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Peter Kies's page

FullStarFullStar RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford. 73 posts (107 including aliases). 1 review. No lists. No wishlists. 5 Pathfinder Society characters. 1 alias.


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The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Cao Phen wrote:

You can also run a the Skulls and Shackles Adventure path in Campaign Mode. When running that, just inform when you reach the section for PFS credit. Just have their characters mirror the ones used for PFS

You can also run it in PFS mode, where PFS characters run the PFS specific portions of the Adventure Path.

The Plunder and Peril mega-module can also be an option. And if you are running both Plunder and Peril, as well as Skulls and Shackles, you can intertwine the two games.

But remember that this would be a heavy commitment in terms of playerbase, since this can take weeks to complete.

In terms of scenarios, I just recently played Slave Ships of Absalom, and though it had a nice finish of piracy-like themes. Part two of the Quest for Perfection chain is also nice.

Do you have an estimate, for PFS mode, of how long it would take to play the sanctioned content in Plunder & Peril? e.g. could each of the 3 parts be played 5 hours or 6 or 8 or 10? For a 3 day event, we probably have at most 35 hours of gaming (7 slots of 5 hours each).

If we wanted PCs to start at lower levels (playing some scenarios and then part 1 of the Skull & Shackles AP first), I'm sure we could NOT get though all of Plunder & Peril at the same event. Although maybe it would be better to just open it to PCs of the requisite level and run it campaign mode with one level per day. The other option would be to build PCs up from level 1 during this weekend, and try to have them ready to play Plunder & Peril at a future event.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

DesolateHarmony wrote:

No clerics of Besmara? Or inquisitors and warpriests, either? Many in a pirate crew might be rogues, as well. I usually think of a single swashbuckler as a pirate leader, with cutthroats and ne'er-do-wells working with him.

"It is, it is, a glorious thing, to be a Pirate King!"

It's more of a gimmick idea, to not have a "balanced" party, but instead to have too many pirate leaders, each trying to show up the rest with bravado and derring-do. What happens if everyone wants to be the pirate captain, and nobody wants to have a different role in the crew? Perhaps one stands out and becomes the pirate king, or maybe it just turns into general silliness and mayhem with a crew that knows swashbuckling and nothing else.

If I did this with a higher level game, I think I'd relax the restriction to allow some amount of multi-classing; it might too severely limit the chance of success in some scenarios if the party lacks diversity.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

I'm considering having a pirate themed event, and possibly a session that is only open to swashbuckler PCs.

Any ideas on what might be some of the best choices for the latter?

I've seen quite a few PFS scenarios with pirates or ships, but I suspect there are several other good options out there which I've yet to consider.

The Exchange

I found the answer after searching some other posts - it's in the combat section of the PRD:

combat wrote:
Supernatural Abilities (Su): Using a supernatural ability is usually a standard action (unless defined otherwise by the ability's description). Its use cannot be disrupted, does not require concentration, and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

and for rage:

barbarian class wrote:
While in rage, a barbarian cannot use any Charisma-, Dexterity-, or Intelligence-based skills (except Acrobatics, Fly, Intimidate, and Ride) or any ability that requires patience or concentration.

So the supernatural ability doesn't require concentration and it's not a skill. As long as the GM rules that it doesn't require patience (can't see that this one would) - I should be good to go.

The Exchange

I'm looking at a build taking a 1-level dip in barbarian (savage technologist) and a wizard with air elemental school.

The initial thought was to get the fast movement and extra HP and to not suffer AC penalties if the character runs out of spells and has to rage.

But can the supernatural ability Lightning Flash be used while raging?

I'm imagining the character charging into the nearest crowd of baddies and explosively discharging electricity all around.

If this can't be done, I'm a bit at a loss to come up with the build. I had not really planned for any great skill with a weapon - thinking of something more like Marvel's Storm, unleashing wind and electricity when she loses her temper.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

The PC I'm considering actually already has a level of Cavalier, but it will take a while to get 5 ranks in perform (which are required for Ensemble).

The character also has some prestige, which I'm willing to spend on the vanities. I'm looking more for something I can do right now, versus waiting several levels to build a certain game mechanic. It isn't so much about having bonuses to bardic performance as it is having followers that are PFS legal and match the concept.

If there's something out there of this type that also grants a little bonus, then that would be, well, a bonus.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Ensemble might be interesting when he gets high enough level to take it. The downside on harmonizing armor sounds a bit scary.

What I'm really looking for is whether there are sources for vanities other than the Field Guide. The followers in the guide aren't exactly a match for what I'm envisioning, nor are the businesses. Theater and Concert Hall are close for the latter, but I'd rather have a business that's a roving band.

I could (for no mechanical game effect) have followers that are heralds, porters, seneschals, etc. and just say they can sing and play instruments I summon for them, but I'd rather check first to make sure there isn't a better fit in another resource.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

R2D2TS wrote:
Flagbearer is a feat from The Inner Sea World Guide.

Thanks. I just got that book last month. I guess I need to give it a thorough read.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Geoffrey Griffith wrote:
Try to recruit party members. They can make perform (sing) checks untrained. I have a friend who's bard is wildly popular. He has the flagbearer feat, and carries the flag of his band, and offers party members the opportunity to be roadies and what not and everyone seems to enjoy the chance to participate.

I like this from a role play aspect, but I don't think there's really a game mechanic for it. If the other PCs don't have a level in bard, they can't aid a bardic performance. But they could aid to a general perform (sing) check to get the crowd's attention. But in organized play I think the general performance can only be used once per session as a day job check, and you can't get help with those. Where is this flagbearer feat? Do you mean cavalier banner?

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

1 person marked this as a favorite.

For my next character, I plan on making a Bard, and I'd like him to have a troupe of back up singers. Is there a vanity that would best fit this concept? I suppose I could have them be a bunch of heralds, but am wondering if there is something more specific.

I also plan to have a signature song for each spell or ability that requires perform (sing), and have an audio clip on my phone that I can play when it is his turn to act. With the small number of spells known, I might need to cycle through a couple of song choices per spell or ability to keep this fresh with repeated use.

The initial focus for spells known will be enchantment/charm spells, and I already have a few clips teed up. I'm sure I'll get a few other spell/song suggestions in response to this post. If I use your idea, I'll try to give you credit in game.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

We are thinking about adding one weekend a month to our local play schedule, focusing on the Emerald Spire.

I'd like to know what folks are seeing for typical run time for each of the levels. Can you make it through the sanctioned content in most levels in 4-6 hours, or should we plan on extended or split sessions?

Of course, I'd like to complete levels without having to split them up over multiple sessions (and all the keeping track of people who attend one session but not the next). But if levels run much longer than 4-6 hours it would require me to make special arrangements with the hosting gaming stores or move the games to private venues.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Has anyone seen anything recently about upcoming holiday boons?

I've happened upon a few of these in the past and am wondering if anything might be planned that coincides with an upcoming convention.

I did find this wiki of Golarion holidays, but they obviously all don't result in boons.

What I'd really like to see is some temporary boons that only apply during the feast day or festival week, if the occasion is celebrated in the region where you are adventuring (or, if a religious holiday, if you follow the corresponding deity). Granted that would limit when and where or by whom the boons could be used, but the upside is they could all be created one time and re-used year after year only when, where or with whom they apply.

Of course, the expiration idea might require sort of the opposite of the current boon usage - you'd have to receive the boon as you are seated at the table, because your next session might not be until the festival is over. Or it could just be a convention-only thing: after you play one session you receive a boon that just lasts until the end of the holiday or for the weekend or for one week.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Majuba wrote:
Would the flatter distributions be attributable to being more prone to influence by the individual GM than the scenario itself?

Possibly. The theory is that the table bias (due to GM, PC mix or player choices) should average out as more tables are included in the set of reviews. But the data sets are generally so small that I don't think you can say with much confidence that the scenario is prone to GM variation. More likely there were just a few people who had differing experiences (more due to the people than the scenario).

If you truly had two different ways the scenario might be run, which resulted in different levels of enjoyment, with enough reviews you might actually get a clearly bimodal distribution of ratings.

You actually can (and I did) calculate something called a bimodality coefficient for each distribution, and based on the result you can see if the distribution tends toward bimodal, unimodal, or uniform (equal values at all rating numbers). The flatter distributions most closely resemble a uniform distribution, which has no clear "typical" value(s) regardless of the result you'd get by calculating an average rating.

If there are a lot of responses and the distribution of ratings is still very uniform, then YMMV: your likely experience (and rating) with such a scenario might be nearly random. The scenarios that do have many reviews tend to NOT be like this; they tend to have a clear peak in the distribution of ratings and very few ratings far from that value.

Only a few scenarios have a highly bimodal distribution of reviews and more than a handful of reviews at the secondary peak: Library of the Lion, Murder on the Throaty Mermaid, The Elven Entanglement and The Waking Rune. It may be that these can go really well with the right PC mix and really poorly with the wrong mix. Other scenarios may be better balanced to work with a larger range of PC parties and capabilities.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Another way to look at it - the average isn't a great measure of typical value if there aren't a large percentage of responses near the average.

Many of the distributions of review ratings don't have a single clear mode (or two clear modes if responses are split). These distributions more closely approximate a uniform distribution than a unimodal, bimodal or normal distribution.

With more reviews, the most common ratings are likely to emerge, with counts at the peaks that exceed the counts for other rating values by more than just a couple or a handful.

10 reviews was a good cutoff to make sure the report could include a majority of the scenarios, but unless they are all tightly grouped you probably need more like 20 before the distribution of responses has a fairly clear shape. Unfortunately we currently only have a few scenarios that have received 20 or more reviews.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

DM Beckett wrote:
Two things to consider, is that he did specify scenarios with at least 10 reviews, and also that those numbers might have changed as people here have said "hey, I liked that scenario, but it's rated low, let me change that." or "wow, people didn't like that one, but that's my favorite, can't let that stand."

Understood. My point is that there is considerably higher confidence in the average for a scenario that has 30 reviews compared to one with only 10 reviews, and some meaning can be gleaned from sites with even fewer than 10 reviews, e.g. one that received 7 reviews and they were all 5 stars.

In terms of keeping up with the new data that comes in, that would be a daunting task, especially if it's done by scrolling through the reviews on the web pages to pick off the numbers for each one (both for changes and for new reviews). I'm not sure how often Kyle may try to update this, I'd guess not more than weekly.

It is also far from an unbiased system, as you point out. Everyone can look at all the other responses, and there is a tendency to not respond if you agree with the general consensus but submit a conflicting review if you disagree. That tends to flatten the distribution of responses (more near the extremes) and reduce the count of reviews for scenarios where there is close agreement on the rating.

There is still a lot of good data collected here, but folks should not be misled by averages reported to a precision of 0.01 stars. In many cases (even with 10 or more reviews) there isn't a lot of confidence that a more thorough polling would result in average ratings within half a star or even a whole star or more from the current values.

Of course, with more reviews, the confidence in the average ratings improves. But it is still just a one number rating system, so there is only so far you can go to improve the confidence without taking steps to eliminate bias and to separate the different aspects that go into creating a high or low rating on this scale.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

I found some minor errors in the season averages (the last scenario was accidentally left out of the calculations for seasons 0, 1, 2 and 4).

I also added some double-check calculations and some further statistical stuff to the "All Scenarios" tab, such as response range, standard deviation, skewness, excess kurtosis and 95% confidence intervals for what the true average might be if we had more reviews but the same standard deviation for the distribution.

This last item suggests a slightly different ranking, taking into account that the average for a scenario with a smaller number of reviews is less likely to represent what we'd get if more people submitted reviews, but a tighter grouping of ratings suggests a higher degree of confidence even if there are few reviews. Many reviews combined with a tight grouping suggests the highest degree of confidence that the results are reliable or repeatable.

Unfortunately I'm still a newbie to Google Drive, and I didn't want to modify Kyle's original or overwrite a shared file while others may be accessing it. I've downloaded it and made changes offline and will send to Kyle to figure out if and how he may want to incorporate it.

There really is no absolute best ranking with the small amount of review ratings we have for some scenarios, but with filter and sort controls in the Excel version it is easy to generate a variety of top 10 or top 25 lists (most skewed, most split, most consistent, etc.)

In the season summary, season 3 had the most reviews, the highest average, the most skew towards a majority of high ratings, and the closest to a normal distribution of results. Distributions of ratings for other seasons were flatter, with averages closer to 3.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Acedio wrote:

Ah, interesting. I admittedly did not try to submit a review with the -Select Star Rating- item in the combobox because I was afraid if it going through and then not being able to fix it. I'm still somewhat hesitant to try it.

Kind of unfortunate, it sounds like some "valuable" reviews were lost because of what amounts to a validation error. Perhaps this constitutes a bug report against the website?

I don't know. I presume they chose to code it that way on purpose in case someone wanted to comment but not provide a star rating. It appears that the average ratings on the website exclude those responses from the numerical averages, but the comments are still presented for others to peruse. It is a small percentage in most cases.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Acedio wrote:
Peter Kies wrote:
I just noticed that it is possible to give a zero star rating
The review form does not provide 0 stars as a valid option, unless the form does not validate submissions where the star rating selector is left in the default position. It seems to me that 0 star ratings are indicative of bad data.

Kyle has about 1% of the reviews listed as zero stars - which I'd guess correspond to folks who wrote a text review but did not provide a star rating (the default choice, above "1 Star" is "Select Star Rating"). It could be that some of these were folks who neglected to provide a rating and some were those who though it didn't earn any stars. For 16 scenarios where this occurred, some had one "zero" and some had two. This ranged from 3% to 50% of the reviews for an individual scenario (avg. 7%).

I checked the ones that had 2 zeroes. In Rats of Round Mountain they were BS comments about Kyle's scenario killing players as well as PCs and destroying computers and setting fire to homes. In Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment they appeared to be omissions on positive reviews. In Sanos Abduction only one review appeared without stars (the total count also did not match the spreadsheet). That particular review was fairly negative, but it did not clearly show an intentional rating of zero stars.

Without checking the rest I would tend to agree that most of the reviews with zero stars were not intended to convey a zero rating. If you agree these are generally bad data, they should not count in any total of reviews that is used for statistical calculations. They don't have any impact on the "10 or more reviews" threshold as the scenarios in question either have under 10 reviews already or have more than 10 where a star rating was given.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford


I just noticed that it is possible to give a zero star rating, and in some cases that occurred. Your formula for averaging excludes the count of the zero star ratings in the denominator, so the averages where there were any such reviews are artificially inflated.

I am nearly done with the calculation of confidence bands for the averages (estimated +/- error on the averages considering number of reviews) and am correcting the average columns for the zero star ratings now. Would you like me to post an update or send a copy to you first for review?

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford


I've downloaded the spreadsheet and can add the info I mentioned in my email about the degree of confidence in the average ratings (based only upon number of reviews and making the huge presumption that these reflect a random sampling of participants).

Although top 20 are all likely excellent scenarios and bottom 20 are likely some of the worst, the relative standing of these and the ones in the middle (if we had responses from all who participated) could differ substantially. The "true" average rating could change by up to a star (or more) if you don't have a large sampling of reviews and the ones you have are not tightly grouped.

Another measure of a scenario's popularity would be number of play statistics. Granted, you'd have to look at replayable scenarios separately (yes, The Confirmation's popularity has a lot to do with that and you can't take all the credit). But if a player likes a scenario enough to want to GM it or a GM likes one enough to GM it again and again, that is meaningful feedback.

I don't have access to the Paizo stats on this, but we all can see the relative popularity of scheduled sessions in the Warhorn PFS Campaign Global Scenarios Listing. The top 25 include 2 replayables (Confirmation and We Be Goblins) and mostly season 5 stuff for the rest. Mists of Mwangi comes in at #25, and Trial by Machine is the only season 6 currently in the top 25. For an individual scenario, you can see number of past and upcoming plays as well as the total.

I expected the Destiny of the Sands trilogy would rate highly, but was surprised to see the Glass River Rescue, The Stolen Heir, Library of the Lion and the Wardstone Patrol right up there with those scenarios.

This is somewhat slanted as we didn't get the global scenario catalog up there until Jan/Feb 2014, and most folks had already played stuff from previous seasons using manually entered event descriptions (rather than picking from the global catalog). If you sort the information by season, you can see the relative (recent) popularity of scenarios within a specific season, or you can simply discount scenarios that were released after the global catalog went live as these will include a lot of the initial plays (there'll be a higher percentage of replays and lower totals for older games.) If you look at the top 50 you start seeing the most popular games outside of seasons 5 & 6. There are currently 271 offerings in the catalog, including scenarios, APs, modules and ACG Adventures.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford


You've obviously done a lot of work here. When I first started selecting scenarios for events, I looked at reviews to try to pick some good ones. But there are two problems with the system:

1) Reviews are voluntary, which may bias them. People with a really good or really bad experience may be more inclined to write a review, or the bulk of the reviews may just be from folks who have the time and inclination to write a review (which may not be a typical cross-section of players).

2) There are far too few reviews in most cases to really make an assessment with confidence. I can send you some reasoning about this; the statistical theory could be a bit lengthy and technical for posting in this forum. The number of reviews is a vanishingly small percentage of the number of times these scenarios have been played.

Some may cringe at the idea of adding a player review survey to the event reporting, but a rating scale selection against a small number of factors probably would not be hard to implement. A test run could even be done at a convention before promoting such an idea further.

The average alone is also probably not a great indicator. Your idea of the polarizing index is a great way to capture more of the "shape" of the responses, and a step in the right direction. Your next step of doing a count of reviews per month will also help explain the data better. The amount of play has grown each season, and I'd expect to see more reviews of newer scenarios for that reason.

There are also some great tools for pivoting and displaying the data with multiple filter, sort and group criteria. As the standard error of the mean varies with the number of reviews, it might be good to group and compare scenarios that have a similar age and/or number of reviews...

The Exchange

I'd also be interested to hear an official clarification. If it is ruled as a special type of overrun, then clearly it can be combined with charging. If the creature further has the power attack, improved overrun and charge through feats, then it's a no brainer as those allow you to overrun one target while charging another, even if the opponent is up to one size larger than you.

Trample gives the targets the chance to avoid or take AoO, so it isn't equivalent to improved overrun in that regard (which is a prerequisite for charge through, which allows you a free overrun of one target.)

I think the size differential would be my deciding factor in the absence of a ruling. If the squishies are only one size category smaller, they may not stop the overrun but they could be considered difficult terrain, thus negating a charge through without the feat. Anything smaller is not going to slow down a trampling creature.

A creature in the way stops a charge unless you have charge through or they are too small to have any chance of impeding your movement. But the same creature does not stop an overrun or trample at normal speed. For charge through to make any sense, it sounds like without it you have to be charging the target of the overrun to use charge and overrun at the same time. I suppose you could charge and trample the same target if there were no other interposing figures or barriers in the way. But otherwise, the trampling slows you down.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

We are going to run the trilogy in back to back slots on a Saturday at an upcoming convention. We have some copies of MA to give away per prize support (thanks!) but I know we will not have time to go through an intro to mythic and character build choices between parts 2 and 3.

So I am planning to create a PC mythic upgrade sheet before the con and ask players who either have the book or hope to buy or win it, to have this sheet filled out BEFORE the con if they want to play a full mythic build (using the PRD or a copy of MA they already own). I'm also considering disallowing Ultimate Versatility as a path ability - it just screams of something that will take too long to decide how to use.

One thing that could absolutely kill mythic in PFS is if it takes too long to figure out how the rules work. I want to have larger-than-life heroics (not long rules discussions), and we may have to make fast decisions on rules I haven't yet committed to memory.

Has anybody already put together something like the upgrade sheet I mentioned? If not, I'll whip something up tomorrow and can make it available.

There are so many options, especially if you throw in Mythic Spellcasting universal path ability (or mythic spell lore) and the Legendary Item universal path ability. There is no way a player with a new book can review and choose from all those options in the short break between slots. To quickly adjudicate all the mythic abilities that might come up, I think it will also be critical to have a good idea of the player selections before the game.

If the GM knows exactly how all those abilities should work, then they should be able to keep the story moving without having to make many references to MA or explaining rules a lot. They can encourage players to use mythic power without giving away the plot. I'd consider it a success if most of my players burn up all of their uses of mythic power and really get as much effect as they can out of this one-time power boost.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Looking at the differences between boots of elvenkind and boots of striding and springing, I'm wondering if there is an upgrade path between the two that would involve just paying the difference.

The effect of boots of Elvenkind is a +5 comp bonus on acrobatics checks "allowing wearer to move nimbly about in any surroundings". Would you rule that as +5 on all acro checks, or only moving through threatened squares and across narrow/uneven surfaces (not on falling or jump checks)?

Striding and Springing increases base land speed by 10', but also grants ability to jump with a +5 comp bonus on acrobatics checks.
Would you rule that the +5 only applies to jumping, and not other uses of acrobatics?

The basic question - are the uses of the two types of boots mutually exclusive (one for speed/jumping and one for other types of acrobatics), or is one simply a greater version of the other?

Boots of Striding and Springing are about twice the price of Boots of Elvenkind, and the increased speed enhancement might be viewed as an adder to the +5 acrobatics bonus.

But I think the intention may have been to have the effects be exclusive and only apply to different parts of the acrobatics skill. In 3.5 there were different skills for balance and jump, and elven boots didn't affect either of them (they affected move silently skill while an elven cloak affected hide skill - both now part of stealth).

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Rock-Con is THE annual regional gaming convention for players in Rockford, IL and the surrounding area. This year we welcome you to celebrate Rock-Con’s 40th anniversary October 25th-27st 2013! The convention features historical and fantasy miniature gaming, collectible miniatures, role playing, collectible card and board gaming events covering the entire spectrum of adventure gaming.

The Rockford Pathfinder Society is making its 2nd appearance at Rock-Con this year. We plan to have activities all weekend long, for all age groups and player experience levels. From the Pathfinder Beginner Box demos to the introductory scenarios released this year to Pathfinder Society Organized play scenarios and sanctioned modules, we'll have many ways for you to get involved in the exciting world of the Pathfinder RPG.

Friday night we are running the Year of the Shadow Lodge special.
Saturday we will have up to 8 tables of PFS in each of 3 slots, and Beginner Box demos all day.
Sunday (8 hours) we will offer a selection of modules for PC levels 1-8.
And all weekend we will be running levels of the Thornkeep dungeon.

You can check out Rock Con online here.

Also, the PFS schedule for pre-registration is on warhorn.

And finally, here is the PFS event #.

Come join us for some fun!

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

I think I know the answer, but can I get a quick clarification on the applicable dates: "between August 16, 2012 and August 15, 2013" - is this inclusive of 8/16/12 (first day of GenCon 2012) but exclusive of 8/15/13 (first day of GenCon 2013)?

I'm presuming that's the case, with the actual limits being something like 12:00 am on the listed dates (or possibly the starting time of the first PFS slot at GenCon).

If I'm interpreting it right, one of my PCs barely failed to qualify. He earned 2 PP at GenCon on Thursday, but that won't count against the Year of the Risen Rune. On the flip side, he got an early start against any similar boon that might come out for the Year of the Demon.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

I created a game day event for our local group, for a day where I unfortunately was unable to attend. I gave the GM a tracking sheet prior to the event, including the event number. The plan was for him to give me the sheet so I could enter it - but there is a time crunch and we may not meet to exchange the information at the previously planned time.

Can the GM view that event number and report his own session under it, or do I have to do the online reporting if I want it to appear under than event number?

If not, I'm sure I could get the info via phone or email, but I'd like an answer to this anyway. I don't know what the event options (online screens) look like for anyone other than myself.

Another option would be for him to create his own event and enter it there - but that doesn't give me an immediate check to make sure the reporting was done.

If I start the reporting and assign him as GM, would that affect his ability to report the remaining results of that session?

The Exchange

If the resources in in the PFS core assumption change, it would be nice if Paizo provided an "upgrade" price (discount) to those who already purchased the core materials. But that would probably be impossible to track unless the items were bought at Paizo's online store - e.g. PFS Core "maintenance" subscription.

It sounds like this book is going to combine some of the better material from Seekers and the Field Guide and probably some new things as well. I certainly hope so. I am still building my PFS library and would like to have the good stuff all together versus buying separate older books.

It seems that the value of the books really varies depending upon whether you are new to PFS or a veteran who has already purchased older material. The campaign absolutely needs a resource like this and needs to keep if fresh, and the new material is always worth something - I would not expect it all to be rolled into the PFS Guide to Organized Play for free. But requiring folks to pay full price when much of the material exists in something players and GMs already paid for is not likely to be met with a high level of satisfaction.

Still, folks should keep in mind that Paizo's done a good job of making sure we get continued use out of our CRBs. I bought a 3rd printing version, and to update that to 6th printing was a free (and small) errata download. The same goes for Bestiary updates (but not new Bestiaries with new types of monsters). The annual "dues" to maintain CA materials for PFS (if the "PFS Primer" or equivalent is updated every year or two) really don't amount to much, compared to the price you pay for scenarios, modules, APs, other PFS setting material, accessories and additional resources. If you buy this new resource, please write a review at that point and let others know what you think about the price/value ratio. I don't think the inclusion of older material is a problem as long as the price takes that into account.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Robert A Matthews wrote:

The idea was that you gain prestige for completing missions for your faction and in return they returned the favors through prestige points. You gain the xp for the main mission and prestige awards for the faction missions. I was a little disappointed by the faction missions in this one however. I don't think your players will have much trouble at all getting full prestige.

** spoiler omitted **

There are a few missions where, if the PCs don't have the requisite skill (or they don't act at the right time), they're going to be SOL. I guess that's not so different from other scenarios.

I also had to improvise for a 3.5 game mechanic that is done completely different in PFS.

There is no "turn undead" with a chance to fail, so I assigned CRs (and thereby hit points) to the haunts as follows:

tier 1-2: CR 2, 4 HP, effect silent image spell, duration concentration (or 4 rounds if not being manipulated by the sorcerer)
tier 4-5: CR 4, 8 HP, effect major image spell, duration concentration plus 3 rounds (or 8 rounds if not being manipulated by the sorcerer)

Basically there is a chance that the 1st channel energy doesn't neutralize the haunt, and at higher tier the higher CR is reflected by the addition of sound/temperature/smell effects and extended duration.

It doesn't mean a lot because the effect is not damaging, but the possible persistence of extra targets beyond the first channel attempt may add some confusion about who the PCs should attack - just as they would if the cleric failed a turning attempt against HD 3.

The ghouls (and ghasts) could definitely be tough if the PCs find themselves outnumbered and unable to even the odds prior to all of those attacks. I'm still trying to decide if I should go 3.5 here or PFS. Although the same CR, the PFS ghouls are tougher (better attack rolls, claw damage, fort save, paralysis DC). Similar for the ghasts, although I think PFS CR is 2 instead of 3 (lower HD & HP), which would mean I couldn't use those and maintain the listed CR.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

I'm running Black Waters in a couple of weeks, and I have a question about the prestige awards.

The Guide to PFSOP says that scenarios with 2 faction missions allow one PP for each faction mission successfully completed. This scenario does have two faction missions for each faction.

Does that mean that the primary mission is unimportant for purposes of prestige? (I suppose there is some chance to fail to complete that)

Perhaps the thanks of VC Drandle Drenge is reward enough, even if it doesn't equate to faction prestige.

This is the first one I've run with dual faction missions, and I just want to make sure I have it straight so I can emphasize it to my players. It looks like it will be a little bit harder for everyone to earn full prestige on this one.

The Exchange

I'm organizing some PFS events for a fall convention.

The schedule on Sunday is short, only 8 hours, and a bit tight for trying to fit in two scenarios back to back.

I was thinking about the following module choices to cover a variety of PC levels. Are any of these likely to get us in time trouble if we only have 8 hours? I could require that GMs come with maps pre-drawn if that will significantly reduce the time or help keep it within the limit.

(1-2) The Godsmouth Heresy
(2-4) Feast of Ravenmoor
(3-5) Fangwood Keep
(4-6) Carrion Hill
(5-7) From Shore to Sea

Any advice or run time experience would be appreciated.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Michael Brock wrote:
Everything has to be completed by Aug. 14. After that, the "switch will be flipped" and LL or SL can not be reported.

Thanks for clarifying. Looks like I'll be planning at least one more session.

I love the boon and the scenario, plenty of encouragement to work in more PFS play.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

The one thing that I'm not sure was clearly answered was how a GM could apply credit to one of their Lantern Lodge PCs currently level 1 or 2. It appears that you must change factions before playing after the deadline passes, but you can't do it with the triumph boon benefit unless you make it to level 3 before the deadline.

Considering that the scenario just came out, holding the chronicle doesn't appear that it will do you much good if your local group doesn't play often enough to gain you a level or two in the next 10 weeks. If you only play one scenario each month, you might not get there in time. The time frame will be even shorter for Shadow Lodgers when Rivalry's End is released.

Unless you can hold the chronicle past August 14th and apply it at some future time before next playing that character. Is it enough to GM a session before the deadline, or must you be able to apply it by then? I have heard some say that having it in hand (from a dated session) is enough.

The answer will determine how hard I'll need to scramble to schedule in another session or two beyond what we've already planned.

At this point I'm presuming that everything must be done by the deadline - that you can't come back in September or October with a bunch of GM chronicles all giving credit to the Lantern Lodge character and corresponding credit to the defunct faction. But that leads to another question - must the reporting for Lantern Lodge all be done by the deadline, or will there be any grace period for sessions that occurred just prior to the deadline? Will someone "flip the switch" so that Lantern Lodge no longer appears as a reporting option on Aug 14?

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In addition to the 4 BB bash demos already available, I see that 5 new scenarios have been added to the GenCon lineup for this year - with the idea of advancing BB PCs to level 3.

I'm thinking of adding a kids' track at a convention in October. Does anyone know if the new scenarios will be made available after GenCon, and when? I haven't seen anything yet that says when these would be available for either free download (hopefully) or purchase.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

I was thinking about running one of the specials at a convention this fall. I looked at the reviews on several of them, and I didn't find enough information to really help me decide.

I'm expecting that we might get between 4 and 8 tables playing at once, depending upon where we drop this in the schedule. Does anyone have a list of the minimum and best number of tables each special requires?

I haven't played any of these yet, but am considering taking part as a player in this year's special at GenCon, to get a feel for this type of event. So I don't know what sort of boons or chronicles each provides.

With Shadow Lodge going away, does Year of the Shadow Lodge still make any sense to run? My local group is playing a lot of the older scenarios, but I don't want to offer something so outdated that it is partially or completely obsolete.

I also did not see a special for seasons zero or one. Am I correct to presume that there weren't any, and the only ones I'll have to select from this fall are seasons 2, 3, 4 & 5?

At the moment, I'd lean towards season 5 (hoping the process has been refined, and considering some of the mixed reviews on the previous ones). Any tips or advice for making one of these work well at a smaller convention?

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Tony Lindman wrote:
Per Additional Resources, the animals in AA are available for purchase, but that does not mean that the list of legal mounts for Paladins or Cavaliers is extended.

Yes, I'm seeing the same after further review. While many animal choices appear available as animal companions, the PFSOP FAQ limits mounts to what's listed on a specific pages of the CRB (paladins) or APG (cavaliers). Of course, those pages have words about "more exotic" and "other animals" being allowed per GM discretion. I suspect the PFSOP rules are currently excluding those vaguely defined options, for consistency.

This limitation really diminishes the value of alternate race boons if you wanted to select a paladin or cavalier, and medium characters are restricted to only horses and camels as mounts.

I need to make up a new PC for a low tier game next month, and I was really interested in the Nagaji paladin idea. Perhaps these odd racial types aren't common enough to push for a revision, but different sorts of mounts for them would give the game a better flavor. (A Nagaji PC should have a reptilian mount). I'm not sure if I'll go this route now, but maybe there is a boon out there that I could pick up before reaching level 5, which would allow a different mount. If not, I could always go with the bonded item option.

On the topic of paladin's mount INT, CRB says that the mount is unusually intelligent (INT at least 6). I think this overrides the standard INT scores listed under animal companions, but perhaps some animals allowed as companions would be deemed incapable of the higher INT required for this sort of mount. The advancement table shows that a normal animal companion (INT 1 or 2) would at best have one more point of INT when called by a 5th level character (INT 2 or 3).

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

And the "riding gecko" is a giant version of the giant gecko - which makes it a large animal. This may be the best fit for a Paladin named Obi Wan and a gecko named Boga.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

The only other one I found with companion stats was the snapping turtle. Better AC, but not as fast as some of the dinos.

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Rycaut wrote:

I'm curious if there is a comprehensive, PFS legal set of guidelines for what animals are available for which races as mounts or animal companions?

Specifically for not just races that are small (which get access to medium not large mounts) but also for races that might have some reasons for using animals outside of the usual lists.

Goblins with Goblin Dogs (for those lucky enough to have a boon to play one) is one case I'm aware of. The specific case I'm curious about is races like the Nagaji.

i.e. for my Nagaji Paladin would there be an options for a reptilian mount instead of a horse or camel? In a home game I would definitely work with a player to find a suitable option as the flavor of a reptilian creature (with a racial bonus to Handle Animals vs Reptiles) riding a horse or camel seems off but for PFS play I think those would be his only options.

I was thinking of a Nagaji Paladin build for PFS also. Did you learn any more about this? Most of the reptiles on the Druid companion list start out as size small (not a great choice of mount) but at effective level of 5, all but the Velociraptor are medium or large. I presume the intelligence stat for the mount just increases from the base as it must be "at least 6". I'm not sure it makes much sense to saddle a snake, so from the current list a crocodile might be the best fit.

But some sort of lizard might be better. Monitor lizards and other dinosaurs have companion details, although the lizard won't be large enough until the paladin is 7th level. I don't think the Pteranodon would have the strength to fly with a rider until you could get a large one. T-Rex companion looks like it could be a fun choice, especially at higher levels with higher STR and powerful bite.

The Exchange

Quite aware of what the books do/don't say on the topic. Wraithstrike was kind enough to find the developer post that clarified the same question that came up in May of 2011 (I wasn't the first to request clarification on this, and JJ's response answers it directly in a way that doesn't appear in any of the rule books).

Most of the next 38 posts didn't add anything new, and just made it harder to find what I asked for when I returned to the forum a couple hours later. If someone was insulted that I didn't find many of those posts helpful, don't be. PFS board posts didn't thoroughly address the question, and neither did the rule books.

Those who have responded made it clear that you are fine with the rule as is, though many used more emotional language. Regarding questions about what rules should be (not what they are) I had not previously seen such an overwhelmingly negative response. I've mostly been on the PFS boards following topics that get debated and sometimes overturned. The previous post I was following just had a rules change 2 weeks ago.

Cheapy, thanks for alerting that GM stars and such don't show up outside the PFS forum. I suppose I should have guessed that, though I am used to seeing a lot of posts there with no user info also.

Although you can always animate a dead horse if you want it to have a little more fight, I am done checking this thread for responses. I have what I need for the time being, so no need to pile on more for my benefit.

The Exchange

wraithstrike wrote:

James Jacobs again..

sneak attack when there is a flank

Thanks, this is what I was looking for (for part 1 of the question). A JJ post I'd take for granted as the official rule as of the date of the post.

For some reason, the link didn't open the first time I clicked it, and a sea of less helpful messages distracted me in the interim. I must have been searching the PFS board or somewhere else to miss this thread the first time through.

A few of the posters perhaps should read the "most important rule" for the messageboards below. I just want to do right by my players, and folks should be happy that there are GMs who care enough to search for official rulings when they find something that they feel is unclear or unfair or against the intent of the rules, from their perspective.

I still don't like the rule here, but I'll use it for OP until such time as it ever may change. IMO this overrates the advantages of flanking, but as I said, I'm of the school where you only got extra damage of this sort from a surprise backstab. It's a whole new world out there with today's players and rules for actions that depend so heavily on relative positions on the grid. Obviously there are some folks that have been playing this way for a "long time" in their perspective - perhaps almost 2 years if they were reading James' posts that far back. For me, a long time ago in RPG play experience would be 2-3 decades ago. I've only been checking Paizo message boards for about 6 months. Most of my experience on how things should work comes from earlier sources, and the current rules don't always agree.

Thanks also to anyone else who tried to respond in a helpful manner.

The Exchange

Am I reading the posts right that I have over 50 responses and none of them yet by GM with any stars, an official of Paizo, or a venture officer?

I appreciate the comments (except the dead horse rant), but I'd like to know what's official so that I can judge by the rules for future OP events. In the game in question, it didn't matter anyway because the 2nd attack missed, but I want to have a definite answer for my player who will doubtless use two weapons again with an ally trying to help him flank.

The comments about D&D 3.0/3.5 don't answer the questions about PFRPG, which has some distinct differences and gets new things ruled via post and FAQ and new additional resources that become legal for OP. When I speak of the "spirit of the rule", I am coming from an ancient perspective and am talking about how the current PRFRP flanking sneak attack was designed to be similar (or different) in flavor from 1st ed D&D which I've played since the 1970s.

My question is 2 parts: "what is the rule" and "what should it be"? An answer that I am picking on rogues is pointless. Some of my best friends are rogues and I don't think any less of them because they can't stand in the front line and dish out the same damage as fighter-types. When did that ever become a requirement of that class? PFRPG already gives rogues and arcane types more hit points than D&D did, and I never really saw that as a necessity for a good fantasy RPG. In fact, I've had rogues help the party accomplish missions several times using skill checks and other actions that helped the party avoid some combats entirely. You can be a valuable character in the party in lots of ways besides melee if you understand the group objective, your role in the party, and how your skills and abilitiies can best be used.

In the end, the answer will be what the designers and editors want the role of the rogue to be in this game system. If the current player base is demanding rogues that are more capable of delivering damage in melee, then I suppose the answer will be that multiple attacks in one round all qualify as sneak attacks, (even if the opponent becomes aware of that risk) as long as you have an ally on the opposite side. I don't have to like the answer (or use it in my home games) but I think what appears to be the common thinking on the advantage of flanking is worth challenging here.

I'll leave the group with an example that is a little more extreme. In the game in question, the rogue was significantly higher level than the other party members. It was only a few levels here, but it could have been more. Could a 1st level fighter hireling with one attack really distract a BBEG such that the rogue on the other side could repeatedly strike him with sneak attacks? Wouldn't the guy just turn around and defend himself from the real threat?

I'm not going to bore anyone with hit probabilities and damage averages, but there are also cases (weapon finesse, lower ACs, lower levels) where the rogue's chance to hit really isn't that much different from the fighter's. The question isn't about whether each class can do comparable damage - it's more about whether you can be repeatedly sneaky in one round just because there is someone standing across from you. Most of you are saying that's the rule, and if that is the case, the more significant question is "should it be the rule"?

The Exchange

Thanks for the quick replies, but I am still requesting an official response. I've seen these answers before, and they do not satisfy.

Bill, in particular, the "anytime" argument would apply only to flat-footed opponents, not flanking after combat starts. The rules for "flanking" say you only get it when making a "melee attack", not a "full attack", and although that may sound like an odd distinction, it appears to be more in line with the initial spirit of sneak attacks (pre-PFRPG). You can't keep surpising an opponent all round.

I want to hear what the official PFRPG stance is on this, and if possible, why. The barrage attacks make sense. What I've seen in posts on multiple attack modes in close combat does not.

The Exchange

The players are getting near the end of the battle and they have established flanking positions around an unfortunate opponent in the prior round. A character with sneak attack class ability and two weapon fighting indicates that he can make both attacks and do sneak attack damage twice if he succeeds.

I've seen several posts indicating that many players and (possibly fewer) GMs interpret the rules that way, but I haven't found an "official" ruling on this. It "feels" wrong to allow it, but I'd like to know what the official PFRPG position is on this question. It pertains to something that actually came up in a PFS game I GM'd. While I personally have a couple of PCs who can sneak attack, I am still not in favor of stacking precision-based damage in one round.

This is a special case of the full attack action (a PC could get multiple attacks from two-weapon fighting, high BAB or other reasons). Although the PC is entitled to a full attack in this case, I don't feel that he could score precision-based damage more than once.

Missile attacks (c.f. Manyshot, Double Crossbow) seem to indicate that precision damage can only be applied once using these full-attack actions. Similar text about precision damage does not appear in Cleave, presumably because that multiple attack feat would more likely be used by fighter types and not sneaky types. There are comments in Vital Strike and Critical Hits which indicate you don't get precision damage more than once when extra dice are rolled in those cases.

There is a feat in UC called Sneaking Precision, which suggests to the contrary (that you can successfully sneak attack more than once per turn), but I don't see how this could come into play in PFS, as the prerequisites (BAB +9 and another feat requiring BAB +9) would not be met by a character with sneak attack and level 11 or under.

Technically, the rules for flanking say you can do it "when making a melee attack", which is not the same as "when making a full attack". Per the actions table, a full attack is not the same as a series of melee attacks (the first is a full-round action while each melee attack is a standard action). The distinction is important if you think about the timing and the fact that PFRPG is a "facingless" game:

Remember that a round is only 6 seconds long. Not a lot of time to land multiple precise attacks. The flanking ally (unless he has many attacks also) will only distract the opponent for part of that period, especially if the opponent starts taking a lot of damage from another direction. If the multiple attacks occur at different times, only one should get precision damage for this reason (most likely the first).

Once the sneak attacker has drawn attention to himself, the defender could pay more attention to him for the next few seconds in that round. I think the spirit of the rule was for flanking to provide a momentary distraction to allow one precise hit (per sneaky attacker), not to make an opponent totally unable to defend from multiple sneak attacks from two directions. The +2 to hit bonus for flanking matches the average used the average used in D&D 1st ed., where facings came into play: opponent in front had no bonus, back-stabbing thief had +4. Worst case you could choose which flanker to turn your back on.

But what if you have a two weapon fighting style? Can both blows land simultaneously and do sneak damage? I'd say no. Firstly, that precise spot that appears in a quick moment can only be occupied by one weapon at a time. You can't drive two swords or rapiers through one weak spot in the armor and into a small vital organ (heart, brain, etc.). And even with ambidexterity, unless the PC has two heads he can't see well enough to target two different vital spots simultaneously as precise attacks. The off-hand attack (by definition of off-hand) would receive secondary focus and should only do normal damage. For it to do more damage should only be by random chance (normal critical hit chances).

The Exchange ** RPG Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Rockford

Michael Brock wrote:
After reading Jiggy's reasonings, and speaking with John (our awesome new developer), I have removed Magical Knack as a banned trait in the campaign. Additional Resources will be updated tomorrow, and it will be a legal option to take. And no, you may not retrain your character unless you fall under the retraining rules or get a boon at Gen Con.

I applaud this ruling, and as I don't have a lot of PFS XP I didn't even suspect (until a discussion today) that this trait from the APG would ever have been banned. It makes some multiclass options more workable, IMO.

Unknowingly, I built my 2nd PC using this trait, and he has advanced mostly via GM credit. I only played him one scenario at 2nd level, a few weeks prior to your reversal of the ban here on 2/27. I didn't even want to play him that day, but another player said he wouldn't play if I played my 4th level character and thereby forced the party to play high subtier (so I capitulated so everyone could play). The GM did not alert me to any build issue, and the trait didn't really have any effect in that session (ranges were short and the few spells I had were instantaneous with damage that didn't depend upon CL).

If we had caught that the build wasn't legal back in January and "fixed" him prior to that session, my understanding is that he could not now be retrained to have the trait because he was played once at 2nd level. But we didn't catch it then, so what do I do? Can I just leave him as is? Or may I give back the XP and credit from that session to keep the character legal? Although I've only played him in two scenarios, he currently has 7 XP (which I don't want to completely abandon) and the build doesn't make sense to me without this trait.

FYI, my concept for the character is primarily a Wayang sorcerer (undead bloodline and necromancy focus) with a couple levels dip (at least) in ninja for some Ki powers, skills and sneak attacks that improve his ability to deliver shadow touch attacks and weird creepy effects. His spells are currently weak compared to a single class 3rd level caster, but when he gains spells with CL-dependant damage, magical knack would even things up a bit and make the mix worthwhile.

Lastly, It doesn't seem fair to have to burn an upcoming feat to get the trait back. For most starting traits, you have an entire level to make use of the trait before you have to settle on a PC build. In this case, there is no effect until you have levels in 2 different classes. Maybe PCs should be allowed to retrain for this trait prior to playing at level 3 instead of level 2. Of course, if I do GM a couple more times before playing this PC again, I'll have earned another feat and I could take Additional Traits instead of something else I had planned.

The Exchange

Ooooh... an intergalactic outlaw mime.

That could make it more exciting.

Maybe he lost his voice due to a curse, and retaliates with mimicry.

Which only makes people want to curse him more.

The Exchange

I was trying to think up a unique character concept for a new PC and my brain took a leap a couple steps left of unique and came up with a bard that is somehow limited by a vow of silence.

I thought I might do something to get around this using metamagic, but I see that the silent spell feat is not availabe for bards. I was sort of going for a bard who didn't talk or sing, but played many types of music and maybe even made music through some strange magic that converted his somatic gestures into sound.

Does anybody have any ideas for a character build that could actually do something like this? Maybe some sort of monk/bard mix with some magic that helps him to partially get around this limitation?

Is there a way to have a vow of silence that doesn't totally ruin a bard? Perhaps some spells or items or feats I haven't considered, which might make this workable? It certainly would be unusual, and the limitation could at least generate some humor if it isn't totally crippling.

The Exchange

There are several cases where the "single creature" swarm concept really won't work well, and it makes more sense to just consider the swarm to be many individual creatures:

  • for wind and environmental effects (wind is mentioned in the rules)
  • against AoE spells and effects (reasons listed above), and
  • when moving through very small spaces
For the last item, rules indicate that the swarm can move through any space large enough for its component creatures - but should it be able to move its whole body through a choke point at the listed speed? Certainly not. Let's say the PCs fall into a pit where there is a hole (better yet, a pipe) coming through the wall, with a diameter just large enough to allow one army ant through at a time. Can all 10,000 ants (each about 1/2" long) get through that pipe in one round to get at the PCs? That would be like a line of ants 5,000 inches long passing through the nozzle in under 6 seconds - 69 ft per second or 47 mph. If that's hard to envision, imagine the pipe is 30' long. Ant #1 is right near the entrance, climbs in and crawls to the other end. Ant #2 was right next to him, moves into his space and crawls up behind him. Ant #3 was on the other side, no further from the PCs than #2, but when he gets near the end of his movement, the last few steps are blocked and he has to stop. In the first round of movement, the best you can do is fill that 30' pipe with 720 ants. On subsequent rounds, that many can spill out the other end each round as others file in behind them. It takes about a minute and a half for them all to get across - nearly 15 combat rounds. On the other end, our perceptive PCs may notice the first few arriving and attempt to stopper the pipe (with gum, wax, a wooden stake, etc.), and the AoE of their makeshift plug then holds off the bulk of the swarm. The little ant in front is not going to get much help from the ones behind him, and won't have the strength to move the plug. If it is something soft and his attack can overcome its hardness, eventually he alone could break it up enough to loosen it and push it out. Let's say our PCs have nothing at hand and one of them uses a finger to plug the hole, while the other tries to stomp on the first few that made it through. Can the one ant in the end of the pipe do swarm damage? No, he is just one fine creature and would have to make an attack roll - which if successful could only do 1 hp of nonlethal damage (STR 1). What about the ones who made it through? Are they enough to constitute a full-strength swarm and do a full 3d6 of damage? At what number do you say there are too few and reduce the damage? At what point does a stomping boot become an effective unarmed attack or area effect? What if the pipe was 6" shorter and only a dozen ants got through before the PCs could act? Perhaps some far-fetched cases, but they illustrate that the spatial distribution of the swarm could be pertinent to what actions the PCs can take and what damage or effect those actions could have. If only a portion of the swarm can be affected (or affect the PCs), you have to either consider percentages for attacks and damage, or resolve things for the individual members independently.

The Exchange

Different interpretations arise from two main problems with the rules as written:

  • swarms that appear to be entirely contained within the splash AoE take too little damage
  • swarms that appear to be almost completely outside the splash AoE take too much damage
Swarms should move into a PC's square to attack early in combat, so in most cases the swarm will be contained in a relatively small space (on a creature or crawling in a thin layer on the ground). Here the target size and gravity should help PCs catch much of the swarm in the splash, and there is no reason why the swarm should take less than the primary splash damage. Due to most of its mass being exposed in a thin layer, I'm saying that a 50% bonus to that damage isn't really enough in some cases (resulting hp are less than the % of the swarm covered). A swarm covering 4 flat squares is spread out over 100 square feet, and one covering a small or medium creature is confined to a 10-20 square foot surface area in a single square. You could coat a large fraction (25%) of the crawling swarm with burning oil, and (with a well placed burst) almost all of the attacking swarm. The other case only applies to flying swarms that have not yet attacked. They form such a dispersed target that they offer no sufficient centralized mass to break a flask against. If you must therefore break it against the floor in the center of its 4 squares, the splash is simply not going to fill a significant percentage of the volume occupied by the swarm. It's around 1% of the total volume, or 4% of the volume in the 10' high column over one 5x5 square.

The Exchange

Scray wrote:

I really think you're over-thinking this. Swarms are easier to deal with, because the rules are already abstract. The individual bodies in the swarm don't take damage, so you don't need to calculate the mass of the individuals or a percentage of the swarm that's hit. The swarm HPs are a simplification so you don't need to do all that. AoE effects get a 50% bonus.

The simple question is, does the primary damage from an alchemist bomb count as AoE?

I've always seen this ruled 'yes', but the rules seem to support either conclusion.

In either case the alchemist bomb normally has a splash radius, so even if the primary damage is not allowed to hit the swarm you'd still have a much smaller damage getting the 50% bonus.

I am certainly over-thinking this. Firstly because I take some sick pleasure in 3D math and physics, and secondly because the written rules have potential interpretations that could offer hugely unfair advantages to swarms, particularly the ones with higher hit points. Take a bunch of individually weak creatures and then make them resistant to the normal amount of damage that an AoE spell or effect can deliver to everything in its AoE by pooling their hp. Hit an army ant swarm with a 10d6 fireball - done. Indirectly splash it with 4 dozen flasks of alchemist's fire - still coming? Ridiculous. On the flip side, say one flask of alchemist's fire thrown into a 10x10x10 cloud of flying ants will do the same damage as a flask thrown at those same ants gathered on 10x10 area of ground or crawling on that mound that used to be your halfling thief? Unimaginable. Last time I checked, this was a pencil and paper game, and AoE didn't need to be constrained to a number of 5x5 squares with unlimited height. Sometimes gross simplifications make the game go faster, and sometimes they just don't make any sense - which is especially painful if it gets a PC killed. In those cases I'd rather take the time to think things through and question the rules. I'm not a fan of the swarm rules as written. Swarms seem to have some advantages due to variable shape, and the ability to shield their members from AoE damage that would otherwise kill all the members within a certain AoE. If they can take on different shapes, it stands to reason that AoE spells or effects would intersect with and affect those shapes differently. Put that spider swarm on a wall or on a cylindrical column or even on the ceiling. Does that splash weapon still have the same "area" of effect and damage? At some point you have to say that the simple text of one rule wasn't intended to cover a certain situation, and judge by your understanding of a collection of rules and any "real world" knowledge that helps you fill in the gaps. I appreciate you trying to simplify this for me, but I don't really want it simple. I would like it to be what's (IMO) a bit more realistic - and defeatable by parties that don't have 10d6 fireball spells at their disposal.

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