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That's weird, I think it's crazily underpriced.
BretI could I persuade you to spell out a bit clearer how your calculations work?
Because to me it would be worth ALOT more than 1445gp
EDIT: Thought I'd explain my own take on the math.
magic, on the price of spellbooks wrote:
Captured spellbooks can be sold for an amount equal to half the cost of purchasing and inscribing the spells within.
magic, on the cost of scribing spells into a spellbook wrote:
So the price would be the price of acquiring the spells + the cost of scribing them into the book.
I have 2 different types of calculations here. One assumes that the price of acquiring a spell is the same as buying a scroll with the spell in question, the second is that it is priced as if acquired through spellcasting services.
Totalling a cost of 6927,5gp, halved for the market to 3463,75gp.
Totalling a cost of 3590gp, halved for the market to 1795gp
The Heart of all Flame, the spellbook that can be acquired in The Knot of Thorns, is listed as being worth 1445gp.
The book contains
I don't agree with the math that brings this book to a 1445gp value. Can someone please explain?
I gave the wrong impression. I do not mean to say that my Asmodean has any intention of forsaking Asmodeus, the thought would never cross his mind, but there is a backstory reason for this. What I meant was that my soul is chained by contract to the self-proclaimed 'most powerful asmodean on the continent'. The contract is a minor problem, for I have a dozen loopholes to choose from, to have it made null and void, but all in its own time. Eventually my 'master' will cease being useful, and I'll assume direct control of his assets. Before such a time though, I mean to prepare for failure, and that means consolidating my own power, in the material, as well as Hell.
My GM has given me no cause to believe that my god would interfere with me stealing/trading souls. In fact, they seem to be valuable currency in hell, with a hellish economy (in rough strokes) considering enslaved petitioners the equivalent of coins, and enslaved souls the equivalent of gemstones.
I'll ask my GM about hell being a bit of the Abyss that was beat into shape, and whether that could be a workable angle.
@Cap. Darling: I'm making a note saying hostile take-over is a definite possibility. My character has the pride-drawback and is an unrepentant megalomaniac, which of course could affect how, and for whom, he'd be willing to bend the knee, but I can still see this idea working.
@Dafydd: I have actually thought favorably of being able to use the weapons abhorred by devil-kind, just to make a statement that I'm not willing to get stepped on. But this is all planning for the future, and the idea of a demi-plane is not a bad one, at all. I'm gonna look a bit more closely at what can be done with it, and how many resources I'd have to dedicate. The idea of bringing in creatures from other planes, mortals included, is not actually a bad one. After all, why would we who pride ourselves on our efficiency, limit ourselves in the weapons we use? Definitely noted.
@Westphalian_Musketeer: Thanks for the suggestion on the practical side of things. I completely agree with you, I'm going to do the research needed to minimize the effort my GM will have to spend on the nitty-gritty. In terms of contract, my soul is already signed away to my 'master', but the contract is full of loopholes, and he won't remain my master forever >:) I have plans in the works to attain a unique pit-fiend themed version of the half-fiend template, and transformation to full devilhood, could be an objective for later down the line.
@Mysterious Stranger: My GM informed me, while we were talking about hell in general, and approaching this topic, that all in all, Asmodeus is the lord and master of hell, and everyone in it. And the arch-fiends, each have a layer above Nessus, to call their own. But while they, in principle, have total rulership of their layers of hell (which is one of the aforementioned myriad of potential complications), they leave enough wiggle-room for the servants of Asmodeus to in-fight just enough to let the strong survive and the weak wither. So in terms of stepping on the toes of an arch-fiend, or gods-forbid it, Asmodeus himself, I don’t foresee enough of an issue to –not- try my hand, at cutting myself my own slice of hell :)
Aside from the excellent above ideas, two ways I thinking of acquiring my own force of the infernal host, was to either take one by force: basically showing myself as a fierce enough conqueror and Asmodean that I'd attract certain kinds of devils, and with their power at my side, I could then draw more?
The other idea was to buy my forces. My Asmodean is more than willing to risk the ire of Pharasma and the harrassment of her Psychopomps, if it means capturing souls to trade for power.
Any thoughts on these approaches? Any ideas of your own?
I intend to have my Asmodean cleric claim territory in hell, and establish a powerbase there. In an attempt to better understand what I was getting into, I'm having talks with my GM, trying to clarify how the cosmology works an how mortals interact with the planes. During these talks, my GM told me that while there could be a myriad of complications, the main thing my character would have to do to get a domain in hell, is to lay claim to a piece of hell, and then be powerful/deceptive/resourceful enough to keep hold of it, when someone wants to take it away from you.
In addition to laying claims to territory, I intend to construct a stronghold to better defend said territory, and in order to do this, I'm thinking I'll be needing a small army of Petitioners as slaves.
How would you go about acquiring the manpower to catch and use a large amount of slaves, to construct you such a structure in hell, and how would you get the forces required to defend your domain from the greedy claws of other devils, who think they can muscle in on the "little mortal"'s territory?
Thanks in advance for your input and help.
My players will soon reach the fabled city of Xin Shalast, and as I was reading up on the city, I found it mentioned that I should double the frequency of wandering monsters.
I have 2 questions.
1: Using the Random Encounters tables for Xin-Shalast, as presented in Lost Cities of Golarion, would you use only the High-level table (party is level 15), or would you use both the medium level and high-level table? Or maybe even the low-level table? If you would use multiple tables, how would you decide which table to use?
2: How often should I roll to see if my players attract attention, while exploring Shalast? Twice as often, the book says, but how often is that? Anywhere you can direct me to? If not, could I have your opinion on the matter?
Thanks a buch.
Summary: Room with glass ceiling, that predicts hazards.
CR: Any CR really. Change the monsters and hazards in the room, to fit APL (if you want to :P ).
Type of Encounter: Mobility based combat encounter
Backgroud: Made the encounter for a friend to use in a homebrew gestalt campaign, where the players had to clear a tower of challenges.
Encounter: You can design dimensions to this room as you want, but I use a 60ft by 60ft room, with a 40ft high ceiling. Divide the room into 16 15ft squares, 4 rows of 4 squares. You now have a room that should look something like this:
1 2 3 4
With each number representing a 15 by 15 ft square, each line of 1234 being a row.
Now assign 2 hazards to each row, and place them in one the 15ft squares. Leave a gap between each hazard, so that it goes hazard - no hazard - hazard - no hazard. You can pick your own hazards, if you wish. My setup in the original draft was an area of reverse gravity, a floor-spike trap with poisoned spikes (that reset each round), an area of deeper darkness, a blade barrier, 2 torrents of insanity mist, and 2 lava-pits, all of these spread out and covering their own 15 ft square of the room.
Once the players enter the room (or observe it, if you have scouty players) start by rolling 1d4+1. In 1d4+1 rounds the placement of the hazards is going to change. Start by looking at row 1 - Pick a hazard and roll 1d4. Move the hazard to the area you rolled (If your lava-pit was in square 3 of its row, and you rolled a 1, the lava-pit is going to disappear from square 3 and reappear in square 1). Sometimes the dice will say their postion does not change(you roll the location the hazard was in before), but then just switch their location. Remember there will always be an area of no hazard, between each hazard, meaning you only have to roll once for each row, every 1d4+1 rounds.
Now spring an encounter on your players, while in the room.
The players (and their enemies) can predict the movement of the hazards, by spending a move-action to make a perception check (DC 12), to look at the ceiling, which changes to depict the new positioning of the hazards (but not -when- they will move).
Comment: I originally wanted the positioning of the hazards to be truly random, but it took up too much time with dice-rolls. As it stands, you have to roll 4d4s every 1d4+1 round, which is enough work on its own, while running an encounter on the side. First time I put it through a test-run, I found that it helps each group (players and enemies) to have a person dedicated to spotting the movement of the hazards, and warning his teammates where not to stand. I found that the result of this challenge is a highly mobile, chaotic combat sequence. For someone that may be a turn-off, but if that is what you want, this challenge -can- deliver. You could feasably make it even more chaotic, by changing which row the hazards appear in, rather than having them change position, but remain in the same row. And you could remove the hazard - no hazard rule, making it possible for 2 hazards to appear next to eachother in the same row. I'll leave that to you, should you wish to try this one out.
Additional comment: If you have players who liberally use flying, and dont want them to just fly around the hazards, use your imagination. Assign hazards that can hit flying creatures, or make it so the effects are floor-to ceiling (which could affect where you'd have to stand to see what the glass-ceiling predicts, in certain cases). Have some fun with it.
I hope you were entertained :)
I don't master dungeons differently than non-dungeons. If my players battle monsters in one room, the guards in the other room 30 ft down the hallway and through the door gets to make a perception check to hear the battle. If they hear it, they may spread the word, leave their posts, prepare for battle, come to reinforce the battle, or any other thing that I think would make sense.
Hope it helps :)
@SAMAS: Yeah, I think you and I are done for now. You have failed to stop strawmanning, failed to heed my very simple request, and have instead opted to make a nuisance of yourself. You are free to keep your opinion, however don't expect me to accept it as gospel, just because you tout it so. Also, when I say that (and can prove that) I've said something, telling me I haven't is not gonna convince me. The same thing goes for what I have not said.
Perhaps, if you cease your annoying attempts at reading into my posts, in order to back your argument, that I am saying something I am not, then perhaps you and I can continue something constructive. Until then, I'll probably continue to read your posts over to see if you make an interesting point about the subject at hand, but otherwise, don't expect to see a response from me.
@Aelryinth: Hey Aelryinth. You're late to the party I'm afraid, I was about to leave :(
Am I to understand that you maintain that circumstance and planning(and planning for circumstance?) cannot advance a lowish-mid-level character, beyond a person with no such drive, but who just happen to be higher level? Surely roleplay can help a player overcome challenges well above their normal paygrade, so roleplay (or in world actions, if you will) should be able to help an NPC do the same, right? Could it not be said that the math would not -usually- back up the fluff?
@Selk: Ho there Selk, and a fair welcome to you too :) Thank you for your sympathy. I'm afraid I don't agree with the point about you not being able to be a skilled tactician and whatnot, without being a good combatant. I can certainly see the point you're making about the relative escalation of skill, following the progression of levels, but surely the system is open enough for us to make a character who is weak(ish?) in combat, but can outdo his betters(by betters I mean certain people of higher level) in key areas?
It appears to me (though I may be wrong, so pardon me) that I'm hearing alot of "If you're not high enough level, some unscrupulous person within your organization will take you out, by virtue of being higher level", but does that generalization not avoid the 'human' aspect of the characters?
Perhaps I am a level 2 commoner trying to make a name for myself with the local guild, and maybe I -could- be easily outdone by Brian over there, who just happens to be level 6. But what if Brian likes me? What if Brian wants to see me succeed? What if Brian is non-confrontational, and achieved his level through a series of reactionary behavior, rather than proactive behavior? What if I am high in my hierarchy by virtue of lucky circumstance, and there -is- a person lower down the rung, who is gunning for my position, but he does not have the right skill(knowledge:local, or somesuch) to actually put together the pieces he needs to advance? Or perhaps he is so far down the rung, that despite him knowing in his heart of hearts, that he is better than me, he cannot make himself go through the effort it would take to deal with all the other people on the ladder, and then deal with me, not to mention the pre-planning? Again, this could be argued to be a corner-case, but don't the corner-cases deserve some love every now and again? That is, provided it even is a corner-case and that the human-element does not(should not?) seep into the explanation of how character A managed B?
Well, I guess I'm back. That didn't take long :)
I am sorry that you have come to believe, that this is some form of competition between myself and those who disagree with my viewpoints. I have considered, and still do consider, this thread an exchange of opinions on the setting, the prevalence of a story-telling trope, and the (in my opinion) misunderstanding of what constitutes a "challenge". As such I have never considered, nor do I consider, this a thread where I can "declare victory" as you put it.
Since I have returned, it would be a shame to let your claims go unanswered, so I will adress them.
My points were not built on the erroneous position that you can be a big-time villain without earning said position. My position was the exact opposite, so perhaps you should reread the posts I made, to ensure that you have not missed anything else. My point was in fact, that a character could be a big-time villain IF they earned said position, in spite of them of them being low level.
I have never claimed that only combat grants experience, so kindly stop claiming that I have. I have simply not felt the need to address your points about getting experience from social encounters, because it has been stated repeatedly (at least twice, I think) that there are no rules for NPCs earning experience. So while I have never claimed that you could somehow gain experience for a long time, without leveling up, as you so incorrectly state that I have, I'll clarify that what I -have- stated, is that I believe that a character's "worth" should be measured by their actions and accomplishments, not their level. And before that even becomes cause for an argument, let me clarify that I seperate "leveling up" and "accomplishment". A level 2 expert who brokers a very important and succesful deal for his guild has "accomplished" something, and as such would get promoted based on his actions(he might even level). While another merchant from the same guild could go out and slaughter kobolds and goblins, until he was level 4(or levels by whatever means, that are not immediately relevant to his guild), and while he would now be higher level than his colleague, his colleague is higher in the guild hierachy than him, based on accomplishment, not level.
Your final argument is again based on the presumption that NPCs gain experience in the same way that PCs do. I have explained how it is not impossible for a low level character to attain a high bonus on certain skill checks, and as such I take your claim of canonical impossibility and deny its validity. I also do not agree with the idea that such a character should necessarily be level 19, although I do not claim that attaining that level in this manner, would be completely impossible.
Finally I request that you please stop strawmanning me. Go back and read my previous posts, until you no longer mistake my claims for something they're not.
EDIT: I edited a rude statement. My apologies.
I would suggest taking the familiar. Aside from the many possibilities it opens in terms of roleplay, a familiar can be really useful. It allows you to roll most skill checks twice, and once you can communicate with it (either by leveling, or by getting the Raven or Parrot), you can effectively roll your knowledge skills twice, as well. They give fun bonuses, some of which are excellent, some of which are lackluster. The improved familiars can add some very useful abilities, for easy access.
I've always loved the familiars, and when I play wizard, I always take the opportunity to get one. Mechanically useful and lots of roleplaying goodness. How can you go wrong?! :D
Normally I'd say you should level them up when they get the requisite experience. If they fight challenges that are a smidge too hard for them, perhaps they should see if they can either level up somehow, or see if they can think their way around the problem, using tactics or other methods.
You ask if you should go ahead and tell them to level? Are you not using experience in your campaign? If not, why is that, and how is it working out for you?
I feel like we could continue this, but I no longer want to. I think I've established perfectly sound ways, in which a person of lower level can aquire more power and influence than is expected of her CR, and I've also made my point that level does necessarily equate to challenge. I see that not everyone agrees, but my points have been made. Some have disputed them, yet not proved them wrong. What I take away, is that we probably all agree that a GM can run the game as he wants to, but we all want the setting to make sense. To some that means rulers should be high level, to some it means rulers could be high level.
As stated in the opening post, I don't really know why I started this thread. Well, I still don't know why I did it, but I appreciate what I got from it. Thanks for your opinions and your ideas. Presently I don't feel like continueing the conversation, but should I feel like it, I might return. Until then...
There's no 'probably' about it. And nothing stopping a 16th level Fighter being a social powerhouse.
I never said there was, and -yes- there is a 'probably' about it. Don't just contradict me to contradict me, I never said both characters used the same build, nor that they were the same class, only that they both tried to optimize for the same goal.
Yes really, by the rules, yes.
Uh...not by the rules. Bonuses of the same type don't actually stack, for one thing, and for another most skills have a pretty explicit list of what gives them bonuses. Anything beyond those is basically GM fiat...as in "The GM gave you a bonus because it was cool." Which rings a little hollow and false if the GM is giving it to their own NPCs for stuff the PCs never even saw happen.
First off, Circumstance bonuses stack with all other bonuses, including other circumstance bonuses. Secondly if I work my ass off to stage a situation in my favor at your table, and you show me nothing in return, then I'm sorry to say, but I'm not returning to your table. This is one of those cases where I believe we DM in different ways. I believe in rewarding my players for effort. And I'm well entitled to do just that, within both the rules, and the spirit of the system.
Which in no way works on anyone, say, 5-10 levels higher than you. Or at least not reliably. There's a non-zero chance that the person in question simply puts a sword to your throat and says "Please give the signal."...with their Intimidate bonus higher than you can resist.
Now who is not being simulationist about it? You need to do a full minute of talking to her in order to intimidate her, and nothing forces her to give you that long past not simly agreeing to do what she says, before she up and leaves, or simply gives another signal to 'take her life'. Even should you attempt to charm her, you'd not only have to have charm memorized (or being spont casting), but you'd have to beat her initiative to not give such a signal(assuming the signal is not simply a word spoken to someone within earshot, in which case you're boned, because she can do that as a free action, out of turn). Again, my example works just fine from a simulationist standpoint.
But you can pick your targets, you say? People who wouldn't risk it? Not without Sense Motive you can't. Anyone with Bluff higher than you can see through you think is whatever kind of person they want you to think. Heck, at low levels, you're likely killing their unwanted fiancee for them, since they never cared about her in the first place!
Speculation and nothing more. Nothing in sense motive allows you to determine even the slightest bit about a person's level, nor their skills. Two people in love who don't believe they have anything to hide, would hardly be difficult to make out, I've witnessed such behavior among my friends, it's quite easy to spot.
Are these spies higher level than your hypothetical mastermind? And if so, how'd she acquire them? Because Perception checks reveal spies who are much lower level than the people they're spying on basically automatically.
Hirelings (easy to aquire), or they could be followers (requires leadership), or they could be teams (Ultimate campaign). That is, of course, assuming I wanna be simulationist about it. Also no, perception checks do not reveal spies, perception checks oppose stealth checks. Not every spy works with stealth as his main skill. Some of them just sit at tables and make perception-checks all day, then return home, write what they heard down on a scroll and passes it on. You are not guaranteed to spot everything wrong, jus because you have the skills to actually do spot that something is wrong. Just like you don't get to see through a disguise, despite your high perception, if you're not looking for someone who is disguised, or have a reason to really look a person over in the first place.
EDIT: Reading my post over, it comes off as snarky. It is not meant to. Please read it in a positive, conversationalist manner, because that is what it is intended to be.
Surely there is more to the game than what is on your character sheet.
Let me take an example from an adventure path I'm presently playing. Me and my group are escaping from prison. Unfortunately the alarm has been raised, and the only escape route we see, that being the gatehouse, is locked down tight with tens of guards inside. If we were to approach it, enter it, and try to kill them, we'd all die. Instead my character started a large fire and smoked them out. With them being in coughing fits and having taken non-lethal damage, we were able to win a fight way above our paygrade and escape.
Now if my character was to be a published NPC, his lore would say something along the lines of "He broke out of maximum security prison". Some people would then say 'this breaks my suspension of disbelief', but those people did not consider the simple fact that a person can overcome trials much greater than himself if circumstances can be made to give the right advantage.
That is not just 'the plot said so', the is 'level 1 character overcoming CR 6 encounter through wit' and is perfectly believable, even from a simulationist perspective.
I believe I've established that I dislike the arbitrary, but to me it would not make for a bad story, nor a bad character, if White Estrid had won her fight against the Linnorm by dropping a land-slide on it, or one of the other millions of possibilities that we could probably make up if we put our creativity to it. Sure not all rulers need to have a david-vs-goliath story, as I said, I don't object to high-level rulers. I'm just arguing that with a game as open as this, it's really not that hard to imagine a way to simulate how things could have happened.
I find your viewpoint of Jakalyn interesting, and also in line with what Zhangar told us of the organization. I don't agree that she should necessarily be the way you describe, but I don't particularly mind either. What matters to me, in the end, is that we wind up with an interesting character that works in the setting-context. I believe she did when she was level 12, but someone disagreed and made her level 19 (potentially mythic, whatever the + sign in her level description means). I don't believe that was necessary, but I'm not the designer, so bad news for me :(
@thejeff: Good to see that we agree on the potential difference in social skills. And I'd not dispute that if two characters both optimized for the same result, then the higher level one, would probably have the advantage.
I don't agree with your last assessment though. I'd argue you could easily run a low-level Master Manipulator, even with semi-low social skills. Let us imagine that I do not simply establish that she -is- an influential powerhouse, although, as the designer, I could just do that. I want to make sure that if a player was to recreate the character and play her, the player could do what she did.
What such a character needs to succeed is not necessarily high social skills, as much as it is an evil mind. The will and patience to make every card in the deck play right into her hand. Work hard enough, and patiently enough, and you can stack circumstance bonuses ludicrously high, even so high that it could obviate a skill check, because the person you'd want to manipulate cannot make himself NOT do as you ask. This could be anywhere from as crude as "I've watched you, and have come to learn that you love your fiancé very dearly. Do as I say and do it now, or I will -not- give the signal, telling the sellswords I hired earlier today, to not brutally murder her" to something more elaborate. The point is, if you have the mind for it, you can make alot of very little. A couple of well placed spies, and most bluff checks made against her count for naught, because she -knows- you're lying. Or at least you get slapped with a severe penalty. Sure that does not make her immune to a high enough roll, but no character really is. Not even the greatest lords in the realm rose to the height of their power without losing a few encounters in their time(combat, social or otherwise), I'd assume.
So I maintain that you can make a master manipulator-villain, without them being social powerhouses.
@Zhangar: Very intersting. That at least adds a real reason to her being higher level than first published. Although I could easily see a good story being written about her exceeding her peers, even as the outleveled her. With that said, the structure of the cult at least gives a believable reason for why she should be... let's say higher-than-low-level. :)
@thejeff: Interesting. So from reading this, am I to understand that you do not believe you can have a mastermind manipulator-villain who is not a social-skill powerhouse?
Do you not think a, for instance, level 5 expert, could attain influence and power well in excess of that of a level 16 fighter, if she was to singlemindedly chase it? Especially if said character had at least moderately decent base-stats? I think she could.
See, to me at least, being influential does not rely on you being skillful, it relies on you making the right decisions, knowing when to make secure moves, knowing when to gamble, and finally, on you not failing. Should you manage these, I can easily see a low-level character attain power and influence well above that of high-level parties.
I don't believe power comes from levels. Power comes from results.
I find these differing opinons interesting.
I must admit that I am a bit shocked to see basic story-telling waved off as GM fiat, but I guess we have different opinions on what exactly GM fiat means.
I would like to know, why exactly some people maintain that, as a GM, it is not possible to have certain characters, let us take Blood Mistress Jakalyn, since we're already talking about her, hold their office without being high-level?
What exactly do you, the people in disagreement, want Jakalyn to be? And why is it necessary to you, that she is that?
Aside from the fact that I can establish however many allies or contacts that I want to, as part of her fluff, there is no level requirement for using the contact system.
so deviously intelligent
If I want to stat her, I could give her whatever intelligence I felt like. It would not be the first officially published character who has exceptional stats, just because they do. With that said, even a 16 intelligence should do. There is not 1 single solitary definition of what each stat implies. If I place her int at 16 and state that she is a deviously intelligent, dangerous woman, then the that should be reflected in how she is portrayed in character, and how she acts, not by me specifying the relevance of her exact mental attributes on a point by point basis.
so feared and in control of an organization so resourceful". I mean sure, she's in control of the Mantis, so she's got that, but is she the smartest of the Red Mantis Assassins?
She does not have to be. There might well be a wizard with a tricked out int-stat in the Red Mantis, and no, she is not gonna have a higher int that him. However, that does not make her less of a Blood Mistress, nor does it diminish the relevance of me establishing that she has a mind for putting you in the ground.
Not likely, if there are much higher level ones. Does she have the skills and feats and talents to actually earn that place among them?
As far as I've been able to tell, positions such as these are earned, meaning they're not reliant on skills or stats, but of achievements. If she's managed what she needed to manage to become Blood Mistress, then she's Blood Mistress. Was it a stroke of luck? Perhaps. You'll never know, until I publish the lore about her rise to power. Until then, you can make your own story up at your own table, as is your right as a GM.
OTOH, if the PCs ever actually meet her, even in a non-combat setting, then you run the risk of even her social skills not living up to her rep
What rep are you talking about? I only remember saying she was dangerous. Does the fact that certain people in the world are better than her at certain things, diminish the fact that your throat will be cut in your sleep, if she wills it?
as your higher level diplomat charms her and she can't see through your bluffer's lies and your fighter can scare her off and your sense motive guy sees right through her manipulation and lies. She doesn't even have the skill to sneak away.
Yes, it is almost like people who are better at stuff than others, are better at stuff than others. What point are you trying to make? Yes if she gets diplo-bombed and the DM has no intention of doing anything about it, then she has been diplo-bombed. That is the same for every other person in the setting, so why should it be different for her? If the PCs roll an opposed check vs her and succeed, they win the opposed skill check, just like any other situation in the game, before or since.
To each their own. I don't mind high level rulers, only the fact that the fallacy that their high level is necessary for them to provide a challenge, causes them to be prevalent for no reason.
I'll play the role of the hypothetical game-designer. I'm writing the entry for Blood Mistress Jakalyn, the leader of the Red Mantis Assassins, and arguably one of the most dangerous people on Golarion.
Does she have to be powerful? No she does not, she has to be dangerous, that does not necessitate her being powerful. All she has to be, is dangerous. I am the game designer, how can I make her dangerous? I could make the point that while she is not the most competent blade-artist wire-fu assassin, she is an exceptionally gifted planner, with a devious intellect that permits her to stage the death of nearly anyone she desires. In so doing, I do not give her alot of personal power, because her character does not need it. What I -am- doing, is making her dangerous, which is central to her character. I decide to make her a level 7 rogue. I don't even have to give her a single level of Red Mantis Assassin, but I could, if I so desired.
I establish that Jakalyn is a rogue, who is so well-connected, so deviously intelligent, so feared and in control of an organization so resourceful, that nobody on Golarion can honestly claim to be safe from her. This is fluff I establish. As I write this, I do not need to address every person on the board who claims they can solo Jakalyn. I do not need to make up preventative scenarios for how she deals with interlopers. All I need to do is establish that she -can- deal with them. That she does have contingencies in place, and emphasize just how unlikely it is, that anyone who did not dedicate themself to it 100%, would ever find themselves in a position where they'd pose even the slightest threat to her. In so doing, I leave the character vaguely defined so the GMs who use the material can make of her what they wish, while providing them with fluff, a general idea of how dangerous she is, how she operates and of course, tell them that she is a level 7 rogue, for purposes of actual dice-relevant situations.
My hypothetical self has now created a Blood-mistress for the Red Mantis Assassins. She is now the character leading the assassin cult, and she is not even level 10. It works, I just did it. If players want to challenge her, GMs can now feel justified in springing horrendous stuff on their players, because the entry describing the character justifies it. What need does this character have to be able to fight a barbarian straight up in a fight? She does not. She needs to be dangerous, and if she is influential enough to be able to land the PCs in an international incident, just by sending a single letter with the right words and her seal, to the right person, then lo and behold, she fills the role of archnemesis just fine, despite her being level 7.
A well formulated, interesting post
I don't believe anyone is arguing that the game does not take on a different look, the higher level you get. This is especially true for casters and character with the funds to aquire, and the skill to use magic devices. I disagree however that I've 'brought it to the wrong neighborhood'. I also disagree that every fantasy role-playing game is built on progression, although I do not argue that, that is the case with Pathfinder.
I hope you'll excuse me for being a bit rude, but I'm gonna say that you are wrong. Plain and simply wrong, when you make the argument that a 4th level fighter cannot kill a 17th level wizard. I find that statement untrue. I realize that you're probably trying to make a point about the vast difference in their potential capacity to rule and enforce their rule, should 2 such characters both vie for the crown, so I'll leave it at that.
I've seen this one point come up at least twice now, that if the ruler was low level, then the BBEG should have just waltzed into the king's keep and killed the royal family ages ago. Well that assumes that your BBEGs motivation is wanting the royal family dead, not ruling the nation. If the BBEG wants to take over the nation of Peacelovia, then killing the king and sitting in his chair is not gonna cut it. That is not how you become king. That is how you lured into waiting for the 50 level 1 warriors to rally under the banner of their commander, and suddenly become a CR 14 Troop-creature, instead of a disorganized group of easily murdered low-levels. If the BBEGs sole motivation IS killing the royal family, then as the person telling the story, it is up to you, the GM, to explain why he has not managed to do so, which, in a world of high-fantasy, practically spewing over with options, should not be all that difficult. Ultimately, if you find that your story somehow hinges on the fact that the ruler in question MUST be high level, then you SHOULD make him high level. If it could benefit the story to have him be high level, then perhaps you should make him high level. If there is no reason, except arbitrary adherence to the fallacy that it could not be otherwise, then it hurts the setting, -because- it becomes recognizable as pointless. At least, that is how I feel.
You claim that if the leaders were not high level, then PCs everywhere would be out for their blood. Well if that's true, I'd argue that PCs everywhere are doing it wrong. In my circulation of RPG-playing friends, the players cooperate with the GM to tell the story. They make small compromises with their characters, or come up with excuses, if it can help the story move along or prevent the game from hurting. We play by a set of gentleman's agreements that we lay down at the start of the campaign, that determines how we deal with story (in case of pre-written material), our party-members (in case it looks like interparty -could- happen)and so on, and so forth.
And should you find yourself in a sandbox game, where such a decision is not actively taking away from the narrative, then what's wrong with you attacking the ruler of the nation? Is that not a worthy story? Perhaps you succeed, perhaps you fail, no matter the outcome, we'll probably tell a story getting there. And as we've established, just because you manage to kill the king, does not suddenly turn the game into a kingdom-building game. Rather, in most cases, it'll probably turn the game into a game of hide and seek: The party vs every scrap of sharp steel in the nation. Of course such a story could be told in many ways, but the point is, it is just as worthy of being told as the story of how the heroes killed the dragon and saved the princess. If the GM prefers that a regicide does not happen in his sandbox campaign, all he has to do is A) make it so said regicide will not be that easy (which does NOT necessitate leveling up the monarch :P ), or B) simply tell his players that it'd be cool if they'd either make their characters have a level of loyalty to the current regime, or be indifferent enough to not take action against the royal family. Bish bash bosh, players have agreed to not give GM a headache, now let's have some fun adventuring :)
Or, to put it differently:
GM1: "Yea, my players decided they didn't want to go to the Dungeon of Eternal Misery in their quest for the Headdress of Perpetual Happiness. Instead they said they wanted to go to the palace, take out the royal family and its bodyguards and have the fighter crowned King. He would then strip the Temple of Sneezle of their royal charter and tax them out of existence."
I don't see the connection between coming from a family of chronic backstabberage, and surging with great arcane power. I simply don't see the connection. Again, I'm not saying that she's poorly written, I can understand perfectly well why they might've chosen to make Abrogail level 18, but when all is said and done, if they wanted to make her dangerous and in control, they could have stopped at "Hell serves Cheliax". Kerdak Bonefist WAS still Hurricane King back when he was level 10, you know. He was still the Pirate Lord of the Shackles, first among Pirate Captains, and whatever the flip he might call himself. Him being 8 levels higher has not changed his position as leader of the Shackles, it has just changed how he fares in solo-combat, which was the only reason he got buffed (it appears, I don't rightly know, but posters above speculated that it had something to do with an AP). And if people were just concerned with having Kerdak Bonefist be a challenging final encounter, they did not need to buff him to level 18. Again, completely pointless. They'd just have to add something more to the fight against him, that'd bump the CR of the encounter, like minions, traps, terrain, a giant enemy crab, anything. Instead they opted for levels, and we all know effective those are in the 'climactic final battle'. Going by the vocal majority on the boards, the answer is 'not at all'.
Finally I'll just add that there are no rules for NPCs earning experience from challenges. I realize what point you're trying to make, but since you grabbed hold of the mechanics of the system to support your argument, I just thought I'd let you know that it's not rules-mechanically sound.
Giving her a nice cluster of levels makes her not being a puppet or about-to-be-toppled-by-an-opportunistic-cousin a lot easier to sell to the players.
Well that, and there's the fact that her personal entourage probably constitutes a CR 28 encounter.
No, but in fairness, I think your point is valid, it's not that. I simply don't agree with the prevalence of the trope, nor this idea that it is somehow required.
Had to favorite it, simply for the enjoyment value :)
I do believe that your points have relevance to the How and Why of our discusssion, and certainly that we need nations with powerful leaders here and there. In an adventuring setting, there should be lots of possibility for adventure, high and low alike.
I will say, however, that I completely disagree with your statement that bad people seldom have friends. There is really nothing to do about that disagreement though, as we're free to view the setting as we want to, but I, at least, believe that evildoers form stronger relationships and ties to their friends than most others.
A Lawful Evil conquerer may be willing to invade a nation, attacking villages and settlements on his way to the capitol and setting the countryside on fire. When he reaches the capitol, the people on the walls hear his proclamation: "You have my friend imprisoned, and I mean to have him freed. Fail to oblige and I will have the 10.711 of your citizens, that I took prisoner on my way here, painfully tortured and cruficied in view of your city. You have until sundown to agree to my demands, or my men start taking eyeballs"
A group of evildoers who rose to power in a largely good-aligned nation, would have even more reason to form strong ties, because of the whole Contra-Mundum thing. And if a friend of theirs croak, instead giving way to an heir who is leader-material(he makes decisions that improve the country, at least in the eyes of these evildoers) then they may help keep the son on the throne. Loyalty is not a strictly non-evil virtue, after all :)
I'm sure you COULD fiat your way through the question of "how did this low level character become ruler", but you don't really need to, unless you consider story-telling GM fiat. I know I've mentioned him alot, but Ulthun II of Lastwall is a perfect of example of how rulers can be, and should be elected. He's level 6, yet he was chosen because he embodies virtues that the locals place great value in, more than any other person they knew of. If the GM wants Ulthun II to be safe from mid-level assassinations, he'd probably have him protected by people who could foil such an assassination. That does not make it fiat, it is simply the GMs decision that, that is how the nation protects their ruler. And if there really is nothing preventing a party of mid-level PCs from porting in and taking royal heads, then why should it matter if the players do it? It's just another of the many 'unpredicted PC decisions' and now, the players, as well as the country, have to deal with the consequences of the regicide. That too can be a story worth telling.
Power is not measured in levels. Power is measured in results. ;)
potential spoilers?? maybe?:
In other words, the fight might as well not have happened? :)
I have not played the path, nor have I read it, so pardon me while I paint a picture of a path that I have no knowledge of. But if the path was to end in a climactic final encounter, could it not as well have ended with some kind of monolithic mountain-kami or something, fighting the heroes for its Jade Regent? And once it crumbled to dust, the players would then confront the Jade-regent, who could be a level 5 aristocrat for all it mattered in the end, and he'll then surrender to the players, take his own life (Minkai -is- supposed to be Japan, right? O.o ) or perhaps he makes a short speech about how he recognizes that he does not stand a chance, but he will not have it said that he died without fighting. Then he speaks a short haiku about the leaves falling, or something, and then charges the players and dies, fighting despite him having no chance.
Again, complete speculation, but if the path had been written around the idea that this guy was lowish level, surely it could have been told in such a way, that still made the ending feel satisfying, without requiring the heroes to duke it out with the ruler of Minkai. :)
I see multiple points being made. Rulers are high level to provide a challenge. Rulers are high level because they simply have to be, in order to muster the skill checks they would need to make to rule. Rulers are high levels because their ascension to power would have leveled them to said level.
Yet I maintain, and I see that I am not alone in thinking so, that many rulers don’t need to be above level 10. I’d personally go as far as to say a ruler could be as low level as the design team wanted, and that links well into my own speculation on why rulers are high level. I believe they’re high level because the design team said so; because, simply put, there is no other reason for them to be. I am not saying that the points that have been made about why rulers are high level -are- wrong, I am saying that I –believe- they are.
I believe the decision to make the leaders high level is arbitrary, heck my belief that there is no reason nor requirement for a leader to be high level, is even backed up by the presence of Ulthun II of Lastwall, and according to Deadmanwalking, the king of Korvosa as well. And that is just another reason for me not to like it. Not only does the trope prevail, it apparently prevails for no properly explained reason. I see the point being made by Shadowkire that these are tumultuous times for Golarion, and that those in power deserve to be said level, because they arose to the throne through adversity. Well, for one, there is no guarantee that even the rulers who are most likely to have fought their way to the throne, saw much real fighting themselves. Their level could certainly be an indication of such, but with the most represented level of the 34 aforementioned rulers being level 15 (with 9 representatives), you just have to ask yourself what exactly they could have done to warrant this. My Rise of the Runelords players are level 14, not to mention that they are player characters, meant for greatness beyond the scope of mere NPCs. And for anyone who knows what RotR contains, you also understand how many trials and tribulations they’ve gone through, when I mention that they’re at the start of book 6, yet they're "only" level 14. For those of you who do not know the content of said adventure path, let us just say that it’s a whole fuppin’ lot. Even those who came to power through conquest, I don’t see as likely to have dealt with even half the level of horrendous challenge, especially considering they probably had lieutenants, armies and people who believed in them, working towards putting them on the throne.
I find myself in complete disagreement with the point that a ruler should present a challenge in a combat-encounter. In fact, I find myself in disagreement with the point, that a ruler must present a challenge in any kind of encounter, really. Surely they could, and some probably should, but I do not believe it should be mandatory, since you’d not really have to excel at anything to be named ruler, we can look to hereditary monarchy for proof of that. Certainly some kingdoms like the Linnorm Kingdoms have a way to justify their rulers being combat-monsters, but most kingdoms don’t. They just are, and ‘they just are’ is not really that good of an explanation, nor does it do the trend any favors. I repeat – arbitrary decision are all well and good, but when they become recognizable as arbitrary and you realize that a ruler does not NEED to be high level to rule, they also become completely pointless, and instead wind up hurting the setting.
It’s not like you have to stretch your imagination, to imagine how a low-level ruler could outdo a high-level ruler, in the game system. It’s pretty darn easy, just as it is pretty easy to design a setup wherein said low-level ruler does not get offed by the first mid-level anarchist with a scroll of teleportation. And sure, if a low-level ruler has many competent people helping him, one of them could most assuredly think that he’d be more suited to rule. Then you, as the GM, have to decide: Well, why is this competent person serving his low level king in the first place? Probably because the person thinks the king has a right to rule, or perhaps it’s just for the power and prestige. Is this character, who now thinks he could rule better than the king, a loyal servant? If he is, then this is not really an issue, but if he is not, I should probably treat him as if he was a person, and decide what he’d do about it. Coups happen… as does loyal governance, and it’s on us, the GMs, to decide what happens in our worlds once the starting whistle is blown.
Also, for the gents who make the point the game is not a novel or story, nor great at simulating fantasy stories, I find myself coughing “bovine fecal-matter”. All with a sporting smile, of course, we’re just having a friendly discussion after all :). I not only think that the DnD, as well as the Pathfinder system, provide the basis for marrying story and game nicely, but I firmly disagree with the idea that you cannot tell classic stories, or run a perfectly good investigation/intrigue/whatever game with it. If you want such stories to make sense in the world, you have to make certain changes, but it’s not like the presence of speak with dead obviates any murder mystery. All the murderer has to do is remove or irreparably damage the jaw, thus preventing the corpse from being able to share its secrets. And since restore corpse only regrows flesh, it’s suddenly not that easy to just pull answers from the void. Yes in a fantasy setting where we’re given tons of fun options to work with, the classic stories need some tweaks if you want them to not be easily dealt with, but that’s not hard, nor does it prevent the use of said stories.
All of this brings me back to my original point, that is, that there does not seem to be a point to all of this. There is no point in every sodding ruler being an absurd powerhouse, because we can easily point to certain places in the setting to show how it could not be the case, and still work just fine. By the same token high-level rulers can help tell an interesting story, the story of a country and a leader’s ascension to power, but ultimately the same story could(not necessarily should) be told with a lower level character in 9 out 10 cases, and all we’d have to do is, dare I say it, get creative… I know, it frightens me too :P
I can respect the decisions of the design-team, and I don’t believe every high-level ruler is hurting the setting, I just think it gets a bit samey, takes some of the fun out of the idea (as I find is the case with the buff to Blood Mistress Jakalyn), and finally I fear that it enforces the tired and, to be frank, complete fuppin’ untrue idea that HD/Level must = Challenge, because it doesn’t.
Just my thoughts :)
Edit: Thanks for the compliment shadowkras ^_^
I'd say around level 3, maybe 5 ish. Sure you could claim the title before that if you wanted to, but a level 3+ character, martials inparticular, usually have enough HP to tank a great-axe to the face without dying, and is equipped with around 3k (or 1.6k in case of heroic npcs) gold pieces worth of loot. Also at this point, soloing 2 or 3 orcs at once is considered an average challenge for you, so I'd say you'd be fine claiming the title of Swordlord by then.
To my great grief, I have never played Kingmaker. I want to, but nobody in my circle is willing to run it. But if I understand correctly, Kingmaker is about adventurers becoming rulers, yes? In that case, them being mid-to-high level would make sense right? Because they're adventurers... players characters.... the conquering heroes?
Are all rulers adventurers? Are all rulers master negotiators? Do they have to be? Isn't there such a thing as ambassadors and diplomats? Do all kings address their public directly from the heart, drawing in their people with their monumental social skills? Can they not get someone to write them a speech?
If we take the superhero analogy for a moment, how many world-leaders are supers in DC or Marvel? Super-man is not president of the United States, he fights to defend them. Doctor Doom is a world-leader with great powers and weak neighbors, yet he has not conquered them. Not because the leaders of the opposing nation meets him on the field of battle and turn out to be president-badass, but because there are other people there to stop him.
Why must the leader himself be a challenge? Why does he have to be immune to scry and fry? If someone is sufficiently powerful, why should they not just be able to port in and devastate a ruler?
"But what if my players decide to just teleport into Korvosa's castle(or whereever) and instantly kill the king?! If I was to do as you suggested, then they'd have killed the king instantly..."
So what? The king is dead. Long live the king. So what? The above example assumes, of course, that the king does not have any strong guards, or a competent caster working for him that could protect him. It also assumes that he has not spent any of his probably vast wealth, to aquire any kind of protection for himself. But sure, for the sake of the example the king is now dead. Now what? It's not like your players have just fast-tracked their way to royalty. More likely the entire castle-guard is gonna come crashing down on them, their names will be known across the realm in a matter of weeks. Every adventurer, cut-throat, bounty-hunter and sellsword from Korvosa to Osirion will be out to claim the heads of the Kingslayers. They'll be the eternal enemies of those who loved the former king, and if he was a just and right ruler, they'll probably have every local paladin-order stalking them.
The idea that the stability of a country should somehow hinge on the ruler being hyper-competent at some pivotal function to the country is a falacy in my opinion. The only thing a person would need to rule a country is competent help. And that is exactly the point I was making in the opening post. There is no reason for the climactic final battle to be against the evil emperor, when it should in fact be against the evil emperors bodyguard, or the magical beast that was conjured to protect him. Sometimes it makes sense. Plenty of examples have been made of the high levels making sense, but why does it feel mandatory?
This trope is EVERYWHERE in our hobby, and I don't believe it belongs. I find myself stopping and wondering what would happen if it was as prevalent in all other stories.
Joffrey Baratheon would be a better duelist than Barristan Selmy.
I don't see the reason, I don't appreciate the prevalence and I don't agree with the argument that if leaders were not level 10+ then it would somehow 'not make sense'. I respect the opinions that I see, that this is the case, but I don't agree.
So you used your wealth to get good armor, hirelings and some decent poison? Good for you, that was a good investment. A shame your fortitude save was not high enough to deal with the adventuring wizard, but hey, that's just the way of it.
The only thing you need to rule is the support of the majority of the people or the strength to force your rule upon the public. The only thing you need to rule well is competent help and decent decision-making. Kerdak Bonefist could still be the Hurricane King even if he was level 10. If he was supposed to be an encounter in some path or another, he could still be a challenge if someone had bothered designing the story around his level 10 self providing a challenge. I make the claim that having the 'bosses' be high-level is either adherence to some percieved law of the hobby, that I do not agree with, a concious design-decision made because the author feels it must be so, or plain laziness.
Let me reiterate, I love the trope, but I'm annoyed at its overuse.
Surely if you wanted to, you would be able to populate Avistan with level 8(or lower) rulers, and still have the world make sense? As is, I just find the high levels of all these people boring.
Oh hi White Estrid, I heard you had to defeat a Linnorm to get to rule. How did you do that? Oh you're level 15? Sorry, for I moment I thought you'd be interesting.
Hi there Grask Uldeth, I've come to understand that you've given the semblance of shape to a large group of marauding orcs and rule a dwarven sky citadel. How did that come to pass? Oh you're just really really strong? Riveting.
Greeting Mr Kelldor. Is it true that you are the head of what is basically Scientology in Golarion? That your nation's absurd wealth gives you the resources to maintain this ridiculous cult, in the face of your damning hilarity? Oh you ALSO happen to be a level 15 Oracle. Really?! You're level 15?! Okay I guess........
I just don't see the need.
@Gorbacz: Thanks! I only just arrived some 15 years ago, so it's nice for someone to finally welcome me :D
Also, speak for yourself, if I build a nation in a game campaign setting, I want the nation's leader to be whatever I want her to be. Above all, I want the nation as a whole to fit into the setting as a whole, unless it is my express purpose to make the nation stand out as something different. ;)
@Lamontius: I thank you for your sympathy. I've only rarely experienced the subject as an issue, but other than that, I cannot explain my position as anything but an annoyance at the prevalence of aforementioned trope.
@The Golux: I don't mind the barbarians being there, I am just perplexed that they are there, yet there are classes with pseudo-leadership qualities tied into their mechanics, that are either underrepresented or completely missing from the list.
Also, even with the requirement to defeat a monster of X CR, as is the case for White Estrid for example, I still question the decision to pump the levels to such height. So she's supposed to have defeated a Linnorm? does that mean she could not be a level 9 Barbarian? If she was, I'd bet the stories of how she defeated the Linnorm would be more interesting. If you want a person to seem exceptional, slapping levels onto them seems like the lazy way to go.
Your example with Kerdak Bonefist makes my point exactly. He was probably buffed because of an Adventure Path. Why? Could he not have fit the bill in said path -without- being buffed? Was he suddenly less of a leader? Was the pirates of the shackles LESS loyal to their Hurricane King, now that he suddenly wasn't eight levels higher than he was initially published? I question the decision to tie 'challenge' into 'how many numbers can I stack on top of each-other'.
If paizo were to release an AP, where the story leads up to defeating Abrogail Thrune II, does that campaign HAVE to end with the heroes squaring off against the Infernal Majestrix herself? Is it mandatory that you must defeat the 'boss' before you've won? If so, must the 'boss' be challenging? Could you, in this hypothetical adventure path, where we will now imagine that Abrogail Thrune is a level 5 aristocrat(instead of a level 16 sorceress), not have the high-level adversaries be some diabolists who are loyal to her? Could some high CR enemies not be devils? Traps? Devils with traps? Could it not be challenging to talk your way into the dread castle, or to complete a certain skill challenge against the clock? Could you not write the AP in such a way, that once the PCs kick in the door to the Throne-room, they've won? Must the teenager on the throne then stand up and fight the heroes personally, or some form of universal law is broken?
I do not dislike the trope, I dislike its overuse. By all means have some powerful leaders, but let the majority be leaders that make sense, even in the insanity of a fantasy setting. If we cannot have a person lead by virtue of being a good leader, rather than high level, and justify them having enough power (direct or indirect) to not get sniped my a mid-level anarchist, then that speaks badly for our collective creativity.
It is a classic trope of fantasy storytelling. The mighty and valiant heroes, after many trials and tribulations, find themselves fighting the royal forces of the evil emperor. As they battle their way up the steps to the throne-room, and kick down the door, they are met with two faces, both of whom they loathe. The loyal general and personal champion to the evil emperor, who has hounded the heroes steps multiple times, and the face of the evil emperor himself, self-confidently looking down on them from his throne, safely behind his champion and his mightiest guards.
The heroes spring into action and a great battle ensues. After both blood and effort have been spent, there is not only the evil emperor. Not trying to hide his anger, he rises from his throne. With his right hand, he draws the black blade Qyxorn, the blade that slew the old mentor of the heroes, and in his left hand black spellfire flickers and twists into life.
“I guess the old sayings are true, after all” The emperor speaks, his eyes narrowing and lips curling back into a snarl. “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!”
I am personally a great fan of the classics. I can appreciate a classic adventure setup, I enjoy myself when my enemy gives a cheesy monologue, I like it if it turns out that my companions and I turn out to be the prophesized ones, and us fighting the evil overlord, turns out to be the will of the gods. I do not object to cheesiness or stereotypes. Despite knowing that it is not considered politically correct by many, I do not mind, in fact I sometimes appreciate it, if my GM has a loin-cloth-clad Conan-clone pop up every now and again, just as I appreciate buxom ladies in revealing outfits or, dare I say it, the dreaded chainmail bikini. I know it’s all very silly, and I can understand people’s reservations about these tropes, but my point is not that I want these to be prevalent, I just don’t object to them.
But that only counts, as long as it is not overused. I am of the conviction that the classics are classics, and usually well-loved, for a reason. But I do not appreciate certain tropes if overused.
Today’s topic is just such a trope. The trope outlined in the top segment, in fact. The Authority Equals Asskicking trope. For those of you who do not want to read it, or just don’t trust the link I posted, said trope is basically the idea that the higher you are in your respective hierarchy, the more of a badass you are. This is especially true in regards to your fighting prowess, ESPECIALLY if your hierarchy is that of an evil organization.
I love this trope sometimes, I really do. One of the things I loved most about Lord of the Rings, from the first time I read the story and to this day, is the fact that nobody is actually, genuinely contemplating fighting Sauron himself. The whole plot and the fate of everyone hinges on NOT letting that happen. Sauron MUST NOT return. If he did, there is not a soul alive who could stand up to him, and he’d be able to enslave middle-earth, not because of the ring-McGuffin, but because said McGuffin would be able to let Sauron take physical form. To once again fully release his powers on the realms. I loved that setup, and still love it to this day. But it gets overused.
It is, by far, in our hobby, the most overused trope I can possibly think of. Because we consider it a cornerstone of the way the game is ‘supposed’ to work. The enemies get harder! The encounters must get more challenging in order to present any real danger to our heroes. So the game is in a constant state of arbitrary escalation, because if it is not, then it is not fun. I can certainly understand that, but I don’t think it is always true. I agree that as the heroes get closer to the heart of the evil empire, as they rise in levels and the stakes get higher, the encounters and challenges should reflect that, providing a great story-arc and accentuating the plot, making the entire campaign memorable. But I don’t agree that ‘more challenging’ means ‘enemies must be higher level’. In fact, if it is overused(and it is, it really, really is) then the idea of arbitrarily higher levels can hurt the campaign, because it becomes recognizable as an arbitrary tool, meant to ‘increase the challenge’, not to improve the story, and that breaks my immersion, or at the very least annoys me.
In order to learn if this trope really was as prevalent as I believed it was, I took to the Pathfinder Wiki, to learn as much as I could about the setting. And while I found a few reasons to smile, the mindnumbing prevalence of this annoying trope made me sad. Very sad.
Leaders of Avistan:
Absalom: Lord Gyr of House Gixx – Primarch +++++ level 13 rogue
Andoran: Codwyn I of Augustana – Supreme Elect +++++ level x paladin
Brevoy: Noleski Surtova – King Regent +++++ level 5 aristo/ warrior 3
Cheliax: Abrogail Thrune II – Infernal Majestrix +++++ level 2 aristo/ sorcerer 16
Druma: Kelldor – High Prophet +++++ level 15 Oracle
FKM: Borogrim the Hale – High King +++++ level 8 fighter/ aristo 5
Galt: Korran Goss – Citizen +++++ level x unknown
Hermea: Mengkare – Shepherd of Light +++++ Ancient Gold Dragon
Hold of Belkzen: Grask Uldeth – Chieftan +++++ level 17 barbarian
Irrisen: Elvanna – Queen +++++ level 10 wich/ winter witch 10
Isger: Hedvend VI – Steward +++++ level 4 aristo / rogue 5
Kyonin: Telandia Edasseril – Everqueen +++++ level 15 wizard
Lastwall: Ulthun II – Watcher Lord +++++ level 6 paladin
--Sveinn Blood-Eagle +++++ level 18 barbarian
--White Estrid +++++ level 15 barbarian
--Ingimundr the Unruly +++++ level 15 barbarian
--Opir Eightfingers +++++ level 13 barbarian
Mendev: Galfrey – Crusader Queen +++++ level 15 paladin
Molthune: Markwin Teldas – Imperial Governor +++++ level 4 aristo/ cavalier 11
--Eloiander of Ridwan – Cabal leader +++++ level 15 druid
--Kholas – Ambassador +++++ level 14 sorcerer
Nirmathas: Weslen Gavirk – Forest Marshal +++++ level 11 ranger
Numeria: Kevoth-Kul – The Black Sovereign +++++ level 15 barbarian
Qadira: Xerbystes II – Satrap +++++ level x unknown
Razmiran: Razmir – Living Deity +++++ level 19 wizard
ROTML: Mighty Kuldor – Headsman +++++ level 14 barbarian
The River Kingdoms: Alot of unstatted people
Taldor: Stavian III – Grand Prince +++++ level 8 aristo/ wizard 4
Ustalav: Aduard Ordranti III – Prince +++++ level 3 aristo/ fighter 8
Varisia: City-state leaders of varying, unlisted level
Worldwound: Khorramzadeh – Storm King +++++ Balor
Leaders of Garund:
Alkenstar: Trietta Ricia – Grand Duchess +++++ level 14 aristo
Chauxen: could not find
Dehrukani: could not find
Droon: could not find
Geb: Geb – Dictator +++++ level 20+ Necromancer
Holomog: could not find
Jalmerey: Kharswan – Thakur +++++ level 14 monk
--Angruul – Pactmaster +++++ level x unknown
--Jinvar – Pactmaster +++++ level x unknown
--Krimiltuk – Pactmaster +++++ level x unknown
--Morvithis – Pactmaster +++++ level x unknown
--Tzandarkon – Pactmaster +++++ level x unknown
Mediogalti Island: Jakalyn – Blood Mistress +++++ level 9 cleric/ red mantis assassin 10+
Mwangi Expanse: many tribal chiefs
--Agrellus Kisk – council-member level x unknown
--Iranez – council-member level x witch
--Oblosk – council-member level x unknown
Nurvatchta: could not find
Orision: Khemet III – Ruby Prince +++++ level 15 cleric
Rahadoum: Malduoni – Keeper of the First Law +++++ level x unknown
Sargava: Utilinus – Baron +++++ level 10 cleric
The Shackles: Kerdak Bonefist – The Hurricane King +++++ level 8 fighter/ inner sea pirate 10
Sodden Lands: tribal leaders
Tirakawhan: could not find
Leaders of Tian Xia:
Amanandar: Audrya Vannisar – General +++++ level 12 fighter
Bachuan: Pei – Grandmother +++++ level 13 monk
Chu Ye: Tsuneri – Shogun +++++ Void Yai Voidlord
Dtang Ma: Khemkhaeng +++++ level x unknown
Goka: Nai Yan Fei – Lady +++++ level x unknown
Hongal: Kiriltai Khan +++++ level x unknown
Hwanggot: Hyun Eun-suk – Queen +++++ level x unknown
Jinin: Jininsiel Ryuikiatsu – Shogun +++++ level x unknown
Kaoling: Tsung-cha Kavangaki – Warlord +++++ level x unknown
Kwanlai: Sutarai-Gongen – Lady +++++ level 14 cleric
Lingshen: Huang – King +++++ level x unknown
Minata: many local warlords
Minkai: Jade Regent +++++ level x unknown
Nagajor: Vassath Shethagri – First Mother +++++ level x unknown
Po Li: The Oracular Council
Quain: Wen – King +++++ level x unknown
Shaguang: could not find
Shenmen: Lang Loi – Lady +++++ level x unknown
Shokuro: Toriaka – Shokuro +++++ level x unknown
Tianjing: Onishi Kazujun +++++ level x unknown
Wanshou: Zhanagorr +++++ Elder Kraken
Xa Hoi: Pham Duc Quan – Dragon King +++++ Sovereign Dragon
Xidao: Urakadussi – High Matriarch +++++ level x unknown
Zi Ha: Gyaltho Tulku +++++ level x unknown
I realize that this is not my world, nor should it conform to my idea of a fantasy world. At my own table, I can make of it what I will, but the published setting must be such a way that it is usable and enjoyable to players, while providing a template for devs to work on.
But I look at this list of leaders and something just doesn’t click for me. I don’t know if some of you share the feeling I’m talking about. Looking at the leaders with levels, who have their level an class listed(That would be a total of 34 leaders), there are 0 Bards, 8 Aristocrats(most of them dual-classed), 2 rogues and a whopping total of 1 Cavalier. Meanwhile there are 7 Barbarians and 3 Paladins. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that a character can be what you make of it. A barbarian can put ranks into knowledge(Arcana) if that is the way said barbarian wants to go, and I am not trying to make a statement that Barbarians and Paladins are not allowed to rule. I simply find it odd that there are so few classes, represented as leaders, that have mechanics that ties into ruling.
I mean, let’s be honest here, can you imagine a class less suited to ruling than Paladin? If you can, you’re probably about to write Commoner or Barbarian. Paladins can be great leaders, great commanders, great lords. But I’ll admit that I cannot imagine them as anything but disastrously bad rulers. With the possible exception being rulers of a shiny kingdom of perpetual goodness, where nothing and nobody is attempting to incite unrest or cause instability. But that is just my opinion and you are by no means forced to share it.
I did mention that there are things on this list that made me happy, so let’s not forget those. There are 2 entries, of the 34 I’m discussing, that make me happy. One is Ulthun II – Watcher Lord of Lastwall, and yes I know he is one of the Paladins on our list. I like 2 things about Ulthun II, the first things being the fact that it is the lowest level character on the list. A level 6 character is a low-to-around-mid level character when we consider the spectrum from 1 to 20, but in terms of in-world strength, a level 6 character is pretty darn mighty, able to cleave through many foes with barely a scratch. Still, Ulthun is the lowest level entry on the list and for that I give a thumbs up. Second is the fact that Ulthun was chosen to lead, not because of his right to rule, nor because he was especially fit to do it, but because he was the embodiment of the crusader-virtues that Lastwall values. That makes sense to me. You’re chosen because, to the locals, you’re the closest thing to a living incarnation of everything they consider right in the world. Our other contestant today is Lord Gyr of house Gixx – Patriarch of Absalom, the greatest city in Avistan, if not Golarion. First off, he is lower (if not low) level than most entries on the list, and secondly he is a rogue, which is not only awesome, it is also quite fitting(Ask the part of my mind that connects vague strands of sense, if you want to know why).
I’ll just say it plainly, the fact that a lot of these rulers are absurdly high-level does not sit well with me, at all, and I will be changing that in my home-games, should it ever become relevant to a campaign, methinks. I just don't understand why so many of the rulers must be this crazy high-level. In fact I think it hurts the campaign-world in some cases. The Hurricane King Kerdak Bonefist was presented as level 10 in the Faction Guide, and Blood Mistress Jakalyn was presented as level 12. I don't understand why they must suddenly be buffed through the roof. It's not a good change IMO, it's bad. Think of Blood Mistress Jakalyn for a moment. She's level 19... 19, she's absolutely a force to be reckoned with, and as the leader of the Red Mantis Assassins, and arguably one of the most dangerous people in the world, perhaps she should be? I argue that no, she should not. I foun Blood Mistress Jakalyn to be WAAAY scarier as a level 12 character, than I do now, as a level 19 character. Because you were reading through the entries and you stopped at the Red Mantis, and you said to yourself: "Wow..... oh wow, what is this? This girl is one of the most dangerous people in the world? But she's only level 12... sure level 12 is high, but there are people out there who are level 20. Why is she so dangerous? She must really have a head for this assassination thing. I'm not sure I want to think about what is going on in this womans head". She seemed much more threatening, because you realized she could not be expected to overpower anything and anyone at level 12, yet it was assumed that she could put anyone in the grave, should the Red Mantis be called upon to do it. I started thinking of her like I thought of the villain from Law Abiding Citizen, if that makes sense? She was powerful, but she could not kill you in 1001 ways, with only her thumb. What she was able to do, was ensure your death. It didn't matter that she could not drive home the knife herself, you'd still be dead. That was much more powerful to me, than a level 19 character, that I can imagine defeating her challenges by luck of the dice alone.
It is not that I don’t see the point of high-level in certain cases. As I said, I don’t dislike the trope, I dislike its overuse. So I don't mind that the Everqueen is a mighty spellcaster, nor do I mind that Razmir is level 19 and pretends to be a god. But I question the necessity for fx Abrogail to be a level 16 sorceress. She already has HELL(cannot put enough exclamation marks behind the word, so I won't try) backing her up. You could make her a level 2 aristocrat and she'd still be plenty scary, and believable as the villanous leader of Cheliax. There are different ways to present dangerous and challenging, than a number behind a class.
There is no reason for the general to be higher level than his elite-guards. In fact, instead of the mighty generals, known throughout the lands as “The Three Kings” being level 10 fighters (to present a challenge), they should probably be warrior 3/expert 3/aristocrat 1 (or a bard, to inspire excellence in his men), or something similar, and instead of being under the notion that each such person absolutely MUST be the living child, of an unholy union between Death and a lawnmower, perhaps it is up to us, the GMs to put together a different sort of challenge, where the difficulty is not sawing off all the hit points, but something that maintains the challenge while adding coherency between narrative and game. Something helping the story along, and helping the players have fun, so that WHEN we use higher levels to provide a challenge, it not only feels difficult, it feels like it makes sense.
Anyway, this has been a rather long, likely not particularly coherent rant about my personal view on the prevalence of the Authority Equals Asskicking trope. I don’t know what I want to accomplish with this rant. If I want to inspire thought, or if I simply want someone to tell… something. Anyway feel free to drop a response whether you agree or not.
Have a nice day.
Not being able to efficiently carry alot of stuff is the downside to not being particularly strong :)
Remember that you don't have to be lightly encumbered at all times or the sky's gonna fall. It's perfectly reasonable to be encumbered, even heavily so, just remember to adjust as needed. If your party needs to travel a way, buy a beast of burden to carry the stuff you don't need to have split-second access to. Carry the items you REALLY want to have with you, but can ultimately manage without, in a backpack or a sack on your back, tied together with cord in front, so you can drop the backpack/sack with a move-equivalent action. That way you can drop a significant weight at a moment's notice
You can put the tent, the alchemist lab, and your spare clothing down before you enter the dungeon, it's not likely you'll need it. And if you fear that you might, just come back for it. Or if you fear it'll get stolen, walk a bit into the dungeon, then place the excess stuff down inside, where it won't get snagged by passer-bys.
Managing weight is not as hard as some people make it out to be.
Maptool and a bit of coding can let you have tokens with hp-tracking.
I personally believe that having the health-bars for the PCs have helped the game, as they don't have to stop every other round to sum up how well everybody is doing. I believe that has helped the healing-specced hedge witch.
I believe that yes, the monster could attack the net, thereby attempting to destroy it. The monster still has to use one or more attacks to break the net, though, meaning that even if it moves into melee range of a target with its remaining move-action, that is still a round spent not charging and mauling the cleric ;)
Also you only provoke attacks of opportunity from the enemy if they can reach you. Since you throw a net and only have to hit touch-AC, you can usually throw it from out of reach and still have a good chance of entangling your enemy.
A very nice breakdown of some combat
Thanks for breaking it down wraithstrike. I probably just have to witness some of these games to fully grasp what kind of steamrolling people appear to think is norm. I'll be the first to admit my players are not min-maxers. They optimize, sure, their characters are very good at what they do, but I don't think they're up late trying to find the best way to maximize their output. I say this because usually my players take several rounds to deal with level appropriate encounters, although there is, and will always be exceptions. Some times it takes longer, some times the encounter does end fast.
When I look back through my maptool campaign file (and all the initiative cleanup I have not done #shamefuldisplay), I find that the initiative tracker for most combats nest at around 5-8 rounds.
Perhaps if I find some play-by-post threads and read through them I'll see where the difference is.
When dealing with high-level martials, it gets easy to just dismiss the kind of damage being tossed out, because the enemies usually escalate with the relative strength of the party. That means that it took 3 strikes from the fighter to bring down the hobgoblin back in the day, and now that he's good and mid-level it takes 3 strikes for him to down the hill giant. Eh, no biggie, nothing has really changed. You'd be wrong. The reason this is not evident, is because there are no rules for collateral damage in most martial situations. If you try to imagine the kind of skill and the kind of force being used by high-level martials, then downing the hugest monsters in the book, suddenly doesn't become as hard to imagine.
A while ago me and 2 of my players, who are new to the hobby, talked about this very thing, and I decided a few sessions ago, to show them what exactly a high-level martials' power amounted to. So during a fight, the party's paladin stepped up to an enemy, swung 4 times(he was hasted), hit once, then missed the three following strikes. So I asked the Paladin if he'd object to me giving some side-effects to his attacks to highlight a point and he was fine with it. I asked him to roll damage for the 3 rolls he'd missed and once he was done I applied said damage...to the object that had been directly behind the monster he'd missed. The object in question was an old, but fairly large 2 ft diameter stone-collumn (DR8 360hp reduced by half because of old age and wear), and the dear paladin reduced it to 0 hp, destroying the collumn.
So I described how his first slash bit deep in his opponent, who then dodged for his life, intent on not getting hit again, with each missing strike taking chunks out of the collumn behind said enemy, until the third strike splintered the entire thing in an explosion of rockshards and dust and made a small section of the ceiling collapse.
With that sort of power behind their swings, where a high-level martial can litterally punch through a solid oak-wood door with little to no effort, unarmed, drunk and disinterested at that, then I for one, don't have a hard time imagining titanic monsters falling to them.
So you hit the rune-giant 3 times? Well, perhaps the first strike hit the thing in the leg... hit it so damn hard, the force shakes the dust off the nearby building, with the poor rune-giant immediately losing balance, and dropping to a knee to regain its footing, letting you get a strike in at the arm and belly, both of which hit with equal force, sending the thing staggering back from it's hunched position with such force it not only stands back up, it damn near topples backwards, as it regains its posture, grabs its frigate-sized greatsword firmly, and swings back at you.
Naturally this is just one possible take on how to do it, but I hope it at least helps to see how it -can- narratively work.
Healing can be just fine. As can buffing, debuffing or doing anything else really.
Last gamesession my Asmodean Cleric used Command to give the Halt-command to an enemy, meaning he planted his feet firmly on the floor and just stood there wasting his action, while my party beat the snot out of him. I didn't have to do anything else, but I was ready to.
Custom Magic Item created with magic item creation guideline and personal judgement:
Shiny Ruby Slippers of Home
Command-Word Activated spell effect(Word of Recall): Spell level 6 x Caster level 11 x 1800 gp = 118.800 gp
Charges per day (1): 118.800/5 = 23.760gp
Special returning effect, increase price by x 1.5 = 35.640
Final price: 35.640 gp; 17820 gp to craft.
The Ruby Slippers of Home allow you to place a mark in a place you're presently occupying, by thinking of it as home. This is a standard action, that may be performed whenever you wish, but you must have solid footing beneath you. Once such a mark has been placed, the slippers are active and you may use their primary ability.
Once per day, as a standard action, you may click your heels together and say "there is no place like home", to be transported to the place you marked as "home", as if by word of recall. The place from where you use this power automatically recieves a secondary mark, that you may transport back to, without thinking of it as home, however doing so requires a use of the slippers power, meaning you cannot, under normal circumstances, return to the secondary mark, on the same day that you made it.
Dunno if it's what you wanted, but it's what I'm giving :P
GM: The bandits approach you as they draw steel, Gwydion you're first to act, what do you do?
My Bard:"Listen up you smelly dogs! You face Gwydion Tyrell - Duelist Extraordinaire, called Wind-Dancer, the greatest swordsman in Waterdeep!"
*the others take their turns*
My Bard: "Watch your flank, you ungraceful ruffian! Hah! I claim your sword from your clumsy hands, you've got this Ley, GET STUCK IN THERE, FRIENDS! FIGHT!"
There are very few bardic performances that require a perform check. The other performances do not require music or song, only audible or visual components, which could be many things.
Bards are leaders, they are the ones who enable excellence in those they call ally. Bards are kings, drill sergeants, field commanders and strike-team leaders. They are also sometimes travelling minstrels, powerful adventurers enabling their parties and defeating their foes with the magic of music and the grace of the artistic gods, striking the ground like a wardrum, causing their opponents to tumble backwards. Or strike up a tune that heals as it fades.
The bard class can be interpreted in many ways, leaving the flavour entirely in the hands of the player, and it is by far my favorite class in the game.
"Hey mate, now that you'll be playing with us, I should tell you about the 24 hour rule. Since people plan their time around us gathering and playing, and <DM> in particular, since DM'ing takes a bit of prep-work, we have the 24 hour rule. The rule is: If you can't join us for a game, you'll tell us 24 hours in advance, at least. This is simply a matter of respect for other people's time. Naturally we all understand that emergencies happen, or you can get caught in traffic or whatever, accidents uknow. But in general we play at <place> every <time>, and we it is expected that you show, and that you plan your time around it, just like everyone else. If you forget, no biggie, it's a new thing on your schedule, so no worries. But you'll prolly not want to forget twice, and certainly not three times, cuz then you're out, guaranteed. So just remember: 24 hour rule. And now, how about we roll up some characters?"
What a load of tosh. I'm sorry, but who do the other players think they are, telling this guy how to play his character? This character is not intelligent, so of course, if the he starts talking complex math and high-litterature, perhaps someone should ask the player if he really thinks that, that is what his character would realistically do. ASK him if that is what he thinks. Not tell him that it is not. It's not like the guy is lacking the wisdom to make good decisions, and he can be expected to know how his own spells work, just as much as a fighter can be expected to know his sword is made of a hilt, blade, pommel and crossguard.
If there has been a historical issue in the group of this player dumpstatting and then just roleplaying his way around it, as if it didn't matter, then I can see a reason why you would take the player aside to ask him, after the game. But if I was said player, I'd frankly ask the others to take their noses out of my business while I'm roleplaying my character.
My 2 cents.
Edit: does this thread belong on the advice board?
It will not be long until I too have to run this fight, provided my players do not die on their way through Xin Shalast. I say this so you know that I have not run this fight, and so you know I am not speaking from experience, only hypothetically.
With regards to the Ranger prepping actions.
The first thing the party has to do is move through the portal, into Karzoug's pocket realm. As Karzoug pretty much knows exactly what is going on in Xin Shalast, they cannot really take him by surprise, and as such, he will probably see them coming, meaning he can get the drop on them, not the other way around. IF he gets the drop on them, the moment they step through, he will use his time stop, which should technically go off before anyone has a chance to ready actions to shoot at him. Once the Time Stop goes down, he starts breaking up the heroes by choking their entrance area with a billion nasty spells, then following up with another time-stop. I believe one of the spells he is stated to throw down is a prismatic wall, meaning that not only can the ranger not see him, his ammo won't pass through the wall either. Once he is through the wall, that is a different story, but once he is through the wall, he may also be in melee range of the blue dragon, which should make ranged attacks interesting.
If you want to make sure that arrows are not an issue, you can have Karzoug use Fickle Winds or have him cast spells from behind a wall of force, which means the ranger will have to move up the stairs, onto the main balcony to get the right angle to shoot at Karzoug.
With regards to the Alchemist throwing dispel bombs.
Look at the layout of the map. The alchemist does not only have to toss the bomb quite a distance, he also has to toss it upwards, and there are features in the landscape, such as the upper balcony, and the greed-prism mcguffin thingie, which could interfere with his ability to get a clean throw in. Aside from that, notice that Karzoug does not fight alone. His wardens of thunder, the rune-giant and the blue dragon can fight just as tactically as your players, breaking up their tactics, ready'ing actions to respond to them, and so on.
As a final note, Karzoug has had about half the campaign to regularly observe these interlopers. By this point, unless the whole party wiped in xin shalast, and these are entirely new heroes, he should know the ins and outs of their tactics, their preferred means of attack and defense, and how to best deal with them. He may not be able to leave his realm, but his servants are, and he does not lack the finances either. His servants would be perfectly capable of securing objects he needs for him in the outside world, meaning that whatever his brilliant level 20, 10.000 year old-practically-the-inventor-of-transmutation-magic mind can device, he can probably have ready for the fight.
As a GM you ALWAYS possess the power to make an encounter challenging, because you have absolute power.
If you want to go with the book and roll with the dice, as I usually advice GMs to do, then I suggest you make sure you do Karzougs mental stats justice and make sure he is well-prepared to deal with these bothersome adventurers, who have brought him nothing but misery.
Hope it helps.