Last night we were playing "Clash of the Kingslayers". We had an encounter that really frustrated me and kind of angered me.
Now, I don't know if it was run correctly or it is our DMs mistake. First, I know he is running us through a module two levels higher than the party (8th level PCs: Halfling fighter, Gnome rogue, Elf wizard and Human fighter who is the DMs character being run as an NPC). He told me, after I called him on it, that we were being run through a module for 10th level characters.
All of that, in and of itself doesn't bother me too much.
But we had an encounter in the mountains in which, during our overnight watch (which happened on the NPCs watch) we were awakened and told to roll a will save and series of reflex saves. That's it. No initiative rolls, no opportunity to fight back, no options. And we were dealt anywhere from 25 points of damage to 46 points (my wizard's hit points total 56). My PC nearly died in an action with little to no recourse, in an almost instakill.
It felt cheap and like being railroaded. When I said it felt cheap, I was told, "We'll, that's the encounter , it was random and it was a caster level 17 spell."
Does anyone know or is anyone familiar enough with the module to know if that is the case?
Am I being unreasonable feeling railroaded?
Is this just a product of a module being too high for the PCs?
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I don't know that particular module, but...
1) Every Pathfinder module I've ever read has advice for scaling the adventure up or down to suit the party's APL. So your GM likely had the information he needed to tweak the encounters to better suit your party if he chose to. The fact that the module itself is for 10th level characters is not an excuse, your GM actively made a choice not to follow the scaling advice or otherwise chose not to make efforts to scale the adventure (which generally for modules is not hard to do). Also of course, he chose to use a higher level module to begin with.
Not to mention, excluding your GMPC (the NPC party member played by the GM), your party APL is actually 7 since you are only a 3 person party.
2) Why you do you have an GMPC with you? Is it demanded by the module? That the surprise attack happened on an NPC's watch sounds extremely suspicious to me. Not to mention, GMPCs generally raise LOTS of red flags to me if they are not supposed to be there per the module's description. In rare circumstances GMPCs can be handled well, but (and I say this having at one point in my earlier experiences as a GM used GMPCs) they are also sources of a LOT of problems. GMs are all too tempted to have their own characters save the day or use them to railroad the plot when the players want to do something else. Also GMPCs are often used by GMs who really want to be players and have fun in the game from that POV, and thus their ability to GM suffers because they want to focus more on their character than the story and making sure everyone else is having fun.
It also strikes me as odd that his GMPC is a fighter. In the cases where a GM includes a GMPC to round out party needs, the obvious choice would be a divine caster, not a fighter.
3) Again, don't know the module, but the surprise spell attack does seem suspicious--again because it happened on the NPCs watch all the more so. If you got no Perception checks, NOTHING to notice something was wrong, that seems strange to me, but on the circumstance itself I'd have to know more.
I do not think your suspicions are unreasonable. Now, sometimes modules are railroady to begin with, that's just the nature of the beast. But there's a few factors here as noted above that makes me think your frustration is warranted.
And again, the module itself being too high for the PCs shouldn't be an issue if the GM is doing his job and scaling properly. But I'm pretty certain it's not the module's fault.
I'd sit down and have a chat with your GM about some of your concerns, and note in particular you are not having fun -- that is, based on your frustrations, it sounds to me like you are not having fun. A GM's priority is always first and foremost to be sure everyone is enjoying themselves. While that includes the GM--the GM needs to have fun too!--it is not at the exclusion of the players.
If the GM seems unwilling to listen then I would talk to the players and find out how they feel about the situation, and discuss further solutions amongst yourselves.
Also, I'd suggest questions like this go into the modules forum to more likely attract the attention from someone familiar with the module. I'll flag it for being in wrong forum.
I could only imagine that to be
but if all your GM did was having you make your saves and dish out damage without describing anything he really missed a dramatic opportunity. But in the end: the encounter is there, it is hard and it is hard to do something about it, but it is not railroading (pushing pcs along the story, minimalizing their influence on the adventure).
Whether it's officially there or not really makes no difference. Whoever wrote an encounter that boils down to "Did you make your save? No? F~+@ you then." was definitely not on the ball that day.
And the GM was especially off the ball for throwing a potential instakill attack at the party with no warning, no perceivable caster, when they're 2-3 levels below the expected level.
I'm usually not for fudging, but in this case it's less "fudging" and more shifting the encounter to be in line with the party's power level.
Are you sure that this is a "random" encounter?
As a GM there is nothing random for my encounters. There is a meaning with everything. ... Everything.
Maybe you find some more knowledge in the next plays? It could be a magical impulse. Or a haunted place. I don't know. That is what comes into my mind. I don't know the scenario.
Well. You have nothing in defense ready. And you feel, that there is nothing you can do to stop it. Or could you?
Next time you play you might discover it! Then tell us.
I've tryed something close to that. We made a camp and rested in a dungeon that changes. It was all living. The walls changed positions and new rooms came up. And after long combats we really needed rest to continue.
So we search for a secure place inside this changing maggot-stupid-f¤(!-hole.. And our spellcasters tells us that this is the most secure.
While we are sleeping.. the rooms changes.. And next to us is a very big fire room. So we are inhalating smoke while we slept. None of us awakes - failed our saves.
We wake up fatigued. No new spells. No nothing. And while we eat breakfast the room changes and BOOM - combat. We lost 2 out of 4 man.
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