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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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
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.
- 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.
And then there's the whole "you have to have the spell, and the caster level to cast it" problem. Take a Handy Haversack, one of the most necessary items in the game, and not too expensive at 2,000 gp. Of course, the Caster Level for that wondrous item is NINE, and there are no "stepping-ladder" spells to get to it, so your stickler of a GM can laugh at you behind the GM screen as your STR 10 Wizard struggles with a 100-lb pack until 9th Level. (Dreamscarred Press made the spell a 1st-level power, so at least you can make Belt Pouches of Storage before 9th Level.)
There is far too much tizzy over WBL and crafting. First of all, you shouldn't be motivating your players with loot. You should motivate them with adventure.
Secondly, take a look at the settlement rules. A handy haversack is 2000gp. There is a 75% chance of a handy haversack being present and available in any large town.
Thirdly, use a generator like http://www.archivesofnethys.com/RandomItemGenerator.aspx. Do this as soon as you know your players will be in a particular town. They don't like anything on the list? Oh well. Time to travel to a new town if they want.
Now...when it gets ludicrous is when a wizard has access to several teleports per day, and has downtime. THEN he or she can theoretically teleport to any major city, and spend a few hours shopping on behalf of the party members. When THAT starts happening, you start bending the rules in favor of the party simply being able to buy whatever they can afford, so long as it's not a rare wondrous item. OR you can sit there at your computer and click on Nethys' generator for every major city he visits and tell him "that's what you find there this week."
What is important is creating a sense of scarcity and "I found this! Muahahaaa!" because it lends a certain verisimilitude to the adventuring world. When players CAN have whatever they want, an adventure becomes less appealing.
Wish Lists? Yes, I use those too.
Indeed, Bandw. You have to learn to say "no". People will actually respect you for being assertive without being aggressive.
On the other hand, you have have tapped-into some potential fun with your players: they want to play alien weirdos? Build your campaign around that. Make them the escaped creations of some demiplane-hidden society of wizards and give them a general quest. See how it goes for a session or two. Often times, weird inspirations like this wear off quickly.
Ho Ho! Go look up "ancient copper dragon" for starters. Here is a CR17 that can cast (at will): Grease, Hideous Laughter, Stone Shape, Transmute Rock to Mud, and Wall of Stone. ...What do you think an encounter with one would be like? It would be like a 3D funhouse of terrorlaughs. It's a dungeon designed by M.C. Escher and run by the Time Bandits. It's doubtful any of them would ever actually FIND the copper dragon unless he wanted them to. Never mind WHAT the party is doing there in the first place.
At that level, you gotta go beyond just the list of stats and putting them in a 30x30 room. Go down the monster's list of feats and abilities and put together a story of how they got to be so old and powerful. Consider all of the friends and alliances they've made in their lives and the general ecology of how they live. You'll come up with some epic encounters to keep high level characters guessing.
As a fighter I feel useless unless there is a combat going on.
Just like a high level dragon, how did a fighter get so experienced? Does he live in a vacuum? What about all of the enemies he's made along the way? What about all of the friends who want a powerful martial to come help them out? (think of all those westerns where they want to recruit the hero). Remember a martial is what the people SEE when they picture "adventurer" or "hero". He should be casting a long shadow.
What do you do to challenge the wizard?
Make the world a deadly place for someone with less than 100 hit points. Make it a dangerous place for someone with an AC of only around 20 or so. Adjudicate EVERY SINGLE SPELL as it's written in the book. There are actually a surprising number of limitations.
Then...make him work for it. Creating an adventure? Surprise! It takes place in a cavern system that is incredibly hot and full of smoke. (Gonna need that Environment spell). Find the bad guy's castle? Surprise! It doesn't have any doors or windows! (Gonna need a transmute or something). It's up on that floating island in the sky? Surprise! How you getting up there? Surprise! It's guarded by invisible redcaps! Now the spellcaster has to somehow make all those redcaps visible for the party...You get the idea. If he thinks he's so great, make him work for it.
...and then have him roll a save for his spellbook the next time they cross a river. He'll start feeling vulnerable.
There is plenty of precedence in literature of heroes and unfortunates being summoned or finding themselves in some outer plane, answering the call of some powerful entity. Hellraiser comes to mind.
Perhaps NOT summoning mortals is part of the protections and pacts the gods have made with one another...?
A polymorph spell can arguably be used to turn anyone into a different gender of themselves, since it is polymorph that is used to create the Elixir of Opposite Gender.
A female cat? Why not. Go with it. You yourself are not a female cat, I assume...? You asked for cake, and got a cake with frosting. Think of it as a challenge from the gods. Young king Arthur got turned into a hawk and an ant and a fish, after all.
An argument can be made for casting spells without somatic components because it is said dragons can do so. I would be tempted to lend you Mage Hand and allow you to cast that cantrip to explore and discover what has happened to you and why.
Sure. An adventurer doesn't choose their gender. They're born with it. Their culture and customs and local mores determine their sexual identity.
Just like in real life.
Haha. True and true.
If I recall correctly, doesn't it have something to do with the relationship between the Prime Material and the Outer Planes? A summoned animal comes from the Happy Hunting Grounds (and returns there after the spell) while demons and devils and other spirits come from their respective planes. A GATED creature or being is dead if slain, while a summoned one is not.
If there's a summons that brings someone or something from elsewhere in the Prime Material, I'd like to know about it.
Capable of doing...
I'm not a huge fan of the idea of "tiers" and the gnashing of teeth that goes along with the idea. To me, we play these games to bring fantasy worlds to life. I'd be as happy running a group of rogues and monks as I would a group of clerics and wizards and druids. It's all about helping that player see through his character's eyes. Anyone who talks down to someone else at the table saying "Oh, you're playing a tier 3 character." gets the Eyebite from me.
BUT...I've softened to the idea as there is value in open discussion as to the combat capabilities of the classes. It helps the game system evolve (sometimes). This idea of "is capable of doing" is very...misleading, unless we're talking about a 30x30 room with a monster in it.
Feats and numbers...feats and numbers...have fun talking feats and numbers, but don't forget it's a roleplaying game.
Eyebite seems like a very potent necromancy spell. It reads
Each round, you can target a single living creature, striking it with waves of power.
You must spend a swift action each round after the first to target a foe.
Am I right in reading this as the caster is able to target ONE DIFFERENT foe (as a swift action every round after the first)? So a 10th level caster could sicken/panic/comatose ten opponents?
Does the target need to be able to see him or her to feel the effects of Eyebite?
Since it's just a swift action, can I assume the caster can be casting and doing other things besides laying Eyebite on someone?
I'm a big fan of the Dream spell. Unlike Sending, you can send much longer messages. It's a bit slower and only one-way, but the information load is huge.
Do you suppose that two wizards could collaborate and agree to cast Dream at a particular time, and meet one another in a shared dream? Does that sound on par with a 5th level spell between two colleagues?
I've been itching to do a dreamscape adventure, and this has me pondering possibilities.
Polymorph any Object is a good solution, in my opinion. It's the ultimate polymorph spell, and incorporates doing anything at all to your opponent if they fail their save. At that level, there's no reason why a collective figurine wouldn't be do-able. Are you going to keep them in the package to maintain value?
But howabout a little fun? What if we combined a number of spells and (with your GM's permission) made a fun adventure hook out of it?;
Through careful planning and treacherous skullduggery, you've managed to entrap your lifelong enemies in a demiplane of your own devising. It's a nightmare world where they live, fight and die for your pleasure. Each enemy is controlled inside the world through the use of a game piece (of themselves) and an elaborate gaming table. You and your fellow wizards delight at playing "gods" to these men and women inside the demiplane, who play out dreadful stories for the amusement of you and your guests.
Hehe. Wylliam, this isn't a good idea. Tongue-in-cheek and off-color humor is good ONLY in very small doses, and ONLY if you know your audience really, really well. It can be a tension-breaker, but it falls flat if force fed to an audience.
Want a joke? Have everyone the party meets become polite and deferential (monsters too) because they're women. Every act of violence on the group's part results in apologies. Every tough guy and thug wants to "explain where they're coming from", Every barbarian is a metrosexual, etc. etc.
When the group becomes sick of it, have a laugh and move on.
APL 5? You should send a CR8 or 9 at the party.
Consider too, the use of neat little items like mistmail (chainmail shirt that turns into a cloud of mist. SUDDEN CONCEALMENT. Another is boots of spider climbing. Now he's standing on the ceiling laughing at the group.
Simple environmental things too, like there's a secret door that leads up to a balcony where he has 50% cover and higher ground. Stuff like that.
10. Keep a trunk full of all of the things a party needs but doesn't carry in their backpacks:
I keep the portable hole folded up and stored in my other spell book. NEVER stick it in your handy haversack by mistake!
11. It's been a great investment, especially for keeping those weight requirements down to low encumbrance.
12. It's also good for teleporting that fourth party member.
Demand is an 8th level version of Sending. It incorporates a Suggestion as part of the spell, so a party that is getting close to some dark secret can be given a magical suggestion to get them back under their benefactor's thumb. Imagine the fun that will ensue when the party fighter begins to INSIST the party ignores the warnings and proceed to the goal by a direct route...Maybe that noble's wizard has a few secrets he wants to keep for himself, and is willing to sacrifice the party to get to them.
Of course, he'll be keeping an eye on the party using scrying and giving suggestions via Message.
I imagine such an institution would have vaults devoted to hiding-away and securing important and dangerous items from the world.
It would also likely have a dungeon or two where a few certain dangerous individuals would be kept; the kind of prisoners no king's dungeon could contain.
A magic academy would have some world-renowned experts in residence; wizards and sorcerers who explore the limits of magic and mortal existence. They would either teach classes as part of their tenure at the academy, and/or have a staff they would instruct to teach a certain curriculum, and teach a new generation of wizards and magic-users.
Speaking of "vaults", I am of the opinion that the corollary to liches and their unholy quest for immortality is old wizards who use magics like Clone and Ethereal Jaunt to secure their aged bodies away in safety and suspended animation while their souls pursue important missions in the the Astral Plane, the Outer Planes and the Dreamlands.
Here's some food for thought: Do you have a group of murderhobos bullying a village because they feel invulnerable for their level? Show them that being surrounded by angry villagers is really dangerous.
Maybe the PCs AC is high enough someone would need a 20 to hit them. What about 7 villagers all using Aid Another to help that 8th individual make his grapple check to take down that pesky PC...?
Get enough angry villagers and it's almost like "Take 20", as those villagers will just keep coming at you until they score a hit. Then it's tar and feathers time.