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Samnell's page

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 3,383 posts (3,538 including aliases). No reviews. 2 lists. No wishlists. 8 aliases.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Greetings, Paizonians. Been noodling about running Mummy's Mask for a while, possibly as a PBP, but life intervened some time back and put that on hold. Life has ceased intervening so I come here seeking advice, like it says on the tin. I haven't yet had time to read the whole thing, due to that life intervening business, but I'm sure some here have and I'll take any advice. :)

I think that I'd like to run it in a homebrew setting that recasts things a bit, but keeps the spine of the AP intact. In kicking around ideas for that, I remembered my deep, abiding love for the 2e Complete Book of Necromancers and it occurred to me that the metaplot of the mini-setting therein seems very close to the plot of the AP. So I'm considering smashing them together. The tentative idea is to set the back half with the wilderness exploration on the jungle island of Sahu. Hakotep, who will probably get renamed, would be entombed there. If anybody is familiar with the CBoN and wants to chime in there, that's also welcome.

Once I got on looking at similar themes, I realized that Age of Worms has the same themes. The BoN even as a Cult of Worms! So I might strip-mine that to augment Mummy's Mask as well. I don't think that I'd import full adventures, but maybe pieces here and there to spice things up. Advice also welcome here.

If anybody's curious, broader context of the homebrew follows but isn't really too important to the individual adventures:


Instead of Osirion, we have a coastal desert that's fairly North African. It used to be part of an empire, but that empire fell apart a few centuries ago, giving way to warring city-states that share a common culture. That culture includes a strong dislike of arcane magic and an indigenous, animistic religious tradition that teaches they must refrain from certain activities (like arcane magic) and engage in various ritual behaviors (like properly entombing their dead) and sacrifices. The various rituals, some of which are fairly unsavory, both serve to lull the Sleepers and renew the bindings upon them. If they fail, they may wake Sleepers, unimaginable horrors that ruled the land in the mythic past before being bound to sleep in their great tombs. Hakotep is variously the Herald of the Sleepers Return, their last high priest, or the last Sleeper bound. Scholars disagree.

The religion has no unified hierarchy and its chief practitioners are not priests but rather what are politely called god-touched. Through various means, these souls are cursed with the attention of the Sleepers's dreams and so realize strange powers at great personal cost. Some of them are initiated into it, but others just get born that way. So they're oracles unwittingly empowered by those they work to keep asleep. :) Alongside them maybe some variety of desert druids who minister more directly to the pastoral needs of the people.

Alongside these faiths are a couple of religions from outside the region that have caught on, one worshiping a the-dead-must-stay-dead kind of death god and another kind of mendicant charitable group of flagellants. Both cribbed from the Book of Necromancers.

Around thirty or forty years ago, the area was conquered by a vaguely Roman power with its own religious traditions that are somewhat at odds with the Sleeper-oriented faith of the natives. The pseudoRomans believe that the dead must be cremated and their ashes stored in modest columbaria, lest they come back as vengeful undead horrors because only blessed flames can free the soul from its body. They took over after a legate was slain during a dispute with the local aristocracy that involved the arrest of a mystic who the legate placed under his protection. It's a very murky affair, but being the pseudoRomans are a prickly, expansionist power they took it as sufficient casus belli to conquer the region in the name of the Republic's honor.

These pseudoRomans do not consider themselves obligated to respect indigenous religious practices. In fact, they consider many of them utterly evil. The Sleepers sound like literal demons, and burying the dead just means offering them up as slaves to whatever bound demons that these "savages" worship. Thus they have chosen to open the tombs of the land to reliable, trustworthy citizens and those vouched for by citizens, in order to demonstrate the power of their rule, the folly of native religious practices, and separate out the undead and other true evils and their cultists from the mere "deluded fools" who the creepy god-touched have taken for a ride. In this, they have the uneasy help of the death god's religion, since they really would like to make sure any undead get cleaned up.

The Isle of Sahu (Book of Necromancers again) sits somewhere off the southwestern coast of the region, historically part of it but long abandoned to pirates and various jungle tribes. PseudoRoman rule hasn't quite extended there in practice yet.

TL;DR: Give me all your advices!

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hi, Paizonians,

I have a friend who has decided that he wants to run a Council of Theives PBEM. A real friend, not the kind of friend one has when trying to ask the doctor if it's normal to have something odd happening in a private place. I am not running the game, but will be playing in it. He's shy and doesn't want to post here. :)

The yahoo group is at this finely-crafted link.

If you want to know how to make a character, you can also go straight here and read the chargen, but the action will actually take place on the list. He's old-fashioned that way. Gory details of his contact information are also there.

Here's how he describes the game:

Samnell's Shy Friend wrote:

You’re a bunch of average Joes with as checkered pasts as you want caught in a vast web of dirty dealings, double crosses, and deceit in the corrupted underbelly of a once-grand city. Trapped as you are in the shadows between the forces of light and darkness, you can’t hope to solve the city’s problems, all you can do is try and make it a little lighter shade of gray.

Welcome to Westcrown, the City of Twilight.

The Crown on the Bay is your home. You've laughed, cried, sweated, and bled just to scratch a few coppers together to get another mug of hard milk to make you forget the killing fog, the rampant crime, the curfew, and the dirt a poor schlub like yourself has to put up with at the hands of the powerful and wealthy. So, when a sultry and dangerous looking woman named Janiven approaches you with a proposition you can’t refuse to join her little brigade, you’re more than willing to join the cause to satisfy your own personal agenda of revenge/justice.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What I'm finding online has me going in circles, so might as well ask. :) I'm a relative console virgin and never owned a Wii, but plan to get a WiiU. In addition to new games, I'm interested in playing some pre-U Wii titles and very interested in getting past console games from the Wii store thingie.

But I have read that those older games will not work with the controller that comes packed with the new console and so I will also need a different controller. I went to the store today and saw both wand-style Wii controllers (Wiimotes? Wiimotes plus?) that I vaguely recognize, but now U-branded, and more conventional controllers that look like the x-box controller I bought for my PC a few years back.

Which of those is the one I want to play, for example, the last Mario game for the Wii and/or the original Zelda game? Or is it "whichever because they do all the same stuff"?

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I couldn't think of a properly alliterative title involving guru in the twenty seconds I spent on the subject. :)

So here's the deal: I want to run a sandbox PBEM. (In FR and in the North, roughly as it stood in 1e but borrowing freely from later stuff, if it matters.) I think it could be fun and cool, but I have never done such a thing before. I usually run APs with varying levels of tweaking to best fir the party. Nor have I ever played in a true sandbox game. Neither have my usual crop of players. But this sandbox maidenhead is just full of itching and someone has got to get it out. May as well be me.

The basic setup would be something like this:

*The initial PCs are explorers/archaeologists/whatevers in the employ of a college. They get some neat perks (a free house to live in, free item identification, a mostly for flavor magic item, a small stipend) for it and the college has a liaison guy who takes sort of the traditional patron role by offering them missions, which they are free to refuse if they want, etc. They're a bit like Pathfinders. The patron will hopefully be a bit of a friendly presence but the college as a whole would have a more diverse range of relationships with the party.

*In addition to being free to refuse missions, the party is free to terminate their relationship with the patron, the college, or both. The main idea is that the missions give them something to keep the sits away until things get rolling. (Don't know what to do? Go pull the liaison's arm and watch a new mission light up in his eyes!) They do have to give up their in-game benefits if they do so, of course. There are in-game strings attached to being in the employ of the college which they could also slip by ending their relationship with the institution.

*There will be other parties in the employ of the college, who may or may not work with their same liaison, ideally some that become friendly rivals, some they could end up rescuing or finding the mutilated corpses of, some they'll probably come to be antagonistic with.

*Everything is an adventure hook, especially if I don't think it is. Whatever they take an interest in, I'll try to roll with and come up with stuff for.

*At least in theory, missions/adventures/whatever should be relatively small (no giant dungeon crawls) with some sort of defined beginning, muddle, and end. But each should also include at least one new hook in itself, preferably more than one. These new hooks don't have to be related to the plot of the past mission. They can just be stuff that's coincidentally there and attracts notice.

*For hooks I can mine the small mountain of ink that's been spilled on the region in various FR books. It's a big, wild frontier with lots of former empires around to supply endless ruins, mysterious sites, etc. And I can make stuff up. But it's easier to lean on the setting a bit since I'll want a lot of this stuff.

*There's no single overarching plot, but rather a plethora of potential plots on all manner of scales involving various NPCs and groups of NPCs, not all of whom are traditionally villainous, which can through their actions and interactions spawn hooks all their own.

*There's no single, set way that a mission has to be done or a story has to be resolved. At least some of the time I'll be presenting a scenario and then letting them write the lion's share of the adventure through their choices, just as they're doing for the campaign as a whole. Less potted dungeons and you can pick the order you take them in and more players as co-writers that I'm facilitating and along for the ride.

*There are semi-invisible walls around the region the game is in. It's a rugged region the size of mainland Alaska, roughly. The meat of the game is intended to happen there just to keep my sanity a bit and keep them from running too far away from old hooks and stuff they might then forget about meaning to come back to.

*The players would be told that this is the idea up front.

Have I got it about right? What else should I know/avoid/could be helpful? Help me, Paizo boards. It's you or I jam this post up the hind end of an astromech droid and hope some inbred, whiny dirt farmer finds it. :)

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I've saved up some cash and am looking to buy a tablet, which I have never done before.

Arches back, thrusts out man-boobs.

"Ravish me with your knowledge and experience!"

I bought my mother half her iPad, but that was a gift and she decided based on wanting something that worked like her iPhone. But fooling around with it in the course of helping her has sold me on the virtues of such devices.

However, I don't want an iPad. I want a device I have more freedom to work with. I'm probably not going to go and install linux and try to run a FPS on it or anything like that but I'd prefer much less of a walled garden model than Apple is going to provide.

What I do want to do is mostly use it as an e-reader with extras. I've looked at display models of nook tablets and kindle fires and they don't quite meet my needs. I want to read comics on the device and the screens are a bit too small for that, at least in conjunction with my factory irregular eyes. I had to work a bit to read a graphics-heavy National Geographic issue on a display model nook and the Kindle Fire wasn't a lot better.

I did an experiment and discovered the iPad's screen is in the ballpark of the right size for my crusty orbs. Plus a tablet is easier to take to bed or into the crapper than my laptop and has a more comfortable viewing distance for the aforementioned crusty orbs.

So wants:
Not an iPad
Screen size at or around iPad size (bigger is definitely ok)
Cost under or around $500 (a little over is ok, but not $100 over)

Aside from those factors, what should I keep an eye out for and what should I be keen to avoid? Of course specific product recommendations are cool too.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What it says on the tin.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
CourtFool wrote:

Most D&D games I have been in barley seem to pay any attention to religion at all. The gods are expected to grant their Clerics spells. Beyond that, no one really cares. I have rarely seen anyone play a Cleric that actually attempts to expand their god's influence throughout the world.

"Just give me my damn spells!"

Or even serve their gods aside from the occasional application of boot leather to evil. That works for clerics of battle gods and crusader gods, but even there it's far from thorough. Take the average D&D god of war. He's pretty much the god of settling differences through battle. Battle's the best thing around. It's cool. It's what life's about. Shouldn't this guy's priests probably be lobbying to resolve every dispute through at least a duel of some kind? Wouldn't refusal to fight, at least when fighting isn't suicidally idiotic, be a kind of sin? (Maybe even if it is suicidally idiotic.) It could turn the character into a walking stereotype, but one hardly finds many real world priests who shrug off the chief commandments of their religion as casually.

Then again some typical gods would be effectively amoral and probably not care. Does the god of elemental earth have an opinion on morality? Probably not, or if he does it would be rather abstract. Now mining, that he cares about. :)

It probably does not help that a perverse amount of D&D writing on gods is focused on things that are rarely going to be relevant to any game, namely the gods' exact personalities and such. Unless one is going to meet them, which is pretty rare, this stuff is much less important than the dogmas, rites, practices, and so forth of the religion. I mean I've got no objection to using a book of god stats as a bestiary. The idea that gods are not just immortal and very powerful but effectively omnipotent and untouchable is fairly monotheistic. But even for people who want that in their games, it's not something they need every session. Religion details, however, should be relevant any time a cleric is present. Or so one would hope.

The sometimes-maligned 2e FR books on the pantheon had the right on this. They had statblocks for the deities, but aside a paragraph or two at the beginning of each entry they were chiefly about the religions, complete with major centers of worship, important holidays and practices, vestments, etc. Then a page or two of a usually overpowered specialty priest class and some religion-specific spells at the end, of course. I even had a player who, bless him, took the entry on Torm to heart and did his best to have his character perform all the recurring ritual obligations. (One was something to the effect of arranging a banquet which he then served to the disadvantaged. He had to do this I think once a month.)

Of course there is a point where all of that can turn into one player having lots of fun and everybody else just sitting around, which can be especially hard in PBEMs where such a scene could go on for weeks instead of minutes. But that's a logistic issue peculiar to how I run my games rather than a problem with the thing in itself.

CourtFool wrote:

Do Paladins even have gods? I mean, everyone knows they have strict codes they have to follow…but everyone just plays them like an over-annoying Dudly Doright.

I think even aside what entails lawful goodness, the paladin is a class that suffers from having an extremely narrow flavor niche in past editions. I'm not sure that it makes sense to have a single generic order of paladins, unless they have some kind of generalized patron like the good gods collectively or some sort of unaligned goodly celestials. To me individual orders of knighthood, or just martial priesthoods, make more intuitive sense. Have one, or more, for each god that it fits and call it good. But that's a lot more work.

Which also, of course, raises issues of the difference between a cleric and a paladin. Originally I think the cleric was designed around a kind of warrior monk type, like the Templars before the banking. My 2e PHB lists Bishop Odo as an inspiration, unless my memory has failed me. But the idea space of cleric has drifted, especially with the inclusion of less martial deities, to something more like a generalized priest role and the paladin has taken up a lot of the slack. That's fine in itself, but the cleric as a walking wall of steel second only to the fighter doesn't quite fit with anything but a sort of Norse-style warrior god or crusading orders if it's meant to comprehend the whole of the religion's theological professionals.

My inclination for years now has been to take the cleric as a priest first and a warrior maybe never, but I haven't done a lot of rules tinkering on it. A paladin would be a specialized religious warrior. The name has enormous game baggage, but one could swap out certain abilities and make it into a sort of customized-for-the-faith holy warrior. Green Ronin's Book of the Righteous does something like that, but I never looked at it too closely due to the difficulty of replacing a SRD class with one I would have to manually type in for my players to use. It's a lot of upfront work, especially knowing my most likely player of it would play a paladin type with it anyway. He loves that kind of character, whether it's a well-coiffed figure of courtly love (he used to romance elven princesses) or a grungy guy with lots of armor spikes that swears a lot. (I am informed that one of his oaths, "Bane's Codpiece!" traveled from our group to make an appearance or two at GenCon.)

CourtFool wrote:

I think religion offers one of the best opportunities to really get into your character as well as endless plot hooks.

Absolutely. For most premodern people, religion is "what they believe in" almost entirely. Even if they have all sorts of secular ideas and goals, they tend to be sacralized. (This isn't just the Divine Right of Kings, Sacred Kingships, and the like but also simple everyday stuff. We still have a bit of that, with priests blessing fishing boats and the like. I got a kick out of a Catholic player when I had the party catch an NPC priest of Moradin in the midst of the blessing of the pickaxes. "That's *exactly* what they would really do!"

Most D&D worlds are intensely god-saturated, up to and including miracles practically on demand, so one would think it even more true there. Granted most campaigns play moderns in past drag, and that's not unreasonably considering we are moderns and seriously following premodern attitudes could get awfully uncomfortable awfully fast, but it's something I've struggled with on occasion.

It cuts both ways. A person's spoken word doesn't mean a lot to us and tends to be disregarded, but it's something that was taken extremely seriously in the past when documents were fewer and held in less esteem than the sworn word of a man of known good character. (This was true even for things like titles of nobility sometimes, which of course gave everyone a good reason to go to war in disagreeing.) That's something that could seemingly be worked into a campaign fairly painlessly.

Global prejudice against women, more than cosmetic racism towards other ethnicities which are meant to be equally good in-world and options for PCs, and so forth is a lot harder. Tolkien had trouble with the orcs being a race of evil so, as I understand it, decided that there were good ones we just never saw. The popular medieval conception of Islam was pretty much Always Chaotic Evil, with Mohammed being identified with the Antichrist. In the Reformation the Protestants did the same thing with the Pope. Trying to reflect that in-game and not make everybody uncomfortable is hard, especially with the assumption in D&D that there really is such a thing as objective Good and Evil and people consciously and willingly serve both. "Gosh Samnell, your fairly clear analog to Christianity is full of baby-eating villains and not a single decent human being in sight. What does that say to us?" or alternatively "Gosh Samnell, your villains are literally the Ku Klux Klan. That's, uh..." Neither quite works, but in different ways.

And it all clashes with our sense of verisimilitude because we know in real life that a supermajority of people do not actually, consciously, without excuse or reason, do things just for the evil. Rather the omnipresent theme is that everyone does what they believe is right and good, or at least understandable. Even the social dynamics of really vile prejudice include manifold justifications for it. I've certainly read enough of them, both because I'm one of the targets and because one of my major interests in reading history is in people behaving badly on a massive scale.

Of course some things are much easier than others. Killing people and taking their stuff is already moral in the framework of the game. On a basic level, that's the D&D narrative for the great many games. We can just write orcs and goblins off as subhuman, morally or otherwise. It's a game, after all. Saying the same things as one says about orcs about the dark-skinned ethnicity native to a warm continent, by contrast, is just outrageous. (And I struggled with this and ended up rewriting two descriptions of human ethnicities for an FR game when I learned a new player was black. I had never thought about it before, and I don't think that the writers had either, but putting myself in her shoes and reading them made previously innocent-seeming description into unpleasant racial stereotypes straight from the real world.) We can honestly say to ourselves that an "orc" is just made up. It may be informed by real world referents, but it is not them.

One thing I've experimented with on and off is the fact that game worlds pretty much by definition did not have Platonism or Christianity, or other religious systems that teach that the flesh is, if not evil, at least inherently prone to sinfulness. They've never been through the Victorian period and all its prudery. As such cultural attitudes about monogamy, marriage, sexuality, nudity and the like could be very different. My players are generally relatively mature about such things, but I've seen reactions to other writers playing with less restrictive cultural tropes decried for writing their porn into the game. Maybe they are, but even if that's so it's not necessarily all they're doing.

Any fantasy world is going to have both the same constraints and restrictions pressing on cultural development as we have had, but also a whole variety of other inputs which could lead its development in wildly different ways. That could mean it produces things like less-exploitative, or even non-exploitative polyamory and the like. That would be far from the least plausible thing in a typical D&D game, and doesn't seem so strange that it breaks the sense of the world being a thing itself like, say, having jet fighters, nuclear missiles, and Barack Obama as an NPC would do for most fantasy settings.


Samnell wrote:
I've kicked around throwing what I have up in a thread or on a blog or something just for the hell of it.
I would be interested in looking it over.

And here we are. :)

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I know Mage: The Awakening is very different. I'm not interested in that one. But I am a neophyte who is interested in picking up some old Ascension books because the core idea behind it sounds great and it seems like it could be a fun platform for diverse types of modern fantasy gaming.

The internet, however, has so far not given me much of an idea what's different about Mage 1e vs. Mage 2e or Mage 2e vs. Mage 2e Revised, except that I understand the latter has a much darker assumed setting where the Bad Guys (TM) have more or less won. So could someone, or diverse someones, give me a general rundown of the major themes and rules distinctions between the three?

If it helps at all, my only oWoD familiarity is with the revised editions so far as rules go.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

CF wanted another thread, so here we go. The topic, I think, is the issue of compromise vs. polarization, or perhaps partisanship vs. bipartisanship in the informal sense, as a means of achieving change. A nerve (positive, I hope!) was struck. So here we are. :)

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Cutting back a hair. Just the Companion though. I still want the AP. :)

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I just got to preparing copies of these maps for my players. I run a PBEM, so my floor maps also double as battlemats. The Goblin's a big, frequently-used location that the players should know the layout of upfront, so I went and did the first and second floor already. They've never been down to the basement, but I have some spare time and thus here we are.

On page 63, Area 32 is the Wrangler's Chamber. The reader is told that Bjoask hangs out here and there's a portcullis that controls access to the hallway beyond. It's not on the map on page 60. Furthermore, there's a secret door and a guard post between Bojask's bedroom and the arena, so what use is the portcullis? The writing suggests that this is a security measure to keep people away from the arena and/or Sublevel Two, but the staircase down to the sub-basement isn't hidden by the secret door and said door and it's guard post already secure access to the arena for those coming Bojask's way.

I can see that access through the Red Room is probably controlled by the bartender (and the bar is right next to the door) and the flavor text generally hints that Saul keeps his arena on a need-to-know basis, but I'm lost as to how the portcullis and secret door are supposed to work out for the casino. Is it a change that got tangled in editing? Is the portcullis that Bojask controls supposed to be where the secret door now is and the reference wasn't caught in time? Anybody have any ideas?

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I just signed up for the Companion subscription, to start with Elves of Golarion.

But now when I check my account page it shows a preorder for Elves of Golarion in addition to the subscription tag, etc. Does that mean I somehow accidentally subscribed to Companion and made an additional order for an extra copy of the Elves book? Or is what I'm seeing normal for starting a subscription with the next volume and just the one copy of Elves of Golarion is headed my way come October?

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I noticed that both of these bonuses are typed as racial, but then it's declared that they stack. This seems like an exception to the stacking rules that doesn't really need to be and might introduce some confusion. It seems to be almost inviting the presumption that like bonus types always stack, which is more or less the opposite of 3e's simple and intuitive bonus stacking rules. The more exceptions there are to the rule, the easier it is for the core rule to be lost.

Maybe I'm the only one obsessive enough to care, but wouldn't it be easier and head off any confusion about other racial bonuses stacking if the Fearless bonus were typed morale as it is in the SRD?

I see later on that racial bonuses are added to the list of bonuses that usually stack, but I'm at a loss as to why. Do we foresee lots of PCs with multiple races? Or is there a plan that templates will be granting racial bonuses now?

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm not sure if this belongs here or in Customer Service, but it's not yet an order so I'm putting it here. It makes sense to me, but it's possible that I'm insane.

Now that Pathfinder has finally reached an adventure path I'm not a player in, I've decided to take the plunge and donate a portion of my soul to the Great Masters of Golarion. I'm sure they shall treat it with all the kindness and generosity it doesn't deserve.

I think I remember from those hoary days of yesteryear when Runelords were rising and all that that a PDF-only subscription was available, which I would prefer for various reasons. But I can't find any mention of such in the store, just that subscribers to the print version get a free PDF when each volume ships, and that you can buy PDFs of individual volumes off the site.

Am I misremembering and there is no such animal as a PDF-only subscription, or am I just not looking in the right place for it?

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