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walter mcwilliams's page

RPG Superstar 6 Season Dedicated Voter. FullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 640 posts. No reviews. 1 list. No wishlists. 2 Pathfinder Society characters.


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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.

One of the changes I made was the final encounter prior to arriving in Kalabuto. Made it a haunt.

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.

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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.

My party:
Dwarven Ranger
Assimar Sorcerer (dragon blooded)
Mwangi Shaman
1/2 elven Hunter
elven cleric of Sarenrae.

So far awesome fun and meeting all of my expectations!

I'm using the medium xp track in a PF game we're beginning The Champion's Belt next week and the PC's just made 7th level. They're challenged.

RIP Aden Wolfswift - While searching/rescuing his captured party mate Balian; Aden was cut to ribbons in the upper-level of Sodden Hold.

Can you ignore Inspired Rage or does the fact that you are an ally and able to hear the performance effect you automatically?

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.

For the Temple of Hextor I used Metallica's cover of "Am I Evil"

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.

If any divinations are cast they could provide clues as to the best place to seek the evidence.

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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 played my Ulfen PC for Jade Regent with the shield fighter archetype and had a blast sword and board the entire way. One of the most enjoyable PC I've ever played. There is some great inspiration in Cornwell's saxon series.


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Marco Polo is an excellent show!

I'm playing a kind of mongol/tarter themed guy in our Kingmaker campaign. I figured the River Kingdoms would attract all kinds of people.

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!!

Super Fun!

Stephen Dickson 436 wrote:

@ walter

None of your PC's became the new Blackjack?!

They did, however in order to maintain his anonymity I did not disclose which.

For me it's a toss up between Korvosa and Magnimar.

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.

As the DM I loathed the maps! We're old school and I hand draw my maps and the color choices for the maps (pdf and book) clashed way to much and it made it extremely difficult to reproduce. I'm donating my maps to my local PFS chapter so that no DM will have to experience that level of agony again.

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.

I thought the opening "title sequence" was a novel idea and I liked it.

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.

Kennesty wrote:
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.

Marik Whiterose wrote:

Has anyone re-imagined Balko as an Alchemist? I'm working on him as such but am having a hard time coming up with extracts for him.

I also reworked the Queen's Physicians as Alchemists in my campaign with Dr. D being the Vivisectionist archetype (I just didn't see him as the bomb throwing type).

Here's what I had in my notes.

Yargin Balko
LE Medium humanoid, male human alchemist 2
Init +6; Senses Perception +5
AC 14, touch 12, flat-footed 12(+2 armor, +2 Dex)
HP 18 (2d8+2)
Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +1
Spd 30ft
Melee dagger +1 (1d4/19-20)
Range Alchemy Bomb +4 (1d6+2 acid) or wand +2 (1d3)
SA 4/day bombs, Discovery (acid bomb), poison use, Mutagen
Extracts bombers eye, true strike
Str 10, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 10
Base Atk +1; CMB +1; CMD 13
Feats Point Blank Shot, Brew Potion, Throw Anything, Improved Initiative
Skills Appraise +7, Craft (alchemy) +8, Disable Device +7, Knowledge (arcana) +7, Knowledge (nature) +7, Perception +5, Use Magic Device +6
Languages Common, Gnome
Gear wand of acid splash (8 charges), 3 x vials of acid, 2 x tanglefoot bags, thunderstone, leather armor, dagger, light crossbow, 10 bolts, formulae book, garnet amulet worth 100gp, keys to cabinet in A7, doors in/out of A6.

The NPC who to this day is most hated by my players is Dr D and his troupe. Made them all alchemists and bombed the heck out of the pc's with no regard for the splash damage killing off or wounding helpless patients.

He managed to make it to the basement area. My groups heavily armored paladin hurled himself down the elevator shaft to catch and dispatch him.

Great Times!!

The spider guy is a great second. Devargo I belive.. My PC's took the diplomatic route at first, but the paladin couldn't live with that choice and went back on his own and challenged the dude and ends up a prisoner. The ensuring rescue mission was to say the least not a well planned and executed hostage rescue lol. It was however successful and big fun!!

Instead of a Noble from the Mist Marsh I would use Marzena. I would also have at least one servant or attendee be a member of either the Vecna or Hextor cult in disguise; I might be inclined to use one of the cult leaders but probably not.

I do like this idea and will like likely use it in my own upcoming campaign.

Kennesty wrote:

I will be working on one soon, our Rise of the Runelords game is coming to a close probably sometime around beginning or mid-January. They are just about to finish off Mokmurian and enter Sins of the Savior, to which I have already prepared extended backstories and are now working on Spires. Once I'm done that I am going to work on Curse, but I've already did some class changes to the following:

Gray Maidens are predominently Cavaliers.
Queen's Physicians and Doctor Davaulus are Alchemists
Bahor is an Investigator [Mastermind] and intend to play him like Moriarty.
Vimanda I made a slayer simply because I felt Monk didn't quite fit the character.

I would be glad to share what I write up when I finish working on it.

I made the exact same changes to the Gray Maidens and the physicians/Dr. D. Slayer and Investigator were not available, but those are good choices.

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My group had an end of campaign party and I wrapped everything up with a power point presentation that gave the PC's and the NPC's closure. There was significant emotional investment in the story, PC and NPC.

Amelizia, elderly Urban Druid - Married Vencarlo and was selected as the Kingdom's Ambassador to the People and tasked to oversee the reconstruction of the city.

Bhadi - Oracle of Desna - Last seen at the Temple of the Moon living the dream.

Dogkiller - 1/2 Orc Shoanti Barbarian - Married Krozan and had twins named Thunder and Fang. Works as an ambassador of peace between the tribes and Korvosa.

Markus wearbear (deck of many things) monk- Converted the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden into a dojo for the cities orphans and uses the area underneath for shadowy business.

Othello - Bard - Became the toast of the city when his opera masterpiece "Curse of the Crimson Throne" premiered. Rumored to be the secret lover of the new monarch.

Olorin - Wizard - Realizes his goal of raising his minor house to the status of Noble house is selected to the Council of Nobles.

Tobry and Serenthial - Charged to establish an order of knights to guard against other evils which may dwell in the catacombs beneath Castle Korvosa. He disappears shortly after the new monarch is crowned.


Neolandus - Stays on as Seneschal until a new monarch is selected then retires to the country with this lover Salvator.

Field Marshal Kroft - Becomes the New Seneschal.

Vencarlo - Marries Amelizia and lives a life of comfortable philanthropy.

Grau Soldado - Promoted to Captain and eventually becomes the first Vistani Field Marshal

Sabrinna - Is tried and found guilty. However, both Vencarlo and the PC's vouch for her and her execution is commuted to banishment. She and a few loyal maidens ride out of town that night.

Verik Vancaskerkin - Is freed from Longacre in the final days of the rebellion and serves with great elan. Eventually re-earns his rank of sergeant in the new Korvosan Guard.

Majenko - The Pseudodragon leads the rest of his kind in a grand hunt through the skies of Korvosa slaying or driving most of the imps out of Korovosa except for a small gaggle near the Acadame. He becomes the Prince of Dragon’s in Korvosa and lives a long life of comfort with his harem.

Trinia - Trinia opens a successful art studio in South Point and is chartered to restore the artwork defaced and stolen from Castle Korvosa during Queen Ileosa’s reign. Additionally, Othollo colaborates with her to co-write the music to Curse of the Crimson Throne at which point she becomes romantically linked to him.

Arkona Family - Following the raising of their home, they are never seen again.

Rolth - In the final weeks of Queen Illeosa’s rule Rolth became an important pawn in the queen’s end game. He established a collection facility in North Dock where he was responsible for hundreds of deaths; syphoning the final quantities of blood necessary to complete the Queens transformation. With the fall of Castle Korvosa and open rebellion Rolth fled Korvosa and has not been seen since.

The council of nobles debates for several weeks. Rumors swirl, and the city holds its collective breath. Finally, after 13 days of deliberation the Council selects

Zenobia Zenderholm

I've since run one sequel - I completely rewrote Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth as bolt hole / cache of Sorshen. The PC paladin was entrapped in the Prison of Zagig and needed rescuing. Awesome Fun!!

I am so psyched to run this for my group. I've been planning for over a year waiting my turn in our DM rotation!!

lastknightleft wrote:
Really, with archtypes I was really hoping we would see less of the glut of base classes that 3.5 had. But nope, ultimate combat comes with 3 more classes. ultimate magic with 1, advance players guide with 6. I was excited about advanced players guide because I thought okay this book will have new base classes and that'll be it at least for a while, but no, in the two years you've been making rulebooks we see the release of 10 new base classes. Well, I can say I'm dissapointed. Odds are I will not be picking up ultimate combat, or ultimate magic (which bugs me because I liked words of power) because I just can't bring myself to support this kind of class bloat, which is the exact kind of thing that started wearing on me in 3.5

Yep, done with it. Everything I do going forward is core/APG/Ultimates. Anything after that is non-grata.

kbowen0188 wrote:

One of the things I worry about with the AP is that at some point some of the players may decide that it is simply better to up and leave instead of dealing with what is going on. I am working on a few different ways to really develop a genuine sense of attachment to the city, both to avoid this happening and to really get the players invested in the story as it plays out.

While designing a few things here and there, I thought I might ask some of you folks if you've ever done anything like this and if so, did it work?

Hopefully, like others have said in their responses to your posts, your players understand their role in the story intuitively. Even if they do however, we as DM's should give them something to really sink their teeth into. All the previous posters have given great advice on this and the only two things I can add are:

a) I did an in-game newsletter "The Korvosa Chronicle" which my players enjoyed and if you search the boards there are details available. This gives you an outlet not only to connect with the PC's but to unload a lot of the background info.

b) Once they connect with an NPC or two kill them off (7-days is a great way to knock off NPC or PC family members / friends) or injure them in someway. This serves two purposes. First, it endears them to the city and her citizens and second furthers their dislike for the villain. My PC's really connected with Kressida. As the villain rose to prominence Kressida and the Korvosa guard's responsibilities and prominence fell. My group disliked that a lot and really rallied behind her.

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I created an in game newsletter I named the Korvosa Chronicle. It gave a voice to Korvosa and allowed me to impart a lot of backstory information, drop red herrings etc. It also gave allowed the competing factions (pro-Illeosa vs. rebels) to give voice to their positions. In the end, I had the Chronicle go underground as Illeosa's reign became bloodier and more controlling.

It was fun for me as the DM and the players.

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Best blog post of the year!

Tels wrote:

By the way, if the player does play as a Cavalier, and makes it up to Scarwall, you *need to have an improptu Jousting challenge between the Cavalier and Sergeant Lashton on the Causeway.

You could do it by having them roll Initiative each round, but that only matters for who attacks first. Otherwise, movement takes place at the same time, and a tie in the initiative roll means both characters attack at the same time.

I would also rebuild Lasthon to be a bit more effective on a charge myself, but opt for a much more tanky Lashton so no one gets one-shotted on a Spirited Charge.

The ACG released just before I began HoA so When I ran CotCT I rebuilt Laston as a cavalier (order of the dragon of course).

As for the mount question in general, I really can't add much.

On a "cavalier" note, I also modified the Order of the Lion Cavalier order to a non-mounted order and converted all my Gray Maidens.

deusvult wrote:

Agile weapon enchantment.

Enough with the Dex-to-Damage crud. If you want to do damage, invest in Strength.

Or any stat for that matter!

Secret Wizard wrote:
Varalash wrote:

3 - Can I combine this with a swift dismount? assuming I need to for whatever reason, attempt a swift dismount (if successful, free action DC 20 ride) then full attack. (If I fail it's a move action, so I'd still get a single attack?)

Level 7 Roughrider class feature:

Leap from the Saddle (Ex)
At 7th level, after a roughrider’s mount takes a single move, he may attempt a fast dismount (DC 20 Ride check). If he succeeds, he can take a full-attack action.
This ability replaces Armor Training 2.

I think that you cannot combine it with a swift dismount since the point of Mounted Skirmisher is that you are better at using your mount's movement to attack.

I agree 100%, I also don't believe you can spit it up.

Atarlost wrote:

Chaotic Good Paladin

Lawful Evil Paladin
True Neutral Paladin
In fact every possible paladinoid except the already extant paladin and antipaladin

Completely Pet-less unmounted Cavalier that still has Tactician


CG Paladin - See Charlie Bell's RPG Superstar 2013 entry here

Completely Pet-less unmounted Cavalier that still has Tactician -

I converted my CotCT Gray Maidens to this.

Does anyone have a map of Saventh-Yhi with a hex overlay on it? Can anyone recommend a software application that can accomplish this?

Shackled City (DM)
Age of Worms (DM)
Savage Tide (Player)
CotCT (DM)
Second Darkness (player)
Jade Regent (player)
Carrion Crown (Player, Chapter 4)
Kingmaker (Player, chapter 1)
Serpent Skull (on deck circle to DM)

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I play with extremely experienced gamers so I run all my AP's. one-offs, etc at 15 point buy in. I limit max starting abiity scores, including racial bonus to 18, and minimum to 9. I like the 1st ed. feel 15 point buys have. I remember when a +1 bonus was great and anything better epic lol.

The subject line of this post might be the one tag line that actually motivates me to give this a try!

Converted The Lost Cavern of Tsojcanthlast year as a sequel to my CotCT campaign

When I and my fellow players played through this we loved it. I agree however, that the players must develop some level of empathy with the beast and his plight.

Why is NO Changes not an option?

PossibleCabbage wrote:
Durngrun Stonebreaker wrote:
Inquisitor gets Reapting Crossbows for free. With the Endless Ammuntion special ability, you can make a full attack with a crossbow without a single feat.
We're actually starting a campaign soon and I was thinking of making a Dwarf Inquisitor whose primary weapon is a repeating crossbow (it's not going to be a bow, because a dwarf with a bow just seems wrong, plus other concept reasons.) Other than endless ammunition on the repeater, how would you suggest building that so it's not incompetent in combat?

I've intentionally not procured endless ammo or any other game mechanic that would eliminate the handicap of having to reload. I like the challenge and game play of having to monitor your ammo.

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