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RP versus Combat (Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment)


Pathfinder Society GM Discussion

Cheliax ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

I ran Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment twice this past weekend, and I noticed something that has me just a little perturbed.

In both sessions, the tables were at that magic APL of getting to choose, and chose up. Those that engaged themselves in the scenario, immersed themselves in their characters, and were great RPers shined throughout the first part of the scenario.

Spoiler:
I handled all the poison saves, Sense Motives, etc. behind the scenes so as not to break the RP

The scenario really highlighted these players who were very, very engaged. And I've had to force the ending early on both parties to be able to do the scenario in the time allotted.

But when combat broke out, these characters were very ineffectual, while those that had remained nearly silent the entire scenario suddenly leaped into action and were the animated ones.

Spoiler:
I will give note that the divine casters in both games were high RP and would have been combat effective if they hadn't all lost the ability to spell cast due to WIS damage
Since the tables were mostly RPer's both tables were near TPKs and one table ran away from the final encounter b/c they were completely out of resources.

In the end, the players who had RPd were all upset that they had been punished by the scenario for engaging themselves in the life of the people they were sent to investigate and report on. They felt that the writers had purposefully attacked them for not being paranoid, selfish, antisocial characters. One player in particular felt abashed for not having built a character optimized for combat, but who was instead optimized for investigation, infiltration and social interactions.

I know we can never have the ideal party at our tables, and I did severely caution the second table about playing up, but I can't help but see the trend that only the characters that are optimized for combat can afford to do RP, but that this scenario in-particular does punish you for being immersed.

What are some of your takes on this debate, and on this scenario? Are other people seeing this trend, or is it just the crowd at my local shops? What are some ways I, as a GM & event coordinator, can try to heal this feeling of being back-stabbed by the sceanrio for the players? Is there another high RP scenario out there that someone might recommend that rewards players for high engagement?

Grand Lodge ****

There is a lot of anger in those player's statements.

Ask them how they feel about it in a week.

Osirion

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

You mention you had to force the end encounter early, so as to fit into the time slot.

Given what I know from playing the scenario last week, at the lower tier, and dicussing it with the GM afterwards;

(without spoilers) that sounds like it could have dragged in several more bodies to the fight, than if the RP had played its course.
We went a long way toward getting those particular NPCs on our side, so they stepped aside leaving the BBEG to fight alone.

Is that a factor in the lethality of the session you ran?

Silver Crusade **

I really don't think this is an RP vs combat issue.

In the case of that particular scenario, there's just a ton of very involved RP, and two very, VERY difficult combats. It's a pretty extreme dichotomy in a single scenario. I don't remember seeing such an extreme split in any other PFS scenario.

Cheliax ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber
Snorter wrote:

Is that a factor in the lethality of the session you ran?

In both sessions they talked the NPCs out of a fight, but as the adventure is more of a sandbox, the lethality comes some from the order they took their jobs in.

sveden, that is probably a good idea too. They were great role players; I hope to try and find a scenario that will reward them for this and cleanse any bad taste left from this one.

Spoiler:
One of them even started RPing out his character's depression after having barely survived the suicide haunt; giving him greater depth to his character and interactions with the other PCs

Cheliax *

I had a similar experience as a player with this scenario the other week: Pretty role-play heavy (which was hard to balance at a table where we'd had to go with 7 players via Play, Play, Play!) and then suddenly very difficult combats because we'd chosen to play up to counterbalance the surplus of PCs (including two summoners!).

I didn't feel terribly punished for RP'ing, but I was frustrated by the severe dichotomy between RP/Sandbox interaction and the two particularly nasty fights. Even more so given the revelation that we were all slowly taking ability damage without having realized it. I like that there is a mechanic to go with being sucked in to the lie along with the other inhabitants. That was just plain good writing, by the way. But it felt a lot like some previous scenarios I've played that took place entirely in high altitude environments. These inevitably left PCs with the Exhausted condition by the final encounter with no punches pulled in said encounter's design. Yes, it's challenging, but it is frustrating in the level of resources it demands of lower level characters to even begin to cope with the hazard in place.

TL;DR: Environment and non-encounter/non-trap hazards should be factored in to Encounter Design. If you setup a scenario so most of the party is likely to have ability score damage or heavy penalty conditions before they reach an encounter, that should be factored in to the EL. If they are able to make the saves or muster the resources to surmount these afflictions, the easier encounter should be their reward for doing so.

*

Fromper wrote:

I really don't think this is an RP vs combat issue.

It's not. Doing one well shouldn't conflict with doing the other well.

Fromper wrote:


In the case of that particular scenario, there's just a ton of very involved RP, and two very, VERY difficult combats. It's a pretty extreme dichotomy in a single scenario. I don't remember seeing such an extreme split in any other PFS scenario.

One person's 'dichotomy' is another person's 'balance'.

Choosing to play up, they should have expected hard battles. (Did they expect the RPing (a.k.a. plot) to be harder?)
I think the battles advertise themselves, in that they are (usually) initiated by the PCs.

rooms:

If they stroll into the crypt like they stroll into the library, it's their bad, especially if they've faced the haunt ("This temple has undead in normal areas even!"), and more especially after the wake-up call of the trap.
If they say "hey, let's confront the cult leader", they should expect a Jim Jones response of firepower, especially if you play on the enemy's terms.

If anything, the players let their guards down because of the RPing. This doesn't mean they should be paranoid hack-n-slashers, but the clues were pretty obvious that there's severe danger here, and when confronting it, the PCs should have come buffed.

I think the RPing makes the fights worthwhile.

Qadira ***

Are we saying that if the adventure is RP heavy, that the players expected it to be combat/conflict light? Is that the expected formula? And this scenario doesn't meet expectations, and is therefore bad?

Are we then saying that in a combat heavy scenario, we should not expect to RP?

Huh?

Cheliax ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber

The more time of the four hours gets stacked into involved roleplaying, the more CR I expect to be concentrated into single fights. Meta? Yep. When you *know* that there should be 1/3 of a level's encounters worth of CR built into the adventure, you start to get a feel for the rhythm of fights.

I had a blast playing this (playing down with a kinda shaky party) this weekend, with my elf magus with the kind and gentle personality of Adelai Niska...

** Contributor

7 people marked this as a favorite.

I can give you my input as the author here. I didn't ever intend to "punish" RPers by having them penalized in the adventure. The scenario doesn't penalize you for being selfish...

Spoiler:
...it penalizes you for not wising up that something is very, very wrong in the temple. Engaging yourself in the lives of the people in the temple makes you dupes like they are, which makes it harder to fight Dakang directly. The more you live their lives, the harder it is for you to fight back--which is intentional.

I belive challenging fights and RP can both exist in the same adventure. Moreover, I think they should. (Whether the fights here ended up as "too challenging" is another issue that I've seen debated.)

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

@Justin Riddler:

You might not have found the combats so over-the-top, or so punishing of RP, if you were aware of this:

The second spoiler in the OP wrote:

WIS damage doesn't prevent your spellcasting. Every two points of ability damage applies a -1 penalty to WIS-based stats (such as Perception, Will saves, and clerics' spell save DCs) but doesn't actually lower your WIS score, and therefore does not prevent spellcasting. A 7th-level cleric with 18 WIS and 17 points of WIS damage doesn't have 1 WIS, he has 18 WIS and a -8 penalty to his DCs. He can still cast his 4th-level spells just fine.

Of course, if it was WIS drain, that would be a different story...
[/spoiler]

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.

@Justin Riddler:

You might not have found the combats so over-the-top, or so punishing of RP, if you were aware of this:

The second spoiler in the OP:
WIS damage doesn't prevent your spellcasting. Every two points of ability damage applies a -1 penalty to WIS-based stats (such as Perception, Will saves, and clerics' spell save DCs) but doesn't actually lower your WIS score, and therefore does not prevent spellcasting. A 7th-level cleric with 18 WIS and 17 points of WIS damage doesn't have 1 WIS, he has 18 WIS and a -8 penalty to his DCs. He can still cast his 4th-level spells just fine.

Of course, if it was WIS drain, that would be a different story...

Grand Lodge ***

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Good point Jiggy. I would recommend to everyone to reread the stat damage rules at the end of the Core Rulebook. They don't quite work the way they did in 3.5 and it seems to be something many of us (including myself) get wrong.

Cheliax ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

@Jiggy - thanks ^_^ I got that completely wrong; I will have to remember that... at the same time, it had made for an interesting "WTF" moment from the cleric & druid as they suddenly had a dawning realization that something was more wrong than just a messed up faith - but yeah, to the wayside it goes -- quick thought: wouldn't it affect spellcasting after 24hrs much in the same way a headband would?

@Ron - that is a very interesting RP aspect I hadn't fully considered

Spoiler:
I played their Heresy Points off as Sifkesh's interference as he exerts some control over his followers and their Heresy was the worship of Sifkesh. - but to feel just as lethargic about fighting back as the followers do about it makes for some interesting reasoning, although it is a harder emotion to convey to the players for them to RP

I've heard some more feedback from some of the players: some of them had heard it was brutal before going in, but the high RP caused them to lower their guard (both in game & meta). Which to me is a mark of a well-written story that it would be so engaging as to disarm the players of their meta-senses. Most of them were kicking themselves for playing up, and have suggested that I always highly discourage playing up on that scenario.

I think the worst part about the final encounter...

Spoiler:
is that Dakang places such a high emphases on Will saves (mass inflict light, cause fear, stored inflict moderate) and between the Heresy Points and the WIS damage, players are almost always guaranteed to fail (at least until they've spent their Heresy). When Dakang did his first mass inflict light there wasn't a made save at the table, and the damage was high enough to knock-out 3/6ths of the party. But hey, sometimes synergy happens

** Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

The most common error I hear about in this adventure, that I regret not making pointing out more explicitly, seems to have happened at Justin's table:

Spoiler:
Justin Riddler wrote:
When Dakang did his first mass inflict light there wasn't a made save at the table, and the damage was high enough to knock-out 3/6ths of the party.

Mass inflict light wounds is at a caster level of 3rd. This means Dakang can only choose 3 targets for it. One of these targets can be himself, because the effect heals him. So this ability doesn't affect everyone in the room, but at most three PCs (and sometimes only two).

I think this was plenty clear from the spell description, but it's not common to see higher-level spells at ultra-low caster level, so I probably should have clarified this.

Cheliax ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

@Ron - another interesting point. I hadn't noticed that.

Spoiler:
Most SLA's are using the creature's HD for the CL of the SLA, but this one does not... that makes a HUGE difference noting that it is CL 3 not cl 8!

Osirion ** Venture-Captain, Canada—Atlantic Regions aka Nuit

Strangely enough I think the appeal of that scenerio is Cthulhu-esque in effect and action.

Spoiler:
A party of adventurer's sent to investigate, normally battle hardened but placated by the honesty of the worshippers inside. At the first feast players should suspect something is wrong if they don't make their saves. The mission is to study, but the good nature of the worshippers have players want to take part. It's a study of common sense in a way, the clues are there for players to realize that something is wrong with the rituals. At three distinct points, there is proof that the head is the culprit. It is a scenerio that requires GMs to really put doubt in the players, to engender the sense that something is fishy.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Canada—Winnipeg aka NoStrings

1 person marked this as a favorite.

If anyone is interested, I made a chart to help track the pertinent player info (will saves, etc.) as well as a breakdown of all the residents of the temple with a little quirk to make them more memorable.

Feel free to download it here.

Grand Lodge ***

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Myron, you are such a keener 8).

Cheliax ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber
Myron Pauls wrote:

If anyone is interested, I made a chart to help track the pertinent player info (will saves, etc.) as well as a breakdown of all the residents of the temple with a little quirk to make them more memorable.

Feel free to download it here.

I like it Myron. Having run it twice now, I'd also recommend...

Spoiler:
picking up their Knowledge (nature) for the flayleaf in the gardens, their Will save for the haunt, and their Wisdom score in case any of them "faint from being overwhelmed with the purity of Korada" ^_^
Silver Crusade * Venture-Lieutenant, New York— Long Island

Set the pace and your expectations at the start of the scenario. Encourage efficient RP within the scope of their goals and allow for creative RP during the combat. I dislike ending scenarios prematurely-so sacrifice a little RP and balance with efficient combat.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Canada—Winnipeg aka NoStrings

Justin Riddler wrote:
Myron Pauls wrote:

If anyone is interested, I made a chart to help track the pertinent player info (will saves, etc.) as well as a breakdown of all the residents of the temple with a little quirk to make them more memorable.

Feel free to download it here.

I like it Myron. Having run it twice now, I'd also recommend...** spoiler omitted **

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll update the file when I get a chance.

Qadira **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Amsterdam aka Seraphimpunk

Ive had very similar reactions the last three times I've run Temple. It's all fun and RP until they get to the crypt. And then zombie fighters 4 rip through the party and resources. I've had one death at each table, and two tables that had to complete the mission on technicality, without ever facing Dakang.

Two things : the overhand chop statistics dont account for attacks of opportunity or cleave. Theyre not +10(1d10+10/18-20) on those. They're +10(1d10+7/18-20).

And have I missed it? Or does the confrontation with the aasimars not give modifiers for mentioning the key points? They just mention the dc 32 diplomacy, and don't tell how much of a bonus pcs get for each point they bring up in convincing the aasimars.

I kind of think the ju-ju zombies are a bit too tough

**

Seraphimpunk wrote:

Ive had very similar reactions the last three times I've run Temple. It's all fun and RP until they get to the crypt. And then zombie fighters 4 rip through the party and resources. I've had one death at each table, and two tables that had to complete the mission on technicality, without ever facing Dakang.

Two things : the overhand chop statistics dont account for attacks of opportunity or cleave. Theyre not +10(1d10+10/18-20) on those. They're +10(1d10+7/18-20).

And have I missed it? Or does the confrontation with the aasimars not give modifiers for mentioning the key points? They just mention the dc 32 diplomacy, and don't tell how much of a bonus pcs get for each point they bring up in convincing the aasimars.

I kind of think the ju-ju zombies are a bit too tough

The removed the situational modifiers accidently on the diplo check. A dev said they should get a +2 for each, but it's not in the mod.

Shadow Lodge *

+4 for each.

Cheliax ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

I resolved the diplomancy...

Spoiler:
with the Aasimars using the regular diplomacy rules (with a bonus for each piece of evidence) - the DC32 as I recall was to get them to assist in fighting Dakang.

The second group actually got the Aasimars to stand between the players and Dakang & sacrifice themselves to allow the PCs enough time to get back to their light-orb-exit

**

Justin Riddler wrote:
I resolved the diplomancy... ** spoiler omitted **

The DC is to get the aasimar to stand aside. Some DMs have interpreted it as joining the combat, but the mod states it is just to get them to not interfere.

Qadira **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Amsterdam aka Seraphimpunk

ahh good to know for next time. I love the mod, i've run it four or five times already. just good to know the bonus for the clues they find.

Taldor **** RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Just thought I'd share this. This is a sermon that I wrote up for the chapel scene. It assumes that the party has found the kitchen, but the service hasn't started yet.

(The crowd repeats the lines from the mantra)
Light Combines
My Peace Find
Calm my Soul
To Control
Woes I sift
Catching Gifts

My fellow Believers of Korada, I welcome you. It is indeed another peaceful day here in the Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment. I see that today, we have visitors! Welcome, Pathfinders, and may the blessings of Korada be upon you all.

*stretching*

As I was preparing for today's sermon, I heard of the death of Wei. My friends, do not be alarmed, do not be discouraged, do not be sad - for Korada has eased his suffering. As we all know, suicide is Korada's means of helping those who cannot bear to continue their life. Such events may seem tragic, but we must remember, his soul has been carried on to Vantian.

Vantian! The City of Open Windows! It is a city of peace. No crime, no heartache, no pain...just continued devotion to Korada. Indeed, Vantian is such a peaceful, blissful city that every day, portions of it fall into the sea - but the residents manage to rebuild without a second thought. Harmony, pleasantness, peace in all things - would that we could all take the path that Wei has chosen. I, myself, would have done it long ago were it not for my duties here. To all of you, though, I urge you - if you are considering such an act, please see me. Wei chose to take his own life, and he chose a painful method. I assure you all, suicide does not have to be such a grisly scene - the blessings of Korada have gifted me with means of achieving it painlessly, effortlessly and peacefully.

Regardless of your decision, however, I would encourage you all to attempt the Kiss of Korada. I, myself, have taken it a number of times. I know that the price of failure is great, but for those who are true of mind, sound of body and aligned with Korada in every way, it is a wonderful experience and a true show of your faith. Remember - every failure should drive you to try harder. If you fail, do not despair! Simply see it as the opportunity that it is - an opportunity to improve yourself, to focus on the true teachings of Korada and to try again soon. And, if you do happen to fail the final time, as Wei did, you should truly consider the advantages of leaving this realm of despair and traveling onward to a land of glory.

As we leave today, please take a moment to assume the symbols of celestial silence and contemplation.

*drawing*

May the blessings of Korada be with you.

*echo - And with you.*

**

Netopalis wrote:
Dakang's sermon

Many thanks for this! I'm running ToEE (did anyone notice the same acronym as another very famous temple adventure from the early days of D&D?) tomorrow and I'll make sure to use these ideas.

Andoran ** Venture-Lieutenant, Virginia—Richmond aka Zach W.

TOEE is one that I was recently a part of and it is some fun roleplay. The thing is though if your on a society mission, there is ALWAYS a chance of danger. If we're getting friendly greetings that just makes me even more paranoid, this did bite me in the butt in this one.

spoiler:
The haunt for example, my cavalier was the only one to make the spot check and thinking it was probably just a ghost or something I specifically planted myself between the cleric and summoner who accompanied me and moved in on my own to take the first attack as they both had horrible gear and health. I was protecting my party mates. Well as most of you know it wasn't a ghost and a level 2 cavaliers will is horrible. I would have died if it wasn't for the grace of the GM slipping me a re-roll, and letting initiative take charge of events.

If you bring a party of all face characters, you really can't complain about combat IMO. You can roleplay AND fight. They are not mutually exclusive, and you dont have to have a character that dumps all their points into face skills. I have always felt that to be the worst way to try and "roleplay".

Shadow Lodge *

Regarding the Room:
In subtier 1-2, there's no way the haunt can kill anyone if there is a concerned party entering the room together:
Surprise round: Any one who made the perception check goes before the haunt, then the haunt mind controls PC 1 (who is standing at the table).
Round 1: PC 1 picks up knife (move action), starts a Coup de Grace attempt (partial full round action = standard action). At this point PCs 2+ can try to stop PC 1.
Round 2: If any of PCs 2+ even attempt to stop PC 1 from killing himself, PC 1 lashes out at one of the intervening PCs in anger, and then the haunt is suppressed.

The haunt in subtier 4-5 is more dangerous since it goes at initiative 10 instead of 0, but only to PCs who made the perception check, and go at initiative 9 and lower, and are the closest PC to the haunt.

Solo adventurers in either subtier are subject to a save-or-die, of course.

**

There, finished GMing and it was a blast! The players loved it too, from the sound of it. A couple points to feedback:

Kitchen:

The dwarf fighter went alone in the kitchen, and I really feared for him as he failed his perception check in the surprise round... but managed to roll nat 20 on his Will save! I had really played on the creepy atmosphere, and I think the player was really scared for his life.

Dakang's sermon:

I translated Dakang's sermon beforehand (we play in French), and the players reacted strongly to it. In hindsight, I think it turned out to be shocking (the player's uneasy reaction clearly indicated that) but it played out well since it was the final straw that made them realize that something was wrong in the temple. Thanks again Netopalis for this!

Andoran ****

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Awesome! This is one of my favorite scenarios to run, and I'm glad your group had a good time Lithrac!


Justin Riddler wrote:

I ran Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment twice this past weekend, and I noticed something that has me just a little perturbed.

In both sessions, the tables were at that magic APL of getting to choose, and chose up. Those that engaged themselves in the scenario, immersed themselves in their characters, and were great RPers shined throughout the first part of the scenario. ** spoiler omitted **

The scenario really highlighted these players who were very, very engaged. And I've had to force the ending early on both parties to be able to do the scenario in the time allotted.

But when combat broke out, these characters were very ineffectual, while those that had remained nearly silent the entire scenario suddenly leaped into action and were the animated ones. ** spoiler omitted ** Since the tables were mostly RPer's both tables were near TPKs and one table ran away from the final encounter b/c they were completely out of resources.

In the end, the players who had RPd were all upset that they had been punished by the scenario for engaging themselves in the life of the people they were sent to investigate and report on. They felt that the writers had purposefully attacked them for not being paranoid, selfish, antisocial characters. One player in particular felt abashed for not having built a character optimized for combat, but who was instead optimized for investigation, infiltration and social interactions.

I know we can never have the ideal party at our tables, and I did severely caution the second table about playing up, but I can't help but see the trend that only the characters that are optimized for combat can afford to do RP, but that this scenario in-particular does punish you for being immersed.

What are some of your takes on this...

My experience GMing this.

Spoiler:

They played low tier 4 players.

Paladin archer 1
Witch 2
Cleric 2
Oracle 2

They approach the place and finding it in reasonable repair instantly became suspicious.

After finding the temple inhabited in the opening room the following predictions came from the group (one a piece)
"It's a cult."
"They're undead."
"They're all dead and this is reality replaying itself."
"No, my faction mission implies that someone is alive in here. They're probably mind controlled."

It mildly surprised me they'd half figured out what's going on just from the hook.

They walked into the dining hall and the second the food popped up they detected magic. I was unsure what to tell them because they are technically within a 9th level spell as such I ruled "Will save for overwhelmed". This was instantly followed with the witch "I Detect poison the food". I sat there slack jawed... and asked "Really?" After a moment to check that he had prepared it (Since they have to copy and paste their spell list for me pre game) he had it. I sighed "Yes it's poisoned." At which point the paladin turned on evil vision and I quote "Always until combat." They soon met the source. They had a paladin, who was an archer for the last fight.

As for heresy they received 0 because the first thing they did put them on edge and standard policy was to say "No thanks". After he was finished they explored the area for faction missions and the crypt for the main mission. The kitchen was the last room found before the crypt. The haunt triggered and after I said "It looks like the oracle is going to try and cut his own head off" the cleric (Who had higher init) tackled him getting stabbed for 2d4+8 knocking him down but not lethally killing him.

After it was over I explained how horrific it could have been but nope paranoia won out.

From a players perspective... sadly I can say I'd have done the same.
From a GM's perspective it was incredibly frustrating because I wanted to use heresy points.
I support punishing people who fail skill rolls in some way. This is a great way to do it. They had many chances to prevent interaction by learning the secret.
Players saw it coming but everyone agree's it's by far the best designed of any adventure I've gmed or played so far.

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