I am going to go against the grain here. I never fudge die rolls, nor do I use a DM screen.
As DM, you have many tools to avoid a TPK.
First and foremost, you control the circumstances of the encounter. Think the PCs will die in the next battle? Give them surprise... they'll have a chance to flee.
Monsters are not all waiting in squads at full alert. They have lives. They don't all become ready instantly at the first sign of danger. Use this fact to buy PCs time to react.
Once the fight has begun, don't play your monsters smarter than they are.
Your friend is displaying the type of behaviors that serial killers are documented to engage in in their childhood.
Some kind of intervention needs to be done, because there's a significant chance that his needs won't be satisfied by the murder of rodents some day. It might end up being someone you know.
In general you want to memorize your offensive spells and write your defensive spells to scrolls. With that in mind, I would memorize an additional casting of Color Spray or Grease (probably the former) and scribe Protection from Evil. If necessary, get rid of the Summon Monster I scroll; it isn't very useful due to its 1 round duration. Not sure if your summoner's charm ability affects scrolls; if it does ignore this last part.
Lots of things can kill a PC if 3 of them get a surprise round followed by winning init and a full attack.
I've never really understood the mechanics for hiding in a wall. How does something in a wall detect things outside of it? Does it have some way of seeing through walls?
Just some stream of consciousness thoughts...
In movies and myth, martial types succeed against evil wizards by skill, guile, luck, and tenacity.
But, Pathfinder's method of allocating stats doesn't make it easy to model this. Warriors have significant incentives to dump INT, WIS, and CHA in favor of physical stats. So the clever hero disrupting the evil wizard's plan by thinking outside the box? Doesn't really fit.
And, there isn't a central 'luck' mechanic in pathfinder. If there was, I would give high level martial types luck in spades. I'd make it a high level class feature of both fighter and rogue types. Essentially, at high levels luck , wit, and treachery defeat planning and magic.... sometimes.
And martial types should be really skillful...essentially I'd kill the rogue and give the fighter all his stuff , at high levels. Probably in Pathfinder high level fighters get extra skill points, and high level rogues get more resiliant, and a 20th level rogue and a 20th level fighter ought to be able to do the same things.
Your job as a DM is to make the core conceit of D&D, which is "Evil sits in a dungeon, waiting to be killed" make sense.
So, you have to come up with reasons that the enemies don't work together, because fighting all the monsters at once is beyond the PC's ability.
Here are some possibilities:
1) The evil overlord mistrusts his lieutenant and wants him taken down, thinking that he'll step in and take care of the PCs once that's done
Just a few off the top of my head.
Add me to the 'more support articles are better than fiction' crowd.
My order of preference:
Here's another idea to consider: Use space in AP volume 2 to revisit stuff in volume 1/tie things together better. I'm sure there are lots of times when you wish you could update something but you've already gone to press. The next volume is a reasonable place to do that -- I doubt many people run your AP's as fast as they come out.
BTW, I suspended my subscription recently because I wasn't finding time to play and I already had a huge backlog of APs to run...but I'll be back!
The maze section IMO has always been the weakest portion of Rappan Athuk, along with Greznek, which feels underdeveloped relative to the rest of the dungeon. My suggestion would be to repurpose the procedural table in the Bloodways section, using it there as well. Or actually my recollection is that the Bloodways were a drop in replacement for the maze section in Rappan Athuk reloaded; is this still the case?
One thing to consider is that if they're unbundled, people will only buy the VTT modules for the AP's their running. A lot of folks, on the other hand, buy all the APs as they come out (via subscription). I spent 2 years running Savage Tide online and only got about halfway through it; during that time I paid for six APs via subscription.
Wow, I used maptools for years and just watched the Roll20 video. It looks really great -- very polished, much easier for players to setup/use than Maptools. And the video feature is really compelling.
One things concerns me -- it looks like macros are global, not bound to tokens. Or, can you have token macros as well?
Also, is the macro language as extensive as the one in Maptools? I only saw support in the video for primitive dice rolls...my PCs got pretty creative with maptools macros in my last game, including macros for all their spells.
The ability to heal after every battle due to the CLW wand was , I think, one of the biggest changes made to D&D between 2nd and 3rd edition. We certainly couldn't do this when I started playing D&D.
I think it's great that you're doing a dungeon crawl AP -- I've been wanting to see what you guys could do with one forever. I look forward to either playing in it or running it; my issues all remain unopened until that choice is made!
For everyone else, come on, you can't possibly run APs as fast as Paizo churns them out. I am sure you have a great backlog of non-dungeony stuff to tide you over for the next few months!
I favor the slow xp track. It's going to be incredibly time consuming to modify every encounter in the module in the fashion described above. It's better to spend your DM prep time in other ways.
If you do go with the suggestions above, I basically agree with the "more bad guys are better than stronger bad guys" approach.
The OP in this thread raises a good question.
Now, I'm no expert on Golarion, but my understanding is that as written, the evil religions in Golarion are essentially scams. They're terrible deals for the people who join them. They don't even , as far as I know, offer anything in terms of power that the good religions don't provide in the temporal world, and they end up consigning the souls of their adherents to torment.
I think that afterlife for devotees of evil gods should be attractive to the sort of person who likes to do evil. It would then make a lot more sense for worshippers of evil gods to be doing the things they do.
In that context the faustian bargain would make more sense. The LE wizard who sold his soul would be giving up an afterlife of eternally exerting power over the weak, for one where he was a servant, or toy, of a powerful being.
I think I know what is going on with the Mind Flayer thing. Early in 3E, before the OGL was out, certain publishers were told they could temporarily publish things under a 'Gentleman's Agreement', a private document detailing what they could use. I heard about this from Clark Peterson at Necromancer Games.
My guess is that Mind Flayers were permissible in the 'Gentleman's Agreement' text, but where not included as open content under the terms of the OGL.
Think about it: The OGL is the only thing that allows Paizo to exist. Do you think for a minute that Hasbro wouldn't just remove all content from the OGL, if they had the right to do so?
I was not aware that Mind Flayers were ever open content, nor had I heard that things once made open could be made closed. Are you absolutely certain of this?
I want to see a web app called 'magic item shop'
It takes some parameters from the DM (city size, etc) and generates the stock that a particular magic item shop has on hand. The DM gives the magic item shop a name that is used to store that particular shop's contents on a SQL backend on the server
Once generated, the website can be revisited, the name given , and the magic item shop automatically updates over time. New items appear, old ones are sold and disappear. A few items don't sell and are gradually discounted. The rarest/most expensive items always eventually sell, at auctions that the magic item shop periodically holds.
The DM can supply an exclusion list (things that will never appear in the shop).
I think this would be a cooler way to provide access to magic items than 'here is the magic item section in the equipment manual'
"the freaking players and their wierd urges".
I think there's a special exception to railroading where 'beginning a campaign' is concerned.
I haven't read Skull and Shackles, because I've quit reading AP's before I expect to run them out of a forlorn hope that I will find a campaign with a fantastic GM to join.
But my hope would be that the adventure _begins_ with 'the PCs have been press ganged', rather than a staged fight with a forgone conclusion that they lose, and an expectation that they surrender rather than die. The former is definitely not railroading, and actually seems like a really good setup to a pirate game.
Wow, that stuff about the PF society is just goofy. I always assumed the PF society was an analogue for the Royal Geographical Society, not some oppressive cult that doesn't even grant spells.
+1 vote for retconning the whole thing. Or better yet, just say no to world spanning organizations of explorers.
My quick thoughts:
The last encounter in 'The Whispering Cairn' can be really deadly. Be careful with it. I wouldn't have the constructs chase fleeing PCs who are clearly trying to escape the area the constructs are guarding.
The second issue is a real meatgrinder as well, _especially_ the last encounter.
The third adventure (with the llzardmen) is really underwhelming, I suggest either subbing it out or greatly increasing their numbers.
The big boss in the 4th AP can easily cause a TPK if too many PCs fail will saves, too.
One last thing: It makes me cry to hear about someone not running this in Greyhawk. This is the ultimate Greyhawk AP!
Here's my two cents your your APs. Your plots, pacing , characters, and maps are all great -- easily the best in the industry.
The rules subsystems you've introduced often don't work for me -- I'm thinking about Kingmaker and the magic item economy here.
Do the same people who develop the APs write the rules subsystems? Maybe there should be a division of responsibility. I like it that Paizo attempts these things and I'd hate for you guys to stop, but it might be that the kind of talent necessary to write a good story doesn't lend itself well to figuring out how to simulate an economy, caravan, or chase scene.
It's not a jerk move. Evil Lincoln has the right approach.
Guys, if you don't want to learn what your spells do, don't play a spellcaster. It's unfair to your DM and to the other players at the table to not know the rules regarding your spells, because it slows the game down and places an unreasonable burden on the DM. When I DM a game, my PC spellcasters should know their own spells better than I do.
I ran Savage Tide in Maptools through the first six magazines, so I have some perspective on this.
My suggestion is that you make the software free, but sell modules for each AP that you publish, as an optional add-on to an AP subscription that raises the price sufficiently to cover your investment.
The software should allow DMs to import maps/create their own tokens for free. What you're selling is the service of having this done already, much as your AP is the service of creating a campaign for a DM.
Ideally , I can load a campaign module into your tool and the maps are all there, and the monster tokens are loaded on each map (or off to the side, not a fan here of delve-style prepositioning). These tokens should include macros, with buttons for attack, full attack, special abilities, saves, perception rolls, intiative, and such.
The set of people who play online are probably the same people who have more cash than time. We're playing online because the friends we met in college have dispersed to the four corners of the world for their careers. It took me a lot of prep time to make maptools work, and I would gladly have paid you to do it instead.