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I have 5/6 regular players in my game as well. They are all very well seasoned players
I give XP from the 6 player column and use the slow advancement track.
I've also began experimenting with the use of other skills other than perception to devalue it.
Chess Pwn wrote:
I do not like new PC's being brought in either. Mostly, because they get to cherry pick and optimize their gear. Another part of PC death is what happens to their gear. All of a sudden the other PC's can have a significant economic bump.
When I DM I insist players have an adventuring contract and will's that spells all this out.
As DM I have final approval on all contractual clauses and wills.
Generally, all treasure is split x+1 where x is the number of players and the +1 is the 'party tresure" for raise dead, party expenditures etc.
All that said! I hate player death in AP' after the second book, it throws all kinds of monkey wrenches into the plot, economics, balance of play etc.
Would love to read suggestions on how other groups handle it!
Overall, I find the players guides very helpful from a crunch perspective; helpful hints and traits to help players generate usable and thus more enjoyable PC's.
My expectation for SA as a Horror themed AP is slightly different than my expectations for a more traditional AP. Player specific tips and techniques for playing in a horror themed game will be covered in the Horror hardcover and Player's Companion I'm certain.
I believe having SA specific tips by class would be great. Especially for classes which may not lend themselves to the Horror genre.
When I finish DMing Serpent Skull this AP is next in the queue for our group, we rotate DMing duties, so I'll be playing. Totally excited about this AP since like Taks eluded to it's a nod to the "D" series of modules which I can remember playing in my high school lunch room way way back in the day lol.
When I ran this the party figured it out pretty quickly, they're all pretty experienced gamers, but the role-played it well until they had the evidence.
What was so much fun for me as the GM was developing and role-playing the NPC thoughts, motivations and actions (public and private) as the PC's uncovered the plot line.
I think it is this interplay that endears so many PC and NPC to this AP and ranks it among my top 3 AP's (3.5 and PFRPG) of all time.
Someone asked me about it recently and I told them it was a plot-line sandbox adventure. The GM, feeding off the PC preferences and emotions can go all manner of directions, from the popular Rebel Alliance thread, a lets join the Queen evil party thread, behind the scenes blackmail line or really what ever; then just stage the chapters and encounter areas as needed.
I am looking forward to the hardback release which will build on the fan favorites, more detail on the Gray Maidens for example. I am disappointed that Scarwall is rumored to have received the axe. This is one of the great castle crawls of all times. My PC's loved it!
I don't GM everything, but I do GM every time I have the chance. I do it, because I enjoy creating an interactive story which emotes feelings of happiness, fear, wonder, surprise, relief, sadness and anger in my players. It's so enjoyable for me, I turn 50 this year an have been doing this since I was in the 9th grade, its the only game I've never given up and never intend to.
Great question by the way. Nice to see something worth discussing on here once in awhile.
My unnamed party of explorers stood in the shelter of a ruined building and stared up at the seemingly unassailable walls of the ancient grey-stone Azlant fortress. The hunter Kells removed the beaten copper spyglass from its protective case, extended it and scanned the wall.
“Six charau-ka and some dire apes!” he stated matter-of-factly to his assembled companions.
“Piece of cake!” quothed the Sarenrite Xnion, the rest of the party looked at him dubiously.
Kells eyes took on an opaque appearance as he tilted his head back and sent his mind’s eye searching for his animal companion quetzalcoatlus; “Perhaps quetzalcoatlus can reveal what lies beyond the walls to me.” A moment later he was peering down into the fortress through the eyes of quetzalcoatlus.
“There's a large, white, four-armed ape. Like an albino Girallon, but not, he’s escorted by four more of the dire apes!” His eyes fluttered and returned to their normal color.
Having a better idea of your enemy’s strength, a council of war ensued and plans were made. The party would assault the fortress.
Xnion and the dragon blooded Illamain moved up the cliff-side trail using their magic to engage the wall defenders while the great bat ferried Obasi and Kells to the wall. The Kura-lion rider Ralimba mounted upon the golden Kura-lion assaulted the fortress gate and began bashing it down.
The charau-ka defenders rained volleys of stone-death down upon you while the dire apes sallied out to reap horrible wounds upon you with their bone-crushing fangs and razor sharp claws.
The white Girallon roared intimidating orders and vile insults; while raining hand-axes with deadly and painful accuracy at Obasi and Kells on the wall.
Flame, steel, spell and claw quickly dealt fearful death across the walls and rooftops of the ancient fortress leaving its cold gray stones dark with the blood of defender and attacker alike.
A great din of splintering wood announced the breaching of the fortress gate by Ralimba, and access to the fortress for himself, Xnion and Illamian.
Illiman identified the great white ape as an Angazhani. A horrifying magical beast spawned in the image of the Demon Lord Angazhani. Named Olujimi, the high girallon leap from rooftop to rooftop to frustrate his attackers, and dealt death with impunity while his troops constant sniping further eroded your resources.
With the knowledge that the High Girallon was resistant to normal steel; Kells quickly switched to cold iron and death hummed in those arrows.
The hyper-aggressive chieftain immediately focused his rage on the now dangerous Kells. Charging across the roof tops he overran Kells and Obasi’s position on a guard turret. Terrified Obasi leaped from the turret in fear for his life. Kells never had the chance Obasi roared in victory as his axed sliced Kells from shoulder to sternum falling him like sapling.
Obasi managed to stave off Kell's impending death with a simple enchantment, but overwrought with the righteous anger of a Chieftain whose castle had been invaded, wishing to intimidate his enemies and secure the confidence of his tribe; he tossed the unconscious body of Kells like a chamber pot from the fortress walls and into the rocky chasm 50ft below.
It would be his last act as chieftain of the simians of Saventh-Yhi. The mad minute of bloody death ended when, enraged with anger by the death of his stalwart companion Ralimba spurred his mount across the parapet and impaled Chieftain Olujimi on his lance.
Besides being a wonderfully written novel (best combat writing, even better than Bernard Cornwell), Twelve Children of Pairs, by Tim Willocks has the best literary example of a card reading I've ever read.
I love using Harrow Cards in my games but often struggle at giving intriguing interpretations of the cards; the above example was inspiring and I thought I would share, since it's a rare troupe to see in novels.
I won't speak to your specific scenario rather I'll give you the steps I take since I routinely have 6 PC parties. I use which ever action(s) seem appropriate.
A) Increase HP to max, keeps your baddies in the fights longer uses more resources.
B) Add extra baddies, increase HD, add levels, add hazzards
C) My favorite however, is to make the battlefield asymmetrical. PC's cant fly, bad guys can; in the forest bad guys with climb have a lot more freedom of movement, amphibious enemies in the swamp, etc. Then attack from multiple sides spreads those six out.
D) I never add extra treasure, and with six person parties, I don't allow the reselling of non-masterwork/special material items. I've also gone 100% to the slow advancement track and always give XP off the six player column. (we do AP's).
E) I've also started trying to find ways to reduce the "Perception Dependency". My PC's just stack skill points in perception and it's ridiculous. So I've started using other skills to replace this reliance. Especially knowledge, craft, and profession skills.
F) Another balancing act for large parties is to limit them to Core only. One of the problems with the gluttony of classes available is over lapping skills and abilities. I'm running serpent skull at the moment and have a Hunter, Ranger and Shaman for the most part none of them feel special because they all have such similar skills, abilities and spells.
All that said, getting the Action economy balanced can be very difficult, some go to easy and others very difficult.
1) Racing to Ruin feels too much like a rail road. The Race part is, but it's a 60-day race with all the space in the world for a DM to do what ever he wants, I had a blast working in all kinds of unique encounters. Tazion is not, its a small sand box, the the PC can travel with in it and do what they want. Mine went straight to the capstone encounter!!
It is a ruined city, while magic helps preserve it, it did nothing for the damage done from the Earthfall impact, so I see the city as having some substantial rubble to be over come, additionally, it's not staright line movement, it streets and ally ways.
I overlaid a grid on a PDF with 1/4" hexes and gave it a scale of 300ft, which is what I'm allowing my PC's to move in a minute of ground movement. obviously flight, mounts, climb speeds, etc change this.
If they're taking the time to explore, then I am charging them an hour of time per hex.
These are completely abstract, but help with tracking spell duration, etc
One of the players is a cartographer, so like on the Shiv, as he maps the area I usually allow them to increase their ground movement rates appropriately to again, abstractly reflect their increased familiarity with the terrain.
Friday's long session was an epic battle for the ruins of Tazion. I played Raogru (Nicknamed Ragu by my players) as an intelligent leader from the arrival of my PC's in Tazion. I kept his scallykind domain, but replaced it with the leadership sub-domain to reflect this.
When the party first entered Tazion they maneuvered straight for the Ziguarat via the well and tower. In their encounter with the Charau-ka at the well they used some heavy firepower and one Charau-ka escaped. Raogru, realizing a powerful enemy was in Tazion had the party shadowed.
Following the party's victory at the Ziggurat, having a better understanding of the party's tactics he prepared appropriately and decided upon a plan to attrit the PC's resources and invite them to attack his stronghold. His plan was aided by the departure of three PC's the hunter, to call a new animal companion and the ranger and cavalier to protect the hunter and check on N'kechi who was guarding the parties mounts. (Two of these players were camping this weekend)
With the early morning fog blanketing Tazion, Raogru led a force of 16 Charau-ka to the base of the Ziggurat. These came from the survivors and patrols which the PC's never encountered directly. With the fog covering everything but the uppermost level of the Ziggurat, the PC's established themselves on the high ground.
The night was quiet, eerily so when the cleric of Sarenrae took the last watch. As he finished his supplications, a torturous human scream echoed through the morning fog (a captured N'kechi enduring the scaling), followed shortly there after by the frenzied screams of charau-ka. As they began the assent on all four sides of the zigguarat.
The only other two party members present startled awake by the scream quickly took up defensive positions as the four waves of charu-ka reached the upper-level.
Raogru had blessed and prayed the entire contingent, and had placed resist energy communal and used his inspired command ability on one of the platoon's. This platoon would fight to the death, the others would fight as long as they were able.
The 3 PC's had a good fight, but in the end defeated the assault with good tactics, and superior power. Joined by the returning hunter and his companion, they head off to the temple (before there buff's wore out).
They approached from the north. I mapped the temple as a maze of tree roots, rubble, high and low walls. The perfect terrain for critters with a ranged attack, a climb speed, and good stealth.
The moans and suffering of the dying N'kechi (part of Raogur's plan) encouraged the PC's to move west. They found the maze and terrain frustrating along with the fog which gave everyone a 20% miss chance and limited LOS to 20ft.
The Charau-ka were very effective at widdling down the party's resources, there rocks don't do a lot of damage but it adds up over time.
They made there way east and when Chu-tak slithered out of the fog and snatched the hunter's animal companion, all the charau-ka took up the chant "Chu-Tak, Chu-tak"! Luckily the critter escaped on a well timed nat 20 escape artist check. Up until now Raugru had been a disembodied voice in the fog using Inspired Command to urge on the charau-ka.
He made his appearance by brachiating out of the fog and hitting the party with sound burst, the PC shaman promptly failed the save and stunned made an easy target for Chu-tak. Having Advanced knowledge on the PC's preference for fire spells Raugru had prepared himself and Chu-tak with protection from fire. With the main players on the battlefield, the surviving charau-ka maintained a never ending hail of rocks which only served to infuriate the PC's more. A critical hit from the gravity bow enhanced hunter did Chu-tak in and saved the Shaman's life.
A TPK was probably avoided by the party's sorcerer (copper dragon bloodline) his constant barrage of magic missiles and acid arrow wore on Raogru and forced him into melee. Even though a full attack from his mace drove of the sorcerer and then downed the hunter in the end, the Shaman's sleep hex spelled his doom!
The epic battle for Tazion took exactly 6 minutes of game time and near 6 hours of real time, and a blast for everyone.
Next week we start exploring Saventh-Yhi!!! Exceptionally stoked for that.
Last weeks game was a blast for everyone. Forced to withdraw and recuperate, they returned to the pyramid and a showdown with Issilar. It was an epic 18 round heavy weight slug fest, with every resource by both sides expended, the shaman was reduced to throwing an iron pot at one point. But in the end the party was successful in clearing the ancient Azlant temple and learning its secret.
They now stand atop the Ziggaurat as conquerors; while the howling death songs of scores of Charau-ka echo through the morning fog rattling the marrow of our heroes.
Can't wait for Friday! Extra long session for the holiday should get well into The City of Seven Spears!
All of CotCT is excellent, however Seven Days to the Grave sticks out as the best of the bunch and lots of fun to DM as well as for my players. I'm currently DM'ing Serpent's Skull (finishing Race to Ruin) and Souls for Smugglers Shiv has been the highlight to date. All of the Carrion Crown offerings are very strong, but for our group it would be a toss up between Trial of the Beast and Wake of the Watcher. Burnt Offerings is a classic, but I really enjoyed The Skinsaw Murders more. Lot's of people malign Second Darkness but I think it's better than its reputation and I really enjoyed The Armageddon Echo and Endless Night. Jade Regent also had a gem in Night of Frozen Shadows.
Based on my playing's those are my favorites, and I guess it proves what I've always known, which is I like low to mid level play the best.
I hate 6 PC's but I a long time friend of everyone in our group asked to join us and we have another player leaving on a 3 month trip this summer so we're at 6 players.
Yes, I certainly will make adjustments. We're using the slow advancement track, xp are divided on the 6+ players column, and I won't add more treasure all of which should keep things somewhat balanced.
In the end however, its action economy that breaks the game, so Bosses will have slightly larger entourage's and a lot of the minor guys will have maximum HP allowing them to stay in the fight longer.
And some guys will get a level or HD bump.
After almost a month hiatus as real wold responsibilities interfered with our game the party (now 6 strong) reached Tazion first. They wasted no time in clearing the wall and made straight for the pyramid passing through the Well and the Tower areas. Arriving at the Pyramid, they were pretty well checked by the Queen and her subjects and are now contemplating where best to lay low and restore themselves.
Of course Raogru is has been aware of their presence and is mustering his forces - The six strong party is just to difficult for the as written patrols of 4 charau-ka to make them even a nuisance. But a clan of them supported by Raogru well that will strike some fear into my PC's.
Issilar and his allies are still unaware of the PC's presence since they tend to avoid the Queen and here cronies but that won't last long.
Since my last update, the party has successfully escaped from Smuggler's Shiv and we will begin the next chapter, next session.
Highlights - As you might have expected 4 epic battles have ensued as this excellent chapter roared to its finish.
The fight with the RMD was difficult, but having wounded him two days earlier the RMD had not quite regained full strength. However the challenging terrain and the RMD's flight ability made this encounter standout.
Leaving Red Mountain, from where the first glimpsed are V they took an overland route, avoiding the trails, along the southern coast. The set up a base camp a few miles from V and began a recon in force in its direction. They stumbled upon a patrol, which was looking for them, and when one member of the patrol made it to V the alarm was sounded. My PC's charged right in lol. A massive battle ensued, and nearly all the PC's were down at one point or another. Gelik showed up to add some support but a TPK was averted only by a successful sleep hex on the leader.
After resting for two days they delved into the sea caves and there on briny, seaweed tossed shores were once again nearly TPK'D until a timely gravity bow crit from the Hunter took MTF down.
The first encounter in the ToB was tough on my PC mainly due to to great DM dice and poor party dice, that along with my parties lack of a rogue just caused the obstacles leading up to the big fight to degraded their resources considerably.
The final battle was tremendous, the PC's easily handled the mooks, but the BBEBG managed to dom the heavy melee guy and well it was looking really bleak with 2/5th of the party down, the hunter came through again with back to back solid hits to win the day.
I hope it sounds exciting, because the 80+ days my guys spent on the island were; both for them and me. I laid a 1/2" grid over the island and made each hex a mile which probably increased the size of the island but it was well worth it. That along with the slow progression track has made everything a bit more challenging especially the boss fights. So it's on too Eleder and the Race to Ruin!
In session 4 my intrepid heroes set off from their middle of the island base camp near area K in search of their missing castaway. The reason I arranged the capture of the castaway was to invigorate their investigation of the island interior, they were OD'ing the wreck scrounging, and it was burning way to much time and giving Yarzoth way to much time.
What do they do, head back to the northeast side of the island and burn three days traipsing around the area E creek system lol.
Finally, they decided to man-up and head to the southside where they overlanded up the creek to area N then swung south intent on reaching area X. So far random encounters have come up empty for cannibals, but my party's paranoia over the size and strength of the tribe is growing. Which is for the best.
The made a temporary camp site about a mile west of area W, and I had the Red Mountain Devil (RMD) conduct a hit-and-run attack them there as they're getting danger close to his lair. They defended themselves adequately, but know they're a bit weak to take him on. Session 5 is tonight so a good chance all the castaways won't be around for Session 6.
The RMD has some good treasure and I modified the bow as a kind of legendary item for my Hunter. He missed out on a cool item in our AOW campaign since we aborted before the party reached that goal. I worked an Azlanti based background for it, since I think that's one of the really cool themes of this campaign.
Session 3 finished last night with the PC's finishing up the castaway quests. They also have searched every ship wreck on the north end of the island. Their nighttime visitor has made off with Ghelik and They're having a blast!
Very happy I choose to use the slow progression it has really helped establish the tone I wanted for the campaign.
They've sprung a few cannibal traps and they're very nervous about beginning their investigation of the south side of the island.
Session two was just as much fun as the first. The PC's managed to capture a baby dimorphodon for Sasha and unlock her boon, though not before failing once when an improvised plan sent the Dwarven ranger down the cliffside. After resting they completed their raft and sailed for the wreck near the brown island. Over came that challenge, opened the boon, but fearing the brown island was a bigger challenge than they could handle, they moved on to the main land cheked out a few nearby wrecks and moved down the beach, encountering a unique giant crab. Ending their second week on the shiv.
Everyone is enjoying the exploration they've learned about some of the Shiv's residents and have some hypothesis on how and who put them on the isle. At the moment they're mission focused on the castaway quests.
I've been eagerly awaiting and preparing and preparing some more to GM this AP since its release. To say I am a huge fan of the literature which inspired this AP is an understatement.
Last night I finally go my chance to kick off the AP. The best part of the message boards is trolling through looking for great ideas from other GM's and players. As mentioned by a poster in the Smuggler's Shiv sticky I went with a "lost" style beginning.
I used the GIMP 2 application to create Hex maps of all the important locations through out the campaign, so the hex-crawl of the shiv has begun. I really must say this is the one improvement I would make on the overall presentation. All the major exploration locations should have had maps available with hex overlays in the supporting map pack. To support the hex-crawl I have modified and expanded the exploration rules from kingmaker. Additionally, I am starting the campaign using the Slow advancement track to keep the power-level in check just a bit.
This is my players first experience with a sandbox style adventure and they seem to be enjoying it so far. Let's hope it continues. They've succeeded in learning the NPC quests in their first week on the island and have managed to explore across the peninsula and get a good look at the bay and general view of the island. They're intriqued by the "brown island and the wreck near it so they moved their base camp to the tip of the peninsula where the plan to construct a raft and explore that wreck and island.
So far awesome fun and meeting all of my expectations!
Whispering Cairn: Acid beetle swarm and the wind warriors were very difficult. Wind Warriors had two PC's unconscious.
Three Faces of Evil: One PC was unconscious in the temple of hextor, the barbarian grimlock in the tunnel totally annihilated the same PC and I gave the kid a DM pass. The labyrinth was by far the most challenging it took them 40 rounds and frustrated them for almost 4hrs. My faceless one also hammered them dropping the rogue after rolling a 1 and a 2 on back to back Reflex saves vs his lightning bolts lol.
Blackwall Keep: With only the kyuss encounters left this has been a walk over, which is good since the previous two have been difficult and HoHR is going to be a hammer. It's good to give them a chance to flex their muscles and get over confident :)
My party did not take the arson route at Ell's End (that action is an awesome story!) However, they did come very close to burning the "Old Fishery". A quick Knowledge (local) check alterted them to the fact, that regardless of how bad the bad guys are. Arson is a capital offense in the City of Korvosa.
My PC's are all 5th level and I will begin the siege this Friday. This is the second time I've run AOW (first in 7 years) and this entire chapter was rated as "easy" by my players last time. To that end I am going to change a few things, but not many, getting to kick-butt every once in awhile is a nice change.
First - Agree 100% about the surviving soldiers. I will give xp for slaying lizard folk however, every slain soldier will reduce the xp by like amount.
Second - I created a wilderness map of the immediate area of the Mistmarsh (created by Dietrik Cicaeda)this will allow them to stumble around in the marsh, run into some hazards and denizens. It will also allow me to exercise the exploration rule-set which I really enjoy.
Third - Unless the party goes for a complete stealth approach as soon as combat erupts inside the lizard folk lair, they should react violently and quickly to defend their lair. This should put a lot of pressure on the PC's very quickly.
I think a hardback CotCT would be awesome for those who haven't enjoyed what is one of the best AP's ever. Converting/modifying this was a labor of love for me and that's probably why I wouldn't make the purchase. I took the awesomeness in the six volumes as written and turned it into something really special and memorable for my players and I. I don't think everything would have turned out near as well if I'd had it all done for me.
I reworked Lost Cavern of Tsojcanth as a follow on form my PC's. I located in the Mindspin Mountains and replaced the references to Iggwilv with Sorshen and had the parties Paladin imprisoned in the Prison of Zagig which I renamed the Prion of Eros. GM'd it as a Christmas special last year lol!!
My home group concluded Dragon's Demand last night. Playing 4 to 5 hours per session, once a week it took us about two months to complete. On a fun-meter of 1 to 5, one being a suck-fest and 5 being an instant classic I would give this module a 3.
The overall size of the adventuring area is huge, especially the Monastery, that I feel will be a "spatial challenge" for most groups. For the monetary ground level and the final encounter I flipped this challenge to a plus by moving the group to the floor, which was through back to our school days.
The "auction" was also novel and my players and I enjoyed that, probably the highlight of the adventure.
The final battle was a lot of fun as well. Here the large space is an absolute requirement for the BBEBG to really shine.
Please note that I play with a group that puts a lot of focus on roleplay but at the same time are power players and are very optimized. As such I need to keep the monsters on the touch side to keep them challenged.
The exact same issue here. Though my guys/gals usually focus a bit more on the power part.
The nostalgia angle is certainly an exciting aspect of this forthcoming AP for me. I've been playing for 30+ years, and I've converted quite a few 1ed modules to pathfinder for my players (currently two are teen-agers). However, what really excites me is that we're going back to Varisia.
In the end, it's the Varisian AP's I look forward to the most.