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Run as Written vs. GM Caveat...Are we being hypocritical?


Pathfinder Society® General Discussion

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Taldor ***

I don't think failing to 'play as written' is necessarily the same thing as systematically making things more difficult.

I see it is 'tuning the difficulty up OR down, and only when the party is breezing or having too much trouble'.

The average mean over the entire campaign should even out, just as much as the frequency of playing up or down.

We're not really fundamentally disagreeing here.

I still agree we play combat challenges (and only combat challenges) strictly as written, I just reject that wealth/expenses 'excuse' as being nonsense.

Qadira ****

for example: at a local venue, there is a group of players that play for the same judge. I know this. I don't play there (to many of them cheat quite frankly, and it bothers me). They ALWAYS play up - because the Judge will "tune the difficulty down" to ensure that they can finish the mod. This ensures that they get the MAX gold (and access) from every mod. (APL is 2.5? as long as you can get 6 players you can play Tier 4-5).
(Edit: correction. They don't need 6 players. APL 2.5 now rounds to 3 doesn't it... so 4 PCs level 3,3,2,2 can play sub Tier 4-5)

When I end up playing with one of these guys at another shop, it can be eye raising how much stuff they have on thier PC. Also - they always push to play up, they've learned that they get more rewards that way. So, at the shop where I am playing with one of them, when someone in the party gets killed (due to playing up for a judge that DOESN'T "tune the difficulty" to fit the PCs abilities) it is normally someone ELSE (the rich kid has a slight edge on staying alive).

Whos at fault here? the kid how learned to play this way? The judge who "taught" him? Or the guy who taught the judge?

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Sorry nosig, but you must be lying because the notion behind your story has been very scientifically determined to be both "hogwash" and "nonsense".

;)

Qadira ****

Jiggy wrote:

Sorry nosig, but you must be lying because the notion behind your story has been very scientifically determined to be both "hogwash" and "nonsense".

;)

Jiggy - I had a friend with the last name of Pigg, he explained that Hogwash happened for him every morning in the shower.

as far as "nonsense" - heck, these guys got lots a cents - they get something like 1300 gp worth a cents every tier 1-5 mod they play! and they need 'em too, playing up like they do!

(and thanks! you made me laugh... I had forgotten Mr. Pigg, that was years ago.)

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

IMO, the play up/down issue can be mitigated a bit by (1)not rounding to the nearest whole number, and (2)requiring that you are beyond the mid-point between sub-tiers before allowing up. That means for you example above with an APL of 2.5, they would not be permitted to play up.

As it stand now, a table of three level 2's and three level 1's can play sub-tier 4-5, and if the GM is soft-balling, they could easily have double (or more) the wealth of a "normal" character within a short period of time.

Qadira ****

Bob Jonquet wrote:

IMO, the play up/down issue can be mitigated a bit by (1)not rounding to the nearest whole number, and (2)requiring that you are beyond the mid-point between sub-tiers before allowing up. That means for you example above with an APL of 2.5, they would not be permitted to play up.

As it stand now, a table of three level 2's and three level 1's can play sub-tier 4-5, and if the GM is soft-balling, they could easily have double (or more) the wealth of a "normal" character within a short period of time.

yeah, first time you see a 2nd level character with 3k+ in CASH ... it makes you wonder what's up... especially when you notice he just made 2nd.

My 2nd level played all three First Steps and got 1200+ total, 3 sub-tier 4-5 most nets a 1st level character more than 3,900 gp

*

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I'm a GM that unabashedly adjusts scenarios to make them more interesting. Making scenario interesting, unique, and memorable is the most important thing for me. To me, if you know something is broken in a scenario, it makes absolutely no sense to perpetuate the error again and again.

Having said that, I would strongly prefer not to make any adjustments at all. When I've made adjustments, 95% of the time they work great and I've gotten feedback from my players and they really appreciate the work I've done.

Here are some caveats to making adjustments that I follow:

1) Fluff additions to a scenario I'm going to assume are fine or maybe even welcome. These are additions that don't change any combat or skill encounters, everything mechanically is the same. For example, it doesn't really matter which VC gives the mission briefing (For example, I have Grandmaster Torch give a lot of mission briefings to my home group, since everyone is Shadow Lodge).

2) Making an encounter harder doesn't necessarily make it more interesting, it can actually make the scenario worse and sometimes too long. If the encounter is slightly harder after you make it more interesting, then so be it.

3) Making an encounter or faction mission easier is often a horrible idea, because you're making the scenario devoid of challenge. I've had 3 GMs do this and while they meant well, it detracted from the game. Everyone thinks of tweaking to make things harder but in my experience, more GMs tweak to make things easier, especially on faction missions.

4) Not all encounters need to be challenging, it's fine for mook encounters to be easy. The most important aspect of any encounter is that it's interesting and not wasting our time.

5) Having said that, many "main" encounters in PFS are too easy and it makes the entire scenario (and sometimes series), extremely anti-climatic. These easy endings have been a huge disappointment for me as a player, and I'm not going to make the same mistake as a GM. Why repeat errors? The encounter doesn't have to be a "killer" encounter, but it should be interesting and moderately difficult. There's really only two ways to deal with this problem, either tweak the encounter or don't play the scenario at all.

6) Some scenarios have too many encounters. If you're trying to fit a scenario into a 4 hour time slot, it's almost a foregone conclusion that you'll have to skip the optional encounter and sometimes hand wave one of the other encounters. Sometimes the optional encounter is the best encounter of the scenario, which makes things awkward, so sometimes it's better to remove or hand wave a less interesting encounter. I'm sure this change is not condoned, but it can make the game better.

7) The written tactics (and sometimes NPC builds) are horrible most of the time and they're the first thing I change. Often they don't even fit the strengths of the NPC (and often the tactics don't fit their motivations, personality, or the setting either). The tactics really need a lot of work in general. An NPC isn't the proper challenge level (CR) if you don't have them doing what they should be good at.

There are times when you can't change tactics however, specifically when the scenario says that the NPC has an Int of 0, you can't play the NPC like they're "Sun Tzu". As a GM, use common sense, and if you don't have any (or make bad judgment calls), don't change anything.

8) You never adjust an encounter on-the-fly to make it harder for the PCs. I've seen this backfire many times (by extremely experienced GMs too), and one innocent cheat (for the NPCs) can mean a TPK or death in the party, especially if they're already playing up.

9) You never adjust an encounter to "counter" the strengths of the party. Some encounters are going to be easier or harder based on their makeup. Let them have their day in the sun, it's ok.

10) An adjustment all GMs should make is to do a better job of reading the scenario (and making better notes). GM errors are especially common regarding faction missions.

The common opinion here is that increasing the difficulty makes PCs use more consumables, but this is complete hogwash in my experience. (I suppose that might be true if every encounter was APL+3). Sure, maybe a few more charges are used from a wand of CLW or Infernal Healing ( :) ), but that's a very minor expense, which is worth it if it increases player enjoyment. (My home game they're level 4 and they just started on their 2nd wand of CLW, so the expense is incredibly minor). In addition, if it's the final encounter of the scenario, that's not even true. If a GM is making each encounter so hard that the PCs have to use consumables outside of wands of CLW, he's doing something wrong and he should play scenarios RAW, because he's completely missing the point.

Again, for me, the most important part of a scenario is that it's interesting, unique, and memorable, and that my players have fun. I think that scenarios should showcase different NPCs builds and rulesets (even in the core rules), but it's rarely done. And it's a lost opportunity also, since there are so many humanoids used in PFS. It's not hard (and doesn't add word count) to add some personality to the NPCs. Make the NPC have a purpose.

I also want to mention that the play experience will vary from table to table no matter how RAW you try to present the scenario. Why? Because in my experience, almost all GMs don't run the scenario properly and make major errors when running a scenario. I'm guessing this is because they're trying to run too many different scenarios across too many different subtiers (at conventions like Gencon), it's not their fault (I couldn't do a better job if I had to run 6 scenarios over 5 days either). But it is what it is, RAW or not the play experience is not the same.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Jason S wrote:
7) The written tactics (and sometimes NPC builds) are horrible most of the time and they're the first thing I change. Often they don't even fit the strengths of the NPC (and often the tactics don't fit their motivations, personality, or the setting either). The tactics really need a lot of work in general. An NPC isn't the proper challenge level (CR) if you don't have them doing what they should be good at.

Can you give some examples of stupid tactics? I haven't GM'd as much as you, but I have yet to encounter a situation where the written tactics were so bad that I had to choose between running the NPC either intelligently or as-written.

You mention the builds also being "horrible most of the time and they're the first thing I change". I have to say I adamantly oppose this. Example:

Spoiler:
I was prepping Perils of the Pirate Pact, which was Season 0. The thugs being used for the first and last fights were humans with stats of 11/11/11/10/10/10 and no apparent racial adjustment. I was seriously tempted to insert Pathfinder's basic NPC stat arrays and a human racial adjustment (to make them "correct").

But I didn't. As such, I was ready for a cakewalk first encounter. But just by playing them intelligently (and within their written tactics), I dropped two PCs (without crits) and it was actually a fairly challenging and well-enjoyed fight. If I had adjusted the stats (thus making it harder), I don't know what might have happened.

So what build changes do you make, and under what circumstances?

Taldor ***

Jiggy wrote:


Can you give some examples of stupid tactics? I haven't GM'd as much as you, but I have yet to encounter a situation where the written tactics were so bad that I had to choose between running the NPC either intelligently or as-written.

You mention the builds also being "horrible most of the time and they're the first thing I change". I have to say I adamantly oppose this. Example: ** spoiler omitted **

So what build changes do you make, and under what circumstances?

I can, right off the top of my head.

Snakes in the Fold part II:

One encounter has 2 ranger guards that the party has to get past. They're specifically given tactics to buff up for archery spells (aspect of falcon, one other that eludes memory at the moment) and shoot away at the party.

Then you look at their builds. They're both frikkin' two weapon combat style. Of course they ALSO had elves as favored enemies instead of human, as every PC and NPC ranger in PFS should have ;)

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

deusvult:

Spoiler:

So what you're saying is that the PCs have to get by guards who aren't one-trick ponies and don't just crumple if you rush them, like dedicated archers would?

...o noes?

Shadow Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Eastern Washington aka WalterGM

deusvult wrote:

I can, right off the top of my head.

Spoiler:
One encounter has 2 ranger guards that the party has to get past. They're specifically given tactics to buff up for archery spells (aspect of falcon, one other that eludes memory at the moment) and shoot away at the party.

Then you look at their builds. They're both frikkin' two weapon combat style. Of course they ALSO had elves as favored enemies instead of human, as every PC and NPC ranger in PFS should have ;)

Indeed. However...

Spoiler:

...consider this. I ran Part 2 last weekend and things got incredibly hairy. The proximity of the PCs to the archers and their tactics of calling for the sub-boss to come out made that fight very different for my group. IE: they ended up fighting 2 archers, 2 metal snakes and the sub-boss. It made the fight far more challenging. I almost got 2 PKs (ended up being only 1). Had they been "built better" the party would have assuredly wiped. This was the low tier btw.

Taldor ***

Jiggy wrote:

deusvult:

** spoiler omitted **

Actually I'm saying

Snakes in the Fold goofy tactics:

As much as I say that I agree (more or less) that combats should be run as written, that one was SO stupid I deliberately skipped the two rounds of wasted time buffing up. The guards got two rounds of pathetic 1d8+0 damage rolls (pathetic for tier 8-9) and then switched to what they were good at once the party rushed them. Which due to some rough terrain, took two rounds. Seems perfectly reasonable, even smart to bait PCs into rushing archers that would presumably be 'helpess in melee'. But that's the opposite of what the printed tactics are.

On the other hand, the BBEG is said to stop attacking the PCs once she reaches 1/2 hp, and begin doing something that causes a minor, mainly faction mission problem. Basically, she gives up and the fight is over at 1/2hp because she no longer fights back.

I STILL ran that one as is.

*

Jiggy wrote:
Can you give some examples of stupid tactics? I haven't GM'd as much as you, but I have yet to encounter a situation where the written tactics were so bad that I had to choose between running the NPC either intelligently or as-written.

Frostfur Captives:
I love the Frostfur Captives, but I'd change the goblin tactics in the first act.

The following are tactics for the goblin shaman, a spellcaster.

Quote:

During Combat As her first move action, the goblin shaman

lights the signal fire, and then fires her pre-loaded
crossbow at the party approaching the tower. When
the PCs get to the base of her tower, she lobs a vial of
alchemist fire down on them, before descending the
ladder to the tower’s ground floor. She readies to cast
burning hands on whoever batters down the door (she’s
unconcerned about hitting other goblins). She then tries
to bring down other foes with her sleep spell, followed by
touch of fatigue.

A spellcaster, a cowardly goblin no less, is supposed to charge down a ladder (taking several rounds to get down a 50' ladder btw, not including the time it takes to move to the ladder and put away the x-bow), when a PC gets to the door (that's made of paper)?

Spellcasters should not charge melee. Period. End of story. Bad tactic.

In practice, even if you wanted her to perform those exact tactics, she won't even be able to, because the door will be broken before she can even get down the ladder. Don't write tactics that can't be implemented in practice.

Here's what the goblins should do. They're going to fire their crossbows at range as long as they can, including down the ladder. The shaman, at the top of the ladder, will have a readied Sleep or Burning Hands spell ready. If those spells are used up, they'll close the trapdoor and fire at any remaining opponents outside.

I thought this was a lot more interesting than the goblins spending their precious time rushing down the ladder, just to get stomped by powerful melee PCs at the bottom. It's a lot better watching heavily armored melee PCs try to climb a ladder. :)

Also, the encounter in general isn't threatening to the PCs, since the PC goblins should be in front (they're fast), and will be targeted. Also, there are many places to block line of sight (and heal up to full health with a wand of CLW if needed).

I ran it this way twice, with APL 3 both times (5 and 6 player tables) at subtier 4-5 and the encounter was not difficult at all either time, although it was hard to keep the goblins alive. Group #1 didn't even lose 1 goblin btw.


That's one example of many. Please note that a change of tactics was all that was needed.

Jiggy wrote:

The thugs being used for the first and last fights were humans with stats of 11/11/11/10/10/10 and no apparent racial adjustment. I was seriously tempted to insert Pathfinder's basic NPC stat arrays and a human racial adjustment (to make them "correct").

Yarrr!!! You did the right thing by not changing them. Like I said, the non-main encounters don't have to be hard, and some should be easy. It would be a good time wrecking a bunch of pirates imo, those scallywags.

The fact that they kicked your PCs arses, shows maybe you misjudged how tough the encounter was in general. A really good example of this is the first encounter in "Murder on the Throaty Mermaid". Easy on paper, brutal in practice. (And no, I didn't modify it, and even then it almost TPKed my group.).

Jiggy wrote:
So what build changes do you make, and under what circumstances?

It depends. My main motivation is to make things more interesting and thematic.

The most recent and drastic change was the main boss in "Delirium's Tangle". You can read that thread if you like, the details are there. Basically the group was APL 3 (2 rogues) playing at subtier 4-5, which should be challenging if the scenario was written correctly. In this particular instance, I super buffed the main boss. It was challenging (the fighter dropped once), epic (15+ round combat), but they still succeeded with intelligent play. Now that's a main encounter! Would have been an absolute joke without buffing her (1-2 round kill with two rogues). I made some other changes as well, to make it easier and not a straight forward combat, and my players caught on.

That was the most substantial change I've made to a scenario (regarding changing mechanics), so much so, I'll never run it again.

I think it's important to note that I asked my players if they wanted me to play it RAW beforehand. So they trusted me and it worked out great. Are any of us going to give the scenario a great review? Even though we had a great time, there's no chance.

Shadow Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Eastern Washington aka WalterGM

Ohhhh I loooved Delirium's Tangle. The end boss was so so fun at the 4-5 tier. My group had plenty of trouble so I found no need to buff him. But that doesn't mean that all groups would have trouble with him. My players were inexperienced at the time and had no ranged capabilities for it.

I agree with changing tactics in the cases where they just don't fit at all. I errated the Snakes in the Fold boss to not do what she's "programmed" to do at 50% because she was a good 100 feet away from the place she's supposed to be do that thing >.>

Osirion ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

I play scenarios mostly as written. Fairly lenient on at least allowing an attempt for faction missions if the PC pursues it, and I will rewrite non-core feats/spells/archetypes that are not reprinted in the text.

*

nosig wrote:
Whos at fault here? the kid how learned to play this way? The judge who "taught" him? Or the guy who taught the judge?

The GM broke rule #8 (never adjust encounters on-the-fly) and #3 (never make things easier, it makes the scenario devoid of challenge).

Adjustments are done before the slot, never during or on-the-fly. Before the slot you have foresight to make intelligent changes and maybe do a statistical analysis, during the game you can make really bad judgment calls, which may drastically change things.

So it's definitely the first GMs fault. If it was me, I would warn them (or give them the "ok") about playing up. If I (severely) warned them and they still want to play up, all bets are off, I'd TPK them if that's how it played out.

It was also the dead PC player's fault. He agreed to play up with a bunch of jerks who wouldn't pitch in for a Raise Dead for him. Usually when someone dies, we all pitch in a rez him up, especially when playing up, since we'll still be ahead in cash.

Lastly, it's the fault of the rich kid PC player, for not pitching in to rez a fellow player, when he was the one who wanted to play up.

And lastly, Canada is to blame. Blame Canada!

Andoran *****

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

Rolls will save
1d20 - 2 ⇒ (19) - 2 = 17

whew.... just passed, this thread could have lead to me saying things I would regret..;)

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Well, after having both participated in and ruminated on this thread quite a bit, a few things have become quite clear:

1. Some GMs are going to alter scenarios, and are going to keep doing so no matter who (even Mike Brock or Mark Moreland) tells them not to.

2. A much, MUCH smaller sub-set of GMs are capable of doing so responsibly, in a way that fails to contribute to known issues related to GM adjustment.

3. Every GM from category 1 believes him/herself to be in category 2.

So where do we all go from here?

For myself, I'm going to keep reminding people not to alter scenarios, so at the very least we can separate the "do it anyway"s from the "don't know better"s and keep the latter from goodwilled accidents.

As for the denizens of category 3 above, well... I guess I have to choose between keeping silent when I encounter them, or pointing out that they're not in category 2, possibly burning bridges in the process.

Not a fun choice. :P

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

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Jason S wrote:
If it was me, I would warn them (or give them the "ok") about playing up. If I (severely) warned them and they still want to play up, all bets are off, I'd TPK them if that's how it played out.

I'm always surprised when GM's help to steer the players towards playing up or down. I have come to be consistently quiet on this matter. Especially at higher levels, it is nearly impossible for me to know if it's a good idea unless I know the details of all the character builds, the player's skill, and their typical tactics. Even then, die rolls can often make or break a session. There are just too many variables. Not to mention, some players take it as a challenge when the GM says playing up would be too tough and that often leads to character deaths, usually collateral players who would have preferred to play down, but were influenced otherwise. I don't see it as my responsibility to encourage them to play up for scenarios with easier (IMO) challenges or to play down when I think the encounters are optimized. I would rather just stay silent either way. YMMV

Qadira ****

Jiggy wrote:

Well, after having both participated in and ruminated on this thread quite a bit, a few things have become quite clear:

1. Some GMs are going to alter scenarios, and are going to keep doing so no matter who (even Mike Brock or Mark Moreland) tells them not to.

2. A much, MUCH smaller sub-set of GMs are capable of doing so responsibly, in a way that fails to contribute to known issues related to GM adjustment.

3. Every GM from category 1 believes him/herself to be in category 2.

So where do we all go from here?

For myself, I'm going to keep reminding people not to alter scenarios, so at the very least we can separate the "do it anyway"s from the "don't know better"s and keep the latter from goodwilled accidents.

As for the denizens of category 3 above, well... I guess I have to choose between keeping silent when I encounter them, or pointing out that they're not in category 2, possibly burning bridges in the process.

Not a fun choice. :P

yeah, esp. when the judge in question is very good in all other respects - and runs a GREAT home game. (being able to match the challange to the PCs on the fly). I can really understand "keeping silent when I encounter them, or pointing out that they're not in category 2, possibly burning bridges in the process" - I have a real problem pointing out the problem to the Judge, here's hoping they see this thread and can see themselves in it.

Qadira ****

Bob Jonquet wrote:
Jason S wrote:
If it was me, I would warn them (or give them the "ok") about playing up. If I (severely) warned them and they still want to play up, all bets are off, I'd TPK them if that's how it played out.
I'm always surprised when GM's help to steer the players towards playing up or down. I have come to be consistently quiet on this matter. Especially at higher levels, it is nearly impossible for me to know if it's a good idea unless I know the details of all the character builds, the player's skill, and their typical tactics. Even then, die rolls can often make or break a session. There are just too many variables. Not to mention, some players take it as a challenge when the GM says playing up would be too tough and that often leads to character deaths, usually collateral players who would have preferred to play down, but were influenced otherwise. I don't see it as my responsibility to encourage them to play up for scenarios with easier (IMO) challenges or to play down when I think the encounters are optimized. I would rather just stay silent either way. YMMV

I will ALWAYS tell players that playing up is more likely to get your PC killed, that I do not pull punches or softball things or "tinker" with the story to make it easier - and I always roll combat dice where they can see it (with very big dice - you can read my dice across a table with no problem).

And I always vote NOT to play up. (and am often outvoted - or told my vote does not count as I have the high level PC at the table).

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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nosig wrote:
And I always vote NOT to play up. (and am often outvoted - or told my vote does not count as I have the high level PC at the table).

I'll usually go with what the rest of the table wants, but sometimes with provisos:

Eager Guy: "I'd really like to play up."
Table: "I'm cool with it/me too/me three/etc." *all look at me*
Me: *look at Eager Guy* "If YOU are willing to pay for my Raise if I need it, then sure. Otherwise, not happening."

;)

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

Oh, I don't object to telling them that, in general, playing up is more challenging and more likely to lead to fatalities, I was referring more to making comments regarding the specifics of the scenario scheduled. That, IMO, is tinkering and influencing their decision.

And I am always against "softballing" to correct a bad player decision. The only time I feel a need to prop the players up is when they are brand new to the game (not just new characters). Otherwise, let the dice fall as they may.

As a player, I usually vote not to play up unless I am in the higher sub-tier. Then I just say that my preference would be to play up to get character-appropriate rewards, but I leave it up to the players outside of sub-tier to make that decision. Their characters are at more risk than mine and other than my barbarian, none of my PC's are too proud (or foolish) not to run away if it means fighting another day.

Qadira ****

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Jiggy wrote:
nosig wrote:
And I always vote NOT to play up. (and am often outvoted - or told my vote does not count as I have the high level PC at the table).

I'll usually go with what the rest of the table wants, but sometimes with provisos:

Eager Guy: "I'd really like to play up."
Table: "I'm cool with it/me too/me three/etc." *all look at me*
Me: *look at Eager Guy* "If YOU are willing to pay for my Raise if I need it, then sure. Otherwise, not happening."

;)

If the judge gives you a vote - a lot of tables I've been at it's "well, we let the low levels decide".

****

As far as GM caveat goes, I try to avoid changing things in my scenarios as much as possible. There are times where I will change the scale of a map because, at least in most of my lower level sessions I run, I have 5-7 players on my table, and if the map is only a few squares, I can't fit all of them. I'll also try to make it so that faction missions.

As far as playing up, as a GM, I personally don't care. Because, for example, the last session I ran, the character I was putting the sheet on wouldn't get the benefits of running up. So I put it to a vote to the rest of the table. They voted to play up. I'm fine with that, because most of my players that I deal with on a regular basis know that I won't throttle back just because they are playing above APL.

*

Bob Jonquet wrote:
I'm always surprised when GM's help to steer the players towards playing up or down. I have come to be consistently quiet on this matter. Especially at higher levels, it is nearly impossible for me to know if it's a good idea unless I know the details of all the character builds, the player's skill, and their typical tactics. Even then, die rolls can often make or break a session. There are just too many variables. Not to mention, some players take it as a challenge when the GM says playing up would be too tough and that often leads to character deaths, usually collateral players who would have preferred to play down, but were influenced otherwise. I don't see it as my responsibility to encourage them to play up for scenarios with easier (IMO) challenges or to play down when I think the encounters are optimized. I would rather just stay silent either way. YMMV

This is a little off topic, but I think this is just a difference in our GM styles. It's a priority that my players have fun and that the scenario is interesting. If they're between subtiers, sometimes they have to make a choice. In some scenarios, the choice to play up is pretty much a guaranteed TPK (Dalsine Affair), in others, playing down is too easy to be enjoyable (Silent Tide). Not advising can lead to choices that can ruin the session and possibly ruin someone's experience with PFS. That's a situation worth avoiding, and being "impartial" is a way that can happen.

The players are looking to YOU for guidance and advice, since you're supposed to be the expert and (supposed to be) trying to show everyone a good time.

Will I advise based on the scenario? Sure. I don't feel guilty and if I advise them one way or the other, it's ultimately not my decision. Besides, the dice are random, people do crazy things sometimes, and sometimes the PCs and players are better than expected. But, I'm pretty good at predicting so far. If someone wants to take it as a challenge and I tell the table (strongly) not to play up, if they die at least they can't say they weren't strongly warned.

The problem is that veteran and HC players will know exactly what scenarios they can and cannot play up. The noobs won't. Trashing noob players and making them re-roll isn't my idea of fun. YMMV.

*

Some responses to other comments.

deusvult wrote:

However the argument that Mike and Mark got me to NOT think they're making crazy talk when they say 'run as written' is twofold.

Primarily, that it's hard to judge feedback on a scenario when they don't know whether it was run as written. I don't know if thats their main concern, but its the one that actually gets me to agree with them.

I think that's a valid concern. However, if you tell (or ask) your table you're not running RAW, it shouldn't be a problem. I find many more GMs write reviews compared to players in general (actually the number of reviews is pitifully small compared to the player base and even to the number of VCs, I'm not sure why Mark even worries about it), and I'm sure any GM that tweaks will include these facts. I do.

deusvult wrote:
Secondarily, I'm another long time GM who in my own opinion, has a good grasp on what's 'enhancing the enjoyment' and what's 'oops, that was too much..'. However, my OTHER reason I see M&Ms rule having merit is because the GMs who can't see the difference between 'fun' and 'too much' are not going to be able to tell that THEY are in that category. In fact, they'll be likely to insist they can tell the difference perfectly well, probably citing long experience..

If you're tweaking stuff and you cause a TPK (or heavily fudge), that's a problem. Sounds like a good time to stop doing it if that happens, you're not qualified. If that's not the case and you significantly enhance the session and the players love your game, to the point where you're drawing people to your game that have never even roleplayed before, then what?

deusvult wrote:
Furthermore, if they go ahead and say 'do it, but do it in moderation..' that will become 'ignore what's written and do what you want!'.

They can't say tweak in moderation, because who's to say what's moderate? The fact is, no matter what they say, GMs will tweak anyway. Almost every GM tweaks, and all make mistakes and bad judgment calls (which effectively changes the scenario from RAW).

deusvult wrote:
So.. is it hypocritical to run combats as written and freely allow 'creative solutions' to skill/social challenges? Probably. But is it unavoidable? Yes, because I refuse to run absolutely everything completely as written with no deviation. This isn't a MMO.

Finally, we agree. If RAW is all that matters, why am I interfacing with a human if nothing deviates from the script? Since there's no need to improvise, it would be better to play an MMO, faster, more convenient, and less mistakes. Fact is, we play RPGs because of the improvisation. If you're just going to read right out of the scenario, without adding your own personality to it, what's the point?

Jiggy wrote:
Since the additional information would easily fit onto an existing line, I see no reason it should run into issues with space limitations.

If there were parameters to adjusting encounters, that would be a start. But like I said, harder encounters aren't always better, and some encounters should be easy. I wouldn't want to see all encounters all of a sudden get harder, just because of 6 players. It would have to be done conservatively (main fights), on a case-by-case basis.

Jiggy wrote:
What did you expect? That kind of thing isn't the norm, so it should be expected that it'll result in weirdness. That doesn't mean it's indicative of a problem.

A 3rd level zen archer killing a boss in round 1, solo, is a problem. Sometimes people play down, we're not always playing up. Also, do you think he couldn't do that at level 2? Maybe, maybe not, but just because he couldn't do it solo doesn't mean another PC couldn't have finished the job. The end result is the same, unsatisfying.

nosig wrote:
Why change them at all?

Exactly. If a main encounter is somewhat challenging, interesting, and fun, don't change it. That's not always the case.

nosig wrote:
Now, does the Judge say "opps! hay, I just noticed I was running the wrong tier!" or does he admit his mistake?

Yes, he should admit he was being a douche and bumped the table to the next subtier by mistake. That's a major mistake, bumping a table a subtier without telling them. That's not what I call a tweak.

Jiggy wrote:
From the GM's eyes, it was a "cakewalk" and he "tweaked it" so that it would "be challenging enough to be fun". Just like people keep talking about. The players did NOT have more fun.

I agree, countering the PCs abilities on-the-fly to make an encounter more challenging is lame. And non-interesting. And dangerous (for the PCs). Btw, some PFS GMs have done this and it's not uncommon.

nosig wrote:
Oh! and judge B always rewards better, where judge A causes you to spend more money on consumables.

What universe do you live in? One judge awards better than another? As a player, in almost all of my games, I've gotten 100% gold. How does a judge decide to "reward better" or worse? lol. Seriously, WTF. Sounds like a problem that's not going to be resolved whether you tell your judges to run RAW or not.

Qadira ****

"What universe do you live in?" the same as you.

Judge A runs hard - so everyone plays at tier or down.
Judge B runs soft - so everyone plays up -always.

Judge A rewards for a 1-5 mod? 500 gp
Judge B rewards for a 1-5 moc? 1300 gp

and the PCs burned more "stuff" in the mod for Judge A.

same mod, better rewards. The Judge doesn't decide the rewards, the players decide the rewards.

party of 6 players at APL 2. (say levels 3,3,2,2,1,1).
Judge A has monsters that play smart tactics (often maybe metagaming to much), cast spells that they might not have had in the mod (picked better spells "re-constructed the monsters), they really stress the players - fun game.
Judge B has monsters that play "domb" tactics, cast poorer spells, maybe fall dead when they have 2 HP left (or have a lower AC than they have written in the mod) but are so much bigger than the PCs that they really stress the players - fun game.

Andoran *****

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

Ok I failed my Will save miserably, and this is how I see it, Be damn to the consequences..

Mark Moreland wrote:

There are currently no official methods for adjusting encounters, whether it's by adding extra foes or bumping up people's stats out of thin air. Until such time as rules are put in place to do so*, GMs are expected to continue running adventures as written. If that means that coordinators need to run more tables of fewer players in order to maintain a particular level of difficulty in a scenario, then that falls to those coordinators and the GMs who feel the need to make things harder.

*This is not to be construed as a promise that such rules are forthcoming, nor even that they have been considered.

Michael Brock wrote:
The scenarios should be run as written without adding or changing the foes.

That is a very clear rule, there is no RAI involved with that...

If I can't trust a GM to run with that very clear rule, then I can't trust the GM not to do the same with other rules they don't like, and I don't want to be at their table or GMing for PFS.

By playing in PFS you have agreed to follow the universal rule for the society so players that travel like myself can go to any Public PFS game around the world and expect the same rules.

I expect some unclear rules to be slightly different in some location but the clear ones have to be run the same throughout.

GMs have some leeway *See Table variations and Creative Solutions* but adjusting encounters by adding or removing is not one of them.

Too *one is too many for me* many GMs and organizers run this like their home game and forget this is a world organization that everyone should expect the same rulings for those rules that have no other interpretation.

Yes there will be different experience for different table makeups but different experiences does not mean different rules.

I personally think if you can't do that you should not GM for PFS, and if you get angry at me for that so be it.

Edit: The biggest excuse I hear is that "Hey I know my local players I should be able to run it for their best enjoyment." I don't fly with that, one you are not just a local group with your own regional rules you are a group in a larger organization and two enjoyment can easily still be had within the rules, thinking they will enjoy it more is not an excuse to break a rule.

*

nosig wrote:

Judge A has monsters that play smart tactics (often maybe metagaming to much), cast spells that they might not have had in the mod (picked better spells "re-constructed the monsters), they really stress the players - fun game.

Judge B has monsters that play "domb" tactics, cast poorer spells, maybe fall dead when they have 2 HP left (or have a lower AC than they have written in the mod) but are so much bigger than the PCs that they really stress the players - fun game.

The problem is mostly with Judge B. GMs should never making playing up easier. Period. Higher rewards have to be earned. Sometimes you're gonna die, but you're making more money so it balances out. So mainly the problem lies with the Judge B, who is making playing up too easy. This is true whether Judge A exists or not.

Please note that Judge B probably thinks they're running RAW, but they're obviously not. Many judges work that way.

Judge A is annoying as well, all encounters don't need to reconstructed or optimized, most don't. But at least everyone is appropriately challenged and having fun at the intended subtier.

*

To each their own Dragnmoon. I'll gladly accept I'm not in the same GM category as some of you, I've read enough threads to know we think very differently. I'm OK with it and I don't need your approval.

My players wouldn't enjoy your RAW game and your players probably wouldn't enjoy my more challenging and creative story and roleplaying based games. To each their own.

Like I said, if I made enough serious changes to a scenario, I'd run it that way for my home group but never to the public that way. I wouldn't run the scenario at all. I hate buying a scenario and then not being able to use it even once.

Worst case scenario, if my home group is weaker than the rest of the PF society characters (because I make things too challenging), it's on my head (and they're ok with it), but I seriously doubt that's the case. Either way it doesn't affect anyone else, just my players. Don't give me this crap about it affecting the society.

Anyway, it is what it is. Happy gaming.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Wait, you only GM PFS games with a single group at your home?

Andoran *****

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Jiggy wrote:
Wait, you only GM PFS games with a single group at your home?

There was a reason why I bolded public in my post above, Any public game I could fit into I would expect the same rules no matter where I go, though a Private game I would not expect to be invited to their house any time I wanted so they have more control on who gets in so there is no eyes on them.

I still would expect a Private game to do the same but I would not be able to Complain about it since I would not see it.

If a group does not think Fun can be had withing Org play maybe they should rethink playing in Org play.

Edit: If the Groups I GM can have a Great time while playing within the rules, and most of the time they do, then why do others get to be special and not play within the rules because they perceive they don't have to?

When did we start having Regional rules based on what they think is fun?

Andoran *****

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

To answer the original OP I don't see it as a hypocrisy to "allowing players to be creative in performing their faction missions despite specific completion conditions/skills being written in the text" While at the same time Running the scenario as written *Not adjusting encounters, etc*.

allowing players to be creative to solve problems and encounters is encouraged and and allowed in PFS according to the Guide, while still requiring you stick within the rules of the Guide.

PFS Guide Pg 26 wrote:

Table Variation

While the goal of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign is to provide an even, balanced experience to all players, doing so would require all PCs to be exactly the same and all GMs to be restricted to a stiflingly oppressive script. We understand that sometimes a Game Master has to make rules adjudications on the fly, deal with unexpected player choices, or even cope with extremely unlucky (or lucky) dice on both sides of the screen.

As a Pathfinder Society GM, you have the right and responsibility to make whatever calls you feel are necessary at your table to ensure that everyone has a fair and fun experience. This does not mean you can contradict rules or restrictions outlined in this document, a published Pathfinder Roleplaying Game source, errata document, or official FAQ on paizo.com, but only you can judge what is right at your table for cases not covered in these sources.

Also

PFS Guide Pg 27 wrote:

Creative Solutions

Pathfinder Society Organized Play never wants to give the impression that the only way to solve a problem is to kill it—does rewarding the creative use of skills and roleplaying not only make Society games more fun for the players, but it also gives you, the GM, a level of flexibility in ensuring your players receive the rewards they are due.

So while you as a PFS GM still need to run within the rules of the Guide , a published Pathfinder Roleplaying Game source, errata document, or official FAQ, they do allow for rewarding players being creative in solving a problem.

As an example, if the Mission requires a Slight of Hand check to make sure no one sees you pick up an item, why make them roll it if no on is in the room, or the Player used Bluff to get everyone out of the room to make sure he was alone to get the item unnoticed?

Also the new guide actually encourages Factions to work together, unlike the older ones so unless the mission is stated as having to be secret, they can always ask others in the group for help.

PFS Guide Pg 8 wrote:

Cooperate: The Society places no moral obligations upon its members, so agents span all races, creeds, and

motivations. At any given time, a Pathfinder lodge might house a fiend-summoning Chelaxian, a Silver Crusade paladin, an antiquities-obsessed Osirian necromancer, a watchdog Shadow Lodge member, and a friendly Taldan raconteur. Pathfinder agents, no matter which of the 10 factions they belong to, are expected to respect one another’s claims and stay out of each other’s affairs unless offering a helping hand.

*

The point you're missing are that tweaks are just that, small changes, most of the time not even changing CR, sometimes not even changing anything mechanical. Sometimes it's just a different story element. It's not as dramatic as a whole set of new rules.

Dragnmoon wrote:

If I can't trust a GM to run with that very clear rule, then I can't trust the GM not to do the same with other rules they don't like, and I don't want to be at their table or GMing for PFS.

I'm going to call b*#!##%% on that one. Numerous GMs you know have tweaked the main boss in "Rescue on Azlant Ridge" (to make him more buff) and you still game with them. Drama drama.

I've said numerous times that mostly RAW is the way to go with public games. I'm not going to limit myself by not putting in non-mechanical personal touches though.

Like I said, GMs shouldn't try to be MMOs. If you disagree, well, no comment.

I've GMed only a few public games. It matters because?

Dragnmoon wrote:

There was a reason why I bolded public in my post...

Edit: The biggest excuse I hear is that "Hey I know my local players I should be able to run it for their best enjoyment." I don't fly with that, one you are not just a local group with your own regional rules you are a group in a larger organization and two enjoyment can easily still be had within the rules, thinking they will enjoy it more is not an excuse to break a rule.

You're backtracking. And "local players" has a really loose definition.

There isn't much difference between a local scene and a home game, in the sense you see the same players week to week.

If my local players want slightly more challenge, it's only hurting them. Worse case scenario they can't compete with other level 7 PCs. Having said that, this theory isn't true.

You're having a real problem dealing with this, so let me leave you with some words that will ease your mind:
1) I'm the only one that's doing it, so you can tone the drama down.
2) It doesn't affect you and at worse nerfs my players.
3) Yes, I'm %*&(#ing special.
4) My region is better than yours. :)

Anyway, we're at an impasse, and instead of critically reading, thinking, and understanding, you're attacking. So this will be my last response to this thread.

Andoran *****

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Jason S wrote:
Anyway, we're at an impasse, and instead of critically reading, thinking, and understanding, you're attacking. So this will be my last response to this thread.

I more see it not as an attack but as a reminder that there is nothing special about you that gives you the authority to run a PFS game using your own rules to make do changes you are not allowed to do. If you feel that Organized rules don't work for you, like I said maybe you should rethink Running your games as PFS org play.

Mark Moreland wrote:

There are currently no official methods for adjusting encounters, whether it's by adding extra foes or bumping up people's stats out of thin air. Until such time as rules are put in place to do so*, GMs are expected to continue running adventures as written. If that means that coordinators need to run more tables of fewer players in order to maintain a particular level of difficulty in a scenario, then that falls to those coordinators and the GMs who feel the need to make things harder.

*This is not to be construed as a promise that such rules are forthcoming, nor even that they have been considered.

Michael Brock wrote:
The scenarios should be run as written without adding or changing the foes.

seems pretty clear to me, do you feel you don't have to follow the Org rules?

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Jason S wrote:
The point you're missing are that tweaks are just that, small changes, most of the time not even changing CR, sometimes not even changing anything mechanical. Sometimes it's just a different story element. It's not as dramatic as a whole set of new rules.

Jason, please understand that I think most of us who are trying to push for so-called "RAW games" (myself included) are so adamant about it because we've seen GMs are not just "small changed", do change something "mechanical", and may well even be "a whole set of new rules".

Some of my earlier examples (that you agreed were inappropriate, like countermeasures to the PCs' strengths) were real examples, and that's what some of us are thinking of when people talk about "tweaks".

To some GMs, porting in the boss from the next tier up is a "tweak".

One local GM has players make a "consciousness check" if they stabilize while dying (roll a CON check in the same manner as stabilization, and if you succeed, you're conscious and staggered at your current HP - which is of course in the negs).

One local GM treats a failed "Aid Another" as a -2 hindrance.

I think by now it's clear that your definition of "tweaking" (and the fairly controlled environment in which you do it) is far less of an issue than what people like me (and I think Dragnmoon too) take issue with.

I think what you call "tweaks", I call "running the scenario", and what I call "tweaks", you call "completely inappropriate". I believe it's as a result of this that the head-butting is happening.

Andoran *****

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Jiggy wrote:
I think by now it's clear that your definition of "tweaking" (and the fairly controlled environment in which you do it) is far less of an issue than what people like me (and I think Dragnmoon too) take issue with.

I guess it was not clear to me... I thought he was changing stat blocks or adding extra foes.

Is that not what he is doing?

If not then I am confused as hell and wasted a bunch of time ranting..;)

Shadow Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Eastern Washington aka WalterGM

Dragnmoon wrote:
If not then I am confused as hell and wasted a bunch of time ranting..;)

I've found that whenever I rant (especially IRL), it ends up being a waste of time ;)

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

Jason S wrote:
Will I advise based on the scenario? Sure

Why would you need to? According to your post at the top of this page, "I'm a GM that unabashedly adjusts scenarios."

If that is the case, then if they play down and the challenge isn't enough, aren't you going to adjust?

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

Jason S wrote:
Sometimes it's just a different story element.

If this is all someone does, it's not a change. The fluff of the scenario has to be adjusted somewhat to meet the player's style and progression. I do not have an issue with this practice.

What I am asking in this thread is do you make mechanical changes; things like adding/removing monsters, changing prepared spells, raising/lowering HP's, changing weapon types, modifying gear, etc.

And do you allow deviation from the mechanical aspects of the completion target for the faction missions.

Silver Crusade **

I only change the numbers of enemies in the event I am running a 7 player table, and that is only to add a few more low-hp mooks so that low initiative players have something to do. I will change tactics if they don't make sense. I will allow different skills to earn PA, as long as they make sense and the player isn't try to be a munchkin.

Sczarni ***

None of that really, only minor terrain features. Tactics maybe also, sometimes they aren't even logical.

Cheliax *

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I try to change as little as possible in the scenario, but if I get a divine inspiration, or something in a scenario is really stupid, I change it. If that makes an encounter more difficult, I just foil the dices so that no player will ever get killed in an altered encounter. But don't EVER tell my players this ;)

I also make as much room as possible for creative sollutions, both in solving scenario encounters and faction missions. GM'ing, in my book, is about giving the players a great experience, and that's more important than anything else.

I don't think I'm being a hypocrite when I apply these standards to myself, but at the same time don't reccomend that inexperienced GMs do the same, or GMs running games with strangers, for that matter. You should only do it when you're confident that this is what your players want.

Qadira **** Venture-Captain, Ireland—Belfast aka heretic

I guess the original question once answered does lead to the debate we have had here but a couple of things struck me as worth a mention.

When a scenario or mod has missed something and no PFS errata is published then naturally the DM must try and fix it and fix it according to what they think works best.

Otherwise while I might mess with the presentation a little I will not with the mechanics.

I don't mess with the mechanics for either monsters or faction missions 'cos it's not something that all the parties involved in PFS have agreed to and it is not right to vary a contract unilaterally!

So the rules are clear but by all that is wise and wonderful I wish there was a legal way to scale difficulty e.g. if there is a full table cantering to a win (and the +1 to the APL does not suffice here!!).

If we have optional encounters because of time we already have a precedent for tailoring the players experience and I am sure something could be worked out.

Equally trying to make sure that few if any faction missions have their success defined as being via a single skill particularily one that must be trained. If you don't have the right person for the job it should require real invention to get it done but that invention should not be rendered pointless because it doesn't tick the obvious mechanical box!

W


... and then there's the unfortunate thing that can happen, like 'nobody coming to the table brought a CLERIC.' It happened, and I'm not complaining, since I didn't grab a pregen Cleric or Druid when I saw it, because I wanted to play my shiny new Rogue.

I'm fairly sure the GM fudged a bit to avoid TPK (4 out of 5 PC's down, some stable, some not) at the end of our very first scenario... even though we stopped into a temple to buy some healing, we were so run down by the early portions of In Service to Lore that we were almost wiped out by the last encounter.

Seriously; what's a GM to do? I am putting this firmly into the 'own damn fault' category, since we (the players) COULD have but DIDN'T supply ourselves with a party healer at the inception of the game. But I'm awful glad we didn't die from it, and I doubt it's due to PC prowess... it'd be damn embarrassing to have to start all over at the very first step...

***

At levels 1-5 a cleric is completely optional, you just need a guy with CLW access and be fast at clearing encounters, at higher levels a cleric is far more useful to handle status effects (ability drain/damage, death, paralysis), but for raw healing a CLW wand will beat out a cleric in the average scenario at low levels.


@ Mike: Yeah, sure, but with nobody having CLW on their nonexistent spell lists, we couldn't have used that either. And no, nobody has Use Magic Device. Part of the problem with Organized Play vs. home campaigning: the table is what it is, and there wasn't any pre-game planning involved in making the group. So we were kinda hosed on the whole healing issue. Again, 'own damn fault.' We squeaked by, and once I get that 4th level stat boost, I'll have ranks in Use Magic Device, and you damn betcha I'll be picking up a CLW wand...

****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Michael Foster 989 wrote:
At levels 1-5 a cleric is completely optional, you just need a guy with CLW access and be fast at clearing encounters...

Thanks for you contribution, I do think you are wrong however. A Wand of CLW doesn't equal a Cleric or fill the healer role in a party.

Off topic response to Mike:

I have played with several groups who think the same as you and in one scenario used 32 charges (not only for my own benefit but for the players whose wands ran out). That was my expense - it's nice to have a wand in your bag for a healer to use. (in fact it's a courtesy). But just because you can scrape through a scenario without healer doesn't mean the role isn't then filled by someone else - if a PC goes down, then another PC needs to step into the breach to stabilise and to heal.

The only challenge I have playing playing my healer, is the attitude of the very occasional 'jerk player' (who thankfully changes his tune when his PC is bleeding out). Or another player suggesting my PC could be better optimised and should be in the front line damaging enemies rather than healing his/her comrades - they see healing as happening outside of combat.

The challenge is always finding the right balance for a character - thankfully my cleric specialises in channelling and healing which makes him a welcome addition at any table (oh and undead around him don't last long either.

Osirion *

Alitan wrote:
@ Mike: Yeah, sure, but with nobody having CLW on their nonexistent spell lists, we couldn't have used that either. ...

Alitan, this isn't a critique of your character, rather a suggestion. I too have characters that don't have spells or the "Use Magic Device" skill. For them I try to always put 1 pt into UMD and buy a WCL. That way after combat I can use the wand to restore hit points lost in combat. It isn't any good during combat though.

Since you do not lose a charge if you try to use a WCL and don't succeed, when not in combat, most GMs don't make you sit there and roll until you have a success. They just say during the night you evetually get to use enough charges to full restore the party, make sure you roll for healing and mark the number of charges used.

Even though you don't have to roll for the success, you still have to roll for the number of points healed because that equals number of charges used.

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