nettleberry preserves on flaxenbread and served with a sweet molasses-mead

(notes: molasses is tapped from tree roots growing down into the caves - it's fantasy, run with it; shrieker is the "jalepeno" of the fungus world; one bite and you're screaming! Muy Caliente!)

Boiled flax-and-nettle-leaf noodles, in a sour beer soup with carrots, onions, and crawfish, then seasoned with ground pepper and ginger; garnished with fresh, edible glowmold. Best eaten while still luminous, this dish is referred to as Torag's Beard Soup

Fresh blind flathead baked with sprigs of orange lichen that bear a slightly citrus flavor, then served with flax crackers and sweetened goat's butter

Mushroom pancakes (ground flax flour, diced honeydew mushroom caps) served with molasses and sweetened goat's butter; mutton sausages and cave lizard eggs on the side

Bitter lichens, nettle leaves, carrots, diced mushrooms, onions and pickled ginger tossed with an oil and nettleberry-vinegar reduction, and finally garnished with flax seeds. This is served as a pallet-cleanser in small portions with thin flax beer in a bowl

Boiled bats head soup garnished with radish, nettle leaves, carrots and onions with a hearty potato bread and flaxen stout

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Another thing to think about: Constitution.

If (for some foolish reason) a PC dumped Con but then played an Unbreakable fighter with Endurance, Diehard, Toughness and such we'd call him non-optimal, sure. But in this instance would you have the guy catching colds all the time, constantly risking Fatigued after walking a few hours or having make saves every time the pollen count went up?

Same with Charisma. You can begin with a negative penalty but that doesn't necessarily HAVE to lead to negative reactions everywhere. Just cuz a guy has a 7 Con you don't have him roll a Fort save when he walks into a spice merchant's shop to avoid knocking things over with his sneezing fits; so then why have a guy with a 7 Cha have to pay more to buy the salt and pepper for his meals?

Stats are the numbers from which the character begins, but they AREN'T the whole character. A guy with a 7 Str can learn to be a kick-ass fighter; a guy with a 7 Wisdom can still be a decent investigator; let the PCs be who they are regardless of what you may feel about their stats.

Now, on the other hand if the guy with the 7 Cha ROLEPLAYS walking into the spice merchant's shop, getting belligerent and insulting the merchant's mom, then by all means charge him double...

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I've never understood this whole Cha dump thing. I briefly had point buys at my table and hated it. Now I'm back to rolling 4d6, take the best three, and re-roll 1's. I've been told mine is a "light" world.

As for RPing your stats, it's another thing I've never understood. Sure, you can play a guy with a 7 Cha as smelly, socially awkward and such, but you're still going to be expected to enter a weapons shop, pick up a battle axe and pay 10 GP for it.

In real life I've known A LOT of shy, socially awkward or generally smelly people. Most of the bars I go to have at least 1 or 2 "Regulars" who mutter to themselves, smell and sometimes get belligerent. They are still served though and they're not charged any more than any other dude. Why would it be any different in a fantasy RPG?

Plus there's the TV Trope Ash-hat posted upthread. Consider you're a Commoner, even say level 3 and let's even give you a Heroic array. You've run a bar you're whole life and you're a pretty good judge of character (Sense Motive +5). In walks a wild-eyed, 6.5' tall behemoth of a half-orc covered in spiked hide armor with a battle axe on one hip and a klar on the other. Flies circle him because he hasn't bathed the caked blood from his arms and every few steps he mutters something incoherent.

A menu window pops up in your head. You can either:

1. charge him the regular amount of gold, serve him and hope you make it through this alive

2. Grab the club under the bar and run him out of the place yelling

3. Sneer at his obviously uncouth ways and serve him the grog at double cost

Now if you go #2 or #3 you run the risk of battle. You've got a BAB +1, a Masterwork club (he's level 3 after all) and a 17 Str, so you're no pushover. Still that means you've got a total of +5 to hit so if the dude in front of you has NO Dex bonus you've got a roughly 50/50 shot of hitting. If you connect you're dropping 1d6+4 on your foe, an avg of 7 HP. Even if the giant is only level 1 you're going to need to stay toe to toe with him for 2 rounds and hope he doesn't have Ferocity. So... what are you going to do? Risk it all because this guy is crude?

Then the barbarian finally speaks:

"I'm terribly sorry to have bothered your patrons old man. My natural appearance and habits appear awkward and uncouth but in reality I've just been teleported here and didn't have the chance to freshen up. Perhaps you might pour me a draft of the lovely Redwulf Ale I spied behind the counter and then run me a bath?"

You see, this barbarian is actually about 9th level and has a Diplomacy +8 thanks to a Trait he took years ago. He's got a 7 Cha but once in the door and in conversation you realize he's a pretty nice guy with a terrible first impression.

You know who else is like that? Almost every hard-core gamer I've ever met. Initially there's a social stigma about us and coupled with our standard dress, slang in our speech and such we tend to be sort of ostracized (See: Big Bang Theory) however once you get us talking you'll realize that we're canny liars and blowhards (Bluff), practiced at the art of formal discourse and debate (Diplomacy) and some of us use those negative stigmas to get ahead in lunch lines (Intimidate).

TL/DR. Please stop assuming that, just cuz a guy in your game has a 7 Cha everyone should naturally loathe him just walking down the street. There are SO many other reasons for adventurers to be hated and feared (See: murderhobo) that their Base Ability Scores shouldn't be one of them.

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Lots of creeps get served in bars, that's why there's bars.

As for not maximizing primary stats to me it's a matter of game style. Consider at 1st level that, if the GM is going completely RAW and not modifying their creatures at all, the avg AC for CR 1 creatures is a 12. If your fighter has a +1 BAB at level 1 this means they only need a Str 12 to have a 50/50 shot at hitting such creatures and a Str 14 gets the PC Power Attack while maintaining that 50/50 shot.

So, if the GM is going completely RAW you might have a fighter with a 14 Str and a 16 Cha after racials. He's a charmer, one everyone wants to hang with, but in a fight he's brutal and powerful enough to put a man down with one hit (2h greatsword from this guy at level 1 including Power Attack deals 2d6+6, Avg 13 damage).

Then again if your GM routinely hands you a CR 2 fight with 4 gear-and-stat-optimized kobold warrior 1 in the dark, underground, in conditions favorable to the kobolds, building the villains as snipers with alternate racial traits and giving them a kobold Adept 3 leader optimized to use their familiar with an archetype to actually lend aid in battle in a significant way... you better pray to the god of skinny punks your PCs are optimized. 2 rounds in (Surprise round and round 1) the kobolds have put 5 shortbow arrows into your cleric who's now taken 12 damage and is unconscious, plus the rogue has been Sickened by a Surprise touch attack from the adept's familiar which led to him getting Fatigued. Soon enough it'll be time for the Adept to pull off that Sleep spell and suddenly the PC wizard is alone save for their familiar, running for their life through trap-infested tunnels and hoping the sniper kobolds don't catch up to them again!

Not that anything like that's ever happened in my game...

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Absalom has a couple. The city leader is Gyr and he ceded a sister city to House Arnsen. The 2 rulers had been friends but now are bitter enemies.

I'm sure there's more I'm missing.

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Ok LG, let's clarify: did you bail because your one PC's elk couldn't charge in the Underdark, or did you bail because your GM railroaded you there in the first place. These are 2 separate issues.

This is something else that frequently happens in this hobby: railroading. This is when the GM wants you to go do X in the plot (go to a place, meet an NPC, whatever) and refuses to let you succeed at any other course of action until you do it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, so long as everyone at the table is having fun and willing to go along with it. It sounds from the above though that you and the other players weren't into it.

So G Force, help us understand what's really going on in your game. There's a big difference between "You go in the forest and recover the gem, now on to step 2 in the Underdark" and "EVERYTHING YOU DID WAS FAILURE! TO THE UNDERDARK WITH YOU!!!"

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Ok, whoa everyone, chill. It takes 2 to tango in this game: GM's and players.

So to the OP: you say the campaign was under way already and you had no forewarning at character creation of what was to come. Rather you planned for straight-forward gaming on flat, open ground. I will tentatively agree with some other posters: this is a common thing in tabletop RPGs that your environment will not always be ideal for the characters you built.

To your credit just having Narrow Frame for your mount wouldn't have covered going underground. I played a PC, a gestalt ranger/cavalier recently. He was a Halfling riding a wolf, I figured I'd be safe since he's Medium and I knew we'd be heading underground. Then my GM gave me a chasm. How do you get a Medium sized wolf across a 40' chasm?

My point is: I can understand your trepidation.

That being said, here are some alternatives you could've offered before bailing:

1. Talk to your GM: get on the same page with them. Don't ask them to reveal any of their campaign plans but be frank and ask if there will be situations in the upcoming section of the game unsuited to riding a freaking ELK around.

2. Create new PCs: seriously, think about it. In a lot of RPG-style video games you build a new party before a mission, picking new or old PCs from the "tavern" or whatever based on what you need for the adventure ahead. You could just as easily had the 2 guys with giant animals say "look we'll only slow you guys down in the Underdark, but we know some guys..." and bam! 2 new PCs

3. Magic: Fly/levitate, light/dancing lights (for your vision), Grease for Escape Artist checks on your mounts. There are a LOT of ways to muddle through these situations.

So I think the players and the GM in this campaign need to have a sit down and come to grips with what needs to happen to move the game forward. You guys, as players, are new and got concerned. It happens. Just know that if you continue on in this hobby this is going to happen from time to time. You won't have a splash weapon for swarms; you'll forget to grab ranged weapons; you'll build for combat and there'll be lots of skill challenges. The mark of a good player is to learn from these shortfalls and try to avoid running from them.

Next time you guys make characters you'll ask more questions and consider environments before choosing mounts. If you still go Large sized, you'll know to think about HOW to deal with challenging environments before they hit.

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You said the game takes place "mostly underground" and that the dwarves don't trade with the surface. That's fine; here's some suggestions:

Sun rooms: dwarves create solar tubes to direct sunlight down into their halls. This diffused sunlight isn't great but it does allow for crops to grow. Small gardens and water grains are grown in these chambers. Over time as kobolds and other lower-dwelling light-sensitive creatures have invaded and claimed dwarf territory, these rooms have come to serve a different purpose: torture. Kobolds, being primarily lawful take dissidents to these rooms and chain them to where the sunlight pools, forcing their eyes open with toothpicks.

Frostgrass: just like green plants on the tundra there are some green plants that survive in fissures and glacial rifts. Canny dwarves have learned to recreate these conditions where their halls exit onto frozen cliffsides. Just at these entryways are hoarfrost gardens where domesticated goats graze. Never one to leave resources unused, the scat from these animals is even processed. Through Purifying spells as well as good old-fashioned work undigested greens and grains are extracted and then boiled in a mash for a pleasing, if nutty fermented drink.

These, plus the suggestions above this and the inclusion of spells like Daylight, Plant Growth and finally the invention of some unique, setting specific lichen and fungi would give the dwarves plenty of food sources.

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They might be shy, or reserved, or feel silly/awkward doing in person what they used to do whatever happened behind screens before. Your players are people and they have fears and anxieties like any other humans. Its only natural that they have great cerebral ideas for their PCs (good backstories) but don't really dive into roles when they're at the table.

This might be it for how they RP in person, and the challenge falls to you as a GM and fellow player of the game to be willing to accept that. Talk to them. See if they're comfortable with this level of engagement and if it is, so be it. If you want more and they're not ok with it you may be looking for other players.

If however everyone at the table says they need to RP more (whatever that means; it's very subjective) then here's some ways to help nudge them:

1. Encourage skill use: create social or puzzle-based encounters. One I like to use at 1st level as an ice-breaker is the "heroic save" scenario. PCs are in public (town, in the middle of a ship, on a road in the midst of a caravan, etc) when monsters appear. Said monsters are everywhere and the players could spend the entire session just fighting. Suddenly a cry rings out: "MY BABIES! PLEASE! SOMEONE SAVE THEM!" followed by the crashing of wood. Two little girls are trapped; could be under a fallen cart, could be in a runaway caravan, or maybe on the second story of a burning building. Now sure, there are monsters everywhere and all of the public area is in jeopardy but what hero in their right mind would let a kid die? Saving the girls isn't about JUST murdering monsters. The PCs will have to lift a broken cart that's full of goods and swarming with monsters; maybe they have to control the panicking draft horses all the while batting monsters off a moving vehicle; they've got to get INTO the burning building or scale the side, dealing with the hazard as well as the creatures they're fighting.

2. Now that you've got them thinking like heroes, treat them as such: create the kids' mom as an NPC. She should have something relevant to offer the PCs after the fight; I usually go with the mom being influential around the neighborhood and spreading the word that the PCs are heroes to give them a 10% cost of living decrease. But then its on you as the GM to RP that boon. It's not enough to say "cost of living is reduced." Show them HOW it's reduced. "Oh, it's YOU guys!" the shopkeeper says, pushing another patron out of your way. "Right this way heroes! I've got deals for you on these fine masterwork backpacks just in from up north. Genuine dragon hide! Nothing but the best for our heroes!"

3. Ask the players "How?": everything these guys do, even when they fumble an attack, should add something to the overall narrative of how awesome they are. If you're just telling them about it they might feel left out. Instead challenge them with the word "how" as in:

Player: I attack with my battleaxe
GM: How?
Player: Huh? I just told you, with the axe.
GM: No, how do you attack with it?
Player: What, like, what feats? I've got...
GM (interrupting): no, describe it to me. What are you trying to do?
Player: Umm... I don't know, trying to... umm... hit the orc in his face
GM: Ok, roll
Player: Umm... 18. Does that hit?
GM: You drop sideways, luring his head just a half inch closer then pivot, bringing the axe up and down in a deadly arc! As it hurtles right for the orc's face he moves with it, minimizing the blow! You hit but didn't manage to cleave his face; instead you came down glancing off his collarbone to lodge in his shoulder. Roll your damage...

Then apply the same dialogue to social encounters. Ask HOW when the PCs gather info, intimidate, research between adventures, or use other non-combat skills. Even when it's as simple as making a Climb check in the wilds ask them how they're doing it. This gets your players in the habit of describing their character; his actions, mannerisms, and method of action in all things. Hopefully, with practice and repetition the players will just learn to work this into everything without your prompting.

4. Remind your players their characters should always be doing SOMETHING: the story of the game might be made up or narrated by you, but it goes nowhere without the players moving it forward. As such they should never be standing around doing nothing. I like to roll initiative for everything to keep my players engaged. Example:

GM: the hallway dead ends in a solid oak door 30' ahead.
Ranger: Ok, I check for traps
GM: roll initiative
Ranger: what? Who's attacking?
GM: No one yet; I want to know what everyone's doing.
Wizard: I got... 15
Fighter: 6
Inqisitor: 18!
Ranger: 11
GM: Ok, inquisitor; what're you doing?
Inquisitor: Umm... I check for traps
GM: How
Inquisitor: Right! Um, I cast Guidance on myself and ask Pharasma for divine insight. My guy has Darkvision so I'm just going to inspect the area visually through the darkness. I got... a 23 Perception
Wizard: Well I'm going to tell my owl to circle the area in a visual search as well while I cast Detect Magic and try to sense any auras in the area. My familiar got... 12. Crap.
Ranger: well I've got a glaive with reach so I'm going to prod around and try to search for traps that way. Perception... 19
Fighter: My guy has Knowledge: Dungeoneering. Can I use that?
GM: to do what?
Fighter: Well, it says I can identify underground hazards and monsters and stuff. I'll look around and try to identify any normal hazards or see if anything looks out of place.
GM: Ok, give me a Knowledge check
Fighter: Umm... SWEET! 21!
GM: OK, here's what happens...

The group begins to spread out. The inquisitor kneels briefly to the holy symbol in her hand, then rises and peers into the dark. She notes an odd, wet patch on the floor but can't quite make it out with much detail though it smells faintly of lamp oil. The wizard sends his owl off and casts his spell detecting a faint aura on the side where the oil has gathered though his familiar notes nothing. Ranger, as you're tapping you don't notice anything out of the ordinary but just as you're moving up to the next area you can reach the fighter spots something. The kobolds you've encountered so far have favored fire and there is unnatural scorching on the wall near where the oil has gathered; normally such would be the result of a torch bracket or something but none are present here and the normal dank breezes you've been feeling down here seem to breathe upward through a tiny hole in the ceiling.

Congratulations: together the team detected a Burning Hands trap that chars everything in a 15' radius beneath the hole. You might mention the PCs have a bad feeling (those who rolled a 20 or higher) and then they can decide what to do next. Bottom line as all of the advice begins to come together the hope is that your players feel engaged, empowered and willing to insert themselves into the role of their characters at a moment's notice.

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Aux: for the "hunted" abouve I put in my vote for something using the bugbear feat where it smells fear. I think there's another feat where you can intimidate w/out needing to be seen.

Couple that with traps that deal Bleed damage or Ability damage, namely Con. Finally traps that cripple movement. Force the PCs to get maimed, lose blood or slowly get weaker, all the while have them making saves against fear or at least being demoralized through Intimidate.

This is how I ran a bogeyman type in an old game. The bugbear was blind, ONLY beng able to track by scent. He had poisoned gas to deal Con damage and another for halucinations; he had a couple areas with caltrops or bear traps; he took unarmed, a couple levels of rogue and Bleeding Attack so he'd dart out, slam from behind and deliver a brutal, bleeding punch but then fade away leaving you to waste heling skills/powers on the bleed or just keep bleeding.

There were also signs all over. Kids he'd tortured and removed their eyes replacing them with mirror shards. There was grafiti in blood "Old Pogolo Peeps, he crawls and he creeps..." and even a creepy little nursery rhyme the kids in town sang.

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Not life or death but an interesting use of gear and cantrips. PCs need to distract some kobolds to sneak up a hillside; kobolds have been spotted in overlooking murder holes ready to rain down arrow fire. The PCs grab a spare shirt, mark a face on it with some glow-in-the-dark inks the wizard had and cast in succession: Penumbra, Prestidigitation and Ghost Sound.

The effect was a ghost-like sheet with a face, surrounded in shadow and very faint mist, which made the face glow. Add in the sounds of unearthly moaning (Ghost Sound) and its slow, drifting movement to block the first murder hole and suddenly "Ghost Shirt" was born.

The shirt was used to get a druid with Obscuring Mist as their last spell to the rough middle of the path up the hill where he used said spell to cover nearly the entire thing in fog. The kobolds, seeing the ghost followed by a sudden cloying mist rising (the druid used Stealth to get into position and wasn't spotted) thought the haunting was real and I rolled will saves. 2 brave kobold heroes held their post and fired blindly into the mist after they heard movement; the other 6 fled screaming "GHOOOOSSSTTTT SHIIRRRRRRRTTTTTT!" in draconic.

Needless to say, the PCs made it to the top unscathed.

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