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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.
I think the biggest flaw with using a non-grid/abstract system, which is 100% possible in Pathfinder, is that everything becomes GM fiat. The GM will have to decide and mentally track the positions of every creature. If players keep track too and the GM messes up, it opens up the potential for arguments - "how far? 40 feet. But I was 60 feet last turn and moved 30 closer." If players are lazy, they just ask the GM every turn. But, they'll keep track of how often their character gets "screwed" by the GM. Funny how fireball catches no more than two opponents and the barbarian is 5 feet out of charge range.
I say all of this from years of experience with 1st edition (which had no grid). It caused enough problems that I ended up developing several grid-like solutions.
So, you can do it, but it opens up a host of problems and adds mountains of work for the GM.
Glad to help. I like that I can reveal a room and don't need to do much describing, especially if there is no combat. Most of the AP maps are really detailed and give a great feeling of the environment. They all scream "show me to your players." It also helps with the bigger dungeon crawls to remind everyone where they've been and where they haven't.
Also the "ping" feature is nice, where I can highlight one spot on the map - the players can do the same. So, they can "ping" an exit, "we go this way" and I can see it clearly.
I agree with not counter-building the party. Instead, I think DM_Blake's response is spot on. Higher CR = exciting, challenging, and quick. Just watch the excitement when one normal hit from a monster takes 75% of a front-line fighter's hit points.
Another key element is attrition. Don't let them rest. If the barbarian still has rounds of rage left, the adventuring day isn't even close to over. Watch the challenge and excitement sky rocket when the barbarian has no rage, the spell casters are left with cantrips, and anyone else with X/day abilities is out.
As for the second thing, you have to remind yourself that below 0 hit points is not death. Believe it or not, it is really hard to kill a PC without attacking them while unconscious (which is crappy). New GM goal: someone goes below zero every fight!! Don't be afraid to gang up on one PC to make this happen.
I think it is great that you are obviously secretly (or not so secretly) rooting for the PCs - as a GM, you should. But when initiative is rolled, you need to become "alternative evil universe" GM (with or without goatee, as appropriate). You can go back to your normal self once the encounter is over.
Introduce the bad guy ASAP (I had him as one of the pall bearers at the funeral). Use the letters, they are fantastic. From the letters alone, my players wanted to kill "A" by book 3 just on principle. They were fuming by book 6.
As for mapping, I use Roll20 (there are other similar products) to show players the map, with areas they don't know about blacked out. It requires some tech, but it is a nice way to reveal the dungeon as the party goes. For combat, I draw the relevant room on the battlemat.
Warted Wartoad wrote:
Here is an "expert GM move" to help you with looking up rules: If you don't know something, ask your players. If they don't know, make a call on the spot and jot down the question on a piece of paper. Then look it up after the game session. Next session, inform everyone of how it really works. You'll keep the game moving and (bonus) earn the respect of your players. Also, as a group you'll probably never forget that rule again.
Over time, you might find your players become "experts" on certain areas of the rules. This is a gold mine - use them like a human rule reference.
Whatever you do, don't halt the game. Just keep rolling with it.
For some of the areas, especially in Book 6, you have to pick part of the room to draw and let everyone imagine the rest while hoping the combat doesn't head toward the undrawn areas. I have a 3' x 6' battle mat table and still some rooms didn't fit on it. It's is a little frustrating, but not a big deal in the end.
I'm basing this after only one game session at low level that included about 10 encounters, but it seemed just fine when using the Unchained Revised Action Economy. It isn't exactly the same as move + full attack, but it is similar. The action was very mobile and cinematic. It also became very tactical as standing toe to toe with a standard Goblin meant potentially taking 3 attacks from them. Again, not the same, but similar enough to say I expect it would work just fine.
Also, having seen mythic champions do the same thing (move+full attack), it didn't seem "more broken" than the other mythic characters.
I think where many people go wrong with CR is that they don't realize it is like MPG for a car. Do you always get your car's MPG rating out of every tank? I don't, and I expect most others don't either. Larry Leadfoot never does, but MPG is still useful to him. Knowing that hybrid X has twice the MPG of gas guzzler Y is useful info. Larry will never get to see those MPGs in practice. But he can assume that gas guzzler Y will cost him more in gas than hybrid X. That's useful despite being inaccurate.
CR has plenty of weaknesses just like MPG. If you hook up NOS (nitrous oxide) to your car, you can pretty much throw MPG out the window. Same goes with high level play and all the other stuff that breaks the game/martials/casters/fun/puppies/whatever. Just sayin'.
I find CR to be extremely useful. Sure, it isn't perfect and certain situations can make those imperfections seem much worse (monster's strength matches party's weakness or vice versa). But it is a fantastic guideline. You can even adjust it once you know your party's power/optimization level. For example, I know that my PCs' optimized characters with a 25 point buy adds about +2 to APL. So for 4 level 2 characters (APL 2), a CR 4 encounter is "average". You still have to be wary of any monster with a CR that is too far from the PCs' level - there are certain CR "break points" where new things are introduced, like negative levels, ability drain, flying, invisibility, etc.
I don't think there is any particular level where CR necessarily breaks down. What I think happens is that the increasing number of abilities at each level makes for more possible combinations that can result in a mismatch. Hit a mismatch and the effective CR of the encounter goes to infinite (TPK) or zero (PC auto-win), depending. It can happen at any level, it is just more likely with each additional level because there are more combinations and chances.
Looks like very interesting stuff. As to the race, I would make them the humanoid type, not for flavor/fluff reasons, but for mechanical reasons. Not being the humanoid type provides instant immunity to all kinds of effects (anything that targets humanoids) which can cause unforeseen problems later. But otherwise, it looks pretty cool.
So far I've incorporated the new Poison and Disease rules and tried out the unchained monk and unchained rogue as NPCs/monsters. All worked extremely well, especially the poison/disease stuff. Poison is nasty stuff now.
Next up will be background skills and revised action ecenomy. Background skills were very well received during character creation (haven't played with them yet).
I use a variation of the Unchained method. I found it somewhere on these boards and it predates Unchained. Instead of automatic bonuses, character receive Heroism Points when they level up. A point = 1k gold and you get points based on 2/3 or 3/4 your WB (can't remember which). Then players spend the points to get "Big 6" bonuses. It is like Unchained, but allows more flexibility/player customization.
When you give out treasure, you give about 1/3 and any magic items become something really special. It has worked extremely well.
I can't say that I understand the appeal. There is none for me. I remember the "good old days" of rolling in 1st Ed. Then or now, there are usually two options - you roll well and have a usable character or you don't and need to start over.
Rolling hps is even worse. I remember playing a 3.5 monk and rolled four 1's for hp on four consecutive level ups. That monk was the party's primary damage dealer. When he died (shortly after the last level up), so did the rest of the party. GM was really upset as it ended the game. After that I started using point buys and average hps.
If I'm reading that right, this GM has a GMPC. While that isn't necessarily the end of the world (I've played a GMPC or two successfully from time to time), it raises numerous red flags. Combine GMPC (done badly) with "Old School" style gaming (AKA GM rules all) and a few questionable rule calls, and you might be in a situation where you are literally playing the "GM's game". You and the other PCs might be minor "extras" on his movie set. I'm betting that in his mind, you aren't sticking to the "script". If this is the case, I doubt there is little you can do besides play your part or walk away.
I had an encounter with a dragon and the PCs didn't have access to fly. They had one "death archer" and the rest were melee. They were getting stomped with flying pass after flying pass of breath weapon. The Monk PC asks if he can climb on the Fighter's shoulders, jump up and grapple the dragon as it flies by, bringing it to the ground.
I let him make a climb check, an acrobatics, and a CMB check (seemed fair at the time). He succeeds at all the rolls, plucking the dragon out of the sky and bringing it down to ground level. Very cool, party loved it, and it let everyone in on the combat.