I find it interesting, that we now have a way for a player to clearly signal "Hey, I would like some of this in the future".
This is taking steps toward a better social contract between player and judge, and I'm all for it.
Sure, sure, some groups have already figured that out. But many have not, and anything that makes the game work better for new players is going to grow the hobby. Yay!
For me, it's about optimizing the concept first. That way, I end the process with a character that is fun to play.
Otherwise, the result gets you something like the 3.5 spiked chain tripper. Mechanically effective, but there's just something lacking when the answer to every problem is "trip it with my spiked chain". That's not fun for me to play.
In addition, at least in the games I play, there's a wide variety of problems and encounters. Having a broad range of abilities IS a kind of optimizing.
So, I decided to build a cleric of Desna, focused on travel and liberation, who fights to end the menace of slavery. Monk 1/cleric 5 means solid on acrobatics and quarterstaff fighting, but also can use diplomacy skills to get through situations. Or travel powers. Or clerical spellcasting.
Even so, I wish that I had more skill points to work with, the 2/level from cleric is just painful, and I have almost nothing in the way of knowledge skills. Access to Augury and Commune helps a bit, but it's still a challenge.
To my mind, the big game changer is scribe scroll.
After a while, scrolls become cheap enough that piles of them are possible. This tends to make skill checks largely irrelevant at higher levels, and changes the tactical nature of the game. There's a off switch to most opponents, or at least their most powerful tactics can be neutralized.
I'd probably not bother with adjusting fatigue according to temp. Con loss. It's a lot of time math to calculate, and the benefits don't seem to be there.
More importantly, I'd switch from a passive to an active system. Instead of giving players one more thing to calculate on their turn, allow them to spend a full round action to turn fatigue into hit points. Otherwise, no gains.
The advantage is that you reintroduce a kind of resource management, as well as an exciting choice to players: do I lose a turn to heal?
There's an easier fix for healing spells. Slow them down. That way, they are no good for combat, but still exist in the campaign world. X10 casting time should do it.
I started with a pencil and a character sheet, and I'm still using a pencil and a character sheet. I feel it gives me a much greater understanding of how the rules work.
So, I'd vote for cheaper third-party products, and no HL support.
You're entitled to your opinion of course, and I do think there might be a market for such a thing, but my great preference would be to offer it as an add-on.
$x for the book
I sympathize with the general idea, that having new characters spring from the forehead of Zeus breaks the versimilitude of the game world.
But I think you're overcompensating a bit. Remember, that making a new character in 1e (where that idea comes from) was FAST.
It was also the case that PCs tended to travel in hordes, with retainers, henchmen, and hirelings along for the ride.
For example: the Scarlet Guard is known to be made of 5th level fighters who use longspears.
With the Elven Kingdom, there are mid-level rangers who patrol the borders, and a college of wizardry that focuses on Enchantment and Divination.
Or, just put in the limits that probably already exist in your head.
(Maximum of three classes, including multiclassing, archetypes, and racial variants)
Miniatures are optional. You can be the boot from Monopoly, no one cares. Dig around the house, maybe you can find a Lego guy or something.
True story, I GMd a game at a con, and when the players got to a rocky area, I put a bunch of terrain out for them to maneuver around. I was asked immediately "Wow, where did you get those?"
I said "There's this great place, it's called THE GROUND. It's not a special gaming rock, it's just a rock."
It's an approximation, not a commandment.
My players were all starting to collect their first potions, scrolls, and MW gear, just like usual. It's just that I didn't need to give a five person party a chest of 5000 gp to ' keep up'
BTW, there is still an in-game need for magic weapons, so that players can overcome DR. We solved this with the +0 enchanted weapon, which makes a weapon count as magic, but doesn't do much else.
Some of this comes from the structure of organized play.
Without a consistent group of players or GM, the one thing that everyone has, and can rely on, is the rules that govern the game.
And that's why there's so much emphasis on what, exactly, the rules say, because in an organized play game, you can use rules to 'win' an argument against the judge for that table.
While I'm glad PFS exists, it's a different beast than a home game.
The above poster has some good points.
What do you do about treasure? PCs need less, so they should probably earn less. But how much less?
You've mentioned the approximate totals, but that raises new questions...
Do you audit the players wealth, or estimate?
+1 for the specialization. I got to overhear a conversation between a dwarven fighter and a halfling cavalier, both of whom were 100% optimized for combat...
"With a lot of these faction missons, you really need someone with diplomacy. You're basically screwed sometimes if you don't have that. You just have to get lucky".
You know who's at your table, 100% of the time? You. It didn't even occure to these two that THEY could be the person making the diplomacy check, or any other kind of skill check.
I literally was one roll away from having my character freeze to death when the ranger finally made a survival check. He was So built for archery damage, that he basically had no other way to contribute to the party.
In a game where there's a WIDe variety of challenges, and the composition of the table can change every four hours, I'd think people would make more versatile characters. But in my area, I'm wrong.
Kyle Baird wrote:
If we get to the point where a short-handed underpowered table wins 99% of the time, Then I'm never playing PFS again. What's the point if success is guaranteed? I want to work for it, I want horrible things to happen, and I want characters to die. Yes, even my characters.
Because that what makes survival meaningful. Otherwise, I'm gaining levels based on how long I can keep my butt in a chair. Might as well print out chronicle sheets and sign em myself, it would be equally challenging.
Like Kolokotroni said, it's a different game. If you play it the same way, you'll be disappointed.
The Alexandrian has a great post about Calibrating your Expectations, that's really worth a read. Jump down to the second half about Aragorn, if you're in a rush.
You guys clearly need to have a talk, in person, with each other.
- How challenging should things be for players?
Honestly, this should have been discussed before you start, but you can do it now, it's not too late.
Send him over to the Alexandrian, and have him read the Death of the Wandering Monster.
Instead of escalating with monster hps, there are better ways to rebalance the game, which keeps the bard in the game.
If not, bards do well with the enchantment and fear lines of spells, getting many of them at the same time as wizards, and before sorcerors in some cases.
When facing opponents that are immune, buff the party or shoot arrows.
There are a fut cut scene techniques that I use which work really well.
1) Show the world from someone else's perspective from time to time. You can even hand out stat blocks for individual guards. Then have the dragon attack. You get across the ideas you want (dragon is evil, dragon attacked town) without endangering the PCs.
2) I highly recommend the use of a blog or google document or something to communicate between sessions. You can write up a scene looking at the players from a common man perspective. It's basically #1, but in story form.
3) Flash-forward or flash-back. Start the next session with a dragon fight. Beat the party until they're concerned, then *poof* there's a flashback. You can also hand out higher level versions of the PCs, set up the final defeat of the dragon, and then flash back to 3rd level.
They might just get the message, that this is a high level opponent.
4) Finally, I usually have some NPCs that the players are attached to. Have the dragon ear one of them, to emphasize that it's for real and dangerous.
There were rules in 3.5's Complete Warrior for this sort of thing.
Personally, I think it's needed in the game system, in order to create a simulationist environment.
If nothing else, I'd allow a Sense Motive check. Maybe DC 15 for three rough categories, weaker, about equal, stronger.
The best things I can think of are:
1) Ammo can be shared. It might not be useful to have 50 flaming arrows. But a party of six characters and four henchmen with five flaming arrows each? Might be exactly what you need.
2) Versatility. In something like PFS games, where today might be giant vermin, and tomorrow is outsiders; where today is a balanced party, and tomorrow you are playing up, it can be nice to double stack the bonuses.
In a game where bad guys = CR appropriate for party, it's not as much of a big deal.
*special material ammo, on the other hand, is 100% worth it.
Ok, here's an idea...
H: Imp. Unarmed Strike
Your ability to buff will be FAR better with uninterrupted spellcasting
Channel Energy will be much better, so you don't have to use all your spells for healing
You STILL get to fight with scimitar and fist
You STILL get to push Dex, have 14s in Wis and Con, and forget about the other stats.
You have a hand free for spellcasting at all times
You get to wear light armor, which gives a better AC for cheaper
Bards are pretty awesome. They are wonderfully flexible and can always fill in when the party is in a tight spot.
This is also why bards are terrible.
If you are a barbarian, for example, you can walk around and hit things with your axe. Doesn't matter what the problem is, the solution is to hit it with your axe. Generally, the rest of the party will deal with the rest of it.
If you are a sorceror, you could easily cast magic missile at everything. That's where we get the joke "I magic missile the darkness". Again, the rest of the party will take care of the rest.
If you are a bard, you ARE the rest of the party. Now, you have to THINK. You have to CHOOSE. You have good skills, are decent in a fight, are decent with spells, have bardic abilities, and can usually heal. It's not as simple to know what the best move is. As a result, people can and do play bards poorly.
But when done well, bards are one of the strongest classes in the game. The barbarian and sorceror above will be 100% effective about half the time. A bard can be 75% effective about all the time. Overall, that's a more effective character, even if you never manage to do this.
It's worth pointing out that in Council of Thieves, written while the Core rules were still being written, has a few NPCs that Spring Attack and Vital Strike.
I don't see the big deal about it, and allow it in my home game.
If you want to play 'let's imagine', compare the vital strike to what a fighter could do standing still.
Levels 1-5, vital strike is better. You'll note it's not available.
When we watch it in play, a viable attack and move option means more movement on the battlefield, a much more dynamic fight, and in my opinion, a game that is more fun to play.
Without these options, we're back to the high level 3.5 routines, where melee types moved into 5ft range, and beat each other with full attacks until one of them died. For every fight, no matter what.
Watch Thor in action. He doesn't always just full attack, full attack.
I would love to see a character that had Thor's arrogance, and maybe the dazzling display feat.
Or get something like a shofar, and announce your presence before charging.
Likewise, you could easily play a character that was super interested in his own honor, and refused to take advantage of an opponent who had their back turned, etc.
You may find it easier to answer the "Who is this character, and how do they act" first, and then build the character.
I played in a campaign where we squared off against the monster of the week, on a featureless map without terrain.
It was INCREDIBLY boring. Yet, that's the situation those equations are best at.
If you really want to play the game, learn when to take the attack of opportunity, when resist energy is better than protection from energy, and when to switch to one of your three back up weapons.
If you want to enjoy the game, optimize for FUN
Personally, I think you can solve the whole thing with a social combat system.
And no, I don't mean a diplomacy check. That's as much fun as making fight checks would be to see if you win a combat. I'm talking about something like the Duel of Wits system from Burning Wheel, or <insert favorite indie RPG here>.
If we rewarded people for roleplaying, we would see more of it. Just like the innumerable rewards for people who overcome all of the other sorts of challenges.
Chuul would work well, as would anything from the hag family.
Will-o-the wisps are classic swamp monsters.
And I'd probably put a colony of something out in the gulf. Deep Ones would be my favorite, but +1 for Aboleth.
Pirates make sense, depending on what year it is. Louisiana has been Native American, Spanish, French, Creole, Confederate, and Union over the years, so try to play up the long history of the few cities as well.
And don't forget the shambling mound.
When you are done, a suit of splint mail is an AWESOME thing for prisoners.
1) Wizard or sorceror? Huge arcane spell failure and slower movement.
2) Druid? Monk? You just shut them down completely.
3) Melee-type? It's still easier to hit him than in the +1 full plate he was wearing, marginal utility.
4) Rogue? Can't tumble, can't evade, and now moves 20'. Armor check penalty if they do try to sneak away.
5) Cleric? Not proficient anymore, difficulty fighting.
You can just move next to him. Then he's silenced too. ;)
But yes, this is a player issue, not a character issue. You're playing with someone who is immature. No spell will fix that.
Of course, the silent spell feat counters this, as would a metamagic rod of silent spell.
You will need to spend some time describing Westcrown, the pc's will be there for quite a while. There's a lot of ways to do this, but a few key ideas you need to hit.
1) shadows attack at night
I might head from the Baron's to Westcrown, and have the PC's invited to the Mayor's home in a few days. Run the feast from book two, and instead of a celebration, it's a reminder of the power of the aristocracy and how the PCs are on a short leash (assuming the players sided with Andoran in the previous mod).
Then, before the players get to attend, have the Children of Westcrown contact them, and explain that they need something from within the mansion. Doesn't really matter what, though the keys to Delvehaven would work.
I'd follow with a chase scene, using the new chase deck, or the rules from the GMG. Hellknights and hellhounds arrive to beat on players, children of westcrown run. If the NPC's run, the players are more likely to follow.
The feast introduces a lot of important NPCs. If there are other people you want to have in your campaign, put them there as well. You can fill in any backstory you like easily:
"oh, did you hear, there's a new gang in the Dospera, tieflings if you can believe it. Murdered some commoner, don't know the name" etc.
I would get a copy of an indie rpg game, something like universalis, where things are built collaboratively. Offer to run a demo some week.
It'll be tough, because he's used to having his way, and everyone else is used to sitting there and taking it. But enforcing the clear rules of the game will demonstrate a more collaborative style of game to your table
If no one likes it, your back to the options listed above.
The best way to have recurring villains is to have functioning law enforcement.
If PCs can stack bodies to the sky like serial killers, then it is way tougher. If murder is actually illegal, then it is tough.
And NOTHING will make them hate an NPC more than showing up with the cops "yes, officer, that is my armor and weapons. Those are the men who assaulted and robbed me"
Actually, some of the problem may be...youth.
I've been playing this game for a while (has has the OP, I suspect). I can remember when you HAD to roleplay to differentiate your character from the next guy. We didn't always have archetypes, or prestige classes, or kits, or even non-weapon proficiencies.
If you were new, though, you might take a look at something like Ultimate Combat, and see scores of new weapons and armor and archetypes and think "That's it! This is how I will build a unique character. I will build a scarred half-orc cavalier riding a giant pig wearing bone mail. No one will forget him!"
Except, of course, when it comes time to actually play the game, this interesting character becomes "I roll to hit, aaaaand, that's AC 19, aaaaand that's 9 points of damage". Same as last time. Even worse, this guy think's he's role-playing, and may even call it that.
When we've got two ideas sharing one word, it's going to get confusing really fast. Just look at the thread above, and see how many people added definitions as a way to clear things up. It's a few.
If you already know how to role-play a character, then you don't need anything else. But what if you don't?
So, Paizo, can we get some advice on making interesting characters for people who would like to be better at role-playing but don't know how?
PS I'm also hoping we can name this book "Ultimate Mustache"