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3 sessions in and Vanthus may be one of the most hated villains in any of my campaigns. It's not because he's a high level, impossible villain who taunts them before escaping until they're strong enough to face him. So much better. He's the complete arse, totally despicable yet still somehow loved by his sister.
Per Potsticker, as much as I've wanted to build up Sasserine, have resisted (e.g. haven't tossed in side quests). Finding a focused story line is what the players are interested in currently. They don't want distractions to run an errand to recover elder centaur blood. They want to kick Vanthus from the Azure to Sunrise district. They want Lavinia back on her feet. After Rowyn called them "Lavinia's flunkies," well, it didn't endear her to the party...
Session 3, Lotus Guild mostly.
So how do you break it to a young woman who has just lost her parents and inherited an estate with a single Halfling crone as her greatest ally that her only sibling is a murderer and thief? Great RP opportunities.
- The Lotus Guild ambush wasn't needed. My players immediately went to the Taxidermist Hall and broke in at night. There's a ton of opportunities here. One player remembered Penkus's note of being under the guild and checked out the well. If it hadn't been daytime, he might have jumped in. Know your map if players take an inventive way in.
- You may wish for notes to distinguish the guild's level of activity at day or night, make it live and breathe a bit more. I figured late evening was a period when many of the guild are above ground. Same with Rowyn. Does she always happen to be in her room waiting for PCs to break in? Figured the late night was a chance to read a book, then a bath. The party caught her in the middle of reading a tawdry erotica novel, though she was alerted to their presence.
- Enlarging Rowyn's lounge, a much appreciated idea. Doubled the dimensions, left the bedroom the same.
- The game system may make this difference, but adding 2 rogues in secret chambers (complete with peepholes, chair) helped make the battle last a bit. Made it a lot tougher.
- Made the secret door to the treasure room radiate a slightly different temperature. Like the 5E idea of a bit more inventive search for secret things than simply a die roll.
- Treasure room traps, at least as I converted them, can be very dangerous, especially if the group goes straight for the loot rather than take a breather. No rogue in the group nor anyone proficient in thieves' tools, so disabling traps a bit problematic as was getting the door open. Fortunately, Rowyn's bed had a massive headboard. Made a serviceable ram.
- Decisions decisions on whether Rowyn would circle back and rally her guild behind her. Be prepared. As scripted, she likely won't given the carnage it takes to reach her.
- I hijacked a hand-drawn map of the guild someone prepared from a thread here from one of the rogues if they surrendered. GREAT IDEA! Incomplete and a great prop.
- If you've modified your campaign for a more Sasserine-heavy game, consider creating a Sasserine map with pins to demonstrate Rowyn's strategy room. Party was intrigued but I'm not modified too heavily.
- Same with the chalkboard with ships. Consider a handout. Maybe the party can affect some of the Lotus Guild's activities.
- Players got a great kick out of having their names on the board. True to player fashion, they erased much of it and wrote "Vanthus sucks!" They really don't like this guy ever since he tried to trap them in with ravenous zombies...
- If they trash Rowyn's area, they may not have incentive to search the rest of the area except to find Vanthus. Important you've made them hate him by now.
Betting on the Jade Ravens playing a much more prominent role in the Sea Wyvern, lots of RP opportunities, especially if a romance begins and Tolin makes a move on Lavinia. Also chances to talk about Vanthus with her.
Borrowed V's attack on the Fort. While it doesn't fit with the overall plan, maybe it was an experiment or a test, isolated, for when the big event happens.
Will check out the Darkwind page, thanks!
The DM in me wants to sketch up a paragraph for every inn and brothel in the city and flesh out NPCs, political landscape. Not what Savage Tide was designed for, but great workup.
- Searching the city, great chance for some role play. Where does a guy like Vanthus go.... could have easily left out Lavinia's clue other than reducing it to some "gutter trash artist girlfriend" or the like.
- DM needs a backup in case the party doesn't take Shefton (modified to nickname "Chef," took away his right hand, he claims lost in a shark attack while serving on a ship that later sank, also a junkie) up on his offer. My party did, but if they don't....
- They hate Vanthus. Shopowner who revealed his purchase of a boat referred to him as the "little prick" with the "smuggler jerk." Business is business, however, and coin talks. I've been using "V's Campaign Log" for inspiration. He learned poison in my campaign when his parents forced him to Farshore, and now he's using it. Pricked Chef and tossed his body down the shaft, then a taunt and some coins for the ferryman. Party wants revenge. He uses silver pins topped with opals. Guess what was used to kill the harbormaster... (one in each eye, body bloated by poison).
- This is a problem. Revenge on Vanthus has to wait several levels. It'll likely be job #1 come module #3 (sea voyage), but no leads will exist. Hard to let a bad guy go, not usual D&D fare. Not sure what they'll do.
- 5E zombies are nasty for low-level parties. They just won't die. This was a great intro to undead and has given a healthy respect to undead. The oversized maws and fanged teeth of the rotted corpses, just a great addition of flavor text. Monsters have to be more than just stats.
- Penkus's note. Had a player read it aloud. Masterful, full of bile. Provided a printout of the dragon lotus tattoo. Visuals have a use. Every time we speak with Lavinia, her graphic comes out. Others have suggested a "theme song," might add if I get my mobile speaker purchased to sync with my phone.
- 5E has no wealth by level. As a result, my Tormite cleric sought out an orphanage and donated half his wealth (he could have bought better gear, healing potions, so on). The headmistress didn't even know what the faith of Torm was about. Interesting dynamic...
- Again little modification needed from the original. Party reached 2nd level. Using milestones, the escape from Parrot Island is the spot. On the side, Vanthus is cruel. Just in case the party escaped, he punched holes in their rowboat. More jerk behavior. A "mending" spell did the trick, but no one was amused. After all, they had rented the boat and wanted their deposit back.
Drawing from what others have done and my own touch, laying out what seems to be working and not working as far as style and personal touches for future DMs. As we're just getting started (using 5E rules if it matters), a work in progress.
A Matter of Honor
- Largely running as-is, with a prologue that I call Session 0 to allow players to create a story to unify them without any dice rolling. Ours dealt with surviving the events of Kyuss that gave rise to the Wormfall festival. During that event, they saved Vanthus, who was a jerk making inappropriate comments about paying them with his sister since he thought they were "mercs."
- Lavinia, using the princess from Braveheart, thick French accent. Having her cover up her loss of wealth, a fancy dinner to start but then when the party visits next, Kora is making stew. It's so important to get the party to like her, to play her not as a damsel in distress but a person whose life has imploded as her parents have recently died, her brother struck her, and now she's head of a declining household. Played up her memories of Vanthus (a laugh describing the good old days of the elixir of love and then a somber description of him hitting her).
- Playing Kora as the matron (she knows one PC already), concerned about their weight and health. The sole servant / messenger / seneschal, she's also a great cook who likes to have some blueberry scones handy for her favorite visitors.
- Changed Soller Vark to being in the act of getting it on (we're all adults and things like this are a lot more interesting than monsters just waiting in a room to be killed) as the party navigated a boat rented from a jilted noble whose girlfriend never showed up. Since it was his stepdaddy's boat, he didn't care. Later, the party lamented they didn't keep his fishing poles on board to make it look more authentic as they snuck up on the Blue Nixie.
- Burning monkeys curling up into little balls as they died really, really got the party fired up and angry at the smugglers on the Blue Nixie.
- The vault below Teraknian Castle has a unique puzzle lock; DMs should carefully read it to understand the sequence. If your PCs are really having a difficult time, maybe allow them to hear a "click" if they've gotten a tumbler in sequence.
- Sasserine is such a troublesome setting. Love making it come alive, but 90% of the path takes place somewhere else. Wouldn't overplay the city.
- Factions (affiliations) didn't grab everyone's attention as I thought they might. Different strokes for different folks.
We will pick up after clearing the vault. The party talked Lavinia into taking her last chest of coin in case Vanthus (whom they suspect) comes back to clean her out. Party is invested in her cause, and since she's a big part of the story line, this is important.
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.