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I was going to respond to each quoted block, but I find your second block sufficiently addresses the first.
Wild, wild table variation.
Pete Winz wrote:
Can you even make a Handle Animal check on a hostile animal? If so, what is the purpose of Wild Empathy?
Wild Empathy makes an animal like you. Handle Animal makes the animal do things. If you cannot use Handle Animal on hostile creatures, why would Exclusive and Serve exist as tricks?
It isn't. Most attack animals are trained. It's merely a DC 10 to command a horse to attack their own rider instead of you
My fundamental assumption is that a known trick has a command that the animal recognizes and my character doesn't know that command. Hence, whenever I do any companion shenanigans, I always treat it as a push.
Jared Thaler wrote:
Handle animal on a mount is even sketchier, since the rules seem to indicate that the ride skill trumps the handle animal skill. I have no problem with handle animal on unfamiliar animals, and throw rider is certainly legit, but flee or exclusive is only going to at best make them treat the mount as not combat trained for purposes of their ride checks.
Indeed, all things mounted are very, very sketchy. The rules are remarkably thin about such an iconic topic. I generally assume that any Handle Animal actions on enemy animals in combat are subject to table variation. As I said, though, if the choice is that or me readying an action to do terrible, terrible things to said mounted character and the mount, the GMs have always voted in favor of "let's do the fun thing with Handle Animal."
Exclusive talks about charm animal in regards to things that don't break it. My assumption when doing this is that the push lasts 1 round (i.e. long enough to prevent the charge). I've also used Flee and Throw Rider for similar purposes.
Re: using Handle Animal on unfamiliar critters, it's an incredibly difficult combat DC for a long stretch of character levels. Until I got the character to 13 and suddenly gained a bunch of skill ranks, I had a 50/50 shot at the push DC. While there's no particular guidance in the rules regarding Handle Animal on unfamiliar creatures, our local ruling on it has pretty consistently been "this is a way more interesting action than most options that a PC could have done, so we're gonna do that."
It's worth noting that the character doing this would usually otherwise trip both the rider and the mount as they approached.
Realized I forgot to mention the "why" of that...
"As a full-round action, I would like to Handle Animal that guy's mount to push Exclusive."
MORE THAN ONCE.
I agree with the multiclass point you bring up. I know it very well.
Most players in my region would either mention their Animal Focus changes as they happen or get asked by the GM about the sudden availability of darkvision or similar abilities. There are plenty of folks around with hunters, but there aren't a lot in my region that don't have pets. Big Slammu and Jaws, Chance and King, and more than a few others are high-level hunters + animal companions in my region.
Question for you: did your GM for Thornkeep mention that you are literally within a town when you're entering the dungeon? Or that there's a section detailing the local goblin tribe, which the townsfolk use as free entertainment and cheap labor?
Thornkeep is a dungeon crawl, but there are a lot of RP things that were left out if the GM neglected to mention and/or prepare the town. This also means that fleeing the dungeon and resting is not only viable, but likely encouraged. Moreover, once you've been inside The Accursed Halls and seen the door to the next level, you could reasonably leave, RP in town, and walk back with a solution to the door without exploring the rest of the dungeon.
What I'm seeing out of your posts is a combination of mismatched expectations (Player-GM and Player-Campaign) that results in a poor play experience. Whether you like the PFS "house rules" or not, the judgment you've rendered so far has nothing to do with actual PFS scenarios - as mentioned, Thornkeep is a module set and it is known for being a meatgrinder dungeon crawl. Find a way to participate in actual scenarios (they'll all have numbers in the title) and let us know how you feel afterward. Here are a couple I'd recommend:
These are just ones that I've played or run that come to mind.
A swift action buff of unlimited duration that can be swapped between evasion, +2 to a physical stat, +4 to one of a number of skills, darkvision, +5' speed, or scent (not to forget allowing feats for constant feather fall, burrow speeds, and swim speeds + water breathing) is considered 'few benefits'?
Depends on the opportunity cost associated. The BAB drop can set you back a level on feats and depending on your other class, this could delay other critical components of a build.
Animal Focus is very good. Ensuring that it properly synergizes with your build is essential, though. Bear in mind that I'm playing it from the opposite standpoint - my hunter has a 1 level dip out. My buffs are stronger and I get more of them (I can have up to 3 active including the dead pet bonus), which makes it much better than the 1 level hunter dip version.
There comes a point, though, where a +2 attribute bonus is not a very meaningful benefit, particularly since you could just buy it for 8,000 gold for an always-on variety via ioun stone. Similarly, if you can't afford the feat for Planar Focus, it loses some of the punch. You always have to question whether the cost of the dip actually gives you a net gain and there are a lot of theoretical builds where it just doesn't happen, particularly when you consider your character as part of a party rather than as an individual, or what is possible when using wands, scrolls, or actual spellcasting.
My psychedelia psychic Mystic Mickey is by far my favorite. At 15th level and with a generalist spell selection, he's been knocking scenarios out of the park and generally he's been a blast to play.
This month will be Tomb of the Iron Medusa and wrapping up All For Immortality, with a target of 20 at Con of the North in February.
Come for the drug jokes, stay for the save-or-sucks raining on our enemies.
Most likely because it's a no-BAB dip that you would normally associate with full-BAB classes and possesses remarkably few other benefits other than wand use. It was best before Verminous Hunter got fixed, which cut the amazing constant fast healing and light fortification option.
I think the 1 level dip is a trap.
Jared Thaler wrote:
I have yet to see one of these types of characters in actual play. I've seen a lot of hunters, but never a character with a 1 level dip for the constant Animal Focus or Planar Focus.
Poison Dusk wrote:
That's a damn lot of work just for a swim speed. Why bother with a hunter at all?
It's on-demand swim speed + waterbreathing...or burrow and +2 natural armor...or immunity to polymorph effects...or constant levitate...or defensive cold damage whenever you're hit in melee...or added fire damage on melee attacks...or... yeah. It's a lot of things.
When you've got a dead pet, one of these can be constant. My hunter 10/medium 1 archer frequently burrows through significant portions of scenarios, using it to reach clifftops, avoid enemies, etc. Being able to 5' into a wall is pretty awesome, after all.
I've combined Good + Bull + Bear to be a frontliner on-demand against evil enemies while using Barkskin for bonus AC, making me an effective melee character despite my relatively low STR and CON base. I've put up Cold + Bear and melee'd against a huge fire elemental, who was thoroughly dissuaded from punching me after taking 1.5(5d4) damage each time it slammed me.
Planar Focus + Animal Focus is a very powerful toolbox on a swift action and the ability to have up to 3 active focuses within PFS levels makes it particularly useful to adapting in combat. Planar Focus comes online at level 5, even if you only have 1 level in Hunter, by dint of only requiring Animal Focus and Kn (planes) 5 ranks. The action economy penalty of having a dead companion is painful, but I've found that it works out just fine.
Divine Hunter gives up teamwork feats for a domain. Swim speed comes from taking Planar Focus at 5 and using the Water focus.
What I've generally heard is that you have to have the AC's death recorded on a chronicle. There was a fair amount of resistance to the idea of coming with a pre-dead companion that wasn't due to actual gameplay. My horse died on my 4th scenario, killed by Aspis agents while it sat outside the dungeon (lol stairs) as they came in to ambush us.
Aaron C. Malone wrote:
Define "high-level" as I would like to see if I can partake in said shenaniganry. I need to introduce you guys to my Chef. He's a blast. Literally.
There are a large number of folks who have been talking about Ye Olde Road to 20. Race for the Runecarved Key is the only scenario that can bump you from 19.2 to 20. Those would be the "high-level" tables. While I haven't done Race yet (I'm one of the Road to 20 folks), I believe the high tier of Race is 15+ or some such.
What happens if a PC attempts to teleport into the Darklands? The scenario tells us this is a bad idea, but not why. Perhaps this is covered in one of the Darklands supplements?
Unless you have Greater Teleport, the miss chance can place you in very...challenging locales.
At 13 days of travel for a party of 30' movement speed characters, you're looking at approximately 312 miles of travel per the CRB. While this is surely winding travel with a much shorter "as the crow flies" distance, your literal best option for knowing where to go is "Viewed Once," though it's very possible that "False Destination" is applicable, as well. You could equally likely have no valid target location to teleport to because not even Sandricaan knows exactly where they are going in the short term - he's merely calculated the rate at which you will need to travel to get there.
Off Target could land you quite far away - and, more importantly, hopelessly lost even at a 1% distance of traveled due to the winding nature of Nar-Voth. 3 miles doesn't necessarily mean 3 miles away on The Long Walk. You could be 3 miles deeper in completely unconnected caverns and you may have no way to know this.
Similar area is similarly bad, but could lead to interesting hostilities, as well. If, for example, you intended to scry on Fellstrok and teleport there thinking that it is a likely point on the slavers' journey, you could end up teleporting to a nearby populated duergar fortress. Even assuming a favorable outcome for the PCs in the short term, this could be...upsetting in for regional stability.
Even Dimension Door isn't without peril outside of visual range. Attempting to DD a reasonable distance - say you have a party of 4 and a 9th level wizard attempting to travel 600' to bypass a checkpoint - well within range, but not necessarily within vision - you could end up easily lost by winding up in a side tunnel. The worst case scenario is that you get shunted into an unconnected tunnel.
tl;dr: Surface dwellers have no reasonable expectation of knowing where they're going and are prone to getting lost when teleporting in the Darklands, particularly the "wilderness" that is Nar-Voth.
Do they still count as sentient if I Feeblemind them first? There are formerly-intelligent undead that I have outright killed with the spell, on top of that...
The other consideration to put forth for some characters (mainly PFS) is how/whether you count GM chronicles. Do I count it as my players did it?
Looking back over my 15th level Psychic's career (much of the early levels were GM credits), he has remarkably few kills from things that didn't try to kill him first. Unfortunately, I don't have many totals at this point to quantify things, but I do have a "take prisoners" policy if possible. Usually, while a Feebleminded opponent will still view me as an enemy, they're not in great shape to do much about that after the fact.
Not PFS specific, buuuuuuuuuuuut... yeah, this happened in the AP I'm running:
GM: "Alright guys, campaign update - Jimmy has decided he doesn't want to play anymore, so we're down to 4."
5 minutes later...
GM: "Well, I just found out that Kevin is out today. I guess it's just the 3 of you that will be going through this 6th level dungeon crawl with incorporeal enemies."
Worth noting: the party did mostly fine with a telekineticist, an archer inquisitor, and a melee occultist.
Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:
I think that there's a need to reduce combat counts to open up some RP opportunities. With Cosmic Captive, I felt like I was almost constantly rolling dice, except for a brief chummy moment with an efreet. It felt like the worst possible version of the Dwarven Door Game. Exposition -> Combat -> Exposition -> Combat is wearying.
Thinking back to Sky Key Solution, the GM happily backtracked us to the RP section after time had been called for that portion of the adventure because we very quickly addressed the next section and had time to sit while other tables did their thing. I didn't feel quite so crunched for time with Siege of Serpents. Diamond City was very well-paced and, most importantly, the RP parts of the scenario were interspersed nicely - combat seemed to flow more naturally from the situations.
My recommendation re: Knowledge checks - Introduce the 3 groups, have the PCs determine where each one should go, and ask the players which one of them will provide the briefing for each team, allowing no more than 2 players to provide a briefing to a team. Have them start describing the mission, RP through the discussion, then ask for the relevant checks at the end, allowing both to roll and assuming the lower result is the Aid Another. Remember that it's a primary-secondary check with the secondary being a higher DC.
I had a crazy idea this weekend. I was chatting with Boomer and a few others during SkalCon and the reception was...exciting. After chatting with folks about it, then experiencing Cosmic Captive's...drudgery, I feel like it's worth sharing broadly.
Make a special where the theme is "Your Venture-Captains stand with you."
All for Immortality touched on the importance of Seekers taking a position of leadership within the Society. There are literally hundreds of PC Venture-Captains out in the world. After you get your title, you frequently...retire. As far as PFS is concerned, once you've done Eyes and AFI, there's very little to continue doing (notably 2 older specials and that's it) other than moving to sanctioned-but-not-really-Society content.
What I'm proposing here is that a special be written where there are a number of PC Venture-Captain tables (i.e. you must have the boon or have purchased the Pathfinder Lodge vanity) that delegate tasks, coordinate efforts, and occasionally aid tables. I am well aware that this would be a chaotic mess sometimes. Just hear me out a bit longer.
General operational changes required::
Because of the delegation portion, one item I see that needs to be addressed is providing a rough "ranking" system for the tiers from an in-world perspective - something that the PCVC is going to be able to yell out and have recognized by players. General proposal:
T 1-2: Neophytes
This is important because it allows table groupings to be addressed without feeling meta-gamey. Table commands sound more reasonable - i.e. "Initiates! The neophytes have been overrun and require your aid! Go assist them or our line is broken!" or "Aspirants! Provide covering fire for the Seekers as they face this overwhelming threat!" Additional categories may be required based on the tiers covered by the special. For example, if there's a 15+ subtier, that group should be called something else.
Second, in order to facilitate the format, some of the GM roles and mustering should be a bit more...formalized to accommodate the PCVC role. Ideally, GMs would each prepare a specific "path" (such as the water vs earth vs fire line-up of Cosmic Captive) within a specific subtier, reducing overall preparation required. During mustering, players would be encouraged to begin discussing their character selection before getting to the briefing. This allows the players to understand their table's capabilities.
While the tables are mustering, but before they've sat down with a GM, the PCVCs would be briefed on the overall situation. As the mustered groups enter by their "rank" above, a PCVC would discuss their mission and the role they will play overall, present the different options, and have the tables volunteer for a specific path. At this point, they sit down with their table GM and begin. This retains player agency overall (you still pick your path, after all) while bringing PCVC leadership into a spotlight.
What exactly is the PCVC table doing?:
Essentially, this table is an in-game Overseer role. While there can (and probably should) be large-scale announcements and NPC statements/actions, the PCVCs would receive reports from the other tables, monitor progress, and occasionally act as "interference" to the situations.
What is "interference," you might ask? The ability for tables to call upon their Venture-Captains, of course! Some limited number of times, a table in trouble can request aid from the Venture-Captains. When this happens, the Venture-Captain can do something to help the table, such as cast a single Standard Action spell, immediately dispatch a single enemy, or remind the team of their training to loan a feat for some period, for example. If a table has completed a section and another table requests aid, sending that team to reinforce and provide some group benefit (i.e. the neophytes distract the foes of the initiates, imparting a -2 penalty on all d20 rolls for the rest of the combat).
That can't be it, right?:
Of course not. There comes a time when the Venture-Captains must stand up and have their own battles. If the special is planned for 5 hours, this should take no more than 1.5-2 hours of that time. Still, the purpose here is to make sure that PCs who have ascended to positions of authority have ample opportunity to show off and feel impactful. I would think that the beginning of the special is the best place for this.
This was a crazy car-thought idea while I was returning home to pick something up that I had forgotten to bring with me. It's not fully fleshed out by any standard, but I thought this could be a really interesting way to make a special.
jon dehning wrote:
As a general rule, more players = less face-time. I mean, it's kind of indisputable, really, but what ends up happening is that the characters end up being either non-existent personalities (Keanu Reeves syndrome) or all of their character exists as player headcanon. Combats also tend to devolve rapidly as people aren't engaged between their turns as much as you need them to be to keep things moving.
As with others, I would recommend splitting the table. Otherwise, you're just going to be waiting out attrition until you have a more manageable table size.
Jayson MF Kip wrote:
Another fair comparison is Leadership as Quicken vs Quicken + Spell Perfection. Spell Perfection has 3 pre-req metamagic feats and can't be taken until level 15. It also only affects a single spell ever.
I can imagine that a number of people will look to get that erroneous chronicle. 27,766 gold at level 8 is a pretty sweet module chronicle that greatly exceeds the WBL of standard chronicles.
Things that typical parties should be employing at level 8 to address generic challenges (i.e. not something "random and specific" to the Zelekhut):
If all else fails remember that creatures have limits. A zelekhut lacks the ability to teleport or otherwise escape prisons short of slowly damaging them. Knock it unconscious with damage, dig a hole, and bury him with something such that he can't swing his arms. Suddenly, those chains aren't doing things.
Respectfully, I disagree. The game meta between a home game and PFS is significantly different and, while the rules are typically consistent on this point, this really was a PFS-specific issue. Home games typically have a very different dynamic on this front and it's not comparable.
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Surprisingly only about 27 or 28, assuming the lead cat gets a 10 and you have standard distribution on the aids. It's a shame when the dragon breathes on itself to get rid of the cats, though.
I chose that specific question because it's one that a lot of people don't understand because they assume it works like trip and other size restricted maneuvers. I had it come up at a table, I wasn't familiar, and we resolved it in the player's favor within 20 seconds.
Fellow 3-star here. My general tactics to avoid rules lawyer issues (as someone who also has to check his rules lawyer tendencies regularly):
1. As other have said, ask about any rules funkiness before the table starts. If you have questions about a particular bit of funkiness, ask the player to find appropriate references (i.e. pull up the actual text) while you continue to go around the table with the question. Unless you have a major beef with the mechanic they're claiming, as long as they can both provide a reference and justify their interpretation (in under 20 seconds of explanation), I typically go with it.
2. Remind all players that convention slots are a limited amount of time and, in the interest of furthering roleplay opportunities, the ONLY rules questions that will stop the game are ones that directly impact a character's survival. Everything else can be discussed after the game.
3. When preparing the scenario(s), if you have mechanics you're not familiar with, google it. See what the forums have said. Check out the associated GM Discussion Thread in the PFS forums. See if PFSPrep has info on it. Generally speaking, if it's weird, it's probably been discussed and a consensus resolution has been reached. This part shouldn't take terribly long - most GM threads are pretty terse and the PFSPrep material is barebones.
4. If you haven't had the opportunity to understand a particular rule (i.e. unfamiliar spells, archetypes, etc.), as long as the player has a reasonable justification (20 seconds or less), go with the player's understanding.
5. When asking about an unfamiliar rule, be as specific as possible. "How are you doing that?" is a weak question. "How are you grappling a huge creature when you're size tiny?" is a good question. "Can you quickly list all the modifiers that got you to (X) result?" is a good one if the number seems implausibly high. Specific questions result in concise answers that you can easily review.
The main concept here is that the tangible existence of divinity can be opposed by stating that such beings/forces are equal or lesser beings, whether that is moral, ethical, power, whatever. The iconic wizard Ezren is an atheist, if you're looking for a character example.