|James MacKenzie RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf|
One unfortunate choice that I have repeatedly encountered in org play games is the decision to put the least experienced GMs onto the low-level tables. This is done because the lewer levers are much easier to run. Unfortunately, it also forces the newer players to suffer from some of the least capable GMs.
One advantage of organized play is that you get to game with people without inviting them over to your place to do it. This allows you to avoid awkward explanations after you discover that a GM or fellow player isn't one you wish to game with in the future: Instead, you just join a different table.
Did the GM run two encounters together, perchance? In that scenario, a GM could theoretically jam up two of the encounters that were meant to run consecutively. Such a decision would certainly result in a bloodbath.
In any case, I'd tactfully explain to the event organizer that you'd like to try gaming with a different GM, as his approach wasn't what you prefer when gaming. Be truthful, but tactful, since we all make mistakes at times and it's possible that this guy just needs to better understand what he's doing wrong.
Over the years, I've seen unbalanced parties that were great fun to play. Their strengths and weaknesses pose a challenge for the players, as they try to reduce the effect of their vulnerabilities while making the most of their strengths.
A party without a meat shield has several options for addressing that weak point that don't force anyone to play characters they aren't in the mood to try. Their rangers can get trained animals to face their foes, casters can enthrall someone with enchantment or summon some creatures, or they can practice throwing down obstacles (fog, smoke, web, grease, caltrops, marbles, old furniture, etc.).
I object to the cliche that fighters aren't good for anything but standing still and swinging their swords. Pathfinder allows fighters so many feats and options that a "one trick pony" fighter really isn't using all the opportunities given him.
Maybe give the fighter class enough skill points to actually feel like a competent, skillful character and see if that improves anyone's desire to play one.
Salamandyr, you're a bit behind the times. A skillful fighter isn't hard to build in Pathfinder. A human fighter with INT 13 can bring 5 points to the table with every level (2 + 1 INT + 1 Human + 1 Favored Class). There are plenty of build options that will make that Int 13 a worthwhile investment. Start him with Combat Reflexes, Combat Expertise, and Improved Trip (or Improved Disarm), hand him a polearm, and watch as he makes foes cry with frustration.
As another option, give your monsters a custom feat that allows them to automatically close any time someone near them makes a five-foot step. That'll get rid of the annoying "melee archers" who back up and full attack repeatedly.
Jacob Saltband wrote:
Very true. When I first ran this, the first PC encountering the Visitant immediately turned and fled, encouraging the others to flee the level with him.
They were wise. When I've run the Enigma Vaults, that horror has reduced every group that stood against it to a tattered shambles.
I sympathize completely, as I have been in the same situation, when new material came out that perfectly suited my character's style. Unfortunately, you're not allowed a rebuild to accommodate new material. To get what you would like, you can take the extra traits feat as a 3rd level character, or you can build a new PC as a "clone" of the current one.
The planned use for the spell doesn't appear to pose a balance problem, but could open a minor can of worms if applied as a general rule. If you can grease someone's boots to make them slippery, can you...
- Grease the pads of a monster's feet to force it to balance? Would this prevent it from climbing, running, or charging?
- Grease a worn object, such as a circlet, goggles, or a gauntlet, to make them fall off the wearer?
- Grease an invisible foe to make them visible? (That's also not mentioned in the spell description, but doesn't seem outrageous...)
While I'm fond of allowing nonstandard interpretations of a spell's effects, there are some players who make GMs wish that they hadn't allowed such things.
First, let the players make their choices: They have consequences, but if you make the consequences too crippling, your effectively dictating how the characters should act. That really regrades the players' participation in the game. Some guys can be champions of good: Some aren't.
I would include a scene in the underworld, where the character encounters the shades of his victims and is offered great honor by the most vile and disgusting of the underworld's demonic inhabitants.
He will also be targeted for retribution from the land's defenders: Make them distinctly weaker than he is, so he gets the joy of defending himself by slaughtering angry paladins and lawful-good clerics.
Finally, many of the victims will rise as undead, some of whom will haunt their killer. Don't have them directly attack him: They're drawn to him, yet terrified by his presence. Wherever he goes, their unseen presence follows. A good way to amp up the horror would be for these creatures to periodically kill someone else in the area. The character rest at an inn, and in the morning, the stable boy is dead, apparently blown apart. His burned remains seem to whisper to the murderer.
Why would you get "walloped" when casting Color Spray? It's a standard action to cast, so just move out of the way after spraying your foes.
I expect that he's putting himself into harm's way to get the most targets into the color spray's area.
To make the most of your spell, people need to use the delay action. If the fighter who beat your initiative delays, you can move up to cast, immediately followed by your meat shield. If you stand 5 ft. behind two front-line types (leaving 5 feet between them), you can nuke the spaces right in front of them. Anyone who wants to melee with you must walk into a flank box. By using delay, you can ensure that you all advance and retreat together.
Hmm. 4th Level...
He might enjoy a Half-Orc Fire Blaster:
Half-Orc Sorcerer 4
(Add the +2 Race bonus to Con)
Feats: Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot
Hit Points: 22 (assumes 13 Con)
Favored Class Bonus: Gives +2 damage to all fire spells
Items: (6,000 gp total)
First, have him describe what sort of sorcerer he wants. Does he want someone who stands back and blasts foes with his destructive magic? Someone who can manifests claws to carve into his foes? Someone witty and charismatic who can bind foes with his mind-bending powers or who reduces enemies to clumsy oafs?
Also determine whether particular races appeal. Would he like to be some type of human, an agile elf, woodland gnome, brutal half-orc, or sturdy dwarf?
A few more masterwork tools might come in handy...
Bardiche Body Spray for Men
Finley's Custom Flannels
Wisdom of the Barbed Ones
The GM's arbitrary restrictions on class, spells, feats, and items sound a bit like the decisions of someone whose been "burned" before and wants to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Every veteran GM will have stories of the "game that got away", campaigns that went completely awry for one reason or another. One common response to such a debacle is to keep a tight rein on the characters that will be allowed in future games.
Also, people's perceptions regarding "unbalalnced" spells and abilities are generally arbitrary. Someone determined to make the most of a spell's or feat's synergy with other abilities can make even the most innocuous power into something game-breaking.
A (completely made-up) example, exaggerated for effect:
After seeing several parties explore the Accursed Halls, I can confidently report that the shadow is the meanest encounter in the place. I have yet to hear of a party that wasn't reduced to feeble, shambling wrecks by its assault. So far, all the groups were fortunate enough to avoid having party members killed and "shadowfied".
Characters exploring that level will need some information from the town if they're going to get the most enjoyment out of it. Steer them toward the magical scholars of Goldenfire Tower, who may share some of the area's background. I've also let the party meet local goblins eager to impress visitors with fanciful tales of "Zog, the mighty goblin hero".
When running the Forgotten Laboratories, Pathfinder Society characters can be sent in search of the arcanolembic and its scarred owner. Explain that the ill-tempered alchemist attacked a scholarly ally of the Society, stealing his research notes about the item. The party's assignment is to explore the Laboratories and dish out a little payback.
That level's toughest encounter is the three goblin rogues. If they manage to ambush the PCs andf have a high initiative, they can easily drop the party's point man before they get to react.
During last Saturday's session into the Accursed Halls, the players decided to visit the "civilized" local goblin tribe, hoping to find information about the goblin warlord that had once ruled there. This improvised scene worked well. Allow me to offer the following suggestions for interactions with the goblin tribe:
1.) The chief's title grows longer and more absurdly grandiose each time it is used.
2.) He requires gifts from any non-goblin who enters his august presence. My players brough pieces of scrap metal, making up absurd stories about the items.
3.) No one entering his "court" is allowed to have their head higher than the chief's. Fortunately, his throne places his head 3 feet from the ground.
4.) Every time Zog's name is mentioned, all the goblins present go to one knee, shouting "Kneel before Zog!"
5.) The chief wants a famous item of Zog's (his sword), but will not tell non-goblins what this mighty item might be.
6.) All those requesting permission to enter the Accursed Halls (or do anything else) must first prove their worth... in a yodeling contest.
7.) Goblins cheat any way they can think of in such a contest. Intimidation and Sleight of Hand are just as important as actual Perform (yodel) skills.
I'm pretty sure that I recognize that trap. It's in an "old school" adventure, which doesn't give needless detail about the trap's intent. We can assume that its creator thought such a change would be amusing.
Intelligent evil typically sees others as tools or rivals, not as friends. The evil character isn't likely to suddenly turn on his allies, but may decide to betray them once they're no longer any use to him. He may plan to let them get killed once they've eliminated the adventure's "big bad".
If he's ambitious, he may prefer to take care of the other party members: After all, tough (and gullible) allies can be hard to come by, and they will serve him well when the time comes for him to seize power. He is likely to knock their power down a notch, ensuring that they lack the means to oppose him if they should choose to be foolishly idealistic. Paladins and Good clerics probably won't last long unless they're truly gullible patsies.
They also claimed that if it's on their spell list, they automatically know all the parameters of a particular spell. I accepted it at the time skeptically to speed things up but can't find it anywhere. Am I being silly and just glossing past it. Have you seen that rule?
I wouldn't go with that. Not only is it not specified in the rules, but there are probably as many minor variations on spells as there are variant schools of swordplay. Just because you have mastered a spell, it doesn't follow that you would automatically recognize others wielding it. ("That's the Cassomir variation on magic missile, isn't it? I always preferred the northern version: In my experience, its syllables roll more smoothly off the tongue.")
Can Spellcraft or Knowledge Arcane (with Detect Magic) be used to identify the spell on a trapped door?
The caster can determine its school and approximate level (1-3, 4-6,7-9, 10+). A rogue with Trapfinding might gain different information from a successful Perception check ("Hmmm. Another glyph of warding. Pass me some chalk from my backpack: I think I can disarm it.")
Can a Familiar with Scent use the caster's Knowledge Skill to identify a monster by scent if the caster cannot see the monster?
Yes, but the GM would be within his rights to impose a circumstance penalty on the attempt. ("Familiar, is it more a musky stench or a sharp, chemical stench?")
Attacks of opportunity are based on the square you leave, not the square you enter. Entering a threatened square does not normally draw an Attack of Opportunity, no matter what the terrain may be. That said, you cannot normally use a 5-foot move to enter a square with difficult terrain.
If someone wants to move from a threatened square into one with difficult terrain without getting hit, he can:
I've run the scenario in question a few times. With a party filled with "newbie" players, that fight was a heroic challenge. They avoided the first opportunity for things to go wrong, but had a brutal time fighting that bugbear. I then ran it for a party of similar power, but whose players included a pair of tactically-minded optimizers. They breezed through the fight with little effort.
I agree that it is vital for GMs to offer suggestions and advice to newer players while they learn how to use their abilities. Some encounters leave enough "wiggle room" for errors and suboptimal decisions. Others require parties to bring their "A Game".
Mind if I borrow that James? I'm prepping to run this in a week, and I don't want pvp encouraged when a few newbies are coming. At least, not to lethal levels.
Of Course! Add some art depicting apes or ape-men and make a handout for your players. I'd include the sketch I used on the handouts I made, but I don't have the artist's authorization for that.
A long time ago, Doug Miles wrote:
This is a bit late in the conversation to start throwing in opinions, but where does it describe anywhere in the scenario that mist-tainted PCs should attack other PCs?
A long time ago, Mark Moreland wrote:
It doesn't explicitly say this, as far as I know, but given that the museum employees have all spent the last few hours hunting and killing one another, I gather that this is what would happen to PCs as well. When I played the scenario the party turned on itself, but when I ran it it did not and I didn't force the issue. I think it's an effective template with either result.
When I've run it, I've suggested that the employees were actually emotionally-repressed nerds with a lot of pent-up aggression toward each other. The office staff were always chaotic evil, but normally expressed their malice through passive-aggressive sniping and rumormongering. Once their inhibitions were surpressed, they began to indulge their latent evil sides.
Lacking such bottled-up hostilities, player characters don't necessarily feel the need to kill each other.
I've posted this before, but here is the text of the handout I give the mist-tainted. I find that by emphasizing silly ape-like shenanigans, I discourage PvP. While a bit of inter-party brawling could be fun, I don't want to risk that something bad might happen to a character at another PC's hands. If someone's 7 HP sorcerer were squished dead by a fellow player's mist-tainted barbarian, they would likely take it amiss.
Overcome by the mist’s bizarre, corrupting influence, you begin to degenerate into a raving madman, little better than a jungle animal.
Strange ideas course through your mind: Bloodthirsty urges to smash those who oppose you, discomfort at your constraining garments and armor, and the need to find any tiny parasites inhabiting your fur and that of your friends. You would enjoy eating a banana, if you had one.
You have gained the Mist-Tainted template:
I'd find out what the player really wants his cleric to be. If he wants to be a caster (but just doesn't have the spells yet), let him find a couple of scrolls or mostly-used wand so he won't be afraid of using up his spells. If he wants to get in front and "mix it up" in melee, let the party find a breastplate and large shield or longspear that fit him decently. Life will be easier once he has a better AC.
If some part of a scenario doesn't make sense to you, sometime before the game day you should jump on the boards here and ask about it. This will resolve most issues.
I personally prefer to give GMs broad leeway about the way they run their chosen scenarios, but the campaign's previous attempts to give additional flexibility to GMs have often caused as many problems as they solved. One example was the "play, play, play" rule, which allowed limited replay (for character credit). Some people wisely used this to ensure that everyone got to play. Others abused the system, causing major heartburn for local coordinators.
One common GM error is to "increase the challenge" of an encounter, only to discover that the player characters aren't as capable as the GM expected. It's hard to explain afterward that you killed some PC using an item or monster that wasn't supposed to be in the scenario.
Having said that, I'd suggest that you only change details of a scenario under very unusual circumstances. These include tables with kids playing: Some scenario details are PG-13 and inappropriate for younger kids. Some challenges are meant for more capable roleplayers and require "softballing" to match the abilities of neophyte players.
You may also encounter players who sit in on a scenario they've already read or played. I prefer to "tweak" some details in such situations, perhaps moving rooms around or changing an NPC's personality or description. This helps keep the game fresh and engaging for the player.
Like many others, I played the background music for Mission: Impossible for this one when I gave the mission briefing. I also opened the briefing with "Good afternoon. Your mission, should you decide to accept it..." and concluding with "As always, should you or any of your force be caught or killed, the Decemvirate will disavow any knowledge of your actions."
During the scenario, I frequently paused to check the elapsed time so that the players would be aware of the need for haste. In the end, they just about ran out of time and rushed to the ambassador, pretending that they had grown impatient and had been wandering through the party in search of him. (An inspired roleplaying performance and good Bluff role made the plan work...)
It is sad when a character dies before his tale is fully told, but it's generally best to play out such things as the dice dictate. The payoff comes later, when the players know that you're not going to pull punches on them.
It's too late now, but the scenario is set in Absalom: The party probably could have paid for a cure disease spell for their ally. Apparently, they didn't realize the severity of their friend's illness until it was (dramatic Tum-tum-TUM...) Too Late.
Christopher Rowe wrote:
I do wonder, though, if the change to spells the author of the scenario suggested here is something folks have been doing. I'm very hesitant to change anything in the scenario-as-written, but understand that the written tactics don't make a lot of sense without some sort of change.
Despite my preferences in the matter, I'll have to recommend that you leave the villain's spells as they are: After seeing the havok wrought by a few GMs who thought "But THESE spells make more sense" and changed encounters around, I no longer want to be the guy who told people to make "a minor change" to a villain's spells.
My PFS Lavode De'Morcaine wrote:
But I don't think on the fly too well. Every so often the players decide to do something out of character that never occurred to me. I find that very difficult to deal with. I do ok with things I can anticipate being even unlikely possibilities that I've put a little thought into. No I don’t plan out everything, but I at least think about it some. “Ok they usually fight to the last, but if they decide to surrender I can…”
Since improv isn't your forte, you're fully in your rights to ask players what they plan to do during their next game session and expect them to (approximately) stick to their decisions. If they go "off the rails" in the middle of a home game session, you might want to take a brief break so you can plan their next encounters.
Most PFS scenarios are a bit more 'linear' than that, as they are intended to be run in a structured setting, within a limited timeframe.
My PFS Lavode De'Morcaine wrote:
For a freewheeling home game, don't plan out your plots in detail, but make a roster of potential encounters, a few maps, and some treasures or McGuffins. As an example, suppose that the party is in a small town, investigating a thieves' guild that operates out of the area. I'll preplan stats for various rogues and prominent townsfolk, but I won't assign which stats and maps go to each area. When the party decides (on a whim) to instead overthrow the corrupt local mayor, I just retask some of the maps and stat blocks to serve as his guardsmen and the local town hall.
When I conducted the mission briefing for this adventure, I got everyone into the mood by pulling up the theme music from "Mission: Impossible". Venture-Captain Valsin concluded his briefing by advising the characters that "As always, if any of your operatives are captured or killed, the Society will disavow any knowledge of this mission."
To address the "missing" Chelaxian handout, I told the Chelaxian players that when they had picked up their copy of Bondage Fetishist Quarterly from their faction contact, the Paracountess' usual coded message was missing.
This is a "Caper" scenario: Before running it, watch some episodes of Mission: Impossible or films that feature similar shenanigans. When things start to go wrong, remember that the Chelaxians are a very socially-stratified culture, bound by bureaucratic procedure. They won't respond efficiently to a confusing situation. ("You want us to interrupt the Ambassador because you THINK some uninvited guests have crashed the party? OF COURSE some have! This is the Grand Gala of the season!" "But, but, but..." "Come back when you are sure!")
When I ran it, some of the disguised PCs found themselves repeatedly lectured by a senior servant ("I see that you're new here, but any idiot knows not to serve sherry with the vegetable canapes!"), others feigned that they were drunken party guests ("Of course I have a claim receipt for my cloak! My idiot manservant was carrying it!"), and one attempted to sneak an eidolon through the party in a large sack (It's a surprise for later, sir!"). As the minutes ticked away, the party eventually found themselves huddling on top of cabinets in the archive, desperately trying to fend off the chamber's guardian (which found the cabinets difficult to climb...).
When running this mission, keep emphasizing the passing time ("That took three minutes. Tick-tock!") so the players know to hurry. Be open to attempts to "jump the rails": Almost any party will try a few stunts that nobody sane would have considered.
Also, err on the side of generosity if the party mix is just completely unsuitable for the the scenario. If your group utterly lacks the ability to be stealthy or to bluff through a dangerous situation, play the scene for laughs. Situations that are TOO ridiculous might not even count as strikes against the party, as the Chelaxian security forces may think they're being subjected to some sort of a practical joke ("A barbarian is attacking the topiary? Go back and check again: This sounds like another jape from those idiots in the kitchen! You remember the time they claimed that a drifting mist was turning people into monkeys!")
I'd say: Give them a variety of challenges and keep things realistic. Don't tailor your foes to this one specific character: Some fights will end up as cakewalks, just as a party with a strong paladin or high save DC caster would stroll through some types of fights with little effort.
As others have noted, many foes (even some animals) will switch to less direct tactics once directly damaging the fighter proves impossible. Have them use combat maneuvers against him, make an "end run" around him, or hammer him with special abilities. (I wouldn't take sundering entirely off the table, either, but wouldn't resort to it often. It's a mistake for characters to become too dependent on one or two items of gear.)
Also, make the terrain a more important part of your fights. The world is full of places that aren't well suited for heavily-armored warriors: The party will generally overcome such situations, but they'll burn through resources doing it.
If he left a tunnel behind him, he can crawl back out that way. If not, I'd let him successfully break out of the ground with a DC 20 Strength check. It might be totally unrealistic in real life, but it's certainly cinematic.
Without a tunnel back, he would have to hold his breath as if he were underwater.
I would allow the icons to serve as "unholy symbols of Lissala", but the characters would have to display them openly. The statue doesn't have any particular ability to see what is carried within a pack or pouch.
Treating them that way suggests a reason for the box of icons to have been left there: They're meant to allow newer recruits to the cult (who may not have been "marked" yet) to pass the guardian.
The problem with disarm, and really any maneuver, is if you don't have the Improved Feat you'l provoke, and any damage from the AoO will add to their CMD. So you may end up doing nothing.
Opponents won't automatically take their AoO every time. Unless they have Combat Reflexes, they know that using their attack of opportunity (and being "drawn out of position to strike again") leaves them vulnerable to further combat maneuvers.
Fortunately, many foes aren't bright enough to think of that, so they'll take their attack of opportunity when you move past them and take them into flank. This leaves them unable to stop your disarm attempt.
When someone is thoroughly searching an area, I don't tell them "you find a trap". I instead tell them "You find a loose flagstone: You're pretty sure it covers some sort of trigger mechanism. There are several small holes hidden in cracks on the ceiling." The player's response then determines what information he gets next. By detailing the attempt to disarm the trap, I add some tension and make the scene more cinematic.
If Foxglove seemed a real twit when they dealt with him, they're likely to dismiss him as a suspect. If he seemed like more than comic relief, they may think he's the one.
If you think that they'll go straight for him, play down the "murderous obsession" angle, delaying any clear messages from Skinsaw until after the players start to form their own plans for investigating.
Lower level games tend to be a bit 'swingier" than high-level. At those levels, a high-AC "cork" character can make a huge difference to a party's chances. You'll also want ways to damage swarms, deal with darkness, and get past hardness. If you can do those things, you're likely to handle anything PFS play will throw at you.
Going back to the OP's question, I would quietly check with the other players, telling them "Someone wants to pull some minor shenanigans that could cause friction between the PCs. Do you mind if I allow that to happen?" I wouldn't be more specific than that, but would find out whether the group sees it as interesting interpersonal roleplaying or as a serious potential problem. If any of the other players seemed opposed, I would veto the "stealing from the party" idea and try to find other ways to sate his appetite for excitement.
Adam Mogyorodi wrote:
I've never heard of a business refusing to print a single copy of a Paizo PDF that was legally bought. Does this happen to others?
Most print shops just look that my name is watermarked on the document and check for permission to make a copy for non-commercial purposes, but I have occasionally run into some problems: A local print shop refused to print a copy of The Jester's Fraud for me.
I thought that was a bit overcautious, especially since I'm the scenario's author.
The presence of problem players eventually drives out higher quality players. Because of this, no matter what happens, you're likely to lose players.
His friendship with the FLGS owner can also be a problem. You will need to approach the situation diplomatically.
When addressing this player's behavior, keep the following principles in mind:
1.) Treat him courteously and respectfully, avoiding any put-downs or insults. No matter how inappropriate his behavior may be, keep your focus on solving the problems, rather than your feelings about his actions. Give him no excuse to badmouth you or the other campaign participants.
2.) Do not discuss the issue beyond those people who need to know.
3.) Expect a dip in campaign participation when you start addressing this guy's issues more assertively. He and his closest friends may drop out of the game, then try to recruit other regular players to join whatever game they get going in its place.