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Need suggestions on how to run Skull and Shackles with 6 OP player characters


Skull & Shackles

Lantern Lodge

The book says 4 pcs at medium progression. Well, like always we have 6; with 4-5 likely to show up 'every' time we play. Will the medium progression with less xp (I use the exact cr / # of pcs method for xp) be made up by 2 extra pcs? Or would it be fairer to do fast progression?

Unlike other adventure paths or modules, I cannot find a page or alternate encounter set ups for more than 4 or less than 4 pcs.

The pcs are all rolled stats with a method that I think has the lowest stat point-buy equivalent at 40. I am enforcing pathfinder only, no firearms, no monstrous races or ideas, and so far what I have is
I also allowed them to pre-roll on the devastating injury/scar table for a feat or two.

a half-elf Sea Ravager Barbarian
an elven blackblade/kensai magus
a human inquisitor (heavy xbow specialist)
another human two weapon fighter
a half-orc two handed fighter

and an unknown sixth pc from a new to pathfinder player (which I'm sure will be 'optimized' via help from the other players).

I'm already going to be really strict on the disciplane and enforce the interactions with npcs for good or bad. I'm not one to pull punches if it comes to combat, and I think with their power base this is the proper way to go.

However, my question lies really at the fact that the module is literally designed for 4 pcs and no built in room for adjustment when it comes to the effect of 2 more pcs on the end battle for the module. This is besides the fact that the jolly boat can only hold 6 people at max, I am sure that the captain would not select all 6 pcs without putting one of his officers in charge.

Any advice moving forward? I am not going back to change creation rules but may readjust on character deaths.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber

Honestly with 6 players you really should consider toning back their power a little.

As for making adjustments.

Multiply any hostile NPCs in an encounter by 1.5 (favour adding more fodder rather than more bosses). Furthermore for any important foe or NPC, use the Advanced simple template to beef the character up a little. Alternatively add 1 or 2 class levels to Mr Plugg and Master Scourge.

Increase xp awards commensurately for the additional challenge and your players should stay on the right track as far as challenge and xp goes.


Are the PC's actually overpowered? The descriptions don't sound d inherently problematic.

Things like six characters in the boat can be easily fixed --it make it an 8intelligent person boat. A bigger problem is that the npc interactions are tailored to 4, so 6 will be able to influence reactions among the crew much more easily. You could just run with it, or you could make the DCs harder, or you could have more npcs start out at lower regard for the party.

Another issue is of course combat. Best thing to do is to add a few mooks to any combat that can support them, I.e. not inherently limited to one enemy. That should probably do the job; even if it takes a character only rone hit to take out the extra gryndylow, that's one less hit to direct to the BBEG.


If you can wait a little to start the campaign people often post guides here to how to convert AP's for 6 players. Full disclosure I AM NOT VOLUNTEERING.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

When players insist on higher than 15 point buy, here's a handy guide to increase monsters to match:

20 points: +2 main Ability, +2 lowest Ability
25 points: +2 main Ability, +2 Constitution, +2 lowest Ability
30 points: +4 main Ability, +2 Constitution, +2 lowest Ability
35 points: +4 main Ability, +2 support Ability, +2 Constitution, +2 lowest Ability
40 points: +4 main Ability, +2 support Ability, +4 Constitution, +2 lowest Ability

This way the higher point buy still results in easier skill challenges, but helps prevent players from 1-shotting boss encounters.

Qadira

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

In Society play, 6 players is treated as a +1 APL bump over a 4- or 5-player party. Add mooks and/or NPC levels to give the fight an overall bump equal to 1 CR and it should be fine.

Also, don't forget the action economy. Adding a second bad guy to a fight can dramatically increase the challenge in a way that a single bad guy cannot match.

Finally, as to the jolly boat -- maybe the jolly boat in your campaign can hold 8 people instead of 6. Alternately, tell the players that the captain will take 4 of them -- whoever can survive a battle royale amongst the players!


David Hopper wrote:
...The pcs are all rolled stats with a method that I think has the lowest stat point-buy equivalent at 40...

I may be the only one, but this phrase really confused me. I'm reading it to mean that you gave them 40 points to buy stats. Is that right? If so, that's insane. 15 is standard, 20 is generous, 25 is epic. I don't even know how to conceive 40 except that the PCs are all god-children. (That's why I'm assuming I don't understand what you're trying to say here, but I'm not sure what else "at 40" means.) With six players, I certainly wouldn't allow a stat buy above 15pts. (EDIT/PS -- I think I just figured out what this means... that the total value of the attribute scores is 40. Never done stat buys like that, but I think I just figured it out. Sorry for not understanding.)

Past that, there are some simple adjustments you can do. Definitely add additional mooks to the fights. I'm avoiding the S&S details as I'm going to be playing rather than GMing it, but this is pretty straightforward. In Jade Regent, I would just add extra goblins, barbarians or ninjas. If it goes really too easy, pull a Dragon Age 2 and toss in another wave. Alternatively, let the one battle go easy to build up the players' confidence (or let them celebrate a victory and feel like heroes), then buff up the next fight.

If I didn't plan ahead and failed to properly prep, and I'm too lazy or the fight is already too big to toss down additional baddies, I also frequently fall on the Principle of Two (i.e., +2 to attack, +2 to AC, and maybe +2 to damage and/or saves). This is easily explained as just a buff to stats rather than having to change the loot.

It's definitely a challenge, but a couple extra players is easy to adapt to. Oh, and I'd leave the xp as is (medium advancement). If you toss in extra monsters, xp will automatically adjust. If you go with the Principle of +2, you're basically adding a CR. If you find that dividing the xp among 6 PCs is really starting to hamper them, just give them a "Divine" xp bonus to buff them up (or start slipping in extra xp into the awards until they get where you think they should be).


Having thoroughly read the adventure, I don't really see that party as being overpowered. Sure, they can bulldoze anything that gets in their way in combat (when they have weapons), but its not like they are optimized for the challenges of the particular adventure they are in. Most of them will not have the skill sets necessary to guarantee success on the ship. Sandra will probably be going into healer overdrive helping them recover from all the lashes they will be taking. They'll also be doing a lot of unarmed fighting, which none of them are prepared for. Combine that with a complete lack of a proper healer or trap detection and they're going to have a rough time on the Island. If anything, Wormwood Mutiny will be more challenging for that group than a regular group. You'd just need to increase the number of cronies during combat encounters involving the whole group, which others have already mentioned. At least they stand a greater chance of having a non-fatigued party member at the end of the day to explore the ship and socially interact.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
SnowHeart wrote:
David Hopper wrote:
...The pcs are all rolled stats with a method that I think has the lowest stat point-buy equivalent at 40...
I may be the only one, but this phrase really confused me. I'm reading it to mean that you gave them 40 points to buy stats. Is that right? If so, that's insane. 15 is standard, 20 is generous, 25 is epic. I don't even know how to conceive 40 except that the PCs are all god-children. (That's why I'm assuming I don't understand what you're trying to say here, but I'm not sure what else "at 40" means.) With six players, I certainly wouldn't allow a stat buy above 15pts. (EDIT/PS -- I think I just figured out what this means... that the total value of the attribute scores is 40. Never done stat buys like that, but I think I just figured it out. Sorry for not understanding.)

Actually, you had it right the first time, unless I'm totally off-base. If you did some sort of wonky total Ability value pool, standard would be 72 (15+14+13+12+10+8) - 40 would be all 6s and 7s. Which does make them god-children, and is why I put up a list of easy stat bumps for the enemies.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I think what he means is that the party was allowed to roll for stats and got ability scores that would average out to 'around' a 40 point-buy.


You're not going to challenge the players one bit with existing module stats. I'll lay odds you're players will get restless and obnoxious. They'll try to start throwing off the game, conflicting with other players, and making it no fun for anyone.
Especially the new guy. he's going to get the wrong impression fast, with either him wiping in every encounter, or other players playing for him.

This may be unpleasant to hear, but I'm guessing your were a bit of a push over during character gen. Again, I don't know you're history or play style, so this all may be par for the course.

You want my suggestion. start over. spend a night re-fabricating characters that only access the core books, so the new player has a more even access, as well as common ground to learn from. Lock it down to a 20 point buy, maybe even fifteen if you're going to constantly have 1 or 2 bonus players.

No gamer worth their salt wants to play a game where they just roll through everything, pick up the loot, and sit through the next GM monologue.


Chris Kenney wrote:
I think what he means is that the party was allowed to roll for stats and got ability scores that would average out to 'around' a 40 point-buy.

oh, my bad. I missed that part. Sounds like what I used to do back in High School in 3rd edition. My advice is to cap their stats with point buy of 20 points. With the way they roll stats, 15 points might be too much of a shock to their system, although I'll leave that to you to figure out.


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Increase the number of any non-named "mooks" by half that are in the adventure and give everybody max HP. That seems to be helping with my 7-player Jade Regent group.

Silver Crusade

1: Use a 15 point buy, or if you want them to roll 3D6 place as they want. No rerolling.
2: For exp. the best way I have found for larger partys. Is to let it work it's self out. This means not changing the encounters at all. For the first book the encounters are easy. After that the lose of exp. will creep up on them and they will be lower level then the book will call for. This is ok as there are 6 players. It keeps them in line with what the book was written for.

I DM for this group.
Party of 6 players 15 point buy.
At level 3 can do over 100HP to AC18 in 1 round. At level 7 can do over 350HP to AC35 in 1 1/2 rounds.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion Subscriber

I think it would be a huge challenge for you to GM this module in such a way that both the players and you as a DM will have fun. You have several things working against the module, first the group is large, second they have far higher stats than the encounters assume, and finally it is a very melee heavy group.

The high number of players and high secondary stats will make the non-combat encounters fairly trivial, while having 4 highly optimized melee fighters with close to max physical stats will destroy the combat encounters. Overall the enemies in this module have a very low AC and average HP's at best, but this is mitigated by environmental penalties. You will have to increase the number of enemies by at least 50% and probably increase all of their stats by 2-4 points just to threaten the PC's. However At this point a couple of bad rounds of rolling or good rolls by you could do a number on them.

The best bet for a 6 man party with players who optimize well is to scale the stats back down to 15 and then let everyone know that there are plenty of social/skill challenges in the game as a hint/warning that not everyone should stat dump their int/charisma in order to pump their physical stats. At this point I would run the module as written and then slowly add an extra minion to various encounters if you feel they are having too easy of a time.

What I am trying to say is that I have found it insanely difficult to balance low level play with players who have much higher than average stats. Combats feel like rocket tag and either the players are never challenged or things go wrong the other way and I have potential TPK's on my hand.


18 16 15 14 16 8 on a two-handed fighter might as well just name his character Crits-Um-Dead. Good lord.

An entire party of these people? You may as well just start using RIFTS stats.

I would suggest either faking the combat numbers entirely at your whimsy because no house rule to monster stats is going to change the fact that 6 melee characters will one-round any appreciable boss encounter... or taking the simpler, less "why-did-I-buy-this-if-I-have-to-change-everything-anyways" route, and asking them to re-roll.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I gm a game with 7 players at 20 point buy with most likely at least one player missing per session. They normally do not tend to fully maximize their chars and also add RP choices.

For the ship I created additional 9 unique and 9 generic chars to interact with. 2/3 of them start hostile, so the final encounter should still be challenging. I might even add the dwarf from the GM thread or replace one of these chars with him.

To keep track of all the Chars I have a quick text file containing all NPC with their name, a short description (incl. behavior), their job and their attitude and will most likely create a card for each NPC that I can put in a box to present their location.

For the normal encounters I plan to increase all rolls of the NPC by 1 and add some additional non-named creatures depending on the number of players present and maybe some extra bosses (as part of normally non-named encounters) if all are present. I will also most likely max the hp of the named creatures.

Beside that I will give less XP so that the PCs end the 1st part as high 3rd level. and will stay one level below the recommendations form that on.

Lantern Lodge

I think at least half of them are taking profession sailor. Right now, it's barely better than 40% they will win the skill roles, but it will get ridiculous at later levels.

I'll talk to them about scaling back the stats in the future, but they'd mutiny if I did it to them now when we're supposed to start next Monday.

Since I don't pull punches in combat, I've always run up to and sometimes crossed that invisible knife edge of cake walk or TPK. Maybe I should just rescale the pc stats back down and that will solve a good deal of it for later.

I'll stick with medium, forgot about the cr bumps from added creatures. I think most of the sailor checks are what 10 or 15? I might add one or two for that.

And yes, what I mean is the group uses 4d6 reroll 1s and 2s drop lowest.

i think my highest point buy equivalent was 62 and the lowest was 41. I think I need to reign that in........it will just cause more problems than it's supposed to.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Dude, that's insane. Seriously. You've set yourself up for having to do A LOT more work than necessary to achieve balance all for the sake of them getting to roll high stats? That's ridiculous.

Just let them know that you've had a change of heart and, for balance issues, you would like all the PCs to be created with a standard Pathfinder 15-point buy.

Qadira

If you look on page 15, in the CRB, standard value for players are 15 points to use, using the point buy method.

I really like point buy, I am going to allow my players a 15 point buy.

I think if I had concerns about a group especially past 5 players where experiences starts to differ. I would suggest 10 point buy an making guns common place.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Red-Assassin wrote:

If you look on page 15, in the CRB, standard value for players are 15 points to use, using the point buy method.

I really like point buy, I am going to allow my players a 15 point buy.

I think if I had concerns about a group especially past 5 players where experiences starts to differ. I would suggest 10 point buy an making guns common place.

10 points is pretty limited, and would make sub-par characters compared to written NPCs. Honestly I think that 20 is the sweet spot (and that's what PFS organized play uses, I believe). Elite monsters and NPCs with PC classes are built using 15 points (NPC class characters are built with as few as 3).


I would suggest going down to 20 Points buy and then simply adding some more monsters/NPC for each encounter (I would do such stuff on the fly)

The problem with "everyone-have-every-stat-good (+2 or better)" is, that the group haven't to rely on each other anymore.

I think Characters should be specilised in one area so they could cover everything together.


Agreed, 20 is the sweet spot. The last time we made characters we used point buy for the first time. We started with 20 and then tried 25, every one of the players went "ewww" after seeing their stats at 25 and asked to go back to 20.

Qadira

At 20 points characters can quickly become beasts. Dumping stats etc... Eventually GM's will need to add X or Y.

While 15 points really isn't really to much lower, the character attribute advancement due to leveling is not as tough as 20 point builds or PFS builds. I know a 3rd level sorc, in pfs with 20+'ish saves for first level enchantment and charm spells.

10 point builds will not make a character bad just not really powerfull a single 16 with racial would be 1/2. Each battle may be a thrilling tough fight. Fast EXP award could be used.

Taldor

I'll think about making a 6 player conversion once I see what my university workload is like next year.

Lantern Lodge

I am making them all go to 40 pt buy. Based off of what our group normally does (in which I'm usually a player and benefit as well) I think that is a good middle ground for now. They won't mutiny on me and just decide to not play.

The barbarian is switching to an oracle, but they're still melee heavy.

The ones with prof sailor have +6-8 already in the check, so I will be raising the DCs by 1 or 2 minimum.

I will be adding +2 CR to every encounter with the full group. The only think I will leave as written in the book is the 1 vs 2 in the bilge. I'll be putting down whomever pissed the captain off down there on his own.

I'm going to have to explain the action system allowed, these guys are used to more of a free play campaign with our normal GM, but we've all done APs before; they know the deal.

I've also never really been keen on the atmosphere, but I'll be playing music every once in a while too. I wish I had a generic ships sounds soundtrack.

First game tonight.

Lantern Lodge

The game went well I think. I RP'd Mr. Plugg a lot more than scourge and Plugg became the badguy really quick. I've been purposely playing the PC's against each other. Plugg picked up a one time mistress from the female elf character and gave her the keys to the sweatbox with the authority to use it.

piratical delaying action, how I ran it:
I sent 8 people down to the sleeping deck. They harrased the pcs as they were getting up, as written in the module specifying them wanting to get into a 'fist fight' not an actual combat. One of the more martial PCS drew a dagger and gave a club to another pc, so I had 4 pirates draw daggers. Two stayed on the stairs to physically block people from going up, 2 moved into attack (two hostile ones). Eventually, one of the fighting pirates was knocked unconscious. So how I played this is Plugg wanted this to happen, he wanted to keelhaul a pc, so he ordered one npc pirate (who was the guy still standing) to kill any wounded and he coup-de-graced him and immediately surrendered to the pcs. 4 of the 8 pirates that first went down there for a fist fight, ran back upstairs on queue shouting that the pcs were causing trouble. Plugg ran onto the deck to 'investigate' the ruckuss a couple rounds later. During an 'investigation' it was determined that the pc actually drew the first weapon that ended in a death, and Plugg gave him several chances to name someone else to be keelhauled in his place (like Sandara), he refused and died.

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