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Leonard Kriegler

Mark Hoover's page

5,529 posts. 1 review. No lists. No wishlists.

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Also I had an Aid Another on Diplomacy tonight. The PCs met a group of travelers (gypsies) in an inn and said travelers are between Indifferent to Unfriendly depending on who they're talking to in the party. The party wants to get the gypsies to smuggle said NPC into the city.

First the bard started in and said he'd open with music and stories. From there the paladin chimed in to expound on the greater good the travelers would serve. The Halfling druid related the NPC's struggle to his own oppressive experiences and the sorcerer helped explain the NPC's predicament and play on the emotions of the travelers. After all of that the bard actually made the ask.

Mechanically the bard rolled a couple Perform checks and a Diplomacy as well. Each of the other PCs rolled a Diplomacy for Aid Another and succeeded. Their total roll finished out to a 28 and I rounded it up to a 30 adding a +2 circumstance bonus for the bard's performances.

Fluff-wise it turned into a similar scene to the Podling scene from the Dark Crystal. The bard offering some music, then the travelers joined in, and the sorcerer added some special effects. The Halfling used some acrobatics against the travelers in a dance-off; the paladin, reserved and stodgy, played a great "straight man" against it all and got dragged onto the floor by a group of old Nonas.

In the end everyone had fun and the entire group of travelers were shifted to Helpful. The travelers consented to the favor but on the condition that the party continue to party with them when they meet next. The Silverhair Family will now become a recurring contact in the game world.

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By RAW you're touching AC 10. Since it has no Armor or Dex indicated there is nothing to subtract for Touch or Flat Footed AC, so it remains a 10 for those purposes. Therefore:

1. PCs enter the room; Perception (or Knowledge: Religion; I don't know how they act on the surprise round with haunts)
2. If the cleric has an action and act before Initiative 10, they attack an AC 10
3. If the Haunt acts first the effect happens and the party simply needs to deal with that.

Also to your second question once the Haunt's effect takes place the PCs are left to deal with the effect unless the thing is Persistent at which point you can neutralize them before their effect goes off next round.

That's the rules, now let's look at the fun.

Take a look at the example haunt, Bleeding Walls in your link. The trigger is a proximity; PCs must enter a space for the Haunt to go off. Also there is a DC 20 Perception check to act in the surprise round.

the PCs are in the bar one night and a crazed drunk is getting belligerent with the owner. The PCs overhear the old man screaming that his sister haunts his dreams, even though she died all those years ago. The noble that done her in never paid for his crimes. The creepy old house on the hill was the last place she ever was and at night the man can still hear his sister weeping.

In talking to the old man he reveals himself a Cyrus Burg, a troubled soul whose mind broke years ago from the weight of guilt and the poison of alcohol. He mutters, sees things that aren't there and on many occasions has tried to hurt himself and others. Despite his mania the party is able to ascertain that Burg's sister, Malia, was a maid for a noble. The cruel lord used and debauched her but Malia's wages were the only thing keeping the family going so Cyrus urged her to stay quiet. One day she decided she'd had enough and went to work one last time to confront the noble; she never returned home.

Now, decades later a new noble has taken possession of the house. He and his manservant entered three days ago; they haven't been seen since. The place has been abandoned and rumored to be haunted all this time. Now Cyrus believes its somehow connected to his sister.

Leaving the party at their table the man staggers out into the night. Seconds later the PCs hear a scream. Racing outside they see the new noble's manservant dropping Cyrus' limp form to the ground. Disturbingly the servant's eyes have been completely torn out leaving dead, bleeding sockets behind.

The party battles this horror and destroys it. During the fight the servant's voice is that of a woman's but disembodied. Once the battle is over Cyrus confirms with his dying breath (no amount of healing/restoration saves him) that what they just fought was somehow his sister, taking her revenge.

After busting into the house, dealing with some other hazards and undead the PCs begin to ascend to the second floor. As they do the floor gives way and the staircase collapses; a harrowing moment later the party is at the top of the steps staring down a 40' drop into the cellar far below. Thankfully avoiding this close call the party heads down the hall to the master bedroom.

The PCs can tell the room was once opulent and masculine, but now the furnishings are all covered with dusty sheets. The bed itself has thick drapery enclosing it; as the PCs look on a sudden breeze flutters it from the inside. One of the party members gives into the temptation and gets close to the bed. Flinging back the drapes nothing waits on the other side.

Then it begins.

All the PCs roll their Perception checks. The ranger and the cleric make theirs; the wizard and fighter do not. The ranger and the cleric hear a soft sobbing echoing all through the room; the sound is disembodied and unnatural making the hairs on the back of their neck stand on end. The cleric rolls her initiative, an 11, with the ranger having a 16. The ranger casts about for an enemy, something to attack but the danger seems all around him at once; this is no ghost or goblin, but the threat is no less real!

Holding his initiative the ranger waits, desperate for something to hit. Then to the cleric whose fingers tighten on the wand still in her hand from healing the wizard the round before. Despite years of training and months of adventures something about this moment makes the blood in her veins freeze. She hesitates and the ranger glares at her: "Do SOMETHING!" The sobbing begins to twist into a cruel laugh and out of the corner of her eye the cleric sees small rivulets of blood forming on the walls. The air is suddenly so cold the cleric can see her breath and there is a copper taste to it. Evil is coming.

Then from the bed another sudden breeze. No, not a breeze, a FACE starting to form from a rising mist. The walls are definitely starting to bleed. A sudden calm guides the cleric. Pharasma is the mistress of all things beyond; her wisdom and strength flows through me. The wand comes up. The face becomes clearer, that of a woman. The blood is streaming now. The celestial words to activate the wand begin to tumble from the cleric's steady lips. The weeping laughter rises to a fever pitch. All the party can see all of it now and a palpable dread begins to rise! "... NICTU" the cleric finishes and the moonstone with the black rose relief flares to life on the item's tip.

The cleric surges forward a few feet and thrusts the wand forward. "Back to the GRAVE with you woman! Pharasma waits for you!" The cleric's wand snakes out and the glowing stone makes contact at the last second with the maid's ghostly face. There is a shrill shriek of a woman's voice but not in triumph but in pain. A blinding flash goes off.

The cleric rolled a 10 on her attack roll and hit the Haunt with a wand of Cure Moderate Wounds. She inflicts 12 damage from positive energy. This is enough to inactivate it. The result is that the moment after the light fades the party looks around the room and finds everything the same as when they entered. No bleeding walls, no cold in the air and no disembodied voices or faces. The Haunt has been shut down for the moment.

The bigger problem now is figuring out how to reveal the Haunt's final resolution. Remember that even though the mechanics of the device are set the "flavor" of it all is up to you as the GM.

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Diagonal. Otherwise I run from behind a potted plant.

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Fresh off another thread that dipped into this topic I thought it was worth discussing. Aid Another is, at it's heart, a mechanic that encourages all the players to work together at a common goal. In my own home games I've houseruled that in some situations players don't even need to use the same skills.

I had a scenario once where the PCs came to a magical trap. There was a rogue in the party but I didn't want it to be just him making dice rolls so I asked the other players their skills.

One was a wizard and he'd noticed the magic of the trap with Detect Magic so I asked him to use Spellcraft to try and figure a way around it. Part of mechanism involved a relief of a face on a door; the mouth would open to unleash the effect so the fighter got to make a Strength check and finally the trap had been created by an adept so the cleric made a Knowledge: Religion check to analyze the faith that contributed to the device and any details that would yield.

In all every player at the table helped disable the trap. Yeah, that's not RAW and may have detracted from the rogue's unique ability to break magic traps but in the end everyone participated and had fun. Mechanically all that happened was the rogue got +6 on his own roll and since the DC was a 21 on the trap it ended up helping him.

Anyway, since then I've strongly encouraged my players to use Aid Another. Not just with different skills. Any untrained skill can be used. We've had a party face talk to an NPC and had a second player chime in; no skill in Diplomacy but a natural +2 from Cha so on an 8 or higher they're helping. I've also reminded players that Craft is an untrained skill. So one guy wants to make a bow? The other 3 PCs can help somehow and tack on +2s so long as they roll a total check of 10 or better.

In combat no one ever uses Aid Another and I get it; the action economy is bad and there's better things to do with your actions. Still against single opponents it might be handy or, say, if you've got an animal companion, familiar or other helper with no chance of hitting this might be a worthwhile standard action.

I had a level 2 wizard use her Enlarge Person on her owl familiar in one fight. Next fight was only a minute later so the familiar was still enlarged. It flew in and granted the oracle a +5 (had a trait from a feat that allowed it to give +2 on Aid Another) to attack from Aid Another and Flanking. That's no small bonus at level 2.

What have your experiences been with Aid Another in your games?

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One thing in this and other threads (paraphrasing): there's a better way to do that. Ending a fight via the Disarm, Steal, and Grapple maneuvers is feat intensive and not the most efficient I'll grant you. However if players build their characters that way and WANT to do that why NOT throw a few kobolds at them they can harass?

After years on these boards I've come to appreciate that there's more than one way to skin a cat, or a monster, or a PC concept. Most recently I was a player in a game where the party was missing a classic "thief" type; a skills monkey that could stealth, scout and disable devices.

I decided on a wizard.

The other players were upset. We already had a switch-hitter oracle and a sorcerer, so why another squishy spellcaster. But then I unveiled Argentica, the half-elf with high Dex, Int and Wis (we were able to roll stats and I rolled well). With her familiar at hand, in Dim Light conditions she started at level 1 with like a +11 on Perception, she got Stealth and Disable Device from traits and wasn't too bad at them. Plus with a flying familiar of Tiny size and the right spells the two of us could scout pretty well.

Sure, I could've gone rogue, then spell caster, and finally arcane trickster and been doing more damage or been a better "thief" type, but this fit better with what I wanted: a bookish female half-elf escaping a misspent youth.

My point is that I don't want my players thinking in terms of what Feat choices are going to "win" mechanically but rather what concept they want to achieve. I know there's nothing wrong with mechanics first/concept later, I just don't want it to be ALL mechanics y'know?

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If you wanted to go NPC... go kobold.

1. The CR of a kobold with NPC levels is Level - 3 instead of -2 so a kobold Adept 5 is a CR 2 encounter, not a CR 3

2. Small size (see below)

Give your kobold Adept 3/Warrior 2. This lets your kobold wear some armor, wield different weapons. Then give them the "swoop dinosaur" familiar. Not super-optimized for combat, but whatever; it flies. Finally, give the familiar the Mauler familiar archetype.

Now you have a kobold flying around on his "dragon" (Medium sized swooping dinosaur familiar) lobbing spells from overhead or attacking with a ranged weapon while his familiar charges and therefore gets reach with its bite attack. Give him the following feats:

Mounted Combat, Evolved Familiar: Improved Damage, Point Blank Shot

Your kobold could stand in for an Inquisitor or a Warpriest. He's flying around in decent armor, the familiar has leather barding without hindering it too much and he could even have a light shield. Suddenly this CR 2 encounter with the Heroic array for NPCs is dropping +9 or better crossbow attacks from range, then strafing the area with 3d4 Burning Hands spells while the familiar charges from Reach with a bite +7 (1d8 +1 plus Poison DC 11) attack.

Whoa. That'd be nice.

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CBDunkerson wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
CBDunkerson wrote:
The idea that there is only one 'optimal' way to do things is too narrowly focused on combat...
Either that, or it recognizes that Pathfinder isn't nearly as supportive of building the type of character you described as the Star Wars game you were playing was.
There is absolutely no reason you couldn't play a similarly non-combat oriented character in Pathfinder. Every example I gave in that post has an analogous situation in Golarion (escape artist, safe cracking, navigation, sailing, et cetera). It really comes down to the kind of games you play. If the GM throws nothing but unavoidable combats at you then combat optimization is the way to go... though personally at that point I could get a similar experience from Xbox. If you're playing in a complex world where 'I kill it' is NOT the answer >50% of the time then diversity is good. Heck, even in kill fests... you want to be able to kill things in different ways or you'll be in trouble when the GM throws something at you which CAN'T be killed in the 'one true optimized way'.

I think this gets at the heart of what I was trying to explain to my player. Sure, if I'm running a "kill fest" then Weapon Focus/Specialization; Power Attack/Furious Focus and so on.

I frankly don't run like that. I homebrew or use published material that includes a mix of combat, non-combat, traps, puzzles and rarely just empty scenery in the encounters. I try to encourage my players not to just attack every monster and use the world as a giant loot pile.

That being said, if my players want that game and make 4 combat-optimized PCs then I'm not going to stop them and I'll even up the combat to match what they want to see.

But even then I have an expectation that I don't have 4 players solely focused on the same feats and general approach to every combat.

If I have 4 combat-centric players I would hope that I've got a couple focused on range and a couple on melee. Even in that, you could have a maneuvers guy, a ranged touch attack caster, a power attacker and a zen archer, all approaching combat from 4 very different angles.

In short: there's more than one way to "win" encounters.

One thing I tell new players all the time is that ESCAPING from a fight gives you experience. Sometimes resource management means knowing when to just drop a Smokestick, get out the door and beat feet to the main exit.

The other thing I'd mention in regards to the above quote is that just because you're mediocre at combat doesn't mean you're not useful in the game, at least not at my table. I have a player running a druid, currently at 3rd level who's really focused on Perception and Diplomacy. In danger zones he's a scout that keeps the PCs from running into trouble in the first place and thus contributes to combat by helping the party avoid needless ones. Outside normal adventure sites he's gathered tons of info, guided the PCs to key clues and used his charisma and skills to keep a bar fight from breaking out.

Yes, there's probably better builds for it. And also yes; if the party had been optimized for combat and just let the bar fight or kobold ambushes happen they more than likely would've whomped through to victory anyway. But then why don't I just run Descent from Fantasy Flight Games?

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At Artie Farty: yes, those game groups sounded like a myth to me too. I found one though, Wednesday nights here in MN in the USA. We only play 3 hours a session but the players are all willing to try anything. We've had some epic fights, a swinging vine charge, a seriously tactical crawl through a kobold enclave and lots of really fun moments.

These gamers are out there, but they're in short supply.

At everyone else: you're all correct, there's 2 games going on. The "build" game is fun for me, both as a player and a GM. I can build interesting characters or, in the case of one game, I made a real twist of an NPC that was completely in the rules but was not like any kobold they'd ever met before.

The GM fiat stuff is still annoying though. I agree; making up arbitrary numbers for DCs is sucky but at least with the multitudes of rules in PF that everyone laments I've got less moments when it really is arbitrary.

Take Knowledge checks in the PF system. In D&D 1e/2e I'd have tons of metagaming; people knowing that skeletons required bludgeoning damage or that demons had telepathy, etc. No matter how I punished the players they still used that info, even subconsciously.

In PF the players make a roll to justify such knowledge. Such a roll is clearly laid out in the rules. If I want to make it tougher that's built into the rules too.

And while I'm at it, everyone rants about the minutiae of "da rulz" being a downfall of new-school type games. There were TONS of rules for small stuff back in 1e; we just never used 'em! Yes, there's more rules now than in 1e, but we can just do the same thing and ignore 'em. You have to make a contract with the table is all. That's not really "new school" though but maybe that's one way to bridge the gap.

And finally: let's stop blaming video games or the "player entitlement" of younger generations. I've had players going all the way back to AD&D who whined about not getting cool stuff, getting their characters killed, and having the attention spans of gnats. It's not a generational thing; it's a people thing.

The EXPECTATION that by virtue of sitting at the table a player automatically gets stuff they want is as old as gaming. We might see an uptick of it from youngsters but it may only be because they don't have a lot of experience.

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So my gaming friends and I were chatting the other night about old school versus new school. It was the same old; we all ranted about kids these days... video games... get off my lawn, that kind of thing.

Somewhere in the middle of it all I went quiet. My one buddy mentioned that the GREAT thing about all these old school systems is that there were a LOT of rules, but not for players. The DM handled everything. Players just rolled some dice and got their little package of class stuff and went along with the plot.

Right there it hit me: I HATED that.

I don't want to get my old school card revoked but I gotta admit that there were tons of games of D&D when I was a kid where I tried different things to make MY fighter different from other ones. I'm not talking "this one carries axes" different but like asking the DM if I could have a mutant power, or a combat tail, or be super-acrobatic or something.

The other thing I always hated about back in the day was that EVERYTHING was on me when DMing. If a player wanted his character to throw a grappling hook and swing out dramatically, there weren't a lot of rules for it and no skills. So... I'd just make up an arbitrary number. It was a ton of "mother may I" situations and I ended up being the biggest "mother" of them all if you catch my drift.

So I have to admit that I LOVE Pathfinder. I loved Marvel Super Heroes back in the day for the same reason: player agency. Sure the villains are left up to the GM but the rules and customizing the PC is ALL you!

Please tell me that there's a way for me to be a little old school, a little new at the same time. Do any of you guys play the same way? Help me out here.

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Yeah, Ollie's crawling slowly toward the character he is in the comics. Very slowly. Like glacially. A sloth in slow motion could've hit that mark by now.

Did I mention its a slow progression?

Still it is nice to see him getting there. I just hope there isn't some brutal consequence that comes along and reminds him what happens when he cares about other people and turns him dark again.

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I'd also add: play to the players' strengths, not the characters. I mean, consider what the characters are capable of when you're creating encounters but like, if you've got a friend that's really jonesing to mix sci-fi and fantasy maybe throw in a bunch of homunculi that are like little server droids.

When the players are engaged they do a lot of the work for you. For example say you randomly add a detail to a cave they notice: there's blood on the entrance. If one player suddenly remembers a cult attack that left a similar scene and guesses that the cult is back but you hadn't planned anything like this, maybe just run with it. Suddenly the player thinks they've discovered something and feels cool while you have a new direction to take a random scene in.

Finally if you're really shy and introverted, just play the way one of the inventors of D&D did it. Gary Gygax supposedly used to sit away from his players, behind a screen so when he DM'd all his players heard was a voice.

As far as endings, take the advice of the character Chuck Shurley from the show Supernatural. "Endings are hard... there's always gonna be holes, the fans are always gonna bi&#h... no doubt: endings are hard. But then... does anything really end?"

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I don't buy the whole overconfidence thing. Maybe if it's like, a Wyrmling sure but if it's lived a few years you gotta figure it knows EXACTLY how fragile it is. Consider:

A wyrmling black dragon is born into a swamp. Said environment is filled with MANY creatures around a CR 1/3 - 1. Unless these creatures line up in a straight line then that CR 3 monster has PLENTY of threats to it. Yes, the dragon is a bada$$ but after a few scrapes with 2 or 3 bullywugs suddenly it begins to get it - there's some strategy to fighting.

Now if the dragon is even one age category older, a Very Young, it's survived at LEAST 6 years. The word to remember is "survived." Sure, if a dragon was born at Adult level power then it would be an overconfident oaf. If it's fought and clawed and breath weaponed their way to Juvenile it's not going to be like "ok, NOW I can just sit back on my laurels and phone it in!"

No, IMO dragons are smart, cunning and have survived threats for ages. For years they've grown into their power and battled along the way. Add this together and dragons should not just be sitting around yawning as the party approaches.

Lastly, most dragons get the chance to communicate with or dominate certain creatures. Its programmed into their DNA to control other monsters. If a dragon can get some kobolds to defend them suddenly they've got a poky meat-shield that buys them a round to get in the air or whatever.

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The standard kobold in the Beastiary is a warrior 1 which is a CR 1/4 threat. They also automatically get Craft: Traps as a skill as well as Stealth. They get a +2 Perception for their Racial bonus, a +4 Stealth from their size and generally travel in packs. Light Sensitivity as a weakness as well as Darkvision suggests that kobolds generally don't walk about in broad daylight. Couple that with high Stealth and a low tolerance for damage (standard Kobold in the book has 5 HP) and you gotta figure these things generally keep to environments it's easy to hide in.

So if you surprise some kobolds I could see it being a CR 1/2 or even a CR 1/4 fight but if not then:

1. why would they NOT be using their environment to their advantage (Cover, Higher Ground, Difficult Terrain, etc.)
2. why would they not be in close proximity to their traps?
3. why would they fight ANYONE in the open?

I'm talking Tucker's Kobolds here; in their lair all the above makes sense. But like, I was writing a homebrew encounter involving some kobolds trying to steal a mundane book from a mundane library. Why would said kobolds in the library not be moving with extreme stealth, tossing smokesticks, attacking from the tops of the stacks and using ranged attacks to keep foes at bay?

All of the above, using their environment and decent equipment and superior tactics adds to the CR of the fight. So there's my question: why would kobolds EVER be a low-CR encounter?

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Aranna wrote:

The problem with comic book physics is that it depends on plot NOT on actual physics.

A super might struggle to lift a mountain one time then toss a planet with ease next time. It must truly aggravate the type of nerd who loves world building and knowing everything about the DCU or Marvel Universe.

Heh... yeah A-bomb, good thing we're not like THAT right? *grabs security blanket and begins rocking in the fetal position*

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Y'know what helped me have a decent session recently? Sort of along the lines of what Aux-ilery said above, but it wasn't mechanics prep. I knew the session was going to be a lot of talking with an NPC, an aberrant 10 year old girl named Little Bertha. To make it memorable I gave her a couple quirks.

Several times before the session I practiced her voice. I'd droop my arm, slack my jaw and speak with a lisp. I also really paid attention to how my daughter and her friends talked. I picked speech patterns and words they or kids younger than them might use.

It worked out pretty well. My players liked it and I felt dialed in. I think that when me and my players are all working WITH each other it's a fun time. Personally I think the thing that helped was practicing the NPC quirks.

So before a session now, if I have some exposition I'm going to do I practice it like I would if I was giving a speech or presentation at work. I try and prep at least one key scene (we only play 3 hour sessions so there's not tons of scenes to choose from) and really get it stuck in my brain so when it comes up I know how to deliver it with confidence.

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thegreenteagamer wrote:

As a GM, if the combat ends with every player except one unconscious (but not dead), and that last player has less than 5hp left as he delivers the deathblow to the big boss, with all consumables exhausted and the whole party jumps up and starts yelling in celebration when he drops...I've done my job right.

Almost dead players. Almost dead players makes a good fight.

I dislike almost killing my players. Police inquiries, doctor bills and OH how players like to vent to OTHER players about getting stabbed; good luck finding a replacement at the table then!

Almost killing the CHARACTERS though, that I'll get behind ;)

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I guess I don't do well with chaos. I had a game session, start of a new game, and mid way through making my character the GM and another player decide: we're playing a different edition besides Pathfinder.

I like structure, order. When I show up to a game session I like knowing what we're doing. When we're in the game itself I enjoy having a purpose and reasons for our actions.

I tangent off topic a lot, don't get me wrong. But I always try to steer myself right back to the game at hand and I appreciate when folks tell me to rein it in. The way I figure it: most gamers I know who get together live and in person over the age of, say, 15 probably have a lot going on that they could be doing but they're here at the table. People's time is valuable so if they're choosing to spend some of it gaming with me I shouldn't waste it.

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I played with a GM once in 1e that made us roll 3d6 straight down. It stunk. I ended up with a human fighter and my highest stat was a 15 Con. I had a 4 Dex and a 7 Int. He was slow in the head, ridiculously clumsy and his only redeeming quality was that he could take a punch.

No, it didn't turn into a fun bit of roleplaying. It ended precisely how you think it would: I died in 2 rounds from orcs, sat on the couch for an hour then biked home.

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Project: J-ko wrote:

A large room with the only other door on the opposite side from where they entered. The floor is covered with four inches of really watery mud, so it kind of moves in slow waves back and forth. Of course, they'll only know it's four inches deep if they step in.

I watched this stop a party dead for hours as they tried to investigate without falling in.

Three words long forgotten by modern gamers: Ten. Foot. Pole.

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I just want people to be engaged. Whether that's using the dice to represent their engagement or their words/actions, I don't really care. In another thread I was just mentioning this desire.

If I present some detail in the gameworld as the GM, your job as a player in my game is to, well, PLAY with it. Just because you have a +13 on your Perception AND 20 minutes ago you said you were using your Perception to look for secret doors doesn't mean you just automatically see all of them. You still have to get involved, play.

You walk into a room with a tapestry. You have to touch the tapestry, move it, interact with it in some way to notice there's a secret door. Now you can declare that interaction by actually acting out or describing all of the actions OR you could just simply roll a Perception check but in either case you're playing with that detail.

So I guess for me personally no; there's no real distinction between the 2. There's just PLAYING and NOT PLAYING. If you're at my table and you're passively waiting for me to get to the monster fight of the hour then that's NOT PLAYING and I'd rather you move on to another table.

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As a player I don't mind the "It's MAGIC!" handwaving so much so long as the basics are there. Someone magically placed a permanent Sunlight spell in certain underground chambers, tied them to the phases of the real sun, then added some gardens grown with water seep? Ok, I buy that. 2000 drow living in a city devoid of all sunlight, subsisting on fungi and monster flesh because magic? That seems off to my brain.

But then, that's me.

Some folks are like "this is a world were a single human soldier can get so good with a sword that in SIX seconds they can run 10', jump into the middle of an ongoing melee, kill 5 child-sized fantasy creatures (goblins) and then leap away ANOTHER 15' and you're saying there COULDN'T be life underground?" That's another point of view and I respect that.

My hope as a GM is to strike a good balance for my players. Like a lot of folks on this thread I like writing immersive background details. 90% of the time its just for me; every once in a while a player surprises me and asks though, so I feel good being prepared.

But then I like doing the other stuff too that 'Findel mentions upthread. I enjoy acting out NPCs; recently I spent over an hour giving info to the PCs through the malformed lips of an aberrant 10 year old girl. I lisped and pretended to drool (actually drooled once) and chose words I could imagine my own 11 year old using.

I also like making dungeon tiles. I'm crap for drawing but I've made a few maps lately (they resemble pictures my kids did in kindergarten, but whatevs). The one thing I don't do at all is handouts but I think that's probably just laziness on my part.

Anyway, I try to make it immersive. The only thing I ask is that my players engage with me. I think that's where I get burned out a lot as a GM.

Many of my current players wouldn't notice at all if I went from "You enter a small room cluttered with the detritus of age; dust, cobwebs and a pair of broken axe handles in one corner. On one wall is a tapestry, tattered and rotted but seeming to depict some battle" to "You find a 10 x 10 room. There's a tapestry."

Worse yet, I can point to 2 guys in the current 8 I game with who'd reply "Oh, there's no monsters? We move on." not even bothering to poke around for the details. There might have been treasure, or a secret door or SOMETHING behind that tapestry, but now they don't know. Later on when they come out of the dungeon with very little loot and complain I'll mention the tapestry at which point one of these guys will inevitably gripe "my guy's Perception just taking a 10 is a 23 and the dwarf has a 21 Appraise when taking 10. We should just KNOW if there's something in the room!"

I've had these guys actually make similar complaints.

I want the setting to be interactive, and not just in the form of skill checks = success. If I'm going to add a detail to a room or a wilderness area or an NPC my hope is that my players will engage with it, get involved. Move the tapestry; ask hook-hand guy questions; scrape up some of the glowing mold under the rock. In this manner the players engage with me personally.

But even I have to acknowledge that some players just want a board game. They want monster fights, tactical encounters, and loot. Even said loot need not have any detail; just be worth enough to buy the right gear to have at next level.

There is nothing wrong with that kind of play; it's just not my cup of tea is all.

So I like adding detail and will continue to do so. Hopefully my players will enjoy it.

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@ Morty:

no I don't think people are lauding Fitz for bringing this guy home. Its more that his one true love told him that, in the course of her isolation she fell in love with another man and his first reaction, once her story was done was not to JUDGE her as most dudes would but instead to start working on helping her.

Another way to put it might be that Fitz, in that one moment on screen had the realization that he's never going to have Gemma as his love and it crushed him. Rather than rail at her or pity himself he got right up, went to the computers and had this second thought: If she's not happy with me then I'll move heaven and earth to find the guy she DOES want.

Either way my interpretation of the scene was that Fitz just really loves Gemma despite the fact that it's unrequited. He genuinely cares for her happiness, her well being. But more than that he's her BEST FRIEND.

I don't think that gets mentioned enough. Love gets tossed around quite a bit on TV shows but friendship is part of the true love package. Friends don't judge, they just do for one another. Need bail money at 2 o'clock in the morning? Best Friend. Need someone shoulder to shoulder with you in the fight of your life? Best Friend.

This scene really shows that, when the chips are down Gemma can ALWAYS count on Fitz for that friendship. Always. Think about that for a minute. I've loved quite a few people in my life and I've come to expect their condemnation on several situations. There's only a couple folks however who've reached a level of friendship that I can count on them through literally everything.

Gemma even said it herself, a couple times. She calls Fitz her best friend in this episode. I think this is a turning point in their relationship. They'll never be IN love with one another but they'll always love each other honestly, faithfully and in all ways. They'll ALWAYS be best friends.

And that's ANOTHER reason I think Simmons will go villain.

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DeathlessOne wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:
Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong show, but does the eidolon get a flaming sword?
Definitely the wrong show. You want this one.

Fixed that for you.

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There's a village. It has been plagued by evil fey for years. Once a year they rise up out of the thickets outside the village and run amok. Most years their undirected shenanigans are just an annoyance though the villagers keep their distance on this autumn night.

Tonight a witch has used her spells to alter things to her will. She has some grudge against the village and is using this evening to punish her foes even as she readies her final vengeance. She has convinced several gourd leshys over the past month to prepare Jack O Lanterns for the event. Her honeyed tongue holds sway with a band of mites who in turn command all manner of creepy insects. And of course she summons swarms of bats to her needs.

All of this is a smoke screen to the main event. She has worked hard pulverizing onyx and gathering other materials needed for the ritual ahead. Once finished the rite would raise an army of undead to put a final end to the village. Even now some of the skeletons and zombies have clawed their way out of the ground.

The party has only 1 night to deal with the evil. If they can stop the witch the morning will finally be peaceful. If the not however a plague of undeath will usher in a Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later the Hills will Have Eyes.

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Let's look at this from another perspective: loot.

Some GMs have said these creatures are mere beasts, top predators at best. These monsters though always have better than average treasure for their CR. What player do you say "dragon" to doesn't have their eyes glaze over with the prestige and wealth they'll earn dropping one of these things?

Well then how does a beast accumulate such wealth and reputation? They've got to be able to down multiple high value targets and make off with their loot. Now, imagine you're the civilization NEAR something like that.

Suddenly there's this apex predator roaming the wilds, a sure attractor for hunters looking to bag an impressive kill. Add in that stories begin to surface that it has moved to stalking sentient prey and that it TAKES things from its foes... you have a monster with a huge target on its back.

I posit then that the first formative years of this creature are spent as a wandering orphan. Removed from family it scours the land not only for its favored food sources but also for wealth. Over time this traveling death machine accumulates more wealth and power than a single mortal could possibly need in 10 lifetimes. Eventually it founds a secret lair stuffed with this ill-gotten horde and dominates the region nearby to cull guardians for its wealth while away.

Sounds an awful lot like most player characters.

So I say dragons, between Wyrmling to Young age are adventurers. When born they're cast away from their parents, making them orphans born into adversity. They learn by fighting other monsters. A hording instinct takes hold and they not only kill and eat but they take treasure. At this point they begin accumulating enemies and at this young age they aren't quite the mega-threats they may one day become so they learn to flee.

Imagine a campaign region where there's lots of dungeons scattered in the wilderness however many of the smaller ones were cleared out over the last 20 years. Some say there are evil adventurers, others blame a group of kobolds. Whatever the case several signs point to the perpetrators favoring acid.

Secretly a black dragon has been infiltrating evil crypts, small worg dens and other low-level dungeons for years. Slowly he's been destroying the villains in these dungeons and setting up shop for a time. Every time adventurers or NPC monsters have come calling he's acquitted himself well and destroyed his foes, but learned after one of his first encounters that when one group comes and gets killed, more follow.

Over the past 20 years he's slowly accumulated enough skill and power to dominate a cave complex at the heart of a local swamp central to his old stomping grounds. He's also coerced a few kobolds to do his bidding and he's trained a number of reptiles to act as his guards. Now suddenly the smaller dungeons are backfilling with kobolds and their minions.

So the campaign begins at level 1 as the PCs start uncovering the kobold menace. They revisit old dungeons and find most of the treasure gone, a few new trinkets on the kobolds and reptilian villains, and signs of a much older assault. Over and over they see that the dungeons were previously raided.

Then they start hearing rumors. Local orc tribes talk about a black scaled monster that slew a raiding party that came to clear out one of the dungeons. When a second party returned the black lizard flew away, but not before it spat a wave of acid on its foes. Now the Scarred Legion has been hunting their elusive prey for 2 decades. The kobolds worship a black-scaled god; acid burns and claw marks have been seen in several older dungeons. Now the PCs know there's a dragon in the area.

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Its part of a much larger way of thinking: look at monsters and think: "what if they're not JUST monsters?"

In this thread: dragons

You've got a big, fire-breathing lizard; a simple CR 10 encounter right? Sure, but take a closer look. A young red dragon ripped right off the SRD without any changes has Prestidigitation and Detect Magic whenever it wants; the same goes for Mage Hand, Read Magic and Message. He's also got the Vital Strike feat. Imagine his lair (mind you; he's only 20 years old)

You've fought through the crude, rough-hewn tunnels of the red-scaled kobolds. No mean feat considering their traps and ambushes. Now through a secret door you find a much different lair.

A winding stair of granite expertly carved and fastidiously clean descends through a shaft cut through solid lava rock and obsidian. The deeper you go the more stifling the heat; thankfully your wizard thought to cast Endure Elements on you this morning. With much stealth and guile you alight upon the doorstep: an enormous pillared hall.

You face more kobolds, the elite of the dragon. Cloaked in invisibility AND hidden from you sits Wyrmstongue, the Kobold Adept 8 who serves as the dragon's scrying device. Everything the zealot watches is whispered to the dragon's waiting ears. Meanwhile the dragon prepares. Wyrmstongue's final command by his god when the last of the elite are still standing: "give your life for mine" and so Wyrmstongue at last joins the battle with spells and a sudden raising of the dead to delay the party that much longer.

Now you heroes have finally slain your way through to the doors which you find surprisingly unlocked. Upon opening them however the threshold erupts in flames; these do no harm to anyone thanks to your protections but the dragon took the time to lay in oil and dozens of smokesticks in the channels in which the fires now burn so the room is cloaked in smoke. From somewhere within you hear the tyrant, laughing.

His first strike: With True Strike running and being able to see through the smoke without hindrance the dragon lunges forward instantly striking the wizard his faithful servant had identified moments before. The bite is augmented further by Vital Strike and as it strikes out of the shadows overhead the single bite deals 43 damage to the wizard rendering him unconscious before the party has taken its 7th step.

The battle is hard fought but in the end the party barely emerges, victorious. Finally, after all your struggles and with your wizard revived you use magic to quench the fires and reveal the details of the dragon's den. What you find is not some lava tube or volcanic cavern. Instead you find peerless masonry decorated everywhere with reliefs depicting all the greatness of dragonkind. These very carvings glitter as they are studded with cut opals, polished granite and other semi-precious stones. The dragon's "bed" of coins stands atop a stepped dais and is obsessively shaped to cradle his form. The other treasure is arranged on clean, well-organized shelves and inserted in niches in the walls.

Beyond this main hall are adjoining cysts; you might call them "closets." Each of these contains collections such as magical and mundane reading material or hundreds of skulls from a variety of monsters and humanoids, each boiled, polished and neatly labeled. The most unnerving of these is the smoking chamber; a giant sized meat drying room in which is stored the jerked carcass of many of the creatures whose skulls found their way into the adjoining room.

In final summation it occurs to you that the beast you've been referring to as the Flaming Tyrant was no mere savage but a cultured creature despite its youth as dragons go. This was a creature of modest intellect (Int 12) with clean habits and a desire for neatness. The dragon was an avid reader and many of its tomes, though the writings are mundane, are encrypted with magic script so it could obviously read magic as well as your wizard can. It was strong willed (Iron Will feat, 13 Wisdom) with an intimidating and forceful presence that commanded a horde of kobolds willing to die for him (Intimidate +15, Cha 12). He even knew value in the things it collected (Appraise +15) and it took care to ensure their value remained intact.

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Dragons are born, right off the bat, with some minor defenses and an Int score between 6-10; about as smart, cunning and powerful as your average 2nd level barbarian. By that reckoning they are born to dominate their immediate wilderness.

You gotta figure that kind of over inflates the ego a tad.

Consider a simple Black Dragon. The creature is born in the midst of a swamp which, sure, has a lot of monster challenges. Even still just emerging from the egg on day one it's rocking a fly and swim speed, breathes underwater, is immune to acid, shoots 2d6 acid and can deliver a Bite +6 (1d4) with a 5' reach despite being a Tiny creature. It also has about the same AC as an average level 1 human PC (18) and nearly 3 times the HP as one (30).

Common animals of Tiny to Small size in a typical swamp are nothing but meat for this monster. It can lie in wait in a scummy pond (DC 31 Stealth when taking a 10) for hours, waiting for meal much like the gators they'll come to dominate later in life. It surges up out the water, hits this thing with a breath weapon and if it doesn't immediately go down the dragon's tough enough to go toe-to-toe with anything up to a CR 2 for at least a round.

This little guy also has an Int score of 8. It's cousin, the lowly tatzlwyrm, is described as being capable of making crude traps with the same intelligence score. If wanted to as a GM you could give a Tiny Black Wyrmling dragon the same ability just with a simple change in skills.

At Tiny size with only an 11 Str these won't be big, massive swinging tree limb traps but they might be deadfalls with piles of rock and branches capable of inflicting say 1d6 when triggered; simple pits; snares that attack with a +5 CMB and, if successful employ the Drag maneuver to pull the quarry under water.

All of this is from the word "go" for a black dragon.

After just 20 years (with a Stealth of 31 it's not much of a stretch to say poachers didn't hunt the thing down all this time) this humble black dragon has evolved into a medium sized juggernaut. A single bite attack from this creature deals 7 damage minimum and averages 10.5; it instantly kills most CR 1/2 creatures right there.

Its got 21 AC, a 19 Str and a 10 Int; it commands the obedience of lesser humanoids than itself with a +11 Intimidate (on a minimum roll it's demoralizing the average level 1 martial type); it swims, flies, and crawls completely unimpeded by any natural obstacle in its domain. Last, but certainly not least it can talk to any reptile in the area and has a Handle Animal skill of a respectable +8; its not inconceivable that the black dragon has trained up plenty of snakes, lizards, giant snapping turtles and what have you.

So bearing all of this in mind, that's how I usually run dragons. They begin already close to the top of the food chain in their immediate ecosystem. In a few years they're dominating. A couple decades and they could conceivably dominate warbands and small hordes.

And last but not least: They are NEVER satisfied.

They always want more. More treasure, more land, more power. Whatever they covet, dragons are never satiated.

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The Hidden Quarter: city within a city

The city of Inderwick holds many surprises. It is well known to be a haven for some fey, that it was built on much older ruins and that now that undercity conducts the twin waters of the Ingersweep and Nordrun Rivers though the elaborate sewers. Most would think: if there's a nefarious element hiding in the city, this is where it would be.

This would be wrong.

There are a network of innocuous buildings, tents, shacks and turrets which comprise the Hidden Quarter, a drow city. Not nearly as opulent or grand as the underground cities underground the Hidden Quarter does have one thing going for it: Stealth.

Every single building is intentionally kept small and then imbued with magic to make it lighter than it should be as well as granting the construction mobility. Finally these constructs are trained by the finest drow slavemistresses in the arts of stealth.

So it is that most of the populace of Inderwick has never even seen or heard the buildings of the Hidden Quarter. The constructs constantly cleave to the shadows, shift between buildings or move into the many stands of trees permitted to grow in the midst of Inderwick. Some even burrow partially into the ground, though these are rare for the traces they leave.

The Hidden Quarter also occupies other buildings. Drow spies and diviners constantly monitor the citizens of Inderwick to determine abandoned structures, unused attics, wings closed for a season etc. These chambers then become temporary housing for some of the smallest buildings of the Hidden Quarter.

The drow are motivated to maintain this elaborate ruse for the gathering of slaves, information an magical lore. Inderwick is well known for the Arkane Akademie housed at its heart. There may be another reason however. Inderwick is also a city very friendly with the elves of the forests.

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Sorry for taking so long with the math. We're in General Discussion so don't beat me up too bad if I did it wrong.

Str 44 Ftr (2h ftr) 20 Mythic (Champion) 10
Weapon: +1 Axiomatic Holy Growing Phase Locking Thundering Vicious scythe (weapon base damage 2d8)
Ftr Abilities
Overhand Chop: on a single Melee attack Str damage is doubled
Weapon Training(plus Gloves of Dueling): +6 att/damage w/2h weapons
Greater Power Attack: double damage on PA damage w/2h weapons instead of 150%
Devastating Blow: Single attack at -5; if hit then threatens critical; this doesn't trigger weapon special abilities that happen on a crit (no Thundering)
Mythic Abilities
Sudden Strike: spend 1 Mythic power for a Swift action attack
Always a Chance: no auto-miss on a 1
Punishing Blow: victim loses Regeneration and DR for a round
Critical Mastery x2: Auto confirm all crits and damage is maximized on mythic and non-mythic foes
Perfect Strike: spend 1 Mythic power; standard attack dealing double damage; all damage bypasses DR; +1 to Crit multiple if confirmed Critical
Feats: Power Attack/Mythic Power Attack, Wpn Foc/Grtr Wpn Foc/Mythic Wpn Foc, Weapon Spec/Grtr Wpn Spec/Mythic Weapon Spec, Vital Str/Imp VS/Grtr VS/Mythic VS/Mythic Imp VS, Devastating Strike, Demon Hunter (+2 Damage vs Demons)
Buffs running: Smite Evil power granted by paladin; +4 attack/first hit plus 40 to damage; others +20; banner of paladin: +2 attack/damage; Monstrous Physique III so Str up to 50 and Large size; Greater Magic Weapon spell so scythe is +5 attack/damage


Attack #1 - Perfect Mythic Vital Strike Devastating Blow

+56 to hit
52 Weapon Damage, 5 magic weapon bonus, 40 Str, 36 PA, 6 Weapon Training, +9 Weapon Specialization, +6 Devastating Strike, +2 Demon Hunter, +2 paladin's banner, +40 Smite Evil = 198
Multipliers - x2 for Perfect Strike, x4 for Vital Strike, x5 for Crit; total multiplier = x9 because the rule IIRC is First Multiple + Additional Multipliers -1 so x2 + (x4-1) + (x5-1)
198x9 = 1782

Attack #2 - Swift action Mythic Vital Strike Devastating Blow

+61 to hit
52 Weapon Damage, 5 magic weapon bonus, 40 Str, 36 PA, 6 Weapon Training, +9 Weapon Specialization, +6 Devastating Strike, +2 Demon Hunter, +2 paladin's banner, +20 Smite Evil = 178
Multipliers - x4 for Vital Strike, x4 for Crit; total multiplier = x7 because the rule IIRC is First Multiple + Additional Multipliers -1 so x4 + (x4-1)
178x7 = 1246

So actually my damage should've been 3,028, not 2,672.

Again, sorry if I did these calculations wrong. The multiple multiples threw me and I muddled through the best I knew how. My personal feeling still stands though; the damage outputs were so ridiculous that it just didn't feel real.

As for folks asking about Orcus' stats; I never got to see them. I do know though that hitting a 54 AC missed but hitting a 59 hit; also his SR was surpassed by a 56. My personal assessment though is that our GM was either being kind or forgetting a lot of what the demon prince could do.

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Last night we killed Orcus.

A buddy of ours is moving and he's wanted to get a one-shot on the table for a while now pitting the demon lord against some mythic PCs. Over the last few weeks we've been creating level 20/mythic tier 10 PCs to go head to head with Orcus.

The scenario was simple:
descend into the Dread Vault and finish Orcus before he assumes the mantle of the new Rovagug. Orcus for his part was using a device of incredible power to put a hairline crack in Rovagug's prison and fueling the core meltdown with our soul energy. His ultimate goal was to use the magical equivalent of a DNA sequencer to absorb Rovagug into himself and physically transform into an amalgam of the Demon Prince of Undead and the Rough Beast

Now our GM gave the room a property that, at a certain point Orcus would become "bloodied" and we would be catapulted onto platforms which began siphoning energy from us. The fight opens, we slowly approach the demon prince and the other PCs unleash some middling damage as far as mythic goes. In the midst of the monk/rogue's 7 attacks Orcus hits his damage threshold, calls out "ENOUGH!" and bam! We're on the pedestals.

First one off is our Archmage arcanist who unleashes a few hundred damage in a couple spells. Next up is the barbarian. The gal running the PC isn't experienced with high level play so she just rages and attacks 5 times scoring 1 crit but maybe missing some bonuses or something because again, a few hundred damage.

Orcus is cheesed off and has gone from fully healed and transforming to mildly damaged again. I'm the last to go from the heroes' side, then Orcus is going to quite literally unleash hell.

Two thousand, six hundred, and seventy two points of damage.

That was the ludicrous number I dumped. In 2 attacks. I stole part of a mythic fighter build that's floated around the boards a couple times: 20 levels of human 2h fighter and 10 mythic tiers in Champion path focused on Vital Strike, Criticals and a x4 crit weapon, the scythe.

When I announced that number everyone in the room stopped. The GM actually looked at me, blinked and mumbled "Wait... what?" I proudly laid out how I'd hit the numbers and my buddy just sat back, staring.

The fight was over. Orcus had been dropped below "negative a lot" per the GM. He was also dimensionally anchored, couldn't regenerate and had no DR for a round. In that next round his corpse was completely and utterly disintegrated by mythic spells and fire even while dispels were being cast to ensure he didn't have a contingency.

Now of course the story of the scenario went on. Rovagug was coming and there was nothing we could do would stop him. Saranre appeared and she sacrificed herself and imploded the entire universe to finally eradicate the Rough Beast once and for all, creating the conditions for a new "big bang" which would re-start everything again and put us as new divine beings at the center of it all.

My takeaway from the experience was this: that was nuts!

It took longer for the prologue and epilogue. Also at that level you better know EXACTLY how you're attacking. The barbarian and the monk/rogue both got thrown for a loop and had to improvise; respectively their turns took nearly 20 minutes each.

Still the damage output was insane. The powers outside the realm of anything I've done before. And I'm a guy that once hosted a "3-day demigod" event in 2e back in the day!

I know some people vibe on mythic and no disrespect at all. For me, that was just too much. 2 attacks, 2,672 damage. I do have to admit though, it was somehow satisfying in the moment when my buddy went into shock so it wasn't a total bust. Thanks again Paizo!

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I have a game coming up which utilizes the Lost City of Barakus from Necromancer/Frog God Games. It will be played in the Pathfinder system.

In this campaign the PCs investigate a lost city. An ancient evil has been sealed in the underground layers of the city for millennia but its prison has been nigh unbreakable. This is one of the potential final villains of the campaign.

I'm coming to ask for advice on how to make my players hate this villain.

Its been locked away, so it can't have directly caused a destruction the PCs are avenging. The same restriction means it doesn't have much contact w/the outside world so that doesn't help my case either. How do you make a helpless prisoner into a satisfying final villain?

Some initial thoughts I had were

Reasons to hate:

1. a cult has grown up around the villain's memory
2. since said villain was a necromancer, some of his old creations carry on his work
3. there might be scenes which bleed through time allowing the PCs to relive the villain's past atrocities

I'm open to any advice you can offer.

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What about when you're a player? I've been playing an AP, Reign of Winter which is set in Irissen in Golarion. I haven't had too many qualms with the monster placement but I have been kind of like "so... it's ALWAYS winter, but you're farming crops?"

@Truthiness: yeah, sometimes I get bored of the standard D&D setup too. I'm a big fan of D&D, PF and fantasy in general and I also like some good solid rules in the game so I don't deviate too much, but a few subtle changes is nice once in a while. Monster races that aren't the typical "barbarian tribes" or tropes common to previous editions.

I mentioned the dark fairy tale realm I made up; I thought that was a nice diversion. I've also revamped kobolds in my world. Rather than being stone-spear wielding tribes kobolds are more like the Skexis from the Dark Crystal in my game, except physically smaller and weaker.

Kobolds make these elaborate, ordered sanctums; they're as much scientists and engineers as they are sorcerers; they have defined culture and civilization, including an economy. Not only does all of this make sense to my brain but it's a lot more interesting to me than the standard CR 1/4 swarming meat sweater that the Beastiary presents.

I still use all the same RULES for a kobold so individually yes, they're weak and craven and easily slain. In numbers though they form hierarchies and groups that work well together. They also grudgingly form working relationships with other sentient beings, sometimes even mortalkind (PC races). A big change in my homebrew is: not every kobold is evil.

As for radical settings they're nice thought experiments but they never seem to get much play at my table. Games I've been part of with unique settings never seem to go too far. I don't think its a fault of the setting though as much as it is me and other players that don't vibe on the uniqueness enough.

How do you folks feel about a setting when you're a player?

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@ Terqy Jerky: I hear you buddy. I have over-detailed plenty of settings and adventures only to have them be ignored and overrun by murder-hobos. That's why I'm shooting for that sweet spot.

The Aux-man alludes to it with his brilliant analysis on B2. As always Lord Maulous of the Aux, I bow to your wisdom. You don't need to define every aspect of your villains' lairs but to the other extreme just saying "Monster with pants lives near other monster with pants because reasons" and rolling the first initiative is a little TOO undefined in my opinion.

Other opinions may vary and I completely respect that.

So I'm looking to create something between the 2 extremes. I think I have the beginnings of it. I've added a couple paragraphs of fluff to the setting so as to paint some broad strokes which help define its place in a larger world.

Now if the players are like "screw your lost city; I'm just gonna wander into the west..." I have a basic concept of what they'll find before they get there and I'm not caught off guard. By the same token I've got no less than 6 different sources to mine for random encounters suitable to that western area and I feel confident in my ability to spontaneously develop from the combo of vaguely defined area + randomly generated detail or encounter.

Also I've begun looking at similarities. There's

FGG goodies:
a red dragon at Rappan Athuk. There's a younger red at Barakus. Also near Barakus there's a fire drake and multiple kobolds. Finally at RA there's a treasure hoard with a Bronze Dragon Egg among it. The Sinnar Coast is rife with dragons in my interpretation of these details.

As such I've crafted a secret society for good scattered across the land working against the evils of the above detail. I've found similarities or at least some connection points between some of the details specific to Barakus. From these I've created a historical element which is about to unleash evil anew.

As for the defined space of the caves in the adventure and the monsters themselves, just adding simple changes like venting, an occasional stream of seep or whatever are enough for me and hopefully my players. Why would an orc barbarian with a pair of dogs live an what amounts to an undefensible crossroads cave instead of right down the hall where there's a dead end ledge leading into an equally dead end pit below? For one he's not too bright and for another maybe the cave he's in has a steady stream of water tricking through the walls; fresh air, water and occasionally a bold underground creature like a rat or bat passes through for him or the dogs to seize upon.

As for crafting alliances and defining relationships within the dungeon society, I'm still tinkering with that...

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Old school = talking things out. New school = ruling things out. That's my OPINION.

Cuz that's all this is. What I find new school my daughters both find old school. On the flip what my older brother (7 years older than me, nearly 50, and played historical mini games) considers new school is... me.

Thing is, it all comes down to what you like. That's all ANY of these games come down to. Do you like old or new school; Marvel or Champions; Call of Cthulu or Fear?

Rather than try to define styles when breaking in new players or meeting new gamers I just very plainly ask: what do you like?

I ask this w/a lot of different stuff on new people, not just games. I ask if they like Marvel VS DC comics, or if they don't care for superheroes. Do they like Star TREK, or Star WARS? Did they watch Friends back in the day, or did they watch X-Files instead?

Try this question the next time you're meeting new gamers: do you prefer Moe, Larry or Curly? Moe = control, dominance. Larry = follower with an artistic soul. Curly = the clown, looking for fun only. If they answer Curly Joe or Shemp, just politely check your phone and say "I better take this..."

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Heh, monster hotel. I like that SG1. Its funny though; I can't quite shake the realism thing though.

Even when I was a kid playing 1e and didn't have an internet full of ideas I couldn't quite reconcile certain dungeon problems. Ever dungeon I've had since I was a senior in HS has had these little metal grates in the walls, right at floor level. the space just on the other side of said grates have varied from 6"x6" tubes to full 5'X5' spaces but in nearly every instance they've gone surface to underground water source. The idea was for sanitation and venting.

One guy in college took it a step further. He had the grates, in which lived little muppet-like creatures who would exit and return through the bars; their only job was to clean the floor. In the same dungeon another cleaning mechanism was ozone and static electricity. Every so often these gems on the walls would glow; you had a few seconds to get out of the hall or lightning would course through the hallway to scour out any grime.

Just by adding those grates in the walls though I could justify:

- food (rats, insects and mold around the grates, traveling down from the surface)
- some access to water
- fresh air
- air currents and moisture
- the movement of Diminutive, Tiny or Small creatures without being seen

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I will probably spend the money on this book, but here's what I have for the setting so far and it only regards the area on the overland hex map for the Sinnar Coast that I got with Barakus:


1. Several thousand years ago there's an underground city (Barakus) which attracts/creates/revitalizes many underground races. On the surface dragons rule; a bronze and a red begin a legendary rivalry which eventually leads to the bronze dragon egg in one treasure hoard near Rappan Athuk and the red dragons at RA and Barakus.

2. The undercity goes belly up; madness ensues. Grimlocks (devolved humans) are born below while above mortal kind is reduced to barbarism. An age of darkness ensues as the cataclysm also somehow affects dragons too.

3. Mortalkind re-learns civilization, culture. First to pull out of the darkness is elves and dwarves. They have ancestral memories actually embedded in the rings of trees and layers of sedimentary rock so they use magic to access it. These "Elder Races" go through a period of empires. This helps explain some old Tolkien-esque giant statues and landmarks I'm going to be adding.

4. As the Elder Races' empires begin to wane, humans have gotten to Conan/Riddle of Steel level. In the center of the Sinnar Coast area they form a barbarian empire of their own around the Burgund Throne. This rises like a wave and calls itself Burgundia.

5. Over a few hundred years the Empire of Burgundia conquers and assimilates all from Eastgate to Hawkmoon. "Empire" is a loose term; basically there's an overking and tons of vassal states that basically all do whatever they want as long as they pay Burgundia.

6. A few hundred years ago people begin to chafe against new Burgundian overlords. The empire has finally started to act like one. A series of Punic Wars occur. Suilley, secretly funded by the merchants of Endholme, breaks off forming its own kingdom. Several coastal cities become free cities. The old provinces still stay loyal to Old Burgundia; the feudal kingdom of Suilley in the meantime has some counties and stuff that they've conquered.

So around Endholme:


1. Several hundred years ago the Burgundians came up through the Gundlock Hills and began pacifying the land. They met monsters (orcs, kobolds and others) and some mortal tribes. In the Penprie they found tons of wood to use for ships.

2. Following the Gaelon to the sea they established a city and began using the forest to supply them with wood. In the north they conquered an old dwarf fortress: Telar Brindel. The city and fortress helped them make Viking-like raids up and down the coast.

3. In the forest they encountered the Circle of the Horn, a Celt-like druid circle. The druids were pacifists but they had 8 Knights of the Hart; ranger elites commanding armies of animals. Because of the druids the Burgundians could only harvest so much wood.

4. From Telar Brindel the region becomes aware of the Cult of Keld, a doomsday cult worshipped in the caves by primitives from the Duskmoon hills. The Endholmers back the Keldites, start a war within the Penprie and eventually the cult is buried in the caves but not before all 8 Knights of the Hart are slain (this relates to the Mysterious Crypt and the Grimlocks around Barakus).

5. The Endholmers want independence. A consortium of merchants pulls another secret money stunt with Suilley and in the ensuing chaos declares itself a Freeport. Burgundia is powerless to stop them.

6. Soon afterwards the coast is ravaged by a visiting red dragon. Said dragon mates, leaving progeny behind in the Duskmoon Hills. The presence of the dragon attracts kobolds, which in turn fuels more monsters coming out of the darker caves below the hills. Telar Brindel and Endholme shore up military might and, having burned a lot of bridges and lost a lot of cash to supporting wars of sedition and raiding dragons, opens its docks to the most lucrative trade it can.

7. Modern-day Endholme remains a trading mecca. The city has very open laws and favorable tarrifs ensuring its continued fortunes. Long ago much of the Penprie was clear cut for ships and glaives. As a result the plains, moors and rugged steppes which were once well settled by Burgundian logging towns have waned. Still however along the Kings Road and the Trader's Way there are small towns and villages still carrying on the ancient ways of their Burgundian roots. Endholme is now a Protectorate extending from the coast to Grollek's Grove in the west and from the Gaelon to Telar Brindel in the north.

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So this is not a show about Batman. This has been well established both in reality for a number of licensing issues and in the fantasy world of the show. Then, what IS it a show about?

I ask because it seems as schizophrenic as a villain from Arkham. It's a love triangle, with some cop drama and procedural stuff, saddled ham-handedly with the earliest elements of the mythos of the guy this show is NOT supposed to be about.

I wish they'd done something different.

When I first started tuning in it was for the mob stuff. Gotham, without Batman and his psycho villains, is still a really gritty crime town. It is all the worst elements of New York with a bit of a gothic flare.

So where is all of that?

I wish there were more mob stories, more drug pushers, more GCPD elements. Not a rushed hack-job to get Gordon into the commissioner job, but rather the early days of Jim Gordon, detective of the GCPD. Mob intrigue, gangs, and maybe the SLOW development of a certain female cat burglar.

Instead you've got a show which over and over again says "I'm NOT Batman" and then alludes to everything BUT the Dark Knight himself.

Pick a side. Find a direction. Live outside Bruce Wayne's shadow. Be bold Gotham. YOU'RE the star of the show, not some kid with a chip on his shoulder or a degenerate band of mental health patients. Take back your show Gotham, you've earned it.

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I try to think logically for them. Not TOO logically; a lot about them doesn't make any sense. Plus, y'know... magic, dragons, fantasy? Still, some things I try to focus on:

- Longevity and power: dragons are like a fine wine; they only get better with age. I think dragons, like elves and other long-lived races should tend to look past right now. Some however I feel should be obsessed with history since they hoard stuff

- The ultimate hoarders: dragons, really impressive dragons should have tonnage. I'm not just talking money and magic swords. Consider if a human being with a tendency toward... collecting, had centuries ahead of them. Having an entire cave dedicated SOLELY to baseball cards wouldn't be out of the question

- Mating: let's face it; dragons get around. Half-dragons, sorcerers, younger true dragons, potentially kobolds, and then all the lesser dragons like drakes, tatzlwyrms and pseudodragons. These things have to come from SOMEWHERE. If you decide they ARE related to either Chromatic or Metallic dragons then unless they're experts at genetic engineering these creatures are finding SOME way to get it on with anything that isn't food at the moment.

All of this usually leads me to the inevitable conclusion that dragons have TONS of minions, spies and allies. Even the good ones. Think about it: even an egotistical black dragon heady with it's own power has got to admit that it's mortal and can be killed by a band of adventurers. Therefore, looking ahead to the future it's likely got some kind of survival plan and a way to dominate its environment through progeny, controlled reptiles, and piles of stuff in order to insulate itself from potential enemies.

I like to run dragons, even those of lesser intelligence, as schemers and clever manipulators. Take a simple, white dragon. It's not a chess-playing mastermind but it knows that survival is a long-term game and it's environment is resource-constrained. It mates with every herd and sentient creature it can; gross as that sounds it ensures that its own draconic virility affects its offspring and increases long-term replenishment of the altered species it creates. It might then pick out some weaker members of its own offspring; a mutant half-dragon elk or perhaps a sorcerous member of a barbarian tribe. If successful the white dragon can use these beings to bolster its own survival, all the while using it's own superior power, hoard and experience to keep the offspring in check and ultimately slay them to start over with a new batch.

Finally a note on hoards. Other posters on the boards have written about this but I think it's worth repeating: hoards don't need to JUST be money. You draconic villains and allies might hoard other physical things, like snow globes or shipwrecks. They may also hoard information: imagine a dragon with access to the internet. Its name would be Wikipedia. Still others might hoard minions. No two dragons should ever be truly identical.

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I'm coming in late to the party here but I have a question: what do YOU want, as a player and GM? Decide that and you're halfway there.

See, creating a campaign is less about setting, theme, storytelling, RP versus rolling dice and all of the other stuff you'll see on these boards and more about deciding things.

- What do you want?

- How do you make other people want the same?

- How do you align your wants with others; how to compromise?

Everything else is just semantics, numbers. Ultimately your game is your game - even if you run a canned AP like Rise of the Runelords it'll be YOUR interpretation. How do you make yours, YOURS? By deciding what you want from it.

For me, I want epic. I LIKE making folks laugh, think, and yes even once, cry. I want moments of player engagement. I want to get an email the next day saying "I can't BELIEVE we..." and so on. How I make that happen varies depending on my players, my mood, etc.

As for what goes INTO a campaign, that's easy. Start with encounters. Create a few and then remove all terrain, situation and plot. Look at the things that make THAT encounter unique. Maybe it's a trap and your specific approach to it; maybe you've got a kobold NPC you've really put your soul into.

Tap into that uniqueness. Try to imagine players meeting it for the first time. They'll want to roll initiative and just kill it, of course. What will stop them? Maybe the encounter can talk, has some resource that the PCs will destroy if they murder it, or it just plain runs away. NOW you have the basis of a campaign.

You see besides deciding what you want, the other thing that makes a game a "campaign" versus a series of adventures is longevity. I'm not JUST saying recurring villains here. Why is your favorite show still around? Because something happens EVERY episode that people don't get tired of. Maybe that's a TARDIS, a 67 Impala or the willingness to seek the next troubled western town. SOMETHING sticks around forever and the audience soaks it up.

Once you decide what you want, have some encounters and commit to some element/villain/theme which will continue throughout, stop. At this point you need your players.

From this point on: make stuff up. I mean crazy stuff. Blue tigers; wands that shoot cupcakes; zombies that never really drop. Make TONS of random tables. Daydream. Doodle constantly in the margins of every book you can get your hands on, so long as you're not breaking the law.

Get to know probability. Understand that not every encounter has to be a fight; not every fight needs to be won by either side. Accept that your PCs are GOING to get loot and grow stronger. Learn to live with being outsmarted.

If you're looking for something more specific, give more detail on what you need and I'd be happy to help.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Meh... I've seen better today.

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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.

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I'm Hiding In Your Closet wrote:
436. A short bugbear with bulging eyes and blue fur is rampaging through a bakery.

Is he singing? If so, is it something about the letter "C?"

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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.

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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.

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Auxmaulous wrote:

Had a funny "go with it" situation arise in my last Gamma World playtest game night. The characters are low level, armed with crap (xbows, short bows, spears, etc) so they are always on the look out for better weapons or even ancient tech gear while they are on their quest.

So they are exploring a small ruined town, checking some rubble of what's left of a few houses and some businesses. In one of the buildings they find the skeletal remains of an expired mutant (killed by some rubble spiders) - on the body they find some keys and the rest of his gear. No big deal. They fight the rubble spiders in an insane battle for a low level fight with players falling into walls (and almost through them) with a constant threat of the building collapsing (made their luck checks).

Another house over they find a very well hidden cache of survival gear and small locked strong box (they rolled the highest difficulty while searching). Now there are no potions in GW, but there are plenty of fragile items - so they are trying to figure out how to get it open or pick it without damaging the contents. When I wrote the building/loot up, I put the lock in as a challenge - did anyone get lockpicking, is there another way to open it without destroying the contents, etc. Basically a reward for those who invested the right skills or creative problem solving.

One of the players says - "why don't we check the keys we found on that skeleton?"

So I think to myself - "damn, I should have wrote that into the module".
I had them roll luck checks (easy) to see if the mutant had stashed the box before he got killed - they made the check and one of the keys worked. Inside they found a dose of Antitoxin and an Accelera Dose (like a potion of healing, works over a few rounds though) and some New Skin patches (healing for light injuries). So a good find of tech healing (all new to them) and all of it was intact. As a bonus they got a sturdy strong box and its key.

Sometimes the players string together good ideas because they see...

When you said "keys" I thought you were having an Oprah moment and giving them a car!

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68. Networking
69. Figuring out what new TV shows are worth watching
70. To have someone to blame for bad tactics in combat
71. They help you confirm you're not the crazy one
72. So maybe you're not the ONLY one at the table that's sick of Viking Metal as the background score
73. More hands to make miniature terrain with
74. Validation
75. Another voice to add to the malign beauty that is your game

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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!

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