Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
I never asked him to cast a spell. I asked him to purchase a wand and use that, with examples being magic missile, acid arrow or flaming sphere.
I'm aware of that. I'm also aware that he needs to be a team player at the table and respect his teammates wishes by making a minimal investment. He doesn't have to redefine his character. He just needs a viable option for when he doesn't want or need to use up memorized spells. It's not unreasonable.
To quote a wise man about taking risks, "Lady, you're my kind of stupid." I think that's the best way to understand fighters: they ARE the brave ones, the ones who go where angels fear to tread. They do it without divine support, advanced technology, or unknowable arcane power.
Fighters aren't ordinary. They're extraordinary.
In one campaign, my buffing-focused cleric refers to the melee characters humorously, "Damn fighters, asking for buffs and heals all the time! It's like the only words they know are 'I need! I need!' Alright, so what is it THIS time?"
They know I'm kidding because my entire character is designed for buffing.
mcv: Buy a wand of magic missiles or acid arrow. For the GOD wizard you're playing, it's perfectly appropriate to do damage when you have nothing better to do. Any spell that does damage over multiple rounds is awesome for this: your damage dealers feel like you are helping and you conserve resources while "acting" every round. Flaming sphere is a good damage battlefield control spell for when you have nothing better to do or feel like you need to save your resources for BBEG.
For once, FOR ONCE!, you can have an effective infiltration campaign in Pathfinder. All too often only 1 person in the classic four man band is specced for scouting, so they go off and inevitably they fail a check and face a threat designed for the entire party alone for several rounds/minutes. No matter how you build your character, being a scout in Pathfinder is a death sentence. It may take four encounters, it may take 20. My stealthy character's response to my party when they want me to scout is, humorously, "Me not expendable."
Don't make them get a clanky tank. Emphasize that they all have to maximize their strengths. Take stealth and perception, illusions and charms, and silent spell. Enjoy a campaign where the players are cunning and their characters can actually put those plans into action.
You as a DM have to incentivize this behavior. You cannot thwart every infiltration mission simply because it's easier for you to DM a dungeon crawl. You cannot make the "one blown check always has catastrophic consequences" mistake: it's bad storytelling. Given them chances to cover for mistakes... like every heist movie ever made.
You will know your success when one of your players quotes the A-Team: "I love it when a plan comes together."
I would rule that familiars can aid another on most skills that they couldn't use solo. To use Set's example, your rat familiar could fetch tools, point at a part of the boat design plan, remind you to take a break when you're tired by being cute, etc.
As a DM, you should try to find ways to say yes to things. Even better when your players get in the habit of convincing you with creativity rather than RAW.
Curse of the Crimson Throne is by far the best traditional AP: city-based so they know the setting well, there's clear lines of narrative, good variety in missions, very flavorful, and every class has a chance to shine.
Kingmaker is great if your players like world-building, kingdom-running, lots of freedom of choice sandbox adventures. That also goes for Skull and Shackles.
If your players prefer "classic" DnD then Legacy of Fire is your best bet if Runelords is off the table. It's also pretty easy to shorten it and have a manageable path that ends sooner.
If they like dungeon crawls, Shattered Star is basically only that, so they'll be happy to kick down the door while they guzzle beer and pretzels.
Second Darkness is very badly designed, doing a bait and switch early (the first two modules suggest you'll be staying local, then you leave and never come back), gaping logic holes (the elves are jerks, why are we saving them? twice!), massive requirements from the DM (there's not nearly enough support for the underdark, the last battle of the siege of the elves requires literally more than a dozen complex NPCs and Monsters for you to run). There's pieces that you can nick for your own campaigns, and some parts are very good, but man... not their finest effort.
As someone who met his wife at a game and did a One PC game with her during our dating and marriage, I have a few bits of advice:
There's going to be a lot more RP. You want to start collecting NPCs with memorable RP hooks--NOT BUILDS--that will help you when you need a chef, a fence, a dotty wizard, a guardsman, etc.
Always have a few different threads to get to the important places you need the character to go. You would not believe how demanding making all the decisions and having no one to brainstorm with is. So, the ferret's a good start to have someone to brainstorm with, but don't be afraid to add more companions, especially ones that you can dramatically kill in combat.
Kill a beloved NPC early. Don't make it a punishment for bad decision-making, but do it in a relatively important combat to show that there are stakes in these combats.
You've got your comic relief. Start giving options for your romantic B-plot. You want stereotypes of the rom-com romantic triangle here: the bad boy, the devoted one, the funny one, the rich one, sexy evil tempting one, the one that brings out the nurturer in her, etc. And you absolutely cannot be offended if her character sleeps with them all, cheats on her significant others, etc. This is a fantasy, not what she'd really do.
There's an obvious upside for you as DM if you design the romance plots well. Just sayin'.
The companion NPCs you build are NOT DMPCs. Never think of them that way. They are there to put the PC in the spotlight and support them. The build should always be inferior. Use "under the hood" feats that improve stats rather than complicated builds with lots of combat options. You want feats like Weapon Focus, Iron Will, Dodge. Try to stick to core-only for helper characters. You have WAY too much on your hands to be playing a complicated sidekick. And again, it makes your wife's PC the star, as she should be.
I recommend using an ancestral weapon that gets better as you do, rather than constantly looting the dead. It's cool and it allows the player to custom design their character. See here for a 3.5 way of doing it: http://dndtools.eu/feats/book-of-exalted-deeds--52/ancestral-relic--70/
Have some backup side adventures, in case she takes the left turn at a plot choice.
Good ol' magic missile. I had a new player have her character close her eyes to try to avoid getting hit by that spell.
Modify Memory. I let a player treat it like psychic surgery to heal trauma victims.
My player's used Charm Person early in fights to talk down the big bad. Then there's a game of wits between GM and player, as the player tries to get the villain to the cops without granting the victim a second save. If you don't freak out about ruining your GM plans, it can lead to great role playing.
My absolute favorite though is from 3.5.: benign transposition and malign transposition. The chance to switch people on the battle field is all kinds of tactical awesome, both on offense and defense.
The campaign: It's a time of crisis in the pantheon. All the demigods have to build faith share on the prime material plane or lose their spot in the pantheon. So every god with obscure, narrow, or unpopular portfolios has been picking a representative to make their case to humanity... while some of the evil avatars have been killing off the competition.
The PC in this one player game has been chosen by the demigoddess of good luck. (Not luck. Not bad luck.) She's done very well, allying with the Seelie Court of the Fae and the avatar of the aranea. She's defeated the avatars of bad luck, monstrous births (Lamashtu), the Unseelie Court, Zon Kuthon, and dwarven toil. She's met the avatar of rabbits, the avatar of worms and decay, the one of familiars, and the one of babbling brooks.
She's racing to Osirion to beat the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune's archaeological teams' attempts to uncover the Pact Stone and the mysteries of a pyramid lost to time. Queen Domina hopes to become a Herald of Asmodeus. (The Andoran revolution has just happened, sparked by Aroden's death, so Asmodeus' faith share is not secure.) The PC hopes to uncover an artifact that will spur her on to becoming a Herald, which is completed at... The Test of the Starstone.
The Chelaxians have a minor, ambitious pharaoh and permission to dig at one of the sites.
So, I'm running a high-level temple delve in Osirion. I'm using Entombed by the Pharaohs and Pact Stone Pyramid, leveling them up for a party about 15th level.
What I'm looking for, though, is for ways to make the SETTING memorable. Does anyone have any advice for making the land, its people, and its history come alive for players?
Go goblin alchemist. You'll have a +20 stealth check in no time, allowing you to back up the rogue so he doesn't die like scouts always do on solos. You'll have battlefield control and area of effect damage. You'll be able to buff party members if you take infusions. And very flavorful RP opportunities.
Do you run more toward Game of Thrones, or My Little Pathfinder?
Game of Thrones
The entire point of the campaign is that the PC has to increase "faith share" for the demi-goddess who adopted the PC during a "Deity Crisis" or be tossed from the pantheon.
Freeport city politics have played a major role.
The PC unionized Falcon's Hollow's lumberjacks. She also started a "Save the Fey" campaign.
The PC gave a speech on behalf of conscripted goblin pirates at their trial, arguing that they were forced to break maritime law. She ended up with a half dozen of them under her care, which meant that managing goblin insanity to prevent a mutiny became an ongoing plot. HOWEVER, she was able to get one of them to live a better life, and she was thrilled to know that his alignment, when he died, had achieved "Neutral with evil tendencies."
Regarding sexual matters?
Very, very, very mature.
An early adventure, drawn from Dungeon, involved cutting a spider-eater egg out of a live aranea. The abortion due to fetal anomaly metaphor was pretty apparent. Shortly thereafter I introduced birth control to the campaign.
The PC, a bard, is a sailor and has a guy in every port. Sometimes more than one, if the first is unsatisfying. Mind you, this is while she's engaged. The PC is Chaotic Good, FYI.
A cohort was pregnant, we roleplayed a difficult birth, then she had one of her new-born twins stolen by cultists.
A major enemy was Lamashtu, the demon goddess of monstrous births. Her divine agent was an ever-pregnant Mammy Graul in a birthing pool of Lamashtu's milk giving birth several times a day to form a mutated deformed army.
An assassin of Lamashtu caused the PC to miscarry due to the use of the Hag's evil eye.
A backstage murder mystery was resolved when the PC discovered she was sleeping with the murderer. Ironically, he wasn't very good in bed with her, despite using seduction as a major tool in his plan. I explained that he was "stretched thin" shall we say.
The PC's fiancee was kidnapped by vampires for several months, made their plaything while dominated.
The PC's goddess seduced the demigod of tiny biting flies to provide protection to the PC during a swamp adventure.
Two significant, beloved NPCs died.
Any other aspects?
A slavery cult mixing Zon-Kuthon and 1e's Slaver's Stockade was a main bad guy. Their plan to spread the faith was to start a drug addiction epidemic. It worked very well for a long time.
Still on the docket: Cheliax and Dagon. Gonna get grittier.
I've done this with a classroom full of 6th-8th graders. It can work. You need to make sure that everyone can see the tactical mat. You need to have very clearly defined characters given the very small amount of screen time they're going to have: think Avengers. For once, you're fine with splitting the party as it actually makes things easier and more cinematic, as you can do parallel montage.
Have a character optimized enough to be able to pull your weight in the party. Dying sucks. Do your part to prevent it. All the other players are counting on you.
Have a google docs for the party treasure list. Help the DM out by sharing who has what with him, so that he can seed the loot you need in the amounts that don't unbalance his campaign.
Try something familiar first, to get the hang of it. Then try something unfamiliar.
Interact with the NPCs. Pick up plot hooks. Try to think about advancing the story, but also helping to create memorable characters and an in-depth world. You, as much as the DM, are responsible for collaborative world-building.
Design your character's personality with a simple, easily understood "hook" that does NOT advance the mechanics of your character. For example: will not tell a lie, thinks halflings are adorable, is constantly on a diet, makes terrible puns. This should not be a "Secret" as it should show up often to define your character.
Do not play a wizard, a witch, a cleric, or a druid the first time out. Look at the thickness of the Player's Handbook. See how thick it is? You'll need to know most of it if you play a prepared spell caster. If you want to play a caster, play a spontaneous caster.
Consult optimization guides on the internet for research in character creation. Make your own decisions, but make them informed ones.
Take a rank in a profession skill. It's the cheapest mechanical way to add flavor to your PC.
Figure out what kind of game your table wants to play: immersive RP, tactical combat, or beer and pretzels kick in the door. Play that game.
Have a DMNPC, as it is really hard to problem solve with only 1-2 players and you want someone to target in combat when the PCs are on the ropes and need a round off. Also, it allows you to steer conversations and promote roleplaying when the players are having trouble. I'd recommend this DMNPC have a very static perspective so that anything you say is the character talking, not the DM telling the players what to do. So have the person always provide the same type of advice--stick in the mud, bookish nerd, let's do something crazy, whatever. Basically, you want a NPC that generates ideas, but not solutions.
Now, the major thing you have to worry about is becoming emotionally attached to this DMNPC. Don't do that. The adventure is always focused on the stars, the PCs. Design the NPC to be as easy to run as possible, with feats improving attack and defense stats rather than providing additional options. You want a healbot oracle or a sorcerer who focuses on buffing and debuffing. You're shooting for the most boring, average mechanics possible.
Energy attacks against objects do half damage before you apply the hardness of wood, which is 5. So, a 5d6 fireball, on average, does 3.25 points of damage to the ship. And kills most of the low level crew. You're MUCH better off targeting crew in pre-cannon piracy.
The only way around this scenario is if your DM rules that there is no ability to treat the wood against fire. Then the fire ball does 12.5 per shot. Look at the number of hit points a ship has.
Targetting the sails, on the other hand....
Your job as a DM is to make sure that the players are having fun. Everything else comes secondary to this. You're the host of the party.
STOP TRYING TO FIX EVERYBODY AND START FACILITATING THEIR CHOICES.
So, for god's sake, don't backseat drive their characters. There's few things worse than being told you suck in a fantasy of empowerment. STOP trying to tell the witch how to play her character. If you've got suboptimal choices from some of the players, lower the CR of some encounters instead. Let the players make suggestions to each other. (Have the oracle maybe talk to the witch about simple suggestions.)
What your players are telling you is that they don't find your plot interesting. It doesn't seem to have grown organically out of their choices, but is rather a railroad. The players are the stars. Let them find fae that help them with the plot or advance their personal interests or both. The witch is role-playing fine, she's trying to interact with the world and at least in part prepare for the plot with that army idea.
Basically, you need wands in this campaign. A wand of magic missiles is a great way to keep flexibility in spell slots while still having something to do in every round. You want wands that don't require saves due to the low DCs.
But that's academic, as you have an adversarial DM.
So, the best alchemical item out there is tanglefoot bag. Ranged touch, automatically slows the target's speed and may immobilize. In either case, stand back and use your speed advantage to kill with ranged attacks.
And if your barbarian closes with an entangled opponent, threaten to never buff him again!
The following are homebrew epic feats for a special campaign that I would love advice on. There's one player, playing a soon-to-be epic level bard. So, I don't need to care about whether these feats are balanced with other PCs. My only care is that they help the player taking them take on epic level challenges as a bard with two cohorts (a fighter and a sorcerer who are three and four levels behind her, respectively, and built as vanilla as possible for smoother game play).
The goal is for the PC to shine at epic level. The bard is the star and is not run as a supporting character the way bards usually are in campaigns with more players.
Oh, and I use 3.5 bardic music rules.
How are these feats for helping to thrive against epic level challenges? Thank you in advance for your help.
Epic Extra Music: Gain 8 more uses of Bardic Music per day.
Yodel: Your bardic music affects allies within 1d10 miles.
Ear Worm: By spending 5 daily uses of bardic music and singing for 3 minutes, you can program your bardic music effect to go off for your listeners at a time of your choosing (as an immediate action) for the duration of an encounter, as defined fairly by your DM. Effect ends if unused by the time you re-memorize spells.
Duet: By spending 3 daily uses of bardic music, you can, as a standard action, initiate two different types of bardic music simultaneously (e.g. Inspire Courage and Inspire Greatness). This can be accompanied by an obviously illusory effect (e.g. harmonizing with a ghostly double of yourself) with no combat application.
Big Band: By spending 4 daily uses of bardic music, you can, as a standard action, initiate three different types of bardic music simultaneously (e.g. Inspire Courage, Inspire Competence, and Inspire Greatness). This can be accompanied by an obviously illusory effect (e.g. harmonizing with a ghostly band) with no combat application. Requires Duet Epic Feat.
Choir: By spending 5 daily uses of bardic music, you can, as a standard action, initiate all types of your bardic music simultaneously. This can be accompanied by an obviously illusory effect (e.g. harmonizing with a ghostly choir) with no combat application. Requires Duet and Band epic level feats.
Grace: While wearing no armor and not using a shield, add one point of Charisma bonus to AC per epic level, with a maximum of your current Charisma bonus.
Love is a Battlefield: At the cost of an extra 2 daily uses of your bardic music, grant allies DR 5/- while bardic music affects them.
Arcane Cantata: Each bardic music daily use you expend as a free action for this purpose gives +1 the DC on your spells cast. Maximum bonus = +1 per five bard levels.
Advance!: As a swift action, you can order your allies to take a single move action on your turn. You decide how they move. Costs 1 daily use of bardic music per ally.
Rally: As an immediate action, you can spend one hero point to have an ally re-roll a d20 roll they just attempted.
Seize the moment: As a swift action, you can order ONE ally to make a single melee or ranged attack on your turn. You decide their target. Costs 2 daily uses of bardic music.
Undying Loyalty: As an immediate action, your words can stave off death. You or an ally do not gain the dead condition until the end of your next turn. (So, you could be healed when you are below -10 HP or get one last strike in before death.) Costs 5 daily uses of bard music.
Lyrics of Creation: Your Inspire Courage bonus doubles, but you take 3d4 nonlethal damage from the effort of mastering the music of the spheres.
Arcane Strike: Channel your arcane power into your blades. For every five caster levels, gain +1 to hit and damage. Activate as a swift action.
Harmonic Resonance: Allies within 30' get +1d6 sonic damage on their attacks when you are using bardic music.
Greater Harmonic Resonance: Allies within 30' get an additional +1d6 sonic damage on their attacks per two additional uses of bardic music ability you expend when using bardic music and Harmonic Resonance.
Epic Magic Ally: You and allied casters within 30' gain +4 to overcome spell resistance.
Epic Feint Partner: Whenever you or an ally successfully feint, all who threaten that target gain an attack of opportunity and the target loses their dexterity bonus to AC until the end of your next round.
Lookout: If you can act in a surprise round, all your allies can. Also, you can take actions normally, rather than take either a move or standard action.
Seize the moment: When you confirm a critical threat, your ally gains an attack of opportunity.
New Music: Choose one of the following
* Soothing Performance (Su): Use bardic performance to create an effect equivalent to a mass heal, at a cost of 2 uses of bardic performance per ally affected. Using this ability requires 3 minutes of continuous performance, and the targets must be able to see and hear the bard throughout the performance. Soothing performance affects all targets that remain within 30 feet throughout the performance. Soothing performance relies on audible and visual components.
* Frightening Tune (Sp): Use bardic performance to cause fear in his enemies. To be affected, an enemy must be able to hear the bard perform and be within 30 feet. Each enemy within range receives a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the bard's level + the bard'sCha modifier) to negate the effect. If the save succeeds, the creature is immune to this ability for 24 hours. If the save fails, the target becomesfrightened and must either cower or flee, receiving a new save each round. Frightening tune relies on audible components.
Forcing everybody to play Colson when they want to be the Hulk or Agent Romanov is not your job as a DM. What's fun for you is not necessarily fun for me. Let players play the characters they want to play, then find a way to challenge them. It's a truism for a reason.
If you use the 3.5 mob system, remember the wonky parts of it, as grapple was THE auto-win strategy. If the party is forewarned, they should all have freedom of movement up. But do you really want units of soldiers to be ordered to sheath their weapons and grapple at the front lines? Once a player gets a look at the stat block of any allied soldiers under his command, that's what they're going to do if the chips are down and the kingdom is on the line.
I just used the mass combat system in my home brew campaign. It was really swingy for the armies, but the conversion of PCs into hero armies worked pretty nicely and was fast to learn and play. The damage system and the low hit points of some armies were the main offender.
Going goblin nets you a max AC of 27 at second level, with shield + reduce person spells and dex boost, allowing you to serve as party tank. Their stealth and size bonuses make for a stealth bonus of +15 at second level too, at the cost of a trait that makes stealth a class skill.
So, that's tank, dps, and scout roles at second level.
Stop thinking of alchemist just in terms of artillery.
AC 13 means that if this ambush predator doesn't hit in the surprise round or is detected in the surprise round, it's dead by round two when AMBARBARIAN and Ninja double team it. This guy's either a finicky encounter or road kill. Combine that with blood points for little use and weird justifications for defensive abilities and this one's a little frustrating.
Good luck with the rest of the competition. I hope it works out for you.