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First up, I apologize for not including the feat's source in my initial post. I knew it was from Dungeon Denizens Revisited, and should have said so, and probably posted the feat text.
Second, I had no idea that's a 3.5 feat! It came up in Hero Lab, and I had the Pathfinder rules loaded, so I assumed it was PF material already. Good to know. I may have to go through my list of PF sources and disable the ones published pre-CRB, since I'd rather not mix 3.5 and PF if I can avoid it.
Chokehold looks like a good option, and considerably less lethal.
The feat Suffocating Strangulation forces grappled opponents to make a CON check "at the end of their turn each round" to avoid suffocating.
Suppose a creature with this feat successfully grapples an unaware opponent during the surprise round. Does the grappled opponent have to make a CON check during the surprise round on their ordinary initiative, even though cannot take any actions? Or does the first CON check come at the end of the grappled opponent's first normal turn?
I am looking forward to bringing her back some in book 3. Does anyone have recommendations for her? Anything you did that your players loved/ hated?
This is a more general observation about NPCs and group dynamics.
When you have a full group of players sitting around a table playing, what often happens is that one player becomes the spokesperson for the party. That's fine, but it also results in very uneven opportunities for role play with NPCs. One person is doing the interacting, and develops relationships with the NPCs. The others don't, or to a much lesser degree.
To counteract that, I like using solo sessions. When you come to a period of down time, run a short solo adventure for each character, so that everyone gets an opportunity to do things and interact with NPCs on their own, rather than fading into a group. I've found these some of the most rewarding of my GM'ing experience, for lots of reasons:
1) They deepen the PCs' backgrounds by giving each PC history and experiences that the others in the group don't share. This is particularly helpful for players who struggle with backstory.
2) They allow for more and deeper interactions with NPCs. Conversations can go on for any length of time without leaving other players impatient and sidelined, because there are no other players.
3) The adventure can be tailored to just one PC. You can build the challenges around the PC's skill set, and introduce connections to the PC's backstory more easily.
I tend to put little or no combat in solo sessions. It would suck to have a PC die off on their own. I did have one quite good solo session where the PC actually got captured, but an NPC he was with escaped. The next group session became a rescue mission, and the player played the NPC, which gave the player an opportunity to try a different class for a session, and the other party members an opportunity to get to know that NPC.
If you can't work in the time for in-person solo sessions, conduct them via email or similar. This works out well for people who are okay at writing, because you're basically just writing bits of story back and forth at each other with occasional skill checks or saves.
Doing this takes a fair bit of time. But it really pays off in terms of character development and connection with the world.
I'm curious -- what became of Shalelu Andosana in your campaigns? She has had many fates, I'm sure.
In my campaign, Shalelu proved a bit too insightful. The party leader, Micah, was about as shallow as a puddle, and wrapped up in his own emo-outcast self-image. Shalelu pointed out that everbody else saw him as a hero for his repeated acts of selfless courage, and suggested that the outcast loner schtick was all in his head, and continued mainly because he himself wouldn't let anyone get close.
Micah was disturbed by this assessment of his character. It struck too close to home. Therefore, he started telling everyone that Shalelu was creepy, and he didn't know if you could really trust her. The other party members picked up on his distrust, and in short order she became a pariah, tolerated only because she hadn't actively done anything to harm the party.
No one wept especially when she got crushed by a lucky critical hit with a boulder thrown by a stone giant in the very last fight of Book 3. Her final words were: "Tell ... Micah ... he really is ... a hero. And also ... an !@#$%^&."
Get her a Ring of Invisibility. Round 1, she goes invisible and takes cover someplace.
In subsequent rounds she can contribute to combat primarily by aiding the visible party members:
1) Her Scar hex will let her give Fortune and Healing to party members at range, without breaking invisibility.
2) Her Cartomancer archetype allows her to deliver touch spells with a thrown card. Consult your GM on this one, but I would allow her to deliver buffs and healing to the party this way without breaking invisibility, since the card itself deals no damage and neither does the spell.
3) She can summon things -- the summon monster spells are on her list. Similarly, she can lay down battlefield control spells like Black Tentacles without breaking invisibility.
Honestly, just staying invisible takes care of a LOT of the threats she's likely to encounter, barring the occasional enemy with See Invisibility or True Seeing. And this way she gets to contribute usefully to combat, and not feel like a liability the party's having to defend all the time.
This wasn't a PC death, but it was so epic I'm going to put it here anyway.
Name of NPC: Longtooth
My PCs had acquired some hippogriff mounts during an interlude between books 3 and 4, and had also managed to uncover some intelligence alerting them to the upcoming assault on Sandpoint. They rushed to Sandpoint and set up defenses. Among these, the party bard asked if she could use Inspire Courage on the whole town by playing the bells in the cathedral tower. I thought that was awesome, so I said yes.
When Longtooth made his appearance, he naturally noticed the bells clanging, and decided to deviate from his scripted plan of attack and assault the cathedral bell tower first. He flew towards it, flaming and roasting the bard pretty well; he ended his turn in mid-air with the bell tower at the edge of his breath weapon's reach.
The bard baled out of the far side of the tower using Feather Fall -- and then the party's arcane trickster vaulted onto her hippogriff, used its motion to get into range of the dragon from behind it, and cast: Glitterdust.
"Okay, fine," I thought. "So we'll have a shiny red dragon."
Then he rolled a nat 1 on his Will save to avoid blindness.
Blinded, confused, Longtooth kept flying in the same direction he had been, and crashed straight through the bell tower. It crumbled around him with a clangor of falling bells. On the far side he failed a Fly check to remain aloft, fell, and plowed a furrow in the cathedral grounds. The 6d6 of falling damage didn't kill him; nor did the extra 1d6 for debris raining down on him. He even survived two hits from the bard's holy flaming shortbow (Batman!).
When the arcane trickster flew her hippogriff in and hit him with an acid arrow, he would have been fine too -- if he'd been able to see. But he was still blind, flat-footed, and the sneak attack dice did for him.
So in the end, really, it was Glitterdust that killed him. The bard and the arcane trickster high-fived each other and later had leather hot-pants made out of his skin.
disclaimer: rules-wise, this might not be kosher)
You're right, technically that shouldn't have worked -- prismatic wall has no effect on its own caster.
But! This is a classic villainous end -- defeated by a clever trick that turned his own power against him. Seems to me that's a textbook case of the Rule of Cool, which trumps the normal rules out of sheer awesome.
Scott Wilhelm wrote:
With Shaping Focus all other levels count as levels in Druid for the purposes of Wildshaping into bigger, badder things.
Incorrect; Shaping Focus gives you a +4 to your effective druid level. With 4 Druid/4 X, you'll be at par compared to a straight druid, but any more non-druid levels and you'll start slipping behind.
OP, if you go the multi-classed druid route, consider Ranger levels and Shapeshifting Hunter, which allows druid and ranger levels to stack for purposes of both Favored Enemy bonuses and Wild Shape (uses-per-day only, not access to forms).
It's a pretty powerful feat -- 4 levels of druid, a one-level dip of Ranger, and the rest Druid gets you almost full wild shape/spellcasting, plus full favored enemy bonuses (which can be absolutely deadly if you pick enemy types that come up frequently in your campaign).
I dislike it when people don't start thinking about what they want to do until it's their turn. Use the other player's turns to plot out your own turn. Conditions may change, but you should have at least some idea what you want to do.
18. During renovation, you discover a secret room you missed initially. Party gains minor treasure and some story info!
19. It turns out the reason the place was full of monsters is that living there slowly turns you into a monster ...
Sometimes players decide to renovate a dungeon and use it as their base of operations. Let's make a big list of problems they may face AFTER the monsters are gone.
Let's put in some good things as well as calamities and annoyances.
1. Heavy rain reveals a leaky ceiling, spoiling some supplies in the process.
Familiars are great for unobtrusive scouting. Who's going to look twice at a random sparrow flying around? That holds true regardless of the master's class.
Although the OP was asking about uses of familiars for non-casters, I'd also like to point out that classes with healing spells can deliver them at range using a familiar as the designated "toucher", which can be quite handy. I had a cleric cohort once with a familiar for that exact reason.
My Rise of the Runelords PCs have expressed an interest in exploring Minderhal's Anvil. Am I correct in thinking that Forge of the Giant God probably has a map/encounter I could adapt for that?
Just checking before I plunk down $16 for the PDF. I'm hoping there's something that could be adapted into basically one encounter -- adding the entire book would be too much in an already long campaign.
The Robe of Arcane Heritage lets you treat your sorcerer level as 4 higher for purposes of your bloodline abilities. Is there a feat that does that, the way that Shaping Focus does for druid wildshape abilities?
My party has managed to offend a silver dragon, but not to the point where it decided to attack us. As part of an attempt to make amends, my character is creating a magical painting depicting famous good-aligned dragons in moments of great heroism. Each day it slowly shows a whole scene developing and changing, and then switches to the next picture the following day. It can also be shifted to a specific painting on command. The full descriptions of the painting as follows:
The first painting depicts the brass dragon Sarithil, aiding in the contstruction of a vast reservoir near the desert city of Manaket. As the day goes on, the water level in the reservoir slowly rises, and luxurious, verdant plantgrowth spreads across the desert.
The second painting shows the venerable bronze dragon known as He Fa Chu (not his draconic name), presiding at the Monastery of Shung Li in the distant land of Dtang Ma. Over the course of the day, it shows him mediating disputes between the local kami and kitsune; training generations of monks; and assembling a staggeringly impressive library.
The third painting shows Merithyl, the copper dragon renowned for her tireless opposition to slavery, in battle against a ship of slavers over a broad, calm ocean. Over the course of the day, the slavers fight fiercely against her. She is grievously wounded, and in the end chooses nobly to sacrifice herself to destroy the ship at the cost of her own life.
The fourth shows Gunnarex, the sage golden dragon, who composed the Draconic Apsu, an epic poem recording the origins of the true draconic races. The painting shows him reciting the history of the draconic kinds, each in kind, over the course of a day.
The fifth and final painting depicts the heroic silver dragon Terendelev in the defense of the city of Kenabres. Behind her stands a Wardstone at the edge of the city. Over the course of the day, all of her allies fall, and the corpses of slain demons pile up about the base of the hill, until finally Terendelev stands alone, bloodied, but unwavering in her determination to fend off the attackers. At the last, Terendelev fights the Balor Lord Korramzedeh in single combat. The fight is brutal; neither one holds back, and both take grievous wounds. But in the end, Terendelev defeats the demon, almost slaying him, but definitively breaking the assault and sending the balor fleeing for its life. Unable to pursue him, Terendelev nonetheless stands battered but triumphant before the walls of her protectorate.
I've taken Craft Wondrous Item just so I can make this thing, and now I'm trying to figure out how much it should cost. I haven't found any very good analogous items. Suggestions? I'm guessing it should be at least 2,000 gp market price, possibly much more.
How many ranks in Handle Animal do you need to get 30,000 cats to go in the same direction at once? :-Þ
More seriously, the Handle Animal skill specifies that it's a move action to get an animal to perform a trick it's trained in, like "attack". And you only get 2 move actions per turn at most, barring weird spells. So in terms of action economy, it's better to get a pair of more dangerous critters than a giant mass of them that have to all act together in order to accomplish anything.
Potion brewers need a union! They don't make any profit at all on their potions, not even so much as a copper.
The rules say: "The costs for materials and ingredients are subsumed in the cost for brewing the potion: 25 gp × the level of the spell × the level of the caster." And there is a table laying out the numbers.
Elsewhere, the rules say: "The price of a potion is equal to the level of the spell × the creator's caster level × 50 gp." And again there is a table laying out the numbers.
All well and good! Except the numbers are identical in both tables.
The table for prices says it's 50 gp to buy a finished potion of Cure Light Wounds. Caster level 1 x Spell level 1 x 50 = 50. Correct!
The table for costs says it's 50 gp to buy the ingredients for the same potion. Caster Level 1 x Spell Level 1 x 25 = ... 50 gp? Bzzt.
That's another good suggestion -- I'll suggest it to the player. It might even be that the reason he had such trouble in wizard school is that he's a sorcerer and was trying to learn magic in a way unsuited to his real skills.
The specific situation has more to do with RP than mechanics -- the backstory the player wrote involves escaping from years of abuse at a wizardry school in Nidal. The PC is deathly afraid of depending on things that can be taken away, and likewise fears allowing any creature to become close, because then the creature could be used against the PC as a hostage.
So the PC sees an arcane bond as a dangerous liability, regardless of whether it's an object (that can be lost or stolen) or a familiar who can be hurt in order to influence the PC.
The same applies to a spellbook, and material components pouch. But those can be dealt with by investing in Eschew Materials and regular installments of Spell Mastery.
Summoning and immediately dismissing a familiar would be pretty harsh, but might fit the PC's personality. An archetype that replaces the arcane bond is also a good option.
Thanks for all the suggestions!
I do like Pathfinder. But the rules tend to hamper creative gameplay. So. Many. Rules. And every time we have to go look up something in the rules, gameplay grinds to a halt.
Half the time we figure out that the player can't do what they wanted and have to come up with something else to do, which is frustrating for the player, and boring for everybody else who tuned out during the rules consultation part.
Honestly, the longer I play the more I find myself eying rules-light systems like Fate Core.
Crypt of the Everflame has been mentioned, and it's a good option.
Stuff to cover:
- Attacks & AC
I tend to suggest that new players try Ranger for their first PC. It's a good class all around, but has some features that make it a bit easier for a new player:
1) It has a good BAB, and a d10 hit die, which makes it likely the player will hit (fun!) and live (dying is not fun usually).
2) Pathfinder is just awash in options; for a newbie, the vast selection of feats, archetypes, classes, and so on can be overwhelming. The Combat Style in Ranger nudges the player towards a particular type of build, and there's only a handful of styles, which makes the choice easier.
3) It has a pretty good number of skill points to spread around so they can learn about skills.
4) It gets a very limited amount of magic at level 4. Magic is hard, because it frequently breaks the normal rules. It's hard to use effectively without knowing the rest of the rules pretty well. So Ranger spells are a fairly gentle introduction to that.
That said, the player should play what they want, and if that means they jump in on the deep end with a multi-class rogue/druid like my last newbie, well, some people learn best through jumping in and struggling.
I've just rolled up an oread archer, but I'm having trouble finding suitable minis. Any suggestions? It doesn't necessarily need to have a bow, but I'd like something that looks kind of stony.
If I were the defenders, I would use a Teleport Trap affecting the area I'm defending.
If the hostile caster makes the save versus Teleport Trap, then the teleportation does not occur, and the hostiles stay right where they started, and they'll have to approach the old-fashioned way. Problem solved.
If the hostile caster fails the save, then they'll be teleporting in okay, but they'll wind up at a spot of the defender's choice (set when the Teleport Trap is placed).
The spell specifies "The destination must be an open space on a solid surface." Make sure that the chosen spot is thoughtfully prepped to welcome visitors. For example, you could equip it with things like:
- An area trap that casts Confusion and Silence
If your GM considers "liquid" to be "open" enough for transportation, then you could also use:
- Water and undead (say, ghasts)
Not all of these work equally well in combination. Fire and lava would neutralize green slime, for instance. And some of them ensure the destruction of any nice bits of gear, which you might prefer to keep as a souvenir of your guests' brief visit.
Once they are in the trap, your guests will probably want to leave. They can't teleport out: if they fail the save against Teleport Trap, the spell fizzles and they stay in the trap. If they make the save, the teleport trap just shunts them right back into the trap.
Clever guests may use other means to get out. There are some simple measures you can take to make it more of a challenge for them:
1) Don't use stone walls. Stone Shape will let them escape all too easily. Plate those walls with metal.
2) Disintegrate can be used to carve exits in the trap. Consider ensuring that there is sufficient solid material surrounding the room that it will take multiple Disintegrate spells to effectively escape. In this way, even if they get loose, they'll have fewer Disintegrate spells to use against you.
3) Dispel Magic (and its more advanced versions) can probably either remove the Teleport Trap, or suppress its function temporarily. There's not a lot to be done about that, besides ...
4) If you are really concerned about your guests getting loose easily, be sure to design your trap to make it very difficult to cast spells at all. Full submersion in acid is ideal, as the DC of the concentration check to cast successfully would be pretty high and they wouldn't have very long in which to do so. Silencing the area is also good, but does not last as long. Forcing concentration checks for casting underwater is decent, but the DCs are fairly low.
Final notes: if I were a player and ran into a Teleport Trap this comprehensive, I would be seriously ticked off. Therefore, as a GM, I wouldn't do anything quite as harsh as, say, a teleport trap into a room full of acid. The players need to have some way to try to get out, or they will feel set up and probably resentful.
It doesn't necessarily need to be easy, but there really needs to be some kind of option the players can try. Perhaps there's a locked grate at the top of a water-filled room so the rogue can try to unlock it and let them out. Perhaps the walls are stone rather than metal so that Stone Shape isn't nerfed, and the undead waiting in the room are just standard CR 1/2 human skeletons rather than higher CR undead like ghouls or ghasts with that nasty paralysis.
On the other hand, if my players felt like investing the time and effort and money to make such a difficult trap, I would let them, and I would let it work most of the time, too. I can always make up more baddies. Bad guy NPCs tend to have a short life expectancy anyway, and there are more where those came from. So let a few die horrible, agonizing deaths in the PCs' Teleport Trap of DOOM.
How useful is Channel Positive Energy?
It partially depends on the adventure. If you're up against a lot of undead it can be extremely useful.
Healing is always useful, though better done after combat than during unless somebody is in imminent danger of death.
Had you considered playing a Warpriest? They can be quite able at both combat and clerical support.
If I make a Warlock 8/Eldritch Knight 2, does the warlock gain an effective increase in caster level and spells per day from the prestige class? Or does the talent-based mechanic for spell increases preclude him from gaining that benefit of the prestige class?
Castle Venatris. I made this one for my own campaign. It's closely based on the floorplan of Castle Warwick in England.
It may be larger than you need -- 140 inches by 100 inches if printed out. Since I made it for use in a virtual tabletop, print size was not a concern. But you could crop it and print out the main keep easily enough.
The decor may not suit your campaign. I believe some of the earlier renditions in the linked thrad are un-furnished, though.
On the evening of July 3rd, I ran "The Night March of Kalkamedes" -- PFS scenario 4-19 -- for a party of 5 vigilantes. All PCs were level 5, 20 point buy. Since they weren't created for PFS, I did not enforce any PFS-specific rules, and just picked vaguely appropriate faction missions for them after they introduced their characters.
The cast, with linked character sheets:
Frank, playing Galannon, stalker vigilante (page 1, page 2)
Notes on the character sheets:
1) Frank didn't actually have Hide in Plain Sight -- I pointed out to him before the session that you need to be level 8 to pick that. He substituted the talent that gets you a Rogue talent, picking Fast Stealth. Also, he was clearly using a form-fillable PDF. I am uncertain why he printed it out and sent me scans of the pages (in two different file formats) rather than just emailing the PDF. There must be some kind of reason.
2) Connor's initial plan was to hide his full plate and a scythe in his Tattoo Chamber, popping them out and using Serren's Swift Girding to put them on when he needed them. Sadly, neither one meets the "fits in one hand" requirement. So he wound up hauling his full plate in a backpack, and switching to a trident for his weapon.
3) Andrew seems to have gone over-budget on his gear, but I don't think it mattered. The keen property on his axe might as well not have been there, considering he never rolled a crit threat during the evening.
We recorded audio of the full session. The session ran just over 4 hours. For convenience, I have split it into separate chunks of audio for each encounter in the scenario, plus one for cleanup after the privateers ("The Ballad of Laurie and Howard"), and one for post-session discussion of mechanics.
There was a television running successive episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation in the background, so there is some more or less constant background noise, but for the most part it doesn't get in the way.
In listening to the session after the fact, with more leisure to check rules, it seems I was running the Acrobatics check for Up Close and Personal incorrectly. We were using a DC of 10+opponent's CMB to go through its space, when rules actually specify CMD+5 as the DC, which would generally be higher. Galannon was rolling pretty well on his Acrobatics, but even so, he likely would have failed to pass through the opponent's square on at least a couple of occasions.
Up Close and Personal was very powerful as long as he had cover to use for Stealth; it will probably be at its peak at level 8 when a Stalker can take Hide in Plain Sight, allowing a pretty reliable way to get Hidden Strike. After that point, it will slowly diminish in power because it only allows a single attack; its damage output will be lower than a full-attacking fighter type. I do wonder how it will interact with feats like the Sap Master chain.
In retrospect, I also wonder if I interpreted the "aware of your presence" clause correctly or not. Gallanon always cover available to re-stealth. But the other bandits were well aware that their comrades were getting cut down by something fast and dark. Should that have meant that they were "aware of his presence" even if they didn't know quite where he was? The extra conditions for determining whether the vigilante gets his Hidden Strike, compared to standard sneak attack, seem a great deal more open to interpretation. I am unsure how I feel about the matter.
We double-checked after the session, and Connor's belief that the Warlock specialization does not gain extra spell slots for a high INT was incorrect. Even so, I am in agreeance with him that the Warlock and Zealot seem distinctly underwhelming compared to the Avenger and Stalker.
I hope this is useful. The class seems like an interesting idea, but the dual identity is difficult to integrate with existing published material.
Step 1 of the Income Phase says "Attempt a capital check for each building you control in the settlement that generates income and is able to provide you benefits."
Note that it specifies "for each building", not "for each room". The rooms function collectively as a single building, sharing their bonuses. They don't get to take 10 individually. Similarly, teams contribute their bonus to the organization, and you can take 10 for the organization, but not each team.
If you want to let rooms and teams take 10 separately in your game, that's fine; just be aware that it's a house rule.
Thanks, this is helpful. We picked up a fourth player, so the adventure scaling should work normally.
I'm having a hard time deciding how much information to give them about the adventure in advance. So far I've told them the general location, and that the adventure will take place primarily outdoors, and that they shouldn't neglect knowledge skills. I have not told them anything about Kalkamades other than that they will be assisting him with a personal problem. Should I let them know any more than that in advance?
Question: Ghaele Azatas have a gaze attack that slays evil creatures of 5 HD or less. Can she turn that off? Otherwise any party containing an evil-aligned PC who wakes up Sulianna is going to be in trouble.
93. Reading the adventure in advance (as a player), carefully thinking through the best possible way to tackle every encounter, then steering the group to your preferred solutions through subtle hints.
(The player I saw do this only got caught out because the group made a bad choice, with some very negative consequences that he knew were coming. He had his PC commit suicide. That way he got a new PC, and didn't have to live with the results of his former PCs actions. The group broke up over that.)
On Friday I'll be running The Night March of Kalkamedes (PFS scenario 4-19) as a vigilante playtest, for a group of three vigilantes. I'm starting them at level 5 with 20 point buy, limited to Paizo-published products, and excluding the uncommon races from the ARG. They players are all fairly experienced; two of them are long-term GMs.
The adventure gives instructions for increasing or decreasing the difficulty based on "sub-tier". I've never played in PFS, so I don't know what a "sub-tier" is. Which level of difficulty should I be having them play at considering the above?
EDIT: Never mind, I found the answer to the above question.
Thanks. Just writing down what happened helped a bit, and I appreciate the sympathy.
In the spirit of learning, what disasters have other people suffered at the gaming table, and what have you learned from it?
I just had a session that was, in a word, disastrous.
The Long Sad Story:
I'm running a Runelords campaign, and the Big Bad of Book 2 survived. I invented an alter ego for her, Diana Baythorne, and the party spent the whole of Book 3 as her sock puppets, taking out her rivals in her boss's organization.
After Book 3, there was a long stretch of downtime, both in-game (6 months) and in real life (2 months). To fill that time, I ran solo sessions for each PC, in which they all got different hints and plot hooks leading them to suspect that Lady Baythorne was not really their friend. For her part, Lady Baythorne decided their usefulness was over and arranged an ambush to eliminate them.
Today's session was meant to be the big revelation of Lady Baythorne's true identity and agenda. She would personally lead them into an ambush and betray them, revealing her identity in the process. I'd been eagerly anticipating it as the culmination of a real-life year's worth of plotting and planning. It was set for 1:30 on Sunday.
Friday night at 9 PM, one player ("Alice") texted me to ask if a guest ("Jenny") could come, and would it be okay if she brought a level 10 lich? I said no liches, but I'd previously indicated that guests were okay, so I allowed Jenny to attend. I asked Alice and Jenny to come over Saturday to work out a character. They said 7 PM would be fine.
That left me struggling to figure out how to integrate another character in my carefully laid plans. I knew absolutely nothing about Jenny. Heck, I didn't even know her NAME at that point. All I knew was suddenly I had to figure out some sane reason for another PC to show up and work them into my carefully laid plans. I kept going in circles based on my lack of information. The best thing I could think of was to give her control of one of the NPCs. But I didn't want to give her Diana Baythorne. I wanted to do that myself.
On Saturday, when they still hadn't showed up at 9 PM, I texted to find out where on earth they were, and they indicated that they hadn't left a social gathering at a city 75 miles away yet, and wouldn't be there before 10:30 at the earliest. I spoke with Jenny on the phone, found out she had a reasonable amount of experience playing arcane casters, and asked if she'd be okay with betraying the party. She was downright enthusiastic.
So I modified the mission. Instead of Lady Baythorne leading them into the ambush, this new PC would do so on Lady Baythorne's behalf. Baythorne's betrayal -- but not her true identity -- would be revealed by orders found on the body of Jenny's PC.
I stayed up till 4 AM working up Jenny's PC, prepping materials to brief her on the character's capabilities and what she'd need to do. I made it a necromancer with lots of debuffs but not a lot of damaging spells. The one really big damaging spell I put in was Death Throes, a spell dealing large amounts of force damage on death. In retrospect, that was a stupid thing to do, but it was really really late and I wasn't thinking clearly.
Today, the session happened. The betrayal went down. There was a reasonably dynamic fight. But it turns out that one of the other players -- "Bob" -- strongly dislikes PvP. And his PC died as a result of the Death Throes spell. The PC was saved by a timely Breath of Life spell, actually. But Bob's fun was well and truly ruined even so. He really felt awful.
Worse, Bob had really liked Diana Baythorne as an NPC. He couldn't understand why she would turn on them like that. He felt so bad, I tried to explain that I'd been trying to figure out some way to integrate an unexpected player at the last moment, and finally let slip that Baythorne was the Big Bad from book 2.
The instant I told him, I regretted it. That was the revelation I'd been looking forward to myself, and Bob was the player who cared most about it. I robbed myself of that, and I robbed him of learning it in play.
Bob's fun -- ruined.
My fun -- ruined.
All of the work and plotting and planning I put into that sub-plot for an entire year -- ruined.
I've been a giant ball of heartsick frustration for the last 8 hours over how horribly this turned out. I've been wandering my apartment second-guessing myself, alternately punching walls and crying. I've been mad at Alice for not giving me enough warning to think things through properly. I've been mad at myself for not thinking faster, and for letting the big reveal slip because I was trying to comfort Bob.
The worst part is, right AFTER the session I came up with the perfect way to handle Jenny: one of the players has a cohort. I could have let Jenny run the cohort. There wouldn't have been any PvP to bother Bob. I could have proceeded with my original plan unaltered. I wouldn't have had to stay up till 4 in the morning building a character and modifying plans. Everything would have worked out so, so much better.
So. Lessons learned:
1) If you want to invite a guest to my table, you have to give me at least a full week's notice so that I can have time to adjust things. If you miss the deadline, your guest can observe or run somebody's cohort, but they don't get a PC.
2) It's vital to find out if any of your players dislike PvP before it becomes an issue.
I'm hope someone else can learn from my mistakes.
What kind of action is needed for a creature with the Change Shape ability to revert to its natural form? Standard? Move? Swift? Free?
Undercover lamia NPCs with plans to turn on the party in mid-combat want to know!
I don't understand how to use ghosts as a monster. They've got that rejuvenation ability which renders them basically undestroyable without dealing with the situation that's holding them back, so canny parties who do their research never bother fighting the ghost: they just find out what it wants, then go deal with that situation.
It can easily take a couple of hours to stat up an NPC, including applying the ghost template. If all the ghost's going to do is serve as a plot hook, spending all that time working up stats for it feels like a waste. I could just as easily have scribbled down some estimates of social skills and a save DC for its frightful moan and left it at that.
What other approaches should I try?
I ran a party of four through the first two books of Carrion Crown, playing the GM and all four PCs myself. They all died horribly at the first encounter in Book 3. It wasn't even that hard an encounter -- the dice just decided to hate them.
It was good practice in divorcing GM knowledge from player knowledge, which has stood me in good stead on a couple of different occasions when I've wound up re-playing published adventures that I previously played.
That said, it wasn't nearly as fun as playing with other people. I know myself pretty well. It's difficult to surprise myself with my own choices. But players and GMs do that to one another all the time.
I've been working on a PC, and I'm so pleased with the outcome I thought I'd share some notes on it. It's not a min-max build, nor especially ground-breaking, but it should be fun to play.
20 pt buy
Primary class: Wizard, Admixture school, opposition Necromancy/Enchantment
Levels 1-5, Wizard, focusing on evocation stuff. The Admixtures school ability lets you swap out energy types to deal with energy resistances.
Level 6: Sleepless Detective from Paths of Prestige.
Level 7: Back to wizard
Levels 8-17: Arcane Trickster
Levels 18-20: Wizard
Totals: Wizard 9/Sleepless Detective 1/AT 10
For the early part of your career, you're just a wizard, and you play it like a wizard.
In the mid-levels things get interesting. The single level of Sleepless Detective lets you add your INT to Perception and Sense Motive. It also lets you add INT to Diplomacy for Gather Information purposes; the Student of Philosophy lets you add INT to Diplomacy when making a request, so you get INT on most Diplomacy checks. It also gets you a juiced-up version of Detect Magic as an at-will SLA, which frees up a cantrip slot for other things.
You're playing catch-up with sneak attack progression in the mid-levels:
6 - +1d6 from Sleepless Detective
So by level 11, you're 1d6 behind a full rogue, and 1 caster level behind a full wizard. Over time, you get full sneak attack progression (+10d6 at level 20). In addition, between Alertness, Skill Focus, and traits, you've got solid social skills.
It's feat poor, which is a drawback. But I think the tradeoffs are acceptable.
I've got a PC using this build at level 6 which I will start playing tonight, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how it works out in play.
I'd really like to see sets of minis built around the Summon Monster and Summon Nature's Ally lists. Say, one set per spell level -- so you'd have the Summon Monster I set, then in the next installment Summon Monster II, etc. They could either be builders series, or small box sets.
That would be handy for both GMs and for anyone who plays a PC that summons things.
Are the fringes of the Eye of Abendego at all navigable? I'm just trying to figure out the best overland route from Magnimar to Yamasa by mundane transport.
So far, it looks like the sanest option is to take ship from Magnimar to Azir in Rahadoum, then travel overland through the pass at Haldun.
Would be at all viable to sail from Magnimar, put in at Ilizmagorti for fresh water and supplies, then skirt the edges of the Eye of Abendego?