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I recently started using Strain/injury and there is no going back for me and my group. It is a simply brilliant system. 1000 kudos to MythicEvilLincoln!
I've also been using the new poison rules from Pathfinder Unchained and treating the initial poison hit point damage as injury. It works quite nicely, but I could certainly see treating it as strain.
In my home games I let players pick, but generally require both stats to be in the range of possible values for the race. If a player came to me wanting to pick values outside the range, like the previous Asimar situation, I'd consider allowing it based on the reason. Short halfling Asimar would be fine by me.
I've had players (yes, more than one) pick 9-foot tall humans, claim the character was Large and therefore gained the size increase ability adjustments from the Bestiary (+8 Str, +4 Con, -2 Dex, +2 Nat Armor). Sorry, no. You try that and I'll force rolling in front of me using my dice, and you get whatever you roll.
I've been playing with the Revised Action Economy exclusively for several months. It will require some additional adjudication from time to time, beyond what you are planning. There are some things that just aren't covered.
Making a Step a free action without other limits (like once per round) is going to make the game crazy mobile and essentially eliminate all AoOs. As written, the Step makes AoOs a very rare sight.
Getting rid of the -5 penalty for each additional attack will make the game very deadly, even at 8th level. That means 5 attacks per turn at full BAB by a TWF, 6 with Haste. All arrows from an Archer will be at full BAB. Monsters with one big attack will get to use it three times per turn at full BAB. Better get a supply of body bags.
If you haven't played with the Revised Action Economy, I would recommend trying it "as is" (as few modifications as necessary) first. It really is a new paradigm with lots of hidden effects.
Having said all that, I think RAE is a brilliant concept and worth using.
The story screams mythic from the outset. I converted the entire AP to E6 with mythic (5 total tiers) and it was a blast - one of the best game ever. I did roughly one mythic trial per book. I'd probably stick to the same format with 1-15 levels since mythic can get out of hand with more tiers. The lesson I learned was fewer mythic tiers tends to be better than more. Five tiers was too many for an E6 game that ended at roughly APL 10, despite what Mythic Adventures says.
As for when to include mythic, I agree that mold speaker or an alternative is the right time for initial ascension. After that, key monsters should be the mythic trials. There are several that stick out, especially with some of the set pieces. I'd shoot for one or two trials per book at key moments.
I included Legendary weapons as well, which fit very nicely with the story. I say go for it and have fun with it. You'll have to boost many of the encounters, but it is worth the work. Genies require a mythic group of PCs to rise to the challenge.
I have to agree with Metal Sonic.
The feat encourages all party members to get involved (not likely) and for each one to take entirely different teamwork feats with no overlap (even less likely). The fewer party members involved and greater number of duplicate teamwork feats, the less benefit from Team Coordination. That is not a good thing.
I'd have it provide some kind of partial benefit to the PC taking the feat. An interesting side effect is that party members could directly benefit from an inquisitor's feats and their ability to switch up the most recent one.
You may not even need to show the players a basic overview of Valetta. Just the relevant portions that the players will initially interact with. Like the West Side Story example, just the Jets neighborhood and the Sharks neighborhood. Not the USA, not NY state, not NY City, not even the West Side of the city.
As for ethnic groups and races, you are on the right track. Use the classic bar scene in Star Wars as a guide. We get to see that there is a very diverse collection of races, yet we learn nothing about any of them (one doesn't like Luke - not exactly a defining racial trait). Later we learn about the Wookie (violent sore loser) and whatever Jaba the Hut is in the remastered version. Again, only the bare minimum that is necessary.
Save the rest of the info for when the players get there.
Looking at the Fighter's Fork, the switching capability costs a bit less than a +1 equivalent. I'd recommend making an always-on "true reach" ability (reach+adjacent) that costs the same as a +1 equivalent and doesn't stack with similar effects. Something like:
Extending: This ability can only be placed on melee weapons. An extending weapon is able to create a phantom extension or contraction of itself as needed. When applied to a weapon without the reach quality, the weapon gains the reach quality and retains the ability to attack adjacent opponents without penalty. When applied to a weapon with the reach quality, the weapon gains the ability to attack adjacent opponents without penalty. This ability does not stack with similar effects that extend a creature's reach with a weapon such as Lunge and long arm.
Faint transmutation; CL 5th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, long arm; Cost: +1 bonus
When it comes to weapon and armor qualities, the static prices only work with abilities that that become less relevant over time. For example energy resistance 5 is "OMGBroken" at level 1, "meh" at level 8, and a joke at level 15+. Since the extending ability is equally good across all levels, it should be priced normally, which ends up being an exponential progression.
Back when I was using the item/settlement rules (I currently play E6 with a home brew version of the Unchained inherent bonuses - bye bye magic mart), I found the system unwieldy, especially when it came to the "list" of items a settlement has available above its base value. Generating all those lists of items was a giant pain, especially if a player decided that their character must have a particular item and was willing to halt adventuring and wait.
I ended up turning that item chart into percentages and let players ask for an item and then roll to see if it was in stock that week. It made it difficult (or time consuming) to obtain rare items and I didn't have to roll up countless item lists. I also allowed the players to pay a 10% premium to "special order" an item which showed up in something like 1d4 weeks.
In the end, getting rid of the magic mart entirely and making things like potions and scrolls the only available magic items has solved a multitude of issues.
Depending on the type of game you and your players enjoy, fully defining BBEGs (or any encounters) too far in advance may cause you headaches later. If you are going to follow the Pathfinder AP approach, which is rather rigid in terms of how the adventure progresses (you must be level X by chapter Y), fully defining everything in advance is just fine.
On the other hand, if you prefer a more free form style game, allowing your players to skip areas or where a side trek can turn into a 3 level ordeal, you could have a problem. Meaning your level X boss may not be appropriate when your players finally get there.
To resolve this, you could just define the bosses as concepts. Iron Eye Lord Throvin becomes a male Chelixian human ranger (infiltrator) who prefers ranged combat with a bow and has some kind of fiendish creature as a bodyguard/companion. He may be anything from level 1 to level 20 with 10 mythic ranks depending on when the PCs get to him. You can pick out key feats and character options that help define his concept. Naturally, the closer your players get, the easier it is to figure out what level to make him. The session that they kick in the front door of Throvin's castle/hovel/dungeon, you'll know exactly what level to make him. And you'll also know what goodies he will need to have to avoid being "rocket tagged" by a level 15+ party.
Another consideration when building encounters: All of the rich complexity and interesting aspects of character classes is often entirely lost when seen by players through combat. All they see of monsters is AC, attack, damage, saves, etc. How those values get calculated is entirely hidden from players (unless you are showing them the stat blocks). So a fighter, a barbarian, a magus, and a melee inquisitor could end up looking exactly the same to the players - they hit often and hit hard. Yet the fighter is the simplest to play and the inquisitor is the most complex. For a GM, complex for no purpose is generally not good because you already have too much on your plate (you play the entire multiverse except the PCs). Consider what, if anything, your players will be able to see in exchange for the complexity of the class.
If you metagame as a player, it is pretty much impossible. However, if you are able to make a distinction between what you as a player know and what your PC knows, it is no different than any other game. If you can say "but my character doesn't know that" and then make a decision, that's what you do.
To echo Prince Yyrkoon, if you step away from the WBL/CR power curve, you'll need to balance the entire game yourself. Even the most subtle of changes can produce large unexpected results in just a handful of levels.
I've been using a version of this for several years and it has worked very nicely. It is simply a more flexible version of the Unchained automatic bonuses. Before that, I tried a number of different methods that didn't mimic the Pathfinder WBL/CR power curve and all of them quickly led to regular TPKs or no challenge for the PCs.
Having said all that, nothing is stopping you from rebalancing everything using whatever changes you want to put in place, and have it be a success. It will just be a ton of work for you.
The best advice I can give you is to get as much GM experience as you can, as soon as you can get it. Consider running a few published adventures as one-offs while you write your campaign. It would be even better if you get some GM experience with the levels you intend your campaign to cover, especially if you intend to include high level play (12+). You might even want to create a few one-off adventures in your campaign world and then run them.
For those who responded to my sub-question: thanks. I don't use the auto-win DC very often. Most of the time I use the "three sources" method where there are three ways to find out any given piece of info.
I was curious how the community viewed it.
Serious question on a related topic: When I'm writing adventures, there are times I "need" the players to discover something or learn something in order to progress the story/plot. Often the info is best discovered via a skill check of some kind - Knowledge, Perception, whatever. In these situations, rather than picking some arbitrary "low" number, I often set the skill DC to "highest score", meaning the player who scores the highest on the skill check (roll + bonus) succeeds, no matter how low their score ends up being. If only one player tries, they auto-succeed, but I don't tell them that.
Is this the same as what the GM in the OP is doing and does it make me a terrible GM?
I hope it doesn't, but I could see how it "cheats" the players in a similar way as they aren't going against a predetermined DC.
Nualia is very smart. Play her as such. With the entire place on alert, I think she would have her minions harass the players every few hours, preventing them from getting any sleep or rest, but have her harassers withdraw once the PCs' rest is interrupted (no monster casualties). Then she would wait them out, fighting from a superior position, arranging her remaining forces to best effect. Meanwhile, she would personally continue her work to release Malfeshkinor (sp?). When the PCs finally emerge, her minions would inform her and she would join the fight. I'd let the PCs retreat back the way they came in and flee Thistletop entirely with minimal resistance. But any move toward stopping Nualia should meet with heavy resistance. Put the Thistletop defenders on a rotating schedule with the resting forces being awakened (fatigued?) if the PCs attack. This should make it very difficult (your PCs earned that), but fair/winnable.
Why have the party play out this encounter? If you design the encounter for a win (CR = APL+8), any experienced player will be able to tell right away - players only hit on nat 20, monster only misses on nat 1, monster kills with each hit. If you design a reasonable encounter and fudge the dice, any experienced player will be able to tell and call "bull excrement". Does it really matter what actions the PCs take? In the end they must die.
Instead, I suggest you make it a narrative instead. Start with something like "You are all dead and here's how you got that way." Then hit the key highlights of the encounter. The BBEG's monologue. The PCs' valiant attempt to win. Their failed attempt to run away when winning seemed impossible. The BBEG's cruel and vicious killing of them as they ran.
That would make me hate the BBEG and not feel cheated.
It could be a difference in game style. I've played with people who went on "smoke break" after every combat and didn't return until "roll for initiative". Their characters often didn't have names (or any other indentifying characteristics) and were "retired" in one way or another after about 5 sessions so the player could try something else. There is nothing wrong with that style of play, it just wasn't for me.
I suppose it depends on the kind of game you have (seems kinda obvious from what's been said so far...) Since Lamashtu plays a significant role in the AP, I'd advise against worshipping her if your group intends to oppose the AP's villain, rather than join forces with him/her/it. However, if the PCs are going to raze Sandpoint and pillage Varisia, then I suppose it doesn't matter who you worship. With a Lamashtu-esque character and a goblin in the group, it doesn't look good for Sandpoint. That poor town.
This kinda reminds me of the start to the Serpent's Skull AP, Souls for Smuggler's Shiv, which is highly regarded.
The PCs all end up shipwrecked together
I agree with Casual Viking, just be up front and allow the PCs to fill in the blanks. To a large degree, the start of any adventure is a railroad. You can let your players start where they want, but you run the risk of them being in different universes or on different planes of existence with no means of contacting each other. Hence the dreaded bar on a rainy night with
I don't think you can do this via feats alone and keep it balanced with non-vampires in the PC party. To make it balanced, the vampire feats would have to be in line with the typical Pathfinder feats. Taking at quick look at what you've got:
The Bitten is probably fine, but on the overpowered side of things. The Dying is equal to about 3 feats. The Risen is equal to at least 7 or 8 feats, probably more. The Initiated is equal to roughly 7 feats. I don't have the vampire template handy, so I can't evaluate True Vampirism, but it really doesn't matter.
The first 4 feats provide the benefits of about 18. In a game where characters typically get 10 feats, that isn't going to work.
Like many others have suggested, I think this fits better in a class feature structure (regular class, prestige class, variant multiclassing, level adjustment, or the like). In which case, I think the full Vampire template is worth about +8 LA (8 class levels, no additional feats) or about 10 class levels with additional feats.
I use initiative for all types of encounters, instead of just combat. It keeps things orderly and prevents player steamrolling ("I say this, and do that, and do another thing, and, and...") Unless it is a meaningless interaction like purchasing trail rations from a nameless shopkeeper, every encounter starts with rolling initiative. What happens from there is up to all the involved creatures. If someone decides to attack, the encounter becomes a combat. If everyone decides to stop attacking, the encounter becomes a non-combat encounter. That second one rarely happens without one side of the combat being all dead or unconscious.
A few added benefits: it encourages more players to get involved since everyone has a turn and one player can't "hog the mic". It also masks the intentions of NPCs. The PCs roll initiative for the NPCs that want to kill them as well as the NPCs who don't. Makes it hard to tell which is which.
Take a look at the player's guides for the various Pathfinder Adventure Paths (all are free to download). I think the one for Mummy's Mask is the gold standard. Obviously, any rule changes need to be specified very clearly.
Something to note: The bulk of the content in those guides is identifying which character options fit best with the adventure. There is only a few pages about the setting itself and most of it is about the starting location. This is a good thing.
You are mixing and matching rule sets which is likely to produce strange results. Pounce is just one of many rules that wasn't rewritten for the alternate paradigm. Revised Action Economy is not a complete rule set and requires additional adjudication. Most rules were not "converted" to RAE, as that would have required a full rewrite of the rule set.
Core Charge includes an attack as part of the charge. Core Pounce turns that attack into a full attack.
RAE Charge does not include an attack. You just get a bonus to attacks against the charge target. RAE Pounce was not included in Unchained. The term "full attack" does not exist in RAE. So, RAW Pounce allows a creature to <undefined> as part of a charge in RAE.
In my RAE games, Pounce allows an attack with all natural weapons as an Attack Action made after a charge. A reasonable interpretation, I think. Each GM using RAE will have to make their own decision on what RAE Pounce looks like since it provides an undefined benefit.
I don't expect there to be any official errata, FAQ, or further definition of anything in Unchained unless Paizo makes a new edition of the rules and chooses to adopt something from Unchained.
Pathfinder is a group game and a group of varied specialists will almost always beat out a group of individuals who try to do it all by themselves. This does mimic the real world. That is why each of us does not grow our own food, fix our own plumbing, make our own nuclear power plants, perform our own brain surgery, etc. Instead, we all specialize and rely upon each other to fill in the gaps. It makes a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
You can certainly play Pathfinder in a more "survival" mode, with each character having to do it all. You'll have to lower all of the challenges (skill DCs, monster CR, ability DCs, etc.) because Pathfinder is expecting a party of 4 specialists - Fighter, Cleric, Rogue, Wizard (or something along those lines).
One huge problem with gestalt is some class combinations are ridiculously more powerful than other combinations. Any combos that compliment (Barbarian + Inquisitor: rage+Bane+judgements+free teamwork; "yes, please") tend to get out of control, while those that broaden (Rogue + Cleric: skilled Healbot; "no thanks") tend to be just meh. It is also really hard to see all of the interactions of two classes without lots of system mastery or play testing. So, you end up with combos that seem alright at first, but become a problem later.
Have you considered something like E6/E8/P8 or whatever the kids are calling it these days? Players don't get to level up after 6th/8th, but they do get 20 extra feats, which can feel like a mini level up. You'll lose the concept of "unlocking" magic, but get to keep just about everything else, including the CR system (5 feats ~= a level).
There are still considerations like blindness, negative levels, etc. to deal with, but you'll have to deal with those anyway if you put any level cap.
It depends on what kind of game you want to have. Sticking to WBL prevents lots of headaches later. Published adventures and the treasure charts are all designed to keep on WBL with gear sold at 50%. If you and your players like to haggle and all that stuff, let them have the extra 10%. Just make sure the shop keepers "clean up" their wares, adding 10% to some purchase prices. It means more work for you keeping track of all the adjustments, because you'll want to keep it all balanced in the end.
My players and I are more interested in the action and story, so we stick to you can buy it for 100% and sell it at 50%.
I think the biggest problem with this particular issue is the underlying fly rules (and I use the term "rules" lightly). The fly rules in 3.5 were a steaming pile of, well, not very good rules. Pathfinder did a copy, small edit, and paste. Leaving us with an edited steaming pile of, alright, moving on.
The fly rules don't make sense, which is why there is so much disagreement in how to resolve a conflict not covered by the rules. The rules, in general, expect all of us the "fill in the gaps" using common sense. That's hard to do when there is no facing in the game, yet there are skill check DCs to turn when flying, but not at the start of your turn. Or when it is unclear what actions you have to take. Fly at least half my speed (move action), but a DC 15 fly check allows me to hover. Do I still have to use a move action? Can I take a 5-foot step when hovering? What about charging? I've seen a real-life flying charge attack (hawk dive bombed some other bird - it was not pretty). Is that possible in the game? If so, why does the Derhii (Bestiary 3) have a special ability allowing it? The gaps and inconsistencies go on and on (just look at the posts on this topic).
It wouldn't be so much of a problem if flying were some corner case that rarely comes up. But flying (especially use of the fly spell) is a staple of the game since it generally provides immunity to like 90% of all threats.
What we really need is a comprehensive set of fly rules. They don't have to mimic or match reality. But they do have be consistent with themselves and the rest of the rules, and fairly easy to understand. I know it won't solve everything (what is a mental action?)' but it would be a good start.
I think that high critical weapons are a problem at any level and I can't figure out why adventure writers use them so often. Even the 18-20/x2 weapons on the GM's side of the table can be PC killers. I'm not a fan of low probability, high impact situations on either side of the table. It doesn't make for a fun game.
Part of the problem is using NPCs instead of monsters. I'm not saying NPCs are bad, but they come with their own issues. Monsters tend to conform to the CR curve, which is heavily weighted in favor of the PCs. Most natural weapons are 20/x2 crit, where PCs are rocking x3, x4 or 18-20/x2 weapons. NPCs get to play by the PCs' rules. So you get crazy crits, high AC, hard to beat spell DCs, and a host of other issues.
I have to agree that there isn't much to be done at low levels. There just aren't any resources. Low level NPCs are lucky to have 3 feats. A simple solution would be to make everything on the GM's side of the table have a 20/x2 crit regardless of weapon or attack. That takes out a lot of the lethality without entirely gutting the effectiveness of the encounter. The monsters/NPCs can still swing big, they'll just kill PCs less frequently.
[snark]What happened to the direct emergency rules-question hotline, 1-800-Ask-Paizo? I thought game designers were standing by to take my call, right now![/snark]
Sending cookies couldn't hurt...
I'll chime in with the "play what you want" crowd. All the party needs is just one person to take one of the eight or so classes that has Cure Light Wounds on the spell list. They don't have to ever load the spell to use a wand of CLW. A dedicated healer is entirely unnecessary, unless someone wants to play one.
I would swear I've seen a discussion before about who controls the cohort and a staffer making the argument that it is like who chooses the specific weapon when a player takes Weapon Focus. But I could be remembering wrong. If it is a player picking the feat, I think they should be making all the decisions regarding it. Even the Animal Companion stuff in Ultimate Campaign would support the player controlling the cohort, since it is as intelligent and sentient as an eidolon.
I think you can achieve the same result as Leadership using NPCs without making a player use up a feat slot. I've done it plenty of times, especially in filling the "Healbot" role, if the party is short a healer.
I ran into something similar in Carrion Crown (haunts vs Paladin). I ended up making an exception for the paladin - instead of immune to fear, for haunts the paladin got +4 to the save. Allowed the paladin to still be impacted by the haunts (maybe) and also be ahead of the group vs fear. It also prevented the paladin from plowing into every room first, triggering the haunts to no effect, and bypassing the entire adventure. Not perfect, but a good solution.
I think going above 50% is necessary to avoid the original problem - the PCs kill Cerberus from a safe distance. A 50% miss chance means it will take them twice as long to do it (an even more boring encounter). There is no reason for the party to step closer than necessary. They have to be "forced" into range. Something to think about if you decide to use it.
I'd make the heat from the environment impact long distance vision, like the shimmering you get in the desert. You can still see Cerberus and the gate from a great distance, but they get an increasing miss chance depending on the distance. I'd do something like +10% per 10 feet beyond 30. If you are within 30 feet, you can see clearly (and easily get mauled by Cerberus). At 60 feet, you have to deal with a 30% miss chance. At 75 feet (Cerberus' effective range), you have to deal with a 45% miss chance (yikes). At 130 feet, the impact of the shimmering heat makes every shot a miss (don't tell your players this - let them keep rolling and missing). Naturally, extend the effect vertically to stop any pesky flying spellcasters. You could even apply the miss chance to long distance spells too. Sure you can drop that fireball, but the visual distortion was so great, you just nuked a spot 50 feet from where Cerberus was standing.
It is effectively putting Cerberus in a cavern, but might make for an interesting combat and be something your players may never have faced with the constantly changing miss chances based on range to the target. Just a thought.
Animal Companions are much like gunslingers and spell casters, if the GM is soft on them, they seem ridiculously overpowered. However, if the GM enforces every rule, they seem pretty reasonable. There aren't that many rules regarding ACs - Druid Animal Companion, Handle Animal, and the bit in Ultimate Campaign. Learn them, live them, and enforce them on your PC.
Stuff like: Because the animal has to be handled, it must take its turn after the PC. AKA Druid flanks for AC, not the other way around.
My group is pretty tech-savvy, so we use a bunch of stuff. Everyone is using HeroLab. We play on a dry-erase table that has a grid, so I draw out the maps. Not very high-tech, but we prefer physical tokens to VTT. But I also use Roll20 to expose the maps to the players as they explore. The bonus is that my hand-drawn chicken scratches on the table are just for tactical purposes and the players get to see the beautiful color maps using Roll20. I use an iPad to display monster images, NPCs, general images, and what-not. I'm in favor of anything that puts more pictures and artwork in front of the players without spoiling anything.
That's a tough question. When you look at the inspiration (Background Skills), players are "forced" to put ranks in non-adventuring skills. Most of those skills can be very useful if you are creative, so no real harm in giving out more. Feats aren't like that. You are "forcing" players to take feats that may never be used, even by the most creative player. More may not be better.
WolfRitter - I think your group is in a really tough spot.
First off, I think your character is OP. My definition of OP is based on comparing a character to the other characters in the party. On ability scores alone, I'd consider your character to be OP. My sincere congratulations, you built a strong character that is designed for the AP you are playing. I wish more players did that. But, it is also OP in this case.
I think the bigger problem your group faces is the difference in level of system mastery between the players. Sounds like some of the other players don't know many of the "tricks" to the game. Like, one of a rogue's problem regions (of which they have many) is saving throws. Same goes with fighter and barbarian, to a lesser extent. Those classes need to prioritize buying save magic items to offset the weakness. Ditto with tactical choices. Barbarians tend to have very low AC and can't afford to take more hits than they already do.
Based on the "burrowing dragon" incident, I'd say your GM is in the same boat as many of the players. Playing monsters "soft" usually isn't a problem in most games. Not so with Mythic. A GM needs to use every ability, feat, and nasty trick just to make it to round 2 of combat.
I think there is plenty you can do to help out the other players and GM - rebuilds/re-balancing, suggestions, advice, etc. But, until the system mastery is more equal, I think the problem will keep cropping up.
Did you try selecting the map in the adventure path PDF and copying it (ctrl-c, ctrl-v)? Except for some early APs, the "clean" map and all the text are two different PDF objects. Unfortunately, the resulting map is devoid of all text (title, scale, etc.), but it contains no spoilers.
The concept of the book seems great on paper, until you really think about it. What you are really asking for is a concise book of NPCs that are what you have in mind at any given time. To illustrate the point, how about a book with devout zealot humans who all worship a LG God? And some serious gnome inventors who are rather dour but talented with brass goggles. And, why not? Some "Hobbits" (halflings), who are all farmers and naive. And let's throw in the drunk, gun wielding, crazys who live "under the mountain". Just as fun and flavorful, but perhaps not what you're looking for (Tolkien-land with guns and steampunk gnomes).
And that's the problem. Beyond picking a single stereotype for each race (elven woodland archers, greedy dwarf miners, etc.), you run into the problem of which stereotype to pick. The most useful answer would "pick all" which makes more combinations than stars in the sky. I like the fact that Paizo hasn't pushed a cannon stereotype for each race, as previous editions have done.
I'm going to echo Brother Fen's advice of trying to make what's out there work, or get HeroLab (or something similar), or do it the old fashioned way. While it doesn't hurt to ask, I wouldn't hold out for a book that may never come.
I've implemented timers to help speed up combat, but nothing based on the characters. I had several players who wouldn't even begin thinking about their turn until a minute after their turn began (seriously, no joke). So, I got a one minute hourglass. At the start of someone's turn, I'd flip it. If they had not decided what to do and began executing it before time ran out, they got delayed until after the next person's turn.
It was extremely effective. Players were ready to go when their turn started. It didn't help speed up actually resolving a turn, but things like rolling attack and damage together or even rolling multiple attacks at once with different colored dice can help there. I did allow the players to call a "time out" at the start of combat to talk strategy. But after that, it's go or get delayed...
Very true. Thug + Enforcer can cause frightened with a successful attack that deals 4 or more points of non-lethal damage. It requires more than just flanking, though. In fact, it requires having a feat, a successful attack roll (5% unavoidable failure rate), 4+ non-lethal damage roll, and a successful Intimidate check. None of those are hard, but they are required. That being said, thug is one of the more effective ways to escalate fear.
And I agree that Quick Dirty Trick is possible afterward if your BAB is +6. The issue comes back to GM interpretation of the dirty trick used.
While not specifically RAW, I could see a GM ruling that dirty trick demoralizes the target as the Intimidate skill (no fear escalation with additional applications).
I think the problem you'll have using dirty trick as a way to escalate fear (something that is very hard to do with one PC in one round) is two fold: First, the dirty trick rule word count is very low for something that covers so many conditions, making it ripe for abuse. Second, dirty trick specifically mentions GM adjudication, which is implied in every rule, but spelled out in this one. That combo leaves a PC on poor footing when it comes to causing a new foe to drop everything and flee while provoking attacks, every round of an encounter.
I'm not sure the mount/maneuver master monk/Quick Dirty Trick combo would work (I probably wouldn't let it fly at my table). It depends on how you interpret Intimidate. The mount would have to know an Intimidate trick (if one exists). The PC would have to handle the animal as a free action and make a successful check. The animal would do the trick on its next turn. The PC would complete their turn with a full-attack. Maneuver master does not allow a free action maneuver, but an additional maneuver as part of a full-attack action (a technicality, but an important one). So, you'd get Dirty Trick (shaken), Dirty Trick (shaken), Intimidate (shaken), in that order with four checks to make and some of them won't be easy. Even at 6th level (min for Quick Dirty Trick), monsters have 8-9 HD for an average encounter. They have 11-12 HD for a hard encounter. HD is the driver for both the Intimidate DC and CMD. The problem is using Intimidate last and the same dirty trick twice in a row to escalate.
I think you misread Frightening on Thug. When a thug uses Intimidate (check required vs HD + Wis mod) and it is successful, the Shaken duration is 1 round longer. If the target is shaken for 4+ rounds, the thug can instead make the target frightened for one round. A thug still has to make the check and beat the DC by 10 to get frightened. And that check is a standard action, so no dirty tricks or anything else that is an attack or standard action.
The other problem with the fear chain is that by the time you can reliably do it alone, there are better things you could be doing. Just at 6th level, spellcasters are throwing out exhausted, nauseated, and permanent blindness - conditions that are arguably equivalent to panicked. By 7th level, they are handing out negative levels.
IMO, fear escalation is easiest and most effective when it is a team effort - front line fighter uses Dazzling Display or Intimidate and then spell casters dump cause fear on the shaken foes. Not much investment, fairly easy to pull off, and available at very low levels where it is worth doing. Just my two coppers.
You can try using whatever "medium" the pen uses. Sharpie permanent markers use alcohol as the medium, so rubbing alcohol will dissolve Sharpie ink on most surfaces. The marker may say what medium it uses or maybe you can find it on the interwebs. Rubbing alcohol is worth trying on just about any ink.
But you may be screwed. Blue pigment is often created from natural pigments which tend to stain things, including plastic mats. If that is the case, there is not a whole lot you can do besides tossing the marker, never using that color/brand combo again, and getting a new mat.
Going forward, don't leave ink on your mats any longer than necessary, no matter what kind they are - even dry erase becomes difficult to remove after a while. Stick to less vibrant colors. The really bright reds and deep blues are often using natural pigments (they stain stuff, permanently). Test every marker on a corner or flip-side before using it to see how easily it cleans up. Don't use anything that wants to stay on the mat.
Update: Got several sessions in using background skills and more importantly Revised Action Economy. Background skills has made a 4 PC party able to cover all the necessary skills easily and still get some flavor skills in.
Revised Action Economy is now our Only Action Economy, but it required a bit of "tweaking". I went with the "middle" option from the thread on the topic (sorry don't have a link). Most swift actions are a simple action, except those that are a speed up (move becomes swift) or a per round ability (ki for extra attack, etc). Had to change a few feats like Many Shot and a few conditions, but common sense has made adjudicating the questionable stuff easy. I also gave a free Step when making an attack with all natural attacks (uses 3 actions). That helps the monsters with lots of attacks.
It has made combat more tactical and interesting, especially at low levels. Being able to finish a foe with an attack, move and make another attack is a very popular tactic. So is making multiple Steps to close or escape reach enemies.
I highly recommend giving it a shot if you are willing to make some adjustments. It is a shame they didn't have the space/time/whatever to make the rules complete, but it wasn't that hard to finish the job.
You can't edit the base content. But, you can always make a new light shield with the editor and set the bonus to +2. You can even go so far as to have your new light shield "replace" the base one, but that means all light shields will provide a +2 AC and you'll never see the base light shield listed.
You can probably get the same result with an adjustment (not sure which, not in front of hero lab) to your shield AC. So, yes, you can do it, probably in more than one way.
I suppose it could depend. Experience with any game system other than Pathfinder isn't very relevant to Pathfinder. But in certain circumstances, it might be. A great example is someone considering implementing the THAC0 system again (please don't, that system sucked). In that situation, having played with THAC0 and witnessed the horrors of it might be of value to someone who hadn't. Other than bizarre corner-cases like that, the experience isn't worth much.