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Sorry, forgot to post the link to the journal. Here it is.
They haven't even begun the AP proper yet and Mikaze has already written what appears to be half a novel. ^^ And it's great writing, as usual.
Session of April 8th 2014:
One big fight for this session, but one which combined three encounters plus Nurah.
Five players out of six in attendance. The session began with the party opening the secret door to the corruption forge room. The Salamanders retreated as soon as they saw the party, which gave the PC's some problems in following fast enough, due to the difficult layout of the forge room.
Nonetheless the party managed to arrive after three rounds in the ritual room where Chorussina was leading the ritual to blow up Drezen. Present in the room were Chorussina, Therek Nul, Nurah Dendivar, four advanced fiendish Salamanders, two advanced Babau's and two advanced Schir's.
I won't go into details too much, but the fight was pretty grueling on both sides, although no PC was dropped. It was again a near thing for the Barbarian and the entire party took heavy damage from melee or Chorussina's area effect spells (I changed out some of her less useful spells for some evocation magic).
In the end, Nurah escaped again (already leaving the fight after two rounds, when the fight took five or six rounds), while everybody else on the side of the opposition was laid low. Much of the recovered mythic power was spent in the fight and half of the party is running low at this moment. It seems likely that they will press on to fight Eustoyriax, though, so this lack of mythic power will make that (very difficult, from what I've read from other GM's) encounter quite more difficult. Especially since the mythic Shadow Demon will be accompanied by two normal ones. And also Nurah, although I am thinking about letting her use her scroll of Dimension Door to escape and turn up somewhere else later in module three or even further away. She should know that going to Eustoyriax will not end up well for her, by the very nature of him being a Shadow Demon.
As a side note, the armor formerly worn by Staunton Vhane suddenly began to talk to the cleric of Asmodeus who is wearing it now. ^^
Well, I rolled up a Master Summoner for my RotRL group where I can be a player, mostly because I wanted to see if the class was really that amazing and broken as I always thought it to be. And, yes, it is. We already nerfed the class once (on mutual consent and requested by me after a few weeks) and it still feels too powerful. I've never seen a class which is this versatile and I probably could solo most stuff the AP throws at me, given enough time and a possibility to rest.
I'd consider changing characters, but I already went through two characters in this campaign (one whom I changed on my own accord, the other because of untimely character death), so it would feel bad to change him out once again. Also, I like the personality of my current character.
Honestly, if the group doesn't stop the ex-paladin from killing her (which, admittedly, shouldn't happen. I doubt that she'll just stand still while getting whacked by the angry "fighter without feats" and she has a very decent AC), then I would shift their alignment down from good and fold the entire campaign. I've got no interest in characters which would allow this kind of BS to happen.
If you don't mind spoiling yourself thoroughly, there is a very long thread on this forum about this topic here.
As for your questions:
1.) Partially. You can be Chaotic Good or Lawful Good or True Neutral and are equally treated by her.
2.) James Jacobs. He rather regrets it by now. <casts Terrible Remorse on James> ^^
3.) It's not, at least to the minds of a lot of people.
I can empathize with that, but on the other hand you have to take into account that the system is built with the assumption that players are going to win. NPC's don't get PC gear, because they are supposed to lose. Monsters of equal CR are (mostly) not as tough as PC's, because they are supposed to lose. If the party loses, then the campaign is over and all the work one has done as GM and all the money the GM has invested in things like buying adventure paths is a wash.
I fudge dice for some bosses, so that they can leave a good impression on the party. Sometimes I fudge the dice the on part of the players, because having a dead party member at that point would disrupt the flow of the campaign. As a GM, I have different responsibilities to the campaign than a player has, who just has to show up and play his character.
Your free to think whatever you want. My players are happy enough with the way they are destroying opponents. Their characters (which are a personality, not a collection of stats) have not been invalidated as far as I see it by me giving them a more cinematic experience than "Wizard casts Phantasmal Killer, opponent keels over dead in the first round, martials stand around picking their noses".
Multiple Amazing Initiative's, Mythic Power Attack and one Surge, IIRC. I didn't use the touch of corruption, though.
Kiranda successfully dominated the barbarian, but that was immediately denied (meaning before his turn came up, where he probably would have insta-gibbed someone) when the sorcerer ran up with Magic Circle Against Evil on him and the barbarian made his second save (although he had to use a Surge).
Yeah, I fudge rolls as a GM all the time. I have an obligation as a GM to the entire group to present a cinematic story and if your twinked out min-max horror has unbeatable save DC's and destroys any climactic encounter with that, I will do my best to preserve a sense of danger and adventure for the sake of the campaign.
Not saying that the OP is doing that, but I've run into this problem in the past and it deeply colors my perceptions of the necessity of fudging dice rolls. That players do not understand that attitude is okay, but they don't have to deal with the realities of GM'ing, which is that you are supposed to lose, but you have to do it elegantly.
To clarify, I use fudging the dice when I need to keep an encounter going for a round or two more and the villain would be dropped instantly by some spell. Of course I let most spells succeed when they should, but if I feel that this fight and the story overall would benefit from the villain having left an impression of competence instead of going out like a chump, I find it more to the benefit of the players to shake their belief in their superiority a bit, instead of just giving them another stack of overconfidence.
Damn, Sebastian, stop writing posts that I wanted to write, only that you do it better. :p
I'd add one point to your list of powerful player options, which is:
Debuffing: This takes either the form of casting Dispel Magic/Greater Dispel Magic on enemy spellcasters or using spells which hinder the opponents action economy, like Stinking Cloud, Terrible Remorse, Slow and so on. Both are extremely effective tactics, since they both play to the advantage groups enjoy in their action economy against opponents (since Paizo insists on throwing single opponent boss encounters at us).
With buff dispelling, this makes enemy spellcasters, which are traditionally some of the better type of opponents, much less of a threat. Since they are limited in their action economy by (very often) being pitted alone against four (or more) characters, they can't effectively re-cast those buffs once they have been dispelled and you can count on about 2 casters with access to Dispel/Greater Dispel being in your group, so their action economy isn't hurt that badly in comparison. Even if those two casters did have to spend their actions to dispel the defensive buffs of that enemy wizard, now the martial characters don't have to deal with his Mirror Image, Fly and Displacement spells.
Spells which hinder the enemies action economy are also something which trivialize many of Paizo's written encounters. The core options often have some sort of drawback (i.e. Stinking Cloud and Black Tentacles close off an area to the melee portion of the player characters, too), but a lot of the newer options don't suffer from this problem and also have a second component which activates after the affected members of the opponents make their saves, i.e. Wandering Star Motes jumps to the next enemy, Terrible Remorse still staggers on a successful save for one round.
Here I want to call out the AP writers a bit, because many of them don't use those action-denial spells and rather go for horrible tactic blocks and spell selections for their spellcasters. If you guys insist on throwing single opponents at us, the ones which actually have the power to deal with their action economy disadvantage should please do so, and not have spells prepared which seem better suited for duels. Too often, when I did not have time to re-write statblocks in the past, I've been struck at what a terrible spell selection was given to us GM's to try to deal with the player characters.
And I know that "single boss fights an entire group" is somewhat iconic, but while this is certainly cinematic, it definitely runs into the very mechanical problems of a huge action economy disadvantage and thus very often falls flat on its face, especially at the higher levels, where PC's have much more resources to burn.
Session of March 18th 2014:
Well, now, this was intense.
All six players in attendance, although one had to leave early and another one arrived late. Basically only two encounters, although those two were each two (or in the case of the second one, rather three) single encounters combined.
The first encounter was the Thoxel demons (with the advanced template) and the half-fiend minotaurs encounters combined into one. The Thoxels didn't really pose a challenge and were unceremoniously dispatched by the ranger, but while the minotaurs had nothing much in the term of AC and HP, the Darkness spell they cast did cost half the party some time to to get rid of and their Smite Good attacks ate into the healing resources.
Earlier in the evening the party had picked up "Maranse" from his holding cell, eating up "his" explanations about his evil aura and being reinforced in their acceptance by Nurah, who until then had kept her head down.
So, with their healing depleted and about a third of their mythic power expended, they walked into the room with Joran Vhane and his three babau guards. What looked to be a total rout for the opposition (the babau's exploded into bloody gibbets under the attacks of the barbarian and paladin) turned into a really intense fight with serious TPK potential, when Staunton and his retinue (a warbringer wasp, two more half-fiend minotaurs) joined the fight and "Maranse" revealed herself in the party's back to be Kiranda the mythic succubus and Nurah turned her support of the group to her evil masters.
The group pulled through by the skin of their teeth, with the paladin at -18 HP, the barbarian at 24 HP, the ranger at 10 HP and the other PC's higher but with their spellcasting quite depleted (the cleric hits, much to his frustration, like a wet noodle). The barbarian and ranger basically were one hit away from getting downed.
Much of the parties survival depended on some very, very lucky rolls, like the ranger acing her Acrobatics check just on the target number of 32 to get away from Kiranda, her animal companion wolf hitting and tripping Kiranda afterwards, the barbarian making his second save (after Protection from Evil) on Kiranda's Dominate Person and overall very high to-hit rolls by the party on the mythic succubus duelist.
Staunton put out some impressive damage (he basically alone beat down the paladin and barbarian), but his AC didn't really prove to be up to the task. The players were a bit aghast at Kiranda's AC, but they used debuffs quite effectively to work against that and limit their opponents action options, like Terrible Remorse, trip attempts, Black Tentacles and Stinking Clouds.
Irabeth managed to aquit herself quite well and I am seriously considering giving her a mythic tier to account for her experiences with the party. She almost managed to be the one to land the killing blow on Kiranda.
I think all the characters combined have maybe two mythic power left. This encounter (and the preceding ones) really drained them of their resources. Shows that if you (as the GM) can keep them going confident for a while, bringing down the hammer at the end can really make for a memorable fight. But then again this also had the potential for a TPK. If the players hadn't rolled so luckily in many instances...
For the coming weeks I am a bit concerned if the fight with Eustoyriax will not turn out to be a walk-over. As far as I can see, much of the danger of that encounter comes from the party not being able to see in the Deeper Darkness. But with two archmage characters in the party, can't they just Wild Arcana a Daylight spell to circumvent that totally? Of course I can simply say "Daylight doesn't work", but that seems a bit cheap. ^^
Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
Well, at the very least the Agile template can make (with some slight modifications) make single boss encounters more viable. ^^
After reading this again, I come to the conclusion that I cannot add that much to it. It's really that comprehensive. :)
Oh, there is one thing: As I did for the finale of my Carrion Crown campaign, maybe other GM's can crib a bit from MMO design and introduce non-standard encounter mechanics which are necessary to kill a boss enemy. I.e. that enemy is only susceptible to X type of damage in his sanctum and even then only takes Y amount of damage per round. Or have the boss have multiple forms, which are unlocked when he takes a certain amount of damage or other types of conditions are met.
Of course that would mean rewriting extensively, which many of GM's who run AP's would like to avoid in the first place. ^^
Thomas Long 175 wrote:
Pathfinder is not a "medieval times simulator". Unless you can point me at the history books describing the literal demons and dragons walking around during that time, not even to mention real-life wizards and elves. It borrows some tropes from it, some from the renaissance and a lot of tropes from other non-european cultures. If the designers even tried to simulate an accurate medieval times simulator, it would be completely unplayable to our modern sensibilities.
What's more, medieval times were quite a bit more complex than "it's evil, kill it!". While religious persecution was a thing, it became only so pronounced that mass witch burnings were a thing around the corner of the renaissance and Enlightment. Even in medieval times, societies had complex legal codes. Sure, a lot of the laws were still heavily influenced by superstition (see: laws concerning the use of body parts of executed people for medicinal purposes) and trial by combat was a thing which only gradually got excised, but it was definitely way more complex than "smite evil on sight!".
Which, btw., is unworthy of any Paladin and is extremely chaotic in my view. Pathfinder is a game which views a mixture of fantasy and medieval/renaissance/steampunk/wuxia/samurai film elements through a lense of modern sensibilities. Including modern moral behaviour.
Session of February 25th 2014:
Again a combat heavy session, with a good dose of RP in the middle.
The session started with the party opening the door to the inner courtyard, where Konneshka the Vrock,
Specifically, Konneshka and Isen had both readied actions (and pre-buffed with Mirror Image), so that they got the party with Stunning Screech and a Fireball before they could act, dealing a very fair amount of damage and taking half the party out of the fight for one round. Isen followed up with Black Tentacles (which I had placed as his level four spell, instead of the pretty ineffectual Summon Monster IV). I rolled high on that spell and got most of the party grappled by the tentacles, including Irabeth and Nurah.
The tentacles caused a fair bit of frustration among some players, especially since they totally failed to dispel them in the first round they tried. Meanwhile, the Barbarian had managed to not get caught in the Black Tentacles and went toe to toe with Konneshka. Since I find Mirror Image to be one of those horribly overpowered spells, I don't roll with the "you can't cleave Mirror Images" buff Pathfinder has needlessly given it, so Thorund managed to Great Cleave in two rounds all of Konneska's images. Konneshka herself had eaten a mythic Phantasmal Killer from the Wizard, so she was not in a state (i.e. she was dazed one round) to respond until it was almost too late for her.
But when she did, she dropped the Barbarian to -29 HP in one great full attack. The lack of AC on the character and the general lack of healing in the party once again was very noticeable and he escaped death only by grace of being a mythic character (since you only die at double constitution negative HP and are automatically stable).
After the Black Tentacles were dispelled, the fight was over pretty quickly. The two half-orc Rangers did die almost immediately and Barrid Isen was beaten down before he could escape again. I had to nerf his behaviour a tiny bit, because people really had taken a beating to their HP and no big healing was forthcoming. So after casting the Black Tentacles, he didn't follow it up with several more Fireballs, but did a few sub-optimal things, like a Scorching Ray on the Cleric (who had something like fire resistance 10+10 at that point, due to Absorb Blow from the Guardian path and his fire domain ability).
Quite a lot of mythic power was spend on extra standard actions, Sudden Strike, Absorb Blow and Fleet Charge.
The party then limped back to the camp, taking back Isen for interrogation. That failed pretty badly, because 102 Paladins ain't going for torture (which the Asmodeus Cleric wanted to do). Isen got a trial, where the PC Paladin had to serve as his advocate and was, after guilt and lack of repentance was established by Irabeth, executed cleanly.
The party returned the next day to the citadel and went into the chapel to the west, because they had been told of the Sword of Valor's last resting place. The ruse of the succubus in the chapel did not work out at all, mostly due to the Ranger player having a case of impatience and just shooting the disguised succubus. Also the Paladin using Detect Evil. ^^
It wasn't a very exciting fight, although the Ranger had to spend two mythic power to get the Succubus down before the Barbarian (who had been easily dominated by the Succubus) could get his turn and turn half the unprepared party into mincemeat via two or three Great Cleave's. I hadn't pumped up the encounter at all, though, since the set-up already was working against a good combat encounter. Players need some easy wins, too.
We ended the session after the party discovered the hidden treasure room, when the Paladin got attacked by the two fiendish mimics. We'll be picking up the game again in two weeks, due to many players having RL stuff to do next week.
Yeah, XP awards are one of the things I've removed entirely from the game. While keeping individual XP awards them adds a certain factor to the game, where a GM can reward individual players for good RP or something like that, the system has also a large drawback, in that some players will then try to unnecessary stunts or lobby for individual XP for their characters.
Honestly, I think this whole debate comes from New School players unable to play through an Old School scenario. People who are whining about a Goddess not treating them the way they think they should be treated are just the entitled types of adventurers she would not rely on and would pass for better bringers of her will and might.
Ah, yes, insulting the other side of the argument as whiny and entitled, always a winner in internet discussions.
Maybe we just have a better sense of justice and honor as you "old school" guys, eh?
But remember, it's very hard to physically fit the amount of encounters necessary to reach 20th level without sacrificing story elements. Mythic helps you level faster and thus allows you to reach these top tiers in the space confines of the AP.
Quite honestly, I find the "there aren't enough XP!" argument absurd. If there aren't enough XP, then provide them. Who cares if they are "legit"? It's not as if some cosmic force will strike a module writer or GM down if there are some additional XP for roleplaying. The entire "get XP for things outside of killing monsters" system is highly fungible as it is.
Also, I think Paizo did just that (provide unearned XP, that is) in the first module to get the party to level six at the end of the first module. The leveling pace of that module was crazy, especially the first three levels. It felt like the party did level every second session before entering the Gray Garrison.
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
If your "jokes" are in the vein of trying to paint one side as unreasonable, stupid or plain "wrong for all to see", those jokes can (and often should) be taken as trolling.
Yeah, only that this was not the intent of James.
Liam Warner wrote:
Well, here I am with the results. In fact, I'll give WBL levels for all adventures of the AP, since I have them here right before me. My methodology was to take every piece of gear which is sellable with a price at 50% of market price, jewelry, gold and art at 100% and not count artifacts at all.
The Wardstone Legacy Level 1-6
Total Treasure: 73.945 GP (77.945 if Horgus friendly) (WBL 16.000/Character)
Sword of Valor Level 6-9
Total Treasure: 241.199 GP (WBL 30.000/Character)
Demon’s Heresy Level 9-12
Total Treasure: 810.520 GP (WBL 62.000/Character)
The Midnight Isles Level 12-15
Total Treasure: 910.262 GP (WBL 122.000/Character)
Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth Level 15-18
City of Locusts Level 18-20
Total Treasure: 3.675.002 GP (WBL 350.000/Character)
It's of course not accurate to the last gold piece, I surely miscalculated some things a bit and in the last adventure I didn't bother to look up the piddly prices of the base weapons and dropped some 0,5 GP here and there. I hope those numbers help some GM's, though.
I think this needs to be emphasized, there's so much truth in it.
Brain in a Jar wrote:
Yeah, but what seems to be forgotten here is that Iomedae is not a fallible mortal queen, but rather THE goddess of honor, justice and righteousness. Of course an evil or even neutral deity doing this would not be out of character. I could even see some good gods (Torag and Erastil) losing their cool. But a god with those specific portfolios has to be better than what was presented in this module.
Not to forget the incredible stupidity of antagonizing in so many possible forms the very people she depends upon to act in her stead.
Hey, you do know that maybe people could play characters with other motivations than fawning over Iomedae, right? I got a cleric of Asmodeus with some deep-seated personal problems towards Iomedae in particular in the group. This will probably be the defining moment of his personal journey as a character and if I'd place that torture-happy version of Iomedae on display, it would probably destroy everything him and me have been working on so far in the campaign.
You get to communicate with her again, and if you were smart and didn't accept addditional favors from her before, you get a permanent +5 morale bonus to Will saves for noticing that you were able to leave a permanent impression on her. Later on, you can get to call her in for the final fight, but that means that she'll want to keep you forever in her realm afterwards. And in the "After the campaign" notes, one option is to either hunt her down OR help her ascend into a CN new deity.
Surprisingly to me, this module is noticeably below WBL for a four player character party. Excluding artifacts (because you can't price them), each player would get something around 72k gold less than what normal WBL between levels 15-18 would be. Not that ir is a huge loss, since the WBL in modules 2-4 was so grossly oversized that the party still is 200k over WBL per character. ^^
I'll have to put some loot into the module, though, to keep my six player party on the up and up.
The PCs are mythic heroes, and are the current Big Shots in Golarion, but she's a goddess, and powers like them get to do whatever they want.
And she is asking them a favor, punctuated by occasionally torturing the people she is asking a favor of, just because she feels that they don't say what she wants to hear. "Severe" doesn't cut it, especially since she is the THE goddess of honor and justice.
My assertion: Iomedae abducts the PC's and, while those PC's are utterly helpless before her, blasts them with bodycrushing sonic energy whenever they answer in a way that she doesn't like. This fulfills about every requirement of torture for me and is utterly wrong behaviour for the goddess of justice, honor and righteousness.
Session of February 04th 2014:
Quite an exciting session, although it was really only two combats. The first thing the players did was level up their characters to level seven. Immediately afterwards, while the player characters still were recovering from their fight to secure the bridge, Soltengrebbe the mythic chimera attacked! I used the reworked statblock by Sc8rpi8n_mjd (thanks, man!).
The party was quite scattered at the time of Soltengrebbes arrival, with the Barbarian and the two arcane casters being either on the bridge or up the river bank, while the ranger, cleric and paladin were all in the dried up river bed. The party had one round to prepare themselves and take potshots at Soltengrebbe before the beast came into melee range, which did not amount to much. The ranger managed to hit Soltengrebbe with one shot, which did not even penetrate the epic damage reduction. While the two arcane casters decided to seek some sort of cover, and the paladin and cleric both moved under the bridge, the barbarian stayed up the riverbank and decided that he wanted to face the chimera head-on, not realizing what kind of enemy he was about to face.
In the first round, Soltengrebbe spent a mythic power to get a natural 20 on its initiative check, going both first at initiative 30 and dead last at initiative 10. Soltengrebbe then flew up nearby to the Barbarian with a double move, but stayed at 30 foot height, refraining from using its breath weapon due to lack of multiple targets to hit. After the player characters went next (all but the ranger failing to do any damage), Soltengrebbe landed before the barbarian, took a hit from a readied action, activated mythic power attack and then hit with a single attack for 2d6+18. Then it took its next turn at initiative 30 and mauled the barbarian to -18 HP with a full attack (end of rage already calculated, so, yeah, he was still alive but down), for something like 150 damage. Yeah, the Barbarian is really resilient, due to the class, the campaign trait and so on.
The next two rounds did not go as good for the chimera, trying to kill the cleric next (who did a phenomenal intimidate check against the beast, inflicting the shaken condition for two rounds), but Asmodei had cast Mirror Image during his prep time and only got hit once by the ensueing full attack, while the images took all the other hits.
Soltengrebbe suffered heavy damage from all sides during this round, getting hit critically by the Ranger with her composite longbow for 41 damage after DR 10/epic. Realizing that it was about to die, it ran over to Mirei and with its last full attack put her down to -60 HP, killing her messily. There was some other stuff going on after that, which was due to roleplaying reasons, but suffice to say that Soltengrebbe did not get to see another chance to act.
After Mirei got raised from the dead and had a Restoration cast on her (both available from scrolls the party had aquired earlier in the campaign), the players got to apply the second mythic tier to their characters, which took up the next 20-30 minutes.
The party decided to still go after Moxsabuul the Berbalang on the same day. This was a much more sedate affair, with the Berbalang using its Projection ability to attack them once outside its mausoleum and then getting quickly battered into submission once the PC's had broken down the two stone doors.
Still, quite an exciting evening on all parts, with a mythic monster which really deserved that title.
Mythic power used: Quite a lot. At the end of the session, a lot of PC's had spent all their mythic power. Both arcane casters have spend all 5 mythic power available to them. The cleric has spent 3, the paladin 4, the ranger has spent 5, the barbarian 3. After they rest, they will recover 1d4 points, but they will go into the attack on the towers and the final assault on the armies not at their best. I presume that they will recover most of it before they enter the citadel proper, but while mythic abilities give a ton of flexibility, they also are spent really fast.
Surge is used quite more often than I had presumed before the mythic part of the campaign got rolling and the base path abilities (Wild Arcana, Fleet Charge, etc) get a ton of use, too.