|Paizo Pathfinder® Paizo Games|
|About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ|
I'm trying to find ways to make them loath Vanthus using pre-campaign roleplay. Perhaps they won't loath him until his actions become more apparent, but the setup is important. We begin this next Sunday.
As my group comes into shape, the 5th edition "backgrounds" become more useful. One player chose a background where he sees visions of a terrible calamity befalling the world. So appropriate...
In two weeks we're beginning our foray into the Savage Tide adventure path, using 5E rules (though I'm more concerned about the story than the rule set). I'm big on prologues and feel the setup (you've done something to gain fame in town, so Lavinia seeks you out) is too generic for my purposes. I like to use pure roleplay for each campaign start (e.g. in Kingmaker, it was "you received a charter to scout the Stolen Lands, so how did it happen?" We started at a wedding 6 months prior and everyone invented why they were there until we had intervened in an politically motivated assassination attempt).
Has anyone worked something like this for ST?
Having read the whole thing and scoured the forums, I'm very aware having the party like Lavinia is probably key. Tips or special encounters to make this happen?
I've read, but obviously not played, that after the battle of Farshore, the quality of the adventures (routine dungeon crawls) wanes. True? If so, fixes? The story seems strong.
I'm always on the lookout for home-brewed handouts, enhancements, etc., if you have a recommended resource. I've taken a lot of inspiration from Vermilleo's campaign journal and google site, though unfortunately his group fell apart.
Pathfinder is great, but system fatigue begins weighing me down after a certain point. The wheels still seem to fall off at or just after 12th level, things are too overly codified for my tastes, I feel like there's too much emphasis on min/maxing to "play it the right way", etc.
This is why I'll be giving D&D another chance. I hoping, having taken a lesson from Paizo, that they'll listen to their gamers, and I'm intrigued by the fixes, which I hope to explore more of at GenCon. Rules bloat, the Christmas tree effect, and the insane amount of modifiers deter me in PF, and now that we're at high-level play, there isn't a session that goes by where someone gets lost in the numbers or an obscure rule gets quoted. It's taking away from a greater focus on Role-Play.
It appears the two systems won't be so incompatible that I can't continue to use the APs, which is where I feel PF shines.
Can't argue, some of my picks mirror the rest. The first 3 will take you from levels 1-3, and all can stand alone if you want to keep going without playing more of the same.
* Sunless Citadel (minor conversions, Meepo is memorable, great dynamics for a dungeon with multiple factions in play)
The last is a 1 shot adventure, 1st level.
* Mad God's Key (Dungeon Magazine #114, 3rd edition, minor conversion, great chase scene and storyline, detective work to find out who stole a key that can open any lock)
1. How to make magic interesting. House rule (see suggestions forum) to incorporate "plus" items into leveling. The current Pathfinder system does not bode well for giving "plus" items a story. No matter how interesting you make that +2 sword's background, it's gone the minute a +3 weapon comes along. That +2 Belt of Strength was worn by the famous General Armageddon when he slew the Pit Fiend Malicious, thus saving the world from a demon war? That's great, but I'm pawning it off so I can buy a +4 Belt. Don't bother with a story, I'm moving to +6 as soon as I can.
2. The Magic Shoppe? An eternal question on these forums. Since the game is pretty much fashioned mechanically on the idea players will get "plus" items and be more likely to die if they don't, you can't restrict too much on those. Just have the players role-play their search for items, whether by barter, trade, or other ways. If you don't approve of what they want, don't let it into the campaign.
I converted only the tomb itself in conjunction with the 3rd edition free conversion.
What I did:
* Kept it as close to 1st edition as possible
* Allowed players to use a "backup" character instead of their primary when entering with the understanding the "final loot" would go to the player regardless of whether a backup survived it or not
* Used 3.5 update for the pit traps and some other mechanical traps. For an optimized character, the pits pose no threat other than to prime them to overlook a certain pit...
* Used 3.5 for the gargoyle. It's supposed to punish a party that loads up on rogues; in retrospect I would've made it a construct.
* Changed the "dart" rooms to one that fired magic missiles instead, based on sight. Clever parties found a way around it.
* Kept many of the lethal traps that were discoverable by trial and error only. The big draw to this dungeon was players had to cleverly think their way through many things and not "roll" their way through. And sometimes, a wrong decision gets one killed.
* Provided an early hint from prior adventurers that they had found the means to destroy the ultimate evil and at great sacrifice had gotten the weapons there. Presumably, they failed. This is a hint as to the nature of the teleporters and gives a big hint to the finale battle.
* Added swords in the dungeon because not every party carries them for a certain lock.
* Kept the finale as a "trap" rather than a creature. Players expect a monster that fits the traditional mold, and the finale is more like a trap that requires some extremely special figuring out. I gave it a death attack with a DC 26 Fort save rather than no save but otherwise kept it the same. I modified that if it failed an attempt, it would try again next round. If it succeeded, it would rest as per the original. At 40+ damage (out of 50), I had it attempt every round.
* Added a 1-wish ring at the end for parties to have a chance at restoring lost characters. If this is a 1-shot, there's not much point in counting up the loot at the end.
What worked/didn't work:
- Still lethal, so the backups definitely worked
- With a skill monkey in the group, any trap that converted per 3.5 is a pushover, automatic find and disarm. This isn't a bad thing but the party enjoyed more the dynamic traps that they had to figure out.
- I know players sometimes read ahead or have heard about certain adventures. They were expecting a demi-lich, CR 14 creature. I gave them the original trap. I trust player creativity.
- Didn't use much of the 3.5 monsters/loot added from Libris Mortis. Seemed more like an advertisement for the supplement and detracted from the dungeon by adding needless multiple combats. Unless you've added a plot device, combat is largely pointless because players can rest as long as they need. The gargoyle served a purpose because it nicely sets up apprehension at the 2nd gargoyle.
- There's no way players figure out (legitimately) to use certain items to fight the finale unless you foreshadow it somewhere. If you're going demi-lich or something of the like, not a big deal.
Anyhow, my conclusion is you can run the original tomb much like the original with very little conversion needed, and I would discourage allowing everything to be solved with a die roll alone. But if you're staying close to the original, accept that whatever characters go in, several will die.
As noted by Ryric, per the rules on energy drain and level loss, only "permanent negative levels remain after a dead creature is restored to life." If it were intended that temporary negative levels also remain, it would have been stated. The inclusion of the word "permanent" would be rendered meaningless if it meant all types of negative levels. (Plus it would be silly if a character would be killed off automatically with a raise dead).
The next question raised here is whether dying by level drain is considered a "death effect" so as to require a Resurrection instead. The Pathfinder FAQ states "Energy drain is not a death effect."
With a 9th level cleric, you'd best be ready to explain why they don't use Commune to figure out whodunnit. I'd drop the cleric to 8th. Beyond that, augury and divination really aren't useful in a murder mystery to identify a wrongdoer. Plus, if the murder were uniquely arranged (a newly built holy statute of CG deity falls on LG victim, killing him), there may not be an obvious suspect other than examination reveals the statute was tampered with so that someone could easily push it. Other questions might be why the LG priest was in front of the statue in the first place.
Players could be commissioned as an independent investigative group, especially if they've achieved some degree of fame locally. In medieval settings the community usually decides who's guilty right away; you may want a suspect picked out as the "obvious choice." As a twist, players are used to this device (the first guy is always innocent), and you may shake things up by having him be guilty, just not how everything thinks. (e.g. He had an alibi but summoned something to do the dirty work for him using the cult's book that lies belowground in a set of tunnels that run below the town's river).
Consider also a short side adventure built in where a lead takes them to something unrelated to the murder, such as the strange tree that gives the town its namesake and a dryad that needs a favor, repayable with a spell or small gift, or a secret cache left over by the famed bandit king a century ago that was rumored buried in these parts. This keeps things realistic (not every action they take someone connects back to the murder).
Need help on a ruling. Would the Talisman of Ultimate Evil work on a Paladin who took the archetype "warrior of the holy light" which sacrifices spellcasting for enhanced uses of lay on hands? For reference the Talisman instantly kills a "good divine spellcaster." The user saw his holy symbol and made an educated guess.
I've made a preliminary ruling of "yes" because the Paladin still has other divine spellcasting abilities such as detect evil and divine bond. However, the archetype notes the paladin has no caster levels, gains no spellcasting abilities, and cannot use spell-trigger items. Note that I've already checked and Paladin is listed as a "spellcasting" class.
Thoughts? Given there's a PC on the line, insight appreciated.
Can a player "drag" (let's say with a lasso) someone in an Antilife Shell so as to force its collapse by pulling them within 10', or will the shell prevent any further "dragging" under the premise the caster is not the one being aggressive in forcing the barrier?
Also, I saw an inconclusive post on Antilife shell and people teleporting into it. The consensus seemed to be that since it's an "emanation" teleportation would not work as intended; the emanation effect would serve to push the offender outside the shell. Any additional insight?
You bring into being a mobile, hemispherical energy field that prevents the entrance of most types of living creatures.
The effect hedges out animals, aberrations, dragons, fey, giants, humanoids, magical beasts, monstrous humanoids, oozes, plants, and vermin, but not constructs, elementals, outsiders, or undead.
This spell may be used only defensively, not aggressively. Forcing an abjuration barrier against creatures that the spell keeps at bay collapses the barrier.
Max out Spellcraft
The Advanced Player's Guide has rules for a subset of the Abjuration School called "Counterspell." The ability is iffy (because it's touch), but you can, by melee touch, put a disruptive field around the caster. The 6th level feature gives you Improved Counterspell and ability to use it as an immediate action once a day.
While others may say it's better to go on offense than defense, your caster can shine when it comes time to take down a caster and do whatever it is casters do when not facing other spell slingers.
It all goes back to the power fueling a summons. If you feel it's a form of involuntary servitude, that the beings summoned are "forced" to fight for your amusement, then it doesn't really matter what alignment you summon - you're causing possible pain and suffering to benefit your own desires. This creates the premise that Summons are inherently selfish and mired in evil intent.
But since summons are not described as such, it's more likely again as suggested (in role-playing terms, not game mechanics and not a rule-as-written since not every rule needs a written description), that the Summons is a preset agreement. Alignment exists because D&D and Pathfinder are based around simple concepts of hero vs. villain rather than the real-world notion of everything is grey. Summon enough evil and you're infusing yourself with evil. Remember, the game is meant to take place in a fantasy world, not a reflection of modern mores and morality. As such, those who summon good creatures are likely furthering an agenda that favors good-aligned agendas (which perhaps occur on some Outer Plane over a period of centuries) rather than an evil-aligned agenda (which might involve as described strengthening evil combatants or any number of agendas for the Blood War or something more nefarious).
Just because the caster cannot comprehend (in role-playing terms) does not mean there isn't a consequence.
It's a form of planar travel that functions like the spells (dimension door) described. In spirit of the spell as well as letter of the spell, I'd rule it blocks since it is a form of planar travel. Note that "supernatural" abilities by definition are still "magical." Although they cannot be "countered" by traditional means, they are still subject to being suppressed or negated by other spells (the example given is anti-magic field, but Forbiddance is a prime example as well).
Landon puts it well; if it's an issue your game world can account for it in a variety of ways. I prefer the notion that a Summons involves an agreement between the mortal and an outer planar power wherein both gain something. The summoned creature can never be permanently destroyed (part of the agreement) and obviously gains something for its temporary service. It's up to your imagination what this may be, and the magic may be so old that no one alive remembers what that deal is.
As for morality, if there's an agreement, then the matter is moot other than whether a caster is making deals with the Abyss or Celestials. In fantasy literature, there's never a good reason to summon a demon to the mortal realms, even if you're absolutely sure it's "safe." There's always a price to pay, and if not today, another day. Perhaps the premise for a campaign idea...?
For Kingmaker, invest into the storyline and setting, regardless of the mechanical benefits. It's fey-rich, wilderness heavy, and depending on your GM, possibly intrigue laced. Something rugged yet capable of handling politics for (as you can guess by the name) when players begin to build their own kingdom in these wild lands.
Down on your luck, denied by so-called "legitimate" schools of magic, your character knows he's got potential, and if proving himself in the Stolen Lands is the only way anyone will notice, so be it. His [insert spell type, like fireballs] will get everyone's attention.
Having GM'd the campaign, besides the random encounters the fights aren't generally killer, so you have a lot of freedom to play something intriguing rather than a combat machine.
Done is done. I'll rant first about good players assassinating with poison, then finish by congratulating your players on creativity.
Shakespeare set the tone for the contemporary view on poison: a dishonorable tool allowing those with lesser strength, wits, and political power to prevail, thus serving as a tool against order and hierarchy. Contrast this with combat, believed to be righteous because divine providence was afforded an opportunity to intervene (whether it did or not is another question...)
Poison strips men of defenses normally guaranteed them by strength or skill. We see this with Hamlet. His superior skill with a sword allowed him to hit Laertes mutliple times, but then Hamlet is hit with an otherwise non-fatal wound that carries poison. A foe with poison needs no skill, no courage, no wits, to slay someone of greater skill and status. A servant can kill a king.
Assassination means the players have taken it upon themselves to be judge, jury, and executioner, without consideration of the citizens or what they want (or who they want to rule them...may be odd but a corrupt ruler may protect them from far greater harm).
With that rant out of the way, your players may not have been role-playing alignments as I might see it done, but they engaged in some creativity that you properly let play out. Chances are they'll be talking about that one for awhile, and why not. So, I'd chalk it up as a good day for everyone and a good game overall.
If your campaign is just getting started, recommend starting the players off being captured. Players hate being captured and even more so if it appears the whole ordeal was simply a GM plot device. Some players will mutiny, suggesting that if the GM wants a story to go exactly his way, then why are players rolling the dice?
So start them being captured rather than a farce of pretending like they had a chance at not being taken captive.
Next question is why this powerful wizard is wasting his time with a bunch of 1st level nobody adventurers. It takes a lot of effort to kidnap. So maybe it's an experiment. Maybe this caster is developing a new breed of spell, an arcane version of Imbue with Spell Ability and a viral form of Charm Person with a longer duration. He charms a target with a long-lasting charm, imbues the target with the ability to charm person, and (unique to this villain only), the villain lures more minions in. But, he needs minions who can cast offensively to protect, so he imbues some with a magic missile or a burning hands, etc. Have the longer duration of the charm be ensorcelled in the form of a magical tattoo. The villain might also like to use children because civilized foes are less likely to suspect them.
So, the players could be aware people in town were being "kidnapped" and had set out to investigate. Maybe their memories are vague (the caster was trying out memory-related spells and they weren't working as well), something about a magical attack at night.
Until they can be charmed, they remain prisoners, or perhaps they are meant to be combat test-dummies for the charmed minions.
When the party escapes, and presuming they kill the mayor's son, the town can announce the mayor's son had set out days before them to find the kidnapper. The magical tattoo was not on him before he left. The mayor accuses them of murdering his son. The magistrate agrees it doesn't make sense the party would announce their crime, but he's bound by the mayor's words. Maybe he arranges for them to surrender weapons but be allowed to investigate any leads. At this point, you can have a mystery on your hands. Although a local base has been cleared, the villain isn't done yet and probably has agents in town.
I borrowed a version of 4E's "ritual" for raising the dead to give lower-level characters a shot at coming back (500gp per hit die if you can find a cleric capable of casting Raise Dead and 8 hours).
Beyond that, if I mix and match too much, I may forget my own system! But so long as you give your players a "cheat sheet" for creating characters with house rules, you'll generally be fine. Just be careful adding too much; much of the appeal of the BB is that it strips away a ton of rules.
Horror in RPGs, aka "how to creep out players who are lounging back in chairs with some Cheetos and a soda in hand." Horror builds up, it reverses our sense of normalcy and shocks us with the revelation. Horror symbolizes a loss of control over not only the abnormal environment but our own sanity. But again, how can you make a player with a d20 in hand feel it? Besides what's been stated:
1. Don't make it about fighting monsters. You can't make a "scary" monster because players know you roll a d20, you kill it or it hits you. Have your monsters be threatening in an insidious way (like Spawn of Kyuss, zombies whose bodies crawl with worms that leap from it to try and burrow through flesh of nearby creatures). Definitely tweak your foes.
2. A horror mechanic? Ravenloft pushed "checks" upon characters who saw something horrific (maybe a will save or some similar mechanic), each "horror" or "sanity" point gained pushed the character closer to irrevocable madness. You may not scare players munching on chips, but you can create a mechanic to literally freak out the characters. Unlike other conditions, these points don't go away, and a player whose mind breaks won't be the first who has seen too much...
3. Horror is about not knowing. One of the best AD&D horror modules began with players fighting a vampire in a crypt. No explanation as to why, and the battle was pitted so they were losing....then they awoke in an Inn, having no memory of how they got there but finding out they were committed to the local asylum for a brief time and had just been released with some unknown party paying their board bill...
Maybe the circus has a freak show, a wall of heads that talk, a dog-headed man, etc., and the circus replenishes its freak show by taking a select few candidates from the local towns....or on the flipside, the circus's performances are an ancient ritual that keep a dark evil locked away. Efforts are made to sabotage the shows by the local cult which seeks to stop the circus and has convinced the town that the circus is behind many evils (that the party is hired to investigate and stop). Suspicious of any but their own, the circus will not share their reasons until they begin dying off...
Your character is not unique because of its race, class, abilities, or mechanical scores. Why? Because anyone else can duplicate. Rather, your character is unique based on the storyline you create for it. Avoid clichés like "my family is all dead murdered by [insert race] and he has a lust for revenge" or "my barbarian speaks in the 3rd person and likes to bash everything." Add some flavor.
Torg of the Hawk Clan is embarrassed that he cannot read as well as his friends and he cannot seem to grasp Dragonchess when everyone else knows the moves. While he pushes himself to excel in honor of his deity in physical arts, there is a part of him that admires the shamans of his tribe, normally regarded as the weakest. As a result, Torg is hesitant and reserved around those who remind him of his tribe's shamans. As a GM storyline (for sandbox campaigns), Torg may unknowingly have a sibling who became a shaman as they are culled from the weak children and not permitted to be part of a family.
If you're in Pathfinder Society and/or playing a one-time session with strangers, don't bother. Few, if any, are going to remember (or care about) your cool background or how you tricked out the rules to do 4d4+12 damage at 3rd level with each attack. But if you are in a campaign that may last, memorable characters have always been the ones who contribute to a good story.
If someone's not interested enough in our game to do something without being bribed/paid, I don't try to dangle incentives. For some players, there's a hard time tracking NPCs and details. What you could do is hand everyone an "NPC/story" sheet (there's a couple out there for campaigns) so they can track anything important. You could also try going around the table asking for a volunteer, having last week's person be the last one you ask.
Are the Giants superstitious or tied to rituals? Could engage in symbolic challenges to "become one" with the tribe. Maybe there's a deep well whose waters contain the essence of ancestor giants and the party members who drink from those waters fall into a spiritual state where they become those giants, solving an ancient problem or facing an ancient enemy. If the giants are superstitious, they might have a burial ground that has been invaded by spirits. Whether those spirits would need to be forced out by combat or by other means is up to you.
@ ParagonDire Raccoon: Treasure Hunt for 0-level players, someday I'll convert this to PF. It's a trope in most heroic stories that at some point the hero is stripped of everything but their wits, creativity. While it should be sparingly used, it's designed to test characters when their sheet doesn't tell them what they can and can't do. Treasure Hunt is probably the truest form of "making it up as you go."
For those who haven't experienced such "old school" style of play, there may be no life experience telling them they can play an RPG with more creative freedom. An RPG is far richer when the players and GM can interact with one another rather than with the dice.
I also took note of a prior post where the ranger character you made probably looked similar to a dozen other rangers out there. So to distinguish him, you added flavor, story. Your strongest memories weren't of times "I rolled a 12 and the king became friendly." They were more of the times you went "outside" the figurative box and did something novel, and it either spectacularly succeeded or failed. You tried it because there wasn't anything telling you that you'd fail or couldn't.
In my early days of GMing, a player wanted to use a Wish on a green dragon's egg to convert it to a good dragon, then use a Rod of Withering to "age" it to larger size. I didn't have one rule on any of this, and it was far more rewarding to let the plan work, then later given the powerful nature of a dragon and altering its very free will, I had it revert from the wish back to a green dragon. It was far more rewarding to see where our storyline took us rather than some game mechanic. Would it have been as novel if the Wish spell had a line "any change in alignment of a target lasts for 1d4 years, after which time the target reverts to its previous alignment?" The novelty of creativity is gone; the player now has a set mechanic and knows X action will happen in Y years.
Take them for the role playing immersion experience, same thing as your tent and bedroll. Are you getting a numerical benefit for spending the gold pieces for a bedroll? No, but when it comes time to make camp, would a real adventurer neglect all these things "because the rules don't provide a negative?" Even a cleric might bring them on the off chance they cannot safely renew spells. It's about putting yourself into the game regardless of a mechanical rule justifying your decision.
WBL has always been around in some fashion, when monsters had random treasure type "A" and another "E." Players were "stuck" with whatever the random loot happened to be. Wizards added only spells they could scrounge. There was an uncertainty built into the game to see how players would do with what they got, not how they would do when they always got what they wanted. In 3E, the perception shifted to "player first."
Definitely some pros and cons here. A pro because less reliance on GM or module arbitrariness, play the character you want rather than what random events drive you to.
A con because less chances at in-game player innovation using what they have versus what they want.
Think about the play for a second. A player in 2E makes a fighter with a 12 Strength, high Dex and Con. His rationale: I'll make do until I get Gauntlets of Ogre Power at 5th level and a Belt of Hill Giant Strength by 9th. I'll have the best of all worlds: high strength, Dex, and Con. In PF, that's legit and you'll goto the magic mart if the loot isn't what you want.
But in 2E, what happens if he's wrong? There was no guarantee for loot; the world doesn't always give you a gold star for trying. You got creative with what you had. That's not so much a factor anymore, and I suspect many players weren't sad to see that go. But I want to convey there was a method to the madness, a built-in attempt to have the players be creative and never expect they'll have what they want in order to overcome challenges. Old school.
Mark Hoover wrote:
...What I've done is ask players to dig a little deeper...
That's part of it. The system encourages new players to engage in "roll" play by replacing most, if not all, player interactions with the game world with a specific check and rule. At its extreme, players can anticipate mathematical results like a computer game. Of course, we hope there's GMs who are not simply there to referee die rolls and guide players from one numerical combat to the next. But unless one has been exposed to the "old school," what are new players to think? Maybe it's good enough, or maybe they just don't know there's more out there to an RPG than numbers.
You don't want to isolate the player whose character got killed by making them sit out, so now's some opportunity for the players to exercise some creative muscle. Maybe they can work with Ekaym on getting the registration documents and forging an additional member's information. There's no requirement the entire group participate in a battle, and who's to say the party couldn't declare they were so confident of victory in the earlier rounds that they competed one member short? However, for fairness, they'll keep their numbers the same (and surely come up with a creative story as to where the dead character is).
As a simpler solution, Ekaym could take their winnings to obtain an item to raise the dead. He has a built-in excuse to visit the party.
You can also search the "Suggestions" for home-brewed systems where people replaced the innumerable "plus" items with built-in bonuses as characters gain levels to solve the low-magic issue. The game has a pre-made presumption that players will obtain "plus" gear that will increase their ability scores, saves, armor class, etc. and scales monsters accordingly. You remove a ton of "fluff" magic that really becomes as mundane as a backpack and can introduce rarer magic without imbalancing the game.
If you're old school and rules-light, I'd recommend sticking to the Core rule book only for gameplay and character creation. Every book thereafter adds dozens more concepts and rules, and it's easy to get overwhelmed if you try to absorb it all at once.
Vary the terrain just as much as the foes for combat encounters. Have a fight in the rain (20% concealment?) with high winds (-2 ranged attacks?) where visibility is limited (10'?) and the ground is muddy (no 5' steps or charges?)
If underground, have the enemy use dungeon features, knock over a brazier of hot coals (5' square, 1 dmg + 1d4 fire dmg for each add'l round spent in the square) or fight from behind a chair for partial cover (+2 AC?)
Use encounters that can't be solved always by combat (a cave-in, a tornado, a fire where people are trapped inside).
It's a Herculean task to envision modifying Pathfinder, and D&D Next got the jump on a new system (dibs). If Pathfinder ever considers revision, good ideas may be barred from duplication. Fundamentally, it starts with character classes, the phenomenon of more focus on a sheet and what it can do "by the numbers" versus imagination and what it can do "by the story put forth before you." May be mixing threads into what people would want to see for a Pathfinder 2E, but moreso if we perceive the character rules bloat as the effect which has caused a mechanical focus versus a creative one, then we are really expressing a thematic perception of where the game should be.
Generic Dungeon Master wrote:
One group's essence may not be another's. I played AD&D 2nd until my curiosity about 3.5 outweighed my reservations with a crew of people ranging from 25-45. I'll put my take on the essence starting with a 2004 quote by the late Mr. Gygax describing 3rd edition:
The new D&D is too rule intensive. It's relegated the Dungeon Master to being an entertainer rather than master of the game. It's done away with the archetypes, focused on nothing but combat and character power, lost the group cooperative aspect, bastardized the class-based system, and resembles a comic-book superheroes game...
Essence of AD&D? To me, simply that players spent more time looking and interacting with one another than interacting with their character sheet or the rulebook.
I fear we're headed for a system that replaces the creative/social aspect of the game with a rules search that encourages character building to excel in a grid-based combat system and where the story boils down to a series of combat rolls interspersed with skill checks. I advocate for a shave of the rules to a simpler time, where if there's 40 useful feats out of a list of 2000, then let's eliminate 1,960 and see what players can do with what they've got. Is it the rules that make a character special, the story that the characers create, or is it the player and their imagination?
If your players haven't delved into Pathfinder, I'd keep them restricted to the Core Rulebook only rather than open up the entire Internet. They'll be overwhelmed with accessories and rules, many of which they may not grasp. Also endorse running an "intro" adventure to get everyone used to the rules. We be Goblins is a free, fun way to start, and Hollow's is edition 3.5, minimal effort needed to update to Pathfinder given most of the monsters are from the Bestiary anyways.
As a tip with new players, if you don't know if there's a "rule" (or forget), don't interrupt play to search through the books for it. Act confident and declare something that sounds fair, say we'll look up the rule later (but encourage players to bring a cheat sheet of any special abilities so they don't have to refer back to the books). It's my experience players lose confidence if the GM spends sessions repeatedly bumbling through a book. You'll all get to know the rules you need as time progresses.
Finally, the white erase board rather than the tradtional grid may get tricky when someone casts a cone shaped spell, or you're talking line of sight issues with whether someone can fire a bow. Again recommend keeping the game flowing. When in doubt, make a ruling that seems fair. Someone in the way of a player's bow and you can't recall whether that might be a +2 or a +4 bonus to Armor Class for the target due to cover? Don't sweat it. Make your call, make a note to check it later, and keep things exciting.
Made the assumption incorrectly! I would second a druid shape-shifter. At lower levels, with high Strength and just enough Wisdom to cast spells (topping out at 19, summons and buffing rather than anything that gives your foes a save), the druid is a passable fighter. When they can shift shape you'll graduate to a damage dealer who can keep pace with most other fighter types. If you've worked on your Con and hit points, you'll find it durable and versatile, adapting to the environment. Certain shapes benefit heavily from Vital Strike making the druid frontliner a real bruiser, or you could end up being a caster's worst nightmare, either flying or pouncing at them.
Dragonlance by tradition never had dinosaurs, so check with your GM about the flavor of the campaign and if this is a part of it.
I've been playing more like option 2 since I started with a group that used a 1"=5' scale battle mat. It starts to feel like you try to do the 1st, which is more interesting, but then you HAVE to do the 2nd, because you need to make sure all the rules are accounted for to ensure that the first is even possible. And then, somewhere along the way, the description never happens and you do your move, and the next guy does his.
I think that's where it began for me, but not because of the grid map (which in some ways has been around since the Gold Box computer games were conceived). Players want to make sure they're not missing advantages, so they spend their limited turns describing the bonuses and modifiers rather than the actual action. It's not necessarily their desire to avoid description. Rather, it's necessity to avoid delay while maximizing your turn. Got soft cover +2, a flanking bonus +2, higher terrain +1, fighting defensively this turn? Rather than "I climb up on the table behind the guard while Garr has him occupied and look for a seam in his armor. Difficult with the high-back chair between us but I can do it," the player confirms his modifiers because the mechanics insist.
Amen. Some of my 1e games had quite a bit of "epic". Those "epic" combats just took up WAY less time looking stuff up and adding a zillion modifiers (stuff that is decidedly not "epic", quite draggy and boring, actually).
That's where rules bloat gets in the way of the story. AD&D wasn't anywhere close to perfect, but there wasn't a lot of mechanics to get in the way of an epic story. If the 1st level gamer wanted to throw acid at the roof of the building to weaken the rafters to smash a rampaging basilisk that he has no chance of beating in a traditional "grid-based" combat, that's a whole lot more epic than stopping play and flipping to page 2xx to argue the relative hardness of each rafter, much less finding the rules for "cave-in" once, if ever, the ceiling falls. This may simply be a matter where a DM steps in, adjudicates "normally the acid splash is too weak to do real damage to treated wood, but termites have been working on the building along with some exposure to weather over the years. The ancient rafters give a creak and groan...you'd better think about finding something to hide under..."
There's also something non-epic about being engaged in the middle of battle with the Death Knight Lord Sinister who has razed the local church atop his flaming nightmare steed, and stopping play to recount "...ok so I get a +1 from bless, a +1 from prayer, a +2 from blessing of fervor, a +1 from (oops, that's a morale bonus, doesn't stack with bless, scratch that), a +1 from haste, a -2 because of the shaken effect, did I count that +4 for the Potion of Bull Strength, (no wait, that should only be a net gain of +2 because of my strength already)...so I hit AC 30. No wait, I forgot that I had activated a swift action to gain a temporary +2, I think that's a class bonus so it counts...(and now another player indicates his abilities grant a bonus so long as they're in proximity), and was bard song playing? What's that grant again? Hold on, I lost my count on the plusses..."
You may argue that a player should know the rules, but just as easily those same rules are getting in the way of what should be a pulse-raising battle to the finish.
Could simply be that refined mechanics are all that's needed. I certainly don't need more rules (than now) to recapture the spirit and creativity inherent to RPGs that should encourage gamers to immerse in a story about a character, not a character's stats. Make no mistake, I want some stats; I want players to brag about that time due to their great strength they lifted the portcullis in the flooding basement for everyone to escape. I just don't want that heroic story to get lost amongst memories of rules lawyering.
I've been watching D&D Next and what they're taking from gamer feedback (they are taking a page from Paizo and making the fans a part of the process, smart move). Their brand director, Nathan Stewart, summed it up in a Forbes Magazine interview: "...the future of D&D is not the [rules sets] but it’s this feeling that you get playing Dungeons & Dragons, no matter where you do it.”
So what's the "feeling" you get?
From Mike Mearls, creative directing (summary), the 120,000+ playtesters are indicating it's the "story" element, the "idea of what a character is, that's really important." Players want to be engaged in an "evocative" story and the "mechanics are really just a means to an end." Players are less interested in the "feats/powers" than making a fun story with others.
"They’re not coming to D&D saying oh, I need mechanics." For example, "we have some basic guidelines for handling character interactions, what to do when you meet an NPC and you want to convince them to do something for you. Right now we have about two pages of rules about that, really more storytelling guidelines rather than hardcore mechanics. The big disparity between having the feedback and not having it is that without that feedback, it would have been a much more mechanical approach, a skill challenge kind of thing where you need X number of success before failing."
And bam, that hit me.
Mechanics do influence gameplay and more rules isn't always better. Is an RPG a social experience where the players make the game or is it where the mechanics make the game (how many "skill challenges" or Diplomacy checks can I succeed on?) My theory has been that creativity is expanded with less rules bloat, recognizing always there must be a core set of rules that creates a framework without becoming the framework.
Like Mearls, I want to get to the part where the characters are making the story and I'd like to see where we go next. I want a meaningful set of rules that enable this without interfering with getting to the story. I don't want to spend 2 hours making up a stat block to get started. 120,000 players were crying for less mechanics and more story. I'm sure there were innumerable more. Paizo has great writers; I'm here just as much for their skill as for the system. Maybe there's a market for a rules-bloated system, but every edition has inevitably expanded and contracted. It may be I'm looking ahead to the next inception of Pathfinder just as much as I'm looking behind for that "feeling" I used to get quite a bit more often.
Welcome to Pathfinder! While I won't say one system is superior to another, there are styles of play that work better with certain gamers. Remember to disengage from the notion of "tanks" and "strikers." While Pathfinder has "grid combat," multiple classes can be adapted to fit a variety of roles. Even a bard can be molded to survive on the "front lines." For fun, pick a concept and go with it. Don't avoid an archetype or "build" simply because it has less numerical advantage than another.
For example, the Ranger is a great fit for nature themed and can specialize in two-handed weaponry. Just be aware some of their abilities don't function with heavy armor. Optimally, a fighter should be more "tanky" and a barbarian should deal more combat damage, but the beauty of Pathfinder is that the Ranger can fit the combat role of a "frontliner" just fine if you mold him so. In Pathfinder, you don't have to pick the "best" build to succeed given the versatility with each class through archetypes and feats.
If you want to play AD&D, why not play AD&D? PF is for PF. It's not like AD&D stopped existing, the rules are still out there and very easy to find.
Still have my 2E books and modules, albeit a bit beaten up. But no desire to go back, and I generally admire the quality of Paizo writers. The alloy comparison is fitting; I'm still working on the mixture.
At some point in the past some folks simply played an "elf." What one did with the actions and decisions of the elf made that elf unique and special, and barring some dip into options, one elf rogue was largely the same as the next elf rogue. Heroes were made by choices in the game, not by mechanical design. One looked at their fellow players and DM when making decisions, less so at the character sheet. I still love what Pathfinder has done, but it's progressing into something foreign to imagination. Guess there's a market for bad wine as much as good wine, and I don't want the winery to forget its reputation comes from the good wine.
That's where I'm wanting to head. I am working on one of my players who hasn't had the experience of an older edition (where without a rule for everything you got creative, albeit subject to the arbitrariness of the DM). It's trickier for him to express at the table and act outside the script of the pages of the book, and I notice he looks to the character sheet and confines of the rules for all that his character does. Without turning this into a MMO debate, my comparison is that he's been introduced into a form of table-top gaming where he feels like it's a console or keyboard. If there isn't a key or button, it cannot be done.
I am in the process of running him and our PF crew through a 1st edition converted Tomb of Horrors (with two old timers who have vague memories of it). Say what you will about lethality, but as we've pushed through, I've seen more creative guesswork on solving the various challenges than with prior standard modules. There's a novelty to having no "knowledge" check to explain everything, wherein you have to experiment, test, and you aren't guaranteed a successful results. It's my theory, based on AD&D play, that there's more sense of accomplishment by creative resolution than by simply a successful die roll or a "take 10." Certain elements have their purpose in certain situations, but the rules should never replace the need for player ingenuity. We'll see if everyone agrees once we're through...
Jack Assery wrote:
That's maybe what I'm feeling with the advent of the "D&D minis" style of adventuring. There's not a need to "invent" a means to an end if you can find a rule for it. Reading the post about a teacher wanting to use Pathfinder in a school setting made me wonder if the students are going to expand their creative and critical thinking or merely become more skilled at flipping to the correct rule.
All in all, I leaning towards the view that, having been a DM & GM for many years, players are now encouraged to spend more time searching for the rule (building a superior character, the unbeatable trip tactic, and so on) than immersing in the world. My theory, perhaps flawed, is if we reduce those rules, reduce the mechanical incentive, the focus returns to the game world and not the game mechanic. Maybe it's as simple as trying a "core only" game to wean players off a rules-laden system.
Feedback from my players and observation of them has been intriguing as well:
* First time gamer #1, Pathfinder is his first system. Hates tracking all the bonuses and forgets some at times. Prefers a class with few features to keep it simple.
I like the Pathfinder system, but I hold a fear it's drifting from what made AD&D special. I've puzzled out what attracted me to AD&D in the first place (it wasn't the "to hit" system). It was the creative spirit of the game that I fear is being buried under the crush of rule after rule, and added power after power. While more rules have pros and cons (e.g. Pathfinder item creation, a pro compared to hazy AD&D rules), I want to capture the creative social spirit rather than creative mechanical effort.
I compare the RPG creative spirit to the "lunar crash exercise" many did as a kid.
You've crashed on the moon and need to get to the lunar base. You've got your suit, limited oxygen, and a list of 15 items salvaged from the crash. As a team, choose what you'd bring, why, and which would be the most important. If you have questions about the Moon, you can ask the instructor.
It's an RPG. You've got a class (Astronaut) which gives you knowledge of the moon and how to use certain equipment. You've got a GM (the instructor) to describe anything. You've got an "equipment guide." Above all, you've got your ingenuity. The purpose of the puzzle is to think outside the box, to fit a square peg in a round hole, to creatively make use of the items in perhaps unconventional ways (use the crashed ship's fire extinguishers for propulsion, etc.)
You work as a team, you get creative. Here's the key: There was less emphasis on the mechanics and more emphasis on the creative aspect. I saw a lot of creative attempts in AD&D, not all successful, but attempted because there wasn't a rule saying you can or cannot succeed. For example
An illusionist in AD&D runs into a golem, immune to spells, and needs to get it away from a door. He knows his spells won't work on it. He tells the DM he's using his fly spell and making an illusion of the cliff stretching out a few more feet. He's hoping if it looks like he's running on the cliff, using fly, the golem might pursue and fall into the chasm below. Won't destroy it but gets him past the door and buys a lot of time. He's using an illusion in an unusual way. Was creativity rewarded? Absolutely. The AD&D caster didn't have a lot of spells (and no abilities) to work with, so he was forced to think in an unconventional way that didn't have a rule saying it would or wouldn't work, or might work with a % chance. A fighter without the +3 weapon in those days might have pretended to play dead (would the golem keep attacking a dead foe or move onto something else?) While some DMs might have finished him off, who knows. He's desperate, trying something creative, and there's no "bluff" check back then that makes him think this will or won't succeed.
Meanwhile, a Pathfinder caster would use a supernatural ability, or pull out a Wand of Intensified Snowballs, or any number of preset "trump" abilities to get past unlimited spell resistance. He doesn't need to get creative; the game has a built-in selection of preset options, press button A, B, or C.
The AD&D player had a very limited set of abilities and unlike Pathfinder, there wasn't always a rule of A trumps B, B trumps C (e.g. spells that would bypass spell immunity). Like the lunar exercise, sometimes you had to take an unconventional, creative approach. Now I'm not saying players can't or won't today, but a continued slew of rules may be a disincentive to pure creativity. In the above spoiler, there's a preset "trump" mechanically in place. One doesn't have to get creative, one just has to know which rule to apply. Note, I'm not talking about pure combat mechanics. The game isn't all about combat, and I grasp combat is about mechanics and math, always has been, not where I'm headed.
A system composed of too many rules stifles the need for creativity. You simply apply X ability to Y situation. Problem solved. And that's my personal observation. In AD&D, I saw players try all sorts of imaginative, crazy things, like leaping off a 20' ledge onto a dragon's back hoping it would count as a backstab since they couldn't get behind the dragon. I see far far less in Pathfinder, with some of the exact same players.
So, what to do about it? I'm certainly not going back to AD&D; I like the Pathfinder core classes, the fixes. Nor am I buying the beginner box. My thoughts: simplify the game again as much as possible.
1. Restrict players to the Core and 1 accessory book of their choice (that reasonably ties to the character). Discourage character creation to be all about mechanics. Encourage players to generate characters based on concept, not mechanical benefit (how many archetypes are considered "useless" by players? How many choose the clerical "Travel" domain because they're genuinely enthused about Travel and not the awesome "dimensional hop" ability? How many dip into a class simply to get Evasion or Rage?)
2. Skills. 4th Edition encounters can simply be an exercise in mathematics by making a series of skill checks. How fun, a computer program with a dice generator can run that for you. Pick ability X, apply to situation Y. Don't substitute role play for skill play. While some skills are math (a knowledge check), others have a social game aspect that should be played. Unless purely mechanical, players should have to describe what they're doing, and if it's unclear if it'll automatically succeed, we can apply a skill check.
3. Don't stop the game to look up a rule. I'm sure there's a rule for everything. I had my AD&D books memorized, but that'll never happen in my lifetime for all the Pathfinder rules. Grappling even has a flowchart because it can get so insanely convoluted. If the player doesn't have it before them and I don't know, just do what players did for 30 years before: adjudicate it with what seems fair and reasonable.
4. Restore some Core concepts. Make those golems immune to all magic (not everything has a "trump"). Put some (not all) traps in that can only be uncovered by player action, not a generic "perception" check. Don't be afraid to ban something that the group has found to "bend or break" the game.
5. Look for more "open-ended" adventures that inspire creativity. Stolen Lands (Kingmaker) has a great 3-dimensional bandit fort that can be taken in a dozen different ways, none necessarily better than the other (players might spend an hour discussing how to take it and not once roll dice, make a skill check, etc.) Dungeon's Challenge of Champions presented meta-game challenges to make the players use their own ingenuity and creativity.
Maybe I'm behind the times. But I'm always on the lookout for ways to improve the game I run.
I've been pretty liberal with Kyuss as some mythical being from the time they met the Ebon Triad, but I've treated all his monsters as unique and don't allow knowledge rolls. There's just no way they "researched" or "know" about something that hasn't been seen for millenia and then only in a lost civilization. It heightens the suspense facing a monster and not knowing what it can or will do.
With the Spawn, it'd be enough to make a DC 15 check to perhaps recognize it as undead, but anything else would be trial and error (e.g. watching it fast heal).
Dark Sun from 2E had rules for alternative weapons like bone and wood, and 4E does as well. Believe it goes something like:
2E: if roll max damage (or crit?), 5% chance the weapon shatters.
This assumes you built your weapon with the intent it be made of wood and not having it morphed, at which point it should be very inferior. The weapons didn't do any different type of damage (e.g. a sword did not do bludgeon). That would more fit into the rules for the -4 penalty for "flat blading."
Any thoughts from your group? I always encourage my players to draw up a party as a collective, and no one should feel pressured to play something they aren't somewhat enthused about. Also, stepping outside your comfort zone and trying a new character isn't a bad idea, and there's nothing to stop you from retiring a character later if it isn't working out. There's 33 core domains and maybe you can randomly select the first domain, try something outside a guidebook or what others say you "should" do.
With that said, imo the cleric fits your group best (brings healing), the bard next (wand use), and the trickster next (skill monkey).