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Flaming Crab Games wrote:
I've sent an email. This sounds super cool!
Minutes before combat: cast Protection from Good on himself, familiar; cast Guidance on himself and Familiar; cast Mirror Image on self
In battle: attempt to charge with lance as much as possible. If there is a foe with an AC that is too hard to hit in melee stay at short range and cast Scorching Ray from scrolls or use Burning Hands spell. During mounted charges goat attempts a charge attack with its gore attack. The goat will be in battle form with a 15 strength and Medium size; it has swapped out its starting feat for Power Attack:
Goat melee gore +4 (1d6+4)
If both lance and goat manage to hit on a charge the average is 21 damage in a round. If this monster were used against an APL 3 party or lower it has the possibility of finishing the part singlehandedly if its buffs are in place. If you want this creature to completely anhialate the party give it CL3 scrolls of Bull's Strength and possibly either Cat's Grace or Invisibility.
I think the bigger question is: how do you know you're diseased? The rules for diseases basically say you contract on the first failed save and actually take damage on the second, so between 1 and 2 by RAW you have NO symptoms.
Filth Fever has an onset of 1-3 days I think? So if you get bitten by a Dire Rat, fail your save and no one makes the Knowledge roll to know they usually carry the disease you could be somewhere 3 days later and suddenly all at once suffer a fever that deals 1-3 Con damage.
If you are suffering an inhaled disease, like Cackle Fever, can you give it to others by breathing on them during that first day before you take damage? If so, you've probably exposed your party, friends, family and everyone at the tavern while you were sleeping off that fight.
There's no RAW on transmitting a disease or the contagious period. I suppose if the GM wanted he could make one PC a Typhoid Mary and bring down an entire city from one botched Fort save.
Y'know what I never understood? Treasure. It's one of the prime reasons for being a murderhobo, but why does ANY monster ever have it? Where do kobolds, bugbears, and fire giants spend all of their treasure? For that matter, when they're not spending it why is it sitting around in chests in their living room?
Just once I'd like an AP to include a goblin bank, or kobold markets or whatever.
You're right, of course. You and I, sitting across the web from another having a civil discourse can easily debate this gray area of the game and I agree on your point of alignment.
Try telling that to the peasant mother whose infant daughter was slain. Or the angry mob waiting outside with the rope. Or the baron whose land has just been burned and salted.
None of those folks, save a few adepts or other spellcaster types out of, say, a hundred people are going to bother reading your alignment with a spell or power. You have no reason to trust a villain, but you also have to know that since this isn't a video game EVERY action you take as a PC will have some kind of consequence in the world. If you DON'T kill the villain, he gets away. The goblin thing may have just been a ruse but at least the countryside is safe, for the moment. If you DO kill the villain and the goblin thing ends up being real, well...
My point is only that, in order to end rocket tag sometimes you have to target the players, not the PCs. If you give them somthing else to fight they use other skills, talents and abilities and the fight turns out very differently. It becomes more than "Beat initiative... charge/cast spell... roll damage... fight over" and instead it becomes "Stop the hammer from striking the anvil seven times to call down the demigod; destroy the creature's slime-armor before he can take damage; save the innocent town and wail on the villain another time."
You're right of course; all they DO is deal damage. However they are cheap, so another thing they DO is save your PC money. They also save your PC some encumberance. Finally they are very easily hidden so they also do something with that, though it's not quantifiable here.
Long term with one feat they're usable at melee range; with another feat they can actually be used IN melee. Enchanting the sling provides attack and damage bonus for range but also in melee if you're using it with that one feat, so the money savings continue. The ammo's also cheap and there's even a cheap ammo to make the damage non-lethal for a build that focuses on NL damage.
As I said though, in the end if it IS all about the damage then a sling-focused build will ALWAYS be inferior. If however you have a need to build in a resource-restrained campaign or you'll be saving every gold piece for other stuff a sling-emphasis build is worthwhile.
Why are they so bad? Because they will always do less damage than the crossbow and the bow. Period. Now they're not worthless and yes, they have many fringe benefits. But then so do bows, crossbows, thrown weapons, and most melee weapons.
The point is that, when all is said and done if, in your game the primary method of conflict resolution is dealing enough damage to render your conflict unconscious or dead, then the sling is inferior to other options long term. If however you have a game that places emphasis on other forms of conflict resolution and damage is not a priority, the sling is an excellent choice.
One of the things I've noticed is that lots of folks talk about how great it is that you add your Str bonus to damage. Well there are ways, with melee weapons to use Dex to hit, and further use Dex for damage, keeping the PC SAD long term. Any build however that takes the sling seriously is automatically dependent on 2 stats, forever. There's no way to make Str the determining factor of attack bonus with this weapon and if you go with a straight Dex build for attack bonus and some feats you're leaving one of the so-called "advantages" of the sling on the table.
So in order to take full advantage of the sling you have to be a martially-motivated ranged attacker with lots of disposable feats, not a lot of cash, willing to pump up Str and Dex, and also able to tank somehow despite the lack of cash. Also you've got to pump some of those disposable feats into Will saves and some of your tanking into saves since you'll be flagging at those.
So, a human fighter in a primitive setting maybe?
Take 4 PCs, APL 5. They're pretty bad-a. The blaster caster can unleash several Burning Hands spells that deal 35 damage plus 1d6 Burn for 1 round and carries a DC 18 save; the fighter can slam with a +1 flaming greatsword +13 (2d6+16 plus 1d6 Fire); these 2 alone pre-buffs on average deal 61 damage in 1 round. If your villain is not immune to fire or weapon attacks these 2 alone can solo a CR5 or even 6 monster.
Why are PCs so bad-a? Feats and builds, sure, but also action economy and tactics. The four people playing these PCs WANT to win and will use EVERY advantage. A PC in my game remembered he picked up a homebrewed magic item that gave him a ridiculous Acrobatics for Jumping; he leapt 10' in the air to get on a ledge and gain a +1 to hit for higher ground.
I know you say you use some of the tactics above but if you do then your bosses would last longer. So really challenge yourself and determine: are you playing bosses like PCs?
1. Build: all PCs are build to succeed in combat. Most monsters as written in the Bestiaries aren't. Some have a skill focus in Perception when if they only took Power Attack instead they'd be DOMINATING solo combats. This is by far the easiest way to boost your boss - build them purely for that one, glorious gorefest that is the PC/Boss fight.
2. Tactics: PCs have an APL, or average party level. Emphasis: party. A single fighter at level 5 is dealing 26 HP damage in a round. With the addition of a single arcane casting PC he has the chance to be buffed with enhanced AC, Str and they do a combined total un-buffed of 61 damage. The PCs succeed because there's a lot of them. They have action economy, group tactics like flanking, and they use each other's strengths in tandem while covering one another's weaknesses.
Bosses should be no different. If they're called a boss they should command someone or thing; otherwise they're just a "specialist". If PCs get a boost from having one another around, your bosses should be gaining similiar advantage from their minions. A kobold NPC boss to challenge an APL 5 party could be a kobold Adept 2/Warrior 6; not super impressive but with buffs can be extremely tanky riding around on a medium sized mauler arch rat that deals as much damage as a 3/4 bab PC with its bite.
Now imagine if you added in a cleric 3 and a couple warrior 5 kobolds. yes the CR of the fight jumps to epic but no one kobold poses that much of a threat. But then the cleric tanks behind some kind of barrier and keeps dropping buffs on his boss; the 2 warriors survive the first round and are adding in Aid Another bonuses ensuring the kobold boss and his mount are always hitting. Suddenly after 2 rounds the fighter of the party has taken 60 damage and is starting to realize toe-to-toe isn't getting it done while the koblds keep taking 5' steps, flanking, using acrobatics to take no AoO's. The 2 warriors then suddenly change things up in round three, moving to flank the arcane caster and using their teamwork feat plus decent attacks to deal 2d6 +6 plus 2d6 SA damage to him while the cleric comes out from hiding sacrificing himself to heal the boss and also drop a quickened channel.
Hmm, PCs are starting the fight over again at half-strength? Now THAT's epic...
Finally, a note about enviornment and motivation. If you want your boss to last, give them an environment tailored to them. A shadow shouldn't be going toe-to-toe in a big open empty room with lots of PC generated light spells. A giant shouldn't be static in the middle of a cramped cave. If your boss has massive strength give them big things to throw, knock down or break. That frost giant? What if he smashed a false wall that contained frigid glacial waters? Suddenly the chamber fills to a depth of a Medium creature with icy water - the frost giant ignores the cold, acts as Entangled but still walking through the water and all of his opponents are making swim checks every round while taking non-lethal damage from the cold.
The motivation piece comes in 2 parts.
1: sometimes the boss is merely a smokescreen for the real threat. You could kill the boss easy, but the four diseased fast zombies headed up through the sewer will be in the market square in a few rounds and then you'll have an undead plague on your hands; the boss is coated in a slime swarm to which he's immune but the layers are so thick that their own immunity to weapon damage confers to him too; the worg sorcerer is behind a wall spitting Acid Splash spells. In these cases you have to deal with some other thing before you can land those satisfyingly murderderous crits on the boss' face.
2: Bosses should WANT to win! They were born to be #1, not turned into the party's #2. If your villain has access to treasure that helps them, use it; if they have poison or a disease they can unleash it should already be coursing through the PCs' veins. These creatures should be attacking by hit-and-run, leadig PCs into traps, using minions, their environment, and every possible buff to win. Moreover they should be lying, cheating, stealing, and using loved ones as bait constantly.
Level 1 the PCs encounter a Kobold Adept 6 as the head of a cult; they are soundly beaten by him and his minions but vow to end the cult's rule. By level 2 they've won a couple victories and meet the kobold again in battle; he unveils one of the PCs' siblings is a brainwashed agent of the cult and uses them to lead the fight against the PCs while he escapes. Level 3 the PCs have redeemed the sibling and bust up the main lair; the adept leader and his minions harry them with spells, murder holes and traps while the party barely survives to save a bunch of innocents. Now at level 4 the innocents have revealed that the real threat is the resurrection of a dragon and the PCs move to stop this. They again endure the nettling of the kobold cult in the primary cult temple making it all the way to the horde's chapel where they grind their way through dozens of fodder minions to finally go toe-to-toe with the adept who dies laughing; his death was the final ingredient to the dragon's resurrection!
Could the cult leader be brought back for as an undead for a couple slices of the next campaign arc? Who knows, but wouldn't it be fun to find out?
If we're talking a level of stagefright that impedes every day life I'm not a licensed therapist or anything. I hope that it's not as bad as that. I have however been involved in a speech club called Toastmasters. Some tips I've used from that and my own experience to overcome nerves in running a game are:
1. meet them as friends first. Even if you're already friends, just have them over to hang out and then gradually work into a game.
2. Tell them you're nervous. It's freeing and you know your audience will be supportive.
3. Don't make eye contact. I know this goes against giving speeches but you're running a game. Maybe put up a screen and run w/that obscuring your audience. Otherwise turn sideways so you're talking at the wall; it'll add an air of mystery as well as keep your attention off the reaction of the crowd.
4. Have a fidget. Keep something in your hand to roll around in your palm or rub with your fingertips.
5. Practice in a mirror. At least if you're prepared this might squash some of the butterflies.
A lot of people say "don't change my backstory because..." and suggest many reasons. I think the main reason is fear. The character is the one thing the player has full control of and if the GM changes some detail of the backstory it usurps that control.
But does it?
Luke Skywalker was destined to be a moody Jedi from the start. Why? Because he struggled with his feelings of vengeance against Vader BEFORE he knew that was his dad. Did the reveal change the story? Sure, but did it change LUKE? I think in the end his build remained intact but perhaps the character's motivations got knocked around a bit.
Modifying the backstory doesn't HAVE to mean changing the character.
I still feel though that changes should be worked out with the player. This is after all a coop game where the story is woven with the group. If however the GM wants to take a saintly father figure and make him a coward or a murderer, this only modifies the story. Your character remains firmly in your control.
Think from another angle: GMs can change any NPC from good to evil or back at a moment's notice. What if the sheriff that's been your patron this whole time was just using the party to wipe out her competition? Now that the monsters and goblins are cleared out the sheriff reveals she's secretly a dragon blooded sorcerer, a dragon disciple and has ties to a tribe of kobolds that have been living in the sewers while creating inroads into the local mines.
Suddenly the party returns from a mission out of town (that was supposed to kill them all) and finds that the kobold underlords have enslaved the town and put everyone to work in the mines. Their patron the sheriff is sitting on top of a mountain of fresh gold and the PCs would be hard-pressed to go toe-to-toe with her.
That's entirely in the purview of the GM. The players have no input on that, it modifies the story greatly and doesn't change the characters at all. Moreover it adds a new wrinkle that annoys some players and really grabs others. Why?
Because some people fear change.
Some players want consistency. They want the law of averages to work so that their build is consistently awesome. They want to talk to the important people, kill monsters and get treasure, then rinse and repeat.
There is nothing wrong with these players.
I love consistency in gaming but for me personally too much of it is boring. If the GM wants to throw me for a loop I just strap into the roller coaster of TTRPG gaming and start screaming with a smile on my face. But that's me. Not everyone will like this ride.
So talk w/the players, your GM. Find out what kind of gamers they are. Figure out what kind YOU are. Once you know, if you are someone who honestly is ok with change realize that a change in your character's backstory doesn't diminish your control over that character at all.
If done properly this change won't modify your build; if anythig it may possibly introduce items, powers or traits that your character may yet develop. A change in your backstory will modify the story which may in turn change your perception of and immersion in the gameworld. This is no different from a change in the current storyline so if you appreciate change these tweaks are to be expected and savored.
So in the end I say communicate, trust your fellow gamers and be honest about your play style and theirs.
I love low level. When I have a few minutes' spare time I love designing NPCs, encounters or items specifically geared at PF gaming between level 1-6. I think this is because RL conspires to keep my campaigns in these levels. Due to scheduling conflicts, personality clashes and folks moving I haven't gotten higher than 6th level in a decade!
Anyway I hope this thread catches on. I love seeing what people can accomplish at low levels.
Kobold Adept 5/Warrior 4 with a Pseudodragon (Mauler arch)Feats: Boon Companion, Evolved Familiar: improved damage (sting), Furious Focus, Improved Familiar, Power Attack
With the Mauler you now have a pseudodragon that grows into a Medium mount with a 21 Str and a BAB +8. Swap the dragon's base feat for Familiar Focus and then have the kobold cast Bull's Str before the fight; now the dragon has a 25 Str. It makes a single Melee sting +15 (1d6+13) which carries a DC 14 Sleep effect in it. Meanwhile the Kobold on the dragon's back makes either a 5d4+5 (DC 14) Burning Hands spell attack or a single Melee +1 lance +10 (1d6+8; x2 on a charge) or a ranged +1 sling +10 (1d3 +4)
This build is a CR 6 monster. Also if you give the kobold Use Magic Device w/9 ranks and give it access to x2 scrolls ea of Mage Armor and Shield, both the kobold and mount could potentially be rocking a +10 AC prior to the beginning of the fight. That would be a VERY interesting fight...
I love low-level gaming! Give me a party of 1st level noobs and I'll give you an excellent adventure.
One I ran a little while ago was the start to a new campaign. The game opened with each PC receiving a letter directing them to the library of a college each attends. They meet one another there for the first time and realize that their letters combined reveal a riddle. This leads them to a book on an ancient hero - the only section missing is where said hero is buried. They go looking for the professor that will know the answer and he's mysteriously disappeared.
The PCs use some skills, gather some info and find the tomb. There they find clues suggesting a recent struggle; they also find their professor's pipe. What followed was a five-room dungeon of all non-lethal traps, summoned monsters and my fave: the flood chase
At one point the PCs find a secret door concealing a dungeon level below the mausoleum. They enter a vast, winding staircase heading down into a massive vault. The chamber below is ruined and partially flooded. At the top of the stairs is a giant monster mouth on the wall. The PCs sense a cool breeze and smell the ocean far below. Suddenly a swarm of bats comes out; it's not attacking them but rather it's fleeing from a surge of sea-water from below. The chase scene begins!
PCs must get to the bottom at the head of the wall of water. The stairs have three balcony levels. Everywhere there's debris and detritus the PCs must avoid on their way down. If they make the flooded hall before the water hits them from behind they take no damage. If they get caught they take damage and risk drowning.
One PC hid on a balcony. Water broke off from the main flood and infiltrated cracks and holes in the wall, only to come shooting out of the wall at the PC like a Hydraulic Push spell. Three other PCs went down the stairs. One made it only a single level; the next got close to the end but was tripped up near the bottom and took enough damage to be knocked unconscious. The final PC (the only one with healing) got to the bottom and dove onto a side ledge while the wall of water (carrying his friends) passed him. He fished the other three PCs out of the drink and got them back on their feet.
In the end they found the hero's personal tomb. He was famous for his shield and they found it along with his body in a wood sarcophagus. This was atop a pedestal in another flooded chamber. As soon as they touched the shield the chameber sealed and the water started rising. the PCs all got in the sarcophagus and floated on the rising water to the top of the tomb where they found an escape hatch with no wheel. The shield had to be affixed and used as the wheel. Once free they were back outside and there was their professor.
He asked them for the shield and they grudgingly agreed. He took the device and smashed it to pieces; it was a fake. This was all a graduation test to see if they had not only the skills to be adventurers but the moral fiber to give up the historic pieces for preservation instead of personal gain. The game ended with the professor admitting them to a waiting carriage, chatting with them about the ceremony and... WHAM! The carriage is hit by boulders and all the PCs take enough damage to knock them unconscious.
They came to and found the professor had been murdered. A chest containing "important documents" had been stolen. The rest of the game was going to involve the PCs going on smaller missions while solving the murder mystery as the first larger arc of the plot. Unfortunately it never really got going.
416. You encounter a child selling Tindertwigs. She is frigid cold but is dressed only in rags despite the temperature. All she will accept is small change for her wares; anything else or any other action and she sprints around the corner into an alleyway where there is no sign of her, save for a pile of rags and burnt twigs.
417. A cart is clattering down a slope out of control towards a few children at play
418. a man in white and black robes moves effortlessly through the crowds in broad daylight. The hood and cowl of his garments are drawn tight, obscuring his face regardless of Perception checks. He disappears for a moment and suddenly is moving up the walls of the buildings with unearthly style and grace
419: a down-on-her-luck wizardess is propped on a gutter. All she has left is a small portion of her spellbook and some pre-purchased scroll paper and inks. She will pen her only spell left, Floating Disk, as a scroll spell for only 10 GP, just to survive.
420: A summoner is entertaining a crowd with minor conjurations. Suddenly one of his spells goes terribly awry and infernal sounds ripple through an ever-widening portal of fire and brimstone. A singular voice cries out "AFTER TEN THOUSAND YEARS! AT LAST! FREEDOM!" as framed in the portal a skull-topped scepter crowned with ram's horns begins to appear.
In 3.0 a backpack held about 40lbs of material. A small sack I think carried 10lbs and a belt pouch carried 5lbs. I could be wrong though.
Anyway based on that I'd wager that a small chest, like a coffer could carry about 50lbs, and a large chest like a foot locker hauls about 150lbs.
I know for a fact that if you pile enough sacks on an enlarged goat familiar with Ant Haul cast on it you can haul 258lbs before he's encumbered. Get your spellcaster to also throw out an Unseen Servant and a Floating Disk behind themselves and their goat, and now you're carrying at least another 240lbs.
For the weight you're talking Near-guy, you're probably looking more at the wagon train type scenario...
I'm sorry did you say something? I wasn't paying attention anyway...
JK Bubba. In fact I have an RL at my table. If I get stumped I usually just say "Here's what I'm ruling for right now" or if I suspect there's already a rule in place I just turn to my resident attorney and as him what I should do.
Mark Hoover wrote:
Note: Frosttouch Crossbows fire eldritch rays so there is never a need to load them (no Move action to load) and can be fired with 1 hand. The aiming of the device requires an extra half-second of the wielder's attention (uses wielder's Swift action).
A variant of this device is called the Iceneedle Crossbow. It costs an additional 400 GP but when fired the bolt solidifies into a piercing bolt of pure arcane ice. This variant deals 1d4+8 Piercing damage. Again like its sister the Frosttouch the Iceneedle never needs loading but requires a moment's concentration to aim.
So, they're vaguely similar to the Guardians of the Galaxy? A walking tree, an uninassuming human, an anthropomorphic animal with a gun...
Anyway, from what I remember the high-level of the campaign is guilds controlling the city, some larger force menacing the land and the PCs will have urban and wild adventures within this framework yes?
Level 1: PCs are drawn together by the one honest guild... the rogue's guild. They're not so much all thieves. Instead it's sort of a cabal of scoundrels and dissidents.
- Adventure 2: Now that the guild is settled into a new home they need capital. Like any corporation the executives of the guild brought a few "clients" or patrons with them as well as their own gold but that's only going to last so long. The PCs have a couple different missions to choose from
Level 2: By now the PCs have come together as a group. The guild has encouraged them to build cover IDs. The guild helps get the party out of the city to a small town in the hinterlands. It should be close enough to the city that they can still attend guild meetings but far enough that the PCs aren't constantly being hunted as dissidents. In their new home PCs do a few missions to ingratiate themselves to the residents.
Level 3: The running theme of the last couple levels is the establishment of the league of scoundrels. Now they're firmly up and running and the master guilds are taking their first organized swipe at them. PCs are called back to the city to help defend the guild. Adventures could include
Following this pattern by the time the PCs hit level 4 they've got their own fronts in a neighboring town plus guild contacts and intrigue in the city. The PCs also should have the wealth and skills to earn a grudging respect/enmity from the master guilds. Finally the players can, by their words and actions show you if they want to continue with more intrigue, go find some dungeons/wilds to explore, or keep mingling the 2 together. You can also use these low level bits to flesh out your world and decide which type of adventure is easier for you to run.
Four different characters in the party, four different approaches to combat.
Melee fighter: I like DPR and have maximized a Str build to deal as much damage as possible every round with a greatsword. My plan at the beginning of the campaign is to use Charge as much as possible to offset Power Attack penalty and consistently hit in melee.
Halfling ranger: I'm an anomaly and ride a dog as much as possible. My build is a switch-hitter but I'll never do tons of damage even with my chosen enemies. I focus on mobility and Aid Another as well as skills to ensure the party succeeds as a whole
Ranged inquisitor: I don't get many feats but I'm going to try and focus some of them on ranged attacks against single foes. Bane plus feats will give me at least one solid contribution to the team. I will grudgingly heal as well but I'm going to get a wand to cover that base as soon as possible.
Enchantment-focused wizard: I want all the villains as my slaves. At low level I'll have to settle for Charm spells but unless my foes have SR I'm going to jack my DCs so high that even fey witches will be eating out of my hands.
Now think about this: why are any of these guys built this way?
Melee fighter: I want to be the BEST! I'm a total BA and NO ONE will stand in my way!
Halfling Ranger: growing up we had to scrabble for everything we could among the human lands. Some of my kin became thieves but my mother and father taught me the value of honest work for honest pay. When the team pulls together, there's nothing we can't accomplish.
Ranged inquisitor: It only takes ONE shot to end a fight, topple a church or break a movement. Knowledge, aim and patience. I will know my enemies before they ever see me coming and end their villainy quickly.
Enchantment-focused wizard: all the others laughed at me. I was the outcast, the pariah. Now they'll pay. They're going to give me everything I ever wanted, and they'll do it with a smile on their faces.
I'm not saying you have EVERYTHING planned for every non-combat encounter but think about it - each of the above characters would walk up to the same non-combat scene differently. If the scene is: "You enter the tavern. The common room is bustling with scoundrels, sellswords and would-be saints. Behind the bar a sweaty fat man with a jolly smile beckons you in while the bawdy red-head clutching a half dozen frothing mugs winks at you as she passes by" each PC would have a totally different reaction to it.
Melee fighter: I wonder if there's someone here who thinks they're better than me? I bet if I slap the 50" pythons on a table someone will want to wrestle, and then I can prove 'em wrong.
Halfling ranger: man, this place looks shady. We could probably get jumped in the middle of the room and no one would notice. I better stick close to my crew and make sure when they need me I'm ready.
Ranged inquisitor: someone here knows something about all the crap we've been seeing. I wonder just WHOSE jaw needs to get broken to get the rest of them to loosen?
Enchantment-focused wizard: that barmaid is hot! She probably wants me. I bet by the end of the night I'm hammered on free drinks from the gullible lout behind the bar and big red there is taking me back to hers.
Now when the GM looks around the table and asks "so, what are you all doing?" they shouldn't expect 4 blank stares (which has happened to me a couple times recently). I'd hope putting the above attitudes with the characters' skills and abilities would yield up at least SOME roleplay:
Melee fighter: *player slams right elbow down on table* "AWRIGHT you chumps, who's ready to THROW DOWN?" I yell as I offer to armwrestle for money.
Halfling ranger: I'm going to keep next to the fighter, watching out for cheats and swindlers. I'll act like the Ref and put my hand on theirs, calling out the rules. "No sidewinding, no nailscratching and absolutely no OVERTHETOPPING! I'm lookin at you Stallone..."
Ranged inquisitor: I'm watching as well, from the sidelines. I'll use Profession: soldier to size up the crowd, try to pick out the toughest dude I think I might be able to intimidate. While the rest of the bar is focused on the match I'll try and corner him. "Allright tough guy; tell me EVERYTHING you know about the Rootrender Kobolds or so help me old painless here isn't going make a sound as your soul slides into Pharasma's Wheel!"
Enchantment-focused wizard: *wiggles fingers at GM* Bippity Boppity boo-yah; I charm the bartender and remind him that, since we're such good friends he should start a tab for me and my cohorts. 'Course he doesn't need to know I'll never pay it. Oh, and I get him to tell me the red-head's name
That's all I mean. You can extrapolate from that exchange that the fighter is big and tough and enjoys just being that, so that's kind of a go-to for him. The Halfling meantime is all about the team and he's perceptive as heck so he's everyone's bodyguard and best bud, thus informing his general play style. The ranged inquisitor is take-charge and all business, focusing on the most efficient use of her limited powers for greatest effect so that gives an idea of what she'll do in a non-combat scene. Finally the wizard is selfish and may in fact be evil so we know any action he takes will likely benefit him first and the rest of the party second.
I don't need your life story. I don't need multiple pages of detailed drama. If you choose to provide that I'll try to work it in. But before the first initiative is rolled having "why" statements like the ones above fresh in your mind and jotted somewhere on the character sheet to remind you goes a long way to informing your in-character actions.
If you're not much of a roleplayer that's fine - you don't need a silly voice or accent or quirky mannerism to play your character. But walking into a non-combat situation without ANY notion of why your character is who they are and how that informs their interaction with the world around them is like showing up to a fight scene and having no idea what weapon or spell to use.
I'm sorry if I'm cheesing anyone off here. Its not my intention. This is just something I'm particularly passionate about when gaming.
You're the best, around; no one's ever gonna keep you down! - D. Laruso
Seriously though I can't second it strongly enough, what Bookrat said: focus on description. Your title might be GM but you're just there for setting. Encourage your players to play, to interact w/your world. Don't solve things for them, don't purposely kill their characters, don't let the world around them force their actions.
Make lists. Even if you only use them once, you never know when you're going to need an orcish sounding name.
Never worry about being prepared. No matter how much or how little, your players will always throw you a curve.
Prepare to live outside your comfort zone. If you like control your players will take it from you; if you have an ego expect your players to deflate it. This is not to say your players are the enemy. Rather your players are simply not you and so they have their own desires which will at times supersede yours.
You are not an actor OR a storyteller. You are not here solely to entertain your players. Many GM's miss the subtlety to this point, myself included. You want to narrate an epic, and the game can BE epic, but the key thing is you're not the NARRATOR. You're ONE OF the narrators.
Be collaborative. If your players have an idea, play with it. This goes along with "never say no." You will rarely have to re-write an entire campaign in order to include some detail or change a player wants to add. Encourage your players to think ahead, to speculate aloud what's in the next room, town or plot point. Then steal their idea and work it in.
Take notes. No you won't ever be fully prepared but lots of time and real world experiences can happen between games. Glance over your notes from time to time and try to remember what happened and where you were going from here.
Try to remember that your players are people first. There's no need to insult, berate, or belittle the players or their actions. Celebrate their victories, even if it ruins your plans. Heck, you can even tell them it ruined your plans; that'll make them even happier.
Don't always play to the characters' weaknesses. If you have 4 characters in the game, all of which are great at short range and melee damage, don't constantly attack them with ranged ambushes and mounted flying archers.
Validate your players' choices. If they take an obscure skill/feat for the flavor of their character, try to work it in. If they decide to take an easy out of the dungeon to worry about themselves rather than save the princess, prepare a consequence.
Be consistent, honest and transparent. If you tell them you like RP in your game, RP with them and give examples. If the PCs rightfully obliterate the boss in round 1, let them savor the victory.
Work WITH your players; not for or against them. You are one of many people at the table and this game belongs to ALL of you. Own your piece of it and give them theirs.
Another thought would be to let the players dictate what they find. Kind of along the same lines as Mythic EL is saying. If the PCs kill some orcs give them a budget appropriate to the encounter and their level. They can then use that budget and "buy" their own items from the encounter, explaining/justifying them however they'd like.
Ex: an APL2 party has investigated tracks afield, fought through an orcish patrol (CR2 encounter), used skills/powers to cross a flooded stream (CR2 hazard) and battled their way through a small orc camp even defeating the leader (a CR2 encounter followed by a CR3 battle). They finally stop to assess the treasure they have.
- Add up the treasure per encounter from the chart of the same name, then divide by # of PCs. In this case we'll go with 2000GP divided by 4 PCs, for a total of 1000 GP per PC. This is each character's budget.
Perhaps the witch PC is sick of missing saves all the time and wants a Cloak of Protection; turns out that one of the orcs slain along the way was carrying one the whole time. The witch took it off the corpse because he liked the way it looked and now after a moment to look over its magical properties he's determined its true power.
Alternatively perhaps the party's inquisitor has a masterwork shield that the player intends to use as one of her primary items through the campaign. The player gets your approval to advance the same shield in power throughout their adventures, then spends her 1000GP budget saying that Iomedae's power shines down upon the inquisitor for the justice she's brought this day. The masterwork shield now becomes a +1 shield.
In this way the players feel connected to the things they "buy" since they're designing their own arsenal and you're off the hook with creating all of this stuff. It even provides you with plot hooks from time to time. What if the shield DOES become a +1 item but it is also aligned and starts displaying an empathic personality. Suddenly the inquisitor finds they can't sleep at night with all the injustices in the world... until the shield can be pacified or dealt with in some way.
I actually find low levels the easiest time to drop loot. I like to do a little math and work backwards. By level 2 the PCs should each be at 1000 GP each on the Wealth By Level chart. That means 4000 GP total.
Now I generate some random loot drops, each worth somewhere in the neighborhood of between 200 to 500 GP. I generate 4000 GP worth of drops and then just randomly roll when they finish an encounter I decide should have some loot in it.
If you go this route coins and gems are actually the enemy and should be used sparingly. You want treasure that could fit anywhere, so filling several sacks with silver and gold coins alongside an entire pouch of mixed, cut gems is highly unlikely for a CR2 group of kobolds to have on them at random.
For that reason I stick to art items, consumables, and wondrous items. At 1st level for example a 260 GP loot pile might be:
A scrollcase carved from dragon's bone gilt in silver and pewter with a draconic motif. The silver dragons featured on the device have tiny garnets for eyes (160 GP). Inside the scrollcase are 2 scrolls, each containing 2 arcane spells each. These are Burning Hands, Jump, Mage Armor and Unseen Servant (100 GP).
Now what if you randomly roll this entry after fighting, say 3 goblin warrior 1? Well you might pick a different loot entry, but you don't have to. What if they were couriers? Could be they found the scrollcase locked and just liked the way it looked. Maybe it needs a Prestidigitation and Mending spell since the goblins have ben using the locked scrollcase as a hammer.
Another note: anything can be loot. Your players might go down into a crypt, murder a bunch of undead, then search the whole place top to bottom and whine when they don't find chests of gold. You can then politely remind them that the torch brackets are made of expertly crafted brass (60 GP each); hanging in each cyst is an ornate tapestry depicting the lineage of the tyrant entombed there (100 GP each); the statuary throughout the catacombs are so well sculpted and lifelike they are unnerving (120 GP each); finally the undead that the PCs fought all had gold and iron inlay in their bones as well as eyes or organs represented by carved onyx (130 GP each). This coupled with the few obvious item treasures and a modest cache of coins interred with the leader of the dead is more than enough reward.
Finally not everything has to be gold. Trade goods or personal stuff is always an option. As small as a few pinches of the finest snuff in a Darkwood snuff box to 6 tuns of the best dwarven brandy can be treasure. If you want to add treasure don't just look at the monsters but where they're living. You might have a bunch of PCs kill some rats in an abandoned cellar. While searching they find a collapsed rack of sour wine; a DC 20 Perception check reveals one bottle of Elven Grappa, a highly-prized elf wine of a vintage no longer available in the city (100 GP). Also under the collapsed wreckage is the rats' tunnel and a skeletal corpse still bearing a (mundane) silver and amethyst ring (120 GP) as well as a chapbook of Sarenite prayers and devotionals tucked into which is a scroll of Lesser Restoration (150 GP). Finally the corpse has a simple iron key. Removing the rubble is tricky since a portion of it once supported the vaulted roof as an archway (either Engineering, Miner or some other appropriate skill, DC 20) but even without removing it the PCs can see the rats tunneled through wood as well as stone; there's a door back there! If they do manage to clear the way the key unlocks the door... to ADVENTURE (and more treasure)!
A pet peeve of mine are folks who say they enjoy immersive RP but don't. For example if the GM presents them a moment of downtime and asks them what they do they say "I use Diplomacy to Gather Info about (insert plot point here)." *Rolls d20 before GM can speak* "I got a 21; what did I learn?"
RP to me is just that, playing a role. A lot of players tell me "I like to develop a personality for my character as I play" but by level 4-5 their character is still simply a collection of numbers to add to dice rolls that sub for an actual personality.
My other pet peeve is passive play. If you come to my table to play, actually play. And I don't just mean combat. If I take the time to set a scene, be it a dungeon room, town street or king's hall, don't just wait around for some detail or NPC to reveal themselves for you to work around.
I guess my peeves are sort of related. What I'm really saying is that tabletop RPGs are a collective exercise. If you're going to play with me play WITH me, not near me. Have a point to your character; some goals or firm likes/dislikes that can come up often and help define your role; seek out adventure instead of waiting for it to come to you.
Folks on these boards joke all the time that their players speculate at the table and then they change their game based on that player conversation. I used to have players who did that and those players told me that I'm one of the better GMs at improv and winging it. Nowadays though I don't get players like that anymore. Their table conversation is about work, home life or current media.
I'm not saying you should have your character planned out for 20 levels when you hit the table. Both your build and personality should be fluid, adaptable. But just as you should have an IDEA of what your want build-wise, you should be able to start right at level 1 with an idea of what your character is.
Right off the bat interact. "You're at the tavern and there's a board posting different adventures" the GM says. Don't just say "what are they" but declare "Gronk throws an elbow between 2 smaller blokes, grunting that they should make way!" or "Primwise the Halfling sorceress asks demurely if one of the nice, big, strong fools crowding the board will tell her what they say, feigning ignorance; all the while she'll be casing potential marks."
Provide roleplay that informs the table of who you are, not just what you're doing. You don't have to be a Cumberbatch-ian level actor but at least be able to show off that role. If you've stated your PC inquisitor is a stoic badass that doesn't say much then talking in character will be rare; find some OTHER way to communicate your role. When the GM says "you enter the shop; inquisitor, what are you doing?" perhaps just mime you're holding your loaded crossbow, stare stoically off into the distance and set your jaw into your best Judge Dredd grimace.
These subtleties matter. These are what informs your GM of who you are, what kind of game you want. Just SAYING you want as much RP as fighting and an immersive plot isn't enough. You have to ACTUALLY immerse yourself in said plot and then actively play a role.
Sorry, I've ranted too much here. Hopefully I didn't offend anyone and someone out there kind of gets where I'm coming from.
40) Kobold's Eye: the victim of this curse is afflicted with Light Sensitivity as their eyes become draconic in appearance only
41) Mite's Eye: the victim of this curse is afflicted with Light Blindness as their eyes become pale, bloodshot and bulge as do the eyes of the fey for whom the curse is named
42) Brittletooth: the teeth of the victim become weak and unreliable for anything other the soft foods or liquids. Any critical hit with a Bludgeoning weapon or any damage sustained from a Force effect, fall or similar source causes 1d4 teeth to fall out. As well any food ingested by the food must either be pre-chewed or be in at least a semi-solid state or it cannot be consumed. Charisma based checks are all made at a base -2 penalty with an additional -2 for every 8 teeth lost by the victim. Bite attacks while affected by this curse automatically fail and cause the loss of 1d4 teeth.
43) Clockwork Orange: any time the victim of this curse enters combat they must make a Will save equal to the DC of the original curse. Failure means that the victim is Sickened for the duration of the combat.
44) Toad's Tongue: the victim's tongue swells and grows sticky at the end. For the duration of the curse the victim feels an uncontrollable urge to consume insects. When in the presence of common insects or the Vermin monster type their tongue reacts of its own volition darting out of the victim's mouth to snare prey regardless of size. This action causes the victim to initiate a grapple with the creature in question; this causes an attack of opportunity unless the victim possesses feats or abilities to negate this. The involuntary grapple attempts by the tongue continue until the object of the grapple is at least partially if not fully consumed by the victim. Finally victims of this curse suffer a 20% Spell Failure penalty on all spells with a Verbal component.
45) Viletongue: the victim of this curse inexplicably insults or offends anyone they speak to. Obscenities, hostile oaths or mundane curses find their way into the most common conversations. Any time the victim uses speech as part of a Free action or a skill check of any kind they run the risk of causing the Antagonized condition in any one listener. Unless only one listener is present the GM chooses a listener at random and the victim of the Viletongue skill makes either a Diplomacy or Intimidate check against the listener with a +8 bonus. The DC of this check is 10 plus the listener's level + Wisdom bonus. If the victim of the curse succeeds in their check the listener is Antagonized. This curse's effect does not cause attacks of opportunity.
Pathfinders find paths of adventure. The Oathbound League form oaths. These "oaths" are the contracts of their service. When someone posts a job with the Oathbound they know it'll get done. Now the League can refuse jobs, and they do. "Go kill Asmodeus" is a job they generally dismiss. But when they DO in fact take the contract and post it in the Jarlshall (common room) or call in specific agents for the work, rest assured the League will see it through to the end.
Unlike the Pathfinders though, the Oathbound League is strictly found in Rukenvall. There are not Jarlshalls all through Karnoss (my homebrew). The League then has to abide by the laws of the Rukenvall. They hold charter for their organization with the Von Ruken Court; all members must have their letters patent showing them to be free citizens in good standing. This means that members of the Oathbound are not debtors, wanted criminals or fugitives... yet.
In the course of their duties the methods of the Oathbound League are often called into question by sheriffs, bailiffs and other local officials. Churches, particularly those of Abadar, Asmodeus and Iomedae often clash with the League. The executive leadership of the guild however, the Jarls as they are called, have reached understanding with the Von Ruken Court and even mingle with the viscount herself on occasion. As such the Oathbound are rarely prosecuted for their crimes.
Rarely however does not mean never. There have been occasions when Oathbound agents have egregiously flaunted and violated the laws of The Rukenvall. Murder and other violent or capital crimes outside the absolute necessity of resolving a contract are vigorously discouraged and actively denounced by the League. Several agents over the last century since the group's inception have been imprisoned or executed for their crimes.
Generally though agents of the Oathbound are trusted to do the job and do it well with minimal loss to life, limb or property. They are by their very nature dangerous and prone to vices, obscenity and numerous sins both petty and extreme. Not every agent lives through their contracts; not every agent remains active once a contract is fulfilled. Oathbound agents may resign their active service to the League at any time or resume it at will.
Every agent though undertakes the Oath. They pledge to respect one another; to respect the contract; respect the Jarls. No agent will actively undermine, harm, curse or otherwise impede another known agent or active member of the League in the course of their duties. Further they pledge that any contract undertaken will be seen to its end. Finally there is a pledge of aid, regardless of status, among agents. Once invoked it must be respected though the giver may choose its form. If the aid requested incurs a debt it must be repaid.
This is no secret society. The League was born of the Wilding when the hags and fey and other creatures of the primeval world cloaked themselves in mortal flesh and tormented the land. It was born in the midst of the Third Crusade, otherwise known as the Hexbane Inquisition. The inquisitors roamed the land seeking the evil hidden among mortalkind purging the blasphemies of knowledge, arcane magic and witchcraft from the Rukenvall with fire and righteousness.
Still through all of this the Oathbound League rose. They operated in the open and made no apologies for the agents they employed. When the Hexbane came to Jarlshall and demanded that the wizards, witches and libraries it contained be put to the torch a keg of sour ale dumped from the balcony was their reply. When the hag Nagruvygh made the mistake of infiltrating the League to form a coven and corrupt them from within she was slain, dismembered and made into a stew delivered to the doorstep of the Castle Brunnh and the Nightshade Coven who ruled the fane.
Many different agents join the League for many different reasons. Some seek gold or glory; others resources to resolve some personal wrong. Others still may seek to quietly gain converts for their otherworldly patrons. Not every agent of the League is primarily a field agent; administrators, sages and crafters all have a place within the ranks from time to time. But all who undertake the Oath honor it and all are changed by it.
15) No vocal modulation: the victim of this curse has no ability to modulate the sound of their voice. They alternate between shouting or whispering or no sound at all at complete random. Spellcasting with verbal components carries a base 20% penalty and all Charisma-based skills requiring vocalization suffer a -4 penalty as well
16) Lack of internal monologue: the victim says whatever's on their mind, all the time. If they're lying once they finish the lie they'll announce they're lying. If a pretty girl walks by and the victim is attracted to her all of the thoughts pertaining to the attraction are verbalized as they happen. The victim must make a Will save (DC the same as the curse) every time they try to hold back their thoughts. If suffering any condition there is no chance for the save.
17) Gnats: everywhere the victim goes a cloud of harmless gnats follows them. The insects are a Figment illusion permanently affixed to the victim for the duration of the curse. The victim suffers the Distracted condition. As well all other creatures receive Partial Concealment from the victim.
How about some more drinking too. In '46 wasn't there a lot of racism and ethnocentricity too? Maybe play up those themes as well.
Heck I don't want any of that. I just want a show about spies, pretty girls, handsome men and fighting set in the 40's. I have just about as much "real" as I can handle in my regular life, on most of the shows I watch, the books I read and what not. The whole reason I'm on these boards was to riff about fantasy games as an escape.
No more reality. Give me a fantasy of '46. Heck, if it wasn't specifically Marvel I'd ask for a cameo by Diana Prince.
Oh and one serious question: where's HYDRA in all this? Are they Leviathan?
That would be awesome. Paladin of Saranrae enters the area of the blight, kills the evil hag making it and drives out the goblins and vermin. But at the end of the adventure the villagers are like "thank goodness the monsters are gone, but now, how will we survive?" Paladin kneels in the one shaft of sunlight coming down through the dead and dying trees dangling in the otherwise gray sky. "May the Dawnflower's Mercy be made to shine upon this land. Let her luminous grace fill you with life and heal this place."
Somewhere an angelic chorus cries out as the paladin's channel radius spills out. Everywhere it washes over in the forest the plants visibly respond. The disease is cured, the damage to the leaves and stems repaired. The local flora stretches skyward before the eyes of the assembled masses. The Paladin stands and where she knelt a single, glowing bloom has grown.
And centuries later a girl named Rapunzel is asked to let down her hair...
359. The GM said "roll initiative"
361. An elven wizard/philosopher has been wandering through the tavern answering everyone with a wry question. "What'll you have?" the bartender intoned with practiced platitude. "What will YOU have sir?" the elf returned. This went on throughout the evening ad nauseum until someone asked him "I know you are, but what am I?" one too many times and the questioner decided to take him to school.
362. The halfling bet the half-orc he could juggle 2 balls with one hand. The half orc ably pointed out the halfling had no balls. The halfling replied "Neither do you" and things escalated from there...
363. Someone brought a knife to a gunfight
364. Cat Scratch Fever
365. Its right here in the Irori Handbook: Monks talk with their fists
Oh, another one I put on the PCs at low level: prestidigitation to make them smell bad. There are some insects that are attracted to the scent of rot. Also mites have the Smell ability. When my PCs were going down into a mite-infested dungeon I had them hit by one of the little pests' prestidigitation that made them smell like rot... for an hour.
Suddenly no matter where they went in the dungeon all their Stealth checks were -8. The giant beetles they fought all got +2 attack/damage from being so attracted to the smell. That was the ONLY time that the annoyance of a prestidigitation turned into something game related that really worked well for me. For them... not so much.
353. I can't believe it's not butter
354. A pregnant woman bursts through the door, flanked by a half-dozen city guard. "That's him!" she declares, pointing into the crowd. Then, confused, she glances the other way. "No... THAT's him. No wait... I think it was him, and those 2, and the BARTENDER!" Meanwhile you chance to glance over at the first guy and realize she named the master illusionist
355. Someone thought it'd be good idea to try their new "Infernal Form" spell at the Sober Hellknight inn and day spa.
Freehold DM wrote:
BLASPHEMER! You speak of the apocalypse, the end of days! "And the First Horseman shall come, riding a Firefly, and shall crush the souls of mortals with endless debate the popularity of a failed television show. Then I bore witness to the Second Horseman. He traveled not on a horse but on the backs of millions of mindless zombie slaves, their wills consumed by his Book of Faces that reduced all who used it to the shambling dead. Next came the Third Horseman who had taken all that was good and wholesome in chemistry, cooking and entertainment and taken that from the masses. Before him lay the cooking shows yet to be, and they trembled; behind him lay the endless wastes of the Chefs of Iron and others he'd already destroyed"
Beware the naming of the Fourth Horseman. So heinous is that crime that I shall not even allude to it. Freehold DM I say unto you: only YOU would have the audacity to name him. If you would risk the wrath of the righteous speak and complete the prophecy. Name the Fourth Horseman and bare witness to that which you have set in motion!
Maybe I'm too critical. As a GM I vibe off my players. If they only become active and engaged when there's a fight at hand, or the potential for a fight, that's what I react to. Its difficult then when players ask for a plot driven game to create anything more than go here, kill this, win.
I miss moments like you guys all describe above. I do have one guy in my game that I wish would do more RP since when he does it's hilarious. He's a sorcerer with a faerie dragon bloodline that occasionally throws in quips or puns during combat. He got a crystal faerie dragon statue that speaks to him; every once in a while he'll reference it or speak to it in character. This carries extra humor since the creature communicates telepathically and so far only the sorcerer can hear it.
Quirks, RP, non-combat solutions or motivations. It feels like that's what's missing in my home game. You're all right of course. I should just verbalize this to my players. I have to admit though that I'm jealous. So many players online seem to play this way already w/out someone having to ask them to.
One last example from me. I played a gestalt halfling ranger/cavalier who took skills and powers that made him a good helper. The game started at level 1 but was meant to go long term.
Despite the weakness of the DPR I decided to focus on the sling-staff. I rode around on a riding dog that would eventually morph into a wolf animal companion. Based on granting +4 with Aid Another and the background I gave him and all, I wanted him to be a good sidekick. I even named him Bucky.
So when it came time to game we started off in a fort. I made a point to have my guy walking around in the mess hall, asking if there was something he could do. That became a running theme in the game: Bucky asking "you need some help? Anything you need done? How can we get this done together?" I think my GM was actually a little annoyed by it but I really wanted to RP that idea with Bucky.
So when we finally got out on the trail I barely ever left the saddle. I'd talk to my wolf hound, Blitzer, the same way I talked to the men. I tracked from the saddle then had Blitzer delivering attacks while I gave him +4 to attack. I even got the chance to hunt once. I asked if I could use Profession: Trapper to set some Tiny and Small sized snares and then use Blitzer to give me an Aid Another. When the GM looked confused I suggested that I use survival skills and Blitzer's nose to figure out where some game frequented, set the snares, then have the dog use his natural stealth to flush game toward the traps. Finally I'd coup de grace them once caught.
The GM liked it, gave me the bonus and a couple Survival and Profession checks later the whole party was enjoying some fresh goats meat roasted over the fire. Of course Bucky made a point to serve everyone else first.
I suppose I could post examples. I had a character (7th level wizard) tasked with smuggling a bear out of the city. I could have easily subdued the bear, then some guards, and then fled. Instead I helped pull together an Oceans 11 scenario with multiple PCs and NPCs doing their part. We rode out of town with the bear under wraps right under the guards' noses in broad daylight thanks to roleplaying my character, Diplomacy, a couple non-combat spells and spending gold.
When running the game I often have villains monologue during fights. Once I had a ghost do nothing else BUT talk every other round. Several times I've had monsters take very little damage but then run away in fear for their lives. I've also had villains try to bribe PCs, talk their way out of fights, or beg for mercy rather than have them just do combat until dying like a video game.
149. Hulenburgh; a tiny hamlet with only one Qality - Racial Intolerance (orcs). In his youth the wizard running the town was captured by orcs in the nearby mountains and forced into slavery and other unsavory acts. Now 2 decades later and reaching his twilight years Master Hule is a kindly, if obsessive protector of Hulenburgh (LN male human wizard). Recently a caravan entered the town. Amid the traders and entertainers was the 1/2 orc witch Myrtylda who used magic to gain private audience with Master Hule at which point she revealed that she is his granddaughter. Needless to say the horrified wizard drove out Myrtylda at the head of an angry mob. Myrtylda is now your villain of the week; a plague-patron witch who is spreading Cackling Fever through the hamlet in order to use the cure to extort control of Hulen Tower and the banishment of her (estranged) grandfather from the village forever. Myrtylda (CN female 1/2 orc witch) is not really evil but is hurt and angry; in the end she really will cure the disease and use the Heal skill and Restoration spells to repair the damage done.
What's funny to me is the amount of times my players SAY they want RP, character development and plot, describing what they mean as very nearly an epic novel's worth of story. They take the time to carefully craft a background, a personality and specifically chosen skills and traits to represent their RP potential.
The game gets started and the countryside runs red with the blood of the land.
Seriously, in my games it takes more effort to craft and actually play a real character than it does to roll/stat up a murderhobo and run it. I try to create scenes in my game that have the potential for RP solutions: a talking worg that barks intimidatingly but merely demands parlay; a group of fetchlings approaching cautiously wearing weapons but not brandishing them yet; a guard captain and his cronies catching the party out late at night and demanding to know their business.
As soon as there's a conflict my players roll initiative. They're all VERY good at the rules for combat. Most fights, unless epic, last no more than three rounds. I'm tempted to ask though how a "light-hearted jokester" wizard or "soft-spoken hunter from an elven village" ranger feels about lynching innocents, looting them and leaving their corpses.
The best non-murderhobo PC ever in my game was from a player who was the biggest proponent of that aspect of the genre. He decided to show some range and played a human paladin of Iomedae. He then proceeded to take Skill Focus: Diplomacy, a trait that gave him a +1 and maxed out his ranks in that every level.
He roleplayed this guy VERY well. A group of pixies meant to be nature's guardians of the dead came to raid a mausoleum the PCs were hired to protect. The creatures appear in a surprise round and only the cleric notices them; he beats their initiative and attacks. Pixies return hostilities and monologue about the corpse.
It gets to the paladin in the normal round - he rolls a nat 20 on Diplomacy. The player gives a stirring speech about respect both of the dead and the gods. While the skill isn't supposed to be used in combat I rule that the pixies refuse to attack the paladin. During their fight the corpse animates and flees the mausoleum. The party gives chase and since the paladin makes another Diplomacy with flying colors they virtually skipped the the next challenge in the scenario - a bunch of pixie traps among the graves.
It was really cool to have this character in the game. He made the story around him and his party. The player had to move but I miss that. As a GM I find it really boring to just invent new and interesting people for the party to murder; I miss having a character who wanted something more in the gameworld besides murder, loot and fame.
Are we talking strictly about animals/animal-level inteligence here? If so well you're kind of stuck with the game mechanics - PCs make perception checks and either notice something or don't, then they either get a surprise round or not. The creature likely runs away unless it has superior numbers or some incredible sense of its own power versus that of the party.
If however we factor in creatures with some intelligence, it may be up to the GM to give it a reason not to be the standard encounter. Take a group of four level 1 PCs and a lone worg.
The worg is CR2 and is powerful enough to leap out of hiding, take out maybe 2 guys or the whole party with good rolls, but the odds are it'll perish before the party does. So what if the encounter isn't what you expect?
You hear the snapping of twigs and spot red, beady eyes in a muzzle of black with fangs bared. Out steps a hulking, lupine form. However instead of rushing to attack it merely sneers. The creature before you is a worg, and it looks like he's here to talk, not to fight.
Sometimes if you want a different encounter, you need to give the players a reason to do something other than roll perception and initiative.
I find it depends on your audience. I had a buddy in my game for a while that was a true old-skooler. He genuinely enjoyed strategy, resource management and meticulous gaming, so for him scouring a labyrinth was a lot of fun. For my current set of gamers, some of whom have the attention span of a 12 year old raised exclusively on Vine videos, the experience of delving a megadungeon is pure torture.
For something in the middle, I try to break up the delves.
Take any section of dungeon. Now connect up, say, 12 rooms and draw a circle around that. Now ignore the entire rest of the dungeon. Add in cave-ins, impassable magic fields, or teleporters; whatever you need to explain this section separate from the rest.
As for running this delve, keep things light. Plan, say, 5 rooms. These are your set pieces. Each of these have some connection to the others. For example you might have room 1 with trio of skeletons bearing a particular rune on their forehead. Then room #3 has a necromantic spell trap guarding a treasure with the same rune. In room #7 you have some cultists preparing a ceremonial knife who boast that the blade's sister is already primed and ready. Room #10 ends up being a sacrifice chained to an altar with the blasphemous priest ready to plunge said sister-blade into the heart of the victim and finally upon the defeat of the cult the blade disappears as well as it's twin, only to reappear in room #12 in the hands of some epic final boss guarding the way out of this section.
The other rooms in the section then become random. Make some random charts and have an idea of how to run the stuff on them. These can be anything; a monster, a trick/trap, some treasure, or just empty space. These "filler" chambers don't have to make sense with the this section. If in the above example you threw in a wide hall for room #4 and in that you randomly rolled a quartet of kobolds, you might rationalize them as interlopers from some other section. Maybe they have a hidden way in that is Tiny sized; they squeeze the whole way and certainly someone in the party isn't going to fit through that path.
By dividing the delve you give folks just enough to chew and swallow in a session. Within each should be a small story with a beginning, middle and end. This way your players always feel progress.
A note about detail: I find less is more. Pick out a couple of senses and tease them in each new section. It can be any of the senses though. Imagine if you had zombies in a room for weeks what that room would SMELL like. Alternately if you had moisture in a chamber for decades as well as benign molds, how would it FEEL to the PC brushing against the wall? The most impacting impression your players will get is the one they form in their own heads, not the one you or the flavor text puts there.
The main thing is to keep it interesting. If you have corrupt dryads and a hedge maze, throw in some fey creatures. Since fey are weak physically but good with spells and masterminding/charming others, pair these creatures with others in interesting ways. A sprite with its cantrips swapped out for some kind of necromantic ability and then it's riding inside of a bloody skeleton; the silouhette of a satyr playing his pipes while a raven swarm attacks (he's actually invisible somewhere nearby); a cockroach swarm reskinned as common forest beetles but within it's mass are lumpy shapes - these are mites with levels in witch and they're using some kind of homebrewed hex to move in the swarm w/out being injured/distracted.
Lastly about HOW to run it: I like your idea of letting the players map it. Yeah, it slows things down but I think this directly involves the players in what's going on. If they don't map, they don't know where they are, period. Beyond this and the less-is-more detailing, the individual challenges are no different from other encounters.
I hope this helps.
56. Shovel of Digdug this ignominous cold-iron shovel has a long handle and radiates a faint aura of conjuration magic. It has the constant effect of giving the user 10' Burrowing speed though only through standard earth, not stone. 1/Day it can be commanded to Create Pit as the spell (CL 3).
57. Icebane Salt alchemically enhanced rocksalt that instantly neutralizes any ice or snow to a 1" depth in a 5' square. Has no effect on cold nor does it negate damage of any kind but it can be used to clear a path or reveal items below.
58. Arcstones coveted by halfling slingers these magically infused stones possess a curious power only accessible by height and distance. The wielder must have at least 10' distance to the target and also have enough space for the bullet to achieve a height twice their own (a Small slinger must be standing in a space large enough for a Medium creature, etc). If these conditions are met the bullets hurl upward in a lazy arc, coming to a full stop at the apex even if this defies natural laws; it then streaks down at the target with unearthly speed and power. If it hits treat the damage dice as 1 size category larger +1 Size bonus to damage (so a halfling sling-staff using this ammunition would deal 1d8 +1[Size bonus] damage).
59. Wet Stones these simple runestones are small enough to fit comfortably in the cheek of a mouth. Once placed in a creature's mouth they continue producing drinkable water all day enabling the creature to merely suck upon the stone and gain the fluid needed. Once activated these stones continue working unless removed from the user's mouth at which point they become inert. Alternately they can be placed in a receptacle and smashed at which point they unleash 10 gallons of clean, potable water. A frightening means of execution in the Withered Wastes of Karnoss is to tie a noose on a victim with one of these stones in their mouth. The rope is bound only to constrict the mouth and throat, not to break the neck. Once the victim is dropped the sudden impact breaks the Wet Stone and the victim drowns at the end of the rope.
60. Brutehaul Sack these bizarre magical sacks are overlarge, enabling the carriage of hundreds of pounds worth of material. The true magic of the device however only works under a specific condition. If the sack is borne on the shoulder of the user and held with 2 hands the user's carrying capacity is doubled as if under the influence of an Ant Haul spell. In this manner dwarves all through the Bonefrost Mountains have hauled waste stone from their mines on the shoulders of the apprentices rather than going to the expense of training goats to haul out carts for them.
I was in another thread on Achievments here and I realized something: my players don't really do side quests anymore. I run exclusively homebrewed stuff and I try to run non-linear type campaign worlds but they always turn into some kind of straight line.
In the past I've tried shotgun rumors: "you enter the bar and hear the following: Old man Witherspoon has abandoned his tower because of a water elemental; strange lights have been seen again on the moors; Sheriff Harkness is paying a 10 GP bounty on kobolds captured"
I've also tried quest cards. Basically I wrote down side quest titles on index card faces and then on the back there's a brief description. If the players were in a situation like gathering info in downtime or chatting with NPC contacts I'd drop a couple on the table and let them browse through them.
Strangely enough I have few takers. If it doesn't pertain to the main idea of the plot in the game no one wants to do it. If the main goal is to destroy the kobold king for example the players ignore the rumors and tangents in the bar. Instead they go right at the kobolds, stopping only to rest, heal, and go back at them.
It used to be I couldn't keep a plot on the rails. Now I can't get it to veer off unless I force it to. How do other GMs coerce their players to look outside main plots?
Kirth Gersen wrote:
Gonna have to admit it... I put Season 1 of AoS on my Netflix queue, watched two episodes, and sent the disk back. Disk 2 will not be on my list.
The whole first season for me was worth it to see Coulson's breakdown on the doorstep of a secret base. "This HAS to mean something! It HAS to matter!" Sure, a lot of the characters are a little over-the-top super-spy schlock and sure, the first couple episodes were snoozers, but seeing Coulson suddenly lose it and become an everyman from time to time, especially in that scene makes it worth it for me.
Coulson is why I've always Made Mine Marvel (nuff said). Because Marvel is about regular people first, super second. What would happen if you took a real life nerd, age 15, with all the awkwardness and insecurity of adolesence coupled with the trauma of a broken childhood, and suddenly gave him the power to run up walls, leap rooftop to rooftop and throw cars? Well of COURSE he'd try to cash in on his powers and act like a brat! That is, until something terrible happened.
Coulson knows that with great power comes great responsibility. Coulson makes tough calls. Coulson doesn't always have the right answer. And yet, somehow, he's the guy that took Loki's spear to the chest and lived; he's the guy who died so that the Avengers could live, and he's the guy that has to carry around ALL of this on his shoulders.
Not once in a while. All the time.
Yeah, once these things start becoming a factor in the show it goes from being a cute little time filler to an interesting play on what it takes to be a normal guy in a world where aliens and super-soldiers duke it out on the streets of NYC.
There's only so much character you can show, episode to episode on TV, as opposed to a 2 hour movie. For what you CAN get out of a show, I'd say Coulson is top of the line. That's my CP anyway.
I try to be impartial when running. I try to be inclusive, giving opportunities for the PCs to interact with the world. I try to be engaging and urge the players forward or incentivize their characters to act.
The emphasis here is on the word "try."
Sometimes I had a stressful couple weeks, have little in the tank and suddenly realize my players will be here in an hour. Other times I lay out a couple plot hooks, look across the table and my players are literally just staring, not saying anything; when I ask for their actions they just kind of shrug.
Every once in a while I'm just fed up. Yeah, I'm gonna say it. Sometimes I get mad at myself for making such a convoluted plot that even I can't follow or my players are running like this is a game of Talisman. When these things happen I'm a crap GM.
I'm the first to admit I'm a crap GM too. When I look around and realize I've just dumped the game into a ditch I apologize to my players. Then its a matter of picking up the broken pieces of whatever plotline is happening and try to repair the damage.
My players tell me I'm good at improv. I don't know if I believe them; it's like a 50/50 crap shoot every time I ad lib a scene. Regardless I basically spend most of my "prep" time between games just making up random set pieces, weird NPCs and variant monsters while surrounding myself with as many random generators as I can.
I make stuff up a lot. Worse, I don't take notes. My last couple games have revolved around a wight animated with the heart of a saint. I named said saint in the opening 5 minutes of the session a month ago; I didn't write the guy's name down or anything. Now it just so happens that player decisions are driving the next plot point RIGHT AT the origins of this dude.
Despite all of the above my players keep showing up. I think its because they like their characters, they like hanging out together and they think I'm doing a decent job. I HOPE that's what it is anyway.
I guess my only advice and the only thing I've learned over the years of running games is to be honest. Be honest with your players and yourself that you're only human; you'll make mistakes, forget stuff in your game, and sometimes you won't have anything for tonight's session. Be honest about your villains/monsters: roll on the table, where people can see it. If you, say, have a pinnacle cairn wight animated by the corrupted heart of a saint wielding an awesome Death Scythe you made up and you roll a 1, then an 8, followed by a 7 in three rounds of combat, own it.
And, finally, a note to players everywhere: help a brother out. If your GM has told you he wants to run an immersive world then sets you in a Large City after an adventure and says "ok, you've all got some downtime. What do you do?" Play along. Don't go deer-in-the-headlights; look at your guy, look at his skills and review the past few adventures, then take a specific action based on that info.
Maybe you've got Profession: Innkeeper as a bonus skill from your backstory. You don't feel like there's anything more to do on the previous plot points, so maybe you go to the bar. However don't be passive about it: "I drink at the bar." Be as immersive as your GM is trying to be.
"I go to the bar to get a drink. While there I ask the inkeeper how's business, try to gauge what kind of place this is. Also I'll use my skill to size up the joint; maybe if we need extra muscle on the next adventure this would be a good place to look."
Suddenly the GM knows: you're thinking ahead, you're interacting with the game world and you're willing to RP. Now said GM can ad lib a hulking barbarian... halfling. His nam is Barleykorn and he wants to arm wrestle you; he smells like rancid cheese.
Be honest. Be immersive. Be specific. Everything else is probably in the CRB, Bestiary or the GMG... if I can just FIND them...
An idea for a low-level mini-campaign. It could be a stand-alone or the lead-in to a longer game.
Level 1: the PCs arrive in the town of Haliwick, a Small Town run by Lady Mayor Alophine Harrowbrook. Lady Harrowbrook is a mature woman but still very beautiful. She is also conceited and vain, outwardly critical of ugliness and over the years has surrounded herself only with pretty people and things. Not surprisingly she is a devout of Shelyn and that faith flourishes here.
The town has recently become plagued by vermin. Known infestations are in the sewers of the town, the woodlots of the town's hinterlands and in an abandoned mine. The whole of the first adventure consists then of exploring these locations and clearing out the nests. This gives the PCs clues to the history of the town being tied to a coven of witches. It also reveals that mites are working with the vermin.
Level 2: after completing their extermination work the PCs get a couple weeks' downtime. This gives them enough time to level, make some disposable magic items if they wish or purchase custom mundane gear. At the end of this time they learn that children in town have been disappearing. The parents all shut their mouths but the kids say that Mr Grins has returned.
The kids are being snatched at night. Every one of them are the offspring of the "uggos" that the Lady Mayor has been overly critical of. The abductor leaves behind bizarre tracks but never a trail; they also leave behind cocoons full of spiders. Unbeknownst to the PCs the mites have joined forces with "Mr Grins", a particularly vile ettercap who has a taste for children.
While Mr Grins does the abducting, some of his victims over the years have been handed off to the fey. They have been transformed into more mites. The PCs have to follow some clues, find Mr Grins' lair and put a stop to him. Here they find more clues directing them back to the Lady Mayor who they come to find out was once a witch in a coven that included, among other sisters, a mite.
Level 3: Lady Harrowbrook is actually being framed by her former sister. The mite witch Gulgurtha is getting revenge for Alophine's dissolution of the coven years ago. Either the Lady Mayor is imprisoned at the end of the level 2 adventure or she has at least been stripped of her authority.
Now at the outset of this final installment Lady Harrowbrook has disappeared. If she was in the dungeons beneath Haliwick her cell is empty; otherwise she has just disappeared from the town. Clues suggest the sewers from the first adventure. The party must descend there, search around and find the coven's old haunt beneath the town.
At this point it's a race against time. The party begins finding mites with minor arcane powers that make them slightly more powerful than their typical kin. These are in fact the children abducted over the years and changed by faerie magic. I haven't decided if the PCs will be able to save the kids or not yet.
Anyway of course at the heart of all this is Gulgurtha. She intends to not only drain the beauty from Lady Harrowbrook as part of her revenge but will also be unleashing an Apocalypse Swarm; a collection of different vermin swarms that will destroy the town above. The party must put an end to her inside a set time-frame (haven't decided what that is yet) or game over.
Please give me your honest thoughts and critiques as well as any advice you can offer.