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Owly's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 659 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists.


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I have frequently had NPC villains refer to certain PC characters as "holy warriors", not knowing whether they were up against a paladin or a cleric, and "magicians", seeing they had a foe who wielded magic and wasn't coming at them with a sword.

Paladins, wizards, clerics, druids, monks,...these all have institutions behind them, which helps define them and their roles in the world. (Like a "maester" from GoT). Whether someone else recognizes the Seal of Purity a paladin is wearing, or the holy regalia of a traveling cleric is another matter.

Fighters and rogues...these could be anybody.

A good martial interested in keeping the enemy busy will have good mobility on the battlefield, as well as situational-awareness (Combat Reflexes and is reserving actions when prudent).

Thinking like a field commander, you'll want to protect your artillery and archers (your caster), so stay in a position relative to those whom you wish to protect.

As DM, I won't send an enemy after a PC caster unless I think the enemy has the intelligence to recognize the threat and has the opportunity to do so.

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Take it from a gamer whose gamer group has moved a couple of decades down the road: enjoy gaming for the togetherness and escape from day-to-day concerns. Everyone at the table is just another gamer and we're all there to have a good time.

Remember Gimli told Aragorn to toss him at the orcs. ;)

We used one of our DM's kids' toys (a plastic shark) to represent a summoned shark (of my wizard's) during a particular lake battle. It was the right size for the shark's description in the bestiary, but it was considerably larger than the space such a creature occupies on the battlemat. Still, it was very cool, and it got me to looking at the descriptions of size of many of our classic beasts.

Think about this for a second:

DM:"The creature is trying to grab you."

PC:"I will let it grab me."

DM:"It grabs you."

There is no conflict, so there is no contest. At best, I may allow an intelligent assailant to sense motive to figure out the PC is trying to maneuver in close using the assailant's action. But since the player isn't using his Maneuver Defense in Combat, there's no need for the creature to roll against his CMD.

This came up the other night in Curse of the Crimson Throne. Players were trying to get Cindermaw to swallow them, and Cindermaw WANTED to swallow them. Why roll? Does it build tension?

As for bullrushing an ally, I see no difficulty unless the ally is blinded for some reason and can't see who is tackling him. It makes perfect dramatic sense that an ally could knock someone out of the way of danger if they had an action ready.

A crocodile (CR2) has "death roll" which allows for underwater grappling, which could be epic and exciting. A bulette is pretty tough (and has burrowing), so I could see some fun scenes happening with grabbing and dragging PC's underground.

Still, you have to consider that the risk of being underground is greater than that of being underwater (as PC's can theoretically swim). I might use such a maneuver to hook the PC's into an underground adventure, but I'd make them fight the bulette first.

Also, I don't believe it's necessary to have a hard and fast ruling on every imaginable situation in the game. Where's the thrill in having everything figured-out? This is why we have dungeon masters.

Reverse wrote:
Owly wrote:

Our group's policy: Bringing in a new character (due to death or switcheroo or whatever) means that new character is 1 level lower than the lowest at the table. Everyone is 10th level? Your new character is bottom of 9th level.

It lends some consequences to death without being soul-crushing, and discourages the revolving door. It's also fair to the players who have kept their characters alive.

How does this work with multiple characters dying?

The group is 10th level. Bob dies, and comes back at the bottom of 9th. Then Amy dies next week, and has to come back at 8th because Bob got killed. Then Jack dies and is 7th level, only to die over and over again because now he's perma-stuck 3 levels below the highest party level.

Do you run into problems?

The slippery slope is indeed, treacherous, but this worst-case-scenario you describe hasn't happened. What HAS happened is two PCs (one killed, one voluntarily changes out characters at level 9) have altered the APL from 10 to 9. So I've been putting together one-shot dungeons to give them and me some practice. When everyone is level 10 or 11, they'll pick up the main storyline in the Cinderlands again.

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Our group's policy: Bringing in a new character (due to death or switcheroo or whatever) means that new character is 1 level lower than the lowest at the table. Everyone is 10th level? Your new character is bottom of 9th level.

It lends some consequences to death without being soul-crushing, and discourages the revolving door. It's also fair to the players who have kept their characters alive.

The Mounted Combat rules have long deserved a dedicated rewrite in Pathfinder, in my humble opinion.

"Stay in the Saddle" is the relevant check (DC 5, does not require an action). An imaginative DM might add +1 to the difficulty (house rule) for each 5pts. of damage the rider takes or for each 5pts. the CMD is exceeded by, considering that jousting competitors got unhorsed frequently.

Edit: Oops, I forgot Armor Check Penalties. Well, there ya go.

Fair game. As the GM, you'd want to think cinematically though. Throw CR's, feats and abilities out the window and turn the scene into a dramatic one, or one of relentless menace (like in Salem's Lot), and the characters need to figure out how to push back or forestall the menace while you provide lots of clues.

Example: The vampire is slowly descending the stairs, enjoying the fact he's intimidated the PC's and is showing his fangs, intending to corner each of them and drain them of their lives. Perhaps he's monologuing the whole time, revealing how he's manipulated the PC's up to this point. The players need to
1. Get the cage open that holds the girl they came to rescue
2. Get the vampire to reveal a certain bit of information
3. Pull the curtain down off the plate glass window to burn the vamp and stop him in his tracks
4. Battle his minions
5. Find the back door out of the mansion

Meanwhile, the GM's description includes "You've heard legends about these POWERFUL monsters and the INCREDIBLE powers they wield. Did you wish to attack him with your FEEBLE weapons, or did you want to rescue the girl and RUN?"

They could identify the spells used in the device (like the teleporter) but I doubt they could identify how the lever affects the teleporter or where the teleport would take them.

Can one use Spellcraft or Detect Magic to understand the workings of a magical device, like a trap or a teleporter?

Case-in-point: There is a certain AP which has a room with levers and "floating spheres of mist" which act as teleporters. One of the levers affects the destination of the teleporters, and each sphere teleports to a different location. This is not the first time we've seen teleporters in Paizo adventures. I was curious if an astute PC could use his skills to decipher and understand such magical devices and save the PCs a lot of trouble...?

My 2cp: I often have what I call "dramatic scenes" wherein amusing stuff occurs to set the scene, get a laugh, get everyone to loosen up, let the bad guy monologue.

So long as it doesn't put the PCs at a disadvantage, then no sense of agency is broken. No harm no foul.

I once had a villain noserafu make an escape despite the efforts of the party. I explained "He's protected by plot armor" and that got a belly laugh out of everyone. They understood.

Jacob Saltband wrote:

AD&D 1e:

The material component of this spell is a small, forked metal rod - the exact size and metal type dictating to which plane of existence the spell will send the affected creature(s) to.

AD&D 2e added:
Forked rods keyed to cetain planes may be difficult come by, as decided by the GM.

Wizards didnt have plane shift on their spell lists in 1e and 2e, at least not in the Players Hand Books.

Good to see another player who doesn't regard "the fluff" as something that just goes by the wayside in favor of "the build".

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I think the logical dysfunction here comes from the fact any spell appearing on some non-wizard's spell list is by definition, not a wizard spell.

When a cleric casts Plane-Shift, he's casting a divine version of plane-shift, and one given to him by his deity.

Now...getting snotty with "why can't you read?" replies overlooks the fact that what I just wrote it how the "yes" crowd is reading the rules. So there it is.

Jacob makes a fine argument, as PFS seems to be the watermark of the wider game.

I'm open to an FAQ ruling.

While it works in theory, such things rarely work in practice. Why? Outside influences. It's chaos math, basically. In the years it would take some sorcerer to work out his "technique" he would doubtless make quite a few enemies who didn't take well to his undermining of their local influence: gangsters, crooks, politicians, wizards, etc. In a world of magic, there are plenty of ways to detect its influence.

Google "Jesus sorcerer" for a bit of history on this.

From a GMs perspective, I'd let you get away with this for a while, but then I'd use it as an excuse to make you some fun enemies.

Inquisitors of Pharasma show up investigating the demise of three notorious and wanted vampires. Church is impressed with adventurers.

Opportunity is offered to "finish the job" by traveling to the astral plane to eliminate the villain holding those vampires souls (because magic). Adventurers bodies will be kept safe and negative levels removed in the meantime-- using artifact unique to that particular church.

-solves problem
-makes new friends
-exciting new adventure

For demoralizing, sure. Every urban setting (or rural town) may have a thug or two, or even a member of the upper-class who doesn't want to be bothered. A quick Intimidation check to "send a message" and I award the player with a "Shaken" Condition Card.

In-fact, lots of demoralizing going around in Crimson Throne. It's kind of like our modern world, in that a person's PRESENCE and AUTHORITY is projected more often than you think, even innocuous social settings.

Imagine PCs trying to get aboard a ship, and the harbor master putting up his hand and saying "This is my harbor, not yours. Do I need to call the city watch?" It's not a combat situation, but it's about someone swinging their weight around.

I am imagining the drum machine from metalocalypse.

It sounds to me like they weren't having a good time, and decided to leave.

A lack of face-to-face social interaction is one of the reasons I have migrated away from online gaming in general. There is fun to be had, but some people don't seem to understand that sitting in your home instead of at a table with friends doesn't give you the excuse to not show up on time, or to goof off.

Game Master wrote:

What's morally wrong about drawing an unholy symbol? What harm does that actually cause? What's morally wrong about pouring unholy water on someone? Does this impinge on someone's freedom, or comfort, or security?

"Inherently evil" isn't interesting. It's not good storytelling and it doesn't make characters hesitate due to the consequences of their actions.

The "small sacrifice to a devil" idea makes me think, though. What if instead of devil's blood, the material component was the blood of an animal the caster had sacrificed in Asmodeus's name? The wizard needs to catch a squirrel and sacrifice it to a devil to use his spell (the blood can be stored in the component pouch between adventures, perhaps, but it'd be part of the background of the ability. Rolled into his spell preparations and component gathering, maybe).

Inherent evil really IS the crux of the matter and moreover it's an artifact left over from the very beginning of D&D. Orcs and goblins are inherently evil. How do we know? Detect Evil tells us so. Kill them!

Is it interesting? Enh. Your mileage may vary with your philosophy. But evil isn't necessarily just impinging on someone's freedom, comfort or security. In a more medieval sense, it's INVITING something else in. Drawing an unholy symbol is making evil that much more "real" in the world. Uttering "evil" words is inviting an evil spirit within you, so others should make the sign against the evil eye, etc.

Let's not forget the material component of Infernal Healing is demon's blood. How does the caster get this component? Why, through the evil act of summoning, bargaining for, purchasing or otherwise getting a substance that is inherently evil, even if just from someone else (who must be evil, or he wouldn't have it). When evil becomes tangible and quantifiable, it actually makes storytelling a bit easier (if a little less interesting).

I myself like to imagine that using Infernal Healing causes nasty, painful scars that flare up whenever the recipient says or does something good--reminding him or her that they accepted such magic and that dark agents have a little hook into their immortal soul...

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It's as Wraithstrike said: You can evade so long as you're not helpless.

Even a tanglefoot bag and quicksand do not render a character helpless, so this is one of those things where the rules abut common sense. I've learned to simply nod and move on with the game.

Rynjin wrote:

I should totally create a new spell called "Reveal Backstory" and give it to every caster for free.


School divination ; Level bard 0, sorcerer/wizard 0, cleric 0
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M (remote control w/subtitles button or a word balloon from a comic book)
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target one humanoid
Duration 1 min./level (D)
Save no; SR no

Upon casting, Reveal Backstory causes all actions to pause as though Time Stop were cast. The subject then begins explaining what brought them to the current combat scene, and may include anecdotes about their childhood abuses and their relationship with their current employer.

The divine casting of Reveal Backstory will have a booming voice manifest and explain the target's actions in third-person.

When complete, time speeds back up and actions continue normally.


LuxuriantOak wrote:
With antagonist - yeah, good luck with that, they're usually dead before they can say "my name is Inigo Mon-URK ...".

This got a laugh out of me.

Yes, well, Crimson Throne is an urban adventure, and so I wanted to use the setting to exploit non-combat ways of building tension, like the generous use of Intimidate (like in gangster movies), and Diplomacy --especially the use of the Social Combat deck (although I've learned there are times when it just slows things down). I actually allow Diplomacy during combat on certain occasions (despite the 1 minute rule), as I think it allows a certain dialogue for exposition or negotiation-- like fencers having a repartee, or jedi sneering at one another.

I've gotten to sliding little bits of back story into character's appearances like "You notice she's wearing barbed armor of masterwork quality...a gift from her master upon reaching 7th level in her unholy studies of Zon-Kuthon" etc. The PC's have no way of knowing this, but it lends a nice context to things so long as I'm not giving away important information.

I'll sometimes hint around while they're doing Gather Information or Perception checks that there are deeper secrets to be found, and then encourage Knowledge checks. I think I'm doing all right with it, but there are sometimes GREAT AND AWESOME things Paizo's authors have written-in that I just don't have the opportunity to expose to the group.

Thanks for your answers, everyone!

How do other GM's reveal the interesting backstories of those NPC's well-written into the AP's?

Case-in-point: "Cinnabar" from Curse of the Crimson Throne: great backstory, but like so many other NPC's we conjure up, where and how do we tell their stories during the adventure?

I have some tools of my own, but I'd like to open things up and hear from others.

Use a generator like Nethys's excellent site:
Archives of Nethys

Let them buy and sell as they wish, in a city that can afford the items or not.

When in doubt, go to the Gamemastering Page and award gems and coin based on the "Treasure Values by Encounter" table.

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Sword of the Narwhal When used underwater, the wielder of this sword gains waterbreathing and move 60'. They can also make a charge attack by holding the pommel of the sword against their forehead. If they damage their opponent, they must make a DC10 Fortitude save or be knocked unconscious for 1d4 rounds because they were holding their weapon against their forehead, and because they're not really a narwhal.

Lightsaber of Disappointment This weapon seems to be the legendary weapon known to be the coolest of weapons found in Numeria: the energy-bladed lightsaber! However, this weapon will always be a disappointment to its wielder. For every question the player asks about it, you the GM should give a disappointing answer:

Player: Is it really a lightsaber?
GM: Well...kinda.
Player: Does it have an energy blade?
GM: More like a warm beam
Player: Can it cut through anything?
GM: It'll cut through most soft cheeses, eventually.
Player: What color is the blade?
GM: Like a...soft puce
Player: Does it sound like a lightsaber? Maybe I can fool my enemies.
GM: It sounds like a kazoo
Player: This sucks! I'll sell it.
GM: No one will buy it from you. It sucks.
Player: I'll just leave it somewhere then.
GM: A small gnome returns it to your inn room the next day.

I concur with Scott's excellent answer.

Back in the 80's, i read a module called "Queen of the Demonweb Pits" (by David Sutherland III and Gary Gygax), in which there was a description of another world:

Demonweb wrote:

F. Maldev

Looking through the gate, the party will see that somehow things
do not look quite right. The gate looks out upon a mountain setting,
but the mountains are too tall and sharply pointed to be real. The
sky is bluish-purple and partly overcast; the sun is almost below the
tops of the mountains. What stars are out are much larger than
normal, almost like small moons.

I knew that that was incredibly cool, taking the player-characters from one fantasy world into another, and I knew that there was really no limit to how deep we could go if we wanted to.

And that's when I was hooked on rpg's. I learned how to DM, and the art of telling an interactive story, as well as how to organize and how to get everyone involved and keep everyone involved. I'm not perfect, but I've learned that if you love to do something, you get gradually better at it.

A few years ago, I discovered Pathfinder, which seemed like a good, modern interpretation of D&D, with no-holds-barred and even a flare for a bit of horror and sci-fi. My friends and I picked it up and have been having fun ever since.

Some good answers by Neirikr and Wyrd.

I invited my players to choose in what way Gaedren Lamm wronged them, giving them a history with the crime organizations of Korvosa.

I have a player who has a home and family.

I have a player who had a valuable heirloom book stolen from him by Gaedren, that was later purchased by Rolth. (sort of a macguffin to keep him searching for it).

I remind the players frequently that there are immediate resources available to them (like healing and restoration) that is not readily available outside the city.

And I also remind the players that just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no nihilism in fantasy roleplay. You have to care about something in order to get on in the world, even if it's your own selfish pride.

I put together a couple of props for my table: a bag of 1000 coins (pennies). It filled a plastic grocery bag to the size of a large grapefruit, and weighs several pounds. I showed it to the players and let them pass it around "This is what Field Marshall Kroft hands to you (albeit gold pieces)"...we were playing Curse of the Crimson Throne. My point was, that 1000gp is bigger and heavier than you probably imagine.

100gp? I put 100 quarters into a dice pouch. It's a bit heavy, and is about the size of a tangerine.

My advice: Use weight and encumbrance as a kind of logistical puzzle for the players to solve. Piles and piles of coins? Get a wheelbarrow or invest in a handy haversack. Gotta transport a lot of wealth? Buy gems. Found a whole warehouse of trade goods? Run back to town and get inventive with who you hire or sell the contents to.

The idea is that it should be fun to solve weird problems, and sometimes those solutions can lead to new relationships in-game, or opportunities for adventure or trouble. They should help make your game world more real to the players. Don't just hand wave things away unless they threaten to bog down the flow of gameplay.


Cool idea. I'll help you out because of your excellent use of the word "wont", but this search took me literally five seconds.

Sounds more like roleplay to me.

Jiggy did a very nice rundown of the light and darkness rules over here.

I'll second the motion for Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth.

Good post above by Mark Hoover.

Running a sandbox is a good idea, but it requires two elements:
1. Players with solid character backgrounds, which does not necessarily mean a "long-winded wall-of-text" background either, just a compelling concept and some self-imposed boundaries
2. A GM who is adept at The Art of The Hook; able to catch players' interest and channel their altruistic/selfish motivations into activity

Negative levels are a consequence of failure. Consequences can be used in interesting and creative ways to encourage success.

Success is fun. Everyone enjoys hitting the high points in the game. Being at the bottom of the heap makes success all the more sweet.

Got a competent character who rolled badly and now has a negative level? Use it as an opportunity to roleplay seeking out information on that undead; learning some secret that will make it more vulnerable to the hero. Every epic tale has the hero facing some dark moment in their careers where they have to purge themselves and learn anew in order to defeat evil.

Manacles of Cooperation

Reserved for only the finest adventurer convicts who don't "play nice" in the chow hall.

Sorcerers get polymorphed into geese for the duration of their sentence. Misbehavior results in goose on the menu in the chow hall.

It is not common knowledge, but amongst wizards it is known that summoned monsters are typically from the Outer Plane of the Beastlands. These are of the essence of incarnated souls from the Prime Material, and make up a vast population of those souls whose intelligence was good or neutral, but spend eternity mastering their more bestial natures in a rubric only the gods can understand. The lower-levels of these beast-souls incarnate on the Prime Material again when summoned as a "test" which is part of their regimen. That dire badger you just summoned? He was an intelligent person just like you only a few hundred years ago on some far away world. When he is slain or dismissed, he returns to his clan in the Beastlands to meditate on his performance.

Of course, demons and angels come from their respective planes. It is all part of a vast cosmic relationship between the Prime and the Outer Planes.

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Yep! Had 2 women DM's. Lots of fun. I have no opinion one way or the other.

Now, don't wanna let engineers play D&D with you.

Well, I don't like any of those. Mine is obviously better.

Thanks Cbh!

Twisting the Knife- Upon scoring a critical hit in melee combat, the attacker may attempt a Combat Maneuver. If successful, they may on their next turn, roll an automatic hit, doing the weapon's damage plus any applicable bonuses. This action provokes an Attack of Opportunity from the opponent, both on the turns it is invoked, and the subsequent round in which it takes place.

A thunderstone might be the poor adventurer's option.

I allowed a kitsune PC. It was fun, until his disguise slipped one day, and the jokes began to fly.

My favorite was "...are you housebroken?"

In terms of a fantasy world, I don't think any kitsune worth her second tail would be too quick in revealing their identity; it's their greatest gift, after all.

We all have to be aware and careful though, as some character types are prone to be attached to ...*ahem*...those types of players CRAVING endless attention. Just so long as everyone is having fun, and it adds something to the game, I'm cool with it.

I'd go with the +2/+4/+6 rule.

A success on the party's Perception would reflect the fact they may anticipate such a tactic in an ambush, and/or see an unusual shadow on the water around them.

I like maptools and Roll20. I know a guy who uses an overhead projector with it at his table.

As for mapping at the table, I pre-draw the dungeon using a battlemat. I block out the map using "fog of war" maptiles that I place upside down, and reveal as I go.

Alternatively, draw the map, or encourage THEM to draw the map as they go along.

Alternatively, do it like we did back in the old days. They have graph paper and a pencil, and they map the dungeon as you describe it to them. (That circular chamber in Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth was a doozy!).

Don't be afraid to let things reside in their imaginations.

We've had a bit of a challenge trying to recreate the tension that comes from threatening someone with a ready weapon, the "Don't move, I got you in my sights" kind of situation of aiming a crossbow/gun/bow/fisharang at someone.

Session 2: Players experience the city in chaos.

- Rescue a rich nobleman from the mob. He awards them 5pp, but because they are in a roleplaying mood, I allow some diplomacy checks, and he decides buying the players a drink would be a good idea. They bend his ear about city politics and I use this as an opportunity to prod them towards taking the brooch to the queen. He warns them about seeming like looters and brigands.

- A drunken half-orc looter is in the tavern (this is the first night of rioting) and he's making trouble. They attempt to talk him down out of a fight and I decide this is a good time to break out the Social Combat deck. None of us had used it before, but a 3x3 grid became a lot of fun. They failed however, and I ruled that three of his rioting friends come into the place as Initiative is rolled.

Things go reasonably well for the PC's, so I have three more rioters arrive. (Level 1 thugs). The rich merchant runs and summons help from the next room of the tavern, one of whome is Grau Soldado. I affect an Antonio Banderas accent, and challenge everyone "who draws steel in this fine establishment." Intimidation checks are made (something I wanted to use heavily in this urban campaign) and rioters leave. Conversation with Grau Soldado ensues, and the players elect to get him yet even more drunk to help preserve their reputation. He gets returned to the fort.

I rule that all merchants and commerce are shut down in the city the next day, and no loot gets sold. They spend the day pursuing a meeting with Grau Soldado, and getting him to take a doctored version of the red ledger to a guard captain to exonerate and polish their reputation, and find out if there is a reward for the brooch.

I don't discourage players when they overelaborate on a plot point. It leads to some creative stuff...usually.

-Encounter with Otyugh goes very well. The barbarian and alchemist nuke it pretty effectively, but a CR4 threat DID grab each of them. They took it down before it could work any real damage on them. 3 rounds combat.

Brooch is returned to the queen, and the group is recruited by Field Marshall Cressida Kroft. The queen acts suitably haughty and suspicious. Players are getting used to making Sense Motive checks.

I decide that the throne room (after the queen departs) would be a good opportunity for the local lords and ladies to rub elbows and allow the players to make inroads to the upper crust. A 4x4 social grid was laid out, and the players fail right before the last card. The tension this allowed was lots of fun, and the players began roleplaying each challenge on the cards (Diplomacy and Bluff only). If they had won, I would have perhaps had them invited to dinner "Once things settle down" and maybe used that occasion for a hook for something.

- All the World's Meat:
I used the Chase Deck to allow the players to chase down an old sailor who had approached the window to get free meat. Everyone said they loved the chase cards once they understood the rules. They caught him, and this becomes their "in" for information to the Cow Hammer Gang.

The PC's infiltrate the front door (the rogue used some feminine wiles) and she used Bluff to get him to leave the door unbarred. Hilarity ensues as everyone barges in soon after, and the first two goons go down from a grease spell and the barbarian's nonlethal damage.

From there, the PC's sneak up the stairs, to find sergeant Verik Vankaskerkin lounging at his desk. In retrospect, I probably should have allowed for him to have heard the combat downstairs so he'd be at the ready, but as it was, they took HIM down in two rounds. Not a big deal, as he's a political prisoner and not a mindless thug (I played him as too smart to be a soldier, and seduced by Arkona).

Everyone said they had a good time, and enjoyed the card games. I've found the tavern maps, the rooftop tilemaps, and battlemats are quite handy for this campaign. In the future, I need to bump up the CR a bit for these guys, depending on the ability of the party. I didn't want to slaughter Level 1's though if they get bad rolls. (Which I did with Thornkeep once).

Hello everyone. I'll post some sessions here for your amusement and input.

Four players. Mature, experienced gamers all. 21pt. build.
-Urban Barbarian
-Alchemist Chirurgeon

- Set up a campaign website w/google to post announcements, player writings, and general input. We did this with Kingmaker, and everyone got a kick out of it. It created a nice social hub for us outside of email.

- Players contribute backstories. My prompt was "Gaedren Lamm has wronged each one of you in some way." Everyone created a bit of a dark background for their characters except the bard, who is a married man with a family and a career in Korvosa.

Session 1: Introductions and backstories all around, and I allow these things to flow into the initial encounter with Zellara. I run the Zellara encounter just a BIT like a haunt: with a single Will save to resist a "wave of emotion that washes over you" (with no consequences). The harrow cards she uses as she tells her backstory got some raised eyebrows, so the players KNEW something was weird about her story. I figured since she can manifest illusionary cards to get their attention, she can manifest an illusionary version of her deck to cast a harrow spread.

Also, I slowed down the cadence of her story a bit and gave her an accent because I thought that the way Jacobs wrote her story was a little too matter-of-fact for a ghost/murdered mother and not emotional enough. The Will save was a twist to help with the mood.

- The encounter with Gaedren Lamm went a little too slam-dunk. Yargin got knocked unconscious quickly, the half-orc foreman went down in about one round, and the gnome was set-upon by the orphans shortly thereafter. While the map required some explaining ("What is this part here? It's UNDER the warehouse?") Gaedren was eventually cornered.

One of the players had her younger sister as a captured orphan working for Gaedren, and the others reported "She's been taken to see uncle Gaedren", just to build a little tension. Sure enough, Lamm had the girl dangling over the croc pit. I ruled it was a "block and tackle with a chain", so that a clever rogue with a rapier might use her blade to halt the chain if he were to let it go. It never came to that. The bard ran and attacked, taking Gaedren down to 0hp in one blow. Gaedren was "accidentally" fed to his croc.

In retrospect, I would keep Gaedren's hand on the chain as a readied action against anyone approaching, and let him gloat and lecture.

Head-in-the-hatbox found, they realize Zellara's true nature. Spooky moment, and a good reveal.

I also threw in a "red ledger" containing a list of contacts and bribed officials around the city. I thought Gaedren might have such a thing and that it would make a useful hook later on.

Sneaking into a warehouse at night, the presence of innocents, the criminal nature of an urban campaign were excellent elements, and everyone said they had a good time. In retrospect, I would bump up the circumstances, making for a little more teamwork from the fishery thugs and Bloo.

bulbaquil wrote:

The magic item availability is simply "what's already at market" when the players show up in town. Base value and purchase limit do not prevent the party from hiring the services of an NPC spellcaster to craft custom items for them at standard market value, provided there's a spellcaster capable of casting Xth-level spells in that city/town.

What does tend to prevent them? The time investment involved (though if your campaign's on that tight a timeline, you're not having any PC crafting either), the possibility of PCs being unfriendly with the locals, etc.

Well said.

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