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I recommend against Kingmaker and against Wrath. Wrath has a decent story but, as you said, too much cheese through mythic rules. Kingmaker... well, if you like supplying 200% of the work that is done for you in the AP itself, it has a chance of being decent. Without that, it suffers from not enough story and one-encounter-per-day-itis.
Alright, my opinions. I'll leave out Iron Gods, since it is not out yet. From what I've seen from the individual AP blurbs, I must admit that I am a bit underwhelmed about the scope of the AP (then again, I am currently running Wrath, so that kind of scope can't be expected). I'll just say that I think it will heavily depend on if you and your players can abide all the laser guns and combat droids in your fantasy world.
Second Darkness is an AP I am currently playing in, although it has been on hiatus for more than two years now. I'll just say that there is a very noticeable break in the story after module two and the AP itself has a rather poor reputation because of that and other problems on the board.
Jade Regent is an AP I have GM'ed to conclusion. In my opinion, it is one of the two best AP's Paizo has published so far. There are some pitfalls however, which I've pointed out in my review of the AP from last year and again in the latest AP grading thread.
Since I GM'ed this one, I should give my opinion, too, although I already did a review of it on its very board a few years ago.
1) GM Ease of Play: 8/10 I did not have to change up too much, aside from the problem with story cohesion between modules. I actually had to prune encounters a lot in the last module, because it was just too many combat encounters strung together.
2) Synthesis of the Story: 2/10 Yeah, it was bad. Not the story of the individual modules, but the overall story really didn't gel together. I somewhat managed to salvage it by introducing Adivion in module one and keeping him a presence throughout the entire AP.
3) Role-play Friendly: 8/10 Five out of six modules gave interesting roleplaying scenarios which filled half the module. Sadly, module six dispensed almost entirely with that and just strung together combat after combat.
4) Combat Design: 6/10 All the usual problems Pathfinder AP's often have. Single boss encounters, weak MMO trash encounters which can't even really touch the party and at the campaign mid-point, I just had to buff and combine encounters all the way to keep them interesting. Then again, it also had some of those "OMG, WTH?" difficult encounters until part three which pop up randomly, like on the bridge in Schloss Caromarc.
5) Fun factor: 8/10 Until module six rolled in, things were really fun. Module six wanted me to get it over with as fast as possible. Nonetheless, overall a good AP.
richard develyn wrote:
Caravan rules do really suck and so do the relationship rules, but those are sub-systems which can be substituted or left out completely. The AP itself is a winner (although with reservations on book three and the later part of book four).
richard develyn wrote:
Not necessarily. I referenced the Jade Regent module four stuff a lot in this thread. While it had two pages setting up the location, it only needed two more pages to give enough of a roleplaying scenario for four days in-game and two entire sessions of gameplay. Given how the average module takes something like eight to twelve sessions to resolve, that is not a bad space/gameplay ratio.
In any case, not every AP needs to be the same. They are written for different audiences already in some regards, so I think there would be space for an RP-heavy AP. James already said that he wants to move at least a bit in that direction, I am just encouraging him to do so a bit more. :)
That's your interpretation of me. Incorrect.
Apparently our brain structures are way different.
The very same goes for putting together roleplaying encounters, only that free statblocks are not as readily available as they are to you.
I dont remember too many encounters where it specifically states fights to the death, in all honesty. However that could just be my memory failing.
It is. About every Paizo AP I've GM'ed (four to conclusion so far) has had the majority of them, especially in the later modules, being "to the death" for NPC's.
captain yesterday wrote:
mostly i think the "Lack" of roleplaying in higher level stuff is partially attributed to GM burnout, by the time you get to the higher stuff you've already been at it for at least 6 months and you just want to get it over with.
Constant combat encounters for the last three modules do much more to "want to get it over with" than RP sessions. Rather the contrary, those RP sessions are what motivate a GM and a party to enjoy the entire AP.
Seriously, that assertion of yours makes no sense. :-/
That school of thought originates from the fallacy that scenarios can't be written in a way which accomodates all those (and more) set-ups. In fact, most RP scenarios just give you a situation and minor modifiers like race and so on simply are expected to be adjudicated by the GM.
All those scenarios assume that the gods of the setting will just go "Meh, divine rules prevent me from intervening. Too bad, worshippers!" on all of those catastrophes. I find that unlikely. At some time, even most of the evil gods should have had enough, after all what use is a world if its worshippers have all been eaten/turned into undead/etc.? Yeah, yeah, "if we make a move, then all the others move, too", but there have been pan-alignment alliances in the past, for example when they did a team-up against Rovagug.
Yeah, I did that.
Ha. Yeah, I did that, because I'm genuinely curious what type of role play scenarios you're talking about. It's interesting that you're asking for role play scenarios like that to be added in as standard fair. I always assumed that's the kind of thing GMs added to campaigns as they saw fit (at least that's been standard for my group since before 3e came out). I didn't realize anyone that's an experienced GM/roleplayer would need that level of hand-holding to make their campaign interesting from a role playing standpoint. On the other hand, APs are created with the intent to appeal to a wide audience , so I shouldn't be surprised.
You know what, I am not even going to respond to this level of snide condescencion. No decent discussion can come of it.
That doesn't really answer my question. For example, we know what comprises a combat scenario: a description of the encounter area, environmental hazards, stat blocks or pointers to stat blocks, tactics, morale, and development descriptions. Given that, what are the components of a role play scenario? NPC descriptions, backstory, expected questions or interactions, etc.?
I was setting up the second part of my post.
You do that.
I consider Jade Regent to be one of the best AP's from Paizo and it shares the first spot with Curse of the Crimson Throne for "Best AP I've GM'ed".
1.) GM Ease of Play: Seven out of ten. Mostly it is very good to be played out of the box in terms of story. I am not judging it on terms of difficulty, since that perspective seems to vary wildly between individual groups (although I firmly fall on the side of the "make AP's harder, they are too easy" crowd).
Points which bring the AP down are the horribly implemented sub-systems (caravan combat, relationship rules), the way too drawn out trek over the north pole of Golarion and the dreary megadungeon in module four.
All the rest, though, is really good.
2) Synthesis of the Story: Nine out of ten. The story really is very good. The hick-up is, again, the trek over the north pole and also that module five fits a bit too neatly together.
3) Role-play Friendly: Ten out of ten. Extremely RP-friendly. Definitely the best AP in terms of that from Paizo, IMO.
4) Combat Design: Eight out of ten. Excellent. However, brought down two points by the caravan combat rules not working and overcomplicated (yet still not threatening) combats in module three. Yes, module three being a problem is kind of a pattern here.
5) Fun factor: Nine out of ten. As I said, best AP published by Paizo, IMO, with only Curse being in the same category. Loses one point from a perfect score because of book three and the dungeon in book four.
If I would give tips to new GM's looking to start the AP, they would be as follows:
1.) Cut one or two of the permanent NPC's. I personally would recommend Sandru or Koya. They are (IMO) the blandest of the four and it was difficult for me to add much motivation to their storyline.
2.) Ditch caravan combat rules and the relationship rules. They are bad and the former may even lead to a TPK if you play them by the book. Keep the caravan supply rules if you or your group like fiddling with numbers and provisions.
3.) Cut the megadungeon in module four, replace it with the Ruby Phoenix Tournament. I did it and it worked splendidly. You might want to put some limitations on the "pick any item you like" reward at the end, my group ended up with a +10/+10 double weapon for the party Ninja. ^^
4.) Book three is long and grindy and tedious and adds nothing (and I mean NOTHING) to the overall story arc of the campaign. I highly recommend cutting the interminable travel and random encounters down, which the AP does for about everything else in the entire campaign but this module.
If Paizo would write another AP set completely in Tian Xia, I would be so there. The second part of the campaign definitely was better than the first part (which happens pretty seldomly in AP's, IMO), although Kalsgard had its own rustic charm. And ninjas on burning viking ships, which was trés cool.
What does a roleplay scenario in an AP look like? What is needed for a roleplay scenario that isn't currently included?
IMO, the ratio of roleplaying opportunities with guidance by Paizo to combat scenarios needs to be adjusted in favor of roleplaying scenarios. AP's are way too combat focused and since combat encounters take a ton of time (and often are not even threatening to the party) that alone tends to skew the total time spent in an AP heavily towards the combat part.
While you can't easily categorize all sorts roleplaying scenarios, I liked the ones at the beginning of module four of Jade Regent very much, since they were short, succint, but yet gave the GM all the tools needed to fill several evenings with them.
That . . . does nothing, except increase the math. If my players are gaining 100 additional hit points every tier, and my baddies are increasing 100 hit point with every rank, I'm just blowing up the math department, but doing nothing to fix the problem. As far as gameplay is concerned, you're increasing the fights by--what?--a round? Half a round? Still not superhero material here.
Yeah, well. Paizo increased the math mostly one-sidedly on the part of damage output, while neglecting to adjust monster AND PC durability. I mean, what are we supposed to do? We either increase HP across the board or we nerf the insane damage output. Otherwise the mythic endgame (which begins as soon as tier 3 rolls in) consists of "who wins initiative wins the fight".
As I said, I already pointed out that normal high-level combat is skewed towards rocket tag in 2009 and I've repeatedly pointed that out during the last five years. I got an unusual group make-up (six experienced players, of which two build mechanically good characters and the rest mostly takes standard stuff, nothing crazy), but since I am buffing encounters all along the way and later in the campaign start combining three or four encounters into a single one, I think the point still stands that opponents die too quickly in normal high-level play.
Nobody seems to have bothered to do the math for the mythic damage vs. durability and now everybody who runs this AP or a new mythic game will have to deal with it. Hell, I'd love to know if James and the others will adjust existing mythic opponents any time in the future. As those monsters are now, mythic is a sad joke. On them.
As a GM I want to add my observation - 2/3 classes don't have proper social skills trained ( Intimitade as RP skill is very dependent, usually provokes fight ). Why bother to heavy RP if this give +2/+4 to roll and we have +1 oraz +2 in skill?
AP's always make some classes less desirable than others, so that argument really doesn't hold much merit.
Second observation- everyone want to have their 5 minutes. More sociable players are quick to dominate this kind of scenes. In some groups there will be issue about spotlight
Nobody says that you can't resolve encounters with some diplomacy rolls, if one or more members of the group are tongue tied. That is how it has always been in D&D/PF.
Third observation - RP scenes tends to bog down pace of session, especially when there are players with "secret missions".
So does a combat, not to mention several ones.
Really, this kind of game depends in 90% percent on proper group of players. I think that this module will be hard to handle in typical PFS session with group of unaquainted players.
Are all AP's now PFS legal scenarios? I thought only a number of them were.
captain yesterday wrote:
Well, I'll register my countercomplaint here, then, that there should be more XP for roleplaying scenarios and that they are just as valid as combat scenarios. ^^
And I noticed that James seems favorable to the idea of a more roleplaying heavy AP. I hope my arguments had something to do with it, but even if not, I am not complaining. :D
James Jacobs wrote:
I'm VERY interested in exploring a more roleplay-heavy adventure. And I work most on the Adventure Paths, not the modules. Make of that what you will. ;-)
See, that it what makes me hopeful that good feedback will lead to good results.
And just to make it clear, I think you have already integrated a lot of the feedback we've given over the years into the new AP's. So thank you for that.
captain yesterday wrote:
Fallacy argueing 101.
You can give XP for roleplaying scenarios just as well as for combat scenarios.
There already are systems to do that. Some of them we all know (social skills like Diplomacy, Sense Motive), some of them which are bad (relationship system from Jade Regent), some of them which are new (there is some sort of research system in Mummy's Mask), some of them which have not been used in an AP before (honor system from Ultimate Campaign, fame system from the Faction Guide).
If Paizo were to write a more RP-heavy AP, they easily could integrate some of them into it.
I am using the upgraded version of Xanthir provided by Thanurel. I've changed out some spells for the adepts, so that won't be a problem.
Flanking bonuses won't really help as much as you'd think and I am unwilling to have to deal with even more creature types in this combat and especially even higher creature numbers.
I am not concerned that this fight will be too easy, rather that it will be too complicated to finish in one session. It'll depend a lot on how quickly the party can clean out some of the different monsters. As for the difficulty, it's a combined CR of about 19, so it should be okay for a level 12, tier 4 party of six PC's.
Steve Geddes wrote:
I disagree with your assertions.
Yeah, he already knew that they are coming, the party did not try to disguise their approach. ^^
I've determined that I'll keep the opposing force at its current level, with the additional summons Xanthir already will do per round, it is going to be incredibly complex, anyway. That's seven enemy types, plus Xanthir, plus Arueshalae to manage. oO
Yep, the devs vastly underestimated the damage output PC's have at the high (meaning: after 3rd ^^) tiers. Now, the problem here already is that they have published a lot of mythic creatures and redoing all their hitpoints would be awkward. I wonder if the writers are willing to go to that length.
Then again, I've said since the alpha of the CRB that at high levels hitpoint totals for opponents (and PC's, to be perfectly honest) are way too low compared to the damage output of a normal party.
That's from June 2009. ^^
If I'd be affluent enough to afford any miniatures at all, I'd buy them for the value alone of having a diverse selection. :p
I imagine there are also financial implications to consider. Paizo seem to sell a lot of miniatures, battle maps and cardboard monsters. You're not going to need those in a heavily roleplaying orientated AP, which would cut into their profits, to some extent.
That does not sound like a logical explanation. RP characters make as good miniatures as ones from dungeon heavy AP's.
captain yesterday wrote:
And once again you manage to (probably unintentionally) insult people who disagree with you. Congrats.
Well, I don't really believe that. You really like spending hours and hours on pointless filler encounters, which do nothing but cost time?
Essentially what you are saying at the moment is that your taste is more worthy of Paizo's attention than mine and that I should just suck it up and take what they give me. The argument that "you can always change it up as GM" is so fallacious that it isn't even funny, because I could just reverse it ("If Paizo would just put 20% combat encounters into their AP's, you could as a GM always add your own!") and it would be just as much a fallacy as your argument.
The only thing I am doing here is giving feedback in the most cogent way I can and hope that some of it resonates with James and any other writer who happens to be reading this.
I'll be honest, I don't see why we couldn't have a "mythic" storyline within the normal rules. Mythic rules don't really add much than additional levels to the entire thing and just crank the numbers game higher. It's kind of like with a new World of Warcraft expansion, where suddenly all the stuff you did before is meaningless and there is a number explosion.
If Paizo would tighten the leveling pace for a more "powerful" storyline so that the last module goes from levels 17-20, then that would make for an extremely powerful finale all by its own, no need to add the mythic rules on top. IMO, a level 20 group would have no problem downing Tar-Baphon.
Well, I am someone who basically was (and is) in the position you are in. However, I think that the AP's still can use improvement in some sections, which is why I criticise aspects which I think need those improvements. The argument that "GM's an always make adjustments" is, IMO, not a valid one to not make improvements, since with this argument Paizo could as well forego any roleplaying aspects and just publish 50 pages of statblocks and flavor text for rooms every month.
Session of July 22nd 2014:
Five players in attendance. Pretty standard session today, picking up from the two week hiatus. Basically two big fights, against a.) the colloxus demon, four blackfire adepts and two scions of Baphomet and b.) afterwards against a greater thanadaemon and its summoned elder styx water elemental. The two fights and prior exertions burned enough resources that the party had to rest one hour (via recuperation) to feel confident enough to advance to the final fight against Xanthir Vang. Since I was concerned that the party might not be up to the fight against Vang in their current state, I dropped some Nectar of the Gods (six vials in total, so one per character) on them. In my game, that stuff is a minor artifact, so I am not anxious that they can produce their own. Vang already had retrieved two doses for himself prior, so I can boost him a bit up if needed.
In any case, so far the line-up for the final fight of module four looks like this: In the corner of the good guys, all six party members plus Arueshalae; in the corner of the bad guys, Xanthir Vang, four blackfire adepts, one glabrezu, two advanced retrievers, two apocalypse locusts, one shadow demon. I am not sure if I should add even more to Vangs line-up, since he had an additional hour to get ready. In any case, this will be getting seriously complicated to run, although I am pretty sure that the deck is going to get cleared fast of some of the more minion-like opponents.
My main concern is to get Vangs defences up early in the fight, so that he has his mythic Globe of Invulnerability + his mythic Wall of Force up in round one. Otherwise, I fear that he'll get an angry barbarian to the face and that would seriously cramp his style for the rest of the encounter. After that, he should be free to do stuff at will until he runs out of minions + summons.
The problem with "fight to the death" is that, very often, PC's don't kill the opponent, either wittingly or unwittingly, just by the nature of the game. But if you got "fight to the death" in the morale statblock, it seems that the author assumes 99% that the enemy will be dead at the end of the combat and so will play no role anymore in the AP. So there is almost never any thought given to how the opponent will react to having lost, being alive and so on.
Thanks, you guys. It went... well, I guess. Aside from the knowledge test of laws (something I never touched before studying for this), I think I did passingly well on all other topics.
We'll see if it is enough to be in the 10% of the over 2000 people who took the test in all of Germany and advance to the oral exam.
I am not stopping with this AP so far, I only had to put it on hiatus for two weeks, due to RL.
Speaking of that, I am off for the written examination for the foreign affairs department of Germany. Me and a thousand other people around Germany, so let's see if I do okay. I got the karmic advantage of it being my birthday, at least. :p
captain yesterday wrote:
A bit premature with the birthday wishes (it's on Monday), but thank you for all the good wishes, nonetheless. :)
Well, I'd be up for such a group, if a good timeslot could be found. However, since I am just now urgently looking for a new job (and the next days also got a very important exam/job interview coming up on Monday and I will spend the next two days memorizing German history / German politics / International law / economics / trivia knowledge and dates as well as I can, after weeks of reading up on those topics), that date may be difficult to nail down. :p
Anyway, thanks to James for acknowledging our feedback. I think the most important part to take note of is really that the comparative damage output of PC's to durability of opponents is wildly off in favor of the PC's and there needs to be adjustments made on how tough opponents are in Mythic.
Graeme Lewis wrote:
This assumes that the PCs are immediately going to be super-aggressive to every NPC presented as an enemy, which isn't necessarily how it goes. I can't speak for your groups, of course, but I doubt attacking every NPC that stands in their way is the way PCs should be expected to respond.
If you are storming a cathedral full of high-level death cultists who want to ressurect a demi-god lich, you really expect a party to chat up the next undead horror they encounter?
Anyway, I fear I must adjourn any further discussion until at least Wednesday, since I have two days of intense studying ahead of me, one day of a very important exam which goes from morning to evening plus my birthday and then the next day prep time for the other RP round and getting out as many job applications as I can.
Sorry to temporarily bail on the discussion at this point, but these next days are very important for me and I can't spend hours composing long replies, since tempus fugit.
James Jacobs wrote:
I need to leave for work in 10 minutes (and won't be able to do much before tomorrow, RP this evening after work), so I'll just respond quickly to this: I am writing a campaign set in Oppara at this time. While I am stuck at the very beginning , due to a full-time job and other commitments, the cause for me to do that was that I had noticed that my players were falling into a rut with the way they handled roleplaying with NPC's. And I do blame much of how AP's are structured for this, since NPC's so often fall into the background after being introduced.
James Jacobs wrote:
I've actually taken that to heart for most of the encounters I do. That's why I try to ensure that all major NPCs or creatures have backstories, in fact... for the ones that DO happen to end in any one session in something other than combat.
Got to respond to this, too. A way to ensure that those backstories might get used is to write less NPC's which will fight to the death. Just saying. Also, one of my two RP groups is very much trying to not kill their opponents. Giving more options what you can do with captured opponents would also help.
Even on a technical level, you very often don't kill downed opponents. AP's assume too much that they are out of the picture forever after being defeated.
Anyway, I'll try to expound on some more of the things I think could be done a bit better in AP's in terms of coherent storytelling when I get time again, i.e. Saturday. Thanks for listening to our feedback, James!