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For this reason I advise all GMs use art from the module Dragon's Demand.
Y'know, I've always wondered that myself. Prestidigitation suggests it can do other things, but WHAT since everything is prohibited if you go high enough in the spell lists (Wish/Limited Wish). So then... why suggest it might do more?
That's why I've allowed it to create puffs of smoke enough to fill a single square or a candle flame or even modify other spells so that some minor effect is modified. Had a druid and wizard work together once with Flame Strike and Prestidigitation; the color change option in Prestidigitation changed the color of the fire to clear so it was essentially invisible and they snuck past a guard.
A kobold makes traps. One Pazio module had them in a dungeon with a crossbow trap. How then could they have a crossbow in a trap, but not a weapon? How do they have the Warrior NPC class (proficient in ALL Martial weapons) if they have no access to said "weapon shop?"
Finally, everyone always says: Tucker's Kobolds. Let's say you have that scenario, where you've got 50 kobolds defending some incredibly grueling gauntlet against oncoming adventurers. Presumably they'd slay some, if not ALL of their foes. What happens to their enemies' weapons?
My last 3 sets of PCs in my games have included a Halfling, grippli and another Halfling; one of the halflings and the grippli were both rangers. If those 2 fought some kobolds, got ambushed and were defeated, the kobolds would then have access to chakrams, axes, a short sword and a shortbow.
Heck YEAH they're going to use 'em!
So this is my response to "they don't have the tech"
1. they can make a trap, they can make a weapon
2. they loot the dead, like any good PC
3. if any gear was damaged they take it to the local sorcerer with the Mending cantrip, drop some gold, and they have a new weapon in their arsenal
Purple Dragon Knight wrote:
I'd like an honorable mention for the Owl. Master gains +3 Perception in dim light (have a PC with low light or Darkvision); only STR 13 but x2 talons (1d8+1).
That means your mauler can get in a Full Attack of at least x2 talons +3 [+4 if attacking from overhead] (1d8+1) for an avg damage on 2 hits of 11 damage. Add in the fact that if you're Small or Tiny you could be riding the thing; you can drop Mage Armor on it and's still got a respectable 18 AC; if you finish off what your familiar hit this round and it has at least 1 HD your mauler gets his Bond Forged in Blood bonus and I thought this familiar was at least worth mentioning.
Let's take the lowly kobold. In my Bestiary 1 I see a pic of a kobold with a bone through its nose, a spear and it's range weapon lists a sling. Bear in mind that it is defined by its class levels. Its listed class in the stat block is Warrior 1, one of the only advantages of which is all martial weapons.
Why so cruel to the kobold?
Without changing/optimizing stats, adding PC class levels or modifying any feats I'm looking at a Str 9, Dex 13 Small sized creature. Said creature is also of average intelligence and capable of wielding ANY martial weapon, so why is he depicted with THESE weapons?
A simple change from a sling to a shortbow gives the kobold a +2 avg damage for a mere 30gp. There's not much you can do for the melee weapon but if he HAS to fight melee you could drop a Lucerne hammer in his hands; justify it as a mining hammer and pick combined. He's using 2 hands for his ranged weapons; why not max out his damage potential?
Ok, so maybe the hammer is too much but seriously; why a spear and sling? For that matter mites are throwing darts? Seriously? They ride on giant vermin; poisoned darts or instead maybe a crossbow?
I get hamstringing monsters with inferior stat arrays compared to the heroes. After all the PCs ARE presumably the heroes right? But really sub-standard gear seems like overkill on making monsters weaker than the PCs.
What if the spellcasting worked like the rogue talents Minor Magic and Major Magic? Essentially some minor tricks the familiar has picked up based on exposure to/training with magic via link to the master/mistress.
Also some things to think about:
How does this fit with Improved Familiars?
How will this work with Familiar Archetypes?
I wonder if, since there are now many ways to enhance familiars through feats, class archetypes and familiar archetypes on top of many buff spells a familiar-centric PrC may be redundant. Then again that's only my opinion.
What kind of campaign do you want to run there? Will there be a lot of political intrigue? Do you anticipate lots of deities involved?
I personally second Oaky upthread. Start small and build out. Also consider some big questions like I mention here because those will help guide your creation.
Frankly I'd say, looking at the first few pics on the inspiration link above that you do something with dragons, forests and the fey. Maybe some world connected to the First World, making it natural, primal. Everything there is bigger; giants, trolls, witches and barbarians.
Also look at the darker faerie tales of old. Have monsters who aren't motivated by treasure. The fey in your lands for example might be able to boost their powers with innocent blood on hand; hags need to eat children to survive; wolves can talk.
Think of some of your favorite RPG video games. they have great expansive visuals for their lands, but the actual world is purposely left vague. There was once a great empire, referred to only as "The Great Empire." They ruled everything and created a system of knights and golems to protect everyone. One day the golems went crazy and now the empire is in ruins, with dozens of squabbling kingdoms rising up out of the ashes.
The old knights, last remnants of the old empire, still roam but they are lost (NPCs, villains). The Young Kingdoms are only as big as America's Rhode Island and in the wilderness even smaller "freeholds" or free states are controlled by warlords, tyrants and messiahs. The PCs then hail from one of the Young Kingdoms - only really define that one and the needed parameters of the current adventure. You've got the broad strokes: ruins everywhere with giant statue chunks (inert golems) all over the land, the Young Kingdoms, Freeholds. Now each adventure just simply fills in the details and the best is: your players are helping you finish it.
Encourage your players to help. Tell them if they add details through character creation they get an extra Trait related to those details. Once the game gets rolling ask them for feedback and vibe off their suggestions. If they want to see megafauna and giant robots in the game you might say that the Great Empire delved into experiments on animals to compete with dragons or that some of the golems have been reactivated.
Also lets you get past doors/gates too heavy for your Knock or Open/Close spells. Create a pit under the threshold, climb down, go under then go back up the other side of the pit.
Then how do you get all those glowing runes in video games? It's not just Symbol spells or Explosive Runes since they don't ALWAYS kill you. I always just assumed that's what Arcane Mark was: a magic version of a small neon that says "eat at Joes."
If not Arcane Mark, then could you do this with Prestidigitation? Create a heatless candle flame that only illuminates a 5' rad with Dim Light? Or does that violate the "infringes on another spell" clause?
Knee jerk reaction. When one of my players makes a statement like that I always ask them to describe it. Ex:
player My Halfling intimidates
me HOW does your Halfling Intimidate?
Player Umm... intimidatingly?
me What does he do/say that's so intimidating?
Player He shakes his fist and says "you better tell me what I want to know or else!"
Then they roll and I go on to add detail to the scene along with the reaction based on the roll. To me, describing what action(s) the PC took to accomplish their skill check is just as good as inhabiting the mind and voice of the character for roleplaying, but to each their own.
However just being present is RP, so I guess I should stop questioning people at the table. *Sad walking away music*
Everyone's experience varies with "theater of the mind" versus battlemats and minis. My own personal experience has been that when I don't use some visuals my players get bogged down in "where am I? How far away is the goblin? Are there any ledges or niches in the wall?" etc.
I can manage as fast if not faster combats if I just take a few seconds to draw it out with a marker and put something, whether its minis or dice or SOMETHING to represent the villains. The slowness comes from those individual players who, regardless of the medium used consider themselves chess masters moving pawns into the PERFECT position.
Seriously. Yes, you have a sleep spell; sometimes it won't catch ALL the villains, no matter where you drop it. Yes, you have feats that let you ignore difficult terrain; no matter where you charge you won't be able to cleave ALL the monsters next round. The point is you need to be able to make a course of action, commit to it and trust that, if your move wasn't perfect your other team members can pick up your slack.
The bottom line in any fight regardless of level or power is simply to be able to do 1/4 of all HP damage in a round w/out dying. Are you facing one big dragon with 400 HP? Then your party needs to dish out 100 per guy from the 4 of you. Wizard can only drop 60? That's fine; the fighter can throw 140, so you're covered.
On the other hand if you're a 2nd level party facing off against 8 goblin warrior 1 villains, your wizard probably can't deal 10 pts of damage but they have a Sleep spell that can take out 2 of goblins. You'll WANT to angle it and finagle like 7 of them into the area of effect but so long as you catch 2, you're good.
TL/DR: battlemats are ok sometimes and players might be faster if they just worried about handling 1/4 of a fight and didn't sweat the rest.
HOW does your Halfling intimidate?
Matthew Downie wrote:
Here's how big a nerd I am: I just actually LOOKED UP the definition. The online oxford-English defines it as:
Oxford University Press wrote:
So now I have to go apologize to all my old gamers. Apparently by definition just sitting at the table and rolling dice actually DOES = roleplaying.
Y'know the other reason why I suck at maps? Layers. If I were any good at understanding and using online resources like Photoshop or if I could draw better than a 1st grader I'd be able to put 2 terrain types on top of one another.
In my home town there is a lot of marsh area, so on a region-scale map (1 inch equals 10 miles for example) you might have the area as marsh. However right in the middle of that marsh is a decent sized lake that folks go boating on, there's a belt of woodlands that carves through it and on the western edge there's some significant hills.
I cannot, for the life of me seem to express on paper this concept. Every map I make has a blob for forests or water, or humps for hills, or pointy hills for mountains. I don't seem to have the skill to express the epic vision in my head that even though said mountains are a small, 20 mile range roughly 30 miles wide surrounded by another 5 miles all around them by foothills, there are deep vales nestled in them. Some of these vales are thick with pine and birch that reach all the way up the middle peaks while others are sodden with peat bogs, meadows and moors.
Arcane Mark glows and is permanent on inanimate objects. Even if this is only as bright as a candle (5' rad Dim Light) if spammed around it can provide light forever.
In one game we had a wizard with an owl familiar. He put Arcane Mark on a pebble and had the creature carry it in it's mouth on scouting flights. Owls get Low Light and the wizard himself got +3 Perception in Dim Light. This simple rock made sure the two were never completely blind (unless magical darkness) and the wizard's Per was better than the ranger's.
I have to second the "people trying to decide what to do" thing. Here's my mandate to my players: we have a whiteboard on which everyone's initiatives are listed. I have another player running it but will let folks know where we are in a round and let the next guy know they're "on deck." If you're not ready to go on your initiative I'm still going to count to 30, then you've delayed til after the next PC goes. So:
GM: ok, top of the round. Druid, you're up; Hunter, you're on deck.
Druid: Ok, umm...
GM: *with his fingers* 1...2...3...
Druid: Ok... right... there's 3 kobold snipers behind the rocks... Move action: pull myself up on shore... to here *moves mini to a square on the map* and then start casting Summon Nature's Ally.
GM: Ok. The druid hauls up out of the murk, speeds across open ground to duck behind a low hedge and begins muttering in the druidic tongue. Hunter; you're up. Barbarian: you're up after the hunter, then it's the kobolds.
GM *starts counting*
GM *finishes counting* Ok; hunter will go after the barbarian. Barbarian, you're up...
Between that and folks not knowing what their feats/powers/spells do, I'm surprised we get through any combat at all.
Players have gotten mad at me for delaying but honestly I'm up front with them about what's going to happen and I tell them WHY I'm doing it, so I don't feel too bad. When every fight, even an APL -1 degenerates into a chess match/game of scrabble where every action is calculated and every option is researched real time the game is no fun anymore.
Spell cards. An updated character sheet. Pre-determined bonuses. These should be mandatory in front of any player when playing live.
Oh, and @DMCal - yet another similarity between us. When playing as a player I'm always conscious of who the guy before me in initiative is and what they're doing; when my turn comes I'm usually already rolling my attack and potential damage AS I'm describing my PC's actions. I also can usually tally off for the GM all the situational modifiers: bard song in the background, charge bonus, penalty for squeezing, etc. so they know where my final To Hit number comes from. I think GMs think I'm too controlling but my turn is usually over in about 2-5 minutes.
Making choices the character would make is similar to #1 above. You're absolutely right Jigster; roleplaying is simply playing a role. I guess folks' confusion, mine included is we're crossing the act of roleplaying with the delivery of decisions.
No you folks are probably right; I don't think it's challenge so much as variety that I'm missing. Pan, I hear what you're saying as well. I've gotten some feedback from my players in past campaigns that my game finds a rut easily and I can be kind of boring so I guess I'm just being paranoid.
I suppose what's fueling all of this was looking over threads I've posted in and realized there's a lot of cool ideas out there. Stuff I've liked, stolen and built on in my own campaign notes. But then in looking over the adventures I've written for my actual homebrew I'm seeing a definite pattern.
Jiggy, thanks for the link. I need to change things up. Not just so my players can still have fun but so I can enjoy the stuff I'm putting on the table.
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
LOL'd and spilled hot coffee. You win KC Masterpiece!
TmegZ: I know your posts aren't real life but I like to think that in RL you use just as few words at the table as you do here
GM: the gate guards accost you. What do you do?
Tri guy: I use Intimidate to make them let us in
GM: How. Describe it.
Triple threat: I grin.
GM: *shudders* Ok ok, they let you in. Jeez... stop it man.
In point #3 I was exaggerating the speech but it owes to the point: the difference between #2 and #3 is theatrics. If you speak in character, however briefly or you are otherwise immersed IN your character and setting, you're a #3. If however you're in the 3rd person merely DESCRIBING the action, you're a #2.
Like The bald one and the Eternal Smirk above I drift between 2 and 3, but mostly 2.
Liz Courts wrote:
It's less being "wrong" and more being "consistent." If you establish that the Branmourn Forest is split in twain by a canyon that spews red silt every spring with the snowmelt, you just need to remember that you said that and add the necessary geographical features. (Notes are a GM's BFF.)
"Branmourn." I love it. When naming the wood ages ago two old men stood on a hillside:
1. Well, we've finally trekked to the far side of the ridge. Just below is a new woodland unseen by any in our tribe before.
2. What'll we call it then? And what's for breakfast?
1. I don't know what to name it yet. Meanwhile all I have is these muffins...
2. BRAN?! I HATE Bran! I literally MOURN the invention of this incessant stuff and you've baked it into stale muffins?
1. Mourn... Bran... YEAH, that's IT! Forever more shall this be known as the Branmourn Forest!
Anyway madam manager that is sound advice. Give a region some personality, then make a note of it. Remember to bring it up once in a while. In the case of the above-mentioned wood have the PCs get caught in a Crimson Flood or perhaps have them present in a town when it flows through the river and the local priest of Gozreh get's all antsy about the "omens" this foretells.
Warning: these are my opinions. Here's the 3 styles of RP I tend to see at my table:
GM: 2 armed dwarves guard the gate. "Next!" one barks gruffly. "Oh, its one of you BEARDLESS types. Give me a good reason I should let you four in!"
Player: I use Diplomacy to talk him into letting us in. I got... 27
GM: 2 armed dwarves guard the gate. "Next!" one barks gruffly. "Oh, its one of you BEARDLESS types. Give me a good reason I should let you four in!"
Player: I use Diplomacy to talk him into letting us in. As part of the diplomacy I'll explain we're merchants, here to peddle goods obtained in the last adventure. I'll try to impress him with what we've done and plainly display the gear and weapons we took off the kobolds. Finally I'll explain financially the revenue the town will receive when our business is complete. I got... 27
3. Fully immersive::
GM: 2 armed dwarves guard the gate. "Next!" one barks gruffly. "Oh, its one of you BEARDLESS types. Give me a good reason I should let you four in!"
Player: *in character's voice and accent* "I am Nearon, a humble merchant by trade but also a devout of Abadar, the Lord in Stone. By virtue of his Holy Key I beseech you: let us pass. This day in your fine city my compatriots and I seek to do business in your market square. Recently we were ambushed by night; kobold brigands in yon forest in the vales below but we held our own. Our hunter companion, the grippli Niblix was able to find their track and follow it most of the next day, until we at last arrived at their lair. There we did battle with dozens of the reptilian pests. There the kobolds had enshrined graven images of their deity dragon, Mordalith and a tatzlwyrm of unusual size and cunning was being actively revered as an agent of this pagan patron. Our fight took us into the heart of a cluster of ruins enshrouded in dense thickets arranged like a temple complex but by Abadar's Bargain we were able to win the day against even the wyrm itself. Now we bear with us the spoils of our harrowing adventure. We wish to sell them here, in your town, and use our newfound wealth to purchase lodging, fresh supplies and pray even beg the dwarven smiths of such great renown as those in residence within these walls to improve upon the axe of our warrior, Fynna the Cleaver. I'd dare say your town would benefit mightily for admitting us; no sooner would our goods be sold than the coffers of your castle would be that much richer as we spend all we have earned right back again." I use Diplomacy to talk him into letting us in. I got... 27
None of the above is bad/wrong, nor are any better than another. They simply are. I suppose it really depends on how the table consensus goes of what works best for you.
For me I humbly request that each player at least skip #1 and play some measure of #2 or #3. My personal style is probably a blend of both, but I tend more towards #2 just out of time constraints.
Basically I'm a big fan of #2's. That probably didn't come out right...
Thanks Mighty J. The PCs aren't very well optimized and the players are enjoying the combat level so I don't think its that. I guess I was wondering if I should be throwing more at them. Like there's this tangled creepy forest that looks 1000 years old but only regrew over the area over the past century. In the setting info I've talked about how dark and mysterious it is but should I have things like
- plant hazards
- plant/animal monster attacks
- fights with weird terrain obstacles like giant mushrooms or shrubs as dense as walls
I just feel like my game is a lot of fluff but then the crunch amounts to: You go here... fight... you crawl back out. Hooray, you survived. Count your loot in town.
So I've been reading around the "Gamer Talk" forum and looking at some of the stuff that some of the posters consider status quo for their games. Stuff like killer plants, fish and exotic wildlife all supremely adapted for murder, plus APL +1 to +2 on every standard encounter, etc. Not one at a time mind you, but CONSTANTLY.
Am I too soft on my players?
My last few gaming sessions have been 2-6 fight scenes on average (some with none; some with 8) but said fights have been APL, APL -1 or APL +1 or +2. I have provided a few instances of terrain hazards such as slopes or loose rocks and cover/obstacles, but that's it. Within these sessions I've had maybe 2 Fort saves and no other types, combats the PCs had plenty of options to either win or flee from, and journeys through a tangled forest with nary a hazard or natural foe in sight.
I'll ask again; am I running on easy mode right now?
"Are your players having fun?" Yes, they are; that's not the point. This is more a question about me to find out more about what kind of GM I am.
I know nothing of DC as I always made mine Marvel/Excelsior!/'nuff said. I am excited for this show however. Hopefully it's got a really big budget for special effects. I also really like the actress who plays Sara Lance so it's great to see her happening again. That being said though doesn't that completely disintegrate a lot of the drama from this past season of Arrow? Also I want to know too: how long can you be dead to come back in a Lazarus Pit? Can it just be a single bone? Like, can I go find a saint's finger bone from some sepulcher and toss it in the soup and get him back?
12. The Pampered Talon
The "terrifying wild" I speak of is a stretch of land dotted with primeval forests, moors and swamps. Stalking this area are dragons, kobolds, aberrations and undead. Up until a century ago the forest was much smaller, scattered and passable. There were swaths of arable land and this whole wilderness was in fact moderately settled with small towns, villages and modest castles.
The Wilding caused the forest to replenish itself tenfold. It also brought about a general surge of growth in the land itself; marsh grasses and weeds on the moors choked fields; the swamps became even more dense; even the meadows and fields themselves were overgrown and savage. Monstrous creatures either returned to the land, mutated out of the natural flora and fauna or were re-awakened from beneath the earth.
Now the area, known as the Sothryn Wylds lay in ruins. See that stand of pines? They literally sprang from a collection of buildings that were once a village. At the heart of it is a ruined tower and hall that once served the lord in residence while other boulders and rubble shrouded in moss and hedgerows was the church. The broken remains of civilization lay about the land partially digested by the wilderness.
Only in the last 20 years have those few settlements that survived here begun to reach out and explore the burgeoning wilderness around them once more. A single road, the Old Lochby that traces the western bank of the great Loch Soth survived the Wilding. This ribbon of stone is the lifeline that guides travel back to the northern reaches of the Rukenval, the name of the region as a whole.
The Wilding not only consumed the land but it changed the very landscape as well. Streams and rivers changed course. Hills rose and fell like waves against a shore. This makes old maps and writings tenuous at best for wanderers and adventurers alike. Now the populace clusters around the town of Valyg's Crossing in the Sothryn Wylds. Once this town was a center of commerce situated at nearly the center of Loch Soth with great swaths of civilization north, south and west of it. Now it is an island in a sea of ruins and wilderness.
That's basically my current campaign.
The 8th Dwarf wrote:
This is one of the reasons I say all old GMs should go to a con. Any con. Hopefully there's one nearby. I used to have this really cool one, y'know, GenCon? I lived in Chicago and the con used to be in Milwaukee so it was quick drive and I was there. Then it went mainstream, moved to Indiana which wasn't all THAT far away but it just wasn't the same con. But then I moved too, up to Minnesota so I was plain out of luck.
A few years ago up here I found Con of the North. They've been around for years but it isn't mainstream like other cons I've attended. Its old skool; guys selling things out of milk crates; more gaming than deal-making; people playing with actual pen and paper, not tablets and iPads. I freaking LOVE it!
So another bit of advice I give to all burnt out GMs is get to a con if you can. I know Cal that this isn't convenient for you but maybe it's like a therapeutic retreat. Just to smell old books and bad BO, sit among your people without judgment or posturing and jump into games from every country, era and genre is a gift all GMs need to give themselves once in a while.
For a kid learning to play, that was a megadungeon.
A buddy of mine years ago was way into old-skool and got a hold of a map of the levels under Castle Greyhawk. "That wasn't enough for me" he said so he also got a map of some huge castle in England. He took the English map and made encounters or write-ups for EVERY room, major hall, outbuilding, etc. PLUS he had random tables, PLUS he had wilderness adventures, PLUS some of the wilderness adventures had whole dungeons with them.
It was the most ridiculous amount of gaming I'd ever seen in my life to that point.
I felt really bad for the dude too. He started building the thing for a gaming club he was part of, for when he finally got his shot at running. A few months before finishing the whole group finished their old campaign but decided to disband since one guy was moving away. Literally years of this dude's life were dedicated to a project that never got played.
Anyway sorry for the derail.
I get what everyone's saying about the old school modules aging. Even the best of them seem 2 dimensional in relation to stuff written in the last 10 to 15 years. IMO (and yours will likely differ) the reason for this is motivation and depth of character.
The old giant modules for example. They just start; "there's these hill giants attacking so you're doing something about it..." and you don't really know or even care who the villains are or why you're the heroes on this particular case.
Now consider the first book of Rise of the Runelords. You have a whole town, complete with fleshed out NPCs. The villains too have needs, wants and motivations. GMs are given enough info to really know
Spoiler:and such. At certain points GMs are encouraged to make the PCs care about Sandpoint and its people as that's central to the entire AP.
the guy working with the goblins in the glassworks
Even the stand alone modules are like this. Keep on the Borderlands: a great stand-alone with tons for the PCs to do but as mentioned upthread it's not even details-light. The details are literally non-existent. Hollow's Last Hope on the other hand has fully-developed NPCs plus, if the players are paying attention, the sub-plot that the Lumber Consortium is squeezing this town to death.
So I guess what I'd say is this: old skool modules are really great if you need bones or inspiration on which to hang your campaign. You can really customize them to your needs. That's why I like calling them "modules." Current pre-written adventures are more like mini-campaigns in and of themselves. You don't really have to do anything except open them, read ahead a little and start running.
@ Greywolf: thanks for your input. I know small towns really shouldn't be self-sufficient. That's why I'm following the model of a large village, town or city with a few if not dozens of these little settlements around it.
@ Kren: I've been basing a lot of what I've done in relation to populace on the Life in a Medieval Village by Gies as well as the Medieval Demographics website. I've never really understood the "manor system" to be honest. I've read dozens of books on it but it makes no sense. The manor is sometimes a location, sometimes not; it is a representation of the lord/ruler of an amount of land. The ruler/manor/whatever then had 1 village, maybe 4? This makes zero sense in my brain.
Firstly how then do you have landless nobles? Also how can one ruler have multiple settlements? Wouldn't he have vassals that administrate those lands? What does it take to qualify as a manor and can you lose manorial status? How doe this relate to the aristocracy? Are the landed aristocracy also manorial lords?
All of that is probably another thread though so I won't derail by expecting answers to the above. Suffice it to say in this thread I'm chiefly concerned with how you end up with a 100 mile stretch of land between major centers of commerce. Wouldn't that next town 100 miles away just basically become a free state on its own? Who's going to ride 100 miles through terrifying wilds just to collect some taxes or tell people in the next town that the king's kid is about to get married?
One way to reduce cost is to use the Ultimate Campaign rules for Downtime. One activity during downtime is generating capital. One kind of capital you can generate is Goods.
The mechanic works like this: you use a skill (most Craft, Performance or Profession skills as well as Diplomacy and many others) and make a check (you can take 10); for every 10 in the final check you have the potential for 1 Goods. You have to spend 10 GP/Goods to actually receive the capital. This is all an abstraction representing your PC working their skill for a day of Downtime, using materials and paying for extra tools and such with the result being a collection of raw materials useful for future projects.
You can then spend the Goods you've just generated to pay the costs for mundane crafting. Every 1 Goods is worth 20 GP worth of crafting costs. Let's use an example:
Your dwarf fighter 2 wants to craft a dwarven longhammer. He has a 14 Int and 2 ranks in Craft: Weaponsmithing for a total bonus of +7. He also has a set of masterwork crafting tools for an additional +2. Day 1 of Downtime he rolls a crafting check to generate Goods and rolls an 11, for a total Craft: Weaponsmithing check of 20.
The dwarf pays 20 GP and earns 2 Goods. He immediately spends 1 of these to pay the 23 GP cost of crafting a longhammer. He pays an additional 3 GP of his own and banks the extra 1 Goods for another project.
Essentially what the dwarf did was work with a smith in town. He did some odd finish work for the smith earning wholesale pricing on some steel for the longhammer he'll be making. In essence he spent 13 GP instead of 23 GP for this project, saving him 10 GP.
These ideas all sound cool and very cinematic. I especially like how you're adding the machine purely because some of the players enjoy that stuff. It shows you've already got the mindset of someone who wants to share their game with their players rather than throw it at them.
That being said its very easy with a powerful NPC to make scenes more about you than the PCs. I'd be careful with the retired paladin/cleric showdown. It can easily become you playing and your players watching from the sidelines.
My suggestion would be to have the PCs and paladin get separated in the bowels of the machine. Make the thing SO big that the machine itself is a dungeon. Have the paladin say "I'm headed up to the bridge to stall for time; you four head down to the engine room. Its up to you to save the city by stopping this juggernaut!" this makes the party feel important and also gets the paladin out of the way.
After they've fought their way down to the engine and killed the device they also have a bird's eye view of the street outside through a port window. Suddenly there's a crash from above and the paladin hits the pavers followed by the evil cleric. The PCs catch snippets of the banter between the two and get the idea that the 2 are old foes. Finally, in the end the paladin is struck down but the cleric is so hurt from the smiting that he needs to flee.
Once the PCs finally make it out to the paladin's broken body he's on his last breaths. The party gets a final warning from the old hero and maybe he lays hands on them and imparts some power of the divine on them or their items or something.
Now the PCs have a holy mission, a cool origin story and an arch villain to deal with.
KotBl always represented for me the classic megadungeon. I also enjoyed that there was no plot presented in the module, but hints of several. This to me makes the adventure supremely re-playable.
Keep on the Borderlands:
First off, why did the PCs come here? That in itself lends plot and was a lesson I learned when I was 8. There are also some NPCs in the keep, notably the Castelan and the evil priest. Just fleshing these 2 out and giving them motivations creates more plot.
Take the environment map. There's the caves, the Cave of the Unknown, the forest and the swamp/marsh area. Each of those represents a playable area. Imagine a Keep on the Borderlands that never sets foot in the Caves of Chaos. Now there's not much info on any of these other than some spiders, an old hermit with a jaguar, and the name "Cave of the Unknown" but this again is the suggestion of plot without making it for you.
The main "plot" as it were comes from the Cult of Evil Chaos. This cult is generic enough for you to put any spin on it you'd like. Over time I've made it a cult of necromancers, a heretical mystery cult of Wee Jas and more recently a cult of Lamashtu. Now just imagine that: a cult of Lamashtu this close to an isolated settlement on the borderlands. The module merely puts them in place but you have full right to give them any motivation you'd like.
Essentially the module in my opinion is a framework on which to build whatever campaign you'd like with embellishments of your own. Imagine just adding the following details:
- the setting is somewhere in Golarion
- the cult is a Cult of Lamashtu
- the old hermit is a witch; he hates the cult but is also evil - he's the protector of a hag's tomb in the Cave of the Unknown
- the marsh area isn't all lizardmen; there are pathways to the First World here and the lizardfolk are dealing with incursions of mites who use the spiders to do their bidding.
- the evil priest in town is masquerading as a healer and midwife, all the while mutating unborn children and animals to become monsters. He's also got several other Lamashtan plots under way; unearthing the hag's tomb and a staff there that can unleash powerful mutations; working with alchemists on horrifying mutagens; abducting victims who pass through the keep for foul experiments
- the Castelan is a pawn of the Lamashtan who wants to see justice done but can't directly move against his overlords
El Jeffe: I agree with you that there's not much to it but it's not nostalgia that keeps me coming back. Its the fact that I don't feel I've really explored every possible combo of the "bare bones" given to me in the adventure. This module isn't so much an adventure as it is a mini-campaign setting which you can build into whatever you need it to be, and I LOVE that!
@ Krensky: so I get the building of settlements but is it realistic to put settlements SO far apart from one another? I mean some campaign maps I look at there's a town with some outlying villages and then... 100 miles later there's another town. I thought it was more like 30 mile spreads at the most Spartan and even then villages, farmsteads and manors popped up every 5 miles or so along major roads or waterways.
Also I only just realized this looking at the Darkmoon Vale book from Paizo: their Golarion settlements assume smaller settlements in the population blocks. For example Falcon's Hollow has over 1000 people in the population for the town but in the description it talks about how many of these live in outlying farms, logging camps or other smaller settlements.
Based on that I've revised my own settlement creation ideas. Since I always thought a given settlement's population had to live in or very close to the place I always tried to draw massive, sprawling towns to encompass the 2000 + people there. I also tried to figure out where to place the 9th level caster in the town and how to justify that person not dominating everything.
With the new idea of not everyone living in the settlement or even all that close, it opens up a whole new creation style. Imagine a town with no clerics, or if there is one its very minor. "But for a Large Town there should be 5th level spells" so for this Large Town I've got a tiny village a few miles west, at the base of a mountain. Built into the mountain is a Pharasmin monastery (not monks like kung-fu but monks like monastic scribes and farmers) with an attached militant order. Here miles from the town you can find a single warrior-nun, the Abbess of the order (cleric 9) who can manage such major magics.
The town then has a population block of like 3500 but only 1000 live within the town's walls or farm the fields immediately outside. The other 1500 are scattered within 3-5 miles of the town, in farmsteads (Thorps), hamlets and villages. This also helps explain why the town has trade and a market square when there's no major neighboring settlement for 30 - 100 miles.
I'm wondering if I'm an idiot for only JUST realizing this now, and other folks have already been doing this forever or if there are others like me that are trying to fit every settlement of every size into its own stat block?
Alkie hit on a good point: deny them full attacks. At 9th level a PC can easily be getting off 3 attacks in a round and quite possibly as many as 6-7. That's a ridiculous amount of damage. Couple that with quickened spells, improved familiars using wands and other shenanigans and this party can really unleash heck when they are using all their actions.
Find ways to remove some of those and make them burn Move actions. Dirty Trick maneuvers, giving attacks Burn, Dazing spells etc are all good candidates and I'm certain there's a truckload more. A monk that can't flurry, a fighter only making single attacks while moving, a witch or warpriest only having the ability to fire off a single spell; these all hearken back to when the PCs were lower level and had to make the most out of their ONE action, thus helping to add the drama.
So I know - we all make our own rules and screw reality in our fantasy games. Still, I'm trying to get a handle on how other GMs do this.
In my current homebrew we're in the Sothryn Wylds. The area was hit hard by a global calamity called the Wilding and most civilization was destroyed. Not surprisingly I'm running this as a "points of light"/sandbox kind of game.
To the north though is the rest of the region, a land called Rukenvall. Now this area has towns and villages in a feudal system. Trying to be realistic I've described a town surrounded by a dozen outer settlements from as small as a PF "Thorp" which I call a farmstead to as large as a village of some 400-600 souls.
Does this seem right? I've basically got civilization hexes scattered every 20-30 miles from one another along major roads and waterways. I look at published fantasy settings and they have like one town, no smaller settlements even hinted at, for every 100 miles. What do you do in your setting?
Is this whole thing tongue-in-cheek or is there a mechanic for pulling these off? Like should I incentivize my players to Castlevania by offering them full healing at the end of the scene or something? I suppose if they're pulling off that achievement the healing should be a floating heart symbol in mid-air once the BBEG is defeated; they need to jump into it or whip it to collect the HPs.
There is a difference between pain and punishment versus outright torture. If you're just looking to execute someone in your games in a gruesome way, that's just a matter of picking a method that inflicts damage interestingly and describing it.
Horror or torture requires a little bit of humanity.
Take a human fighter 5 that has cheesed off the BBEG. Said BBEG has captured the fighter and is going to execute him. If they just want to be gross they gouge out the guy's eyes, drive spikes through his jawbones and then hang him by the spikes until death.
If however the BBEG wants an element of horror make sure the BBEG is there, talking to the fighter. Give the fighter choices; loose a foot in crippling agony or submit to a spell of Dominate for a day; die today or spare your life by providing the name of an innocent to slay in your stead.
Also remember that cruelty and torture often involve helplessness. Your 5th level fighter can romp on a couple ogres with all his gear on. Strip him down to bare fists in the presence of a couple ogres while, just beyond a metal gate their sister is being slowly tortured to death. The fighter is suffering wounds but more than likely will be able to take out one of the ogres; if the dice go his way he can take out both. Then however he's still gotta get through the gate... only to find that the image is being projected there by a scrying device from something that happened 10 minutes earlier.
THAT'S horror. Its not JUST gore for the sake of gore. Its being helpless in the face of a threat or thinking you've overcome the threat just to be proven terribly wrong.
Hey Cal, long time no talk! Running encounters after level 5 is hard. I got one of my campaigns up that high and played for another few months going from level 5 to 6 and I have to say designing all the fights from levels 1-5 combined weren't as bad as going from 5-6.
The PCs finally had 3rd level spells and could afford 4th level one-off resources. They had magic weapons, ridiculous damage per round for their level and the ranger had an insane initiative so he was going first all the time. I did a couple things to at least slow the party down which I don't know if they'd work for your guys or not but here goes:
1. If the BBEG was going to have potential buffs (spells, SLAs, etc.) I'd just start them off with most of them already running. For example I had a mite wizard with Mage Armor, Invisibility and a scroll of Mirror Image. When the PCs encountered him he was already armored with Mirror Image running and after 2 rounds he cast invisibility (which ended up not meaning anything because of a readied Glitterdust, but whatever).
2. Minions, LOTS of minions. Seriously if the party is level 5 I just grabbed CR2 monsters and added enough of a mob to make them a CR5 threat in and of themselves. Such creatures won't really do much to the PCs, even en masse; they'll just distract enough from the BBEG to pull something epic together.
3. Use weird terrain. I had another fight with mites take place in a brewery where the floor was flooded with molasses and wart mash. For the non-flying PCs it was like moving in a swamp. Add in that there were non-combatant insect swarms like worms and cockroaches in the goo - no damage but Distraction and major difficult terrain and at least it made the fight memorable.
The last thing I will say is this: make sure you're feeling the material you wrote. If your heart's not in it as the GM, whether you're in pain, you've had writer's block or you're just plain burned out behind the screens, then no matter how much prep you've put in the game just won't pop.
Part of this could be the players too. I've got 2 gaming groups right now. One is playing short, weekly sessions so by necessity when we get to the table everyone's gotta be invested if we are going to get anything done. The other meets monthly for one long session; we tend to play like big, rumbling beasts who take a while to get going and spend so much energy at one thing we miss out on others.
As a GM I vibe better off the weekly gamers. They are really engaged and ask a lot of good questions so the energy level stays up. Not surprisingly with 5 engaged players and a decent energy level I've been able to muster some really impressive fights as well as trick them with a couple sub-plots.
My best advice for you Cal: don't GM for a good stretch. I know you and your boys rarely play and when you do no one wants to run, but there's gotta be SOME way for you to get out of the GM's seat for a bit. Play another system, have someone else run your game or just stop playing RPGs at all. Certain things, medically speaking, will always be there and seriously dude that sucks but sometimes constantly running the game can be an energy sink in itself and you just need to recharge.
First off: the Macaroni method is the shiz-nit.
Secondly @ my pal Cal: thanks for starting this thread. I've always felt this way but never articulated it online. I get the feeling a lot of my fellow gamers do too. We all are blessed with great imaginations but not all of us have the gift of putting what we see in our heads on paper, whether in words or in art. I wonder then if there's some gamers out there with amazing voices who sing their games?
Anyway to everyone: I'm in the same boat with DMC. I can do dungeons. Heck, I have whole reams of paper devoted just to those and I've flat out stolen cross hatching from Vacuum Logos. However all of my overland maps are either hex-maps with a tree, a hill or whatever in each hex and no definition at all, or they look like a bunch of blobs in different colors. I figured after doing this off and on for 35 years my drawing style would get BETTER from when I was 6, but it's basically the same.
DQuake and others willing to work on commission: how much does that cost?
PF homebrewed game: I'm running a sandbox/megadungeon; super "open-world" concept. Often PCs run across monsters above their pay grade.
The party at the time:
LG male human paladin (Iomedae) 2
The setup: PCs are scouting a way into a new section of the megadungeon: a bunch of cave entrances from a sparsely wooded hollow (my homage to the Caves of Chaos). In one the party spots movement and out comes a CR1 party of goblins in stealth, trying to sneak up on the PCs. Combat ensues. Another group of goblins is leaving the cave, just about to reinforce their buddies when they turn, look skyward and flee screaming. The party looks up to see a Young wyvern, out on the hunt and closing fast. The Halfling had failed a save from fear (from the goblins) so he's already running in the trees, so the party decides to scatter and hide rather than flee to the cave.
The paladin realizes that this strategy will definitely get someone killed and boldly steps into the wyvern's line.
What ensued was one of the most EPIC battle scenes I've had in a LONG time! The wyvern charges and, even though wyverns aren't technically dragons I give the paladin full smiting on the thing. He smites, deals some damage, and is impaled by a brutal stinger attack which knocks him into negatives and he fails his save against the creature's poison. He rolls though and manages to stablize.
Next round the other PCs turn and begin to re-group below as the wyvern grapples it's prey and begins to lift off. The dwarf pulls a PHENOMINAL Climb check out of nowhere and hurls himself into the trees getting close enough in one Move to channel. Even though this heals the wyvern a bit it also gets the paladin awake. The other PCs take some pock shots at the beast; one misses and the other deals 2 damage.
The paladin, now awake, has his smite still running and attacks, critting! He also uses a Free to lay hands on himself and heals a little more. The wyvern, still grappling, maintains its hold, flies the both of them higher in the air, and gets a crit of its own with it's stinger and the paladin, who lost a little Con before resisting the last batch of poison fails to save versus this new attack.
The dwarf keeps climbing and channeling. 2 more pock shots from below and the wyvern takes damage from both. It decides, now 60' in the air, that it's prey isn't worth it and drops the paladin who is beginning to stir once more from the channeled energy. Said paladin begins an uncontrolled fall, 60', through the canopy.
The dwarf heroically hurls himself out of the tree to soak some of the damage and break the fall. Both PCs hit the ground with the paladin burning his last lay hands and the dwarf burning his last channel for the day. Both are close to death, but by HP they're alive. The paladin keeps failing his save versus the poison though and has at this point taken so much Con damage that he's at Con of 2.
He's choking on the ground, flat on his back but alive and grinning. Then he rolls his final Fort save against the poison... and fails it. He takes 3 Con damage and dies. There's a moment of silent disbelief at the table. I look at my buddy, and he's grinning. I ask if he REALLY wants to die on a random encounter and he just laughs, nodding yes.
So I paint the scene: the paladin, broken but alive, grins up at the party. Suddenly his whole body convulses in pain and he's clutching at his chest. Blood, mixed with a blackish ichor, streams from his mouth as he coughs. "Take care... of the orphans I... was looking after..." he whispers, grabbing the dwarf's shoulder. "They will need guidance... and the care of a father... watch over them..." and with that another convulsion and the man's grip goes slack.
Now, throughout the campaign I'd added in a homebrewed faerie called a Gravesworn Piskie; basically a Sprite with it's powers slightly altered that acts as nature's guardian of the dead and abhorrent of undead. The very first adventure the paladin had used EXTREME Diplomacy and skipped one whole section of conflict by working with them instead of against them. He'd become a true friend to the creatures.
At the moment of his death suddenly they appeared, in droves, weeping. They formed a ring around his body and used their magic to create a cairn on the spot while the corpse descended into the earth. He'd also been a weaponsmith, the son of a legendary smith in the campaign, so the cairn was topped with an anvil. Finally Iomedae's own power descended from the heavens as a bolt of lightning from a clear sky overhead. The bolt struck the anvil and the thing was instantly Consecrated.
Ulfbert's Cairn still exists in my gameworld, a year in RL later. It is known to have restorative and healing powers and is slowly becoming a shrine for Iomedaen pilgrims who dare to come that close to the megadungeon. My buddy moved away in RL but his paladin, though only 2nd level, will always be a part of the game.
I was genuinely moved by that last scene with Cal and Skye. Maybe it's because I have 2 daughters.
Cal - That would be...
Skye - I know: "Best... Day... Ever"
Cal - No, there's only 1 of those *Skye's birthday*
Scene ends with them both in tears. THAT, I get.
Because of that I gotta say I felt really sad for Skye and Cal both at the very end.
Cal - Oh, I didn't catch your name
Skye - ... Daisy
Cal - (with mild emotion) Well that's a pretty name.
Her whole campaign arc for 2 seasons is "who are my parents?" Now she knows, definitively, who her father is, where he is at all times, and has proof that he has NO idea of her. In a way that's worse, y'know?
But like Coulson says: that's the price.
I always found crushing and drowning pretty dark in real life. Also torture traps like you find in the Saw movie series. Sure, you're a level 6 fighter but if you're beaten, weakened by magic and loss of items, then chained in place with a box of rats around your head, there's not really much you can do except scream.
Just take some of your favorite tortures from the real world and Pathfinderize them. One of my own was a group of inquisitors that used curses on the witches they hunted, in conjunction with the Brand cantrip. Essentially they'd brand a victim as part of the curse and then release them. This was usually reserved for suspects who hadn't actually committed any acts of witchcraft...yet.
Anyway any time the victim then cast a spell, was in the presence of one of the inquisitors or just simply went near these obelisks the inquisitors had throughout the land they'd suffer 1 point of non-lethal damage from the burning ache of the brand. Unless they found a way to cure the curse they couldn't protect themselves; the victims were just simply ALWAYS on the verge of debilitating pain.
Please answer the following:
What level is the party?
Why are all 6 "shock troopers" heading for the hideout at once?
What does the minotaur do with its "slaves?"
Just off the top of my head I'm thinking
1. The PCs encounter traps left on the trail of the shock troopers: if these bad guys are really THAT good, why are they leaving tracks at all? More likely they're deliberately leading the PCs to their own deaths. This option includes a lot of wilderness traps, ambushes by minion monsters charmed/controlled/dominated by the ST's.
2. The minotaur's minions are out: let's say the minotaur is using kobolds. Said kobolds constantly move around the terrain hunting for food, slaves from nearby civilizations, etc. The kobolds have a number of traps and such, some of which lay in ruins from the pasage of the ST's. Some of the kobolds' traps are also manned by kobolds themselves. Finally one of these traps (a pit trap, collapsing bridge, avalanche, whatever) deposits the PCs into an underground dungeon.
3. Slaves: As the PCs are moving through the minotaur's region they come across a group of slaves in transport. One of these slaves will be super-advantageous; a noble with big connections, someone knowledgeable of the ST's weaknesses, a powerful spellcaster, etc. This person can either help the party immediately or provide bargaining leverage w/the minotaur.
Can an unchained monk make a flying kick in difficult terrain? Yes, if they make the jump check sufficient to clear the obstacle(s) causing the difficult terrain. As for multiple jumps, doesn't it say in the section for Acrobatics that you can move as far as you'd like jumping so long as you don't exceed your land-based movement? So one 30' standing long jump or 6 5' standing long jumps, it's your call.
Frankly this is why everyone who feels this action might come up should play a grippli. Take the 2 alternate racial traits Jumper and Glider. Now you have a guy with a 20' Climb speed that can use one Move action to get 10' up (jump) and another 10' up on the wall, then use their next Move action to jump 40' (30' with their Jump check and gliding another 10').